Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Service Designates Revised Critical Habitat for the Lane Mountain Milk-Vetch

May 19, 2011

For Immediate Release:
May 19, 2011

Contact: Lois Grunwald, 805-644-1766, ext. 332

Service Designates Revised Critical Habitat For the Lane Mountain Milk-Vetch

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is designating 14,069 acres of revised critical habitat for the endangered Lane Mountain milk-vetch in the west Mojave Desert, Calif. The final critical habitat acreage is the same amount of acres proposed as critical habitat by the Service in April 2010. 

The final economic analysis for the milk-vetch is also available. The analysis estimates that no economic costs will result from conservation of the milk-vetch as almost 80 percent of the critical habitat is on federal lands and is managed or protected. The remaining 20 percent are private lands interspersed among areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and are in remote desert areas where access, development, and construction are limited. As a result, no economic impacts are anticipated in these areas.

Under the ESA, critical habitat identifies geographic areas that contain features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations. Critical habitat has a regulatory impact only on federal agencies; private or non-federal agencies are not affected, unless they undertake projects that involve federal funding or permits.

In 2004, 29,522 acres had been proposed as critical habitat. In 2005, these areas were excluded in a final rule due to the removal of military lands for national security reasons and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands that fell under the West Mojave Plan. In December 2007, the 2005 critical habitat designation was challenged by the Center for Biological Diversity. In a settlement agreement in June 2008, the Service agreed to submit a proposed revised critical habitat rule by April 1, 2010 and a revised final critical habitat rule in April 1, 2011. In December 2011, the court granted the Service an extension to submit the rule to the Federal Registerby May 16, 2011.

The final critical habitat includes 9,888 acres under BLM jurisdiction, 1,282 acres of Army lands, and 2,899 acres that are privately owned. The critical habitat does not include U.S. Army lands at the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin in San Bernardino County because they are included in an approved Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP). However, several Army parcels that are checkerboard with BLM lands and do not fall under the INRMP are included as critical habitat in the final rule.

In its 2005 final critical habitat rule, the Service excluded acreage under BLM jurisdiction because habitat for the plant is covered under the conservation-oriented management of the West Mojave Plan. Since that time, a court ruling directed the Service to propose critical habitat on federal lands that fall under management plans if those lands are determined to contain the features essential to the conservation of a species. Military installation lands are still exempt from critical habitat if a species is included in an approved INRMP.

Lane Mountain milk-vetch was listed as an endangered species in October 1998. The plant is a perennial herb in the pea family that grows only in an area of the west Mojave Desert north of the city of Barstow in San Bernardino County. The milk-vetch is unusual in that its twining branches grow up inside other shrubs, which it uses for support.

The final rule and the final economic analysis, and a map of the critical habitat is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2009–0078, and http://www.fws.gov/ventura/. http://www.ofr.gov/?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

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