RIVERSIDE, Calif., Aug. 19 (UPI) — Property owners and developers in Southern California have failed in an effort to remove a native kangaroo rat from the endangered species list, officials said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded populations of the big-eyed Stephens’ kangaroo rat were diminishing despite protection efforts and left it on the list, the Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise reported Thursday.
The decision Wednesday was bad news for developers and property owners who have been coping with the rat protections for more than two decades. The rat favors habitat that is prime for building and development — flat, open areas.
When the rodent was listed as endangered in 1988, it jeopardized or delayed residential and commercial development on about 22,000 acres in Riverside Country. The restrictions triggered an outcry and the rodent became the bane of local developers, the Press-Enterprise said.
In 1995 the Riverside Farm Bureau petitioned the wildlife service to de-list the animal, arguing scientific data showed the species was doing well and should not have been listed in the first place.
The petition languished for 15 years, and the bureau sued Fish and Wildlife last year to force a decision.
It was not the one they hoped for.
The Farm Bureau has not decided whether to challenge the decision in federal court, an attorney representing the bureau said.
Wildlife advocates applauded the decision.
“There is less habitat now than when the species was listed,” Ileene Anderson, a Los Angeles biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “So it is unimaginable that they would make any other decision than to keep it under Endangered Species Act protections.”
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