Lawsuit planned to protect Louisiana, Mississippi turtles
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An environmental group said Tuesday that it plans to sue the federal government to protect two species of turtle found only in Louisiana and Mississippi.
The Center for Biological Diversity released a copy of its letter to Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke. It says the center will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 60 days for failing to act on a petition to designate the Pascagoula map turtle and the Pearl River map turtle as threatened or endangered.
The center’s letter cites federal law requiring the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether a species warrants such designation within a year of receiving a petition. The center says environmental groups sought protection for the turtles in an April 2010 petition.
“These turtles are threatened by habitat loss and degradation from dams, floodplain clearing and river channelization,” the center said in a news release.
The letter to Zinke said a proposed Pearl River dam project in Mississippi’s Hinds and Rankin counties is among the threats facing the turtles. “The dam would destroy important habitats and possibly drive the species extinct in the area,” the center said in a news release.
The letter signed by attorney Jason Totoiu noted that both species are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The wildlife service referred requests for comment to the Justice Department, which didn’t immediately respond to a Tuesday afternoon query.