Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Service Re-Proposes 4,649 Acres of Critical Habitat for Tiny Buena Vista Lake Shrew

October 20, 2009


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today proposed 4,649 acres in Kern County as critical habitat for the endangered Buena Vista Lake shrew, exactly the same acreage that it had first proposed in 2004. The announcement opens a 60-day public comment period.

The new proposal conforms to terms of a legal settlement, resolving a challenge to the Service’s final action on the earlier proposal, when the Service designated only 84 acres as critical habitat. In its settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, announced last July, the Service agreed to re-propose the same areas it had proposed in 2004.

In its 2005 final critical habitat rule the Service excluded four areas it had initially proposed, determining at the time that commitments by landowners would provide significantly better protection for the shrew. At that time, the Service said that, because most of the shrew’s occurrences were on private land, it was relying on commitments by those landowners to protect the species.

The largest parcel in the proposal is the 2,682-acre Kern Fan Recharge Area, managed by the City of Bakersfield to recharge its aquifer. Other units proposed are: the 1,277-acre Goose Lake area, 387 acres of the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, the 214-acre Coles Levee Ecosystem Preserve and the 90-acre Kern Lake Preserve. The units were selected because they all have documented populations of the shrew and also have the riparian and wetland habitats needed by the animal.

Under terms of the proposed settlement, the Service must complete the action by March 22, 2012. The settlement does not specify how much land the final rule must designate as critical habitat.

At the center of the litigation is a shy little animal that has lost more than 95 percent of its historic habitat in the southern San Joaquin Valley. The shrew weighs less than a fourth of an ounce (about the weight of a quarter), and is only 5 inches long, including its tail. The shrew has a long snout, small eyes, and ears concealed by soft fur, predominantly black with brown specks on the back and smoke-colored gray underneath. The 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 Buena Vista Lake shrew occurred widely in the marsh lands of the Tulare Basin. By the time biologists first discovered the shrew in 1932 most of these marshes were drained or dried up by water diversions. Little, if any, cultivated land was included in the proposal because the shrew cannot live on regularly tilled land.

Remaining shrew 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 wipe out the remaining animals. Water is a vital component of the shrew’s environment because of the moisture required to support the variety of insects that are its primary food source.

Comments may be submitted in several ways:

-- Federal eRulemaking Portal:">. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
-- U.S. mail or hand-delivery: 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, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.E-mail or faxes cannot be accepted. All comments will be posted on

For further information contact: Daniel Russell, Acting Listing Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825; telephone (916) 414–6600; facsimile (916) 414–6712; or TDD at (800) 877–8339 .
For July 2009 news release

For 2004 proposed critical habitat map

Information contained in older news items may be outdated. These materials are made available as historical archival information only. Individual contacts have been replaced with general External Affairs office information. No other updates have been made to the information and we do not guarantee current accuracy or completeness.

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