For Immediate Release, July 24, 2023
Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681, email@example.com
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.
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|
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.