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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Bush Era Critical Habitat|Designations Revised

WASHINGTON (CN) - Thousands of acres have been added to critical habitat designations for the endangered arroyo toad and a rare cluster-lily, after legal challenges from the Center for Biological Diversity.

The environmental activist group objected the habitat designations of these two species along with 54 species' listing decisions, status reviews and critical habitat designations made during the George W. Bush administration, according to revisions announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The arroyo toad has an additional 86,000 acres of designated critical habitat in central and southern California protected under the Endangered Species Act, and the cluster lily, called Bordiaea filifolia, has had 2,400 acres of Orange, Riverside and San Diego Counties added to the 597 acres listed in its 2005 designation.

In 2005, the agency designated critical habitat that encompassed only the 11,695 acres where the arroyo toad was known to exist at that time even though the species had lost more than 75 percent of it its historic range to development, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

The bordiaea's 2005 listing excluded land already protected by state and local conservation plans and the revision includes those areas. Even with the new additions, less than half of the land where the bordiaea is known to occur is protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Though the revised designations are considerable in size, the Center for Biological Diversity's Ileene Anderson - the lead attorney on the group's 2007 challenge to Bush era designations - said they are not enough.

"The designations will keep the toad and the lily on life support, but won't get them out of the emergency room if these unique Southern California species are to truly recover, still more habitat will need to be protected and restored." Anderson said in a prepared statement.

Both species are subject to the usual culprits of environmental demise in southern California; urbanization resulting in habitat destruction and fires.

While wildfires have always been part of the environmental conditions in the area, the frequency and severity of fires have increased in the last decade, and the measures taken to fight the fires have had a significant negative impact, particularly for the arroyo toad.

"Direct mortality to arroyo toads can result from construction of fuelbreaks and safety zones in stream terraces where arroyo toads are burrowed," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in its habitat revision.

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