ABOUT THE SPECIES
The Dixie Valley toad (Anaxyrus williamsi) is a recently described species. It is the smallest of the western toads, is highly aquatic and relies on the thermal waters that feed the wetland it inhabits. Dixie Valley toads are about two inches long and have an olive body covered in gold, brown and rust-colored spots with a lighter underbelly.
Dixie Valley toad has an extremely restricted range and is known only to exist in a 760-acre hot spring-fed wetland in Dixie Meadows in Churchill County, Nevada. Approximately 90 percent of the toad’s habitat is on Department of Defense – U.S. Navy – lands, with the remaining on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
The Dixie Valley toad faces threats from geothermal development, predation by other non-native frog species, disease, groundwater pumping and .
Q: What action is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service taking?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is listing the Dixie Valley toad as endangered under the Endangered Species Act’s emergency provisions. Only one known population of the species now exists. The action immediately provides protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the toad for 240 days. Concurrently, the Service is issuing a proposed rule to list the Dixie Valley toad as an endangered species and taking public comment to inform the decision on whether ESA protections should continue beyond the 240 days of the emergency listing. Upon publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register a 60-day comment period will open.
Q: What will emergency listing do?
Emergency listing provides immediate federal protections for the Dixie Valley toad for 240 days. Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA include recognition, recovery actions, requirements for federal protection and prohibitions against certain practices. The ESA prohibits “take” of listed species by any individual, corporation, or government without a permit. “Take” is defined by the ESA as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.” “Harm” is further defined under Department of the Interior regulations as “any act which actually kills or injures fish or wildlife.” The regulations emphasize that “such acts may include significant habitat modification or degradation that significantly impairs essential behavioral patterns (breeding, feeding and sheltering) of fish or wildlife.”
Q: Why is the Service emergency listing this species?
We are taking this action due to the imminent development of a geothermal project in Dixie Meadows, Nevada, and the potential resulting effects to the geothermal springs relied upon by the Dixie Valley toad.
Q: What is the ESA history of this species?
We received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) on September 18, 2017, requesting that the Dixie Valley toad be listed as a threatened or endangered species. In June 2018, the Service issued a substantial 90-day finding that listing the species may be warranted. In February 2021, the Service initiated a species status assessment (SSA), which is a focused, repeatable and scientific assessment of a species, and provides foundational science that informs our ESA decisions. The Service used the SSA to inform the decision to emergency list the Dixie Valley toad and the proposal to list it as endangered under the regular rulemaking process.
Q: How will this action impact geothermal development in the area?
The Service is committed to working with our public and private partners to conserve the Dixie Valley toad and to consulting with stakeholders on projects that may impact it. We will continue to work with our federal, state and industry partners through section 7 of the ESA to minimize the impacts to listed species and the habitats they require.
Q: What is the difference between an emergency listing and a standard listing? What are the steps in the emergency listing process and how long will it take?
An emergency listing rule provides ESA protections for 240 days. The Service may issue an emergency listing regulation that becomes immediately effective upon publication in response to any action that poses a significant risk to the well-being of a plant, fish or wildlife species. The Service may also withdraw the emergency regulation at any time if substantial evidence exists that such regulation is not warranted.
Q: Is the Service also designating critical habitat for the species?
The Service found that designating critical habitat for the Dixie Valley toad is prudent but not determinable. The ESA allows the Service an additional year to publish a proposed critical habitat designation if we find that it is not determinable at the time of listing.
Q: When was the last time the Service emergency listed a species?
The last time the Service emergency listed a species was the Miami blue butterfly on August 10, 2011.
Q: What are the next steps in the ESA rulemaking for this species?
The Service will analyze the information received during the public comment period, and 240 days of the emergency listing, we will make a final listing determination for the Dixie Valley toad. If at any time after publication of the emergency listing rule we determine, based on the best available scientific and commercial data, that emergency listing is no longer warranted, we will withdraw the emergency listing rule.
A final listing rule generally becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Q: How can comments be submitted?
The Service is inviting public comment on the proposed rule to list the Dixie Valley toad. The Service is seeking all available scientific or commercial information concerning existing threats to the toad. Other information, such as biological data, is also being sought.
Upon publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register a 60-day comment period will open. The proposal and information on how to submit comments will be posted to https://www.fws.gov/office/reno-fish-and-wildlife, and upon publication in the Federal Register can be found on www.regulations.gov by searching under docket number FWS-R8-ES-2022-0024.
Written comments and information concerning the proposed rule can be submitted by one of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS-R8-ES-2022-0024].
- U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. [FWS-R8-ES-2022-0024]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
Comments must be received within 60 days of publication. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes. Following the public comment period, the Service will decide if the proposed rule should be approved, revised, or withdrawn.
On May 9, 2022, the Service will be holding a public informational meeting from 5-5:35 p.m., PST, followed by a public hearing from 5:35-7 p.m., PST. We are holding the public informational meeting and public hearing via the Zoom online video platform and via teleconference so that participants can attend remotely. For security purposes, registration is required. For information on how to register, or if you encounter problems joining Zoom the day of the meeting, visit https://www.fws.gov/office/reno-fish-and-wildlife.
The public hearing will provide interested parties an opportunity to present verbal testimony (formal, oral comments) regarding this proposed rule to list the Dixie Valley toad as an endangered species.