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For immediate Release, December 9, 2008

Contact: Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495

Bush Administration Issues Final List of Candidates for
Protection as Endangered Species
Hundreds of Species Have Languished Without Protection
During the Last Eight Years

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The Bush administration today issued its final notice of review identifying 251 species that are candidates for protection as endangered species. The first such list produced under the Administration in 2001 included 252 species, indicating that although some species have been removed and others have been added, the administration has not made substantial progress in reducing the list.

“This review is the last page in a dark chapter for endangered species,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bush administration has achieved the worst track record protecting endangered species since the landmark law was passed.”

To date, the Administration has protected a mere 61 species, for a rate of less than eight species per year. This compares to 522 protected under the Clinton administration, a rate of 65 species per year; and 231 species protected under the George H.W. Bush administration, a rate of 58 species per year. The low rate of listing under the George W. Bush administration occurred despite a budget for the listing of species that has risen from just over $3 million in 2002 to more than $8 million in 2008. During his two-and-a-half-year tenure, Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne has overseen the listing of just one species — the polar bear.

“Secretary Kempthorne surpasses even James Watt as the most anti-environmental Secretary of Interior in history,” Greenwald said.

Besides delaying protection for hundreds of species, the Secretary is rushing through “midnight regulations” – proposed in the final weeks of the Administration – that would gut key protections for endangered species, open up millions of acres of public land for oil-shale development, and loosen rules on uranium mining to open areas near the Grand Canyon and elsewhere.

“We are counting down the final days of the Bush administration with bated breath,” said Greenwald. “And we are looking forward to working with a far more environmentally friendly Obama administration to undo these terrible regulations and finally obtain protection for the 251 candidate species within a reasonable timeframe.”

The Center and other groups have a pending lawsuit in Washington, D.C., arguing that continued delays in protecting the now 251 candidate species is illegal, because the U,S, Fish and Wildlife Service is not making expeditious progress listing species as required by the Endangered Species Act. Likely in response to this litigation, Kempthorne in October issued a proposal for protection of 31 of the candidates from Hawaii. This proposal, however, fell short of a February 29th promise by Dale Hall, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, to members of a House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee to propose to list 71 of the candidates during fiscal year 2008. No final rules listing candidate species were issued since the last review was published in 2007.

Background on the Candidate Species

The 251 candidates include a wide variety of species, from shorebirds such as the red knot, which migrates along the Atlantic Coast during one of the longest migrations in the animal world; to the Aboriginal pricklyapple, a cactus found in Florida; to the Pacific fisher, a relative of the mink and otter that is dependent on old-growth forests on the West Coast. Being designated as a candidate does not provide any formal protection to the 251 species, a number of which have been waiting for protection for almost as long as the Endangered Species Act has been around. On average, the candidates have been waiting 20 years for protection.

The current review includes five new species: Rio Grande cutthroat trout, Mexican garter snake, Gunnison’s prairie dog, an Arizona plant called Gierisch mallow, and the Jollyville Plateau salamander. The Ogden mountainsnail was removed because it is no longer considered a valid subspecies, and the Florida indigo, a plant that was removed because the Fish and Wildlife Service believes it to be more widespread than previously known.

Each of the candidates are given a priority number ranging from 1 to 12 based on their taxonomic rank (e.g. species, subspecies or population) and magnitude and immediacy of threats, with lower numbers indicating higher priority. The majority of candidates are rated as high priority. For example, 120 of the 251 have a listing priority number of 2, which is the highest a species can have, meaning they are in immediate danger of extinction.

Today’s review raised the priority level for several species, including the red knot, which was changed from a 6 to a 3 based on declining numbers and continued habitat destruction; the lesser prairie chicken, which was changed from an 8 to a 2 based in part on oil and gas development in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma; the Slabside pearlymussel, which was changed from a 5 to a 2 based on population declines in the few streams where it still survives in the basins of the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers; and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle, which was changed from an 8 to a 2 because of increased off-road vehicle usage of its dune habitats near Kanab, Utah.

The following are but a few examples of the candidate species:

Oregon spotted frog – The Oregon spotted frog has been waiting for protection since 1991. It is found in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia in wetlands from sea level to at least 5,500 feet. The frog’s habitat has been lost at an accelerating pace, and the species is now absent from up to 90 percent of its former range, including all of California.

Sonoyta mud turtle – The Sonoyta mud turtle has been a candidate since 1997. In the United States, it has been reduced to a single reservoir in Arizona that is isolated from populations in Mexico. The turtle eats insects, crustaceans, snails, fish, frogs, and plants. Females bury their eggs on land.

Florida semaphore cactus – The Florida semaphore cactus has been waiting for protection for six years. It is a large prickly pear cactus from the Florida Keys that was thought to have been driven extinct by cacti collectors and road construction in the late 1970s, but was rediscovered in the mid-1980s. Much of its historic habitat has fallen prey to development, destruction and fragmentation. Just two populations remain.

Eastern massasauga – The Eastern massasauga is a wetland rattlesnake of the Midwest and Great Lakes, and has been found in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. It has been waiting for protection for 25 years, having been made a candidate in 1982. The snake is extirpated from 40 percent of the counties it historically inhabited due to wetland losses from urban and suburban sprawl, golf courses, mining and agriculture.

Parachute beardtongue – The Parachute beardtongue, also known as the Parachute penstemon, is an attractive perennial plant that grows on rocky cliffs above the Colorado River near the town of Parachute, Colo. It occupies just two locations of less than one-third of a square mile. The beardtongue has been listed as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act since 1990. Both populations are on lands slated for oil shale mining.

White fringeless orchid – The White fringeless orchid is a 2-foot-tall herb that grows in wetlands in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Alabama's coastal plain. It has been found in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina, and has been a candidate for 30 years. The orchid is limited to 53 locations.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with 200,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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