Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places of western North America
and the Pacific through science, policy, education, and environmental law.

July 5, 2001


Petition demonstrates that the species merits immediate emergency listing.

Contact: Kassie Siegel (510) 841-0812
More Information: California Tiger Salamander, Amphibians, Goldenstate Biodiversity Initiative

July 5, 2001, the Center for Biological Diversity ("Center") filed a listing petition under the California Endangered Species Act ("CESA") for the California tiger salamander. The petition demonstrates that the species warrants immediate listing as an endangered species and that the California Fish & Game Commission should act promptly protect the species.

The California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) was historically distributed throughout most of the Central Valley, adjacent foothills, Coast Ranges, and the Santa Rosa Plain in Sonoma County. This amphibian requires seasonal ponds, or vernal pools, for successful breeding. The species breeds during the winter rainy season, but spends the majority of the year in underground refuges, primarily abandoned rodent burrows, in grassland or oak woodland habitat.

The primary reason for the decline of the species and the current threat to its continued survival is habitat destruction due to urban and agricultural development. The habitat types the California tiger salamander requires, vernal pools, grasslands, and oak woodlands, are some of the most endangered habitat types in California. It has been estimated that less than one tenth of one percent of California's native grasslands remain, and approximately 95% of California's vernal pool landscape has already been lost. Available habitat for the species throughout its range has been eliminated in recent decades by at least 75%. The core area for the species is the Livermore Valley area in the East Bay, which has undergone explosive urban development in recent years.

The California tiger salamander is also threatened by other factors such as habitat fragmentation, road mortality, introduced species, and agricultural contaminants. Major projects that threaten the species include the proposed Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion, the proposed U.C. Merced Campus at the Lake Yosemite site outside of Merced, and the South Sonoma Business Park in Cotati.

"The Fish & Game Commission should act immediately to protect the California tiger salamander," said Kassie Siegel, Associate Attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity and the primary author of the Petition. "This species is a major part of California's precious natural heritage. Its last remaining habitat should not be sacrificed to make room for yet another strip mall or sprawling residential development."

Most recently, the Center petitioned the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list the Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander under the federal Endangered Species Act on an emergency basis as a distinct population segment, or "DPS." Last year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listed the Santa Barbara population of the California tiger salamander on an emergency basis as a DPS. The species statewide has been listed as "Warranted but Precluded" by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife since 1994, a designation meaning that the species should be listed but that the agency is precluded from doing so by its refusal to request sufficient funds from Congress to run the listing program.

The Petition for listing as an endangered species under CESA was submitted today to the California Fish & Game Commission. Under state law, the Commission must refer the Petition to the Department of Fish and Game ("CDFG") for a finding as to whether the listing is warranted. CDFG must make a recommendation within 90 days of receipt of the petition, and the Fish & Game Commission will make the final determination shortly thereafter. Because the species faces a significant threat to its continued survival, particularly in Sonoma County, the Center has requested the Fish and Game Commission to exercise its discretion to adopt an emergency regulation to protect the species immediately.

"We are hopeful that the Fish and Game Commission will act promptly," said Kassie Siegel. "The biological case for listing this species could not be any more clear."

The Center for Biological Diversity has approximately 6000 members throughout California and the west and is dedicated to the preservation of native species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.

A Photo and further information regarding California tiger salamander is available online at


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