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For Immediate Release, March 17, 2009

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

After 11 Years of Waiting, Hawaiian Plant Becomes First Species Protected Under Endangered Species Act by Obama Administration  

Two Hundred and Fifty-one Other Species Still Waiting

HONOLULU— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is listing a Hawaiian plant, Phyllostegia hispida, from the island of Molokai as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The plant is the first species protected under the Endangered Species Act by the Obama administration. The plant was first designated as a candidate for protection in 1997. It was recently thought extinct and Fish and Wildlife had considered emergency-listing the species, but that was delayed by the Bush administration. Today, just 24 plants of the species are known in the wild.

“We are heartened that this one extremely endangered Hawaiian plant will finally receive the protection it so badly needs to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are hopeful the Obama administration will move swiftly to protect the other 251 candidates for protection, many of which are equally as endangered as this Hawaiian plant.”

In November 2005, the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups sued the Bush administration for using the candidate list as a stall tactic to prevent species from being placed on the endangered list. On average, the 251 candidate species have been waiting for protection for over 20 years. Such delays have real consequences, with at least 24 species having gone extinct after being designated candidates for protection. The goal of the suit is to obtain firm deadlines for listing the 251 species within three years.

“Listing of one of the candidates this early in the Obama administration is an encouraging sign for endangered species,” said Greenwald. “The Endangered Species Act can save these 251 species, but only if they are granted protection.”

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