[Federal Register: May 23, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 100)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 28647-28670]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 28647]]


Part IV

Department of the Interior


Fish and Wildlife Service


50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing of the Central 
California Distinct Population Segment of the California Tiger 
Salamander; Proposed Rule

[[Page 28648]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AI68

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing of the 
Central California Distinct Population Segment of the California Tiger 
Salamander; Reclassification of the Sonoma County and Santa Barbara 
County Distinct Populations From Endangered to Threatened; Special Rule

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule and notice of public hearing.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose 
threatened status for the Central California distinct population 
segment (DPS) of the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma 
californiense), pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act). The Santa Barbara County and Sonoma County DPSs are 
listed as endangered. We propose reclassifying these populations as 
threatened. This proposal, if made final, would extend the Federal 
protection and recovery provisions of the Act to the Central California 
DPS of this species.
    A special rule is also being proposed to exempt existing routine 
ranching activities from the prohibitions of the Act because these 
practices have neutral or beneficial effects on the California tiger 
salamander. We solicit additional data and information that may assist 
us in making a final decision on this proposed action.

DATES: Comments: We must receive comments from all interested parties 
by 5 p.m. on July 22, 2003.
    Public Hearings: We will hold public hearings at the following 
    (1) Tuesday, June 17, 2003--Livermore, California. Two sessions, 1 
p.m. until 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Registration will begin at 
12:30 p.m. for the afternoon session and at 5:30 p.m. for the evening 
    (2) Wednesday, June 18, 2003--Monterey, California. Two sessions, 1 
p.m. until 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Registration will begin at 
12:30 p.m. for the afternoon session and at 5:30 p.m. for the evening 
    (3) Thursday, June 19, 2003--Merced, California. Two sessions, 1 
p.m. until 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Registration will begin at 
12:30 p.m. for the afternoon session and at 5:30 p.m. for the evening 
    Public informational meetings also will be held in California in 
various locations, with sites and dates publicized through local news 
media. See ADDRESSES section for specific location information of the 
hearings identified above and see ``Public Hearings'' under 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for general information.

ADDRESSES: Comments: If you wish to comment, you may submit your 
comments and materials concerning this proposal by any of several 
    (1) You may submit written comments to the Field Supervisor (Attn: 
CTS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife 
Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825.
    (2) You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to: 
catiger@R1.fws.gov. See the ``Public Comments Solicited'' section below 
for file format and other information on electronic filing.
    (3) You may hand-deliver comments to our Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office at the address above.
    Public Hearings: We will hold public hearings at the following 
    (1) Hilton Garden Inn, Vineyard Room, 2801 Constitution Drive, 
Livermore, California.
    (2) Hyatt Regency Monterey, Pebble Room, 1 Old Golf Course Rd., 
Monterey, California.
    (3) Fish and Game Building at Lake Yosemite, 5714 North Lake Road, 
Merced, California.
    See the DATES section for the specific times these hearings will be 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 
at the address listed above (telephone 916/414-6600; facsimile 916/414-


Previous Federal Action

    On September 18, 1985, we published the Vertebrate Notice of Review 
(NOR) (50 FR 37958), which included the California tiger salamander as 
a category 2 candidate species for possible future listing as 
threatened or endangered. Category 2 candidates were those taxa for 
which information contained in our files indicated that listing may be 
appropriate but for which additional data were needed to support a 
listing proposal. The January 6, 1989, and November 21, 1991, NORs (54 
FR 554 and 56 FR 58804, respectively) also included the California 
tiger salamander as a category 2 candidate and solicited information on 
the status of the species.
    On February 21, 1992, we received a petition to list the California 
tiger salamander as an endangered species from Dr. H. Bradley Shaffer 
at University of California, Davis. We published a 90-day petition 
finding on November 19, 1992 (57 FR 54545), concluding that the 
petition presented substantial information indicating that listing may 
be warranted. On April 18, 1994, we published a 12-month petition 
finding (59 FR 18353) that the listing of the California tiger 
salamander was warranted but precluded by higher priority listing 
actions. We elevated the species to category 1 status at that time, 
which was reflected in the November 15, 1994, NOR (59 FR 58982). 
Category 1 candidates were those taxa for which we had on file 
sufficient information on biological vulnerability and threats to 
support preparation of listing proposals.
    We discontinued the use of different categories of candidates in 
the February 28, 1996, NOR (61 FR 7596), and defined ``candidate 
species'' as those meeting the definition of former category 1. We 
maintained the California tiger salamander as a candidate species in 
that NOR, as well as in subsequent NORs published September 19, 1997 
(62 FR 49398), October 25, 1999 (64 FR 57533), and October 30, 2001 (66 
FR 54808).
    On January 19, 2000, we published an emergency rule to list the 
Santa Barbara County DPS of the California tiger salamander as 
endangered (65 FR 3096), concurrently with a proposed rule (65 FR 3110) 
to list the same DPS as endangered. On September 21, 2000, we listed 
the Santa Barbara County DPS of the California tiger salamander as 
endangered (65 FR 57242).
    On June 12, 2001, we received a petition dated June 11, 2001, from 
the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Citizens for a 
Sustainable Cotati to emergency-list the Sonoma County DPS of the 
California tiger salamander as an endangered species and to designate 
critical habitat. On February 27, 2002, the CBD filed a complaint in 
the Northern District of California for our failure to list the Sonoma 
County DPS of the California tiger salamander as endangered (Center for 
Biological Diversity v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Case No. C-02-
0558)). On June 6, 2002, based on a settlement agreement with the CBD, 
the court issued an order requiring us to submit for Federal Register 
publication a proposal and/or emergency rule to list the Sonoma County 
DPS by July 15, 2002. We were also to submit for publication in the 
Federal Register a proposal to list the California tiger salamander 
throughout the remainder of its range (except for the Santa Barbara 
County and Sonoma County DPSs) on or before May 15, 2003, and to 
publish a

[[Page 28649]]

final rule on or before May 15, 2004. On July 22, 2002, the Sonoma 
County DPS was listed as an endangered species under an emergency basis 
and proposed for listing as endangered (67 FR 47726; 67 FR 47758). The 
final rule listing the Sonoma County DPS as endangered was published in 
the Federal Register on March 19, 2003 (68 FR 13498). This proposed 
rule to list the Central California tiger salamander complies with the 
June 6, 2002, settlement agreement.


    The California tiger salamander was first described as Ambystoma 
californiense by Gray in 1853 based on specimens that had been 
collected in Monterey, California (Grinnell and Camp 1917). Storer 
(1925) and Bishop (1943) also considered the California tiger 
salamander to be a distinct species. Dunn (1940), Gehlbach (1967), and 
Frost (1985) stated the California tiger salamander was a subspecies of 
the more widespread tiger salamander (A. tigrinum). However, based on 
recent studies of the genetics, geographic distribution, and ecological 
differences among the members of the A. tigrinum complex, the 
California tiger salamander is now considered to be a distinct species 
(Shaffer and Stanley 1991; Jones 1993; Shaffer et al. 1993; Shaffer and 
McKnight 1996; Irschick and Shaffer 1997; Petranka 1998). The range of 
this animal does not naturally overlap with any other species of tiger 
salamander (Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998).
    The California tiger salamander is a large and stocky terrestrial 
salamander with small eyes and a broad, rounded snout. Adults may reach 
a total length of 208 millimeters (mm) (8.2 inches (in)), with males 
generally averaging about 203 mm (8 in) in total length, and females 
averaging about 173 mm (6.8 in) in total length. For both sexes, the 
average snout-vent length is approximately 91 mm (3.6 in). The small 
eyes have black irises and protrude from the head. Coloration consists 
of white or pale yellow spots or bars on a black background on the back 
and sides. The belly varies from almost uniform white or pale yellow to 
a variegated pattern of white or pale yellow and black. Males can be 
distinguished from females, especially during the breeding season, by 
their swollen cloacae (a common chamber into which the intestinal, 
urinary, and reproductive canals discharge), more-developed tail fins, 
and larger overall size (Stebbins 1962; Loredo and Van Vuren 1996).
    California tiger salamanders are restricted to vernal pools and 
seasonal ponds in grassland and oak savannah plant communities from sea 
level to about 460 meters (m) (1,500 feet (ft)) (Stebbins 1989; Shaffer 
et al. 1993; Jennings and Hayes 1994; Petranka 1998; California Natural 
Diversity Data Base (CNDDB) 2002). Along the coast ranges, the species 
occurs in the Santa Rosa area of Sonoma County, southern San Mateo 
County south to central San Luis Obispo County, and the vicinity of 
northwestern Santa Barbara County. In the Central Valley and 
surrounding Sierra Nevada foothills, the species occurs from northern 
Yolo County (Dunnigan) southward to northwestern Kern County and 
northern Tulare County. A population of salamanders at Grass Lake in 
Siskiyou County (Mullen and Stebbins 1978) has been identified as the 
northwestern tiger salamander (A. t. melanostictum) (H. Shaffer, 
University of California, Davis, pers. comm. 1998).
    Several gaps exist in the distribution of the California tiger 
salamander. In the northeastern Sacramento Valley, the species was 
known from only one site, in southern Butte County on the Gray Lodge 
Waterfowl Management Area, where it has not been located since 1965 
despite subsequent surveys (Stebbins 1989; Shaffer et al. 1993). 
Although the area between Sacramento and the Cosumnes River contains 
suitable vernal pools, and has been surveyed extensively, the species 
has only been recorded along the southern edge of Sacramento County 
(CNDDB 2002). In a survey transect that extended along the west side of 
the Sacramento Valley from Shasta County to Solano County, and 
contained 35 kilometers (km) (22 miles (mi)) of vernal pool habitat and 
over 200 pools, California tiger salamanders were recorded only at the 
Jepson Prairie in Solano County (Simovich et al. 1993). The animal has 
not been found west of Interstate Highway 680 and north of Interstate 
Highway 580 in Contra Costa or Alameda Counties (LSA Associates, Inc. 
2001; CNDDB 2002). It is likely that the species is uncommon or absent 
in much of the southernmost San Joaquin Valley from approximately Los 
Banos in Merced County south, and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada 
south of Visalia in Tulare County, because of unsuitable habitat 
(Shaffer et al. 1993). The factors that may restrict the California 
tiger salamander in the northern and southern extent of its range are 
speculative (H. Shaffer, pers. comm. 2002), but may include low 
rainfall in the southern San Joaquin Valley and the greater abundance 
of nonnative predatory fish in the northern Sacramento Valley (Hayes 
1977). Jones (1989) suggests that the present pattern of disjunct and 
widely dispersed populations was caused by the extreme anthropogenic 
changes in and around the Central Valley, and by the restrictive 
breeding requirements of the species.
    Studies of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) indicate that there are six 
populations of A. californiense, which are found in Sonoma County, 
Santa Barbara County, the Bay Area (central and southern Alameda, Santa 
Clara, western Stanislaus, western Merced, and the majority of San 
Benito Counties), Central Valley (Yolo, Sacramento, Solano, eastern 
Contra Costa, northeast Alameda, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, and 
northwestern Madera Counties), southern San Joaquin Valley (portions of 
Madera, central Fresno, and northern Tulare and Kings Counties), and 
the Central Coast Range (southern Santa Cruz, Monterey, northern San 
Luis Obispo, and portions of western San Benito, Fresno, and Kern 
Counties) (Shaffer and Trenham 2002). Except for the Sonoma County and 
Santa Barbara County populations, the geographic barriers between some 
of these populations are not entirely clear. The Central California DPS 
of the California tiger salamander (Central California tiger 
salamander) occupies the Bay Area, Central Valley, southern San Joaquin 
Valley, and the Central Coast Range.
    Subadult and adult California tiger salamanders spend the dry 
summer and fall months of the year estivating (existing in a state of 
dormancy or inactivity in response to hot, dry weather) in the burrows 
of small mammals, such as California ground squirrels (Spermophilus 
beecheyi) and Botta's pocket gopher (Thomomys bottae) (Storer 1925; 
Loredo and Van Vuren 1996; Petranka 1998; Trenham 1998a). During 
estivation, California tiger salamanders eat very little (Shaffer et 
al. 1993). Once fall or winter rains begin, they emerge from the upland 
sites on rainy nights to feed and to migrate to the breeding ponds 
(Stebbins 1985, 1989; Shaffer et al. 1993).
    California tiger salamanders spend the vast majority of their lives 
in upland habitats, and cannot persist without it. The upland component 
of California tiger salamander habitat typically consists of grassland 
savannah with scattered oak trees. However, in Santa Barbara County, 
some California tiger salamander breeding ponds exist within mixed 
grassland and woodland habitats, and a few ponds are found in 
woodlands, scrub, or chaparral habitats. Salamanders settle most 
commonly in burrows in open grassland or under isolated oaks, and less 
commonly in oak woodlands.

[[Page 28650]]

    The salamanders breeding in, and living around, a seasonal pool or 
pools, and associated uplands where estivation can occur, are said to 
occupy a breeding site. A breeding site is defined as a location where 
the animals are able to successfully breed in years of ``normal'' 
rainfall and complete their estivation. Historically, California tiger 
salamanders utilized vernal pools, but the species will also breed in 
    Occurrence of California tiger salamanders is significantly 
associated with occurrence of California ground squirrels (Seymour and 
Westphal 1994). Active ground burrowing rodent colonies probably are 
required to sustain California tiger salamanders because inactive 
burrow systems become progressively unsuitable over time. Loredo et al. 
(1996) found that California ground squirrel burrow systems collapsed 
within 18 months following abandonment by, or loss of, the mammals. 
Although California tiger salamanders use both occupied and unoccupied 
burrows, they apparently do not use collapsed burrows.
    Adult California tiger salamanders may migrate up to 1.6 km (1 mi) 
from their upland sites to the breeding ponds (S. Sweet, University of 
California, Santa Barbara, in litt. 1998), which may be vernal pools, 
stockponds, or other seasonal water bodies. The distance between the 
upland sites and breeding pools depends on local topography and 
vegetation, and the distribution of California ground squirrel or other 
rodent burrows (Stebbins 1989). Males migrate to the breeding ponds 
before females (Twitty 1941; Shaffer, et al. 1993; Loredo and Van Vuren 
1996; Trenham 1998b). Males usually remain in the ponds for an average 
of about 6 to 8 weeks, while females stay for approximately 1 to 2 
weeks. In dry years, both sexes may stay for shorter periods (Loredo 
and Van Vuren 1996; Trenham 1998b). Most marked salamanders have been 
recaptured at the pond where they were initially captured; in one 
study, approximately 80 percent were recaptured at the same pond 
(Trenham 1998b). The rate of natural movement of salamanders among 
breeding sites depends on the distance between the ponds or complexes 
of ponds and on the quality of intervening habitat (e.g., salamanders 
may move more quickly through sparsely covered and open grassland than 
they can through densely vegetated lands) (Trenham 1998a). As with 
migration distances, the number of ponds used by an individual over its 
lifetime depends on landscape features and environmental factors.
    The adults mate in the ponds and the females lay their eggs in the 
water (Twitty 1941; Shaffer et al. 1993; Petranka 1998). Females attach 
their eggs singly or, in rare circumstances, in groups of two to four, 
to twigs, grass stems, vegetation, or debris (Storer 1925; Twitty 
1941). In ponds with no or limited vegetation, females may attach eggs 
to objects, such as rocks and boards on the bottom (Jennings and Hayes 
1994). After breeding, adults leave the pool and return to the small 
mammal burrows (Loredo et al. 1996; Trenham 1998a), although they may 
continue to come out nightly for approximately the next 2 weeks to feed 
(Shaffer et al. 1993). In drought years, the seasonal pools may not 
form and the adults cannot breed (Barry and Shaffer 1994).
    Salamander eggs hatch in 10 to 14 days with newly hatched 
salamanders (larvae) ranging in size from 11.5 to 14.2 mm (0.45 to 0.55 
in) in total length (Petranka 1998). The larvae are aquatic. Each is 
yellowish gray in color and has a broad fat head, large, feathery 
external gills, and broad dorsal fins that extend well onto its back. 
The larvae feed on zooplankton, small crustaceans, and aquatic insects 
for about 6 weeks after hatching, after which they switch to larger 
prey (J. Anderson 1968). Larger larvae have been known to consume 
smaller tadpoles of Pacific treefrogs (Pseudacris regilla) and 
California red-legged frogs (Rana aurora) (J. Anderson 1968; P. 
Anderson 1968). The larvae are among the top aquatic predators in the 
seasonal pool ecosystems. They often rest on the bottom in shallow 
water, but also may be found at different layers in the water column in 
deeper water. The young salamanders are wary; when approached by 
potential predators, they will dart into vegetation on the bottom of 
the pool (Storer 1925).
    The larval stage of the California tiger salamander usually lasts 3 
to 6 months, because most seasonal ponds and pools dry up during the 
summer (Petranka 1998). Amphibian larvae must grow to a critical 
minimum body size before they can metamorphose (change into a different 
physical form) to the terrestrial stage (Wilbur and Collins 1973). 
Individuals collected near Stockton in the Central Valley during April 
varied from 47 to 58 mm (1.85 to 2.3 in) in length (Storer 1925). 
Feaver (1971) found that larvae metamorphosed and left the breeding 
pools 60 to 94 days after the eggs had been laid, with larvae 
developing faster in smaller, more rapidly drying pools. The longer the 
ponding duration, the larger the larvae and metamorphosed juveniles are 
able to grow, and the more likely they are to survive and reproduce 
(Semlitsch et al. 1988; Pechmann et al. 1989; Morey 1998; Trenham 
1998b). The larvae perish if a site dries before they complete 
metamorphosis (P. Anderson 1968; Feaver 1971). Pechmann et al. (1989) 
found a strong positive correlation between ponding duration and total 
number of metamorphosing juveniles in 5 salamander species. In Madera 
County, Feaver (1971) found that only 11 of 30 pools sampled supported 
larval California tiger salamanders, and 5 of these dried before 
metamorphosis could occur. Therefore, out of the original 30 pools, 
only 6 (20 percent) provided suitable conditions for successful 
reproduction that year. Size at metamorphosis is positively correlated 
with stored body fat and survival of juvenile amphibians, and 
negatively correlated with age at first reproduction (Semlitsch et al. 
1988; Scott 1994; Morey 1998).
    The metamorphosed juveniles leave their ponds in the late spring or 
early summer. Before the pools dry completely, they settle in small 
mammal burrows, to which they return at the end of nightly movements 
(Zeiner et al. 1988; Shaffer et al. 1993; Loredo et al. 1996). Like the 
adults, juveniles may emerge from these retreats to feed during nights 
of high relative humidity (Storer 1925; Shaffer et al. 1993) before 
settling in their selected upland sites for the dry, hot summer months. 
Juveniles have been observed to migrate up to 1.6 km (1 mi) from 
breeding pools to upland areas (Austin and Shaffer 1992).
    An estimated 83 percent of the salamanders rely on rodent burrows 
for shelter (Petranka 1998). Mortality of juveniles during their first 
summer exceeds 50 percent (Trenham 1998b). Emergence from upland 
estivation sites in hot, dry weather occasionally results in mass 
mortality of juveniles (Holland et al. 1990). Juveniles do not 
typically return to the breeding pools until they reach sexual 
maturity, at several years of age (Trenham 1998b; Hunt 1998). Trenham 
(1998b) estimated survival from metamorphosis to maturity at his study 
site to be less than 5 percent (well below an estimated replacement 
level of 18 percent). Adult survivorship varies greatly between years, 
but is a crucial determinant of whether a population is a source or 
sink (i.e., whether net productivity exceeds the level necessary to 
maintain the population or it does not).
    Lifetime reproductive success for California and other tiger 
salamanders is low. Trenham et al. (2000) found the average female bred 
1.4 times and produced 8.5 young that survived to metamorphosis per 
reproductive effort. This resulted in roughly 11

[[Page 28651]]

metamorphic offspring over the lifetime of a female. Preliminary data 
suggest that most California tiger salamander individuals require 2 
years to become sexually mature. But some individuals may be slower to 
mature (Shaffer et al. 1993), and some animals do not breed until they 
are 4 to 6 years old. While individuals may survive for more than 10 
years, many breed only once, and in some populations, less than 5 
percent of marked juveniles survive to become breeding adults (Trenham 
1998b). With such low recruitment, isolated populations can decline 
greatly resulting from unusual, randomly occurring natural events, as 
well as from human-caused factors that reduce breeding success and 
individual survival. Factors that repeatedly lower breeding success in 
isolated pools that are located too far from other pools to allow 
migrating individuals to replenish the population can quickly extirpate 
a population.
    The life history and ecology of the California tiger salamander 
make it likely that this population has a metapopulation structure 
(Hanski and Gilpin 1991). A metapopulation is a set of local 
populations or breeding sites within an area, where typically migration 
from one local population or breeding site to other areas containing 
suitable habitat is possible, but not routine. Dispersal (movement 
between areas containing suitable habitat) is restricted by 
inhospitable conditions around and between areas of suitable habitat. 
Because many of the areas of suitable habitat may be small and support 
small numbers of salamanders, local extinction may commonly occur. A 
metapopulation's persistence depends on the combined dynamics of these 
local extinctions and the subsequent recolonization of these areas 
through dispersal (Hanski and Gilpin 1991; Hanski 1994; McCullough 
    The total number of individual California tiger salamanders is not 
known. The difficulty of estimating total California tiger salamander 
population size has been discussed by a number of biologists (Shaffer 
et al. 1993; Jennings and Hayes 1994). However, estimates have been 
made for a few populations in Monterey (Trenham et al. 2000; Barry and 
Shaffer 1994). Because data on numbers of individual California tiger 
salamanders are lacking, since they spend much of their lives 
underground, and because only a portion of the total number of animals 
migrate to pools to breed each year (Trenham et al. 2000), the 
availability of suitable habitat and documentation of its loss may be 
an appropriate method for assessing the status of the species.
    Vernal pools and other seasonal ponds are the primary breeding 
areas used by California tiger salamanders (Storer 1925; Feaver 1971; 
Zeiner et al. 1988). The species occurs in 10 of the 17 Californian 
vernal pool regions defined by Keeler-Wolf et al. (1998), including 
northeastern Sacramento Valley, southeastern Sacramento Valley, Santa 
Rosa, Solano-Colusa, Livermore, Central Coast, Carrizo, southern Sierra 
Foothills, Santa Barbara, and San Joaquin Valley. Vernal pools 
typically form in topographic depressions underlain by an impervious 
layer (such as claypan, hardpan, or volcanic strata) that prevents 
downward percolation of water. Vernal pool hydrology is characterized 
by ponding of water during the late fall, winter, and spring, followed 
by complete desiccation during the summer dry season (Holland and Jain 
1998). Vernal pools support diverse flora and fauna that are adapted to 
the dramatic seasonal changes in moisture and benefit from the lack of 
predation by nonnative fish. Thirty other federally or State listed 
species within the California tiger salamander's range are vernal pool 
specialists, including 24 plants, 4 crustaceans, and 1 insect (Keeler-
Wolf et al. 1998). California tiger salamanders, like the listed vernal 
pool crustaceans, prefer seasonally ponded habitat. However, listed 
vernal pool crustaceans require only a few weeks of inundation to 
complete their life cycle (59 FR 48136; September 19, 1994); therefore, 
pools that support crustacean populations may not hold water long 
enough to allow successful metamorphosis of California tiger salamander 
    In addition to vernal pools and seasonal ponds, California tiger 
salamanders also use small artificial water bodies for breeding 
(Stebbins 1985; Zeiner et al. 1988; Shaffer et al. 1993). Stockponds 
for cattle (Bos taurus), sheep (Ovies aries), horses (Equus caballus) 
and other livestock have been, and continue to be, built to supply 
local water needs, especially in rural grazing lands in coastal and 
Sierra foothill areas where inexpensive public water or ground water is 
not available (Bennett 1970). Stockponds, constructed as water sources 
for livestock, are important habitats for the California tiger 
salamander throughout its range (H. Shaffer, pers. comm. 2003; P. 
Trenham, University of California, Davis, pers. comm. 2002). A large 
population of the California tiger salamander coexists with sheep and 
horses at the University of California Natural Reserve System's Jepson 
Prairie in Solano County (P. Trenham, pers. comm. 2002; CNDDB 2002). In 
some areas, stockponds have largely replaced vernal pools and provide 
important habitat for the species. For instance, of the 112 California 
tiger salamander locality records in the Livermore area where the 
wetland type was identified, 88 percent (98 sites) are located in 
stockponds (CNDDB 2002).
    However, stockponds often are poorer habitat for California tiger 
salamanders than natural vernal pools. Hydroperiods (amount of time the 
stockpond contains water) may be so short that larvae cannot 
metamorphose (e.g., when early drawdown of irrigation ponds occurs), or 
so long that predatory fish and bullfrogs R. catesbeiana) can colonize 
the pond (Shaffer et al. 1993; Seymour and Westphal 1994). Permanent 
wetlands may occasionally support breeding California tiger salamanders 
if fish are not present, but extirpation of the salamander population 
is likely if fish are introduced (Shaffer et al. 1993; Seymour and 
Westphal 1994). Artificial ponds also require ongoing maintenance and 
are often temporary structures. Natural soil erosion, sometimes 
increased by pond breaching, stock animal impacts, and off-road vehicle 
(ORV) use, can cause ponds to silt in after a few decades (Hamilton and 
Jepson 1940), thereby reducing their quality as salamander habitat. 
Often ponds are not maintained because it may be more economical to 
construct a new pond when the old pond fills with silt and is no longer 
functional (Hamilton and Jepson 1940). Stockponds are often 
geographically isolated from other seasonal wetlands occupied by 
California tiger salamanders, and colonization of newly created ponds 
beyond the normal dispersal range may be slow or nonexistent (Pechmann 
et al. 1989).
    Although stockponds can provide refugia for salamander populations 
and are important for the species, these habitats may be dynamic. 
Stockponds often dry out during drought, and flooding may destroy 
downstream impoundments or cause siltation, either of which may result 
in loss of aquatic habitat and extirpation of salamander populations. 
Periodic maintenance to remove silt from stockponds may also cause a 
temporary loss of habitat. Some eggs and larvae of the California tiger 
salamander are probably trampled by livestock on the perimeters of the 
stockponds. Populations of nonnative introduced predaceous fish and 
bullfrogs, although less prevalent than in natural habitats, sometimes 
become established in stockponds and have been implicated in the 
decline of the

[[Page 28652]]

California tiger salamander (Fisher and Shaffer 1996).
    Stockponds may also facilitate spread of nonnative organisms by 
providing aquatic habitats in arid landscapes that otherwise may have 
served as barriers to the spread of such organisms. Despite these 
adverse impacts, the long-term effect of ranching on the species is 
either neutral or beneficial, because the California tiger salamander 
would have likely been extirpated from many areas if stockponds had not 
been built and maintained for livestock production.

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment

    Under the Act, we must consider for listing any species, 
subspecies, or, for vertebrates, DPSs of these taxa, if information is 
sufficient to indicate that such action may be warranted. To implement 
the measures prescribed by the Act and its Congressional guidance, we, 
along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 
Fisheries, developed policy that addresses the recognition of DPSs for 
potential listing actions (61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996). The policy 
allows for a more refined application of the Act that better reflects 
the biological needs of the taxon being considered, and avoids the 
inclusion of entities that do not require its protective measures. 
Under our DPS policy, we use two elements to assess whether a 
population segment under consideration for listing may be recognized as 
a DPS. The elements are: (1) the population segment's discreteness from 
the remainder of the species to which it belongs; and (2) the 
significance of the population segment to the species to which it 
belongs. If we determine that a population segment being considered for 
listing is a DPS, then we evaluate the level of threat to that 
population segment on the basis of the five listing factors established 
by the Act to determine if listing it as either threatened or 
endangered is warranted.


    The DPS policy's standard for discreteness is meant to allow an 
entity given DPS status under the Act to be adequately defined and 
described. A population segment of a vertebrate species may be 
considered discrete if it satisfies either one of the following two 
conditions: (1) it is markedly separated from other populations of the 
same taxon as a consequence of physical, physiological, ecological, or 
behavioral factors. Quantitative measures of genetic or morphological 
discontinuity may provide evidence of this separation; or (2) it is 
delimited by international governmental boundaries within which 
significant differences in control of exploitation, management of 
habitat, conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist.
    Dr. H. Bradley Shaffer has analyzed the population genetics of the 
California tiger salamander (Shaffer et al 1993; Shaffer and Trenham 
2002). The most recently available and most comprehensive mtDNA 
sequence data indicate that there are six populations of California 
tiger salamander; these six populations are distinguished from one 
another by their mtDNA characteristics (Shaffer and Trenham 2002). We 
based our DPS determinations for the already-listed Sonoma County and 
Santa Barbara County populations of the California tiger salamander in 
part on the relatively high divergence of these populations from other 
populations of California tiger salamanders (65 FR 57242; 68 FR 13498). 
The phylogenetic tree (which indicates relationships among populations 
or groups) constructed from the mtDNA data of Shaffer and Trenham 
(2002) indicates that Sonoma County and Santa Barbara County California 
tiger salamanders are very distinct relative to other California tiger 
salamanders. They are separated from other California tiger salamanders 
on branches that are statistically strongly supported. These data 
indicate that Sonoma County and Santa Barbara County California tiger 
salamanders are distinct from other populations of the species. The 
genetic differentiation observed indicates that there has been little, 
if any, gene flow for a significant period of time between the Sonoma 
County population, the Santa Barbara County population, and the 
remaining populations, which are the subject of this rulemaking 
    Shaffer and Trenham's (2002) study may suggest that the Central 
California tiger salamander consists of four populations, which are 
found in the Bay Area, Central Valley, southern San Joaquin Valley, and 
the Central Coast Range. Their genetic study suggests that levels of 
interchange among these populations are low, and that populations or 
groups of populations (metapopulations) are genetically different from 
one another (Shaffer and Trenham 2002). However, the geographic 
boundaries between some of these populations have not been fully 
delineated (e.g., Bay Area and Central Coast Range populations in the 
vicinity of the Contra Costa County/Alameda County lines, and the 
border between the Central Coast Range/Central Valley populations). 
Therefore, we believe it is not appropriate at this time to treat each 
of these four populations as a separate DPS. Instead, we treat these 
four populations as a single group, which is genetically and 
geographically distinct from the Sonoma County and Santa Barbara County 
    The Central California tiger salamander is geographically isolated 
and separate from the Sonoma County DPS and the Santa Barbara County 
DPS, which are federally listed. The Sonoma County population is 
separated geographically from the closest Central California tiger 
salamander populations located in Contra Costa, Yolo, and Solano 
Counties by the Coast Range, Napa River, and the Carquinez Straits, a 
distance of about 72 km (45 mi). There are no known records of the 
California tiger salamander in the intervening areas (D. Warenycia, 
CDFG, pers. comm. 2002). The Santa Barbara County population is 
geographically separated from the Central California tiger salamander 
by the La Panza and Sierra Madre Ranges, and the Carrizo Plain, which 
extends into the Tremblor Range in eastern San Luis Obispo and western 
Kern Counties (Shaffer et al. 1993). Thus, the same conditions that 
establish geographic isolation of the Santa Barbara County California 
tiger salamander and the Sonoma County California tiger salamander from 
the Central California tiger salamander work correlatively to establish 
that the converse is also true. There is no evidence of natural 
interchange of individuals between the Sonoma County and Santa Barbara 
County populations with the Central California tiger salamander. The 
genetic work discussed above (Shaffer and Trenham 2002) also indicates 
that natural interchange is unlikely. Therefore, the best available 
genetic data (Shaffer and Trenham 2002) for California tiger 
salamanders indicate that the Central California tiger salamander is 
distinct from the Sonoma County and Santa Barbara County DPSs.


    Under our DPS policy, once we have determined that a population 
segment is discrete, we consider its biological and ecological 
significance to the larger taxon to which it belongs. This 
consideration may include, but is not limited to, evidence of the 
persistence of the discrete population segment in an ecological setting 
that is unique for the taxon; evidence that loss of the population 
segment would result in a significant gap in the range of the species; 
evidence that the population segment represents the only surviving 
natural occurrence of a taxon that may be more abundant elsewhere as an 
introduced population outside its historic range; and evidence that the

[[Page 28653]]

discrete population segment differs markedly from other populations of 
the species in its genetic characteristics. We have found substantial 
evidence that two of these significance factors are met by the 
population of the Central California tiger salamander.
    The extinction of the Central California tiger salamander would 
likely result in the loss of a significant genetic entity and create a 
significant gap in the range of the species. Shaffer and Trenham's 
recent genetic work (2002) indicates that the Central California tiger 
salamander consists of four populations. As discussed above, the 
Central California tiger salamander differs genetically from the Sonoma 
County and Santa Barbara DPSs. This supports the hypothesis that no 
natural interchange of the Central California tiger salamander occurs 
with the Santa Barbara County or the Sonoma County DPSs. Loss of the 
Central California tiger salamander would also result in a significant 
gap in the range of the species.


    We evaluated the Central California tiger salamander, addressing 
the two elements which our policy requires us to consider in deciding 
whether a vertebrate population may be recognized as a DPS and 
considered for listing under the Act. We propose that the Central 
California tiger salamander is discrete, as per our policy, because it 
is both genetically different and geographically separated from the 
Santa Barbara County and Sonoma County DPSs. We propose that the 
Central California tiger salamander is significant because the loss of 
species would result in a significant gap in the range. It would also 
constitute loss of a genetically divergent portion of the species. 
Because the population segment appears to meet both the discreteness 
and significance criteria of our DPS policy, we propose that the 
Central California tiger salamander constitutes a DPS that qualifies 
for consideration for listing.
    We have already listed the Sonoma County DPS and Santa Barbara 
County DPS as endangered. We will be reviewing the relationship between 
the Central California tiger salamander, and the Sonoma County and 
Santa Barbara County DPSs as part of this proposed rulemaking.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act, and the regulations (50 CFR part 424) 
promulgated to implement the listing provisions of the Act, describe 
the procedures for adding species to the Federal list of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and Plants. We may determine a species to be 
endangered or threatened on the basis of one or more of the five 
factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. These factors, and 
their application to the Central California tiger salamander, are 
described below.
    We have analyzed threats to the California tiger salamander 
throughout the four populations using information from 608 California 
tiger salamander sites identified in the CNDDB, of which 486 sites are 
known to be extant (Service 2003). This database includes the 
localities listed by Shaffer et al. (1993), Seymour and Westphal 
(1994), LSA Associates, Inc. (1994), and numerous other biologists. At 
each of these localities, at least one California tiger salamander 
(adult, juvenile or larva) has been identified by a biologist. Upland 
habitat types in the vicinity of these localities include annual 
grassland (49 percent) and oak savannah (12 percent) (California GAP 
1996; Service 2003). The remaining upland habitat types are 
agricultural crops, urban areas, and other natural habitats. The 
localities in the CNDDB for which one or more wetland type was 
identified included vernal pools, artificial bermed ponds or 
stockponds, or ponds. Threats are analyzed in detail below in the 
discussion of the five factors affecting the species.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    Destruction, modification, and curtailment of Central California 
tiger salamander habitat is caused by a variety of urban and 
agricultural land uses. We define urban impacts to include a variety of 
nonagricultural development activities, such as building and 
maintenance of housing, commercial, and industrial developments; 
construction and widening of roads and highways; golf course 
construction and maintenance; trash dumping, landfill operation and 
expansion; operation of gravel mines and quarries; dam building; and 
inundation of habitat by reservoirs. Agricultural impacts include the 
conversion of native habitat by discing and deep-ripping; and 
cultivation, planting, and maintenance of row crops, orchards, and 
    Many habitat changes began before California tiger salamanders were 
widely collected or studied by biologists. Habitat degradation or loss, 
alteration of vernal pools and seasonal ponds, introduction of 
nonnative organisms, and other changes have occurred throughout the 
range of this species (Shaffer et al. 1993; Jennings and Hayes 1994; 
Thelander 1994).
    These impacts threaten both wetland breeding habitat and upland 
habitat. Even salamanders utilizing breeding sites that are protected 
from development may not persist as viable populations if upland sites 
are unavailable. Earthmoving operations and cultivation in upland 
habitat can directly or indirectly kill or injure California tiger 
salamanders in burrows or on the surface by crushing or trapping them. 
These practices can also expose salamanders to adverse environmental 
conditions (increased predation, high temperatures, low humidity) and 
alter surface hydrology (potentially affecting breeding ponds). 
Discing, deep-ripping, or grading of upland habitat also destroys 
California ground squirrel burrows and other crevices, making suitable 
upland sites unavailable and reducing long-term adult survival of 
Central California tiger salamanders. Ongoing agricultural and urban 
land uses prevent upland sites from being reestablished, and may kill 
or injure salamanders that enter the developed area. Existing vineyards 
and orchards can disrupt annual migration patterns and cut off access 
to breeding wetlands as salamanders avoid moving through areas with 
heavy canopy cover (S. Sweet, in litt. 1998). Agricultural and urban 
land uses can interfere with dispersal among breeding sites and prevent 
natural recolonization of ponds after local extirpation.
    Filling, discing, or excavating wetland habitat can directly kill 
or injure larvae, eggs, or breeding adults, and prevents future use of 
the wetland for reproduction. Additionally, surviving adults may be 
unable to locate alternative breeding sites in subsequent years. 
Erosion from agriculture or grading can similarly impair reproductive 
success by causing sedimentation and degradation of nearby wetlands (S. 
Sweet, in litt. 1998; Sneed 2000). Changes in flooding duration and 
depth caused by urban and agricultural land use (e.g., digging of 
drainage/irrigation ditches, construction of permanent ponds or 
reservoirs, deepening or berming of seasonal wetlands, redirection of 
runoff from developments) can reduce reproductive success either by 
prematurely drying wetlands and desiccating larvae, or by extending the 
flooded period and facilitating invasion of exotic predators (see 
Factor C). Other secondary effects of agricultural and urban land uses 
include increased road mortality, drift and runoff of pesticides and 

[[Page 28654]]

and ongoing rodent-control activities (see Factor E).
    A comparison of the past and present extent of suitable habitat for 
the Central California tiger salamander indicates that the range of the 
species has been substantially reduced from its historical 
distribution. Historically, approximately 3.67 million hectares (ha) 
(9.06 million acres (ac)) of valley and coastal grasslands existed 
within the range of the Central California tiger salamander, with an 
additional 2.64 million ha (6.53 million ac) supporting an overstory of 
blue oak/foothill pine, valley oak, or mixed hardwoods (Kuchler 1988), 
for a total of 6.31 million ha (15.59 million ac) of potential habitat. 
However, urbanization and intensive agriculture have eliminated 
virtually all valley grassland and oak savanna habitat from the Central 
Valley floor. Valley grasslands and, consequently, Central California 
tiger salamanders are now distributed primarily in a ring around the 
Central Valley (Heady 1977). An analysis of CNNDB (2002) and Service 
(2003) records indicate that currently there are only about 4.5 million 
ha (11.1 million ac) of potential habitat where the California tiger 
salamander may still be extant. From 1995 to 2020, the human population 
in the range of the Central California tiger salamander (Central 
Valley, Bay Area, and Central Coast Counties) is projected to grow by 
49 percent (from 12.8 million to 19.1 million people) (California 
Department of Water Resources (CDWR) 1998). Therefore, impacts on the 
Central California tiger salamander and conversion of its habitat 
resulting from urban development are expected to continue.
    The relative loss of habitat has been even more extreme with 
respect to vernal pools, the historic breeding habitat of the Central 
California tiger salamander. Approximately 1.68 million ha (4.15 
million ac) of grasslands in 20 Central Valley Counties are estimated 
to have supported vernal pools at the time of European settlement 
(Holland 1978, 1998a, 1998b; Holland and Jain 1988). Most of this area, 
excepting the northern Sacramento Valley, was within the Central 
California tiger salamander's historical range. The remaining vernal 
pool complexes are now fragmented and reduced in area. Where vernal 
pools remain, they are often disturbed and degraded by drainage 
modification, overgrazing, ORV use, nonnative plant invasion, trash 
dumping, road construction, and urban development (Jones and Stokes 
Associates 1987; 59 FR 48136; Keeler-Wolf et al. 1998). Vernal pools 
are now recognized as a threatened resource (Jones and Stokes 
Associates 1987; Wright 1991; 59 FR 48136). During the 1980s and 1990s, 
vernal pool grasslands continued to be lost at an estimated rate of 1.5 
percent per year (Holland 1998a, 1998b). As of 1997, 377,165 ha 
(931,991 ac) of vernal pool grasslands remained in the Central Valley, 
representing a loss of approximately 78 percent (Holland 1998a, 1998b). 
Along the southeastern edge of the Central Valley, from San Joaquin to 
Fresno Counties, at least 25 percent of the 259-ha (640-ac) sections 
that had contained vernal pools in 1970 (Holland 1978) were wholly 
converted to agriculture or urban uses by 1994 (Seymour and Westphal 
1994). This conversion estimate is probably conservative because it 
does not include partially converted sections where vernal pool habitat 
may also have been lost (Seymour and Westphal 1994).
    Shaffer et al. (1993) detected California tiger salamanders in only 
36 of 86 localities (42 percent) that had been previously recorded, and 
ponds currently occupied by California tiger salamanders were 
significantly higher in elevation than those that were unoccupied or 
had been previously occupied. These data suggest that low-elevation 
breeding sites on the valley floor have been eliminated in recent 
years, thereby restricting the species to higher-elevation habitats on 
the margin of its ecological requirements (Shaffer et al. 1993; Seymour 
and Westphal 1994; Fisher and Shaffer 1996).
    In both our final rule listing the Santa Barbara County DPS of the 
California tiger salamander (65 FR 57242), and the Sonoma County DPS of 
the California tiger salamander (67 FR 47726), we described land 
conversions to more intensive agriculture, especially conversions to 
grape vineyards, as being a factor in the species' decline. Data from 
the California Agricultural Statistics Service (CASS) (2002) provides 
further corroboration that this is a factor and shows that the 
phenomenon extends over much of the Central California tiger 
salamander's current and historic range.
    Urban development poses a similar significant threat to the Central 
California tiger salamander. The human population of the State of 
California is continuing to increase, along with a concomitant increase 
in urban development. According to the 2000 census, the number of 
people in California has increased by 13.8 percent since 1990 
(California Department of Finance 2002). The average growth in human 
population within the Counties in the range of the Central California 
tiger salamander has been 19.5 percent. Counties in the East Bay region 
and the Highway 99 corridor in the San Joaquin Valley are undergoing 
increases both in human population and related urbanization. Sub-
populations at forty-one records of the Central California tiger 
salamander from the CNDDB data base have been extirpated by urban 
development (Service 2003).
    The information documenting the present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of Central California tiger salamander 
habitat or range due to urbanization and other factors is organized 
below as it applies to four populations of the species (Shaffer et al. 
1993; Shaffer and Trenham 2002) that we have not yet listed.
    Bay Area Population (Alameda, Santa Clara, San Benito, southwestern 
San Joaquin, western Stanislaus, and western Merced Counties): Thirty-
two percent (194 of 608 sites) of the known California tiger salamander 
records are in this population, most of them in eastern Alameda and 
Santa Clara Counties (CNDDB 2002). Forty-nine of these records in the 
Bay Area population are considered extirpated due to urbanization, 
orchards and vineyards, and hybridization with nonnative tiger 
salamanders (CNDDB 2002; Service 2003). There are 83,386 ha (206,051 
ac) of potential habitat for the California tiger salamander in the Bay 
Area (Service 2003).
    The East Bay area of the Bay Area and Livermore Valley area has 
undergone intensive urban development in recent years. The total human 
population of Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano, and Yolo 
Counties increased by approximately 86 percent between 1990 and 2002. 
From 1995 to 2020, the human population is projected to increase by 18 
percent for the San Francisco Bay hydrologic region, with agricultural 
crop land use projected to remain around 26,305 ha (65,000 ac) (CDWR 
1998). From 1990 to 1996, 16,457 ha (40,665 ac) of native habitat were 
converted to urban and agricultural uses in Santa Clara, Alameda, and 
San Benito Counties (California Department of Conservation (CDC) 1994, 
1998). Approximately 90 percent of land conversions in Santa Clara, 
Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties were to urban use.
    Of 98 California tiger salamander localities where wetland type was 
identified, only 15 percent (15) were located in vernal pools. These 
wetland type localities within the Bay Area population of California 
tiger salamanders occur within the Solano-Colusa and Livermore vernal 
pool regions (Keeler-Wolf et al. 1998). However, little vernal pool 

[[Page 28655]]

remains within these regions. Many of the Solano-Colusa vernal pools 
have been destroyed or degraded by agricultural conversion, water 
impounding for waterfowl habitat enhancement, urban development, and 
road-building. Most of the vernal pools in the Livermore Region have 
been destroyed or degraded by urban development, agriculture, water 
diversions, poor water quality, and long-term overgrazing (Keeler-Wolf 
et al. 1998). Many breeding sites in the Bay Area population are in 
artificial water bodies rather than natural vernal pools. Overall, 43 
percent (83) of the records are in stock, farm, or berm ponds used for 
cattle grazing and as a temporary source of water for small farm 
irrigation (CNDDB 2002).
    California tiger salamander localities in Contra Costa and Alameda 
Counties may be affected by ORV use; at least 10 proposed housing 
developments; 3 golf courses; infrastructure construction, including 
expansion of an airport, a landfill, and a power station; and highway 
construction (CNDDB 2002). These development projects may destroy 
upland habitat and wetland breeding habitat, killing salamanders and 
reducing the viability of populations at the affected localities.
    In eastern Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, especially the 
Livermore and Amador Valleys, urban expansion continues at a rapid 
pace. California tiger salamander populations in the Livermore Valley 
are severely threatened by the ongoing conversion of 14,527 ha (35,897 
ac) of grazing land to subdivisions and vineyards (Stebbins 1989; East 
Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) 1999). Almost the entire valley 
floor, and large portions of the adjacent hills, are being developed or 
are being considered for development and eventual annexation. The North 
Livermore and South Livermore Valley Specific Plans represent 11,727 ha 
(28,977 ac) of planned urban development in and around Livermore Valley 
(EBRPD 1999). Urban Growth Boundaries encompass 108,262 ha (267,520 
ac), including the Livermore, La Costa, Amador, Sunol, and Vallecitos 
valleys in east Alameda County and the Clayton, Lone Tree, Deer, and 
Briones valleys of eastern Contra Costa County (Alameda County Planning 
Department 1993; EBRPD 1999). These valleys constitute much of the core 
area inhabited by the Bay Area California tiger salamander population. 
Shaffer et al. (1993) found that the East Bay Counties of Alameda and 
Contra Costa supported the greatest concentrations of California tiger 
salamander. Three localities are known from near San Francisco Bay in 
southwestern Alameda County, and are partially protected by San 
Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
    California tiger salamanders at a university in Palo Alto declined 
to near extirpation due, in part, to urban development of adjoining 
upland areas (Barry and Shaffer 1994), but water management and other 
take-reduction efforts have been implemented in recent years to protect 
the population (Thomas Reid Associates 1998). A locality within the 
City of San Jose is threatened by urban development. Several areas in 
southern Santa Clara County also are undergoing urban expansion.
    Central Valley Population (Yolo, Solano, Sacramento County south of 
the Cosumnes River, northeastern Contra Costa, eastern San Joaquin, 
western Amador, western Calaveras, western Tuolumne, eastern 
Stanislaus, Merced, western Mariposa, and northwestern Madera 
Counties): Forty-seven percent (286 of the 608 sites) of the known 
California tiger salamander records are in this population (CNDDB 
2002). Subpopulations at 37 of recorded locations in the Central Valley 
Population are considered extirpated (CNDDB 2002; Service 2003). Urban 
development and agriculture have eliminated much of the grassland and 
vernal pools. From 1996 to 1998, 14,361 ha (35,487 ac) of native 
habitat were converted to urban and agricultural uses in Yolo, Solano, 
Contra Costa, Merced, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Madera 
Counties (CDC 2000). There are 146,600 ha (362,253 ac) of potential 
habitat for the California tiger salamander in the Central Valley 
(Service 2003). The species historically occurred as far north as Butte 
County but has not recently been documented north of the Cosumnes 
River. The remaining sites inhabited by the California tiger salamander 
occur in the low-elevation foothills on the eastern side of the Central 
Valley (Shaffer et al. 1993).
    Of 127 California tiger salamander localities where wetland type 
was identified, 26 percent (33) were in vernal pools. These wetland 
type localities within the Central Valley population of California 
tiger salamanders occurs within the southeastern Sacramento Valley and 
southern Sierra foothills vernal pool regions (Keeler-Wolf et al. 
1998). Vernal pools in both regions are threatened by conversion of 
grasslands and grazing land to housing developments and intensive 
agriculture (see Factor E).
    California tiger salamander localities in the Central Valley 
population may be affected by recently implemented development 
projects, including vineyards and proposed highway construction. These 
development projects may destroy upland habitat and wetland breeding 
habitat, killing salamanders and reducing the viability of populations 
at the affected localities. Large vineyards planted in areas along the 
San Joaquin-Sacramento County line have degraded and destroyed habitat 
for California tiger salamanders.
    In Yolo and Solano Counties, the major impacts to California tiger 
salamander populations have been agricultural. Portions of the 
California tiger salamander locality at Jepson Prairie in Solano County 
is protected by the University of California Natural Reserve System and 
the Solano Land Trust. However, some upland habitat may have been 
disrupted by construction of a natural gas pipeline in the vicinity. 
California tiger salamanders also were found at some proposed power 
plant sites near Jepson Prairie.
    In Stanislaus County, California tiger salamanders were considered 
extirpated until they recently were found by biologists surveying a 
potential route for a highway bypass near Oakdale (California 
Department of Transportation 2000). This highway route threatens the 
only known population of California tiger salamanders in the Oakdale 
area. However, other populations are known to exist within Stanislaus 
County outside the Oakdale area.
    South San Joaquin Population: (western Madera, central Fresno, and 
northwestern Tulare Counties north of the St. Johns and Kaweah Rivers): 
Nine percent (56 of the 608 sites) of the known California tiger 
salamander sites are in this population (CNDDB 2002). However, 18 of 
these sites in the South San Joaquin population are considered 
extirpated (CNDDB 2002; Service 2003). From 1996 to 1998, 4,509 ha 
(11,142 ac) of native habitat were converted to urban and agricultural 
uses in Fresno, Tulare, and Madera Counties (CDC 2000). There are 
24,450 ha (60,418 ac) of potential habitat for the California tiger 
salamander in the southern San Joaquin Valley (Service 2003).
    Ninety-seven percent (31) of 32 localities for which wetland type 
was identified in the South San Joaquin population are within vernal 
pools. These wetland type localities within the South San Joaquin 
population of the California tiger salamander occur within the southern 
Sierra Foothill Vernal Pool Region (Keeler-Wolf 1998). Although we are 
unaware of a specific quantified estimate of loss for this vernal pool 
region, we believe that a significant

[[Page 28656]]

number of vernal pools in this region have been destroyed, fragmented, 
and degraded by conversion to intensive agriculture and housing 
    Shaffer et al. (1993) were unable to find breeding habitat to 
sample for presence of the California tiger salamander over most of the 
original grassland habitat of the San Joaquin Valley. Where ponds were 
located, California tiger salamanders generally were absent (72 percent 
of 324 ponds sampled were absent). The rarity of this species in the 
San Joaquin Valley, in habitat that was apparently suitable 
historically, suggests widespread extirpation of California tiger 
salamanders from habitat conversion to agricultural and urban uses 
(Stebbins 1989). Large areas of California tiger salamander habitat 
were destroyed and degraded by major urbanization in this region during 
the 1970s and 1980s (Shaffer et al. 1993). Agricultural, housing, road, 
and commercial developments on the valley floor of Fresno, Madera, and 
Tulare Counties have reduced suitable habitat to a fraction of the 
species' historical range (J. Halstead, Kings River Conservation 
District, in litt. 1994). Most remaining salamander habitat on the 
eastern side of the Central Valley occurs on tracts of privately-owned 
ranch land (Seymour and Westphal 1994).
    California tiger salamander localities in the South San Joaquin 
population may be affected by proposed development projects, including 
housing developments and highway construction. These development 
projects would likely destroy upland habitat and wetland breeding 
habitat, likely killing salamanders and reducing the viability of 
populations at the affected localities.
    Several large water storage and delivery projects have been 
constructed in the South San Joaquin population. These projects have 
flooded large areas of known and potential salamander habitat. 
Additional habitat has been lost to construction from associated State 
and County park recreational facilities (e.g., boat ramps, campgrounds, 
parking lots) and agriculture and urbanization facilitated by water 
supply development.
    Numerous new housing developments and golf courses are planned or 
in progress around Millerton Lake in Fresno and Madera Counties (J. 
Halstead, in litt. 1994; The Keith Companies 1994). Extensive areas of 
upland habitat and wetland breeding habitat will likely be destroyed by 
these developments, potentially killing many salamanders and/or further 
reducing the viability of any remaining habitat at these localities.
    California tiger salamanders are known from eight localities in 
Tulare County, most of which are surrounded by a matrix of agricultural 
    Central Coast Population (southern Santa Cruz, Monterey, extreme 
western San Benito, extreme western Fresno, extreme western Kings, 
extreme northwestern Kern, and San Luis Obispo Counties): Twelve 
percent (72 of the 608 localities) of the known California tiger 
salamander records are in the Central Coast Range population. Nineteen 
of these sites in the Central Coast population are considered 
extirpated (CNDDB 2002; Service 2003). From 1996 to 1998, 2,084 ha 
(5,149 ac) of native habitat were converted to urban and agricultural 
uses in San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties (CDC 2000). There are 
28,411 ha (70,205 ac) of potential habitat for the California tiger 
salamander in the Central Coast.
    California tiger salamanders in this population occurred 
predominantly in stock ponds, reservoirs, seasonal lakes, and 
intermittent streams. Of the California tiger salamander localities in 
this population where the wetland type was identified, 26 percent (86) 
were vernal pools. The wetland type localities within the Central Coast 
Range population of the California tiger salamander occur in the 
Central Coast and San Joaquin Valley Vernal Pool Regions (Keeler-Wolf 
et al. 1998). The annual loss of vernal pools from 1994 to 2000 in 
Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura 
Counties appears to be accelerating to a rate of 2 to 3 percent 
annually (Holland 2003).
    Two California tiger salamander localities occur at a 8,064 ha 
(19,927 ac) development project site that comprises 14 percent of the 
Greater Monterey Peninsula Planning Area, which is nearly half of the 
Planning Area's unimproved land. Construction on this project has been 
initiated (D. Steeck, Service, pers. comm. 2000). Eleven localities 
occur on Fort Ord, an 11,220 ha (27,726 ac) former military 
installation that has been transferred to the U.S. Bureau of Land 
Management (BLM), California Department of Parks and Recreation, 
California State University, Santa Cruz, and Monterey County 
municipalities. The proposed habitat management plan (Jones and Stokes 
Associates 1993) for Fort Ord includes protection of salamander 
breeding habitat at seven of these localities within the designated 
Natural Resource Management Area (NRMA) managed by BLM. Two of the 
localities in the NRMA are within a highway easement, and may be 
imperiled due to future road construction. The protected area has 
historically been extensively used by ORVs, but recent enforcement of 
ORV restrictions by BLM has apparently reduced this problem (R. Lewis, 
BLM, pers. comm. 1999). Excavation for removal of unexploded ordnance 
could potentially disrupt breeding or upland habitat in the NRMA (Jones 
and Stokes Associates 1993), but ordnance removal in breeding ponds has 
not yet been deemed necessary (D. Steeck, pers. comm. 2000). The 
remaining four localities on Fort Ord are projected for development as 
recreational areas, commercial centers, and a university campus. 
Development in these areas may avoid breeding ponds, but additional 
upland habitat is likely to be lost and fragmented.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    There is no evidence that overutilization is a factor causing 
decline of the California tiger salamander.

C. Disease or Predation

    Relatively little is known about the diseases of wild amphibians 
(Alford and Richards 1999). The specific effects of disease on the 
Central California tiger salamander are not known and the risks to the 
animal have not been determined.
    Pathogen outbreaks have not been documented in the Central 
California tiger salamander. Nevertheless, disease must be considered a 
potential future population threat because of the relatively small, 
fragmented remaining Central California tiger salamander breeding 
sites, the many stresses on these sites due to habitat losses and 
alterations, and the many other potential disease-enhancing 
anthropogenic changes which have occurred both inside and outside the 
species' range.
    A number of nonnative California species have likely adversely 
affected the Central California tiger salamander in many parts of its 
range through predation and competition. Bullfrogs prey on California 
tiger salamanders (P. Anderson 1968; Lawler et al. 1999). The bullfrog, 
native to the United States east of the Great Plains, was introduced 
into California in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and it rapidly 
spread throughout the State (Storer 1925 as cited in Moyle 1973; Hayes 
and Jennings 1986). Morey and Guinn (1992) documented a shift in

[[Page 28657]]

amphibian community composition at a vernal pool complex, with 
salamanders becoming proportionally less abundant as bullfrogs 
increased in number. Although bullfrogs are unable to establish 
permanent breeding populations in unaltered vernal pools and seasonal 
ponds because they require more than 1 year to complete their larval 
stage, dispersing immature bullfrogs take up residence in such water 
bodies during winter and spring where they prey on native amphibians, 
including larval salamanders (Morey and Guinn 1992; Seymour and 
Westphal 1994). A strong negative correlation exists between bullfrog 
presence and California tiger salamander presence (Shaffer et al. 1993; 
Seymour and Westphal 1994).
    Because bullfrogs are known to travel at least 2.6 km (1.6 mi) from 
one pond to another (Bury and Whelan 1984), they have the potential to 
naturally colonize new areas where they do not currently exist, 
including where Central California tiger salamanders occur. In one 
study of the eastern San Joaquin Valley, it was found that 22 of 23 
ponds (96 percent) with California tiger salamanders were within the 
bullfrogs' potential dispersal range (Seymour and Westphal 1994). In 
addition, because bullfrogs are still sought within California for 
sport and as food, and may be taken without limit under a fishing 
license, the threat of transport for intentional establishment in new 
habitat suitable for the Central California tiger salamanders is 
    Western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) are native to central North 
America (watersheds tributary to the Gulf of Mexico) and have been 
introduced throughout the world for mosquito control, including 
California, beginning in 1922. Western mosquitofish now occur 
throughout California wherever the water does not get too cold for 
extended periods, and they are still widely planted throughout the 
State (K. Boyce, Sacramento County/Yolo County Mosquito and Vector 
Control District, in litt. 1994; Moyle 2002) by about 50 local mosquito 
abatement districts. Western mosquitofish are ubiquitous because of 
their tolerance of poor water quality and wide temperature ranges (K. 
Boyce, in litt. 1994).
    Salamanders may be especially vulnerable to western mosquitofish 
predation due to their fluttering external gills, which may attract 
these visual predators (Graf and Allen-Diaz 1993). Loredo-Prendeville 
et al. (1994) found no California tiger salamanders inhabiting ponds 
containing western mosquitofish. Leyse and Lawler (2000) found that the 
survival of California tiger salamander in experimental ponds stocked 
with western mosquitofish, at densities similar to those found in many 
stock ponds, was significantly reduced. Larvae that survived in ponds 
with western mosquitofish were smaller, took longer to reach 
metamorphosis, and had injuries such as shortened tails.
    Western mosquitofish prey on other amphibian species, such as 
California newt (Taricha torosa) (Gamradt and Kats 1996) and Pacific 
treefrog (Goodsell and Kats 1999) tadpoles in both field and laboratory 
experiments, even when given the optional prey of mosquito larvae 
(Goodsell and Kats 1999; L. Kats, Pepperdine University, pers. comm. 
1999). Western mosquitofish have also been observed ingesting and then 
spitting out California newt larvae, causing severe damage to the newts 
in the process (Graf and Allen-Diaz 1993). Given the effects of western 
mosquito fish on other amphibian species, they are likely to have 
similar effects on Central California tiger salamanders. If they have 
the same effects, the use of western mosquito fish in Central 
California tiger salamander habitat threatens its persistence.
    Other nonnative fish have either been directly implicated in 
predation of California tiger salamanders or appear to have the 
potential to prey upon them. For example, introductions of sunfish 
species (e.g., largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and bluegill 
(Lepomis macrochirus), catfish (Ictalurus spp.), and fathead minnows 
(Pimephales promelas) are believed to have eliminated Central 
California tiger salamanders from several breeding sites in Santa 
Barbara County (65 FR 3096). Nonnative sunfish species, catfish, and 
bullheads (Ameiurus spp.) have been, and still are, widely planted in 
ponds in California to provide for sportfishing. By 1984, the 
California fish fauna included about 50 such transplanted and exotic 
species, mostly from eastern North American origin (Hayes and Jennings 
1986). More recently, Moyle (2002) estimated that, on average, 
California is losing about one native species or subspecies of fish 
every 5 to 6 years, and gaining an average of one alien species about 
every 2 years.
    Nonnative fish introductions may be responsible for the declines of 
frog species in western North America (Hayes and Jennings 1986). Such 
introduced fish may be a problem for California ranids because of their 
specialization for preying on aquatic life (including eggs and larvae), 
and because the affected amphibians may have evolved under conditions 
of limited fish predation, which now increases the impacts of the 
introductions (Hayes and Jennings 1986). We believe the same threat may 
apply to the Central California tiger salamander. Thus, we consider 
introductions of such nonnative fish species into Central California 
tiger salamander breeding habitat a potential threat to the persistence 
of the species.
    The range and breeding habitats of the Central California tiger 
salamander also overlap with the ranges and habitats of several 
nonnative and native crayfish (Pacifastacus, Orconectes, and 
Procambarus spp.). Crayfish prey on California tiger salamanders 
(Shaffer et al. 1993) and are thought to have eliminated some 
populations (Jennings and Hayes 1994). In Sonoma County, a nonnative 
crayfish has been found throughout ditches within California tiger 
salamander range, but not in any nearby pools known to support 
California tiger salamander breeding (D. Cook, The Wildlife Society, 
pers. comm. 2002). Crayfish are also known to prey on California newt 
eggs and larvae, despite toxins produced by these amphibians, and 
crayfish may be a significant factor in the loss of newts from several 
streams in southern California (Gamradt and Kats 1996). Thus, based on 
direct and indirect evidence, we believe that crayfish, especially 
several nonnative species, represent a considerable threat to the 
persistence of the Central California tiger salamander.
    Another nonnative species which may represent a threat to the 
species, is the wild pig (Sus scrofa). The wild pig population in 
California, which was recently estimated at about 106,000 to 160,000 
individuals (Waithman et al. 1999), resulted from numerous 
introductions, both from domesticated pigs escaping captivity, and more 
recently from deliberate introductions for sport-hunting, over the last 
two centuries. Although range expansion of introduced wild pigs has 
ceased in many regions of the United States, it increased significantly 
since the 1950s in California (Waithman et al. 1999). Wild pigs are now 
distributed within parts of 49 of California's 58 Counties (Waithman et 
al. 1999), with densities as high as 3.8 (Sweitzer et al. 2000) to 4.7 
pigs per square kilometer (9.8 to12.2 pigs per square mile) (Schauss et 
al. 1990).
    Wild pigs have been widely implicated in declines and extinctions 

of numerous species worldwide, and have had pronounced negative 
ecological effects on Central California tiger salamanders when their 
populations are high (Waithman et al.

[[Page 28658]]

1999). Detrimental effects of wild pigs on the Central California tiger 
salamander include both predation and habitat modifications. One 
recognized expert on wild pigs in California states that he has found 
bullfrogs, snakes, and newts in pig stomachs, and he believes that 
California tiger salamanders would be consumed by pigs, if encountered 
(R. Barrett, University of California, Berkeley, pers. comm. 2002), a 
view also shared by another wild pig expert in Florida (R. Belden, 
Florida Wildlife Commission, pers. comm. 2002). The nocturnal behavior 
of wild pigs, and their affinity for ponds and watering holes in oak 
woodlands of foothills and other fringe areas of the Central California 
tiger salamander's range, coupled with the nocturnal movements of 
Central California tiger salamanders during the rainy season, could 
result in considerable predation. In addition, wild pigs may cause 
ecological damage to Central California tiger salamander habitat, 
including consumption of vegetation for food, and rooting and digging, 
which may change plant successional patterns, soil properties, water 
infiltration rates, water quality (Synatzske 1993), or the small-mammal 
burrows the salamander needs during estivation.
    California tiger salamanders are also likely preyed on by many 
species of native fish and wildlife. In healthy salamander populations, 
such predation should not be a significant threat. But when combined 
with other impacts, such as predation by nonnative species, 
contaminants, migration barriers, or habitat alteration, it may cause a 
significant decrease in population viability. Native predators 
including avian species, such as great blue herons (Ardea herodias) and 
snowy egrets (Egretta thula), western pond turtles (Clemmys marmorata), 
various garter snakes (Thamnophis spp.), larger California tiger 
salamanders, larger spadefoot toads (Scaphiopus hammondii), and 
California red-legged frogs (Peters 1993; Hansen and Tremper 1993). In 
Arizona, larval tiger salamanders are preyed upon by adult predaceous 
diving beetles (Dytiscus dauricus) (Holomuzki 1986); turkey vultures 
(Carthartes aura) have been observed feeding on larval or adult tiger 
salamanders (Duncan 1999).

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The primary cause of Central California tiger salamander decline is 
the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of habitat due to human 
activities. Federal, State, and local laws have been insufficient to 
prevent past and ongoing losses of the limited habitat of the Central 
California tiger salamander, and are unlikely to prevent further 
declines of the species.
    Clean Water Act. Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) (33 
U.S.C. 1251 et seq.), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) 
regulates the discharge of fill material into waters of the United 
States, including wetlands. Section 404 regulations require applicants 
to obtain a permit for projects that involve the discharge of fill 
material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. However, 
normal farming activities are exempt under the CWA and do not require a 
permit (53 FR 20764; Robert Wayland III, Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA), in litt. 1996). Projects that are subject to regulation 
may qualify for authorization to place fill material into waters of the 
United States, including wetlands, under several nationwide permits. 
The use of nationwide permits by an applicant or project proponent is 
normally authorized with minimal environmental review by the Corps. No 
activity that is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a 
threatened or endangered species, or that is likely to destroy or 
adversely modify designated critical habitat of such species, is 
authorized under any nationwide permit. An individual permit may be 
required by the Corps if a project otherwise qualifying under a 
nationwide permit would have greater than minimal adverse environmental 
    Recent court cases may further limit the Corps' ability to utilize 
the CWA to regulate the discharge of fill or dredged material into the 
aquatic environment within the current range of the California tiger 
salamander (Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army 
Corps of Engineers, 531 U.S. 159 (2001) (SWANCC)). The effect of SWANCC 
on Federal regulation of activities in wetlands in the area of the 
Central California tiger salamander has recently become clear by the 
Corps' decision not to assert its jurisdiction over the discharge of 
fill material into several wetlands within the range of the Central 
California tiger salamander. In a letter from the Corps, dated March 8, 
2002, concerning the discharge of fill into 0.18 ha (0.45 ac) of 
seasonal wetlands southwest of the intersection of Piner and Marlow 
Roads (Corps File Number 19736N), the Corps referenced the SWANCC 
decision and reiterated that the subject wetlands were not ``waters of 
the United States'' because they were: (1) Not navigable waters; (2) 
not interstate waters; (3) not part of a tributary system to 1 or 2; 
(4) not wetlands adjacent to any of the foregoing; and (5) not an 
impoundment of any of the above. The letter further stated that the 
interstate commerce nexus to these particular waters is insufficient to 
establish CWA jurisdiction, and therefore, not subject to regulation by 
the Corps under Section 404 of the CWA. The Corps also cited the SWANCC 
decision as their reasoning for not taking jurisdiction over fill of 
Sonoma County California tiger salamander breeding pools at the 
recently constructed South Sonoma Business Park (Corps File Number's 
23540N, 249420N).
    When on- or off-site mitigation is required by the Corps as a 
condition of a Section 404 permit to fill certain wetlands, there is 
often low probability that affected Central California tiger salamander 
habitat functions (if any) would actually be compensated and replaced 
by the ensuing mitigation action(s).
    Semlitsch (1998) examined published literature for six species of 
pond-breeding ambystomatid salamanders from five states and concluded 
that a buffer zone encompassing 95 percent of a given population would 
need to extend 263 m (534 ft) from a wetland's edge into surrounding 
terrestrial habitat in order to give adequate protection. More 
recently, Trenham (2001), although cautioning that essential 
terrestrial habitats and buffer requirements are still relatively 
poorly understood, concluded certain populations of California tiger 
salamanders have migrated distances of 670 m (2,200 ft) between 
breeding ponds, and that plans to maintain local populations of 
California tiger salamanders should include pond(s) surrounded by at 
least 173 m (567 ft) wide buffers of terrestrial habitat occupied by 
burrowing mammals. Preliminary results of a study located at Jepson 
Prairie have determined that adult California tiger salamanders migrate 
up to 400 m (1,312 ft) from their breeding pond (P. Trenham, pers. 
comm. 2002).
    Management plans that focus only on preserving ponds or wetlands, 
without consideration for associated terrestrial habitat, are likely to 
fail to maintain viable amphibian populations (Marsh and Trenham 2001). 
However, even with inclusion of terrestrial habitat buffers, recent 
studies have demonstrated that restored wetlands are often still only 
partially successfully recolonized by the full amphibian assemblages 
being targeted for restoration (Lehtinen and Galatowitsch

[[Page 28659]]

2001; Pechmann et al. 2001). Successful compensatory mitigation for 
losses of California tiger salamander pool and pond habitat due to 
filling would also require the connectivity of the restoration site to 
other pools and ponds (Gibbs 1998; Lehtinen et al. 1999; Marsh and 
Trenham 2001; Trenham et al. 2001). Pond isolation may be an important 
consideration in disturbed environments where inter-pond dispersal is 
impeded by barriers such as roads and urban development (Marsh and 
Trenham 2001). The California tiger salamander may also require large 
preserves to maintain viable breeding populations and to allow 
recolonizations after natural and anthropogenic local extirpations (P. 
Northen, in litt. 2001).
    We conclude that regulation of wetlands filling by the Corps under 
Section 404 of the CWA is inadequate to protect the Central California 
tiger salamander from further decline. Section 404 administration fails 
to prevent losses of numerous small wetlands in California which may 
support Central California tiger salamander breeding. Section 404 does 
not regulate the continuing losses of Central California tiger 
salamander terrestrial habitat (except to the extent certain 
agricultural activities are regulated). When authorized fills under 
Section 404 do result in compensatory mitigation for wetlands losses, 
it is unlikely that Central California tiger salamander losses at 
specific fill sites can, and will be, fully and successfully mitigated.
    Endangered Species Act. Two DPSs of the California tiger salamander 
in California have been listed under the Act. The Santa Barbara County 
DPS was listed on September 15, 2000 (65 FR 3096). The Sonoma County 
DPS was listed under an emergency rule effective July 22, 2002 (67 FR 
4772). The final rule listing this DPS was published March 19, 2003 (68 
FR 13497). These two DPSs are currently provided with the protections 
afforded by the Act.
    Elsewhere within its range in California, the California tiger 
salamander is not currently a federally listed species under the Act. 
Within this unprotected range in California, however, there are 
currently 16 species (1 beetle, 4 species of freshwater shrimp, and 11 
species of plants) listed under the Act that occur in association with 
seasonally-flooded vernal pools. Critical habitat has been designated 
for the threatened delta green ground beetle (Elaphrus viridus), but 
its range is limited to a portion of the area at Jepson Prairie in 
Solano County that is inhabited by the California tiger salamander. We 
have also proposed approximately 687,968 ha (1.7 million ac) in 36 
California Counties and one Oregon county as critical habitat 
considered essential for the conservation of the 4 freshwater shrimp 
and the 11 vernal pool plant species (68 FR 12336).
    In some instances the vernal pools supporting the 15 listed vernal 
pool species, and the critical habitat being proposed for them, overlap 
with local occurrences of the Central California tiger salamander. 
However, such overlap is limited, and where it does occur, regulatory 
protections afforded under the Act for the 15 listed vernal pool 
species, or their proposed critical habitat, do not convey adequate 
protection to Central California tiger salamander upland habitats. Most 
of the requirements of the listed vernal pool plants and freshwater 
shrimp can be met through maintenance of existing hydrology within the 
confines (or with additional upland areas dependent on the individual 
location) of individual vernal pools or vernal pool complexes. 
California tiger salamanders, on the other hand, spend only about 20 
percent of their lives in such pools or ponds, and 80 percent in the 
confines of small mammal burrows in nearby terrestrial areas.
    Lacey Act. The Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 (16 U.S.C. 3371-3378; 
Pub. L. 97-79, as amended) provide some protection for the California 
tiger salamander by making it illegal to trade in this species. This 
legislation prohibits the import, export, sale, receipt, acquisition, 
purchase, and engagement in interstate or foreign commerce of any 
species taken, possessed, or sold in violation of any law, treaty, or 
regulation of the United States, any Tribal law, or any law or 
regulation of any State. The law covers all fish and wildlife and their 
parts or products, and plants protected by State law. This Act does not 
apply to the interstate shipment, through Tribal lands or a State, of 
any fish, wildlife, or plant legally taken if the shipment goes to a 
State in which the fish or wildlife or plant may be legally possessed.
    Since 1994, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) has 
recognized the California tiger salamander as a ``species of special 
concern.'' More recently, the California tiger salamander has been 
placed on the State's list of protected amphibians, which means that it 
cannot be taken without a special permit issued for scientific 
collecting or research. Also, as stated earlier in Factor C, the 
California Code of Regulations (2002) specifies California tiger 
salamanders can no longer be taken, possessed, or used for fishing 
    On July 6, 2001, the CDFG received a petition from the CBD to list 
the California tiger salamander under the California Endangered Species 
Act. The status of the animal and potential threats was evaluated by 
the CDFG. On October 3, 2001, the Director of the CDFG recommended to 
the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) that the petition 
be accepted and the animal be designated as a candidate (R. Hight, 
CDFG, in litt. 2001). On December 7, 2001, the Commission found that 
the petition was not warranted because the Commissioners felt there was 
not enough information on the population abundance and trend 
information of the California tiger salamander (R. Treanor, Commission, 
in litt. 2001).
    CDFG recognizes the importance of California tiger salamander 
conservation at the local population level and routinely considers and 
recommends actions to mitigate potential adverse effects to the species 
during its review of development proposals. However, CDFG's primary 
regulatory venue is under the California Environmental Quality Act 
(CEQA) (Public Resources Code Sec. 21000-21177). CEQA has proven to be 
a variable, and often inadequate, regulatory mechanism for providing 
protection to the California tiger salamander and its habitat.
    CEQA requires a full disclosure of the potential environmental 
impacts of proposed projects. The public agency with primary authority 
or jurisdiction over a project is designated as the lead agency, and is 
responsible for conducting a review of the project and consulting with 
the other agencies concerned with the resources affected by the 
project. Section 15065 of the CEQA Guidelines, as amended, requires a 
finding of significance if a project has the potential to ``reduce the 
number or restrict the range of a rare or endangered plant or animal.'' 
Once significant effects are identified, the lead agency must require 
mitigation for effects through changes in the project unless specific 
overriding considerations make mitigation infeasible (CEQA Sec. 21002). 
In the latter case, projects that may include the destruction of listed 
endangered species or their habitat may be approved.
    Moreover, neither CEQA nor other statutory mechanisms under CDFG's 
jurisdiction provides any effective regulatory mechanisms for reducing 
or eliminating several of the other manmade factors (as discussed 

[[Page 28660]]

which may also adversely affect California tiger salamanders and their 
habitat. For example, there is no State regulation of nonnative fish 
stocking into California tiger salamander ponds and waters. Agencies 
and individuals may purchase (from CDFG-licensed fish breeders) and 
stock into such waters sunfish, catfish and other nonnative fish for 
recreational fishing. Similarly, there is no State regulation of 
western mosquitofish stocking into California tiger salamander ponds 
and waters by the approximately 50 mosquito abatement districts that 
routinely stock this mosquito predator as a means for mosquito control. 
In addition, the act of controlling burrowing small mammals in places 
where their burrows may be highly essential to California tiger 
salamander survival is not State-regulated and is, therefore, still 
widely and commonly practiced throughout the California tiger 
salamander's range.
    We are not aware of any specific county or city ordinances or 
regulations that provide protection for the Central California tiger 
salamander. The Central California tiger salamander may be indirectly 
benefitting from the increased attention being given to conversions of 
grasslands, oak woodlands, row-crops, and other agricultural uses to 
vineyards and orchards. At least three Counties (Sonoma, Napa, and 
Santa Barbara) have recently begun applying regulatory oversight to 
such conversions. This oversight is resulting in requirements for full-
scale environmental analyses, restrictions on the steepness of slopes 
onto which vineyards may be established, and requirements for erosion 
control plans and measures. However, in the majority of the State's 
Counties in the Central California tiger salamander's range, 
conversions to vineyards and orchards is an unregulated agricultural 
activity with significant potential to adversely affect the Central 
California tiger salamander.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Several other factors may also be causing direct or indirect 
adverse effects to California tiger salamanders or their habitat, 
including direct mortality while they are crossing roads, the species' 
extensive hybridization with nonnative salamanders, their exposure to 
various contaminants, the effects from rodent population control 
efforts, livestock grazing, and decreased population viability because 
of the species' small remaining population size.
    Like most amphibians, California tiger salamanders inhabit both 
aquatic and terrestrial habitats at different stages in their life 
cycle, and are likely exposed to a variety of pesticides and other 
chemicals throughout their range. They are extremely sensitive to these 
pollutants due to their highly permeable skin which can rapidly absorb 
pollutant substances (Blaustein and Wake 1990). Toxins at lower than 
lethal levels may still have adverse effects, such as causing 
abnormalities in larva and behavioral anomalies in adults, both of 
which could eventually lead to lethal effects (Hall and Henry 1992; 
Blaustein and Johnson 2003). California tiger salamanders also could 
die from starvation due to the reduction or loss of their prey base 
from the use of pesticides. Sources of chemical pollution which may 
adversely affect California tiger salamanders include hydrocarbon and 
other contaminants from oil production and road runoff; the application 
of numerous chemicals for agricultural production; roadside maintenance 
activities; urban/suburban landscaping applications; and rodent and 
vector control programs.
    Road mortality is not the only risk factor associated with roads, 
as oil and other contaminants in runoff have been detected in adjacent 
ponds and linked to die-offs and deformities in California tiger 
salamanders and spadefoot toads, and die-offs of invertebrates that 
form most of both species' prey base (S. Sweet, in litt. 1993). Lefcort 
et al. (1997) found that oil had limited direct effects on 5-week-old 
marbled (A. opacum) and tiger salamanders (A. t. tigrinum). However, 
salamanders from oil-contaminated natural ponds metamorphosed earlier 
at smaller sizes, and those from oil-contaminated artificial ponds had 
slower growth rates than larvae raised in uncontaminated ponds. Their 
studies did not address effects on eggs and early larval stages, where 
the effects may be more pronounced.
    Hatch and Burton (1998) and Monson et al. (1999) investigated the 
effects of one component of petroleum products and urban runoff 
(fluoranthene, a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) on spotted 
salamanders (A. maculatum), northern leopard frogs (R. pipiens), and 
African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis). In laboratory and outdoor 
experiments, using levels of the contaminant comparable to those found 
in service stations and other urban runoff, the researchers found 
reduced survival and growth abnormalities in all species. The effects 
were worse when the larvae were exposed to the contaminant under 
natural levels of sunlight, rather than in the laboratory under 
artificial light.
    There are a number of records of California tiger salamanders using 
roadside ditches. Many are in areas where there are no known breeding 
ponds, and these animals are utilizing the only marginal habitat 
remaining. Also, many pools in these areas have likely been destroyed, 
leaving these marginal sites as the only option for breeding. In light 
of increased urbanization, along with concurrent increases in traffic, 
the risk factor associated with contaminants in runoff likely will 
increase in both roadside ditches and across the general landscape.
Agricultural and Landscaping Contaminants
    During 2001, the 23 California Counties where California tiger 
salamanders may occur used over 47,627,160 kilograms (105 million 
pounds) of pesticide active ingredients (California Department of 
Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) internet website 2002). Chemicals included 
were metam-sodium, methyl bromide, mancozeb, petroleum oil, phosmet, 
chlorpyrifos, pendimethalin, parathion, paraquat dichloride, fosetyl-
aluminum, acephate, cryolite, malathion, and other chemicals, some of 
which are extremely toxic to aquatic organisms, including amphibians 
and the organisms on which they prey. Some of these pesticides, such as 
chloropyrifos, malathion, and endosulfin are cholenesterase inhibitors. 
Reduced cholenesterase activity has been linked to uncoordinated 
swimming, increased vulnerability to predation, depressed growth rates, 
and increased mortality in tadpoles (de Llamas et al. 1985; Rosenbaum 
et al. 1988; Bridges 1997; Berrill et al. 1998; Sparling et al. 2001).
    Although there is some evidence that some amphibians may be 
affected by chemicals applied during the migration and dispersal 
seasons (Sparling et al. 2001), Davidson et al. (2001, 2002) were 
unable to find a significant overall relationship between upwind 
agriculture and the California tiger salamander's decline.
Rodent Control
    California tiger salamanders spend much of their lives in 
underground retreats, often in California ground squirrel burrows 
(Loredo et al. 1996; Trenham 1998a), so widespread control of ground 
squirrels may pose threats to the salamander. California ground 
squirrel control, which began in the early 1900s (Marsh 1987), may be 

[[Page 28661]]

by trapping, shooting, fumigation of burrows, use of toxic (including 
anticoagulant) baits, and habitat modification, including deep-ripping 
of burrow areas (UCIPM internet website 2003).
    California ground squirrel control programs are widely conducted 
(frequently via bait stations placed at specific problem sites) on and 
around various commercial agricultural operations, including grazing/
range lands and various croplands including vineyards (R. Thompson, 
Science Applications International Corporation, in litt. 1998). Also, 
numerous agencies, particularly flood control agencies and levee 
districts, conduct extensive California ground squirrel control 
programs around levees, canals and other facilities they manage.
    The pocket gopher, which also provides the required upland retreats 
for some California tiger salamanders (Loredo et al. 1996; Trenham 
1998a; D. Cook, pers. comm. 2001), is targeted by certain control 
operations that may also pose threats to the amphibian. This species is 
also classified as a non-game mammal by CDFG. Pocket gopher control 
measures (UCIPM internet website 2003) are similar to measures used for 
California ground squirrel control, except that shooting is not an 
effective approach because of the pocket gophers' nearly continuous 
seclusion underground. Pocket gopher control typically is most common 
around golf courses and other large, landscaped areas, and around 
residential homes and gardens. Widespread control in agricultural 
situations is much less common than for California ground squirrels.
    Two of the most commonly used rodenticides, chlorophacinone and 
diphacinone, are anticoagulants that cause animals to bleed to death. 
These chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and are considered 
toxic to fish and wildlife (EPA 1985; EXOTONET 1996). These two 
chemicals, along with strychnine, are used to control rodents (R. 
Thompson, in litt. 1998). Although the effects of these poisons on 
California tiger salamander have not been assessed, any uses in close 
proximity to occupied Central California tiger salamander habitat could 
have various direct and indirect toxic effects. Gases, including 
aluminum phosphide, carbon monoxide, and methyl bromide, are used in 
rodent fumigation operations and are introduced into burrows by either 
using cartridges or by pumping. When such fumigants are used, animals 
inhabiting the fumigated burrow are killed (Salmon and Schmidt 1984).
    In addition to possible direct adverse effects of rodent control 
chemicals and gasses, California ground squirrel and pocket gopher 
control operations may have the indirect effect of reducing the number 
of upland burrows available to specific California tiger salamander 
populations (Loredo-Prendeville et al. 1994). Because the burrow 
density required by California tiger salamanders is unknown, the 
impacts of burrow loss are also unknown.
    Shaffer et al. (1993) believe that rodent control programs could be 
the cause for lack of California tiger salamanders in certain areas. 
Active California ground squirrel colonies probably are needed to 
sustain California tiger salamanders, because inactive burrow systems 
likely become progressively unsuitable over time. Loredo et al. (1996) 
found that burrow systems usually collapsed within 18 months following 
cessation of California ground squirrel use, and did not report 
California tiger salamanders utilizing any collapsed burrows. Also, 
deep ripping of rodent burrow areas as a rodent control measure would 
be likely to completely destroy burrows and harm or kill any California 
tiger salamanders using them.
    Many Central California tiger salamander sites are currently 
occupied by livestock. Livestock owners' concern over livestock 
breaking their legs in rodent burrows is a reason for many California 
ground squirrel control efforts, especially around livestock watering 
tanks and ponds. These and other California ground squirrel and pocket 
gopher control efforts clearly have potential to adversely affect 
Central California tiger salamanders if they are implemented without 
knowledge of, and concern for, the species.
Mosquito Control
    In addition to the use of western mosquitofish, a common chemical 
method of mosquito control in California involves the use of 
methoprene. Methoprene is an insect hormone mimic which increases the 
level of juvenile hormone in insect larvae and disrupts the molting 
process. Lawrenz (1984, 1985) found that methoprene (Altosoid SR-10) 
retarded the development of selected crustacea that had the same 
molting hormones (i.e., juvenile hormone) as insects, and anticipated 
that the same hormone may control metamorphosis in other arthropods. 
Because the success of many aquatic vertebrates relies on an abundance 
of invertebrates in temporary wetlands, any delay in insect growth 
could reduce the numbers and density of prey available (Lawrenz 1984, 
1985). The use of methoprene could have an indirect adverse effect on 
California tiger salamanders by reducing the availability of prey.
    In more recent studies, methoprene did not cause increased 
mortality of gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) tadpoles (Sparling and 
Lowe 1998). However, it caused reduced survival rates and increased 
malformations in northern leopard frogs (Ankley et al. 1998), and 
increased malformations in southern leopard frogs (R. utricularia) 
(Sparling 1998). Blumberg et al. (1998) correlated exposure to 
methoprene with delayed metamorphosis and high mortality rates in 
northern leopard and mink (R. septentrionalis) frogs. Methoprene 
appears to have both direct and indirect effects on the growth and 
survival of larval amphibians.
Road-Crossing Mortality
    Although no systematic studies of the California tiger salamander 
have been conducted, it is known that significant numbers of the 
species in other portions of its range are killed by vehicular traffic 
while crossing roads (Hansen and Tremper 1993; S. Sweet, in litt. 1993; 
Joe Medeiros, Sierra College, pers. comm. 1993). For example, during 
one 15-day period in 2001 at a Sonoma County location, 26 road-killed 
California tiger salamanders were found (D. Cook, pers. comm. 2002). 
Overall breeding population losses of California tiger salamanders due 
to road kills have been estimated to be between 25 and 72 percent 
(Twitty 1941; S. Sweet, in litt. 1993; Launer and Fee l996). Mortality 
may be increased by associated roadway curbs and berms as low as 9 to 
12 centimeters (3 to 5 in), which allow California tiger salamanders 
access to roadways but prevent their exit from them (Launer and Fee 
1996; S. Sweet, in litt. 1998).
    Vehicular usage on California roads is increasing rapidly and 
directly with human population and urban expansion. During November 
2002, California's estimated total vehicular travel on State highway 
system roads alone was 23 billion km (14.27 billion mi) (this figure 
and subsequent vehicular-use data from California Department of 
Transportation's internet website 2003). From 1972 to 2001, State 
highway system total vehicular usage rose steadily from 108.6 km to 270 
billion km (67.1 to 167.8 billion mi) annually. For the 23 California 
Counties in which the California tiger salamander may occur, State 
highway system total annual vehicular usage in 1999, 2000, and 2001 was 
86.0, 90.0, and 92.1 billion km (53.3, 55.9, and 57.2 billion

[[Page 28662]]

mi), respectively. Moreover, for the four areas of the State in which 
the four remaining population segments of the California tiger 
salamander occur, road densities due to past urbanization are already 
high. Overall, these four areas have 5,860.2 km (3,641.5 mi) of roads 
(and rail tracks) of all types. The range of current road (and rail) 
density is from 1.01 km per 100 ha (0.25 mi per 100 ac) in the Southern 
San Joaquin population of the salamander, to 1.64 km per 100 ha (0.41 
mi per 100 ac) in the Bay Area population of the salamander. We believe 
such relatively high road-use and road-density values result in road-
kill mortality being a potentially serious threat to the species, and a 
threat that is likely continuing to grow in concert with the State's 
rapid growth of human population and urbanization.
Hybridization With Nonnative Salamanders
    Sixteen populations of hybrid California tiger salamanders and the 
nonnative tiger salamander (A. tigrinum) were found in southern Santa 
Clara, eastern Merced, San Benito, and northern Monterey Counties 
(Shaffer and Trenham 2002). Four populations consisting of pure 
nonnative tiger salamanders were located in Monterey County (Shaffer 
and Trenham 2002). The tiger salamanders at a number of locations in 
this area reportedly are the result of intentional introductions of the 
animals by a bait salesman in the 1950s and 1960s (B. Shaffer, pers. 
comm. 2002).
    Hybrids between the California tiger salamander and the nonnative 
tiger salamander have been documented elsewhere in the range of A. 
californiese (Shaffer and Trenham 2002). Introduced salamanders may 
out-compete the California tiger salamander or interbreed with the 
natives to produce hybrids that may be less fit and adapted to the 
California climate or are not reproductively viable past the first or 
second generations (Bury and Lukenbach 1976; Shaffer et al. 1993). More 
recent evidence suggests that the hybrids are viable and that they 
breed with California tiger salamanders (Shaffer and Trenham 2002). 
Over time, a population of a species could become genetically 
indistinguishable from a larger population of an introgressing species 
such that the true genotype (the genetic constitution of an individual 
or group) of the lesser species no longer exists (Levin 2002). The loss 
of any population of the Central California tiger salamander due to 
hybridization with, or competition from, introduced species is of 
serious concern.
Livestock Grazing
    Light to moderate livestock (cattle, sheep, and horses) grazing is 
generally thought to be compatible with the continued successful use of 
rangelands by the Central California tiger salamander, provided the 
grazed areas do not also have intensive burrowing rodent control 
efforts (T. Jones, in litt. 1993; Shaffer et al. 1993; S. Sweet, pers. 
comm. 1998; H. Shaffer and P. Trenham, pers. comm. 2003). By 
maintaining shorter vegetation, grazing may make areas more suitable 
for California ground squirrels whose burrows are essential to 
California tiger salamanders. Melanson (in litt. 1993) noted that 
although vernal pool species continued to reproduce under a November to 
April grazing regime, California tiger salamanders were either absent 
or diminished in numbers in portions of pools heavily trampled by 
cattle. Repeated trampling of pond edges by cattle also can increase 
the surface area of ponds which may increase water temperature and 
evaporation rate, thus reducing the amount of time the pond contains 
water (S. Sweet, pers. comm. 1998).
    Reduction in water quality cause by livestock excrement may 
negatively affect the California tiger salamander by increasing 
nitrogen and silt levels. High nitrogen levels are associated with 
bacterial blooms and lowered dissolved oxygen (Worthylake and Hovingh 
1989), and silt has been associated with fatal fungal infections 
(Lefcort et al. 1997), as discussed earlier under Factor C.
    However, grazing generally is compatible with the continued use of 
rangelands by the Central California tiger salamander as long as 
intensive burrowing rodent control programs are not implemented on such 
areas and grazing is not excessive (T. Jones, in litt. 1993; Shaffer et 
al. 1993; S. Sweet, pers. comm. 1998).


    In making this proposal, we have carefully assessed the best 
scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, 
present, and future threats faced by the Central California tiger 
salamander. As discussed in the Summary of Factors Affecting the 
Species above, this species faces a number of threats. The most 
overwhelming threat is from continuing habitat destruction, 
degradation, and fragmentation. Secondary threats exist from predation 
and competition from introduced exotic species; possible commercial 
overutilization; disease; hybridization with nonnative salamanders; 
various chemical contaminants; road-crossing mortality; and rodent 
control operations. The various primary and secondary threats are not 
currently being offset by existing Federal, State, or local regulatory 
mechanisms. The Central California tiger salamander also is vulnerable 
to chance environmental or demographic events. The combination of its 
biology and specific habitat requirements makes the animal susceptible 
to random events, such as drought, disease, and other occurrences. Such 
events are not usually a concern until the number of breeding/
estivation sites or geographic distribution become severely limited, as 
is the case with the Central California tiger salamander.

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as the--(i) 
specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a species, at 
the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found 
those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation 
of the species, and (II) that may require special management 
considerations or protection, and (ii) specific areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed in 
accordance with the provisions of section 4 of the Act, upon a 
determination by the Secretary that such areas are essential for the 
conservation of the species. ``Conservation'' means the use of all 
methods and procedures needed to bring the species to the point at 
which listing under the Act is no longer necessary.
    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act and implementing regulations (50 CFR 
424.12) require that, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, 
the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) designate critical habitat at 
the time the species is determined to be endangered or threatened. Our 
implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)) state that critical habitat 
is not determinable if information sufficient to perform the required 
analysis of impacts of the designation is lacking, or if the biological 
needs of the species are not sufficiently well known to allow 
identification of an area as critical habitat. Section 4(b)(2) of the 
Act requires us to consider economic and other relevant impacts of 
designating a particular area as critical habitat on the basis of the 
best scientific data available. The Secretary may exclude any area from 
critical habitat if she determines that the benefits of such exclusion 
outweigh the conservation benefits, unless to do so would result in the 
extinction of the species.

[[Page 28663]]

    In 30 years of implementing the ESA, we have found that the 
designation of statutory critical habitat provides little additional 
protection to most listed species, while consuming significant amounts 
of scarce conservation resources. The present system for designating 
critical habitat has evolved since its original statutory prescription 
into a process that provides little real conservation benefit, is 
driven by litigation and the courts rather than biology, limits our 
ability to fully evaluate the science involved, consumes enormous 
agency resources, and imposes huge social and economic costs. We 
believe that rational public policy demands serious attention to this 
issue in order to allow our focus to return to true conservation 
    While attention to and protection of habitat is paramount to 
successful conservation actions, we have consistently found that, in 
most circumstances, the designation of critical habitat is of little 
additional value for most listed species, yet it consumes large amounts 
of conservation resources. Sidle (1987) stated, ``Because the ESA can 
protect species with and without critical habitat designation, critical 
habitat designation may be redundant to the other consultation 
requirements of section 7.''
    Currently, only 306 species or 25 percent of the 1,211 listed 
species in the U.S. under the jurisdiction of the Service have 
designated critical habitat. We address the habitat needs of all 1,211 
listed species through conservation mechanisms such as listing, section 
7 consultations, the section 4 recovery planning process, the section 9 
protective prohibitions of unauthorized take, section 6 funding to the 
States, and the section 10 incidental take permit process. We believe 
that these measures are superior conservation strategies compared to 
the designation of critical habitat.
    We have been inundated with lawsuits for our failure to designate 
critical habitat, and we face a growing number of lawsuits challenging 
critical habitat determinations once they are made. These lawsuits have 
subjected the Service to an ever-increasing series of court orders and 
court-approved settlement agreements, compliance with which now 
consumes nearly the entire listing program budget. This leaves the 
Service with little ability to prioritize its activities to direct 
scarce listing resources to the listing program actions with the most 
biologically urgent species conservation needs.
    The consequence of the critical habitat litigation activity is that 
limited listing funds are used to defend active lawsuits, to respond to 
Notices of Intent (NOIs) to sue relative to critical habitat, and to 
comply with the growing number of adverse court orders. As a result, 
listing petition responses, the Service's own proposals to list 
critically imperiled species, and final listing determinations on 
existing proposals are significantly delayed. Litigation over critical 
habitat issues for species already listed and receiving the Act's full 
protection has precluded or delayed many listing actions nationwide.
    The accelerated schedules of court ordered designations have left 
the Service with almost no ability to confirm the scientific data in 
its administrative record or to respond in any meaningful way to 
legitimate comments before making decisions on listing and critical 
habitat proposals due to the risks associated with noncompliance with 
judicially-imposed deadlines. This in turn fosters a second round of 
litigation in which those who fear adverse impacts from critical 
habitat designations challenge those designations. The cycle of 
litigation appears endless, is very expensive, and in the final 
analysis provides relatively little additional protection to listed 
    The costs resulting from the designation include legal costs, the 
cost of preparation and publication of the designation, the analysis of 
the economic effects and the cost of requesting and responding to 
public comment, and in some cases the costs of compliance with NEPA, 
all are part of the cost of critical habitat designation. None of these 
costs result in any benefit to the species that is not already afforded 
by the protections of the Act enumerated earlier, and they directly 
reduce the funds available for direct and tangible conservation 
    We determine that, designation of critical habitat for the Central 
California tiger salamander would be prudent, if we reach a final 
determination to list the species as proposed. However, we do not 
intend to propose critical habitat at this time. Our budget for listing 
activities is currently insufficient to allow us to immediately 
complete all the listing actions required by the Act. Not designating 
critical habitat at this time allows us to provide the necessary 
protections needed for the conservation of the species without further 
delay. This is consistent with section 4(b)(6)(C)(i) of the Act, which 
states that final listing decisions may be issued without critical 
habitat designations when it is essential that such determinations be 
promptly published. The legislative history of the 1982 Act amendments 
also emphasized this point: ``The Committee feels strongly, however, 
that, where biology relating to the status of the species is clear, it 
should not be denied the protection of the Act because of the inability 
of the Secretary to complete the work necessary to designate critical 
habitat * * * . The committee expects the agencies to make the 
strongest attempt possible to determine critical habitat within the 
time period designated for listing, but stresses that the listing of 
species is not to be delayed in any instance past the time period 
allocated for such listing if the biological data is clear but the 
habitat designation process is not complete'' (H.R. Rep. No. 97-567 at 
20 (1982)). We will prepare a critical habitat designation in the 
future when our available resources allow.
    We will protect the Central California tiger salamander and its 
habitat through section 7 consultations to determine whether Federal 
actions are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the 
species, through the recovery process, and through enforcement of take 
prohibitions under section 9 of the Act.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing encourages conservation actions 
by Federal, State, and local agencies. The Act provides for possible 
land acquisition and cooperation with the State and requires that 
recovery actions be carried out for listed species. We discuss the 
protection from the actions of Federal agencies, considerations for 
protection and conservation actions, and the prohibitions against 
taking and harm for the Central California tiger salamander, in part, 
    Section 7(a) of the Act, as amended, requires Federal agencies to 
evaluate their actions with respect to any species that is proposed to 
be listed or is listed as endangered or threatened, and with respect to 
its critical habitat, if any is being designated. Regulations 
implementing this interagency cooperation provision of the Act are 
codified at 50 CFR part 402. Federal agencies are required to confer 
with us informally on any action that is likely to jeopardize the 
continued existence of a proposed species, or result in destruction or 
adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a species is 
listed subsequently, section 7(a)(2) requires Federal agencies to 
ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry

[[Page 28664]]

out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of such a 
species or to destroy or adversely modify its critical habitat. If a 
Federal agency action may affect a listed species or its critical 
habitat, the responsible Federal agency must enter into formal 
consultation with us. Federal agency actions that may affect the 
Central California tiger salamander and may require consultation with 
us include, but are not limited to, those within the jurisdiction of 
the Corps and Federal Highway Administration (FHA).
    We believe that protection and recovery of the Central California 
tiger salamander will require reduction of the threats from destruction 
and degradation of wetland and associated upland habitats due to urban 
development, exotic predators, unnecessary California ground squirrel 
and gopher control, and road construction. These threats should be 
considered when management actions are taken in habitats currently and 
potentially occupied by the Central California tiger salamander, and 
areas deemed important for dispersal and connectivity or corridors 
between known locations of this species. Monitoring also should be 
undertaken for management actions or scientific investigations designed 
to address these threats or their impacts.
    Listing also will require us to review any actions that may affect 
the Central California tiger salamander for lands and activities under 
Federal jurisdiction, State plans developed pursuant to section 6 of 
the Act, scientific investigations of efforts to enhance the 
propagation or survival of the animal, pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A) 
of the Act, and habitat conservation plans (HCPs) prepared for non-
Federal lands and activities pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
    Federal agencies with management responsibility for the Central 
California tiger salamander include the Service, in relation to the 
issuance of section 10(a)(1)(A and B) permits for HCPs and other 
programs. Occurrences of this species could potentially be affected by 
projects requiring a permit from the Corps under Section 404 of the 
CWA. The Corps is required to consult with us on applications they 
receive for projects that may affect listed species. Highway 
construction and maintenance projects that receive funding from the FHA 
would be subject to review under section 7 of the Act. In addition, 
activities that are authorized, funded, or administered by Federal 
agencies on non-Federal lands will be subject to section 7 review.
    The Act and implementing regulations found at 50 CFR 17.21 set 
forth a series of general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all 
endangered wildlife. These prohibitions, codified at 50 CFR 17.21, in 
part make it illegal for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the 
United States to take (includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect; or attempt any such conduct), 
import, export, transport in interstate or foreign commerce in the 
course of commercial activity, or sell or offer for sale in interstate 
or foreign commerce any listed species. It also is illegal to possess, 
sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such wildlife that has 
been taken illegally. Certain exceptions apply to our agents and State 
conservation agencies.
    Permits may be issued to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered wildlife under certain circumstances. Regulations 
governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.23. Such permits 
are available for scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation or 
survival of the species, and for incidental take in connection with 
otherwise lawful activities. Requests for copies of the regulations on 
listed species and inquiries about prohibitions and permits may be 
addressed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species 
Permits, 911 N.E. 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232-4181 (telephone: 503/
231-2063, facsmile: 503/231-6243).
    It is our policy, as published in the Federal Register on July 1, 
1994 (59 FR 34272), to identify, to the maximum extent practicable at 
the time a species is listed, those activities that would or would not 
constitute a violation of section 9 of the Act. The intent of this 
policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of the listing on 
proposed and ongoing activities within a species' range. We believe 
that, based on the best available information, the following actions 
are not likely to result in a violation of section 9, provided these 
actions are carried out in accordance with any existing regulations and 
permit requirements:
    (1) Possession, delivery, including interstate transport and import 
or export from the United States, involving no commercial activity, of 
Central California tiger salamanders that were collected prior to the 
date of publication of a final regulation in the Federal Register 
adding the Central California tiger salamander to the list of 
endangered and threatened species;
    (2) Any actions that may affect the Central California tiger 
salamander that are authorized, funded, or carried out by a Federal 
agency, when the action is conducted in accordance with the 
consultation requirements for listed species pursuant to section 7 of 
the Act;
    (3) Any action taken for scientific research carried out under a 
recovery permit issued by the Service pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A) 
of the Act;
    (4) Land actions or management carried out under an HCP approved by 
the Service pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act, or an approved 
conservation agreement; and
    (5) Release of western mosquitofish and the use of pesticides in 
non-breeding habitat for the California tiger salamander. Breeding 
habitat is defined as vernal pools, seasonal ponds, and stock-watering 
ponds where the animals currently breed, or such water bodies that are 
within 4.8 km (3.0 mi) of existing breeding habitat, and that contain 
surface water for at least 3 consecutive months between September and 
April on average over various precipitation year-types.
    Activities that we believe could potentially result in a violation 
of section 9 of the Act include, but are not limited to, the following:
    (1) Unauthorized possession, collecting, trapping, capturing, 
killing, harassing, sale, delivery, or movement, including intrastate, 
interstate, and foreign commerce, or harming, or attempting any of 
these actions, of California tiger salamanders. Research activities 
where salamanders are trapped or captured will require a permit under 
section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act;
    (2) Any activity not carried out pursuant to the proposed special 
rule in ``Sec.  17.43 Special rules--amphibians'' that results in 
destruction or significant alteration of habitat of the Central 
California tiger salamander, which actually kills or injures an 
individual of the species, including, but not limited to, the discharge 
of fill material, or the withdrawal of water to the point at which 
habitat becomes unsuitable for the species.
    (3) Discharges or dumping of toxic chemicals, silt, or other 
pollutants into, or other alteration of, the quality of waters 
supporting California tiger salamanders that results in death or injury 
of the species or that results in degradation of their occupied habitat 
which actually kills or injures an individual of the species;
    (4) Release of exotic species (including, but not limited to, 
bullfrogs, tiger salamanders, mosquitofish, bass, sunfish, bullhead, 
catfish, crayfish) into Central California tiger salamander breeding 
habitat which results in actual death or injury to the species;

[[Page 28665]]

    (5) Destruction or alteration of uplands associated with seasonal 
pools used by Central California tiger salamanders during estivation 
and dispersal, or modification of migration routes such that migration 
and dispersal are reduced or precluded and actual death or injury to 
the species results; and
    (6) Activities (e.g., habitat conversion, excessive livestock 
grazing, road and trail construction, recreation, development, and 
unauthorized application of herbicides and pesticides in violation of 
label restrictions) that directly or indirectly result in the death or 
injury of larvae, sub-adult, or adult Central California tiger 
salamanders, or modify Central California tiger salamander habitat and 
significantly affect their essential behavioral patterns including 
breeding, foraging, sheltering, or other life functions, causing actual 
death or injury to the species. Otherwise lawful activities that 
incidentally take Central California tiger salamanders, but have no 
Federal nexus, will require a permit under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
    Questions regarding whether specific activities would constitute a 
violation of section 9 should be directed to the Field Supervisor of 
the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).

Special Rule

    Section 4(d) of the Act provides authority for us to promulgate 
special rules for threatened species that would relax specific 
prohibitions against taking. As a means to promote conservation efforts 
of the Central California tiger salamander, we are proposing a special 
rule under section 4(d) of the Act. In the case of a special rule, the 
general regulations applying most section 9 prohibitions to threatened 
species do not apply to that species, and the special rule contains the 
prohibitions necessary and appropriate to conserve that species. Under 
the rule, take of the threatened Central California tiger salamander 
caused by existing routine ranching activities on private or Tribal 
lands that don't have a Federal nexus would be exempt from section 9 of 
the Act. We believe that this special rule will encourage landowners 
and ranchers to continue their livestock-related practices that are not 
only important for livestock operations, but also provide habitat for 
the Central California tiger salamander. Livestock use on Federal lands 
will be addressed through the section 7 process.
    Such regulations generally are issued and published as special 
rules in the Federal Register along with, or following, the listing of 
a species. In this case, we have chosen to concurrently publish this 
proposed special rule along with our proposal to list the Central 
California tiger salamander as threatened. We are proposing this 
special rule under the authority of section 4(d) of the Act containing 
the actions and prohibitions necessary to provide for the conservation 
of the Central California tiger salamander. The prohibitions we propose 
do not include the take of Central California tiger salamander during 
existing routine ranching practices, which are already listed as 
endangered. If this proposed special rule is finalized, the general 
regulations at 50 CFR 17.31 would not apply to the Central California 
tiger salamander where it is designated as threatened. Our rationale 
for a proposed special rule follows.
    The proposed rule to list the Central California tiger salamander 
as a threatened species identifies the take of the species in upland 
and aquatic habitats as one of many possible reasons for the decline of 
the animal. The proposed listing describes the potential loss of 
Central California tiger salamanders to activities routinely occurring 
on private and Tribal lands. The specific focus of this proposed 
special rule is routine activities occurring on private and Tribal 
lands currently in or that may become subject to ranching practices, 
such as livestock grazing, rodent control, stock pond management, and 
noxious weed control.
    In areas where seasonal water bodies (e.g., vernal pools) no longer 
exist due to landscape changes or alteration of local hydrologic 
conditions, the Central California tiger salamander utilizes manmade 
water supplies such as stock ponds for breeding (Stebbins 1985; Zeiner 
et al. 1988; Shaffer et al. 1993). The creation and maintenance of 
these ponds provides not only an alternate breeding site for Central 
California tiger salamanders, in the absence of naturally occurring 
sites, but also provides additional breeding habitat as well. Routine 
management practices on manmade water supplies such as stock ponds must 
be performed in order to protect water supplies and protect the 
integrity of the water storage system. Management typically includes 
periodic dredging, dam and levee repair, the introduction of fish 
species to control aquatic vegetation and pests, and the chemical 
control of aquatic vegetation.
    The Central California tiger salamander uses burrows constructed by 
small mammals as upland habitat during the non-breeding season (Loredo 
et al. 1996; Trenham 1998a). The California ground squirrel is a very 
common resident small mammal found in nearly all regions of California, 
excluding the Basin Ranges, and the Mojave and Colorado Desert regions. 
Its range overlaps significantly with the Central California tiger 
salamander. The California ground squirrel is considered a pest over 
large agricultural areas and frequently is subject to some form of 
population control.


    Our analysis indicates that this special rule will affect 
approximately 222,162 ha (548,972 ac) or 49 percent of the range of the 
Central California tiger salamander. This special rule will apply to 
land primarily used for livestock grazing. Discussions with Dr. Peter 
Trenham and Dr. Brad Shaffer, both with the University of California, 
and Dr. Gary Fellers of the U.S. Geological Survey, lead us to believe 
that livestock grazing, in many cases, has positive, or at least 
neutral, effects on the Central California tiger salamander. Vegetation 
height and density are likely habitat factors affecting the suitability 
of an area for California ground squirrels. The presence of California 
ground squirrels and their burrows provide upland habitat for the 
Central California tiger salamander. Two beneficial effects to Central 
California tiger salamanders that would occur as a result of exempting 
livestock grazing in this special rule: The maintenance of open 
rangelands that are utilized by the salamander, and the construction 
and maintenance of stockponds that are used for breeding by the 
    California ground squirrels typically construct burrows that range 
in length from 1.5 to 9.1 m (5 to 30 ft) and range in depth below the 
surface from 0.6 to 1.2 m (2 to 4 ft) (University of California 2002). 
Central California tiger salamanders generally spend much of their 
lives within the first 0.9 m (3 ft) of the burrow (Loredo and Van Vuren 
1996). Both occupied and unoccupied burrows are utilized as upland 
habitat (Loredo et al. 1996). Cattle and sheep, the two most common 
domestic grazing animals in California, have coexisted with California 
ground squirrels and Central California tiger salamanders since the 
arrival of early Spaniard explorers to California in the 16th century. 
It has not been demonstrated in the scientific literature, nor do we 
expect, that continued moderate intensity livestock grazing will 
destroy rodent burrows to such an extent that Central California tiger 
salamanders cannot use them as upland habitat. Additionally, small 
mammal burrows collapse naturally within 18 months if not maintained 
(Loredo et al. 1996), so

[[Page 28666]]

we expect that Central California tiger salamanders are forced 
naturally to move within or between burrows as they decay and collapse.
    Control of vegetation by grazing livestock may encourage California 
ground squirrels to colonize areas they typically would not colonize 
due to the height and density of the vegetation. California ground 
squirrels are active during daylight hours and are preyed upon by 
diurnal raptors (birds of prey) such as red-tailed hawks (Buteo 
jamaicensis), and by larger predatory mammals such as coyotes (Canis 
latrans) and bobcats (Lynx rufus). Establishing home ranges in areas 
where vegetation is controlled by grazing livestock provides an 
advantage to California ground squirrels in being able to detect and 
avoid predation by their natural predators. Also, less vegetation may 
facilitate the movement of Central California tiger salamanders from 
upland areas to breeding ponds. Lack of vegetation is not anticipated 
to increase the risk of Central California tiger salamanders to 
predators as they typically move during hours of darkness, and most 
generally, during periods of rainfall. Nocturnal predators such as 
owls, skunks (Mephitis sp.), and racoons (Procyon lotor) rely more on 
their olfactory and auditory senses to locate prey than their vision. 
Although the height of the surrounding vegetation may afford a slight 
advantage to Central California tiger salamanders in avoiding 
predators, we do not anticipate that vegetation height plays a 
significant role in preventing depredation of Central California tiger 
salamanders by nocturnal predators.
    Central California tiger salamanders may be subject to take during 
routine control of California ground squirrel populations on private 
lands. The California ground squirrel can, in moderate to high-
densities, significantly deplete forage for grazing livestock, thereby 
reducing the carrying capacity on rangeland as well as irrigated 
pasture land (Marsh 1994). Grinnell and Dixon (1918) calculated that 
200 ground squirrels could consume as much forage as a 454 kilogram 
(kg) (1,000 pounds (lbs)) steer during the spring months (Marsh 1998). 
Most commonly, routine control of California ground squirrels and other 
burrowing rodents includes shooting individual squirrels, baiting 
squirrel burrows or colonies with poisonous grains, fumigating burrows 
with toxic or suffocating gases, and discing or blading over burrow 
openings to destroy burrow complexes and fill openings.
    Shooting individual squirrels, while potentially harmful to other 
species through secondary lead poisoning, is not expected to have 
adverse effects on Central California tiger salamanders. To be 
effective, a population must be kept under constant shooting pressure 
which is time consuming and not cost effective over the long-term. 
Discing and/or blading burrow complexes to destroy burrows and fill 
burrow openings may result in take of Central California tiger 
salamanders. Although the extent of this practice has not been 
documented, conversations with landowners lead us to believe this 
activity generally does not occur over widespread areas on any given 
parcel of land. Generally, this type of activity is limited to areas in 
or near ranch buildings, and in areas where livestock tend to be 
concentrated (e.g., corrals and watering areas). Poisonous grains such 
as Chlorophacinone[reg] and toxic and suffocating gases 
(e.g., Phostoxin[reg]) are regulated by the EPA, CDPR, and 
other county and local ordinances. Toxic and suffocating gases also may 
result in high levels of salamander mortality. In areas where federally 
listed species are known to occur, regulations on the use of toxicants 
to control California ground squirrels are more restrictive, and these 
restrictions should provide an ``umbrella'' protection for Central 
California tiger salamanders from take associated with routine ground 
squirrel control. In Counties where more stringent guidelines are not 
in place to protect listed species, we will continue to work with 
agencies to develop use guidelines for these products and activities.
    California's annual precipitation ranges from less than 20 cm (8 
in) in the San Joaquin Valley to more than 127 cm (50 in) along the 
northern coast range, western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and 
parts of the Cascade Range (National Climatic Data Center 2003). 
Summers are dry with little or no rainfall, and abnormally dry winters 
can be disastrous on both summer water supplies and the quality of 
feeding ranges for domestic livestock. In some areas of California, 
spring/summer range usually does not support more than one cow-calf 
unit per 4 to 8 ha (10 to 20 ac) of range, with each cow being able to 
consume up to 57 liters (15 gallons) of water per day per 454 kg (1,000 
lbs) of body weight (Ohlenbusch et al. 1995). Considering the limited 
availability of naturally occurring water across California's 
rangeland, routine management of stock ponds is critical to the 
economic success of ranching operations. During heavy winter rain 
events, stock pond dams and levees may be subject to overflows that 
cause severe erosion (head-cutting) of the dam faces and containment 
levees. Without immediate repair, critical summer water supplies will 
be lost. Pond vegetation is typically controlled by grazing animals 
using the water supply. However, at times the vegetation must be 
controlled through mechanical means or herbicide applications to 
prevent excess loss of water supply through evapotranspiration, and to 
prevent aquatic vegetation from completely dominating the pond. In some 
ponds, fish are introduced to help control vegetation and insects. 
However, this practice is limited to year-round ponds which are 
typically not suitable habitat for Central California tiger salamander 
    We propose to include in this rule an exemption for incidental take 
of Central California tiger salamanders during routine ranching 
activities by non-Federal entities on private and Tribal lands for the 
following activities: (1) Livestock grazing according to normally 
acceptable and established levels of intensity in terms of the number 
of head of livestock per acre of rangeland; (2) control of ground-
burrowing rodents using poisonous grain according to the labeled 
directions and local, State and Federal regulations and guidelines. The 
use of toxic or suffocating gases is not exempt from the prohibitions 
due to its non-target specific mode of action; (3) control and 
management of burrow complexes using discing and grading to destroy 
burrows and fill openings is exempt. This exemption does not apply to 
large-scale discing or grading of rangeland (more than 4 ha (10 ac)) 
within any one-quarter section of a single township and range for 
burrow control and management; (4) routine management and maintenance 
of stock ponds and berms to maintain livestock water supplies at levels 
present at the time of the listing of the Central California tiger 
salamander. This exemption does not include the introduction of species 
into the stock pond that may prey on Central California tiger 
salamander adult, larvae, or eggs; or the introduction of chemicals 
into the stock pond during the general breeding season of the Central 
California tiger salamander that would result in the take of Central 
California tiger salamander adults, larvae, or eggs, or result in 
decreased reproductive success; and (5) control and management of 
noxious weeds.

Provisions of the Proposed Special Rule

    We propose to exempt existing routine ranching practices from the 
prohibitions on take (see 50 CFR 17.31) for the Central California 

[[Page 28667]]

salamander. The finalization of this special rule is contingent upon a 
final listing of the Central California tiger salamander. Exempted 
activities include existing routine ranching practices as outlined 
above by non-Federal entities on existing rangeland (as defined by U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service 
1997 Census of Agriculture--Appendix (1)) except for the Sonoma County 
DPS and Santa Barbara County DPS of the California tiger salamander, 
which are already listed as endangered.

Take Prohibitions

    We propose that the prohibitions under section 9 of the Act that 
apply to threatened species continue to apply all California tiger 
salamander populations, to the same extent that they apply to other 
threatened species under our general regulations at 50 CFR 17.31.

Effects of the Special Rule on Future Section 7 Consultations

    This special rule does not change the obligation of Federal 
agencies to consult with us under section 7 of the Act concerning 
actions they authorize, fund, or carry out that may affect listed 
species, including the California tiger salamander.
    Section 10(a)(1)(B) authorizes us to issue permits for the take of 
listed species incidental to otherwise lawful activities, such as 
agriculture, surface mining, and urban development. Incidental take 
permits must be supported by an HCP that identifies conservation 
measures that the permittee agrees to implement to conserve the 
species, usually on the permittee's lands. Such conservation measures 
may, for example, minimize the reduction in the number of California 
ground squirrels whose burrows are used by estivating California tiger 
salamanders. These and other techniques to avoid take of California 
tiger salamanders or protect the species can be examined in the 
development of an HCP, candidate conservation agreement with assurances 
(while unlisted), or safe harbor agreement. A key element in our review 
of each of these conservation strategies is a determination of the 
plan's effect upon the long-term conservation of the species. We would 
approve an HCP, and issue a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit, as appropriate, 
if the plan would minimize and mitigate the impacts of the take to the 
maximum extent practicable and would not appreciably reduce the 
likelihood of the survival and recovery of that species in the wild.
    We also are exploring other opportunities to permit conservation 
activities for the California tiger salamander. In particular, we 
encourage the public to comment on the desirability of promulgating a 
special rule under section 4(d) of the Act that would exempt from the 
section 9 take prohibition activities associated with conservation 
plans for the California tiger salamander. Eligible conservation plans 
would need to promote recovery and be approved by the Service. 
Activities potentially addressed under such a plan, and which would be 
exempt from the section 9 take provisions, could include, but are not 
limited to, construction of new breeding and upland habitats, fencing, 
and removal of bullfrogs or other exotic animals.

Reclassification of Santa Barbara County Population and Sonoma County 

    As noted above, we published a final determination on January 19, 
2000, listing the Santa Barbara County tiger salamander as endangered 
(65 FR 3095). We hereby incorporate by reference in this document the 
provisions of that final determination. We determined that, based on 
geographic isolation, the lack of evidence of gene flow with other 
populations, and marked genetic differentiation, the Santa Barbara 
County population of California tiger salamanders meets the 
discreteness and significance criteria in our Policy Regarding the 
Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments and qualifies as 
a DPS. In making this determination, we assessed the best scientific 
and commercial information available regarding the past, present, and 
future threats faced by the Santa Barbara County population of 
California tiger salamanders. Like the California tiger salamander, the 
Santa Barbara population is restricted to breeding ponds threatened by 
agricultural conversion, fragmentation, and development. Ponds and 
upland habitats are being lost in all four regions of the county in 
which the species occurs. On the other hand, the Santa Barbara 
salamander occurs in a significant part of its historic range. There 
are 14 known breeding sites all located on privately owned land, and no 
conservation agreements or easements were in place as of the data of 
the final listing determination.
    Also as noted above, on March 19, 2003, we published a final 
determination listing the Sonoma County tiger salamander as endangered 
(68 FR 13497). We incorporate by reference here the provisions of that 
determination. We determined that the population segment meets both the 
discreteness and significance criteria of our DPS policy and qualifies 
for listing. In making this determination, we carefully assessed the 
best scientific and commercial information available at that time 
regarding the past, present, and future threats faced by the Sonoma 
County California tiger salamander. We found that the DPS faces 
continuing habitat destruction, degradation, and fragmentation. We were 
able to identify only eight known breeding sites in Sonoma County. 
However, we observed: ``We note that the petition and subsequent 
emergency listing of this population has led to increased interest in 
this population by a variety of parties, and thus to an acceleration of 
the rate at which new information is becoming available. We expect this 
trend to continue subsequent to this final listing determination'' (68 
FR 13502).
    The analysis of threats for the Santa Barbara and Sonoma 
populations is virtually identical to that for the Central California 
population which we are proposing for threatened status. The research 
supporting the final Santa Barbara determination, the final Sonoma 
determination and this proposed rule is the same. In both cases, 
habitat loss is the apparent key threat. The remaining threats are 
precisely the same. Obviously there are site-specific distinctions 
which may be of significance. Given this identity of threat, it may be 
that the populations should have the same status. Such a determination 
may turn on a number of factors. For example, is the rate of habitat 
conversion in Santa Barbara County and Sonoma County more or less that 
of the 23-county area in which the Central California tiger salamander 
population is found? Is the habitat remaining in the Central Valley 
equivalent to that remaining in Santa Barbara County or Sonoma County? 
Is the tiger salamander population more or less imperiled in Santa 
Barbara and Sonoma Counties given that Santa Barbara's recent annual 
growth rate has been about 1 percent, Sonoma's has been under 1 
percent, and in the counties in the range of the Central California 
tiger salamander, growth has averaged in excess of 1 percent 
(California Department of Finance 2003)?
    In the final rule to list the Sonoma County population, we 
announced that: ``As a part of [this] rulemaking we intend to review 
all then-current information regarding both the Sonoma County and Santa 
Barbara County populations, including whether they constitute valid 
distinct population segments, and render a final

[[Page 28668]]

determination on the California tiger salamander accordingly'' (68 FR 
    Pursuant to that announcement and given the potential issues 
surrounding the correct status for the Sonoma and Santa Barbara 
populations, we now propose the following:
    (1) That the Sonoma County DPS of the California tiger salamander 
be reclassified from endangered to threatened.
    (2) That the Santa Barbara County DPS of the California tiger 
salamander be reclassified from endangered to threatened.
    (3) That the proposed special rule under section 4(d) of the ESA be 
extended to the DPSs in Santa Barbara and Sonoma Counties, as well as 
to the Central California DPS.
    The basis for proposing that the special rule be extended to Santa 
Barbara and Sonoma Counties is that our analysis in those areas, like 
that in the range of the Central California tiger salamander, shows 
that grazing generally is compatible with the continued use of 
rangelands by the California tiger salamander as long as intensive 
burrowing rodent control programs are not implemented on such areas and 
grazing is not excessive. Indeed, in Santa Barbara County, the only 
remaining sites with large amounts of suitable salamander habitat 
(eight ponds at five sites) currently are being grazed. These 
rangelands are the only undeveloped habitat in the area and thus 
provide the only chance for salamanders to breed successfully. 
Additionally, in all areas, to the extent that conversion of rangelands 
to more intensive agricultural activity is postponed, conservation of 
the tiger salamander will be enhanced.
    If this proposal is finalized without change, all three DPSs will 
have the same status. We are not, however, proposing at this time to 
eliminate the DPSs in favor of a single listed population. We will take 
public comment on that issue.

Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we are 
soliciting comments from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning this proposed rule. We are particularly seeking 
comments concerning:
    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any threat (or lack thereof) to the California tiger salamander;
    (2) The location of any additional populations or breeding sites of 
this species, and the reasons why any habitat should or should not be 
determined to be critical habitat pursuant to section 4 of the Act;
    (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, and 
population sizes of this species;
    (4) Current or planned activities or land use practices in the 
subject area and their possible impacts on this animal;
    (5) Additional information pertaining to the promulgation of a 
special rule to exempt from section 9 take prohibitions existing 
routine ranching practices located on private and Tribal lands where 
the Central DPS occurs; and
    (6) Additional information pertaining to the Central, Sonoma 
County, and Santa Barbara County populations, including data on their 
validity as DPSs, or whether other designations, such as a single 
rangewide designation or combinations of designations including 
additional DPSs, is more appropriate.
    If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and materials 
concerning this proposal by any one of several methods: (1) You may 
submit written comments and information to the Field Supervisor at the 
address provided in the ADDRESSES section above; (2) You also may 
comment via the electronic mail (e-mail) to catiger@R1.fws.gov. Please 
submit e-mail comments as an ASCII file avoiding the use of special 
characters and any form of encryption. Please also include ``Attn: 
[1018-AI68]'' and your name and address in your e-mail message. If you 
do not receive a confirmation from the system that we have received 
your e-mail message, contact us directly by calling our Sacramento Fish 
and Wildlife Office at telephone number 916/414-6600. Please note the 
internet address CATIGER@R1.fws.gov will be terminated at the close of 
the comment period; and (3) You may hand-deliver comments to our 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section above).
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Commenters may request that we withhold their home 
addresses from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to the extent 
allowed by law. There also may be circumstances in which we would 
withhold from the rulemaking record a commenter's identity, as 
allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name and/or address, 
you must state this prominently at the beginning of your comment. 
However, we will not consider anonymous comments. We will make all 
submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals 
identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations 
or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety. 
Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 

Public Hearings

    The Act provides for one or more public hearings on this proposal, 
if requested. Requests for public hearings must be made within 45 days 
of the publication of a proposed rule (section 4(b)(5)(E) of the Act). 
Given the high likelihood of requests, and the need to proceed as 
expeditiously as possible, the Service will hold public hearings on the 
dates and locations described in the DATES and ADDRESSES sections 
    The purpose of the public hearings announced here is to take oral 
comments on the proposed listing. Oral comments will be transcribed and 
will be given equal weight to comments submitted by other means. 
However, we encourage those commenting orally to submit written 
versions of their comments as well.
    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in a public hearing should contact the Field Supervisor of 
the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section) as soon 
as possible. In order to allow sufficient time to process requests, 
please call no later than 1 week before the hearing.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 
34270), we will solicit the expert opinions of at least three 
appropriate and independent specialists regarding the proposed rule. 
The purpose of such review is to ensure listing decisions are based on 
scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We will send 
these peer reviewers copies of this proposed rule immediately following 
publication in the Federal Register. We will invite these peer 
reviewers to comment, during the public comment period, on the specific 
assumptions and conclusions regarding the proposed listing and special 

Executive Order 12866

    Executive Order 12866 requires agencies to write regulations that 
are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make this 

[[Page 28669]]

easier to understand, including answers to questions such as the 
following--(1) Is the discussion in the ``Supplementary Information'' 
section of the preamble helpful in understanding the proposal? (2) Does 
the proposal contain technical language or jargon that interferes with 
its clarity? (3) Does the format of the proposal (grouping and order of 
sections, use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) aid or reduce its 
clarity? What else could we do to make the proposal easier to 

Required Determinations

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This rule does not contain any information collection requirements 
for which Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), is required. Any 
information collection related to the rule pertaining to permits for 
endangered and threatened species has OMB approval and is assigned 
clearance number 1018-0094. This rule does not alter that information 
collection requirement. For additional information concerning permit 
and associated requirements for threatened species, see 50 CFR 17.32.

Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 13211 on 
regulations that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and 
use. Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of 
Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. This rule is not 
expected to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, or use. 
Therefore, this action is not a significant energy action, and no 
Statement of Energy Effects is required.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an Environmental Assessment and 
Environmental Impact Statement, as defined under the authority of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in 
connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Endangered Species Act as amended. We published a notice outlining our 
reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 
1983 (48 FR 49244).

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951) and 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. We will discuss this 
proposal with potentially affected Tribes before we make a final 
listing determination.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this rulemaking is 
available upon request from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    For the reasons given in the preamble, we hereby propose to amend 
part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations, as set forth below:


    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

    2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by revising the entry for ``Salamander, 
California tiger'' under AMPHIBIANS in the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife as follows:

Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Salamander, California tiger.....  Ambystoma             U.S.A. (CA)........  U.S.A. (CA--Central  T               ...........           NA         Sec.
                                    californiense.                             California except                                                17.43(c)
                                                                               for Sonoma County
                                                                               and Santa Barbara
 Do..............................  ......do............  ......do...........  U.S.A. (CA--Santa    T                 677E, 702           NA         Sec.
                                                                               Barbara County).                                                 17.43(c)
 Do..............................  ......do............  ......do...........  U.S.A. (CA--Sonoma   T                 729E, 734           NA         Sec.
                                                                               County).                                                         17.43(c)
                                                                      * * * * * * *

    3. Amend Sec.  17.43 by adding a new paragraph (c) to read as 

Sec.  17. 43  Special rules--amphibians.

* * * * *
    (c) California tiger salamander (Abystoma californiense).
    (1) Which populations of the California tiger salamander is covered 
by this special rule? All three distinct population segments (DPSs) of 
the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) listed in 
Sec.  17.11 (the Central California DPS, the Santa Barbara County DPS, 
and the Sonoma County DPS).
    (2) What activities are prohibited? Except as noted in paragraph 
(c)(3) of this section, all prohibitions of Sec.  17.31 will apply to 
all three population segments of the California tiger salamander.
    (3) What activities are allowed on private or Tribal land? 
Incidental take of the California tiger salamander will not be a 
violation of section 9 of the Act, if the incidental take results from 
existing routine ranching activities located on private or Tribal 
lands. ``Existing'' is defined as any date on or before the effective 
date of the final rule to list the Central California tiger salamander. 
Existing routine ranching activities

[[Page 28670]]

include the following: (i) Livestock grazing according to normally 
acceptable and established levels of intensity in terms of the number 
of head of livestock per acre of rangeland; (ii) control of ground-
burrowing rodents using poisonous grain according to the labeled 
directions and local, State, and Federal regulations and guidelines 
(The use of toxic or suffocating gases is not exempt from the 
prohibitions due to its non-target specific mode of action.); (iii) 
control and management of burrow complexes using discing and grading to 
destroy burrows and fill openings is exempt (This exemption does not 
apply to large-scale discing or grading of rangeland (more than 4 ha 
(10 ac)) within any one-quarter section of a single township and range 
for burrow control and management.); (iv) routine management and 
maintenance of stock ponds and berms to maintain livestock water 
supplies at levels present at the time of the listing of the Central 
California tiger salamander (This exemption does not include the 
introduction of species into the stock pond that may prey on California 
tiger salamander adult, larvae, or eggs; or the introduction of 
chemicals into the stock pond during the general breeding season of the 
California tiger salamander that would result in the take of California 
tiger salamander adults, larvae, or eggs, or result in decreased 
reproductive success.); and (v) control and management of noxious 

    Dated: May 15, 2003.
Matt Hogan,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 03-12695 Filed 5-22-03; 8:45 am]