Lawsuit Aims to Force Trump to Protect Imperiled Longfin Smelt, Seven Other Species

May 23, 2019

Excessive Freshwater Diversions From Bay Delta Endanger Yet Another Species

Baykeepeer: Jon Rosenfield, San Francisco Baykeeper, (510) 684-4757,; CBD: Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185,

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity and San Francisco Baykeeper sued the Trump administration today for failing to protect the longfin smelt, as well as seven other highly imperiled species across the country, under the Endangered Species Act.

“The longfin smelt needs protection now if it’s going to have any chance at survival,” said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate at the Center. “Trump officials’ delay in protecting these fish and other species is cataclysmic. They’re stalling safeguards for imperiled wildlife for no other reason than to please campaign contributors in Big Ag and other industries.”

Longfin smelt were once one of the most abundant fishes in the San Francisco Bay and Delta. Historically, they were so common that they contributed to a commercial fishery. Poor management of California's largest estuary ecosystem, including excessive water diversions and a reduction in freshwater flow into the Bay by more than 50 percent, has led to catastrophic declines for the longfin smelt over the past three decades.

“The number of longfin smelt in the San Francisco Bay Delta has plummeted while the government has failed to protect them for decades,” said Jon Rosenfield, senior scientist with San Francisco Baykeeper. “Their population decline reflects the downfall of the entire San Francisco Bay ecosystem, which hosts five other endangered fish species, struggling fisheries and deteriorating water quality. We can’t fix these big problems by burying our heads in the sand, as the Trump administration seems intent to do.”

United Nations scientists recently released a report finding that as many as a million species are at risk of extinction. Yet the Trump administration has been delaying protections for a wide array of critically imperiled wildlife, including the eight species included in the lawsuit.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the smelt, Hermes copper butterfly, Sierra Nevada red fox, red tree vole, eastern gopher tortoise, Berry Cave salamander, Puerto Rico harlequin butterfly and a large flowering shrub called marrón bacora all warrant endangered species protections, but the agency has failed to actually provide such protection.

Under the Endangered Species Act, the agency can delay protection for species, but only if it is making "expeditious progress" listing other species, which is not the case.

To date, the administration has listed only 17 species under the Endangered Species Act — the fewest protected by any administration in its first two years since the Reagan administration. By comparison, the Obama administration listed 72 species and the Clinton administration listed 196 during their first two years. There are currently more than 500 species awaiting protection decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Today’s lawsuit was filed in federal district court in San Francisco.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

San Francisco Baykeeper is a non-profit organization with a 30-year record of successful actions to stop the biggest threats to San Francisco Bay and hold polluters accountable.

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