News Release. March 17, 2000.
Endangered Species Listing Petition Filed for Mountain Quail, a "Most Butifull Bird"
On Thursday, March 16, 2000 Idaho Watersheds Project, the Committee for Idaho's High Desert, the Spokane Audubon Society and Rob Kavanaugh, a determined citizen from Olympia, Washington, have filed a petition with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to list the mountain quail under the Endangered Species Act.
The mountain quail is the only quail native to Idaho, northern Nevada, Washington and Oregon. It has virtually disappeared from all portions of this vast interior landscape. Destruction of diverse riparian shrub plant communities has caused its decline. Livestock grazing, dams, cheatgrass, weeds, and brush clearing are the reasons for the catastrophic decline in these populations of mountain quail.
The petitioners have proposed listing of the mountain quail east of the Cascade Crest in Oregon, Washington and into Idaho and Nevada as a Distinct Population Segment. In these areas, mountain quail survival is tied to riparian shrub thickets and interfacing big sagebrush and their numbers have plummeted. In contrast, mountain quail in California and coastal Oregon inhabit broad bands of continuous habitat, and populations are not in trouble.
The mountain quail is a different species than the non-native California quail often seen in southern Idaho. Mountain Quail was first collected and described by the Lewis and Clark expedition which called it a "most butifull bird".
"The loss of mountain quail from the rugged canyons and foothills of Idaho is inexcusable" said Katie Fite, biologist for IWP and CIHD and principal author of the petition, "Agencies have known for decades that these populations were disappearing, yet they have failed to act." In the 1950s, mountain quail were described as common' in the Owyhee foothills. By 1979, Ted Trueblood, noted Idaho outdoor writer, lamented their declining numbers. Remnant populations of mountain quail persist in the Riggins area and a few other locations in Idaho, Wallawa County, Oregon and eastern Washington.
The listing petition also directs the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat in southwestern and south central Idaho, northern Nevada, eastern Oregon, and southeastern Washington including all of the Grand Ronde, Malheur, Owyhee, Bruneau, Salmon Falls, and Lower Salmon River watersheds and the Goose Creek watershed in Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Idaho.