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For Immediate Release, October 25, 2011

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

New Federal List Announced: 244 Species Are Candidates for Endangered Species Act Protection

48 Species Have Been Proposed for Protection So Far Under Historic Agreement to Help 757 Imperiled Plants, Animals

WASHINGTON— The Obama administration issued a new “candidate notice of review” today identifying 244 plants and animals that need the protections of the Endangered Species Act to avoid extinction. The review also identified 48 species that were proposed for protection in the past year and for which protection will be finalized in the next year, including the dunes sagebrush lizard, Franciscan manzanita, round ebonyshell and Alabama pearlshell mussels.

“Under our historic settlement agreement, species are finally getting the protection they desperately need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which signed an agreement with the federal government earlier this year to expedite protection for 757 species. “Protecting these candidates will also protect our land, air and water.”

On average, the candidate species have been waiting 20 years for protection. Delays have deadly consequences: At least 24 species have gone extinct after being designated candidates, including the Louisiana prairie vole, Washington state’s Tacoma pocket gopher, California’s San Gabriel Mountains blue butterfly, New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo peaclam and numerous Hawaiian invertebrates. In 2004 the Center petitioned for 225 of the candidate species to speed their protection; in 2006 it filed suit because the Fish and Wildlife Service was not making expeditious progress protecting them. The 757 species settlement reached earlier this year stemmed directly from these actions.

“We’ve turned the corner — the long wait is almost over for these nearly 300 species on the brink of extinction,” said Greenwald. “We look forward to a number of species seeing protection in 2012, including the Jollyville Plateau salamander, Miami blue butterfly and Mexican gray wolf.”

The 244 candidates include a wide variety of species, from shorebirds like the red knot, which migrates along the Atlantic Coast in one of the longest migrations in the animal world, to the aboriginal pricklyapple, a cactus found in Florida, and the Pacific fisher, a relative of the mink and otter that is dependent on old-growth forests on the West Coast.

The current review includes three new species since the last review: the magnificent ramshorn, a snail only found in the Cape Fear River, N.C., where it is threatened by damming and other impacts to rivers; the Poweshiek skipperling, a butterfly limited to the much-diminished tall-grass prairies of the Midwest; and the bracted twistflower, found only on the Edwards Plateau of Texas, where urban sprawl is a major threat. 

The following are but a few examples of the candidate species:

Oregon spotted frog: The Oregon spotted frog has been waiting for protection since 1991. It is found in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia in wetlands from sea level to at least 5,500 feet. The frog’s habitat has been lost at an accelerating pace, and the species is now absent from up to 90 percent of its former range, including all of California.

Sonoyta mud turtle: The Sonoyta mud turtle has been a candidate since 1997. In the United States, it has been reduced to a single reservoir in Arizona that is isolated from populations in Mexico. The turtle eats insects, crustaceans, snails, fish, frogs and plants. Females bury their eggs on land.

Florida semaphore cactus: The Florida semaphore cactus has been waiting for protection for six years. It is a large prickly pear cactus from the Florida Keys that was thought to have been driven extinct by cactus collectors and road construction in the late 1970s but was rediscovered in the mid-1980s. Much of its historic habitat has fallen prey to development, destruction and fragmentation. Just two populations remain.

Eastern massasauga: The eastern massasauga is a wetland rattlesnake of the Midwest and Great Lakes, and has been found in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. It has been waiting for protection for 25 years, having been made a candidate in 1982. The snake is extirpated from 40 percent of the counties it historically inhabited due to wetland losses from urban and suburban sprawl, golf courses, mining and agriculture.

White fringeless orchid: The white fringeless orchid is a two-foot-tall herb that grows in wetlands in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Alabama’s coastal plain. It has been found in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina, and has been a candidate for 30 years. The orchid is limited to 53 locations.

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