Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a 90-day finding on a petition to list the Prince of Wales (POW) flying squirrel as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Based on its review, the Service finds that the petition, dated September 30, 2011, does not present substantial information indicating that listing this species may be
warranted. Therefore, the agency will not initiate a status review.
The primary concerns described in the petition relate to threats to intact old-growth forests, connectivity of forest patches, and the ability of POW flying squirrels to glide across large clear-cuts. However, based on its evaluation, the Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the squirrel is not an exclusively old-growth species. The POW flying squirrel uses a variety of forested habitats, do not appear to be negatively affected by habitat fragmentation and the resulting increase in edge habitat, have a more diverse diet than flying squirrels in other parts of the species’ range, have access to suitable cavities for denning, and, based on genetic analyses, are apparently dispersing successfully across the landscape. There is no information to estimate population size or trend of the POW flying squirrel.
In summary, the Service did not find substantial information to suggest that threats to the continued existance of the POW flying squirrel are occuring now or are likely to occur in the forseeable future. The subspecies is found in apparently viable populations under the existing conservation strategy and management guidelines in the current Tongass Land Management Plan.
While we have found that the information in this petition and in our files does not indicate that a listing may be warranted, we do invite the public to submit to us any new information concerning the status of, or threats to, the POW flying squirrel or its habitat at any time. Instructions on methods of submitting such comments are included in the Federal Register notice. That notice may be found tomorrow, and a complete list of the references used to prepare this finding is available at: http://www.regulations.gov or upon request from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Juneau Fish & Wildlife Field office, 3000 Vintage Blvd., Suite 201, Juneau, AK 99821.
As always, the Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to working with partners to make implementation of the ESA less complex, less contentious, and more effective.
Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service