News Release

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Comments on Proposed Critical Habitat for Tiny Buena Vista Lake Shrew

5,182 Acres proposed in Kings and Kern counties

July 10, 2012

Media Contacts:
Robert Moler, robert_moler@fws.gov, (916) 414-6606
Sarah Swenty, Sarah_swenty@fws.gov, (916) 414-6571

Sacramento - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is reopening the comment period on a revised proposal to designate critical habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew (BVLS). Today’s announcement provides an additional 60 days in order to allow interested parties an opportunity to comment on revisions to the 2009 proposed designation of critical habitat for the BVLS (Sorex ornatus relictus).

The BVLS has been listed as an endangered species since 2002. The effort to designate critical habitat has taken several steps. The Service originally proposed critical habitat for the BVLS in 2004 and ultimately designated 84 acres in 2005. The Center for Biological Diversity challenged this rule and, in the proposed settlement, the Service agreed to re-propose critical habitat, which it did in 2009. In 2011, the Service released a draft economic analysis for the proposed acres of critical habitat and also completed a 5-year review of the species’ status. Now, with updated scientific and economic information gathered during these processes, the Service proposes 5,182 acres to be designated as critical habitat for the BVLS.

The Service is looking for specific information regarding the size of the BVLS’s habitat, what areas should be included in or excluded from the designation, or special management considerations. The land proposed and includes 2,687 acres in the Kern Fan Recharge Area, 387 acres of the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, 1,279 acres in the Goose Lake area, 270 acres of the Coles Levee Ecosystem Preserve, 90 acres in the Kern Lake area, 372 acres in the Semitropic Ecological Reserve, and 97 acres in the Lemoore Wetlands.

Comments will be accepted until September 10, 2012. Comments may be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov (Docket Number FWS–R8–ES–2009–0062) or by U.S. mail to:

Public Comments Processing
Attn:  FWS–R8–ES–2009–0062
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203.

The BVLS is a shy little animal that has lost more than 95 percent of its historic habitat in the southern San Joaquin Valley. The BVLS weighs less than a fourth of an ounce (about the weight of a quarter), and is only 5 inches long, including its tail. It has a long snout, small eyes, and ears concealed by soft fur, which is predominantly black with brown specks on the back and smoke-colored gray underneath. Shrews benefit surrounding plant communities by consuming large quantities of insects and other invertebrates, influencing plant succession and controlling pest insects.

Biologists believe that historically the BVLS occurred widely in the marsh lands of the Tulare Basin. By the time biologists first discovered it in 1932 most of these marshes were drained or dried up by water diversions. Little, if any, cultivated land was included in the 2004 proposal because the BVLS is not known to live on regularly tilled land. 

Remaining BVLS populations are threatened by habitat alteration due to bringing new land into farming, modifications of local hydrology, uncertain water supply, possible toxic effects from selenium poisoning, and naturally occurring catastrophes, such as drought, that could reduce the remaining populations. Water is a vital component of the BVLS’s environment because of the moisture required to support the variety of insects that are its primary food source.

The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for America’s native wildlife like the Buena Vista Lake Shrew. This landmark conservation law has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species across the nation and promoted the recovery of many others.