The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to develop a recovery plan for the endangered California tiger salamander in Sonoma County by June of 2016.
The decision announced Friday was the result of a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, which sued to force the federal agency to come up with a recovery plan for the stocky, spotted amphibians, which have been on the endangered list since 2002.
The agency also agreed to write recovery plans for separate populations of the salamanders in Santa Barbara and the Central Coast by 2017.
A recovery plan is "a detailed document that lays out all the things that scientists think need to get done to get the species off the list," said Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney for the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity.
The Endangered Species Act requires the federal government to protect imperiled populations and help them recover. The agency's guidelines call for recovery plans within 2? years for a species being listed, Adkins Giese said.
The populations of salamanders in Santa Barbara, Sonoma and the Central Coast were listed as endangered in 2000, 2002, and 2004 respectively.
Since then, the agency had made few strides toward establishing recovery plans, partly because of political battles over the establishment of critical habitat, Adkins Giese said.
"This is the type of situation where litigation really is needed, where the agency really needed this pressure to get it back together," she said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service does its best to prioritize the recovery plans for endangered and threatened species with limited dollars, said Michael Woodbridge, spokesman for the agency in Sacramento.
"We don't have unlimited resources to get all these recovery plans done for all these species," Woodbridge said.