The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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

Prairie Orchid One Step Closer to Endangered Species Protection


Following a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today determined
that the Oklahoma grasspink orchid may warrant protection under the
Endangered Species Act. This is the eighth decision the agency has
issued since the Center filed suit Feb. 17 to force protection for 93
species. Previous decisions have been made on protections for the
striped newt, Mohave ground squirrel, Tucson shovel-nosed snake, Berry
Cave salamander, Ozark chinquapin, least chub and Puerto Rican
harlequin butterfly. The grasspink once occurred across 17 states from
Minnesota to Texas and across to Florida, but is now believed to
survive in only eight: Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Mississippi,
Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana.

"This is a good day for the Oklahoma grasspink and the
prairie habitats it depends on," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species
program director at the Center. "But the Obama administration
continues to move painfully slowly to protect new species under the
Endangered Species Act, frequently only taking action in the wake of

In addition to the 93 species covered by the Center's
suit, there are currently 245 species that are designated by the Fish
and Wildlife Service as candidates for protection. Most have been
waiting decades for a decision. To date, the Obama administration has
not substantially increased the pace of species listings since it took
office. The administration has finalized protection for 51 species from
Hawaii, most of which were proposed under President George W. Bush. In
the continental United States, it has only finalized protection for
one species, a plant. By comparison, the Clinton administration listed
an average of 65 species per year, for a total of 522. Even with the
listing of species from Hawaii, the current administration is falling

"There are hundreds of wildlife species that, like the
grasspink, are facing extinction and are desperately in need of
protection," said Greenwald. "Wholesale reform is needed at the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service to unseat a culture of delay and
foot-dragging, but we've yet to see such comprehensive reform in the
endangered species program under President Obama."

The grasspink occurs in wet prairies and open savannahs,
where it requires frequent burning and is under threat from forces
like habitat destruction for urban and agriculture sprawl, livestock
grazing and fire suppression. The petition was submitted by Douglas
Goldman, a concerned scientist.

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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