[Federal Register: September 21, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 184)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 57241-57264]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 57241]]


Part II

Department of the Interior


Fish and Wildlife Service


50 CFR Part 17

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

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Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF81

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

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), list the Santa 
Barbara County Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment (DPS) of the 
California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) as endangered 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Of six 
habitat complexes, consisting of 27 documented breeding sites and 
associated uplands, five have suffered moderate to severe levels of 
habitat destruction or degradation between 1996 and 2000. Plans to 
convert additional sites from grazing to intensive agriculture are 
being developed and implemented. We emergency listed the population 
segment on January 19, 2000. The emergency listing was effective for 
240 days. Immediately upon publication, this action continues the 
protection provided by the temporary emergency listing.

DATES: This final rule is effective 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.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Grace McLaughlin or Carl Benz, 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 inhabits low elevation, typically 
below 427 meters (m) (1400 feet (ft)), vernal pools and seasonal ponds 
and the associated grassland, oak savannah, and coastal scrub 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, 2000a). 
Although California tiger salamanders are adapted to natural vernal 
pools, manmade or modified ephemeral and permanent pools are now 
frequently used (Fisher and Shaffer 1996). California tiger salamanders 
prefer open grassland to areas of continuous woody vegetation (Trenham 
in revision). 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 (S. Sweet in litt. 1993, 
1998a,b; Gira et al. 1999; Santa Barbara County Planning and 
Development 2000).
    The salamanders breeding in and living around a pool or seasonal 
pond, or a local complex of pools 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).
    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) at depths ranging from 20 centimeters (cm) 
(7.9 in) to 1 m (3.3 ft) beneath the ground surface (Trenham in 
revision). California tiger salamanders use both occupied and 
unoccupied small mammal burrows but, since burrows collapse within 18 
months if not maintained, an active population of burrowing mammals is 
necessary to sustain sufficient underground refugia for the species 
(Loredo et al. 1996). California tiger salamanders may remain active 
underground into summer, moving small distances within burrow systems 
(Trenham in revision). 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).
    Adults may migrate long distances between summering and breeding 
sites. The distance from breeding sites may depend on local topography 

[[Page 57243]]

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 
more than 360 m (1,200 ft) away while dispersing from their natal 
(birth) pond (Ted Mullen, Science Applications International 
Corporation (SAIC), personal communication, 1998), and adults have been 
found along roads more than 2 km (1.2 mi) from breeding ponds (S. Sweet 
in litt. 1998a). Although most marked salamanders have been recaptured 
at the pond where they were initially captured, in one study 
approximately 20 percent of California tiger salamanders hatched in one 
pond traveled to ponds a minimum of 580 m (1900 ft) away to breed 
(Trenham 1998; Trenham et al. in review). Non-dispersing California 
tiger salamanders, however, tend to stay closer to breeding ponds; 95 
percent of California tiger salamanders at a study site in Monterey 
County probably stay within 173 m (568 ft) of the pond in which they 
bred. Once established in underground burrows, California tiger 
salamanders may move short distances within burrows or overland to 
other burrows, generally during wet weather. Dispersal distance is 
closely tied to precipitation; California tiger salamanders travel 
further in years with more precipitation (Trenham in revision). As with 
migration distances, the number of ponds used by an individual over its 
lifetime will be dependent on landscape features.
    Migration to breeding ponds 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 1998; 
Trenham et al. 2000). Males usually remain in the ponds for an average 
of 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 1998). In years where rainfall begins late in the 
season, females may forego breeding altogether (Loredo and Van Vuren 
1996, Trenham et al. 2000).
    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 1998). 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 in revision), 
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 will consume smaller tadpoles of Pacific treefrogs (Hyla 
regilla), California red-legged frogs (Rana aurora), western toads 
(Bufo boreas), and spadefoot toads (Scaphiopus hammondii), as well as 
many aquatic insects and other aquatic invertebrates (J.D. Anderson 
1968; P.R. Anderson 1968). The larvae also will eat each other under 
certain conditions (H.B. Shaffer and S. Sweet cited in Paul Collins, 
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, in litt. 2000a). Captive 
salamanders appear to locate food by vision and smell (J.D. Anderson 
    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. In general, 
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. Newly metamorphosed juveniles range in size 
from 41 to 78 mm (1.6 to 3.1 in) snout-vent length (Trenham et al. 
    Many of the pools in which California tiger salamanders lay eggs do 
not hold water long enough for 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, 1995).
    Lifetime reproductive success for other tiger salamanders is 
typically low, with fewer than 30 metamorphic juveniles per breeding 
female. Trenham et al. (2000) found even lower numbers for California 
tiger salamanders, with roughly 12 lifetime metamorphic offspring per 
breeding female. In part, this is due to the extended length of time it 
takes for California tiger salamanders to reach sexual maturity; most 
do not breed until 4 or 5 years of age. While individuals may survive 
for more than 10 years, less than 50 percent breed more than once 
(Trenham et al. 2000). Combined with low survivorship of metamorphs (in 
some populations, less than 5 percent of marked juveniles survive to 
become breeding adults (Trenham 1998)), reproductive output in most 
years is not sufficient to maintain populations. This suggests that the 
species requires occasional ``boom'' breeding events to prevent 
extirpation (temporary or permanent loss of the species from a 
particular habitat) or extinction (Trenham et al. 2000). 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 extinction.

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

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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 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. Based upon what is probably 
the largest genetic data set for a non-human vertebrate (H. Bradley 
Shaffer, University of California, Davis (UCD), in litt. 2000a), 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 to 1.8 percent (Shaffer et al. 1993; H.B. Shaffer in litt. 1998, 
2000a). 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 (H.B. 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.B. Shaffer 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; Shaffer will probably describe Santa Barbara County tiger 
salamanders as a distinct species when he and his colleagues submit 
their results for publication (H.B. Shaffer in litt. 2000b).
    The genetic differences between Santa Barbara County California 
tiger salamanders and the remainder of the species as a whole are 
accompanied by a morphological difference that is diagnostic for the 
DPS. Individuals in Santa Barbara County have a distinct color pattern 
consisting of a yellow band, rather than distinct spots, along the 
lateral side of the animal, and a distinct yellow pattern on the 
lateral margins of the belly (H.B. Shaffer in litt. 2000b; Scott 
Stanley, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York, in 
litt. 2000; S. Sweet in litt. 2000a).
    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 final 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 are found in six 
metapopulations in Santa Barbara County. 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, west Solomon Hills/
north Los Alamos Valley, east Los Alamos Valley, Purisima Hills and 
Santa Rita Valley constitute the six discrete regions or 
metapopulations where California tiger salamanders are documented in 
Santa Barbara County (S. Sweet in litt. 1998a, 2000b; Monk & Associates 
2000a). Ponds and upland habitats occupied by the California tiger 
salamander on the crest of the Purisima Hills between the Los Alamos 
and Santa Rita Valleys may provide a genetic link between these two 
metapopulations (S. Sweet in litt. 2000b).
    For the purposes of this rule, a metapopulation is defined as a 
group of subpopulations or ``local populations'' linked by genetic 
exchange. Of 14 breeding sites or subpopulations within this DPS 
documented at the time of the emergency listing, 1 was destroyed in 
1998, the upland habitat around 3 had been converted into more 
intensive agriculture practices (i.e., vineyards, gladiolus fields, and 
row crops) which may have eliminated the salamander subpopulations, 1 
was surrounded by agriculture and urban development, 2 were affected by 
overgrazing, 4 were

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believed to be threatened with conversion to vineyards or other 
intensive agriculture practices, and the remaining 3 were in areas 
rapidly undergoing conversion to vineyards and row crops (Sweet et al. 
1998; Sweet in litt. 1998a, b; Santa Barbara County Planning and 
Development 1998; Grace McLaughlin, Service, personal observations 
1998). Since the publication of the emergency rule, nine breeding ponds 
have been verified in two pool complexes previously designated as 
potential breeding areas (Purisima Hills and eastern Los Alamos), and 
four new ponds have been found in known complexes (S. Sweet in litt. 
2000a, pers. comm. 2000a; Monk & Associates 2000a; Lawrence Hunt, 
Biological Consultant, in litt. 2000). The ponds are all within 2 
kilometers (km) (1.2 miles (mi)) of previously mapped known or 
potential ponds. Of the new ponds and surrounding upland habitats, only 
the Purisima Hills complex, with six ponds, is relatively free from 
threats. Of the other seven ponds, three are threatened by vineyard 
development (although discussions aimed at providing protection for the 
California tiger salamander and its habitat are underway), one is 
adjacent to an intensively farmed area near Highway 101 and two are 
adjacent to roads; one of the latter is near a reservoir occupied by 
bullfrogs. The seventh pond may not be large enough to sustain a viable 
population of California tiger salamanders over the long term. A larger 
nearby pond, only 76 m (250 ft) away, appears to have suitable habitat 
but may not have had successful breeding for several years due to the 
introduction of catfish by the previous owner (S. Sweet pers. comm. 
    Additional breeding ponds could exist within each of the 
metapopulations noted above, but searches in other areas with 
apparently suitable habitat have not identified additional probable 
habitat areas or subpopulations (Christopher 1996; John Storrer, 
Biological Consultant, in litt. 1997, 1998a, b, c; P. Collins in litt. 
1998, 2000b, pers. comm. 1999; S. Sweet in litt. 1998a, 2000b; L. Hunt 
in litt. 2000; Monk & Associates 2000a). All of the known and potential 
localities of the California tiger salamander in Santa Barbara County 
are largely on private lands, none are protected by signed and 
implemented habitat conservation plans, and access is limited. Although 
one habitat management plan, which was written before the listing at 
the request of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) as mitigation for a 
Clean Water Act violation, has been implemented recently, we do not 
know if it will ensure the continued existence of the California tiger 
salamanders population on that property. Discussions with several other 
landowners show promise of developing agreements that will provide 
sufficient high quality habitat for the long-term persistence of 
California tiger salamanders on their lands.
    Although historical evidence of California tiger salamanders from 
San Luis Obispo County exists in the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural 
History's vertebrate collection (Collins in litt. 2000a), no California 
tiger salamanders have been found during more recent survey efforts in 
appropriate habitat in southern San Luis Obispo County (Scott and 
Harker 1998, California Army National Guard 2000, S. Sweet in litt. 
2000a). Any California tiger salamanders found in southern San Luis 
Obispo County would probably be part of the Santa Barbara County DPS, 
although genetic testing would need to be conducted to verify this, in 
the event that any are discovered.

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, Notice of Candidate 
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 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.
    On January 19, 2000, we published an emergency rule to list the 
Santa Barbara County distinct population segment of the California 
tiger salamander as endangered (65 FR 3096), concurrently with a 
proposed rule (65 FR 3110) to list the species as endangered. Our 
decision to emergency list this DPS of the California tiger salamander 
was based on information contained in the original petition, 
information referenced in the petition, and new information available 
to us. We re-opened the comment period associated with the proposed 
rule twice (65 FR 15887 and 65 FR 31869). We held a public hearing on 
March 24, 2000.
    The processing of this final 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 are no longer subject to 
prioritization under the Listing Priority Guidance. This final rule is 
a Priority 2 action and

[[Page 57246]]

is being completed in accordance with the current Listing Priority 
Guidance. We have updated this rule to reflect new information 
concerning changes in distribution, status, and threats since 
publication of the emergency and proposed rules.

Summary of Comments and Responses

    In the January 19, 2000, proposed rule (65 FR 3110), we requested 
all interested parties to submit factual reports or information that 
might contribute to development of a final rule. A 60-day comment 
period closed on March 20, 2000. We contacted appropriate Federal 
agencies, State agencies, county and city governments, scientific 
organizations, and other interested parties and requested comments, and 
notified affected landowners of the emergency listing. We submitted 
public notices of the proposed rule, which invited general public 
comment, to the Santa Maria Times and the Santa Barbara News-Press, 
both in Santa Barbara County, on January 19, 2000. We requested peer 
review in compliance with our policy, published in the Federal Register 
on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270).
    We received several requests for a public hearing and on March 24, 
2000, we re-opened the public comment period (65 FR 15887) until May 4, 
2000, to accommodate that hearing, which was held on April 20, 2000. On 
May 19, 2000, we published an additional re-opening of the public 
comment period (65 FR 31869), extending the comment period until June 
5, 2000.
    During the public comment period, we received written comments and 
new information from 657 individuals, businesses and organizations, 
with several commenters submitting comments during more than one 
comment period. We received oral comments from 37 people at the public 
hearing; 22 provided written comments also. In all, 231 commenters 
opposed the listing, and 426 supported continued protection for the 
DPS. Issues raised by the commenters, and our response to each, are 
summarized below.
    Issue 1: One commenter stated that additional research on the life 
history and habitat needs of the Santa Barbara County population of 
California tiger salamanders is needed before making a decision to 
list. Specifically, the commenter felt that we disregarded the 
possibility of tiger salamanders using seasonal drainages as breeding 
    Our Response: We respectfully disagree. None of the surveys and 
research conducted on the Santa Barbara County population of California 
tiger salamanders over the past 25 years have indicated that this 
population has markedly different habitat requirements or life history 
traits than other California tiger salamanders. While we did not 
discuss the use of ponded areas within seasonal drainages as breeding 
habitat, we do recognize that such use occurs in a limited number of 
cases (about 2 to 10 percent across the entire range of the species 
(Dwight Harvey, Service, Sacramento, California, in litt.)). Based on 
aerial photographs going back to the 1930s, we recognized that the 
ponds identified as Railroad and Pipeline are modifications of natural 
features. The fact remains that the California tiger salamander is a 
pond breeding, not stream breeding, species, and water must be 
impounded, naturally or artificially, for a long enough period for 
development from egg to metamorphosis to occur. In most of the small 
seasonal streams in northern Santa Barbara County, flow rates are too 
rapid and surface water duration is too short to allow tiger 
salamanders to breed.
    Issue 2: One commenter requested that we identify the range of 
dates that a breeding pool must remain hydrated in order to qualify as 
suitable California tiger salamander breeding habitat in Santa Barbara 
    Our Response: The range of dates within which California tiger 
salamanders breed varies from year to year depending on the timing and 
amount of rainfall (see ``Background'' section). Therefore, we are 
unable to provide specific dates within which a breeding pond must 
remain hydrated. Also, researchers have found that female California 
tiger salamanders will often forgo breeding in years with unusually 
late rainfall. We do know that California tiger salamanders require a 
minimum of 10 weeks to complete the transition from egg to 
metamorphosed juvenile; larvae that have a longer time period before 
metamorphosis are more likely to survive to adulthood and reproduce.
    Issue 3: One commenter suggested that the salamanders may have 
migrated to other areas as a result of habitat loss and degradation.
    Our Response: We do not agree. We believe that most California 
tiger salamanders in areas subject to habitat conversion are killed in 
the process. Deep-ripping and repeated plowing of grazing or oil 
production lands during conversion to vineyards and intensive cropping 
destroys the burrows in which the salamanders spend most of their 
lives. The mechanical actions kill burrow residents directly, or 
unearth them, leaving them exposed to risks of being run over by 
equipment, and death from dehydration or predation.
    Issue 4: One commenter stated that the genetic data relied on were 
insufficient, as all samples were taken from one pond, and none from 
surrounding counties.
    Our Response: While the data presented by Shaffer and McKnight 
(1996) did incorporate samples from only one Santa Barbara County pond, 
samples from three other counties were also included (Madera, Alameda, 
and Solano). Clear differences were demonstrated among those four 
sites. That paper also included data from 20 additional taxa (species, 
subspecies, and populations) within the tiger salamander (Ambystoma 
tigrinum) complex. Additional data cited in the emergency listing 
(Shaffer and Stanley 1991; Irschick and Shaffer 1997; Shaffer et al. 
1993; Shaffer in litt. 1998; H.B. Shaffer's unpublished mitochondrial 
DNA sequence data) incorporated data from 56 localities representing 12 
populations, including 3 sites from the Santa Barbara population, 15 
sites in Monterey County, 6 sites in San Benito County, and 5 sites 
representing 1 population along the San Luis Obispo-Kern County line, 
the latter two being the only counties with California tiger 
salamanders that share borders with Santa Barbara County. Samples from 
populations in 8 other counties (Yolo, Sonoma, Solano, Alameda, 
Stanislaus, Fresno, Tulare, and Madera) were also examined. It is clear 
from Dr. Shaffer's and his colleague's data that the Santa Barbara 
County animals are genetically distinct from other California tiger 
salamander populations, including those in ``surrounding'' counties.
    We submitted the emergency rule and Dr. Shaffer's published and 
unpublished material to four additional reviewers in addition to those 
who provided comment on the distribution, status, threats, and ecology 
of the California tiger salamander. We received comments from a fish 
and reptile geneticists and from a bacterial geneticist. Both stated 
that they believe we interpreted Dr. Shaffer's data correctly, and 
applied it appropriately and in accordance with our policy on distinct 
population segments.
    Issue 5: One commenter stated that it is questionable whether the 
reduction in habitat in one county poses a threat to the species as a 
    Our Response: We did not emergency list nor propose to list the 
California tiger salamander across its range. We emergency listed and 
proposed for continued protection only the Santa Barbara County 
distinct population segment of the California tiger

[[Page 57247]]

salamander. The reasons for recognition of this DPS are in accordance 
with our policy and guidelines and are explained in the emergency rule 
and in this document. The best available scientific evidence supports 
our conclusion that the Santa Barbara County population of California 
tiger salamanders is discrete, is significant to the species as a 
whole, and is in danger of extinction throughout most of its historic 
range. We are currently reviewing the status of the entire species 
across its remaining range.
    Issue 6: Several commenters suggested that we used insufficient 
scientific evidence or did not use the best scientific and commercial 
data available in making our decision. Several commenters implied that, 
in making our decision to emergency list the Santa Barbara County 
California tiger salamander, we relied on ``anecdotal information, 
speculation, and scientific studies of dubious validity'' or stated 
that the information was ``based on questionable science.''
    Our Response: We respectfully disagree. We used the scientific and 
commercial information available to us during our status review process 
and at the time of the listing to make our decision. We based our 
decision on museum specimens and the accompanying collection data, 
aerial photographs documenting the land use changes over the last 60 
years, reports produced by the County Agricultural Commissioner's and 
Planning and Development Department, articles published in peer-
reviewed, professional scientific journals, and additional work 
conducted by the authors of some of those articles.
    We have received and sought out additional information during the 
public comment periods and public hearings, requested appropriate 
professional peer review as required under our policies, reviewed all 
the information available to us, and presented that information in this 
document. As documented in the emergency listing and this rule, we have 
considerable evidence concerning the rates of land use changes and the 
inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms to protect the salamander, and 
extensive scientific evidence documenting the uniqueness of the Santa 
Barbara population, risks to amphibian species from habitat loss and 
fragmentation, disease, and predation by and competition from non-
native species.
    Issue 7: Several commenters stated that insufficient data has been 
collected to estimate the size of the Santa Barbara County population 
of California tiger salamanders or that we must know how many 
California tiger salamanders existed ``before, how many now, and what 
has affected their sustainability''; and believed we should have 
surveyed all possible ponds and contacted all landowners before 
emergency listing the population. One commenter implied that the loss 
of habitat may not have led to a decrease in population size.
    Our Response: We agree that we do not have an estimate of the size 
of the Santa Barbara County population of California tiger salamanders. 
Our decision to list this population is based on significant threats 
associated with recent habitat loss and expectations of continued loss 
and fragmentation of the remaining habitat, as detailed in the 
Background, Status and Distribution, and Summary of Factors Affecting 
the Species sections (see factor E discussion, in particular), and not 
on absolute numbers of animals. It is not necessary to know how many 
individuals existed before habitat loss and degradation, etc., began to 
take their toll, nor is it necessary to know precise numbers of 
existing individuals. Amphibian populations naturally undergo large 
fluctuations in population size as a result of random natural events 
such as drought and fires. The loss of crucial upland habitats and the 
loss of individuals through agricultural and development activities can 
leave small populations that are unable to withstand decreases in size 
as a result of such events. Additional information on the effects of 
habitat loss and fragmentation that became available after the 
publication of the emergency rule has been incorporated into this final 
    In our 12-month petition finding, published April 18, 1994, we 
concluded that we had sufficient information to warrant proposing the 
listing of the species as a whole, but that the preparation of a 
proposal was precluded by the need to complete higher priority actions. 
That conclusion was based on information provided in the petition and 
in our files. We published Candidate Notices of Review in 1996 (61 FR 
7596), 1997 (62 FR 4938), and 1999 (64 FR 57534) that included the 
California tiger salamander and requested the submission of additional 
information on the status and distribution of the species. We have 
carefully considered information relevant to the status of and threats 
to the Santa Barbara County distinct population segment that became 
available since our 1994 12-month petition finding. The decision to 
move forward with an emergency listing for this population was based on 
the rapid changes in the quantity and quality of the habitat available.
    We have documented the factors that led to the rapid loss of 
habitat and increases in threats to the Santa Barbara County 
population. As our efforts and those of other agencies in working with 
landowners had failed to stem the rapid rate of habitat loss, and the 
existing regulatory mechanisms were inadequate to ensure protection for 
the population and its habitats, we believe that immediate protection 
under the Act was necessary to protect the remaining California tiger 
salamanders in Santa Barbara County.
    Issue 8: Several commenters stated that the California tiger 
salamander is more widespread in Santa Barbara County than we presented 
in the emergency rule, and stated that they had seen them in a variety 
of places.
    Our Response: Service and other biologists investigated many of 
these sightings. None of the sightings were verified as California 
tiger salamanders. We concluded that most of the sightings were of 
arboreal (tree dwelling) salamanders, Aneides lugubris, a smaller, 
purple-brown colored salamander with very tiny scattered yellow spots. 
We will investigate two other cases, one in an area where non-native 
tiger salamander larvae have been found, and one in area that appears 
to have suitable California tiger salamander habitat, when 
environmental conditions are appropriate.
    Issue 9: Two commenters stated that there are more than 20 sites 
available and in good condition for the California tiger salamander, 
not 14 as stated in the rule. One commenter stated that the emergency 
rule did not give adequate attention to additional potential sites that 
could supply breeding habitat for California tiger salamanders.
    Our Response: At the time of the publication of the emergency rule, 
the California tiger salamander was known from 14 current and 
historical sites in Santa Barbara County. We acknowledged in the 
emergency rule that other potential breeding ponds or pond complexes 
may exist, but could not be surveyed by local biologists due to access 
restrictions from private landowners. The rule also stated that 
possible California tiger salamander breeding ponds were probably 
facing types and levels of threats similar to those documented for the 
known ponds. Since the publication of the emergency rule, surveys have 
found new ponds. These findings are discussed in this final rule. Our 
assumption at the time of the emergency rule that most of the potential 
ponds face threats (e.g., conversion to intensive agriculture, impacts 
from roads and exotic species)

[[Page 57248]]

similar to those affecting the known ponds has been substantiated. Only 
one metapopulation appears to be relatively free of significant threats 
and may be protected through conservation easements.
    Issue 10: One commenter questioned the viability of the Tanglewood 
Complex as a breeding site, as this was based on a record from one 
larval California tiger salamander.
    Our Response: The discovery of a larval California tiger salamander 
in the vicinity of the Tanglewood Complex suggested the presence of a 
nearby breeding locality, as juvenile California tiger salamanders do 
not move great distances when migrating from breeding ponds in the 
fall. We agree that in the absence of actual breeding pond surveys on 
the Tanglewood complex, it is conceivable that the larvae had not come 
from that location, but rather some unknown nearby location. Since 
publication of the emergency rule, a survey of the vernal ponds on the 
Tanglewood property has confirmed a breeding population of California 
tiger salamanders, as represented by multiple larvae captured onsite. 
Additional ponds within 2 km (1.2 mi) of the Tanglewood ponds also have 
breeding California tiger salamanders (see ``Background'' section).
    Issue 11: One commenter suggested that, as there was no recent 
petition specific to the Santa Barbara population of California tiger 
salamanders, we have no legal basis for listing the population.
    Our Response: Receipt of a petition to list a species is not 
required in order for us to undertake a status review and develop a 
proposal to list or an emergency rule. We have the independent 
authority to undertake assessments and status reviews of species 
considered as candidates for listing, and to list those species where 
their protection under the Act is warranted. Dr. Shaffer's 1992 
petition was not rejected, as the commenter claimed, but was found in 
the 12-month petition finding to be ``warranted but precluded,'' 
meaning that there was enough information to support a listing, but 
that there were higher priority listings to complete.
    Issue 12: One commenter suggested that we list the Santa Barbara 
County California tiger salamander as threatened, rather than 
endangered, to give the Service the option of proceeding with a special 
4(d) rule that would exempt from the prohibitions of section 9 of the 
Act certain activities that would otherwise constitute take of 
California tiger salamanders.
    Our Response: The criteria for designating species as threatened or 
endangered are outlined in section 4(a)(1) of the Act and regulations 
that we issued in (50 CFR part 424). Based upon information that we 
have received regarding the status and distribution of the species, we 
believe that the California tiger salamander is in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range in Santa Barbara 
County, and therefore, fits the definition of endangered as defined in 
the Act. This is discussed in detail in the ``Summary of Factors 
Affecting the Species'' section.
    Issue 13: One commenter suggested that in the absence of 
information regarding specific threats to the distinct population 
segment (e.g., overutilization, disease, predation), we should not have 
based our decision ``solely on the conversion of native habitat. * * 
    Our Response: Under section 4 of the Act and the regulations (50 
CFR part 424) issued 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). The rates of 
habitat degradation and loss in Santa Barbara County are sufficient to 
warrant the listing of the Santa Barbara DPS. However, we did not base 
our decision solely on the rate of conversion of habitat, but also on 
the inadequacy of existing Federal, State, and local regulatory 
mechanisms to protect the salamanders and their habitat, and the risks 
faced by salamanders due to intensified agricultural activities, 
urbanization, and habitat fragmentation. As the threat of habitat loss 
is still present, and neither the regulatory mechanisms nor their 
enforcement has changed since the emergency listing, both factors still 
threaten the continued existence of the Santa Barbara DPS.
    Issue 14: Several commenters stated or implied that the threats to 
salamander habitat do not exist, the Service has portrayed the threats 
inaccurately, the County has received no applications for projects to 
eliminate breeding pools, and threats to the breeding pools would be 
subject to the Clean Water Act, the Act, and the Santa Barbara County 
Grading Ordinance.
    Our Response: We respectfully disagree that we have portrayed the 
threats inaccurately. We have documented the threats based on aerial 
photography and site visits. We agree that projects or actions that 
would eliminate breeding pools would be subject to review under the 
Clean Water Act and the Santa Barbara County Grading Ordinance, but 
specific consideration of impacts to California tiger salamander 
habitat would not necessarily be required under these laws if the Santa 
Barbara DPS is not a listed entity. In addition, a primary factor cited 
in the emergency listing was the conversion of the upland habitats 
surrounding the breeding ponds to environments that will not support 
tiger salamanders, and the fact that the salamanders would be killed 
during the deep-ripping processes in preparation for vineyard 
installation and other land clearing activities. Activities in upland 
habitats are not normally under Corps Clean Water Act jurisdiction. 
Implementation of the County Grading Ordinance has not resulted in 
adequate protection of the salamander's upland habitats.
    Issue 15: One commenter stated that information provided by the 
County was incorrect and biased and was intended to mislead the 
    Our Response: As the commenter did not cite specific references, we 
believe he was referring to the location and status information in 
Santa Barbara County Planning and Development (1998) and Sweet, Collins 
and Hunt (1998). The information was compiled by recognized scientists 
with knowledge of the species, its habitat, and the threats to its 
continued existence. Determinations of known, potential, and other 
possible ponds were made based on specimens housed in museums in Santa 
Barbara County and elsewhere, U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps, 
Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetland Inventory maps, and aerial 
photographs archived at the County of Santa Barbara Planning Division. 
All of these sources are available to the general public, either 
through public agencies or private commercial resources. We also used a 
report prepared by Santa Barbara County Planning and Development 
Department, the Agricultural Commissioner and the UC Cooperative 
Extension (Gira et al. 1999), that provides information on agricultural 
land use and trends in the county.
    Issue 16: We received several comments that a potential range map, 
that we released at the April 20, 2000, public hearing, constituted new 
information as it increased the number of landowners affected by the 
    Our Response: Under the emergency rule and the proposed rule, all 
California tiger salamanders within Santa Barbara County are protected, 
whether they are found in the previously documented range or outside of 
those areas. The emergency rule states that the known habitat for the 
California tiger salamander in Santa Barbara County is vernal pools and 
seasonal ponds and the associated

[[Page 57249]]

coastal scrub, grassland, and oak savannah plant communities of the 
Santa Maria, Los Alamos, and Santa Rita Valleys in western Santa 
Barbara County. The map released by us indicated the distribution of 
possible suitable habitat for the California tiger salamander in Santa 
Barbara County and was based on the best information currently 
available to us. The map was designed to assist landowners in 
identifying where these areas are, and to provide guidelines as to the 
areas most likely affected by the listing. The map does not alter the 
obligations or responsibilities of Santa Barbara County landowners and 
land managers with respect to the Santa Barbara County population of 
California tiger salamanders under the Act, under the emergency, 
proposed, or final rules.
    Issue 17: Several commenters believe that the Grading and Zoning 
Ordinances are sufficient to protect the species; one provided 
additional information in support of this belief.
    Our Response: As detailed in the rule, we believe that the County 
ordinances, the past implementation and enforcement of those ordinances 
by County agencies, and the adherence to those ordinances by some 
landowners were not sufficient to protect the salamander and its 
habitat. This is further supported by the Santa Barbara County 1998-99 
Grand Jury Report, released May 6, 1999, which found

    ``The agricultural community * * * frequently proceeds with 
grading or other agricultural conversions without permits. * * * 
Members of the agricultural community choose to pay the fines and 
suffer other consequences * * *'' (Pg. 9)

    One commenter provided information on nine violations of County and 
Federal laws, a letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 
(EPA) expressing concern over potential violations of the Clean Water 
Act and asking for County assistance in reviewing those cases, two 
letters to landowners requesting consultation with the County regarding 
sensitive resources, and a memo to the Board of Supervisors regarding 
enforcement of the Grading Ordinance. We believe the information 
provided and additional information relevant to the cases under review 
supports our conclusion that the existing regulatory mechanisms, 
including their application and enforcement have been inadequate to 
protect California tiger salamanders and their habitat in Santa Barbara 
County. Adequate mechanisms, processes and enforcement, prevent illegal 
actions from occurring in the first place. Once salamanders are killed 
and their habitat is destroyed or severely degraded, the damage is 
done, the loss of individuals and populations has occurred. It is very 
difficult, as documented in the emergency and final rules, to 
rehabilitate degraded habitat, particularly vernal pools and other 
seasonal wetlands, when the hydrology has been altered by deep soil 
    Issue 18: Several commenters expressed the view that much of the 
California tiger salamander's habitat is agricultural land that has 
been in production since 1900 and suggested that if the salamander has 
survived it shows how well farmers have taken care of the land.
    Our Response: Although much of the acreage in Santa Barbara County 
has been cultivated in the past, the scale and the nature of 
agriculture has changed over time. Historically, land was dry farmed in 
a patchwork, with fields laying fallow. This allowed California tiger 
salamanders to persist over time, as they always had some upland areas 
as refugia. However, as stated in our emergency rule and in this 
document, intensive agriculture has increased greatly in Santa Barbara 
County, and resulted in the permanent conversion of upland refugia to 
land uses that are incompatible with the long-term persistence of 
California tiger salamanders, including vineyards, intensive 
agriculture, and urban development. The changes have included the 
increased use of various chemicals that can have negative effects on 
salamanders, as well as changes in crops and farming methods that are 
not conducive to salamander survival.
    Issue 19: Several commenters addressed the issue of roadkill, 
assuming that the greatest impact is roadkill and that we have done 
nothing to address that issue; another offered suggestions to reduce 
roadkill. Commenters also stated that any impact from the conversion of 
alleged habitat to crops is minimal at best compared to roadkill, that 
no peer-reviewed study proves that farming and ranching is incompatible 
with the protection of the species, and that we must eliminate losses 
from roadkill before addressing losses from farming practices.
    Our Response: We respectfully disagree with the comments, but 
realize that we could have made our concerns more clear. The greatest 
impact to California tiger salamanders in Santa Barbara County is not 
roadkill, but the killing of all age classes of California tiger 
salamanders in burrows when deep-ripping and other land-clearing 
activities (such as conversion of grazing and oil production lands to 
intensive cropping or housing developments) occur. The Twitty (1941) 
and Launer and Fee (1996) citations in the emergency rule refer to 
roadkills near ponds in northern California on Stanford University 
property, and were provided as additional documentation of threats to 
amphibians in general and California tiger salamanders specifically. 
The only estimate of roadkill in Santa Barbara County is Sweet (in 
litt. 1993), which states that an average of 40 percent of salamanders 
seen on or along roads are dead. However, this does not mean that 40 
percent of the mortality of California tiger salamander is due to 
collisions with vehicles; the study did not investigate other sources 
of mortality. Sweet's report concludes that ``the sizes of breeding 
adults do not point toward a major influence by road-kill.'' (Emphasis 
in original.) We have been working with CalTrans (beginning in May 
1999) at one of the two sites of highest concern to undertake measures 
to encourage California tiger salamanders to use alternate routes under 
roads, to install more drains in berms so adults that do get on roads 
have more options, and to prevent juveniles from getting up on roads in 
the first place. Information on the rates of habitat loss and proximity 
of breeding sites to roads are presented in the ``Status and 
Distribution'' and ``Summary of Factors Affecting the Species'' 
    The conclusions we have drawn as to the impact of farming and 
overgrazing on California tiger salamanders are based upon what is 
known about how specific activities are conducted, the likely physical 
and chemical effects of those activities on the landscape, and the 
likelihood that these effects on the landscape will in turn have an 
impact on California tiger salamanders, given what we know about their 
biology. For example, deep ripping of soil is very likely to kill any 
salamanders in the layers of soil being ripped, including those inside 
burrows, at other locations in the soil, or on the surface. Other 
alterations of the salamander's habitat, such as road-building and 
conversion to fields of seasonal crops and vineyards, can also kill 
salamanders directly during conversions (see factor E, below).
    Such alterations can dramatically change the physical and chemical 
structure of the habitat through which salamanders migrate to breeding 
ponds or upland habitat. When considered in light of the biology of 
California tiger salamanders, these alterations of the environment 
reduce the chances that salamanders will be able to traverse these 
habitats successfully. For

[[Page 57250]]

example, changes in the moisture regimes, microlandscape, and ground 
cover could require migrating salamanders to cross rapid runoff; expose 
animals to toxic levels of fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and 
herbicides; interfere with the ability of salamanders to travel the 
distances necessary to make it to the breeding pond or upland habitat 
while rain or moisture conditions are suitable; or increase their 
susceptibility to predators. We do not have data generated from studies 
that demonstrate such effects unequivocally. We are basing these 
conclusions on our interpretations of what we do know about these human 
activities, the biology and life history of salamanders, and studies 
that have documented the changes in species numbers and abundances as a 
result of land use changes (see factor E discussion).
    Issue 20: Several commenters expressed concern that all rodent 
control operations would have to be halted, with devastating effects to 
agricultural operations. Some stated that halting such programs would 
also jeopardize those ponds that have been created or modified by 
damming and berming, as the burrowing activities could cause failures 
of those dams and berms.
    Our Response: Not all methods of rodent control are expected to 
have the same level of effects on California tiger salamander 
populations. We have recommended to landowners that they avoid 
destruction of burrows or the release of toxic chemicals, including 
pesticides, into burrows of ground squirrels and gophers within 2 km 
(1.2 mi) of breeding ponds. As stated in the emergency rule, ``Rodent 
control programs must be analyzed and implemented carefully in 
California tiger salamander habitat so the persistence of the 
salamanders is not threatened.'' Appropriate methods and timing of 
control efforts can be determined through the Act's section 10 
incidental take permit process as habitat conservation plans (HCP) for 
the salamanders are developed, evaluated once implemented, and revised 
if necessary. Likewise, the impacts of burrowing rodents on dams and 
berms, and methods to reduce those impacts, can be addressed in HCPs.
    Issue 21: The reasons for the emergency determination were not 
clearly demonstrated.
    Our Response: We respectfully disagree. We believe that, in both 
the emergency rule and this document, we have clearly presented and 
documented the status and distribution of this distinct population 
segment, the threats facing the remaining subpopulations, and the 
imminency of those threats.
    Issue 22: Several commenters stated that several landowners were in 
the process of developing habitat conservation plans, of which the 
Service was unaware or chose to ignore. Another commenter stated that 
the Service should offer farmers and ranchers a proposal to create a 
habitat conservation plan for the area, and that to use the threat of 
regulation to forward this plan only ensures its failure.
    Our Response: Although we did not discuss it in the emergency 
listing, we were aware of conservation efforts by several landowners. 
We met with one vineyard manager in the Fall of 1998 to try to ensure 
sufficient protection of California tiger salamander habitat following 
violations of the Clean Water Act. The management plan that was 
developed after that meeting, without further Service input, may not, 
in our opinion, ensure protection for the salamander and its habitat 
that is adequate to ensure the survival of the population in 
perpetuity. In another case the Service has provided funds to assist 
other agencies and landowners in developing conservation plans, 
including the purchase of conservation easements. To date, no final 
agreements have been reached.
    We cannot defer or avoid listing a species that is at risk of 
extinction on the basis of intentions to develop conservation 
agreements or plans. We cannot assume that such plans will be developed 
and implemented, or that they will be successful in providing long-term 
    A habitat conservation plan is a document required when applying 
for an incidental take permit pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Act. Incidental take permits are required when activities will result 
in ``take'' of threatened or endangered species. While Service 
personnel provide detailed guidance and technical assistance throughout 
the process, the development of an HCP is driven by the applicant. The 
purpose of the habitat conservation plan is to ensure that the effects 
of incidental take authorized under the permit will be adequately 
minimized and mitigated.
    Issue 23: Several commentors suggested that we should be focusing 
on public, not private lands to conserve the Santa Barbara County 
population of California tiger salamanders, and that we should move 
salamanders onto government property. One commenter stated that 
landowners have offered to set up preserves on their land.
    Our Response: One purpose of the Act (section 2(b)) is to provide a 
means to protect the ecosystems upon which threatened and endangered 
species depend. Although species introductions may be a potentially 
important recovery tool, they are less effective when they occur in 
habitat that has not been occupied by the species in the past. 
Vandenberg Air Force Base, the closest government property near the 
range of the California tiger salamander in Santa Barbara County, has 
been surveyed extensively for tiger salamanders; to date, tiger 
salamanders have not been found there. Similarly, tiger salamanders 
have not been found on Los Padres National Forest. This may be due to 
differences in soil types and microclimate conditions, or it may be an 
historical artifact of where California tiger salamanders were able to 
disperse. Transplanting California tiger salamanders to lands where 
they do not occur naturally would do nothing to protect the ecosystems 
in which they evolved and are found, and probably would not be 
successful. Therefore, the need to list the species would not be 
precluded. We must address all causes of losses and threats to the 
population, including those that occur on private lands.
    Issue 24: One commenter states that the 2 km (1.2 mi) home range 
reported in the emergency listing is too generous an estimate of how 
far California tiger salamanders will actually migrate from breeding 
ponds to summer retreat habitat. The commenter believes that it is more 
important that the Service focus on (1) preserving the watersheds that 
support California tiger salamander breeding ponds and, (2) ensuring 
that adequate rodent populations occur within these watersheds so as to 
provide adequate summer retreat habitat for particular California tiger 
salamander breeding ponds.
    Our Response: California tiger salamanders have been known to 
travel 2 km (1.2 mi) or more from their breeding pond. We agree that 2 
km overestimates the distance that most California tiger salamanders 
are likely to travel from breeding ponds. As stated in the emergency 
rule and this document, the distance traveled from breeding sites 
depends on many site-specific factors, such as topography and 
vegetation, the distribution of ground squirrel or other rodent 
burrows, and climatic conditions. Although the likelihood of 
encountering these salamanders tends to decrease with distance from 
their breeding pond, we cannot provide a firm distance beyond which 
there is no risk. No studies have been undertaken in Santa Barbara 
County to determine how far California tiger salamanders disperse from 
breeding ponds. The

[[Page 57251]]

colonization of a newly created pond in the Los Alamos Valley from a 
pond approximately 227 m (750 ft) away suggests that California tiger 
salamander regularly move large distances. Additionally, a 5 year study 
at the Hastings preserve in Monterey found that a large portion (20 
percent) of California tiger salamanders traveled to ponds that were 
580 m (1900 ft) away (see the Background section).
    We agree that preserving the watersheds supporting California tiger 
salamander breeding ponds and maintaining adequate rodent populations 
to supply refugia for salamanders is more important than establishing a 
fixed boundary beyond which salamanders are likely to be found. It is 
possible, in some cases, that a 2 km (1.2 mi) distance would not 
incorporate all of the watershed, or that lands beyond that distance 
should be evaluated as dispersal habitat. The exact configuration of 
habitat necessary to protect the salamanders will be site-specific.
    Issue 25: Some commenters believe farmers have helped salamanders 
by building dams which prolonged optimum conditions for the 
salamanders, giving the larvae the maximum opportunity to grow large 
and healthy before completing metamorphosis.
    Our Response: The enlarging of existing natural ponds or the 
creation of new ponds within a grazing-dominated landscape may have 
been beneficial to the California tiger salamander in many cases. 
However, the creation and maintenance of permanent or nearly permanent 
bodies of water within intensely cropped areas or vineyards has not 
been documented as providing suitable habitat for tiger salamanders. In 
many cases, California tiger salamanders are no longer found in ponds 
within such systems (Shaffer et al. 1993). Management of such ponds for 
agricultural uses, such as drawing down the ponds for frost protection, 
which is likely to occur when California tiger salamander larvae are 
present, can be in conflict with the needs of the salamanders. 
Permanent ponds also provide breeding habitat for exotic fish and frogs 
that can prey on and compete with California tiger salamanders.
    Issue 26: Many commenters stated that the Service should compensate 
private landowners for the loss of revenue that occurs when California 
tiger salamanders are found on their land. Another reminded us that the 
``taking'' of land is unconstitutional without compensation.
    Our Response: Listing under the Act does not imply that private 
land would be ``locked up'' without the ability for reasonable use. 
Recovery planning for this species may include recommendations for land 
acquisition or easements involving private landowners. These efforts 
would be undertaken with the cooperation of the landowners. We do work 
with landowners to identify activities and modifications to activities 
that will not result in take, to develop measures to minimize the 
potential for take, and to provide authorizations for take through 
section 7 and 10 of the Act. We encourage landowners to work in 
partnership with us to develop plans that ensure land uses can be 
carried out in a manner consistent with the conservation of listed 
    Issue 27: Several commenters stated that we should take the 
potential economic impacts of the listing into account in our decision-
making process. One commenter stated that we must take into account the 
economic impact of identifying any particular area as critical habitat.
    Our Response: Under section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act, we must base a 
listing decision solely on the best scientific and commercial data 
available. The legislative history of this provision clearly states the 
intent of Congress to ``ensure'' that listing decisions are ``* * * 
based solely on biological criteria and to prevent nonbiological 
criteria from affecting such decisions * * *'' H.R. Rep. No. 97-835, 
97th Cong., 2d Sess. 19 (1982). As further stated in the legislative 
history, ``* * * economic considerations have no relevance to 
determinations regarding the status of species * * *'' Id. at 20. 
Because we are specifically precluded from considering economic 
impacts, either positive or negative, in a final decision on a proposed 
listing, we did not consider the economic impacts of listing the Santa 
Barbara County population of the California tiger salamander.
    We agree that we must take into account the economic impact of 
identifying a particular area as critical habitat. We have not proposed 
or designated critical habitat for the California tiger salamander. If 
the decision is made to designate critical habitat for the Santa 
Barbara County DPS of the California tiger salamander, we will publish 
a proposed rule and a draft economic analysis of the proposed 
designation, and accept public comments on both. Following the receipt 
of public comments, we will complete the economic analysis of the 
impact of the critical habitat designation and then publish a final 
    Issue 28: Several commenters believe that the issuance of permits 
by the Service serves to unfairly restrict the number of people allowed 
to conduct surveys and habitat assessments and thus limits public input 
and avoids peer review.
    Our Response: The Service does not require permits for conducting 
habitat assessments and thus does not limit the number of people able 
to conduct surveys for suitable habitat or to provide us with 
information regarding habitat quality. However, in order to properly 
assess the validity and reliability of such reports and information, it 
is incumbent on us to examine the qualifications of people submitting 
the reports and information. Relative to the issuance of recovery 
permits under Section 10 of the Act, which allow sampling for larvae 
and adults in suitable habitat, the law requires us to review all 
applications for such permits to ensure that only those people with 
appropriate training and experience conduct activities that will 
actually ``take'' a salamander (e.g., netting, trapping, hand capture, 
harassing). This requirement reduces the risks to the animals, and 
promotes the conservation and recovery of the species.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our July 1, 1994, Interagency Cooperative Policy 
for Peer Review in Endangered Species Act Activities (59 FR 34270), we 
solicited review from eight experts in the fields of ecology, 
conservation, genetics, taxonomy and management. The purpose of such a 
review is to ensure that listing decisions are based on scientifically 
sound data, assumptions, and analyses, including input from appropriate 
experts. Six reviewers sent us letters during the public comment 
periods supporting the listing of the Santa Barbara County DPS of the 
California tiger salamander. Several provided additional documentation 
on the distribution of and threats to the salamanders; one provided 
additional genetic data. Their information has been incorporated, as 
appropriate. Two reviewers specifically evaluated the genetic data on 
which the determination of the DPS was made; both stated that the data 
clearly and strongly supported our interpretations and decision.

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 species.

[[Page 57252]]

We followed procedures found at section 4 of the Act and regulations 
(50 CFR Part 424) issued 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 six isolated areas or metapopulations across the species' 
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 1930s through the year 2000 (archived at the Santa Barbara 
County Planning and Development Department), 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 migration.
    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 prevent 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 (L. Hunt 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), and 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 more than 130 years ago (Elihu Gevirtz, Santa 
Barbara County Planning and Development Department, 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, through 1997, in row crop 
acreage by more than 9,900 hectares (ha) (more than 25,000 acres (ac)) 
since 1986 and the installation of approximately 4,000 ha (10,000 ac) 
of vineyards from 1996 to 1999, more than doubling the acreage planted 
to grapes (Gira et al. 1999). This is further supported by the fact 
that, since 1992, irrigated cropland in Santa Barbara County has 
increased by approximately 15,700 ha (38,850 ac) to a total of 47,700 
hectares (118,270 acres), or a 49 percent increase; approximately 5,670 
ha (14,000 ac), or 36 percent of the growth, occurred from 1997 through 
1999 (Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department 2000). 
We noted in the emergency rule that 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 Department 1998). Of the 
ponds discovered since the emergency rule, a substantial portion of the 
adjacent upland habitat of at least one has been graded in the past 
year (B. Fahey, pers. obs. 2000; Santa Barbara County Planning and 
Development Department aerial photography collection). There are 
proposals to develop vineyards around 7 other documented breeding ponds 
in 2 complexes, but we are involved in discussions with the landowners 
and managers to provide for the protection of the California tiger 
salamander and its habitat (Hunt 1998; G. McLaughlin, pers. obs. 1998, 
2000; Santa Barbara County Planning and Development 1998; Sweet et al. 
1998; S. Sweet in litt. 1998a,b, 2000b; Monk & Associates 2000a). The 
threats from agriculture, urbanization, overgrazing, fragmentation, and 
roadkill are severe in four metapopulations, moderate in one, and 
minimal in the sixth. The current and potential threats are discussed 
below by region (West Orcutt, Bradley-Dominion, North Los Alamos, East 
Los Alamos, Purisima Hills, and Santa Rita).
    The five 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 breeding 
site in this metapopulation; California tiger salamanders have been 
reported from water meter vaults at residences within this development 
(L. Hunt in litt. 2000). Ongoing agriculture within the vernal pool 
complex can have negative effects on the hydrology, expose salamanders 
to contaminants, and kill terrestrial phase salamanders outright. Two 
sites are subject to mortality from roadkill due to their proximity to 
roads: One is by the heavily-traveled Black Road and the other is near 
a dirt road subject to yearly grading. Two remaining breeding ponds are 
separated from each other by a railroad that may disrupt migration 
routes and reduce genetic interchange. These sites are also threatened 
by overgrazing, as evidenced by terracing of the hillsides and a lack 
of vegetative cover (G. McLaughlin, pers. obs. 1998; Jones and Stokes 
Associates, Inc., no date) (see discussion on grazing in Factors C and 
E, below).
    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. This is probably the most at-risk 
metapopulation, due to agricultural intensification. 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 California tiger 
salamanders were found migrating across roads in the vicinity of the 
possible breeding sites throughout the 1980s, salamanders have not been 
observed since the early 1990s, when the grazing lands were converted 
to vineyards (S. Sweet in litt. 1998a). One documented breeding site 
may not have held water long enough in 2000 to support successful 
breeding (Bridget Fahey, Service, pers. obs. 2000), and although 
surveys of two other breeding sites were not conducted, the uplands 
surrounding one pond have been converted to intensive agriculture (S. 
Sweet in litt. 1998a,b; G. McLaughlin, pers. obs. 1998, 2000). It is 
likely that

[[Page 57253]]

the adult breeding population at that site has been greatly reduced.
    A storage facility for agricultural products 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). 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 make the 
habitat less suitable for salamanders during the breeding or 
development seasons. 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 North 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). California tiger salamanders were not found during a 
survey of the remaining pond in March 2000 (Walter Sadinski, Service, 
pers. obs. 2000), although they were present in other ponds in the 
metapopulation at that time (Monk & Associates 2000b). Additional 
surveys and monitoring will be needed to determine if adult California 
tiger salamanders are still present in the vicinity of the pool and if 
the remaining upland habitat around the pond is sufficient to support a 
California tiger salamander population. We still have concerns that 
habitat around seven vernal pools and seasonal ponds on the west side 
of Highway 101 that are documented breeding sites may be converted from 
grazing lands to intensive agriculture (Santa Barbara County Planning 
and Development Department 1998; S. Sweet in litt. 1998a; L. Hunt in 
litt. 1999; Abe Lieder, Santa Barbara County Planning and Development 
Department, in litt. 1999; Morgan Wehtje, California Department of Fish 
and Game (CDFG), pers. comm. 1999), but we are involved in discussions 
with landowners and managers regarding protections for the salamander 
and its habitat. One of these ponds is in danger of being completely 
filled in by siltation due to increased soil erosion from the vineyard 
on the east side of the highway (P. Collins in litt. 2000a; Jeanette 
Sainz, landowner, pers. comm. to B. Fahey 2000). Half of the uplands 
adjacent to a recently-discovered California tiger salamander breeding 
pond were converted to intensive agriculture in the fall of 1999, 
probably killing many of the adult salamanders in the uplands 
associated with that pond (P. Collins in litt. 2000a; B. Fahey and G. 
McLaughlin, pers. obs. 2000). Continued farming of that area will 
likely result in further losses.
    The recently discovered Purisima Hills metapopulation, consisting 
of six small ponds and surrounding upland habitats on the crest of the 
Purisima Hills, is in an area previously identified as probable 
California tiger salamander habitat (Sweet et al. 1998). The ponds are 
probably satellites to the larger Laguna Seca pond, a reported although 
unconfirmed California tiger salamander breeding site (S. Sweet in 
litt. 2000b). Salamanders from this metapopulation may provide evidence 
of an historic genetic link between the Los Alamos and Santa Rita 
Valley metapopulations, although the intensive agriculture currently 
along State Highway 135 in the Los Alamos Valley probably now 
constitutes a barrier to gene flow. This metapopulation is the least 
threatened of the Santa Barbara County California tiger salamander 
metapopulations; the owner of the property has expressed interest in 
working with the Land Trust of Santa Barbara County to establish 
conservation easements protecting both the California tiger salamanders 
and open land on the site (Van de Kamp 2000). The land use around these 
ponds consists of cattle grazing.
    The east Los Alamos metapopulation consists of three small ponds in 
an open savannah grassland (Monk & Associates 2000a). Currently, the 
property is used for cattle grazing (G. McLaughlin, pers. obs. 2000); 
however, the site is proposed for vineyard installation (Tony Korman 
and Susan Cagann, Kendall Jackson, pers. comm. 2000). The property is 
bordered to the north by Highway 101, which, along with extensive 
vineyards, probably serves as a barrier between this site and some 
potential breeding ponds on the north side of the highway.
    In the Santa Rita Valley metapopulation, the westernmost area 
occupied by the California tiger salamander has been severely affected 
by agricultural grading, conversion to row crops, and livestock 
facilities (S. Sweet in litt. 1993, 1998a,b; G. McLaughlin, pers. obs. 
1998, 2000; Service files). A site in the eastern part of the valley 
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.). Bullfrogs also are at 
the site (G. McLaughlin, pers. obs. 2000). The upland habitat to the 
north of the pools is still in very good condition. The pools are 
adjacent to Highway 246, resulting in considerable road mortality of 
salamanders during their breeding migrations (S. Sweet in litt. 1993, 
1998a). Efforts to reduce roadkill are under discussion. Upland 
habitats around two possible breeding ponds northeast of the second 
site were deep-ripped in 1998 in preparation for conversion to 
vineyards (L. Hunt in litt. 1998; Santa Barbara County Planning and 
Development Department 1998). Vineyards have been installed (G. 
McLaughlin pers. obs. 1999, 2000), and one of the ponds was enlarged 
and deepened in 1999 (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. The remaining 
undisturbed habitat is probably insufficient to support California 
tiger salamanders over the long term.
    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).
    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 

[[Page 57254]]

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 indicating that California tiger salamanders are used for 
this purpose (see discussion under Factor E of this section). 
Therefore, we do not believe overutilization is a threat to the Santa 
Barbara County population of California tiger salamanders.

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 
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 
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 at least four of the six Santa Barbara County 
California tiger salamander metapopulations. 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

[[Page 57255]]

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), and within two other pond complexes (L. Hunt in litt. 2000; G. 
McLaughlin, pers. obs. 2000), posing threats to those three 
    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 (Semlitsch et al. 
1988; Morey 1998). 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.
    In addition to mosquitofish, other introduced fish, both native and 
non-native, threaten the California tiger salamander. The introduction 
of bass and sunfish to many ponds that may have been breeding habitat 
for California tiger salamanders has probably eliminated salamanders 
from those sites. The distribution of the California tiger salamander 
in the north Los Alamos metapopulation may be limited by catfish 
(Ictalurus sp.) that were introduced several years ago into a pond that 
appears to have suitable breeding habitat. Although a pond less than 76 
m (250 ft) away appears less suitable for breeding, it is occupied by 
California tiger salamanders (S. Sweet in litt. 2000b). If the 
reproductive output from the smaller pond is not enough to sustain the 
population and the fish are not removed, that breeding population could 
be lost. Two other ponds in the north Los Alamos metapopulation had 
bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), largemouth bass (Micropterus 
salmoides), and fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) in 1999 (P. 
Collins in litt. 2000a). The introduced fish populations were 
extirpated when the ponds dried in the fall, but they may have caused 
the loss of most or all of the larvae produced that year. A number of 
ponds in or near occupied California tiger salamander habitat in the 
West Orcutt area have been home to introduced fish for 20 years (Brady 
Daniels, Kiewitt Pacific, pers. comm. 2000), probably eliminating any 
California tiger salamanders that may have bred there.
    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 species.), 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 perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral streams, 
wetlands (e.g., vernal pools), and other seasonal ponds typically used 
by breeding salamanders. Projects that involve only the excavation of 
pools whereby the discharge is limited to ``incidental fallback'' of 
fill material, and projects 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 
    Of particular concern relative to the persistence of California 
tiger salamanders are activities conducted under Nationwide Permits 
(NWP) (33 CFR part 330 Appendix A). Previously, NWP 26 covered fill of 
wetlands up to 3 acres; as of March 9, 2000, new NWPs 39, 41, 42, and 
43, and modifications to NWPs 3, 7, 12, 14, 27, and 40 replace NWP 26 
(65 FR 12817). The new and modified NWPs authorize many of the

[[Page 57256]]

same activities that NWP 26 authorized, but are activity-specific. The 
maximum acreage limits of most of the new and modified NWPs is 0.2 ha 
(0.5 ac). Most of the new and modified NWPs require notification to the 
District Engineer for activities that result in the loss of greater 
than 0.04 ha (0.1 ac). These permits thus authorize less fill than the 
previous NWP 26. Under several of the NWPs that authorize activities 
that might impact California tiger salamanders, the filling of less 
than 0.04 ha (0.1 ac) of isolated waters can be undertaken without 
notifying the Corps of the proposed activity unless a listed species or 
designated critical habitat might be affected or is in the vicinity of 
the project (NWP General Condition 11). However, the determination of 
the potential presence of and/or impacts to listed species or 
designated critical habitat is left to the applicant, who may not have 
sufficient expertise to make such a determination.
    Under several NWPs, if the activity will affect between 0.04 and 
0.2 ha (0.1 and 0.5 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 NWPs. 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 more than 0.2 ha (0.5 ac) of isolated waters 
also can be authorized under NWPs after the Corps circulates a pre-
construction notification (PCN) 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 NWPs. The Corps 
must require an individual permit for these projects if it determines 
the project will have more than minimal individual or cumulative 
effects. However, the Corps generally is reluctant to withhold 
authorization under NWPs 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). One review of 
ambystomatid salamander studies reported that 100 percent of post-
breeding adults and newly metamorphosed juveniles were found outside 
the federally delineated wetland boundary (Semlitsch 1998). Therefore, 
existing federal regulations are inadequate to protect tiger 
salamanders, as 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, even with the new limits on filling of 
wetlands, section 404 is unlikely to provide sufficient protection of 
small isolated wetlands and the surrounding watersheds.
    An individual permit is required for projects that do not qualify 
under the terms of a General Permit, and for projects that are 
determined by the Corps to have greater than minimal impacts or to be 
contrary to the public interest. 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. However, the long-term viability 
and suitability of artificially created wetlands has not been 
established. 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 three to five years old, and eight projects were greater than five 
years old at the time of the study. We found that, although it appeared 
our 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 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 (243 ha) 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 salamanders.
    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 (41 
cm), can degrade or destroy vernal pools without requiring a permit 
because these activities are exempt under the Clean Water Act. However, 
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, EPA, 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 (CESA), 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, 

[[Page 57257]]

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 depends, first, on whether 
discretionary approval is required for a project and, second, where 
such approval is required, on how the agency exercises its discretion. 
The effectiveness of this statute in protecting California tiger 
salamanders and their vernal pool and upland habitats has not been 
    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 of 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. Santa Barbara County 
is developing new regulations to address the protection of various 
components of California tiger salamander habitat, but those have not 
been completed, nor do we know how effectively those regulations will 
be implemented and enforced (John Patton, Santa Barbara County Planning 
and Development, in litt. 2000).
    A recent report on the status of agricultural grading and the 
enforcement of the County's grading ordinance found that 93 percent of 
the new cultivation since 1997 in Santa Barbara County has taken place 
without the need for County permits (Santa Barbara County Planning and 
Development Department 2000). This same report states that ``overall, 
the County's enforcement of the Grading Ordinance appears to have had 
little negative direct effect on the agricultural industry * * *'' and 
that ``the program has not succeeded in encouraging operators of 
agricultural expansion projects to consult with the agricultural 
assistance team on whether permits are required prior to beginning 
grading.'' Finally, a Grand Jury report published in 1999 states that 
the Santa Barbara County agricultural community frequently proceeds 
with agricultural conversions without a permit, preferring to suffer 
the consequences later rather than undertake the time-consuming permit 
process (Santa Barbara County Grand Jury 1999).
    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 more than 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 

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 are prone to local extinction due to human-
caused fragmentation (Findlay and Houlahan 1996, Gibbs 1998). This risk 
is heightened for the California tiger salamander, as it is distributed 
throughout the landscape in a metapopulation framework, with 
salamanders at some sites temporarily extirpated and then recolonizing 
from neighboring sites. Reducing the California tiger salamander's 
distribution to a few isolated ponds greatly reduces the species' 
ability to persist over time (H.B. Shaffer in litt. 2000b). 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. Even 
the relatively pristine Purisima Hills ponds are either bounded by or 
very close to a dirt road (S. Sweet in litt. 2000b). The dispersal and 
migration distances of California tiger salamanders require a large 
amount of barrier-free landscape (Shaffer et al. 1993; Loredo et al. 
1996). Large roads and highways represent permanent physical obstacles 
and can block

[[Page 57258]]

California tiger salamanders from moving to new breeding habitat or 
prevent them from returning to their breeding ponds or estivation 
sites. Roads can accelerate fragmentation by increasing mortality and 
preventing recolonization of sites that would otherwise be only 
temporarily extirpated (Trombulak and Frissell 2000).
    Road construction can significantly reduce the breeding population 
of a pond and, in some cases, cause the loss of a large portion of a 
metapopulation. Road construction results in the death of slow-moving 
animals and causes soil compaction underneath and adjacent to the road 
bed (Trombulak and Frissell 2000). Any California tiger salamanders in 
underground burrows in the path of the road or in the impact area are 
likely to be crushed during road construction. Once the road is open to 
traffic, salamanders are at risk of being run over on their first 
dispersal migration from the pond, and on future migrations to and from 
the ponds for breeding.
    Two Santa Barbara County tiger salamander breeding ponds are within 
0.4 km (0.2 mi) of a railroad that runs 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 of the remaining breeding sites in Santa Barbara County are 
near roads of various sizes. Eight are within 0.5 km (0.3 mi) of a 
major U.S. highway, one is bounded by a State highway, two are adjacent 
to secondary roads (as was the pond destroyed in 1998), and five are 
within 0.5 km (0.3 mi) of secondary roads. Although the remaining ponds 
are adjacent to or near dirt roads (Sweet et al. 1998a; Service files), 
the threats to those ponds from roadkill and the effects of 
fragmentation are less than the threats to ponds bounded by or near 
heavily traveled paved roads. 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. Roads alter many of the physical 
characteristics of the environment that may be important to California 
tiger salamanders, including soil density, soil water content, dust, 
surface-water flow, patterns of runoff, and sedimentation (Trombulak 
and Frissell 2000). The deleterious effects of roads on many ecological 
factors reach an average of 0.6 km (0.4 mi) from the road itself and 
are especially harmful to species such as salamanders that are often 
genetically programmed to migrate in a certain direction for breeding 
(Forman and Deblinger 2000).
    Amphibians are especially vulnerable to being killed on roads due 
to life histories involving migration between breeding and upland 
habitats and their slow movements (Trombulak and Frissell 2000). Large 
numbers of California tiger salamanders, up to 9 to 12 per km (15 to 20 
per mi) 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). Of California tiger salamanders 
found on roads, 25 to 72 percent are dead (Twitty 1941; S. Sweet in 
litt. 1993; Launer and Fee 1996). However, Sweet's report states that 
``the sizes of breeding adults do not point toward a major influence by 
road-kill.'' (Emphasis in original.) 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 and 
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 
offered in the Bradley-Dominion area (G. McLaughlin, pers. obs. 1998, 
    Hydrocarbon and other contamination from oil production and road 
runoff; the application of numerous chemicals for agricultural 
production, roadside maintenance, and urban/suburban landscape 
maintenance; and rodent and vector control programs may all have 
negative effects on tiger salamander populations, as detailed below.
    Direct 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 (Ambystoma 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.
    Sedimentation from road construction, maintenance, and runoff is 
another form of contamination that may affect California tiger 
salamander breeding ponds. Roads alter the hydrology of slopes, in part 
by diverting water into surface-water systems that can cause erosion, 
create gullies, and deposit increased loads of sediments into wetland 
systems (Trombulak and Frissell 2000). Road traffic can spread dust, 
which can settle into ponds, affecting aquatic and emergent vegetation 
and causing asphyxiation of eggs. Increased sedimentation could also 
degrade habitat by filling pools otherwise usable by the species; there 
is evidence that this is occurring at one pond in the Solomon Hills/
west Los Alamos metapopulation (P. Collins in litt. 2000a, J. Sainz 
pers. comm. to B. Fahey 2000). The ability of the California tiger 
salamander to detect aquatic food items could be impaired from 
increased sedimentation, as can

[[Page 57259]]

susceptibility to diseases (see factor C, above).
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, more than 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, fenamiphos, 
malathion, and endosulfan; some of these are extremely toxic to aquatic 
organisms, including amphibians and the organisms on which they prey. 
Many more agricultural chemicals may have lethal or sublethal effects 
on California tiger salamanders; those discussed here provide only a 
sample of the actual and potential threats.
    Metam-sodium, a broad spectrum carbamate used for soil 
sterilization, was one of the main chemicals applied on broccoli and 
lettuce grown in 1994, when more than 114,000 kg (more than 250,000 lb) 
were used in Santa Barbara County (CDFA). Metam-sodium is extremely 
toxic to fish (Meister 1997). Although no test data are available for 
amphibians, the effects are likely to be similar.
    Chlorpyrifos is a highly toxic organophosphate insecticide applied 
as granules, wettable powder, dustable powder, or emulsifiable 
concentrate (EXTOXNET 1996a). Chlorpyrifos was detected at a 
concentration of 0.006 micrograms/liter (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 1996a); 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 1996a). More than 6,000 kg (13,000 lb) were used in Santa 
Barbara County in 1994 (CDFA).
    Fenamiphos, a phosphorothioate, is used on many crops to control a 
wide variety of nematodes (roundworms). The compound is absorbed by 
roots and translocated throughout the plant. The toxicity of fenamiphos 
to aquatic species varies from moderate to high. Fish are extremely 
sensitive to fenamiphos (EXTOXNET 1996b). Fenamiphos has been linked to 
fish and bird kills and is known to have a high potential of leaching 
into the groundwater. Nearly 12,000 kg (26,000 pounds) 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 g/l in test wells near fields on which it has been 
used (Burow 1998a). More than 3,500 kg (7,800 lb) of malathion were 
used in Santa Barbara County in 1994 (CDFA).
    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). More than 225,000 kg (500,000 lb) were used in Santa 
Barbara County in 1994 (CDFA).
    Azinphos-methyl (AZM) is an organophosphate insecticide and 
miticide used on many crops. The EPA (EXTOXNET 1996c) classifies this 
pesticide as class I, which are highly toxic compounds. Harris et al. 
(1998) reported a green frog (Rana clamitans) 16-day LC50 of >5.0 mg/L 
for Guthion WP, a preparation of 50 percent AZM. Dolah et al. (1997) 
reported that, in South Carolina streams, measured concentrations of 
AZM at greater than 17 g/L have coincided with documented fish 
kills. They reported that at a concentration of 20 g/L, 100 
percent mortality occurs within a short time. The use of AZM in the 
vicinity of the California tiger salamander could affect recruitment 
and survival directly, or affect the food supply.
    Endosulfan is a sulfur-containing organochlorine used for the 
control of many insects on a wide variety of crops. Studies by Berrill 
et al. (1998) reported severe toxicity to amphibians from exposure to 
endosulfan, including extensive paralysis to several species of frog 
and toad tadpoles, delayed metamorphosis and high death rates. Harris 
et al. (1998) reported that green frogs exposed to Thiodan (a 
47 percent mixture of endosulfan) had a 16-d LC50 of greater than 5.0 
mg/L. It is apparent that endosulfan is extremely toxic at low 
concentrations to amphibians.
    Five of the six metapopulations of California tiger salamanders 
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 directly 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 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 
    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 (Rosemary 
Thompson, Senior Biologist, SAIC, in litt. 1998).
    Until about 1990, ground squirrel control programs using compound 
1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) were carried out

[[Page 57260]]

on lands in Santa Barbara County (R. Thompson in litt. 1998). Compound 
1080 is extremely toxic to nontarget fish, birds, and mammals (EPA 
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 
1996d). 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 and its 
affect on salamanders 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. 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 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 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. dolomieu), 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).
Introduced Tiger Salamanders
    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). A 
recently discovered breeding population on the Lompoc Federal Prison 
property are probably non-native tiger salamanders as well (Storrer in 
litt. 2000); tissue from these larvae are being analyzed to confirm 
their identity. 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

[[Page 57261]]

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 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 maintain large, sustainable populations. 
Although Melanson (in litt. 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 pond's 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).
Water Drawdowns
    Many of the ponds in northern Santa Barbara County are subject to 
drawdowns for agricultural uses, including irrigation and frost 
control. Water is removed from the pond using submersible pumps. This 
has a two-fold effect to California tiger salamander inhabiting these 
ponds: (1) Salamander larvae and adults may be sucked into the pump 
mechanism during drawdowns for frost control, killing them in the 
process (P. Collins in litt. 2000a), and (2) ponds may be subject to 
premature drying in the spring and summer, resulting in the stranding 
of larvae before they are able to metamorphose.
    In developing this final rule, 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, probably 
deserving recognition as a separate species, and is restricted to very 
few areas, all of which are threatened to some degree by agricultural 
conversion, fragmentation, or urban development. As discussed under 
Factor A of this section, ponds and upland habitats are being lost at a 
rapid rate in five of the six 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.
    Of the 26 known breeding sites, 24 are located exclusively on 
privately owned land and the other 2 are partially on Santa Barbara 
County property. Upland habitats surrounding 25 of the ponds are 
exclusively privately owned; the remaining habitat is a patchwork of 
county and private lands. No conservation agreements or easements 
adequate to ensure the long term viability of any metapopulation are in 
place. Given the extremely rapid rate of recent and projected habitat 
loss and degradation, this Santa Barbara DPS is in imminent danger of 
extinction throughout most of its historic range, and may have been 
eliminated from one area (Bradley-Dominion) in the last 2 years. The 
survival of the Santa Barbara DPS of the California tiger salamander 
now depends on protecting as many breeding sites and their 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. Immediately upon publication, this 
final rule will continue the protection for this DPS of California 
tiger salamanders, which began when we emergency listed this DPS on 
January 19, 2000.
Critical Habitat
    In the last few years, a series of court decisions have overturned 
our 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. 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

[[Page 57262]]

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.
    Critical habitat is not determinable when one or both of the 
following situations exist: the information needed to analyze the 
impacts of the designation is lacking, or the biological needs of the 
species are not sufficiently well known to permit identification of an 
area as critical habitat (50 CFR 424.12). We believe we understand the 
biological needs of the Santa Barbara County California tiger 
salamander sufficiently well to identify an area appropriate to 
designate as critical habitat. However, our review of the comments we 
received following the emergency listing of the Santa Barbara County 
California tiger salamander indicates the potential impacts of a 
critical habitat designation are not so well understood that we can 
complete the analyses required under subsection 4(b) of the Act. 
Accordingly, we have found that critical habitat for the California 
tiger salamander is not determinable at this time.
    When we find that critical habitat is not determinable, our 
regulations (50 CFR 424.17) provide that, within one year of the date 
of the final rule listing the species, we must publish a final rule 
designating critical habitat, based on the best information available 
at the time. We will undertake critical habitat determinations and 
designations during FY 2001 as allowed by our funding allocation for 
that year. As explained in detail in the Listing Priority Guidance (64 
FR 57114), our listing budget is currently insufficient to allow us to 
immediately complete all of the listing actions required by the Act. 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 and available funding.
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 the species' 
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 subsequently is 
listed, 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 
    Listing this species provides for the development of a recovery 
plan, which would bring together Federal, State, local, and private 
efforts for the conservation of the species. The plan would establish a 
framework for agencies to coordinate activities and cooperate with each 
other in conservation efforts. The plan would set recovery priorities 
and estimate costs of various tasks necessary to accomplish them. It 
also would describe site-specific management actions necessary to 
achieve conservation and survival of the Santa Barbara County 
population of California tiger salamanders. Additionally, pursuant to 
section 6 of the Act, we would be able to grant funds to the State for 
management actions promoting the protection and recovery of the 
    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 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 

[[Page 57263]]

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 the 
emergency rule, published on January 19, 2000, and being held 
consistent with regulations at 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 permit issued by us under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Act. To obtain a permit, an applicant must develop a habitat 
conservation plan and apply for an incidental take permit that 
minimizes and mitigates impacts to the species to the maximum 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, without appropriate authorization from us pursuant 
to sections 7 and 10 of the Act, the following actions may result in a 
violation of section 9; however, possible violations are not limited to 
these actions:
    (1) Unauthorized collecting, trapping, capturing, killing, 
harassing, sale, delivery, or movement, including 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 
    (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 final rule are Grace McLaughlin and 
Bridget Fahey, 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

    Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 
of the Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:


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

Sec. 17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

[[Page 57264]]

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

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *
Salamander,                        Ambystoma             U.S.A.                U.S.A.               E                    667E,           NA           NA
California tiger                   californiense         (CA)                  (CA-Santa Barbara                           702

    Dated: September 14, 2000.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-24173 Filed 9-15-00; 3:09 pm]