BOSTON— In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that the green salamander, spotted turtle and Blanding’s turtle may qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Center first petitioned for these species – and dozens of other amphibians and reptiles – in July 2012 because habitat loss and other factors are threatening their survival.
“These turtles and salamanders are irreplaceable parts of the wild where they live, whether it’s a remote mountain stream or a suburban wetland,” said Collette Adkins, a Center biologist and lawyer who works to protect amphibians and reptiles. “Losing them will impoverish those places and our own connection with the natural world.”
Due to habitat destruction, toxic pesticides and other human causes, scientists estimate 1 in 4 amphibians and reptiles is at risk of dying out. This loss is alarming because the animals play important roles as predators and prey in their ecosystems and are valuable indicators of environmental health.
“There’s broad scientific consensus that amphibians and reptiles face a profound, human-driven extinction crisis that requires prompt action,” said Adkins. “The Endangered Species Act has a nearly perfect record of stopping animals from going extinct – it’s hands-down our best tool for saving rare amphibians and reptiles.”
The Center was joined in its petition for these three species and dozens of other amphibians and reptiles by several renowned scientists and herpetologists, including E.O. Wilson, Thomas Lovejoy and Michael Lannoo. And more than 200 scientists sent a letter asking the Service to review the status of the petitioned animals.
Today’s “90-day finding” is the first in a series of required decisions on the petition and simply required the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether the petition presents sufficient information to warrant further consideration, a process that requires few agency resources. The next step is a full status review of the species by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Spotted Turtles (Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, West Virginia): A small, black turtle with yellow spots on its smooth shell, the spotted turtle is an attractive animal that’s another unfortunate favorite in the pet trade. It ranges from southern Ontario and Maine southward from the Atlantic coastal plain and piedmont to northern Florida and westward through Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, central Ohio, northern Indiana and Michigan to northeastern Illinois. The turtle has likely suffered a 50 percent overall reduction in population size, with much of this loss irreversible because of habitat loss.
Green Salamanders (Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia): While the range of the green salamander encompasses the entire Appalachian region, it exists only in habitat fragments with remaining populations experiencing extirpations and significant declines. The only member of the “climbing family” of salamanders east of the Rocky Mountains, green salamanders are found on rock outcrops and in arboreal habitats. During the spring and summer, breeding females require cool and moist narrow crevices in which to suspend their eggs, and in fall, the salamanders congregate near deep rock crevices for use during winter hibernation. The salamanders are threatened by logging, road construction, mountaintop removal mining, impoundments, overcollection for the pet trade and climate change.
Blanding’s Turtles (Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin): This medium-to-large turtle is targeted by the pet trade because of its beautiful yellow chin and throat. It once ranged through much of the Great Lakes region and the northeastern United States, but the only large remaining populations are found in Minnesota and Nebraska. Blanding’s turtles have suffered extensive declines from habitat loss, road mortality and intense predation on eggs and hatchlings.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
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