Report Urges Emergency ‘Extinction Prevention Programs’ for Butterflies, Southeast Mussels, Southwest Fish
WASHINGTON—(ENEWSPF)–December 13, 2016. The amount of money appropriated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for recovery of endangered species is just 3.5 percent of what is needed, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity. The federal agency currently receives roughly $82 million per year for endangered species recovery, but based on the Center’s analysis of federal recovery plans for listed species, $2.3 billion per year, or 28 times current funding, is needed if species are going to be fully recovered.
Aside from calling for a dramatic increase in congressional funding for endangered species, today’s report also urges a $125 million infusion into emergency “extinction prevention programs” for Hawaiian plants and snails, butterflies, mussels in the Southeast and fish in the Southwest.
“The Endangered Species Act has been incredibly effective, saving more than 99 percent of species under its protection from extinction and putting hundreds on the road to recovery,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “We expect that rather than provide needed increases in funding, tragically, the Trump administration will move to cut money for endangered species, placing endangered species across the country at greater risk of extinction.”
Currently, roughly 1 in 4 species receives less than $10,000 a year toward their recovery, so any further cuts would be a disaster.
Under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife is required to develop recovery plans for all endangered species that identify the actions needed to recover species and the cost of completing these actions. Bizarrely, these science-based estimates have never been utilized to help determine congressional appropriations for endangered species recovery. Instead congressional appropriations are based on the minimal amount needed by the agency to carry out basic functions, such as developing recovery plans and reviewing species’ status, and generally are not even enough for these critical activities. The Center used federal recovery plans to estimate what is actually needed to recover species and found much more is needed.
“We know the majority of species are recovering with protection under the Endangered Species Act, but if we want to take them over the finish line, much more money is needed,” said Greenwald. “The amount of money needed to do the job right is a fraction of the federal budget — roughly the same as subsidies given to the oil and gas industry for extraction of fossil fuels on public lands.”
The report recommends increasing the annual appropriation for endangered species recovery from $82 million currently to the $2.3 billion needed over 10 years.
In the meantime the report recommends expanding two existing “extinction prevention programs” for Hawaiian plants and land and tree snails, and creating three more for North American butterflies, Southeast mussels and Southwest fish. These are some of the most endangered species groups in the country (see more below). The current programs are partnerships between the Fish and Wildlife Service, state of Hawaii and University of Hawaii, and have been very successful. Expansion of these programs, along with the three new ones, would help ensure the survival of some of the most endangered species in the country while funding is increased to help all species. Today’s report recommends funding each of these programs at $25 million per year for a total of $125 million.
Needed Extinction Prevention Programs
Southeast freshwater mussels. North America has the highest diversity of freshwater mussels in the world, but unfortunately much of this diversity is threatened. Freshwater mussels are the most endangered group of organisms in the United States, with nearly 70 percent being at risk of extinction. Thirty-eight species of mussel have already gone extinct, and another dozen are likely gone. Many additional species survive only in small isolated populations that will be lost without intensive captive-breeding and reintroduction efforts. The scientific expertise now exists to save these species, but the Service lacks the funding to collect and propagate the surviving individuals of all the species that are spiraling toward extinction. In 2014 total expenditures on 85 species of endangered freshwater mussels was approximately $11.4 million, or just 0.8 percent of total expenditures, and some critically endangered mussel species received only $100 in recovery funding.
North American butterflies. Of all the endangered species in the United States, butterflies are one of the fastest declining groups, with several species on the verge of extinction. The Mount Charleston blue butterfly, Miami blue butterfly and Lange’s metalmark, for example, all have worldwide populations of fewer than 100 individuals. These and other species would benefit from captive propagation and habitat restoration well beyond what is currently occurring. In 2014 total expenditures on the 21 protected butterfly species were only $5.3 million, or just 0.4 percent of all expenditures.
Southwest freshwater fish. The unique and highly endemic fish fauna of the Southwest and greater Colorado River Basin have been decimated by a century of habitat degradation and non-native fish introductions. Presently 42 fish species are either endangered or threatened, and most have experienced drastic abundance and range reductions. At least one species is extinct. Non-native fish species dominate most fish communities, and include at least 67 introduced species. Controlling and removing these nonnative species and addressing widespread habitat degradation, even in just those areas necessary for recovery of the many endangered fish and other aquatic species, would be a massive effort requiring substantially more funds than currently allocated. In 2014 just $9.2 million was spent on these 42 fish, or 0.6 percent of all expenditures.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.