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For Immediate Release, July 9, 2009

Contact:  Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943

Critically Endangered Buena Vista Lake Ornate Shrew Granted a Reprieve From Extinction

Bakersfield, Calif.— As a result of a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed today to review and redesignate habitat that is critical for the survival and recovery of the one of the most endangered mammals on the planet – the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew.

The agency had, under the Bush administration, proposed only 4,649 acres of critical habitat for the shrew in 2004, which it further slashed to a meager and unsustainable 84 acres in 2005. This move was typical of the administration, which adamantly opposed protecting species under the Endangered Species Act. Indeed, the administration protected only 62 species in eight years, compared to 522 species protected under the Clinton administration. 

Today’s settlement requires that the agency repropose the 4,649 acres within the next 90 days and issue a final designation of the critical habitat on or before March 22, 2012. Until that date, the current designation of 84 acres remains in place.

“This settlement is an important victory for the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew and California’s invaluable wetlands in the arid San Joaquin Valley,” said Ileene Anderson, ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agreement requires that the agency that is supposed to be protecting this rare mammal take a hard look at what is needed – not only to keep this unique animal from extinction, but to increase the population to levels that ensure its survival.”

The Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew is currently only known found in four locations scattered along a 70-mile stretch of the western edge of Kern County. It can only survive in moist soils under dense lakeside forests.

Since it was first identified by scientists in 1932, the diminutive, insect-eating shrew has been declining because its habitat has been nearly eliminated by agribusiness and development. The shrew formerly inhabited nearly 1 million acres of wetlands and riparian forests that ringed the massive Tulare, Buena Vista, Kern, and Goose lakes in the southern Central Valley; today, 95 percent of the wetlands and streamside forests in this area have been destroyed. Of the 57,000 acres left of potential shrew habitat, only a small percentage is contiguous enough for the shrew to survive. Along with outright habitat destruction, the shrew population is also threatened by water diversions, agricultural expansion, pesticide spraying, selenium poisoning, and drought.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 220,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild lands.


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