Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 1, 2020


Perrin de Jong, (828) 252-4646,

Second Lawsuit Aims to Finalize Endangered Species Protection for North Carolina Catfish, Salamander

Ten-year Wait Has Increased Extinction Risk for Carolina Madtom, Neuse River Waterdog

ASHEVILLE, N.C.— The Center for Biological Diversity today sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the second time for failing to protect 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, are only found in North Carolina. Both are in severe decline due to an onslaught of urban sprawl, logging and factory-farm pollution.

“After 10 years of federal inaction, these two Carolina treasures need federal wildlife officials to step up to the plate and do their jobs,” said Perrin de Jong, a North Carolina-based staff attorney at the Center. “The madtom and waterdog won’t have a future without Endangered Species Act protections.”

The Center petitioned for protection of both species under the Act in April 2010. In 2016 the Fish and Wildlife Service developed a workplan to address a backlog of more than 500 species awaiting federal protection. Under this plan the Carolina madtom and Neuse River waterdog were supposed to have received protection by 2018, but as with many species, the agency missed its own deadlines.

The first time the Center filed a lawsuit to enforce government listing deadlines, the Fish and Wildlife Service responded in May of 2019 by issuing a proposed rule to list the madtom as endangered and the waterdog as threatened. Further, 995 stream miles of protected critical habitat were proposed for the two species in North Carolina.

The Service was required to make a final decision about those protections within one year, but has failed to do so.

“I never imagined we’d have to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service twice to enforce its legal duty to protect the same species, but we’re prepared to go the distance, even as the government sleeps through its lifesaving responsibilities,” said de Jong. “Conserving our irreplaceable biodiversity, and protecting clean water for all North Carolinians at the same time, should be a no-brainer.”

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-year-plus history.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Carolina madtom. Photo courtesy of USFWS. 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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