By Louis Sahagun in the Los Angeles Times in the USA:
Fish and Wildlife Service to study a stealthy amphibian
Jeremy Nichols says he became smitten by the Tehachapi slender salamander when he ran across an article about it four years ago in a book about North American reptiles and amphibians.
The brick-red and stealthy Batrachoseps stebbinsi clings to existence in two canyons about 13 miles apart and separated by a freeway 60 miles north of Los Angeles. It lives mostly underground and, without lungs, absorbs oxygen through its skin. When threatened, it can coil its body like a snake. …
So Nichols, acting as a private citizen, filed a petition in 2006 requesting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service list the salamander as an endangered species because of ongoing threats to its subterranean haunts. He cited Tejon Ranch Co.’s development plans, mining, livestock grazing and road construction as threats.
The agency agreed on Wednesday to study the matter, declaring in the Federal Register that Nichols’ petition presented “substantial scientific or commercial information” to warrant a comprehensive review.
That could see the broad-headed, long-limbed salamander — first scientifically identified in 1968 by noted herpetologist Robert C. Stebbins — brought under federal Endangered Species Act protections within a few years. …
Unlike many salamanders, the enigmatic species is a terrestrial breeder that lays its eggs in moist soils deep beneath rocky north-facing canyon slopes.
It is unknown how long it lives, and no juveniles have been seen in the wild or reported.
In an important victory for wildlife, the Obama Administration revoked an eleventh-hour Bush-era rule that would have weakened the Act’s protections: here.