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Glaciers & Extinction: Ultimate Climate Change Victim Latest ESA Candidate

April 5, 2011
Nicole Rosmarino (303) 573-4898 x1163
In This Release
Wildlife   Mist forestfly
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Glaciers & Extinction: Ultimate Climate Change Victim Latest ESA Candidate

Feds Place Glacier National Park’s Meltwater Lednian Stonefly in Species Waiting Line
Contact: Nicole Rosmarino (303) 573-4898 x1163

Washington, DC-April 5. U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar published a decision in today’s Federal Register that the meltwater lednian stonefly,also known as the mist forestfly (Ledniatumana), warrants protection (listing) under the Endangered Species Act,but he declined actual protection, citing higher priorities. The decision comesin response to a July 2007 petition filed by WildEarth Guardians.Unfortunately, this rare stonefly will receive no federal safeguards until itis actually listed as endangered or threatened. That is despite recognitionthat the Glacier National Park habitat on which it depends may disappear inless than two decades.

“While we are pleased that Secretary Salazar recognizes this species isendangered due to climate change, the next step is crucial: actual protection,”stated Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. “The mist forestfly’s fate isintertwined with Glacier National Park’s glaciers, which are rapidlydisappearing due to the climate crisis.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers the mist forestfly to bethe only species in its genus, Lednia.The species reaches a maximum size of just ¼ inch in its adult stage. The mistforestfly is aquatic and lives in glacier-fed streams in Glacier National Park.It is dependent on cool, clean, running water, usually in close proximity toglaciers.

In today’s finding, Interior Secretary Salazar recognized threats to themist forestfly from climate change, particularly from the loss of glaciers; thefailure of the U.S. federal government to address climate change; and thespecies’ narrow distribution.

Glacier National Park is ground zero for the climate crisis. Since 1900,air temperatures in Glacier National Park have risen almost double the globalmean increase and are expected to increase even more rapidly. As a result, allglaciers are expected to be lost in Glacier National Park by 2030. As the glaciersdisappear, streams they feed will heat up and in some cases dry out. The mistforestfly likely cannot survive these changes.

The mist forestfly acutely exposes the danger of climate change tobiodiversity, as its Glacier National Park habitat is relatively pristine.Climate change, alone, is driving this species extinct. This insect’s plightunderscores the wisdom of the Endangered Species Act’s stated purpose ofprotecting endangered species and the ecosystems on which they depend. Thefuture of the mist forestfly is fundamentally linked to the fate of the iconiclandscape on which it depends.

But protection is still a ways off for thisspecies. There are now 262 species of plants and wildlife that are formal“candidates” awaiting federal listing. Over 80 percent of these specieswere first recognized as needing federal protection more than a decade ago.Outside of Hawaii, Salazar has listed only 4 new U.S. species under the Actsince taking office. At the current pace, it would take a century to getthrough the backlog of candidate species in the continental U.S.

A surprising part of today’s decision was SecretarySalazar’s finding that the mist forestfly does not face imminent threats and istherefore relegated to lower priority status than most other candidates. Thisstands in contrast with his discussion of the impacts of climate change to thisspecies:

“…we expect that the environmental changes resulting from climate changewill significantly alter the habitat of all extant populations of the meltwaterlednian stonefly, and we conclude that the loss of glaciers represents ahigh-intensity threat (i.e., one that results in dramatic changes to thespecies’ habitat and distribution) and that this threat is, and will continueto be, large in scope (most, if not all, known populations will be affected)now and into the foreseeable future.”

In today’s decision, Secretary Salazar rejected federal listing for twoother Montana species, the Bearmouth mountainsnail and the Byrne Resortmountainsnail, on the basis that more genetic testing is required to evaluatetheir taxonomy.

For background information, including the 2007petition which prompted today’s finding, contact Nicole Rosmarino at nrosmarino@wildearthguardians.org or 505-699-7404.


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“While we are pleased that Secretary Salazar recognizes this species is endangered due to climate change, the next step is crucial: actual protection,” stated Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. “The mist forestfly’s fate is intertwined with Glacier National Park’s glaciers, which are rapidly disappearing due to the climate crisis.”