New Conservation Agreement Signed for the Louisiana Pine Snake
September 17, 2013
- email: Stacy Shelton, phone: (404) 679-7290
USFWS Biologist Michael Sealy of the Louisiana Ecological Services Field Office, holding a wild-caught Louisiana pine snake at Fort Polk in Louisiana.
Photo: Carrie Thompson - USFWS
A Louisiana pine snake.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and six partners in Louisiana and Texas recently signed an updated candidate conservation agreement for the Louisiana pine snake, one of the rarest snakes in North America.
The agreement improves on the 2003 candidate conservation agreement, or CCA, with current habitat threats, implemented management actions and significant new information derived from research, threats assessments, and habitat modeling not available a decade ago. The snake has been a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act since 1999.
CCAs are agreements that outline proactive conservation actions partners will take to hopefully preclude the need to list a species under the ESA.
“This new agreement is a significant step forward for the Louisiana pine snake, thanks in large part to the collective commitments by all of the partners,” said Michael Sealy, the Service’s lead biologist for the species. “This CCA sets more specific objectives and directly ties the conservation actions of the partners to minimizing threats to the snake.”
In addition to the Service’s Louisiana and Texas Ecological Service Offices, the cooperators in the CCA are:
- U.S. Forest Service - Angelina and Sabine National Forests, the Southern Research Station in Texas, and Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana;
- Natural Resources Conservation Service in Louisiana;
- U.S. Department of Defense - Fort Polk and the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana;
- Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries;
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; and
- Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The Service is also working with private landowners to develop Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) for the Louisiana pine snake. These CCAAs would spell out the type of land management practices that conserve the snake and its habitat. By following those practices, the landowner can receive regulatory assurances. That means if the snake were to be listed under the ESA, landowners who sign the CCAAs would not need to take more or different actions than those detailed in the agreement. Because of their special obligations under the ESA, federal agencies are not eligible for CCAAs.
Populations of the Louisiana pine snake appear to have declined alarmingly, both in numbers and in range. A significant factor influencing the snake’s current status is the loss or modification of longleaf and shortleaf pine forests. Those ecosystems, which are home to the Louisiana pine snake, have been dramatically reduced by changes in land use and timber management to short-rotation, fire-suppressed and closed-canopy silviculture, often with a dense hardwood midstory. Another impact is the decrease in the number of Baird’s pocket gophers, a primary food source of the snake and architect of a burrow system where the snake has been found to spend the majority of its life.
Secondary threats to the Louisiana pine snake are mortality associated with road and off-road vehicles, erosion control blankets that cause entanglement, and intentional killing by humans. Fragmentation and small population size are additional factors that have potentially caused a loss of genetic diversity and reduced the viability of populations.
To read the agreement, go to http://www.fws.gov/southeast/candidateconservation/examples.html
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