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 Center for Biological Diversity


Wildlife advocates want to extend endangered species safety net to imperiled salamanders in Southern Oregon and Northern California

Portland, OR. A coalition of conservation groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, went to court today to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) over its failure to respond to a petition to protect the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar Salamanders as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The Scott Bar Salamander was discovered to be a unique species in May.

“The Siskiyou and newly discovered Scott Bar Salamanders need the safety-net provided by the Endangered Species Act to survive,” states Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity and primary author of the petition. “Without protection from further logging of their habitat, we may lose these unique salamanders forever.”

Both species of salamander live in mature and old-growth forests, like those that once covered much of the Northwest. Today only fragments of these forests remain, and they face increasing threat from logging and other forms of development.

“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.”

These unique animals 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 lungless, breathing 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 development that removes the shelter provided by these forests destroys 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 Salamander would help safeguard their habitat and ensure that adequate resources are made available for recovery efforts.

“The Endangered Species Act provides a system of checks and balances that helps us make sure that reckless development doesn’t harm fish and wildlife,” noted Doug Heiken, Forest Policy Analyst with the Oregon Natural Resources Council. “We need those checks and balances to make sure that the forests these salamanders need aren’t cut down.”

Under the Bush Administration, FWS has only protected 34 species—the fewest number protected by any administration since the Act was passed. The Administration claims they can’t list more species because of too many lawsuits and because of lack of funding. The Clinton Administration, however, faced significant litigation and still managed to protect 512 species. Moreover, a recent analysis by the Center determined that the Bush Administration has listed far fewer species per dollar than the Clinton Administration (See: www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/Programs/policy/esa/ESAreport6-05.pdf).

“The Bush Administration is failing to protect the nation’s wildlife,” states Greenwald. “The Endangered Species Act is an effective tool for saving wildlife from extinction, and the Administration is refusing to use it.”

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, 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 BLM 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 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)

Conservation groups on the suit include: Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Environmental Protection Information Center, and Oregon Natural Resources Council




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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