‘It’s A Tragedy’: US Declares 22 More Animals Extinct

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Thomas Catenacci Energy & Environment Reporter
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The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declared 22 animals and one plant extinct Wednesday, removing the species from the national endangered list after a rigorous review.

The protections offered to endangered animal and plant species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) were applied too late to make a difference, according to the FWS announcement. However, federal officials reiterated the importance of the ESA, which they said is key to conserving species before their decline becomes irreversible.

“With climate change and natural area loss pushing more and more species to the brink, now is the time to lift up proactive, collaborative, and innovative efforts to save America’s wildlife,” Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “The Endangered Species Act has been incredibly effective at preventing species from going extinct and has also inspired action to conserve at-risk species and their habitat before they need to be listed as endangered or threatened.”

The extinction of the species was in part caused by human activity, the FWS said. Humans contributed to habitat loss and the introduction of invasive disease and species that accelerated the decline of the animals and plant. (RELATED: Top US Nature Society Proposes Renaming Birds Named After Slave Owners, Colonialists)

FWS also highlighted that 3 billion birds have been lost in North America since 1970 due to climate change. The agency said action was needed at the federal level and pointed to the Biden administration’s recent initiative to restore 30% of lands and waters by the end of the decade.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland delivers remarks on July 29. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Native Organizers Alliance)

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland delivers remarks on July 29. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Native Organizers Alliance)

“Each of these 23 species represents a permanent loss to our nation’s natural heritage and to global biodiversity,” FWS official Bridget Fahey told The New York Times, which first reported the declaration Wednesday. “And it’s a sobering reminder that extinction is a consequence of human-caused environmental change.”

The animals declared extinct include multiple birds, fish and mussels.

“The Service is actively engaged with diverse partners across the country to prevent further extinctions, recover listed species and prevent the need for federal protections in the first place,” FWS Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams said.

The ESA, while unable to protect the 23 species declared extinct on Wednesday, has saved 99% of the animals and plants that have been listed as endangered, the FWS said. The bipartisan legislation, which was enacted in 1973, allows federal officials to impose strict protective measures on animals and plants that are declining in population.

“The Endangered Species Act wasn’t passed in time to save most of these species,” Center for Biological Diversity endangered species director Noah Greenwald told the NYT. “It’s a tragedy.”

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