For Immediate Release, March 13, 2008
Contact: Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 283-5474
Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for 32 Snail and
Slug Species of the Pacific Northwest
PORTLAND, Ore.— Today the Center for Biological Diversity and four other conservation groups filed a scientific petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect 32 species of snails and slugs as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The species are primarily found in old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest.
“These underappreciated species perform many ecological services for humans, but without the effective protection of the Endangered Species Act they are likely to become extinct,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity and lead author of the petition. “Mollusks are an important source of food for other animals, are vital to nutrient cycling, and are indicators of forest and watershed health. Protecting them will help protect the environmental integrity of the Pacific Northwest.”
The 32 species were formerly protected by the “survey and manage” provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan, but that program was eliminated by the Bush administration to allow increased logging of public lands. With the elimination of survey-and-manage there are few protections for these species, and their continued existence is threatened by habitat degradation due to activities such as timber harvest and livestock grazing. Threats to the mollusks are magnified by the Bureau of Land Management’s Western Oregon Plan Revision, which would eliminate protections provided by the Northwest Forest Plan on over 2.5 million acres of public lands to allow more logging of old-growth forests, including their habitat.
“The Bush administration’s attacks on protections for Pacific Northwest old-growth forests are endangering hundreds of species, necessitating their protection under the Endangered Species Act,” said Curry.
With names like cinnamon juga, hoko vertigo, and knobby rams-horn, the petitioned species include 13 land snails, two slugs, 15 spring snails, and two river snails. All were recommended for Endangered Species Act protection by scientific experts concerned about their survival. The mollusks are very rare and many have such limited distributions that they could be extirpated by a single habitat-disturbing activity; fifteen of the species are known from 10 or fewer sites, and seven of them are found in only one or two locations.
Aquatic snails and terrestrial snails and slugs are a critical link in the food web because they consume microorganisms and forest floor litter and are then eaten by birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, mammals, and other invertebrates. They contribute to water quality and soil- and water-nutrient cycling and act as dispersers for mushrooms and other fungi. Empty snail shells are used for housing and egg-laying sites by other insects, and the reproductive cycle of many insects are dependent on snails that serve as parasitic hosts. Because they are extremely sensitive to pollution, mollusks serve as indicators of overall environmental health.
Conservation Northwest, Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and Oregon Wild are co-petitioners.
The petition is available at http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/Pacific_Northwest_mollusks/index.html.