Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 4, 2017

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495,

Trump Administration Denies Endangered Species Protection for 25 Species

Pacific Walrus, Boreal Toad, Fisher Among Species Wrongly Denied Protection

WASHINGTON— The Trump administration announced today that 25 highly imperiled species do not qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act. 

The species range from the Pacific walrus — found to be endangered by the Obama administration because of loss of summer sea ice to climate change — to the Florida Keys mole skink, rapidly losing habitat to sea-level rise. They include 14 species of Nevada springsnails threatened by the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plans to pump groundwater in the northern part of the state.

“This is a truly dark day for America’s imperiled wildlife. You couldn’t ask for a clearer sign that the Trump administration puts corporate profits ahead of protecting endangered species,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Pacific walrus, Florida Keys mole skink, eastern boreal toad and 22 other species are now one step closer to extinction. We’re going to challenge as many of these bogus findings as we can.”

In addition to the species mentioned above, the Barbour’s map turtle, Bicknell’s thrush, Big Blue Springs cave crayfish, Oregon Cascades-California and Black Hills populations of the black-backed woodpecker, Great Sand Dunes tiger beetle, Kirtland’s snake and San Felipe gambusia were all denied protection.

A number of the species — including the walrus, Florida Keys mole skink, Bicknell’s thrush, Kirtland’s snake, northern Rockies population of fisher, Nevada springsnails and Big Blue Springs Cave crayfish — are known to be threatened by climate change as well as other factors. But the Trump administration denied protection anyway, saying in a number of cases that their loss was too speculative.

“Denying protection for these 25 species despite the imminent threat of climate change and ongoing habitat destruction is typical of the Trump administration’s head-in-the-sand approach,” said Greenwald.   

Spotlight Species
Pacific Walrus
Following a 2008 petition from the Center, the Pacific walrus was found to warrant protection in 2011 based on projected loss of summer sea ice; rather than receiving protection, it was placed on a candidate list. The walrus needs sea ice for nursing young and foraging in safety. Arctic sea-ice extent, on which the Pacific walrus so heavily relies, hit record lows during fall 2016 and winter 2017, and sea ice in the Chukchi Sea off Point Lay retreated at a record rate this May. The reversal in protection announced today was not based on any new science to show the walrus is secure, but rather by limiting how far to look in the future, 2060 in this case. 

Florida Keys Mole Skink
This tiny, colorful lizard, once common along the sandy shoreline of the Dry Tortugas and Lower Keys, has already experienced substantial declines and faces a very uncertain future in the face of development and rising sea levels. The Trump administration acknowledged it will lose half its range by 2040 to sea-level rise, but denied protection anyway. Even though sea-level rise is projected to continue well past 2040, the administration refused to look further. The Center petitioned for protection of the skink in 2010.

14 Nevada Springsnails
Found in isolated springs of the Great Basin and Mojave deserts in Nevada, these 14 springsnails may be small, but they play an outsized role in their ecosystems by cleaning water and providing food to countless animals up the food chain. With interesting names like the bifid duct pyrg and Moapa pebblesnail, these unique snails and the springs they depend on are threatened by plans by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump groundwater in northern Nevada and pipe it to Las Vegas; climate change is also a threat. Given the Trump administration’s ties to the likes of Sheldon Adelson, it is not surprising the latter threat was ignored. The Center petitioned for protection of the springsnails in 2009.

Bicknell’s Thrush
Bicknell’s thrushes are olive-brown, migratory birds that nest in dense, coniferous forests near timberline in the Northeast and also breed in Quebec and Canada’s maritime provinces. As with the walrus and mole skink, the overriding threat to the Bicknell’s thrush is climate change. Widely accepted climate models show the species’ breeding habitat shrinking dramatically in the Northeast. The Trump administration, however, only looked 30 years into the future despite climate models going out at least to the end of the century. The Center petitioned for protection of the thrush in 2010. 

Black-backed Woodpecker
The black-backed woodpecker is imperiled due to its dependence on ephemeral habitat — severely burned, mature conifer forest. This post-fire habitat is rare to begin with and is often targeted for logging due to the lack of any protections for this habitat type. Black-backed woodpeckers are a keystone species because of their ability to occupy burned forests right after a fire and to create large nests in the burned trees with their strong heads and beaks. These nests are then used by many other species as time goes by. The Center petitioned for protection of black-backed woodpeckers in the Black Hills and in Oregon-California in 2012 because these two populations are small and isolated. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not argue the woodpeckers are secure, but rather declined to consider either population to be distinct.

Northern Rocky Mountains Fisher 
A rare relative of the mink and otter, the fisher is dependent on wet, old-growth forests in Montana and Idaho, where it is threatened by trapping, logging and climate change.  The Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged it would lose habitat with climate change, but denied protection anyway.   

Big Blue Springs Cave Crayfish
This cave-dwelling species is considered critically imperiled due to its relatively limited range as well as habitat degradation. Translucent crustaceans, the crayfish are found only in aquatic caves at the bottom of limestone springs at a small number of sites on the Florida panhandle. They are severely threatened by pollution, groundwater depletion and salt water intrusion related to sea-level rise. Florida recognizes the Big Blue Springs cave crayfish as a “species of greatest conservation need.” The Center petitioned for its protection in 2010.

Eastern Boreal Toad
Once widely distributed and common in the western United States, the boreal toad has experienced dramatic declines over the past few decades. Impacts have been severe in the southern Rocky Mountains, where a globally occurring amphibian disease known as chytrid fungus has wiped out most remaining boreal toad populations. The Center and allies petitioned for the eastern population of the toad, which occurs in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, in 2011. 

Kirtland’s Snake
The Kirtland’s snake is a small, nonpoisonous snake that feeds on earthworms, slugs and leeches. Once found in more than 100 counties in eight states in the north-central Midwest, it has sharply declined due to the loss of its prairie wetland habitat and is now missing from more than half its range. It is threatened by urban sprawl and agriculture and climate change. The Center petitioned for the snake’s protection in 2010.

Florida Keys mole skink

Florida Keys mole skink photo courtesy USFWS. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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