LAS VEGAS— In response to a February 2008 scientific petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is launching a full status review to determine whether the Amargosa toad warrants protections under the Endangered Species Act. Among the many threats to the toad are loss of habitat from development, harm from off-road vehicle use, groundwater depletions caused by mining, possible poorly sited solar-energy development, and harm from nonnative species such as crayfish and bullfrogs.
“The Amargosa toad has been known to warrant protection as an endangered species since 1977,” said Rob Mrowka, an ecologist and conservation advocate with the Center. “We are very pleased that the toad is one step closer to the protection it needs to survive.”
The Amargosa toad is only found in a short segment of the Amargosa River in the Mojave Desert near Beatty, Nevada, where springs create marsh and riparian habitat required by the toad. It is isolated from other toad species by at least 35 miles, making it a unique endemic species.
“Since these toads were first recognized as needing protection, threats to them have only increased,” said Mrowka. “A growing human population, increased demand for water, and climate change place the toad in immediate danger of extinction.”
Groundwater developments pose a significant threat to the continued existence of the Amargosa toad. The Nevada state engineer, in Ruling 4669, has found that there is a high degree of interconnectivity between groundwater and surface water in the Oasis Valley basin. State law currently allows residents to pump up to 1,800 gallons per day from the groundwater aquifer without a permit, leading to unmeasured burdens on the aquifer. The Reward Mine and proposed solar-energy projects further add to the groundwater demands, all in a basin the state engineer has previously found to be over-appropriated.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy filed groundwater applications in the Oasis Valley for the Yucca Mountain project. The Center protested these applications on behalf of the toad.
"The good news is the Amargosa toad will get a fresh look for stronger protection, but the bad news is the toad and its Amargosa River habitat are not doing well after 32 years of delaying full conservation,” said Daniel Patterson, Southwest director of PEER, who formerly worked with the Bureau of Land Management in the Mojave Desert. “Endangered Species Act listing for the toad should be welcomed, not feared, as it will finally bring long-overdue focus and resources to protect and recover the toad, and the rich scenic landscape it inhabits, for future generations and a stronger desert web of life.”