Dear EarthTalk: What's the gist of the recent agreement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the federal government regarding adding many more plants and animals to the endangered species list?
--J.J. Scarboro, Tallahassee, FL
The agreement in question forces the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to make initial or final decisions on whether to grant some 757 imperiled plant and animal species protection under the Endangered Species Act over the next six years. In exchange, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), a leading advocacy group devoted to animal and plant conservation, will withdraw its legal opposition to a May 2011 agreement between USFWS and another conservation group, Wildlife Guardians. CBD argued that the agreement with Wildlife Guardians was too weak, unenforceable and missing key species in need of protection. The new agreement, if approved by the U.S. District Court as submitted in July 2011, would make many of the provisions of the old agreement obsolete.
"Scientists and conservationists have a critical role to play in identifying endangered species and developing plans and priorities to save them. The extinction crisis is too big--too pressing--to rely on government agencies alone," says Kieran Suckling, executive director of CBD.
CBD reports that the work plan under the new agreement will enable USFWS to move forward with systematically reviewing and addressing the needs of hundreds of species to determine if they should be added to the federal Endangered Species List by 2018. Some of the species in question that will get a closer look--and which CBD hopes are "fast-tracked" for protection--include the walrus, the wolverine, the Mexican gray wolf, the New England cottontail rabbit, three species of sage grouse, the scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper ('I'iwi), the...