Lawsuit commenced to protect Tucson shovel nose under Endangered Species Act

TUCSON, Ariz.– The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intention to sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service for again denying Tucson shovel nose snakes protection under the Endangered Species Act. In response to a petition from the center in September 2020, the service refused to protect Art for the second time in September 2021.

“The beautiful Tucson shovel nose snake needs protection from the massive urban sprawl of Phoenix and Tucson,” said Noah Greenwald, director of endangered species at the center. “Protecting this snake means protecting more of the natural desert that we all love.”

The center first applied for the snake’s protection in 2004. In response, the service found that the snake warranted protecting endangered species in 2010, but said that such protection was precluded by its work to protect other species. In 2014, the agency reversed course and found that the snake did not warrant protection. However, a genetic study was misinterpreted to find that the snake had a much wider range than previously thought and therefore did not need protection. This conclusion was directly expressed in a letter from the eminent expert on the snake, the late Phil Rosen, Ph.D. When the service again denied protection in September, it ignored this new information.

“The US Fish and Wildlife Service is in dire need of reform, but so far we have seen no efforts from the Biden administration,” Greenwald said. “It was not just this little snake that was wrongly denied protection. Over the years, the agency has refused to list dozens of endangered species, including wolverines and pygmy owls. Even if the authorities protect species, it often takes far too long, sometimes more than a decade. “

The distinctive Tucson shovel-nose snake is characterized by alternating black and red stripes across its cream-colored body. It has a small range limited to parts of Pima, Pinal, and Maricopa counties in an area sometimes referred to as the “Megapolitan Solar Corridor” due to its rapid urbanization. To make matters worse, the snake only occurs on flat valley floors, which are prime development areas.

Like other shovel-nosed snakes, the Tucson shovel-nosed snake is uniquely adapted to swim through sandy bottoms with its spade-shaped snout. According to a study by Rosen and Center Senior Scientist Curt Bradley, the snake has already lost 39% of its historical habitat to agriculture and urban development; the majority of its remaining habitat is unprotected and endangered.

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