U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finds Substantial Information Indicating That Delisting or Reclassifying Six Species May Be Warranted

On June 4, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a 90-day finding (pdf) that substantial scientific or commercial information indicates that delisting the Inyo California towhee (Pipilo crissalis eremophilus) and reclassifying from endangered to threatened the arroyo toad (Anaxyrus californicus), Indian Knob mountainbalm (Eriodictyon altissimum), Lane Mountain milk-vetch (Astragalus jagerianus), Modoc sucker (Catostomus microps), and Santa Cruz cypress (Cupressus abramsiana) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) may be warranted.  The Service will now conduct status reviews for these six species which result in a 12-month finding for each species determining whether the action is, in fact, warranted.

The Pacific Legal Foundation petitioned the Service requesting these actions on December 19, 2011.  The Foundation's petition was based on information contained in the most recent 5-year reviews for these six species, which were completed in 2008 and 2009.

The Inyo California towhee is a subspecies of the California towhee, a bird found in the southern Argus Mountains of the Mojave Desert.  The Service recommended delisting the Inyo California towhee in its 2008 5-year review based on a substantial increase in population numbers and an expansion of the birds' range.  Its primary threats also had been significantly reduced.

The arroyo toad is a small, dark spotted toad that resides in the headwaters of coastal drainages in southern California.  Due to the achievement of the arroyo toad recovery plan downlisting criterion of establishing 20 self-sustaining populations of the species, the Service recommended that the arroyo toad be downlisted in its 2009 5-year review.  New populations of arroyo toads, as well as additional ranges that were not known before, have been discovered, and threats to the toad, while still present, have been reduced due to conservation measures undertaken for the species and management plans that include the species.

Indian Knob mountainbalm is a perennial plant species found in San Luis Obispo County, California.  It is a diffusely branched evergreen shrub that generally ranges from six to thirteen feet in height.  The Service's primary reason for recommending downlisting the mountainbalm in its 2009 5-year review was the elimination of the threat of development throughout the species' range.

Lane Mountain milk-vetch is another perennial plant species found in the West Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, California.  The species has increased in abundance and range compared to the time of listing.  Moreover, about 80% of the species' habitat range has been placed under various conservation designations.  The Service therefore recommended downlisting the Lane Mountain milk-vetch in its 2008 5-year review.

The Modoc sucker is a small member of the sucker family found in the Pit River Basin.  The fish generally reaches only seven inches in length at maturity.   The Service recommended downlisting the Modoc sucker in its 2009 review due to a substantial reduction in threats of habitat modification, range reduction, and hybridization.  The principal remaining threat is predation by nonnative fishes.

Santa Cruz cypress is a small-statured tree in the cypress family, with mature trees reaching 82 feet in height.  The species is known from five populations in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties, California.  Due to a reduction in threats to the species and survey information indicating there are a substantially greater number of trees than were known at the time of listing, the Service recommended downlisting the Santa Cruz cypress in 2009.

The Service is requesting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding these six species.  Information must be received on or before August 3, 2012.

  • David J. Miller

    David Miller assists clients on a variety of complex land use and environment related matters, including matters dealing with the National Environmental Policy Act, Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, and 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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