FWS Drops Mexican Vole from Endangered Species List

Published August 11, 2017

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has removed the Hualapai Mexican vole from the endangered species list, three decades after mistakenly listing the rodent as an endangered subspecies of Mexican vole in 1987, according to a final rule published in the Federal Register.

The state of Arizona filed a petition with FWS to have the creature removed from the list in 2004, citing an analysis showing the Hualapai was not a distinct subspecies of the Mexican vole. Despite accepting Arizona’s evidence in 2008, it was not until 2015 FWS drafted a rule to remove the vole from the endangered species list. Thirty years after it was mistakenly listed as endangered, the vole lost its protection under the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) at the end of July.

‘A Continuing Pattern’

Brian Seasholes, an independent scholar, said the Hualapai vole’s story serves as an example of problems with the ESA.

“This is a continuing pattern,” said Seasholes. “The highest-profile example is the bald eagle, which was delisted in 2007, years after it had recovered, and then only after the Pacific Legal Foundation sued FWS.

“There are two reasons species are wrongly listed as endangered and take so long to be removed from the endangered species list,” Seasholes said. “One reason is environmentalists and government bureaucrats like to use the ESA as a land- and resource-control tool.

“The second reason is funding,” said Seasholes. “You have seen this with species after species, because you get self-interested people involved who see the funding for research, and to develop and implement critical habitat and recovery plans, as a gravy train.”

Seasholes says abuse of the ESA is unlikely to change much until the law itself is revised.

“Any change under the Trump administration will be marginal,” Seasholes said. “Listing and enforcement may let up some, but it is like a curve: Until the law is fundamentally altered, listing and enforcement will go up and down and up and down, but the trend will continue to be in the direction of more abusive regulation, more conflict, more property restrictions, and more lawsuits.”

Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.