Environmentalists are seeking emergency protection for nearly three dozens rare plants, animals and insects under the Endangered Species Act, saying all are at risk due to habitat destruction and other threats.
WildEarth Guardians is asking Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dale Hall to list 32 species from across the West — ranging from flowering plants to snails — to ensure they do not disappear.
In an emergency petition sent to officials on Thursday, the group contends the habitat for some of the species has been reduced to just one location.
"The species we have chosen are all at the knife's edge of extinction," the petition states. "Given the location of these species on either no or only one known site on earth, a single event — whether from drought, flood, habitat destruction, pollution, exotic species, or other factors — could literally erase them from the world."
Valerie Fellows, a spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C., said Monday she was not sure whether the agency's endangered species division had received the petition. She said the agency typically has 90 days to review petitions.
WildEarth Guardians said the species in the petition were selected from a list of 674 the group had sought standard endangered species listing for in a pair of petitions filed last summer. The group followed up with a lawsuit in March, charging that Fish and Wildlife failed to act on the initial petitions.
The emergency petition is an attempt to turn up the pressure on the agency, said John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians.
Horning says the endangered species listing program has nearly ground to a halt. He pointed out that the polar bear was the first U.S. species to be listed in over two years and that all of the listings under the Bush administration have been prompted by either citizen petitions or legal action.
As a result of the lack of action over the past eight years, there's more of a need to invoke the emergency provisions of the Endangered Species Act, Horning said.
He said WildEarth Guardians is looking to the species listed in the emergency petition to help make that case.
"These species deserve immediate, emergency protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service has the authority to save them from vanishing forever, and we're urging them to use that authority," Horning said.