Nebraska Growers Say ‘Enough’

Published online: Aug 16, 2002
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Like growers/ranchers in neighboring states, Nebraska farmers are saying, “Enough is enough.”

A coalition of the Midwest state’s farm organizations has retained an attorney to challenge the listing of the piping plover bird on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list.

For years environmental groups have won court decisions forcing the USFWS to more quickly designate “critical habitat” for endangered species.

However, following the successful challenge of the listing of a bird, the southwestern willow flycatcher, by New Mexico ranchers, other groups are also challenging USFWS listings.

Karen Budd-Falen, the Wyoming attorney who successfully argued the flycatcher case, said the Nebraska lawsuit would also challenge critical habitat designation.

The ESA bars major changes to a creature’s territory when water from federal irrigation projects, federal money, or other federal actions are involved. This in turn threatens financial livelihoods and creates financial hardships for growers/ranchers who must pay to build fences around critical areas, build new stock ponds, move herds off grazing allotments, and fence off waterways.

Last May, a panel of judges from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver agreed with the New Mexico farmers and ranchers.

“The recent decisions have forced us to recognize that the economic analysis we had been using needed to be changed, Chris Tollefson, Agency spokesman in Washington, DC, said.

The Agency has voluntarily agreed in several cases to redo the economic analysis rather than fight in court.

A recent GAO report found that the USFWS was so bogged down by lawsuits and paperwork it had little time for conservation or recovery of endangered species. It blamed the paperwork glut in part on unclear guidelines that make it difficult for workers to designate critical habitat that is not vulnerable to legal challenges.

The USFWS staff now spends more than 50 percent of its time on paperwork for litigation or attempting to avoid it compared to just over a quarter of its time recovering endangered species, the report said.