Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Draft Economic Analysis Available on Proposed Critical Habitat for Endangered Buena Vista Lake Shrew

Mar 04, 2013

March 4, 2013 - For Immediate Release

Media Contact:  Robert Moler, robert_moler@fws.gov, (916) 414-6606
                        Sarah Swenty, Sarah_swenty@fws.gov, (916) 414-6571  

Draft Economic Analysis Available on Proposed Critical Habitat for Endangered Buena Vista Lake Shrew
Public Comment Period Reopened and Hearings Scheduled

Sacramento - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife (Service) released today a draft economic analysis that estimates costs related to the conservation of the Buena Vista Lake shrew (BVLS) for its revised proposed designation of critical habitat at approximately $130,000 over a 20 year period between 2013 and 2032.

On July 10, 2012, the Service published a revised proposal to designate 5,182 acres of critical habitat in seven units in Kings and Kern Counties.  The draft economic analysis concerning this proposed rule, and a copy of the proposed rule itself, is available for review at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2009–0062. 

“These tiny, endangered mammals are good neighbors and benefit surrounding plant communities,” said Jan Knight, Acting Field Supervisor for the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office.  “They eat more than their weight in insects every day.  We encourage the public to submit information to help us better understand the condition of this species and its habitat so we can work together for their recovery.”

The Service is seeking information and comments from the public on the draft economic analysis and the revised proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the BVLS.  Comments will be accepted May 6, 2013. 

If you submitted comments or information during any of the previous comment periods, please do not resubmit them.  We will incorporate them into the public record as part of this comment period and fully consider them in the preparation of our final determination. 

Comments may be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov (Docket Number FWS–R8–ES–2009–0062) or by U.S. mail to:

Public Comments Processing
Attn:  FWS–R8–ES–2009–0062
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203

In addition to accepting written comments, the Service will also hold two public hearings on March 28, 2013 so that the public may provide verbal comments.  The public hearings will be held at the Doubletree Hotel, 3100 Camino Del Rio Court in Bakersfield, California.  The first hearing session will start at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time with doors opening at 12:30 p.m., and the second session at 6 p.m. with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.  Service staff will be on hand to share information and answer questions before and after each session.

The Service is committed to providing access to this hearing for all participants. Persons with disabilities needing reasonable accommodations to participate in the hearing are invited to contact Robert Moler at 916/414-6571 or TTY 503/231-6263, or robert_moler@fws.gov.  Reasonable accommodation requests should be received at least 5 business days prior to the event to help ensure availability; two weeks' notice is requested for ASL/ESL interpreter needs.

The Service is looking for specific information regarding the draft economic analysis, size of the BVLS’s habitat, what areas should be included in, or excluded from, the proposed critical habitat designation, or special management considerations.  The areas proposed as critical habitat include 2,687 acres in the Kern Fan Recharge Area, 387 acres of the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, 1,279 acres in the Goose Lake area, 270 acres of the Coles Levee Ecosystem Preserve, 90 acres in the Kern Lake area, 372 acres in the Semitropic Ecological Reserve, and 97 acres in the Lemoore Wetlands.

Critical habitat is a term in the ESA that identifies specific geographic areas containing features essential for the conservations of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management considerations or protections.  Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge or preserve.  The designation of critical habitat provides significant regulatory protection for threatened and endangered species by requiring that federal agencies consult with the Service to ensure actions they fund, authorize, or carry out are not likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat.  In general, a critical habitat designation has no impacts on private landowners taking actions their land that do not require federal funding or permits.

When specifying an area as critical habitat, the ESA requires the Service to consider economic and other relevant impacts of the designation. 

The BVLS is a shy little animal that has lost more than 95 percent of its historic habitat in the southern San Joaquin Valley. The BVLS weighs less than a fourth of an ounce (about the weight of a quarter), and is only 5 inches long, including its tail. It has a long snout, small eyes, and ears concealed by soft fur, which is predominantly black with brown specks on the back and smoke-colored gray underneath. Shrews benefit surrounding plant communities by consuming large quantities of insects and other invertebrates, influencing plant succession and controlling pest insects.

Biologists believe that historically the BVLS occurred widely in the marsh lands 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 2004 proposal because the BVLS is not known to live on regularly tilled land. 

Remaining BVLS populations are threatened by habitat alteration due to bringing new land into farming, modifications of local hydrology, uncertain water supply, and naturally occurring catastrophes such as drought that could reduce the remaining populations. Water is a vital component of the BVLS’s environment because of the moisture required to support the variety of insects that are its primary food source.

The BVLS has been listed as an endangered species since 2002.  The effort to designate critical habitat has taken several steps. The Service originally proposed critical habitat for the BVLS in 2004 and ultimately designated 84 acres in 2005. The Center for Biological Diversity challenged this rule and, in the proposed settlement, the Service agreed to re-propose critical habitat, which it did in 2009.  In 2011, the Service released a draft economic analysis for the proposed acres of critical habitat and also completed a 5-year review of the species’ status.  With updated scientific and economic information gathered during these processes, the Service proposed 5,182 acres to be designated as critical habitat for the BVLS in 2012.  The draft economic analysis released today analyzes the potential costs associated with the 2012 proposal.

The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for America’s native wildlife including the Buena Vista Lake shrew.  This landmark conservation law has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species across the nation and promoted the recovery of many others.

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/ 

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