The Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padres Forest Watch today petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish critical habitat for the endangered and declining San Joaquin kit fox. While the species has been protected under the Endangered Species Act for more than 40 years, it continues to decline in the face of habitat loss.
Establishing critical habitat will protect the limited areas where kit fox still persist and provide additional areas for the animals to spread to, making recovery possible.
“Establishing critical habitat for the kit fox is absolutely key to stopping its spiral toward extinction,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center. “Existing conservation mechanisms are clearly not working. The Fish and Wildlife Service has the obligation to protect crucial lands so kit foxes can survive and recover.”
The San Joaquin kit fox, the smallest member of the fox family at about five pounds, used to range throughout California’s San Joaquin Valley. Conversion of natural grassland and shrubland habitats to agriculture, oil and gas production, and other development has eliminated much of the fox’s living space. Currently the animals are clinging to a tenuous existence along the edges of the San Joaquin Valley, with only three remaining core habitat areas: western Kern County, the Carrizo Plain and Ciervo-Panoche Valley.
In addition to habitat destruction, kit foxes suffer from rodenticide and pesticide poisoning. Recently proposed, poorly sited industrial solar developments also threaten some of the last remaining core habitat zones. A recent Fish and Wildlife Service review of the status of the fox found population declines and local extirpations with no signs of recovery.
A recent study shows that species with critical habitat designations for two or more years are more than twice as likely to have an improving population trend and less than half as likely to be declining.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.