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Federal Endangered Species Listing Program Still Lags

Government's Yearly Assessment of Endangered Species Shows Little Progress

DENVER - The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published its annual Candidate Notice of Review (CNOR) of species awaiting protection under the Endangered Species Act in today’s Federal Register.  There are now 251 species of plants and wildlife that are formal “candidates” awaiting federal listing.  This is the second CNOR under the Obama administration, but it includes many species that have been on the waiting list for protection for a decade or more.  The CNOR shows that, outside of Hawaii, only 4 new U.S. species have been listed under the Act since Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took office.  At the current pace, it would take nearly a century to get through the backlog of candidate species.

The sluggish pace of new listings is notable during 2010, which is the first-ever International Year of Biodiversity.  WildEarth Guardians has launched projects throughout the year pressing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to celebrate this year by fully enforcing one of the world’s strongest environmental laws, the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  Altogether, the group has filed lawsuits or scientific petitions for 130 species this year, in an effort to jump-start a stalled U.S. endangered species program.

“It’s time for Ken Salazar to realize there’s an extinction crisis unfolding right here in the U.S.  The best way to stop it is to bring more imperiled species under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, rather than leaving them out in the cold,” stated Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians.

Candidates for listing enjoy none of the Endangered Species Act’s protection.  Several species in the western United States face extinction unless they are protected under the law.  An example is the sand dune lizard (or dunes sagebrush lizard), which has been a candidate since 2001.  In 1997, scientists warned that this rare lizard, which occurs only in New Mexico and Texas, could go extinct.  Yet it has languished on the candidate list for nearly a decade.  The lesser prairie-chicken, which has been eliminated from 90 percent of its range in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, has languished even longer: 12 years.  The Sprague’s pipit was placed on the candidate list this September, having already lost 99 percent of its habitat in the U.S.  This is despite the Sprague’s pipit’s historically massive range across the Great Plains and American southwest.  Also of note are three types of grouse added to the candidate list earlier this year: the Gunnison sage-grouse, Mono Basin sage-grouse, and greater sage-grouse.  Onslaughts of threats face each of these birds, but there’s little relief until they are actually listed under the law.

“These unique and fascinating species will be lost forever if the federal government does not protect them in the face of escalating threats,” stated Rosmarino.

The CNOR is in today’s Federal Register:

For more information, call Nicole Rosmarino at 505-699-7404 or email



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