For Immediate Release, August 19, 2021

Contact:

Ileene Anderson, (323) 490-0223, ianderson@biologicaldiversity.org

Lawsuit Launched to Stop Destruction of Endangered Amargosa Vole’s California Habitat

TECOPA, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect critical habitat for Amargosa voles. The small, endangered mammals live only in marshes near increasingly popular desert hot springs in the Mojave Desert near Tecopa, Calif.

“These desert hot springs are this little vole’s only home in the world, but the federal government is ignoring the fact that tourists are running amok here,” said Ileene Anderson, deserts director and a senior scientist at the Center. “We’re in the midst of a wildlife extinction crisis, and the Amargosa vole is one of the most endangered small mammals on the continent. The voles need more protection or they’ll be driven extinct.”

Decades of habitat loss from groundwater pumping have caused the voles’ numbers to plummet to less than 100 individuals at times. The animals rely on water from natural hot springs to survive. Over the past decade, the springs have become an increasingly popular tourist destination, but federal agencies have failed to ensure that the voles and their habitat are protected.

Today’s notice says the BLM and Fish and Wildlife Service are violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to analyze the potential harms to Amargosa voles from increased recreation and groundwater pumping and failing to prevent degradation of their protected habitat.

The vole was listed as endangered under California law in 1980. In 1984 the Fish and Wildlife Service designated critical habitat for the vole after giving it protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The notice contains extensive documentation of recreational disturbances in the voles’ habitat, including unattended campfires, dogs roaming the area off leash, unauthorized use of off-highway vehicles, and people collecting mud and spring water to sell.

Concerned citizens have been monitoring the area for seven years. They’ve documented around-the-clock use of the hot springs, including by groups of more than 30 people. Tour buses, including the famous Green Tortoise, have been seen unloading tourists at the site. Dozens of websites provide detailed directions and instructions on how to access the springs.

“The federal government has invested millions of dollars in the conservation of this incredibly rare animal,” said Anderson. “It’s absurd that people are allowed to run roughshod over this delicate, imperiled habitat that has only recently been restored. The Amargosa vole has been saved from extinction through heroic efforts. We need to ensure that recreational use isn’t destroying all that hard work while the agencies twiddle their thumbs and look the other way.”

RSArmagosa_vole_Don_Preisler_UC_Davis_School_of_Veterinary_Medicine_CC_BY_NC-scr.jpg
Amargosa vole. Photo credit: Don Preisler, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine via U.S. Bureau of Land Management Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.