News Release
Southeast Region
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Proposed Change in Status and Critical Habitat Designation for the Flatwoods Salamander

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 13, 2008

 

   

Contacts:
Connie Light Dickard, 601/321-1121
Tom MacKenzie, 678-296-6400, Tom_MacKenzie@fws.gov

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today in the Federal Register a change in the classification of the flatwoods salamander into two species and a proposed change in the status of one of those species. The Service also proposed a combined total of 30,628 acres of critical habitat between both salamander species in three states, and announced the availability of the draft economic analysis associated with the proposed designation.

The flatwoods salamander was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1999. Recent studies split the flatwoods salamander into two species - the frosted flatwoods salamander and the reticulated flatwoods salamander. The Service proposed endangered status for the reticulated while retaining threatened status for the frosted.

Supplemental information about retaining threatened status for the frosted flatwoods salamander will be submitted to the Federal Register in time for the public to comment simultaneously on the supplemental information and this proposed rule.

As for critical habitat for the frosted flatwoods salamander, approximately 23,132 acres across portions of Florida and South Carolina are proposed. Seven critical habitat units are proposed within five counties of Florida, east of the Apalachicola-Flint river drainage, and three counties of coastal South Carolina. These units include a total of 18,514 acres in federal ownership, 431 acres in state ownership, and 4,187 acres in private ownership.

A total of 5,283 acres of occupied habitat on military lands in Georgia with Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans are proposed for exclusion from the designation. Of these acres, 5,121 acres are on Fort Stewart Military Installation and 162 acres are on Townsend Bombing Range.

Approximately 7,496 acres across portions of the states of Florida and Georgia are proposed as critical habitat for the reticulated salamander. Ten critical habitat units are proposed within seven counties in Florida and two counties in Georgia west of the Apalachicola-Flint river drainage. These units include a total of 2,881 acres in federal ownership, 984 acres in state ownership, 25 acres in local ownership, and 3,606 acres in private ownership.

The draft economic analysis estimates that, over the 20-year period 2009 to 2028, post-designation costs for frosted and reticulated flatwoods salamander conservation-related activities could range between $3.88 million and $6.40 million (using a three percent discount rate) and $2.49 million to $4.38 million (using a seven percent discount rate). In annualized terms, potential impacts may range from $261,000 to $430,000 at three percent or $235,000 to $413,000 at seven percent.

This proposed rule 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 against the Secretary of Interior alleging failure 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. A proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the flatwoods salamander was published in the Federal Register on February 7, 2007.

Since this proposed rule was published, new information has become available on taxonomy and additional threats to occupied habitat that has necessitated a re-evaluation of the rule. On January 25, 2008, the court-approved settlement agreement was modified such that by July 30, 2008, a revised proposed critical habitat designation for the frosted flatwoods salamander and the reticulated flatwoods salamander must be submitted for publication in the Federal Register. The final rule for designation will be submitted for publication by January 30, 2009.

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. We are also seeking public comment on the draft economic analysis and any potential economic impacts expected to occur as a result of the designation. A final decision on the reclassification of the reticulated flatwoods salamander from threatened to endangered, and designation of critical habitat for both species of flatwoods salamander, will consider all comments and information received by October 14, 2008.

The complete proposal appears in the Federal Register today and can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/policy/library/E8-17894.pdf. 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.

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.

Since they are protected under the Act, both species of flatwoods salamanders are already protected wherever they occur, and federal agencies are required to consult on any action taken that might affect the species.

Both species of 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. The back pattern of the reticulated flatwoods salamander has a more net-like appearance than the frosted flatwoods salamander, as the common names imply. The frosted flatwoods salamander generally tends to be larger than the reticulated flatwoods salamander, and the male frosted flatwoods salamander has a longer tail than that of the male reticulated flatwoods salamander. For individuals of the same size, the frosted flatwoods salamander has longer fore and hind limbs and a longer, wider, and deeper head.

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. Visit the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov or http://www.fws.gov/southeast

 

 



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2008 News Releases.

Last updated: August 21, 2008