Three New Species Now Protected Under The Endangered Species Act
Photo of ‘l’iwi by Brett Hartl for The Center for Biological Diversity
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that Arizona’s Sonoyta mud turtle, a Hawaiian bird known as the ‘I’iwi, and a Southeast fish called the pearl darter are now protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Yesterday’s action came in response to two 2011 settlement agreements for the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians under which the Fish and Wildlife Service made protection decisions for hundreds of vulnerable species over the past six years.
With these three newly designated species,188 species have been protected as threatened or endangered under the agreement. Eleven additional species have been proposed for protection and await decisions expected by the end of the year.
“We are thrilled these three endangered species are finally getting the protections they so desperately need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the center. “We’re worried that the Trump Administration political appointees would block the Fish and Wildlife Service from protecting any species, but for at least these three, this is a good day.
Sonoyta Mud Turtle
National Park Service
With wet feet, an innate ability to swim, the Sonoyta mud turtle has evolved to be highly aquatic in one of the driest parts of the Sonoran Desert. The turtle is found only in a small area of Pima County, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico. Diversion of surface water and pumping of groundwater have led to the loss of much of this habitat, which the turtle needs to survive. It has been waiting for protection on the candidate list for two decades.
The ‘l’iwi, also known as the scarlet honeycreeper, is a medium-sized bird that lives in the native forests of ohia and koa. The ‘l’iwi was once widespread throughout the Hawaiian Islands, but the species is now primarily restricted to high elevation areas on the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai because of habitat destruction and the spread of avian pox and malaria by mosquitoes, which were introduced to the islands.
Unfortunately, climate change has mosquitoes moving uphill and it is predicted they will cover most remaining ‘l’iwi habitat as the climate continues to warm. The ‘l’iwi has seen a 92% decline on Kauai in the past 25 years and a 34% decline on Maui. The Center petitioned for its protection in 2010.
The pearl darter once swam in hundreds of miles of river in Mississippi and Louisiana, but today has been reduced to scattered populations in a fraction of its range. It has been lost from its namesake, the Pearl River. The darter is threatened by water pollution from oil and gas development, sand and gravel mining, urbanization and agriculture.
Other threats include climate change and hurricanes and similarly catastrophic events. The Southeastern Fishes Counsel named the pearl darter as one of the 12 most endangered fish in the southeastern United States. It is been waiting for protection on the candidate list since 1991.
“Each of these three species is precious, and we need to do all we can to save them,” continued Greenwald.”We’re fortunate to have the Endangered Species Act, an incredibly effective law that has saved more than 99% of the species under its protection and put hundreds more on the road to recovery.
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