Lois Grunwald, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 805/644-1766, ext 332
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is re-proposing 109,110 acres of critical habitat for the endangered arroyo toad (Anaxyrus californicus) in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, and San Diego counties, and opening a 60-day public comment period, which ends on December 14, 2009.
Much of the proposed critical habitat is the same as proposed by the Service in a 2004 rule, but also reflects new information on the distribution of toads since the 2004 critical habitat was proposed and then finalized in 2005. The Service agreed to re-propose critical habitat in the settlement of a lawsuit, and to submit the proposal to the Federal Register by October 1, 2009.
The re-proposal includes 76,951 acres of private lands, 23,718 acres under federal jurisdiction, 5,732 acres of state property, and 4,046 acres of tribal lands.
The arroyo toad is a small, buff-colored toad that measures between two and three inches in length and has dark-spotted, warty skin. Its call is a soft, high, whistled trill that is commonly mistaken for the call of an insect. Arroyo toads prefer shallow pools and open, sandy stream terraces. They use adjacent upland habitat for feeding and shelter. The arroyo toad is listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Areas proposed for critical habitat contain the primary elements needed by arroyo toads: rivers or streams for all the life stages of the toads; riparian and adjacent upland areas for foraging and breeding, and accessible areas between occupied habitat so that the toads can disperse; and areas that flood periodically, leaving behind pools where toads breed, and terrace habitats that provide for their life functions.
The Service designated the first critical habitat for the arroyo toad in February 2001, totaling 182,360 acres. The Service was then sued on the designation by the Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation and other groups. The Service re-proposed 138,713 acres of critical habitat in April 2004, and designated 11,695 acres of critical habitat in April 2005. The Center for Biological Diversity (Center) sued the Service over its 2005 designation of critical habitat, and the Service entered into a settlement agreement with the Center.
Links to the relevant documents can be found at www.fws.gov/ventura under “Recent News Events.” Comments may be submitted on-line at the federal eRulemaking portal: www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2008-0089. Comments may alternatively be submitted by mail or hand delivery to: Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2008-0089 Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA, 22203.
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