News Release

Critical Habitat Designated for Buena Vista Lake Shrew

July 2, 2013

Media Contacts:
Sarah Swenty, (916) 414-6571; sarah_swenty@fws.gov

Sacramento, Calif.-- The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service), is designating approximately 2,485 acres across six units in Kern and Kings counties as critical habitat for the endangered Buena Vista Lake shrew (shrew) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The final designation is a reduction of 2,697 acres from the 2012 revised proposed rule. Both the designation and its final economic analysis are now available at www.regulations.gov.

Designating areas as critical habitat does not establish a refuge or sanctuary for a species. Critical habitat is a tool to ensure Federal agencies fulfill their conservation responsibilities and consult with the Service if their actions may affect critical habitat for listed species. Activities on private lands that don't require Federal permits or funding are not affected by a critical habitat designation.

The final critical habitat designation for the shrew publishes in the Federal Register on July 2, 2013, becomes effective on August 1, 2013.

Areas designated as critical habitat contain one or more habitat features essential for the shrew’s conservation. These essential features consist of permanent and intermittent riparian or wetland communities that contain: areas with thick cover of leaf litter or dense mats of low-lying vegetation; suitable moisture supplied by a shallow water table, irrigation, or proximity to permanent or semi-permanent water; and a consistent and diverse supply of prey.

In the final rule, the 2,687-acre Kern Fan Recharge Unit was excluded from the final rule based on the consistent implementation of a habitat management plan by the City of Bakersfield for the benefit of the subspecies. Also removed were an additional 10 acres of large canals from the Goose Lake and Kern Lake Units because those areas have none of the essential habitat features identified above.

Developed areas such as lands covered by buildings and pavement were excluded. Any such lands inadvertently left inside critical habitat boundaries shown on the maps of this final rule have been excluded by text in the rule, and are not designated as critical habitat.

More information, including a map of the designated areas, can be found in the Newsroom at www.fws.gov/sacramento/. Public comments received, copies of the proposed rules and final rule, and the final economic analysis can be found at www.regulations.gov (search Docket # FWS–R8–ES–2009–0062).

About the Subspecies

The shrew has been listed as endangered since 2002. It is a shy tiny mammal that has lost more than 95 percent of its historic habitat in the southern San Joaquin Valley. It weighs about the same as an American quarter and is only 4 inches long, including its tail. The shrew has a long snout, small eyes, and ears that are mostly concealed by soft fur. The fur is predominantly black with brown specks on the back, and smoke-colored gray underneath. Shrews benefit surrounding plant communities by consuming large quantities of insect pests.

Biologists believe that historically the shrew occurred widely in the marshlands of the Tulare Basin. By the time biologists first discovered it in 1932 most of these marshes were drained or dried up by water diversions. Little, if any, cultivated land was included in the final critical habitat designation because the shrew is not known to live on regularly tilled land. 

Remaining shrew populations are threatened by uncertain water supply, and by naturally occurring catastrophes such as drought, disease and fire. Water is a vital component of the shrew’s environment because of the moisture required to support the variety of insects that are its primary food source.

A high-resolution photograph is available for the media to use (with proper photo credit) at: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=buena%20vista%20lake%20shrew