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For Immediate Release, June 6, 2011

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681 

Obama Administration Fails to Protect Southeastern Newt Threatened With Extinction

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— The Obama administration denied Endangered Species Act protection today to the striped newt, an amphibian found in north-central Florida and southern Georgia that government scientists say needs federal protection to avoid going extinct. Using a tactic that has become commonplace on President Barack Obama’s watch, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the newt merits federal protection but won’t receive any. 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 this “warranted-but-precluded” designation for 28 species — more than any other administration. Now 262 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 striped newt needs Endangered Species Act protection to survive, but instead of getting that protection, it’s been sent it into bureaucratic limbo, where it could easily go extinct,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is working to save hundreds of candidate species.

The striped newt was petitioned for Endangered Species Act protection in 2008 by Dr. Bruce Means of the Coastal Plains Institute and Land Conservancy in Tallahassee. The Fish and Wildlife Service failed to issue a 90-day finding or a one-year finding on the petition as required by law, and the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Service in February 2010 and again in September 2010 to obtain findings for the imperiled newt.

The newt is an amphibian that requires both ponds and adjacent pine forests to survive: Its tadpoles develop in temporary ponds and then migrate to the forests. Healthy populations require a network of connected ponds and forests so that the newts can safely travel between their breeding ponds and the woods. More than 90 percent of the natural pine forests it needs have been lost; the species faces numerous threats including logging, fire suppression, urbanization, agriculture, pesticides, off-road vehicles and climate change.

To date, the Obama government has granted Endangered Species Act protection to just 59 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 the newt — and hundreds of other 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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