Arroyo toads are coming back from the edge of extinction. On 26 March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing many protections for the amphibians. The species is currently on the endangered species list.
The agency suggests recovery of the rare animal has come far enough where the species should be moved from the endangered category, and be re-listed as threatened. The decision to reclassify the toad comes after a 12-month study by the agency.
"After review of all available scientific and commercial information, we find that reclassifying the arroyo toad as threatened is warranted, and, therefore, we propose to reclassify the arroyo toad as threatened under the Act," the agency wrote [pdf] in the announcement of their decision.
Changing the category of protections offered to the species has raised the fury of some environmental groups. Several organizations feel populations of arroyo toads have not improved enough to be reclassified.
"It's clearly premature to lower the arroyo toad's status from endangered to threatened. Protections under the Endangered Species Act have led to conservation actions that have prevented the toad's extinction, but recovery criteria haven't been met and threats remain," Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release. That group works to protect rare amphibians and reptiles.
Arroyo toads are olive green, light brown or gray. Anaxyrus californicus displays a distinctive light-colored "V" that marks their forehead and eyelids. The amphibians are native to central and southern California, as well as the Baja Peninsula. They live in rivers and streams, and breed in shallow pools and on sandbars.
These amphibians were first listed as an endangered species in 1993. Population declines of the species were triggered by the construction of dams and flood control systems, along with general encroachment of humans on territories where the species lived. This loss of their natural habitats combined with competition from other frogs, competing for resources, helped reduce populations to just 24 percent of their population.
In 2001, the wildlife service set aside more than 182,000 acres of land to protect the species. This area was reduced in size by more than 90 percent in 2005.
By 1993, the frogs were known to exist in just 22 river basins within the United States. Today, the animal is found in 25 American basins, as well as 10 in Mexico.
The decision to reclassify the species was announced on the Federal Register. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is welcoming public comment.