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FL Press: Big Bend ecologist seeking federal protection for 3-inch newt

This is a Press Information page entitled FL Press: Big Bend ecologist seeking federal protection for 3-inch newt within the Press / News Items section of Caudata.org --- TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT (Florida) 12 August 08 Big Bend ecologist seeking federal protection for 3-inch newt (Bruce Ritchie) Federal protection is being sought for a three-inch ...

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Old 15th August 2008   #1 (permalink)
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Default FL Press: Big Bend ecologist seeking federal protection for 3-inch newt

TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT (Florida) 12 August 08 Big Bend ecologist seeking federal protection for 3-inch newt (Bruce Ritchie)
Federal protection is being sought for a three-inch newt thatís already played a big role in the Apalachicola National Forest.
Ecologist Bruce Means is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to classify the striped newt as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. He hopes the classification will provide further protection for the amphibian.
ďThe animal is seriously in trouble,Ē Means said Friday. ďOur local population is some of the better ones.Ē
Forest managers last year closed 22,000 acres around Tallahassee to off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles to protect the forest and the shallow ponds where the striped newt, gopher frog and other amphibians live. Licensed vehicles were restricted to 1,652 miles of numbered roads.
The striped newt is found only in a few spots in South Georgia, North Florida and the eastern Panhandle, Means said. It lives only in and around shallow ponds that lack fish because they periodically dry up.
Means said he hasnít found one of the newts during the last two years of searching for it in the national forest. He said it has declined in other locations -- mostly on public conservation lands -- where it was historically found. Vehicle use, disease and overgrowth in ponds could be some of the causes of its decline.
Vehicle use near ponds kills vegetation that newts need for cover. Driving trucks into ponds, an activity called ďmud-bogging,Ē can kill newts, create ruts and damage the weedy shallows where newts reproduce, Means said.
He said the Forest Service needs to do more underbrush burning in adjacent forests to prevent ponds from being overtaken by woody plant species. He said he also hopes the classification will counter pressure for more vehicle access in the national forest.
But he isnít optimistic that the newt will be classified any time soon. Environmental groups have sued the Fish and Wildlife Service in recent years to force it to review Endangered Species Act petitions.
The Fish and Wildlife Service will review the petition within 30 days and determine how to proceed, said Victoria Davis, an agency biologist in Atlanta.
http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs...GNEWS/80812008



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