For Immediate Release
April 1, 1999

Contact: Tom MacKenzie
404/679-7291

FLATWOODS SALAMANDER RECEIVES

ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT PROTECTION

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today listed the flatwoods salamander, a species currently found in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A species is designated as threatened when it is likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the foreseeable future.

The Service does not expect the listing of this extremely rare species to have widespread impact on landowners or on the timber industry and plans to work in cooperation with both to allow land use while still conserving the species.

"Although there have been concerns that listing the flatwoods salamander will affect the forest products industry, the Service believes that timber management can be compatible with the continued existence and recovery of this species," said the Service's Southeast Regional Director Sam D. Hamilton "Timber management techniques, such as burning and selective harvest, that duplicate natural ecological processes could even benefit flatwoods salamander populations."

A small, slender salamander, the species is black to chocolate brown with silvery gray lines that form a net-like or banded pattern across its body. It is native to the longleaf pine flatwoods of the lower southeastern coastal plain. Fifty-one populations of the species are known to exist in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. The species also historically occurred historically in Alabama but has not been found there since 1981.

Major threats to the species include the destruction or modification of its habitat due to agriculture, urban expansion, forestry practices and fire suppression. Today, the Southeast's pine flatwoods have declined to less than 20 percent of their original distribution. Overall, the species has lost 82 percent of its historic habitat.

More than half of the known flatwoods salamander populations occur on federal lands, including the Apalachicola National Forest, the Osceola National Forest, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field, and Naval Air Station Whiting Field's Holley Out-lying Field in Florida; Fort Stewart Military Installation and Townsend Bombing Range in Georgia; and Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina. Other federal agencies whose activities might affect the salamander include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Highway Commission.

The Biodiversity Legal Foundation and a private citizen petitioned the Service to list the flatwoods salamander in 1992. The Service determined the species might warrant listing in a 90-day finding on the petition in 1994. Following that finding, member timber companies of the American Forest and Paper Association formed the Southeast Amphibian Survey Cooperative. The group has funded surveys for the flatwoods salamander, which resulted in the location of only two populations of the species on its members' lands. In addition, the Cooperative obtained funding for research on the habitat variables that are associated with the presence or absence of this amphibian on timber industry lands. It has pledged to work with the Service to seek innovative management strategies to benefit the flatwoods salamander.

"The recovery of the flatwoods salamander will require cooperation between the Service and other federal agencies, the timber industry, and private landowners to promote stewardship of pine flatwoods habitat occupied by the species," Hamilton said. "More and more, there is a national awareness that public/private partnerships are the key to maintaining the diversity in wildlife species and saving those species that are at risk," he said.

This announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appeared in the Federal Register on April 1, 1999. A copy of the final rule can be obtained by contacting the Service's Jackson, Mississippi Field Office at (601) 965-4900.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprising more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

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Release #: R99-029


1999 News Releases

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