For Immediate Release, October 4, 2019

Contact:

Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org

Trump Administration Denies Protection to 12 Highly Imperiled Species From Alaska to Florida

Berry Cave Salamander, Clamshell Orchid, Alaska Yellow Cedar Among Species Denied Protection

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today denied Endangered Species Act protection to a dozen species of plants and animals facing extinction. The denied species include the Florida clam shell orchid, Alaska yellow cedar, Berry Cave salamander in eastern Tennessee, and Panamint alligator lizard in California.

“From imperiled flowers to vanishing salamanders, the Trump administration can’t stand to give imperiled plants and animals a shot at surviving the extinction crisis,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. “The Endangered Species Act could pull these creatures back from the brink. But Trump officials only care about protecting corporate polluters from having to take modest measures to save wildlife.”

The agency was responding to petitions from the Center and other groups. The Trump administration has now declined protection for 74 species and protected only 18 — the lowest of any president at this point in an administration.

Today’s denials come on the heels of sweeping Trump administration changes to the Endangered Species Act. Finalized on Aug. 12, the changes make it harder for species to gain protection, weaken habitat protections for listed species, and largely disregard climate change.

A landmark scientific report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has warned that one million species are being pushed to extinction by human activities.

Species Background
Berry Cave salamanders live in small populations in underground caves with flowing water, where they feed on small insects. The salamanders grow up to 9 inches long and retain juvenile body form as adults. They’re threatened by declining water quality caused by urban sprawl from Knoxville, as well as by pollution from logging, pesticides and quarrying.

Salamanders are particularly vulnerable to pollution because toxins are easily absorbed through their thin, permeable skin. The Obama administration placed this one on the candidate waiting list for protection in 2011; scientists had petitioned for its protection in 2003.

The Florida clam shell orchid, Ocala vetch and yellow anise tree are found in Florida and are threatened by sea-level rise, saltwater intrusion, and increasing hurricane storm surge due to the global climate emergency. The Trump administration recently weakened the Endangered Species Act to change the definition of foreseeable future and ignore projected climate change impacts. The Center petitioned for protection for these three plants in 2010.

The cobblestone tiger beetle has been wiped out of much of its range due to changes in riverside habitat caused by dams, channelization and urbanization. It is considered an indicator species of healthy riverside habitat. Once widespread across the eastern United States, the beetle now survives on only nine or 10 rivers. It is widely distributed from Alabama to Vermont, but highly localized, with most remaining populations being small and widely isolated, increasing the species’ risk of extinction. The beetle was first identified as being in need of federal protection in 1984, and the Center petitioned for its protection in 2010.

The longhead darter has been wiped out from half its range and was identified by scientists as a priority species for endangered species protection. It was once found from New York and Pennsylvania south to Tennessee, but is now only spottily distributed in the Ohio and Tennessee river watersheds. It is threatened by pollution from coal mining, agriculture, livestock and urbanization, as well as by population isolation caused by dams. The longhead darter is 5 inches long, with a slender body, dark stripes, and a long, pointed head and snout. It was first identified as being in need of federal protection in 1982.

The Alaska yellow cedar is threatened by the climate crisis and expanded logging in the Tongass National Forest. Climate change has already caused die-offs of yellow cedars over almost a million acres in Alaska and British Columbia.

The Scott riffle beetle occurs at one spring in Kansas and nowhere else on Earth. It is threatened by decreased groundwater flow related to regional water usage, drought and climate change.

The southern hognose snake lives in longleaf pine savannah, flatwoods and sandhills in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. More than 95 percent of long leaf pine forests have been lost. The snake is threatened by fire suppression, timber harvesting, sea-level rise, conversion of land to agriculture and urbanization.

The Panamint alligator lizard is known from six desert mountain ranges in Mono and Inyo counties, California. It is threatened by declining surface water, climate change and drought.

Other species denied protection today include the Peaks of Otter salamander and redlips darter.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.