Photo via Leland Rucker
President Bush was certainly not known for his dedication for protecting endangered species--his delisting of gray wolves, for example, caused a furor among environmentalists, and he notoriously dragged his feet in adding threatened species to the protected list. In contrast, George H.W. Bush added an average of 58 species to the endangered list every year during his presidency. Clinton added an average of 61. Bush added only 11. But Obama is doing even worse--so far, with only two species added, Obama is coming up last.As such, he's testing the patience of many environmentalists who were counting on more sympathetic ears in the White House. The opening sentence in a report from Greenwire is alarming in and of itself: "The Obama administration is lagging behind the pace set by its predecessor for listing endangered species, and some environmentalists are not happy." Especially considering that the pace set by his predecessor was glacial at best.
So far, Obama has only added two species, both plants, to the endangered species list, and has chosen not to intervene on the Bush-era ruling that the gray wolves were not endangered. Because of this, conservation groups are beginning to publicly express their discontent to get Obama's attention. According to Greenwire,
Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity said: "Only two listings shows they have not correctly shifted the agency's priorities to correct the foot-dragging of the Bush administration."
One of two species Obama has protected, a rare Hawaiian fern.
And here's why they're upset: There are a full 250 species that have been found to be threatened, and are listed only as 'candidates' by the Endangered Species Act. In order to be protected by law, the candidates must be studied and officially moved to 'endangered' status by the administration. Only two of those have been addressed--the rest are waiting in the wings to be examined by Obama's team. Without proper classification, these threatened species could fall into even greater trouble.
The remaining 248 demand attention--and potentially protective action--but the Obama administration says it's got its hands tied with a lack of funding to the department. It's admitted that it wishes it could do more, and says it plans on dramatically picking up the pace next year. It has outstanding plans to list 6 additional species soon.
The problem isn't that Obama is against protecting species to cater to special interests as Bush did, conservation groups point out, it's just that he hasn't made it a priority. Perhaps the raised voices of conservation groups will help prod the administration into action, and will properly review the candidates. And who knows? Maybe there really are only two species that need protecting in all of the US--but somehow I doubt it.