For Immediate Release, July 28, 2014

Contact Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121

Recovery Plan Sought for Critically Endangered Hay's Spring Amphipod

30 Years After Listing, D.C.'s Only Endangered Species Faces Extinction

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal petition today asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to finally develop a recovery plan for the Hay’s spring amphipod, one of the most critically endangered species in the United States. The amphipod’s habitat has been reduced to just a few small freshwater springs in Rock Creek Park in the nation’s capital and Maryland’s Montgomery County. Despite the mounting threats faced by the species, the Service has never developed a recovery plan for protecting this unique invertebrate.

“Just like many other endangered species, amphipods are threatened by habitat loss, water pollution, pesticides and invasive species — all of which are problems we can solve,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But time has shown that without a recovery plan, none of the threats to the amphipod will be addressed. The species will remain in a state of neglect, hovering on the edge of extinction.”

When the Hay’s spring amphipod was first protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1982, it was thought to exist in just one small spring, and the Service exempted the species from recovery planning because it felt that the conservation options for the species were simply too limited for anything proactive to be done to help. But over time four additional springs were located that support the amphipod, and new information shows that conservation actions could help protect this species.

“Recovering the Hay’s spring amphipod in an urban area like Washington, D.C. will not be easy, but it’s entirely doable,” said Hartl. “Restoring forest conditions, improving surface and groundwater quality, and limiting pesticides would benefit this species greatly. And it will benefit the people that live around and enjoy Rock Creek Park by creating a healthier environment.”

The decline of the amphipod has paralleled the decline of freshwater springs in the region. In the capital’s early years, many residents drew their water from freshwater springs throughout the city; today every monitored water body in the D.C. region is classified as “impaired” by the Environmental Protection Agency. Century-old sewer systems continue to discharge raw sewage into Rock Creek just a half-mile upstream of the White House during large rainfall events. 

Recovery plans set forth goals and criteria to determine when a species has fully recovered and no longer requires Endangered Species Act protection, and provide a set of actions and conservation measures to achieve recovery. Recent studies have shown that species with recovery plans are much more likely to recover than species without them.   

For more on the natural history of amphipods, click here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and supporters dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. 

Go back