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Group seeks endangered status for 4 Arizona species

PHOENIX — A Tucson-based environmental group is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to put seven amphibians and reptiles on the endangered-species list, including four native to Arizona.

Citing declining populations, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Jan. 16.

The list included the Arizona toad, which is also found in New Mexico, Nevada and Utah; the Arizona night lizard, found in rocky areas of Yavapai County; the Bezy’s night lizard, found mostly in desert highlands and woodlands; and the Yuman Desert fringe-toed lizard, found in southwestern Arizona.

“They face unique threats,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a center biologist and lawyer. “One thing that is common is that their habitats are threatened.”

The center filed a petition in July 2012 for these animals, but Adkins Giese said the agency never looked into it. Wildlife Service has 90 days to look into the current petition.

Adding an animal to the endangered species list can take years.

“It is frustrating,” Adkins Giese said. “The longer we wait, the more difficult it is to save them.”

Adkins Giese said these animals face habitat loss from urbanization and are also harmed by climate change and pet collectors.

Gavin Shire, a Wildlife Service spokesman, said that data is analyzed before deciding if an animal can be added to the endangered species list. If an animal is especially at risk, an emergency petition can be filed.

There are more than 1,000 animals and plants that are endangered or threatened.

“Some would say the list isn’t long enough and some would say it’s too long,” he said. “But we think the list is right.”

There are more than 30 endangered plants and animals in Arizona.

Tom Jones, amphibians and reptiles program manager at the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said there is no indication that the amphibians and reptiles listed by the center have declining populations or face threats to their habitats. The agency hasn’t studied the populations, he added.

“In my opinion they are looking for species that have limited geographic ranges and are making assumptions,” Jones said.