U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Lists Two Species Of Salamanders And Proposes Listing Two Species Of Minnows Endemic To Texas

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On August 19, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced (pdf) its decision to list the Austin blind salamander (Eurycea waterlooensis) as endangered and the Jollyville Plateau salamander (Eurycea tonkawae) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). While the Service’s proposed listing of the two species designated both as endangered, the Service’s final rule (pdf) lists the Jollyville Plateau salamander as threatened based on new information received since publication of the listing proposal.

In conjunction with listing the two species, the Service designated (pdf) approximately 4,451 acres of critical habitat for both species in portions of Travis and Williamson Counties in south-central Texas. The final critical habitat determination decreased the amount in the Service’s proposed rule by 603 acres.

The primary threat to the Austin blind and Jollyville Plateau salamanders is habitat modification, in the form of degraded water quality and quantity and disturbance of spring sites due to urbanization. The ranges of the two species is limited to increasingly urbanized areas of Travis and Williamson Counties that are experiencing rapid population growth.

In connection with this final rule, the Service also announced (pdf) a six-month extension of the final determinations of the Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia) and Salado salamander (Eurycea chisholmensis), and reopened the public comment period for those species for 30 days. The Service’s announcement was in response to public comments expressing concern regarding the sufficiency and accuracy of the available data related to the two species.

The Service also recently announced that it was proposing listing two species of Texas minnows as endangered under the ESA based on evidence that their habitats are in decline. Along with the listing proposal (pdf), the Service proposed (pdf) designating approximately 623 miles of the upper Brazos River basin as critical habitat for the sharpnose (Notropis oxyrhynchus) and smalleye (N. buccula) shiner. The two species are native to arid prairie streams in Texas. They are currently restricted almost entirely to the contiguous river segments of the upper Brazos River basin in north-central Texas, representing a reduction from the sharpnose and smalleye shiners’ historical ranges of more than 50 and 70 percent, respectively.