Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 21, 2020


Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681,

Biden Urged to Sign Executive Order to End Extinction Crisis

Proposed Order Would Launch Bold Actions to Protect Endangered Wildlife in New Administration’s First Weeks

WASHINGTON— More than 135 groups today called on president-elect Joe Biden to take immediate action to confront the extinction crisis by signing an executive order that would declare the extinction crisis to be a national emergency, among other steps.

The proposed executive order illustrates how Biden can take bold, aggressive actions without Congress in his first weeks in office. The new president could position the United States as a leader in the fight to combat extinction, protect public lands and waters, curtail the international wildlife trade and restore abundant wildlife populations across the nation.

“The time for half measures has passed. President Biden must take bold, immediate action to end extinction because the survival of not just wildlife but humanity is now at stake,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The latest assessment by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature found that 27% of evaluated species of plants and animals around the globe are threatened with extinction. Last year, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, known as IPBES, warned that 1 million species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. And, as evidenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, trafficking and exploitation of wildlife could give rise to new and deadly zoonotic diseases if allowed to continue unchecked.

By signing the proposed executive order, President Biden would launch the following key actions:

  • Declare that the extinction crisis is a national emergency, which would give Biden increased latitude under the National Emergencies Act to take action without approval from Congress.
  • Create 175 new national monuments, national wildlife refuges and national marine sanctuaries so that 30% of U.S. lands and waters are conserved by 2030 and 50% by 2050.
  • Aggressively recover imperiled species by protecting all species that warrant it under the Endangered Species Act and instituting a broad review by all federal agencies of any actions that might harm threatened wildlife and plants. Further, federal agencies would be directed to fully integrate climate change into the conservation and recovery of endangered species.
  • Crack down on the global wildlife trade by imposing sanctions on any nation that fails to adequately address illegal wildlife trade or deforestation.

“The trifecta of the extinction crisis, climate emergency and pandemic illustrate that Biden has no choice but to safeguard the natural world as a matter of highest priority. The long-term wellbeing of our country depends on how intrepid Biden is willing to be in the next four years,” said Curry.

The executive order is part of a suite of proposals the Center and allies will submit to Biden and his transition team in coming weeks. These include actions to stop new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters and addressing the climate emergency.

Most of the actions suggested in today’s proposed order were previously outlined in Saving Life on Earth, a groundbreaking plan to fight extinction released by the Center in January. Now a dedicated campaign within the Center, the Saving Life on Earth plan calls for $100 billion for species; for half the Earth to be protected for wildlife; and for dramatic cuts in pollution and plastics.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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