Lawsuit on endangered species decisions includes five in WV

May 6, 2019

Five West Virginia animal and insect species, including a crayfish known to exist only in the Left Fork of Holly River, are cited in a lawsuit filed against the Trump administration and new U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt for failing to make protection decisions for 24 imperiled plants and animals.

The suit, filed earlier this month by the Center for Biological Diversity, seeks to implement a 2016 work plan developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make timely decisions on whether to grant Endangered Species Act protection for the 24 species. The 2016 work plan called for those decisions to have been made by the end of the 2018 fiscal year.

The process for listing candidate species for Endangered Species Act protection and developing critical habitat prescriptions needed to restore them is supposed to take two to three years, according to the CBD. Instead, it takes 12 years, on average, for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make such designations.

A backlog of more than 500 candidate species now awaits protection decisions from the USFWS, according to the CBD. Since President Donald Trump took office, a total of 16 species have been placed on the endangered species list.

“If we’re going to save species from disappearing forever, we have to act quickly to give them the legal protection they need,” said Noah Greenwald, the CBD’s endangered species director.

The 24 species cited in the suit include the Elk River Crayfish. Its known global range is limited to the Left Fork of Holly River, a tributary of the Elk.

Other species named in the suit that are known to exist in West Virginia and other states include:

Round hickorynut, a mussel known to exist in scattered locations in the Ohio River watershed; brook floater, a mussel found in a small number of Eastern Panhandle streams; longsolid, a mussel known to exist in portions of the Elk, upper Kanawha, North Fork of Hughes River and Middle Island Creek; and the yellow-banded bumblebee.