Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) announced its 90-day findings on various petitions under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Service found that 23 petitions presented substantial scientific or commercial information that listing the species as endangered or threatened may be warranted. The Service is therefore initiating a 12-month status review of these species to determine if the petitioned actions are warranted. Comments are due on November 17, 2015. Fifteen of the petitions subject to a 12-month status review cover species primarily located in the western United States. As noted in the petitions, potential threats to these species include timber harvest, mining, renewable energy projects, agriculture, water diversions and climate change. The range, habitat and potential threats to those species located in the western United States are described further below.1 The Service did not initiate a status review in response to a petition to delist the Stephens’ kangaroo rat, which is found in western Riverside County and northern San Diego County, California. The Service initiated a 12-month status review for the following species:
- California Spotted Owl
Range: West side of the Sierra Nevada from Shasta County south to the Tehachapi Pass, and all major mountains of southern California. In addition, the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada and in the central Coast Ranges at least as far north as Monterey County.
Habitat: Mixed-conifer and red fir forests. In the Coast Range, redwood/California-laurel forests.
Potential threats: Timber harvest and urbanization.
- Inyo Mountains Salamander
Range: Inyo Mountains, Inyo County, California.
Habitat: Along small permanent desert springs and seeps with riparian vegetation.
Potential threats: Mining activities, damage from livestock and water diversions.
- Kern Plateau Salamander
Range: Kern Plateau (Tulare County); the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada draining into Owens and Indian Wells valleys (Inyo County); and the Scodie Mountains (Kern County).
Habitat: Moist areas among a variety of montane conifer, hardwood and shrub species near the springs of the Kern Plateau and Scodie Mountains.
Potential threats: Habitat degradation through capping of springs. Also, renewable energy projects, specifically, plans to develop wind energy near the species’ habitat.
- Lesser Slender Salamander
Range: Southern Santa Lucia Range of north-central San Luis Obispo County. Also, north of Black Mountain, and south and east into the drainages of Paso Robles and Santa Rita Creeks.
Habitat: Moist canyons surrounded by relatively dry habitats.
Potential threats: Pesticide drift, modernization and expansion from nearby commercial activities (vineyards and wineries).
- Limestone Salamander
Range: A short section of the Merced River, from the main highway to Yosemite National Park west to a region known as Hell Hollow, and a short distance up the North Fork of the Merced River.
Habitat: There is a general association with limestone, but salamanders have been found on the surface under both slate slabs and irregularly shaped pieces of limestone.
Potential threats: Mining and quarrying operations. It is susceptible to any activities that clear the land.
- Panamint Alligator Lizard
Range: Desert mountains of Inyo and Mono Counties.
Habitat: Scrub desert, Joshua-tree woodland and the lower edge of the pinyon-juniper belt. Most known locations are in canyon riparian zones below permanent springs.
Potential threats: Direct loss of riparian habitat, due to expanded mining operations, off-highway vehicle activity, grazing and introduction of non-native invasive plant species.
- Shasta Salamander
Range: A small area in northern California, in the headwaters of the Shasta Reservoir drainage, Shasta County, California.
Habitat: Only in limestone-dominated areas. The salamanders are mostly found in oak-sabine pine woodland, also in Douglas-fir woodland and ponderosa/Jeffrey pine-oak at higher elevations.
Potential threats: Timber management, quarrying and recreational activity.
- Southern Rubber Boa
Range: The San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains at elevations between about 5,050 feet and 8,070 feet.
Habitat: Mixed conifer-oak forest or woodland. Rock outcrops and surface materials (such as rocks, logs and a well-developed litter/duff layer).
Potential threats: Logging and land development.
California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington
- Tricolored Blackbird
Range: California’s Central Valley and surrounding foothills. Tricolors are sparsely distributed throughout coastal and inland locations north of the Central Valley and in southern California. California supports more than 99% of the population, but the species has also been reported in small numbers in southern Oregon, the northwestern coast of Baja California, western Nevada and central Washington.
Habitat: Freshwater marshes, alkali flats, native grasslands, riparian forests and oak savannas.
Potential threats: Direct loss and degradation of habitat from human activities. Most native habitats that once supported nesting and foraging have been replaced by urbanization and agricultural croplands unsuited to the species’ needs.
California, Oregon and Washington
- Tufted Puffin
Range: Coastal islands and on mainland coastlines of the north Pacific Ocean in Washington, Oregon and California. Tufted puffins have nested as far south as the Channel Islands in California off the coast of Los Angeles.
Habitat: Steep, rocky coastal islands and coastal habitat on the mainland bordering the Pacific Ocean.
Potential threats: Fisheries bycatch and depletion of forage species targeted by commercial and/or recreational fisheries. Oil pollution, such as resulting from spills and other releases into the marine environment.
Oregon and Washington
- Cascade Torrent Salamander
Range: The west slope of the Cascade Mountains from just north of Mount Saint Helens, Skamania County, Washington, south to northeastern Lane County, Oregon.
Habitat: Coniferous forests in small, cold mountain streams and spring seepages.
Potential threats: Timber harvest and inputs of salt and sand from ski areas.
- Columbia Torrent Salamander
Range: Coastal and near-coastal regions of northwestern Oregon and southwestern Washington, from the Little Nestucca River system in the south to the Chehalis River in the north.
Habitat: Coastal coniferous forests in small, cold mountain streams and spring seepages.
Potential threats: Timber harvest, which can (1) deposit sediments that degrade microhabitats and (2) remove canopy cover resulting in elevated stream temperatures.
Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Washington
- Northern Bog Lemming
Range: Northern Washington, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota and New England. Throughout Alaska south of Brooks Range, except the Aleutian Islands.
Habitat: Cold, wet bogs or grass/forb meadows within or on the edges of the boreal coniferous forest. Peatlands, consisting of fens and bogs.
Potential threats: Timber harvest and mineral exploration in peatlands. Also, peat harvesting.
Arizona, Nevada and Utah
- Virgin River Spinedace
Range: Virgin River basin in northwestern Arizona, southeastern Nevada and southwestern Utah.
Habitat: Cool, clean tributaries and inflow areas of larger streams. Spinedace generally occur in streams below 4,500 feet in elevation.
Potential threats: Water development and flow depletion, changes in channel morphology and decreased water quality.
- Yuman Desert Fringe-Toed Lizard
Range: Scattered areas of suitable habitat in southwestern Arizona (Yuma County and Pima County).
Habitat: Sparsely vegetated windblown sand dunes and sandy flats.
Potential threats: Off-road vehicle use; commercial, residential and agricultural development.