For Immediate Release: August 3, 2006
Contact: Noah Greenwald, 503-484-7495
Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Plans to
Washington, D.C. – The Center for Biological Diversity obtained a July 21, 2006 email from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dale Hall that states that the agency will actively work to avoid providing Endangered Species Act protection to 152 of the 281 species currently recognized as candidates for listing as threatened or endangered. On average, these species have been waiting for protection for 15 years, and research by the Center shows that at least 24 candidate species have gone extinct before they received the protections of the Act.
“The Bush administration has the worst record of protecting the nation’s wildlife of any modern presidency,” said Noah Greenwald, Conservation Biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Endangered Species Act works, but for these 281 species to benefit from the Act, they must first be protected as threatened or endangered.”
Candidate species by definition warrant protection as threatened or endangered species. Under the Endangered Species Act, FWS can delay protection of these species only if their listing is delayed by actions to protect other higher priority species and if the agency is making expeditious progress to protect them.
In the email, Director Hall stated that the agency will “use all Service resources to find conservation strategies for lesser priority candidate species to preclude the need to list,” identifying 152 of the candidate species as being the target of these efforts. The statement responds to a lawsuit that charges the agency with failing to make expeditious progress towards protecting candidate species, which the Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations filed last year.
“On one hand, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claims it doesn’t have enough money to protect these species, but on the other, it says that it will use all resources to avoid protecting them,” stated Greenwald. “These species need protection, not vague promises of strategies that will take decades to develop and implement.”
The Bush administration has so far only listed 56 species under the Endangered Species Act, compared to 512 under the Clinton administration and 234 under the Senior Bush administration. The Bush administration has also listed fewer species per dollar than the Clinton administration, and despite an increasing budget for listing, has not listed more species.
Clearly, the Bush administration is not making expeditious progress as required by the Endangered Species Act and is likely to loose in court. Indeed, Judge Gladys Kessler ruled in May that a motion from the government that tried to limit a case over whether the agency was making expeditious progress on protecting just two of the candidate species had “no merit.” The court further concluded:
In making this ruling, Judge Kessler admonished the government for needlessly delaying the case, referring to such delay as “distressing.” This decision clears the path for the case to move forward and puts the 281 species one step closer to the protection they deserve.
“Dale Hall’s directive is a desperate attempt to circumvent the law and avoid protecting wildlife species at known risk of extinction,” stated Greenwald. “This administration will go to any length to please their campaign contributors in the mining, logging, oil and gas, and other extractive industries.”