Resource ChallengeWhen the Amargosa Toad was petitioned for emergency listing, the Town of Beatty was in the process of losing residents due to mining downsizing and closures. They were considering additional industry or tourism to encourage new residents to move into the town and felt that an endangered species listing would constrain their uses of not only the limited private lands in the Oasis Valley, but perhaps more importantly the public lands that dominate the landscape. This occurred during the resurgence of the Sagebrush Rebellion in 1994/95 in Nye County that garnered national attention as local governments in the west were confronting public land management agencies and staff that were attempting to exert control over their vast holdings in the West. The Nevada Natural Heritage Program and the Nature Conservancy had been tracking the progress of the Amargosa Toad and the conservation status of its habitat for several years prior to this event and both felt it would be extremely counter-productive to the species to have it be listed as endangered or threatened in such a volatile atmosphere in a county at the center of the new Sagebrush Rebellion. We assembled an ad hoc working group of federal and state agency and private biologists to analyze the situation and to see if we could craft a compromise response to the listing petition that would result in the species being protected without the onerous restrictions that a listing sometimes causes. This body became the Amargosa Toad Working Group and together with private landowners who knew the local situation and players well, we devised a plan to protect key habitat, remove known or suspected threats to the species or its habitat, and to attempt to purchase a couple of anchor properties that would serve as de facto preserves for the Amargosa Toad. The additional role of advisory panel to the community was a valuable purpose of this body since, for the most part, the local residents wanted to do the right thing, if only they could be informed as to what the species required, what were the threats to its existence, and how they could voluntarily help out to prevent the species from being listed.
Examples of Key PartnersThe Nature Conservancy (TNC), US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), Nevada Natural Heritage Program (NNHP), Nye County, Town of Beatty, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), University of Nevada system, private landowners and others
Results and AccomplishmentsIn 1996, in response to the phenomenal cooperation that had developed among the participants of the Amargosa Toad Working Group and the residents of the Town of Beatty, the US Fish & Wildlife Service issued their final ruling of "not warranted" on the petition to emergency list the Amargosa Toad as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. They predicated this ruling based upon the committment of all parties to produce a comprehensive conservation strategy to voluntarily protect the habitat for this species and several others that utilize the wetlands and riparian habitat of the upper Amargosa River. Each of the members of the Working Group committed to specific actions to abate known or suspected threats to the species and its habitat which included, among others; 1) the removal of nearly a thousand feral burros that foul spring waters and consume the vegetation surrounding springs (BLM); 2) the annual survey of Amargosa Toads on all public lands and all private properties who gave permission to count toads to get a handle on the true population status of the species (NDOW); 3) the dissemination of information to residents of the Town of Beatty to give them the tools to protect the species on their own (USFWS & TNC); 4) the purchase and protection of at least two private properties that harbored good populations of Amargosa Toad (TNC), and; 5) the rerouting of Off-highway Vehicle races out of the river corridor (BLM). In October 2000 the Conservation Agreement for the Amargosa Toad was finalized and signed at the dedication ceremony for a private ranch that The Nature Conservancy purchased for the purpose of protecting some key habitat for the species. In December 2000 TNC followed up with the purchase of a second property to ensure the conservation of at least two populations of this fragile endemic species.