The endangered species waiting list is at its most abridged version of the last 4 decades, representatives of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have announced on Tuesday, December 29.
The Endangered Species Act, whose enactment falls under the jurisdiction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is a federal law which was approved by President Richard Nixon more than 40 years ago, on December 28, 1973.
Its aim is to identify species of animals and plants that are either endangered or threatened, so as to boost conservation efforts, and save the ecosystem from imminent decline.
Yesterday, a newly upgraded list including the species that are now being reviewed by naturalists was made public, and it only includes 42 types of animals, as well as 18 varieties of plants.
Never before has the waiting list been so greatly reduced, which suggests that authorities have been making great strides when it comes to ensuring higher levels of protection for imperiled creatures.
The reason why federal regulators have sped up their efforts, sorting through the backlog of species whose survival warranted a more thorough analysis, is most likely linked to the historic settlement reached by FWS officials with the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups.
Through this agreement, it was established that the agency would accelerate its procedures, by reviewing records pertaining to hundreds of species in order to determine if they require conservation measures, consisting in restrictions on imports, exploitation, hunting etc.
The deadline imposed through this settlement is the year 2018, and it is expected that by that time the agency will have decided which of a total of 757 varieties of plants and animals should be included on the Endangered Species Act.
So far, 151 species which had been almost forgotten on the waiting list were finally granted protection. The law’s current version now has 2,215 species under its guardianship, including the Oregon spotted frog, the Dakota skipper, the yellow-billed cuckoo, and the Ozark hellbender, whose status had been on standby for decades.
Moreover, the FSW agreed that 71 other animals and plants which hadn’t been considered to be imperiled will now be analyzed more carefully, in order to make a final deliberation.
The need to expedite such processes is considered essential, given the fact that over 40 species have already perished while authorities were still considering if they should be more effectively safeguarded.
As explained by Tierra Curry, conservation biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, the Endangered Species Act has been instrumental in rescuing numerous species from the jaws of extinction, such examples being the whitebark pine, the bald eagle and the grey whale.
However, unless protection is extended to animals and plants which are still awaiting review, these species will remain under severe threat, especially now that scientists are warning that the sixth mass extinction is underway.
At the moment, the candidate list contains species such as the Pacific walrus (whose population has dwindled due to over-exploitation and habitat loss) and the Sierra Nevada red fox (endangered as a result of excessive hunting and trapping).
It also includes the eastern Gopher tortoise (a keystone species whose disappearance would perturb hundreds of others), and the Hermes copper butterfly (depleted by wildfires in San Diego).
Aside from such species which are at least one step closer to benefiting from more extensive conservation efforts, FSW and NOAA also need to review around 500 other potential candidates, which could also be placed on the waiting list in the future.
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