New Report Shows Most States Flunk Biodiversity 101

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Policies To Protect Wildlife & Ecosystems Fail Test

(07/15/1996) - Forty-four of the 50 states receive a failing grade in an analysis released today by Defenders of Wildlife evaluating the ability of state laws, policies, and programs to protect biodiversity. Only six states -- California, Maryland, Hawaii, New York, Illinois, and Connecticut -- warrant even a passing grade.

Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife, commented that, "Some influential members of the U.S. Congress want to turn over major parts of the federal government's endangered species and other biodiversity-conservation programs to the states. But this analysis shows that most states do not earn a passing grade exercising even their current responsibilities for stewardship of their natural ecology."

Meanwhile, at least 34 states face "extreme" or "high" risk to their natural ecology according to another Defenders' report issued this past winter that identified the most endangered ecosystems in the United States.

The ranking analysis released today, "Are the States Protecting the Future?" is based on a 220-page report called Saving Biodiversity: A Status Report on State Laws, Policies, and Programs prepared jointly by Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Wildlife Law in Albuquerque. To prepare the report, the Center and Defenders conducted an extensive survey -- the first of its kind -- coordinated by Susan George. The survey reached natural resource and conservation policy officials in all fifty states.

In the analysis California scored highest, earning a score of 79 (on a 100 point scale) and a "C" grade. Wyoming was last with a score of only 39 and an "F" grade. Defenders of Wildlife graded the states based on ten categories each worth a maximum of 10 points for states having the principal components of effective biodiversity laws, policies or programs in each category.

The ten categories included assessment of state efforts to: establish a biodiversity conservation policy, inventory and assess existing biological and ecological resources, protect endangered species, manage state-owned lands for long-term sustainability, assess proposed state activities for their potential impact on nature, acquire and protect valuable wildlife habitat, promote conservation on private lands, control exotic species, manage wild predators in an environmentally benign manner, and provide constitutional and common law protection for biological diversity.

The scope of the study did not permit evaluation of the effectiveness with which the states actually employ the subject laws, policies, and programs; and the authors emphasize that it does not represent an evaluation of any specific current or past state administration.

Six months ago, Defenders released another state-oriented study, Endangered Ecosystems. In that study, it was concluded that of the 34 states facing "extreme" or "high" risk to their natural ecology, Florida ranked first (most endangered) and California and Hawaii tied for second in terms of risk. Those three endangered states are relatively progressive in their policies according to the analysis released today. Wyoming, on the other hand, ranks as the least progressive in policies and the least endangered ecologically.

Defenders' analysis notes that, "It is an unfortunate but well-established pattern in American society that politics and public policy do not address growing problems until they reach crisis proportions that create widespread demand for action. . . this report will provide a wake-up call to state elected officials, policy makers and public advocates concerned about the future they will leave their children."

Added Schlickeisen, "The analysis shows that there is great opportunity for the states to improve their stewardship of their natural ecology. Although the overall performance of the 50 states was poor, in each category there were states that were doing great things. There is an excellent opportunity here for them to learn from one another. The quality of our children's and other descendants' future depends upon whether or not they take advantage of that opportunity."

In addition to serving as a useful inventory and reference guide, the report is a step toward a permanent clearinghouse being established by Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Wildlife Law.

Saving Biodiversity: A Report on State Laws, Policies, and Programs was made possible by the support of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Caroline Gabel, and Heidi Nitze.

Copies of the analysis or of the full report on state biodiversity policies are available to the media from Defenders of Wildlife, 202-682-9400 x221. State-by-state summaries and other information also can be found on the Defenders of Wildlife web site. Also available is the previous report on endangered ecosystems.

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Contact(s):

Joan Moody, 202-682-9400 x220 (Media)
Bill Snape, 202-682-9400 x232 (Legal)