State gathers comments as it reviews status of 17 species

The state is accepting public comments for the next year as it reviews the status of 17 wildlife species listed by the state as endangered, threatened or sensitive.

The list of species whose status is being reviewed includes the bald eagle, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, Oregon spotted frog, gray and humpback whales, upland sandpiper, common loon, fisher, and Mazama pocket gopher.

The bald eagle, for example, was listed by the state as threatened from 1983-2008 and then listed as sensitive in 2008. In 1980, surveys showed there were just 105 pairs of bald eagles nesting the state. The last statewide survey, done in 2005, showed that had increased to 840 nesting pairs.

Looking at the Oregon spotted frog, its historic range stretched from southwestern British Columbia to northeastern California. Today, there are just 46 known locations occupied by the medium-size frog, including six locations in Washington. The state listed the species as endangered in 1997.

The comment period is part of the process used by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to update status reports for each species and determine whether the species warrants its current listing or deserves to be reclassified or delisted.

Specifically, the agency is looking for information on: species demographics, habitat conditions, threats and trends, conservation measures that have benefited the species, and new data collected since the last status review for the species.

Public input is an essential part of gathering the best available scientific data for any species, Penny Becker, acting manager for the agency’s diversity division, said in a news release.

She said the state is interested in obtaining information from the public, including nongovernmental groups, universities, private researchers and naturalists.

“Such groups and individuals could have valuable data, such as annual population counts or privately developed habitat management plans,” Becker said in the release.

Updated status reports will be posted on the department’s website as they are completed. Additional public comment would be sought if a proposal is made to change a species’ status after its review is completed.

During the last year, the department has accepted comments on 15 other species, including gray wolves, spotted owls and killer whales. The updated status reports on those species will be posted online as they are completed.