Washington, D.C. Aug. 5, 2019— A new scientific study indicates that under “business-as-usual” scenarios that fail to address climate change, Joshua trees will almost completely disappear from their namesake park by 2099. WildEarth Guardians submitted the study to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today in support of the conservation group’s legal petition to protect Joshua trees under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
In September of 2015, Guardians submitted a scientific petition to the Service asking the agency to list the Joshua tree as “threatened.” Nearly two and a half years after finding that Guardians’ petition presented enough information to move forward with a status review, the Service still has not made a decision as required by the ESA within 12 months of receipt of the petition. Multiple climate models indicate that Joshua trees may lose up to 90 percent of their habitat in the next century.
“The longer the Service delays, the more dire the situation grows,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “The evidence keeps piling up; Joshua trees are in deep trouble.”
The Service is charged with placing species on the threatened and endangered species list, but has a long backlog of species that need decisions, including the Joshua tree.
“Protection delayed is protection denied,” continued Jones. “We need to start putting these iconic trees on the path to recovery as soon as possible.”
The ESA is America’s most effective law for protecting wildlife in danger of extinction. It serves as an essential safety net when state management has failed to protect imperiled plants, fish, and wildlife. Since the law’s enactment, 99 percent of listed species have avoided extinction, and hundreds more have been set on a path to recovery. The law is especially important as a defense against the current extinction crisis; species are disappearing at a rate much higher than the natural rate of extinction due to human activities, resulting in what some scientists term a “biological annihilation.” Global animal abundance has declined by 58 percent since 1970. According to a recent United Nations report, over a million species are currently at risk of extinction. Researchers estimate that, if not for ESA protections, 291 species would have gone extinct since the law’s passage in 1973. The ESA is a wildly successful and popular law, which has nonetheless been under constant attack by the Trump administration.
WildEarth Guardians (www.wildearthguardians.org) is a conservation non-profit whose mission is to protect and restore the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West. Guardians has offices in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington, and over 231,000 members and supporters worldwide. Follow Guardians on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates.