For Immediate Release
John Buse, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 533-4416
Michael Fitts, Endangered Habitats League, (310) 947-1908
Lawsuit Launched Over Water Project That Will Hurt Endangered Kangaroo Rat
WASHINGTON - Conservation groups today notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of their intent to sue over the
federal agencies’ approval of a massive water-development project in
Southern California that threatens the rare and highly endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat.
The Hemet-San Jacinto Integrated Recharge and Recovery Program near
Hemet in Riverside County would threaten one of very few remaining
habitats for the San Bernardino kangaroo rat, a charismatic jumping
mammal with large hind feet that was once abundant in the San
As proposed, the water project would require the
construction of a large groundwater recharge basin, wells and
infrastructure within the San Jacinto River channel, in the heart of the
one of three remaining places in the world that support a viable
population of San Bernardino kangaroo rats. It would deal a severe blow
to the recovery of a species the Fish and Wildlife Service described
in a 2009 report as already having a “low recovery potential.” The same
report recognized the need to conserve as much of the remaining
habitat for the San Bernardino kangaroo rat as possible.
“Instead of protecting the few populations that remain,
the federal agencies authorized further destruction of prime San
Bernardino kangaroo rat habitat,” said John Buse, a senior attorney at
the Center for Biological Diversity, which intends to bring the suit
along with the Endangered Habitats League and San Bernardino Valley
Audubon Society. “There aren’t many suitable areas left for the k-rat,
and this project will leave even fewer options for bringing the species
back from the brink of extinction.”
The challenge to the project is based on the federal
Endangered Species Act’s prohibition of actions likely to jeopardize the
survival and recovery of a species in the wild.
“The federal agencies haven’t disclosed the true extent
of the project’s effects on the San Bernardino kangaroo rat,” said
Michael Fitts, a staff attorney at the Endangered Habitats League. “As a
result, they’ve missed an opportunity to explore alternative methods
of maintaining water supplies that would result in less harm to the
In 2009, the Center for Biological Diversity challenged
the Service’s decision to slash the critical habitat set aside for the
San Bernardino kangaroo rat. That suit is still active.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.