Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Inyo California Towhee Proposed for Removal from Federal Protection

Nov 01, 2013

For Immediate Release - November 01, 2013
Contact: Stephanie Weagley, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, cell 805-512-6758;
stephanie_weagley@fws.gov

Inyo California Towhee Proposed for Removal from Federal Protection
 Service Seeks Public Comments 

Ventura - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today a proposal to remove the Inyo California towhee (Pipilo crissalis eremophilus) from its current listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), based on successful recovery efforts by the Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake (NAWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). 

Inyo California towhees live in or near dense riparian vegetation and adjacent upland habitats of the southern Argus Mountains within the Mojave Desert, Inyo County, California. Most of the species’ range is located on federal lands with only a small portion, approximately 5 percent, on state or private lands.  

At the time of the towhee’s listing in 1987, the population was believed to be less than 200 individuals and the primary reason for listing was the loss and degradation of habitat due to feral animal grazing, recreational activities, water diversion, and mining (which involved diverting water). Because riparian vegetation is naturally limited in the desert, these actions significantly degraded and reduced the towhee’s already limited habitat.

Since 1980, NAWS and BLM have funded round-ups and removed more than 5,800 burros and 3,500 horses from the region where the towhee occurs. They have also installed and are maintaining fencing around some springs to restrict feral animal grazing.  In 2010, the Service entered into a cooperative management agreement with CDFW, along with NAWS and BLM, to continue currently implementing conservation efforts for the towhee regardless of a change in its federal and/or state status.   

The 1998 Recovery Plan for the Inyo California towhee identified, at a minimum, the need to establish a reproductively self-sustaining population of at least 400 individuals for a 5-year period. Conservation efforts have led to increased and sustainable population numbers –current estimates range from 640-741 individuals over the last 13 years; improved, restored and maintained habitat; occurrences in new areas within the Argus Mountain Range; and individual sightings of the towhee in  the nearby Panamint Range. Since becoming listed, all substantial threats to the towhee have been reduced across the range of the species, and all remaining potential threats are either being managed for (nonnative and invasive plants) or are not considered a threat (predation, energy development). 

Based on the best scientific and commercial data available, the Service has determined that the Inyo California towhee has achieved recovery and is no longer in danger of extinction throughout all of its range, nor is it likely to become so in the future.

Inyo California towhees are grey-brown in color with the tail, wings, and crown often darker and tinged with a reddish coloration. They are omnivorous, feeding on seeds, grain, invertebrates and fruit. Inyo California towhees mate for life, are year-round residents, and have territories defended by both the male and female that range from 25 to 62 acres. A photo of the towhee is available on the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region Flickr Page at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfws_pacificsw/

If the Inyo California towhee is removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, the currently designated critical habitat will also be removed and federal agencies will no longer need to consult with the Service on actions they authorize, fund, or carry out.

Comments and information related to the proposed delisting of the Inyo California towhee and the draft post-delisting monitoring plan will be accepted through January 03, 2014. Comments can be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. The Docket Number for the proposed delisting rule is FWS–R8–ES–2013–0113.  Comments can also be sent by U.S. mail to:

Public Comments Processing
Attn:  FWS–R8–ES–2013–0113
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203

For more information about the proposed delisting rule for Inyo California towhee, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/ventura.

The Endangered Species Act 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 law’s ultimate goal is to recover species so they no longer need protection under the ESA.

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 http://www.fws.gov/cno. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.

-FWS-