Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 8, 2018

Contact:  Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681,

Endangered Species Protection Urged for 23 Southeast Species Threatened by Trump's Budget Cuts, Backlog

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—The Center for Biological Diversity today sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calling for Endangered Species Act protection for 23 freshwater animals and plants from 11 southeastern states.

The species include the southern snaketail, a rare dragonfly in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, and the sunfacing coneflower, a 4-foot-tall yellow flower found in Alabama and four other states.

The Center first petitioned the Service for their protection in 2010. Hundreds of other highly imperiled species are similarly waiting for decisions, but a declining budget and opposition from the Trump administration is stalling these life-saving protections. 

“Endangered species decisions have long been plagued by delay and political interference, but these problems are becoming a crisis under Trump,” said Tierra Curry, a Center senior scientist. “Rather than following the law and reviewing the status of species like the southern snaketail, the administration wants to push them out the back door and ignore those at risk of extinction.”

The Center’s letter also withdrew 38 plants and animals from consideration for protection following new scientific information. The Center’s review of the 61 species was prompted by the Trump administration’s unprecedented move to reverse an Obama-era decision to review the status of the species because available information indicates they may warrant listing.

The Trump administration and Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed slashing the budget for endangered species listings by half, from $20.5 million to $10.9, and to prioritize delisting species rather than granting protection to new ones. These budget cuts are being proposed despite the Fish and Wildlife Service’s backlog of hundreds of species found to warrant consideration for protection. 

Because of the high rates of diversity and extinction in the Southeast’s rivers, in 2010 the Center petitioned for protection for 404 freshwater species from the region. Of those, 21 have gained protection or been proposed for protection and three have been declared extinct. Most are still awaiting reviews. In response to the Service funding scientists to survey their status, the Center has been able to withdraw dozens of species from the petition, including 38 in today’s comments.

“The Southeast’s rivers are at the center of the global extinction crisis, so it’s the worst moment in history to have a president hostile to wildlife protection,” Curry said. “The well-being of humans is tied to the well-being of all wildlife, so we have to start looking out for the little guys that help keep the environment healthy for everyone.”

At least 164 species from the Southeast region have been lost to extinction since 1900.
Just since 2000, many southeastern species have been identified as extinct, including two butterflies, a fairy shrimp and a rainbow snake from Florida; the beaverpond marstonia snail from Georgia; the Tatum Cave beetle from Kentucky; and the green blossom, yellow blossom, tubercled bloosom and turgid blossom pearly mussels from Tennessee and other states.

Species Background
Today’s letter urges the Service to speed protections for 23 critically imperiled species, including nine plants, eight insects, four crayfish and two mollusks. Florida is home to 13 of the species. Five species each are found in North Carolina and Tennessee, four each in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, and three each in Kentucky and Virginia. The others occur in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The domed ancylid is an incredibly rare freshwater limpet found only in Kentucky’s Green River and Alabama’s Cahaba River. Experts say the entire group of freshwater mollusks needs proactive conservation including captive breeding and propagation. They are threatened by erosion and run-off that increases silt in rivers and by global climate change, which increases drought and water temperature.

The southern snaketail is a rare dragonfly with a green thorax with two black stripes found in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers it endangered. Dragonfly experts describe it as restricted, vulnerable and declining. The larvae need clean, gravel stream bottoms to survive and are highly sensitive to water pollution, so it is threatened by mining, logging and pesticides.

The sunfacing coneflower is a 4-foot-tall yellow flower in the aster family found in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. It is widely-scattered and rare. Plant experts believe it has fallen through the cracks of current conservation efforts. It is threatened by development, wetland draining and fire suppression.

Southern snaketail

Southern snaketail photo by Giff Beaton. Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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