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Deep Creek Hot Springs

The Moon is Waning Gibbous (75% of Full)


Re: more land for toad urged

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September 04, 2005 04:37PM
In a nutshell, Deep Creek, including DCHS, is NOT designated as critical habitat for the Arroyo Toad. This is a good thing. More details below from the ruling for those interested:

We have excluded all of Unit 22, consisting of approximately 6,328 ac (2,561 ha), under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. The analysis which led us to the conclusion that the benefits of excluding this area exceed the benefits of designating it as critical habitat, and will not result in the extinction of the species, follows.
(1) Benefits of Inclusion
The areas excluded are currently occupied by the species. If these areas were designated as critical habitat, any actions with a Federal nexus which might adversely modify the critical habitat would require a consultation with us, as explained above, in the section of this notice entitled ``Effects of Critical Habitat Designation.'' Yet another benefit might be modification of current operations of dams and other elements of water projects to provide water at times more beneficial to the species than the current operation of some dams within proposed critical habitat. Since the economic analysis of this is based on projections of future actions, it is not possible to assign specific actions, and benefits to the species, for particular units.

In general, the modifications would be designed to have water flows in stream reaches downstream from dams more closely resemble the stream's natural state. Benefits would include avoidance of excess artificial water flows washing eggs or tadpoles downstream, possibly avoiding growth of exotic species, increasing the availability of open sand bar habitat, and maintaining breeding pools long enough for larvae to develop.

However, inasmuch as this area is currently occupied by the species, consultation for activities which might adversely impact the species, including possibly significant habitat modification (see definition of "harm'' at 50 CFR 17.3) would be required even without the critical habitat designation and without regard to the existence of a Federal nexus.

In summary, we believe that this proposed unit as critical habitat would provide little additional Federal regulatory benefits for the species. Because the proposed critical habitat is occupied by the species, there must be consultation with the Service over any Federal action which might impact the toad. The additional educational benefits which might arise from critical habitat designation are largely accomplished through the multiple notice and comments which accompanied the development of this regulation, and publicity over the prior litigation.
(2) Benefits of Exclusion
The economic analysis conducted for this proposal estimates that the costs associated with designating this unit of the proposed critical habitat would be over $27 million. Over $25 million of this would fall on private property owners. These figures include costs associated with conducting consultations with us pursuant to section 7 of the Act, loss of land values associated with the avoidance of arroyo toads and their habitat, time delays, and uncertainty. Excluding this unit would avoid some or all of those costs.
(3) Benefits of Exclusion Outweigh the Benefits of Inclusion
We believe that the benefits from excluding these lands from the designation of critical habitat--avoiding the potential economic and human costs, both in dollars and jobs, predicted in the economic analysis-- exceed the educational and regulatory benefits, including possible changes to dam operations, which may be already provided for as discussed above -- which could result from including those lands in this designation of critical habitat.

We also believe that excluding these lands, and thus helping landowners and water users avoid the additional costs that would result from the designation, will contribute to a more positive climate for Habitat Conservation Plans and other active conservation measures which provide greater conservation benefits than would result from designation of critical habitat, which requires--even in the post- Gifford Pinchot environment--only that the there be no adverse modification resulting from Federally-related actions. We therefore find that the benefits of excluding these areas from this designation of critical habitat outweigh the benefits of including them in the designation.
(4) Exclusion Will Not Result in Extinction of the Species
We believe that exclusion of these lands will not result in extinction of the species, as they are considered occupied habitat. Any actions which might adversely affect the toad, regardless of whether a Federal nexus is present, must undergo a consultation with the Service under the requirements of section 7 of the Act or receive a permit from us under section 10. The toad is protected from take under section 9. The exclusions leave these protections unchanged from those which would exist if the excluded areas were designated as critical habitat. In addition, as discussed above, there are a substantial number of Habitat Conservation Plans and other active conservation measures underway for the species, which provide greater conservation benefits than would result from a designation. In regards to subunit 22a specifically, the Rancho Las Flores Planned Community (Rancho Las Flores) and neighboring Las Flores Ranch (both in Summit Valley, San Bernardino County), have each offered additional conservation measures to protect arroyo toad habitat on their lands.

Additional conservation measures offered by Rancho Las Flores include the protection of approximately 290 ac (117 ha) of prime arroyo toad habitat within the river corridors of Horsethief Creek and the West Fork of the Mojave River. Additional protection along Grass Valley Creek is contemplated as well. As a part of the development plans for Rancho Las Flores, the land owners have agreed to minimize impacts to arroyo toad habitat from humans, cattle, and development, monitor the status of the arroyo toad, and remove exotic species.

Additional conservation measures offered by Las Flores Ranch include the protection of approximately 190 acres (77 ha) of prime arroyo toad habitat within the river corridors of Horsethief Creek and the West Fork of the Mojave River as well as measures to minimize impacts from humans, horses, and development. There is accordingly no reason to believe that the exclusion of unit 22 would result in extinction of the species.

more land for toad urged

katrina island 1143August 28, 2005 10:12AM

Re: more land for toad urged

Rick 620September 04, 2005 01:46PM

Re: more land for toad urged

Rick 591September 04, 2005 03:57PM

Re: more land for toad urged

Paul P. 1108September 04, 2005 04:37PM

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