[Federal Register: November 17, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 221)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 69717-69721]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AU23

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of 
Critical Habitat for the Distinct Population Segment of the California 
Tiger Salamander in Sonoma County

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; reopening of comment period.


[[Page 69718]]

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the reopening 
of the comment period on the proposed designation of critical habitat 
for the Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander. We 
are reopening the comment period to allow all interested parties an 
opportunity to comment simultaneously on the proposed rule and an 
alternative we are considering in our approach to this designation. We 
are considering a final designation of 21,298 ac (8,519 ha) or less due 
to an alternative methodology for designating critical habitat (see 
discussion below). The final critical habitat rule is due to the 
Federal Register on December 1, 2005. Comments previously submitted 
need not be resubmitted as they will be incorporated into the public 
record as part of this comment period, and will be considered in 
preparation of the final rule.

DATES: We will accept public comments until November 28, 2005.

ADDRESSES: Written comments and materials may be submitted to us by any 
one of the following methods:
    1. You may submit written comments and information to the Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-
2605, Sacramento, CA 95825;
    2. You may hand-deliver written comments and information to our 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, at the above address, or fax your 
comments to 916/414-6713; or
    3. You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to: 
fwsonoma_tiger_salamander@fws.gov. For directions on how to file comments 

electronically, see the ``Public Comments Solicited'' section. In the 
event that our Internet connection is not functional, please submit 
your comments by the alternate methods mentioned above.
    Copies of the proposed rule and draft economic analysis for 
critical habitat designation are available on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/sacramento
 or from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office 

at the address and contact numbers above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Arnold Roessler, Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office, at the address above (telephone 916/414-6600; 
facsimile 916/414-6713).


Public Comments Solicited

    We will accept written comments and information during this 
reopened comment period. We solicit comments on the original proposed 
critical habitat designation (70 FR 44301; August 2, 2005), on our 
draft economic analysis of the proposed designation, and on the 
alternative included with this notice. We will consider information and 
recommendations from all interested parties. We are particularly 
interested in comments concerning:
    (1) The reasons why any habitat should or should not be determined 
to be critical habitat, as provided by section 4 of the Act, including 
whether the benefit of designation will outweigh any threats to the 
species due to designation;
    (2) Specific information on the amount and distribution of 
California tiger salamander (CTS) habitat proposed to be designated in 
this alternative, what areas should be included in the designation or 
which should not compared to the original proposed critical habitat;
    (3) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the 
subject areas and their possible impacts on proposed habitat;
    (4) Any foreseeable economic, national security, or other potential 
impacts resulting from the proposed designation and this alternative 
and, in particular, any impacts on small entities; and
    (5) Whether our approach to designating critical habitat could be 
improved or modified in any way to provide for greater public 
participation and understanding, or to assist us in accommodating 
public concern and comments.
    (6) The local governments of Sonoma County including the county 
itself are considering adopting a county-wide conservation plan 
preceded by an interim operating agreement to protect the salamander 
until the local plan can be finalized and formally adopted. If the 
interim implementation agreement can be finalized in time, the Service 
will include the existence of the plan in its determination of critical 
habitat for both the purposes of a 3(5)(A) determination and a 4(b)(2) 
determination. We are continuing to request comment on the Santa Rosa 
Plain Conservation Strategy, as requested in the proposed rule, the 
interim agreement and whether the Service should consider them in 
determinations under 4(b)(2) under the Act.
    An area may be excluded from critical habitat if it is determined 
that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of including 
the particular area as critical habitat, unless the failure to 
designate such area as critical habitat will result in the extinction 
of the species. We may exclude an area from designated critical habitat 
based on economic impacts, national security, or any other relevant 
    All previous comments and information submitted during the initial 
comment period on the August 2, 2005, proposed rule (70 FR 44301) and 
the reopened comment period following the October 25, 2005, notice of 
availability of the draft economic analysis (70 FR 61591) need not be 
resubmitted. If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and 
materials concerning the draft economic analysis and the proposed rule 
by any one of several methods (see ADDRESSES section). Our final 
designation of critical habitat will take into consideration all 
comments and any additional information we received during both comment 
periods. On the basis of public comment on this analysis and on the 
critical habitat proposal, and the final economic analysis, we may, 
during the development of our final determination, find that areas 
proposed do not meet the definition of critical habitat, are 
appropriate for exclusion under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, or are not 
appropriate for exclusion.
    Please submit electronic comments in an ASCII file format and avoid 
the use of special characters and encryption. Please also include 
``Attn: RIN 1018-AU23'' and your name and return address in your e-mail 
message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the system that we 
have received your e-mail message, please contact the person listed 
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home addresses from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to 
the extent allowable by law. In some circumstances, we would withhold 
from the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable by 
law. If you wish for us to withhold your name and/or address, you must 
state this prominently at the beginning of your comments. However, we 
will not consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.
    Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in preparation of the proposal to designate critical 
habitat, will be available for inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business

[[Page 69719]]

hours, at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).
    Copies of the proposed rule and draft economic analysis are 
available on the Internet at: http://www.fws.gov/sacramento/. You may 

also obtain copies of the proposed rule and economic analysis from the 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES), or by calling 916/


Previous Federal Actions

    The Sonoma County Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the 
California tiger salamander was emergency listed as endangered on July 
22, 2002 (67 FR 47726). On March 19, 2003, we made a final 
determination of endangered status for the Sonoma County DPS of the 
California tiger salamander (68 FR 13498).
    On August 2, 2005, we proposed to designate a total of 74,223 acres 
(30,037 hectares) as critical habitat in Sonoma County, California (70 
FR 44301). The majority of the proposed designation occurs on privately 
owned lands. No known Tribal lands have been included in the proposed 

Alternative Under Consideration

Current Proposal
    We are considering a final designation of 21,298 ac (8,519 ha) or 
less due to an alternative methodology for identifying critical habitat 
and mapping refinements. We are also requesting information regarding 
possible exclusions under section 4(b)(2) of the Endangered Species Act 
(Act). See discussion below. Pursuant to court order, the final 
critical habitat rule is due to the Federal Register on December 1, 
    For information on the primary constituent elements (PCEs) for the 
California tiger salamander Sonoma County DPS, see the proposed rule 
(August 2, 2005; 70 FR 44301). The PCEs remain the same as in the 
proposed rule.
Methodology/Criteria To Identify the Alternative Under Consideration
    In the proposed critical habitat rule for the Sonoma population of 
the California tiger salamander, we identified the historical and 
potential range of the species in Sonoma County, utilizing all known 
breeding and adult locality data and GIS resources available to this 
office. We are currently taking into consideration comments received 
from the public and beginning to outline possible exclusions from 
habitat containing features essential to the conservation of the 
species as outlined below. In the course of these refinements, we have 
developed an alternative that we are now considering for designation.
    Conserving California tiger salamanders over the long term requires 
a three-pronged approach: (1) Protecting the hydrology and water 
quality of breeding pools and ponds; (2) retaining or providing for 
connectivity between breeding locations for genetic exchange and 
recolonization; and (3) protecting sufficient upland habitat around 
each breeding location to allow for enough adult survival to maintain a 
breeding population over the long term. We have developed this 
alternative to focus on providing sufficient breeding and upland 
habitat to maintain and sustain existing populations of salamanders in 
documented breeding sites (vernal pool complexes) identified within 
Sonoma County.
    The final listing rule identified the Sonoma County DPS California 
tiger salamander as occupying at least eight known breeding sites 
consisting of vernal pools, seasonal wetlands, and other water bodies 
surrounded by supporting upland and dispersal habitats (i.e., vernal 
pool complexes) with varying levels of fragmentation due to urban 
development. These complexes are generally described as the (1) Hall 
Road Preserve; (2) FEMA/ Broadmore North Preserve; (3) Engel Preserve; 
(4) Northwest Air Center; (5) Southwest Air Center; (6) North Air 
Center; (7) Wright Avenue; and (8) South Ludwig Avenue (68 FR 13498, 
March 19, 2003). These eight breeding sites (vernal pool complexes) are 
distributed in the City of Santa Rosa, and the immediate associated 
unincorporated areas, an area approximately 5 mi (8 km) by 4 mi (6 km) 
wide. California tiger salamanders were also known to occur south to 
the Cotati area. Four additional known breeding sites were converted 
into unsuitable habitat in the two years prior to listing, and a fifth 
breeding site near Cotati was converted to unsuitable habitat shortly 
after the emergency listing went into effect.
    Consistent with the methodology used to map habitat containing 
features essential to the conservation of the Santa Barbara and Central 
populations of the California tiger salamander, we began mapping 
habitat by buffering known salamander breeding locations by a distance 
of 0.70 mi (1.1 km) to capture dispersal and upland habitat use. 
Trenham et al. (2001), investigated movements of California tiger 
salamanders between breeding ponds and projected that 0.70 mi (1.1 km) 
would encompass 99 percent of all interpond dispersal (Trenham et al. 
    Buffering known breeding sites by 0.70 m (1.1 km) will also 
encompass both the breeding habitat and the upland habitat surrounding 
the ponds where juvenile and adult California tiger salamanders live 
during the majority of their life cycle. California tiger salamanders 
frequently move from their breeding ponds in search of suitable upland 
refugia. A mark-recapture study demonstrated that California tiger 
salamanders commonly moved between ponds separated by 2,200 ft (671 m) 
(Trenham et al. 2001), and in another study, 16 percent of juvenile 
captures occurred at 2,296 ft (700 m) (Trenham et al. 2001). Trenham 
and Shaffer (in review) estimated that conserving upland habitats 
within 2,200 ft (671 m) of breeding ponds would protect 95 percent of 
California tiger salamanders at their study location in Solano County. 
Finally, a buffer of 0.70 m (1.1 km) will help protect breeding site 
watersheds, which is important for two reasons: (1) to ensure that the 
amount of water entering the pond is not altered in a manner that would 
allow for colonization of breeding sites by non-native predators, which 
can prey upon California tiger salamander eggs and larvae; and (2) to 
preserve water quality by minimizing the entry of sediments and other 
contaminants to the breeding ponds.
    See Figure 1 for map of an alternative we are considering in our 
approach to this designation for the Sonoma County DPS of the 
California tiger salamander.


[[Page 69720]]



New Information

Occupation Since Time of Listing

    We have new records of California tiger salamanders within the same 
vernal pool complexes in which salamanders were known at the time of 
listing. We have also identified one additional breeding site 
containing a complex of vernal pools generally

[[Page 69721]]

described as the Duer/Kelly Farms site, located west of the Hall Road 
Preserve and north of the intersection of Highway 12 and Duer Road. Any 
of the breeding sites or vernal pool complexes may contain one or more 
breeding pools in a given year, and the number and location of breeding 
pools within a complex varies from one year to another. Individual 
salamanders have been detected both in breeding pools and in the 
surrounding uplands (e.g., road kills, trapping during surveys).

Potential Exclusions

    There are no federal lands or approved habitat conservation plans 
within the proposed designation. The following exclusions to the 
alternative under section 4(b)(2) may be considered:
    [squf] Most or all of the alternative designation, on the basis of 
the conservation benefits that will be provided by the draft Santa Rosa 
Plain Conservation Strategy.
    [squf] Some or all of the alternative designation, on the basis of 
    [squf] Vernal pool preserves owned and managed by California 
Department of Fish and Game (acreage estimate currently unavailable).
    [squf] Conservation banks owned by private landowners and managed 
for the benefit of California tiger salamander and other vernal pool 
species (acreage estimate currently unavailable).

Future Refinements

    At this time we are unable to further refine the attached map, 
however, we recognize that upland habitat features will influence 
California tiger salamander movements within a particular landscape. 
Therefore, where we have site-specific information on those features, 
such as land use, topography, and geologic landform, we intend to 
restrict the proposed essential habitat lines to reflect that 
information. Examples of features we intend to remove from the final 
designation of critical habitat would likely include: (1) Commercial or 
residential developed areas; (2) upland habitat separated from the 
breeding habitat by a substantial barrier (e.g., State Highway); (3) 
habitat types within dispersal distance unsuitable for California tiger 
salamanders; (4) areas that do not provide underground refugia because 
they cannot support small mammal burrowing systems due to geological 
features; or (5) other such areas that do not contain sufficient PCEs 
to support the California tiger salamander.


    The economic impact of the alternative on land development is 
$195,863,729. The revised impact on transportation projects is 
$426,000. The total revised cost of designation is thus $196,289,729, 
or $17,316,226 annualized over 20 years. In the event that portions of 
critical habitat within the urban growth boundaries are excluded, the 
cost drops to $128,008,620. These findings are summarized in Table 1. 
Table 2 displays these impacts by census tract, as well as impacts if 
the portion of each tract within the urban growth boundary (UGB) is 

            Table 1.--Revised Economic Impacts of Designation

Land Development........................................    $195,863,729
Land Development (UGB excluded).........................     128,008,620
Transportation..........................................         426,000
Overall impact..........................................     196,289,729
Annualized Impact.......................................      17,316,226

                                        Table 2.--Impacts by Census Tract
                                         UGB not excluded                  UGB excluded
                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------- Transportation
              FIPS                                  Cumulative                      Cumulative        impacts
                                   Surplus  lost    percentage     Surplus  lost    percentage
06097153300.....................    $125,612,192            64.1     $80,588,264            63.0              $0
06097153200.....................      29,722,184            79.3      23,572,824            81.4         426,000
06097151201.....................      18,746,038            88.9       9,252,835            88.6               0
06097153005.....................       9,863,633            93.9       7,005,753            94.1               0
06097151311.....................       4,707,828            96.3         980,615            97.9               0
06097151203.....................       2,979,555            97.8       2,775,813            96.2               0
06097151100.....................       1,164,227            98.4       1,164,227            97.1               0
06097151000.....................         930,563            98.9         930,563            98.6               0
06097151402.....................         807,866            99.3         640,000            99.1               0
06097151307.....................         643,695            99.6         514,830           100.0               0
06097153501.....................         572,914            99.9         572,896            99.6               0
06097152901.....................          89,037           100.0          10,000           100.0               0
06097151308.....................          13,999           100.0  ..............  ..............               0
06097153003.....................          10,000           100.0  ..............  ..............               0
06097152904.....................               0           100.0  ..............  ..............               0
06097151305.....................               0           100.0               0           100.0               0
06097151301.....................               0           100.0               0           100.0               0
06097151204.....................               0           100.0               0           100.0               0
06097153006.....................               0           100.0  ..............  ..............               0
06097153101.....................               0           100.0  ..............  ..............               0
06097153102.....................               0           100.0  ..............  ..............               0
    Total.......................     195,863,729  ..............     128,008,620  ..............         426,000


    The primary author of this notice is the staff of the Sacramento 
Fish and Wildlife Office.


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: November 10, 2005.
Craig Manson,
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 05-22781 Filed 11-16-05; 8:45 am]