For Immediate Release, February 8, 2023
Stephanie Kurose, (202) 849-8395, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wildlife Agency Fails to Address Extinction in Changes to Endangered Species Regulations
WASHINGTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it will be revising regulations governing the process for issuing permits under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. The changes are a huge missed opportunity because they afford no new protections to threatened and endangered plants and animals, conservationists say.
The proposed rule is intended to “streamline the process” for oil and gas companies, developers and other non-federal entities that apply for a permit to “take” a threatened or endangered species. Take includes activities that harm, harass or kill species.
Today’s rule would also combine two existing voluntary conservation policies meant to benefit imperiled species — candidate conservation agreements with assurances, and safe harbor agreements — into one new policy that fails to require permanent conservation measures and allows participants to back out of the agreement at any point.
“This lackluster rule is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Service missed a huge opportunity to make meaningful progress to recover our most vulnerable animals and plants. With time running out, we can’t afford more of the status quo.”
The rule fails to include strong monitoring and accountability requirements, which would help the Service determine when species have been harmed at a greater level than authorized or have experienced a significant species-level population decline. Further, the proposed changes wouldn’t meaningfully cut down on the time it takes to develop such plans. These often take more than a decade to complete, primarily because of insufficient resources, including a lack of funding.
Today’s proposal comes just days after NatureServe released a groundbreaking new report finding that 40% of animals, 34% of plants and 40% of ecosystems nationwide are at risk. The study is the most comprehensive to date on the status of U.S. ecosystems. It found that 51% of grasslands and 40% of forests and wetlands are at risk of range-wide collapse. Only 12% of U.S. lands are currently protected.
Among animals, the NatureServe evaluation found that freshwater species such as mollusks, crayfish and amphibians are the most threatened groups because of water pollution and dams. Insects like butterflies, bees and dragonflies are also highly imperiled, with 37% of U.S. bee species facing extinction. For plants, nearly half of cactus species are vulnerable, making them the most jeopardized plant group. About 30% of ferns and orchids are at risk, as are 20% of tree species.
“The extinction crisis is unfolding all around us and devastating our natural world, so it’s disturbing to see the Biden administration pass up a chance for strong action,” said Kurose. “As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act this year, we need bold leaders who aren’t afraid to make visionary changes that this crisis demands.”
Last year, the Center filed a legal petition urging the Service to adopt ambitious new regulatory safeguards that strengthen all aspects of the law.
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.