Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Critical Habitat Designated for Sonoma California Tiger Salamander

Aug 31, 2011

Media Contact:  Sarah Swenty, 916-414-6571 or sarah_swenty@fws.gov  or 916-712-2004 (cell)

 Critical Habitat Designated for Sonoma California Tiger Salamander

Sacramento -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated approximately 47,383 acres as critical habitat for the Sonoma California tiger salamander under the Endangered Species Act. The final designation is a reduction of 26,840 acres from the original 2005 proposed rule.  Also released is a summary of the expected economic impacts of the designation. 

The final designation publishes in the Federal Register on August 31, 2011.  This designation becomes effective on September 30, 2011.  It encompasses one unit consisting of aquatic, upland, and dispersal habitat that is essential to the conservation of the species.  More information, including a map of the designated area, can be found at www.fws.gov/sacramento/.  The public comments received, copies of the proposed rules and final rule, and the Final Economic Analysis can be found at www.regulations.gov.

Areas designated as critical habitat contain primary elements needed by the salamanders – standing bodies of water for early life stages, upland habitat for the dry season, and accessible areas between occupied habitat so that they can disperse.  The critical habitat designated does not include developed areas such as buildings and pavement that are specifically excluded from critical habitat by the text of the final designation.

The final rule published reduces the overall designation to 47,838 acres, which includes a 4,945 acres addition added to the proposal in June 2011, while eliminating several areas that were determined to not be essential to the conservation of the species. 

Areas removed include 1) an area to the north of Mark West Creek including portions of the Town of Windsor and an area of mature vineyards located to the east and south of the town;  2) the area south of Martinez Drive and east of Petaluma Hills Road;  3) a long strip of area in the northeastern portion of the proposed unit that is isolated from the rest of the critical habitat by a multi-lane state freeway, Highway 101;  and 4) approximately 252 acres of Graton Rancheria trust lands have been excluded under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. 

Areas removed include 1) an area to the north of Mark West Creek including portions of the Town of Windsor and an area of mature vineyards located to the east and south of the town;  2) the area south of Martinez Drive and east of Petaluma Hills Road;  3) a long strip of area in the northeastern portion of the proposed unit that is isolated from the rest of the critical habitat by a multi-lane state freeway, Highway 101;  and 4) approximately 252 acres of Graton Rancheria trust lands have been excluded under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. 

The Endangered Species Act and Critical Habitat
The ESA provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife and plants.  This landmark conservation law has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species across the nation and promoted the recovery of many others.

The designation of critical habitat is required under the ESA and identifies geographic areas containing features considered essential for the conservation of the salamander; areas that may require special management or protection.  Critical habitat designation under the ESA does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area.  It does not allow government or the public access to private lands. A critical habitat designation does not affect private lands unless federal funds, permits, or activities are involved.

View and link to a video slideshow on the California Tiger Salamander and Critical Habitat at: www.fws.gov/sacramento

About the Species and the History of Today’s Action
California tiger salamanders are primarily terrestrial, spending most of their lives in upland areas, living in burrows made by other creatures.  In winter they migrate to breed in natural and artificial pools, ponds, and other seasonal wetland features.  In the pools and ponds salamanders lay eggs that hatch to produce larvae, which grow until they metamorphose into terrestrial juveniles that migrate to burrows in uplands for the dry season. The Sonoma California tiger salamander is listed as endangered under the ESA.  In addition, it is listed as threatened by the State of California.  

Hi-resolution photographs are available for the media to use with Photo Credit given to USFWS at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfws_pacificsw/sets/72157624943896551/

In 2005 the Service proposed to designate 74,223 acres in Sonoma County as critical habitat for the species.  In the final rule, the entire critical habitat area proposed was excluded based on the development of the Santa Rosa Plain Conservation Strategy (Strategy).  As per a court settlement, on August 18, 2009, the Service proposed to designate the same 74,223 acres as critical habitat for the salamander as proposed in 2005.

The Service agreed to submit a final rule to the Federal Register by July 1, 2011.  A revised proposal, published on January 18, 2011, reduced the proposal to 50,855 acres to better align the designation with the Strategy and to remove the urban centers, the bulk of the 100-year flood plain, and the most southerly areas in the original proposal.  This was done because the Service found that those areas either do not have the primary elements the species needs to survive or were not essential to the conservation of the species. 

An extension was granted in order to respond to new information received during the January 2011 comment period and the Service agreed submit a final rule by September 1, 2011.  With the additional information and time, an additional proposal to add 4,945 acres to the designation was released on June 21, 2011, based on the information received during the January comment period regarding additional populations of the species found in the Roblar Road area.  

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/cno. Connect with our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/usfwspacificsouthwest, follow our tweets at http://twitter.com/USFWSPacSWest, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfws_pacificsw/