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For Immediate Release, February 17, 2010

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Four Lawsuits Filed to Protect 93 Species Across Country

WASHINGTONThe Center for Biological Diversity has filed lawsuits in Washington DC; Sacramento; Portland, Oregon; and Tucson seeking protection for 93 species, including the California golden trout, cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly, and dusky tree vole. The lawsuits challenge the Obama administration’s failure to make required findings on petitions to list the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. 

“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 93 species in real jeopardy.”

Under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to make a series of findings that should result in a species being listed in no more than two years. For each of the 93 species, the agency has failed to make one or more required finding. In several cases, findings are years overdue. The California golden trout, for example, has been waiting more than nine years.

“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 93 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. During the Bush administration, however, only 62 species were listed. To date, the Obama administration has only listed two species.

“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.”

The Center is holding off on suing over 48 species from Kauai for one week because the administration has promised to list these species within that time. The Center petitioned for many of the species in 2004.

Background on the Species

Washington, DC:
1. Ozark chinquapin is a tree from the southeastern United States that has been hurt by chestnut blight.
2. Llanero Coqui is a recently described species of small frog from Puerto Rico that is threatened by habitat degradation.
3. Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly is a rare butterfly that is threatened by habitat destruction.
3. Oklahoma grasspink is a species of orchid from the Midwest and South that has been greatly reduced by agriculture, urbanization, and forestry.
4. Striped newt is a newt that is dependent on ponds and adjacent pine forests in Georgia and Florida, where it is threatened by urbanization, agriculture, and forestry.
5. Bay Springs salamander is known from one pond in Mississippi, where it has not been found in recent collections and may be extinct.
6. Berry Cave salamander occurs in three counties in Tennessee, where it is declining and threatened by habitat destruction.  
7. Least chub is a fish now limited to roughly five populations in Utah, where it is threatened by plans by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump massive amounts of groundwater, as well as by nonnative species and livestock grazing.

Sacramento, CA:
1. California golden trout is currently limited to a couple of drainages in the upper Kern River, where it is threatened by hybridization with nonnative trout and livestock grazing. 
2. Mount Charleston blue butterfly is found only in the Spring Mountains near Las Vegas and is near extinction. 
3. Mojave fringe-toed lizard isfound in three dune complexes in Nevada and is primarily threatened by rampant off-road vehicle use at Dumont Dunes. 
4. 42 Great Basin springsnails found in parts of Nevada, Utah, and California are threatened by plans by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump massive amounts of groundwater, as well as by livestock grazing. 
5. Tehachapi slender salamander is threatened by urban sprawl including on Tejon Ranch.
6. Mohave ground squirrel is found in the west Mojave desert and is threatened by urban and rural sprawl.   
7. Amargosa toad is only found in the Oasis Valley of Nevada and is threatened by urban sprawl and water development. 

Portland, OR:
1. Dusky tree vole is limited to northwestern Oregon and lives almost its entire life in trees, where it is dependent on forest characteristics typical in old-growth forests and is thus threatened by logging. 
2. Black-footed albatross is a large seabird that nests in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands and is threatened by longline fishing.
3. Lake Sammamish population of kokanee salmon is limited to Lake Sammamish near Seattle and threatened by urban sprawl. 
4. 32 Pacific Northwest mollusks includes species with names like cinnamon juga, hoko vertigo, and knobby rams-horn, many of which are limited to a small number of sites in old-growth forests, where they face threats from logging and other factors. 

Tucson, AZ:
1. Cactus ferruginous pygmy owl is a small, feisty owl that is threatened by urban sprawl around Tucson, Arizona. 
2. Tucson shovel-nosed snake is a small brightly colored snake that, like the pygmy owl, is threatened by urban sprawl from Tucson and Phoenix. 

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