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For Immediate Release, April 28, 2011

Contact: Collette Adkins Giese, (651) 955-3821

Lawsuit Launched to Speed Recovery of Imperiled California Amphibians 

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Interior Department today for failing to develop recovery plans for the Southern California mountain yellow-legged frog and the California tiger salamander. Although these amphibians have been protected under the Endangered Species Act for about a decade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to develop legally required recovery plans to guide management of the species.

“If the government is serious about its legal responsibility to save these rare frogs and salamanders in California, it needs to stop dragging its feet and get to work on developing a roadmap for their recovery,” said Collette Adkins Giese, the Center’s herpetofauna attorney. “Every day without a recovery plan is a day these species are left without the help they badly need.”

Nearly 20 percent of all U.S. species protected under the Endangered Species Act lack recovery plans. To date the Obama government has only completed original recovery plans for 18 species, for a rate of nine species per year. In contrast, President Clinton completed 599 plans for a rate of 75 per year. The first Bush completed 150 plans for a rate of 38 per year and the second Bush completed 147 plans for a rate of 18 per year.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been without a pulse for nearly a decade and needs resuscitation,” said Adkins Giese. “We had hoped the Obama administration would reinvigorate the endangered species program, but that has not yet happened.” 

Recovery plans are the main tool for identifying actions necessary to save endangered species from extinction and eventually remove their protection under the Endangered Species Act. Research by the Center has found that the status of species with dedicated recovery plans for two or more years is far more likely to be improving than of those without. Timely development and implementation of recovery plans is critical to saving species because they identify all of the necessary actions to save the species, such as research and habitat restoration and protection.

“Exotic predators and habitat destruction are pushing California tiger salamanders and Southern California mountain yellow-legged frogs to the brink of extinction,” said Adkins Giese. “These animals have been on the endangered species list for about a decade and are still in trouble. The Service must act quickly to develop and implement plans to ensure that we are taking all steps necessary for their survival and recovery.”

The mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) occupies rocky and shaded streams with cool waters originating from springs and snowmelt. Historically, mountain yellow-legged frogs in Southern California lived across a wide elevation range and in a wide variety of wetland habitats.

Between the 1900s and today, the mountain yellow-legged frog has disappeared from nearly all of its former range in Southern California. Predation by introduced fish, primarily rainbow trout, is one of the best-documented causes of decline of the frogs. Mountain yellow-legged frogs in Southern California have been federally listed as endangered since 2002; mountain yellow-legged frogs in the Sierra Nevada are on the “candidate” list and receive no Endangered Species Act protections.

The California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) is a large, stocky, terrestrial salamander with a broad, rounded snout. California tiger salamanders are restricted to vernal pools and seasonal ponds in grassland and oak savannah communities in central California. The primary cause of the decline of the California tiger salamander is the loss and fragmentation of habitat through human activities and encroachment of nonnative predators.

Three populations of California tiger salamander are protected under the Endangered Species Act: Santa Barbara, Sonoma and central California. The Santa Barbara and Sonoma populations have been listed as endangered since 2000 and 2002, respectively. The central California population has been listed as threatened since 2004. None have recovery plans.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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