Endangered Creatures Still Linger In Limbo

Fish and Wildlife Service issues latest list of species local and national that would qualify as endangered — if it only had the money to do the studies

Advertisement

Still no room at the inn.

That’s the bottom line in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recently released tally of the status of some 251 species waiting for space on the Endangered Species List.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s annual status report included a long line of “candidate” species that would make the list if the federal government only had time to complete the required studies.

The endangered and threatened species list released recently includes some 22 species found in Gila County, even after the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to remove desert bald eagles from the list.

The Rim Country species still on the list include a slew of native fish, the Mexican gray wolf, the lesser long-nosed bat, the Mexican spotted owl, the northern Mexican garter snake, the southwestern willow flycatcher, the Yuma clapper rail, the yellow-billed cuckoo and many others.

The federal biologists did change the status of two species on the list — a pair of snails that dropped down the protection priority list.

Candidate designation

The controversial “candidate” designation means that the federal government has information suggesting that a species is dwindling toward extinction, but hasn’t funded the study of the creature’s prospects and habitat required to actually list them —triggering assorted legal protections for their critical habitat.

Nationally, the federal biologists took one species off the candidate list, added five new species and changed the priority listing for four others.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains the list of species in waiting in hopes that private landowners, conservation groups and state wildlife agencies will help protect the endangered critters even while they’re lingering in bureaucratic limbo.

“The candidate list offers the Service and our partners a unique opportunity to address the threats to these species through voluntary conservation efforts on public and private lands,” said Acting Service Director Rowan Gould.

“We will continue working to reduce the number of candidate species by developing conservation agreements that reduce or eliminate the threats they face, and by listing species that warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act as soon as possible.”

However, environmental groups blasted the federal government’s refusal to move forward on listing hundreds of species, despite the growing evidence of the threat of extinction for many.

“The Obama administration has no sense of urgency when it comes to protecting imperiled plants and animals,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

“With extinction looming, imperiled species need more than promises of hope and change. They need real protection, and they need it now.”

Since President Barak Obama’s election, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has added 51 species to the list, compared to 522 during the administration of President Bill Clinton and 321 under the first President George Bush. The annual rate of new lists is 26 for Obama, 65 for Clinton and 58 for the first Bush administration. The second Bush Administration listed an average of just eight species per year.

Obama administration abysmal in protecting plants and animals

“The Obama administration has been abysmal when it comes to protecting our most vulnerable plants and animals,” Suckling said.

“The Endangered Species Act can save these 251 species, but only if they are granted protection.” He noted that some species have been on the waiting list for decades and that during the wait at least 24 species have become extinct.

The federal government spent about $1.4 billion last year on endangered species protection, a 40 percent increase from the previous year. Currently, the federal government lists as endangered or threatened 793 plants and 578 animals, which includes 83 mammals and 139 fish.

The Center and other groups have filed several lawsuits, seeking to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to act on the candidate species.

Federal officials say that they’ve taken several steps in the past year to overhaul the process for designating species as endangered. The changes have stressed a science-based approach to all listing decisions

The current administration has reinstated a rule dropped by the Bush Administration that requires federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service when their actions might affect a listed species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has stressed striking deals with other agencies and landowners to provide protection, with the possibility of eventual listing providing unspoken leverage.

Conservation agreements allow private landowners and state agencies to voluntarily take steps to protect an endangered species, without necessarily triggering the sometimes burdensome regulations that come into play if some action will affect an officially listed species’ habitat.

Candidate species do not receive protection under the Endangered Species Act, although the Service works to conserve them. The identification of candidate species allows landowners to address threats to avoid an eventual listing. Currently, the Fish and Wildlife Service has voluntary conservation agreements covering 5 million acres of habitat for more than 130 candidate species.

The federal government added to the list the Rosemont talussnail in Arizona. It also added the Kentucky arrow darter, the Kenk’s amphipod in Maryland, the Packard’s milkvetch in Idaho and the Vandenberg monkeyflower in California.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.