Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2023


Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681,

Dozens of Southern Animals, Plants Closer to Endangered Species Protections

Legal Victory Provides Lifeline for Wild Communities at Risk of Extinction

WASHINGTON— In response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today agreed to issue long overdue decisions on whether 31 Southeast and two Southwest animals and plants warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

“As the U.S. wildlife extinction crisis accelerates, the Endangered Species Act is the most effective tool we have to save irreplaceable plants and animals,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center. “It’s inexcusable how long it’s taken for these rare species to move toward protection. We could lose two out of every five wild species if we don’t act now, so we need urgency from the Fish and Wildlife Service, not delays.”

Twenty-four species in today’s agreement will receive protection decisions before the end of the year. They include Texas kangaroo rats threatened by agriculture, oil and gas, and livestock grazing; Georgia blind salamanders threatened by cave destruction and pollution; and Miami cave crayfish threatened by sea-level rise, groundwater withdrawal and pollution.

The remaining nine species will get decisions in 2024 and 2025, including the Pecos pupfish, Virginia’s aptly named overlooked cave beetle threatened by mining, and the Kentucky creekshell, a freshwater mussel found only in the Green River and threatened by runoff from cattle and pesticides, sand and gravel mining, and coal ash.

The Service is required to determine if species warrant protection within two years of receiving a legal petition, but species wait an average of nine to 12 years. The petitioned southeastern freshwater species, threatened by pollution, sprawl and climate chaos, have been waiting on protection decisions since 2010. Conservationists sought protection for Pecos pupfish, threatened by groundwater pumping in New Mexico and Texas, in 2007.

The eastern spotted skunk, which helps control rodent and insect populations, was petitioned for protection in 2012 due to loss of grasslands, urbanization and persecution by humans. Known for doing flashy handstands before defensive spraying, the skunks were once found in 14 states but are now rare.

More than 100 other species remain stuck in bureaucratic purgatory including Cascades frogs, golden-winged warblers and little brown bats. Thousands more have been identified as at risk by scientific organizations but aren’t under consideration at all by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The wellbeing of humans is directly dependent on the wellbeing of wildlife, large and small, so we need to prioritize enough funding to list and recover all imperiled species for their sake and for our own,” said Curry.

The Endangered Species Act, which turns 50 this year, is 99% effective at preventing protected plants and animals from going extinct but delays in providing protections can prove disastrous. Nearly 50 species have been declared extinct while under consideration for protection.

Species Backgrounds

The U.S. Southeast is a global biodiversity hotspot for freshwater species. But around 40% of the region’s salamanders, 61% of turtles, 28% of fishes, 48% of crayfishes and 70% of mussels are at risk.

The species in today’s agreement include eight crayfish, six freshwater mussels, five cave beetles, four crustaceans, three fish, three salamanders, two plants, and two mammals.

The coal darter — an endemic Alabama fish — clings to survival in the Coosa, Cahaba and Black Warrior rivers and is threatened by pollution from wastewater treatment plants, sprawl, logging and coal mining.

Two imperiled plants — Edison’s ascyrum and lowland loosestrife — are found only in Florida in areas threatened by development.

Species pictured in the slideshow are: Texas kangaroo rat, eastern spotted skunk, Tennessee heelsplitter and Tennessee pigtoe.

Photos are available for download here.

Here are the species included in the agreement:

Common Name Scientific Name Range
Alabama hickorynut Obovaria unicolor AL, LA, MS, OK
Brawley's Fork crayfish Cambarus williami TN
Cannulate cave isopod Caecidotea cannula WV
Coal darter Percina brevicauda AL
Cooper's Cave amphipod Stygobromus cooperi WV
Cumberland moccasinshell Medionidus conradicus AL, GA, KY, NC, TN, VA
Dry Fork Valley cave beetle Pseudanophthalmus montanus WV
Eastern spotted skunk Spilogale putorius interrupta AR, CO, MN, MO, NE, OK, SD, TX, WY
Edison's ascyrum Hypericum edisonianum FL
Georgia blind salamander Haideotriton wallacei FL, GA
Hubbard's cave beetle Pseudanophthalmus hubbardi VA
Jackson prairie crayfish Procambarus barbiger MS
Kentucky creekshell Villosa ortmanni KY
Little Kennedy cave beetle Pseudanophthalmus cordicollis VA
Lowland loosestrife Lythrum flagellare FL
Miami cave crayfish Procambarus milleri FL
Minute Cave amphipod Stygobromus parvus WV
Morrison's Cave amphipod Stygobromus morrisoni VA, WV
Overlooked cave beetle Pseudanophthalmus praetermissus VA
Pecos pupfish Cyprinodon pecosensis NM, TX
Pristine crayfish Cambarus pristinus TN
Shenandoah (Madden's Cave) beetle Pseudanophthalmus limicola VA
Smallscale darter Etheostoma microlepidum KY, TN
Speckled burrowing crayfish Fallicambarus danielae AL, MS
Spiny scale crayfish Cambarus jezerinaci KY, TN, VA
Spinytail crayfish Procambarus fitzpatricki MS
Tennessee Cave salamander Gyrinophilus palleucus AL, GA, TN
Tennessee clubshell Pleurobema oviforme AL, TN, KY, VA
Tennessee heelsplitter Lasmigona holstonia AL, GA, NC, VA, TN
Tennessee pigtoe Pleuronaia barnesiana AL, GA, MS, NC, TN, VA
Texas kangaroo rat Dipodomys elator TX
West Virginia spring salamander Gyrinophilus subterraneus WV
Yazoo crayfish Orconectes hartfieldi MS
RSTexas kangaroo rat_TPWD
Texas kangaroo rat. ©2010 TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE. 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.

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