Western Watersheds Project
ESA listing case, challenging US Fish and Wildlife Service’s “90-day finding” rejecting WWP’s listing petition for pygmy rabbit — the word’s tiniest bunny.
Pygmy rabbits dig burrows under sagebrush; climb up in sagebrush to scout and feed; and otherwise depend on sagebrush throughout their lives. Loss and degradation of sagebrush habitats across the range of pygmy rabbits (including Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Wyoming) has caused sharp population declines. Livestock grazing harms pygmy rabbits in many ways, including by trampling their burrows.
The district court ruled in our favor that FWS unlawfully rejected the listing petition. See WWP v. Norton, 2007 WL 2827375 (D. Idaho 2007). On remand, FWS issued a “positive” 90-day finding, saying that ESA listing may be warranted for pygmy rabbit. It is now conducting a status review to determine whether to propose listing.
Pygmy Rabbit at Risk
On February 3, 2010, Advocates for the West sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its violation of the Endangered Species Act in refusing to determine if the pygmy rabbit warrants protection under the ESA. This case is now the third time we have had to sue the Service for its continued and repeated violations of the ESA with respect to our efforts to protect the pygmy rabbit.
Back in 2007, a federal court ordered the Service to determine whether pygmy rabbits needed protection under the ESA, which the Service has failed to do. In the meantime, scientific evidence continues to mount, which shows that rabbit populations and habitat are continuing a downward spiral toward extinction. This lawsuit is seeking to force the Service to acknowledge this science, and protect the pygmy rabbit under the Endangered Species Act.