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For Immediate Release, September 6, 2012

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

Hundreds of Scientists Support Endangered Species Act Petition for Rarest U.S. Frogs,
Turtles, Toads, Snakes, Lizards and Salamanders

WASHINGTON— More than 200 scientists sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today expressing support for an Endangered Species Act petition filed this summer by the Center for Biological Diversity and several renowned scientists and herpetologists, including E.O. Wilson, Thomas Lovejoy and Michael Lannoo. The petition, the largest ever filed targeting amphibians and reptiles, seeks federal protection for 53 species of turtles, snakes, toads, frogs, lizards and salamanders found across 45 states.

Wood turtle
Wood turtle photo by Diane Baedeker Petit, USDA. Photos are available for media use.

“There’s broad scientific consensus that amphibians and reptiles face a profound, human-driven extinction crisis,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center biologist and lawyer focused on protecting herpetofauna. “The surest way to ensure our country’s rarest turtles, frogs and salamanders have a future is to give them Endangered Species Act protection.”

The signatories to the letter — which states that the petitioned animals deserve a Fish and Wildlife Service status review because they face threats like habitat loss, pollution, introduced predators and climate change — are herpetologists, biologists, ecologists and other scientists with collective expertise on amphibians and reptiles.

The 450-page listing petition, filed July 11, asked the Service to provide Endangered Species Act protection for six turtles, seven snakes, two toads, four frogs, 10 lizards and 24 salamanders. It detailed their status and the threats to their survival.

“We will get serious — scientists and general public alike — about preserving the diversity of life on Earth only when we have precise knowledge of individual species like those in this petition,” said Edward O. Wilson, a distinguished Harvard biologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. “Future generations will think badly of us if, through ignorance and inaction, we let die this part of their natural heritage.”

Although amphibians and reptiles have been around for hundreds of millions of years and survived every major extinction period, now, due largely to human impacts, they’re dying off at up to 10,000 times the historic extinction rate. This loss is alarming because they play important roles as predators and prey in their ecosystems and are valuable indicators of environmental health.

Among the species in the petition are the alligator snapping turtle in the Southeast, the wood turtle in the Northeast, Florida’s Key ringneck snake, the Illinois chorus frog, the Pacific Northwest’s Cascade torrent salamander and California’s western spadefoot toad. View an interactive state-by-state map showing where the petitioned species live and download photos for media use.

The Fish and Wildlife Service must determine within 90 days whether the petition has merit and make a decision about protection within a year.  

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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