EPIC Files Petition to Protect Siskiyou Mountains Salamander
EPIC and our sister conservation groups KS Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a federal petition for Endangered Species Act protection for the Siskiyou Mountains salamander, a rare terrestrial salamander that lives in old-growth forests in the Klamath-Siskiyou region of southern Oregon and Northern California.
“The Siskiyou Mountain salamander is under imminent threat from numerous timber sales,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of EPIC. “Already on the verge of extinction, the salamander needs protection now before it’s too late.”
The salamander is threatened by federal land-agency plans to ramp up logging in southern Oregon and northern California.
“This highly specialized animal can’t adapt to logging, so it will be pushed to the brink of extinction without Endangered Species Act protection,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The salamander is a unique indicator species of forest health in the Siskiyou Mountains. It deserves immediate protection in the face of accelerated logging.”
“By eliminating the ‘survey and manage’ program that required timber planners to look for salamanders before logging their habitat, the Bureau of Land Management has put this rare species in further peril,” said George Sexton with KS Wild. “Increased logging of mature forests in the Applegate Valley could jeopardize the very survival of the salamander.”
The Siskiyou Mountains salamander (Plethodon stormi) is a long-bodied, short-limbed terrestrial salamander, brown in color with a sprinkling of white flecks. The species only lives in the Klamath-Siskiyou region of southern Oregon and Northern California; it has the second-smallest range of any western Plethodontid salamander. Its best habitat is stabilized rock talus in old-growth forest, especially areas covered with thick moss. Mature forest canopy helps maintain a cool and stable moist microclimate.
“We have to ensure this unique salamander doesn’t blink out of existence,” said Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. “In addition to playing an important ecological role by contributing to nutrient flow and soil health, the Siskiyou Mountains salamander is a distinct part of this region’s natural heritage.”
There are two distinct populations of the Siskiyou Mountains salamander separated by the Siskiyou Mountains crest—a larger northern population in the Applegate River drainage in Oregon and a small southern population in California’s Klamath River drainage. Most known Siskiyou Mountains salamander locations are on U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands.
Conservation groups first petitioned for protection of the salamander under the Endangered Species Act in 2004. To prevent the species’ listing, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed a conservation agreement in 2007, intended to protect habitat for 110 high-priority salamander sites on federal lands in the Applegate River watershed. In 2008 the Fish and Wildlife Service denied protection for the salamander based on this conservation agreement and old-growth forest protections provided by the Northwest Forest Plan.
Under the Northwest Forest Plan, the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service were required to survey for rare species such as the Siskiyou Mountains salamander and designate protected buffers from logging where salamanders were found. But the Western Oregon Plan Revision adopted by the BLM in 2016 will substantially increase logging in western Oregon and undermine the habitat protections of the salamander conservation agreement.