For Immediate Release
Court Tells California to Reconsider Protecting Pika From Climate Change
Federal Government Advanced Pika Protection Last Week
SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco Superior
Court Judge Peter Busch today issued a written order invalidating the
California Fish and Game Commission's rejection of a petition by the
Center for Biological Diversity
to list the American pika under the California Endangered Species Act.
Today's court order will send the state listing petition back to the
Commission for reconsideration.
Read the order here:
"The court's decision gives the Commission a second chance to do
the right thing and protect this imperiled species," said Greg Loarie
of Earthjustice, who represented the Center for Biological Diversity.
"The plight of pika is a warning to humans that
global warming is already changing our climate for the worse."
In August 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity submitted a
scientific petition to list the pika in California under the state
Endangered Species Act due to threats from global warming. The American
pika (Ochotona princeps) is a small relative
of the rabbit that lives in boulder fields near mountain peaks in
California and through the western United States. Adapted to cold
alpine conditions, pikas are intolerant of high temperatures and can
die from overheating when exposed to temperatures as low
as 78 degrees Fahrenheit for just a few hours. Global warming threatens
pikas by exposing them to heat stress during the summer, lowering food
availability in the mountain meadows where they forage, reducing the
amount of time when they can gather food, and
reducing the insulating snowpack during winter.
As temperatures warm, pikas in California have shifted upslope in
Yosemite National Park over the past century, and pika populations have
largely disappeared in California's Bodie Hills in the eastern Sierra
Nevada Mountains in recent decades. Just across
the California border, more than a third of documented pika populations
in the Great Basin mountains of northwest Nevada and southern Oregon
have gone extinct in the past century, and these losses have been
linked to rising temperatures. One recent study concluded
that global warming will virtually eliminate suitable habitat for the
pika in California in this century if greenhouse gas emissions are not
drastically reduced http://www.earthjustice.org/
"Scientific studies clearly show that the pika is imperiled by
global warming," said Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center for
Biological Diversity. "In denying the petition, the Commission ignored
the science and abdicated its duty to protect California's
wildlife from global warming. Now the Commission has a renewed
opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to protecting California's
vulnerable species like the pika from the climate crisis."
The court found that the Commission used the wrong legal standard
in evaluating the petition to list the pika. The Commission must accept
a petition if the information presented would "lead a reasonable person
to conclude there is a substantial possibility"
that the species could be listed. However, the Commission rejected the
petition by unlawfully demanding that petitioners satisfy a higher
burden of proof.
Last year a state appeals court struck down another decision by
the Commission to deny a petition to list the California tiger
salamander under the state Endangered Species Act by incorrectly
claiming that the petition did not contain sufficient information.
The Commission also recently voted to deny a petition to protect the
Pacific fisher, a rare mammal threatened by logging, but reversed its
decision after a public-records act request from the Center revealed
that most state biologists involved in the review
had supported the petition.
If the Commission accepts the pika petition, it would commence a
year-long scientific review and public process to determine whether the
species should be listed in California.
In response to the Center's federal petition, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service announced on May 7 that the pika may be warranted for
listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and launched a full
status review to determine whether the pika should
be protected across its range.
Today's written court order resolves a lawsuit brought by the
Center for Biological Diversity, represented by Earthjustice, on August
19, 2008 - Center for Biological Diversity v. California Fish & Game Comm'n, No. CPF-08-508759.
For further information on the pika visit: http://www.
Photo and video:
High-resolution photo available for print stories here:
B-roll available for broadcast. View lo-res version here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Contact Brian Smith, Earthjustice press office, (510) 550-6714