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Flying Squirrels Back on Endangered List

Flying Squirrels Back on Endangered List

West Virginia northern flying squirrels have been put back on the endangered species list by a federal judge just after they were taken off by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The judge was made aware of the inappropriate delisting due to a lawsuit filed by The Wilderness Society and Friends of Blackwater Canyon. The key aspect of their argument was that it was the Bush  Administration who had put on pressure to delist the flying squirrels and in doing so caused the US Fish and Wildlife Service to circumvent Endangered Species Act requirements. They also somehow overlooked population data for the flying rodents.

The judge wrote in his 30-page opinion, “Here, FWS failed to comply with unambiguous provisions of the ESA, and the Court is not inclined to speculate what the consequence of a properly revised recovery plan will be on the status of this species.” (Source: UScourts.gov)

In 1985 only ten of them were captured by biologists in a survey.  In the current period up to 1,100 have been captured in biological surveys. However, a proposed logging project in their habitat would extract 20 million board feet of lumber from over 70,000 acres of forested natural lands. Also herbicides would have been used in the huge logging project. So it appears during the Bush Administration there might have been some string pulling  to remove flying squirrel legal protection in order to allow the logging project to go forward. The relisting came just as the logging was about to begin.

Jessica Almy, an attorney who worked on behalf of the conservation organizations said, “This ruling is important not only to conservation of the flying squirrel, but for the proper implementation of the Endangered Species Act. The ruling means that scientifically-based recovery criteria for endangered and threatened species, once having been adopted in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s formal recovery plan, cannot be ignored due to political motivation or simple bureaucratic expediency — in the Service’s haste to remove a species from the protections of the Act.” (Source: Saveblackwater.org)

She also implied it wasn’t only the Bush Administration, but also the Obama administration that might not be heeding the most scientific approach to conservation of wild species. In particular, her comment seemed to be a reference to the pro-industry leaning Ken Salazaar.

Who would think a tiny flying squirrel, back from the brink of extinction, would figure so heavily in the interplay of national politics and federal policy? It actually isn’t just flying squirrels in West Virginia that would have been negatively impacted. Also there is the Cheat Mountain Salamander, the northern water shrew, and the rock vole. The flying squirrels were at the focus of the lawsuit and were a figurehead, of sorts, for the wild animals of the West Virginia mountain forests who all need protection from rampant logging.

Image Credit: HoodRiver.org

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96 comments

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12:46PM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

So long overdue.

2:01PM PDT on Apr 15, 2012

The time is now to do something about human overpopulation and the detrimental effects it has on our environment.

2:35PM PST on Feb 29, 2012

"Who would think a tiny flying squirrel, back from the brink of extinction, would figure so heavily in the interplay of national politics and federal policy?"

Little things DO mean a lot.

12:02AM PDT on May 31, 2011

Okay. The Calif. squirrels are screwed, but their W. Virginia cousins are safe (for the time being anyway)?
Whats wrong with this picture?

10:15PM PDT on May 24, 2011

Good!!

5:36PM PDT on May 5, 2011

These little guys will bounce back if given a chance. Besides their inherent beauty, they are an umbrella species for their habitat.

Great ruling from the judge; we need to put science back in charge of the EPA and ESA, not politics.

And we need to restrain big industry. Haven't they ruined our country enough? Sustainable development can preserve species and habitats and provide more long-term jobs.

Clearcutting destroys the forest's web of life and is bad economics. It robs the land of soil and the trees don't grow back as big and strong as they were. Tree farming, eco-tourism, and sustainable land use are better.

8:33PM PDT on Apr 13, 2011

OH NO! I LOVED WATCHING THESE GUYS AROUND THE BIG TREES & I MISS THE SALAMANDERS ON MY HIKING TRIPS! THIS IS TERRIBLE NEWS! : (

11:40AM PDT on Apr 13, 2011

Stop playing politics with the lives of animals! Save these creatures!

11:09AM PDT on Apr 13, 2011

No animal belongs on the endangered list, especially one than brought itself back from the brink.

12:45PM PDT on Apr 12, 2011

noted thx.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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