| January 29, 2004
COALITION FILES CALIFORNIA ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT LISTING PETITION
FOR IMPERILED CALIFORNIA TIGER SALAMANDER
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“The California tiger salamander does not have the luxury of time, said Kassie Siegel, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity and one of the primary authors of the petition, “the scientific case for listing this species is irrefutable and we look forward to prompt action by the Fish and Game Commission to protect this essential part of California’s natural heritage.”
No fewer than 25 academic scientists, wildlife managers, and consulting biologists officially support the listing. The California Department of Fish and Game (“Department”) will have 90 days to make a recommendation to the Commission, which will then vote at its next meeting whether to accept the petition and designate the California tiger salamander as a “candidate” species while the Department conducts a full status review for the species. Designation as a “candidate” species confers the same protection as listing while the review proceeds.
The California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) was historically distributed throughout most of the Central Valley, adjacent foothills, Coast Ranges, portions of Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Rosa Plain in Sonoma County. This amphibian requires seasonal ponds, or vernal pools, for successful breeding. The species breeds during the winter rainy season, but spends the majority of the year in underground refuges, primarily in small mammal burrows, in grassland or oak woodland habitat.
The California tiger salamander has declined and continues to be threatened by factors including urban and agricultural development, the introduction non-native species including bullfrogs, fish, and non-native salamanders, habitat fragmentation, and road mortality. The habitat types used by the species, vernal pools, seasonal wetlands, grasslands, and oak woodlands, are some of the most endangered habitat types in California. It has been estimated that less than one tenth of one percent of California’s native grasslands remain, and approximately 95% of California’s vernal pool landscape has already been lost. Available habitat for the species throughout its range has been eliminated in recent decades by at least 75%. The core area for the species is the Livermore Valley area in the East Bay, which has undergone explosive urban development in recent years.
The Petition cites an ongoing research project by the Center for Biological Diversity which has identified at least 118 projects to date that will impact suitable or occupied California tiger salamander habitat and demonstrates that the species does not receive sufficient protection under either the California Environmental Quality Act or the federal Clean Water Act.
The California tiger salamander is listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in Santa Barbara and Sonoma County. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) recently proposed the Central California populations for listing under the federal ESA as “threatened” and is scheduled to make a final determination on their status by May 15, 2004. On January 23, 2004, the Service proposed critical habitat for the Santa Barbara California tiger salamander as a result of a lawsuit by the EDC and the Center.