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For Immediate Release, April 11, 2012

Contact:  Collette Adkins Giese, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821
Megan Mueller, Rocky Mountain Wild, (303) 546-0214 x 6
Duane Short, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, (307) 742-7978

Boreal Toads Move Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

Toads in Southern Rockies, Utah, Nevada, Idaho Suffering From Disease, Habitat Destruction

DENVER— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today determined that boreal toads in the southern Rocky Mountains, Utah, southern Idaho and northeastern Nevada may qualify for Endangered Species Act protection. This unique population of toads is in steep decline due to a deadly fungal disease and habitat destruction. Today’s announcement responds to a 2011 petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Rocky Mountain Wild (formerly Center for Native Ecosystems) and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance.

“We’re thrilled that the boreal toad is one step closer to the Endangered Species Act protection that it needs to survive and recover,” said Center for Biological Diversity attorney and biologist Collette Adkins Giese, who is the world’s only attorney focused solely on protecting endangered amphibians and reptiles. “By addressing threats like destruction of wetland habitat we can still save these rare amphibians. But the window of opportunity is closing fast.”

Once widely distributed and common in the western United States, the boreal toad has experienced dramatic declines over the past few decades. The toad’s status is particularly precarious in the southern Rocky Mountains, where a globally occurring amphibian disease known as chytrid fungus has wiped out most remaining boreal toad populations.

“The boreal toad is the region’s only alpine, forest-dwelling toad,” said conservation biologist Megan Mueller of Rocky Mountain Wild. “This unique toad is an indicator of the environmental health of our mountain streams and wetlands. Protections offered by the Endangered Species Act are the only certain means to safeguard the toad from extinction.”

Endangered Species Act protection for the toad will likely increase federal funding for research to stem the deadly chytrid fungus and help save high-elevation stream and wetland habitat from threats like pollution and poorly managed recreation and livestock grazing. The Endangered Species Act has prevented extinction for 99.9 percent of the species it protects.

“Today’s finding by the Service recognizes the most recent and best available body of science establishing the imperiled status of the boreal toad,” said Duane Short, wild species program director for Biodiversity Conservation Alliance. “Our hope is that the agency will continue to follow this science and provide long-overdue Endangered Species Act protection for the boreal toad.”

Today’s decision, called a 90-day finding, initiates a full review of the toad’s status by the Fish and Wildlife Service, which must make a final finding on Endangered Species Act protection within a year.  

Background
In response to a 1993 petition filed by the Biodiversity Legal Foundation (later incorporated into the Center for Biological Diversity), the Service determined in 1995 that boreal toads in the southern Rockies deserved protection under the Endangered Species Act but that higher-priority actions precluded listing. The agency added the southern Rocky Mountain population to its candidate list, which currently includes more than 250 species, most of which have been waiting decades for protection.

Under the Bush administration, in 2005, the Service reversed course and made matters even worse by removing boreal toads from the candidate list. The agency concluded that boreal toads in the southern Rockies were not “significant,” in part because they appeared genetically similar to other populations found elsewhere in the West.

Since then, two genetic studies have proven that boreal toads in the southern Rockies are part of an evolutionarily significant “clade” that includes boreal toads in Utah, northeastern Nevada and southern Idaho. This group of boreal toads contains as much genetic diversity as previously recognized species. Today’s finding by the Service recognizes the scientific evidence showing that these genetically unique boreal toads are experiencing significant declines in population size and distribution.

Mounting scientific evidence shows that amphibians are among the most imperiled species on Earth. Ubiquitous toxins, global warming, nonnative predators, habitat destruction and disease are key factors leading to their demise. The Center for Biological Diversity is conducting a coast-to-coast investigation to find and seek protection for the country’s most vulnerable but least protected frogs, toads and salamanders. For more information about the Center’s campaign to stop the amphibian extinction crisis, visit http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/amphibian_conservation/index.html.


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