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Center for Biological Diversity:
Amphibian and Reptile Extinction Crisis

The Mississippi Press, March 10, 2015

More than 330,000 acres of critical habitat proposed for black pine snakes in Mississippi, Alabama
By Mark Heim

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposedto protect 338,100 acres of critical habitat in Mississippi and Alabama for black pine snakes.

Thesoutheastern, longleaf pine forests have been reduced to less than 5 percent of their historic extent.

According to a release from the Center of Biological Diversity, the snake depends on these forests, which are being lost to agriculture and pine plantations, fire suppression and urbanization.

The rule announced today proposes to protect 338,100 acres in Forrest, George, Greene, Harrison, Jones, Marion, Perry, Stone and Wayne counties in Mississippi and in Clarke County, Alabama.

Federal lands make up more than 70 percent of the proposed protected acreage. The critical habitat proposal follows the Service's October 2014 proposal to list the black pine snake as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

In the range of the black pine snake, longleaf pine is now largely confined to isolated patches on private land and the DeSoto National Forest in Brooklyn, Mississippi.

"Destruction of the South's longleaf pine forests is driving native wildlife toward extinction," the Center's Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist focused on the protection of rare reptiles and amphibians, said in a release. "Habitat protections for this beautiful snake will safeguard its future, along with the future of the South's last longleaf pine forests.

"Designation of critical habitat is absolutely necessary for the survival of the black pine snake.Like the red cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and dozens of other wildlife species in the Southeast, the black pine snake depends on longleaf pine forests. The South is losing its natural heritage through the destruction of this critically endangered ecosystem."


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This article originally appeared here.

Jeffrey pine photo by John Villinski.