ASHEVILLE, N.C.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to finalize protection for two imperiled aquatic species in eastern North Carolina under the Endangered Species Act.
The Carolina madtom, a small catfish fighting for survival in the Tar River basin, and the Neuse River waterdog, an aquatic salamander found only in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins, face severe threats from urban sprawl, logging, pollution and factory farming.
“After 10 years of federal inaction, these two Carolina treasures can’t wait any longer for wildlife officials to do their job,” said Perrin de Jong, a North Carolina-based staff attorney at the Center. “The madtom and waterdog desperately need Endangered Species Act protection to withstand an onslaught of development, logging and factory-farm pollution.”
The Center petitioned for protection of both species under the Act in April 2010. In response to a subsequent lawsuit by the Center, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposed rule in May of 2019 to list the madtom as endangered, list the waterdog as threatened, and protect 995 stream miles of critical habitat for the two species in North Carolina. The agency was required to make a final decision about those protections within one year, but has failed to do so.
Long delays in protecting species under the Act have been a persistent problem for decades. At least 47 species have gone extinct waiting for protection. A recent peer-reviewed study found that on average species have waited 12 years for protection during the Act’s 40-plus-year history.
In 2016 the Fish and Wildlife Service developed a National Listing Workplan that was intended to prioritize the agency’s workload based on the needs of candidate and petitioned species. The Carolina madtom and Neuse River waterdog were included in this plan, but the agency never met its deadlines for the species.
“The Endangered Species Act is incredibly successful at preventing the extinction of vulnerable species, but the law can only work when the government is willing to follow its commands,” said de Jong. “We’re enforcing the government’s duties to protect these fascinating species, because our state’s vast aquatic biodiversity and clean water are far too valuable for us to let them slowly swirl down the drain.”