For Immediate Release, December 4, 2014
Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681, firstname.lastname@example.org
Record Progress Made on Backlog of Endangered Species Awaiting Protection
Spurred by Landmark Agreement to Protect Nation’s Most Endangered Species
WASHINGTON— After several decades when endangered plants and animals were allowed to languish indefinitely on a waiting list, an annual federal summary released today reveals that for the second year in a row, the number of species waiting for Endangered Species Act protection decisions remains below 150 — the lowest number since the list, in its current form, was created in the 1990s.
|Photo of Ma’oma’o courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Rebecca Stirnemann, www.samoanbirds.com. This photo is available for media use.
The steady progress the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is making in addressing the backlog highlights the success of a landmark agreement reached with the agency by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2011, which requires the Service to speed protection decisions for 757 species. The 2014 “candidate notice of review” released by the agency today includes 146 species now awaiting protection: 79 animals and 67 plants. So far under the agreement with the Center, 140 species have gained final protection and another 12 have been proposed for protection.
“It’s so exciting to see imperiled wildlife from around the country finally get the Endangered Species Act protection that can save them from extinction,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center. “Under relentless pressure from those more interested in short-term profits than the planet’s long-term security, the Fish and Wildlife Service is still making excellent progress overall in protecting our most endangered animals and plants.”
“Candidate” species are plants and animals that have been found to warrant protection, but instead of gaining protection are placed on a waiting list, where they may sit unprotected for decades. The Fish and Wildlife Service issues a yearly notice of review describing its progress in addressing the backlog. Under the 757 species settlement, the Service is required to make decisions by 2016 on the 251 species that were on the candidate list as of 2010, and the Service to date has addressed 166 of those candidates.
In the past year, as a result of the agreement, the Service issued final protection for 33 species. Among the species protected in 2014 were the western yellow-billed cuckoo, a bird that lives near rivers that the Center first petitioned for protection in 1998; the Oregon spotted frog, which has been waiting for protection since 1991; and Kentucky gladecress, a wildflower that has been awaiting protection since 1975.
Today’s list adds 23 new species to the waiting list — four ferns and 18 flowering plants from Hawaii that are threatened by invasive species, and a bird from Samoa, the Ma’oma’o. The Ma’oma’o is a large green honeyeater that lives in mature mountain forests and makes a variety of loud distinctive calls. It is threatened by forest clearing, cyclones, and predation by feral cats and rats.
Today’s list removes one species, Packard’s milkvetch, a flowering plant from Idaho. The primary threat to the flower was being crushed by off-highway vehicles, but after it was placed on the candidate list in 2010, the Bureau of Land Management closed part of its habitat to riders and put in place a 20-year conservation agreement to maintain the habitat protections.
Despite the Service’s recent progress, imperiled species from around the country will continue to sit on the list waiting for protection due to lack of funding for all the species in need of protection. Some continuing candidates include the red tree vole from old-growth forests of the Pacific northwest; the Pacific walrus threatened by loss of sea ice; the eastern gopher tortoise; and the roundtail chub from the lower Colorado River.
Numerous invertebrates remain on the waiting list, including the Texas fatmucket and Texas fawnsfoot freshwater mussels, and several insects including the Hawaiian yellow-faced bee, Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly and Louisville cave beetle. Among the imperiled plants awaiting protection is the San Fernando Valley spineflower, threatened by the proposed development of Newhall Ranch, a sprawling real-estate development in Los Angeles County. Also remaining on the waiting list is a needed reclassification from “threatened” to “endangered” status for grizzly bears in the north Cascades and for the delta smelt of San Francisco Bay.
The number of species in need of protection will continue to grow, as there is scientific consensus that Earth is in the midst of an extinction crisis brought about by changes humans have made. Scientific papers published recently indicate that globally both vertebrates and invertebrates have declined by nearly half in the past 50 years. The Endangered Species Act is one of the most powerful laws enacted by any country to prevent the extinction of imperiled species.
“Citizens need to urge Congress to designate the funding for endangered species recovery that the Fish and Wildlife Service desperately needs to accomplish its goals,” said Curry. “Congress must recognize that protecting endangered species also protects public health and the long-term environmental and economic well-being of our country, which should be a fiscal priority.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.