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Action timeline

September 21, 2000 – In response to a lawsuit filed by the Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final rule listing the Santa Barbara population of the California tiger salamander as an endangered species.

June 11, 2001 – The Center and Citizens for a Sustainable Cotati filed an emergency listing petition under the federal Endangered Species Act for the Sonoma County population of the salamander. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that listing of the species throughout its remaining range was “warranted but precluded.”

January 31, 2002 – After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to respond to the 2001 petition, the Center filed suit to force the Service to list the Sonoma population as endangered on an emergency basis. 

June 11, 2002 – A settlement required the Service to make a determination on the emergency listing and meet timelines for proposed and final listing determinations. 

July 22, 2002 – Subsequently, the Service listed the Sonoma County population on an emergency basis.

March 19, 2003 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Sonoma County California tiger salamander as endangered on a permanent basis. 

May 23, 2003 – The Service issued a proposed rule to list the salamander as threatened throughout its range, including a proposal to downlist the Sonoma and Santa Barbara populations to threatened and adopt a special rule to exempt “routine ranching activities” from Endangered Species Act prohibitions against harming listed species. A lawsuit filed by the Center resulted in a ruling to force the Service to designate critical habitat for the Santa Barbara County California tiger salamander by November of 2004.

2004 – The Center and coalition allies filed a petition to list the salamander under the California Endangered Species Act. 

August 4, 2004 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the central California population as threatened — and illegally changed the status of the Santa Barbara and Sonoma populations from endangered to threatened. It designated 10,071 acres of critical habitat for the tiger salamander in Santa Barbara County and proposed 399,666 acres of critical habitat for the central California population, but gutted almost half of the protected areas, leaving the final critical habitat designation at only 199,109 acres.

2005 – The Center filed suit challenging the 2004 downlisting of the Santa Barbara and Sonoma County populations, as well as the ranching exemption rule proposed in 2003. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service restored those populations’ endangered status and upheld the central California population’s threatened status, but the ranching exemption rule was retained. The Service proposed designating 73,336 acres of critical habitat for the Sonoma County California tiger salamander, but did not include in the proposal any unoccupied salamander habitat — despite the fact that the salamander remained in only seven viable breeding sites. In its final determination, the Service refused to designate any critical habitat for the Sonoma population.

2006 – A judge ordered the California Fish and Game Commission to accept the Center’s petition to consider listing the California tiger salamander under the state Endangered Species Act. 

August 28, 2007 – The Center submitted a notice of intent to sue the Bush administration for inadequate critical habitat designations for the central California and Sonoma salamander populations, along with the failure to grant proper Endangered Species Act protections to 53 other imperiled species. 

September 2, 2008 – The California state appeals court upheld its 2006 ruling that the California Fish and Game Commission must accept the Center’s 2004 petition for state protection of the California tiger salamander. Rather than sending the decision back to the Commission, the court ordered it to directly advance the tiger salamander to candidacy for listing.

October 2, 2008 – The Center sued the Bush administration over six politically tainted Endangered Species Act decisions, including the complete elimination of all critical habitat protections for the Sonoma County California tiger salamander.

February 5, 2009 – The California Fish and Game Commission finally accepted the Center’s state listing petition for the California tiger salamander and declared it a candidate for state protection, to receive the same protection as listed species until the issuance of a final listing decision in 2010.

May 7, 2009 –Thanks to the Center’s 2008 lawsuit, the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to reconsider granting critical habitat for the Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander.

August 18, 2009 – In response to our lawsuit, the Service proposed to designate 74,223 acres of the Santa Rosa Plain as critical habitat for Sonoma County California tiger salamanders.

March 3, 2010 – Six years after the Center’s petition, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-2 to designate the California tiger salamander as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act.

January 15, 2011 – The Fish and Wildlife Service revised its critical habitat proposal for Sonoma County salamanders to leave out some unoccupied areas, reducing the acreage from 74,223 to 50,855.

February 17, 2010 – The Center submitted comments on the revised critical habitat proposal outlining the need for more areas to be protected for the salamander.

April 28, 2011 – The Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Interior Department for failing to develop a recovery plan for the California tiger salamander.

April 10, 2012 – The Center filed a lawsuit against the Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to develop a legally required recovery plan for the California tiger salamander.

December 21, 2012 –  The Center announced a settlement requiring the Service to develop recovery plans for endangered California tiger salamanders. Under the settlement approved by the court the previous week, all three populations of California tiger salamanders would receive final recovery plans within the following five years.

Photo © Frank Schleicher