Sonoma County Population of California Tiger Salamander to Receive Critical Habitat Protection

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Sonoma County Population of California Tiger Salamander to Receive Critical Habitat Protection

SAN FRANCISCO - In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological
Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to reconsider
critical habitat for the Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander. In 2005, the Bush administration reduced proposed critical habitat acreage for the species from 74,000 to zero.

“The California tiger salamander in Sonoma County will finally receive
the protection it desperately needs to survive,” said Noah Greenwald,
biodiversity program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“The designation of zero acres of critical habitat for the salamander
was characteristic of the Bush administration’s total disregard for the
law and the nation’s wildlife.”

The Center brought
the lawsuit as part of a larger campaign to overturn politically
tainted decisions by the Bush administration concerning endangered
species. To date, the Center has challenged decisions denying listing
or providing inadequate critical habitat for 45 species in 28 states,
affecting as much as 8 million acres of critical habitat. Many of the
illegal decisions, including the decision over critical habitat for the
salamander were engineered by former Deputy Assistant Secretary for
Fish and Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald, who resigned in disgrace
following a scathing investigation by the inspector general of
misconduct at the Department of the Interior.

“The
Bush administration is gone, but cleaning up the mess they made in the
endangered species program will take years,” said Greenwald.

In the case of the salamander, the administration with help from
MacDonald overruled agency scientists, who had originally proposed
74,000 acres for protection, and slashed critical habitat to zero
acres. To justify elimination of critical habitat, the administration
argued that only occupied habitat should be considered critical, which
included somewhat over 17,000 acres, and then excluded all of this
habitat based on a “Santa Rosa Plain Conservation Strategy,” which has
yet to be adopted or funded. The salamander once occupied the entirety
of the Santa Rosa Plain, but today is found in only a handful of
locations, where it faces severe threats from urban sprawl.

“The Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander is on
the brink of extinction and needs protection for its habitat to have
any chance of survival,” said Greenwald.

The
Center’s lawsuits have largely been successful with the Fish and
Wildlife Service agreeing to date to redo critical habitat designations
for 18 species, including now the salamander.

For more information about the Center’s campaign to clean up the Bush endangered species legacy see:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/cleaning_up_the_bush_legacy/index.html

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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