Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Suit would prompt action on endangered species petitions

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 11/26/19

REGIONAL—A national environmental group has filed a legal notice of its intent to sue the Trump administration for failure to protect a total of 274 species of plants and animals that it believes …

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Suit would prompt action on endangered species petitions

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REGIONAL—A national environmental group has filed a legal notice of its intent to sue the Trump administration for failure to protect a total of 274 species of plants and animals that it believes are imperiled.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) calls it “one of the largest lawsuits ever launched under the Endangered Species Act,” and the lawsuit is expected to cover several species in Minnesota, including the moose, the spotted skunk, the golden-winged warbler, and the wood turtle. The CBD, in a release issued this week, alleges that the Trump administration has failed to act on petitions seeking protection for the species included in the pending lawsuit.

Delays in the federal listing process are hardly unknown, but the CBD alleges that the situation has significantly worsened under the Trump administration.

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a workplan to address a backlog of more than 500 species awaiting protection decisions, including the 274 species included in the CBD lawsuit, but the group alleges that the Trump administration has kept the agency from completing decisions for dozens of species every year. According to the CBD, its planned legal action is intended to ensure that all the remaining species in the workplan that are still awaiting protection get decisions as soon as possible.

Earlier this year the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, known as IPBES, warned governments around the world that one million species are now at risk of extinction because of human activity. IPBES scientists said that urgent actions are needed to avert mass extinction in the coming decades.

“Scientists around the world are sounding the alarm about the extinction crisis, but the Trump administration can’t be bothered to lift a finger for hundreds of species that are in serious trouble,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “Every day protections are delayed is a day that moves these fascinating species closer to extinction.”

Meanwhile the Trump administration has only protected 19 species under the Endangered Species Act — the lowest of any administration at this point in the presidential term. By comparison, the Obama administration protected 360 species under the act during the same period. President Clinton protected 523 species and George H.W. Bush administration extended protection to 232 species. Even the Reagan administration, which was widely considered less than enthusiastic about environmental goals, extended protections to 254 species.

“The Trump administration’s hostility toward wildlife is appalling,” said Greenwald. “The Endangered Species Act has saved 99 percent of species under its protection, and it can save these plants and animals too, but only if they get the protection they need.”

The 274 species occur across the lower 48 states and include birds, butterflies, fish, mammals and more. All of the species face serious threats to their survival, ranging from habitat destruction to climate change to disease.

Other Minnesota species included in the pending court filing are the Blanding’s turtle, the Regal fritillary (a butterfly), the salamander mussel, and the tricolored bat.

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