Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 4, 2023


Sofia Prado-Irwin, (510) 844-7100 x 548,

Western Spadefoot Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protections

OAKLAND, Calif.— In response to a 2012 petition and 11 years of advocacy by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to protect the western spadefoot as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Western spadefoots are small, cryptic amphibians that spend the majority of their lives underground, emerging to breed during autumn and winter rains. The species has historically lived throughout much of California and into northwestern Baja California, Mexico. The Service is proposing to protect both the northern and southern populations, covering the entire range of the species in California.

“I’m thrilled that the Fish and Wildlife Service has recognized the challenges that western spadefoots face, but it shouldn’t have taken 11 years to protect such clearly imperiled creatures,” said Sofia Prado-Irwin, Ph.D., a scientist at the Center. “These fascinating amphibians are being pushed to the brink by poorly planned sprawl and agricultural development, and climate change is heightening their risk of extinction. With Endangered Species Act protections, this little frog will have a chance for survival and recovery.”

Western spadefoots are mostly terrestrial, living in burrows in grasslands and shrublands for much of the year. They rely on adjacent vernal pool habitats — unique seasonal wetlands that support a variety of rare and endemic plants and animals — to breed.

In California’s Central Valley 75% of vernal pools have been lost and pressure to develop remaining vernal pool lands is high. In Southern California more than 80% of western spadefoot habitat has been lost to development.

Western spadefoots are primarily threatened by habitat loss, degradation, alteration and fragmentation as well as climate impacts including extreme drought. They are also harmed by chemical contaminants, nonnative predators, wildfire and noise disturbance.

This proposal is the latest issued by the Service in response to the Center’s 2012 petition to list 53 amphibians and reptiles under the Endangered Species Act. The petition also resulted in the proposed listing of the western pond turtle as threatened earlier this year.

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.

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