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Rare Salamander's Survival Threatened By Logging, Environmentalists Say

Environmental groups are petitioning the federal government to add an Oregon salamander to the federal endangered species list. They say plans to boost logging on federal land are a major concern.

The Siskiyou Mountains salamander lives only in its namesake mountains straddling the Oregon-California border. It lives in damp mossy areas of old growth forest

George Sexton of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center says the Bureau of Land Management made changes in 2016 that roll back protections.

“I don’t have a lot of faith that the BLM is going to protect wildlife habitat, even when it knows that rare species are relying on it,” he said.

The Bureau of Land Management’s most recent forest plan is called the Resource Management Plans for Western Oregon.  It changed how timberland earmarked to create revenue for counties was managed in order to boost logging rates.

“Part of us doing this work is an attempt to make sure this first wave of big BLM timber projects doesn’t wipe out the salamander or put it in a place where it can’t recover,” Sexton said.

The BLM says although the 2016 Management Plans changes how the forests are managed, it still provides sufficient protections for the salamander and other rare species to meet its legal requirements.

How well the new plan achieves these protections will be a factor in whether Endangered Species Act protections are granted.

KS Wild, the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands and the Environmental Protection Information Center jointly filed the petition. 

Federal wildlife managers now have 90 days to decide if there’s sufficient evidence the salamander is threatened. That’ll determine if a more formal review should happen.

Correction: Mar. 13 , 2018. An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Bureau of Land Management's 2016 forest plan. This correct title is the Resource Management Plans for Western Oregon.

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Jes Burns is a reporter for OPB's Science & Environment unit. Jes has a degree in English literature from Duke University and a master's degree from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communications.