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CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity
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 - November 17 - 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 Bernardino Valley.
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 species.”
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.