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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


February 28, 1997
Contact: Tom Juelson (360)902-2510 or Tim Waters (206)775-1311, ext. 119

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Public comment sought on state's listing of threatened and endangered species

OLYMPIA -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking the public's comments on proposed changes to the state's list of threatened and endangered species.

Under the proposed changes, the gray whale would be down-listed from endangered to sensitive status, and the Aleutian Canada goose would be down-listed from endangered to threatened status.

The changes also would list the Oregon spotted frog as endangered. The Olive Ridley sea turtle no longer would be considered for listing.

Harriet Allen, who oversees the department's endangered and threatened species program, said public comments on the proposed changes will be accepted until May 31. Draft status reports on each of the species are available at public libraries and from Department of Fish and Wildlife offices statewide.

Allen said the department will hold public meetings on the proposed changes later this spring. The time and place for the meetings will be publicized at a later date.

Once the meetings are complete, biologists will prepare final status reports and listing recommendations, as well as State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) documents. The proposals will be presented to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission in early August.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife maintains a list of threatened and endangered species separate from the list maintained by the federal government. At present, there are 24 endangered, eight threatened and one sensitive species on the state's list.

Later this year, the department will review the sage grouse, sharptail grouse, common murre, fisher and common loon for possible listing as endangered, threatened or sensitive species.

An endangered species is defined by the Department of Fish and Wildlife as one in danger of becoming extinct in Washington state, while a threatened species is considered likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future unless preventative steps are taken. A sensitive species is defined as one that is vulnerable, or whose numbers are declining in the state, and is in danger of becoming threatened or endangered.

Allen said criteria for listing is based on biological findings. The purpose of the public review is to encourage those interested to submit new scientific information about a species, or to comment on the department's interpretation of information.

Written comments can be mailed to Allen at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA., 98501-1091.

Following are brief status reports on the four species to be reviewed:

  • Aleutian Canada goose -- The goose, which stops in the Willapa Bay area during its annual migration, has been the focus of a 20-year-old recovery effort that has met with good success. Hard hit in past years by overharvesting and heavy predation by foxes introduced to its nesting grounds, the number of geese has increased from about 800 in the mid-1970s to more than 20,000 in 1995.
  • Gray whale -- Since the harvest of gray whales has been prohibited, its eastern Pacific Ocean population has rebounded to levels similar to pre-whaling days. It is now estimated at more than 21,000 animals. The species has been removed from the federal Endangered Species Act. During the spring, migrating gray whales can be seen along the Washington coastline. A few remaining whales can be observed in the summer in Grays Harbor, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.
  • Oregon spotted frog -- Historically, the Oregon spotted frog ranged from southern British Columbia to northern California. Habitat loss and predation by introduced predators such as bullfrogs and warmwater fish have contributed to the loss of the species from much of its former range.
  • Olive Ridley sea turtle -- The Olive Ridley sea turtle is largely a tropical species, but has been observed in Washington and Oregon waters. Populations of the turtle have declined due to marine pollution and human exploitation.