For Immediate Release, June 23, 2010
Contact: Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Two Hawaiian Damselflies Protected Under Endangered Species Act
HONOLULU— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected two species of Hawaiian damselfly as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The damselflies are part of a backlog of candidate species that includes 245 species and are the subject of a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups. The two insects have been waiting 26 years for protection.
“Today’s proposal is welcome news for these highly endangered Hawaiian species and a step in the right direction, but still falls well short of the kind of progress that is needed to address the backlog of species waiting for protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Just as he’s failed to reform the Mineral Management Service, Interior Secretary Salazar has also failed to enact necessary reforms at the Fish and Wildlife Service.”
Under the George W. Bush administration listing of new species ground to a near halt, with only a total of 62 species listed compared to 522 under Clinton and 231 during the presidency of George H.W. Bush. Even with today’s proposal, the Obama administration has not substantially increased the pace of species listings. It has only proposed protection for a total of 14 species and did not issue a proposed listing from July 9 of last year until today, meaning that few species are likely to see protection in the coming year. It did finalize a proposal from the previous administration to protect 48 species from the island of Kauai, bringing the total to 50 Hawaiian species listed in 2010.
“If the Fish and Wildlife Service can list 50 species in Hawaii, it can similarly list as many species in other regions,” said Greenwald. “The backlog of species waiting for protection places hundreds of species at increased risk of extinction, and indeed species have gone extinct waiting for protection. Fortunately these two unique Hawaiian damselflies are not among them.”
The species listed today are the Pacific Hawaiian damselfly and the flying earwig Hawaiian damselfly. Damselflies are similar in appearance to dragonflies, but hold their wings parallel to their body when resting rather than perpendicular as do dragonflies. Like many species groups in Hawaii, damselflies, after arriving in Hawaii some 10 million years ago, radiated into an incredible diversity of species, occupying unique niches (many species occupied only one island). The flying earwig Hawaiian damselfly once occurred on both Maui and Hawaii, but now is found in only one location on Maui. The Pacific Hawaiian damselfly once occurred on most of the major islands, but now occurs in a small number of locations on Hawaii, Maui and Molokai.