Obama Issues Endangered Species Performance Review: Has Only Listed One Species in 10 Months

For Immediate Release

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Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Obama Issues Endangered Species Performance Review: Has Only Listed One Species in 10 Months

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration
today issued its first review of species that are candidates for
protection as endangered species, identifying a total of 249 species
in need of protection. The review also describes the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service's progress in listing these species, showing that
the administration has, to date, only listed one species - a
Hawaiian plant reduced to a handful of individuals. 
   

"This review shows that the Obama
administration has not substantially improved the dismal record of
the Bush administration in providing protection to the nation's
critically endangered wildlife," said Noah Greenwald, endangered
species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Protection
of only one species in 10 months reflects a failure to enact
substantial reforms in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service."

During its eight-year tenure, the Bush
administration protected a mere 62 species - a rate of fewer than
eight species per year. This compares to 522 species protected under
the Clinton administration, at an average rate of 65 per year, and
231 species protected under the George H.W. Bush administration, for
an average rate of 58 per year. With only one species listed so far,
at this point the Obama administration seems to be flatlining in
terms of new listings for candidate species.

"Continued delays in protection of these
249 species is a failure of leadership by Interior Secretary
Salazar," said Greenwald. "And that failure is placing these species
at greater risk of extinction. The position of chief of conservation
and classification hasn't even been filled yet, exemplifying the
failure of the Obama administration to prioritize species
conservation."

Many of the candidate species have been
waiting for protection for decades - delays that have real and often
lethal consequences on the ground, 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 249
species, but only if they are granted protection."

The Center and other groups have a
pending lawsuit in Washington, D.C., arguing that continued delay in
protecting the now-249 candidate species is illegal. The U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service is not making expeditious progress listing
species as required by the Endangered Species Act.

Background on the Candidate Species

The 249 candidates include a wide variety
of species, from shorebirds such as the red knot, which migrates
along the Atlantic Coast during one of the longest migrations in the
animal world, to the aboriginal pricklyapple, a cactus found in
Florida, to the Pacific fisher, a relative of the mink and otter
that is dependent on old-growth forests on the West Coast. Being
designated as a candidate does not provide any formal protection to
the 249 species, a number of which have been waiting for protection
for almost as long as the Endangered Species Act has existed. On
average, the candidates have been waiting 20 years for protection.

The current review includes eight new
species since the last review: Florida bonneted bat, yellow-billed
loon
, roundtail chub, diamond darter, rabbitsfoot clam, Goose Creek
milkvetch, Kentucky gladecress, and Florida bristle fern. Four
species were removed, including the fat-whorled pondsnail,
troglobitic groundwater shrimp, and two plants, Calliandra
locoensis
and Calyptranthes estremerae.  

Each of the candidates are given a
priority number ranging from 1 to 12 based on their taxonomic rank
(e.g. species, subspecies or population) and magnitude and immediacy
of threats, with lower numbers indicating higher priority. The
majority of candidates are rated as either priority 2 or 3, meaning
they are in immediate danger of extinction.

The following are but a few examples of
candidate species awaiting protection:

Oregon spotted
frog
: The Oregon
spotted frog has been in protection limbo since 1991. It is found in
California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, in wetlands
from sea level to at least 5,500 feet. The frog's habitat has been
lost at an accelerating pace, and the species is now absent from up
to 90 percent of its former range, including all of
California.

Sonoyta mud
turtle
:
The Sonoyta mud turtle has been a candidate since 1997.
In the United States, it has been reduced to a single reservoir in
Arizona that is isolated from populations in Mexico. The turtle eats
insects, crustaceans, snails, fish, frogs, and plants. Females bury
their eggs on land.

Florida semaphore cactus:
The Florida semaphore cactus has been waiting for protection for
six years. It is a large prickly pear cactus from the Florida Keys
that was thought to have been driven extinct by cactus collectors
and road construction in the late 1970s, but was rediscovered in the
mid-1980s. Much of its historic habitat has fallen prey to
development, destruction, and fragmentation. Only two populations
remain.

Eastern massasauga: The
Eastern massasauga is a wetland rattlesnake of the Midwest and Great
Lakes, and has been found in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan,
Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Ontario,
Canada. It has been waiting for protection for 25 years, having been
made a candidate in 1982. The snake is extirpated from 40 percent of
the counties it historically inhabited due to wetland losses from
urban and suburban sprawl, golf courses, mining, and
agriculture.

Parachute beardtongue: The
Parachute beardtongue, also known as the Parachute penstemon, is an
attractive perennial plant that grows on rocky cliffs above the
Colorado River near the town of Parachute, Colorado. It occupies
just two locations of less than one-third of a square mile. The
beardtongue has been listed as a candidate for protection under the
Endangered Species Act since 1990. Both populations are on lands
slated for oil-shale mining.

White fringeless orchid: The
white fringeless orchid is a two-foot-tall herb that grows in
wetlands in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Alabama's coastal plain. It
has been found in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and South
Carolina, and has been a candidate for 30 years. The orchid is
limited to 53 locations.

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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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