Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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Twenty Foreign Species Considered for Listing

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its review of foreign candidates for Endangered Species Act protection including 14 birds, five butterflies and a clam. The review includes findings on resubmitted petitions, and revisions to the lists of endangered plants and animals from April 2013 through April 2016.

Since the April 2013 review, the agency has addressed a number of foreign species, many of which were included in a 2011 settlement agreement between the agency and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and other conservation groups, which sued on behalf of backlogged species that had been waiting for years, some for decades, for listing decisions. The settlement agreement resulted in a six-year workplan, which is winding down this fall, to speed those listing decisions. A partial list of foreign species addressed over the past three years that either have final listing status, or are in process of being listed, include five birds from Columbia and Ecuador, yellow-crested and white cockatoos, the chimpanzee, the emerald hummingbird, the great green, military and blue-throated macaws, two lion species, African elephants, and white rhinos.

Because many of the species the agency has addressed since the last foreign species review "are either the subject of a court-approved settlement agreement or subject to an absolute statutory deadline," listing actions on the remaining twenty species on the candidate list have been forestalled, the agency said.

One of the currently reviewed species, New Zealand's Codfish Island fernbird, has recovered due to efforts by the New Zealand Department of Conservation. In the 1970s, the fernbird's entire population was estimated to be less than 100 individuals on one island, but vigorous efforts to reestablish a second population on a neighboring island and to remove nonnative predators such as Polynesian rats and Australian brush-tailed possums have been successful, and it is believed that both islands now have populations of several hundred birds. The fernbird has therefore been removed from the list of foreign candidates, the agency said.

One of the bird species being considered, the southern helmeted or horned curassow in Bolivia, has been determined to actually be two separate species, keeping the reviewed candidates list at twenty. The added candidate species is the Sira curassow, which is endemic to Peru. Its population is estimated at 250 and declining, according to the notice of review.

The agency changed the listing priority number for one bird and two butterflies, due to increased threats. The Brasilia tapaculo, a small ground-dwelling bird, is found in only six small protected areas or private land next to protected areas. It is threatened by "drastic conversion" of the Cerrado tropical savanna where it lives, the agency said.

The two butterflies that have rated higher listing priority numbers, the Harris' mimic swallowtail and the fluminense swallowtail, are also from Brazil, and they face threats from habitat destruction and from butterfly collectors.

The remaining birds on the list, the Bogotá rail in Columbia, the takahe, Chatham oystercatcher and orange-fronted parakeet from New Zealand, the uvea parakeet and Lord Howe Island pied currawong in Australia, the helmeted woodpecker and Black-backed tanager in Brazil, the yellow-browed toucanet in Peru, the Ghizo white-eye in the Solomon Islands, and the Okinawa woodpecker in Japan are imperiled by a variety of threats including habitat destruction from development and deforestation, invasive species, fragmented populations and the effects of climate change such as severe weather events.

Sarah Uhlemann, with the CBD's international program, said the Okinawa woodpecker is "a critically endangered bird with likely fewer than 600 individuals left. It's endemic to one place on earth, the Yanbaru region of northeastern Okinawa. A portion of the Yanbaru region, and some of the Okinawa woodpeckers' prime habitat, is located within the U.S. Forces Northern Training Area, also known as the Jungle Warfare Training Center." The building of helipads and landing areas have been opposed through local protests, sit-ins and arrests, she said. "We oppose the construction of the landing areas, which will destroy habitat and further threaten the Okinawa woodpecker."

Habitat destruction is also a prime threat for the butterflies listed in the review, as are collection and climate change. Three of the five butterflies listed are in Brazil, one is in Jamaica and one is found in Southeast Asia.

The remaining species on the foreign species candidate list is a small clam found in Mexico. It too suffers from habitat destruction and warming temperatures.

The agency stresses that though these species continue to warrant listing, further action at this time is still impeded by higher listing priorities. The list is maintained to notify the public that these species are facing threats to their survival, to provide advance notice of potential listings, to stimulate and guide conservation efforts to possibly make listing unnecessary, and to request information to inform further listing and conservation actions, the agency said.

Information on any of the foreign candidate species is welcome at any time, the agency noted.

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