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For Immediate Release, June 23, 2010

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

Five Southeastern Fish Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection

NASHVILLE, Tenn.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed five southeastern fish for protection as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The five fish are part of a backlog of candidate species that, following today’s proposal, includes 245 species and are the subject of a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups. The fish have been waiting between three and 25 years for protection.

“Today’s proposal is welcome news for these highly endangered fish and a step in the right direction, but still falls well short of the kind of progress that is needed to address the backlog of species waiting for protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Just as he’s failed to reform the Mineral Management Service, Interior Secretary Salazar has also failed to enact necessary reforms at the Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Under the George W. Bush administration listing of new species ground to a near halt, with only a total of 62 species listed compared to 522 under Clinton and 231 during the presidency of George H.W. Bush. Even with today’s proposal, the Obama administration has not substantially increased the pace of species listings. It has only proposed protection for a total of 14 species and did not issue a proposed listing from July 9 of last year until today, meaning that few species are likely to see protection in the coming year. It did finalize a proposal from the previous administration to protect 48 species from the island of Kauai, but in the conterminous United States has to date only finalized protection for two plants. 

“Wholesale reform is needed at the Fish and Wildlife Service to unseat a culture of bureaucratic delay,” said Greenwald. “With threats to endangered species growing every day, lack of reform at the Service is endangering the country’s wildlife.”

Swift action to protect endangered species is particularly needed in southeastern rivers and streams, where the combination of unparalleled diversity and multiple threats is resulting in the worst extinction crisis in North America. In April, the Center submitted a petition to list 404 southeastern aquatic species, including one of the five species just proposed for protection. The Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering the petition.
“With unparalleled diversity and a variety of severe threats, the Southeast’s rivers are the extinction capital of North America,” said Greenwald. “Dams, pollution, growing demand for water, and uncertainty about future water availability with global climate change mean hundreds of species need Endangered Species Act protection to have any chance at survival.”

The species proposed for protection today are the Cumberland darter, rush darter, yellowcheek darter, chucky madtom and laurel dace and are found in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas.

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