Whether dealing with water or with endangered species directly, there have been a numbers of recent developments that are worth keeping on your radar. Below is a quick summary of some of the more significant items:
July 16, 2015 – The House of Representative, in a largely partisan vote, passed H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, by a vote of 245-176. The Act, which is intended to ease some of the effects of the unprecedented drought gripping California, requires, among other things, for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation to work with various California agencies and interested parties to increase water exports from the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. Immediately after the House passed the Act, a number of environmental groups voiced their opposition, citing potential impacts to federally protected fish species. Whether the House’s actions will result in any relief for California is still very much up in the air, as reports indicate that even if Republicans are able to garner the necessary Democratic votes to have the Act pass the Senate, the President is likely to veto the Act. (See July 16, 2015 Los Angeles Times article by Colin Diersing and Monte Morin.)
July 16, 2015 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service announced a 60-day extension of the public comment period for proposed revisions to the Endangered Species Act petition regulations. According to the announcement, public comments will now be accepted if received on or before September 18, 2015. For a further discussion of the proposed revisions, see our May 19, 2015 post.
July 20, 2015 – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a federal lawsuit against the Miami Seaquarium alleging that by keeping Lolita, a killer whale (Orcinus orca), in captivity, the Seaquarium is violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA). (See PETA’s July 20, 2015 Update.) Lolita is the only captive member of the Southern Resident killer whale Distinct Population Segment (DPS). While the 2005 DPS listing under the ESA excluded captive members of the species from ESA protection, an amendment in early 2015 eliminated that exclusion. (See our prior posts for additional background: January 31, 2014, January 22, 2015, February 16, 2015.)