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WildEarth Guardians Puts Feds on Notice As Salamander Gets Critical Habitat

November 20, 2013
Bryan Bird (505) 699-4719
In This Release
Rivers, Wildlife   Jemez Mountains salamander
#EndTheWarOnWildlife, #EndangeredSpeciesAct
Albuquerque – On the day that 90,716 acres were protected for the Jemez Mountains salamander, WildEarth Guardians filed notice of intent to sue the Santa Fe National Forest for its failure to protect the animal from off roaders and other activities. WildEarth Guardians has sought protection for this salamander that occurs in only one place in the world since 2008. Today, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service designated critical habitat in Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, and Sandoval Counties, New Mexico.

“This little animal has withstood fire, logging, off-roaders and now an uncertain threat from climate change,” Said Bryan Bird a biologist with WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe. “The least we can do is provide refuge from the impacts we can control.”

In accordance with the 60-day notice requirement of the Endangered Species Act,

WildEarth Guardians told the U.S. Forest Service that it intends to sue for failing to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concerning the effects of its actions on the Jemez Mountains salamander and its critical habitat. The actions include: the Land and Resource Management Plan for the Santa Fe National Forest; the Jemez National Recreation Area Management Plan; the Motorized Travel Management Plan; the Southwest Jemez Mountains Landscape Restoration Project and reconstruction of Highway 126 in the Santa Fe National Forest.

“Because the salamander occurs in only one place in the entire world, we have an elevated responsibility to protect its habitat.” Said Bird. “Motorcycles have created their own tracks across salamander habitat and are causing impacts to water quality. The Santa Fe National Forest just rubber stamped these user-created trails.”

For example, the Forest Road 188-complex is an interconnected system of motorized routes and old logging roads in upper Medio Dia Canyon. The complex includes 3.8 miles of unauthorized, user-created motorcycle routes. The complex of routes crosses streams and their tributaries in Bland and Medio Dia Canyons 40 times, significantly impairing water quality and degrading aquatic habitat, including habitat for a small population of Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The FR 188 complex also occurs in Essential and Occupied (now critical) Jemez Mountain salamander habitat that is crucial for the long-term persistence (i.e. survival) of viable salamander populations. According to the New Mexico Endemic Salamander Team. The FR 188 complex fragments terrestrial salamander habitat and contributes to degradation of habitat from erosion and soil compaction. Forest Road 282 is also in Essential and Occupied (now critical) Jemez Mountain salamander habitat. According to the New Mexico Endemic Salamander Team, FR 282 (routes in the “Ridge Trail” complex) fragments terrestrial salamander habitat, contributing to degradation from soil erosion and compaction.

The salamander was listed as endangered on October 10, 2013 and critical habitat was designated on November 20, 2013. 78 Fed. Reg. 55,600 and 69,569.