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Group Files Suit to Usher Species Aboard the 'Western Ark'

Climate Change Among the Threats to Varied Species

SANTA FE, N.M.-WildEarth Guardians filed suit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) over the agency’s failure to issue Endangered Species Act findings for two rare plants, a jackrabbit, and a salamander found in the southwest. The species were part of WildEarth Guardians’ “Western Ark” project launched last October to call attention to the wide variety of endangered species not yet protected under the Endangered Species Act and to gain federal protection for those species.

The suit filed today challenges the Service’s failure to provide findings within 90-days of receiving the group’s petitions, as is required by the Endangered Species Act. The Service has yet to issue findings on any of the 8 petitions the group filed in October. Today’s lawsuit challenges the Service’s failure on 4 of the petitions because they involve species that are found in New Mexico, which is where the group filed suit.

Since coming to office on January 20, the Obama administration has issued only two listing rules, despite national attention over the past several years on Fish and Wildlife Service scandals that blocked much-needed species listings.

“Interior Secretary Salazar has pledged to clean up Interior, but we haven’t seen the change we need at the Fish and Wildlife Service. Endangered species need prompt protection under federal law, and we haven’t seen a shift in the trend set by the previous administration: of preventing at-risk species from boarding the nation’s Ark,” stated Rosmarino.

The species at issue in today’s lawsuit are:

Chihuahua scurfpea, a plant with two current populations containing a total of 300 individuals, located in New Mexico and Arizona. Threatened by herbicide in the U.S., it appears to be gone from Mexico. It was historically used as medicine.

View Chihuahua Scurfpea profile with range map (PDF)

View Chihuahua Scurfpea petition (PDF)

Wright’s marsh thistle, which now occurs only in New Mexico. Its wetland habitat is threatened by water diversion and agriculture. While the Wright’s marsh thistle is native, it can be harmed by herbicides aimed at non-native thistles.

View Wright's marsh thistle profile with range map (PDF)

View Wright's marsh thistle petition (PDF)

Jemez Mountains salamander, which is restricted to the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico. The Jemez Mountains are ranked as the most vulnerable area in NM to climate change, with this salamander identified as a likely victim.

View Jemez mountains salamander profile with range map (PDF)

View Jemez mountains salamander petition (PDF)

White-sided jackrabbit, occurring in just one small area in New Mexico but historically ranging through southern Mexico. Surveys in the 1990s counted only five jackrabbits per year. This jackrabbit depends on rare desert grasslands.

View White-sided jackrabbit profile with range map (PDF)

View White-sided jackrabbit petition (PDF)

The species involved are either restricted to small areas or have extremely small populations. Three of the four species are threatened by climate change: the thistle is harmed by wetlands vanishing as a result of extended droughts, the salamander is threatened by drier conditions and fiercer fires, and the jackrabbit is at risk from conversion of desert grassland to scrub as a result of an altered climate.

“Climate change impacts affect us all - and we should use every tool in the toolbox to fight the climate crisis, including the Endangered Species Act,” stated Rosmarino.

Other species the group petitioned in October were: six freshwater mussels occurring in the southeastern U.S.; Sprague’s pipit, a bird that ranges across the Great Plains and southwest; New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, which exists in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico, but is gone from 74% of the places it historically occurred; and Sonoran desert tortoise, ranging across southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico and has declined by 51% since 1987. The Service has also failed to issue findings for these species.

Additional threats identified in the petitions include habitat destruction from livestock grazing, logging, energy development, and off-road vehicle use; collection of plants and animals; excessive water use; disease; insectides; pesticides; non-native species; and inadequate protections provided by state and federal agencies.

All of the petitions are in-depth and detailed. To obtain the petitions, photos, and other information, contact Dr. Nicole Rosmarino at or 505-699-7404.


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