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For Immediate Release, May 7, 2009

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Sonoma County Population of California Tiger Salamander to
Receive Critical Habitat Protection

SAN FRANCISCO In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to reconsider critical habitat for the Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander. In 2005, the Bush administration reduced proposed critical habitat acreage for the species from 74,000 to zero.

“The California tiger salamander in Sonoma County will finally receive the protection it desperately needs to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The designation of zero acres of critical habitat for the salamander was characteristic of the Bush administration’s total disregard for the law and the nation’s wildlife.”

The Center brought the lawsuit as part of a larger campaign to overturn politically tainted decisions by the Bush administration concerning endangered species. To date, the Center has challenged decisions denying listing or providing inadequate critical habitat for 45 species in 28 states, affecting as much as 8 million acres of critical habitat. Many of the illegal decisions, including the decision over critical habitat for the salamander were engineered by former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald, who resigned in disgrace following a scathing investigation by the inspector general of misconduct at the Department of the Interior.

“The Bush administration is gone, but cleaning up the mess they made in the endangered species program will take years,” said Greenwald.

In the case of the salamander, the administration with help from MacDonald overruled agency scientists, who had originally proposed 74,000 acres for protection, and slashed critical habitat to zero acres. To justify elimination of critical habitat, the administration argued that only occupied habitat should be considered critical, which included somewhat over 17,000 acres, and then excluded all of this habitat based on a “Santa Rosa Plain Conservation Strategy,” which has yet to be adopted or funded. The salamander once occupied the entirety of the Santa Rosa Plain, but today is found in only a handful of locations, where it faces severe threats from urban sprawl.

“The Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander is on the brink of extinction and needs protection for its habitat to have any chance of survival,” said Greenwald.

The Center’s lawsuits have largely been successful with the Fish and Wildlife Service agreeing to date to redo critical habitat designations for 18 species, including now the salamander.

For more information about the Center’s campaign to clean up the Bush endangered species legacy see:

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