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For Immediate Release, March 10, 2010

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

48 Kauai Species Protected Under the Endangered Species Act

HONOLULUIn response to a 2004 petition and two lawsuits from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is finalizing listing for 48 species from the island of Kauai with designation of critical habitat. Most of the species are plants, and many have been waiting decades for protection. Two birds, Akekee (Kauai akepa) and Akikiki (Kauai creeper), were also included.

“Protection for these 48 species is long overdue,” said Tierra Curry, conservation biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These 48 highly endangered species now have a shot at survival and recovery.”

Of the 48 species, 31 have been waiting for protection on the candidate list, in many cases for more than 20 years. In an effort to speed protection for species known to need protection, the Center filed a petition to list these and other candidates in 2004, a suit to force listing of all the candidates in 2006, and a notice of intent to sue in December over Fish and Wildlife’s failure to finalize listing of the 48 species within statutorily required timelines. Under the Endangered Species Act, Fish and Wildlife has one year to finalize proposed listings. In the case of the 48 species, the agency had proposed listing in October 2008.

“Although we are glad to see these 48 species get help, the Obama administration has been moving too slowly to reduce the backlog of species waiting for protection,” said Curry.

Prior to these 48 species, the Obama administration had only listed two species — the fewest number of species listed in the first year of any administration since Reagan. There are currently 251 highly endangered species waiting for protection on the candidate list, where they receive no protection. The agency claims it lacks the resources to protect these species. These claims, however, are undermined by the fact that the listing budget has increased by 275 percent between 2002 and 2009 and 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.

“There are hundreds of wildlife species facing extinction and in need of protection,” said Curry. “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.”

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