THE ENDANGERED SPECIES COALITION HAS A LIST
The only endangered and threatened species list that counts is the one authorized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Based on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, the federal government "prohibits unauthorized taking, possession, sale, and transport of endangered species." Violations are backed up with civil and criminal penalties.
Attempts have been made in recent years to dilute the effectiveness of the ESA for commercial gains. Consequently, some species that would have been listed under former rules have not yet made the list. In other words, many U.S. species are endangered ecologically but not officially because they have been kept off the list for political reasons. According to Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition (ESC), "The Endangered Species Act is our nation's safety net for the wildlife, fish and plants at risk of disappearing forever." The ESC is not a government organization; it is a national network of conservation, scientific, business, and other organizations working to protect the nation's wildlife and habitats. Huta further stated, "Sadly, too many species are being left without the Act's protections."
An ESC report recently provided a list of 10 species that the coalition considered to be "the most in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act" but that do not receive any federal or state protection. Those on the list are not the only U.S. species in serious trouble, but the list highlights the problem and calls attention to the fact that some of our wildlife species are more imperiled than the federal assessment would indicate.
The list includes some familiar animal names; the Pacific walrus is number 1 and the wood turtle is number 10. Some of the other candidates are not in most people's lexicon. Ever heard of a red knot (number 2), fluvial Arctic grayling (number 5), or Mason's skypilot (number 8)? These identify a bird, a fish, and a plant, but most of us could only guess which name goes with which category. The red knot is a bird. Red knot flocks gather along the mid-Atlantic Coast during migration to feed on horseshoe crab larvae. They made the ESC endangered list because of the overharvesting of horseshoe crabs by the fishing industry. This overharvesting appears to be limiting the migrating birds' natural food. Red knots migrate more than 9,000 miles each year, from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America and back; they need all the fuel they can get along the way.
The fluvial Arctic grayling is a fish in the salmon family that is now limited to the Big Hole River in Montana. The species is considered to be endangered because of threats from habitat degradation, competition from nonnative fishes, climate change, and overfishing. Skypilots are plants in the phlox family found at high elevations in the Sierra Nevadas. Mason's skypilot, which has magnificent blue flowers, was placed on the list because of its rarity and the need to protect the known populations in California and Nevada.
The ESC top
10 list is far from comprehensive. The number of truly endangered species
in the United States exceeds 10 many times over. And no species on the
coalition's list is restricted to the Southeast, a region with many threatened
and endangered species not yet on the official ESA list. A point made
on the ESC website, www.stopextinction.org,
is that unless a species is placed on the official U.S. list of endangered
species, "even species in grave danger of extinction will receive
little federal protection." Thus, being on the ESC's list of the
top 10 endangered species does not really mean anything. A species has
to make the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service list before it gets even the
promise of help. Though the Endangered Species Coalition's efforts to
focus attention on the plight of various plants and animals is commendable,
it falls woefully short of what is needed for genuine environmental protection.
The Fish and Wildlife Service needs to look at how species are faring
throughout the country and add names to its list--the only list that matters.
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