The tepid pace of federal action on considering wildlife and plant species for listing as endangered or threatened may soon accelerate. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and WildEarth Guardians — which says in the last four years it has filed the majority of the lawsuits requesting determinations — have agreed on a list of 251 species that warrant the most immediate attention. But it's not yet a done deal.
If Judge Emmet Sullivan with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approves the settlement, and FWS follows through, a proposed rule for listing each of the species, or a decision to not list a species, will be made by Sept. 30, 2016 (or earlier for certain species). At least one party interested in this issue, the Center for Biological Diversity, is contesting the agreement. Some other conservation groups are supporting it. A court decision may occur on or soon after June 20, 2011.
- US FWS, Listing Workplan; press release, May 10, 2011.
- WildEarth Guardians; Nicole Rosmarino, 505-699-7404.
- Center for Biological Diversity, May 17, 2011, press release, "Judge Halts Settlement Over Hundreds of Endangered Species, Orders Parties Back to Negotiations."
- Judge Emmet Sullivan, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; case name, In Re Endangered Species Act Section 4 Deadline Litigation, Miscellaneous Action No. 10-CV-0377-EGS.
- List of 251 species, including birds, butterflies, mammals, reptiles, fish, mollusks, and wildflowers (near bottom, click on "Learn more about the 251 species …"; the spreadsheet includes the state in which each species is located, allowing you to localize the story; every state has, or has been home to, at least one of the species).
Of the 251 species, some have been candidates for more than 30 years, while others have been on the candidate list for less than a year.
If the 251 species are all addressed, that would still leave nearly 1,000 other species that are on the candidate list. Groups other than WildEarth Guardians may take legal actions addressing any candidate species in the next six years, despite this agreement. More than 1,300 species in the US and 570 species abroad are on the list of designated endangered and threatened species.
Even if FWS decides to list a species, appropriate agencies and organizations may not have the time, people, funding — or support of politicians, affected landowners, and various interest groups — to make substantial gains to protect it, so that will remain a large part of the story.