On May 10, 2011, WildEarth Guardians entered into an historic and sweeping settlement agreement with the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service. The settlement aimed to resolve years of litigation
and shift the way endangered species are added to the threatened and endangered
species list. After five years the agreement ended in September 2016 and
resulted in action of
some kind on 1,074 species. Further, 160 species were listed as a result of the
agreement, and 78 species were deemed “not warranted” or otherwise removed from
the candidate list.
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
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 wait
on the candidate list for decades with no protection under the Endangered
Species Act. Meanwhile, 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.
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.