updated 7/27/2004 10:52:22 AM ET 2004-07-27T14:52:22

Federal wildlife officials on Monday agreed to grant protection to the California tiger salamander and its habitat, handing a major victory to conservationists but angering farmers and real estate developers.

The salamander will be listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act — a designation that makes it unlawful to harm the animal and restricts development in its habitat, primarily in the Central Valley, Central Coast and San Francisco Bay area.

“We’re protecting one of California’s most imperiled amphibians,” said Kassie Siegel, a staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, which sued to protect the species.

The California Natural Resources Group, which was among the agriculture and business interests opposed to the listing, said the ruling was based on “outdated and biased” information.

The California tiger salamander is a black-and-yellow amphibian that grows up to 8 inches long and lives in grasslands, woodlands and shallow pools. The species has been threatened by urban sprawl and the invasion of non-native species.

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they hope to designate nearly 400,000 acres in 20 counties as the salamander’s critical habitat.

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