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Hope for Endangered Species Act Candidates
Hope for Endangered Species Act Candidates
WildEarth Guardians and Interior Reach Settlement on Endangered Species Listings
Contact: Nicole Rosmarino (505) 699-7404
Washington, DC—May 10. WildEarth Guardians and the Department ofInterior today reached a nationwide agreement regarding Interior’s managementof its endangered species listing program. They filed the proposed settlementwith Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington, DC who presides over 12 cases in whichGuardians challenged Interior’s failure to list species in a timely manner. Ifapproved, the settlement requires Interior to make final listing determinationsby September 2016 for 251 species, all of which are formal candidates forEndangered Species Act protection. In return, WildEarth Guardians agrees todismiss its lawsuits and refrain from suing Interior over other misseddeadlines for listing species for the next six years.
“We and the government agree that the day has come to address the futureof the endangered species candidates. This will be an important step towardprotecting the rich biodiversity in the U.S. and stemming the extinctioncrisis,” stated Dr. Nicole Rosmarino, Wildlife Program Director of WildEarthGuardians.
Until they are listed under the Endangered SpeciesAct, imperiled plants and animals receive no protection under the law. The mostrecent Candidate Notice of Review (CNOR), released by the U.S. Fish andWildlife Service (Service) in November 2010, includes 251 species considered“warranted but precluded” from protection – a loophole provided in the statute.The majority of the current candidates (150) have been waiting for more than 20years for listing; 57 species have been waiting for more than 30 years. Undertoday’s proposed settlement, all 251 species in the 2010 CNOR would receivedecisions, within the next six years, on whether or not they will be listed.
“The candidate list has been the black hole of theEndangered Species Act, where animals and plants that deserve the protection ofthe Act were consigned to an endless queue. Today’s agreement will finallyallow these species, that the government has repeatedly stated warrantprotection, to have a decent chance at actually receiving that protectionbefore they go extinct,” stated Jay Tutchton, General Counsel of WildEarthGuardians. “For species on the brink, delayed protection often equalsextinction.”
The candidates include a diverse array of species,such as birds, butterflies, mammals, fishes, mollusks, wildflowers, and others.These species require a range of natural ecosystems, including mountaintops,tropical islands, forests, rivers, deserts, and other habitats. Some of thecandidates occur in only one place on Earth; while others were historicallywide-ranging but have since dwindled.
In addition to resolving the status of all 251 candidate species, thesettlement includes a two-year work plan guiding the Service response times formaking findings on other citizen petitions requesting species be added to theendangered list; critical habitat proposals and designations; and compliancewith existing court orders. The resulting program balances the need to listcandidate species with considering new plants and animals for listing andconferring habitat protections for species already listed.
WildEarth Guardians has petitioned more species in the last four yearsthan all other petitioners combined. Since 2007, the group petitioned over 700of the 1,230 species for which Interior has received listing requests and hasfiled dozens of lawsuits to obtain findings on those petitions. Under theagreement, Guardians would agree to limit its filing of new petitions to ten orless per year and refrain from litigating over those missed deadlines in favorof addressing the current Endangered Species Act candidates.
“We hope this agreement accomplishes what matters most: adding theseimperiled plants and animals to the endangered species list,” stated Rosmarino.“We expect that this settlement will fundamentally shift how the endangeredspecies listing program is run by ensuring the Service completes the listingprocess for the species that have waited the longest.”
The candidatespecies daily face serious threats. According to Service data, almost all (98%)are imperiled by habitat loss. Lack of legal protection is also a leadingthreat (97%). More than one-half are threatened by disease or predation (53%),and one-third are impacted or potentially impacted by the climate crisis (37%).Nearly every one of the candidate species faces multiple threats.
Scientists estimate that, globally, animals and plants are going extinctat rates 1,000 higher than the natural extinction rate. These animals andplants make up the natural ecosystems on which human economies are based.Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner E.O. Wilson has warned that the loss of speciesdiversity “isthe folly that our descendents are least likely to forgive us.”