OLYMPIA -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is
seeking public comment on proposals to classify the fisher (a forest-dwelling carnivore)
as a state endangered species and to add the margined sculpin and the pygmy
whitefish to its list of sensitive species.
The three-month public review period begins May 1 on draft reports which
outline the three species' status in Washington and recommend protection listings.
The fisher, which historically occurred throughout much of the state's forested
area, was over-trapped in the past. Although the fisher has been protected from legal
harvest for the last 64 years, its recovery is hampered by loss of habitat due to
development, logging and past predator and pest control programs. Only a small
number of fishers are believed still to be present in the state. Without recovery action
the species is likely to be eliminated completely.
The margined sculpin (Cottus marginatus), a small fish currently found only in
the Tucannon and Walla Walla drainages of the Blue Mountains, is vulnerable to local
disturbances. Most of the waters inhabited by the species have been degraded by
development, logging, agriculture, grazing and channelization which have resulted in
sediment buildup, increased water temperatures, lack of pools and algae blooms.
The pygmy whitefish (Prosopium coulteri) occurs across the northern tier of the
United States, western Canada and Alaska, with Washington state at the extreme
southern end of its range. Favoring cool waters, the fish formerly resided in at least 15
Washington lakes, but currently inhabit only nine. The species' demise in the other six
lakes is attributed to declining water quality and past fish management practices
including the introduction of exotic fish species. Because of its small size (under 20
centimeters) and its tendency to inhabit deep lake waters, the pygmy whitefish is
difficult to detect and current population levels have not been determined.
Status reports on all three species will be available May 1 at public libraries,
WDFW headquarters in Olympia and WDFW regional offices in Mill Creek, Montesano,
Vancouver, Ephrata, Yakima and Spokane. Written comments on the reports may be
mailed by August 1 to Harriet Allen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600
Capitol Way N., Olympia 98501-1091.
Public meetings will be scheduled on the draft reports during the comment
period. After the public comment period ends, state biologists will prepare final status
reports and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) documents, which will be available
for public review. Final recommendations will be presented to the Washington Fish and
Wildlife Commission at its Oct 2 and 3 meeting.
The WDFW maintains a list of threatened, endangered and sensitive state
species separate from the list maintained by the federal government. Presently, there
are 23 endangered, nine threatened and two sensitive species on the state's list.
Endangered species are those in danger of becoming extinct in the state; threatened
species are those likely to become endangered unless preventive steps are taken, and
sensitive species are those which are vulnerable to decline.
Although WDFW can work with landowners to encourage habitat protection, it
does not have regulatory authority to control land use to protect species' habitat.