Groups petition to add 12 new species to endangered list


Associated Press
King 5 News

SEATTLE - A coalition of environmental groups is urging the government to add eight gopher species, three types of butterfly and a songbird to the federal Endangered Species List.

Led by the Tucson, Ariz.-based Coalition for Biological Diversity, the groups say the 12 species they want listed have been pushed toward extinction as 90 percent of the Puget Sound area's prairies have been destroyed over the past 150 years.

"Prairies are one of the Puget Sound's more important, most endangered and most forgotten ecosystems," Kieran Suckling, the Center for Biological Diversity's executive director, said Thursday, when most of the 12 petitions were filed. The others were filed Wednesday.

"When prairies are gobbled up by sprawl," Suckling added, "the quality of human life suffers and animals are driven to extinction."

Joan Jewett, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's regional office in Portland, Ore., said the agency had not had a chance to review the petitions on Thursday.

While declining immediate comment on the petitions' details, Jewett questioned environmentalists' contention that the government has withheld funding for endangered listings for political reasons.

"I don't know what they want us to do," she said. "We don't get what we ask for anyway. I don't know what asking for more money would do."

The 12 species named in the petition are the streaked horned lark, a small ground-dwelling songbird; the island marble, a butterfly; the mardon skipper butterfly; Taylor's checkerspot butterfly; and the Cathlamet, Olympic, Shelton, Roy Prairie, Olympia, Tenino, Yelm and Tacoma pocket gophers.

Urban sprawl and pesticide use are threatening those species in the San Juan Islands, Mount Vernon, Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Centralia and other areas, the petitioners allege.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has 90 days to determine whether the petitions warrant further review, then six months to decide whether to list the species as endangered.

"This agency wants all species that need protection to get it," Jewett said. "But ... basically, right now, our workload is being completely driven by litigation. ... That is taking our time and attention away from some species in our view that might need more attention."

Environmentalists pointed out that several species named in this week's petitions have been listed by the Fish and Wildlife Service as "candidates" for addition to the endangered species list for years.

"No imperiled species should have to wait 20 years to be protected," Suckling said. "The money needed to save them is a drop in the bucket compared to the federal budget."

Other groups behind the petition include Friends of the San Juans, the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, the Oregon Natural Resources Council and The Northwest Environmental Defense Center and the Gifford Pinchot Task Force.

Resource Links
Center for Biological Diversity (promotes and is actively involved with The Wildlands Project)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

(linked to and involved with the UN's "Conference of the Parties" Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.


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