Hope for Endangered Species Act Candidates
WildEarth Guardians and Interior Reach Settlement on Endangered Species Listings
Washington, DC—May 10. WildEarth Guardians and the Department of
Interior today reached a nationwide agreement regarding Interior’s management
of its endangered species listing program. They filed the proposed settlement
with Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington, DC who presides over 12 cases in which
Guardians challenged Interior’s failure to list species in a timely manner. If
approved, the settlement requires Interior to make final listing determinations
by September 2016 for 251 species, all of which are formal candidates for
Endangered Species Act protection. In return, WildEarth Guardians agrees to
dismiss its lawsuits and refrain from suing Interior over other missed
deadlines for listing species for the next six years.
“We and the government agree that the day has come to address the future
of the endangered species candidates. This will be an important step toward
protecting the rich biodiversity in the U.S. and stemming the extinction
crisis,” stated Dr. Nicole Rosmarino, Wildlife Program Director of WildEarth
Until they are listed under the Endangered Species
Act, imperiled plants and animals receive no protection under the law. The most
recent Candidate Notice of Review (CNOR), released by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (Service) in November 2010, includes 251 species considered
“warranted but precluded” from protection – a loophole provided in the statute.
The majority of the current candidates (150) have been waiting for more than 20
years for listing; 57 species have been waiting for more than 30 years. Under
today’s proposed settlement, all 251 species in the 2010 CNOR would receive
decisions, within the next six years, on whether or not they will be listed.
“The candidate list has been the black hole of the
Endangered Species Act, where animals and plants that deserve the protection of
the Act were consigned to an endless queue. Today’s agreement will finally
allow these species, that the government has repeatedly stated warrant
protection, to have a decent chance at actually receiving that protection
before they go extinct,” stated Jay Tutchton, General Counsel of WildEarth
Guardians. “For species on the brink, delayed protection often equals
The candidates include a diverse array of species,
such as birds, butterflies, mammals, fishes, mollusks, wildflowers, and others.
These species require a range of natural ecosystems, including mountaintops,
tropical islands, forests, rivers, deserts, and other habitats. Some of the
candidates occur in only one place on Earth; while others were historically
wide-ranging but have since dwindled.
In addition to resolving the status of all 251 candidate species, the
settlement includes a two-year work plan guiding the Service response times for
making findings on other citizen petitions requesting species be added to the
endangered list; critical habitat proposals and designations; and compliance
with existing court orders. The resulting program balances the need to list
candidate species with considering new plants and animals for listing and
conferring habitat protections for species already listed.
WildEarth Guardians has petitioned more species in the last four years
than all other petitioners combined. Since 2007, the group petitioned over 700
of the 1,230 species for which Interior has received listing requests and has
filed dozens of lawsuits to obtain findings on those petitions. Under the
agreement, Guardians would agree to limit its filing of new petitions to ten or
less per year and refrain from litigating over those missed deadlines in favor
of addressing the current Endangered Species Act candidates.
“We hope this agreement accomplishes what matters most: adding these
imperiled plants and animals to the endangered species list,” stated Rosmarino.
“We expect that this settlement will fundamentally shift how the endangered
species listing program is run by ensuring the Service completes the listing
process for the species that have waited the longest.”
species daily face serious threats. According to Service data, almost all (98%)
are imperiled by habitat loss. Lack of legal protection is also a leading
threat (97%). More than one-half are threatened by disease or predation (53%),
and one-third are impacted or potentially impacted by the climate crisis (37%).
Nearly every one of the candidate species faces multiple threats.
Scientists estimate that, globally, animals and plants are going extinct
at rates 1,000 higher than the natural extinction rate. These animals and
plants make up the natural ecosystems on which human economies are based.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner E.O. Wilson has warned that the loss of species
the folly that our descendents are least likely to forgive us.”
Read more about this important milestone.
Watch the video.
See the Endangered Species Act Candidates Nationwide map.