Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
SACRAMENTO FWO: Partners Create a Safe Place for the Endangered Shasta Crayfish
California-Nevada Offices , May 16, 2012
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The endangered Shasta crayfish.
The endangered Shasta crayfish. - Photo Credit: Koen G. H. Breedveld, Spring Rivers Ecological Sciences, LLC
The Kerns family, representatives from the California Department of Fish and Game, Springs Rivers Foundation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Shasta crayfish's new home
The Kerns family, representatives from the California Department of Fish and Game, Springs Rivers Foundation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Shasta crayfish's new home - Photo Credit: USFWS

By Sabrina D'Souza, USFWS Intern

The Shasta crayfish is an endangered species native to northeast California. The crayfish is usually dark brown, with spots of orange. They live in freshwater ponds and rivers in the Sierra Mountains and eat the slime that covers the rocks. The species is endangered, in part, because non-native Signal crayfish are taking over their range. With only a few small populations left, most Shasta crayfish may be gone in the near future.

The species needs help and thanks to willing landowners and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Safe Harbor Program they are going to be getting some new space this summer. A Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) is a voluntary agreement involving private or other non-federal property owners whose actions contribute to the recovery of threatened or endangered species.  In exchange for actions that contribute to the recovery of listed species, participating property owners receive formal assurances from the Service that if they fulfill the conditions of the SHA, the Service will not require any additional or different management activities by the participants without their consent.

With this project the Service hopes to encourage recovery of the Shasta crayfish and restoration of its habitat. They want to create places where the non-native and more aggressive crayfish can’t reach this endangered species.
This particular SHA is between the Kerns family, Spring Rivers Foundation, California Department of Fish and Game, and the Service. The Kerns family has a cold, spring-fed pond with a volcanic gravel and rock bottom on their property which is the perfect habitat for the Shasta crayfish. No non-native crayfish or other fish live in the pond. The Kerns family is allowing the endangered crayfish to be put in their pond, and with the SHA, they know that in the future they can have them removed with no penalty.
Maria Ellis is one of the founders of the Spring Rivers Foundation which works to save endangered species like the Shasta crayfish. Ellis thought it would be a good idea to use the Kerns pond for the Shasta crayfish, and because of her, the safe harbor was able to happen. “The SHA executed between the Kerns family and the Service is a watershed event for the endangered Shasta crayfish. Although it occurred quietly and without fanfare, this agreement is precedent setting, and opens the door to a more hopeful future for the species,” Ellis said. “Thanks to the Kerns family and all at the Service for making this happen.”
The California Department of Fish and Game is also doing a SHA for this project, because Shasta crayfish is also State listed as endangered. They are currently working to get that in place so the landowner will not face State regulatory hurdles in the future.
Now that the federal SHA is in place, the Service plans to remove the last few endangered Shasta crayfish from another location that will soon be overtaken with the non-native Signal crayfish and relocate them to the Kerns pond.

The Kerns family looks forward to having the crayfish relocated to their pond. “It is rare that the opportunity to play a direct role in the preservation of a species comes along. When we recognized the opportunity to participate in the Shasta crayfish effort with Spring Rivers and the Service, the family easily decided that it was a great use of our pond. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the “kids,” explained landowner Michael D. Kerns.

The Safe Harbor Program is benefiting endangered species like the Shasta crayfish. It’s also a great way to get people involved with the recovery of endangered species.

Download images seen here for use with photo credit from our Flickr site.
Learn more about the Safe Harbor Program here.
Contact Info: Sarah Swenty, 916-414-6600, sarah_swenty@fws.gov
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