TUCSON, AZ - May 4 - A coalition of prominent scientists, artists and environmentalists filed 1,000 pages of legal documents with the Bush administration today, requesting that it cease delaying Endangered Species Act protection for 225 of the nation's most imperiled plants and animals. The species span the country from Hawaii to Washington, California, New York and Florida.
"Wildlife is facing serious threats almost everywhere. In too many places around the world our forests are empty and silentdevoid even of birdsong," said Dr. Jane Goodall of the Goodall Institute. "In the United States, the Endangered Species Act is an effective tool for protecting species. But the current administration and others seek to undermine this important law. Some species have been on the federal waiting list for more than 20 years, and more than 30 species have become extinct or missing while waiting for protection."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already declared that all 225 plants and animals qualify as proposed endangered species. Instead of protecting them, however, it has placed them on a waiting list called the "candidate list." A recent report by the Center for Biological Diversity shows that systematic delays, including lengthy waits on the candidate list, contributed to the extinction of 83 species between 1974 and 1994.
Seventy-nine percent of the 225 species (178) have been on the candidate for at least ten years, 38 percent (86) have waited at least 20 years, and 28 percent (64) have been waiting since 1975. On average, the 225 species have been on the waiting list for 17 years.
"These magnificent species are at death's door," said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, "if they are not protected soon they will be lost forever. It is a long-standing problem, but it has been greatly exacerbated by the Bush administration. The Clinton administration placed 65 species per year on the endangered list, Bush Sr. averaged 59, and Reagan 32. But the Bush administration has essentially shut down the endangered species protection program. It has listed just nine per year. It has the worst record in the history of the Endangered Species Act."
Among the 225 plants and animals are the elfin woods warbler, a beautiful Puerto Rican forest bird which was placed on the candidate list in 1982. The Oregon spotted frog was placed on the candidate list in 1991. It has disappeared from California, is barely hanging on in Washington and Oregon, and was the first species listed as endangered on an emergency basis by the Canadian government. The Aquarius paintbrush, a stunning plant from Utah, was first placed on the waiting list in 1975, as was the white fringeless orchid (AL, GA, TN, KY, SC), and the bog asphodel (DE, NC, NJ, NY, SC). Cagle's map turtle, a Texas endemic, has been waiting for protection since 1977. The yellowcheek darter, an Arkansas fish, has been waiting since 1975. The Hawaiian band-rumped storm petrel (a bird) has been waiting since 1989.
Also joining the petition are two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Dr. E.O. Wilson of Harvard University, National Academy of Sciences member Dr. Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University, Dr. Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History, National Academy of Sciences member Dr. John Terborgh of Duke University, Society for Conservation Biology founder Dr. Michael Soule of the University of California at Santa Cruz, and National Medal of Science winner Dr. Thomas Eisner of Cornell University.
"Extinction is the most irreversible and tragic of all environmental calamities. With each plant and animal species that disappears, a precious part of creation is callously erased," said Dr. Soule. "Scientists have studied these species, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that they need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. These plants and animals can be saved if greed and arrogance are subdued by compassion for life and common sense."
Artists include Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Barbara Kingsolver, Lannan Literary Award winning essayist Charles Bowden, former Poet Laureate Robert Hass, and actor Martin Sheen.
"It is too late to save the California grizzly bear, the eastern cougar, the Carolina parakeet, the passenger pigeon, or the silver trout. They became extinct before America created the Endangered Species Act, our modern day Noah's Ark," said Dr. Hass. "But we're not too late to save the 225 plants and animals languishing on the federal candidate list. It's time to open the doors of the ark and let them in. They should be placed on the endangered species list as soon as possible."
Conservation groups included the Center for Biological Diversity, which has won endangered species protection for more than 230 species, the Xerces Socitey, which is the only national organization devoted to the protection of invertebrates, and the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, which protects endangered species throughout the Rocky Mountains.
For more information, go to: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/programs/bdes/cp/index.html