The Trump administration is being sued by a national environmental group with offices in Idaho for failing to act on protection for hundreds of threatened species of animals and plants, including Idaho’s wolverines and western bumble bees.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed notice of intent last month to sue the Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for violating the Endangered Species Act and “repeatedly failing to complete the service’s own National Listing Workplan and annual workloads.”
The group said the Fish and Wildlife Service developed a seven-year workplan to work on a backlog of more than 500 species to determine which ones warranted listing as threatened or endangered and the service has not kept to its promises.
“We found at least 274 species that warranted a decision under the (Endangered Species Act) for protection that have not yet been evaluated,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity who lives and works in Victor. “It seems like the Trump administration almost put the brakes on the Fish and Wildlife Service making any decisions following this workplan.”
Among the 274 species the Center for Biological Diversity identified are wolverines. Scientists have recently estimated the wolverine population at about 250 to 300 in the north Rockies and the north Cascades, including Idaho. Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to list wolverines as endangered in 2014, but a federal court in Montana overturned the withdrawal decision in 2016, finding that climate change, the small population size and genetic isolation all threaten wolverines.
“Later that year in October 2016, Fish and Wildlife Service reopened the comment period on the proposed listing on the Endangered Species Act,” Santarsiere said. “Since that time they’ve done nothing. They’ve just been sitting on their hands. They haven’t put out a final decision as to whether wolverines should be protected.”
A spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service disagreed with the environmental group’s portrayal of the situation.
“(Center for Biological Diversity’s) notice of intent (to sue) 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 wildlife,” said Gavin Shire, chief of public affairs with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in an email. “We have completed more than 100 of the outstanding actions from fiscal year 2017-19, considerably reducing our backlog, which is not reflected in (Center’s) notice.”
Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the Trump administration has protected 19 species under the Endangered Species Act.
“By comparison, during the Obama administration, 360 species were protected under the Endangered Species Act,” he said. “Under Clinton 523 species were protected, while 232 species were protected under George H.W. Bush, 62 species under George W. Bush and 254 under Reagan.”
“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,” Greenwald said. “Every day that protections are delayed is a day that these fascinating species are a step closer to extinction.”