[Federal Register: June 6, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 109)]
[Page 35951-35956]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

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Fish and Wildlife Service

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
for a Petition to List the Southern Torrent Salamander in California as 
Endangered or Threatened

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
12-month finding for a petition to list the southern torrent salamander 
(Rhyacotriton variegatus) in northern California and southern Oregon 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. After review of 
all available scientific and commercial information, we find that 
listing the southern torrent salamander is not warranted at this time. 
The finding is based on the following information: The species still 
occurs throughout its entire historical range; the species persists in 
its habitats after habitat alterations have occurred, including 
logging; the lack of information on short-and long-term population 
trends for the species across its range; the adverse impacts to the 
species from logging, construction of logging roads, and logging 
related activities do not threaten the survival of the species; the 
lack of substantial information indicating that overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes adversely 
impacts the species; the lack of evidence showing conclusively that 
predation is a threat to the species' survival; current regulatory 
practices do not constitute a threat to the survival of the species; 
and the lack of information that the species is threatened by low gene 
flow and low genetic diversity across its range.

DATES: The finding for this document was made on May 31, 2000. Comments 
and information may be submitted until further notice.

ADDRESSES: Data, information, comments, and material concerning the 
petition finding may be submitted to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage 
Way, W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825-1864. The 12-month petition 
finding, supporting data, and comments are available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Ann Chrisney or Ms. Jan Knight at 
the above address or telephone (916) 414-6600.



    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) (Act), requires that, for any petition 
to revise the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants 
that presents substantial scientific and commercial information, we 
make a finding within 12 months of the date of the receipt of the 
petition on whether the petitioned action is (a) not warranted, (b) 
warranted, or (c) warranted but precluded from an immediate proposal by 
other pending proposals of higher priority. Such 12-month findings are 
to be published promptly in the Federal Register.
    On May 31, 1994, we received a petition from Stephan Volker, dated 
May 24, 1994, to list the southern torrent salamander (Rhyacotriton 
variegatus) as threatened. Mr. Volker is an attorney representing the 
Environmental Protection Information Center, North Coast Environmental 
Center, Oregon Natural Resources Council, California Wilderness 
Coalition, Friends of the River, South Fork Mountain Defense Committee, 
Mendocino Environmental Center, Sierra Club, California Sportfishing 
Alliance, Willits Environmental Center, and Ancient Forest Defense 
Fund. The petition stated that timber harvesting fragmented the 
salamander's habitat on Federal and private lands, decimated its 
population, and sharply inhibited its dispersal capability. In a letter 
to Mr. Volker, dated June 10, 1994, we explained that, under the 
provisions of the Act, we must decide if the petition presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information that the requested 
action is warranted and, to the maximum extent practicable, make this 
finding within 90 days after receiving the petition and promptly 
publish it in the Federal Register. On November 15, 1994 (59 FR 58982), 
we designated the species as a category 2 candidate species. Although 
we no longer use this designation, a category 2 candidate was 
considered a species for which Federal listing may be appropriate, but 
persuasive data on biological vulnerability and threats were not 
available to support a proposed listing. Although no mandatory 
protection was conferred with this status, the notice of this status 
supported the need to conduct research to determine the threats and 
vulnerability of the species. On June 29, 1995, we determined that Mr. 
Volker's petition presented substantial information that the requested 
action may be warranted, and we published an announcement of our 
administrative finding (60 FR 33785). At that time, we initiated a 
status review of the southern torrent salamander.
    Due to a limited budget, listing actions required by court orders, 
and other higher listing priorities, we were unable to make a listing 
determination on this species in a timely manner. On April 10, 1995, a 
moratorium on listing actions (Public Law 104-6) took effect with the 
stipulation that no funds could be used to make final listing or 
critical habitat determinations. When the moratorium was lifted on 
April 26, 1996, a three-tier approach was established to rank the 
backlog of listing actions for fiscal year 1996 (May 16, 1996; 61 FR 
24722). The 12-month status review for the southern torrent salamander 
was designated a Tier 3 activity, the lowest listing priority. On 
December 5, 1996, new listing guidance was published for fiscal year 
1997 (61 FR 64475) that used a four-tier approach. The 12-month status 
review for the southern torrent salamander remained a Tier 3 activity. 
However, due to a continuing backlog of listing actions, we focused our 
resources on Tier 1 and Tier 2 actions until April 1, 1997. By April 1, 
1997, we began to address Tier 3 actions, but a serious backlog of 
listing actions still existed. On May 8, 1998, we published the Listing 
Priority Guidance for FY 1998 and 1999 (63 FR 25502), and the 12-month 
status review for the southern torrent salamander was raised to Tier 2. 
Although we published 2 emergency listings, 47 final listings, 10 
withdrawals, 48 proposed listings, and 18 petition findings, the 
southern torrent salamander was among 22 species with pending 12-month 
findings. On October 22, 1999, we published the Final Listing Priority 
Guidance for Fiscal Year 2000 (64 FR 57114). The tier approach was 
eliminated as a guide for handling our remaining backlog and future 
work in the listing program in favor of a priority system that 
identified higher priorities for certain listing actions. Processing 
administrative findings on petitions, such as the one for the southern 
torrent salamander, was designated a fourth priority.

Species Information

    Southern torrent salamanders have very specific habitat 
requirements of cold, shallow, flowing headwaters in humid coniferous 
forests up to an elevation of 1,469 meters (m) (4,820 feet (ft)) 
(Nussbaum and Tait 1977;

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Nussbaum et al. 1983; Diller and Wallace 1996; Welsh and Lind 1996). 
They are most frequently found in seeps, springs, and intermittent 
streams (Welsh 1993; Vesely 1996; Olson, in litt. 1999) or shallow 
water seeping through moss-covered gravel (Nussbaum et al. 1983) and 
appear to avoid open deep water channels (Stebbins 1985; Welsh 1993). 
The aquatic larvae usually occur in loose gravel in streambeds, and 
semiaquatic adults can be found next to larvae in streams, or under 
rocks or debris in saturated streamside habitats (Nussbaum and Tait 
1977; Nussbaum et al. 1983).
    The southern torrent salamander is very sensitive to desiccation 
(losing moisture through the skin) (Ray 1958) and cannot move far from 
moist areas. Movements of the southern torrent salamander have been 
estimated from 1 to 2.2 m (3 to 6 ft) per year (Welsh and Lind 1992) up 
to 50 m (160 ft) per year from permanent water (Good and Wake 1992). 
These larger movements, however, are thought to be rare (Good and Wake 
1992). Southern torrent salamanders have also been found short 
distances from water after heavy rains (Nussbaum et al. 1983). Riparian 
areas are thought to be important to the species for foraging (Corn and 
Bury 1989) and courtship and reproduction (Nussbaum et al. 1983). If 
terrestrial visits are important for feeding, reproduction, and 
dispersal, then shade and high surface water availability are needed to 
allow for movement within these riparian areas.
    Southern torrent salamanders can grow to approximately 9.5 
centimeters (3.75 inches) in length (Good and Wake 1992). They have a 
low tolerance for high temperatures and are typically found in areas 
with temperatures between 5.8 and 12.0 degrees centigrade ( deg.C) (10 
to 22 degrees Fahrenheit ( deg.F)) (Brattstrom 1963; Nussbaum et al. 
1983). Lethal temperatures occur above 17.2  deg.C (63  deg.F) (Welsh 
and Lind 1996).
    Southern torrent salamanders have a lengthy larval period of 3 to 
3.5 years (Nussbaum and Tait 1977) and require an additional 1 to 1.5 
years after metamorphosis to become sexually mature (Nussbaum and Tait 
1977). Southern torrent salamanders are probably communal nesters, as 
other torrent salamanders may be (Nussbaum 1969), producing an average 
of 8.4 to 10.0 eggs each year (Nussbaum et al. 1983). The southern 
torrent salamander's food is primarily aquatic and semiaquatic 
invertebrates (Bury and Martin 1967).
    The spaces between cobble or pebble-size stones found in streams 
appear to provide refuge for salamanders from predators, such as fish 
and Pacific giant salamanders (Dicamptodon ensatus). Southern torrent 
salamanders are not frequently found in streams where large Pacific 
giant salamanders or fish are found. If southern torrent salamanders do 
occur in these streams, they are usually found in the margins where 
they can find cover, away from the deep pools and glides (Welsh 1993; 
Welsh and Olivier 1992; Welsh, pers. comm. 1995; Olson, pers. comm. 
1995). Another potential predator of salamanders may include garter 
snakes (Nussbaum et al. 1983.)
    Southern torrent salamanders have a patchy distribution across 
their range (Welsh and Lind 1992). Suitable habitat is naturally 
limited by the geology and topography of an area. While the southern 
torrent salamander may be locally abundant in certain areas, salamander 
populations are not found in all apparently suitable habitats. During 
surveys of apparently suitable habitats, researchers detect southern 
torrent salamanders only 20 to 80 percent of the time. This low level 
of detection may be due to the fact that random sampling techniques of 
suitable habitats may not provide an accurate picture of the southern 
torrent salamander occurrence due to the inherent patchiness of their 
distribution. Populations of the species may be disjunct due to 
geographical variations, microhabitat variability, or historical land 
management practices. Density estimates range widely from 0.04 
individuals up to 41 individuals per square meter (11 square feet) 
(Nussbaum and Tait 1977; Corn and Bury 1989).
    The range of the southern torrent salamander occurs within the 
coastal conifer forest belt of northern California and southern Oregon, 
specifically from southern Mendocino County, California, through the 
Coast Ranges, to the Little Nestucca River and the Grande Ronde Valley 
in Polk, Tillamook, and Yamhill Counties, Oregon (Good and Wake 1992). 
An isolated population exists on the west slope of the Cascade 
Mountains near Steamboat in Douglas County, Oregon, approximately 112 
kilometers (70 miles) inland (Good and Wake 1992; B. Bury, National 
Biological Survey, pers. comm. 1995). Several new populations of 
southern torrent salamanders have been detected north of the Steamboat 
population on the south side of the Willamette River. These populations 
represent an extension of the known range (R.S. Wagner, United States 
Geological Service, Biological Research Division, pers. comm. 1998). 
Another disjunct population is thought to occur in south central 
Siskiyou County, California, based on specimens in the Chico State 
University Museum that date back to the 1950s (H. Welsh, Forest 
Service, pers. comm. 1994). Good and Wake (1992) described this species 
as one of the most common members of the salamander fauna through much 
of its range.
    According to the petitioner, 98 percent of the historical records 
of the southern torrent salamander in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology 
(MVZ), University of California, Berkeley, represent only 42 
populations detected in protected rights-of-way, county highways, or in 
State and national parklands that include less than 5 percent of the 
total range of the species. The MVZ records were collected from 1935 to 
1989, with the majority (70 percent) collected after 1970. Our review 
of these records revealed approximately 151 sites where southern 
torrent salamanders were detected. The most recent location data 
obtained for this review, from a variety of formal and informal surveys 
conducted from 1987 to 1998, indicated approximately 781 sites 
containing southern torrent salamanders across its historical range 
from north-central Oregon to northern California. We expect some 
overlap in the sites documented in these two groups of data, but the 
level of overlap has not been analyzed. In addition, we have not 
attempted to define populations from this location information. Surveys 
for southern torrent salamanders across their range were conducted by 
Good and Wake (1992) and Wagner (in litt. 1998) and, in California, by 
Welsh (Welsh 1990; Welsh and Lind 1992; Welsh, in litt. 1998). 
According to Wake (University of California, pers. comm. 1995), 
southern torrent salamanders are found throughout their historical 

Threats Analysis


    The petition to list the southern torrent salamander cited habitat 
fragmentation, population declines, and inhibited dispersal capability 
throughout the species' range as significant threats to the species. 
The petitioner suggested that large-scale timber harvesting is 
eliminating many subpopulations through destruction of required 
habitats. The petitioner further suggested that this species may 
require conditions and attributes unique to headwater streams in mature 
and old-growth forests and the species has minimal ability to withstand 
and recover from radical habitat alterations.
    Evidence indicates that timber harvesting and road building 
negatively affect habitat requirements of the

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southern torrent salamander (permanent water, rocky substrates, and low 
water temperatures). The direct effects of these activities include 
disturbance of substrate and killing of individual salamanders. 
Indirect effects include sedimentation of substrate used by the 
salamanders, increase in water temperatures to lethal levels, potential 
loss of permanent water flow, and potential increase in predator 
populations. Suitable habitat conditions and attributes for the 
southern torrent salamander appear to be more readily available in 
unlogged mature and old-growth forests than in logged areas (Welsh 
1990; Diller 1996). In logged areas, the abundance of salamanders is 
lower or they are not detected at all, which indicates that logging may 
depress or locally extirpate these populations (Corn and Bury 1989; 
Welsh and Lind 1992). However, while some research has revealed 
negative impacts of logging and road construction on southern torrent 
salamander populations, other research and survey information indicates 
southern torrent salamanders still persist in some habitats that were 
logged 14 to 60 years ago (Nussbaum and Tait 1977; Corn and Bury 1989; 
Welsh and Lind 1992; Olson, in litt. 1994; Chinnici, in litt. 1995; 
Diller, in litt. 1995; Pious, in litt. 1995; Wright, in litt. 1995; J. 
Ambrose, Georgia-Pacific Corporation, pers. comm. 1995; J. Applegarth, 
Bureau of Land Management (BLM), pers. comm. 1995; S. Hopkins, BLM, 
pers. comm. 1995; K. Wright, BLM, pers. comm. 1995). Whether the 
species is recolonizing these areas or whether its long lifespan 
enables it to persist in marginal habitats until conditions improve is 
unknown. Factors that may mitigate lethal water temperatures in logged 
areas include the retention of deciduous vegetation and unmerchantable 
trees, cool water from underground springs, cool microclimates on 
north-or east-facing slopes, and coastal fog. Sedimentation of the 
substrate may be mitigated by the flushing of these sediments in higher 
gradient streams. Some research has reported a positive relationship 
between stream gradient and the presence of southern torrent 
salamanders in logged habitats (Welsh 1993; Welsh and Ollivier 1992; 
Diller 1996). The southern torrent salamander may also be capable of 
burrowing vertically in the substrate to find moist, cool conditions.
    We agree that widespread logging of headwater habitats has negative 
impacts on southern torrent salamander populations through the 
destruction of suitable habitats. However, under certain circumstances, 
populations appear to be persisting in altered habitats. We also 
believe that State and Federal agencies provide varying degrees of 
protective measures for maintaining aquatic and riparian habitats on 
forested lands (California Department of Forestry (CDF) 1992; USDA et 
al. 1993; Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) 1994; USDA and USDI 
1994a). The threat to this species from habitat destruction is directly 
related to protection provided by State, Federal, and private 
regulatory measures for timber harvest activities.

Federal Regulations for Timber Harvest

    The trend of large-scale logging of mature and old-growth forests 
on public lands within the range of the southern torrent salamander has 
diminished since the Federal listing of the northern spotted owl (Strix 
occidentalis caurina) in 1990 (55 FR 26192). This trend toward lower 
timber production and less regeneration logging is reflected in the 
standards and guidelines for land management in the Record of Decision 
for the Northwest Forest Plan (USDA and USDI 1994a) and in Endangered 
Species Act consultations by us on timber sales and National Forest 
Land Management Plans (A. Brickey, Service, pers. comm. 2000; N. Lee, 
Service, pers. comm. 2000). Although clearcutting could mean an 
increase in timber production on private lands, clearcutting vast areas 
within a drainage is generally no longer a common or commonly accepted 
practice. Forest ecosystems are typically able to recover from small-
scale disturbances, and the effects of timber harvest diminish as 
forests regenerate.

Public Land Regulations

    We estimate that approximately 41 percent of the total range of the 
southern torrent salamander occurs on federally managed public forest 
lands in both Oregon and California (summarized from Davis et al. 1998; 
Kagan et al. 1999). A Forest Conference was convened by President 
Clinton in 1993 to resolve forest resource issues in the Pacific 
Northwest. As a result, a group of interdisciplinary, interagency 
experts, known as the Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team 
(FEMAT), came together to develop a comprehensive management plan for 
more than 137,128 hectares (ha) (24 million acres (ac)) of public 
forest lands. The outcomes were the FEMAT Report (USDA et al. 1993), a 
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) (USDA and USDI 
1994b), and, ultimately, a Record of Decision (ROD) (USDA and USDI 
1994a) that amended the planning documents of 19 national forests and 7 
BLM Districts to implement an alternative that became known as the 
Northwest Forest Plan (Forest Plan). The FEMAT reports a total of 37 
percent of the southern torrent salamander's range on Federal lands and 
63 percent on State and private lands, an estimate very similar to that 
developed during this review (41 percent and 59 percent respectively).
    One of the reasons identified in the petition to list the southern 
torrent salamander is a lack of protection for headwater habitats where 
this species is known to occur. The petitioner claims that 90 percent 
of the range of the southern torrent salamander is on lands that are 
harvestable or have been harvested. Referencing the FEMAT report, the 
petition states that ``37 percent of the range of this salamander 
occurs on Federal lands, while 27 percent is on lands in the matrix 
(harvestable areas).'' The petitioner's subsequent conclusion appears 
to be that the 27 percent of the total range of the species that occurs 
on public lands, plus the 63 percent of the species' range occurring on 
private lands (90 percent of the species' complete range) is open to 
harvest or has been harvested. We do not agree with this interpretation 
of the FEMAT report. Appendix Table IV-C-9 in the FEMAT report 
indicates that the percentage of land designated as matrix under the 
Forest Plan represents 25 percent of the 37 percent of the range that 
occurs on public lands (USDA et al. 1993). This amount is equal to less 
than 10 percent of the entire range of the species. The remaining 75 
percent of the species' range on public lands occurs almost entirely in 
withdrawn areas or reserves (approximately 68 percent) and Adaptive 
Management Areas (approximately 6 percent) (USDA et al. 1993).
    Furthermore, as described in the FEMAT report, the SEIS, and the 
ROD, all aquatic/riparian habitats on public lands covered by the 
Forest Plan are to be protected in riparian reserves. This means that 
any land allocations designated in the FEMAT report, including matrix 
lands, that include aquatic or riparian habitat are contained in 
riparian reserves that are designed to protect riparian and aquatic 
components from actions that will negatively impact them (M. Raphael, 
Forest Service, pers. comm. 1995). Therefore, the 27 percent figure 
quoted in the petition as salamander habitat that is at risk within 
matrix lands fails to take into account the riparian reserves 
protecting watercourses in the matrix (K. Denton, Forest Service, pers. 
comm. 1995). Riparian reserves apply to all streams,

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lakes, ponds, and wetlands on Forest Service and BLM lands within the 
range of the northern spotted owl (USDA and USDI 1994b). The primary 
purpose of riparian reserves is to protect and maintain riparian 
resources and to attain the objectives of the Aquatic Conservation 
Strategy, which is part of the Forest Plan. This strategy is 
specifically designed to protect headwater tributaries (including 
intermittent streams, seeps and springs) and riparian areas (USDA et 
al. 1993; USDA and USDI 1994a).
    The FEMAT report provides the most current risk analysis of the 
southern torrent salamander on public lands and states that 
implementation of the Forest Plan, as approved, would result in a very 
high likelihood that the majority (74 percent) of southern torrent 
salamander habitats on public lands would be well distributed and that 
the species population could stabilize, although with some limitation 
on interactions among populations. This analysis was based on the 
anticipated level of riparian protection in riparian reserves. The 
final ROD later doubled the riparian reserve widths for intermittent 
streams and wetlands of less than 1 ha (2.4 ac) from 15 to 30 m (50 to 
100 ft) or one site-potential tree (the average height of a tree 
growing at that site). This change would protect more southern torrent 
salamander habitat than evaluated in the FEMAT report.
    The Forest Plan has been in effect since April 1994. As of 1995, 
riparian reserves were generally being planned according to the intent 
of the Forest Plan (M. Boroja, Service, pers. comm. 1995; A. Brickey, 
pers. comm. 1995; P. Henson, Service, pers. comm. 1995; S. Livingston, 
Service, pers. comm. 1995). The land management agencies recognized 
that the procedure to adjust or decrease the widths of riparian 
reserves recommended in the Forest Plan was time-consuming, and, 
therefore, they did not generally pursue efforts to alter the widths. 
Additionally, it appeared that many riparian reserves were increased 
due to unstable geology. An interagency monitoring program in 1996 and 
1997 evaluated whether the intent of the ROD and its guidelines was 
being met. Reports from both years concluded that the Forest Service 
and BLM were consistently meeting the intent of the ROD in developing 
riparian reserves.
    The petitioner suggested that no-entry buffers of 33 m (100 ft) or 
the height of one site-potential tree should be established around 
small streams and headwaters in old-growth and mature conifer forests. 
In the Pacific northwest, timber harvest adjacent to old-growth forests 
is estimated to affect the microclimate up to two tree lengths into the 
remaining forest stands (Franklin and Forman 1987 in Lehmkulh and 
Ruggiero 1991; Harris 1984). Other estimates include microclimate 
effects from 30 to 240 m (approximately 100 to 800 ft) into interior 
forest, depending on the site and specific microclimate parameters 
(Chen et al. 1995 in Vesely 1996). There is general agreement that a 
protected buffer zone for streams, seeps, springs, and adjacent 
riparian habitat is necessary to maintain microclimates and prevent 
sedimentation in these watercourses. Based on the evidence that 
southern torrent salamanders appear to stay in very close proximity to 
watercourses, we believe the riparian reserve system of the currently 
adopted and court-tested Forest Plan provides adequate protective 
measures to maintain the quality of most of the riparian and aquatic 
habitats for the southern torrent salamander on public lands across the 
range of the species.

California Private Land Regulations

    Approximately 26 percent of the southern torrent salamander's 
entire range occurs on private lands in California and 2 percent on 
California State lands. This species is designated as a species of 
special concern in California. Special concern status confers no legal 
protection for the species, but recognizes that the species should be 
closely monitored. In response to a 1994 petition to list the southern 
torrent salamander as threatened under State law, the California Fish 
and Game Commission (CFGC), in conjunction with California Department 
of Fish and Game (CDFG), determined on January 8, 1996, that listing 
the species as threatened was not warranted (CFGC, in litt. 1996). This 
decision was based on the presence of southern torrent salamanders in 
degraded habitat, improved logging practices, and inadequate 
information on the significance and causes of any population declines. 
However, these agencies improved protective measures for this species 
through changes in policies and regulations.
    During the candidacy period (the period between the time a petition 
is accepted by the State and a final determination is required) from 
November 1994 to December 1995, training was provided to 64 biologists, 
231 private foresters, and 60 CDF inspectors on how to recognize 
southern torrent salamander habitat and conduct surveys. The CDFG 
reported the following objectives for the 1-year candidacy period: (1) 
document as many existing localities as possible on private land and at 
historic sites; (2) determine status of populations and habitat (and 
metapopulation structure); (3) examine population trends through the 
comparisons of managed and unmanaged lands; and (4) determine the 
adequacy of current forest practice rules to protect the species and 
its habitat (CDFG, in litt. 1995). A sampling protocol was developed to 
collect data to meet these objectives (CDFG in litt. 1995). However, to 
date, we are unaware of any results from objectives 2, 3, or 4 of the 
candidacy period.
    Most of the suitable habitat for the southern torrent salamander 
occurs in what the CDF designates as Class II streams, which include 
perennial streams that are non-fish bearing but contain other aquatic 
life (CDF 1992). Protections for Class II streams include 15 to 30 m 
(50 to 100 ft) Watercourse and Lake Protection Zones (WLPZ) that retain 
at least 50 percent canopy closure, 25 percent overstory conifers, and 
75 percent surface cover. No heavy equipment is allowed within the 
WLPZ, and roads, landings, and timber falling are limited to protect 
the beneficial uses of the watercourse. Any changes in the widths of 
the WLPZ or proposed activities within the WLPZ must first be carefully 
analyzed and reviewed to ensure protection of the beneficial uses of 
the stream. Some persons have speculated that Class II protection may 
be adequate to protect the southern torrent salamander and its habitat 
in the coastal forests but may not provide adequate protection in the 
more arid southern and eastern portions of the range (J. Brode, CDFG, 
pers. comm. 1994, Steele, CDFG, pers. comm. 1995).
    We are aware that stream classification is highly subjective in the 
timber planning process. Habitat for southern torrent salamanders may 
also occur along streams that have been classified as Class III 
(streams, including seeps and springs, with no aquatic life but capable 
of sediment transport). In these areas, obvious aquatic life may not be 
apparent, the streams may appear dry, and they may not contain obvious 
channels or pools. Although these appear to be Class III streams, they 
may often provide suitable habitat for, and contain, the southern 
torrent salamander. The water level may be just above the surface or 
subsurface, and salamanders may not be detectable at all times of year. 
Incorrect classification of streams could potentially result in 
application of Class III stream protection measures being applied to 
habitats that are likely to contain southern torrent salamanders. 
Current protection for Class III streams is not adequate to

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protect southern torrent salamander habitat (CFGC 1994).
    The training of biologists and foresters resulted in some increased 
awareness of the significance of headwater streams, seeps, and springs 
as valuable aquatic habitats requiring Class II protection. Based on 
over a decade of field experience in habitat identification and stream 
classification in California, K. Moore (CDFG, pers. comm. 2000) 
estimates that perhaps 50 percent of suitable seep, spring, and stream 
habitat has been recognized and given some level of protection from 
logging activities. However, some seeps and springs that have not been 
identified as salamander habitat and retain no comprehensive protection 
under the State rules are still logged and burned (K. Moore, pers. 
    We support a review of the Forest Practice Rules by CDFG and 
believe that Class II protection has the potential to provide some 
protection for the southern torrent salamander provided habitat is 
correctly identified. However, we are concerned about the effectiveness 
of timber harvest planning on private lands because of (1) the high 
ratio of Emergency and Exemption Notices to regular Timber Harvest 
Plans (THP) in California, (2) cumulative impacts not being addressed 
in THPs, and (3) a lack of THP enforcement (State of California 1994).

Oregon Private Land Regulations

    Private lands in Oregon constitute approximately 31 percent of the 
southern torrent salamander's entire range. One percent of the 
salamander's range occurs on Oregon State lands. The salamander is 
designated as a sensitive species, subcategory vulnerable, by the State 
of Oregon. State sensitive classification refers to naturally 
reproducing native species that are likely to become threatened or 
endangered throughout all or any significant portion of their range in 
Oregon (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) 1993). The 
vulnerable category implies that listing the species is not imminent 
provided that continued or expanded use of protective measures and 
monitoring occurs (ODFW 1993). However, the southern torrent salamander 
is protected from being killed, harmed, or collected under the Oregon 
Administrative Rule section 635-44-130 (Nongame Wildlife Protected) 
(ODFW 1991). A State scientific collecting permit is required to take 
this species from the field for educational or research purposes (ODFW 
    Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) rules establish Riparian 
Management Areas (RMAs) adjacent to all Type D streams (non-fish-
bearing streams with domestic water use) and Type N streams (all other 
streams except those fish-bearing streams with domestic water use), 
except for small Type N streams. The goal of these buffers is to 
protect water quality, hydrological function, and fish and wildlife 
habitat by requiring vegetation retention and special management 
practices. The RMAs range from 6 to 21 m (20 to 70 ft) and have 
retention standards for understory, overstory, snags, and logs. Further 
restrictions occur on road construction, yarding, stream crossings, and 
stream improvement. The RMAs offer some protection from direct impacts, 
but the protections may be too small to compensate for the effects on 
microclimates from logging. The areas most at risk are the small Type N 
streams where no RMAs are required and restrictions of logging 
activities are very flexible and left up to the operator's discretion 
in most cases. The few specific management recommendations for small 
Type N streams do not apply to the Coast Range and South Coast 
geographic regions, where the majority of the southern torrent 
salamander range occurs.
    RMAs are not required for seeps and springs within the range of the 
southern torrent salamander in Oregon. The Oregon Forest Practice Rules 
state that operators shall protect hydrological functions of seeps, 
springs, and wetlands by minimizing disturbance to soils during forest 
operations (ODF 1994). The ODF interprets this rule to mean that no 
machinery is allowed in seeps, springs, or wetlands, and citations have 
been issued for this violation (J. Runion, ODF, pers. comm. 1995). 
Furthermore, the Oregon Forest Practice Rules recognize that amphibians 
may occur in small Type N streams and encourage operators to retain 
green trees and snags in blocks of intact vegetation of undetermined 
size (ODF 1994). The headwater habitats on private land in Oregon are 
probably not completely protected from the effects of logging, and some 
biologists in Oregon have expressed concerns about this lack of 
protection (J. Boechler, ODFW, pers. comm. 1995; R. Krahmer, ODF, pers. 
comm. 1995; C. Puchy, ODFW, pers. comm. 1995; K. Wright, pers. comm. 
    We believe that existing regulatory measures provide varying 
degrees of protection for southern torrent salamander habitat on public 
and private lands. The regulatory protection of aquatic and riparian 
habitat appears to be generally better on public lands than private 
lands and better for streams than for seeps and springs. If we assume 
that southern torrent salamander habitat on all Federal lands (41 
percent of the total range) has moderate to good protection, that 
approximately 50 percent of private land in California (13 percent of 
the total range) and 50 percent of private land in Oregon (16 percent 
of the total range) and all State lands (3 percent of the total range) 
have low to moderate protection, then 73 percent of the total range of 
the species is estimated to have some level of regulatory protection.
    Although logging began in Pacific Northwest forests almost 200 
years ago, State and Federal land management regulations that protect 
aquatic and riparian habitats have only been instituted in the last 20 
to 30 years. Consequently for approximately 170 years, timber harvest 
in aquatic and riparian habitats was virtually unregulated. Therefore, 
some populations of southern torrent salamanders have persisted or 
recolonized in areas that had no protective buffers when they were 
harvested. Whether these individuals recolonized the area after 
regrowth of the surrounding vegetation or survived the habitat 
alteration is unclear. While the presence of individuals does not 
necessarily indicate viable populations, what is known is that both 
larvae and adults are being detected across the range of the species.
    Based on the species' persistence, the fact that some level of 
regulatory protection occurs on an estimated three-quarters of the 
species' range, and the current trend in timberland management is away 
from clearcutting in riparian areas and toward increasing awareness of 
the significance of headwater habitats, we believe that current 
regulatory practices, while not ideal, provide sufficient protection to 
insure that the existence of the species is not threatened at this 
time. While recent improvements in protections of southern torrent 
salamander habitats have been implemented on Federal lands, habitats on 
private lands are still vulnerable until specific changes in policy and 
procedures change the way these habitats are protected. However, future 
trends toward protecting aquatic habitats for listed salmonids, 
including headwater habitats, should also benefit the southern torrent 
salamander. Based on our assumptions stated above concerning estimated 
regulatory protections, and the fact that the species appears to be 
distributed across its range and is persisting in altered habitats, we 
also conclude that habitat destruction or modification is not severe 
enough to

[[Page 35956]]

threaten the existence of the species at this time or in the 
foreseeable future.


    The genus Rhyacotriton has always been perceived as genetically 
isolated from other genera of salamanders (Good and Wake 1992). 
Research by Good and others in 1987 (Good et al. 1987 in Good and Wake 
1992) showed ``extreme and unexpectedly high levels of genetic 
differentiation'' for Rhyacotriton olympicus, which at that time was 
considered a single species over the Pacific Northwest. Good et al. 
(1987 in Good and Wake 1992) divided Rhyacotriton into four genetically 
different populations. Good and Wake (1992) concluded that four 
separate species should be recognized within the genus Rhyacotriton, 
one of which is Rhyacotriton variegatus, the southern torrent 
    The genetic diversity within the southern torrent salamander is 
evidence of very low gene flow between populations. Good and Wake 
(1992) suggest that gene flow between populations of southern torrent 
salamanders at the extreme ends of the species' range is not likely to 
occur, but that gene flow among adjacent populations of southern 
torrent salamanders is what holds the species together as a cohesive 
unit. In reference to southern torrent salamander populations, Wake (in 
litt. 1994) stated ``the genetic differentiation is strongly structured 
geographically, so that there is a pattern of isolation by distance. 
What this means is that genetic distance between populations builds 
directly as a function of geographic distance.'' In other words, as the 
geographical distance between populations increases, populations become 
more genetically different and isolated. This finding strongly implies 
that animals within each population seldom left their respective 
populations or moved between populations over a period of thousands of 
years (Wake, in litt. 1994). Therefore, southern torrent salamanders 
show a great deal of genetic differentiation between individual animals 
from different populations, but show very little differentiation 
between individuals within the same population.
    Dr. Susan Haig and Steve Wagner of United States Geological Service 
in Corvallis, Oregon, have been conducting genetic studies on 
mitochondrial DNA sequences of the southern torrent salamander to 
investigate the extent of population divergence and the relationships 
among populations. The results of these studies will be evaluated after 
they have been peer-reviewed and published.
    Because of the naturally low gene flow between southern torrent 
salamander populations and the great amount of genetic diversity 
between individuals within the species, the loss of subpopulations 
could mean a significant loss of genetic diversity. Low genetic 
diversity within a population or subpopulation is thought to decrease 
that group's ability to withstand catastrophic natural events or 
manmade impacts. We believe that the most vulnerable populations of 
southern torrent salamanders are those found on the southern and 
eastern edges of the range. These populations are suspected to be the 
most distinct genetically (Wake, in litt. 1994) and the most 
susceptible to the negative impacts of timber harvest. Although we 
recognize the implications of low genetic diversity for the southern 
torrent salamander, until adequate genetic studies are completed, 
information is lacking to make a determination that low genetic 
diversity and gene flow threaten the continued existence of the 
species. We will reevaluate this issue after results of ongoing genetic 
studies are available. However, we recommend that populations at the 
edge of the range be given high priority for determining population 
status and trends.


    We recognize that the southern torrent salamander has very specific 
habitat requirements, a naturally patchy distribution across its range, 
and low gene flow between populations. The southern torrent salamander 
is not considered to be dependent solely on old-growth forests, but the 
preferred microclimate conditions are more readily available in mature 
and old-growth forests. We acknowledge that logging of headwater 
habitats in old-growth forests has depressed or extirpated some 
populations of this species. However, we believe that the trend of 
habitat loss for the southern torrent salamander is lessening across 
much of the range with a reduction in clearcutting and with some 
increased awareness and some protections of headwater habitats. The 
southern torrent salamander is present throughout its historical range, 
including populations in altered habitats, despite little or no stream 
protection at the time they were logged. Relevant ongoing research is 
being conducted on headwater habitats and the southern torrent 
salamander, but a current lack of general baseline information exists 
on population status and trends, and genetic diversity of the species.
    On the basis of the best available scientific and commercial 
information, we find that the southern torrent salamander is not likely 
to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Therefore, 
listing the species as threatened is not warranted at the present time. 
The southern torrent salamander will remain as a species of concern for 
which evidence of vulnerability exists, but for which substantial data 
are lacking to support a proposal to list as threatened or endangered. 
We will continue to seek information on the status of the southern 
torrent salamander, and, if information becomes available indicating 
that listing as endangered or threatened is appropriate, we would 
propose to list the salamander. Furthermore, we retain the option of 
recognizing a subspecies or a population segment for listing should 
information become available indicating that such an action is 
appropriate and warranted.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available on 
request from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 
    Author. The primary author of this notice is Ann Chrisney, 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).

    Authority: The authority for this section is the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: May 31, 2000.
Jamie Rapaport Clark,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-14084 Filed 6-5-00; 8:45 am]