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An Historic Settlement

On May 10, 2011, WildEarth Guardians entered into an historic and sweeping settlement agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The settlement resolved years of litigation and shifted the way endangered species were added to the threatened and endangered species list. The settlement sunsetted in September 2016, and resulted in action of some kind on 1,074 species. Of the 252 candidates included in the agreement, 174 were proposed for listing or listed, and 193 species were granted the full protections of the Endangered Species Act.

Under the settlement, 2,713,154.7 acres (4,239.3 square miles)—an area larger than Yellowstone National Park—and 6,380.4 stream and river miles were protected as habitat critical to the survival and recovery of species now protected under the law.

Examples of species listed due to the settlement agreement include the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, the Gunnison sage grouse, and Jemez Mountains salamander

Read our "Progress for Protection" Report detailing the final results of the settlement

Progress for Protection Report Cover Image cropped


"For too long, the Fish and Wildlife Service has been slow to list plant and animals in need of endangered species protection.  As a result, several rare species, including an Alaskan song sparrow and Texas salamander, have gone extinct while waiting to be listed. The settlement between WildEarth Guardians and the Interior Department gives species like the greater sage grouse, the white fringless orchid, and the Yosemite toad a fighting chance to get the much-needed protection they deserve.  Reducing the backlog of endangered species listings and the conflicts over how best to save them will benefit wildlife and people."

Joe Roman, author of Listed: Dispatches from America's Endangered Species Act

See the Species Included in the Settlement


WildEarth Guardians press release “Progress for Protection: Report on Historic Endangered Species Act Settlement Released” (October 24, 2016)

WildEarth Guardians press release "Federal Court Approves Historic Species Agreement" (September 9, 2011)

WildEarth Guardians press release "Hope for Endangered Species Act Candidates" (May 10, 2011)

FWS press release I "Fish and Wildlife Service Strengthens Work Plans to Restore Biological Priorities and Certainty to the Endangered Species Listing Process" (May 10, 2011)

FWS press release II "Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Work Plan to Restore Biological Priorities and Certainty to Endangered Species Listing Process" (May 10, 2011)


Endangered Species Act Settlement Successes

193 species included in the settlement agreement—candidates and others—received final listing rules and are now protected under the Endangered Species Act

18 species received "warranted but precluded" 12-month findings and are now candidates for listing

423 species recieved positive 90-day findings and are awaiting 12-month findings

ESA listing milestone photo montage

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A Critical Step in Stopping the Extinction Crisis

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designates species as “candidates” for protection under the Endangered Species Act when listing them as “threatened” or “endangered” is precluded by higher priorities. Some candidate species waited on the candidate list for decades with no protection under the Endangered Species Act. When actual listings slowed to a near standstill, even as the threats to imperiled species grew more urgent and severe, Guardians acted by crafting an agreement with the Service to break the listing logjam.

The five-year agreement, entered into in 2011, required the Service to make final decisions on whether to protect 252 “candidate” species, species that the Agency had already acknowledged likely needed protections under the ESA. Nearly seventy percent of the candidate species in the settlement are now protected.

The settlement came after WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity brought numerous lawsuits against the Service for failing to meet required deadlines under the ESA. The ESA does not allow the Service to make “warranted but precluded” findings if the agency is not making “expeditious progress” toward listing vulnerable species.

Protection under the ESA is an effective safety net for imperiled species: more than 99 percent of plants and animals protected by the law exist today. The law is especially important as a defense against the current extinction crisis; species are disappearing at a rate much higher than the natural rate of extinction due to human activities. Scientists estimate that 227 species would have gone extinct by 2006 if not for ESA protections.

Learn More About Our Efforts Leading Up to This Historic Settlement

On the Endangered Species Act Waiting List

        Endangered Species Safeguards

Species Listing Petitions

Photo credits from left to right:

Top row: Gunnison sage-grouse, Noppadol Paothong; whorled sunflower, Christopher Brown; Diamond Y Spring snail, Hallie Ladd; Arizona treefrog, Rich Gassaway; Florida semaphore cactus, Carly Lesser and Art Drauglis/Flickr

Second row: Rio Grande cutthroat trout, Michael J. Heitman; Sonoran Desert tortoise, Dennis Caldwell; Georgia aster, Will Stuart/Flickr; Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle, Chris Wirth

Third row: Gunnison's prairie dog, Andrew Hollander/Flickr; Greater sage-grouse,; New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, J. N. Stewart; white fringeless orchid, Thomas Barnes, University of Kentucky, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; lesser prairie-chicken, Jess Alford

Bottom row:  Sprague's pipit chicks, Emily Pipher; Taylor's checkerspot, Dana Ross; Tucson shovel-nosed snake, Gary Nafis/; fisher,