Agency reaches settlement over threatened animals, herbs

The Associated Press
Thursday August 30, 2001


WASHINGTON — Help is coming for the Tumbling Creek cavesnail, relegated to a single cave in Missouri; for Washington state’s showy stickseed herb; for the Mississippi gopher frog, found only in the state’s Harrison County; and for the remaining dozens of pygmy rabbits. 

The Interior Department said Wednesday it has negotiated a deal to avert a legal challenge from three conservation groups by speeding up federal protection for those four species and 25 other rare creatures and plants. 

Under the agreement, Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service will review three species immediately – the cavesnail, pygmy rabbit and the Carson wandering skipper butterfly, found only in California and Nevada – as emergency candidates for the endangered and threatened species lists. 

The agency said it will make final decisions on 14 other species and map critical habitats for another eight species, including the Gila chub in New Mexico and Arizona, and for four freshwater snails in New Mexico. The fate of the Gila chub, a small fish, already is the subject of a lawsuit. 

In addition, the agency promised to issue findings within a year on four other species that groups have petitioned to have listed as endangered or threatened and their critical habitats defined. 

“I hope this can be a model for future agreements,” said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Her department includes the Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees protection programs for inland fish and land species. 

The preliminary agreement would head off expected lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity, Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project and the California Native Plant Society. 

A final settlement must be approved by a federal judge acting on advice from Interior and Justice Department officials. 

According to Fish and Wildlife, all the species for which final listing decisions are promised face significant threats. Others among them are: 

• Ohlone tiger beetle of California, found only in Santa Cruz County and thinning due to urban growth and nonnative vegetation. 

• Spalding’s catchfly herb of Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington and British Columbia, Canada, a carnation dwindling because of habitat loss and trampling by livestock. 

• San Diego ambrosia of southern California, a perennial threatened by highway construction and trampling by horses and humans. 

—Mountain yellow-legged frog of southern California, mysteriously disappearing from 99 percent of its former mountain habitat possibly due to predation by trout introduced to the area or by air pollution. 

—Coastal cutthroat trout of Washington and Oregon, nearly extinct in two rivers and facing habitat loss, hatcheries and overharvesting. 

—Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew of California, of which only about 40 have been sighted, near Bakersfield; it is endangered by agriculture, altered stream use and possible selenium poisoning. 

—Chiricahua leopard frog of Arizona and New Mexico, populations few and scattered and threatened by loss of wetlands and disease. 

—Scaleshell mussel of Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, found only in 13 streams along the Mississippi River basin and facing poor water quality, sand and gravel mining, reservoir construction and river dredging. 

—Vermilion darter of Alabama, a small fish just 3 inches long and surviving in just 7.2 miles of creeks in Jefferson County due to altered stream use and pollutants. 

—Golden sedge of North Carolina, limited to two counties and endangered by industrial development, mining and agriculture. 

—Holmgren milk-vetch and Shivwits milk-vetch herbs of Utah and Arizona, found in just two counties and disturbed by urban growth, off-road vehicles and livestock grazing. 


On the Net: Fish and Wildlife endangered species program: http://endangered.fws.gov 

Center for Biological Diversity: http://www.sw-center.org/swcbd/