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For Immediate Release, September 21, 2010

Contact: Jaclyn Lopez, (415) 436-9682 x 305,

Obama Administration's Delay Tactics Threaten Yet Another Imperiled Species

SAN FRANCISCO— In response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that a rare plant in the Virgin Islands faces imminent threats, including from habitat destruction and nonnative species, and warrants federal protection. Despite this finding, the Service is refusing to formalize protection for the imperiled Agave eggersiana under the Endangered Species Act, saying that it is cash-strapped and that other species are a higher priority. 

“The Obama administration’s policies of delay and inaction threaten to write the final chapter on this island plant and other species that badly need protection but have yet to get it, ” said Jaclyn Lopez, staff attorney at the Center.

Since taking office in January 2009, the Obama administration has made 10 such “warranted by precluded” findings, including four this month. The Service claims that despite its duty under the Endangered Species Act to list and protect imperiled species, it is hamstrung by an annual Congressional appropriations process that limits the available resources for listing actions. However, the budget for listing has nearly quadrupled since 2002, with little increase in listing. Furthermore, this particular 12-month finding was made pursuant to a court-enforced settlement agreement; therefore the Service knew it would be making this decision September 2010 and cannot claim that it did not budget for the listing activity. 

Agave eggersiana was originally listed as a candidate for federal protection from 1993 to 1996, until the Service removed that protection. In 1996, the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources petitioned the Service to list the plant as endangered. After the Service failed to make a final determination for six years, the Center sued the agency to issue a 12-month finding. In 2006, the Service determined that listing the plant was not warranted. In 2008, the Center challenged that decision in court, and in August 2009 the Center and the Service entered into a court-enforced settlement agreement whereby the Service agreed to redo the 12-month finding.

Agave eggersiana is a flowering century plant that takes 10 to 15 years to mature; after it finally blooms, its flowers wither and the plant dies. There are approximately 450 adult plants in St. Croix, though 97 percent of them are found on private land and are threatened by either planned development or current landscaping practices and competition with exotic species.

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