DOOR COUNTY ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL – Fish Creek WI NORTHWOODS WILDERNESS RECOVERY – Marquette MI
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE : Tuesday, October 21, 2004
Bush Administration Admits Failure to Protect Great Lakes Wildlife: Agrees to Protect Habitat for Critically Endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly
Contact:Brent Plater, Attorney, CBD 415.572.6989
WASHINGTON DC – National and regional conservation organizations won an important agreement today ordering the Bush administration to protect critical habitat for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, a wetland-dependent endangered species found in small areas of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Missouri.
The designation and protection of critical habitat is required under the federal Endangered Species Act, the nation’s most important conservation law. Critical habitat is the area essential to the survival and recovery of endangered species, and protects the areas where endangered species live. Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that species with critical habitat protected do better than species without critical habitat, and private landowners throughout the dragonfly’s habitat hailed today’s agreement and hope their property can help the dragonfly recover.
“Having grown up in the Chicago area, I’ve personally witnessed the destruction of habitat for the beautiful Hine’s Emerald dragonfly over the years,” said David Zaber, Ph.D. resource ecologist with Habitat Education Center. “We’re pleased that our agreement will move the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, and hopefully for other imperiled species in our rapidly developing region.”
Today’s order marks a significant shift in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s compliance with habitat protections in the Great Lakes Region. Up to this point, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) refused to comply with the Endangered Species Act’s critical habitat protections. Having failed to identify the dragonfly’s critical habitat areas, the FWS has allowed hundreds of habitat destroying projects to go forward without federal review or mitigation requirements. The dragonfly is one the few endangered species that has not been protected by even a single formal review. Today’s agreement will insure that habitat is protected on the ground and restricts the FWS’ ability to evade the Endangered Species Act.
“Protecting habitat is the best way to achieve recovery of the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, and today’s agreement will insure the citizens of the Great Lakes will enjoy the magnificent Hine’s emerald dragonfly into the future,” said Jeremy Emmi of the Michigan Nature Association. “Because of this agreement, the Michigan Nature Association can now work with the FWS to continue to protect the Hine's emerald dragonfly.”
Currently, the Endangered Species Act protects 68 animals and plants in the Great Lakes Region. However, the Fish and Wildlife Service protects the critical habitat for only 4 animals and no plants in the Region, or 5.8% of imperiled species. Two of these animals, the Niangua darter and the snowy plover, received critical habitat protection only after citizens petitioned and sued the Service to take action. The other two species, the Indiana bat and the gray wolf, received habitat protection in the late 1970s. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has thus failed to protect any habitat for any species in the 8-state Great Lakes Region voluntarily for over a quarter-century.
The Bush Administration has repeatedly stated without citation that critical habitat fails to protect endangered Species, despite the fact that a recent study of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s data shows that species with critical habitat protected are twice as likely to recover as those without critical habitat.
The Bush Administration’s statements about critical habitat were challenged by the Center for Biological Diversity, which submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Bush administration for all documents that support its position. In response, the Bush Administration admitted that it had no documents to support its statements denigrating the importance of protecting habitat.
“The Bush Administration makes false statements about habitat protection to advance the political agenda of speculators and developers,” said Brent Plater, a Michigan-native and Center for Biological Diversity attorney. “Today’s agreement will force the Bush Administration to put the developers’ interests aside and rely on science, protecting our region’s precious natural heritage.”
For a species photo, locations map, and additional information:
Brent Plater at 415-436-9682 x 301