Agency to Reduce Toad Habitat
Washington, D.C. - 5/5/04 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is planning some habitat reform itself by reducing the critical habitat designation of the arroyo toad by 43,647 acres.
The FWS was ordered by a Washington D. C. judge to rework its 2001 critical habitat plans following a lawsuit by the building industry.
The FWS admits that reducing critical habitat won't have much impact on the toad. "Overall, I think the species is relatively stable," said Creed Clayton, biologist with the FWS. Peter Galvin, California director of the Center for Biological Diversity said, "It appears that this proposal will not prevent the extinction of the species," and promised another lawsuit if the proposal is adopted.
"We believe the Bush administration continues to do everything it can to undermine endangered species recovery," he droned.
However, according FWS's proposal, the toad population in that area has survived to despite decades of military use and, in fact, they have concluded that critical habitat designation is not an effective tool to protect species."In 30 years of implementing the Endangered Species Act...we have found that the designation of statutory critical habitat provides little additional protection to most listed species," the agency said.
Federal proposal for Calif toad would cut habitat by 40,000 acres
Wednesday April 28, 2004
LOS ANGELES (AP) Federal officials want to remove more than 40,000 acres of California land from the critical-habitat list for the arroyo toad but the plan would have little impact on the survival of the endangered species, a biologist said Wednesday.
The proposal won't provide ``any dramatic change'' to the toad's survival, said Creed Clayton, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Much of it is based on more precise mapping of the 23 areas where they live to exclude urban regions where the toads don't breed anyway, he said.
The wildlife agency is under court order to replace a 2001 critical-habitat plan that was struck down two years ago by a judge in Washington, D.C., in a lawsuit brought by the building industry.
``There has been no critical habitat in place since that time,'' Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Lois Grunwald said.
July 30 is the deadline to finalize the new plan, which first will undergo public comment. An economic analysis of the plan's impact also is in the works.
The arroyo toad is a 3-inch buff-colored amphibian that lives in and around streams in coastal and desert areas of Southern California and Mexico's Baja California. It's unclear how many toads remain, scientists say, but the species has lost about 75 percent of its historical habitat because of urban development, farming, mining, dams and the introduction of nonnative species such as bullfrogs that prey on it, federal officials said.
``Overall, I think the species is relatively stable'' even though its habitat is much reduced, said Clayton, the federal biologist.
In a proposal published in Wednesday's Federal Register, the wildlife service said it would designate 138,713 acres of critical habitat for the toad in portions of Monterey, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.
The proposal would remove 43,647 acres that were in the original habitat designation.
That angered Peter Galvin, California and Pacific director of the Center for Biological Diversity, which had fought for the original 2001 designation.
``We believe that the Bush administration continues to do everything it can to undermine endangered species recovery,'' he said.
``It appears that this proposal will not prevent the extinction of the species'' and the center will look at legal action if it goes through, Galvin said.
Some of the land is at Fort Hunter Liggett in Monterey County and is considered essential to military training missions, according to the federal proposal.
However, the toad population in that area has survived there despite decades of military use, it added.
Clayton said about a fifth of the excluded land, mostly in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties, is or will be covered by habitat conservation plans. Such plans permit development projects that destroy habitat and harm threatened or endangered species to proceed if the developer agrees to set aside other land or otherwise mitigate the damage.
Galvin called such plans ``a license to kill endangered species.''
But federal wildlife officials contend they are a better conservation tool than designating critical habitat. The agency, which has fought many court battles over such designations, says they provide no additional protections to the species and affect private landowners only when federal permits are required.
Last year, the service began inserting new language into its critical-habitat action plans that are published in the Federal Register.
``In 30 years of implementing the Endangered Species Act ... we have found that the designation of statutory critical habitat provides little additional protection to most listed species,'' the agency said.
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