Gnat's Wrong


The Building Industry Association of California has filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the proposed listing of the coastal California gnatcatcher as an endangered species. Saying that Fish and Wildlife has illegally prevented comment by the public on the listing process, the BIA has demanded that the listing be dismissed.

One of the key issues in the suit is the data, or lack of it, to support Fish and Wildlife's claim that the gnatcatchers of Southern California are a different subspecies from the ones in Baja California, Mexico. Given that there are 3 million of the birds in Baja, this finding is crucial to the debate. But the biologist who made that finding refuses to release his data to the public or even, claims the lawsuit, to Fish and Wildlife.

By law, Fish and Wildlife is required to make such information public during the listing process for comment and criticism. "This is very likely important information," says BIA Vice President John Hunter. "We believe that if it supported the listing, the service would have shared it with us freely, and the service's refusal to make it public as required by law unfortunately left us little choice but to sue."