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For Immediate Release, February 29, 2008

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Promises to
Decide Fate of 92 Candidate Species in Next Two Years

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Speaking to a panel of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee yesterday, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dale Hall, promised that the agency will make decisions on whether to protect a total of 92 candidate species as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act within the next two years. The species are among 280 on the government’s official list of the most imperiled, yet unprotected species in the country.

“We are encouraged these 92 species will finally receive consideration for the protection they desperately need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Endangered Species Act is tremendously effective at saving species from extinction, but can only work if species are granted protection.”

In November 2005, the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups filed a lawsuit, which is still pending, charging that the Bush administration is using the candidate list as a stall tactic to prevent species from being placed on the endangered list. Yesterday’s announcement is in all likelihood a response to this lawsuit. On average, the 280 candidate species have been waiting for protection for 19 years. Such delays have real consequences, with at least 24 species having gone extinct after being designated candidates for protection.

“The Bush administration has been an unmitigated disaster for the nation’s endangered species, delaying and denying protection for hundreds of animals and plants,” said Greenwald. “Protection for these 92 species is long overdue.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service has not protected a single new U.S. species in 661 days, which includes the entire tenure of Dirk Kempthorne as secretary of the interior and is by far the longest period without a new species being protected since the landmark federal law was passed, surpassing even James Watt, who, under Reagan, in 1981 and 1982 went 382 days without listing a species.

“Because extinction is forever, delays in protection of the nation’s most imperiled species are unacceptable,” said Greenwald. “The Endangered Species Act can save these 280 species, but only once they’re granted endangered status.”

The majority of the species (58) are from Hawaii and are mostly plants (55), but also include the Akepa, or Kauai creeper, which is a Hawaiian bird that has become increasingly hard to find in recent years and is likely on the verge of extinction, and two insects. Also on the list are the sand dune lizard and five springsnails from Arizona and New Mexico, nine species of mussels and snails, three fish and one amphibian from the southeastern United States, and three plants from Colorado.

Overall, the Bush administration has protected the fewest species of any administration in the history of the Endangered Species Act, to date protecting only 58 species, compared to 522 under the Clinton administration and 231 under Bush Sr.’s administration. On average, the administration has listed only seven species per year. By contrast, an average of 45 species per year was listed from 1974 to 2000, and 73 species per year were listed from 1991 to 1995.

“This is the slowest rate of protecting species of any administration in history,” said Greenwald. “The nation’s endangered wildlife needs protection, not foot-dragging.”

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