Environmental Group Sues Trump Administration for Failing to Protect 241 Vulnerable Plant and Animal Species

An environmental action group has sued the Trump administration for failing to make a decision on whether 241 plant and animal species in the U.S. should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Four years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) put together a plan to address a backlog of more than 500 species—including the 241 mentioned above—which were still awaiting protection decisions.

However, the Center for Biological Diversity—the non-profit that filed the lawsuit—has said the Trump administration has largely prevented the FWS from working through the list.

The Endangered Species Act is a key piece of conservation legislation that experts say has spared hundreds of species from extinction since being introduced in 1973. The act states that decisions over whether to protect animal and plant species should take no more than two years.

However, for most of the species named in the lawsuit, these decisions have not been addressed for a decade—and in some cases even longer. This inaction could place many of the 241 species named in the lawsuit at risk given that they all face a host of serious threats, ranging from habitat destruction to climate change and disease, according to the Center.

The species named in the lawsuit are found across the lower 48 states and include spotted turtles in the Great Lakes and Eastern Seaboard, moose in the Midwest, and a bird species known as the golden-winged warbler from the northeastern U.S., in addition to many other birds, amphibians, insects, fish and mammals. An interactive map of where these species live can be viewed here.

"As moose and golden-winged warblers and hundreds of other species fight the rising tide of the extinction crisis, Trump officials won't lift a finger to help," Noah Greenwald, the Center's endangered species director, said in a statement. "This administration's ugly contempt for wildlife and the Endangered Species Act threatens our country's entire web of life. Every day of delay brings these incredible, irreplaceable plants and animals one step closer to extinction."

western pond turtle
A western pond turtle basks on a log next to a pond in Clackamas, Oregon during the spring of 2010. Rick Swart/ODFW

"The extinction crisis gets worse by the day, but Trump officials are twiddling their thumbs as plants and animals fade away," Greenwald said. "It's a moral failure of epic proportions. And it's hurting future generations in ways that can never be undone."

The Center hopes that the lawsuit—which is one of the largest ever filed under the ESA—will finally force the Trump administration into taking action on these important conservation decisions.

To date, the Trump administration has protected just 21 species under the ESA, a record low for any administration at this point in the presidential term. By comparison, the Obama administration protected 360 species in total, while the George H.W. Bush administration protected 232. Meanwhile, 523 species were protected during the Clinton administration and 254 under the Reagan administration.

"Last year, scientists from around the world raised the alarm bells about the extinction crisis, noting the we're at risk of losing as many as one million species in the coming decades," Greenwald told Newsweek. "The Endangered Species Act is our best tool for avoiding extinction."

"As with laws to protect our air, water and climate, the Trump administration has done everything in its power to subvert implementation of the Endangered Species Act, including just not enforcing the law and passing new rules that substantially undermine protections for endangered wildlife," he said.

The White House has been contacted for comment regarding the lawsuit.

This article was updated to include additional comments from Noah Greenwald.

Environmental Group Sues Trump Administration for Failing to Protect 241 Vulnerable Plant and Animal Species | Tech & Science