Trump administration faces lawsuit for failing to protect Guam endangered species

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Former President Donald Trump. (ABC News photo)

A national, nonprofit conservation organization has filed a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to protect critical habitat for 23 endangered species on Guam, the CNMI, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

The wildlife involved in the Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit includes 14 plants and nine animals. These species, such as the Pacific sheath-tailed bat and Slevin’s skink, desperately need protected habitat and they are at immediate risk from agricultural and urban sprawl, military expansion and training, invasive species, fire, typhoons, sea-level rise, and climate change, CBD said.

Among the plans and animals involved in the lawsuit are the following:

* Pacific sheath-tailed bat: This tiny insectivorous, sac-winged bat has already been extirpated from Guam and the island of Vanuatu. Across its remaining range, it is threatened by habitat destruction from nonnative species, development, military training, urbanization, typhoons, and climate change;

* Slevin’s skink: Also known as the Mariana skink, this social creature has already been extirpated from Guam. The rest of its range is also threatened by habitat destruction from nonnative species, development, military training, urbanization, typhoons, and climate change. Military training puts the skink at risk of direct harm from live-fire training exercises;

* Mariana eight-spot butterfly: Native to Guam and Saipan, the butterfly is no longer found on Saipan. It is reliant on two host plant species, one of which is used as a native medicinal plant to treat various ailments. In addition to being threatened by parasitic wasps, the butterfly’s habitat is similarly threatened by nonnative species, development, military training, urbanization, typhoons, and climate change;

* Guam tree snail: Found only in Guam, this once-common, air-breathing snail is now critically endangered. In addition to the common habitat threats listed above, the Guam tree snail is threatened by fire and overcollection for commercial and recreational purposes; and

* Bulbophyllum guamense: Part of the Guam Plant Extinction Prevention Program, this orchid has a greenish-yellow flower that smells faintly of carrion. In the past, the plant occurred in common large mat-like formations on trees. However, in addition to habitat-based threats, the orchid is being hurt by predation from non-native slugs.

In 2015 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed 23 plant and animal species in greater Micronesia as endangered or threatened. The Endangered Species Act requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for any threatened and endangered species, but the agency has failed to designate critical habitat for any of these species.

According to CBD, listing a species as endangered or threatened is just the first step in ensuring a species’ survival and recovery. Critical habitat protections would prohibit federal actions that would destroy or harm such habitat and will help conserve what remains of these species’ limited native range.

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