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For Immediate Release, June 28, 2010

Contact: Bethany Cotton, (202) 591-5215

Endangered Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel Protected:
State Department Facility Will Not Be Built in Squirrel Habitat

 WASHINGTON— Just hours after the Center for Biological Diversity announced it would sue over the project, the federal government today scrapped plans to build a sprawling State Department training center in rural Maryland in habitat for the endangered Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel. The Foreign Affairs Security Training Facility had been proposed for the Ruthsburg area.

“It was clear from the outset that bombing and live-ammunition exercises shouldn’t be conducted anywhere near these rare squirrels,” said Bethany Cotton, a staff attorney at the Center. “This is a victory not only for the fox squirrel, but also for the rural character of Queen Anne’s County.”

In March, the Center commented on the inappropriateness of the proposed location and called for the legally required analysis of the impacts to the fox squirrel. Earlier today, the Center notified the State Department and General Services Administration it would sue to protect the fox squirrel from impacts of the proposed facility, including destruction of habitat, vehicle strikes due to increased traffic and noise impacts. In the letter announcing the withdrawal, the GSA stated “the preliminary analysis showed that, among other potential concerns, there would be a significant change in land use and considerable noise and traffic impacts.” 

“Today the federal government recognized that habitat for an endangered species in a rural farming community is an inappropriate location for a 2,000-acre complex set to train 10,000 people annually,” said Cotton.

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. The primary threats to Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrels are habitat degradation and destruction and vehicle strikes.

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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