Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 5, 2016

Contact: Elise Bennett, (727) 755-6950,

Alabama's Black Warrior Waterdog Proposed for Long-awaited Endangered Species Act
Protection With 669 River Miles of Protected Critical Habitat

One of Rarest Salamanders in United States Threatened by Habitat Destruction, Water Pollution

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.— In response to an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity that expedites protection decisions for 757 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed protecting Black Warrior waterdogs under the Endangered Species Act after the species spent decades languishing on a waiting list. These highly imperiled salamanders, found only in one river basin in Alabama, are on the brink of extinction due to ongoing habitat destruction and water pollution from agricultural and industrial operations.

“I’m thrilled the Black Warrior waterdog is finally on its way to getting the safeguards it deserves,” said Elise Bennett, an attorney at the Center whose work is dedicated to protecting reptiles and amphibians. “These salamanders have waited a long time for Endangered Species Act protection as threats have continued to push them toward extinction.”

The gilled, aquatic salamander, which can grow to nearly 10 inches in length, has been on the candidate list for federal protection since 1982. Candidate species are deemed to warrant protection by the government but do not receive it and instead are placed on a candidate list.

The Center petitioned for the salamander’s protection in 2004 and again in 2010. As a result of a landmark settlement between the Center and Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011, the agency was required to make a decision by the end of this year on whether to protect the waterdog and all of the other species on the 2010 candidate list. So far 176 species have gained protection under the agreement, and another 22 have been proposed for protection.

“Amphibians like the Black Warrior waterdog are ‘indicator species’ that reflect the health of the environments they live in. The sad plight of this unique salamander tells us we have to do a better job protecting the health of their aquatic environments,” said Bennett. “Taking specific steps under the Endangered Species Act to save this species will improve waterways and water quality for waterdogs and people alike.”

The Black Warrior waterdog spends virtually all of its life at the bottom of streams under submerged ledges, logs and rocks. It also exhibits paedomorphism, which means it retains juvenile features, like feathery gills and a tail fin, even after it matures into an adult. One of the most endangered amphibians in the country, its severe decline is the result of river sedimentation and pollution from mining and forestry, poultry farms, cattle feedlots and industrial and residential sewage effluent.

The streams proposed for protection as critical habitat are found in Blount, Cullman, Etowah, Fayette, Jefferson, Lawrence, Marshall, Tuscaloosa, Walker and Winston counties in Alabama. Critical habitat protection requires consultation with the Service for any federally funded or permitted project to make sure the activities do not harm the salamander or its habitat.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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