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For Immediate Release, April 4, 2011

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681 

Obama Administration Fails to Protect Rare Glacier National Park Insect
Threatened With Climate-caused Extinction

MISSOULA, Mont.— The Obama administration today denied Endangered Species Act protection to the meltwater lednian stonefly, a rare insect in Glacier National Park that government scientists say needs federal protection to keep from going extinct. Using a tactic that has become commonplace on President Barack Obama’s watch, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the stonefly warrants federal protection but won’t get it. Instead, the species was added to a growing list of “candidates,” where it will wait for protection indefinitely. To date, Obama’s Interior Department has used the “warranted-but-precluded” designation for 24 species — more than any other administration. Now 260 species are on the candidate list, where they wait an average of 20 years for protection. At least 24 species have gone extinct while waiting.

“The glaciers in Glacier National Park are expected to disappear by 2030. If the meltwater stonefly has to wait 20 years for protection like most candidates, its chance of survival is basically nil,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is working to save hundreds of candidate species.

Meltwater stoneflies are a food source for the American dipper, a small bird that walks underwater and flips over rocks to find food. Known from only 11 alpine streams in Glacier National Park — streams that are formed by runoff from melting snow — the flies are threatened with extinction because their glacier-formed habitat is disappearing due to climate change. When Glacier National Park was established in 1910, there were 150 glaciers larger than 25 acres each; today there are only 25 glaciers left of that size.

The stonefly begins life as a nymph in cold streams before metamorphosing into a quarter-inch-long adult fly. The nymphs are dark red-brown on top and pink on the bottom, with light-green legs. They die if water temperatures exceed 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Climate change will decrease stream flow and raise water temperatures.

To date, the Obama government has only given Endangered Species Act protection to 58 species, for a rate of 29 species per year. In contrast, President Clinton protected 522 species under the Endangered Species Act for a rate of 65 species per year, while the first Bush administration protected 232 species for a rate of 58 per year.

“The Obama government is dragging its feet on protecting our country’s most threatened species,” said Curry. “The Endangered Species Act can save our plants and animals, but only if they’re granted actual protection.”

The Center and other groups have an active lawsuit in Washington, D.C., showing that continued delays in protecting candidate species are illegal because the Fish and Wildlife Service is not making expeditious progress listing species as the Act requires.

Learn more about the Center’s campaign to earn protection for all the candidate species.

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