For Immediate Release, February 10, 2009
Contact: Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Critical Habitat Designated for
Two Newly Recognized Southeastern U.S. Salamanders
JACKSON, Miss.— In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Wild South, and the Florida Biodiversity Project, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated more than 27,000 acres of critical habitat in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina for the frosted and reticulated flatwoods salamanders, which were formerly considered one species. In accordance with the split of the species, the agency today also recognized the reticulated flatwoods salamander as an endangered species and the frosted flatwoods salamander as a threatened species.
“Recognition and protection of these two unique species makes this a good day for the reticulated and frosted flatwoods salamanders,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Reversing the ongoing wave of mass species extinctions requires identifying existing species and protecting the habitat they need to survive — today’s rule does both.”
Both species of salamanders are threatened by destruction of longleaf pine-slash pine flatwoods, which have been reduced to 18 percent of their former extent by conversion to tree plantations, fire suppression, and urban and agricultural sprawl. A total of 22,970 acres of critical habitat were designated for the frosted flatwoods salamander, and 4,453 acres were designated for the reticulated flatwoods salamander. Designation of critical habitat has already benefitted the animal. Following the proposed designation, the U.S. Navy backed off of plans to sell the “Navy Outlying Landing Field Holley” that provides important habitat for the reticulated flatwoods salamander and is not being actively used for military purposes at this time.
“The designation of critical habitat provides important protection for species like the reticulated flatwoods salamander by alerting land managers to the importance of particular areas for endangered species survival,” said Greenwald.
The two species of salamander are separated by the Apalachicola River drainage, with the reticulated species to the west and the frosted species to the east. This river separates a number of species, in part because, in the geologic past when sea levels were higher, it was an ocean bay.