February 17, 2010

Déjà Vu - Lawsuits Filed Against DFG Over Fish Stocking Document

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) released their court-mandated fish stocking EIR-EIS on January 11, 2010. In response, at least two groups (and I've heard rumor of a third) have filed separate court petitions against the DFG. The Center for Biological Diversity petition focuses broadly on a wide variety of deficiencies in the EIR-EIS, including a flawed baseline against which environmental impacts were judged, failure to include an adequate range of alternatives, and the failure to adopt reasonable mitigation measures. The Owens Valley Committee petition focuses more specifically on groundwater withdrawals that supply two fish hatcheries in the Owens Valley and the failure of the EIR-EIS to adequately mitigate the associated impacts.

And so the legal wrangling begins anew. The DFGs strategy on fish stocking -related CEQA issues has always been to frame the issue as narrowly as possible. For years, that meant denying that fish stocking was subject to CEQA. They got away with that for 35 years. When an environmental group with sufficient guts (Center for Biological Diversity) finally called the DFG bluff and sued them in court, the DFG arguments were finally revealed for what they were - a house of cards. But unable to abandon their tired strategy, the EIR-EIS was written as a defense of the current fish stocking program instead as a thorough evaluation of the environmental impacts the program has caused. This failure reeks of a DFG leadership unwilling to take the inevitable political and public flak and lead. 

The DFG public response to the petitions so far has been a predictable plaintive whimper of "but we've already spent so much money on the EIR-EIS". Instead of complaining about how much money the EIR-EIS process is costing, the DFG should realize for once and for all that hijacking the CEQA process to justify a pre-ordained conclusion will not fly. Perhaps someone within the DFG will raise the obvious point that many of the complaints raised in the recently-filed court petitions were also raised by the DFG-appointed EIR-EIS Scientific Advisory Team. Those concerns were summarily dismissed by the DFG but are now coming back to haunt them.

Back to The Mountain Yellow-legged Frog Site.

February 1, 2010

California Endangered Species Act Petition is Filed

On January 11, 2010, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) released their badly flawed fish stocking EIR-EIS. In response to the failure of the EIR-EIS to put into place provisions to adequately protect the imperiled mountain yellow-legged frog from impacts caused by hatchery trout, on January 25 the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission ("Commission") to list the mountain yellow-legged frog as "endangered" under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).

The CESA is similar to the federal Endangered Species Act in most regards but the CESA is administered by the DFG. The DFG now has 90 days to recommend to the Commission whether the petitioned action may be warranted. If so, the DFG has 12 months to prepare a report for the Commission, based on the best scientific information available, which indicates whether the petitioned action is in fact warranted. The Commission then makes it final decision soon thereafter. So, it will be more than a year before the petition makes its way through the process, a process that I suspect will be full of twists and turns. This could get interesting. 

Additional details on the petition process are provided in Fish and Game Code Section 2070-2090. The mountain yellow-legged frog CESA petition is available on the Center for Biological Diversity web site.

Back to The Mountain Yellow-legged Frog Site.