Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
places of western North America
June 12, 2001
GROUPS FILE EMERGENCY ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT LISTING PETITION FOR SONOMA COUNTY POPULATION OF THE CALIFORNIA TIGER SALAMANDER
Petition demonstrates that the species is in imminent danger of extinction and merits immediate emergency listing.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander is one of seven populations of the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) statewide. Recent genetics work indicates that the Sonoma County population may properly be considered a separate species. Under the ESA, both species and distinct population segments ("DPSs") of vertebrate species can be listed. The Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander warrants listing either as a separate species or as a DPS. Last year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listed the Santa Barbara population of the California tiger salamander on an emergency basis as a DPS.
"The Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander is one of the most imperiled species in the United States," said Kassie Siegel, an attorney with the Center and the primary author of the petition. "The Fish & Wildlife Service's inaction has ushered this species to the brink of extinction. This petition will force the agency to act to protect it."
Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander was distributed
throughout the Santa Rosa Plain and adjacent lowlands in Sonoma County,
and may have ranged into southern Marin and Napa counties. The species
breeds primarily in vernal pools and swales, unique ecosystems that are
inundated by winter rains and dry completely by summer. The California
tiger salamander spends most of its lifecycle underground in adjacent
valley oak woodland or grassland habitat. Research has shown that dispersing
juveniles can roam up to two miles from their breeding ponds and that
a minimum of 480 acres of uplands habitat is needed surrounding a breeding
pond in order for the species to survive over the long term.
The species is threatened in the west Cotati area from the proposed South Sonoma Business Park, a massive strip-mall type development that will completely pave some of the last known breeding pools in the area and approximately 35 acres of adjacent habitat. The Draft Environmental Impact Report for the project, prepared pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA") denied that the species occurred on the site. Then, after an enormous public outcry including testimony from scientific experts on the species, 37 California tiger salamander larvae were discovered on the site. The larvae were removed from the site prior to project approval, in violation of CEQA. These actions may have already jeopardized the continued survival of the species in the west Cotati area. The Cotati City Council hears an appeal of the South Sonoma Business Park Project approval by the Center and Citizens for a Sustainable Cotati on Wednesday, June 13th at 7:00 p.m.
oppose the South Sonoma Business Park Project because of the harm it will
cause to the California tiger salamander and to the environment,"
said Sally Tomlinson, one of the founders of Citizens for a Sustainable
Cotati. "We believe that this project should not be approved, and
that the site should be protected as part of a larger ecological preserve
for the California tiger salamander, other sensitive species, and for
Today's petition is filed pursuant to the emergency listing provisions of the ESA that require the Service to promptly act to protect any Warranted but Precluded or "Candidate" species that faces a significant risk. Because the petition is filed under the emergency listing provisions of the ESA, it will not be affected by the Services' self-proclaimed "moratorium" on species listing. The Service has money set aside for emergency listings in 2001. "It shouldn't take a lawsuit to get this species listed," said Kassie Siegel, "but if the Service does not act promptly, we will file suit in U.S. District Court to compel action."
The Extinction Rider, a recent legislative attempt promoted by the Bush Administration and Gale Norton to remove the ability of public interest organizations and individuals to sue the government to compel the timely listing of species, was removed from an appropriations bill last week in the face of massive popular opposition.