OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public comments on plans to add three inhabitants of the Puget Sound area’s shrinking grasslands to the state list of threatened and endangered species.
The department also announced a 90-day comment period on a plan to remove the Aleutian Canada goose from the list now that their numbers have reached an estimated 70,000 birds.
Species proposed for state protection include the streaked horned lark, the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly and the Mazama pocket gopher – all of which have declined in number as historic grasslands at the southern end of Puget Sound been lost to residential and commercial development.
Status reports on all four species are now available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/diversty/soc/concern.htm (see “status reports”), at the department’s headquarters and regional offices, and at public libraries throughout the state.
The deadline for submitting written comments to WDFW is Sept. 30, 2005. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider the status of the four species at a meeting scheduled Dec. 2-3 in Olympia. Written comments should be submitted to:
Endangered Species Section Manager
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North
Olympia, WA 98501-1091
If the new listings are approved, WDFW will develop a plan for each species outlining actions necessary for their recovery.
The streaked horned lark, a small, ground-dwelling songbird once abundant in Pierce and Thurston counties, now has an estimated breeding population of about 350 birds in Washington. All six remaining nesting sites in the south Puget Sound area are on airports or military bases where grasslands are maintained. WDFW is proposing that the streaked horned lark be listed for state protection as an endangered species.
The Taylor’s checkerspot, also proposed for listing as an endangered species, is a medium-sized butterfly with a checkered pattern of orange or brick-red, black and cream markings. Colonies are now confined to four isolated areas, increasing the risk that they will become extinct.
The Mazama pocket gopher, currently a candidate for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), now inhabits 27 known sites in Pierce, Thurston and Mason counties along with a few alpine meadows in Olympic National Park. They serve as prey for a variety of predators, and their burrows provide a refuge for other species, including the western toad. Pocket gopher populations, too, have become increasingly isolated from one another and the species is proposed for state listing as “threatened.”
The Aleutian Canada goose was listed for protection under the federal ESA in 1967, after foxes were introduced to their breeding grounds in the Aleutian Islands and began to ravage the flocks. Washington listed the Aleutian Canada goose in 1980 to provide protection for migrating birds.
Smaller than other Canada geese and distinguishable by a ring of white feathers at the base of their necks, the Aleutian Canada goose has made a steady comeback since efforts were made to remove the foxes. The federal government delisted the goose in 2001, and WDFW proposes removing the state listing this year.
Forty-four species of fish and wildlife – from the bald eagle to the western pond turtle – are currently listed for protection in Washington as state engendered, threatened or sensitive species. WDFW has approved 107 other species as candidates for listing.