The Obama administration today denied Endangered Species Act protection to 251 plants and animals that government scientists have said need those protections to avoid extinction. Instead, the administration has placed them indefinitely on a list of “candidate” species, where many have already languished for years without help.
“The Obama administration has no sense of urgency when it comes to protecting imperiled plants and animals,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “With extinction looming, imperiled species need more than promises of hope and change. They need real protection, and they need it now.”
So far, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Obama administration has provided Endangered Species Act protection to just 51 plants and animals, and only one of those occurs in the continental United States. By comparison, the Clinton administration protected 522 species; the George H.W. Bush administration protected 231. The average annual rate for the Obama administration is 26, while for the Clinton administration it was 65 and for the first Bush administration it was 58.
Many of the “candidate” species have been waiting for protection for decades, including the white fringeless orchid, which has been on the waiting list for 30 years, and the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, which has been a candidate for 25 years.
Delays have real consequences. At least 24 species have gone extinct after being designated a candidate for protection, including the Louisiana prairie vole, Tacoma pocket gopher, San Gabriel Mountains blue butterfly, Sangre de Cristo peaclam from New Mexico and numerous Hawaiian invertebrates.
The Center and other groups have an active lawsuit in Washington, D.C., showing that continued delays in protecting the 251 candidate species is illegal because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not making expeditious progress listing species as required by the Endangered Species Act.
Source: Center for Biological Diversity
Photo caption: white fringeless orchid (take a picture while you still can)