Last Stand Made for Endangered West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel

For Immediate Release

Conservation Groups
Contact: 

Judy Rodd, Friends of Blackwater, (304) 345-7663
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Chris Lancette, The Wilderness Society, (202) 429-2692

Last Stand Made for Endangered West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel

Coalition Files Suit to Restore Protections Stripped Away by Bush

WASHINGTON - A coalition of conservation groups, including the Center for
Biological Diversity, Friends of Blackwater, Southern Appalachian
Forest Coalition, The Wilderness Society, and Wild South, filed suit
today in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeking to overturn a
Bush-administration decision stripping the West Virginia northern flying squirrel of protection under the Endangered Species Act.

"We're
going to bat for ‘Ginny,' the West Virginia northern flying squirrel
who should never have been stripped of federal protection," said Judy
Rodd, director of Friends of Blackwater,
a West Virginia-based conservation group. "The decision to take the
flying squirrel off the endangered species list was a political move,
to allow more destruction of the squirrel's forest habitat for
timbering, energy extraction, and development."

The
decision to delist the squirrel ignored a scientifically based recovery
plan for the species. Recovery plans are required under the Endangered
Species Act to have measurable criteria for determining when a species'
endangered status should be changed, and are developed by a recovery
team made up of scientific experts on the species and its habitat. The
rule removing protection for the squirrel acknowledged that not all
recovery criteria from the recovery plan were met.   

"The
decision to remove protection for the West Virginia flying squirrel
flies in the face of the science on the species," said Mary Krueger of
The Wilderness Society. "With the filing of this lawsuit, we hope the
Obama administration will move quickly to restore protections for the
flying squirrel."

To justify removing protections
for the squirrel, the Bush administration claimed that threats to the
squirrel have been alleviated. In making this conclusion, however, they
ignored climate change models showing decline for the cool mountaintop
forests the West Virginia northern flying squirrel calls home.

"Climate
change is a serious threat to the West Virginia northern flying
squirrel and countless other species," said Noah Greenwald, endangered
species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "When you're a
species that lives at the top of the mountain and the forest beneath
you disappears because the climate is warming, you've got nowhere else
to go. Even the flying squirrel can only glide so far."

The organizations are represented by Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal, a Washington, D.C. public-interest law firm.

Photos Available: Photographs of the flying squirrel are available for press use. Contact Judy Rodd.

Additional Sources:
Contact either of the following for additional insight: Hugh Irwin,
Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, (828) 252-9223; Ben Prater, Wild
South (828) 258-2667

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