For Immediate Release, October 9, 2009
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Endangered Arroyo Toad Gets Big Increase in Proposed Critical Habitat
VENTURA, Calif.— In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed just over 109,000 acres of protected critical habitat for the endangered arroyo toad in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, and San Diego counties, California.
“Once a common species in Southern California, the arroyo toad has lost 75 percent of its historic range and needs all of the protected habitat it can get if it is going to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Today’s proposal represents a hop in the right direction.”
This is the third critical habitat designation for the toad since its listing as endangered in 1994. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed designation of 478,400 acres of critical habitat in June 2000, which was pared down to 182,360 acres in January 2001. In response to an industry lawsuit, the agency then proposed to designate 138,713 acres in April 2004 and finalized the decision with just 11,695 acres in April 2005, a reduction of 98 percent. Today’s proposed designation restores many of the acres removed due to political interference by the Bush administration.
“The Bush administration did its utmost to ensure that endangered species like the arroyo toad received as little protection as possible,” said Greenwald. “Today’s proposal is part of the long process of cleaning up the mess created by the past administration.”
The severe reduction in the past designation of critical habitat was in part engineered by Julie MacDonald, a disgraced former official who was forced to resign after the Department of the Interior’s own inspector general issued a scathing report detailing her interference with, and bullying of, agency scientists. Overall, the Center for Biological Diversity has sued to overturn Bush-era decisions covering 52 species, including a number of other Southern California species, including the California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, and Santa Ana sucker. To date, the Obama administration has been settling the majority of these suits by agreeing to reconsider decisions that limited protection for endangered species.