In George W. Bush’s eight years as president, he placed 62 species under the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), an average of eight species per year. While, Bush’s slow pace in protecting endangered species frustrated environmentalists in light of continued decline among many species, Obama is moving even slower.
In the ten months that he has been in office, President Obama has listed only one species under the ESA: a Hawaiian plant which is down to only a few individuals. While the Obama Administration has identified 249 species that are candidates for protection, it has been painfully slow in actually granting the protection.
“Continued delays in protection of these 249 species is a failure of leadership by Interior Secretary Salazar,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “And that failure is placing these species at greater risk of extinction. The position of chief of conservation and classification hasn’t even been filled yet, exemplifying the failure of the Obama administration to prioritize species conservation.”
A candidate species does not receive any protections legal or otherwise, and these delays—sometimes lasting decades—can lead to extinction. So far, 24 species have vanished entirely while waiting to be listed under ESA.
The species on the candidate list range from the Eastern massasauga snake which has seen much of its wetland habitat taken up by sprawl to the white fringeless orchid which has waited for thirty years to be placed under the ESA.
President Bill Clinton protected on average 62 species a year with a total of 522, while President George H. Bush protected 231, averaging 58 species a year. Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have a long way to go in the next two months if they are to catch-up.
“Because extinction is forever, delays in protection of the nation’s most imperiled species are unacceptable,” said Greenwald. “The Endangered Species Act can save these 249 species, but only if they are granted protection.”
UPDATE: The slickspot peppergrass will be listed in December. A further five listings have been made, but these are due to taxonomy changes, for instance a salamander species was discovered to actually be two species, so now they are both listed. Both the Oregon chub and the gray wolf in Idaho in Montana have been delisted, the latter decision has proved extremely controversial.
(08/24/2009) While the President has been bogged down for the last couple months in an increasingly histrionic health-care debate-which has devolved so far into ridiculousness that one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry-environmental decisions, mostly from the President’s appointees have still been coming fast and furious. However, while the administration started out pouring sunshine on the environment (after years of obfuscated drudgery under the Bush administration), they soon began to move away from truly progressive decisions on the environment and into the recognizable territory of playing it safe-and sometimes even stupid.