For Immediate Release, July 2, 2010
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Lawsuit Launched to Protect Three Southeastern Mollusks:
Georgia Pigtoe Mussel, Interrupted Rocksnail and Rough Hornsnail
PORTLAND, Ore.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to finalize Endangered Species Act protection for three southeastern mollusks: the Georgia pigtoe mussel, interrupted rocksnail and rough hornsnail. The agency proposed the species for protection June 29, 2009, but failed to finalize protection before the one-year legal deadline.
“Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration is failing to provide prompt protection to wildlife that desperately need it,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. “So far it has listed only two species in the mainland United States — an absurdly low number.”
The three species historically occurred in portions of the Coosa River and its tributaries, but have been lost from more than 90 percent of their historic ranges by habitat destruction related to dams and other factors. Of the three, the interrupted rocksnail is the closest to extinction, with only one sharply declining population remaining in less than a mile of stream. The species have been waiting years for protection; the snails were first recognized as candidates in 1991, the pigtoe in 1999.
“Because of a culture of delay and foot-dragging, endangered species in this country are being made to wait so long for protection that they sometimes go extinct as a result,” said Greenwald. “We’ve yet to see real reform in the endangered species program under the Obama administration.”
In addition to these three species, there are currently 245 species designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service as candidates for protection. Most of these species have been waiting for decades. To date, the Obama administration has not substantially increased the pace of species listings. It did finalize protection for 50 species from Hawaii, but otherwise has only finalized protection for two plants and only proposed protection for 12 species, including the three that are the subject of today’s notice. This means there will be few listings finalized in the remainder of 2010. Under the Clinton administration, by contrast, a total of 522 species were listed for a rate of 65 species per year.
“The nation’s wildlife are besieged by a multitude of threats, including pollution, urban sprawl, logging and many others,” said Greenwald. “With these threats growing every day, there’s no justification for delaying protection for species in need.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service also proposed to designate critical habitat for the three species in 160 river miles in Cherokee, Clay, Coosa, Elmore and Shelby counties in Alabama; Gordon, Floyd, Murray and Whitfield counties in Georgia; and Bradley and Polk counties in Tennessee.