Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 14, 2017


Collette Adkins, (651) 955-3821,
Leda Huta, (202) 320-6467,

Report: Ocelot, Sagebrush Lizard Among Endangered Species Undercut by Politics

Science Suppressed, Ignored Due to Political Pressure

WASHINGTON Federal officials making crucial decisions about imperiled wildlife frequently disregard key scientific facts, in violation of the Endangered Species Act, a report published today finds.

The Endangered Species Coalition report, Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for 10 Endangered Species, highlights 10 imperiled fish, plant and wildlife conservation decisions from the past several years in which the science was either ignored or suppressed as a result of intense special-interest lobbying and influence. Now, under the Trump administration, that pressure is worsening.

Today’s report includes the imperiled ocelot and dunes sagebrush lizard, which were nominated by the Center for Biological Diversity, a coalition member. One of the biggest risks to the ocelot’s survival is President Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“Trump’s border wall could be the last straw for the ocelot,” said Collette Adkins, a Center attorney and biologist. “The science shows that the border wall plan is a disaster for wildlife like ocelots that need to move back and forth across the border to survive.”

Trump’s wall would further worsen the isolation of Texas and Arizona ocelots from those in Mexico and lead to continued inbreeding and most likely extinction within the United States. A recent study has identified more than 90 endangered or threatened species that would be severely harmed by a 2,000-mile wall.

For the dunes sagebrush lizard, politically motivated interference has led to its population plummeting. A conservation plan prepared by the Texas Comptroller’s Office and approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completely lacks teeth to protect the lizard. Surviving only in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico, it faces many threats, especially from oil and gas development. The recent initiation of sand mining in high-quality dunes sagebrush lizard habitat will place additional pressure on its survival.

But the stifling of science has been widespread under the Trump administration as it slashed science budgets at NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies.

“Our native fish, plants and wildlife aren’t just a critically valuable part of the legacy we leave for future generations of Americans, they’re key to providing a good quality of life for all humans right now,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “But we are concerned that the prevalence of special interest, industry representatives inside the Trump administration is intensifying the suppression of science in endangered species decisions.”

Four species in the report — the wolverine, greater sage grouse, dunes sagebrush lizard and Hermes copper butterfly — were denied protection under the Endangered Species Act in spite of massive, historic population declines and severe threats to the species. Just last week the Trump administration denied listing four more imperiled species on top of the 29 others denied protection under the Act in the past year.

Another, the North Atlantic right whale — threatened by ship strikes, fishing gear entanglement, and seismic energy exploration — would have benefited from a decision to deny six seismic oil exploration permits. However, the Trump Administration has reversed that decision in an effort to expand drilling in the Atlantic.

Late last month the administration finalized a recovery plan for the Mexican wolf, one of the most endangered mammals in North America. The plan ignored the scientific recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own Mexican Wolf Recovery Team, calling for a minimum population of only half the number of wolves that the scientists recommended. 

Two other water-dwelling species in the report were also victims of science suppression, including the pallid sturgeon and Pacific leatherback sea turtle. One of the largest reptiles in the world, the leatherback can journey more than 10,000 miles between habitats. This past June the administration withdrew a proposed regulation on drift gillnets, which are used to catch swordfish, in response to persistent lobbying from the commercial fishing industry.

In 2014 the Fish and Wildlife Service declined to list the greater sage grouse as endangered, citing an unprecedented region-wide habitat conservation effort tied to state and federal conservation plans. However, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is threatening to undo even these modest, bipartisan conservation measures. Meanwhile sage-grouse numbers have declined by 90 percent from historic levels. Protecting umbrella species like sage grouse conserves habitats on which many other species rely, like mule deer and pronghorn.

Endangered Species Coalition’s member groups nominated species for the report. A committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations and decided which species should be included in the final report. The full report, along with a slideshow and additional species information can be viewed and downloaded at

The Endangered Species Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years’ reports are also available on the Coalition’s website.


Photo by Tom Symlie, 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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