by Leah Sottile
Gardeners, soil scientists and worm fetishists chalked up a win this week when the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined the giant Palouse earthworm may merit protection as an endangered species.
The fight to protect the worm — a worm found to be significantly smaller than scientists originally thought after pulling two 10-inch wrigglers of the ground in March — has been steady and slow, but Noah Greenwald, co-sponsor of the petition to protect it, says this is a step in the right direction to seeing the species protected.
“I’m optimistic that they’ll determine the species warrants listing,” he says. “I think it’s really obviously endangered.”
This decision by Fish and Wildlife reverses a previous ruling by the Bush administration that evidence of the GPE was inconclusive. Greenwald says even if the species had been found during the eight years of Bush’s presidency, it still wouldn’t have seen protection.
“There was hostility toward protecting species and they would delay protection,” he says, noting that 62 species were listed as endangered in the eight years that Bush was in the White House, as opposed to 522 listed under Clinton.
This week’s ruling by Fish and Wildlife means that the giant Palouse earthworm will be researched over the next year to prove if it does, in fact, prove worthy of the “endangered species” brand. And if it does, Greenwald says then it will get in line with some 200 other species on the waiting list for protection.