For Immediate Release, October 20, 2009
Contact: Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943, firstname.lastname@example.org
Highly Endangered Buena Vista Lake Ornate Shrew to Get 55 Times More Critical Habitat
BAKERSFIELD, Calif.— Responding to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today published a new critical habitat proposal for one of the most endangered mammals on the planet – the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew. The new proposal includes 4,649 acres of critical habitat – an increase of 55 times over a 2005 designation by the Bush administration, which included a meager, fragmented, and unsustainable 84 acres.
“If the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew is to avoid extinction, it needs a lot more than 84 acres of critical habitat,” said Ileene Anderson, biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Today’s proposal puts this charming little mammal on the road to recovery.”
Due to the dramatic loss of once-vast wetlands in the San Joaquin Valley, where the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew was once abundant, the species is currently only found in four locations scattered along a 70-mile stretch of the western edge of Kern County. The shrew can only survive in moist soils under dense lakeside forests. According to a settlement agreement between the Center and the agency, a final designation will be issued on or before March 22, 2012.
“We are encouraged by the dramatic increase in protected habitat for the shrew proposed by the Obama administration, and we hope they’ll keep all these acres in the final designation,” said Anderson. “You can’t protect a species as endangered as the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew without protecting the places it lives.”
The lawsuit is part of a larger effort on the part of the Center to undo politically tainted decisions by the Bush administration that minimized protections for endangered species. Overall, the Center for Biological Diversity has sued to overturn Bush-era decisions covering 52 species, including a number of other Southern California species – the California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, and Santa Ana sucker, for instance. To date, the Obama administration has been settling the majority of these suits by agreeing to reconsider decisions that limited protection for endangered species.
“The Bush administration did its utmost to ensure that endangered species like the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew received as little protection as possible,” said Anderson. “Today’s proposal is part of the long process of cleaning up the mess created by the previous administration.”
Since it was first identified by scientists in 1932, the diminutive, insect-eating shrew has been declining because its habitat has been nearly eliminated by agribusiness and development. The shrew formerly inhabited nearly 1 million acres of wetlands and riparian forests that ringed the massive Tulare, Buena Vista, Kern, and Goose lakes in the southern Central Valley; today, 95 percent of the wetlands and streamside forests in this area have been destroyed. Of the 57,000 acres left of potential shrew habitat remaining, only a small percentage is contiguous enough for the shrew to survive. Along with outright habitat destruction, the shrew population is also threatened by water diversions, agricultural expansion, pesticide spraying, selenium poisoning, and drought.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 240,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild lands.