Angeles Volunteer Association

SOURCE:  Fish and Wildlife Service, Press Release, April 28, 2004


A new proposal to designate 138,713 acres of critical habitat for the endangered arroyo toad (Bufo californicus) was announced today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The critical habitat includes lands in portions of Monterey, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties in California.

“The Service is proposing critical habitat only for those lands essential to the species’ conservation, based on the best scientific information currently available,” said Diane Noda, field supervisor for the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office. “We will continue working cooperatively with landowners to conserve this rare amphibian and its habitat.”

Today’s announcement is a result of legal challenges stemming from the Service’s Feb. 7, 2001 designation of critical habitat for the arroyo toad and the associated economic analysis. In response to the lawsuits, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia set aside the designation. It also granted the Service’s request to re-propose critical habitat and prepare a new economic analysis that identifies the impacts associated with the proposal. This analysis is underway and will be released separately for public review and comment.

The Service has removed 43,647 acres originally designated as critical habitat in 2001. Some of the acreage removed from the original designation includes mission-critical training areas on Fort Hunter Liggett in Monterey County and lands covered under the nearly finalized Western Riverside Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan. Based on new information on arroyo toad habitat, critical habitat along certain stream segments has been reduced, while other stream segments have been added to the proposal. Some acreage was also removed from the former designation because of refinements in the mapping process.

About 54,375 acres proposed as critical habitat are managed by Federal, State, and local agencies and 81,256 acres are privately owned. An additional 3,082 acres are on trust lands of five Native American tribes. A significant percentage of the stream, riparian, and upland habitats for the arroyo toad are on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Defense. Some of the areas designated as critical habitat for the arroyo toad overlap areas of critical habitat for other Federally listed species, such as the coastal California gnatcatcher.

With one exception, critical habitat is not being designated in areas covered by approved or nearly finalized Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP) that authorize the “take” of arroyo toads. The Service is proposing critical habitat on lands along the Sweetwater River in San Diego County because the activities that occur in this area are outside the authority of the San Diego Multi-Species Conservation Plan.

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