| FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 25, 2006
Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar Salamanders Illegally
The Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Environmental Protection Information Center and Oregon Natural Resources Council today filed an official 60-day notice to challenge in federal court the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to leave the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar Salamanders off the list of endangered species. The Fish and Wildlife Service announced its decision today.
“The Siskiyou and newly discovered Scott Bar Salamanders need the safety net of the Endangered Species Act to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, Conservation Biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity and primary author of the petition. “Today’s decision flies in the face of science and comes from an administration that has persistently showed disregard for the nation’s wildlife.”
To date, the Bush administration has protected just 41 species, which is the fewest number in the history of the Endangered Species Act and hardly compares to the 512 species protected under the Clinton administration or 234 protected under Bush senior’s administration. The administration has denied or delayed protection for literally hundreds of imperiled species.
“We have a responsibility to prevent the extinction of wildlife, fish and plants, because once they are gone, we cannot bring them back.” said Joseph Vaile, Campaign Director for Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “To protect wildlife like these rare salamanders, we have to safeguard the forests they call home.”
Both species of salamander live in mature and old-growth forests, which once covered much of the Northwest. Today only fragments of these forests remain, and they face increasing threats from logging and other forms of development. In their finding, the Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that logging impacts the salamanders’ habitat, but it relied on protections provided by the “Survey and Manage” Program of the U.S. Forest Service and the California Endangered Species Act, under which the Siskiyou Mountains Salamander is currently listed as a threatened species.
However, the agency also acknowledged that the Forest Service is currently preparing to eliminate the Survey and Manage Program and that the California Fish and Game Commission is considering a petition to delist the Siskiyou Mountains Salamander. Decisions on both are due early next year. The Fish and Wildlife Service never explained why it did not issue a positive 90-day finding, which would have required a status review rather than providing immediate protection, and waited to see whether these protections are retained.
“We’re just beginning to understand these unique Salamanders that breathe through their skin and primarily live under the cover of old-growth forests,” said Scott Greacen, Public Lands Coordinator for the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Yet despite the fact that protections for the salamanders are highly uncertain, Fish and Wildlife has refused to even conduct a status review to determine if federal protection is necessary.”
A photograph of the Salamander and copy of the 60-day notice are 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, the gray wolf, and hundreds of other animals, fish and plants.
Endangered Species Act protections for the Salamanders are necessary, in part, because the 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 the Salamander and protect its habitat. The Bush administration eliminated the Survey and Manage Program on March 23, 2004 to expedite logging of old-growth forests. 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 Bush administration is in the process of conducting an environmental review to again eliminate the important protections provided by the Program.
The 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 and old-growth trees. Members of a group of salamanders called Plethodons, the two salamanders are do not have lungs and instead breath directly through their skin. The dense limbs and shade provided by mature and old-growth forests help retain moisture that is key for their survival. Logging and other activities that remove the shelter provided by these forests destroy the habitat that is vital for the Salamander’s survival.
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 Salamanders would help safeguard their habitat and ensure that adequate resources are made available for recovery efforts.