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Trust us, we're as surprised as you are: In a bold, uncharacteristic, and long-overdue move, the federal government announced a proposal on Tuesday to add 48 species, found only on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, to the endangered species list. With 329 imperiled plants, animals, and insects, Hawaii has more endangered species than any other state.
Protecting these species would involve a "holistic approach," according to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who, lest we forget, dug in his heels every step of the way before finally reluctantly caving in to pressure to list the polar bear as threatened. If the 45 plants, two birds, and one insect are successfully added to the list, a process that involves a yearlong study, approximately 43 square miles would be designated as critical habitat for all 48 species. While this would depart from a 30-year-old practice of mapping out each species' habitat individually, which does little to help the entire ecosystem, conservation groups remain wary. "It is good news that the Fish and Wildlife Service has finally started to do their job, once again, of proposing protection under the Endangered Species Act for plants and animals on the brink of disappearing forever," says Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition (ESC). "Unfortunately, given this administration's track record, we will have to go over the proposal with a fine-toothed comb to ensure that the protections are really being put into place."
Although the ESC calls the action "an end to the drought," it also points out that that administration has yet to act on the 23 other species it told Congress it would begin the listing process for this fiscal year.
"This Administration has the worst record of protection since the Endangered Species Act was created in 1973," Huta says. "They have bent over backwards--and around ethics policies--to keep all but a handful of species unprotected and their record on providing adequate habitat for species to recover is even worse."
The Center for Biological Diversity is equally skeptical. "While we welcome this action to protect these incredibly rare and imperiled species, in no way does it make up for the Administration's abysmal track-record of listing and protecting endangered and threatened species," says Mike Senatore, the Center's Biodiversity Program director and senior counsel. "This action also does nothing for the hundreds of additional species that have languished for years awaiting protection under the Endangered Species Act. In fact, the proposal even falls short of the Interior Department's announcement earlier this year that it would propose adding 71 species to the list of endangered and threatened species."
At this point, though, we'll take whatever we can get. ::Associated Press, ::Endangered Species Coalition, ::Center for Biological Diversity
More on the Endangered Species Act:
Bush Officials Launch Stealth Attack on U.S. Wildlife
AP Reports Proposal to Drastically Alter Endangered Species Act
Delaying Tactics Put U.S. Wildlife in Hot Water
Endangered Species List is Itself Endangered
America Celebrates Endangered Species Day
A Bush Administration Policy Adjustment