The Scott Bar Salamander (Plethodon asupak) has been living in talus slopes beneath old forest canopy in the mountains around California’s lower Scott River, a tributary of the Klamath, for millions of years. But it was only in 2005 that scientists showed how different these small, skin-breathing amphibians are from their cousins, the Siskiyou Mountains salamander (P. stormi). Genetic analysis shows that the Scott Bar salamander is actually more closely related to the Del Norte salamander (P. elongatus), which lives downstream on the Klamath River.
Because the Siskiyou Mountains salamander is listed by the state of California as a threatened species, the California Department of Forestry (CDF) and Department of Fish and Game (DFG) require logging plans to avoid logging salamander habitat. When the even more rare and imperiled Scott Bar salamander was designated as a new species; however, DFG decided that because the new name wasn’t on its list of threatened species, the Scott Bar salamander did not deserve protection. Thus, it was determined that the Scott Bar salamander habitat could be logged. DFG’s efforts of encouraging logging in salamander habitat raise the chilling prospect that a newly discovered species, which may exist on fewer than 300 acres of occupied habitat, could be put at risk of extinction by a single logging operation.
Worse still, DFG is actively trying to remove the Siskiyou Mountain salamander from the state list of threatened species, even though leading scientists have sharply criticized the proposal and agency staff have admitted that the single study on which their case is based is “not a scientific study.” Stacks of recent research show that Northern California’s frogs and salamanders face a host of threats from logging to climate change to invasive fungal disease. But the salamanders’ stories raise troubling questions about whether the agencies that are charged with protecting them will effectively do so. EPIC is confident that it will prevail in legal challenges to the agencies’ blatant disregard for science and fact.