For Immediate Release, June 30, 2010
Contact: Shaye Wolf, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 632-5301
Lawsuit Launched to Challenge Denial of Endangered Species Act Protection for
Imperiled California Seabird
SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity today officially notified the Department of the Interior of its intent to sue over the Department’s illegal denial of Endangered Species Act protections for the ashy storm petrel, an imperiled California seabird, despite clear scientific evidence that the species is threatened by predation, oil spills, climate change and other threats. The letter is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act.
“The Interior Department’s decision continues a Bush-era approach of ignoring and contorting the scientific evidence to block protections for imperiled wildlife,” said Center biologist Shaye Wolf. “Just as Secretary Salazar failed to clean house in the oil-industry-tainted Minerals Management Service, he has similarly failed to reform the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that decisions to protect our nation’s wildlife are based on sound science rather than politics.”
The ashy storm petrel (Oceanodroma homochroa) is a small, smoke-gray seabird that nests and forages almost exclusively on the offshore islands and waters of California near San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Faced with multiple threats at its breeding islands and at sea, this seabird has seen severe population declines in recent decades and is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and BirdLife International. In 2007, the Center submitted a scientific petition to list the ashy storm petrel under the Endangered Species Act.
The Fish and Wildlife Service staff reviewing the petition determined that the ashy storm petrel deserved listing as a threatened species due to population declines and the threats to this seabird. However, shortly before the Service’s decision was due to be released, agency administrators rewrote and reversed the staff’s conclusions. The revised decision wrongly claimed that the ashy storm petrel was increasing; it ignored a study documenting a 76-percent decline in at-sea abundance between 1985 and 2006.
“Rather than relying on the best available science, the Fish and Wild Service seems intent on trying to find any excuse to avoid protecting this species,” said Wolf. “Giving the ashy storm petrel effective protections from pollution and climate change under the Endangered Species Act could be key to its survival and would enhance the health of California’s coasts.”
Today’s notice letter puts the Interior Department on notice that its listing decision violated the Endangered Species Act by disregarding the best available science and provides the Department an opportunity to correct these flaws in the next 60 days.
The petition and more information on the ashy storm petrel are available at http://www.biologicaldiversity.org.