Endangered species short-shrifted in federal budget

Whitebark pines, one of the many species that qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act but hasn't been listed because of a shortage of funds. PHOTO COURTESY USFS/RICHARD SNIEZKO

Entire endangered species program gets less money than the cost of a single F-14

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY— These are tough times for the federal budget, with all sorts of competing demands for scarce funds, but endangered species will suffer disproportionately under President Barack Obama’s proposed budget. Obama has proposed a $1.5 million cap on what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can spend on responding to citizen listing petitions. By comparison, a single F-14 fighter jet costs $38 million.

Since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, 24 at least 24 species have gone extinct while awaiting protection, and this proposed budget could push a few more plants and animals into oblivion.

Overall, the budget would boost funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service slightly, to about $1.3 billion, with $22 million for the endangered species program, about the same as last year.

“Instead of asking for enough money to protect endangered plants and animals, the administration is again asking Congress to limit the amount it can spend,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This will ensure that hundreds of species that need Endangered Species Act protection will be left in the waiting room rather than receiving the emergency care they need.”

Under President Obama’s proposal, the total requested budget for the “listing program,” which is charged with identifying species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, is capped at $22,431,000. Within this amount, the administration is requesting limits on the amount that can be spent on designation of critical habitat ($7.4 million), listing species in response to petitions ($1.5 million), and listing foreign species ($1.5 million).

Last year, the Center for Biological Diversity reached a settlement agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service that moves protection forward for hundreds of species, including roughly 250 species that have been stuck on a candidate list for an average of 20 years and will receive final decisions on their protection over the next five years. Decisions on protections for many other endangered species outside of the agreement will also need to be made in the coming years.

The Center, for example, petitioned to protect 404 species dependent on the beleaguered rivers of the southeastern United States. In accordance with the agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued an initial decision on the petition last year, finding that 374 of the species may warrant protection, but with the administration’s proposed cap on spending, these species are unlikely to receive final protection decisions in the next several years.


3 thoughts on “Endangered species short-shrifted in federal budget

  1. A sad day? Just because they didn’t get an increase in funding for the endangered species program? Right. When our debt load is the largest ever and in danger of destroying our currency, and the economy is in trouble, why would any thinking citizen believe no increase was “sad?” I’m surprised some “token” decrease didn’t materialize so Obama could claim he was making “tough choices” to reduce the deficit. Norman, I’m sure you’re still allowed to contribute your own assets to your favorite endangered specie causes…

  2. Perhaps we should endeavor to ensure that funding exists to make certain that some species DO become extinct: Government lobbyists and incumbent politicians come to mind. Far too many funds are wasted to make these species thrive, much to the detriment of the environment and society.
    What funding has been left to the endangered species program will undoubtedly be spent to ensure that the administrators and bureaucracies will survive threats to their existence. Increases in this budget are necessary to make certain that a small dribble of money is spent on actually protecting animals and plants.

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