FWS will not delist the Stephen's Kangaroo Rat
51204 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 160 / Thursday, August 19, 2010 / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2010–0052; 92220–1113–0000C5
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding on a Petition To Remove the Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 12-month finding on a petition to remove the Stephens’ kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stephensi) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. After a review of the best available scientific and commercial information, we find that delisting the Stephens’ kangaroo rat is not warranted at this time. However, we ask the public to submit to us any new information that becomes available concerning the threats to the Stephens’ kangaroo rat or its habitat at any time. This information will help us monitor and encourage the conservation of this species. DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on August 19, 2010.
Kangaroo rats are burrow-dwelling, seed-eating animals that inhabit arid and grassy habitats in western North America. They are characterized by furlined, external cheek pouches used for transporting seeds; large hind legs for rapid, bi-pedal, saltatorial (leaping) locomotion; relatively small front legs; long tails; and large heads. Stephens’ kangaroo rat typically occurs at lower elevations in flat or gently rolling grasslands of the dry inland valleys west of the Peninsular Ranges of southern California, in western Riverside and northern and central San Diego Counties. Photo by Nicole Peltier from Paw-Talk.
EXCERPT: The primary threats identified in the 1988 listing rule (53 FR 38465), habitat destruction from urban and agricultural development resulting in isolated habitat patches, has been largely ameliorated through the implementation and design of the core reserve system (through an HCP), through ongoing land acquisitions and easements, and with other conservation plans and efforts. Significant areas of habitat have been protected in western Riverside County and San Diego Counties since the species was listed. Populations in San Diego County that are on privately held lands may enhance the survival and recovery of the species, including some habitat under permanent conservation supporting the Ramona Grasslands population. The Stephens’ kangaroo rat population at Camp Pendleton/Detachment Fallbrook in San Diego County is covered by active INRMPs that include actions to provide for the long-term conservation of the Stephens’ kangaroo rat on Federal military lands. In spite of these conservation gains, significant threats to Stephens’ kangaroo rat in Riverside and San Diego Counties remain.
There has been loss,fragmentation, and degradation of Stephens’ kangaroo rat habitat in the past, and we have identified information indicating that Stephens’ kangaroo rat habitat continues to be threatened by fragmentation and degradation associated with urban development (see Factor A) in western Riverside and San Diego Counties. This habitat degradation is associated with the lack of boundary security at some of the core reserves, which allows trespass, OHV use, and trash dumping, and the lack of appropriate management (such as fire suppression) to prevent invasive species or succession to shrub-dominated communities. Lands currently or historically dedicated to agricultural activities likely continue to serve as a source of invasive, nonnative plants. Encroachment of nonnative grasses and succession to more shrubdominated communities threaten Stephens’ kangaroo rat habitat throughout the species’ range by filling open spaces and reducing the presence of forbs (Factor A).
While existing data are not adequate to estimate population size, within the existing core reserves in western Riverside County or in San Diego County, surveys indicate that the amount of Stephens’ kangaroo rat occupied habitat may be in decline in localities within both counties. Latest survey data indicate that Camp Pendleton, Detachment Fallbrook, and Lake Henshaw, in addition to previous declines in habitat populations, may have suffered declines in the amount of Stephens’ kangaroo rat occupied habitat. Predation (Factor C) and rodenticide (Factor E) continue to threaten the species and may contribute additively to other threats affecting this species. Existing regulatory mechanisms, absent the protections of the Act, provide insufficient certainty (Factor D) that efforts needed to address long-term conservation of the species will be implemented or that they will be effective in reducing the level of threats to the Stephens’ kangaroo rat throughout its range. Therefore, we find that, in absence of the Act, the existing regulatory mechanisms are not adequate to conserve Stephens’ kangaroo rat throughout its range in the foreseeable future.
In conclusion, we have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, present, and future threats faced by this species. Our review of the information pertaining to the five threat factors does not support a conclusion that the threats have been sufficiently removed or their imminence, intensity, or magnitude have been reduced to the extent that the species no longer requires the protections of the Act. Therefore, we find the Stephens’ kangaroo rat is in danger of extinction, or likely to become so within the foreseeable future, throughout all or a significant portion of its range and does not warrant delisting at this time.
KEITHINKING: The decision was disappointing for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has been engaged in years of litigation to force a decision on its petition to delist the species. In a press release, PLF stated: "Keeping the rat on the endangered list can only endanger jobs and the economy, because it imposes unnecessary restrictions on productive land use. We'll be reviewing this troubling decision to determine whether more litigation should be the next step in PLF's fight for jobs, the economy and a prudent, balanced approach to environmental regulations." For more on their perspective, visit PLF Sentry. Alternatively, the Center for Biological Diversity emphasized the continued loss of species habitat, and the need to protect the species from PLF's vision of economic development. See CBD Press Release.