On October 18, 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced 12-month findings on a petition to list three California-based salamander species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA): the Kern Plateau salamander (Batrachoseps robustus), the Kern Canyon slender salamander (Batrachoseps simatus), and the relictual slender salamander (Batrachoseps relictus). All three salamander species occur in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. The Service determined that listing the Kern Canyon slender salamander and the relictual slender salamander is warranted, but that listing the Kern Plateau salamander is not warranted at this time.
In the Federal Register notice, the Service proposes listing the Kern Canyon slender salamander as a threatened species, along with a rule under section 4(d) of the ESA (4(d) rule). The Service also proposes listing the relictual slender salamander as an endangered species. In addition, the proposed rule includes a proposed critical habitat designation for each species. The proposed critical habitat designation includes approximately 2,051 acres for the Kern Canyon Slender salamander, and 2,685 acres for the relictual slender salamander. All critical habitat for both species is located in Kern County, California. Finally, the Service announced the availability of a draft economic analysis of the proposed critical habitat designations.
According to the notice, the Service determined that the main threats impacting the Kern Canyon slender salamander include threats posed by increasing grazing, recreation, fire, and climate change, while the relictual slender salamander faces threats primarily caused by roads, grazing, fire, timber harvest, and hazard tree removal. The Service also noted the relictual slender salamander’s particularly limited ecological setting leaves it vulnerable to extinction by just a single catastrophic event.
ESA section 4(d) provides the Service with discretion to promote conservation of a threatened species by allowing the agency to issue regulations specific to the conservation needs of the species. The Service’s proposed 4(d) rule for the Kern Canyon slender salamander, which would apply only if the proposed rule to list the species is made final, prohibits the following activities, unless otherwise authorized: importing or exporting; take; possession and other acts with unlawfully taken specimens; delivering, receiving, carrying, transporting, or shipping in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial activity; or selling or offering for sale in interstate or foreign commerce. The proposed 4(d) rule does provide exceptions for fuel management activities expected to have negligible impacts on the species and fuel management activities on private lands where no Federal nexus exists.
The Service is accepting comments on the proposed rules and draft economic analysis until December 19, 2022.
Sara Greenberg assists in advising clients on environmental and land use matters involving the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the ...
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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