San Bernardino joined the battle to stop aerial malathion spraying Wednesday by filing a lawsuit against the state claiming that the controversial campaign would endanger a host of threatened animals in the city's undeveloped foothills.
City Atty. James F. Penman said at least seven protected animals and plants, including the orange throat whiptail lizard and the Western yellow-tailed cuckoo, could be harmed if the state goes through with its plan to begin malathion spraying Friday night.
San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Ben T. Kayashima is expected to rule on the suit Friday.
Officials from the state attorney general's office did not return several phone calls requesting comment Wednesday.
The San Bernardino suit is at least the seventh filed since the Southern California Mediterranean fruit fly infestation began last July.
The plaintiffs have included Garden Grove, Westminster, Huntington Beach, Los Angeles, Pomona, Azusa and Alhambra, as well as the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, and Pasadena resident John Poole.
None of the court challenges have managed to stop the aerial spraying, although some, such as the Los Angeles suit, are still pending.
Penman said San Bernardino's suit is slightly different from previous legal challenges because of the issue of endangered wildlife. He said the spray zone in the city is far less developed than those in Los Angeles and Orange counties and is home to many protected species.
"They're spraying all along the foothills," Penman said. "We think we've got a shot."
Federal law protecting endangered species already has prevented aerial spraying in one area--a five-square-mile section of Riverside County that is home to the Stephens kangaroo rat, a furry, brown, long-tailed animal about the size of a chicken egg. The state has relied on ground spraying of malathion to eradicate the Medfly in the rat's habitat.
"If they did it for the kangaroo rat, then they should do it for any other species," Penman said.
San Bernardino's court bid is a sign of the emerging opposition to malathion spraying in the previously untreated Inland Empire city.
San Bernardino had managed to avoid the flights of helicopters that for the last nine months have rumbled through the night sky over Los Angeles and Orange counties. The spraying has sparked noisy demonstrations, lawsuits and a host of local ordinances against the state's pesticide campaign.
With the discovery of three Medflies since April 4--the first ever found in the city--San Bernardino has now been drawn into the fray. About 34 square miles, encompassing most of the northern half of the city, is scheduled to be sprayed for the first time Friday night.
MEDFLY SPRAYING: Map of tonight's treatment area. B2