For Immediate Release, December 6, 2007
Contact: Kieran Suckling, (520) 275-5960, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bush Administration Delays Protection of 280 Imperiled Species;
Cynical Federal Report Claims Refusal to Protect Any Species in
19 Months Is Proof of Legally Required “Expeditious Progress”
Report Also Shows Administration Claims of Interference by
Environmental Litigation Are False
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued its annual Endangered Species Act “candidate” list — the official federal list of the most imperiled, yet unprotected species in the country. Unlike being placed on the threatened and endangered list, listing as a “candidate” confers no actual legal protections. There are 280 species on today’s list.
The Endangered Species Act stipulates that protection can only be delayed via the candidate list only if the Fish and Wildlife Service is making “expeditious progress” in placing “higher priority” species on the threatened and endangered lists. This finding of “expeditious progress” is calculated on a yearly basis in the candidate announcement.
The Fish and Wildlife has listed no species as threatened or endangered over the past year. Indeed, it has listed no species during Dirk Kempthorne’s tenure as Secretary of the Interior, and no species at all in 576 days. That is a new record in the 34 year of the Endangered Species Act, surpassing even James Watt, who under Reagan, in 1981 and 1982, went 382 days without listing a species. Incredibly, today’s candidate notice declares that the listing of no species at all in the past year fulfills the Endangered Species Act requirement to make “ expeditious progress.”
“The Bush administration has raised doublespeak to a high art by claiming that no progress qualifies as expeditious progress," said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Despite his claims of having cleaned up the Department of the Interior after the scandals created by Julie MacDonald and Steven Griles, Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has made things much worse. Kempthorne has completely shut down the Endangered Species Act listing program. He has surpassed James Watt as history’s worst Endangered Species Act administrator.”
Overall, the Bush administration has listed just 58 species compared to 522 by the Clinton administration and 234 by Bush Senior.
A 2004 report by the Center for Biological Diversity demonstrated that the cost of listing delays could not be higher. Eighty-five species went extinct between 1973 and 1994 due to delays in placing them on the endangered species list. Twenty-four of these were on the official candidate list when they went extinct.
Report will fuel ongoing national lawsuit
The Department of the Interior simultaneously filed today’s candidate report with a Washington, DC federal court, which is currently reviewing a challenge by environmentalists to the entire Endangered Species Act listing program nationwide. Environmentalists charge that the Bush administration’s average listing rate of just eight species per year — and its current failure to list any species in over 19 months — is a clear violation of the Act’s requirement to make "expeditious progress" in protecting species.
"This report is extraordinarily damaging to the Bush administration’s legal position," said Suckling. "I’d hate to be the defense attorney having to argue that the protection of no endangered species in over 19 months is proof of expeditious progress. Some lemons can never be made into lemonade."
Standard "too much litigation" defense demonstrated to be false
When questioned by the media over the Department of the Interior’s failure to place species on the endangered list, agency spokespeople invariably ascribe the failure to litigation. They will do so in response to this press release. While providing no financial data, they will assert that the agency’s resources have been diverted to paying legal fees and litigation expenses instead of listing species. Today’s candidate notice should put that argument to lie once and for all.
On page 18, the candidate notice accounts for the spending of all $5,193,000 of the listing budget over the past year. Just $100,000 — 2 percent of the total — was spent on attorney’s fees and litigation expenses. This is in keeping with past candidate reports, which found that the agency spent 2 percent of its $5,130,594 listing budget on litigation in 2006 and 6 percent of its $5,604,178 listing budget in 2005 budget.
“The Bush administration’s propensity for breaking the law and getting hauled into court may be scandalous, but it clearly has had very little effect on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s budget or its ability to protect species,” said Suckling. “The administration should stop lying about its budget and whining about the courts and start protecting endangered species.”