For Immediate Release, March 3, 2010
Contact: Brian Nowicki, Center for Biological Diversity, (916) 201-6938
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The California Fish and Game Commission today voted 3-2 to designate the California tiger salamander as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act, providing state protected status to the salamander six years after a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity. The decision comes as a result of that petition and lawsuit and a 2008 court of appeals ruling that struck down the Commission’s earlier rejection of the Center’s petition to list the salamander.
“After six years of misguided denial and delay by the California Fish and Game Commission, the tiger salamander is finally getting the protection it deserves and sorely needs,” said Brian Nowicki of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This amazing creature and the highly threatened vernal pools it calls home are precious parts of California’s natural heritage.”
The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Commission in 2004 to list the California tiger salamander as endangered due to the impacts of urban and agricultural development. The Santa Barbara County salamander population has been listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act since 2000, as has the Sonoma County population since 2003. The central California population has been federally listed as threatened since 2004.
The California Fish and Game Commission had rejected the petition in 2004, falsely claiming the document did not contain all the data necessary to prove the salamander population deserved protection. The Center filed suit, and the Commission was forced by court order and a state appeals-court ruling in September 2008 to accept the petition. The state Supreme Court refused the Commission’s request to review the appeals court ruling. In 2009, the Commission voted 3-2 to designate the salamander a candidate for listing, beginning a one-year review of the species.
The California tiger salamander depends on ephemeral vernal pools for breeding. In recent decades, 95 percent of California’s vernal pools have been lost, and at least 75 percent of the salamander’s habitat throughout the state has been eliminated. In Sonoma County, 95 percent of the fragmented and minimal remaining salamander habitat is threatened by development; the Santa Barbara population is also on the verge of extinction. The Sonoma population survives in only seven viable breeding sites and the Santa Barbara population consists of only six breeding groups.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.