Arizona Joins State Coalition Challenging Federal Critical Habitat Definition for Endangered Species

Arizona joined 17 other states in a lawsuit challenging new federal rules that broadly expand the definition of “critical habitat” for endangered and threatened species. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama against the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

If implemented, the new rules would allow any area currently unoccupied by an endangered species, but that could potentially host the species, to be classified as critical habitat subject to stringent regulations. The new rules also allow the federal government to prevent activities that it deems could adversely affect so-called “physical and biological features” in a regulated area, even when those “features” do not even exist in that area. For example, the federal government could declare desert land as critical habitat for a protected fish and then prevent the construction of a highway through the land, under the theory that it would prevent the future formation of a stream that might one day support the fish.

“In practice, these latest rules expand federal oversight to the point that the federal government could potentially designate an entire state or even multiple states as critical habitat for certain species,” said Nevada Attorney General Laxalt. “In practice, these latest rules expand federal oversight to the point that the federal government could potentially designate an entire state or even multiple states as critical habitat for certain species.”

In addition to Arizona, other states who joined this filing include: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. New Mexico was represented by its Department of Game and Fish in the filing.

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