The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined the north Oregon coast red tree vole does not warrant a listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
USFWS said the small mammal did not meet the definition of an endangered or threatened species after reviewing the best and most recent scientific data available.
In 2011, the USFWS determined the population did warrant listing based on the information provided then.
But after conducing yearly species status assessments, known as a candidate notice of review, the agency decided to reverse its decision based on past and present information.
“What we discovered was a lot of that habitat exists on federal lands and it exists in large blocks,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Sue Livingston said. That drove her agency’s analysis that tree voles are able to persist in a couple of larger populations and survive further threats of loss of habitat.
The primary stressors affecting the population include habitat loss and fragmentation due to timber harvest and wildfires.
Center for Biological Diversity endangered species director Noah Greenwald said the species is highly imperiled and needs Endangered Species Act protections.
“Scientists that have been doing decades of research on this species found that it was in trouble in the north coast and that that population needed protection,” he said. “Fish and Wildlife Service previously determined that it needed protection and now they have just reversed course.”
Stephen DeStefano/U.S. Geological Survey
This is the first reversal for the red tree vole. Greenwald said his organization will seek to challenge the decision is federal court.
Red tree voles are mouse-sized rodents that live in older conifer trees. They spend most of their time in the forest canopy and typically move quickly between the trees.
North Oregon coast red tree voles are found in Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook, Washington, Yamhill, Polk, Lincoln, Benton and Lane counties.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also rejected petitions to extend Endangered Species Act protections to four other species: the Ozark chub (fish), purple-disk honeycombhead (plant), sand verbena moth (insect) and the skiff milkvetch (wildflower).