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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

August 29, 2001

Chris Tollefson 202-208-5634
Sharon Rose 303-236-7917, x415

 

SERVICE AND CONSERVATION GROUPS REACH AGREEMENT 
TO LIST NEW SPECIES UNDER THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT

 

Interior Secretary Gale Norton today announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several conservation organizations have reached an agreement in principle that will enable the Service to complete work on evaluations of numerous species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Under this agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, California Native Plant Society, and the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, the Service will issue final listing decisions for 14 species and propose eight more species for listing. The Service also will be able to take action on four citizen petitions to list species under the Act. The Service and the organizations have agreed to extend deadlines for eight other critical habitat designations, thereby making funds available for these actions.

"I am pleased that we have been able to cooperate and find common ground that will allow us to protect these species under the Endangered Species Act," Norton said. "I hope this can be a model for future agreements."

While the formal agreement is still pending, the Service will immediately reallocate funds to begin work on the species covered by it.

"We will be making a decision in the very near future as to whether the Bonneville cutthroat trout, which occurs in the states of Utah, Wyoming, Nevada and Idaho is warranted for listing, not warranted or warranted but precluded," said Ralph Morgenweck, Regional Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. "Two plants in Utah, the Holmgren milk-vetch and the Shivwits milk-vetch, have been proposed as endangered species. A final decision as to whether these plants are endangered will also be made shortly," Morgenweck added.

Decisions on three other species in the Mountain-Prairie region will also be made in the near future—

--a 90-day petition finding on the Lower Kootenai River burbot, a fish that occurs in Montana, Idaho and British Columbia,

--a final determination as to whether to list the scaleshell mussel in South Dakota, Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma as an endangered species.

–a final determination as to whether to list as threatened the Spalding’s catchfly, a perennial herb that is found in Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington, and British Columbia.

The species covered by the agreement face significant threats. For example, the Service will consider emergency listing the Tumbling Creek cavesnail, which has declined precipitously in the single cave in Missouri where it is found, and the Columbia basin distinct population segment of pygmy rabbits in Washington, which has declined to fewer than 50 individuals. The Service will also make final listing determinations for the showy stickseed, the rarest plant in the state of Washington with a single population of fewer than 300 individuals, and the Mississippi gopher frog, which is known from only one remaining site in Harrison County, Mississippi. A complete list of the species affected by the agreement appears below.

Under the agreement, the deadlines for final critical habitat designations for five species and proposed and final critical habitat designations for three others will be extended into the next fiscal year. The Service will use the funds that would have been spent on these actions in fiscal year 2001 and early fiscal year 2002 to list new species, propose new listings, work on other critical habitat designations, and respond to petitions.

"All parties to this agreement ultimately want the same thing -- to conserve and recover threatened and endangered species," said Marshall Jones, the Service’s acting director.

While the Department and the conservation organizations have reached an agreement in principle, the parties must still negotiate a written settlement document. The agreement, including the written document, must then be reviewed and approved by the appropriate supervisory officials at the Departments of the Interior and Justice before it is finalized and presented to the courts.

Descriptions of the species involved in the agreement follow.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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Emergency Listings

Tumbling Creek Cavesnail (Missouri): Emergency Listing

The Tumbling Creek cavesnail is known only from a single cave in Missouri. The species appears to have declined by approximately 82 percent from 1973 to 1995. Evidence of an ongoing decline is provided by recent surveys that have failed to locate the species in areas where it had been previously observed during every survey. Although the exact cause of the decline is unknown, the apparent dramatic decrease in the population and density of this species is probably attributable to degraded water quality. The continued decline in cavesnail numbers provides strong evidence that the threats to this species are of a large magnitude and that they are imminent.

Pygmy rabbit (Washington): Emergency Listing

The Columbia Basin population of the pygmy rabbit has been separated from other pygmy rabbit populations for thousands of years. It is markedly different genetically from the remainder of the taxon and it occurs in a unique ecological setting. Its loss would represent a significant gap in the species' historic range. This population segment has undergone a dramatic decline in the last decade and currently is only known to occur in a single colony in central Washington totaling fewer than 50 individuals. The Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit is imminently threatened due to its small, fragmented population, and by habitat impacts, disease, predation, and loss of genetic heterogeneity.

Carson wandering skipper (Nevada and California): Emergency Listing

This species of skipper butterfly, Pseudocopaeodes eunus, is the only one in it genus. It is found locally distributed in grassland habitats on alkaline substrates in Nevada and California. The skipper depends on saltgrass communities with a freshwater source nearby to support nectar sources. This subspecies is threatened by habitat fragmentation, degradation, and loss primarily due to agriculture, livestock grazing, and urban development. Non-native plant invasion and impacts from proposed water development projects which can alter local hydrology are also threats. The genus of skipper butterfly is believed to include five subspecies: One of the subspecies, P. e. obscurus, currently found in only two populations, one in Washoe County, Nevada and the other in Lassen County, California. A third population of P.e. obscurus known from Carson City, Nevada is believed to have been extirpated from that site in recent years.

Final Listing Determinations

Ohlone tiger beetle (California): Final Listing Determination

Tiger beetles are predatory insects that prey on small insects. This species is endemic to Santa Cruz County, California, and is threatened by habitat fragmentation and destruction due to urban development, habitat degradation due to invasion of nonnative vegetation, and is vulnerable to local extirpations from random natural events. The Ohlone tiger beetle is an indicator species of the general health of the coastal terrace prairie, a rare native grassland of California. Only five populations of Ohlone tiger beetles are known to exist.

Spalding's catchfly (Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington, and Canada (BC)): Final Listing Determination

A member of the carnation family, the Spalding’s catchfly is a long-lived perennial herb with small greenish-white flowers. The Spalding’s catchfly is currently known from a total of 52 populations. This plant is threatened by a variety of factors, including habitat destruction and fragmentation from agricultural and urban development, grazing and trampling by domestic livestock and native herbivores, herbicide treatment, and competition from non-native plant species.

 

Showy stickseed (Washington): Final Listing Determination

Washington’s rarest plant, the showy stickseed, is a perennial herb about 8 to 16 inches tall, and is currently known to grow in only one location in Chelan County, Washington. It has large white five- lobed flowers, making it a showy attraction for anyone fortunate enough to see it. The population has declined to the current size of less than 300 individual plants. Threats include competition and shading from native trees and shrubs, encroachment onto the site by nonnative, noxious plant species, wildfire and fire suppression, activities associated with fire suppression, and low seedling establishment.

San Diego ambrosia (California): Final Listing Determination

The San Diego ambrosia a herbaceous, rhizomatous, perennial plant that typically grows from 2 to 12 inches tall (occasionally reaching 20 inches). This plant is restricted to San Diego and Riverside Counties, California and Baja California, Mexico, from Colonet to Lake Chapala. This species is threatened by the destruction, fragmentation, and degradation of habitat caused by recreational and commercial development; highway construction and maintenance; construction and maintenance activities associated with a utility easement; competition from non-native plants; trampling by horses and humans; and off-road vehicle use.

Mountain yellow-legged frog (Southern California population): Final Listing Determination

In southern California, the population of mountain yellow-legged frog has been reduced to only a few isolated remnants in the San Gabriel, San Jacinto, and San Bernardino Mountains. By one estimate, the frog has disappeared from 99 percent of its former habitat for reasons that are largely mysterious. Hypothesized causes of the decline include predation from introduced trout or possibly some other widespread environmental effects such as airborne contaminants. These effects have probably acted in combination to produce the decline.

Coastal Cutthroat trout (Washington and Oregon): Final Listing Determination

There have been dramatic declines in anadromous populations of the coastal cutthroat trout leading to near extinctions in two rivers. Threats to the coastal cutthroat trout include small population size, habitat loss, hatchery fish, and incidental harvesting.

 

Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew (California): Final listing Determination

Only one population of the Buena Vista Lake shrew is known to exist. Prior to 1986, this subspecies had not been observed since it was first described in 1932. In 1986, three Buena Vista Lake shrews were observed at a permanent pond located within a former preserve, approximately 16 miles south of Bakersfield, California. No more than 38 individuals have been observed since they were rediscovered in 1986. The only known extant Buena Vista Lake shrew population is threatened primarily by agricultural activities, modifications and potential impacts to local hydrology, uncertainty of water delivery, possible toxic effects from selenium poisoning, and random naturally occurring events.

Chiricahua leopard frog (Arizona and New Mexico): Final Listing Determination

The Chiricahua leopard frog inhabits mid-elevation wetland communities that are often surrounded by arid environments, such as pools, livestock tanks, lakes, reservoirs, streams, and rivers located in central and southeastern Arizona; west-central and southwestern New Mexico; and, in Mexico, northern Sonora and the Sierra Madre Occidental of Chihuahua. The Chiricahua leopard frog is now absent from many historical localities and numerous mountain ranges, valleys, and drainages within its former range. In areas where it is still present, populations are often few, small, and widely scattered. Known threats include habitat alteration, destruction, and fragmentation, predation by nonnative organisms, and disease. Habitat loss results from water diversions, dredging, livestock grazing, mining, degraded water quality, and groundwater pumping.

Scaleshell mussel (Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Dakota): Final Listing Determination

The scaleshell is a relatively small freshwater mussel species measuring 1 to 4 inches in width with a thin, fragile shell and faint green rays. This species inhabits medium-sized and large rivers with stable channels and good water quality. Currently, the species is known from 13 streams scattered within the Mississippi River Basin. Its abundance and distribution have decreased markedly due to habitat loss and adverse effects associated with water quality degradation, sedimentation, channelization, sand and gravel mining, dredging, and reservoir construction.

Vermilion darter (Alabama): Final Listing Determination

The vermilion darter is a small fish reaching about 3 inches total length. The vermilion darter is distinguished by extensive vermilion pigmentation on the lower sides, especially on the belly. The vermilion darter is found only in 7.2 miles of the main-stem of Turkey Creek, and the lowermost reaches of Dry Creek and Beaver Creek, in Jefferson County, Alabama. The darter faces many threats, including impoundments that have altered stream dynamics and reduced the species= range significantly, excessive sedimentation that has made its tributary unsuitable for feeding and reproduction, and other pollutants, such as excessive nutrients, pesticides, and other agricultural runoff that washes into Turkey Creek. Since the vermilion darter has such a restricted range, it is also threatened by potential catastrophic events (e.g., toxic chemical spill).

Mississippi gopher frog (Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana): Final Listing Determination

Historically, the Mississippi gopher frog may have occurred in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, from just east of the Mississippi River in Louisiana to the Mobile River delta in Alabama. Today, it is known from only one site in Harrison County, Mississippi. This last surviving population of approximately 100 frogs is threatened by natural processes such as: genetic isolation, inbreeding, and drought; habitat fragmentation and destruction from nearby residential development and road construction; and, fire suppression.

Golden sedge (North Carolina): Final Listing Determination

This rare plant is presently known from only eight populations in Pender and Onslow counties, North Carolina. The golden sedge is endangered throughout its range because of habitat alteration; conversion of its limited habitat for residential, commercial, or industrial development; mining; drainage activities associated with silviculture and agriculture; and suppression of fire.

Holmgren milk-vetch and Shivwits milk-vetch (Utah and Arizona): Final Listing Determination

These two perennial herbs, the Holmgren milk-vetch and the Shivwits milk-vetch, occur in Arizona and Utah. Three small populations of Holmgren milk-vetch exist in Washington County, Utah, and adjacent Mohave County, Arizona. Five small populations of Shivwits milk-vetch exist in Washington County, Utah. Significant portions of the habitat of both species are subject to disturbance from urban development, off-road vehicles, grazing, displacement by exotic weeds, and mineral development.

Proposed Listings

Rota bridled white-eye (Rota, U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands): Proposed Listing Rule

This small bird is named for the white ring of feathers around each eye. The Rota bridled white-eye is endemic to the island of Rota, and was once widespread, occupying forested habitat at all elevations. The total population of the Rota bridled white-eye is currently estimated at 1,167 individuals, which is a decline of 89 percent from the 1982 estimated population. The Rota bridled white-eye is currently found in only four patches of old-growth native limestone forests. The reasons for this species= decline is likely due to degradation or loss of habitat due to development, agricultural activities, and naturally-occurring events; avian disease; predation; and pesticides.

Island fox (California): Proposed Listing Rule

Island foxes inhabit the six largest islands (San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, San Nicolas, Santa Catalina, and San Clemente islands) off the coast of southern California. Total island fox numbers have fallen from approximately 6,000 individuals to less than 2,000. Habitat on all islands occupied by island foxes has been heavily affected by livestock grazing, cultivation, and other disturbance. Recent island fox declines on San Miguel, Santa Cruz, and Santa Rosa islands have been attributed to predation by golden eagles. On Santa Catalina Island, the large sudden decline in island foxes has been attributed to canine distemper.

Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly (New Mexico): Proposed Listing Rule

The Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly is restricted to the vicinity of Cloudcroft in the Sacramento Mountains in Otero County, New Mexico. The species is threatened by destruction and fragmentation of habitat from private and commercial development, habitat degradation and loss of host plants from grazing, encroachment of conifers and non-native vegetation into non- forested openings, over-collection, and, due to its limited range, vulnerability to local extirpations from extreme weather events or catastrophic wildfire including fire suppression activities.

 

Gila chub (Arizona and New Mexico): Proposed Listing Rule

The Gila chub commonly inhabits pools in smaller streams, springs, and cienegas, and can survive in small artificial impoundments. The Gila chub has been extirpated or reduced in numbers and distribution in the majority of its historical range. Over 70 percent of the Gila chub’s habitat has been degraded or destroyed, and much of it is unrecoverable. Only 15 populations of Gila chub remain along approximately 527 miles of river, in Greenlee, Graham, Cochise, Santa Cruz, Pinal, Pima, Maricopa, and Yavapai counties, Arizona; and Catron and Grant counties, New Mexico. Most of the populations are small, isolated, and threatened; only one population is considered secure.

 

Four invertebrates (New Mexico and Texas): Proposed Listing Rule

Koster’s tryonia and the Roswell springsnail are aquatic snail species known only from five springs or seepage areas (four are on the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge) in Chaves County, New Mexico. The Pecos assiminea snail is a semi-aquatic snail known from two spring/seepage areas on the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge and two other springs in Texas. Noel's amphipod is limited to Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Amphipods are commonly known as freshwater shrimp. These species were found at several other springs in the Roswell area, but those habitats have dried due to groundwater pumping. These species are imperiled by habitat destruction, local and regional ground water depletion, direct manipulation of habitat, and surface and ground water pollution.

Petition Findings

Lower Kootenai River burbot (Montana, Idaho, and Canada (BC)): 90-Day Petition Finding

Declines in lower Kootenai River burbot have been most strongly associated with the construction and operation of Libby Dam (MT) since the early 1970s. Only 145 adult burbot have been captured in the Kootenai River in Idaho and British Columbia since 1993.

Miami blue butterfly (Florida): 90-day Finding

The Miami blue is a small butterfly with bright blue forewings on both sexes, a wide dark outer border on the forewing in females, and an orange-capped eyespot on the hindwing. This subspecies once occurred from mainland peninsular Florida, as far north as Hillsborough and Volusia counties, southward to south Florida and the Keys, including the Dry Tortugas.

Big Cypress fox squirrel (Florida): 12-Month Finding

The Big Cypress fox squirrel is the smallest of the three subspecies of fox squirrels that occur in Florida. The squirrel is highly variable in color, ranging from buff to black. This subspecies is native to the mainland of southwest Florida south of the Caloosahatchee River and west of the true Everglades.

Bonneville cutthroat trout (Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada ): 12-Month Finding

The dull-colored Bonneville cutthroat trout has generally large, evenly distributed spots and is one of 14 subspecies of native cutthroat trout. Its habitat is widely distributed and variable. It ranges from high elevation streams with coniferous and deciduous riparian trees to low elevation streams in sage-steppe grasslands. The majority of the Bonneville cutthroat trout population resides in Utah, with smaller populations present in Nevada, Idaho, and Wyoming.

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