Feds List, Designate Critical Habitat for Imperiled Southwest Springsnails
Species Threatened by Habitat Loss, Invasive Species and Climate Change
Washington, DC – The U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will list the Three Forks springsnail (Pyrgulopsis trivialis)
as “endangered” and the San Bernardino springsnail (Pyrgulopsis bernardina)
as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and designated critical
habitat for both species in southern Arizona.
“We are pleased that these snails will be
listed and receive critical habitat,” said Mark Salvo, Wildlife Program
Director for WildEarth Guardians. “Federal protection will be key to their
survival and recovery.”
The Three Forks springsnail historically
occurred in numerous springs and seeps in Apache County, Arizona. The species’ current
range has been reduced to just two spring complexes, Boneyard Creek Springs and
Boneyard Bog Springs along Boneyard Creek and the North Fork East Fork Black
River. A high-intensity fire recently burned around the only remaining
populations of the Three Forks springsnail, resulting in soil erosion and
sedimentation that eliminates and degrades snail habitat during storm events.
FWS also identified predation by nonnative crayfish as a threat to the species across
its range, and potential future effects of fire retardant chemicals used to
suppress wildfires, climate change and drought, and competition with New
Zealand springsnails as additional factors for listing.
The San Bernardino springsnail may have
historically occurred in several springs in Cochise County, Arizona. The
current range of the species in the U.S. has been reduced to two springs: Goat
Tank Spring and Horse Spring at the state-owned John Slaughter Ranch Museum.
The San Bernardino springsnail was also recently discovered to occur at five
sites in Sonora, Mexico, in at least nine springs. FWS described potential
springhead inundation, and water depletion and diversion in both the United
States and Mexico as a primary threat to the species. The agency also
identified potential future threats of predation by nonnative crayfish, fire
retardant chemicals used to suppress wildfires, climate change and drought, and
competition with New Zealand springsnails as additional factors for listing.
previously proposed to list the San Bernardino springsnail as “endangered”
under the ESA, but reduced its status to “threatened” in the final rule after
more springsnails were identified in Mexico. The San Bernardino springsnail was
first made a candidate for listing more than 23 years ago.
identified approximately 17.2 acres at three sites as critical habitat for the Three
Forks springnail in Apache County and approximately 2.0 acres at four sites for
the San Bernardino
springsnail in Cochise County. All sites are on federal or state land.
The San Bernardino springsnail and Three
Forks springsnail are two of more than 800 species
covered in WildEarth Guardians’ settlement agreement with the Fish and Wildlife
Service, announced on May 10, 2011, and approved by a federal court on
September 9, 2011. The agreement obligates the agency to make final listing
determinations for 253 species by September 2016, all but one of which are
formal candidates for ESA protection. The settlement resolved 12 lawsuits that
Guardians filed challenging the government’s failure to timely list species
under the act, and attempts to fix a listing program that has failed to
function properly since the Reagan Administration. It also schedules petition
findings, 12-month listing determinations, and critical habitat designations
for more than 600 additional species. In return, WildEarth Guardians consented
to dismiss its lawsuits and will refrain from suing Interior over missed
listing deadlines for the next six years. The Service met all of its
obligations under the agreement for FY 2011, taking action on 730 species.