Settlement Will Increase Protections for Imperiled Wildlife

Pacific Fisher: WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently announced that it has resolved a host of lawsuits concerning deadlines it missed to protect wildlife under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

As someone working to defend and strengthen our nation’s premier wildlife protection law, I am pleased by this news.

Moving Endangered Species Out of Purgatory

For many years, hundreds of species – species like the Pacific fisher (see right), a beautiful weasel-like carnivore inhabiting the Western U.S. – have sat in the purgatory known as the “candidate species list.” The USFWS designates certain wildlife as “candidates” for listing when it finds that, despite their imperiled condition, it has higher priorities.

As a result, species that need extra attention and protection do not make it onto the ESA list.

The absence of Endangered Species Act safeguards for these creatures means habitat destruction continues unabated, the costs and difficulties of recovery continue to grow, and the possibility of extinction in our lifetimes becomes even more real.

USFWS to Decide on Fate of 250 Candidate Species in Six Years

As part of the settlement, the USFWS commits to clearing up the entire backlog of more than 250 candidate species within six years.

This means that for most of these species, action under the Endangered Species Act will finally be taken to rescue them from extinction.

It also means that the expert biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be working on protecting species rather than wasting precious resources defending the agency’s failure to meet its court deadlines.

Ultimately, it will be exciting to see what we as a nation can accomplish in restoring these and other crucial parts of our natural heritage once the tools and resources of the Endangered Species Act become available for all imperiled species.

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