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Group Cheers Potential Safeguards for Species on the Brink
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.-December 16. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced in yesterday’s and today’s Federal Register that it will review 76 species for Endangered Species Act protection. The 76 species join 34 species for which the Service announced positive petition findings from July-December. All of these species were petitioned by WildEarth Guardians and include a broad range of animals and plants, such as wildflowers, salamanders, fishes, butterflies, mammals, herptiles, and many others.
“We applaud the Service moving forward with reviews of this broad suite of endangered plants and animals,” stated Nicole Rosmarino, WildEarth Guardians’ Wildlife Program Director. “We will keep pressuring this agency so that these species on the brink are provided safeguards under the Endangered Species Act.”
WildEarth Guardians warns that these species will not enjoy legal safeguards until they are actually protected (listed) under the Endangered Species Act. The Obama administration has lagged behind even the George W. Bush administration in listing species under this law. Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has listed just 2 new U.S. species under the Act, despite more than 300 species the Service has said require listing. This marks an all-time low for the endangered species listing program.
To break the logjam, WildEarth Guardians has undertaken two separate tracks for obtaining Endangered Species Act protection for endangered animals and plants: a mass listing petition effort in 2007 and the “Western Ark” petition effort in 2008. The purpose of the mass listing petition effort, in which the group requested status reviews for 674 critically imperiled species across 12 states, was to encourage the Service to choose priority species in need of careful consideration for federal protection. The Western Ark employed the group’s more traditional approach to endangered species work, namely filing in-depth petitions compiling information on threats and status of individual species.
“It is vital for the long line of species in need to be ushered onboard the legal ark that the Endangered Species Act provides,” stated Rosmarino, citing the 99% effectiveness rate of the law in preventing species extinctions.
In its decisions to conduct status reviews on 110 species that WildEarth Guardians petitioned, the Service found that threats ranging from climate change, development, water depletion, pollution, livestock grazing, crop agriculture, road building and maintenance, and a slew of other dangers compelled such reviews. The Southwest Region of the Service will conduct 80 of the status reviews, and the Mountain-Prairie Region will conduct the other 30.
Select Species Profiles
Arizona striped whiptail. The Service determined that this southeastern Arizona lizard may be threatened by habitat loss from development and livestock grazing.
Arkansas River speckled chub. The Service found that this Arkansas River fish may be threatened by dams and dewatered stretches of the river.
Blanco blind salamander. The Service found that this salamander, found only in the San Marcos pool in Texas, may be threatened by water withdrawal and pollution.
Chihuahua scurfpea. This Chihuahuan Desert plant historically occurred in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Chihuahua. It is now known only from approximately 400 individual plants in New Mexico and Arizona.
Pecos pupfish. The Service found that this fish, found only in limited areas of the Pecos River in New Mexico and Texas, may be threatened by groundwater pumping and dams on its river habitat, as well as hybridization with a non-native minnow.
Sabino dancer. This damselfly is named after Sabino Canyon in Arizona, the only location where it occurs. The Service found that the pools on which it depends are shrinking, thus exposing the damselfly to increased predation and diminished habitat.
Texas fawnsfoot. The Service determined that habitat loss may threaten this 2.2-inch oval freshwater mussel, which historically occurred in the Brazos and Colorado river systems, but is now known from only two populations. The Service also stated that it will investigate the consequences of climate change in its status review.
White Sands pupfish. This fish occurs only in New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, on the White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base. The Service found that it may be threatened by water withdrawal, missile firing, grazing by exotic oryx, and tamarisk.
To obtain the petitions, photos of select species, and other information, contact Nicole Rosmarino at firstname.lastname@example.org.