Lawsuit Launched to Speed Endangered Species Act Protection for 417 Species

For Immediate Release

Lawsuit Launched to Speed Endangered Species Act Protection for 417 Species

Endangered Wildlife Continue to Wait Years for Protection, Increasing Extinction Risk

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to act on petitions to protect more than 417 animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act. The notice includes species from across the United States, including Florida sandhill cranes, coastal flatwood crayfish, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and many others.

The agency has failed to make a required “12-month finding” for the 417 species, most of which were petitioned for between 2008 and 2010 by the Center and others, meaning the findings are five to seven years late. Long delays in protection of species under the Endangered Species Act have been a persistent problem for decades: At least 42 species have gone extinct waiting for protection. 

A recent peer-reviewed study found that on average species waited 12 years for protection during the Endangered Species Act’s 40-plus year history. 

“Delayed protection can be deadly for species already on the brink of extinction. The longer we wait, the more difficult — and expensive — it becomes to save them,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “Simply put, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to be acting more quickly to decide which species will be protected so the recovery process can begin.”

Since 2011 the Fish and Wildlife Service has been implementing a settlement agreement with the Center that required it to make protection decisions for 757 species, but did not include 12-month findings for the 417 species included in today's notice.  Under the settlement, which largely comes to a close on Sept. 30, the Service has successfully reduced a backlog of 251 candidate species to 60 today, including protection of 147 species to date. These species represent a small fraction of the true backlog of species needing protection because it does not include the 417 species included in today’s notice; nor does it include hundreds of other species arbitrarily dropped from consideration by the Service in 1996 (former “category 2” candidates). 

“The Endangered Species Act is incredibly successful at protecting and recovering animals and plants, but it only works if species are actually listed as threatened or endangered,” said Greenwald. “These 417 species and hundreds of others are being dangerously neglected for no other reasons than bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of political will.”

Overall, under the Obama administration, the agency has protected 232 species, for an average of 31 species per year. Although this represents a vast improvement over the 62 species protected during the entire eight years of the Bush administration, it falls well below the 499 (an average 62 per year) protected under the Clinton administration. The Service routinely requests far less money than it needs to address the backlog of species needing protection and, since 1998, has requested and been granted a cap on the dollars that can be spent for listing of species.   

“The Fish and Wildlife Service's head-in-the-sand approach is recklessly endangering hundreds of species that need consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act,” said Greenwald. “The Service needs a systematic plan with binding commitments to consider protection of all U.S. plants and animals that may warrant protection. The list may be long, but it’s not infinite — this is a problem that could be tackled with sufficient resources and political will.”

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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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