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For Immediate Release, July 10, 2012

Contact:  Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943 or

More Than 5,000 Acres Proposed for Protection of Highly Endangered Buena Vista Lake Ornate Shrew

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Responding to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued a new proposal to increase the protected critical habitat for one of the most endangered mammals on the planet — the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew — to 5,182 acres. The current designation protects six distinct areas on the floor of the Central Valley in Kern County, Calif., and the new areas proposed would add new habitat protections in Kern and Kings counties.

“More than 95 percent of the wetland areas these rare animals once inhabited have been destroyed,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center. “Today’s proposed designation of critical habitat means the last vestiges of these once-great wetlands will be protected, making possible the survival and recovery of not just shrews but also waterfowl and hundreds of other species.”

The diminutive, insect-eating shrew was first identified in 1932 by noted California naturalist Joseph Grinnell. In former times it inhabited nearly 1 million acres of wetlands and riparian forests that ringed the massive Tulare, Buena Vista, Kern and Goose lakes in the southern Central Valley; Tulare Lake was once the largest lake west of the Mississippi. But most of those areas have been lost to draining and plowing.

Of the 57,000 acres of potential shrew habitat that are left, most fragments are too small and isolated to support shrew populations. Before the shrew gained federal protection as endangered in 2002, fewer than 30 of the animals were believed to remain on Earth. The proposed additions to critical habitat occur on existing conservation lands.

“You can’t protect a species as endangered as the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew without protecting its home,” said Anderson. “Protection of these last places where the shrew survives could mean the difference between existence and extinction.”

Along with outright habitat destruction, the rare shrews are threatened by water diversions, agricultural expansion, pesticide spraying, selenium poisoning and drought.

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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