For Immediate Release, December 19, 2007
Andrea Treece, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 306
David Gordon, Pacific Environment, (510) 541-5334
Chuck Clusen, Natural Resources Defense Council, (202) 289-2412
Lawsuit Filed to Protect Yellow-billed Loon Under Endangered Species Act;
Rare Bird Threatened by Oil Development and
Global Warming in Alaska’s Arctic
SAN FRANCISCO— Conservation groups filed suit in federal court today seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the extremely rare yellow-billed loon, which is threatened by oil development in Alaska and the loss of its tundra habitat in the face of global warming. The U.S. Department of the Interior, the agency charged with protecting endangered wildlife, is more than two years behind the legal deadline for taking action to protect the species.
“The yellow-billed loon is one of the rarest and most vulnerable birds in the United States,” said Andrea Treece, attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “If the loon is to survive in a warming Arctic, we need to protect its critical habitat, not open it up for oil development.”
The yellow-billed loon breeds in tundra wetlands in Alaska , Canada, and Russia, wintering along the west coast as far south as California. The species has a global population of approximately 16,000 individuals, of which about 4,000 breed in Alaska. Most yellow-billed loons breeding in Alaska breed in the western Arctic in areas recently opened up to oil and gas development, such as sites near Teshekpuk Lake and along the Colville River. Much of the species’ habitat in Russia is also subject to rapid and irresponsible oil and gas development.
“Teshekpuk Lake is one of the most important breeding areas in the United States for loons and other endangered waterfowl,” said Chuck Clusen of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Opening up this area for oil leasing makes no sense.”
“From Russia to Alaska, oil development in the Arctic is pushing the yellow-billed loon and other Arctic species ever closer to extinction,” added David Gordon, executive director of Pacific Environment.
Throughout their range, yellow-billed loons are also threatened by changing ocean conditions and the inundation of low-lying wetlands in the face of global warming and sea-level rise.
In April 2004, the Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Trustees for Alaska — along with several Russian scientific and conservation organizations — filed a formal administrative petition seeking protection of the species. By law, the Department of the Interior was required to make an initial finding on the petition within 90 days and issue a proposed rule within one year of the petition. In June 2007, the Department of the Interior finally responded to the petition and concluded that the loon may warrant the protections of the Endangered Species Act. Today’s suit seeks to force the Department of the Interior to issue the overdue listing proposal.
A copy of the complaint and petition, as well as more information on the yellow-billed loon, can be found at www.biologicaldiversity.org. A copy of a detailed status review on the species can be found at http://www.trustees.org/publications/publications_index.html.