The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition to the Secretary of the Interior through the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They want the Endangered Species Act to list the San Bernardino as threatened or endangered. San Bernardino flying squirrels live on mountaintops. Species living at high altitudes are thought to bear the impact of climate change more than other species. The Center says the squirrels’ habitat is moving up higher in cooler areas, as temperatures warm due to climate change. They only live in southern California’s San Bernardino mountains now, and are vulnerable even without the threat of climate change. The squirrels used to also inhabit the San Jacinto Mountains, but they disappeared due to human development, forest mismanagement, and drought.
Hotter temperatures have caused one of the squirrel’s main food sources, the truffle fungus root, to disappear, because it requires cool and wet conditions to live. Shaye Wolf, a biologist for the Center said, “If we don’t rapidly reduce greenhouse gas pollution, scientists predict that one third of the world’s species will be condemned to extinction by 2050.”
The Obama administration has rejected listing animals vulnerable to climate change, such as the pika, as endangered species. They say the Endangered Species Act is not the way to address climate change. Meanwhile some animals are being impacted negatively by climate change, and yet are unprotected legally. The rationale for petitioning the government to protect the vulnerable species is clear. As Margaret Roosevelt, the writer of a LA Times article, wrote, “Under the Endangered Species Act, the government is obligated to protect threatened forms of life, and, arguably, could do so through enacting curbs on greenhouse gases, even from sources outside the creature’s immediate habitat.”
Back in 2005, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to list the polar bear as endangered due to the effects of climate change. Their efforts were acknowledged and polar bears were listed, but only with the caveat that activities taking place outside the Arctic, can’t be considered a threat to the bear. Professor Pamela Martin said, “It’s as if the Secretary of the Interior is saying, ‘Here is why the polar bear is in trouble… but, we are going to ignore the source of the trouble.’” Does it matter what the type of threat is making a species vulnerable to extinction? Shouldn’t the Endangered Species Act protect species that are endangered?
Image Credit: Public Domain
Note: animal pictured above is a slightly different species.