[Federal Register: December 23, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 247)]
[Page 78822-78823]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R3-ES-2008-N0263; 30120-1113-0000 D2]

Approved Recovery Plan for the Copperbelly Water Snake Northern 
Distinct Population Segment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of the approved recovery plan for the copperbelly water 
snake (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta) northern distinct population 
segment (DPS). The threatened copperbelly water snake northern DPS 
occurs in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. This plan includes specific 
recovery objectives and criteria to achieve delisting of the species 
from the Endangered Species Act (Act).

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the recovery plan by sending a 
request to Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological 
Services Field Office, 2651 Coolidge Road, Suite 101, East Lansing, MI 
48823-6316 (printed copies will be available for distribution within 4 
to 6 weeks), or download it from the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Barbara Hosler, at the above 
address or by telephone at (517) 351-6326. TTY users may contact Ms. 
Hosler through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.



    Recovery of endangered or threatened animals and plants to the 
point where they are again secure, self-sustaining members of their 
ecosystems is a primary goal of our endangered species program. To help 
guide the recovery effort, we are working to prepare recovery plans for 
most listed species native to the United States. Recovery plans 
describe actions considered necessary for the conservation of the 
species, establish criteria for reclassification or delisting listed 
species, and estimate time and cost for implementing the measures 
    The Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires us to develop recovery 
plans for listed species unless such a plan will not promote the 
conservation of a particular species. Section 4(f) of the Act, as 
amended in 1988, requires us to provide the public notice and an 
opportunity for public review and comment during recovery plan 
development. We provided the draft copperbelly water snake recovery 
plan to the public and solicited comments from September 6, 2007, 
through November 5, 2007 (72 FR 51242). We considered information 
received during the public comment period and information from peer 
reviewers in our preparation of the recovery plan, and also summarized 
that information in Appendix E of this approved recovery plan.
    We listed the copperbelly water snake northern DPS as threatened on 
January 29, 1997 (62 FR 4183). 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 five, 
very small scattered and isolated populations in south central 
Michigan, northeastern Indiana, and northwestern Ohio. Surveys indicate 
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 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 copperbelly water snake northern DPS is threatened by habitat 
loss and fragmentation, human persecution, inadequate habitat 
management, and road crossings. The principal limiting factor for this 
species is the availability of wetland/upland habitat complexes of 
sufficient size. 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.
    The principal recovery strategy is to establish and conserve 
multiple wetland/upland habitat complexes that provide adequate habitat 
for population persistence. The recovery strategy focuses on targeted 
habitat restoration and implementation of ``best management practices'' 
for land managers. The objective of the recovery plan is to provide a 
framework for the recovery of copperbelly water snake northern DPS so 
that protection by the Act is no longer necessary. The copperbelly 
water snake will be considered for delisting when section 4(a)(1) 
threat factors under the Act are assessed and when the following 
criteria are met: (1) Multiple population viability is assured; (2) 
sufficient habitat is conserved and managed; and (3) significant 
threats due to lack of suitable management, adverse land features and 
uses, collection, and persecution have been reduced or eliminated.
    We will achieve these criteria through the following actions: (1) 
Identify and conserve habitat complexes 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.
    Criteria to reclassify the copperbelly water snake northern DPS to 
endangered status is also provided. The species will be considered for 
reclassification from threatened to endangered status when section 
4(a)(1) threat factors under the Act are assessed

[[Page 78823]]

and when either of the following criteria is met: (1) There are no 
known populations of more than 500 adults, or (2) the cumulative 
population size is less than 1000 adults.

    Authority: Sec. 4(f) of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 

    Dated: December 5, 2008.
Lynn M. Lewis,
Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Midwest Region.
[FR Doc. E8-30489 Filed 12-22-08; 8:45 am]