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Judge: Flying Squirrel Shouldn't Have Been Removed from Protected List

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has overturned the Interior Department

Courtesy: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has overturned the Interior Department's decision to remove the West Virginia northern flying squirrel from the endangered species list.

The Charleston Gazette first reported Friday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.

Five environmental groups sued to restore the animal's protected status in 2009.

They argued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to follow its own rules in recommending the delisting of the squirrel that's found only in higher elevation forests of West Virginia and Virginia.

Sullivan agreed, saying the agency wrongly ignored two unambiguous rules.

The agency argued it was complying with the intent of rules that had become outdated.

But the judge says ignoring them effectively changed the federal recovery plan for the species without the required public-input process.

©2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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