CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
| August 24, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONSERVATION, RELIGIOUS GROUPS SUE TO PROTECT CALIFORNIA RIVERS FOR THE ARROYO TOAD
LOS ANGELES – Two conservation and religious groups filed an Endangered Species Act lawsuit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) over the agency’s failure to protect essential “critical habitat” in central and southern California for the endangered arroyo toad. The groups are the Center for Biological Diversity (Center) and Christians Caring for Creation.
The Service listed the arroyo toad as an endangered species in 1994 but neglected required protections for the species’ habitat. In 2000, the Service moved to protect 478,000 acres of habitat following a lawsuit by conservationists. But the Service slashed the protected area to just 12,000 acres in April 2005. A map showing the extent of excluded habitat is available in .pdf format upon request or at www.haplesstoad.org.
"The Bush administration's short-cited decision will harm not only the Arroyo Toad but many other native species that depend on these fast disappearing riparian areas to survive,” said Lisa Belenky, an attorney at the Center. “Each day sprawl development throughout California is destroying native habitat and undermining the integrity of our watersheds.”
"In the Bible, God's words are very clear concerning the creatures on this earth,” said Connie Hanson, Director of Christians Caring for Creation. “He loves them. They are good. They belong to Him. And we, the people of this earth, are told to keep His creatures alive and thriving. That's why Christians Caring for Creation is working to protect essential 'critical habitat' for the Arroyo toad."
Many habitat areas were excluded when wildlife agency officials concluded critical habitat protections would cause economic harm. “The deck was stacked,” said David Hogan, Urban Wildlands Program Director at the Center. “Speculative economic harm to developers was wildly exaggerated and real economic benefits were totally ignored including water quality protection, fewer beach closures, and increased property values near protected areas.”
Arroyo toads have drawn recent national attention with their provision of possible insight into the legal philosophy of President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Roberts referred to the “hapless toad” in a 2003 legal opinion against the species in a case widely regarded as indicative of his opinions against broad federal regulation of issues ranging from pollution control to civil rights.
Endangered Species Act “critical habitat” protections are an important tool to recover endangered species.A peer-reviewed study in the April 2005 issue of BioScience, “The Effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act: A Quantitative Analysis,” concludes that species with critical habitat for two or more years are more than twice as likely to have improving population trends than species without.
The arroyo toad is a small, dark-spotted amphibian that utilizes California streams and riverside forests for reproduction, foraging, and dispersal.The species was widely distributed from the Salinas River near Monterey south to San Diego prior to European settlement. Fewer than 30 populations remain as a result of dam construction, agriculture, and urbanization. Please visit the Center’s www.haplesstoad.org for more information on the species including maps, past listing and critical habitat decisions, and much more.
The Center for Biological Diversity (www.biologicaldiversity.org) is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to the protection of native species and their habitats. The Center works to protect and restore natural ecosystems and imperiled species through science, education, policy, and environmental law. The Center has over 13,000 members nationwide.
Christians Caring for Creation is a nationwide prayer network, founded in 1997 whose mission is to pray for and work for the protection and restoration of God's creation.