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Critics say Obama slow on endangered species

The Obama Administration is lagging behind past administrations in its listing of dwindling species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). To date the US Fish and Wildlife Service has added 51 species to the ESA since Obama’s took office, according to the conservation group, Center for Biological Diversity. By contrast, the Clinton Administration averaged 65 species a year with a total of 522 species protected. Obama is more proactive than George W. Bush, however, who was seen by many critics as actively undercutting the ESA. Only one of the species protected so far by the Obama Administration is found in the continental US.

“The Obama administration has no sense of urgency when it comes to protecting imperiled plants and animals,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, in a press release. “With extinction looming, imperiled species need more than promises of hope and change. They need real protection, and they need it now.”

Currently, 251 species sit on the ‘candidate list’ for the protection under the ESA, but he candidate status itself provides no legal protection. Many of these species wait years and sometimes decades before a decision is made.

However, Rowan Gould, the director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, says that the candidate list “offers the service and our partners a unique opportunity to address the threats to these species through voluntary conservation efforts on public and private lands. We will continue working to reduce the number of candidate species by developing conservation agreements that reduce or eliminate the threats they face, and by listing species that warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act as soon as possible.”

Five new species were added to the candidate list last week: Kentucky arrow darer, Rosemont talus snail, Kenk’s amphipod, Packard’s milk vetch, and the Vandenberg monkeyflower. One species was removed from the candidate list: the Palm Springs round-tailed ground squirrel.

According the Center for Biological Diversity, 24 species have gone extinct while waiting on the candidate list for a decision.

Passed in 1973 in the Nixon Administration, the ESA is one of the world’s most robust protection laws for species.

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