[Federal Register: September 6, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 172)]
[Page 51242-51243]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Copperbelly Water Snake (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta) Draft 
Recovery Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability for review and comment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce 
availability of the draft recovery plan for the Copperbelly Water Snake 
(Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta) for public review and comment. This 
species is federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The Copperbelly Water Snake is listed as 
a Distinct Population Segment in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, north of 
40 degrees north latitude. The purpose of this plan is to recover this 
species so that it can be removed from the list of Threatened and 
Endangered Wildlife. We solicit review and comment from the public on 
this draft plan.

DATES: In order to consider your comments on the draft recovery plan, 
we must receive them on or before November 5, 2007.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy by the following means:
    1. World Wide Web: http://midwest.fws.gov/endangered; or

    2. U.S. mail or in-person pickup: Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Ecological Services Field Office, 2651 Coolidge Road, 
Suite 101, East Lansing, MI 48823-6316; telephone, (517) 351-2555.
    You may submit electronic comments on the recovery plan to this e-
mail address: copperbellyplan@fws.gov.

mail, or telephone (see ADDRESSES). TTY users may contact Mr. DeCapita 
through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.



    Recovery of endangered or threatened animals or plants is a primary 
goal of our endangered species program. Recovery plans describe actions 
considered necessary for conservation of the species, establish 
criteria for reclassification and delisting, and provide estimates of 
the time and costs for implementing the recovery measures.
    The Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires the development of 
recovery plans for listed species unless such a plan would not promote 
the conservation of a particular species. Section 4(f) of the Act, as 
amended in 1988, requires that public notice and opportunity for public 
review and comment be provided during recovery plan development. We 
will consider all information presented during a public comment period 
prior to approval of each new or revised recovery plan. We and other 
Federal agencies will also take these comments into consideration in 
the course of implementing approved recovery plans.
    The northern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the Copperbelly 
Water Snake was listed as threatened on January 29, 1997. The northern 
DPS occurs in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, north of 40 degrees north 
latitude. The current distribution of the Copperbelly Water Snake is 
limited to only a few small, scattered, and isolated population 
clusters in south central Michigan, northeastern Indiana, and 
northwestern Ohio. Surveys have indicated that the species is in 
decline throughout these areas.
    Copperbelly Water Snakes have both wetland and terrestrial habitat 
requirements. The species is associated with wetland complexes 
characterized by a preponderance of shallow wetlands, many of which 
draw down

[[Page 51243]]

seasonally. Such complexes may predominantly occur as isolated wetlands 
distributed in a forested upland matrix, floodplain wetlands fed by 
seasonal flooding, or a combination of both. Fishless wetlands, 
suitable for high anuran (frog and toad) productivity, are required to 
provide habitat and a suitable prey base.
    The principal limiting factor for copperbellies appears to be 
sufficient extent of suitable habitat. Individuals move hundreds of 
meters or more between wetlands and routinely use multiple wetlands 
over the course of an active season. They also spend substantial 
periods of time in upland habitat aestivating, foraging, and shedding. 
Populations may require many hundreds of hectares of contiguous habitat 
in order to persist.

Delisting Criteria

    The objective of the recovery plan is to provide a framework for 
the recovery of the Copperbelly Water Snake so that protection by the 
Act is no longer necessary. Copperbelly Water Snake will be considered 
for delisting when the likelihood of the species becoming extinct in 
the foreseeable future has been reduced or eliminated by the 
achievement of the following criteria. The population sizes and 
metapopulation numbers and sizes needed for delisting and 
reclassification may be updated based on further research (e.g., 
population viability analysis) on viable population sizes of 
Copperbelly Water Snake or surrogate species.
    (1) Multiple population viability is assured through the following:
    (a) At least 1 population of Copperbelly Water Snake must exceed a 
population size of 1000 adults;
    (b) Either 5 geographically distinct populations have population 
sizes of more than 500 individuals or 3 metapopulations must have a 
total population size of 3000, with none less than 500; and
    (c) Populations described in (a) and (b) above must persist at 
these levels for at least 10 years.
    (2) Sufficient habitat is conserved and managed such that for each 
population described in Criterion 1:
    (a) Wetland/upland habitat complexes sufficient to support each 
population are permanently conserved, and
    (b) Two suitable hibernation sites are permanently conserved within 
one kilometer of all suitable summer habitat.
    (3) Significant threats due to lack of suitable management, adverse 
land features and uses, collection, and persecution have been reduced 
or eliminated through the following means:
    (a) Habitat management and protection guidelines will be developed, 
distributed, and maintained;
    (b) Adverse land features and uses such as row crops and roads and 
accompanying traffic are removed, minimized, or managed within occupied 
Criterion-1 landscape complexes to the extent possible; and
    (c) A comprehensive education and outreach program that addresses 
persecution and collection deterrence will be developed and 
    These criteria will be met through the following actions: (1) 
Identify and protect habitat landscape sufficient for recovery; (2) 
Monitor known Copperbelly Water Snake populations and their habitat; 
(3) Improve baseline understanding of Copperbelly Water Snake ecology; 
(4) Develop recovery approaches to enhance recruitment and population 
size; (5) Develop and implement public education and outreach efforts; 
(6) Review and track recovery progress; and (7) Develop a plan to 
monitor Copperbelly Water Snake after it is delisted.

Reclassification Criteria

    Copperbelly Water Snake will be considered for reclassification 
from Threatened to Endangered if surveys indicate either of the 
following criteria have occurred:
    (1) There are no metapopulations of more than 500 adults.
    (2) The cumulative population size is less than 1000.
    If classified as Endangered, the species may be reclassified as 
Threatened when the reclassification criteria are no longer occurring. 
Additional detail on delisting and reclassification criteria is 
available in the draft recovery plan.

Public Comments Solicited

    The Service solicits written comments on the draft recovery plan. 
All comments received by the date specified will be considered prior to 
approval of the plan. Written comments and materials regarding the plan 
should be addressed to the Field Supervisor (see ADDRESSES). Comments 
and materials received will be available for public inspection by 
appointment during normal business hours at the above address.

    Authority: The authority for this action is section 4(f) of the 
Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533(f).

    Dated: July 25, 2007.
Wendi Weber,
Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Region 3, Fort 
Snelling, Minnesota.
 [FR Doc. E7-17582 Filed 9-5-07; 8:45 am]