For Immediate Release, May 18, 2015

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495,

New Obama Administration Policy Will Make It Harder for Species to Get Endangered Species Protection Needed to Avoid Extinction

Policy Would Hamstring Citizen Petitions for Species' Protection, Cutting Public Out of Endangered Species Management 

PORTLAND, Ore.— The Obama administration proposed new regulations today that would place crippling burdens on citizens filing petitions to protect species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, ultimately making it more difficult for imperiled species to get lifesaving protections. Specifically the proposed regulations bar petitions for more than one species and require petitioners to provide advance notice of the petition to all states in the range of the species; to append any information from states to the petition itself; and to certify that all relevant information has been provided in the petition. 

“These regulations are a lousy solution to a problem that doesn't exist,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Endangered Species Act already has a lengthy comment process that gives states ample opportunity for input. All these regulations would do is cut the public out of endangered species management and burden an already overburdened process for species to get the protection they need to avoid extinction.”

The Endangered Species Act expressly allows citizens to petition for protection of species and a majority of the more than 1,500 species awarded protection received it following a petition. The filing of a petition triggers what is supposed to be a two-year process, including three public comment periods, but that has on average has taken more than a decade to complete. These delays have led to a backlog of hundreds of species needing protection — a backlog that has been in place for decades. Delays in protection of species have real consequences, with more than 40 species having gone extinct so far while waiting for protection.

“This boneheaded new policy is the exact opposite of what’s needed to ensure that plants and animals get timely protection under the Endangered Species Act,” said Greenwald. “There has been a backlog of hundreds of species needing protection for decades, yet the Obama administration is placing additional burdens on the process for identifying species in need.”

The new requirements would discourage citizens from filing petitions, extend process times once petitions are filed, and invite litigation challenging petition determinations from states hostile to protection of wildlife. Requiring petitions to cover only one species would also dramatically decrease efficiency and runs directly counter to a longstanding policy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move protection in multi-species packages, precisely for efficiency purposes.

Today's proposal is one of several policies put forward by the administration that seek to limit the scope of the Endangered Species Act, solidifying the administration's reputation as no friend of wildlife or the environment. Other administration policies limit protections for endangered species critical habitat, limit which species get protection in the first place and give federal agencies carte blanche to harm endangered species through the cumulative impacts of multiple actions.

“Endangered species management under the Obama administration unfortunately looks a lot like it did under the Bush administration,” said Greenwald. “With a growing human footprint, use of ever more dangerous pesticides and other pollutants and climate change, endangered species need more funding and stronger protections — not policies that cater to the unfounded concerns of state agencies and industries opposed to endangered species protections in the first place.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back