Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

For Immediate Release: October 2, 2006

Contact: Kieran Suckling, Policy Director, (520) 275-5960

Center for Biological Diversity Supports Delisting of One,
Downlisting of Two California Species

Opposes Delisting and Downlisting of Four Species

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the completion of Five-Year Reviews for thirteen endangered California species.* Based on the reviews, the Service stated that it intends to delist three species, downlist four to "threatened" status, and maintain the status quo on six.

Proposed delistings: Island night lizard, elderberry longhorn beetle, and Chorro shoulderband snail

Proposed downlistings: Least Bell's vireo, California least tern, Morro shoulderband snail, and Smith's blue butterfly

No change: Western snowy plover, Kneeland Prairie pennycress, Hidden Lake bluecurls, Santa Cruz Island rock-cress, giant garter snake, San Francisco garter snake

The Center for Biological Diversity supports the delisting of the island night lizard and the downlisting of least Bell's vireo and the California least tern.

"Today's proposal shows how well the Endangered Species Act is working," said Kieran Suckling, Policy Director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Critics of the Endangered Species Act are dead wrong when they say species aren't recovering. The lizard, vireo and tern are just a few of the hundreds of endangered species with soaring population numbers."

A recent report by the Center for Biological Diversity presented 100 case studies of strongly endangered improving species (, including many in California (

The Center strongly opposes the delisting of the elderberry longhorn beetle and Chorro shoulderband snail and the downlisting of the Morro shoulderband snail and Smith's blue butterfly. The Five-Year Review released today for these five species states that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1) does not know what their population size is, 2) does not know what the population trend is, and 3) has not established scientific recovery criteria or goals. In the case of Smith's blue butterfly, the Five-Year Review states the habitat is known to be declining and the species probably is as well.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service admits it has no idea whether these four species are improving or declining. It makes no sense to strip their protections away," said Suckling. "These species need to be brought up to scientifically determined recovery goals before being delisted or downlisted."

Least Bell's vireo: listed as endangered in 1986, critical habitat designated in 1994, draft recovery plan released in 1988
The least Bell's vireo was one of California's most abundant birds in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but due to habitat loss and brood parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird, only 300 pairs of birds were estimated to remain in 1986. Intensive habitat protection and restoration and cowbird control led to increasing numbers, and by 2004 there were an estimated 2,500 pairs of birds. The 2006 estimate is about 3,000 birds. It has met the downlisting criteria of the 1998 draft recovery plan. For more information see:

California Least Tern: listed as endangered in 1970, recovery plan adopted in 1985
California least tern populations declined catastrophically due to development and recreational pressures that destroy beach habitat. In 1970, just 225 nesting least tern pairs were recorded in California, but protection of nesting beaches allowed the California population to increase to 6,561 pairs in 2004. The total population goal of 1,200 breeding pairs for downlisting was reached in 1988 and all subsequent years. The downlisting criterion of 24 colonies was met in 1996 and all subsequent years. For more information see:

Island Night Lizard: listed as endangered in 1977, recovery plan adopted in 1984
The island night lizard occurs on Santa Barbara, San Nicholas and San Clemente islands. Habitat restoration by the Department of Defense and Channel Islands National Park, especially the removal of exotic pigs and rabbits, greatly improved habitat conditions. In response, lizard populations have increased. The Santa Barbara population was estimated at 17,600 in the late 1980s and has probably grown since. The San Nicholas population was estimated at 15,300 lizards in 1995. San Clemente Island has large, stable population, but the size is unknown. It has met the downlisting criteria of its 1984 recovery plan.

* The Fish and Wildlife Service’s press release erroneously states that 12 species were reviewed and two are proposed for delisting. It treats the Morro shoulderband snail and Chorro shoulderband snail as the same species. They are different species. The first is proposed for downlisting, the second for delisting.


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