Habitat of Newly Discovered Salamander Species Slated for Logging

Habitat of Newly Discovered Salamander Species Slated for Logging

March 16, 2006

For more information, please contact:
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskyou Wildlands Center, 541-621-7808
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, 503-484-7495
Lindsey Holm, EPIC, 707-476-8340

Yreka CA — The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild), and Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed suit today against the California Departments of Forestry and Fish and Game for approving logging of crucial habitat for the newly discovered Scott Bar salamander. The species was first described in May of 2005 and has one of the smallest ranges of any salamander.

“In Arkansas, hundreds of volunteers and scientists are combing the woods trying to confirm the location of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, which was driven to near extinction by careless logging of its habitat,” states Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Meanwhile, in California, the Departments of Forestry and Fish and Game are putting the newly discovered Scott Bar salamander on the road to extinction by approving logging of its habitat.”

The Scott Bar salamander was previously considered the same species as the Siskiyou Mountains salamander, but was recently discovered to be a separate species by researchers who published their findings last May in the journal Herpetologica. The Siskiyou Mountains salamander is listed as “threatened” under California’s Endangered Species Act, giving it a measure of protection from logging.

Upon learning of the new species, the California Department of Fish and Game informed industrial timber companies that because the Scott Bar salamander is a new species, protections afforded to the rare salamanders would cease. The California Department of Forestry has since approved amendments to at least four timber harvest plans (THPs) allowing logging of Scott Bar salamander habitat. Amendments to the THPs were approved without public notice or comment.

“Rather than heralding the discovery of a new species in California, the California Department of Forestry is rushing to wipe out the rare critters’ habitat,” said Joseph Vaile, campaign director of KS Wild. “In approving logging plans, the state agencies left the public in the dark, violating public trust and ignoring their responsibilities to protect California’s natural heritage for future generations.”

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, EPIC’s Timber Harvest Monitor, Lindsey Holm quipped, “a rare species by any other name is still threatened with extinction.”

Conservation organizations petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list both the Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar Salamanders under the federal Endangered Species Act in June of last year, and expect an initial decision on this petition by the end of April.

At the same time, California Department of Fish and Game is moving to delist the Siskiyou Mountains salamander under the state Endangered Species Act. This move has been sharply criticized by the primary experts on the biology of these salamanders. Forest Service scientist, Dr. Hartwell Welsh, for example, concluded that “interpretation of the science” used by the state game agency to support delisting was “seriously flawed.”

“The newly discovered Scott Bar salamander needs immediate protection from logging under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts,” states Greenwald. “Instead, the California Departments of Forestry and Fish and Game are doing everything in their power to ensure timber companies are allowed to log this unique species’ habitat.”

In filing suit, the groups hope to ensure additional protections for the Scott Bar salamander, give the public a voice in the management decisions for such a rare species, and hold the agencies accountable for their actions. The groups are represented by attorneys Michael Graf and Sharon Duggan.

For additional information on the biology and status of the Scott Bar Salamander, call herpetologist Richard Nauman (541-231-7291), who was one of the authors of the study describing the new species.