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For Immediate Release, June 16, 2010

Contact: Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Seven Species Under Endangered Species Act
Bison, Butterfly, Two Amphibians, Bird, Tree and Squirrel Stuck in Long Line Awaiting Protection

PORTLAND, Ore.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to make required findings on seven petitions requesting protection under the Endangered Species Act for the plains bison, striped newt, Berry Cave salamander, Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly, Ozark chinquapin, western gull-billed tern and Mohave ground squirrel. For several of these rare species, the agency has missed legal deadlines by years.

“Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration is failing to provide prompt protection to wildlife desperately in need of protection, including the bison, Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly and hundreds of other species,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “To date, the Obama administration has listed only two species in the mainland United States — an absurdly low number.”

In addition to the seven species included in today’s notice, there are currently 252 species designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service as candidates for protection. Most of these species have been waiting decades for protection. To date, the Obama administration has not substantially increased the pace of species listings since it took office. The administration did finalize protection for 48 species from Kauai, which was proposed under the Bush administration. Otherwise, however, it has only finalized protection for two plants and only proposed protection for six invertebrates, meaning there will be few listings finalized in the remainder of 2010. Under the Clinton administration, a total of 522 species were listed, for a rate of 65 species per year.

“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.”

The seven species hail from nearly every region of the United States. The plains bison once ranged over the entirety of the Great Plains, but today occupies a small fraction of this historic range and is frequently hybridized with cattle. The tern and Mohave ground squirrel both occur in Southern California, where they are threatened by urban sprawl and other factors. The newt, salamander and the tree, Ozark chinquapin, are all from the southeastern United States and face a variety of threats to their habitat. The butterfly is only found in Puerto Rico.

“The nation’s wildlife are besieged by a multitude of threats, including pollution, urban sprawl, logging and many others,” said Greenwald. “With these threats growing every day, there is no justification for delaying protection for species in need.”

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