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Two salamander species win Endangered Species Act protection

Habitat destruction, including by ever more frequent wildfires, led the feds to protect two of three petitioned species.

(CN) — After a 10-year legal battle between the Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, two species of salamander won federal protections under the Endangered Species Act on Monday.

“I’m so glad these two secretive, slender salamanders are finally on track to get the protection they need to survive,” Tiffany Yap, senior scientist from the center, said in a statement. “Protecting these salamanders will help preserve the seeps and streams that provide clean water for wildlife and people alike.”

The center initially submitted a petition to Fish and Wildlife in 2012 to protect three species of salamander: the Kern Canyon slender salamander, the relictual slender salamander and the Kern Plateau salamander. However, only the first two species will be listed as threatened and endangered, respectively.

As part of the Fish and Wildlife proposal, the government will protect 2,051 acres of critical habitat for the Kern Canyon slender salamander — found near Sequoia National Park — and 2,685 acres for the relictual slender salamander. Both species are now found in fewer than 12 states now due to habitat destruction.

According to previous briefs from the center, the Kern Canyon species was first identified as needing protection in 1982. On Monday, Fish and Wildlife decided to list the species as threatened as it “is facing threats due to grazing, recreation, fire, and climate change, and that these threats will increase such that the species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future."

The relictual slender salamander — first identified as needing protection in 1994 — is lost from California’s Lower Kern River Canyon due to road construction, according to the center.

“We have determined that the relictual slender salamander is facing threats from roads, grazing, fire, timber harvest, and hazard tree removal that put the species in danger of extinction throughout all of its range,” wrote Fish and Wildlife, adding: “The relictual slender salamander exists in a very narrow area in a limited ecological setting, and a single catastrophic event could result in extinction of the species. Therefore, we are proposing to list it as an endangered species.”

As for the Kern Plateau salamander, Fish and Wildlife considers it distributed throughout its historical range and not at risk for extinction.

“Few may ever be fortunate enough to see one of these intriguing salamanders, but their habitat is important, and they play a crucial role in the web of life, helping to control insect populations and providing prey to other animals,” Yap said of the protected species. “We can’t allow these unique salamanders be lost to our own carelessness.”

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