Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 7, 2022


Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495,

Fish and Wildlife Service Drops Ball on Protecting 42 Species

Dozens of Animals, Plants Left Awaiting Protection for 6th Consecutive Year

PORTLAND, Ore.— For the sixth fiscal year in a row, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to follow its own workplan for addressing a backlog of plants and animals waiting for protection decisions under the Endangered Species Act. Among those left in the lurch are the Suwannee alligator snapping turtle, Mt. Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan and whitebark pine.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s program for protecting wildlife under the Endangered Species Act is badly broken and putting hundreds of species at risk of extinction,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Bloated bureaucracy, political interference and a self-imposed cap on spending are all contributing to desperately imperiled animals and plants waiting decades for protection.”

A recent study found that since 1992, species have waited for protection an average of nine years from the time citizens submitted a petition seeking federal listing. Under the Endangered Species Act, the process is supposed to take two years.

Nearly 400 species are currently awaiting protection decisions from the Service, with most having already waited more than a decade. In 2016 the agency developed a workplan to address the backlog. But in every fiscal year since, it has failed to make dozens of decisions for species and has had to continually update the plan. That has pushed missed dates further into the future.

While insufficient funding is part of the problem, the agency has hamstrung itself financially. The listing program’s budget has sat at roughly $20 million for more than a decade. But since 1998 the Service has requested a cap on spending for listing, which Congress has granted. This means that money cannot be moved from other programs to address the critical need to protect species. The Service also routinely requests far less funding than is required to protect all the species in need.

Adding to the problem, the Service has a cumbersome process for making listing decisions. It involves more than 20 officials, many of whom have little knowledge of the species in question. This slows down the process and invites political decision-making, which is illegal under the statute. The law requires protection decisions to be based solely on the best available science, and consequently dozens of decisions denying species protection have been overturned in recent decades.

While many improvements are needed, the Service did finalize or propose protections for 45 species in fiscal year 2022, which ended Sept. 30. These include decisions for tricolored and northern long-eared bats, foothill yellow-legged frogs, alligator snapping turtles and cactus ferruginous pygmy owls.

However, all but one of these decisions followed legal action by the Center and even that one, the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly, was the subject of significant legal action spanning two decades, during which time the species dwindled to only eight butterflies in the last count.

At least 48 species have gone extinct waiting for protection since the Endangered Species Act was passed.

Table 1. 43 species for which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service missed its own internal deadlines.
Species Name Scientific name FY22 Workload Action States
Barrens topminnow Fundulus julisia PCH TN
Big Creek crayfish Faxonius peruncus FLFCH MO
Black‐capped petrel Pterodroma hasitata second PLPCH GA, NC, SC
Brandegee's wild buckwheat Eriogonum brandegeei PLPCH CO
Brawley's Fork crayfish Cambarus williami PLPCH TN
Chowanoke crayfish Orconectes virginiensis PLPCH NC, VA
Cisco milkvetch Astragalus sabulosus PLPCH UT
Columbia Oregonian snail Cryptomastix hendersoni PLPCH OR, WA
Cooper's Cave amphipod Stygobromus cooperi PLPCH WV
Dixie Valley toad Bufo williamsi PLPCH NV
Florida bonneted bat Eumops floridanus second PCH FL
frecklebelly madtom Noturus munitus FLFCH AL, GA, LA, MS, TN
gray wolf (western
Canis lupus PLPCH AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NV, OR, UT, WY, WA
green floater Lasmigona subviridis PLPCH DC, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA, TN, VA, WV
Isely milkvetch Astragalus iselyi PLPCH UT
lesser prairie-chicken Tympanuchus pallidicinctus FL CO, KS, NM, OK, TX
Longsolid Fusconaia subrotunda FLFCH AL, AR, GA, IL, IN, KY, NC, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV
Louisiana pigtoe Pleurobema ridellii PLPCH LA, TX
Miami cave crayfish Procambarus milleri PLPCH FL
Miami tiger beetle Cicindelidia floridana FCH FL
Minute Cave amphipod Stygobromus parvus PLPCH WV
Morrison's Cave amphipod Stygobromus morrisoni PLPCH VA, WV
Mt. Rainier white‐tailed ptarmigan Lagopus leucura rainierensis FL WA
pearl darter Percina aurora FCH MS
Penasco least chipmunk Tamias minimus atristriatus FLFCH NM
pristine crayfish Cambarus pristinus PLPCH TN
Puerto Rico harlequin butterfly Atlantea tulita FLFCH PR
round hickorynut Obovaria subrotunda FLFCH AL, AR, GA, IL, IN, KY, MI, MS, OH, PA, TN, WV, Ca
rufa red knot Calidris canutus rufa second PCH Multiple
Rye Cove Cave isopod Lirceus culveri PLPCH VA
slickspot peppergrass Lepidium papilliferum FCH ID
southern elktoe Alasmidonta triangulata PLPCH AL, FL, GA
St. Francis River crayfish Faxonius quadruncus FLFCH MO
Suwannee alligator snapping turtle* Macroclemys suwanniensis FL FL, GA
Tennessee clubshell Pleurobema oviforme PLPCH AL, TN, KY, VA
Tennessee pigtoe Pleuronaia barnesiana PLPCH AL, GA, MS, NC, TN, VA
Texas heelsplitter Potamilus amphichaenus PLPCH TX
Texas hornshell Popenaias popeii FCH NM, TX
Texas kangaroo rat Dipodomys elator PLPCH TX
whitebark pine Pinus albicaulus FL CA, ID, MT, NV, OR, WA, WY
Wright's marsh thistle Cirsium wrightii FLFCH NM
Yazoo crayfish Orconectes hartfieldi PLPCH MS

Legend — PL: Proposed listing; FL: Final listing; PCH: Proposed critical habitat; FCH: Final critical habitat.

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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