The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Judy Rodd, Friends of Blackwater, (304) 345-7663
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495

Bush Administration Ignores Science-based Recovery Plan, Removes West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel From Endangered Species


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared Tuesday that it has
removed the West Virginia northern flying squirrel from protection
under the Endangered Species Act - despite the squirrel's small
population and the looming threat that climate change poses to its

The flying squirrel was declared
"recovered" even though the species has been unable to meet goals in a
recovery plan developed by the world's leading experts on the
squirrel's biology and status. The Fish and Wildlife Service's action
ignores the alarm bells that scientists have been sounding about the
increasing threat of climate change caused by continued release of
human-generated greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

"The delisting of the West Virginia northern flying squirrel is part of
the Bush administration's plan to gut the Endangered Species Act by
keeping rare species off the list, undercutting protections for some on
the list, and removing others from the list altogether," said Judy
Rodd, director of Friends of Blackwater, a Maryland-based conservation
group. "This is consistent with the Bush administration's move last
week to weaken regulations so that Fish and Wildlife scientists no
longer advise federal agencies on the impacts of their projects on
endangered species or consider the impacts of greenhouse emissions on
endangered species," Rodd said.

Bush administration
officials claim that threats to the squirrel have been alleviated and
that continued presence of the species in some areas for 20 years prove
that it is not endangered. In drawing these conclusions, however, the
officials ignored the fact that all climate change models show decline
for the northern hardwood/red spruce forests that the West Virginia
northern flying squirrel calls home.

change is a serious threat to the West Virginia northern flying
squirrel and countless other species," said Noah Greenwald, science
director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The Bush
administration's head-in-the-sand approach to climate change and
endangered species is a recipe for extinction for the nation's

Administration officials readily admit
that not all criteria in the squirrel's recovery plan, which was
amended in 2001, have been met. But the officials claim that recovery
plans developed under the Endangered Species Act are merely "guidance."
In fact, recovery plans are required under the Endangered Species Act
to have measurable criteria for determining when a species' endangered
status should be delisted (removed from the endangered species list).
The plans are developed by a recovery team composed of scientific
experts on the species and its habitat.

administration's failure to follow the squirrel's recovery plan was
noted in a 2008 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
"The West Virginia northern flying squirrel offers an example of a
species proposed for delisting even though the recovery criteria have
not been met," the report stated.

administration's decision to remove protection for the West Virginia
flying squirrel flies in the face of the science on the species," Rodd
said. "Clearly, this is a political move to allow more destruction of
the squirrel's forest habitats by logging, mining, and development."

Comments on the proposed delisting from 29 conservation groups that
comprise SOS, the Save Our Squirrel coalition, and several
world-renowned scientists sharply criticized the assumptions and
conclusions in support of removing protection for the species. Among
other things, the comments noted that little is known about the
squirrel's population trends and that the Fish and Wildlife Service
failed to analyze all of the threats, particularly from climate change.

Groups under the SOS umbrella that sent comments
to the Fish and Wildlife Service objecting to the delisting of the
flying squirrel include: Friends of Blackwater, Center for Biological
Diversity, Heartwood, The Wilderness Society, Ohio Valley Environmental
Coalition, West Virginia E-Council, West Virginia Highlands
Conservancy, Appalachian Voices, Southern Appalachian Biodiversity
Project, Southern Environmental Law Center, Southern Appalachian Forest
Coalition, WildLaw, Sierra Club Appalachian Region, Virginia Forest
Watch, National Wildlife Federation, Blue Heron Environmental
Network, Endangered Species Coalition, American Lands, Potomac Valley
Audubon Society, Sustainable Living for West Virginia, Missouri Forest
Alliance, Stewards of the Potomac Highlands, Kentucky Heartwood,
Maryland Conservation Council, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, La Paix
Herb Farm, Friends of the Lower Greenbrier River, Plateau Action
Network, and WV Citizens Action Group.

The Center for Biological Diversity
is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than
180,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of
endangered species and wild places.

Friends of Blackwater
is a nonprofit citizens group that supports the Blackwater National
Wildlife Refuge and Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge
Complex and their educational, interpretive, and public use missions.

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.

(520) 623-5252