Endangered Species Act Decision
WildEarth Guardians and the Department of Interior reached an important agreement on May 10th in which the US Fish and Wildlife Service has committed to making final Endangered Species Act listing determinations by September 2016 for 251 species that have been on hold for too long.
“We are very hopeful that the majority of these candidates will make it across the finish line to endangered species listed status,” Nicole Rosmarino, Wildlife Program Director of WildEarth Guardians, told me.
All the plant and animal candidates still need to go through a process in which the government decides whether or not to propose them. This is followed by an official public comment period where anyone including scientists can send in information regarding the status and the threat to the species. After that, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will make the final determination on whether or not to add the species to the threatened or endangered list. “So there’s still a process to go through but this agreement ensures that the process will happen in a timely manner,” Nicole explained. “Within the next 5 ½ years we will get a more definitive answer for each of these 251 species and whether or not to process each one.”
When I asked about the current state of some of the species, Nicole mentioned a Top 40 List, some of which have already been listed. “Some of those species have not been seen for years so they desperately need this decision and the government needs to get on with the business of searching for them and protecting them when they find them. The wait can mean extinction and that’s why it’s so important that we get past this hump where the species can languish without that definitive answer.”
The Agreement is likely to fix some current listing problems. An example is the Canada Lynx in New Mexico. “In other areas in the lower 48 the Canada Lynx is listed, but it’s not listed in New Mexico,” Nicole continued. In 2007 WildEarth Guardians and several other groups submitted a lengthy petition advocating that the Canadian Lynx be protected in New Mexico. “There were Lynx’s coming down from Colorado into New Mexico but as soon as they crossed the state line they had no endangered species legislation. So under the Agreement we’re going to get a final answer for Lynx in New Mexico by the end of fiscal year 2013 – September 20, 2013.”
Once listed, species get special status. “The Endangered Species Act is incredibly important for ensuring that species don’t go extinct,” Nicole concluded. “Over 99% of the plants and animals that are listed under it haven’t gone extinct.”
If you’d like more information, check out the related page on WildEarth Guardians’ website.