Delaying Tactics Put U.S. Wildlife in Hot Water

Like my beleaguered husband likes to tell me in the morning—as he gives me a swift kick in the direction of the shower—it's time to "put it on fast speed." Just substitute the U.S. Endangered Species Act for a somnolent but potentially hostile word wrangler, and you'll catch my analogous drift.

Such is the situation with U.S. wildlife officials, who apparently also need some extreme caffeination to snap out of whatever reverie they're in. A rare plant known as the Hawaiian Haha went extinct while it stood in line waiting to be placed on the Endangered Species list. But the Haha's untimely demise is symptomatic of larger problems at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which administers programs aimed at protecting threatened species, according to a report released yesterday by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The organization crunched out some startling—yet at the same time unsurprising—numbers: The Bush administration has listed 57 species as protected since 2001, a sharp downturn from the 512 species listed in the Clinton Administration, and less than the 234 species listed during the four-year presidency of the current president's father.
At least two species—the doomed Haha and the Lask Sammamish Kokonee, a fish native to Washington state—have been snuffed out of existence while waiting for protection during this administration, says the report.

"There are a certain number of species on the candidate list right now that are close to extinction, and that ought to be listed, and what the administration has done to date is to say that they don't have enough money and resources to list these species," said Bill Snape, senior counsel for the biodiversity center, in an interview with Reuters. "They're definitely in a pattern of waiting and waiting and waiting until either the species does go extinct or the next administration comes in."

Ironically, Snape says that the budget for listing wildlife as endangered has increased during the current administration. So what's the deal? A spokesman for the Interior Department, which includes the Fish & Wildlife Service, blames the situation on a backlog of litigation against the agency, some of it launched by environmental advocacy groups—including the Center for Biological Diversity.

The wildlife protection program is not unfamiliar with recrimination; it also recently came under fire when agency scientists complained that they were being bullied into changing their findings about endangered species to fit a particular political agenda—generally one that opposed adding new wildlife to the protection program. No warm, fuzzy feelings over there, for sure. :: Reuters

Tags: Conservation

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