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For Immediate Release, December 14, 2009
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Suit to Challenge Protection Delay for 144 Species
Interior Department Fails to Act as Species Spiral Toward Extinction

WashingtonThe Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Obama administration today for failing to make required findings to determine whether 144 species warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, including the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, 32 Pacific Northwest mollusks, Amargosa toad, giant Palouse earthworm, and many others.

“We had hoped the Obama administration would move far more quickly to provide protection for endangered species than Bush did, but so far this has not been the case,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Continued delay of protection places these 144 species in real jeopardy.”

Under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to respond to petitions to list species within legally enforceable timelines. Within 90 days of receiving a petition, they are required to determine whether the petition warrants further consideration; within 12 months they are required to determine whether petitioned species warrant protection or not; and finally, within 12 months of finding a species does warrant protection, they are required to issue a final rule listing the species. For each of the 144 species, the agency has missed one or both of these deadlines. In several cases, findings are years overdue. 

“Wholesale reform is needed at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to unseat a culture of delay and foot dragging,” said Greenwald. “We’ve yet to see comprehensive reform in the endangered species program under the Obama administration.” 

These 144 petitioned species add to the backlog of 249 candidate species recognized by the Fish and Wildlife Service as warranting protection, but for which the agency claims it lacks the resources to actually provide protection. The agency’s claims of lack of resources are undermined by the fact that the listing budget has increased by 275 percent between 2002 and 2009 and the fact that the agency used to list considerably more species in past years. Under the Clinton administration, a total of 522 species were listed for a rate of 65 species per year. Since 2001, however, only 64 species have been listed, including two by the Obama administration, for a rate of fewer than eight species per year.

“There are hundreds of wildlife species facing extinction and in need of protection,” said Greenwald. “With the necessary political will and a can-do attitude, these species could easily be protected under the Endangered Species Act in a matter of a few years; there’s just no justification for further delay.”

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