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For Immediate Release, May 28, 2010

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

Ozark Chinquapin Tree One Step Closer to Endangered Species Protection

Decision Comes 35 Years After Species First Proposed for Listing

WASHINGTON— Following a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today determined that the Ozark chinquapin tree may warrant protection as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. This is the sixth decision the agency has issued since the Center filed suit to force protection for 93 species on February 17, including decisions on whether to protect the striped newt, Mohave ground squirrel, Tucson shovel-nosed snake, Berry Cave salamander, and Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly. The Ozark chinquapin was first proposed for protection in 1975 based on a recommendation by the Smithsonian Institute, but that proposal was never finalized and the species has languished without protection ever since.

“Thirty-five years is far too long for the Ozark chinquapin to wait for the protection it needs to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “As with the Mineral Management Services, Secretary Salazar has completely failed to reform the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which was plagued by scandal under the Bush administration.”

The chinquapin is primarily threatened by the introduced fungus known as chestnut blight, which has decimated a number of tree species in the eastern United States, most notably the American chestnut. Because of the blight, the chinquapinrarely reaches maturity or produces seed. Instead, the species is largely limited to sprouting from roots.

“There are hundreds of wildlife species that, like the chinquapin, are facing extinction and are in need of protection,” said Greenwald. “With the necessary political will and a can-do attitude, these species could easily be protected under the Endangered Species Act in a matter of a few years; there’s just no justification for further delay.”

In addition to the 93 species covered by the Center for Biological Diversity’s suit, there are currently 252 species that are designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service as candidates for protection. Like the chinquapin, most of these species have been waiting decades for protection. To date, the Obama administration has not substantially increased the pace of species listings since it took office. The administration did finalize protection for 48 species from Kauai, which was proposed under the Bush administration. Otherwise, however, it has only finalized protection for two plants and only proposed protection for six invertebrates, meaning there will be few listings finalized in the remainder of 2010. Under the Clinton administration, a total of 522 species were listed, for a rate of 65 species per year.

“Wholesale reform is needed at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to unseat a culture of delay and foot-dragging,” said Greenwald. “We’ve yet to see comprehensive reform in the endangered species program under the Obama administration.”

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