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For Immediate Release, April 10, 2012

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

Lawsuit Filed to Speed Recovery of Endangered California Tiger Salamander 

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to develop a legally required recovery plan for the California tiger salamander, which has been protected under the Endangered Species Act for about a decade.

“If the government is serious about saving the California tiger salamander, it needs to stop dragging its feet and get to work on developing a roadmap for the animal’s recovery,” said Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney at the Center who works to save endangered amphibians and reptiles. “Every day without a recovery plan is a day these rare salamanders are left without the help they badly need.”

Three populations of California tiger salamanders were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2000, 2002 and 2004. Some of the most threatened salamanders are in Sonoma County, where nearly all of the salamander’s known breeding sites are in areas being rapidly converted to high density housing, office buildings, roads and other urban development.

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 21 species, for a rate of fewer than seven species per year. In contrast, President Clinton completed 599 plans for a rate of 75 per year. The George H.W.  Bush administration completed 150 plans for a rate of 38 per year and the second Bush completed 147 plans for a rate of 18 per year.

“It’s troubling to see this backlog of recovery plans that imperiled species depend on to survive and thrive,” said Adkins Giese. “It’s time for the Service to reinvigorate its endangered species program by taking steps to address this backlog now, as the list of endangered and threatened species and our country’s extinction crisis continues to grow.” 

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. The plans typically outline specific tasks such as habitat restoration or research or protections from a particular threat.

Research by the Center has found that species with dedicated recovery plans for two or more years are far more likely to be improving than 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.

“Exotic predators and habitat destruction are pushing California tiger salamanders toward extinction,” said Adkins Giese. “The Service must act quickly to develop and implement plans to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to ensure they don’t vanish.”

Background
The California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) is a large, stocky, terrestrial salamander with a broad, rounded snout. These amphibians 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.

Mounting scientific evidence shows that amphibians are among the most imperiled species on Earth. Globally, more than 1,900 species of frogs, toads and salamanders — 30 percent of the world’s amphibians — are at risk of dying out, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s 2011 Red List. And in the United States, more than 20 percent of amphibians are threatened with extinction. Ubiquitous toxins, global warming, nonnative predators, overcollection, habitat destruction, and disease are key factors leading to demise of amphibians in the United States and worldwide. 

The Center files petitions to protect amphibians under the Endangered Species Act; works to keep toxic pesticides out of their habitats; and — led by the world’s only attorney exclusively focused on protecting amphibians and reptiles (known as “herpetofauna”) — goes to court to ensure that federal agencies are taking steps necessary to conserve California tiger salamanders and scores of other rare cold-blooded creatures. 

For more information about the Center’s campaign to stop the amphibian and reptile extinction crisis, visit: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/amphibian_conservation/index.html.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 350,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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