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Fish and Wildlife Service Fails to Protect Species at Risk of Extinction

January 22, 2019
Taylor Jones, (720) 443-2615, tjones@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Wildlife   Wolverine
Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is failing in its obligation to protect species at risk of extinction, among them two species threatened by climate change—the Joshua Tree and wolverine, according to a legal warning filed today by WildEarth Guardians. The group filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for failing to meet deadlines to timely decide whether the species warrant Endangered Species Act (Act) protections to ensure that species do not go extinct.

The lawsuit notice comes just two weeks after vandals in Joshua Tree National Park cut down the iconic trees to illegally off-road, and while the park is seeing unprecedented levels of out-of-bounds camping. WildEarth Guardians petitioned the Service to list the Joshua Tree in 2015. The Service failed to live up to its committment to take action in 2018 to determine whether the Joshua tree needs the Act’s safeguards. Another rare southwestern plant, the Chihuahua scurfpea, has been waiting for a decision since 2009.

“Delayed protection is denied protection and further imperils iconic, irreplaceable species like the Joshua tree and the wolverine,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “The Service has had every chance to do the right thing, and they have failed.”

In 2016, the Service drafted a workplan to address the backlog of imperiled species needing protections. However, the Service has only completed 47 percent of the decisions they committed to making in fiscal years 2017 and 2018.

The Service also failed to make final listing determinations for the wolverine and the meltwater lednian stonefly, two very different animals threatened by climate change. Both species were found warranted for listing years ago, but are languishing without protections as the Service delays. The wolverine depends on deep snowpack to make dens for its young. The meltwater lednian stonefly lives only in the cold glacier-fed streams of Glacier National Park, where glaciers are predicted to vanish by 2030.

The ESA is America’s most effective law for protecting wildlife in danger of extinction. It serves as an essential safety net when state management fails to protect imperiled plants, fish, and wildlife. Since its enactment, 99 percent of listed species have avoided extinction, and hundreds more have been set on a path to recovery. The law is especially important as a defense against the current extinction crisis; species are disappearing at a rate much higher than the natural rate of extinction due to human activities. Scientists estimate that, if not for ESA protections, 227 species would have gone extinct by 2006.