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For Immediate Release, February 15, 2011

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Center for Biological Diversity Statement on Proposed Confirmation of Dan Ashe as
Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Senate today will hold a hearing over the confirmation of Dan Ashe as new director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If confirmed, Ashe will face a number of significant challenges, including fixing the agency’s endangered species program that, under the Obama administration, has done little to protect rare plants and animals facing the possibility of extinction. Ashe will need to correct an agency culture that has led to dozens of Fish and Wildlife Service decisions being overturned in court for failing to follow the proper science in managing threatened and endangered species.

“We are hopeful that Dan Ashe can turn the Fish and Wildlife Service around,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “To date, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has done little to reform the agency’s problems managing our nation’s endangered species. Under Salazar, the agency has shown an utter lack of urgency when it comes to saving endangered species and has been more intent on delaying protections than implementing them.”

Among the worst problems in the agency is its reluctance to provide new protections to species that badly need them. So far, the Fish and Wildlife Service under President Barack Obama has protected just 54 species, most of them on a single Hawaiian island, for an average of just 27 species per year. That rate is better than under the Bush administration, when 51 species were protected for an average of fewer than seven per year, but worse than under the Clinton administration, when 498 species were protected for a yearly average of 62.  The Obama administration’s failure to protect more species has left more than 250 species to languish unprotected on a “candidate” list for federal protections, including the wolverine, Oregon spotted frog, white fringeless orchid and, in a new addition earlier this month, Pacific walrus. The agency has also continued to see decisions overturned by the courts, including most notably a decision to remove protections for the gray wolf. 

“The real test for Dan Ashe is whether he can get the program for protecting endangered species moving and restore the agency’s scientific credibility,” said Suckling. “There is no more important function of the Fish and Wildlife Service than the protection of endangered species, because the extinction of a species cannot be reversed.”    

In an encouraging sign, the administration’s requested budget asks for an increase in the endangered species budget, specifically for newly protecting species under the Endangered Species Act. 

If he is confirmed, other significant action will be needed from Ashe, including major steps to protect bats from white-nose syndrome (which has killed more than 1 million bats to date in the United States) and research funding for the disease; and policies that recognize and respond to the dangers of global warming for imperiled species in Alaska, the lower 48 states and Hawaii.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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