Center for Biological Diversity Statement on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Draft Policy for Prioritizing Protection of Species

For Immediate Release

Center for Biological Diversity Statement on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Draft Policy for Prioritizing Protection of Species

Portland, Ore. - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today a "draft methodology" for prioritizing status reviews to determine if species warrant Endangered Species Act protection. The policy will apply to species that have been petitioned by conservation groups or members of the public and will prioritize critically imperiled species and species with a known status over species where there is little information. Of concern, the methodology would de-prioritize species where voluntary conservation efforts are underway or in development, and the prioritization categories have considerable overlap, which will guarantee confusion and controversy.

"We agree with prioritizing protection of known critically imperiled species and have worked with the Service and scientists over the years to do precisely that," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "But delaying protection for plants or animals based on thin promises from states or others to provide protections is a recipe for extinction. This will be of particular concern when these species are also critically imperiled."

The Service currently faces a backlog of roughly 500 species that have been petitioned and thus already found to potentially warrant protection, but await a full status review by the agency to determine if protection is in fact warranted. There are many hundreds more species that have not been petitioned, but need the protections of the Endangered Species Act to have any chance at survival.

"This is a half measure that will do nothing to speed protection for the many hundreds of species desperately in need of protection," said Greenwald. "Instead, what is needed is more funding and the political backbone to systematically address the backlog of clearly imperiled species that remain unprotected and at risk of extinction."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a clear mandate to provide prompt protection to species at risk of extinction, but has consistently fallen short. Until recently, hundreds of species known to need protection spent decades waiting for protection on a list of candidate species. In accordance with a 2011 settlement agreement with the Center, the Service has addressed much of this backlog of candidate species, but has fallen behind in considering petitioned or other imperiled species.

The Service used to maintain a list of thousands of species, known as "candidate 2" species, that were thought to need protection, but for which more information was needed. But in 1996 the Service did away with this list and has made no further attempt to systematically identify all of the U.S. species in need of protection.

"What is needed is a systematic plan to identify all of our precious wildlife species that may need protection and provide that protection or determine it's not needed," said Greenwald. "Today's proposal falls well short of such a plan."

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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