For Immediate Release, February 8, 2011
Contact: Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943, firstname.lastname@example.org
Arroyo Toad, Rare Southern California Lily Get Big Increases in Habitat Protection
LOS ANGELES— Responding to legal challenges by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today finalized critical habitat for the arroyo toad and thread-leaved brodiaea — a rare Southern California lily. The designation for the toad includes 98,366 acres in Monterey, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. The designation for the thread-leaved brodiaea includes 2,947 acres in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. The Bush administration tried to designate just 11,695 critical habitat acres for the toad and 597 acres for the brodiaea, but the Center’s legal challenges to both of those decisions led to today’s announcement of far larger areas.
“These dramatic increases in critical habitat give the arroyo toad and thread-leaved brodiaea a chance at survival,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center, which has worked to protect the toad’s habitat since 2000 and the plant’s habitat since 2001.
Currently, only 23 populations of arroyo toads survive, scattered from Monterey to San Diego counties. When the arroyo toad was listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1994, it had lost more than 75 percent of its historic habitat to development, and further reductions have occurred since then due to habitat destruction, hydrological changes, non-native species, mining and agriculture. Now the animals persist only in small, isolated populations in the headwaters of coastal streams. Despite this historic and ongoing loss, the critical habitat was limited to those areas where the species currently occurs.
The brodiaea is threatened by a deadly combination of urban development, off-road vehicles, grazing, and plowing for fire clearance and agricultural conversion. Since the plant was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1998, three entire populations have been extirpated. Although substantially larger than the 597 acres designated by the Bush administration, the current designation still fails to include protection for more than half of existing populations.
“The designations will keep the toad and the lily on life support, but won’t get them out of the emergency room,” said Anderson. “If these unique Southern California species are to truly recover, still more habitat will need to be protected and restored.”
Critical habitat is defined as those areas essential to the conservation of species, which includes areas necessary for both survival and recovery of species. The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to ensure that any actions they authorize, fund or carry out do not damage or destroy critical habitat. A recent scientific study showed that endangered species with critical habitat are twice as likely to recover as species that do not have critical habitat. The Center has challenged dozens of critical habitat designations from the Bush administration, resulting in millions of additional acres being protected for endangered species.
The arroyo toad is a small, dark-spotted amphibian that uses California streams and riverside forests for reproduction, foraging and dispersal. The showy, purple-blue flowers of the brodiaea, a native bulb, are only seen in the early spring in the heavy clay soils that are its preferred habitat. Typically associated with grasslands and vernal pools, the thread-leaved brodiaea remains dormant underground for most of the year.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.