Month 11, Day 14: To the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

A very dry day for climate change news. On days like today, when the search engines don’t give me much to work with, I just hunt around for action items from environmental advocacy groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity, one of my favorites. They note that the current administration hasn’t done such a good job when it comes to protecting the least among us:

WASHINGTON— The Obama administration Tuesday denied Endangered Species Act protection to 251 plants and animals that government scientists have said need those protections to avoid extinction. Instead, the administration has placed them indefinitely on a list of “candidate” species, where many have already languished for years without help.

“The Obama administration has no sense of urgency when it comes to protecting imperiled plants and animals,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “With extinction looming, imperiled species need more than promises of hope and change. They need real protection, and they need it now.”

So far, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Obama administration has provided Endangered Species Act protection to just 51 plants and animals, and only one of those occurs in the continental United States. By comparison, the Clinton administration protected 522 species; the George H.W. Bush administration protected 231. The average annual rate for the Obama administration is 26, while for the Clinton administration it was 65 and for the first Bush administration it was 58.

Gary Frazer is the head poobah of the Endangered Species Program, so I wrote him a letter. It took quite a while to locate his address.

Mr. Gary Frazer
Assistant Director
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Endangered Species Program
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 420
Arlington, VA 22203

Dear Mr. Frazer,

I write to urge you and your office to move expeditiously in granting Endangered Species status to the two hundred and fifty-one plant and animal varieties recently relegated to “candidate” status by your office. Some of these creatures have been waiting for over twenty years for their status to be recognized; many others went extinct while awaiting protected status.

This is a sad commentary on the current administration’s attitude towards America’s biodiversity. There should be no political downside to granting Endangered status to animal species that are genuinely threatened; is President Obama’s team afraid of getting “environmentalist cooties” by demonstrating an awareness of the threat they face?

The more species we lose, the less robust our larger ecosystem becomes. With the terribly grave threat of climate change already making itself felt across the country and the world, we should be more conscientious in protecting all of America’s flora and fauna, not less.

While charismatic megafauna are excellent poster children for fundraising drives, smaller creatures like the Red Knot, the Aboriginal Pricklyapple, and the Pacific Fisher are just as deserving of our attention and protection. This administration’s record on biodiversity and species endangerment is, sadly, full of missed opportunities and a tragic fear of action.

Please reconsider the decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and move forward rapidly on awarding Endangered status to the two hundred and fifty-one species your office recently relegated to Candidate level.

We can do better than this.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 2, Day 5: A Little Brown Furry Letter

Late at night; desperately looking for a subject for tomorrow’s letter, which lead me to RL Miller’s sad article about the failure of the Obama Administration to apply Endangered Species Protection to the American Pika, a cute little mountaintop rodent.

Whew. I found a theme, and it’s one I haven’t used before. Below the letter, you can watch a Pika video.

Dear President Obama,

Your administration has done a great many things on the interlocking issues of energy independence, climate change and environmental protection during your first year in office. The enhanced powers of the EPA will prove to be an important component of the struggle against devastating climate change, while your advocacy of new rail initiatives will do an enormous amount to change Americans’ habits of petroleum use.

But there is more to do, and there are some areas in which your Administration has been curiously and unfortunately negligent. One of these is your seeming unwillingness to expand the protection provided by the Endangered Species Act. While it is easy to propose ESA protection for the charismatic megafauna which appear on posters, tee-shirts and tote-bags, it is just as important to ensure that small animals like the American Pika are properly considered. During the first year of your administration, only two new animals have been granted protection under the ESA, compared with eight (at a similar point in the Bush administration) and seventy-three (one year into Clinton’s first term). This is not a record to be proud of.

While an endangered animal’s habitat can in some cases be preserved (thus saving the species), climate change creates a far greater impact on temperature-sensitive species like the Pika. Classifying the American Pika as an Endangered Species would be a demonstration that your administration is serious about reducing the effects of catastrophic climate change, not just on the human population, but on all elements of the web of life on Earth.

Biodiversity is nature’s way of not putting all Her genetic eggs in one basket. The fact that human habits of consumption and waste is rapidly destroying these intricate interrelationships is one of the great tragedies of the age. An environmentally conscious President needs to be attentive not just to those members of the planetary community who have human rights, but to the billions of others whose lives will be blighted and destroyed by climatic devastation.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders