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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Critical Habitat for the Flatwoods Salamander

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 7, 2007


Contacts:

Connie Light Dickard, 601/321-1121
Tom MacKenzie, 404-679-7291


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to designate approximately 31,428 acres across portions of the states of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, as critical habitat for the flatwoods salamander, a species protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Twelve proposed critical habitat units are located within 11 counties in Florida, two counties in Georgia, and three counties in South Carolina. They include 23,459 acres in federal ownership, 1,138 acres in state ownership, 43 acres in local government ownership, and 6,788 acres in private ownership. Approximately 11,774 acres that did not meet the definition of critical habitat are proposed for exclusion from the designation. Of these acres, 9,867 acres are military lands with Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans, and 1,907 acres are lands within the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge that has an approved Comprehensive Conservation Plan.

Flatwoods salamanders are moderately-sized salamanders that are generally black to chocolate-black with fine, irregular, light gray lines and specks that form a cross-banded pattern across their backs. Adults are terrestrial and live underground most of the year. They breed in relatively small, isolated ephemeral ponds where the larvae develop until metamorphosis. Mature salamanders migrate out of the ponds and into uplands where they live until they move back to ponds to breed as adults.

Flatwoods salamanders are endemic to the lower Gulf and Atlantic coastal plains where they occur in what were historically longleaf pine-wiregrass flatwoods and savannas. Their habitat has been reduced to less than 20 percent of its original extent. Surviving populations of flatwoods salamanders are small, localized, and highly vulnerable to habitat destruction, deterioration, and fragmentation.

With this proposal, the Service is seeking comments, suggestions, and any additional information on biology, threats, range, distribution, population size, or current or planned activities and their possible impacts on these species or their proposed critical habitats. A final decision on designating critical habitat will consider all comments and information received by April 9, 2007.

The complete proposal appears in the Federal Register today and can be found at: http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20071800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2007/pdf/07-470.pdf. You may also access the Federal Register notice at http://www.fws.gov/southeast/hotissues/

A copy also can be obtained by contacting Connie Light Dickard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, Suite A, Jackson, Mississippi 39213; phone 601-321-1121.

This proposal was prepared pursuant to a court order resulting from a lawsuit filed on April 1, 2005, by the Center for Biological Diversity, Wild South, and Florida Biodiversity Project challenging the Service’s decision not to designate critical habitat for the flatwoods salamander. In a court-approved settlement agreement, the Service agreed to re-evaluate the need for critical habitat for the species and if prudent, submit a proposed designation of critical habitat to the Federal Register by January 30, 2007, and a final by January 30, 2008.

Critical habitat is a term defined in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It refers to specific geographic areas that are essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and which may require special management considerations or protection. The designation of critical habitat will help ensure federal agencies and the public are aware of the flatwoods salamander’s habitat needs and proper consultation is conducted by federal agencies when required by law. A critical habitat designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and only applies to situations where federal funding or a federal permit is involved. It does not allow government or public access to private land. Federal agencies that undertake, fund or permit activities that may affect critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure such actions do not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat.

As a listed species under the ESA, the flatwoods salamander is already protected wherever it occurs, and federal agencies are required to consult on any action taken that might affect the species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

 


For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov/southeast or http://www.fws.gov/.



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