For Immediate Release, September 3, 2008
Brian Nowicki, Center for Biological Diversity, (916) 201-6938
Amy Minteer, Chatten-Brown and Carstens, (310) 314-8040, ext 3
California Tiger Salamander Moves Closer to
Protection Under California Endangered Species Act;
Court Reaffirms that State Commission Improperly
Rejected Petition to List Species
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The California state appeals court ruled Tuesday that the California Fish and Game Commission must consider a petition to list the California tiger salamander as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act. In a decision with potential implications for other poorly monitored species, the court ruled that the Commission must consider a listing petition if the information would “lead a reasonable person to conclude there is a substantial possibility” that the species could be listed.
“The Fish and Game Commission ignored the multitude of known threats to the tiger salamander and dismissed the petition, falsely claiming it did not contain all of the data necessary to prove the salamander population may deserve protection,” said Brian Nowicki, California climate policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Today’s ruling should set the listing process back on the right track and ultimately result in the tiger salamander getting the state protected status it deserves.”
The Court of Appeals upheld a previous court’s ruling that rejected the Fish and Game Commission’s claim that there was insufficient proof that the salamander was imperiled. Rather than send the decision back to the Commission, the court ordered it to directly advance the tiger salamander to candidacy in light of the evidence of the species’ imperiled status.
“California deserves better than relying on court orders to compel the Fish and Game Commission to uphold the law to protect the state’s wildlife,” Nowicki said. “Unfortunately, the Commission continues to use this same discredited reasoning to improperly reject other petitions to protect imperiled wildlife.”
In April, the Commission denied a listing petition to protect the American pika, a small relative of the rabbit, which is threatened by warming temperatures due to global climate change. In July, the Commission denied a petition to protect the Pacific fisher, a small forest carnivore that is related to otters and is threatened by logging and development in California. In both cases, the Commission claimed a lack of information prevented them from acting to protect the species.
The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Commission in 2004 to list the California tiger salamander as endangered due to the impacts of urban and agricultural development. The Santa Barbara County salamander population has been listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act since 2000, as has the Sonoma County population since 2003. The central California population has been federally listed as threatened since 2004.
The Center was represented by the environmental law firm Chatten-Brown and Carstens
The California tiger salamander depends on ephemeral vernal pools for breeding, but in recent decades 95 percent of California’s vernal pools have been lost, and at least 75 percent of the salamander’s habitat throughout the state has been eliminated. In Sonoma County, 95 percent of the fragmented and minimal remaining salamander habitat is threatened by development; the Santa Barbara population is also on the verge of extinction.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with 180,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.