Change in Status and Critical Habitat Designation for the Flatwoods Salamander
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 2009
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today in the Federal Register a change in the classification of the flatwoods salamander into two species and a change in the status of one of those species. The Service also designated a combined total of 27,423 acres of critical habitat between both salamander species across three states and posted the final economic analysis associated with the designation.
The flatwoods salamander was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1999. A recent study split the flatwoods salamander into two species - the frosted flatwoods salamander and the reticulated flatwoods salamander. The Service has determined that endangered status is warranted for the reticulated flatwoods salamander. The frosted flatwoods salamander will retain threatened status.
Approximately 4,453 acres across portions of the states of Florida and Georgia are designated as critical habitat for the reticulated salamander. Eight critical habitat units are designated within six counties in Florida and two counties in Georgia west of the Apalachicola-Flint river drainage. These units include a total of 952 acres in state ownership, 25 acres in local ownership, and 3,476 acres in private ownership. No federal ownership acres have been designated.
For the reticulated flatwoods salamander, a total of 2,881 acres of occupied habitat on military lands in Florida have been excluded from the designation because the military has Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans (INRMP), which contain specific measures to protect the salamander and its habitat. Of these acres, 289 acres are on Navy Out-lying Field Holley, 1,880 acres are on Eglin Air Force Base, and 713 acres are on Hurlburt Field. During the process of determining critical habitat for the reticulated flatwoods salamander, concerns arose regarding a proposed alignment of a Northwest Florida Transportation Corridor Authority bypass road across Eglin Air Force Base. Although property on Eglin has not been designated as critical habitat, the salamander is listed under the Endangered Species Act and covered by the base’s INRMP therefore, Eglin is still required to protect the reticulated flatwoods salamander and its habitat.
The Service will continue to work with both of these entities and others to ensure conservation of the reticulated flatwoods salamander throughout its range.
Approximately 22,970 acres across portions of Florida and South Carolina are designated as critical habitat for the frosted flatwoods salamander. Six critical habitat units are designated within five counties of Florida, east of the Apalachicola-Flint river drainage, and three counties of coastal South Carolina. These units include a total of 18,514 acres in federal ownership, 269 acres in state ownership, and 4,187 acres in private ownership.
A total of 5,283 acres of occupied habitat for the frosted flatwoods salamander are on military lands in Georgia. These acres are covered by INRMPs which contain specific measures to protect the salamander and its habitat, and are therefore excluded from critical habitat designation. Fort Stewart Military Installation has 5,121 of the total acres and Townsend Bombing Range has 162.
The economic analysis estimates that over the 20-year period from 2009 to 2028, post-designation costs for frosted and reticulated flatwoods salamander conservation-related activities could range between $3.88 million and $6.40 million (using a three percent discount rate) and $2.49 million to $4.38 million (using a seven percent discount rate). In annualized terms, potential impacts may range from $261,000 to $430,000 (at three percent) or $235,000 to $413,000 (at seven percent).
This final rule was prepared pursuant to a court order resulting from a lawsuit filed on April 1, 2005. The Center for Biological Diversity, Wild South, and Florida Biodiversity Project filed the suit against the Secretary of Interior alleging failure to designate critical habitat for the flatwoods salamander. In a court-approved settlement agreement, the Service agreed to re-evaluate the need for critical habitat for the species and if prudent, submit a proposed designation of critical habitat to the Federal Register by January 30, 2007, and a final by January 30, 2008. A proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the flatwoods salamander was published in the Federal Register on February 7, 2007.
After this proposed rule was published, new information became available on taxonomy and additional threats to occupied habitat that necessitated a re-evaluation of the rule. On January 25, 2008, the court-approved settlement agreement was modified such that by July 30, 2008, a revised proposed critical habitat designation was to be submitted for publication in the Federal Register; the revised proposed rule was published on August 13, 2008. The court settlement was also modified such that by January 30, 2009, a final critical habitat designation for the frosted and reticulated flatwoods salamander was to be submitted for publication in the Federal Register.
The complete final rule appears in the Federal Register today and can be found at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-2403.htm. A copy also can be obtained by contacting Connie Light Dickard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, Suite A, Jackson, Mississippi 39213; phone 601-321-1121.
Critical habitat is a term defined in the Endangered Species Act. It refers to specific geographic areas that are essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and which may require special management considerations or protection. The designation of critical habitat will help ensure federal agencies and the public are aware of the flatwoods salamanders’ habitat needs and proper consultation is conducted by federal agencies when required by law.
A critical habitat designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and only applies to situations where federal funding or a federal permit are involved. It does not allow government or public access to private land. Federal agencies that undertake, fund or permit activities that may affect critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure such actions do not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Visit the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov or http://www.fws.gov/southeast/