For Immediate Release, May 20, 2021

Contact:

Stephanie Kurose, (202) 849-8395, skurose@biologicaldiversity.org

Congress Introduces Bill to Save Endangered Butterflies, Fish, Plants, Mollusks

WASHINGTON— Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today reintroduced the Extinction Prevention Act of 2021, which would fund crucial conservation work for some of the most critically imperiled species in the United States.

The legislation would establish four grant programs that each provides $5 million per year. These targeted funds would provide urgently needed on-the-ground conservation actions to stabilize and save from extinction the four groups of endangered species at greatest risk of extinction: North American butterflies, freshwater mussels, desert fish and Hawaiian plants.

“It’s encouraging to see Congress begin to address the catastrophic loss of wildlife and plant life in this country,” said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Each year hundreds of endangered species get no money for recovery and slip further towards extinction. The emergency funding provided in this legislation is a desperately needed first step towards stemming the global extinction crisis.”

A 2016 study found that Congress only provides approximately 3.5% of the funding that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s own scientists estimate is needed to recover species. But roughly 1 in 4 species receives less than $10,000 a year toward recovery.

“For so long our nation’s most imperiled animals and plants have been barely clinging to survival, fighting desperately to survive just one more day,” said Kurose. “This legislation offers them a glimmer of hope that help is on the way.”

The legislation would support programs like the Hawaiian Plant Extinction Prevention Program, which works to save more than 237 endangered plant species, each of which has fewer than 50 plants remaining in the wild. Since the program’s inception in 2003, no Hawaiian plants have gone extinct. But the Trump administration gutted nearly all funding for this program.

The bill’s introduction also coincides with Endangered Species Day, an annual event where thousands of people from around the world celebrate, learn about and take action to protect threatened and endangered species.

One such plan is Saving Life on Earth, a Center initiative that calls for a $100 billion investment to save species and the creation of new national monuments and parks, wildlife refuges and marine sanctuaries so that 30% of U.S. lands and waters are fully conserved and protected by 2030 and 50% by 2050.

Joining Blumenthal and Grijalva as sponsors of the Extinction Prevention Act are Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Reps. Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Darren Soto (D-Fla.).

Background

North American butterflies

Of all the endangered species in the United States, butterflies are one of the fastest-declining groups, with several species on the verge of extinction. The Mount Charleston blue butterfly, Miami blue butterfly and Lange’s metalmark, for example, all have worldwide populations of fewer than 100 individuals. These and other species would benefit from captive propagation and habitat restoration well beyond what is currently occurring.

Southeast freshwater mussels

North America has the highest diversity of freshwater mussels in the world, but unfortunately much of this diversity is threatened. Freshwater mussels are the most endangered group of organisms in the United States; 70% are at risk of extinction, and 38 species have already been lost.

Southwest desert fish

The Southwest’s unique fish — found nowhere else on earth — have been decimated by a century of habitat degradation and nonnative fish introductions. More than 45 desert fish species are either endangered or threatened, and most have experienced drastic reductions in abundance and range.

Hawaiian plants

Hawaii has more endangered species than any other state, including more than 400 plants that make up one-quarter of all species protected under the Endangered Species Act. Many of these plants are barely hanging on in remote, difficult-to-reach cliffs and ravines where they are safe from human development and nonnative species. This legislation would help support programs like the Hawaiian Plant Extinction Prevention Program.

Mt_Charleston_Blue_Butterfly_Corey_KallstromUSFWS_FPWC_Commercial_Use_ok.jpg
Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly (Plebejus shasta). Photo courtesy of USFWS. Image is available for media use.

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.