OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is accepting public comments on a status report that recommends adding three species that inhabit the Puget Sound area’s shrinking grasslands to the state list of threatened and endangered species.
The department is also accepting comments on a separate report recommending that the Aleutian Canada goose be removed from the list.
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 have been lost to residential and commercial development.
The Aleutian Canada goose, on the other hand, has made a steady comeback in recent years and was removed from the federal list of endangered and threatened species in 2001.
Reports on all four species are available on WDFW’s website under “status reports” (http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/diversty/soc/concern.htm), at the department’s headquarters and regional offices, and at public libraries throughout the state. As of Nov. 1, a Determination of Nonsignificance under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) will be available for the proposed actions at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm.
Public comments on the documents will be accepted through Dec. 1, with action on the proposals expected by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at its Jan. 13-14 meeting in Olympia.
Written comments on the reports and listing recommendations should be submitted to Harriet Allen, WDFW Wildlife Program, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA., 98501-1091. Comments can also be sent to WDFW by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. SEPA comments should be sent to Teresa Eturaspe at the same mailing address or to email@example.com.
All three prairie species are candidates for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act, which is separate from the state’s listing process.
According to the status report, the streaked horned lark – a small, ground-dwelling songbird once abundant in Pierce and Thurston counties – 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. Colonies are now confined to four isolated areas, increasing the risk that they will become extinct.
The Mazama pocket gopher, which serves as prey for a variety of animals, inhabits 27 known sites in Pierce, Thurston and Mason counties, along with a few alpine meadows in Olympic National Park. Because those populations have become increasingly isolated from one another, WDFW is proposing that the commission list the Mazama pocket gopher as a threatened species.
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, but the bird has made a steady comeback since efforts were made to remove the foxes.
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.
WDFW will offer a new background license plate, depicting a killer whale, starting Jan. 3, with proceeds dedicated to the conservation of threatened and endangered species. See http://wdfw.wa.gov/license_plates/index.htm for more information.