OLYMPIA–The spotlight is on the state's troubled wild salmon, but more and more wildlife species are also joining the imperiled ranks, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Draft status reports will be released by WDFW June 15 detailing the decline of the common loon, the northern leopard frog, a butterfly known as the mardon skipper and the Olympic mudminnow, and recommending that the four species be added to the state's list of troubled species.
"Habitat loss is the common thread in the decline both of wild salmon runs and wildlife species," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. "The attention rightfully being focused on fragile wild fish populations should not distract us from the plight facing many of the state's wildlife species."
The state already lists 24 species as endangered (likely to become extinct); 11 as threatened (likely to become endangered), and four as sensitive (in decline and likely to become endangered or threatened). Another 99 species are considered candidates for eventual listing.
A 90-day public review and comment period and two public meetings will be held for discussion of the draft reports on the status of the loon, leopard frog, mardon skipper and mudminnow.
The draft status report are available at public libraries, WDFW headquarters in Olympia and WDFW regional offices in Mill Creek, Montesano, Vancouver, Ephrata, Yakima and Spokane, or on the WDFW homepage at http://wdfw.wa.gov on the Internet. Written comments on the reports may be mailed by September 15 to Harriet Allen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia WA 98501- 1091.
Comments received on the draft reports will be considered when final status reports on the four species are written for public distribution November 1. The Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to decide in its regular meeting December 10 and 11 whether to add the four species to state lists.
The northern leopard frog, once one of North American's most common amphibians, is being recommended for listing as a state endangered species after disappearing from nearly 90 percent of the areas where it was found 30 years ago. Since 1992, field surveys have found the frog only in two areas of the Crab Creek drainage in Grant County. Reasons for its decline are unknown. Possible causes include agricultural chemicals, predation by non-native bullfrogs and exotic fish and changes in wetland habitat.
The mardon skipper, a small, tawny-orange butterfly dependent on plants found on the native grasslands of Southern Puget Sound and the Southern Cascades, is being recommended for listing as a state threatened species. Only a few hundred of the creatures are believed to remain as grassland has vanished due to human development, grazing, farming, forest encroachment, invasion of non-native plants and herbicide use.
The common loon, which migrates through Washington and winters on remote bodies of water, is being recommended for listing as a state threatened species because of concerns over the health of the population. Shoreline development, disturbance from human activity and deliberate attacks against the fish-eating birds are believed to have caused the loons to abandon some of the lakes where they once nested. Fewer than 10 nests are recorded in a typical year in Washington.
The Olympic mudminnow, found in the southern and western lowlands of the Olympic Peninsula, the Chehalis and lower Deschutes river drainages and south Puget Sound west of the Nisqually River, is being recommended for inclusion on the state list of sensitive species. The recommendation is being made because of the mudminnow's restricted range and its complete dependence on wetland habitat, up to half of which has vanished since the state was settled.
Although WDFW works with landowners to encourage habitat protection, it does not have the regulatory authority to control land use to protect species habitat. Thus, state protection listings do not carry the restrictions on human activities which accompany federal species listings.