“Like many of southern Appalachia’s iconic salamanders, this species is facing an existential crisis brought on by habitat loss and climate change. The Fish and Wildlife Service must institute critical protections for the Hickory Nut Gorge green salamander and its habitat before it’s too late.”
Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to protect the Hickory Nut Gorge green salamanders under the Endangered Species Act.
These green-splotched salamanders only live in a single 14-mile-long gorge in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Scientists estimate there are only a few hundred of them left on Earth.
“Like many of southern Appalachia’s iconic salamanders, this species is facing an existential crisis brought on by habitat loss and climate change,” said Ben Prater, Southeast program director at Defenders of Wildlife. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must institute critical protections for the Hickory Nut Gorge green salamander and its habitat before it’s too late.”
The Hickory Nut Gorge green salamander’s small range and population make it particularly vulnerable to the effects of habitat destruction and genetic diversity due to inbreeding. Development from tourism, real estate and energy infrastructure has fragmented its remaining habitat; the nonprofit Natureserve already considers the salamander “critically imperiled.”
“Without federal protection, this precious salamander will go extinct,” said Will Harlan, senior campaigner and scientist at the Center. “It has been clinging to the gorge’s walls for millions of years. But now, to keep holding on, it urgently needs the Fish and Wildlife Service to act.”
First discovered in 2020, the species has lived in this rugged landscape for roughly 12 million years. It’s vital to the forest’s ecosystem, playing a key role in the food web and assisting with the process of nutrient cycling. Unlike most salamanders, it spends the majority of its life in trees and rock outcrops, using its unique markings to stay camouflaged.
“This ancient salamander exemplifies the biological richness and history of the Hickory Nut Gorge,” said Joseph Apodaca, executive director at the Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy. “Sadly, human exploitation of this fragile ecosystem puts it, along with scores of other species, at risk. Thankfully, there’s still time to take meaningful steps to protect the gorge’s irreplaceable biodiversity.”
In addition to petitioning the Service to protect the green salamander, the conservation groups are working with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and others in the Hickory Nut Gorge to protect salamander populations.
Additional Press Contacts:
Will Harlan, Center for Biological Diversity, WHarlan@biologicaldiversity.org, (828) 230-6818
Joseph Apodaca, Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy, JJ@ARCprotects.org
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.