Do wildlife agencies shortchange lesser-known species? Activists question priorities

Some endangered or threatened species received as little as $170 in federal funding last year, while higher-profile species got millions.

During the evening hours in the San Rafael Valley of southern Arizona, a yellow and black amphibian crawls out of its aquatic home and searches close to the ground for dinner, possibly worms, snails or small insects.Although it’s one of the largest land-dwelling salamanders in the world, the Sonoran tiger salamander may be hard to spot, not only because of its camouflaged appearance, but because it’s so rare, living in a significantly reduced habitat.For centuries, the salamander inhabited natural pools, ciénegas and springs in southern Arizona. but today, it is found almost exclusively in human-constructed and maintained ponds and cattle tanks. The species, first listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1987, faces vanishing aquatic habitats, invasive species, low genetic diversity and human activity.Its precarious survival is receiving minimal attention. According to the latest fiscal report released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Sonoran tiger salamander received only $6,000 in federal funding for conservation or management; the year before it received no federal funding, even as some species on the list receive over $1 million annually for conservation from USFWS.“We know that when effective recovery programs are put into place, in a vast majority of circumstances those succeed and make progress,” said Taylor McKinnon Southwest director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But some of the less charismatic species are effectively left behind.”Wildlife agency spends $80 million less, even with the same allocationFifty years after the Endangered Species Act was passed, there are still funding issues. McKinnon points to other species, including the Zuni bluehead sucker and the Sonoran mud turtle, that have received little to no fu …

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