Ground Truth: Dispatch

Endangered Species Act Protections Sought for Salamander

A rare salamander that occupies a unique niche in the Pacific Northwest will likely have its day in court to decide whether it merits protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The Siskiyou Mountains salamander depends on damp, deep-forest talus slopes. It survives in two distinct populations on either side of the California-Oregon border.

Photo © John Clare

Last year, four conservation groups filed a petition calling on the federal government to list the salamander under the ESA. Earlier today, those groups filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for not responding to that petition.

Conservationists first tried to garner ESA protection for the salamanders in 2004 in a petition that was later denied by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency did, however, sign a conservation agreement designed to preserve habitat in the salamanders’ stronghold in the Upper Applegate River watershed in southwest Oregon.

The groups filing the notice include the Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Environmental Protection Information Center and Cascadia Wildlands. Those groups say a management plan revision adopted in 2016 by the Bureau of Land Management undermines protections for the salamanders. Most of the salamanders’ habitat is on BLM or Forest Service land.

“Not only does the species play an important ecological role by contributing to nutrient flow and soil health, this salamander is a distinct part of this region’s natural heritage,” said Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands.