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For Immediate Release, June 28, 2010

Contact: Bethany Cotton, (202) 591-5215

Legal Challenge to Bombing, Firing Range Training Complex in Endangered Species Habitat Announced

State Department Facility Would Hurt Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel, Rural Eastern Shore Communities

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity announced its intention to sue the State Department and General Services Administration today for failing to protect an endangered species, the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel, in plans to build a sprawling 1,250-acre training facility on farmland in rural Maryland. In its letter to the agencies, the Center said the State Department failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over potentially lethal impacts on the rare, federally protected squirrel from construction of its planned Foreign Affairs Security Training Center. Fox squirrels have been seen repeatedly within the projected footprint of the facility, yet the State Department has no plans to ensure the squirrel can survive the extensive development.

“It’s irresponsible for the State Department to move forward with building this facility when it knows doing so will irrevocably injure both the highly endangered fox squirrel and the rural nature of Queen Anne’s County,” said Bethany Cotton, a staff attorney at the Center. “The proposed location is totally inappropriate.”

Photo surveys not only confirmed the presence of the squirrel at the proposed site but proved the area is heavily used by these rare animals. Yet the federal agencies are moving ahead with plans to destroy the habitat and build a facility that includes outdoor live-fire and bombing ranges, helicopter landing pads and a defensive-driving course.

“Destruction of habitat and vehicle strikes are two of the primary threats to fox squirrels, which are limited to a mere 10 percent of their historic range,” said Cotton. “A facility set to train upwards of 10,000 people a year — using explosives and live ammunition and bringing heavy traffic — will clearly push these endangered animals closer to extinction.”

The Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel is a large, heavy-bodied tree squirrel with an unusually full, fluffy tail. The fox squirrel is frosty silver to slate gray with a white belly and can grow to be 30 inches long with 15 inches of tail. Historically, it occurred in southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, south-central New Jersey, Maryland and the Virginia portion of the Delmarva Peninsula. By the turn of the century, the squirrel had disappeared from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and by 1936 it had disappeared from Delaware as well. In 1967, when the squirrel was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, it survived in only 10 percent of its former range in four eastern Maryland counties: Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Dorchester. Delmarva fox squirrels require mature, park-like forests of both hardwood and pine trees, with little undergrowth.

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