| April 6, 2006
SCOTT BAR SALAMANDER PETITIONED FOR PROTECTION
At a Fish and Game Commission hearing today in Redding, CA, the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild) expressed their opposition to removing state protection for the Siskiyou Mountains Salamander and filed a petition to protect the newly discovered Scott Bar Salamander as a threatened species under California’s Endangered Species Act (CESA). The Scott Bar Salamander was described as a separate species from the Siskiyou Mountains Salamander in May of 2005. California Department of Fish and Game has taken the position that once the new species was described, it lost the protected status currently provided to the Siskiyou Mountains Salamander.
“Because of old-growth forest logging, the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar Salamanders need the protection of California’s Endangered Species Act” states Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Department of Fish and Game’s effort to remove protections for these salamanders and allow logging of their habitat is not supported by credible science and should be rejected by the Fish and Game Commission.”
Based on the advice of Department of Fish and Game, the Fish and Game Commission is currently conducting a one-year review, including today’s hearing, to determine if the Siskiyou Mountains Salamander should be removed from the state’s list of threatened species, which would be the first time any species has lost such protection. This move has been sharply criticized by the primary experts on the biology of these salamanders. Forest Service scientist Dr. Hartwell Welsh, for example, concluded that “interpretation of the science” used by the state game agency to support delisting was “seriously flawed” (letter available upon request).
“We’re just beginning to understand these unique salamanders that breathe through their skin and primarily live under the cover of old-growth forests,” states Lindsey Holm, Timber Harvest Monitor for EPIC. “Yet Department of Fish and Game is rushing their habitat to the chopping block.”
Upon learning of the discovery of the Scott Bar Salamander, the California Department of Fish and Game informed industrial timber companies that because the Scott Bar salamander is a new species, protections previously afforded to the rare salamanders would cease. The California Department of Forestry (CDF) subsequently approved amendments to at least four timber harvest plans (THPs) allowing logging of Scott Bar Salamander habitat. Because these amendments were approved without public notice or comment, the conservation groups sued CDF, who immediately withdrew them and initiated a process for public input.
“Rather than heralding the discovery of a new species in California, the California Department of Forestry is rushing to wipe out the rare critters’ habitat,” said Joseph Vaile, campaign director of KS Wild. “Unique to northern California, the Scott Bar Salamander should be protected for the enjoyment and study of future generations.”
In filing a petition to protect the new species, the groups are initiating a process that could provide permanent protection to the Scott Bar Salamander, which has one of the smallest ranges of any terrestrial salamander in North America. In June 2004, the groups also petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list both the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar Salamanders under the federal Endangered Species Act, and expect an initial decision on this petition by the end of April.
“The Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar Salamanders needs immediate protection from logging under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts,” states Greenwald. “Instead, the California Departments of Forestry and Fish and Game are doing everything in their power to ensure timber companies are allowed to log these unique species’ habitat.”
For additional information on the biology and status of these salamanders call herpetologist Richard Nauman (541-231-7291), who was one of the authors of the study describing the new species.
Photos of the species available upon request.