For Immediate Release, March 29, 2007
||Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, (541) 621-7808
Scott Greacen, Environmental Protection Information Center, (707) 834-6257
Rare Salamanders Will Finally Be Considered
For Endangered Species Act Protection
Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar Salamanders Threatened by Logging
SAN FRANCISCO— In response to a 2004 petition and two lawsuits brought by conservation groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined today that the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar salamanders may warrant protection as threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The agency initiated a 12-month review of their status.
“The Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar salamanders have two of the smallest ranges of any western salamander and are severely threatened by logging,” said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These salamanders need the effective protection of the Endangered Species Act to survive.”
Both species live in mature and old-growth forests such as those that once covered much of the Northwest. Today only fragments of these forests remain, facing increasing pressure from logging and development. A recently completed study by the Forest Service, for example, concluded that “mature to late-seral-forest attributes provide optimal habitat for the Siskiyou Mountains salamander. Stands of mature and older forests evenly distributed and interconnected across the geographical range of this species would likely best insure its long-term viability.” (Study available upon request.)
“It took three years, two lawsuit and a mountain of scientific evidence to finally force the Bush administration to protect these threatened species,” said Joseph Vaile, campaign director for the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “The Scott Bar salamander was just discovered last year. It would be a tragedy if politics led to its extinction.”
Endangered Species Act protections for the salamanders are necessary in part because the Bush administration has eliminated other environmental safeguards. The salamanders were formerly protected under a provision of the Northwest Forest Plan called the “Survey and Manage” Program, which required the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to conduct surveys for old-growth-dependent species, including the salamander, and to protect their habitat. The administration eliminated the Survey and Manage Program on March 23, 2004 to expedite logging of old-growth forest. Hundreds of Northwest wildlife species are threatened by the administration’s jettisoning of Survey and Manage protections (see www.endangeredearth.org/library/nwfp-saving-the-pieces.pdf). The Survey and Manage Program has been reinstated by court order, but the administration is in the process of conducting the necessary environmental review to eliminate once again the important protections provided by the program.
“Logging of the last remaining old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest threatens the survival of not just the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar salamanders but countless other species,” according to Scott Greacen, public lands coordinator for the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Given everything we know today, remaining mature and old-growth forests should be immediately protected.”
Groups on the suit include the Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Environmental Protection Information Center, Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands Project. The groups were represented by attorneys Amy Atwood, with the Western Environmental Law Center, Erin Madden, with Cascadia Law PC, and Sharon Duggan.
Photo of the salamander available upon request.
Additional Background Information:
The Endangered Species Act is one of America’s most important environmental laws, providing a safety net for wildlife, fish, and plants that are on the brink of extinction. The law requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the places these species call home and to use the most rigorous science available when making management decisions. The Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of the American bald eagle, coho salmon, gray wolf, and hundreds of other animals and plants.
The Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar salamanders have two of the smallest ranges of any salamander in western North America, occurring in southwestern Oregon and northwestern California on rocky slopes under mature trees. Members of a group of salamanders called Plethodons, the two species are lungless, breathing directly through their skin. The dense limbs and shade provided by old-growth forests help retain moisture that is key to their survival. Logging and other development that removes the shelter provided by these forests destroys the habitat that is vital for the salamanders to live.
The rarity of the salamanders, along with their unique habitat specialization, makes them more vulnerable to natural and human threats. Protection under the Endangered Species Act for both the Scott Bar and the Siskiyou Mountains salamander would help safeguard their habitat and ensure that adequate resources are made available for recovery efforts.