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For Immediate Release, May 22, 2012

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

Lawsuit Launched to Speed Protection for Dozens of Rare and Vanishing
Amphibians and Reptiles in Southeast

ATLANTA— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for the agency’s failure to decide whether to give Endangered Species Act protection to 25 amphibian and reptile species found in the southeastern United States. Nine turtles, two snakes, one skink and 13 salamanders are named in today’s notice. 

“Endangered Species Act protection is the only hope for saving these amphibians and reptiles, which are being driven to extinction by habitat loss, pollution and other threats,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center lawyer and biologist who works to save imperiled amphibians and reptiles. “Saving these animals will also protect rivers and streams that are a source of drinking water and recreation for millions of people in the Southeast.”

In 2010 the Center and its allies petitioned for Endangered Species Act protection for dozens of amphibians and reptiles, as well as hundreds of other aquatic species, in the Southeast. In 2011 the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that 25 of these amphibians and reptiles “may warrant” protection as endangered species but has failed to make required 12-month findings to decide whether to give them federal protection.

“Amphibians and reptiles are facing an extinction crisis in the Southeast and across the globe,” said Adkins Giese. “These animals simply cannot afford any more bureaucratic delays.”

In the United States, scores of amphibian and reptile species are at risk of extinction. Yet reptiles and amphibians make up just 58 of the 1,400 species protected under the Endangered Species Act, the country’s most powerful law for saving species from extinction and putting them on the road to recovery.

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.

Species Highlights

The Barbour’s map turtle is found in wide, clear streams with swift currents and snags for basking in the Apalachicola River system of Georgia, Alabama and Florida. This turtle preys mainly on mollusks and insects such as caddisfly larvae; it can only survive in waters clean enough to support its prey base. Barbour’s map turtles are threatened by commercial collection, dredging, pollution and disease.

The eastern ribbon snake (Lower Florida Keys population) is found on only a few of the mainline islands of the Lower Keys in Monroe County, Fla. Its freshwater wetland habitat is extremely limited and threatened by residential and urban development. The ribbon snake is black, with three yellow stripes, and gets its name from its very thin body.

The Florida Keys mole skink is a tiny lizard found only on sandhills and scrub of some of the Florida Keys. It usually occurs near the shoreline in sandy areas where it burrows into soil. Its populations are declining primarily due to habitat destruction and overcollection.

The hellbender salamander can grow to almost 2 feet long and is North America’s largest amphibian. Many populations across the eastern United States are extirpated, but hellbender are still believed to occur in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. They live in rocky, clear creeks and rivers, where they use large rocks for shelter. These salamanders face many threats, including dams and pollution from mining, logging, agricultural runoff and other sources.

The seepage salamander is tiny, reaching only 1-2 inches in length, and is named for the seepages around which it lives in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Its population size has been cut in half over the past several decades, primarily by logging and other forces driving habitat loss.


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