The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Backlog of Endangered Species Awaiting Protection Reaches Lowest Level Since 1970s

Landmark Agreement to Protect America's Most Endangered Species Is Working


For the first time since the 1970s, the number of plants and animals on the waiting list for Endangered Species Act protection has dropped below 150. The progress the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made last year addressing the backlog highlights the success of a landmark agreement reached with the Center for Biological Diversity in 2011 requiring the Service to speed protection decisions for 757 species. The 2013 "candidate notice of review" released by the agency today includes 146 species now awaiting protection: 94 animals and 52 plants. In fiscal year 2013, 81 species were awarded final protection under the Endangered Species Act.

"It is so exciting to see imperiled wildlife from around the country get the Endangered Species Act protection that will save them from extinction. The Fish and Wildlife Service deserves credit for the excellent progress it's making protecting our most endangered animals and plants," said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center.

In the past year dozens of critically imperiled species gained final protection, including Hawaiian flowers and damselflies, freshwater mussels from the Southeast with names like "fuzzy pigtoe" and "rabbitsfoot," and butterflies from the Pacific Northwest and Las Vegas. Also protected were the Florida bonneted bat, salamanders from Texas, and a fish from West Virginia called the diamond darter.

"Candidates" are species that have been found to warrant protection, but instead of gaining protection are placed on a waiting list where they may languish for decades. The Fish and Wildlife Service issues an annual notice of review describing its progress over the year in addressing the backlog.

During the past year the Service issued proposals to protect dozens of new species under the Act including the wolverine, lesser prairie chicken, Yosemite toad, red knot, a shorebird along the Atlantic Coast, and the northern long-eared bat, which was once found in 39 states before its population was decimated by a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome. Also among the proposed were the western yellow-billed cuckoo, which only lives along desert streams, four kinds of pocket gophers from Washington state, and butterflies from Florida and the Dakotas.

The vast majority of the 146 species still on the waiting list will receive listing proposals in the next three years. Species still waiting include the Pacific walrus, eastern gopher tortoise, west coast fisher, Lower Colorado River roundtail chub, Sonoran desert tortoise, several types of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees, and the Black Warrior waterdog, a large salamander from Alabama.

In today's review the Service elevated the priority of several species, including the southern Idaho ground squirrel, Washington ground squirrel, Kentucky arrow darter and Cumberland arrow darter, the latter two of which are colorful fish threatened by mountaintop-removal coal mining in Tennessee and Kentucky.

"To build on the great progress in listing species, we urge Congress to designate the funding for endangered species recovery that the Service desperately needs to accomplish its goals. Congress must recognize that protecting endangered species also protects public health and the long-term well-being of our country, which should be a fiscal priority," said Curry.

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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