The Miami Blue Butterfly
Miami blue butterflies, driven to endangerment by development and pest-control chemicals, were believed wiped off the face of the Earth after Hurricane Andrew tore through South Florida in 1992. But a few years later, in a state park, a lepidopterist discovered a tiny remnant population -- which disappeared for a second time in 2010, with only a few scattered individuals left elsewhere. That made the Miami blue one of the world's rarest insects.
The Center for Biological Diversity had been working to save the butterfly since 2001 through an array of legal actions, including petitions and agreements, but the government kept going back and forth on whether to act to save the animal. Our 757 deal settled the matter: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service emergency-listed the butterfly as endangered just weeks after the agreement was reached.
The Ozark Hellbender
Ozark hellbenders -- also known as "devil dogs," "walking catfish" and allegedly "snot otters" -- are the biggest amphibians in North America. Native to cool streams of the central and eastern United States, these 2-foot-long salamanders' flattish bodies fit into nooks and crannies and let them cling to riverbeds, safe from fast currents. But they've been at risk of extinction for some time: Mining, fertilizer runoff and livestock activities like farming and grazing are destroying their rivers.
The Center petitioned to protect hellbenders in 2004; our 757 agreement brought them not only Endangered Species Act protection but also a listing in Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to prevent hellbenders from being exploited by the international pet trade.
The Casey's June Beetle
Casey's June beetles live in the alluvial plains of Southern California deserts, where they're dying off because of habitat destruction driven by urban, residential and recreational development. With partners, the Center petitioned for an emergency listing to protect the beetles in 2004. But they ended up on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's candidate list -- and even when they made it out of that bureaucratic limbo, proposed for endangered status in 2009, Fish and Wildlife still failed to finalize their protection. It wasn't till our agreement was signed that the beetle was thrown a lifeline: fully protected as endangered, with 587 acres of protected critical habitat.
Sheepnose and Spectaclecase Mussels
Freshwater mussels are the most endangered group of organisms in North America. This is a grim state of affairs since their health is a barometer for the overall state of river ecosystems; these animals need clean water to survive. They reproduce by making a lure that looks like a young fish. When a larger fish attempts to prey upon the lure, the mussels release their fertilized eggs onto the fish's gills, where they develop as parasites before dropping off to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
The once-common sheepnose and spectaclecase mussels had declined by 70 percent and 60 percent respectively before they received final protection this year under our 757 agreement. Both species are threatened by pollution, dams and mining and were part of a massive Center petition to protect southeastern aquatic species.
With its fiery-red body and long, curved bill, the 'i'iwi -- or scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper -- is an iconic bird to other native Hawaiians. But the scarlet honeycreeper is now in imminent danger of extinction partly because of climate change, which is spreading avian malaria and pox as mosquitoes invade new altitudes, moving up mountains into the birds' high-elevation home.
The Center first petitioned to protect the 'i'iwi in 2010, and early in 2011, as a result of our agreement, the Service issued an initial positive decision to protect the beautiful bird.
The San Bernardino Flying Squirrel
Graceful, tree-leaping truffle hunters, San Bernardino flying squirrels are nocturnal forest dwellers whose high-elevation Southern California habitat is falling victim, like the 'i'iwi's mountain home in Hawaii, to climate change that's driving its suitable habitat upslope as temperatures warm. Drought threatens the truffle fungi it lives to eat, which need wet, cool conditions. Timber management that removes canopy cover, snags and downed logs are also degrading the places where these squirrels live — along with urban sprawl.
The Center petitioned to list the species one year before we signed the 757 agreement; in January 2012, under the terms of that deal, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued an initial positive decision to protect the squirrel.
374 Southeast Species
In 2010 the Center spearheaded an enormous petition to protect hundreds of southeastern species under the Endangered Species Act -- species as diverse as the Florida sandhill crane, streamside salamander, Alabama map turtle, clam-shell orchid and cobblestone tiger beetle.
Our 757 settlement brought a decision from Fish and Wildlife to consider 374 freshwater species in 12 southeastern states for protection: 89 species of crayfish and other crustaceans; 81 plants; 78 mollusks; 51 butterflies, moths, caddisflies and other insects; 43 fish; 13 amphibians; 12 reptiles; four mammals; and three birds. Southeastern freshwater species are threatened by the destruction of their river habitats via dams, pollution, sprawl, farming, invasive species and a warming climate.
61 Hawaiian Species
The Center petitioned in 2004 to protect scores of Hawaiian species under the Endangered Species Act, including 19 from the island of Oahu -- 16 plants and the three damselflies. Those species all languished on the federal "candidate" list -- bureaucratic limbo -- until the 757 settlement. Today all of them (plus four others) have been proposed for protection, along with a potential 43,491 acres of critical habitat. Some of the plants had fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild when their protection was proposed.
Also as part of the agreement, the Service this year proposed to protect 35 plants and three tree snails on the islands of Molokai, Lanai and Maui -- along with 271,062 acres (423 square miles) of critical habitat. We'd petitioned for 20 of those in 2004 as well. The plants are being driven toward extinction by habitat loss and foraging and trampling by invasive goats, pigs and rodents, as well as insects that outcompete native pollinators.
26 Pacific Northwest Mollusks
In March 2008 the Center and partner groups petitioned to protect 32 species of Pacific Northwest mollusks threatened by the loss of old-growth forest in Washington, Oregon and Northern California due to logging, decreasing water quality, pollution and climate change. In October 2011, under our 757 agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced 26 of these snails and slugs "may warrant protection" and began a 12-month review to decide whether to give it to them.
Aquatic snails and terrestrial snails and slugs are a crucial link in the food web -- they eat microorganisms and forest-floor litter and are then gobbled up themselves by mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish, among others. They contribute to water quality and nutrient cycling and disperse mushrooms and other fungi, and the reproductive cycles of many insects are dependent on snails that serve as parasitic hosts.
Looking Ahead: More Species to Be Saved
These success stories are just the beginning. Later this year we expect important news on many more, including the Mexican gray wolf, the Jollyville Plateau salamander and three other highly endemic salamanders from Texas that are stressed by urban sprawl and pumping of groundwater from the Edwards Aquifer, as well as 12 species dependent on the vanishing prairies of the Puget Sound and Willamette Valley (such as Taylor's checkerspot butterflies, Mardon skippers, eight subspecies of Mazama pocket gophers and streaked horned larks).
In the years that follow, the 757 agreement will yield decisions on species like the American wolverine, Rio Grande cutthroat trout, Montana grayling, New England cottontail rabbit, greater sage grouse and Pacific walrus. We look forward to keeping you updated on these protection campaigns, and thanks again for your support and activism.
Photo credits: Ozark hellbender courtesy Flickr Commons/Brian Gratwicke; Mexican gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/USFWS; Miami blue butterfly courtesy Flickr Commons/Bill Bouton; Ozark hellbender courtesy Flickr Commons/Brian Gratwicke; Casey's June beetle by Jon Avery, USFWS; sheepnose mussle courtesy USFWS; 'i'iwi courtesy Flickr Commons/Ludovic Hirlimann; flying squirrel courtesy Wikimedia Commons/USFWS; Florida sandhill crane courtesy Flickr Commons/VinceFL; awikiwiki courtesy Flickr Commons/David Eickhoff; keeled jumping slug by William Leonard, USFWS; streaked horned lark by David Maloney, USFWS.
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