For Immediate Release, September 30, 2015
Contact: Marc Fink, (218) 464-0539, firstname.lastname@example.org
23 Species Protected in Mariana Islands Under Endangered Species Act
HONOLULU— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected 23 animal and plant species in the Mariana Islands under the Endangered Species Act. The protected species include the Pacific sheath-tailed bat, the Slevin’s skink, two species of butterflies, a damselfly, four species of snails and 14 plant species.
The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to protect seven of these species in 2004 — the Pacific sheath-tailed bat, Mariana eight-spot butterfly, Mariana wandering butterfly, fragile tree snail, Guam tree snail, humped tree snail and Langford’s tree snail — but they languished for years on the Service’s candidate list awaiting decisions until many became part of the Center’s settlement agreement in 2011 to move protection decisions forward on 757 species.
“Protection for these bats, butterflies and other species is critically important, especially as the Mariana Islands face major threats from U.S. military expansion, development and climate change,” said Marc Fink, a senior attorney with the Center. “I hope the Navy will rethink its plans to further expand its military training activities. The forests and wildlife of this place badly need time to recover.”
The Mariana Islands include the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Territory of Guam, both located in the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii. The U.S. military has a long history on Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Navy recently proposed increasing its military presence to include live-fire weapons training areas on Tinian and Pagan Islands in the Northern Marianas.
The Service’s action cannot come quickly enough for many of these species. The Pacific sheath-tailed bat is down to a single population in the Mariana Islands: a population of perhaps less than 400 individuals on Aguiguan Island. The Slevin’s skink is the only lizard that is endemic to the Mariana Islands and has been unable to recover from steep declines following the introduction of snakes on the Islands. And the Mariana wandering butterfly, a beautiful black butterfly with orange markings, has not been observed in more than 20 years and may already be extinct.
In addition to U.S. military expansion and other development pressures, the wildlife and plants on the Mariana Islands are also threatened by environmental changes and sea-level rise resulting from global climate change. Wildlife populations on small islands are also naturally more vulnerable to threats, due to their limited ability to migrate and lower genetic variation.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.