Protection sought for 53 species
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Saying that many amphibians and reptiles are living on the “knife edge” of extinction, conservation advocates last week petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider Endangered Species Act protection for 53 species of snakes, turtles, frogs and salamanders.
“Amphibians and reptiles face a profound, human-driven extinction crisis unlike any other. If we don’t act now, we’ll lose some of our natural world’s most important and fascinating citizens,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a biologist and lawyer with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“We can only save them if they’re protected by the Endangered Species Act,” said Adkins Giese, who specializes in herpetofauna and has worked on trying to get more protection for Colorado’s boreal toads.
The center has some formidable allies in its latest conservation push, as several renowned scientists and herpetologists, including E.O. Wilson and Thomas Lovejoy, joined in asking the federal government to protect the rapidly vanishing species.
“We will get serious — scientists and general public alike — about preserving the diversity of life on Earth only when we have precise knowledge of individual species like those in this petition,” said Edward O. Wilson, a distinguished Harvard biologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. “Future generations will think badly of us if, through ignorance and inaction, we let die this part of their natural heritage,” Wilson said.
The petition is the largest ever filed focusing only on amphibians and reptiles, and asks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect six turtles, seven snakes, two toads, four frogs, 10 lizards and 24 salamanders under the Act.
The detailed petition is backed up by hundreds of scientific articles that detail the status of, and threats to amphibian and reptile species in 45 states.
Habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species and climate change are among the chief threats they face. Some of the species have lost more than 95 percent of their historic habitat.
Among the covered species are the alligator snapping turtle in the Southeast, the wood turtle in the Northeast, Florida’s key ringneck snake, the Illinois chorus frog, the Pacific Northwest’s cascade torrent salamander and California’s western spadefoot toad.
Scientists estimate that a staggering 25 percent of the nation’s amphibians and reptiles are at risk of extinction, but only 58 of the approximately 1,400 U.S. species protected under the Endangered Species Act are amphibians and reptiles.
“So many imperiled species lack the protections of the Endangered Species Act that they need to survive and recover,” said said Thomas Lovejoy, a professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University.
Mass listing is an excellent way to address biodiversity challenges at scale,” said Lovejoy, credited with introducing the term “biological diversity” to the scientific community. He co-authored a recent study finding that 82 percent of U.S. amphibians that need help are not protected under the Endangered Species Act.
“Frogs, lizards, turtles and toads are integral parts of the wild where they live, whether it’s a remote mountain stream or a suburban wetland,” said Adkins Giese. “Losing them will impoverish those places and our own connection with the natural world.”
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, wildlife Tagged: | amphibians, Center for Biological Diversity, E O Wilson, endangered species, endangered species act, reptiles, Thomas Lovejoy, United States Fish and Wildlife Service