The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has issued a final rule reclassifying the Morro shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta walkeriana) from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The final rule also includes a rule issued under ESA section 4(d) to provide for the conservation of the species.
The Morro shoulderband snail, or banded dune snail, is a type of terrestrial snail named after the dark band on the shoulder of its shell. The species is typically found in dense clumps of grass, young patches of ice plant, and stockpiled anthropogenic features, such as construction materials, wood, cement, and plastic. Like other terrestrial snails, the Morro shoulderband snail is active during rain and periods of high humidity but goes dormant during the dry summer.
The Service currently estimates the snail’s distribution to span approximately 6,520 acres in western San Luis Obispo County, California. Based on the most recent surveys, the Service estimates that thousands of Morro shoulderband snails currently exist within this area.
When the Morro shoulderband snail was originally listed as endangered in 1994, it was thought to be one of two subspecies of the banded dune snail, but was later determined to be a distinct species. The Service prepared a recovery plan for the Morro shoulderband snail in 1998, designated critical habitat for the species in 2001, and in 2006, completed a five-year review concluding that the Morro shoulderband snail population is stable to increasing and has a wider range and distribution than thought at the time of listing. As such, the Service recommended downlisting the species. According to the Service, the Morro shoulderband snail and its habitat still face impacts from development, invasive nonnative plants, wildfire, and effects associated with climate change (e.g., increased temperatures and increased frequency of droughts).
In addition to downlisting the species, the Service has issued a final 4(d) rule that prohibits take of the Morro shoulderband snail. The final 4(d) rule includes exceptions for incidental take associated with the following activities, when conducted within the range of the species:
(1) native habitat restoration activities, including invasive and/or nonnative species removal, conducted by a conservation organization pursuant to a Service-approved management or restoration plan; and
(2) fire hazard reduction activities implemented by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in accordance with a Service-approved plan.
The final rule becomes effective March 4, 2022. The Federal Register notice and supporting documents are available at regulations.gov, under Docket Number FWS-R8-ES-2019-0025.
Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.
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