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- Listing Actions
Photo Credit: Hank Oppenheimer/ Plant Extinction Prevention Program
In the first six months of 2009 (through June 30), the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published the following proposed and final listing rules under the Endangered Species Act (ESA):
Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)
On June 19, 2009, the FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) extended ESA protection to more Atlantic salmon by adding fish in the Penobscot, Kennebec, and Androscoggin rivers and their tributaries to the endangered Gulf of Maine population first listed in 2000 as endangered.
This imperiled salmon species, which once returned by the hundreds of thousands to most major rivers along the Northeastern United States, now returns in small numbers only to rivers in Maine. Legend has it that a person could once walk across these rivers on the backs of salmon, but in most recent years biologists were able to count barely 1,000 fish returning to the Penobscot and fewer than a hundred in the other two rivers.
Endangered status under the ESA will now apply to all anadromous (searun) Atlantic salmon whose freshwater range covers the watersheds from the Androscoggin River northward along the Maine coast to the Dennys River, an area that includes the Penobscot and Kennebec rivers. It also applies wherever these fish occur in these rivers’ estuaries and marine environment. Hatchery fish used to supplement these natural populations are also included under this rule. However, landlocked salmon and salmon raised in hatcheries for aquaculture are not included.
In 2000, the NMFS and FWS listed as endangered all naturally reproducing wild Atlantic salmon as well as riverspecific hatchery populations returning to small coastal Maine rivers and their tributaries. As a group, these fish were called the Gulf of Maine population. A team composed of federal and state agency biologists and a biologist from the Penobscot Indian Nation has showed that salmon in the Androscoggin, Penobscot, and Kennebec rivers are also part of the Gulf of Maine population.
On March 17, the FWS listed Phyllostegia hispida, a rare Hawaiian plant with no common name, as an endangered species. This plant, a nonaromatic member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), is a loosely spreading, many-branched vine that forms large tangled masses. It is known only from wet forests on the island of Moloka‘i and has rarely been seen in the wild.
From 1910 to 1996, a total of 10 individuals of this species were recorded, but they subsequently died for various reasons. Since 1997, surveys failed to locate additional individuals, and the species was thought to be extirpated until 2005, when two seedlings were discovered at The Nature Conservancy’s Kamakou Preserve. After the discovery of a small number of other wild plants and the outplanting of more than 100 individuals produced from cuttings, a total of 238 plants are known today.
Due to its low numbers, Phyllostegia hispida is susceptible to extinction from random events such as hurricanes and disease outbreaks. Other major threats are predation and habitat degradation by feral pigs and competition with invasive, non-native plants. Feral pigs have been described as the most pervasive and disruptive non-native influence on the unique native forests of the Hawaiian Islands, and are widely recognized as one of the greatest threats to its forest ecosystems in today. Nonnative plant species, which now comprise approximately half of the plant taxa in the islands, have come to dominate many Hawaiian ecosystems, and they frequently out-compete native plants.
A variety of organizations, such as the University of Hawaii’s Lyon Arboretum on O‘ahu, the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kaua‘i, and Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Moloka‘i, are propagating Phyllostegia hispida for possible outplanting into suitable habitat. Land managers from the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources have fenced some plants for protection, and The Nature Conservancy continues to control feral pigs and alien plants on its land.
Two Southeastern Salamanders
On February 10, due to a recognized taxonomic reclassification, we revised the listing of the threatened flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum) into two distinct species: the frosted flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum) and reticulated flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma bishopi). We listed the reticulated flatwoods salamander as endangered and retained the threatened status for the frosted flatwoods salamander.
These imperiled amphibians are endemic to the lower southeastern Coastal Plain of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. The extensive loss of their longleaf pine—slash pine flatwoods terrestrial habitat and isolated, seasonally ponded breeding habitats are responsible for the decline of both species. Habitat degradation and fragmentation remain threats to their survival.
Three Southeastern Mollusks
On June 29, the FWS proposed to list the Georgia pigtoe mussel (Pleurobema hanleyianum), interrupted rocksnail (Leptoxis foremani), and rough hornsnail (Pleurocera foremani) as endangered species. These aquatic mollusks are considered biological indicators of stable, high-quality stream and river habitats. Their presence reflects the quality of the watersheds where they occur for a wide variety of other wildlife species, as well as for people.
All three of these animals no longer exist in more than 90 percent of their historical ranges due to impoundments and water quality degradation. Surviving populations are small, localized, and highly vulnerable to water pollution and habitat deterioration.
The Georgia pigtoe mussel historically inhabited the Coosa River and several tributaries in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Currently, the species is known to survive on shoals in a 27-mile (43-kilometer) reach of the Conasauga River in Georgia and Tennessee.
The interrupted rocksnail historically occurred on shoals in the main stem of the Coosa River in Alabama and Georgia, and in the Oostanaula and Conasauga rivers of Georgia. Currently, the species is known to survive in a 7.5-mile (12-km) reach of the Oostanaula River. A population has been recently reintroduced into a short reach of the lower Coosa River in Alabama by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The rough hornsnail was found in the Coosa River and at the mouths of several tributaries in Alabama. It is currently known from two small populations in Alabama.
As a result of substantial recovery progress, the FWS proposed on May 15 to reclassify the Oregon chub (Oregonichthys crameri) from endangered to the less critical category of threatened. Findings from a recently completed five-year review indicate that the status of this fish has improved substantially and that existing threats are not likely to put it in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.
The Oregon chub is a small minnow, less than 3.5 inches (8.9 centimeters) long, and is endemic to the Willamette River Basin in western Oregon. Oregon chub thrive in slackwater habitats such as beaver ponds, oxbows, side channels, backwater sloughs, low gradient tributaries and flooded marshes, which provide abundant aquatic vegetation for hiding and spawning cover. The Oregon chub is now abundant and well-distributed throughout most of its historical range, which spans the Willamette Valley. Populations are currently found from the North Santiam River in the north to the Middle Fork Willamette River in the south.
We listed the chub as endangered in 1993 after receiving conclusive data showing a 98 percent reduction from its historical range. The decline came at a time when the environment of the Willamette River was undergoing large-scale changes. Extensive alteration of the Willamette and its tributaries resulted in the loss of the sloughs and side channels that provide important chub habitat. Non-native fishes have become established throughout the Willamette basin and are considered to be the greatest threat to the chub’s survival.
The recovery plan for the Oregon chub recommended specific recovery actions to protect existing sites, establish new populations, research the chub’s ecology, and increase public involvement in conservation. The plan determined that the chub should be considered for reclassification when 10 large populations were distributed throughout the species’ range, with a stable or increasing trend for at least five years.
Along with implementing the recovery actions, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and a team of federal agencies conducted extensive surveys for Oregon chub. The surveys led to the discovery of many new populations. In addition, successful reintroductions established nine new populations within the chub’s historical range. These actions have contributed to a dramatic improvement in the status of the chub. Of these, 19 have more than 500 individuals.
Two Safe Harbor Agreements are already in place to guide management of Oregon chub populations on private lands, and we are preparing to extend the program to allow more private landowners to participate. Information on the Safe Harbor program is available at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/harborqa.pdf.
For details on listing actions, Critical Habitat designations, and petition findings, visit the FWS central library of Federal Register notices at http://www.fws.gov/policy/frsystem/default.cfm.
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