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Center for Biological Diversity: As Polar Bear Decision Looms, Department of the Interior Crosses Two-year Mark Without Any New Species Protected Under the Endangered Species Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 9, 2008
1:15 PM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity
Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

 
As Polar Bear Decision Looms, Department of the Interior Crosses Two-year Mark
Without Any New Species Protected Under the Endangered Species Act
 

WASHINGTON, DC - May 9 - Today marks two years since the Department of the Interior last protected a new U.S. species under the Endangered Species Act. This period includes the entire tenure of Dirk Kempthorne as Secretary of the Interior and is by far the longest period without a new species being protected since the landmark federal law was passed, surpassing even James Watt, who, under Reagan, in 1981 and 1982 went 382 days without protecting a species.

“The Bush administration has been an unmitigated disaster for the nation’s endangered species, delaying and denying protection for hundreds of animals and plants,” said Noah Greenwald, science director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The drought in new species protections is not for lack of species in need. Indeed, the Fish and Wildlife Service currently maintains a list of 280 candidate species that are recognized as warranting protection, many desperately, but for which the agency claims they lack resources to provide such protection. On average, these 280 candidate species have been waiting for protection for 19 years. Such delays have real consequences, with at least 24 species having gone extinct after being designated candidates for protection.

“Because extinction is forever, delays in protection of the nation’s most imperiled species are unacceptable,” said Greenwald. “The Endangered Species Act can save these 280 species, but only once they’re granted endangered status.”

Overall, the Bush administration has protected the fewest species of any administration in the history of the Endangered Species Act, to date protecting only 59 species, compared to 522 under the Clinton administration and 231 under Bush Sr.’s administration. On average, the administration has listed only seven species per year. By contrast, an average of 45 species per year was listed from 1974 to 2000, and 73 species per year were listed from 1991 to 1995.

“This is the slowest rate of protecting species of any administration in history,” said Greenwald. “The nation’s endangered wildlife needs protection, not foot-dragging.”

In accordance with a court order, the administration must issue a decision on protection of the polar bear by next Thursday. The administration unsuccessfully tried to persuade the court that the decision should be delayed further; as a result of the court’s action, the polar bear may thus become the first U.S. species protected by the Department of the Interior under the Endangered Species Act in over two years. The last species protected were 12 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies on May 9, 2006.

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