Flying Squirrels Under Fire

Suing over a flying squirrel? No April fools jokes here--the Bush decision to remove flying squirrel from endangered list causes controversy

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 Good ol’ George W. Bush wasn’t too keen on the West Virginia flying squirrel. (Maybe it was all those times the creature flew on over to Maryland and kept splash landing in the Camp David pool. Hmm.) Last August, Bush finally took action by taking the charming animal off of the endangered species list.

Now, with Bush out of office and Obama trying to guide the way through the muck of our economic mess, a lawsuit over a measly airborne rodent might seem a perfect April Fools’ joke to play on a new president.

But it turns out said lawsuit is no laughing matter.

A group of six West Virginia environmental and species-conservation organizations, including The Wilderness Society,Friends of Blackwater, and the Center for Biological Diversity, say the decision was based on “shoddy science,” and plan to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the removal of the squirrel from the list, citing its need for protection.

The Obama administration will be given 60 days, starting today, April 1st, to “right Bush’s wrong and avoid needless litigation,” according to The Wilderness Society’s press release.

“The decision to take the flying squirrel off the endangered species list was a political move to allow more destruction of the squirrel’s forest habitat for energy extraction and development,” said Judy Rodd, director of Friends of Blackwater, in the press release. The group concerned with preserving Blackwater Canyon and all its inhabitants, flying and non.

The six conservation groups involved say that the Bush decision was illegal, and say that the administration “ignored an official species recovery plan, recommendations of independent scientists and a U.S. Government Accountability Office report, that concluded the failure to carry out the squirrel’s recovery plan.”

The groups hope that support from the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), who has conducted two separate hearings on the matter, will help with the protection of the squirrel.

“We’re hoping that a lawsuit won’t be necessary now that Bush is out of office,” Rodd said.

“The 60-day notice we’ve given the Fish and Wildlife Service gives us a very good opportunity to work with the Obama administration.”

Do you think 60 days of flying squirrels weighing on the Fish and Wildlife Service and President Obama’s consciousness will produce any stay-awake-at-night nightmares of the flying creature, forcing the administration to reverse the Bush-era removal? Or is Obama too preoccupied with the economy to give an embattled squirrel some love? We’ll keep you posted.

–Matt Draper

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