ATLANTA -- An environmental group threatened Tuesday to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for not moving quickly enough to protect 25 amphibian and reptile species across the Southeast that it believes are in danger of extinction.
Officials at the Minneapolis-based Center for Biological Diversity said they hoped the threat of a lawsuit would prod federal officials into taking action.
"The amphibians and reptiles named in this notice need the protections of the Endangered Species Act to survive," said Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney for the center, and D. Noah Greenwald, its endangered species program director, in a letter. "Turtles, salamanders, snakes and other species of herpetofauna are some of the most rapidly disappearing species on Earth."
In 2010, the center and other supporters filed a petition seeking enhanced protection for more than 400 aquatic species in the southeast under the Endangered Species Act. During a 90-day review, federal officials found there was information to believe that more protection may be warranted for 374 of those species, including the 25 amphibians and reptiles that were the focus of Tuesday's letter.
It accused the government of failing to make a follow-up finding for those species that was due on April 20, 2011. The species listed in the complaint live in wetlands across the Southeast. The Barbour's map turtle, for example, can be found in the Apalachicola River system that flows through Georgia, Alabama and Florida. The center contends it is threatened by collection, dredging, pollution and disease.
Another example is the seepage salamander, which lives in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The center said the seepage salamander population has been halved by logging and other activities that destroy its habitat.
Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Tom MacKenzie said he could not immediately comment on the lawsuit threat.