EPIC v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Southern Torrent Salamander)

EPIC v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Southern Torrent Salamander)


The US Fish and Wildlife Service ruled that the Southern Torrent Salamander does not require listing under the Endangered Species Act.

On January 18, 2000, EPIC filed suit in federal court in San Francisco against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to seek protection of the rare Southern Torrent Salamander (Rhyacotriton variegatus) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The suit followed years of illegal delay by the government to make a final determination on whether or not listing the Torrent Salamander was warranted and necessary to prevent its demise.

EPIC and several other conservation groups, including the Northcoast Environmental Center, Friends of the River and Oregon Natural Resources Council, submitted a petition to list the Torrent Salamander in 1995. Although the Fish and Wildlife Service was required to determine whether or not listing the Torrent Salamander was warranted within fifteen months after this petition was submitted, the agency failed for numerous years to do so.

The Southern Torrent Salamander depends on old growth Douglas fir and redwood forest ecosystems and is very sensitive to activities that degrade water quality and riparian areas. Populations of Torrent Salamanders have declined dramatically due to logging and other land alterations, and listing of the salamander could extend watershed protections well beyond what is currently required. Protection of the salamander’s habitat would greatly improve the entire stream continuum, not now adequately protected by the current Forest Practices Rules. U.S. Forest Service biologist and noted salamander expert Hartwell Welsh stated that the listing of the salamander would result in protection of more extensive portions of each watershed.

A USFWS spokesperson cited agency shortages of staff and funding as reasons for the backlog of petitions and suggested that EPIC’s suit might hasten consideration of the salamander. On April 10, 2000, through a stipulated settlement agreement, USFWS was required to take the necessary steps to arrive at a determination of whether listing the salamander is warranted. USFWS subsequently responded with the decision that the listing was not warranted.