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A Further Boost for Endangered Species Act Candidates

New Settlement Agreement Provides Additional Certainty for Select Endangered Species

Washington, DC—July 12. WildEarth Guardians applauds a settlement agreement reached between the Department of Interior and the Center for Biological Diversity today on endangered species. The agreement is complementary to a May 2011 agreement reached between Guardians and Interior, which covered 251 candidate species.

“Our nation’s imperiled plants and animals need all the help they can get,” said Dr. Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. “We are hopeful that there will be no further delays in moving forward with a better, more timely process for ushering species in need on board the nation’s legal ark, the Endangered Species Act.”

The Center’s agreement provides specific timeframes on listing proposals and final listing rules for about 40 species, most of which were included in the May agreement. But today’s agreement provides further certainty for these species at risk by including additional deadlines. Both deals also provide for petition findings for hundreds of species. To be put into effect, the agreements need to be approved by DC Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan, who will consider the matter in a court hearing scheduled for 2pm EST today.

Under a provision in today’s agreement, the government can withdraw from its settlement with the Center if Interior’s earlier deal with Guardians is not approved by the court. While the Center had previously criticized the May agreement and opposed it in court, it is now withdrawing its opposition, a move applauded by Guardians. Both agreements provide for yes-or-no decisions on candidates waiting for Endangered Species Act protection. Most of the candidates have been waiting for more than 20 years for final decisions on whether they will be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Species listed under the law have a 99 percent chance of avoiding extinction.

“The endangered species candidate backlog needs to be addressed without any further delay. The Endangered Species Act is our nation’s key environmental law but it does not help species until they are actually listed,” stated Dr. Nicole Rosmarino, Wildlife Program Director of WildEarth Guardians.

New developments pose acute threats to endangered plants and animals nationwide. A House Interior Appropriations bill would zero out funding for new species’ listings, thereby blocking protection for the hundreds of species that are currently in the waiting line for federal protection, as well as those who are biologically imperiled but are not yet in the queue.

The plants and creatures awaiting listing as formal candidates include a diverse array of lifeforms, 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, the Safari Club International is trying to oppose species protective settlements in court. The Safari Club has stated that its members want to hunt and kill endangered species such as the lesser prairie-chicken, greater sage-grouse, and New England cottontail rabbit.

The candidate 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.

For background information, contact Dr. Nicole Rosmarino at nrosmarino@wildearthguardians.org or 505-699-7404 or visit Guardians’ candidate settlement website at: http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/PageServer?pagename=priorities_wildlife_ESA_listing_milestone.


 

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