Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 17, 2015

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495,

Two Pacific Northwest Salamanders Move Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection

PORTLAND, Ore.— In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that two increasingly rare salamanders in Oregon and Washington may qualify for Endangered Species Act protection. The Center first petitioned for these species — the Cascade torrent salamander and Columbia torrent salamander — in July 2012 because habitat loss, related primarily to logging and roads but also to other factors, is threatening them with extinction.

Cascade torrent salamander
Cascade torrent salamanger photo by Steve Wagner. Photos are available for media use.

“These two torrent salamanders are found nowhere else on Earth but a small stretch of the Cascades and Coast Range of Oregon and Washington, and they really need our help,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “As denizens of clean, cold streams and springs, the Cascade and Columbia torrent salamanders are indicators of healthy streams that are a source of drinking water, fish habitat and solace to all of us in the Northwest. Protecting these salamanders protects an incredibly valuable part of our home.”

The Cascades salamander is found on the west slope of the Cascades from just north of Mt. St. Helens to northeastern Lane County. Over half of its range is found on state and private lands, where it’s severely threatened by logging. On federal lands the salamander is afforded some protection by the Northwest Forest Plan. The Columbia torrent salamander is found in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington in an area dominated by state and private lands, where industrial logging predominates. 

The EPA recently ruled that Oregon's stream protection rules, which set buffers prohibiting logging and pesticide spraying near streams on state and private lands, are not sufficient to protect stream temperatures. Despite this ruling the state's board of forestry has yet to enact stronger rules. The Columbia torrent salamander is one of the many species that needs these stronger stream protections.

The Center was joined in its petition for these two species and dozens of other reptiles and amphibians by several renowned scientists and herpetologists, including E.O. Wilson, Thomas Lovejoy and Michael Lannoo. More than 200 scientists sent a letter asking the Service to review the status of the petitioned animals.

Today’s “90-day finding” is the first in a series of required decisions on the petition and simply requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether the petition presents sufficient information to warrant further consideration, a process that requires few agency resources. The next step is a full status review of the species by the Service.

View an interactive state-by-state map showing where the petitioned species live.

Species Background
Cascade and Columbia Torrent Salamanders: These 4-inch brown salamanders with bulbous eyes and bright-yellow bellies prefer cold, slow-moving mountain streams. Due in part to their extremely reduced lungs, even among salamanders they are considered very intolerant of dry conditions, and as a result they occur primarily in older forest sites better able to maintain high moisture levels. Not surprisingly, timber harvest hurts torrent salamanders more than many other amphibians, and the ongoing loss of their habitat through logging is well documented. The Cascade torrent salamander inhabits coniferous forests on the west slope of the Cascade Mountains, from southern Washington to central Oregon. The Columbia torrent salamander is found in coastal regions of northwestern Oregon and southwestern Washington.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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