Endangered Species Recovery Program
Daniel F. Williams, Ellen A. Cypher, Patrick A. Kelly, Nancy Norvell,, Scott E. Phillips, Cheryl D. Johnson, Gary W. Colliver, and Karen J. Miller
Sam Fitton (draft San Joaquin LeConte's thrasher account, review), Ross L. Goldingay (recovery strategy and criteria, review), Heather M. Bell (draft kit fox account), Lawrence Saslaw (draft San Joaquin LeConte's thrasher account, review), and Mary Ann T. Showers (draft palmate-bracted bird's-beak account)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1 October 1997
This recovery plan covers 34 species of plants and animals that occur in the San Joaquin Valley of California. The 11 listed species include five endangered plants (California jewelflower, palmate-bracted bird's-beak, Kern mallow, San Joaquin woolly-threads, and Bakersfield cactus), one threatened plant (Hoover's woolly-star), and five endangered animals (giant kangaroo rat, Fresno kangaroo rat, Tipton kangaroo rat, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, and San Joaquin kit fox). In addition, 23 candidates or species of concern are addressed. The plants include lesser saltscale, Bakersfield smallscale, Lost Hills saltbush, Vasek's clarkia, Temblor buckwheat, Tejon poppy, diamond-petaled California poppy, Comanche Point layia, Munz's tidy-tips, Jared's peppergrass, Merced monardella, Merced phacelia, and oil neststraw; and the animals include Ciervo aegialian scarab beetle, San Joaquin dune beetle, Doyen's dune weevil, San Joaquin antelope squirrel, short-nosed kangaroo rat, riparian woodrat, Tulare grasshopper mouse, Buena Vista Lake shrew, riparian brush rabbit, and San Joaquin Le Conte's thrasher.
The majority of these species occur in arid grasslands and scrublands of the San Joaquin Valley and the adjacent foothills and valleys. The riparian woodrat and riparian brush rabbit inhabit forested river corridors of the eastern San Joaquin Valley. Conversion of habitat to agricultural, industrial, and urban uses has eliminated these species from the majority of their historic ranges. The remaining natural communities (generally less than 5 percent of historical values) are highly fragmented, and many are marginal habitats in which these species may not persist during catastrophic events such as drought or floods. Moreover, natural communities have been altered permanently by the introduction of nonnative plants, which now dominate in many of the remaining undeveloped areas.
The ultimate goal of this recovery plan is to delist the 11 endangered and threatened species and ensure the long-term conservation of the 23 candidates and species of concern. An interim goal is to reclassify the endangered species to threatened status.
This plan presents both an ecosystem approach to recovery and a community-level strategy for recovery. The latter is appropriate because most of the listed and candidate species and species of concern co-occur in the same natural communities and are interdependent. By protecting entire communities, the likelihood of successful recovery for listed species is increased, and ensuring the long-term conservation of candidates and species of concern is possible. Of necessity, this community-level strategy is shaped by the realities of existing habitats; available information on biology, distribution, and population statuses of featured species; and the current and anticipated biological and social processes that will affect both remnant natural communities and areas subject to intensive human use, within the human-dominated landscape (i.e., ecosystem) of the San Joaquin Valley.
An ecosystem approach to recovery in the San Joaquin Valley recognizes not only the common origins and interdependencies of the remnant natural communities, but also the fact that the entire region today is a landscape dominated by human activities. Those activities, while defining and shaping the current ecosystem, have often had a fragmenting rather than unifying effect. Thus, recovery also is dependent on the cooperation and collaboration of the various stakeholders, in the Valley ecosystem, which include private landowners, local governments and citizens, and State and Federal agencies.
The six key elements that compose this ecosystem approach and community-level recovery strategy are described below.
The community-level approach facilitates recovery but does not negate the need to consider the requirements of each species. Thus, individual recovery criteria are presented for each of the 11 listed species covered by this plan to track their progress towards recovery and to ensure that all of their recovery needs are addressed.
Separate criteria are given in the recovery plan for downlisting 10 species from endangered to threatened, for delisting those 10 species plus 1 threatened species, and for achieving long-term conservation of the 23 species that are not currently listed. Elements common to the recovery criteria of most listed species include:
The protection strategies for most candidates and species of concern are based on the assumption that if populations remain in habitat remnants throughout a species' historical range, are secure from threats, and are not declining, formal listing may not be necessary.
Considering that habitat loss is the primary cause of species endangerment in the San Joaquin Valley, a central component of species recovery is to establish a network of conservation areas and reserves that represent all of the pertinent terrestrial and riparian natural communities in the San Joaquin Valley. Habitat protection does not necessarily require land acquisition or easement. The most important aspect of habitat protection is that land uses maintain or enhance species habitat values. Elements 4-6 of the recovery strategy address this issue.
Existing natural lands, occupied by the covered species, are targeted for conservation in preference to unoccupied natural land or retired farmland. This greatly reduces or eliminates the need for expensive and untested restoration work to make the land suitable for habitation by these species. Many of the covered species are concentrated in the natural communities that persist in the San Joaquin Valley. The recommended approach is to protect land in large blocks whenever possible. Large blocks minimize edge effects, increase the likelihood that ecosystem functions will remain intact, and facilitate management.
Another recommendation of the plan is that, whenever possible, blocks of conservation lands should be connected by natural land or land with compatible uses to allow for movement of species between blocks. Linkages are proposed both on the floor of the San Joaquin Valley and in foothills along the margins of the Valley. Few Valley floor linkages exist at this time; restoration of continuous corridors or islands of suitable vegetation that can act as "stepping stones" will be necessary to provide movement corridors. Natural land remaining along the fringes of the San Joaquin Valley will provide both habitat and linkages.
Smaller specialty reserves also are a necessary part of the proposed habitat protection network. They are important for recovery of certain species with highly restricted geographic ranges or specialized habitat requirements. These reserves may be small areas surrounded by developed land, or they may be portions of larger conservation areas that require special management.
In formulating the community-level strategy, greater emphasis was placed on two groups of species due to their pivotal roles in either conservation (umbrella species) or ecosystem dynamics (keystone species).
The San Joaquin kit fox occurs in nearly all the natural communities used by other species featured in this plan, but these others are much more restricted in their choice of habitats. The broad distribution and requirement for relatively large areas of habitat means conservation of the kit fox will provide an umbrella of protection for many other species that require less habitat. Therefore, the San Joaquin kit fox is an umbrella species for purposes of this recovery plan. Many of its needs are given higher priority in recovery actions at the regional level (i.e., the ecosystem level) than those of other species because it is one of the species that will be hardest to recover; fulfilling the fox's needs also meets those of many other species.
Protection of keystone species is a high priority because they provide important or essential components of the biological niche of some other listed and candidate species. The giant kangaroo rat and, to a lesser extent, the Fresno, short-nosed, and Tipton kangaroo rats are keystone species in their communities. Burrowing by giant kangaroo rats modifies the surface topography of the landscape and changes the mineral composition of the soil. Their burrows provide refuges and living places for many small animals, including blunt-nosed leopard lizards and San Joaquin antelope squirrels. The areas over and around their burrows provide a favored microhabitat for the growth of California jewelflower and San Joaquin woolly-threads. Giant kangaroo rats are the most abundant mammal in their community, and are the favored prey of San Joaquin kit foxes and many other predators. The Fresno, short-nosed, and Tipton kangaroo rats have similar but less dramatic roles in their communities.
This recovery plan has been developed based on the best scientific information currently available. However, many important aspects of species biology and management have not yet been studied. Thus, continued research, in conjunction with adaptive management (element #5), is a crucial component of this plan. Recovery criteria and tasks must be reevaluated for each species as research is completed.
Primary information needs for the species featured in this plan and the ecosystem as a whole are:
In most cases, active management of the land is necessary to maintain and enhance species habitat values. However, management strategies have not been investigated for most species. Management research (element #4) may take many years to complete, while listed species populations continue to decline. The only practical approach is adaptive management, where some type of management is applied, population responses are monitored, the outcome is evaluated, and management is readjusted accordingly. This process should continue until definitive research is completed or self-sustaining populations are achieved. Unless scientific data or credible evidence point to the contrary, the recommended initial management strategy for each area that is occupied by listed species is to continue existing land uses at current levels.
This plan proposes six tactics to reduce the costs of recovery, the impact of recommended actions on the local economy, and the constraints placed on citizens of the San Joaquin Valley:
Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the statutory responsibility for implementing this recovery plan, and only Federal agencies are mandated to take part in the effort, the participation of a variety of groups, in both initial plan implementation and the subsequent adaptive management process, is important to successful recovery. Thus, the plan recommends the establishment of a regional, cooperative public/private recovery plan implementation team to enlist the participation of all stakeholder groups and interested parties. This group would develop a participation plan, coordinate education and outreach efforts, including community participation in research and information gathering when appropriate, assist in developing economic incentives for conservation and recovery, ensure that adaptive management is practiced, and define other recovery and management tasks as necessary.
Because recovery is defined in relation to a climatological cycle for most species covered in this recovery plan, the date of recovery is anticipated for most listed species to be approximately 20 years.