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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

ENDANGERED SPECIES: Focusing Program Expertise to Promote Species' Recovery

Region 8, July 12, 2007

By Diane Elam with contributions from California and Nevada Fish and Wildlife Offices
When listed species occur on private lands, their recovery often depends upon the cooperation and goodwill of private landowners.  Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) field biologists make it their business to seek out collaborations with private landowners for the benefit of natural resources.  In California and Nevada, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife and Coastal programs are fully integrated within the Ecological Services (ES), Fisheries, and Refuge field stations.  Together, these programs have completed numerous projects that promote recovery of listed species on private lands.  They have established new locations for critically endangered species and have improved prospects for recovery of other listed species by restoring habitat through removal of invasive species, prescribed burning, and promotion of fish passage. 

New locations.  When species are known from only one or a few locations, their risk of extinction is greatly increased.  Establishment of additional locations can substantially improve their recovery prospects.  The Partners program has helped establish new locations for two species and is setting the stage for a third species. 

The White River spinedace (Lepidomeda albivallis) historically inhabited a handful of locations in Nevada.  The Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office, along with Nevada Department of Wildlife and private landowners, created a refugium for this endangered fish.  Partners worked together to restore spawning and feeding habitat, improve water temperature, prevent non-native fish invasion, and restore adult fish passage in the White River Valley.  The re-introduction of White River spinedace resulted from the first Safe Harbor Agreement in Nevada. 

The marsh sandwort (Arenaria paludicola) was known from only one population.  The Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (VFWO) funded propagation of the species for outplanting at the Morro Coast Audubon’s Sweet Springs Preserve in California.  The Partners program funded site preparation, removal of invasive species and planting of other native species throughout the preserve.  The effort established a second population of this imperiled plant.

 While the White River spinedace and marsh sandwort have already benefited from establishment of additional locations, the Palos Verdes blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche lygdamus palosverdensis) is poised to do so, thanks to the work of Partners and Endangered Species biologists from the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office.  The Palos Verdes blue butterfly is known from one wild population on approximately 20-acres (8 hectares) of U.S. Navy land.  FWS biologists have worked closely with the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, U.S. Navy, Urban Wildlands Group, and consultants to restore habitat to create future reintroduction sites on private lands for this endangered butterfly.

 

Restoring habitat.  The Partners program has also promoted recovery by restoring habitat on private lands.  A number of projects have focused on removal of invasive species to improve habitat for listed or candidate species.  The Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office, cooperating with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and a private timber company, will use Partners funding to remove invasive weeds threatening a population of the candidate Siskiyou mariposa lily (Calochortus persistens), a plant restricted to two ridge tops in the Klamath-Siskiyou Range on the California-Oregon border.  The Partners program, along with the VFWO and other partners, has also conducted invasive plant removal on The Nature Conservancy’s portion of Santa Cruz Island, home to approximately ten listed plants. 

 

Other types of restoration have also been conducted by Partners program biologists.  At Audubon’s Starr Ranch Sanctuary in Orange County, California, the Partners program helped restore coastal sage scrub habitat to benefit the threatened coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica) and other native species.  Additionally, the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office has undertaken an ambitious multi-year effort to restore coastal prairie habitat on the Cloverdale Ranches in San Mateo County by implementing a 160-acre (65 hectares) prescribed fire for the endangered San Francisco garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia) and threatened California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii).   These properties provide an unparalleled opportunity to conserve and enhance both coastal and inland habitat for these species in the heart of their current ranges.  Preferred upland habitat for the species is degraded by invasion of woody plant species due to fire suppression.  Contributions from the Partners program, Peninsula Open Space Trust, U.S. Geological Survey, and Cal Fire provided for the prescribed burn and a 2-year monitoring and assessment of the species’ response to prescribed fire. 

 

The Partners and Coastal programs also promote recovery of anadromous fish by removing barriers preventing movement into suitable spawning habitat.  The Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office, working with private landowners, California Department of Transportation, NOAA Fisheries, American Rivers, USFS and a local watershed group, removed a barrier blocking over 10 miles (16 kilometers) of spawning and rearing habitat for threatened coho salmon (Onchorhynchus kisutch) and other anadromous species in Parks Creek, a tributary of the Shasta River.

 

Additionally, Coastal program biologists at the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, along with biologists from California Department of Fish and Game, worked with a local natural resource organization on private land to restore fish passage to the Rocky Gulch tributary of Humboldt Bay.  This project allowed access of coho salmon and steelhead (Onchorhynchus mykiss) to over 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) of stream and also benefited the endangered tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi).

 

Recovery of listed species is challenging, and success depends upon the combined efforts of many individuals and contributions from many sources.  In California and Nevada, the Partners and Coastal programs are an integral part of ES, Fisheries, and Refuge field operations and are an invaluable resource for recovering species on private lands.

 

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov