Frequently Asked Questions - Dixie Valley Toad Proposed Critical Habitat

About the Species

The Dixie Valley toad is the smallest of the western toads and is found only in Nevada. Its range is restricted to approximately 930 acres of wetland and upland habitat fed by hot springs in Dixie Valley northeast of Fallon, Nevada. The Dixie Valley toad was listed as a federally endangered species in December 2022.

Dixie Valley toads are highly aquatic and have evolved to survive in the variable water temperature, quantity, and quality conditions of the thermal spring-fed wetlands where they exist. 

Primary threats to the Dixie Valley toad include geothermal development, disease, predation by other non-native frog species, groundwater pumping for human and agricultural use, and climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

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.

For more information about this rare and unique toad: Toads soak up life in Nevada’s Dixie Valley

Q: What is the proposed critical habitat designation for the Dixie Valley toad?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to designate one unit of approximately 930 acres of critical habitat in the Dixie Meadows area of the Dixie Valley in Churchill County, Nevada. The proposed critical habitat is entirely on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Defense. It encompasses the entire range of the species, and its only population, and has all the habitat features necessary for the conservation of the species.

Q: What is critical habitat?

Critical habitat is the specific areas within the geographic area, occupied by the species at the time it was listed, that contain the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species and may need special management or protection. Critical habitat may also include areas that were unoccupied by the species at the time of listing but are essential for its conservation. 

To determine critical habitat, biologists consider the habitat features needed for life processes and successful reproduction of the species. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Space for individual and population growth and normal behavior.
  • Food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or physiological requirements.
  • Cover or shelter.
  • Sites for breeding and rearing offspring.
  • Habitats that are protected from disturbance or represent a species' historic geographical and ecological distributions.

The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a wildlife refuge, wilderness reserve, preserve, or other conservation area conservation area
A conservation area or wildlife management area is a type of national wildlife refuge that consists primarily or entirely of conservation easements on private lands. These conservation easements support private landowner efforts to protect important habitat for fish and wildlife. There are 13 conservation areas and nine wildlife management areas in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

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or otherwise restrict public access. Critical habitat designation would not affect the actions of private landowners that are not subject to federal funding or authorization.

For more information about critical habitat, visit: https://www.fws.gov/project/critical-habitat

Q. How did the Service determine what area to propose as critical habitat for the Dixie Valley toad?

Using the best available science, the Service determined the Dixie Valley toad requires a wetland habitat with diverse wetland vegetation, dense bulrush stands, wetted areas near vegetation, a variety of aquatic and land invertebrates, and the natural variation in water quality, quantity, and temperature in which the toads have evolved to survive. Dixie Valley toads also require upland habitat to support movement between wetlands when conditions allow. 

Q: Is the proposed critical habitat on private, state, or federal lands?

The proposed critical habitat is entirely on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Defense (Naval Air Station Fallon). 

Q: What type of habitat is part of this proposal?
 

The proposed critical habitat includes wetland and upland habitat in Dixie Valley, in Churchill County, Nevada. The proposed critical habitat includes diverse wetland vegetation, dense bulrush stands, wetted areas near vegetation, various aquatic and land invertebrates, and the natural variation in water quality, quantity, and temperature in which the toads have evolved to survive. 

Q: Does this critical habitat overlap with any critical habitat already designated?


No, the proposed critical habitat does not overlap with any previously designated critical habitat. 

Q: Is there a map of the proposed critical habitat?

A map of the proposed critical habitat will be available in the proposed rule upon publication in the Federal Register. Prior to publication, a PDF of the proposed rule is available here: https://www.fws.gov/library/collections/dixie-valley-toad

Q: Are any areas being considered for exclusion?

According to section 4(b)(2) of the Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall designate and revise critical habitat based on the best available scientific data after taking into consideration the economic impact, national security impact, and any other relevant impact of specifying any area as critical habitat. The Secretary may exclude an area from critical habitat if he or she determines the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of designating critical habitat.

Naval Air Station Fallon may request an exclusion of their lands from the proposed critical habitat based on national or homeland security impacts. The Service will conduct an exclusion analysis if NAS Fallon requests exclusion and provides a reasonably specific justification. If requested, and the Service’s analysis leads to the exclusion of NAS Fallon lands based on national or homeland-security impacts in our final designation, then the 588 acres of NAS Fallon land would be excluded from the final designation, which is 63% of the proposed critical habitat designation. For additional information on this topic, please see the Federal Register notice upon publication.

Q: Are any areas being considered for exemption?

Section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act provides that the Secretary shall not designate any lands or geographical areas owned, controlled or used by the DOD, as critical habitat that are subject to an integrated natural resources management plan if the Secretary determines in writing that such plan provides a benefit to the species for which critical habitat is proposed for designation.

NAS Fallon is currently amending its INRMP to incorporate DOD’s National Strategic Plan for amphibian and reptile conservation and management. Upon receipt of the amended INRMP, the Service will analyze the INRMP for its conservation benefit to the Dixie Valley toad and consider the exemption of NAS Fallon lands before the final critical habitat designation. If requested, and the Service’s analysis leads to the exemption of NAS Fallon lands in our final designation, then the 588 acres of NAS Fallon land would be exempted from the final designation, which is 63% of the proposed critical habitat designation. For additional information on this topic, please see the Federal Register notice upon publication. Prior to publication, a PDF of the proposed rule is available here: https://www.fws.gov/library/collections/dixie-valley-toad

Q: What is the difference between exemption and exclusion?

Lands can be excluded from a critical habitat designation if the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such area as part of the critical habitat and only if such exclusion would not result in the extinction of the species.

Lands shall be exempted from a critical habitat designation if owned, controlled, or used by DOD and are subject to an INRMP that the Secretary of the Interior determines provides a conservation benefit to the species.    

Q: How will this designation affect public land use for activities like grazing?


A critical habitat designation does not necessarily restrict or prohibit grazing activities on public lands. Instead, it allows the Service to work with our federal partners to support such activities while ensuring they do not destroy or adversely modify the Dixie Valley toad critical habitat.

Q: How will this designation affect public land use for activities like geothermal development?

A critical habitat designation does not necessarily restrict or prohibit geothermal, or other, development on public land. Instead, it allows the Service to work with our federal partners to support such activities while ensuring they do not destroy or adversely modify the Dixie Valley toad critical habitat. The Service is committed to working with partners to conserve imperiled species like the Dixie Valley toad and prevent extinctions, while also supporting sustainable renewable energy projects.  

Q: Does the state of Nevada protect the Dixie Valley toad?


Per Nevada Administrative Code at section 503.075(2)(b), the Dixie Valley toad is a protected amphibian in Nevada. 

Additionally, although such ranking does not include a protection status, the Nevada Division of Natural Heritage recognizes Dixie Valley toads as critically imperiled, ranked S1. Ranks of S1 are defined as species with very high risks of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to very restricted range, very few populations or occurrences, very steep declines, severe threats, or other factors.

Q: How does this designation help the species? 

Critical habitat identifies locations that present our best opportunities to aid the species’ conservation and recovery. This designation will enable us to work more effectively with all of our partners to successfully manage land for positive conservation outcomes for Dixie Valley toad. Through thoughtful and collaborative resource management, we can reduce negative impacts on the Dixie Valley toad, conserve habitat, and find balance with future land-use plans.

Q: What efforts are currently underway to aid in the conservation and recovery of the species? 

The Service is working with our partners in the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, and Nevada Department of Wildlife to survey and monitor Dixie Valley toads and their habitat to add to the scientific knowledge about the species and its habitat. 

Q: What are the economic impacts of this designation?

There will be minimal incremental economic effects of critical habitat designation for the Dixie Valley toad. The administrative costs associated with analyzing destruction/adverse modification for critical habitat are likely to be a minimal cost to federal agencies. 

Q. What is an economic analysis and what are the findings?   

When specifying an area as critical habitat, the ESA requires the Service to consider economic and other relevant impacts of the designation. Through the development of a draft economic analysis, which is available for public comment along with this proposed rule, the Service determined that only administrative costs are expected in the proposed critical habitat designation.

The economic analysis estimates the costs associated with the designation of critical habitat are the federal consultation-related costs of designating critical habitat for the Dixie Valley toad are likely to be limited to the additional administrative effort required to consider destruction or adverse modification in consultations. The costs of such administrative efforts are likely to be less than $7,000 annually.

Q: What happens next? 

The publication of this proposed critical habitat designation in the Federal Register opens a 60-day public comment period. The proposal, information on how to submit comments, GIS shapefiles, and legal boundaries will be placed on www.regulations.gov and can be found by searching under the docket number FWS-R8-ES-2023-0188. Prior to publication, a PDF of the proposed rule is available here: https://www.fws.gov/library/collections/dixie-valley-toad