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SOUTHWEST SPECIES THAT NEED US TO GET TO 350 Photo credits
American pika (Ochotona princeps)
Range: Mountains in western United States and Canada
This tiny rabbit relative, adapted to cold climates, lives in boulder fields near mountain peaks. Pikas can die from overheating when exposed to temperatures as low as 78 degrees Fahrenheit for just a few hours. Besides directly killing pikas through overheating, climate change threatens the mammals by exposing them to summer heat stress, shrinking snowpack that insulates them from winter cold snaps, shortening their food-gathering period, changing the types of food available, and shrinking the alpine meadows where they feed. Rising temperatures have already been linked to the loss of more than one-third of documented pika populations in the Great Basin Mountains. Climate change is projected to virtually eliminate suitable habitat for the pika in this century if greenhouse gas pollution is not drastically reduced.

Thanks to the Center's 2007 petition and 2008 lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide whether the pika should be protected under the Endangered Species Act by February 2010.
Arkansas River shiner (Notropis girardi)
Range: New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas
The tiny, shiny Arkansas River shiner requires at least 80 miles of river to complete its life cycle — and has disappeared from more than 80 percent of its historical habitat. Besides habitat destruction, water-quality degradation, and other threats, this finger-sized fish is threatened by drought and increased water temperatures driven by global warming.

A Center lawsuit earned this fish a place on the threatened species list in 1998; more Center legal action led to the designation of 1,148 river miles of protected critical habitat for the species in 2005. When that protected habitat was cut in half, we sued again in January 2009 to make sure the shiner has enough protected area to survive and recover.
Bonneville cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki utah)
Range: Tributaries to Great Salt Lake, Utah
The Bonneville cutthroat trout is one of 14 recognized subspecies of cutthroat trout. The Bonneville descended from trout that originally lived in Lake Bonneville in the Pleistocene era. Over time, the lake became desiccated and transformed into the Great Salt Lake, dividing one large population of trout into many smaller subpopulations, which spread out in the still-viable mountain lakes and streams. But though it survived one drastic ecosystem change eons ago, the Bonneville cutthroat trout may not fair well in the face of climate change. Warmer water temperatures and high winter flooding will affect this trout’s ability to survive. One study found that climate-related changes threaten 73 percent of the habitat currently occupied by Bonneville cutthroat trout.
Boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas boreas)
Range: North-central California, east through Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, and north to southern Alaska
Boreal toads use holes dug by other animals for burrowing, and they can spend half of their lives hibernating. To find their way, like other toads, they use the stars and their sense of smell. Water pollution, habitat loss, and chytrid fungus have already resulted in the boreal toad disappearing from much its range. Because the toad only lives at high elevations — for example, above 8,500 feet in Colorado — global warming’s rising temperatures add yet another threat to the species. With rising temperatures, suitable habitat for the toad is pushed to even higher elevations, and habitat patches become more isolated, giving the toad fewer places to call home. In Yellowstone National Park, increased warming, reduced annual rainfall, and increasing drought conditions have already dried up pond habitat for the boreal toad and other amphibians.
Western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea)
Range: North, Central, and South America
Unlike most owls, the burrowing owl doesn’t live in trees, and it’s not nocturnal. It makes its nest underground — usually in abandoned rodent burrows — and is active both day and night. Although the burrowing owl was once widespread, habitat destruction has reduced the western burrowing owl’s breeding populations by more than 60 percent. Much of the burrowing owl’s western habitat will become drier, and drought conditions will increase with global warming, which will likely lead to reduced food supply for the owl.

The Center and allies petitioned in 2003 to protect the California population of the owl under the California Endangered Species Act, but the state refused to list the owl based largely on an inaccurate, inconsistent report by the California Department of Fish and Game. Our efforts to combat urban sprawl throughout the Southwest and California will help preserve burrowing owl habitat.
Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis)
Range: Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin (contiguous U.S. distinct population segment)
Canada lynx are made for hunting in deep snow, with thick cushions of hair on the soles of their feet that act like built-in snowshoes. Appropriately enough, this adaptation helps them stalk their favorite prey, the snowshoe hare — unlike any other cat, the Canada lynx relies almost exclusively on the snowshoe hare for food. The lynx’s ability to hunt its favorite prey is intertwined with snow conditions. And deep snow plays another role in the lynx’s survival by excluding its main competitors for prey — coyotes and bobcats — and allowing the lynx to escape its own predator, the mountain lion. But warming winters can affect the texture, depth, and extent of snow cover. Climate change may also impact survival of the lynx’s primary habitat — boreal and alpine forests.

Thanks to a Center lawsuit, a judge ruled in 2008 that Minnesota was in violation of the Endangered Species Act by allowing traps that harm and kill Canada lynx.
Canelo Hills ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes delitescens)
Range: San Pedro River watershed in southern Arizona, at elevations of 5,000 feet
A slender, erect member of the orchid family, Canelo Hills ladies’ tresses can grow to be two feet tall. After reaching blooming size, an individual plant doesn’t always bloom in successive years, but it can revert to either its vegetative or underground states. Only a few individuals exist at each known site, and this species’ small population sizes alone make it vulnerable to impacts from livestock grazing to competition with native and nonnative meadow plants. Immediate threats from climate change are range shifts in the associated plant community — which may favor plants competing with Canelo Hills ladies’ tresses — and increased trampling of the plants due to increased use by livestock and wildlife.

The Center has been working to protect Canelo Hills ladies’ tresses since 1993, when we first petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the species under the Endangered Species Act. Because the agency failed to do so, we filed suit in 1996, and the species was listed as endangered the following year.
Chiricahua leopard frog (Rana chiricahuensis)
Range: Desert and mountain streams and wetlands in central and southeast Arizona, southwest New Mexico, and northern Mexico
Leopard frogs are often used as environmental indicator species because of their heightened sensitivity to chemical pollutants found in the air and water. When a Chiricahua leopard frog wants attention, it snores — at least, its distinctive call sounds like a snore. But the sound of snoring around desert streams, springs, and even stock tanks is a lot softer than it used to be. Once found in more than 400 aquatic sites in the Southwest, this frog is now found at fewer than 80. In Arizona, the Chiricahua has declined more than any other leopard frog. Chiricahua leopard frogs need permanent water for reproduction, but that’s increasingly hard to come by. Southwest riparian areas are often destroyed by livestock grazing, groundwater pumping, water diversion, and dams, and now they face the additional threat of global warming drying their habitat.

The Center submitted a petition to list the species as federally endangered in 1998, and after two Center lawsuits, the frog was finally listed as threatened in 2002.
Desert nesting bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Range: Along Salt and Verde rivers in Arizona
The Southwest’s desert rivers harbor a uniquely adapted population of bald eagles known as desert nesting bald eagles — geographically, behaviorally, and even biologically different from other bald eagles. No other bald eagles nests under conditions of high heat and low humidity or suffers such high mortality. Primarily due to habitat loss, only a few dozen breeding pairs are known to remain on Earth, and global warming is further threatening their survival. Desert nesting bald eagle nestlings are vulnerable to early arrival of high temperatures, with heat stress posing a significant mortality risk. Nestlings may also attempt to fledge early in response to heat stress. Further, climate change is likely to aggravate habitat loss, particularly the loss of large nest trees, through heat stress on the trees, violent storms, and erosion.

In 2008 in response to a Center lawsuit, a federal judge ruled that the Bush administration’s delisting of the desert nesting bald eagle — when it delisted bald eagles nationally — was a violation of the Endangered Species Act.
Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius)
Range: Gila and Colorado river drainages in Arizona, California, and Mexico
Nipping at the heels of potential mates, the stout, ray-finned pupfish gained its name from its striking resemblance to frolicking young puppies. Cousins to the well-known guppy, pupfish are not only playful but also remarkably tolerant of extreme environmental conditions. Dwelling in pools, marshes, streams, and springs of the Southwest, desert pupfish can endure water temperatures exceeding 110 degrees and can tolerate water more than twice as salty as the ocean. But decreasing precipitation leading to a lower water table may threaten the pupfish’s ability to survive. And as hardy as this fish is, a warmer climate may push the temperature high enough to kill pupfish eggs.

In 1996, the Center filed a lawsuit resulting reduced destructive livestock grazing on the Gila River, important habitat for the pupfish. Since then, we’ve worked to protect the fragile Colorado River delta, safeguard the Salton Sea, and restore full flows to Arizona’s Fossil Creek— all waterways indispensable to pupfish.
Desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii)
Range: Southern California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona
Desert tortoises have lived in the deserts of California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah since the Pleistocene. As many as 1,000 tortoises per square mile once inhabited the Mojave in the early 20th century. But by the end of the century, this population of the desert tortoise was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, largely due to vanishing habitat, while Army translocation projects threaten to devastate the Mojave population. The desert tortoise will face increasing stress from drought, heat waves, and changes in the vegetation it relies on for food, in addition to the cumulative impacts of global warming with livestock grazing, human disturbance, disease, fire, and predators.

Thanks to a lawsuit by the Center and Desert Survivors, in 2008 Fort Irwin officials suspended a disastrous desert tortoise translocation project that killed hundreds of the animals. A new translocation project was proposed in 2009 — but it was put on hold after a flood of comments from our supporters.
Fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes)
Range: Texas’ Trans-Pecos region in summer
The fringed myotis is a species of vesper bat found in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. It occurs in a variety of habitats including desert-scrub, fir-pine, and oak and pinyon woodlands. It may roost in caves, mines, or buildings. Fringed bats are known to migrate, but little is known about their migration patterns.
Bats that inhabit arid regions, like the fringed myotis, are vulnerable to climate change because they need sufficient standing water for drinking. Standing water sources in arid areas are particularly important for nursing females, which need to drink much more than other bats to produce milk. One study concluded that predicted loss of water resources in the western United States due to climate change would lead to declines in regional bat populations, particularly by hurting bat reproduction.
Gila chub (Gila intermedia)
Range: Upper Gila River basin in Arizona, New Mexico, and adjacent Sonora, Mexico
The Gila chub once benefited from the engineering feats of beavers living in the upper Gila River basin, whose dams created deep, slow-moving pools the chub loved. So in the late 1800s, when beavers were extirpated from much of the basin, the Gila chub was hurt, too. Now, with added pressure from nonnative fish and bullfrog predation, habitat destruction, and water diversion, the chub struggles to survive in a small fraction of its old range. The chub’s fragile, already degraded desert watersheds are further threatened by global warming, which may dry up these watersheds as temperatures rise and drought conditions become more severe in the southwestern United States.

In 1998, the Center and Sky Island Watch petitioned to list the Gila chub as an endangered species. In 2005, the Gila chub was finally afforded protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Gila trout (Oncorhynchus gilae)
Range: Tributaries of Gila River in Arizona and New Mexico
The Gila trout has been threatened by competition and hybridization with introduced game fish. It has also suffered dramatic habitat loss caused chiefly by loss of water flow due to agricultural irrigation, water diversion, and channelization of streams. By the time the Gila trout was listed under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1967, its range had been reduced from several hundred miles of stream to just 20.

Global warming further threatens the water flow in the Gila River, home to the trout, as temperatures rise and drought conditions become more severe in the Southwest.
Graham’s penstemon (Penstemon grahamii)
Range: Uinta Basin in Carbon, Duchesne, and Uinta counties, Utah; Rio Blanco County, Colorado
The lovely, pale lavender flowers of the Graham’s penstemon, with their magenta-striped throats and fiery orange inner parts, are quite remarkable in appearance. Also remarkable — and perilous — is the fact that this plant lives exclusively on oil shale in the Uinta Basin of northeastern Utah and northwestern Colorado, where oil, gas, and oil shale development threatens its very existence. A member of the figwort family, the penstemon is a small plant — only about eight inches tall — but it has surprisingly large flowers for its size. While the penstemon is uniquely adapted to live in the Southwest’s harsh, dry climate, it requires a very specific type of shale substrate and can’t simply shift northward through different soil types as global warming increases.
Gunnison sage grouse (Centrocercus minimus)
Range: Small, isolated populations centered around the Gunnison Basin in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah
Since the 19th century, only one new avian species has been described from the United States: the Gunnison sage grouse, in 2000. The grouse is a “YouTube” star for its elaborate courtship rituals. Each spring, males congregate and perform a strutting display, and females select the best performer to mate with. Only a few males do most of the breeding. But even though these grouse are declining severely due to habitat loss, they’ve so far been denied the protections of the Endangered Species Act. Because drought conditions result in decreased sage grouse nest success, increased drought severity would likely lower the Gunnison’s success in raising its young. Increasingly warmer and drier climate conditions are predicted to lower sagebrush habitat quality, enhance invasive plant invasions, and alter fire frequency.

The Center is working to reverse politically tainted decisions harming 59 species, including the Gunnison sage grouse, for which we went to court with allies in 2006.
Headwater chub (Gila nigra)
Range: Colorado River basin and possibly parts of northwestern Mexico
Of the Southwest’s nine native chub species, all are listed or proposed for Endangered Species Act listing — except the roundtail and headwater chubs. It's not that these two aren’t imperiled — they’ve been extirpated from 80 percent and 60 percent of their historic ranges, respectively — but they’ve suffered from bureaucratic ineptitude for decades. In the Colorado River basin where the headwater chub lives, temperatures are warming, snowpack is declining, and many streams are shifting their peak flow to earlier in the year. Climate models robustly project that the basin will continue to become warmer and more arid, changes that are predicted to reduce the flow of the Colorado River by 10 to 30 percent. Depleted stream flows, changes in the timing of water flow, and rising stream temperatures jeopardize the headwater chub.

The Center petitioned to protect the chub under the Endangered Species Act in 2003. After our subsequent lawsuit, in 2006 the agency again made the headwater chub a candidate for listing.
Holmgren’s milk vetch (Astragalus holmgreniorum)
Range: Washington County, Utah, and Mojave County, Arizona
Holmgren’s milk vetch is so finely adapted to its arid northern Mojave Desert environment that it’s often the only plant found alive atop soil strewn with small stones and gravel deposits. Where other desert plants fail to grow, the Holmgren’s milk vetch thrives. But with persistent encroachment by urban development, off-road vehicles, grazing, invasive plant species, and now global warming, Holmgren’s milk vetch becomes less and less able to eke out a living among the stones and gravels. Climate change and its potential for increased drought cycles are a significant concern. The milk vetch has been shown to reproduce and survive better in years following increased rainfall. Consecutive years of drought can lead to low reproduction that could outlast the longevity of the plant’s seedbank, meaning that the affected populations could become extirpated.

In 2006, after much involvement from the Center and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally designated critical habitat and created a recovery plan for the Holmgren’s milk vetch.
Huachuca water umbel (Lilaeopsis schaffneriana spp. recurva)
Range: San Pedro River, Santa Cruz River, Rio Yaqui, and Rio Sonora
Once a flourishing part of extensive riparian habitats in southeastern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico, the Huachuca water umbel has been reduced to a handful of discontinuous clumps in a handful of Southwest wetlands. The Huachuca water umbel has a unique ability to expand its population quickly after a flood, moving to disturbed habitat until competition with other species becomes too great. But to use this method, the plant needs refugia — places that let it escape the effects of floods — as well as an unaltered watershed flow system and a healthy riparian community. With suitable wetland habitat rapidly disappearing from the Southwest, global warming will increase threats to the remaining wetlands through changes in precipitation that reduce water tables, increase water pumping from the aquifer, and change the timing of flood events.

The Huachuca water umbel was listed as endangered in 1997. To protect the San Pedro River, one of the water umbel’s main habitats, the Center filed a lawsuit in 2001 and forced Fort Huachuca to improve its feeble water conservation plan, which threatened this plant.
Human being (Homo sapiens)
Range: Global
Homo sapiens, the Latin name for the modern human species, means “wise man.” Modern humans evolved in east Africa about 200,000 years ago. As of 2009, there are more than 6.8 billion of us on Earth. Humans have a highly developed brain, capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection and problem solving, but can they put these qualities to use when it comes to the man-made challenge posed by global warming?

Health and climate scientists believe that global warming is already responsible for some 150,000 deaths each year, and they fear that the number may well double by 2030. Global warming also contributes to some 5 million human illnesses every year. Some of the ways global warming negatively affects human health — especially in poorer nations — include: speeding the spread of infectious diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever; creating conditions that lead to potentially fatal malnutrition and diarrhea; and increasing the frequency and severity of heat waves, floods, and other weather-related disasters. Studies have also found a direct link between rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and increased human mortality. Added air pollution caused by each degree Celsius increase in temperature caused by CO2 leads to about 1,000 additional deaths in the United States and many more cases of respiratory illness and asthma.
Jaguar (Panthera onca)
Range: North from Argentina to the U.S.-Mexico borderlands
Revered as deities amongst the Mayan and Aztec peoples, jaguars once roamed from South America through the southern and central United States. But they were reduced through Spanish bounties and fur hunting, and the last U.S. animals were systematically hunted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 20th century, only to reappear sporadically through migration from Mexico. As global climate trends move toward hotter, drier environments, jaguars’ recovery in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands may become even more important to the survival of the whole species as climate change pushes the animals northward.

The Center sued three times to obtain a recovery plan and critical habitat designation for the jaguar; has defended it from government traps, snares, and poisons; and opposed walling off the U.S.-Mexico border to ensure that jaguars have access to the full extent of their range. In March 2009, a judge struck down the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to grant the jaguar a recovery plan and protected habitat.
Least chub (Lotichthys phlegethontis)
Range: Utah’s west desert, Wasatch Front, and the Sevier River
This colorful minnow, measuring less than 2.5 inches long, has persisted in the remaining wetland pockets left by the receding Lake Bonneville and Lake Provo that once covered Utah. Seasonal water-quality changes lead least chub to move back and forth between different habitat types, especially between springs and marshes. Once described as excessively common, the fish is now reduced to only six known wild populations. The Snake Valley, the area today considered to be the chub’s “stronghold,” is at risk from groundwater pumping to feed the booming human population of southern Nevada. With projections for increasing drought conditions in the Southwest, the least chub faces the looming threat of groundwater depletion by the dual forces of climate change and human sprawl.

In 2007, the Center and other groups filed a petition to protect the least chub, and when the Service failed to respond, we filed a notice of intent to sue.
Loach minnow (Tiaroga cobitis)
Range: Gila River basin in western New Mexico and Arizona
Native to the Gila River basin in Arizona and New Mexico, this rare, pint-sized fish is just one of many river-dependent species disappearing where they once flourished, in occasional pockets of undisturbed habitat. Livestock grazing degrades this fish‘s stream habitat by trampling stream banks, polluting water, and creating massive erosion, and now stream life is being threatened by climate change. Because loach minnows spawn in response to changes in stream volume and water temperature, warming streams and climate change-caused alterations in water flow threaten the loach minnow’s ability to reproduce.

The Center brought about critical habitat designation for this river-dwelling fish in 1994, and we filed suit after it was overturned on a technicality. In 2009, a judge ruled that the fish needed more habitat protections.
Mexican garter snake (Thamnophis eques megalops)
Range: From central and southeastern Arizona to Oaxaca, Mexico
Oases in the desert, Southwestern streams are among the most delicate ecosystems on the planet. In these shallow, ephemeral waters, species like the Mexican garter snake once carved out a precarious existence. But these highly adapted, rare animals are no match for pumping, livestock grazing, and flood control, which have already nearly dried up desert rivers. Future climate scenarios, with an increase in temperature and more precipitation extremes — including increasing drought — threaten the riparian habitat of the Mexican garter snake.

In 2007, the Center filed suit to overturn a decision denying the snake protection, and in May of the next year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally announced it would revisit the species’ status. In 2008, the Service once again denied the species federal safeguards, making it a mere “candidate” for listing, but we’ll continue our fight to protect the snake.
Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus bailey)
Range: Arizona and New Mexico
The smallest gray wolf subspecies in North America, the Mexican gray wolf is also one of the rarest and most endangered mammals on the continent. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (and its predecessor agency) poisoned and trapped almost all Mexican wolves from the wild from 1915 until 1973; the last five survivors, captured between 1977 and 1980, were bred in captivity and their progeny reintroduced in 1998. At the end of 2008, only two Mexican wolf breeding pairs remained in the wild. Mexican wolves are threatened by drought which may lower prey numbers and bring the wolves into greater conflict with the livestock industry.

In 2009, we petitioned to protect the Mexican gray wolf separately from other U.S. gray wolves, as an endangered subspecies or a “distinct population segment” — which would compel the development of an updated federal recovery plan.
Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida)
Range: From the four-corner states southward into west Texas and Mexico’s Sierra Madres
The spotted owl has long served as a flagship species for environmentalists across the nation, and the Mexican spotted owl is the Southwest’s most famous old-growth resident. Unfortunately, by the late 1980s — at the height of logging in the national forests — biologists estimated that only 2,000 remained. The species’ numbers are still declining as it continues to lose habitat to logging, development, mining, and wildfire. This owl relies on cool, shady habitats that could be altered by climate change for both the owl and the small mammals they prey upon to survive. Spotted owls are believed to be heat intolerant, thus occupying dense forest to avoid high temperatures. Rising temperatures during nesting seasons could be particularly traumatic, as they could lead to nest failure and birds abandoning their territory. Owls that occupy the driest portions of the forest will be threatened first, which could result in higher population fragmentation and genetic isolation.

After multiple Center lawsuits, the Mexican spotted owl’s critical habitat was expanded to more than 8 million acres.
Mt. Graham red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis)
Range: Graham Mountains of southeastern Arizona
The Mt. Graham red squirrel lives on a single mountaintop in southern Arizona. That mountaintop is also the site of an observatory built by the University of Arizona. The famous squirrel was placed on the endangered species list in 1987 because development, logging, and fire were destroying its habitat. The federal government has found that at least 100 to 300 years will be needed to restore some forested areas of squirrel habitat. Global warming may cause a retreat of the squirrel’s forests up the mountain, further reducing or eliminating red squirrel habitat.
Quitobaquito pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius)
Range: Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona
The only known Quitobaquito pupfish in the world make their home in a half-acre pond in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Brightly colored but small (just five centimeters), pupfish feed on worms, insects, and zooplankton. Predation by nonnative species and sedimentation of water due to erosion of surrounding land are the prime culprits behind the pupfish’s decline. The construction of the nearby Mexican border fence is worsening the erosion. The Quitobaquito pupfish has been on the endangered species list since 1986. While this little fish can tolerate warm water, its half-acre pond could warm to unprecedented and dangerous levels if climate changes goes unchecked, or fall to dangerously low water levels with increasing drought conditions.

To help the Quitobaquito pupfish and other border species, the Center is working to ensure enforcement of environmental laws regarding border construction and activities, including the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act.
Relict leopard frog (Rana onca)
Range: Lake Mead in Nevada
The relict leopard frog was originally declared extinct in the 1950s, only to be rediscovered in the early ’90s. Unfortunately, the relict may disappear just as suddenly as it reappeared — the species is limited to at most 1,100 individuals, at least half of which live in one environmentally sensitive location. Climate change is one of greatest threats to this species’ continued survival. The frog is now restricted to six springs within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada, where water is growing scarcer due to warming temperatures, increased drought frequency, and declining snowpack. Researchers project that Colorado River flows will decline by 10 to 30 percent, and there’s a 50-percent chance that Lake Mead will dry up by 2021.

The petitioned to list the species under the Endangered Species Act in 2002, three years later filing suit to expedite protection. Wildlife agencies have spent five years drafting a conservation strategy for the frog. Reintroductions of captive-reared relict leopard frogs began at six springs in Arizona and Utah in 2006.
Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis)
Range: Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico
Once plentiful throughout southern Colorado and New Mexico, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout now occupies less than 10 percent of its previous range. While the fish has been designated a threatened species thanks to Center litigation, federal authorities have yet to implement any meaningful conservation measures, citing “more pressing work.” However, with climate change rapidly bearing down, the time to act is now. Rio Grande cutthroat trout live in clean, cold mountain streams and rivers and require low summer water temperatures and clean gravel for spawning. Rising water temperatures caused by global warming threaten to make rivers and streams less habitable for the trout.

The Center first petitioned to list the Rio Grande cutthroat trout under the Endangered Species Act in 1998. After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to protect the trout, we took the agency to court and the Service announced eventually found that the trout’s situation warrants protection — unfortunately, federal protection still hasn’t been granted.
Roundtail chub (Gila robusta)
Range: Colorado River basin and possibly parts of northwestern Mexico
While an interesting fish in its own right, the roundtail chub is also immensely useful as an ecosystem indicator. The fact that the chub has been extirpated from 80 percent of its original habitat does not bode well for either this species or other river dwellers. In the Colorado River basin where the fish lives, temperatures are warming, snowpack is declining, and many streams are shifting their peak flow earlier in the year. Climate models robustly project that the Colorado River basin will continue to become warmer and more arid, changes predicted to reduce the flow of the Colorado River by 10 to 30 percent. Depleted stream flows, changes in the timing of water flow, and rising stream temperatures jeopardize the chub.

After a petition and two Center lawsuits, the roundtail chub was found to warrant Endangered Species Act protection; unfortunately, it’s still languishing on the list of mere “candidates” for protection.
Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)
Range: Pacific Ocean and coastal streams
Sockeye salmon, also known as “red” or “blueback” salmon, live a dual existence between freshwater streams and the ocean. Sockeye salmon hatch in freshwater streams where they may live for up to four years before migrating to sea as silvery smolt weighing only a few ounces. They grow quickly in the sea, usually reaching four to eight pounds after one to four years. Mature sockeye salmon travel thousands of miles from ocean feeding areas to spawn in the same freshwater system they were born in. Little is known about how they navigate.

Climate change affects sockeye salmon in several important ways. As rivers get warmer, the survival rate of cold-water salmon migrating upstream to spawn is expected to plummet. Flooding events in the streams where sockeye spawn could wash eggs from the gravel beds where they’re laid. A recent study found that prolonged ocean warming could greatly restrict the ocean foraging areas of sockeye salmon.
Sonora tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum stebbinsi)
Range: San Rafael Valley of Arizona and Mexico
The Sonora tiger salamander only lives in limited parts of southern Arizona and northern Mexico, making it extremely vulnerable to environmental changes, including global warming. While often mistaken for a lizard, the tiger salamander — like all amphibians — needs access to freshwater for breeding, growth, and development. Drought during recent years appears to have reduced surface waters and potential breeding sites for the salamander. Aquatic habitats are needed from January through June for breeding, and loss of the remaining aquatic habitats due to decreased rainfall and increasingly frequent and severe drought is a significant threat to this species.

The Center has long advocated for the protection of the diverse and ecologically valuable borderlands the Sonora tiger salamander calls home. We also served on the participation team that helped craft the salamander’s federal recovery plan.
Sonoran pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana)
Range: Southwest Arizona and Mexico
The fastest land mammal in North America, Sonoran pronghorn antelope originally developed their amazing speed to outrun prehistoric cheetahs. Sadly, the myriad threats that face them today are not so easily escaped. Drought appears to be a major factor affecting the survival of pronghorn adults and fawns, making increasingly severe and frequent drought in the Southwest a major threat to this species. Drought leaves pronghorn without enough water and nutritious forage and forces them to gather in areas near surface water, increasing competition for resources and the success of predators. During a drought in 2002, more than 80 percent of the existing pronghorn population died, leaving an estimated 21 pronghorn in Arizona.

The Center has been fighting for this elegant and graceful antelope by working tirelessly to secure protections for its home, the Sonoran Desert.
Sonoran toad (Bufo alvarius)
Range: Southwestern United States and northern Mexico
The Sonoran toad, also known as the Colorado River toad, is a large, carnivorous toad that lives in semi-aquatic environments throughout the Southwest. This toad spends the dry winters buried underground, using ponds and temporary pools formed by summer monsoons for laying eggs and developing tadpoles. The Sonoran toad is one of a handful of toads and frogs known to produce a psychoactive substance via its skin and venom.

While the toad is hardy enough to survive as an amphibian in a desert environment, increasing drought severity and decreases in standing water in the Southwest may make its aquatic breeding habitat more scarce.
Sonoyta mud turtle (Kinosternon sonoriense longifemorale)
Range: Quitobaquito Springs in Arizona, Rio Sonoyta in Sonora, Mexico, and a spring complex at Quitovac
This tenacious little mud turtle is easily identifiable, as it’s the only turtle to live in the Sonoran Desert. Perfectly adapted to live in only a handful of locations, the Sonoyta mud turtle now occurs only in one reservoir and limited stream habitat in Arizona and Mexico. The Sonoyta mud turtle’s aquatic habitat is threatened by decreasing rainfall, droughts, and floods projected for the Southwest. Its home reservoir could silt in over time, or the dam could fail in a storm or extreme flooding event, with devastating consequences for the Sonoyta mud turtle. Because turtles are slow to mature and reproduce, they’re incapable of expanding rapidly to take advantage of temporary habitats created by periods of high precipitation, and populations can decline rapidly during drought years.

After the turtle languished for eight years as a candidate for protection, the Center petitioned for formal Endangered Species Act protection for the mud turtle in 2005.
Southwestern myotis (Myotis auriculus)
Range: From Arizona and New Mexico to southern Mexico
The genus Myotis includes more than 80 species, including the southwestern myotis, which is found in wet pine-oak forest, desert scrub, dry forest, and ponderosa pines. This bat begins its “day” activity about one to two hours after sunset, flying around at about eight miles an hour in search of food. Its cuisine of choice: moths gleaned from tree trunks or walls of buildings. Deforestation is a dire threat to this bat, as is climate change.

The susceptibility of bats to local temperature, humidity, and precipitation patterns make them an early warning system for the cascading effects of climate change. Standing water sources are particularly important for bats living in arid areas, like the southwestern myotis. Lactating females need to drink much more than other bats to produce milk. One study found that predicted loss of water resources in the western United States due to climate change would lead to declines in regional bat populations, particularly by impeding bat reproduction.
Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus)
Range: Breeds in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah; winters from southern Mexico to northern South America
The southwestern willow flycatcher enjoys the distinction of being one of the few songbirds born with an innate, not learned, repertoire of songs. Unfortunately, despite more than a decade of federal protection, this species is still direly imperiled by habitat destruction and global warming. The flycatcher’s breeding habitat is intimately linked with water. It nests in dense riparian habitats along rivers, streams, or other wetlands where the water table is high enough to support riparian vegetation. Thus, decreases in precipitation that threaten riparian habitats also threaten this species.

The flycatcher was one of the first species the Center championed. After a Center petition and years of litigation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the flycatcher endangered in 1995. After the flycatcher’s critical habitat was slashed due to a politically motivated decision, in 2008 we sued the Bush administration to force it to restore the habitat protections the flycatcher needs. In 2009, we went to court again over a plan allowing an imported beetle to hurt flycatcher habitat.
Spikedace (Meda fulgida)
Range: Four Arizona creeks and Gila River, New Mexico
The spikedace is a small, unassuming minnow that’s rapidly disappearing from the handful of locations it inhabits in the Gila River. Livestock grazing degrades stream habitat by trampling stream banks, polluting the water, and creating massive erosion, and now this fish’s stream habitat is being threatened by climate change. Spikedace spawn in response to changes in stream volume and water temperature. Warming stream temperatures and changes in water flow threaten the minnow’s ability to reproduce.

For such a tiny fish, the spikedace has figured prominently in a number of Center lawsuits, including critical habitat litigation, a lawsuit that banned cattle from dozens of Southwest streamside habitats, and a suit to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect spikedace and other native fish in Arizona’s delicate Fossil Creek.
Utah prairie dog (Cynomys parvidens)
Range: Southwestern Utah
Iconically cute, the Utah prairie dog spends its days digging burrows and foraging for seeds and roots. Highly social animals, prairie dogs cry out to alert each other to predators and issue an all-clear cry once the danger has passed. Once upon a time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deliberately poisoned Utah prairie dogs because they were a minor nuisance to ranchers. After bringing them to the brink of extinction, in 1973 the government listed the prairie dog as endangered and began protecting it. The species’ numbers have shot up and down since then, but the overall trend is toward recovery.

Limited in range to drought-prone southwestern Utah, this prairie dog could be imperiled by prolonged drought. The western portion of the species’ historical range has already become less favorable to prairie dogs due to higher temperatures, a drier climate, and the gradual replacement of tall grasses with salt-shrub vegetation.
Yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)
Range: Southern Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas; western yellow-billed cuckoo found west of mountain ranges forming eastern edge of the Rio Grande watershed
The yellow-billed cuckoo is a rare bird that has been almost entirely eradicated west of the Continental Divide. With as few as 40 breeding pairs remaining in California, the species is dangerously close to extinction. Climate change could well be the catalyst that pushes the yellow-billed cuckoo into oblivion. Western yellow-billed cuckoos require large patches (ideally 25 to 100 acres) of streamside willows and cottonwoods. Decreases in precipitation that threaten riparian habitats also threaten this species.

In 1998, the Center filed a scientific petition to earn endangered species protection for the cuckoo, which helped fund research into the genetic characteristics of the species — ultimately leading to a Fish and Wildlife Service determination that western cuckoos should be treated as a “distinct population segment.” In 2000, the Center and allies filed a suit to force a listing decision, and the next year the Service determined the cuckoo’s listing was “warranted but precluded” — meaning the bird’s federal protection would be put off.