[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 245 (Tuesday, December 22, 2015)]
[Pages 79606-79607]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-32108]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2015-N155; FXES11130000-156-FF08E00000]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revised Draft 
Recovery Plan for the Giant Garter Snake

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the 
availability of the Revised Draft Recovery Plan for Giant Garter Snake 
for public review and comment. This revised draft recovery plan 
includes delisting objectives and criteria, and specific actions 
necessary to delist the species from the Federal Lists of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. We request review and comment on 
this draft recovery plan from local, State, and Federal agencies, and 
the public.

DATES: We must receive any comments on this revised draft recovery plan 
on or before February 22, 2016.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of this revised draft recovery plan 
from our Web site at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/species/recovery-plans.html. Alternatively, you may contact the Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2800 Cottage Way, 
Suite W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825 (telephone 916-414-6700).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Norris, Field Supervisor, at 
the above street address or telephone number (see ADDRESSES).



    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 and the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.). Recovery means improvement of the status of listed species to 
the point at which listing is no longer appropriate under the criteria 
specified in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. The Act requires the 
development of recovery plans for listed species, unless such a plan 
would not promote the conservation of a particular species.
    We listed the giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas) as a threatened 
species on October 20, 1993 (58 FR 54053). Historical records suggest 
that the giant garter snake inhabited fresh water marshes, streams, and 
wetlands throughout the length of the Sacramento and San Joaquin 
Valleys in Central California. Today only about 5 percent of its 
historical wetland habitat acreage remains. The 13 populations 
identified at listing were isolated from one another with no protected 
dispersal corridors. Nine populations are recognized in this revised 
draft recovery plan, following an update of the 13 populations 
described in the original listing. This change is based on recent 
surveys, which indicate that two populations were extirpated, and on 
genetic research, which lead to

[[Page 79607]]

the grouping together of some of the populations.
    The giant garter snake has specific habitat needs that include 
summer aquatic habitat for foraging, bankside basking areas with nearby 
emergent vegetation for cover and thermal regulation, and upland 
refugia for extended periods of inactivity. Perennial wetlands provide 
the highest quality habitat for the giant garter snake, and rice lands, 
with interconnected water conveyance structures, serve as an 
alternative habitat in the absence of higher quality wetlands.
    The loss and subsequent fragmentation of habitat is the primary 
threat to the giant garter snake throughout the Central Valley of 
California. Habitat loss has occurred from urban expansion, 
agricultural conversion, and flood control. Habitat fragmentation 
restricts dispersal and isolates populations of the giant garter snake, 
increasing the likelihood of inbreeding, decreasing fitness, and 
reducing genetic diversity, and ultimately has resulted in the loss of 
the snake from the southern one-third of its range in former wetlands 
associated with the historical Buena Vista, Tulare, and Kern Lake beds. 
In addition to habitat loss, the remaining Central Valley populations 
of the giant garter snake are subject to the cumulative effects of a 
number of other existing and potential threats, including: roads and 
vehicular traffic, climate change, and predation by non-native species.

Recovery Plan Goals

    The purpose of a recovery plan is to provide a framework for the 
recovery of species so that protection under the Act is no longer 
necessary. A recovery plan includes scientific information about the 
species and provides criteria that enable us to gauge whether 
downlisting or delisting the species is warranted. Furthermore, 
recovery plans help guide our recovery efforts by describing actions we 
consider necessary for each species' conservation and by estimating 
time and costs for implementing needed recovery measures.
    The goal of this revised draft recovery plan is to improve the 
status of giant garter snake so that it can be delisted. To meet the 
recovery goal of delisting, the following objectives have been 
    1. Establish and protect self-sustaining populations of the giant 
garter snake throughout the full ecological, geographical, and genetic 
range of the species.
    2. Restore and conserve healthy Central Valley wetland ecosystems 
that function to support the giant garter snake and its community 
    3. Ameliorate or eliminate, to the extent possible, the threats 
that caused the species to be listed or are otherwise of concern, and 
any foreseeable future threats.
    The strategy used to recover the giant garter snake is focused on 
protecting existing occupied habitat and identifying and protecting 
areas for habitat restoration, enhancement, or creation, including 
areas that are needed to provide connectivity between populations. 
Appropriate management is needed for all giant garter snake 
conservation lands to ensure that stable and viable populations can be 
maintained in occupied areas, and that colonization will be promoted in 
restored and enhanced unoccupied habitat. As the giant garter snake 
meets delisting criteria, we will review its status and consider it for 
delisting on the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
and Plants.

Public Comments Solicited

    We solicit written comments on this revised draft recovery plan 
described in this notice. All comments received by the date specified 
in the DATES section will be considered in development of a final 
recovery plan for giant garter snake. You may submit written comments 
and information by mail or in person to the Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office at the above address (see ADDRESSES).

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.


    We developed this revised draft recovery plan under the authority 
of section 4(f) of the Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533(f). We publish this notice 
under section 4(f) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

Alexandra Pitts,
Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 2015-32108 Filed 12-21-15; 8:45 am]