Posted by: Sandy Steinman | August 27, 2021

Lawsuit Challenges Federal Approval of Destructive Northern California Development

Center for Biological Diversity News Release

Chico Project Would Pave Over Vernal Pools, Threaten Endangered Species

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for approving a mixed-use development in Northern California and failing to protect endangered species habitat.

Today’s lawsuit challenges the permitting of the Stonegate development, a 314-acre residential and commercial project that would destroy vernal pool habitat near Chico. The site is home to imperiled species like the vernal pool fairy shrimp, vernal pool tadpole shrimp and the endangered flower known as Butte County meadowfoam.

“Paving over these vernal pools would be a grave mistake that couldn’t be undone,” said Ross Middlemiss, a staff attorney at the Center. “The law requires the government to protect, not harm, listed species. It’s unfortunate we have to sue to get these federal agencies to follow the law.”

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, asserts that the federal agencies failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act. It challenges the Army Corps for approving the project and faults the Fish and Wildlife Service for claiming such a development on vernal pool habitat would not jeopardize species survival.

The Service has identified the project site as a core recovery area for vernal pool species. It is home to the Butte County meadowfoam, a plant so rare it can only be found in Butte County. The flower has just 21 distinct populations remaining, and this project would destroy one of them and encroach on two others. In their review of the project, the agencies also failed to mention the site contains suitable habitat for the threatened giant garter snake.

“Stonegate will permanently destroy the wetlands that make this part of Butte County so special,” said Middlemiss. “Scientific evidence tells us these wetlands and imperiled species need our help. Let’s stop ignoring science.”

 


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