The Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday said it has filed notice to sue the Trump Administration for failing to take action to save 274 animal and plant species from the brink of extinction.
The environmental group said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to resolve potential endangered status for species including moose, the Blanding's turtle, golden-winged warbler, tricolored bat and spotted skunks in Minnesota and Wisconsin and the western bumblebee in the Dakotas.
It’s among the largest lawsuits ever under the Endangered Species Act.
In 2016 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a work plan to address a backlog of more than 500 species awaiting protection decisions, including those in today’s notice, “but the Trump administration has kept the agency from completing decisions for dozens of species every year,’’ the group said in announcing the suit.
Earlier this year the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warned governments around the world that 1 million species are now at risk of extinction because of human activity. The scientists said that urgent actions are needed to avert mass extinction in 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 for the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. “Every day that protections are delayed is a day that these fascinating species are a step closer to extinction.”
The 274 species include wolverines in the Rockies, a “jumping” slug in the Pacific Northwest, a western bumblebee that has declined by 84 percent, Venus flytrap plants in the Carolinas, and a tiny freshwater fish that flips stones with its nose to find food.
A spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service said the suit will only do more harm to the agency's efforts.
“CBD’s notice of intent misrepresents the volume of our outstanding Endangered Species Act actions. A lawsuit will only serve to divert more of our limited resources towards litigation and away from the important work of conserving our nation’s wild life,''the agency told the News Tribune in response.
In Minnesota, a large population of moose in northwestern counties has virtually disappeared while the state’s Northeastern moose herd has been halved from nearly 9,000 in 2006 to just over 4,000 in 2019.
The Blanding's turtle is already listed by Minnesota as a state threatened species as its habitat — undeveloped areas near shorelines — counties to be developed and degraded.
Scientists say golden-winged warblers are declining faster than any other songbird in North America. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology says only about 400,000 breeding adults remain, a decline of 66% since the 1960s. In some eastern states, their population has crashed by 98%. But in northern Minnesota, the tiny songbirds, less than half an ounce, are doing fairly well. It's now believed that half of all golden-winged warblers on the continent spend their summers in Minnesota.
The group said the Trump administration has protected 19 species under the Endangered Species Act in three years, the fewest of any administration at this point in their presidential term. That compares to 254 under President Ronald Reagan, 232 species under President George H.W. Bush, 360 under President Barack Obama and 523 species under President Bill Clinton.
“The Trump administration’s hostility toward wildlife is appalling,” said Greenwald. “The Endangered Species Act has saved 99% of species under its protection and it can save these plants and animals too, but only if they get the protection they need.”