, June 16, 2009, ENS) - The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity reached a legal settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Monday that requires the agency to provide protection for dozens of the world's most imperiled bird species and come into compliance with the Endangered Species Act.
The Service has committed to publishing final listing determinations for six species of foreign birds and proposed listings for an additional 25 species, in accordance with a negotiated timeline that terminates on December 29, 2009.
Alarmed about declines of scores of the world's rarest and most beautiful birds, ornithologists submitted petitions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1980 and 1991 to list 73 bird species from around the world under the Endangered Species Act.
An endangered Cook's Petrel flies over Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. (Photo credit unknown)
But in violation of the Endangered Species Act, the agency has spent the better part of two decades making recycled petition findings that these species continue to warrant listing, but that their listing is precluded due to higher-priority listings.
The Service has listed only six of the bird species and published proposed listing rules for 11 others. At least five of the 73 birds have gone extinct while waiting for protection.
Any progress that has been made toward protecting these species has been the result of lawsuits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, negotiations, and court findings that if the Service continues at such a pace, "many of the species in question may very well be extinct by the time they are found to warrant a listing."
So the Center again notified the Fish and Wildlife Service of its intention to file suit for violations of the Endangered Species Act, and as a result of that notice reached a settlement with the agency to bring it into compliance with the Act.
"We are encouraged that the new administration is showing signs of clearing up its foreign listing program backlog and finally accepting its duty to list these extremely rare birds under the Endangered Species Act," said Center International Program staffer Jacki Lopez.
"Listing foreign species under the Act is an important step in spurring increased international recognition of those species' urgent plights," she said.
When foreign species are listed under the Endangered Species Act the President is authorized to provide financial assistance for the development and management of programs in foreign countries.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is authorized to encourage conservation programs for foreign endangered species and provide personnel and training for these programs.
Listing international species restricts trade in vanishing species, increases conservation funding and attention to recovery efforts, and adds scrutiny to projects proposed by the U.S. government and multilateral lending agencies.
The Service itself acknowledges the benefits of listing foreign species to draw worldwide attention to their plight, to make available U.S. expertise and U.S. funds, and to compel the strict regulation of the import and export of protected species.
In order to adhere to the negotiated timeline, the Fish and Wildlife Service promises to publish final listing determinations for these six species of seabirds:
Behind the name of each species is a story. For instance, the Galapagos petrel, which breeds only on the Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, has declined rapidly over the past 60 years and is now classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened species. Estimates for 2008 suggested a total of 4,500 to 5,000 active nests on five Galapagos islands. These sea birds breed and forage on and around the islands, but disperse east and north towards South America and fly up to 2,000 kilometers south of the Galapagos.
Galapagos petrel (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)
Introduced dogs, cats and pigs take eggs, young and adults, and rats eat the petrel chicks. Hawks and owls may take adult birds. Nest-site destruction by goats, donkeys, cattle and horses is a major threat. Clearance of vegetation for agriculture and intensive grazing has severely restricted the petrels' breeding area.
Adult mortality occurs when Galapagos petrels are caught on barbed wire fences on agricultural land, and collide with power lines and radio towers and guy wires. Development of a wind power project on the island of Santa Cruz was a potential threat to many breeding colonies on that island, but the development plan aims to minimize effects on the species.
Long-line fishing in the eastern Pacific and in the Galapagos Marine Reserve is a threat because the petrels dive on the baited lines and get snagged or entangled.
The Galapagos Islands are a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Proposed conservation measures include rat eradication and protection of more marine key biodiversity areas within the Galapagos Marine Reserve by changing the existing marine zoning scheme to reduce the impact from fishing.
As part of the settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose listings for these species:
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.
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