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Northern Spotted Owls, Monarch Butterflies Denied Federal Protections

Northern spotted owlets

This week, the northern spotted owl and the monarch butterfly were denied protections under the Endangered Species Act, even though both animals qualify.In a notice in the Federal Register regarding the northern spotted owl, the agency cited a lack of money and resources, as well as a backlog of hundreds of species that potentially warrant protection.

Noah Greenwald, who directs the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity's endangered species program, says a lack of funding is indeed a problem.

"It's far below what's needed," he said. "So for listing [species], Fish and Wildlife Service's budget in recent years has fluctuated around roughly $20 million, which in federal government terms is just pittance, really."

But Greenwald also points to politics. He says the Trump administration has protected 25 species over the last four years, compared to the 360 species protected during President Obama's eight years, while funding has remained fairly stable.

Also this week, the Trump administration adopted a rule that narrows habitat protections under the Endangered Species Act. That follows a 2019 weakening of the bedrock environmental law allowing officials to consider the economic impacts of saving a plant or animal.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Maggie Mullen is Wyoming Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. Her work has aired on NPR, Marketplace, Science Friday, and Here and Now. She was awarded a 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on the Black 14.
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