The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to reclassify the Morro shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta walkeriana) from an endangered to a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and proposes a 4(d) rule for the tailored conservation of the species.
“The proposed reclassification is based upon the Service’s evaluation of the best available science, which indicates a reduction in threats and that the species’ population numbers have improved to the point that it is not currently in danger of extinction,” said Cat Darst, Assistant Field Supervisor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ventura.
Habitat protection and other conservation efforts by Service partners like the California Department of Parks and Recreation, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Morro Coast Audubon Society, Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo, the County of San Luis Obispo, and community of Los Osos, have been beneficial to the Morro shoulderband snail. Surveys conducted since the time of listing indicate that numbers now occur in the thousands rather than the hundreds.
The Service uses 4(d) rules to provide an incentive for beneficial conservation actions, and to streamline the regulatory process for actions that would result in little negative impact to the species’ recovery. The proposed 4(d) rule would enhance conservation of the Morro shoulderband snail by allowing activities that would contribute to the recovery of the species, such as habitat restoration and fire hazard reduction activities.
Along with the proposed reclassification for the Morro shoulderband snail, the Service evaluated the status of the Chorro shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta morroensis) and determined that it does not meet the definition of a threatened or endangered species under the ESA.
The Morro and Chorro shoulderband snails are terrestrial species unique to San Luis Obispo County on California’s Central Coast. The Morro shoulderband snail’s range is limited to approximately 6,500 acres in and around the community of Los Osos and the City of Morro Bay. The Chorro shoulderband snail has a much greater distribution, ranging from northern Morro Bay south, and inland through the City of San Luis Obispo.
The snails, often not much larger than a quarter, feed on decaying plant material and spend the majority of the year a hibernation-like state. Most of their feeding, reproduction, movement and growth occurs during California’s rainy season, which typically occurs from October through April.
The Service now seeks additional information, data, and public comments on the proposed reclassification and 4(d) rule for the Morro shoulderband snail.
The proposal will publish in the Federal Register on July 24, 2020, opening a 60-day public comment period. The Service will consider comments from all interested parties received by September 22, 2020. Information on how to submit comments is available at www.regulations.gov by searching under docket number FWS-R8-ES-2019-0025.