For Immediate Release, July 20, 2021

Contact:

Maxx Phillips, Center for Biological Diversity, (808) 284-0007, mphillips@biologicaldiversity.org
Julian Aguon, Blue Ocean Law, (671) 472-2583, julian@blueoceanlaw.com

Lawsuit Targets Wildlife Agency for Failing to Protect Habitat for 23 Endangered Micronesian Species

Safeguards Needed for Species Devastated by Habitat Destruction, Climate Change

HAGÅTÑA, Guam— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to protect critical habitat for 23 endangered species in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Territory of Guam.

These imperiled plants and animals have been harmed by agricultural and urban sprawl, military expansion and training, invasive species, fire, typhoons, sea-level rise and climate change.

The species facing extinction — nine animals and 14 plants — include tiny sac-winged bats, bright orange and yellow tree snails, beautiful eight-spot butterflies, and brilliant blue damselflies. Today’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Guam, says federal wildlife officials have failed to designate any habitat for these imperiled species as required under the Endangered Species Act.

“These beautiful, dwindling Pacific Island species desperately need protected habitat or they won’t survive,” said Maxx Phillips, Hawai‘i director and a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We can’t stop the extinction crisis if wildlife officials ignore the law and abandon the places where imperiled species live. Militarization, invasive species, climate change and urban sprawl have taken an enormous toll. Since government officials won’t take action, we’re asking the court to force them to.”

In 2015 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed 23 plant and animal species in greater Micronesia as endangered or threatened. The Endangered Species Act requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for all threatened and endangered species, but the agency has failed to designate critical habitat for any of these plants or animals.

“These plants and animals need protection. They need critical habitat to survive and recover,” said Frances Meno, a local yo'åmte, or traditional healer. “I am very bothered by this. Without our plants, we can’t make medicine, and there will be no use for us yo'åmte anymore. We can’t let this happen.”

Listing a species as endangered or threatened is the first step in ensuring its survival and recovery. Designating critical habitat will prohibit federal actions that destroy or harm areas the plants and animals need to survive and help conserve what remains of these species’ limited native range.

“We need to get serious about protecting our endangered and threatened species,” said attorney Julian Aguon of Blue Ocean Law. “The first step is to designate critical habitat. The second is to stop giving the military a free pass. We’re suing Fish and Wildlife to remind them they must do both.”

Background
Pacific sheath-tailed bat: This insectivorous bat has already been wiped out on Guam and the island of Vanuatu. Across its remaining range, it is threatened by habitat destruction from nonnative species, development, military training, urbanization, typhoons and climate change.

Slevin’s skink: Also known as the Mariana skink, this social creature has already been wiped out on Guam. The rest of its range is also threatened by habitat destruction from nonnative species, development, military training, urbanization, typhoons and climate change. Military training puts the skink at risk of direct harm from live-fire training exercises.

Mariana eight-spot butterfly: Native to Guam and Saipan, the butterfly is no longer found on Saipan. It is reliant on two host plant species, one of which is used as a native medicinal plant to treat various ailments. The butterfly is threatened by parasitic wasps, and its habitat is threatened by nonnative species, development, military training, urbanization, typhoons and climate change.

Guam tree snail: Found only in Guam, this once-common, air-breathing snail is now critically endangered. In addition to the common habitat threats listed above, the Guam tree snail is threatened by fire and overcollection for commercial and recreational purposes.

Bulbophyllum guamense: Part of the Guam Plant Extinction Prevention Program, this orchid has a greenish-yellow flower that smells faintly of carrion. The plant once occurred in common large mat-like formations on trees. The orchid is harmed by habitat-based threats and predation by nonnative slugs.

RSMariana_eight-spot_butterfly_USFWS_FPWC.JPG
Mariana eight-spot butterfly. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Images are 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.

 

www.biologicaldiversity.org