The Pacific walrus, one of hundreds of species set to be evaluated soon by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for possible designation under the Endangered Species Act.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

The Pacific walrus, one of hundreds of species set to be evaluated soon by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for possible designation under the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Department About to Decide on Hundreds of Animals Under Endangered Species Act

Having been wait-listed two years ago for a spot on the Endangered Species Act, the Pacific walrus may soon be awarded its dubious distinction: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Department is on the verge of designating it and dozens of other species as endangered, as it catches up from a backlog.

The walrus is one of hundreds of animal genre that have been waiting for as long as two decades to be officially added, even though scientists have generally agreed that their numbers are dwindling and that they should be on the list.

Fish & Wildlife has until 2018 to rule on the more than 800 species that have been in limbo as the Pacific walrus has, The New York Times reported on March 6, under the 2011 court settlement of two lawsuits brought by conservation groups. Once that backlog is erased, the Times reported, more than 550 other potential candidates can be evaluated, since the department has finished preliminary work on them.

By September, 97 animals are scheduled to be evaluated by Fish & Wildlife, the Times said, 70 of them from the list in the lawsuit.

“It is the most feverish activity on imperiled wildlife in two decades, an improbable feat amid ferocious attacks from conservative critics and in an economy with little money to spare for environmental frivolities,” The New York Times story said.

The Times mentions a litany of political, economic and departmental management factors influencing the slow-moving nature of the act’s designative powers. Designating most or all of these species as endangered could augment the full list by 60 percent, the Times said, greatly expanding the territory as well.

In February 2011 the government classified the Pacific walrus as “warranted but precluded” for inclusion on the Endangered Species Act, meaning that it deserves to be on the list but that there’s no room. So it and numerous other species were consigned to what amounts to a waiting list.

In February 2011 the government classified the Pacific walrus as “warranted but precluded” for inclusion on the Endangered Species Act, meaning that it deserves to be on the list but that there’s no room. So it and numerous other species were consigned to what amounts to a waiting list.

"The threats to the walrus are very real, as evidenced by this 'warranted' finding," said Geoff Haskett, the service's Alaska region director, in a statement reported by ICTMN at the time. "But its greater population numbers and ability to adapt to land-based haulouts make its immediate situation less dire than those facing other species such as the polar bear."

Soon, the wait may be over.

Read Coming Soon: Long-Delayed Decisions on Endangered Species and its companion photo essay, Having Waited, Threatened Species Have a Chance for Protection.

 

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