[Federal Register: January 19, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 12)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 3095-3109]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 3095]]


Part VI

Department of The Interior


Fish and Wildlife Service


50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Emergency Rule To List 
the Santa Barbara County Distinct Population of the California Tier 
Salamander as Endangered; Rule and Proposed Rule

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Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF81

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Emergency Rule To 
List the Santa Barbara County Distinct Population of the California 
Tiger Salamander as Endangered

AGENCY:  Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:  Emergency rule.


SUMMARY:  We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), exercise our 
authority to emergency list the Santa Barbara County Distinct 
Vertebrate Population Segment (DPS) of California tiger salamander 
(Ambystoma californiense), as endangered under the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Of 14 documented breeding sites and 
associated uplands, half have been destroyed or have suffered severe 
degradation in the last 18 months. Plans to convert additional sites 
from grazing to intensive agriculture are being developed and 
implemented. Because these losses and planned conversions constitute an 
emergency posing a significant and imminent risk to the well-being of 
the Santa Barbara County DPS of the California tiger salamander, we 
find that emergency listing is necessary. This emergency rule provides 
Federal protection pursuant to the Act for a period of 240 days. A 
proposed rule to list the Santa Barbara County DPS of the California 
tiger salamander is published concurrently with this emergency rule, in 
this same issue of the Federal Register in the proposed rule section.

DATES:  This emergency rule becomes effective January 19, 2000 and 
expires September 15, 2000.

ADDRESSES:  The complete file for this rule is available for 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 
Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, California, 93003.

Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, at the address listed above 
(telephone: 805/644-1766; facsimile: 805/644-3958).



    The California tiger salamander was first described as a distinct 
species, Ambystoma californiense, by Gray in 1853 from specimens 
collected in Monterey (Grinnell and Camp 1917). Storer (1925) and 
Bishop (1943) likewise considered the California tiger salamander as a 
distinct species. However, Dunn (1940), Gehlbach (1967), and Frost 
(1985) considered the California tiger salamander a subspecies 
(Ambystoma tigrinum californiense) that belonged within the A. tigrinum 
complex. Based on recent morphological and genetic work, geographic 
isolation, and ecological differences among the members of the A. 
tigrinum complex, the California tiger salamander is considered to be a 
distinct species (Shaffer and Stanley 1991; Jones 1993; Shaffer and 
McKnight 1996; Irschick and Shaffer 1997). The California tiger 
salamander was recognized as a distinct species in the November 21, 
1991, Animal Notice of Review (56 FR 58804).
    The California tiger salamander is a large, stocky, terrestrial 
salamander with a broad, rounded snout. Adults may reach a total length 
of 207 millimeters (mm) (8.2 inches (in)), with males generally 
averaging about 200 mm (8 in) in total length and females averaging 
about 170 mm (6.8 in) in total length. For both sexes, the average 
snout-vent length is approximately 90 mm (3.6 in). The small eyes have 
black irises and protrude from the head. Coloration consists of white 
or pale yellow spots or bars on a black background on the back and 
sides. The belly varies from almost uniform white or pale yellow to a 
variegated pattern of white or pale yellow and black. Males can be 
distinguished from females, especially during the breeding season, by 
their swollen cloacae (a common chamber into which the intestinal, 
urinary, and reproductive canals discharge), more developed tail fins, 
and larger overall size (Stebbins 1962; Loredo and Van Vuren 1996).
    California tiger salamanders are restricted to California, and 
their range does not overlap with any other species of tiger salamander 
(Stebbins 1985). Within California, the Santa Barbara County population 
is separated by the Coast Ranges, particularly the La Panza and Sierra 
Madre Ranges, and the Carrizo Plain from the closest other population, 
which extends into the Temblor Range in eastern San Luis Obispo and 
western Kern Counties (Shaffer, et al. 1993).
    The California tiger salamander inhabited low elevation, below 300 
meters (m) (1000 feet (ft)), vernal pools and seasonal ponds and the 
associated coastal scrub, grassland, and oak savannah plant communities 
of the Santa Maria, Los Alamos, and Santa Rita Valleys in western Santa 
Barbara County (Shaffer, et al. 1993; Sam Sweet, University of 
California, Santa Barbara, in litt. 1993, 1998a). Although California 
tiger salamanders still exist across most of their historic range in 
Santa Barbara County, the habitat available to them has been reduced 
greatly. The ponds available to the salamanders for breeding have been 
degraded and reduced in number and the associated upland habitats 
inhabited by salamanders for most of their life cycle have been 
degraded and reduced in area through changes in agriculture practices, 
urbanization, building of roads and highways, chemical applications, 
and overgrazing (Gira et al. 1999; S. Sweet, in litt. 1993, 1998a,b).
    Subadult and adult California tiger salamanders spend much of their 
lives in small mammal burrows found in the upland component of their 
habitat, particularly those of ground squirrels and pocket gophers 
(Loredo and Van Vuren 1996, Trenham 1998a). During estivation (a state 
of dormancy or inactivity in response to hot, dry weather), California 
tiger salamanders eat very little (Shaffer, et al. 1993). Once fall and 
winter rains begin, they emerge from these retreats on nights of high 
relative humidity and during rains to feed and to migrate to the 
breeding ponds (Stebbins 1985, 1989; Shaffer, et al. 1993). The 
salamanders breeding in and living around a pool or seasonal ponds, 
constitute a local subpopulation. The rate of natural movement of 
salamanders among subpopulations depends on the distance between the 
ponds or complexes and on the intervening habitat (e.g., salamanders 
may move more quickly through sparsely covered and more open grassland 
versus more densely vegetated scrublands).
    Adults may migrate up to 2 kilometers (km) (1.2 miles (mi)) from 
summering to breeding sites. The distance from breeding sites may 
depend on local topography and vegetation, the distribution of ground 
squirrel or other rodent burrows, and climatic conditions (Stebbins 
1989, Hunt 1998). In Santa Barbara County, juvenile California tiger 
salamanders have been trapped over 360 m (1,200 ft) while dispersing 
from their natal (birth) pond (Ted Mullen, Science Applications 
International Corporation (SAIC), personal communication, 1998), and 
adults have been found along roads over 2 km (1.2 mi) from breeding 
ponds (S. Sweet, in litt. 1998a). Migration is concentrated during a 
few rainy nights early in the winter, with males migrating before 
females (Twitty 1941; Shaffer, et al. 1993; Loredo and Van Vuren 1996; 
Trenham 1998b). Males

[[Page 3097]]

usually remain in the ponds for an average of about 6 to 8 weeks, while 
females stay for approximately 1 to 2 weeks. In dry years, both sexes 
may stay for shorter periods (Loredo and Van Vuren 1996, Trenham 
1998b). Although most marked salamanders have been recaptured at the 
pond where they were initially captured, in one study approximately 20 
percent were recaptured at different ponds (Trenham 1998b). As with 
migration distances, the number of ponds used by an individual over its 
lifetime will be dependent on landscape features.
    Female California tiger salamanders mate and lay their eggs singly 
or in small groups (Twitty 1941; Shaffer, et al. 1993). The number of 
eggs laid by a single female ranges from approximately 400 to 1,300 per 
breeding season (Trenham 1998b). The eggs typically are attached to 
vegetation near the edge of the breeding pond (Storer 1925, Twitty 
1941), but in ponds with no or limited vegetation, they may be attached 
to objects (rocks, boards, etc.) on the bottom (Jennings and Hayes 
1994). After breeding, adults leave the pond and typically return to 
small mammal burrows (Loredo et al. 1996; Trenham 1998a), although they 
may continue to come out nightly for approximately the next 2 weeks to 
feed (Shaffer, et al. 1993).
    Eggs hatch in 10 to 14 days with newly hatched larvae ranging from 
11.5 to 14.2 mm (0.45 to 0.56 in) in total length. Larvae feed on 
algae, small crustaceans, and mosquito larvae for about 6 weeks after 
hatching, when they switch to larger prey (P.R. Anderson 1968). Larger 
larvae have been known to consume smaller tadpoles of Pacific treefrogs 
(Hyla regilla) and California red-legged frogs (Rana aurora) as well as 
many aquatic insects and other aquatic invertebrates (J.D. Anderson 
1968; P.R. Anderson 1968). Captive salamanders appear to locate food by 
vision and olfaction (smell) (J.D. Anderson 1968).
    Amphibian larvae must grow to a critical minimum body size before 
they can metamorphose (change into a different physical form) to the 
terrestrial stage (Wilbur and Collins 1973). Feaver (1971) found that 
California tiger salamander larvae metamorphosed and left the breeding 
ponds 60 to 94 days after the eggs had been laid, with larvae 
developing faster in smaller, more rapidly drying ponds. The longer the 
ponding duration, the larger the larvae and metamorphosed juveniles are 
able to grow. The larger juvenile amphibians grow, the more likely they 
are to survive and reproduce (Semlitsch et al. 1988; Morey 1998).
    In the late spring or early summer, before the ponds dry 
completely, metamorphosed juveniles leave the ponds and enter small 
mammal burrows after spending up to a few days in mud cracks or tunnels 
in moist soil near the water (Zeiner et al. 1988; Shaffer, et al. 1993; 
Loredo et al. 1996). Like the adults, juveniles may emerge from these 
retreats to feed during nights of high relative humidity (Storer 1925; 
Shaffer, et al. 1993) before settling in their selected estivation 
sites for the dry summer months.
    Many of the pools in which California tiger salamanders lay eggs do 
not retain water long enough to support successful metamorphosis. 
Generally, 10 weeks is required to allow sufficient time to 
metamorphose. The larvae will desiccate (dry out and perish) if a site 
dries before larvae complete metamorphosis (P.R. Anderson 1968, Feaver 
1971). Pechmann et al. (1989) found a strong positive correlation with 
ponding duration and total number of metamorphosing juveniles in five 
salamander species. In one study, successful metamorphosis of 
California tiger salamanders occurred only in larger pools with longer 
ponding durations (Feaver 1971), which is typical range-wide (Jennings 
and Hayes 1994). Even though there is little difference in the number 
of pools used by salamanders between wet and dry years, pool duration 
is the most important factor to consider in relation to persistence and 
survival (Feaver 1971; Shaffer, et al. 1993; Seymour and Westphal 1994, 
    Lifetime reproductive success for California and other tiger 
salamanders is typically low, with fewer than 30 metamorphic juveniles 
per breeding female. While individuals may survive for more than 10 
years, many may breed only once, and, in some populations, less than 5 
percent of marked juveniles survive to become breeding adults (Trenham 
1998b). With such low recruitment, isolated subpopulations can decline 
greatly from unusual, randomly occurring natural events as well as from 
human-caused factors that reduce breeding success and individual 
survival. Factors that repeatedly lower breeding success in isolated 
ponds that are too far from other ponds for migrating individuals to 
replenish the population can quickly drive a local population to 

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment

    The evidence supports recognition of Santa Barbara County 
California tiger salamanders as a DPS for purposes of listing, as 
defined in our February 7, 1996, Policy Regarding the Recognition of 
Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments (61 FR 4722). The definition of 
``species'' in section 3(16) of the Act includes ``any distinct 
population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which 
interbreeds when mature.'' When listing a population under the Act as a 
DPS, three elements are considered: (1) The discreteness of the 
population segment in relation to the remainder of the species to which 
it belongs; (2) the significance of the population segment to the 
species to which it belongs; and (3) the population segment's 
conservation status in relation to the Act's standards for listing 
(i.e., is the population segment, when treated as if it were a species, 
endangered or threatened?) (61 FR 4722).
    The DPS of California tiger salamanders in Santa Barbara County is 
discrete in relation to the remainder of the species as a whole. The 
DPS is geographically isolated and separate from other California tiger 
salamanders; no mixing of the population with other California tiger 
salamander populations occurs. As detailed below, this finding is 
supported by an evaluation of the species' genetic variability.
    Genetic analyses of the California tiger salamander suggest that 
levels of interchange among populations are very low, and that 
populations or subpopulations are genetically isolated from one another 
(Jones 1993; Shaffer, et al. 1993). Allozyme variation (distinct types 
of enzymes (proteins) in the cells, which are formed from an 
individual's inherited genes) and mitochondrial DNA sequence data 
indicate the existence of at least seven genetically distinct 
California tiger salamander populations (Shaffer, et al. 1993). 
Although the allozyme variation reported by Shaffer, et al. (1993) is 
quite low, it does indicate patterns of geographic isolation. Probably 
because of this isolation, the population in Santa Barbara County is 
one of the two most genetically distinct, and these salamanders are 
more similar to California tiger salamanders on the eastern side of the 
Central Valley than to those in the closest populations found in the 
Temblor Range (Shaffer, et al. 1993). The populations in the Temblor 
Range are about 67.5 km or 44 mi by air, from the Santa Barbara County 
population, while the eastern Central Valley populations are 200 km or 
128 mi by air, across mountain ranges, an arid plain, and the Central 
Valley, all of which are inhospitable zones for California tiger 
salamanders. The Santa Barbara County population may be a relict 
population of a much more widespread group that extended across the 
area where the Tehachapi and

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Transverse Ranges now extend. The uplift of those ranges changed the 
terrain and the local climatic conditions, isolating salamanders in 
what is now northwestern Santa Barbara County. The Temblor Range 
salamanders appear to be a more recent extension from the populations 
south of San Francisco Bay. The sequence divergence between the Santa 
Barbara County tiger salamanders and other samples from throughout the 
species' range is on the order of 1.7 percent (Shaffer, in litt. 1998) 
or 1.8 percent (Shaffer, et. al. 1993). Shaffer's mitochondrial DNA 
sequence data (Shaffer and McKnight 1996, and unpublished data) suggest 
that the seven distinct populations differ markedly in their genetic 
characteristics, with Santa Barbara County tiger salamanders having 
gene sequences not found in any other California tiger salamander 
populations (Shaffer, in litt. 1998). California tiger salamanders in 
Santa Barbara County may have been separated from the other populations 
for about 1 to 1.5 million years (Shaffer, et al. 1993; Shaffer and 
McKnight 1996; H. Bradley Shaffer, University of California, Davis 
(UCD), in litt. 1998). Shaffer, et al. (1993) and Shaffer (in litt. 
1998) suggest that differentiation at this level is sufficient to 
justify species-level recognition.
    The Santa Barbara County California tiger salamander population is 
biologically and ecologically significant to the species. As discussed 
above, the Santa Barbara County population is genetically distinct from 
other populations of California tiger salamanders, and individuals 
exhibit genetic characteristics not found in other California tiger 
salamanders. The Santa Barbara County population is also significant in 
that it constitutes the only population of California tiger salamanders 
west of the outer Coast Ranges, and it is the southernmost population 
of the species. The DPS covered in this emergency rule is found only in 
Santa Barbara County. The extinction of the Santa Barbara County 
California tiger salamander population would result in the loss of a 
significant genetic entity, the curtailment of the range of the species 
as a whole, and the loss of a top predator in the aquatic systems that 
Santa Barbara County California tiger salamanders inhabit. Based on 
geographic isolation, the lack of evidence of gene flow with other 
populations, and marked genetic differentiation, we conclude that the 
Santa Barbara County population of California tiger salamanders meets 
the discreteness and significance criteria in our Policy Regarding the 
Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments and qualifies as 
a DPS. We discuss the Santa Barbara County population's conservation 
status below.

Status and Distribution

    Currently, California tiger salamanders in Santa Barbara County are 
found in four discrete regions (S. Sweet, in litt. 1998a). 
Collectively, salamanders in these regions constitute a single genetic 
population or DPS, reproductively separate from the rest of the 
California tiger salamanders (Jones 1993; Shaffer, et al. 1993; Shaffer 
and McKnight 1996). Ponds and associated uplands in southwestern (West 
Orcutt) and southeastern (Bradley-Dominion) Santa Maria Valley, Los 
Alamos Valley, and Santa Rita Valley constitute the four discrete 
regions or metapopulations where California tiger salamanders now exist 
in Santa Barbara County (S. Sweet, in litt. 1998a). For the purposes of 
this rule, a metapopulation is defined as a group of subpopulations or 
``local populations'' linked by genetic exchange. Of 14 known breeding 
sites or subpopulations within this DPS, 1 was destroyed in 1998, the 
upland habitat around 3 has been converted into more intensive 
agriculture practices (i.e. vineyards, gladiolus fields, and row crops, 
which may have eliminated the salamander subpopulations), 1 is 
surrounded by agriculture and urban development, 2 are affected by 
overgrazing, 4 are imminently threatened with conversion to vineyards 
or other intensive agriculture practices, and the remaining 3 are in 
areas rapidly undergoing conversion to vineyards and row crops (Sweet, 
et al. 1998; Sweet, in litt. 1998; Santa Barbara County Planning and 
Development 1998; Grace McLaughlin, Service, personal observations, 
1998). Thus, only 6 or 7 of 13 existing ponds potentially provide 
breeding habitat for viable subpopulations of Santa Barbara County 
California tiger salamanders. Although other breeding ponds could exist 
within each of the four metapopulations noted above, searches around 
extant localities in the county, as well as in other areas with 
suitable habitat, have not identified additional subpopulations of the 
species (Paul Collins, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, in 
litt. 1998, pers. comm. 1999; S. Sweet, in litt. 1998a). Four possible 
breeding ponds or pond complexes (three in the Bradley-Dominion area, 
one in Santa Rita Valley) have been identified from aerial photography 
and by finding salamanders on roads in the vicinity (Sweet, et al. 
1998) but have not been sampled. Most of the upland habitats around the 
ponds have been converted to vineyards or row crops within the last 6 
years (Santa Barbara County Planning and Development 1998). All of the 
known and potential localities of the California tiger salamander in 
Santa Barbara County are on private lands, none are protected by 
conservation easements or agreements, and access is limited.

Previous Federal Action

    On September 18, 1985, we published the Vertebrate Notice of Review 
(50 FR 37958), which included the California tiger salamander as a 
category 2 candidate species for possible future listing as threatened 
or endangered. Category 2 candidates were those taxa for which 
information contained in our files indicated that listing may be 
appropriate but for which additional data were needed to support a 
listing proposal. The January 6, 1989, and November 21, 1991, candidate 
notices of review (54 FR 554 and 56 FR 58804, respectively) also 
included the California tiger salamander as a category 2 candidate, 
soliciting information on the status of the species. On February 21, 
1992, we received a petition from Dr. H. Bradley Shaffer of the 
University of California, Davis, to list the California tiger 
salamander as an endangered species. We published a 90-day petition 
finding on November 19, 1992 (57 FR 54545), concluding that the 
petition presented substantial information indicating that listing may 
be warranted. On April 18, 1994, we published a 12-month petition 
finding (59 FR 18353) that the listing of the California tiger 
salamander was warranted but precluded by higher priority listing 
actions. We elevated the species to category 1 status at that time, 
which was reflected in the November 15, 1994, Animal Notice of Review 
(59 FR 58982). Category 1 candidates were those taxa for which we had 
on file sufficient information on biological vulnerability and threats 
to support preparation of listing proposals. In a memorandum dated 
November 3, 1994, from the acting Assistant Regional Director to the 
Field Supervisor, the recycled 12-month finding on the petition and a 
proposed rule to list the species under the Act were given a due date 
of December 15, 1995. However, on April 10, 1995, Public Law 104-6 
imposed a moratorium on listings and critical habitat designations and 
rescinded $1.5 million from the listing program funding. The moratorium 
was lifted and listing funding was restored through passage of the 
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act on April 26, 1996, following severe 
funding constraints

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imposed by a number of continuing resolutions between November 1995 and 
April 1996. The listing of the California tiger salamander throughout 
its range was precluded by the need to address higher priority species, 
although the status of the entire species is currently under review. 
The decision to emergency list this DPS of the California tiger 
salamander is based on information contained in the original petition, 
information referenced in the petition, and new information otherwise 
available to the Service.
    The processing of this emergency rule conforms with our Listing 
Priority Guidance published in the Federal Register on October 22, 1999 
(64 FR 57114). The guidance clarifies the order in which we will 
process rulemakings. Highest priority is processing emergency listing 
rules for any species determined to face a significant and imminent 
risk to its well-being (Priority 1). Second priority (Priority 2) is 
processing final determinations on proposed additions to the lists of 
endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. Third priority is 
processing new proposals to add species to the lists. The processing of 
administrative petition findings (petitions filed under section 4 of 
the Act) is the fourth priority. The processing of critical habitat 
determinations (prudency and determinability decisions) and proposed or 
final designations of critical habitat will be funded separately from 
other section 4 listing actions and will no longer be subject to 
prioritization under the Listing Priority Guidance. This emergency rule 
is a Priority 1 action and is being completed in accordance with the 
current Listing Priority Guidance.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    After a thorough review and consideration of all information 
available, we have determined that the Santa Barbara County population 
of the California tiger salamander warrants classification as an 

endangered DPS. We followed procedures found at section 4 of the Act 
(16 U.S.C. 1533) and regulations (50 CFR part 424) promulgated to 
implement the listing provisions of the Act. We may determine a species 
to be endangered or threatened due to one or more of the five factors 
described in section 4(a)(1). These factors and their application to 
the Santa Barbara County DPS of the California tiger salamander 
(Ambystoma californiense) are as follows:

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    California tiger salamanders now occur in scattered subpopulations 
within four isolated areas or metapopulations across the historic range 
in Santa Barbara County. Based on the topography and habitat type of 
the lands that have been converted to agriculture and urban 
development, we conclude that the number of breeding ponds, the extent 
of upland habitats, and the quality of the remaining habitats have been 
reduced greatly since Europeans first settled the region. While those 
areas remained in grazing lands or oil production, which generally have 
relatively low effects on the subpopulations, the species was 
relatively secure. However, based on aerial photography from the 1930's 
through the 1990's (archived at the Santa Barbara County Department of 
Planning and Development), the conversion to intensive agriculture and 
urban developments has resulted in the loss of breeding habitat from 
the destruction or alteration of natural vernal pools and seasonal 
ponds, and the loss of upland habitat used for estivation and 
    Pools and ponds are destroyed when they are filled during grading 
and leveling operations or deep-ripping. Deep-ripping or deep slip 
plowing is a technique that uses a 4- to 7-foot deep plow to break up 
the hardpan (layer of dense soil or material that prevents water 
percolation) or compacted soil to allow water to drain deeper into the 
soil and prevents water retention or ponding. Alternatively, seasonal 
ponds may be converted to irrigation ponds, which are often managed in 
ways that are not conducive to salamander survival (Lawrence Hunt, 
Biological Consultant, in litt. 1998). The repeated plowing and discing 
or deep-ripping of upland habitats can alter the hydrology of the 
pools, thus destroying them (Coe 1988), or can kill salamanders 
outright and destroy the small mammal burrow systems in which they live 
most of the year.
    Intensive agricultural practices began in the Santa Maria River and 

San Antonio Creek Valleys over 130 years ago (Elihu Gevirtz, Santa 
Barbara County Planning and Development, pers. comm. 1999), probably 
eliminating many breeding ponds and associated upland habitats. The 
increasingly rapid conversion of these lands and those in the Los 
Alamos and Santa Rita Valleys to intensive agricultural practices is 
characterized by the increase in row crop acreage by more than 9,900 
hectares (ha) (over 25,000 acres (ac)) since 1986 and the installation 
of approximately 4,000 ha (10,000 ac) of vineyards just since 1996 
(Gira et al. 1999). These conversions have resulted in the destruction 
of two breeding ponds (one suspected and one documented) and the 
grading of 90 and 100 percent of their drainage basins, and the grading 
of 50 to 100 percent of the drainage basins of five documented and two 
suspected breeding ponds in the last 5 years (Santa Barbara County 
Planning and Development 1998). Six of 14 documented breeding sites and 
associated uplands have been destroyed or severely affected since 1996, 
and there are proposals to develop vineyards around 4 other documented 
breeding ponds, leaving only 4 of 13 remaining pond sites relatively 
free from imminent threat (Hunt 1998; G. McLaughlin, pers. obs. 1998; 
Santa Barbara County Planning and Development 1998; Sweet, et al. 1998; 
Sweet, in litt. 1998). The current and potential threats to the 
remaining ponds from agriculture and urbanization are discussed below 
by region (West Orcutt, Bradley-Dominion, Los Alamos, Santa Rita).
    The known breeding sites in southwestern Santa Maria Valley (west 
of Highway 101 and Santa Maria), comprising the West Orcutt 
metapopulation, are on grazing and other agricultural lands. Vernal 
pools in the area have been lost or adversely affected by rapid 
development in the Santa Maria Valley (E. Gevirtz, pers. comm. 1999). 
Thirty years ago, a housing development directly affected one of three 
documented breeding sites in this metapopulation. The two remaining 
sites are separated by a railroad that may disrupt migration routes and 
reduce genetic interchange. These sites are also threatened by 
overgrazing (G. McLaughlin, pers. obs. 1998) (see discussion on grazing 
in Factors C and E, below) and potentially threatened by urban 
development (S. Sweet, in litt. 1998a; E. Gevirtz, pers. comm. 1999).
    Before 1996, the four documented and three possible breeding sites 
(Sweet, et al. 1998) in southeastern Santa Maria Valley, which 
constitute the Bradley-Dominion metapopulation, were surrounded by oil 
production and grazing lands. Since 1996, agricultural land conversion 
for vineyards, vegetable row crops, and flowers has destroyed one 
documented and one suspected breeding site, possibly extirpated 
salamanders from two other documented sites and one possible breeding 
site, and threatens the remaining possible breeding site (S. Sweet, in 
litt. 1993; 1998a,b). Although

[[Page 3100]]

California tiger salamanders were found migrating across roads in the 
vicinity of the possible breeding sites throughout the 1980's, 
salamanders have not been observed since the early 1990's, when the 
grazing lands were converted to vineyards (S. Sweet, in litt. 1998a).
    A storage facility for agricultural products and chemicals is 
within the watershed of the remaining documented breeding site (S. 
Sweet, in litt. 1998a; Theresa Stevens, Santa Barbara County Planning 
and Development, pers. comm. 1999). Although precautions have been 
taken to reduce the threats of runoff and spills into the natural pond 
(Analise Merlo, Santa Barbara County Planning and Development, pers. 
comm. 1999) that could eliminate or injure salamanders during the 
breeding or development seasons, the threats still exist. A road 
between this pond and a nearby pond, the watershed of which was 
converted to gladiolus fields in 1998, disrupts migration between the 
ponds and the uplands, has caused the deaths of many salamanders, and 
contributes to potentially lethal contamination of the ponds (S. Sweet, 
in litt. 1993, 1998a).
    The Los Alamos Valley or Las Flores metapopulation, although 
fragmented by Highway 101, was considered to be an important breeding 
site for the species provided existing conditions could be maintained 
(Stebbins 1989). However, recent changes in land ownership and 
management have resulted in the conversion from grazing lands to 
vineyards, east of the highway. The direct effects of this conversion 
resulted in the loss of one vernal pool and the severe degradation of 
upland habitats surrounding that pool and another documented breeding 
site (Hunt 1998). On the west side of Highway 101, habitat around four 
vernal pools and seasonal ponds that are documented breeding sites and 
currently grazing lands, may be converted for intensive agricultural 
practices (Santa Barbara County Planning and Development 1998; L. Hunt, 
in litt. 1999; S. Sweet, in litt. 1998a; Abe Lieder, Santa Barbara 
County Planning and Development, in litt. 1999; Morgan Wehtje, 
California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), pers. comm. 1999).
    In the Santa Rita Valley metapopulation, one of the two sites used 
by the California tiger salamander west of Buellton has been severely 
affected by agricultural grading and conversion to row crops (S. Sweet, 
in litt. 1993, 1998a,b). The other site has two vernal pools that have 
been deepened to create a permanent water source for cattle and have 
had introductions of mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and sunfish 
(Lepomis spp.). The pools are adjacent to Highway 246, resulting in 
considerable road mortality of salamanders during their breeding 
migrations (S. Sweet, in litt. 1993, 1998). Upland habitats around two 
possible breeding ponds northeast of the latter were deep-ripped in 
1998 in preparation for conversion to vineyards (L. Hunt, in litt. 
1998; Santa Barbara County Planning and Development 1998). The 
conversion to vineyard of these areas is in progress (G. McLaughlin, 
pers. obs. 1999), and one of the ponds has recently been enlarged and 
deepened (E. Gevirtz, pers. comm. 1999; Jim Mace, U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers, pers. comm. 1999). This change may make the pond less 
desirable for the California tiger salamander and more likely to be 
inhabited by exotic fish, crayfish, and bullfrogs.
    Oil production began within the range of the salamander 
approximately 100 years ago, with the discovery of oil in the Solomon 
Hills (within the range of the Los Alamos tiger salamander 
metapopulation). By 1910, production had begun in the Santa Maria 
Valley (E. Gevirtz, pers. comm. 1999). Although oil production is less 
disruptive to the upland habitats than agriculture, oil sump ponds, 
particularly those located where natural ponds and pools once existed, 
may act as toxic sinks. While attracting salamanders seeking breeding 
sites, these ponds may contain levels of contaminants that may kill 
adults, eggs, and larvae outright, or cause deformities in the 
developing larvae thus precluding their survival (see discussion on 
contaminants in Factor E of this section). Also, the ``burping''' 
(release) of hydrogen sulfide gas by the wells can acidify the ponds as 
the gas settles in low-lying areas, reducing the survival rates of 
larvae and adults (S. Sweet, in litt. 1993).
    The primary cause of the reduced distribution of the California 
tiger salamander in Santa Barbara County is the conversion of native 
habitat to intensive agricultural practices and urban development. In 
addition, the largest remaining subpopulations are in areas most 
severely threatened by human encroachment (Shaffer, et al. 1993; S. 
Sweet, in litt. 1993; 1998a; E. Gevirtz, in litt. 1998). Besides direct 
loss of habitat, the widespread conversion of land to agricultural and 
residential uses has led to the fragmentation of the range of the tiger 
salamander and isolation of remaining subpopulations in Santa Barbara 
County (Shaffer, et al. 1993; S. Sweet, in litt. 1993; 1998a). Even 
relatively minor habitat modifications, such as construction of roads, 
pipelines, fences, and berms that traverse the area between breeding 
and refuge sites, can increase habitat fragmentation, impede or prevent 
breeding migrations, and result in direct and indirect mortality (Mader 
1984; S. Sweet, in litt. 1993, 1998; Findlay and Houlahan 1996; Launer 
and Fee 1996; Gibbs 1998).

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Although tiger salamanders have been used for bait and imported 
larvae (``waterdogs'') are still sold in California, we have no 
information about the use of California tiger salamanders for this 
purpose (see discussion under Factor E of this section).

C. Disease or Predation

    The direct effect of disease on the Santa Barbara County population 
of California tiger salamanders is not known and the risks to the DPS 
have not been determined. Because California tiger salamanders are 
found in so few sites in Santa Barbara County, and because the sites 
are found across a relatively small area, disease must be considered a 
potential threat to the persistence of the DPS. Sam Sweet (pers. comm. 
1998) reported that one landowner in the Los Alamos Valley has seen 
large numbers of dead and dying salamanders in a pond, but the cause 
was not determined. Several pathogenic (disease-causing) agents, 
including at least one bacterium (Worthylake and Hovingh 1989), a water 
mold (fungus) (Kiesecker and Blaustein 1997; Lefcort et al. 1997), and 
a virus (McLean 1998), have been associated with die-offs of closely 
related tiger salamanders, as well as other amphibian species. Each of 
these pathogens could devastate one or all of the remaining 
subpopulations or metapopulations if introduced into Santa Barbara 
    Worthylake and Hovingh (1989) reported on repeated die-offs of 
tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum) in Desolation Lake in the 
Wasatch Mountains of Utah. Affected salamanders had red, swollen hind 
legs and vents, and widespread hemorrhage of the skin and internal 
organs. The researchers determined that the die-offs were due to 
infection with the bacterium Acinetobacter. The number of bacteria in 
the lake increased with increasing nitrogen levels as the lake dried. 
The nitrogen was believed to come from both atmospheric deposition and 
waste from sheep grazing in the watershed (Worthylake and Hovingh

[[Page 3101]]

1989). Acinetobacter spp. are common in soil and animal feces. 
Overstocking of livestock in pond watersheds could lead to high levels 
of nitrogen in ponds and contribute to increased bacterial levels.
    Lefcort et al. (1997), in Georgia, found that tiger salamanders 
raised in natural and artificial ponds contaminated with silt were 
susceptible to infection by the water mold Saprolegnia parasitica. The 
fungus first appeared on the feet, then spread to the entire leg. All 
infected animals died. Die-offs of western toads (Bufo boreas), 
Cascades frogs (Rana cascadae), and Pacific treefrogs (Hyla regilla) 
also have been associated with Saprolegnia infections (Kiesecker and 
Blaustein 1997). Saprolegnia spp. are widespread in natural waters and 
commonly grow on dead organic material (Wise 1995).
    High nitrogen and silt levels from overgrazing or other 
agricultural or urban runoff may increase susceptibility to disease and 
may interact with other risk factors (e.g., habitat loss, introduced 
species) to jeopardize the persistence of a local population. Two of 
the three ponds in the West Orcutt metapopulation area are in severely 
overgrazed grasslands and are at risk of receiving runoff that has both 
high nitrogen and high silt levels. Four ponds in the Los Alamos 
metapopulation and the two ponds in the Santa Rita metapopulation are 
on grazing lands; although the levels of grazing are not excessive, 
silt and nitrogen levels must be considered when assessing the health 
of these populations. One of the ponds in the Los Alamos Valley was the 
site of a die-off of California tiger salamanders, but the cause was 
unknown (S. Sweet, pers. comm. 1998).
    In addition to the Acinetobacter discussed above, an iridovirus 
(viruses with DNA as the genetic material that occur in insects, fish, 
and amphibians and may cause death, skin lesions, or no symptoms) has 
been identified by the U.S. Geological Service (USGS), National 
Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, as the cause of deaths of 
large numbers of tiger salamanders at Desolation Lake, Utah. Infected 
salamanders moved slowly in circles and had trouble remaining upright. 
They had red spots and swollen areas on the skin. Viruses associated 
with die-offs of tiger and spotted salamanders in two other States, 
Maine and North Dakota, have been isolated (McLean 1998). In 1995, 
researchers reported similar die-offs attributed to an iridovirus in 
southern Arizona and near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (McLean 1998). 
Iridoviruses are found in both fish and frogs and may have been 
introduced to some sites through fish stocking programs. Little is 
known about the historical distribution of iridoviruses in salamander 
populations. A virus could enter California via bait shops where 
eastern tiger salamanders are legally sold in certain counties 
(California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 14, Division 1, Subdivision 
1, Chapter 2, Article 3, Sec. 4, 1999), or where they are illegally 
sold in other areas. The virus may be carried by birds, such as herons 
and egrets, that feed on the salamanders. Such a virus could be 
devastating to the Santa Barbara County population of California tiger 


    Predation and competition by introduced or nonnative species 
potentially affect 38 percent of the remaining 13 Santa Barbara County 
California tiger salamander breeding sites. Shaffer, et al. (1993) 
consider bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana), mosquitofish, and other 
introduced fish to be biological indicators of ponds that have been 
disturbed to a degree that California tiger salamanders are excluded. 
Competition is discussed under Factor E of this section.
    Bullfrogs prey on California tiger salamander larvae (P.R. Anderson 
1968). Morey and Guinn (1992) documented a shift in amphibian community 
composition at a vernal pool complex, with California tiger salamanders 
becoming proportionally less abundant as bullfrogs increased. Although 
bullfrogs are unable to establish permanent breeding populations in 
unaltered vernal pools and seasonal ponds, dispersing immature frogs 
take up residence in vernal pools during winter and spring (Morey and 
Guinn 1992) and may prey on native amphibians, including larval 
California tiger salamanders. Lawler et al. (1999) found that less than 
5 percent of California red-legged frog tadpoles survived to 
metamorphosis when raised with bullfrog tadpoles (initially, ponds held 
720 red-legged frog tadpoles and 50 bullfrog tadpoles; approximately 50 
percent of the bullfrogs successfully metamorphosed). Due to the 
documented effects of bullfrogs on other amphibian species, we believe 
that they are likely to have similar effects on California tiger 
salamanders and that the presence of bullfrogs in salamander habitat 
threatens the persistence of the salamander populations. Bullfrogs are 
found within 1.6 km (1 mi) of one vernal pool complex in Santa Barbara 
County (S. Sweet, pers. comm. 1999), posing a threat to that 
    Mosquitofish, instead of pesticides, often are placed into ponds by 
vector control agencies to eliminate mosquitoes. Mosquitofish are used 
by every vector control district in the State and in some districts 
represent the majority of their control efforts (Ken Boyce, California 
Mosquito and Vector Control Association, in litt. 1994). These fish 
were first introduced to California in 1922 and have since become well-
established throughout the State's water systems (K. Boyce in litt. 
1994). In general, mosquitofish are stocked in very small numbers 
because they quickly reproduce to the maximum population levels that a 
particular habitat may sustain. Mosquitofish are extremely tolerant of 
polluted water with low levels of dissolved oxygen and have an 
extremely wide range of temperature tolerance (Boyce 1994). 
Mosquitofish prey on the California newt (Taricha torosa) (Gamradt and 
Kats 1996) and Pacific treefrog (Goodsell and Kats 1999) larvae in both 
field and laboratory experiments, even given the optional prey of 
mosquito larvae (Goodsell and Kats 1999; Lee Kats, Pepperdine 
University, pers. comm. 1999). Both newt and Pacific treefrog larvae 
were found in stomachs of wild-caught mosquitofish (Goodsell and Kats 
1999; L. Kats, pers. comm. 1999). Robert Stebbins observed mosquitofish 
ingesting and then spitting out California newt larvae, causing severe 
damage to the newts in the process (Graf 1993). Schmieder and Nauman 
(1993) found that mosquitofish significantly affected the survival of 
both prefeeding and large larvae of California red-legged frogs. Lawler 
et al. (1999) did not find a reduction in survival rates of California 
red-legged frog tadpoles raised in the presence of mosquitofish versus 
controls with no mosquitofish, but those tadpoles that did survive 
weighed less than control tadpoles and metamorphosed later, and most 
were injured by the fish. Smaller size at metamorphosis may reduce 
survival to breeding age and reproductive potential Morey 1998, 
Semlitsch et al. 1988). Salamanders may be especially vulnerable to 
mosquitofish predation due to their fluttering external gills, which 
may attract these visual predators (Graf 1993). Loredo-Prendeville et 
al. (1994) found no California tiger salamanders in ponds with 
mosquitofish. Due to the documented effects of mosquitofish on other 
amphibian species, we believe that they are likely to have similar 
effects on California tiger salamanders and that the use of 
mosquitofish in salamander habitat threatens the persistence of the 
salamander populations.

[[Page 3102]]

    Louisiana red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarki) also apparently 
prey on California tiger salamanders (Shaffer, et al. 1993) and may 
have eliminated some populations (Jennings and Hayes 1994). The 
crayfish prey on California newt eggs and larvae, in spite of toxins 
that the species has developed, and may be a significant factor in the 
loss of newts from several streams in southern California (Gamradt and 
Kats 1996). These crayfish are found in two salamander breeding sites 
in Santa Barbara County, but their effect on egg and larval survival is 
unknown (S. Sweet, pers. comm. 1999).
    California tiger salamander larvae also are preyed upon by many 
native species. In healthy salamander populations such predation is 
probably not a significant threat, but when combined with other 
impacts, such as predation by nonnative species, contaminants, or 
habitat alteration, it may cause a significant decrease in population 
viability. Native predators include great blue herons (Ardea herodias) 
and egrets (Casmerodius albus), western pond turtles (Clemmys 
marmorata), various garter snakes (Thamnophis spp.), larger California 
tiger salamander larvae, larger spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus hammondii) 
larvae, and California red-legged frogs (Mike Peters, Service, in. 
litt. 1993; Hansen and Tremper 1993).

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The primary cause of the decline of the Santa Barbara County 
population of California tiger salamanders is the loss, degradation, 
and fragmentation of habitat from human activities. Federal, State, and 
local laws have not been sufficient to prevent past and ongoing losses 

of California tiger salamander habitat.
    Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) authorizes the U.S. Army 
Corps of Engineers (Corps) to issue individual or general permits for 
the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United 
States, which include navigable waters, wetlands (e.g., vernal pools), 
and other seasonal ponds typically used by breeding salamanders. 
Projects that involve only the excavation of pools or that alter the 
watershed and hydrological regime of the pool but do not involve 
``discharge'' into the pool do not require a section 404 permit (Coe 
1988). General permits include both nationwide and regional permits and 
may allow projects to proceed without the scrutiny afforded through the 
individual permitting process.
    Of particular concern relative to the persistence of California 
tiger salamanders are activities conducted under Nationwide Permit 
(NWP) Number 26 (33 CFR part 330 Appendix A), which authorizes an 
applicant to fill up to 1.2 ha (3 ac) of waters and wetlands, including 
vernal pools and seasonal ponds. Filling of less than 0.13 ha (0.33 ac) 
of isolated waters can be undertaken without notifying the Corps of the 
proposed activity. If the activity will affect between 0.13 and 0.4 ha 
(0.33 and 1 ac) of wetlands, an applicant is required to notify the 
Corps, but the Corps is not required to notify resource agencies unless 
the project may affect a listed species or designated critical habitat. 
Because vernal pools are often small and scattered across the 
landscape, projects, even very large development projects that fill 
hundreds of vernal pools, can be authorized under NWP 26. Numerous 
small projects in a given area also could be authorized, cumulatively 
resulting in the loss of significant amounts of wetland and associated 
upland habitats, with significant negative effects on local and 
regional biodiversity (Semlitsch and Brodie 1998).
    Projects affecting between 0.4 ha and 1.2 ha (1 ac and 3 ac) of 
isolated waters also can be authorized under NWP 26 after the Corps 
circulates a pre-discharge notification to the Service and other 
resource agencies for review and comments. For such projects, the Corps 
can place special conditions requiring minimization of impacts and/or 
compensatory mitigation on authorizations granted under NWP 26. The 
Corps can require an individual permit for these projects if it 
determines the project will have significant individual or cumulative 
effects. However, the Corps generally is reluctant to withhold 
authorization under NWP 26 unless a listed threatened or endangered 
species is known to be present. Also, the Corps often confines its 
evaluation of impacts to those areas under its jurisdiction (i.e., 
wetlands and other waters of the United States). Impacts to uplands and 
mitigation for upland habitat losses usually are not addressed by the 
Corps. Preservation of existing pools without protection of large 
blocks of suitable uplands is unlikely to result in the persistence of 
viable salamander populations because the salamanders require both 
aquatic and upland habitats during their life cycle. Thus, section 404 
provides insufficient protection of small isolated wetlands.
    An individual permit is required for projects filling or affecting 
1.2 ha (3 ac) or more of isolated waters. Individual permits are 
subject to review by the Service, other resource agencies, and the 
public. When we review the permit, we may recommend measures to avoid, 
minimize, or mitigate losses. In some cases, compensatory mitigation 
(e.g., the creation of artificial wetlands) is incorporated in the 
Corps permit as a Special Condition. However, problems associated with 
such compensatory measures often decrease or eliminate the habitat 
value for salamanders at the sites (DeWeese 1994).
    The creation of artificial wetlands and ponds as breeding habitat 
for tiger salamanders has been used as a compensatory mechanism for the 
loss of natural wetlands and pools. The long-term viability and 
suitability of artificially created wetlands are unknown. In 1994 the 
Service completed a report evaluating 30 wetland creation projects 
authorized through the Corps of Engineers section 404 program (DeWeese 
1994). Twenty-two projects ranged in age from 3 to 5 years old, and 
eight projects were greater than 5 years old at the time of the study. 
The Service found that, although it appeared the Service's goal of ``no 
net loss of acreage'' was being met or exceeded, the value of the 
habitat created, which included the local wildlife species that would 
be expected to use the habitat, was low. This situation was especially 
the case for vernal pools and seasonal wetlands that had a value of 
only 20 and 40 percent (respectively) of what existed previously. 
Particular problems were noted for these habitat types, which often 
were inundated (flooded) for longer than natural systems or more 
frequently. The study concluded that, of the 600 ac of proposed 
mitigation, half were meeting less than 75 percent of the mitigation 
conditions. Mitigation and compensation for impacts to larger wetlands 
under section 404 have failed to reduce threats to California tiger 
    The conversion of grazing land to intensive agricultural uses that 
may adversely affect the California tiger salamander generally is 
unregulated at any level of government. For example, the Corps has 
promulgated regulations that exempt some farming, forestry, and 
maintenance activities from the regulatory requirements of section 404 
(33 CFR 323.4). Therefore, not all activities that destroy or degrade 
vernal pools require Corps authorization. Certain normal farming 
activities, including discing and plowing to depths less than 16 in, 
can degrade or destroy vernal pools without requiring a permit because 
these activities are exempt under the Clean Water Act. However,

[[Page 3103]]

deep-ripping, which disrupts the water-retaining hardpan that underlies 
vernal pools and other seasonal wetlands, of lands formerly used for 
ranching (i.e., grazing) or dry-land farming (e.g., non-irrigated hay 
production) represents a ``change in use'' of the lands and is not 
considered a normal and ongoing farming activity. As such, the practice 
triggers section 404(f)(2) of the CWA, and requires review by and a 
permit from the Corps (R. H. Wayland III, U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency, and D. R. Burns, Corps, in litt. 1996). However, as discussed 
previously, the Corps typically asserts jurisdiction only over the 
actual wetlands, not over the surrounding uplands.
    The State of California recognizes the California tiger salamander 
as a species of special concern under the California Endangered Species 
Act (ESA), and has placed this species on the list of protected 
amphibians, which means that it may not be taken without a special 
(i.e., scientific collecting) permit (CRC, Title 14, Section 41). 
However, this protection applies only to actual possession or 
intentional killing of individual animals, and affords no protection to 
habitat. Activities that destroy habitat and kill salamanders in the 
process are not regulated.
    The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) offers some 
opportunities to protect rare threatened and endangered plants and 
animals and declares that it is the policy of the State to ``(p)revent 
the elimination of fish or wildlife species due to man's activities, 
ensure that fish and wildlife populations do not drop below self-
perpetuating levels, and preserve for future generations 
representations of all plant and animal communities.'' (California 
Public Resources Code, section 21001(c) 1999). Species do not have to 
be listed under the Federal or California ESAs to meet the 
determination of rare (California Code of Regulations (CRC), Title 14, 
Chapter 3, Section 15380(b)(2)). Species that have been classified as 
``species of special concern'' are considered rare for the purposes of 
CEQA. When the CEQA process is triggered, it requires full disclosure 
of the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects. However, 
the CEQA review process is not triggered unless issuance of a permit 
associated with a project is considered ``discretionary'' rather than 
``ministerial.'' The public agency with primary authority or 
jurisdiction over the project is designated as the lead agency and is 
responsible for conducting a review of the project and consulting with 
the other agencies concerned with the resources affected by the 
project. Section 15065 of the CEQA Guidelines requires a finding of 
significance if a project has the potential to ``reduce the number or 
restrict the range of a rare or endangered plant or animal.'' Once 
significant effects are identified, the lead agency has the option to 
require mitigation for effects through changes in the projects or to 
decide that overriding social or economic considerations make 
mitigation infeasible. In the latter case, projects may be approved 
that cause significant environmental damage, such as destruction of 
rare species. Protection of listed or rare species through CEQA is, 
therefore, dependent upon the discretion of the agency involved. 
Therefore, the effectiveness of this statute in protecting California 
tiger salamanders and their vernal pool and upland habitats has not 
been consistent.
    In Santa Barbara County, no specific regulatory protection exists 
for vernal pools, surrounding uplands, and their associated species, 
including California tiger salamanders. Some provisions are 
discretionary and could provide some measure of protection. For 
example, the Santa Barbara County Grading Ordinance (Ordinance 3937, 
Chapter 14 of the County Code) states that the issuance of a grading 
permit is discretionary (Section 14--6.(a)), and that ``no person shall 
cause or allow a significant environmental impact to occur as a result 
of new grading as defined herein, including grading that is otherwise 
exempt from these regulations.'' In one case in 1998, the Planning 
Department required, after the fact, a permit, the preparation of an 
environmental impact report, and mitigation for the discing of a vernal 
pool and the deep-ripping of uplands associated with that and an 
adjacent, larger pool in preparation for vineyard installation (Albert 
J. McCurdy, Deputy Director, Santa Barbara County Planning and 
Development, in litt. 1998a). Those requirements were overturned by the 
County Board of Supervisors (A. McCurdy, in litt. 1998b). The Corps did 
require a small set-aside approximately 5.7 ha (14 ac) to provide a 
narrow buffer around both ponds, as mitigation for the discing of the 
smaller pool (David Castanon, Army Corps of Engineers, in litt. 1999). 
In another case, grazing lands surrounding another pool were converted 
to row crops to the edge of the pool. Although discing and other 
activities clearly degraded the wetland, no agency has required any 
review, permits, or mitigation for the activities.
    Typically, California tiger salamander habitat has been eliminated 
without offsetting mitigation measures. Most mitigation plans that have 
been required were designed specifically for vernal pool plants and did 
not consider the upland habitats, including mammal burrows, needed by 
salamanders, or their dispersal needs. As indicated above, the 
artificial creation of vernal pools and seasonal wetlands as 
compensatory mitigation has not been proven scientifically to be 
successful over the long term (Zedler and Black 1988, Ferren and 
Gevirtz 1990, Zedler and Calloway 1999). Race and Fonseca (1996) 
reviewed numerous published and unpublished documents, which 
collectively analyzed over 2,000 permitted wetland mitigation projects, 
and concluded that significant wetland losses will continue unless 
compliance with existing regulations and permits is improved, more 
habitat is generated, and more fully functioning wetlands are created.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Several other factors, including habitat fragmentation, 
contaminants, hybridization with and competition from introduced 
species, and effects from oil production and over-grazing may have 
negative effects on California tiger salamanders and their aquatic and 
upland habitats.
    Amphibian populations may be prone to local extinction due to 
human-caused fragmentation (Findlay and Houlahan 1996, Gibbs 1998). The 
primary factors that cause habitat fragmentation are road construction, 
urbanization, and intensive agriculture (Mader 1984; Saunders et al. 
1991). All documented localities of California tiger salamanders in 
Santa Barbara County are affected by railroads, highways, or other 
roads that have caused extensive fragmentation of the landscape. The 
dispersal and migration distances of California tiger salamanders 
require a large amount of barrier-free landscape (Loredo, et al. 1996; 
Shaffer, et al. 1993). Large roads and highways represent permanent 
physical obstacles and can block California tiger salamanders from 
moving to new breeding habitat or prevent them from returning to their 
breeding ponds or estivation sites. Road construction can reduce or 
completely eliminate the breeding population of an entire pond and, in 
some cases, large portions of a metapopulation.
    Two Santa Barbara County tiger salamander breeding ponds are within 
0.4 km (0.2 mi) of a railroad that runs

[[Page 3104]]

between them, possibly reducing migration and genetic interchange 
between the ponds. In addition to the barriers created by fill 
deposited in small canyons and watercourses, the railroad tracks 
themselves can act as barriers to migrating salamanders (Thomas R. 
Jones, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, in litt. 1993). The 
animals have difficulty getting under the tracks unless adequate holes 
are present.
    All 13 remaining breeding sites in Santa Barbara County are near 
roads of various sizes. Four are within 0.5 km (0.3 mi) of a major U.S. 
highway that bisects the pond complex, two are bounded by a State 
highway, one is immediately adjacent to a secondary road (as was the 
one destroyed in 1998), five are within 0.5 km (0.3 mi) of secondary 
roads, and one is in an oil field with dirt roads in the vicinity 
(Sweet, et al. 1998a). Findlay and Houlahan (1996) found that roads 
within 2 km (1.2 mi) of wetlands adversely affected the number of 
amphibian species in the wetlands.
    Large numbers of California tiger salamanders, up to 15 or 20 per 
mile of road (Joe Medeiros, Sierra College, pers. comm. 1993), are 
killed as they cross the roads on breeding migrations (Hansen and 
Tremper 1993; S. Sweet, in litt. 1993). Estimates of losses to 
automobile traffic range from 25 to 72 percent of the breeding 
population (Twitty 1941; S. Sweet, in litt. 1993; Launer and Fee 1996). 
Curbs and berms as low as 9 to 12 cm (3.5 to 5 in), which allow 
salamanders to climb onto the road but can restrict or prevent their 
movements off the roads, are of particular concern, as they effectively 
turn the roads into death traps (Launer and Fee 1996; S. Sweet, in 
litt. 1998a). Such berms exist on the State highway and the secondary 
road adjacent to three ponds in Santa Barbara County.
    Although few currently used breeding ponds are within 0.5 km (0.3 
mi) of urban developments, the rapid expansion of Santa Maria and 
nearby communities will continue to fragment the remaining habitat. The 
urbanization of the Santa Maria River and Orcutt Creek Valleys divided 
what was probably a large, relatively contiguous tiger salamander 
population extending from the Casmalia Hills in the west to Fulger 
Point in the east into isolated subpopulations (West Orcutt, Bradley-
Dominion) that are no longer capable of genetic interchange. One pond 
in the West Orcutt area is adjacent to an urban development, the owner 
of the other two ponds in that area has expressed a desire to develop 
his property (E. Gevirtz, pers. comm. 1999), and home sites are being 
marketed in the Bradley-Dominion area.
    Hydrocarbon and other contamination from oil production and road 
runoff; the application of numerous chemicals for agricultural 
production, roadside maintenance, urban/suburban landscape maintenance; 
and rodent and vector control programs may all have negative effects on 
tiger salamander populations, as detailed below.
    Road mortality is not the only risk factor associated with roads, 
as oil and other contaminants in runoff have been detected in adjacent 
ponds and linked to die-offs of and deformities in California tiger 
salamanders and spadefoot toads and die-offs of invertebrates that form 
most of both species' prey base (S. Sweet, in litt. 1993). Lefcort et 
al. (1997) found that oil had limited direct effects on 5-week-old 
marbled (A. opacum) and eastern tiger salamanders (A. t. tigrinum), but 
that salamanders from oil-contaminated natural ponds metamorphosed 
earlier at smaller sizes and those from oil-contaminated artificial 
ponds had slower growth rates than larvae raised in non-contaminated 
ponds. Their studies did not address effects on eggs and early larval 
stages, where the effects may be more pronounced. Hatch and Burton 
(1998) and Monson et al. (1999) investigated the effects of one 
component of petroleum products and urban runoff (fluoranthene, a 
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) on spotted salamanders (A. maculatum), 
northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens), and African clawed frogs 
(Xenopus laevis). In laboratory and outdoor experiments, using levels 
of the contaminant comparable to those found in service station and 
other urban runoff, the researchers found reduced survival and growth 
abnormalities in all species and that the effects were worse when the 
larvae were exposed to the contaminant under natural levels of 
sunlight, rather than in the laboratory under artificial light.
Agricultural Contaminants
    Even though most of the crop lands in California have been in 
agricultural production since 1900, the application and associated 
effects of large amounts of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and 
nitrogen fertilizers on the landscape have been addressed only recently 
(Burow et al. 1998a,b). The concentrations of these chemicals and their 
immediate effects on various species have been difficult to assess 
mainly due to lack of water sample data and lack of samples close to 
the sources of application where the effects on wildlife are most 
severe. In 1986-87 and from 1993 to 1997, USGS and California 
Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) personnel sampled well and 
ground water at 156 locations throughout the range of the California 
tiger salamander (CDPR 1998; Burow et al. 1998a,b). From these samples, 
29 different chemicals potentially toxic to amphibians in general and 
California tiger salamanders specifically were detected.
    In Santa Barbara County, over 1 million kilograms (kg) (2.2 million 
pounds (lb)) of agricultural chemicals were used in 1994 on 
strawberries, grapes, lettuce, broccoli, and carrots, which were the 
five major crop types grown on or near tiger salamander sites at that 
time (California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Internet 
Website). These chemicals included metam-sodium, methyl bromide, maneb, 
fosetyl-aluminum, acephate, cryolite, chlorpyrifos, and malathion, some 
of which are extremely toxic to aquatic organisms, including amphibians 
and the organisms on which they prey.
    Metam-sodium, a carbamate, was one of the main chemicals applied on 
broccoli and lettuce grown in 1994, when over 114,000 kg (over 250,000 
lb) were used in Santa Barbara County (CDFA). Metam-sodium is toxic to 
fish (Meister 1997). However, no test data are available for 
    Chlorpyrifos is a highly toxic organophosphate insecticide applied 
as granules, wettable powder, dustable powder, or emulsifiable 
concentrate (EXTOXNET 1996). Chlorpyrifos was detected at a 
concentration of 0.006 micrograms/liter (<greek-m>g/l) in domestic well 
water close to vineyards at one location (Burow et al. 1998a); however, 
animals migrating across recently treated fields may be exposed to much 
higher concentrations. The compound is absorbed through the skin of 
mammals (EXTOXNET 1999); amphibians, with their more permeable skins, 
absorb the chemical even more readily. General agricultural use of 
chlorpyrifos is considered to pose a serious threat to wildlife 
(EXTOXNET 1999). Over 6,000 kg (13,000 lb) were used in Santa Barbara 
County in 1994 (CDFA).
    Malathion has caused effects such as mortality, delays in 
metamorphosis, and decreased size at metamorphosis in several species 
of frogs and toads at concentrations as low as 0.2 milligrams (mg/l) 
(Devillers and Exbrayat 1992). Malathion was detected at concentrations 
up to 0.1 <greek-m>g/l in test wells near fields on which it has been 
used (Burow 1998a). Over 3,500 kg

[[Page 3105]]

(7,800 lb) of malathion were used in Santa Barbara County in 1994 
    Although test data for amphibian species could not be found, methyl 
bromide is extremely toxic and is used to kill weeds, insects, 
nematodes, and rodents (Salmon and Schmidt 1984). Methyl bromide is 
used primarily on strawberries in Santa Barbara County, which are grown 
extensively in the eastern Santa Maria Valley (Bradley-Dominion 
metapopulation). Over 225,000 kg (500,000 lb) were used in Santa 
Barbara County in 1994 (CDFA).
    About 50 percent (6) of the remaining 13 documented California 
tiger salamander breeding sites in Santa Barbara County may be directly 
or indirectly affected by toxic agricultural chemical contaminants 
because there is intensive agriculture within their drainage basins. 
Even if toxic or detectable amounts of pesticides are not found in the 
breeding ponds or groundwater, salamanders may still be affected, 
particularly when chemicals are applied during the migration and 
dispersal seasons.
Rodent Control
    California tiger salamanders spend much of their lives in 
underground retreats, typically in the burrows of ground squirrels and 
gophers (Loredo et al. 1996; Trenham 1998a). Widespread ground squirrel 
control programs were begun in California as early as 1910 and are 
carried out on more than 4 million ha (9.9 million ac) in California 
(Marsh 1987). It is unclear how effective such control programs were in 
reducing ground squirrel populations. According to Marsh (1987), when a 
ground squirrel population is at or near carrying capacity, it must be 
reduced by at least 90 percent annually for several years to 
significantly reduce the population. However, it may not be practical 
to attain such high reduction rates over large areas typical of 
rangelands, but it may be possible to reduce populations to low numbers 
(Salmon and Schmidt 1984). In some primarily agricultural counties, the 
ground squirrel population has been reduced and maintained at perhaps 
10 to 20 percent of the carrying capacity. Rodent control programs are 
conducted by individual land owners and managers on grazing, vineyard, 
and crop production lands (R. Thompson, in litt. 1998).
    Until about 1990, ground squirrel control programs using compound 
1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) were carried out on lands in Santa Barbara 
County (Rosemary Thompson, Senior Biologist, SAIC, in litt. 1998). 
Compound 1080 is extremely toxic to nontarget fish, birds, and mammals 
(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1990) and may have contributed to 
reductions in salamander populations in the areas where it was used.
    Poisoned grains are the most common method used to control ground 
squirrels on rangelands, and there is little risk of ingestion by 
California tiger salamanders. However, the use of these grains may 
impact the California tiger salamanders indirectly if washed into 
burrows or ponds used by the species. Two of the most commonly used 
rodenticides, chlorophacinone and diphacinone, are anticoagulants that 
cause animals to bleed to death. They can be absorbed through the skin 
and are considered toxic to fish and wildlife (EPA 1985, EXTOXNET 
1999). Both, along with strychnine, are used in Santa Barbara County to 
control rodents (R. Thompson, in litt. 1998). Zinc phosphide, an acute 
rodenticide and a restricted material, turns into a toxic gas once 
ingested. Although the effects of these poisons on California tiger 
salamanders have not been assessed, use along roadways or railways may 
result in contamination of salamander breeding ponds, with undetermined 
effects. Gases, including aluminum phosphide, carbon monoxide, and 
methyl bromide, can be introduced into burrows either by using 
cartridges or by pumping. When such fumigants are used, all animals 
inhabiting the burrow are killed (Salmon and Schmidt 1984).
    In addition to possible direct effects of rodent control chemicals, 
control programs probably have an adverse indirect effect on California 
tiger salamander populations. Control of ground squirrels could 
significantly reduce the number of burrows available for use by the 
species (Loredo-Prendeville et al. 1994). Because the burrow density 
required to support California tiger salamanders in an area is not 
known, the loss of burrows as a result of control programs cannot be 
quantified at this time. However, Shaffer, et al. (1993) believe that 
rodent control programs may be responsible for the lack of California 
tiger salamanders in some areas. Active ground squirrel colonies 
probably are needed to sustain tiger salamanders because inactive 
burrow systems become progressively unsuitable over time. Loredo et al. 
(1996) found that burrow systems collapsed within 18 months following 
abandonment by or loss of the ground squirrels; although the 
researchers found that California tiger salamanders used both occupied 
and unoccupied burrows, they did not indicate that the salamanders used 
collapsed burrows. Rodent control programs must be analyzed and 
implemented carefully in California tiger salamander habitat so the 
persistence of the salamanders is not threatened. Current risks to the 
salamander in Santa Barbara County from rodent control programs are 

Mosquito Control

    A commonly used method to control mosquitoes, including in Santa 
Barbara County (Kenneth Leanard, Santa Barbara County Vector Control, 
pers. comm. 1999) is the application of methoprene, which increases the 
level of juvenile hormone in insect larvae and disrupts the molting 
process. Lawrenz (1984-85) found that methoprene (Altosid<Register> SR-
10) retarded the development of selected crustacea that had the same 
molting hormones (i.e., juvenile hormone) as insects and anticipated 
that the same hormone may control metamorphosis in other arthropods. 
Because the success of many aquatic vertebrates relies on an abundance 
of invertebrates in temporary wetlands, any delay in insect growth 
could reduce the numbers and density of prey available (Lawrenz 1984-
85). The use of methoprene thus could have an indirect adverse effect 
on the California tiger salamander by reducing the availability of 
prey. In more recent studies, although methoprene did not cause 
increased mortality of gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) tadpoles 
(Sparling and Lowe 1998), it caused reduced survival rates and 
increased malformations in northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens) 
(Ankley et al. 1998) and increased malformations in southern leopard 
frogs (R. utricularia) (Sparling 1998). Blumberg et al. (1998) also 
correlated exposure to methoprene with delayed metamorphosis and high 
mortality rates in northern leopard and mink (R. septentrionalis) 
frogs. Methoprene appears to have both direct and indirect effects on 
the growth and survival of larval amphibians.
    Other insecticides (e.g., temephos) have caused reductions in the 
growth rates of gray treefrog tadpoles, increased mortality rates in 
green frog (R. clamitans) tadpoles (Sparling and Lowe 1998), and 
increased mortality rates in southern leopard frogs (Sparling 1998). 
Few data are available on the effects of most insecticides on 
salamanders. A bacterium, Bacillus thuringensis israeli (Bti), is also 
used in Santa Barbara County for mosquito control (K. Leanard, pers. 
comm. 1999). Its effects on the salamander prey base have not been 
quantified. Because of a lack of information regarding which mosquito 
control chemicals are used and where, and about the chemicals' effects 
on salamanders, the degree to which the

[[Page 3106]]

practices directly affect the California tiger salamander in Santa 
Barbara County cannot be determined at this time.
Introduced Species
    Introduced species can have negative effects on California tiger 
salamander populations through competition and hybridization (Shaffer, 
et al. 1993; H. B. Shaffer, in litt. 1999). Competition from fish that 
prey on mosquito larvae and other invertebrates can reduce the survival 
of salamanders. Both California tiger salamanders (Stebbins 1962; J. D. 
Anderson 1968; Holomuzki 1986) and mosquitofish feed on micro and 
macro-invertebrates; large numbers of mosquitofish may out-compete the 
salamander larvae for food (Graf 1993). As urban areas continue to 
expand, the introduction of mosquitofish into previously untreated 
ponds may result in the elimination of California tiger salamanders 
from additional breeding sites. The introduction of other fish either 
inadvertently (fathead minnow, Pimephales promelas) (P. Collins, pers. 
comm. 1999) or for recreational fishing (e.g., bass (Micropterus 
salmoides, M. dolomieui), sunfish (S. Sweet, pers. comm. 1999) or other 
purposes may also affect the prey base, reducing growth and survival 
rates of salamanders. Fish such as bass, green sunfish (L. cyanellus), 
carp (Cyprinus carpio), and bullhead (Ictalurus spp.) may also prey on 
tiger salamander larvae, reducing or eliminating populations (Shaffer, 
et al. 1993).
    Various nonnative subspecies of the tiger salamander, Ambystoma 
tigrinum, have been imported into much of California for use as fish 
bait. The practice is still legal in California but is now restricted 
to fewer counties and is regulated by the California Department of Fish 
and Game (CCR Title 14, Division 1, Subdivision 1, Chapter 2, Article 
3, Section 4 1999). Although importation into Santa Barbara County is 
illegal, introduced tiger salamanders have been documented at one 
locality west of the Santa Rita Valley (S. Sweet, pers. comm. 1998). 
Although they have not been documented in California tiger salamander 
habitat nonnative salamanders could potentially be introduced into 
breeding sites or into nearby ponds. The introduced salamanders may 
out-compete the California tiger salamander, or interbreed with the 
natives to create hybrids that may be less adapted to the California 
climate or are not reproductively viable past the first or second 
generations (Bury and Lukenbach 1976; Shaffer, et al. 1993). More 
recent evidence suggests that the hybrids are viable, and that they 
breed with California tiger salamanders (H. B. Shaffer, in litt. 1999). 
With so few remaining subpopulations of California tiger salamanders in 
Santa Barbara County, the loss of any to hybridization with or 
competition from introduced species is of serious concern.
    Grazing in many cases has positive, or at least neutral, effects on 
the California tiger salamander (H. B. Shaffer and Peter Trenham, UCD, 
pers. comm. 1998; S. Sweet, pers. comm. 1998; 1999). By keeping 
vegetation shorter, grazing can make areas more suitable for ground 
squirrels, whose burrows are used by California tiger salamanders. In 
Santa Barbara County, the only remaining sites with large amounts of 
suitable salamander habitat (eight ponds at five sites) currently are 
being grazed. Although cattle drink large quantities of water, 
sometimes causing temporary pools to dry faster than they otherwise 
would (Sheri Melanson, Service, in litt. 1993) and possibly causing 
breeding pools to dry too quickly for salamanders to be able to 
metamorphose (Feaver 1971), these rangelands are the only undeveloped 
habitat in the area and thus provide the only chance for salamanders to 
breed successfully. Although Melanson (1993) noted that vernal pool 
species continued to reproduce under a November-to-April grazing 
regime, California tiger salamanders were either absent or found in low 
numbers in portions of pools that were heavily trampled by cattle. 
Continued trampling of a ponds' edge by cattle can increase the surface 
area of a pond and may increase water temperature and speed up the rate 
of evaporation and thus reduce the amount of time the pond contains 
enough water (S. Sweet, pers. comm. 1998). Cattle hoofprints could trap 
salamanders as water levels in pools recede, and reduction in water 
quality caused by cattle excrement may negatively affect the animals 
mainly by increasing potentially detrimental nitrogen levels. High 
nitrogen levels have been associated with blooms of deadly bacteria 
(Worthylake and Hovingh 1989), and silt has been associated with fatal 
fungal infections (Lefcort et al. 1997) (see Factor C of this section). 
However, grazing generally is compatible with the continued use of 
rangelands by the California tiger salamander as long as intensive 
burrowing rodent control programs are not implemented on such areas and 
grazing is not excessive (T. Jones, in litt. 1993; Shaffer, et al. 
1993; S. Sweet, pers. comm. 1998, 1999).

Reason for Emergency Determination

    Under section 4(b)(7) of the Act and regulations at 50 CFR 424.20, 
we may emergency list a species if the threats to the species 
constitute an emergency posing a significant risk to its well-being. 
Such an emergency listing expires 240 days following publication in the 
Federal Register unless, during this 240-day period, we list the 
species following the normal listing procedures. Below, we discuss the 
reasons why emergency listing the Santa Barbara County population of 
California tiger salamanders as endangered is necessary. In accordance 
with the Act, if at any time after we publish this emergency rule, we 
determine that substantial evidence does not exist to warrant such a 
rule, we will withdraw it.
    In making this determination, we have carefully assessed the best 
scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, 
present, and future threats faced by the Santa Barbara County 
population of California tiger salamanders. This DPS is one of the two 
most genetically differentiated populations of the species and is 
restricted to very few breeding ponds, all of which are threatened by 
agricultural conversion, fragmentation, and development. As discussed 
under Factor A of this section, ponds and upland habitats are being 
lost at a rapid rate in all four regions of the county in which the 
species occurs, and no preserves have been established to protect the 
species. As discussed in Factor E of this section, this salamander is a 
DPS and still occurs in a significant part of its historic range, but 
the remaining subpopulations are becoming increasingly fragmented and 
thus vulnerable to threats associated with isolation and small 
population size. From the discussion under Factor D of this section, it 
is clear that Federal, State, and local regulations and ordinances, 
individually and collectively, do not provide adequate protection for 
California tiger salamanders or assure that California tiger 
salamanders will continue to survive in Santa Barbara County.
    The 14 known breeding sites (1 was destroyed in 1998 (G. 
McLaughlin, in litt. 1999) and several others may no longer support 
breeding) are all located on privately owned land, and no conservation 
agreements or easements are in place. Given the extremely rapid rate of 
recent and projected habitat loss and degradation, this DPS is in 
imminent danger of extinction throughout its historic range. The 
survival of the Santa Barbara County population of the California tiger

[[Page 3107]]

salamander now depends on protecting as many breeding sites and the 
associated upland habitats from further degradation and destruction as 
possible, and on the rapid rehabilitation of sites that have been 
seriously degraded in the last few years. The remaining subpopulations 
in Santa Barbara County are vulnerable to extinction from random 
natural or human-caused events unless sufficient habitat can be 
protected and the subpopulations increased in size.

Critical Habitat

    In the last few years, a series of court decisions have overturned 
Service determinations regarding a variety of species that designation 
of critical habitat would not be prudent (e.g., Natural Resources 
Defense Council v. U.S. Department of the Interior 113 F. 3d 1121 (9th 
Cir. 1997); Conservation Council for Hawaii v. Babbitt, 2 F. Supp. 2d 
1280 (D. Hawaii 1998)). Based on the standards applied in those 
judicial opinions, we have examined the question of whether critical 
habitat for the Santa Barbara County California tiger salamander would 
be prudent.
    Due to the small number of populations the Santa Barbara County 
California tiger salamander is vulnerable to unrestricted collection, 
vandalism, or other disturbance. We remain concerned that these threats 
might be exacerbated by the publication of critical habitat maps and 
further dissemination of locational information. However, we have 
examined the evidence available for Santa Barbara County California 
tiger salamander and have not found specific evidence of taking, 
vandalism, collection, or trade of this species. Consequently, 
consistent with applicable regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)(i)) and 
recent case law, we do not expect that the identification of critical 
habitat will increase the degree of threat to this species of taking or 
other human activity.
    In the absence of a finding that critical habitat would increase 
threats to a species, if there are any benefits to critical habitat 
designation, then a prudent finding is warranted. In the case of this 
species, there may be some benefits to designation of critical habitat. 
The primary regulatory effect of critical habitat is the section 7 
requirement that Federal agencies refrain from taking any action that 
destroys or adversely modifies critical habitat. While a critical 
habitat designation for habitat currently occupied by this species 
would not be likely to change the section 7 consultation outcome 
because an action that destroys or adversely modifies such critical 
habitat would also be likely to result in jeopardy to the species, 
there may be instances where section 7 consultation would be triggered 
only if critical habitat is designated. Examples could include 
unoccupied habitat or occupied habitat that may become unoccupied in 
the future. There may also be some educational or informational 
benefits to designating critical habitat. Therefore, we find that 
critical habitat is prudent for the Santa Barbara County California 
tiger salamander.
    The Final Listing Priority Guidance for FY 2000 (64 FR 57114) 
states, ``The processing of critical habitat determinations (prudency 
and determinability decisions) and proposed or final designations of 
critical habitat will be funded separately from other section 4 listing 
actions and will no longer be subject to prioritization under the 
Listing Priority Guidance. Critical habitat determinations, which were 
previously included in final listing rules published in the Federal 
Register, may now be processed separately, in which case stand-alone 
critical habitat determinations will be published as notices in the 
Federal Register. We will undertake critical habitat determinations and 
designations during FY 2000 as allowed by our funding allocation for 
that year.'' As explained in detail in the Listing Priority Guidance, 
our listing budget is currently insufficient to allow us to immediately 
complete all of the listing actions required by the Act. Deferral of 
the critical habitat designation for the Santa Barbara County 
California tiger salamander will allow us to concentrate our limited 
resources on higher priority critical habitat and other listing 
actions, while allowing us to put in place protections needed for the 
conservation of the Santa Barbara County California tiger salamander 
without further delay.
    We plan to employ a priority system for deciding which outstanding 
critical habitat designations should be addressed first. We will focus 
our efforts on those designations that will provide the most 
conservation benefit, taking into consideration the efficacy of 
critical habitat designation in addressing the threats to the species, 
and the magnitude and immediacy of those threats. We will develop a 
proposal to designate critical habitat for the Santa Barbara County 
California tiger salamander as soon as feasible, considering our 
workload priorities.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing results in public awareness and 
conservation actions by Federal, State, and local agencies, private 
organizations, and individuals. The Act provides for possible land 
acquisition and cooperation with the State and requires that recovery 
actions be carried out for all listed species. The protection required 
of Federal agencies and the prohibitions against certain activities 
involving listed species are discussed, in part, below.
    Section 7(a) of the Act, as amended, requires Federal agencies to 
evaluate their actions with respect to any species that is proposed or 
listed as endangered or threatened, and with respect to its critical 
habitat, if any is being designated. Regulations implementing this 
interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR 
part 402. Section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
confer with us on any action that is likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of a proposed species or result in destruction or adverse 
modification of proposed critical habitat. If a species is listed 
subsequently, section 7(a)(2) requires Federal agencies to ensure that 
activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of such a species or to destroy or 
adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal agency action may 
affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible 
Federal agency must enter into formal consultation with us. Federal 
agency actions that may affect the Santa Barbara County population of 
California tiger salamanders and may require conference and/or 
consultation with us include, but are not limited to, those within the 
jurisdiction of the Corps, Bureau of Reclamation, Natural Resources 
Conservation Service, Federal Farm Bureau, and Federal Highway 
    The Act and its implementing regulations found at 50 CFR 17.21 set 
forth a series of general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all 
endangered wildlife. These prohibitions, in part, make it illegal for 
any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take 
(including harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, 
capture, or collect; or attempt any such conduct), import or export, 
ship in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial 
activity, or sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce 
any listed species. It also is illegal to possess, sell, deliver, 
carry, transport, or ship any such wildlife that has been

[[Page 3108]]

taken illegally. Certain exceptions apply to our agents and those of 
State conservation agencies.
    Permits may be issued to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered wildlife under certain circumstances. Regulations 
governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.23. For 
endangered species, such permits are available for scientific purposes, 
to enhance the propagation or survival of the species, and for 
incidental take in connection with otherwise lawful activities.
    As published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34272), 
it is our policy to identify to the maximum extent practicable at the 
time a species is listed those activities that would or would not 
constitute a violation of section 9 of the Act. The intent of this 
policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of the listing on 
proposed and ongoing activities within a species' range.
    We believe that, based on the best available information, the 
following actions are not likely to result in a violation of section 9, 
provided these actions are carried out in accordance with any existing 
regulations and permit requirements:
    (1) Possession of a Santa Barbara County California tiger 
salamander legally acquired prior to the effective date of this rule 
and consistent with 50 CFR 17.4;
    (2) Actions that may affect the Santa Barbara County California 
tiger salamander that are authorized, funded, or carried out by a 
Federal agency, when the action is conducted in accordance with an 
incidental take statement issued by us under section 7 of the Act;
    (3) Actions that may affect the Santa Barbara County California 
tiger salamander that are not authorized, funded, or carried out by a 
Federal agency, when the action is conducted in accordance with an 
incidental take statement issued by us under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Act. Applicants design a plan or a Habitat Conservation Plans and apply 
for an incidental take permit. These are developed for species listed 
under section 4 of the Act and are designed to minimize and mitigate 
impacts to the species to the greatest extent practicable; and
    (4) Actions that may affect the Santa Barbara County California 
tiger salamander that are conducted in accordance with the conditions 
of a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit for scientific research or to enhance 
the propagation or survival of the species.
    We believe that the following actions could result in a violation 
of section 9; however, possible violations are not limited to these 
actions alone:
    (1) Unauthorized possession, collecting, trapping, capturing, 
killing, harassing, sale, delivery, or movement, including intrastate, 
interstate, and foreign commerce, or harming, or attempting any of 
these actions, of Santa Barbara County California tiger salamanders 
without a permit (research activities where salamanders are trapped or 
captured will require a permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the 
Endangered Species Act);
    (2) Destruction or alteration of the Santa Barbara County 
California tiger salamander occupied habitat through the discharge of 
fill material into breeding sites; draining, ditching, tilling, stream 
channelization, drilling, pumping, or other activities that interrupt 
surface or ground water flow into or out of the vernal pool and 
seasonal pond habitats of this species (i.e., due to the construction, 
installation, or operation and maintenance of roads, impoundments, 
discharge or drain pipes, storm water detention basins, wells, water 
diversion structures, etc.);
    (3) Discharges or dumping of toxic chemicals, silt, or other 
pollutants into, or other alteration of the quality of waters 
supporting Santa Barbara County California tiger salamanders that 
results in death or injury of the species or that results in 
degradation of their occupied habitat;
    (4) Release of exotic species (including, but not limited to, 
bullfrogs, eastern tiger salamanders, mosquitofish, bass, sunfish, 
bullhead, catfish, crayfish) into Santa Barbara County tiger salamander 
breeding habitat; and
    (5) Destruction or alteration of uplands associated with vernal 
pool or seasonal pond habitats used by Santa Barbara County California 
tiger salamanders during estivation and dispersal, or modification of 
migration routes such that migration and dispersal are reduced or 
    Questions regarding whether specific activities will constitute a 
violation of section 9 should be directed to the Field Supervisor of 
the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).
    Requests for copies of the regulations regarding listed species and 
inquiries regarding prohibitions and permits may be addressed to the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Permits, 911 NE 11th 
Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232-4181 (503/231-2063, facsimile 503/231-

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an Environmental Assessment, as defined 
under the authority of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 
need not be prepared in connection with regulations adopted pursuant to 
section 4(a) of the Act, as amended. We published a notice outlining 
our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 
25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This rule does not contain any collections of information that 
require Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq. An information 
collection related to the rule pertaining to permits for endangered and 
threatened species has OMB approval and is assigned clearance number 
1018-0094. This rule does not alter that information collection 
requirement. For additional information concerning permits and 
associated requirements for endangered wildlife, see 50 CFR 17.21 and 

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this rulemaking is 
available upon request from the Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).


    The primary authors of this rule are Grace McLaughlin, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, and Dwight 
Harvey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife 
Office (see ADDRESSES section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Regulation Promulgation

    For the reasons given in the preamble, we amend part 17, subchapter 
B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set 
forth below:

PART 17--[AMENDED] I111. The authority citation for part 17 
continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500, unless otherwise noted.

    2. Amend Sec. 17.11(h) by adding the following, in alphabetical 
order under AMPHIBIANS, to the List of Endangered and Threatened 

[[Page 3109]]

Sec. 17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

    (h) * * *

                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *
Salamander, California tiger.....  Ambystoma             U.S.A. (CA)........  U.S.A., (CA--Santa   E                       667           NA           NA
                                    californiense .                            Barbara County).

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *

    Dated: December 20, 1999.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-1156 Filed 1-18-00; 8:45 am]