Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Area groups dig in for a fight"

I predicted this was coming a year ago. To quote from a letter in the Lewiston Tribune last year:
You farmers might just as well sell your property now, because you will be doing it later if they do indeed give the worm endangered status. You will no longer be allowed to continue your way of life on the land that you own.
Too bad Whitman County residents were scared into voting against I-933. If the giant Palouse earthworm gets endangered species status, "urban sprawl" will be the least of Aaron Flansburg's concerns. Hysteria over the worm and water will be used by the leftists to make sure another shovel of dirt for development is never turned on the Palouse again.

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Friends of the Clearwater, Palouse Prairie Foundation among conservation groups threatening to sue for endangered species listing

Several Palouse-area conservation groups have filed a 60-day formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in an attempt to have the giant Palouse earthworm listed as an endangered species.

The conservation groups, which include the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Clearwater and the Palouse Prairie Foundation, filed the notice after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to respond to a petition filed in August requesting the earthworm - Driloleirus americanus - be listed as an endangered species.

Steve Paulson, a board member of Friends of the Clearwater, said by not responding, the department violated a federal law that mandates a 90-day finding and a 12-month finding.

The 90-day finding determines whether the petitioner provided sufficient information to move forward with the petition, while the 12-month finding proposes to either list the species, not list it, or place it on the precluded candidate list, which acts as a waiting list.

Tom Buckley, external affairs representative for the Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office in Spokane Valley, Wash., said the petition had been received and is in the department's system.

"The work has been done and it is being reviewed," Buckley said.

Buckley said he did not know when the review would be complete.

Paulson said he does not blame the regional office in Spokane for the lack of action, but rather the policies of President George Bush.

"The regional office has been very interested but they have their hands tied by the federal government," Paulson said. "The Bush administration has put a de facto hold on adding endangered species to the list. They have the worst record for additions to lists."

Paulson said the current administration has only added 58 species to the list, while the Clinton administration added 522 species.

"This worm represents an opportunity to possibly help protect the native Palouse prairie," Paulson said.

Paulson said if the earthworm made it onto the endangered species list, the Idaho Department of Transportation would have to take the worms' welfare into consideration when planning and completing the remaining portion of U.S. Highway 95 from Thorn Creek Road to Moscow.

Paulson said a section of the highway located on Paradise Ridge travels directly through what may be prime real estate for the earthworm.

"They would have to consider whether they are endangering this worm," Paulson said.

IDT Senior Environmental Planner Zach Funkhouser said listing the earthworm likely would not result in the halting of construction.

Funkhouser said IDT would have to prepare a biological assessment that would describe the area and provide a statement of anticipated effects. The Fish and Wildlife Service would then evaluate the assessment and approve, deny or offer comments.

"Generally the outcome is you get some sort of approval to move forward," Funkhouser said. "More than likely they would just require additional steps."

IDT Project Manager Ken Helm said he does not expect any issues with construction to arise.

"I know that we really don't have too much concern about it," Helm said.

The giant Palouse earthworm is the largest and longest-lived earthworm on the continent and can reach a length of 3 feet. It has a pinkish-white color and is reported to have a flowery smell. It lives in permanent burrows as deep as 15 feet and has been reported to spit at attackers to escape predators.

The earthworm's only known habitat is the grassland of the Palouse in west-central Idaho and southeastern Washington, much of which has been destroyed by agricultural and development, invasive species and pesticides.

The earthworm was described as very abundant in 1897, but has not been sighted since May 2005. Before that, it had not been sighted since 1988.

1 comment:

April E. Coggins said...

From the University of Idaho:


"Our data suggest that earthworm communities across the Palouse are influenced by land use and the level of management intensity within a land use. Intensively managed (regularly fertilized and irrigated) urban parks appear to support greater earthworm density than do relatively undisturbed prairie and CRP"

Do they mean places like golf courses?