- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
The Palouse was first noted in 1897 in scientific journals. The worm was named after the area where it was originally discovered, the Palouse Prairie, which is a large area bordering Washington and Idaho. It had been reported that the worm grew to over 3 feet in length and could spit and smelled like lilies.
The prairie area was rapidly settled and developed in the early 1900s into an agricultural area due to the rich soils that were deposited from the Ice Age. The farming activity appeared to eliminate the giant earthworm as sightings became fewer and fewer. No worms have been spotted for decades.
In 2005, a graduate student from Idaho was collecting soil samples near Albion when she noticed a huge worm in her shovel. Unfortunately, the creature had been cut in half during the excavation activity. Examinations determined it was the supposed extinct Palouse earthworm.
The Center for Biological Diversity out of Portland, Ore., joined with other conservation groups and petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add the worm to the endangered species list since it had not been found in so long a time. Since then, a few more of the species have been located and captured. It has been determined now that the adult worm only achieves 10 or 12 inches when fully extended. It does not spit nor smell of lilies. After some consideration, a lower court determined that the worm was not sufficiently unique to qualify for the endangered list. This week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court’s findings.
Since the original petition had been filed years ago, environmentalists announced that they plan to refile in order to protect the worm. "We think that under the new administration, that petition will get a better hearing than the last one did," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity in Portland, Ore. The conservative groups that originally filed said they would also appeal the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling.
So for now, construction projects can continue without the need to sift each shovel and determine that the worms are not disturbed.