Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
places of western North America
August 28, 2001
Kieran Suckling, Center
for Biological Diversity 360-468-2810
CONSERVATION GROUPS AND U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE REACH AGREEMENT TO PROTECT IMPERILED SPECIES AND HABITAT UNDER ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
On August 28, 2001, the Center for Biological Diversity, Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, and the California Native Plant Society reached an agreement in principle with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service which will expedite protection of 29 species and numerous critical habitat areas under the Endangered Species Act.
"This is a model cooperative effort," said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "By working together, environmentalists and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have found a way to expedite protection for endangered plants and animals across the United States from the Pacific Islands to Idaho to Florida. It is a winning situation for everyone, especially endangered wildlife."
Among the 29 species are the coastal cutthroat trout (OR, WA), Bonneville cutthroat trout (NV, UT, WY, ID), Gila chub (NM, AZ), island fox (CA), pygmy rabbit (WA), showy stickseed (WA), Big Cypress fox squirrel (FL), Mississippi gopher frog (MS, AL, LA), Southern California mountain yellow-legged frog (CA), Chiricahua leopard frog (AZ, NM), Miami blue butterfly (FL), and the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly (NM).
The Mississippi gopher frog formerly occurred across large areas of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. It is now isolated in a single pond in Harrison County, Mississippi which is threatened by a proposed housing development and highway projects. North America's smallest rabbit, the pygmy rabbit has declined dramatically in Washington state due to pressure from development, agriculture, predators and disease. The genetically unique population has declined to just 50 individuals. Scientists have begun capturing them from the wild to prevent their extinction. Equally endangered is the island fox now being rounded up on California's Channel Islands, the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew which remains in a single, tiny wetland in the Central Valley, and the Tumbling Creek cavesnail which occurs in just a single cave in Missouri.
To free up resources to make these decisions within a short time frame, the environmental groups agreed to a six month delay in the mapping out of critical habitat areas for four Hawaiian invertebrates, and a nine month delay in critical habitat for three California plants and a freshwater clam from the Appalachians. These deadlines were the result of two prior settlements and a court order.
"The Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project recognizes the national and global dimensions of the current human-caused extinction spasm. As such, we are eager to help critically endangered species wherever they are found. This agreement will provide immediate protection to some of the species facing imminent threats," said Marty Bergoffen, staff attorney for the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project.
Under the agreement, the Service will immediately review three species for emergency listing, issue 14 final listing decisions and eight proposed listing rules, and make decisions on four ESA petitions. The Service will also map out critical habitat areas for the Gila chub in New Mexico and Arizona, and for four freshwater snails in New Mexico.
The 29 species helped by this agreement represent a small portion of the 235 species listed as candidates for federal protection, 24 species on the "warranted but precluded" list, 35 proposed for listing, 66 which have been petitioned for listing, and several hundred which still lack critical habitat. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has estimated that it will require at least $120 million to process the current backlog of species and habitats in need of protection. Though the Department of Interior requested $1.3 million more for the listing budget in 2002 than 2001, environmental groups, scientists and 13 Senators have called upon Congress to increase funding for the Endangered Species Listing program to $120 million over the next five years.
"This agreement won't end all the conflicts, and it certainly won't save all of America's imperiled species, but it's a good start," said Suckling. "With so many plants and animals on the brink of extinction, it is imperative that environmental groups and the Fish & Wildlife Service work together to pull them back."
Utilizing donations from citizens and private foundations, the Center for Biological Diversity's scientists have conducted status reviews for the Chiricahua leopard frog, Gila chub, island fox, San Diego ambrosia, Holmgren's milkvetch, Shivwitz milkvetch, and Sacramento checkerspot butterfly.
Though the final agreement is still pending, the Fish & Wildlife Service will immediately reallocate funds freed up through the agreement to initiate the listing and habitat protection actions.