On May 10, 2011, WildEarth Guardians entered into an historic and sweeping settlement agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The settlement aims to resolve years of litigation and shift the way endangered species are added to the threatened and endangered species list. We hope it ends years of waiting for species on the candidate list – animals and plants that deserve protection of the Endangered Species Act.
On September 9, 2011, Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington, D.C., approved the settlement agreement that will require the Service to make a final determination on Endangered Species Act status for 252 candidate species by September 2016. Under the agreement the Service would also make findings over the next two years on a suite of citizens’ petitions for imperiled plants and animals.
Browse our interactive map to discover which candidates are (or were) in your state.
"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."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designates a species as “candidate” for protection under the Endangered Species Act when listing them as “threatened” or “endangered” is precluded by higher priorities. Some candidate species have been waiting on the candidate list for decades with no protection under the Endangered Species Act. Meanwhile, actual listings slowed to a near standstill, even as the threats to imperiled species grew more urgent and severe.
The Endangered Species Act is a powerful law, but offers no protection to species that are not formally listed under the law. WildEarth Guardians settlement agreement offers new hope to candidate species. The agreement will insure that the Service takes action on species that deserve protection. They were stuck in purgatory – now they may have a path out.
WildEarth Guardians has petitioned more than 700 species for listing since 2007. We have filed over 30 lawsuits on behalf of those species. This historic settlement is designed to eliminate the necessity for even more litigation in the future.
Under this agreement, WildEarth Guardians hopes that listing endangered species will move out of the courtroom, and imperiled species will get the protection they deserve. We also hope that species deserving of listing in the future will have a shorter road to protection, instead of finding themselves at the back of a long line of candidates.
We are hopeful that with this settlement, decisions about which species get listed under the Endangered Species Act will become less adversarial and more focused on stemming the extinction crisis. Scientists estimate that species are disappearing at approximately 1,000 times the natural rate of extinction. This settlement is a critical step in halting the extinction crisis by giving the Endangered Species Act a more significant role in preserving our nation’s invaluable biodiversity.
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, photos.com; 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/CaliforniaHerps.com; fisher, ForestWander.com/Flickr.