For Immediate Release, May 29, 2007
Contact: Brendan Cummings, (760) 366-2232 x 304
Yellow-billed Loon Advances Toward Endangered Species Act Protection
Rare Bird Threatened by Oil Development in Alaska’s Arctic
SAN FRANCISCO— The federal government has announced it is advancing the yellow-billed loon toward protection under the Endangered Species Act. The action comes in response to a formal administrative petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other U.S. and Russian scientific and conservation organizations in April 2004 that sought protection for the species. The yellow-billed loon breeds in tundra wetlands in Alaska, Canada and Russia, and winters along the west coasts of Canada and the United States.
The species is one of the rarest of all North American birds with a global population of approximately 16,000 individuals, of which about 4,000 breed in Alaska. The primary threat to the species in the United States is disruption of its habitat by oil and gas development in Alaska’s Western Arctic. The birds are also threatened by global warming and drowning in fishing gear.
“The yellow-billed loon is one of the rarest and most vulnerable birds in the United States, yet the Bush government’s plan to ‘protect’ it is to approve oil drilling in its habitat,” said Brendan Cummings, ocean program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With the loon now on the path to Endangered Species Act listing, both the species and its habitat have a chance at real protection.”
The majority of yellow-billed loons breeding in the United States nest in the Western Arctic in areas recently opened up to oil and gas development, such as near Teshekpuk Lake and along the Colville River. Smaller numbers breed on the Seward Peninsula and on Saint Lawrence Island. Loons that breed in Alaska overwinter along the Russian and Japanese coasts, where they are also threatened by oil development. Birds that breed in the Canadian Arctic overwinter in the Gulf of Alaska, southward to the West Coast of the United States. Throughout their range, the loons are threatened by changing ocean conditions and the inundation of low-lying wetlands in the face of global warming and sea-level rise.
The finding on the petition to protect the loon, to be published in the Federal Register later this week, is almost three years overdue. The finding requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency charged with implementing the Endangered Species Act, to solicit public comment, carry out a status review of the species, and issue a proposed rule to protect the species later this year. Final protection under the ESA would occur within one year thereafter.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
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