Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 25, 2018

Contact: Ryan Shannon, (503) 283-5474 x 407,

Lawsuit Seeks Endangered Species Protection for Rare Pacific Island Songbird

Marine Corps Training, Development Threaten Tinian Monarch

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to act on a petition to protect a songbird called the Tinian monarch under the Endangered Species Act.

The small bird lives only on Tinian, a 39-square-mile island in the western Pacific Ocean that is part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. It’s severely threatened by U.S. Marine Corps plans to expand training activities in the monarch’s last remaining forest habitat.

“The Tinian monarch needs Endangered Species Act protections immediately to have any chance at survival,” said Ryan Shannon, a staff attorney at the Center. “The Fish and Wildlife Service has already acknowledged the monarch’s dire need. We’re going to court to ensure the Trump administration doesn’t block lifesaving protections.”

The Center petitioned for protection of the Tinian monarch in 2013 under the Act, which gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service one year to respond. The agency has yet to do so. Yet it identified the monarch as critically imperiled, meaning its protection is highest priority. The Service even scheduled the decision for fiscal year 2017 in its own workplan, but to date has not moved to protect the species.

The monarch, a type of flycatcher, nearly went extinct from forest clearing for agriculture and military staging during World War II. It was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1970. Following an increase in forest cover and population size, those protections were removed in 2004. Since then the bird’s forest habitat has been slowly disappearing. Only 549 acres of native forest remain on Tinian.

“The Service has already acknowledged that the monarch is critically imperiled. It needs to stop delaying and provide this unique bird the Endangered Species Act protections it desperately needs,” said Shannon.

The monarch’s population is estimated to have declined by nearly 40 percent in recent years. Beyond increased military activities, it is threatened by development, agriculture, typhoons, disease, predation from rodents and the threat of invasion by exotic brown tree snakes, which have decimated native wildlife on numerous islands.

Tinian monarch

Photo by Devon Pike. This image is 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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