Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Service Proposes New Revision of Critical Habitat for Munz’s Onion and San Jacinto Valley Crownscale

Apr 16, 2012

For Immediate Release:
April 16, 2012

Contact:
Stephanie Weagley, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office - 760/431-9440 ext. 210
Email:  stephanie_weagley@fws.gov

Service Proposes New Revision of Critical Habitat for Munz’s Onion and San Jacinto Valley Crownscale

CARLSBAD, CA -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today a new proposed rule to revise critical habitat for two federally endangered plants, Munz’s onion (Allium munzii) and San Jacinto Valley crownscale (Atriplex coronata var. notatior). Approximately 889 acres of land are being proposed for Munz’s onion and approximately 8,020 acres of land are being proposed for San Jacinto Valley crownscale in western Riverside County, California.

Munz’s onion is a bulb-forming perennial herb that is adapted to seasonal drought and variable annual rainfall. It is an endemic plant that is highly restricted by its habitat requirements and found primarily in areas containing clay soils at elevations between 1,200 to 2,700 feet. It is associated with grasslands, including open coastal sage scrub or occasionally juniper woodlands.

Five geographic units proposed as critical habitat for Munz’s onion contain the habitat features essential to the plant’s long-term survival. Over 55 percent of proposed critical habitat lands are government-owned, while the remaining areas are in private ownership.

San Jacinto Valley crownscale is a bushy, erect, annual plant that grows in silty-clay soils in western Riverside County. It is found in wetland areas, primarily floodplains, and associated with alkali playa, and alkali grassland and scrub habitat.
 
Three units have been proposed as critical habitat for San Jacinto Valley crownscale along the San Jacinto River, Upper Salt Creek, and Alberhill Creek floodplains. Over 50 percent of proposed critical habitat lands are privately-owned, while the remaining areas are found within local or state government ownership.

Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, preserve, or other conservation area. In general, a critical habitat designation for a plant species has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or federal permits.

We are considering excluding approximately 790 acres of land identified as critical habitat for Munz’s onion based on the partnerships established under the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, the Lake Mathews Habitat Conservation Plan, the Rancho Bella Vista Habitat Conservation Plan, and the Southwestern Riverside County Multi-species Reserve.

For San Jacinto Valley crownscale, we are considering excluding all lands identified as critical habitat, based on the partnerships established under the Western Riverside County MSHCP.

Changes between the 2005 final critical habitat designation and the 2012 proposed revised rule include: 

1. Improvements in defining the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the two plants;
2. Refinements in mapping;
3. Revisions to the criteria used to identify critical habitat; and
4. Revisions to some previously identified critical habitat units
 
The Service anticipates current conservation and management efforts will continue with our conservation partners. We are working to actively engage the public and others in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and protect species and their habitats.

Critical habitat was designated for Munz’s onion in 2005; for San Jacinto Valley crownscale, no critical habitat was designated. In response to a complaint filed in court challenging the final critical habitat designations, we agreed to reconsider the designations in a settlement agreement and are submitting the proposed rule for both plants.

We are requesting comments and information on all aspects of this proposal. An advance copy of the proposed revision of critical habitat can be viewed online today at the Federal Register Public Inspection Page.

Comments and information on the proposed revision can be submitted electronically beginning on April 17, 2012, at http://www.regulations.gov, and must be received by June 18, 2012. In the Search box, enter: FWS-R8-ES-2012-0008 and follow the instructions. Requests for a public hearing must be submitted in writing to the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office by June 1, 2012.

You may also submit comments in writing to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-2012-0008; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA, 22203.

A draft economic analysis for this proposed rule will be released for public review and comment at a later date.

Additional information about Munz’s onion and San Jacinto Valley crownscale is available on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/carlsbad

- FWS -

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/