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SAVING America's 1,000 Most Endangered SPECIES

In recognition of the International Year of Biodiversity, in 2010 the Center launched a sweeping campaign to protect the 1,000 most imperiled species in the United States by winning them a spot on the endangered list, obtaining critical habitat protections, and ensuring timely development of a recovery plan during the Obama administration. There’s no better tool for saving these 1,000 species than the Endangered Species Act. Research published by the Center found that the longer species have been listed under the Act, the more likely they are to be recovering; species with designated critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as those without critical habitat; and species with recovery plans are more likely to be recovering than those without plans. 

Now, in 2011, we’ve struck a landmark agreement with the Obama administration compelling it to move forward on protections for all of 757 imperiled species. Learn more about this historic victory. Or, read on below for details on the three main components of our 2010 campaign.

Adding Species to the Endangered List

Victories by 2010

● In 2010, in response to a 2004 petition and two lawsuits by the Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized listing for 48 plants, insects and birds from the island of Kauai, with designation of critical habitat.

● In 2007, the Center successfully pushed for a threatened listing for the polar bear — the only species listed during Dirk Kempthorne’s tenure as interior secretary. After that, the Center compelled the Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider decisions to deny protection to the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, American wolverine, Mexican garter snake, Montana fluvial Arctic grayling, Gunnison sage grouse, roundtail chub, Hermes copper butterfly and Thorne’s hairstreak butterfly — and by 2010, the agency had determined that the trout, chub, and garter snake warranted protection. 

Other Projects

● We’ve spent years in court in Washington, D.C. to force listing decisions on the hundreds of “candidate” species that have been officially recognized as deserving protection but have been “precluded” from receiving it, including the Pacific fisher, the elfin woods warbler, the Oregon spotted frog and the white fringeless orchid. Some of these species have been waiting for protection for more than 30 years. Many species have gone extinct languishing on the candidate list.

● In 2010, we filed five lawsuits against the Fish and Wildlife Service for long delays in granting federal protection to nearly 100 species, including the California golden trout, black-footed albatross, dusky tree vole, 32 Pacific Northwest mollusks, three southeastern mussels and many others struggling to survive.

● In April 2010, the Center filed a 1,145-page petition to add 404 southeastern aquatic species to the endangered species list — and since then, the Service has moved forward on only one of those species. The southeastern United States is a global hotspot for aquatic biological diversity, containing an unparalleled richness of fauna. Unfortunately, much of this aquatic diversity is at high risk of extinction. More than 70 percent of mussels, 48 percent of crayfish, and 28 percent of fishes are considered endangered, threatened, or of special concern by the American Fisheries Society. The Center’s petition calls attention to the severity and scale of the problem of biodiversity loss in Southeast rivers and streams and will eventually provide protection to hundreds of species across the Southeast.

● In June 2010, we filed a notice of intent to sue the Service for failing to make legally required responses to petitions to protect seven species: the plains bison, striped newt, Berry Cave salamander, Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly, Ozark chinquapin, western gull-billed tern and Mohave ground squirrel.

Stopping Premature Removal From the Endangered List

Victories by 2011

● In 2009, the Center and allies restored protection for wolves in the Great Lakes; unfortunately, the fight is far from over—but we’re working hard to defend gray wolves across the country. Also in 2009 we successfully stopped a plan to remove protections for the marbled murrelet before they were even proposed.

● In 2011, the Center helped restore endangered status to the West Virginia northern flying squirrel.

Other Projects

● The Center has been actively working to restore protections to the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl and to stop the removal of protection for the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel. 

Obtaining Critical Habitat Protection

Victories by 2010

● In 2009, the Center had tremendous success securing protections for species, obtaining new or additional critical habitat protections for 43 species, including more than 25 million acres for the Canada lynx, as well as millions of acres combined for the California red-legged frog, western snowy plover, Riverside fairy shrimp and others. 

Other Projects

● Because of the Center’s work, 128 million acres were designated as critical habitat for the polar bear in 2010.

● The Center is actively working to obtain new or additional critical habitat protections for a number of species, including the loggerhead sea turtle, Florida panther, southwestern willow flycatcher, Cape sable seaside sparrow, San Bernardino kangaroo rat and many others. 

Obtaining Recovery Plans

Victories by 2010

● The Center successfully forced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose a recovery plan for the jaguar in the United States and is poised to force the agency to redo a flawed recovery plan for the northern spotted owl. 

Other Projects

● The Center has petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf and is pushing the agency to develop a comprehensive plan for restoring wolves to other areas of their historic range — including the Northeast, southern Rocky Mountains, Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada — and helping them recover there. 

Plains bison photo © Jason Hickey