Lawsuits have been launched for denial and delay of federal protections to 10 species
WASHINGTON – The Center for Biological Diversity today filed two official notices of intent to sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service for denying or delaying Endangered Species Act protections for 10 species.
An opinion accuses the Service of illegally denying endangered species protection to the Burrington jumping slug in Washington and Oregon, the rubber boa in southern California, the Black Creek crayfish in Florida and the backbone of the Virgin River in Utah.
the second opinion accuses the agency of illegally delaying protection of the dune sagebrush lizard in Texas and New Mexico, the legless Temblor lizard in California, clubshell longsolid and Canoe Creek mussels in the southeast, from the plant bacora Marrón in the Virgin Islands and the hairy-necked tabby beetle from Siuslaw in Oregon.
Coupled with the agency’s inability to make decisions for 66 species in FY2021, the failure to protect these 10 species highlights how the problems that have stuck the service under Trump continue in the Biden administration. These persistent problems include political decisions, a crippling bureaucracy and a loss of scientific capacity.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service should be at the forefront of the fight to stop the extinction crisis. Instead, the agency is mired in a bureaucratic malaise clouded by political decision-making, “said Noah Greenwald, director of endangered species at the Center.” I had hoped the Biden administration would breathe new life into the Service, but the unwarranted refusal to protect these four species and the failure to protect the other six at risk suggest otherwise. “
As with many species deprived of protection under the Trump administration, the Service arbitrarily limited the analysis of climate change threats to the four species in the first opinion only 20 to 30 years old, despite the fact that readily available and accepted climate models extend to the turn of the century.
For the Virgin River spinal cord, for example, the Service only looked 20 years into the future when examining the impacts of drought related to climate change. The US Geological Survey model the Service relied on looked at 2099 and concluded that the rivers that fish depend on face degrading conditions.
“It is surprising that the Service continues the Trump administration’s heads-in-the-sand approach to assess climate change threats to species at risk such as spider mites,” Greenwald said. “We expect better from the Biden administration.”
Origins of species
Virgin River Medallion: The Backbone is a medium-sized silvery minnow that was once common throughout the Virgin River basin in northwestern Arizona, southeastern Nevada, and southwestern Utah. The fin on its back has eight rays, and the first two of them are hard, prickly, and weakly fused, which gives the rose hip its name. Overexploitation, drought and climate change are causing increasing water scarcity in the Virgin Basin, threatening the survival of this unique fish. The Center petitioned the federal government for the listing of the backbone in 2012.
Southern Rubber Boa: These nocturnal and secret boas are vulnerable to extinction due to their very small range, which only includes the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains. Snakes are also threatened by removal, habitat destruction, and the warming and drying out caused by climate change.
This little constrictor has a sturdy body and smooth, shiny skin that has small scales and is loose and wrinkled, giving it a rubbery appearance. It prefers mixed coniferous and oak forests with relatively open canopies and rocky outcrops. Rocks, logs, and a well-developed layer of plant litter are key parts of the boa’s habitat as they provide cover and retain soil moisture. The Center requested the listing of this species in 2012.
Black Creek Crayfish: This crayfish has a small range in the lower St. Johns River watershed in northeast Florida where it is threatened by development, pollution and an introduced crayfish which supplants it for food and space. The crayfish are colorful, with a black shell, a white or yellow dorsal stripe, and a rust-colored abdomen with black stripes. Although the streams in which it lives are often dark with natural tannins, the crayfish need clean, well-oxygenated water to live and therefore are an indicator of the health of the streams. The Center requested the listing of the species in 2010.
Burrington’s Jumping Slug: The Burrington’s Jumping-slug once lived in the humid old-growth forests of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, through the Olympic Mountains in Washington and to the Oregon Coast Range. It is unable to withstand loss of forest cover from logging and does not recolonize habitat once it has been disturbed. As a result, slugs have disappeared from large parts of their historic range where industrial forestry predominates. The need for cool, humid conditions also makes the Jumping Slug susceptible to climate change and forest fires.
Somewhere between a snail and a slug, jumping slugs have residual shells that make them appear hunchbacked. They are known to shake their tails in a motion that resembles a jump.
Temblor legless lizard: The Temblor legless lizard is a rare sand-swimming reptile that lives in a small habitat area near the Temblor Range at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley in California. The entire range of the lizard on the eastern side of the Temblors is less than 125 miles in length. The majority of the lizard’s habitat is privately owned and is immediately threatened by oil and gas drilling. Climate change, forest fires and invasive species are also threats. The Center filed a petition for the protection of the lizard on October 20, 2020. The Service has yet to render a 12-month finding on the petition.
Dune Mugwort Lizard: The sagebrush lizard is a habitat specialist with a very small range in the brilliant oak sand dune habitat of southeastern New Mexico and western Texas. It is considered an “ambush forager” and it eats a variety of invertebrates. Its habitat has declined, is fragmented, and is threatened by herbicides, oil and gas development, and fracking sand mining operations. Other threats include the impacts of climate change, contaminants, and invasive species.
The Center first sought protection for the lizard in 2002, and then again in 2018. The Service is now more than two years behind in issuing a 12-month finding for the species.
Siuslaw Hairy Neck Tiger Beetle: The Siuslaw Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle was named after the Native Americans of Siuslaw and the Siuslaw River of the central Oregon coast. The beetle has once been found on the coastal beaches of northern California in Washington, but has been lost from most of the places where it has been found historically. Recent surveys have found the beetle at only 17 sites in Oregon and two sites in Washington State. In almost all of the sites, less than 50 individuals were found.
The tiger beetle is threatened by habitat loss, all-terrain vehicles, climate change, coastal erosion, trampling by swimmers, inbreeding, and invasive species.
The beetle is a fierce predator of both adult and larvae. Adults are fast, mobile hunters who roam the sand in short bursts or in short hopping flights to hunt their prey. Beetles run so fast that they must stop after each gust to visually relocate their prey before continuing their pursuit. The Center applied for the beetle’s listing on November 12, 2020 and is awaiting a 12-month conclusion.
Solid long: The longsolid is a five-inch-long mussel with a light brown shell that features darker brown stripes and a pronounced ridge. It lives in the basins of the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee rivers in Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Longsolid is threatened by water pollution from urbanization, agriculture, oil and gas drilling, pipeline construction, coal mines and coal-fired power plants, as well as the ‘rising water temperatures and storms caused by climate change. The Center applied for protection of longsolid in 2010. Following a dispute brought by the Center, the Service offered protection in July 2020, but did not issue a final rule within one year, as required.
Canoe Creek Club Hull: The Canoe Creek shell is a freshwater mussel that lives only in Big Canoe Creek and Little Canoe Creek West, tributaries of the Coosa River in northeast Alabama. It is approximately 3.5 inches long, with an outer shell ranging from dark yellow to brown, an iridescent inner shell of white mother-of-pearl, and a salmon orange body.
The clubshell reproduces by releasing the larvae in small packages that resemble fish prey, but when the fish eat them, the larvae attach themselves to the gills of the fish until they turn into tiny mussels and drop off in the stream to start their lives on their own. Host fish for the mussel are the Alabama Shiner, Tricolor Shiner, and Striped Shiner.
The species is threatened by agricultural and forestry runoff, a pump storage project, water pollution from development around Ashville, Springville and Steele, and severe drought exacerbated by climate change. Only 25 mussels were found in recent surveys, and all were aging adults, indicating a lack of reproductive success.
The Center filed a petition for the protection of the species in 2010. Following a litigation by the Center, the Service proposed protection in November 2020, but it is now slow to finalize the protection.
Bacora brown: Bacora Marrón is a flowering shrub that can reach 10 feet in height and is found in St. John’s, the US Virgin Islands, and Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. The marrón bacora was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered early in the night. There are only a handful of populations and low numbers in each population.
The plant is threatened by development and climate change. Saint-Jean was devastated in 2017 by hurricanes Irma and Maria. The Service found that climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of tropical storms, hurricanes and severe droughts.
A petition to protect the plant was first submitted in 1996. After several rounds of litigation by the Center, the Service finally offered protection on August 26, 2020, but is now slow to provide final protection.