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First Week to Focus on Animals Endangered By Climate Change
DENVER,C.O.-Dec. 28. WildEarth Guardians announces the launch of its “BioBlitz,” an eight-week effort to save imperiled animals and plants from extinction as a kick-off to celebrations for the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity. Today marks the 36-year anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. To honor the law’s role in protecting biodiversity - for each of the next 36 work days - Guardians will file either a formal petition or lawsuit to obtain Endangered Species Act protections for species on the brink.
“On the eve of the International Year of Biodiversity, we’re highlighting the importance of the U.S. Endangered Species Act in safeguarding biodiversity in our nation and beyond,” said Nicole Rosmarino, Wildlife Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.
Interior Secretary Salazar has utterly failed to use the Endangered Species Act to protect species. In fact, new Endangered Species Act listings have reached an all-time low. In 2009, Salazar protected only two new U.S. species under this law, despite over 330 deserving species formally awaiting protection. Through its BioBlitz, Guardians will step up pressure on the federal government to list species in need, before they go extinct.
The 36 consecutive working days begin today and end February 18. Each week will illustrate a particular theme. Climate Crisis Week is December 28-31 and involves species facing significant threats from climate change. Guardians’ actions this week will include:
December 28: a lawsuit to force Endangered Species Act listing for the Mist Forestfly, imperiled by rapidly vanishing glaciers in Glacier National Park, which are expected to disappear altogether by 2030.
December 29: a petition from Guardians and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation for Endangered Species Act protection of the Bay Skipper, a Gulf Coast butterfly imperiled by extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina.
December 30: a lawsuit to force Endangered Species Act listing for the Jemez Mountain Salamander, imperiled by longer, more severe droughts in the southwest U.S.
December 31: a petition for Endangered Species Act protection of the Bumphead Parrotfish, a Pacific fish reliant on coral reefs. Warming ocean temperatures and ocean acidification are destroying coral reefs worldwide.
“Given the disappointment of Copenhagen, we’re pressing the federal government to recognize a variety of species that will go extinct if we continue to procrastinate on climate change action,” stated Rosmarino. “The Endangered Species Act is an important approach to forcing cuts to greenhouse gas emissions when our political leaders lack the will to do so.”
This week’s spotlight species is the Bumphead Parrotfish, which occurs on coral reefs in U.S. territories and many other countries in the Pacific Ocean. The group’s petition to the National Marine Fisheries Service explains how this large, wide-ranging fish is rapidly vanishing. Its fate is tied to coral reefs, as each individual Bumphead Parrotfish (which can grow up to four feet long) consumes more than five tons of coral every year. It excretes the white sands that create beautiful beaches, which attract millions of tourists each year. Scientists consider this fish a keystone species, as it increases coral reef resilience to extreme weather events. But climate change-induced ocean warming is causing widespread coral bleaching and acidification is stunting coral growth.
Next week will be E.O. Wilson Week, named after and supported by, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning Harvard ecologist. All species in next week’s line-up are invertebrates, in homage to Dr. Wilson’s famous article, “The Little Things that Run the World (The Importance and Conservation of Invertebrates).”
Dr. Wilson is scheduled to deliver the opening address of the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity in Paris in January. WildEarth Guardians is a formal partner in this effort (see here), in which “The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity.”
The call for action resonates with a 2009 IUCN report in which this international scientific organization found that approximately 17,000 species are known to be threatened worldwide, including 1 out of 4 mammals, 1 out of 8 birds, and 1 out of 3 amphibians. Many more species are likely at risk but too little is known about them. The IUCN urged “actions of unprecedented intensity and commitment on behalf of these fundamental building blocks of life on Earth.”
A 2009 feature report in Nature made the case just as strongly, showing that humans have far exceeded the planet’s capacity to withstand biodiversity loss (see Figure 1), at our own peril.
“The Endangered Species Act has an A+ record in preventing extinction: over 99% of the species protected under it are still with us today. We can’t afford further delay by the federal government in protection for animals and plants on the brink,” stated Rosmarino.
WildEarth Guardians has been at the forefront of endangered species enforcement in the U.S. In 2009, the federal government issued positive decisions on 111 species the group advocated for federal protection, more than for all other petitions combined.