[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 132 (Tuesday, July 10, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 40705-40733]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-16479]



[[Page 40705]]

Vol. 77

Tuesday,

No. 132

July 10, 2012

Part II





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical 
Habitat for Buena Vista Lake Shrew; Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 77 , No. 132 / Tuesday, July 10, 2012 / 
Proposed Rules

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2009-0062; 4500030114]
RIN 1018-AW85


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of 
Critical Habitat for Buena Vista Lake Shrew

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; revision and reopening of comment period.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce 
that we are further revising our proposed revised designation of 
critical habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew (Sorex ornatus 
relictus) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
In 2009, we proposed to revise our critical habitat designation to 
consist of 4,649 acres (1,881 hectares) of land in five units in Kern 
County. That acreage has been recalculated, with use of current 
Geographic Information Systems technology, as 4,657 acres (1,885 
hectares). In this revised proposal, we propose to add 525 acres (212 
hectares) as critical habitat in the general areas of Kings and Kern 
Counties, California, including new units near Lemoore, Kings County, 
and near Semitropic, Kern County, California. In total, we are now 
proposing to designate approximately 5,182 acres (2,098 hectares) as 
critical habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew. We are reopening the 
comment period to allow interested parties an opportunity to comment on 
the proposal to revise the designation of critical habitat for the 
Buena Vista Lake shrew as proposed to be further revised in this 
document.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
September 10, 2012. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) must be received by 
11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We must receive requests 
for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT by August 24, 2012.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
    (1) Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Search 
for Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2009-0062 and then follow the instructions for 
submitting comments.
    (2) U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: 
FWS-R8-ES-2009-0062; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; 
Arlington, VA 22203.
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described 
above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide 
us (see the Public Comments section below for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Moore, Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 
Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825; telephone 916-414-6600; 
facsimile 916-414-6713. If you use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-
877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Executive Summary

    Why we need to publish a rule. This is a proposed revised 
designation of critical habitat for the endangered Buena Vista Lake 
shrew under the Endangered Species Act. Under the Act, any species that 
is determined to be a threatened or endangered species requires 
designated critical habitat. We must issue a rule to designate critical 
habitat. In total, approximately 5,182 acres of critical habitat for 
the Buena Vista Lake shrew in Kings and Kern Counties, California, fall 
within the boundaries of the revised critical habitat designation as 
proposed in this rule.
    We designated critical habitat for this species in 2005. As part of 
a settlement agreement, we agreed to reconsider the designation, and 
published a proposed revised designation for the Buena Vista Lake shrew 
in the Federal Register on October 21, 2009 (74 FR 53999). Based on new 
information, we are submitting a revised proposal to designate critical 
habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew to the Federal Register on or 
before the June 29, 2012, settlement date (see Table 1 for additional 
areas).

      Table 1--Revisions and Additional Areas, in Acres, That We Are Including as Proposed Critical Habitat
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                             Critical habitat unit                                 Total      State     Private
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Unit 4, Coles Levee *..........................................................        270         46        223
Unit 6, Semitropic Ecological Reserve Unit.....................................        372        345         27
Unit 7, Lemoore Wetland Unit...................................................         97  .........         97
                                                                                --------------------------------
    Total......................................................................        739        391        347
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Addition of 56 acres from 2009 proposal.

    The basis for our action. Under the Endangered Species Act, any 
endangered or threatened species must have a designated critical 
habitat. We are required to base the designation on the best available 
scientific data after taking into consideration economic and other 
impacts. The Secretary can exclude an area from critical habitat if the 
benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of designation, unless the 
exclusion will result in the extinction of the species.
    We will prepare a revised draft economic analysis. On April 28, 
2011, we announced in the Federal Register (76 FR 23781) the 
availability of our draft economic analysis of the 2009 proposed 
revised designation. That economic analysis did not identify any areas 
with disproportionate costs associated with the designation. To ensure 
that we consider the economic impacts of this current proposal, we will 
revise the draft economic analysis. We will revise the draft economic 
analysis to include the economic impacts of the additional areas 
identified in the current revised proposal.
    We will incorporate peer review. We sought comments and information 
from independent specialists to ensure that our 2009 proposed critical 
habitat designation was based on scientifically sound data, 
assumptions, and analyses. We invited these peer reviewers to comment 
on our specific assumptions and conclusions in the critical habitat 
designation. We will again seek peer review on this revised proposal to 
revise critical habitat designation. Information

[[Page 40707]]

we received from peer review will be incorporated in the final revised 
designation.

Public Comments

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule 
will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. We will accept written 
comments and information during this reopened comment period on the 
revisions herein as well as the proposed revised designation of 
critical habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew that was published in 
the Federal Register on October 21, 2009 (74 FR 53999), and on the 
draft economic analysis (DEA) of the 2009 proposed designation and the 
amended required determinations provided in the April 28, 2011, Federal 
Register (76 FR 23781) document. If you submitted comments or 
information on the 2009 proposed rule (74 FR 53999, October 21, 2009 
and 76 FR 23781, April 28, 2011) during any of the previous comment 
periods, please do not resubmit them. These comments are included in 
the public record for this rulemaking, and we will fully consider them 
in the preparation of our final determination. You may submit your 
comments and materials concerning this revised proposed rule, the 2009 
proposed rule, the DEA associated with the 2009 proposed rule, and the 
amended required determinations by one of the methods listed in 
ADDRESSES.
    We request comments or information from other concerned government 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning the proposal to revise the designation of critical 
habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew, as revised herein. We 
particularly seek comments concerning:
    (1) The reasons why we should or should not designate habitat as 
``critical habitat'' under section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.) including whether there are threats to the species from human 
activity, the degree of which can be expected to increase due to the 
designation, and whether that increase in threat outweighs the benefit 
of designation such that the designation of critical habitat may not be 
prudent.
    (2) Specific information on:
    (a) The amount and distribution of Buena Vista Lake shrew habitat,
    (b) What areas, that were occupied at the time of listing (or are 
currently occupied) and that contain features essential to the 
conservation of the species, should be included in the designation and 
why,
    (c) Special management considerations or protection that may be 
needed in critical habitat areas we are proposing, including managing 
for the potential effects of climate change,
    (d) What areas not occupied at the time of listing are essential 
for the conservation of the species and why, and
    (e) Areas identified in this revision to the proposal to revise 
critical habitat that should not be proposed as critical habitat and 
why.
    (3) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the 
subject areas and their possible impacts on proposed revised critical 
habitat.
    (4) Information on the projected and reasonably likely impacts of 
climate change on the Buena Vista Lake shrew and proposed revised 
critical habitat.
    (5) Information that may assist us in identifying or clarifying the 
physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the 
Buena Vista Lake shrew, especially as they relate to habitat conditions 
for the Buena Vista Lake shrew at Atwell Island, Tulare County.
    (6) Any probable economic, national security, or other relevant 
impacts of designating any area that may be included in the final 
designation; in particular, any impacts on small entities or families, 
and the benefits of including or excluding areas that exhibit these 
impacts.
    (7) Specific information on the taxonomy of the Buena Vista Lake 
shrew, especially in relationship to the adorned, or Southern 
California, ornate shrew (Sorex ornatus ornatus) and their respective 
ranges.
    (8) Whether any specific areas we are proposing for critical 
habitat designation should be considered for exclusion under section 
4(b)(2) of the Act, and whether the benefits of potentially excluding 
any specific area outweigh the benefits of including that area under 
section 4(b)(2) of the Act.
    (9) Whether the potential exclusion of the Kern Fan Recharge Unit 
(Unit 3) under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, which is covered by the 
Buena Vista Lake Shrew Special Management Plan for Kern Fan Water 
Recharge Site, and Addendum, from final critical habitat is or is not 
appropriate, whether the benefits of excluding any specific area 
outweigh the benefits of including that area as critical habitat and 
why, and whether such an exclusion may or may not lead to the species' 
extinction.
    (10) Whether we could improve or modify our approach to designating 
critical habitat in any way to provide for greater public participation 
and understanding, or to better accommodate public concerns and 
comments.
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you 
send comments only by the methods described in the ADDRESSES section.
    We will post your entire comment--including your personal 
identifying information--on http://www.regulations.gov. You may request 
at the top of your document that we withhold personal information such 
as your street address, phone number, or email address from public 
review; however, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT).

Background

    It is our intent to discuss only those topics directly relevant to 
the designation of critical habitat in this proposed rule. In a July 9, 
2009, settlement agreement, the Service agreed to publish a new 
proposal of critical habitat for the species which encompassed the same 
geographic area as the August 19, 2004 (69 FR 51417) proposed 
designation. On October 21, 2009, the Federal Register published our 
proposed revised designation of critical habitat (74 FR 53999), in 
which we proposed five critical habitat units in Kern County totaling 
4,649 acres (ac) (1,881 hectares (ha)). That acreage has been 
recalculated, with use of current Geographic Information Systems 
technology, as 4,657 ac (1,885 ha). In this revised proposal to revise 
the designation, we are notifying the public of several changes made to 
the 2009 proposed critical habitat. We are now adding two new critical 
habitat units to our proposal and revising Unit 4 (Cole's Levee) to 
include a newly discovered occurrence just to the north of the existing 
unit. Second, we are updating the descriptions of previously proposed 
units, and revising the criteria and methods sections to accommodate 
newer geographical information systems technologies. This revised 
proposed rule incorporates new information on the distribution and 
presence of the Buena Vista Lake shrew that was not available at the 
time that we completed our 2009 proposed revised critical habitat rule.

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    A summary of the information that is relevant to this revised 
proposed critical habitat designation is provided below. For more 
information on previous Federal actions concerning the Buena Vista Lake 
shrew, refer to the proposed revised designation of critical habitat 
published in the Federal Register on October 21, 2009 (74 FR 53999). 
Additional relevant information may be found in the final rule to 
designate critical habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew published on 
January 24, 2005 (70 FR 3437). For more information on the Buena Vista 
Lake shrew or its habitat, refer to the final listing rule published in 
the Federal Register on March 6, 2002 (67 FR 10101), which is available 
online at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2009-0062, 
or by mail from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Species Description

    The Buena Vista Lake shrew (Sorex ornatus relictus) is one of nine 
subspecies within the ornate shrew (Sorex ornatus) species complex 
known to occur in California (Hall 1981, pp. 37, 38; Owen and Hoffmann 
1983, pp. 1-4; Maldonado 1992, p. 3). The Buena Vista Lake shrew is a 
mammal, approximately the size of a mouse. Like other shrews, the 
subspecies has a long snout, tiny bead-like eyes, ears that are 
concealed, or nearly concealed by soft fur, and five toes on each foot 
(Burt and Grossenheider 1964, p. 2; Ingles 1965, pp. 81-84). Shrews are 
active day or night. When they are not sleeping, they are searching for 
food (Burt and Grossenheider 1964, p. 3).
    Grinnell (1932) was the first to describe the Buena Vista Lake 
shrew as a new subspecies, based on the type specimen and two other 
specimens collected around the old Buena Vista Lake bed. A single 
specimen of the shrew had previously been collected in October 1909, at 
Buttonwillow, a town approximately 25 miles (mi) (40 kilometers (km)) 
northwest of Buena Vista Lake (Williams 1986, p. 13; Long 1998, p. 1; 
California Academy of Sciences 2012). According to Grinnell's 
description, the Buena Vista Lake shrew's back is predominantly black 
with a buffy-brown speckling pattern, its sides are more buffy-brown 
than the upper surface, and its underside is smoke-gray. The tail is 
faintly bicolor and blackens toward the end both above and below. The 
Buena Vista Lake shrew differs from its geographically closest 
subspecies, the adorned ornate shrew (Sorex ornatus ornatus), by having 
darker, grayish-black coloration, rather than brown. In addition, the 
Buena Vista Lake shrew has a slightly larger body size; shorter tail; 
skull with a shorter, heavier rostrum; and a higher and more angular 
brain-case in dorsal view (Grinnell 1932, pp. 389, 390).
    Grinnell (1932, p. 390) noted evidence that integration between the 
adorned and the Buena Vista Lake shrew subspecies occurred in areas of 
geographic overlap. This integration prompted Freas (1990, pp. 2, 3) to 
question the legitimacy of the Buena Vista Lake shrew's status as a 
subspecies distinct from the broader-ranging adorned ornate shrew. 
Since the 1990s, the Sorex ornatus complex (consisting of eight 
subspecies in California and one in Baja California) has been the 
subject of genetic and morphological evaluation (Maldonado 1998). 
Preliminary results from strictly morphological measurements for this 
group did not clarify distribution of the various subspecies throughout 
California. However, mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite, nuclear 
sequences, and allozyme data have aided in determining subspecies' 
ranges. From these data, researchers determined that the Buena Vista 
Lake shrew is a distinct subspecies from other ornate shrew subspecies; 
and that it is unlike any other sampled throughout the southern San 
Joaquin Valley (Maldonado 1998), although later authors noted the 
unsettled taxonomy of ornate shrews (Williams and Harpster 2001, pp. 
13, 16). Recent evaluation of the best available scientific information 
on the ornate shrews has indicated, based on analysis of mitochondrial 
DNA, that the shrew occurrences in the Tulare Basin group together with 
the Buena Vista Lake Shrew (Maldonado 2011 unpaginated; Service 2011 
unpaginated; Sacks 2011, unpaginated), although not all species experts 
agree that methods and genetic sampling are adequate to reach a 
conclusion (Patton 2011, pp. 1-5). We recognize that there continue to 
be questions regarding the taxonomy of ornate shrews found in specific 
localities within the Tulare Basin; however, our current proposal is 
based on the currently accepted description of the Buena Vista Lake 
shrew (Grinnell 1932) and the best available science.

Life History

    Ornate shrews, on the average, rarely live longer than 12 months, 
and evidence indicates that the normal lifespan does not exceed 16 
months (Rudd 1955, p. 328). The Buena Vista Lake shrew has a breeding 
season that begins in February or March, and may either extend later in 
the year, based on habitat quality and availability of water, or end 
with the onset of the dry season in May or June (Maldonado 1998). The 
majority of females give birth in the spring, and produce a single 
litter containing four to six young. Within a population, the number of 
litters produced per year depends on how early or late in the year the 
young are born; adults are sexually active in spring, while some young-
of-the-year that are born early in the year become sexually active by 
late summer (Owen and Hoffmann 1983, p. 4). Because the life expectancy 
of most shrews is 12 to 16 months (Rudd 1955, p. 328), most individuals 
probably produce no more than two litters in their lifetime, with 
population replacement occurring annually (Collins 1998).
    Shrews are primarily insectivorous. Due to their high rate of 
metabolism relative to their capacity for energy storage (McNab 1991, 
p. 35), they must eat more than their own weight each day (Burt and 
Grossenheider 1964, p. 3) in order to withstand starvation and maintain 
their body weight. Shrews in this family can have an impact on 
surrounding plant communities by consuming large quantities of insects, 
slugs, and other invertebrates that can influence such things as plant 
succession and the irruptions (population dynamics) of pest insects 
(Williams 1991, p. 1). The Buena Vista Lake shrew also may be an 
important prey species for raptors, snakes, and mammalian predators, 
such as foxes and skunks (Maldonado 1992, p. 7).

Distribution and Historical Range

    The Buena Vista Lake shrew was likely historically distributed in 
the marshlands of the San Joaquin Valley throughout most of the Tulare 
Basin (Grinnell 1933, p. 83). The Tulare Basin, essentially occupying 
the southern half of the San Joaquin Valley, had no regular outlet to 
the ocean and contained Buena Vista, Kern, and Tulare Lakes. These 
lakes were fed by the Kern, Kaweah, Tule, and Kings rivers and their 
tributaries, and were interconnected by hundreds of square miles of 
tule marshes and other permanent and seasonal lakes, wetlands, and 
sloughs (Williams and Harpster 2001, p. 13). Tulare Lake was the 
largest freshwater lake in the United States west of the Mississippi 
River. However, by the time the Buena Vista Lake shrew was discovered, 
the beds of these lakes were already dry and mostly cultivated, with 
only sparse remnants of the original fauna (Grinnell 1932, p. 1). Today 
the lakes and wetlands have been drained and converted into irrigated 
agricultural fields, though portions of

[[Page 40709]]

the historical lake beds fill with water in years of extraordinary 
runoff (Williams and Kilburn 1992, p. 329).

Habitat Characteristics

    As discussed in detail in the Critical Habitat section below, the 
Buena Vista Lake shrew is closely associated with dense, riparian 
understories that provide food, cover, and moisture (Maldonado 1992, p. 
5). Moisture is required to support a diverse insect fauna, which is 
the primary food source needed to maintain the Buena Vista Lake shrew's 
high metabolism. During surveys conducted at Kern Lake Preserve in 1988 
and 1990, Freas (1990, p. 8) found that the Buena Vista Lake shrew 
preferred mesic (moderately moist) habitats over xeric (drier) 
habitats, with 25 animals being captured in the mesic environments and 
none in xeric habitat. Maldonado (1992, p. 5) also acknowledged this 
type of habitat preference, stating that the Buena Vista Lake shrew is 
closely associated with dense, riparian understories that provide food, 
cover, and moisture. He also noted that moist soil in areas with an 
overstory of willows or cottonwoods appears to be favored, but may not 
be an essential habitat feature (Williams and Harpster 2001, p. 13; 
Maldonado 2011).
    The mesic, lower elevation range of the Buena Vista Lake shrew is 
almost completely surrounded by the semi-arid, higher elevation range 
of the adorned ornate shrew (Grinnell 1933, pp. 82, 83; Hall 1981, p. 
38; Owen and Hoffman 1983, p. 2: Maldonado et al. 2001, p. 127). 
Grinnell (1932, p. 390) noted that adorned ornate shrews occupied the 
uplands along streamside habitat and intergraded with the lowland Buena 
Vista Lake shrews along the lower courses of streams that enter the 
Kern-Tulare basin.

New Information Specific to Buena Vista Lake Shrew Distribution

    At the time of listing, the Buena Vista Lake shrew was identified 
as occurring in four isolated locations along an approximately 70-mile 
(mi) (113-kilometer (km)) stretch on the west side of the Tulare Basin: 
At the former Kern Lake Preserve on the old Kern Lake bed, the Kern Fan 
water recharge area, Coles Levee, and the Kern National Wildlife Refuge 
(Kern NWR) (67 FR 10101; March 6, 2002). By the time that critical 
habitat was proposed in 2004, a fifth occurrence of the Buena Vista 
Lake shrew had been identified at the historical lake bed of Goose 
Lake. During the same general period, continuing surveys of riparian 
and upland habitat resulted in capture of ornate shrews at several 
additional locations within the Tulare Basin, including Kern, Kings, 
and Tulare Counties, although the shrews were not identified to the 
subspecies level (Williams and Harpster 2001, p. 14; Endangered Species 
Recovery Program (ESRP) 2005, p. 1; Maldonado 2006, p. 5). In 2011, 
during our 5-year status review of the Buena Vista Lake shrew, we 
obtained additional information indicating that the shrews at these 
localities would be considered Buena Vista Lake shrews (Williams and 
Harpster 2001, p. 16; Maldonado 2011; Service 2011, pp. 6-9). Two of 
the occurrences (Lemoore and Semitropic Ecological Preserve (also known 
as Main Drain or Chicca and Sons)) are located within general riparian 
and wetland habitat known to be suitable for the Buena Vista Lake 
shrew; however, the third location (Atwell Island) does not match the 
habitat that has previously been described for the shrew and does not 
contain the physical or biological features identified as essential for 
the conservation of the Buena Vista Lake shrew (see Critical Habitat 
section). Additional information below describes what is now known 
about the Buena Vista Lake shrew at these locations.
    At the time of publication of our 5-year review, surveys for Buena 
Vista Lake shrews had been conducted at 21 sites and the Buena Vista 
Lake shrew had been determined to be present in 8 of the sites 
(Williams and Harpster 2001, pp. 8-14; ESRP 2005, p. 1; Maldonado 2006, 
p. 5; Cypher 2010). Although shrews at the Semitropic, Lemoore, and 
Atwell Island locations had not been previously identified to 
subspecies in Maldonado 2006, communication between Service staff and 
species experts classified them as Buena Vista Lake shrews (Maldonado 
2011). Trapping for Buena Vista Lake shrews has also been completed on 
the Tule Elk Preserve, Pixley National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Lake 
Woollomes, the Nature Conservancy's Paine Wildflower Preserve, the Kern 
Water Bank, the Voice of America site west of Delano, Kern River 
Parkway, a parcel between Kern and Buena Vista Lakes owned by the 
Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Buena Vista Lake Recreation Area, 
and Wind Wolves Preserve.
    No shrews were detected at any location (Williams 1986, p. 3; 
Williams and Harpster 2001, pp. 6-12), with the exception of the Wind 
Wolves Preserve. However, the shrews detected at Wind Wolves Preserve 
are expected to be adorned ornate shrews based on mitochondrial DNA 
analysis of one tissue sample available from that location (Maldonado 
2006, pp. 9, 16-19; Cypher 2010, p. 1; Maldonado 2011, pp. 1, 2). 
Several areas north of the Tulare Lake bed, including Tranquility, 
Helm, and the Los Banos Wildlife Area, hosted extremely high numbers of 
ornate shrews in several successful trapping outings, but the shrews 
collected in those locations were also likely to be the adorned ornate 
shrew, based on analysis of mitochondrial DNA and 
microsatellites.(Maldonado 2006, pp. 16-19; Maldonado 2011, pp. 1, 2).
    In 1999 and 2000, shrews, which were not identified to subspecies, 
were captured during a restoration study on a farmland site that had 
been recently retired at the BLM Atwell Island site, located 
approximately 2 mi (3.2 km) south of Alpaugh in Tulare County. As 
described above, these shrews have recently been determined to be Buena 
Vista Lake shrews; however, the habitat in which they've been located 
does not match their known wetland habitat. In 1999, most of the 
captures were on ground that was planted to sugar beets and cotton the 
previous year. Between 1999 and 2000, a cover crop of barley was 
planted and harvested on most of the acreage, while a small portion of 
the area had been fallow longer than 5 years and had a cover of weedy, 
mostly exotic, annual plants (Williams and Harpster 2001, p. 13). The 
area has had a long history of irrigated agriculture, with the site 
surrounded by intensively farmed, irrigated cropland, thus indicating 
that the location did not match the available descriptions of Buena 
Vista Lake shrew habitat.
    Because shrews were found in an atypical location, surrounded by 
intensively farmed, irrigated cropland, their discovery led to 
speculation that the shrews either were able to persist on site during 
cultivation of irrigated row crops or dispersed to the site after it 
was fallowed (Williams and Harpster 2001, pp. 13, 14). Although the 
site is located within an area that was historically classified as 
wetland, there is no wetland or riparian vegetation in the areas in 
which the shrews were found and the nearest water source is over three-
quarters of a mile (1.2 km) to the north. The lack of typical shrew 
habitat components, such as standing water and dense riparian 
vegetation, have left us to speculate that shrews may persist here due 
to relatively localized deep cracks in the particular clay soils 
present in this portion of Atwell Island and the abundance of rodent 
burrows also present here, both of which may provide additional 
moisture, invertebrate prey, and cover for the shrews. Currently, this 
occurrence represents an anomaly that does not correspond to the common

[[Page 40710]]

information on Buena Vista Lake shrew preferences and needs, and we do 
not have sufficient information to determine long-term suitability of 
this habitat type for Buena Vista Lake shrews. We seek additional 
information on occurrence of shrews in habitat other than wetland and 
riparian habitat within the Tulare Basin, and on the suitability of 
this habitat type for Buena Vista Lake shrews.

New Information on Taxonomy

    Since the designation of critical habitat in 2005, additional 
genetic analysis has been conducted to evaluate the patterns of genetic 
variation within the ornate shrew complex, including the Buena Vista 
Lake shrew, in the central and southern San Joaquin Valley (Maldonado 
2006, p. 16). Maldonado (2006) analyzed microsatellite data and found 5 
genetic groupings among the 117 samples that had been collected from 10 
localities in the central-southern San Joaquin Valley. The five 
groupings are: (1) Tranquility and Helm; (2) Kern NWR, Kern Fan area, 
Atwell Island, Goose Lake, and Lemoore; (3) Coles Levee; (4) Kern Lake; 
and (5) Main Drain (Semitropic) (Maldonado 2006, pp. 16-20). Maldonado 
(2006, p. 14) determined that the levels of relatedness among the five 
groupings suggest that populations south of Tranquility and Helm form 
four distinct population groupings. However, because sample sizes from 
the localities are small, reflecting the rarity of the shrew in these 
locations, Maldonado emphasized that it is difficult to draw 
conclusions from the results (Maldonado 2006, pp. 17-19). In our 5-year 
status review of the subspecies, we reviewed the information above and 
reviewed the proximity of the various occurrence records. We concluded 
that the best available information indicates that the populations 
found south of Tranquility and Helm form four distinct groupings of 
Buena Vista Lake shrew, while populations at Tranquility and Helm are 
not the listed species (Service 2011, pp. 9, 10).

Previous Federal Actions

    On October 21, 2009, the Service published a revised proposed 
designation of critical habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew (74 FR 
53999) encompassing the same geographic area as the August 19, 2004 (69 
FR 51417), proposed designation. The Service published a document on 
April 28, 2011 (76 FR 23781), announcing the reopening of the comment 
period for the revised proposed critical habitat designation, the 
associated draft economic analysis, and the amended required 
determinations. This document also announced a public hearing, which 
was held in Bakersfield, California, on June 8, 2011. On March 6, 2012, 
the Service was granted an extension by the Court to consider 
additional information on the shrew that was identified during the 5-
year review process (Center for Biological Diversity v. Kempthorne et 
al., Case 1:08-cv-01490-AWI-GSA, filed March 7, 2012). The extension 
provides for submission of a revised proposed rule to the Federal 
Register on or before June 29, 2012, with submission of a final rule on 
or before June 29, 2013.

Critical Habitat

Background

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as:
    (1) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the 
species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which 
are found those physical or biological features:
    (a) Essential to the conservation of the species and
    (b) Which may require special management considerations or 
protection; and
    (2) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the 
species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas 
are essential for the conservation of the species.
    Conservation, as defined under section 3 of the Act, means to use 
and the use of all methods and procedures that are necessary to bring 
an endangered or threatened species to the point at which the measures 
provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary. Such methods and 
procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated 
with scientific resources management such as research, census, law 
enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live 
trapping, and transplantation, and, in the extraordinary case where 
population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise 
relieved, may include regulated taking.
    Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the Act 
through the requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation 
with the Service, that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is 
not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of 
critical habitat. The designation of critical habitat does not affect 
land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or 
other conservation area. Such designation does not allow the government 
or public to access private lands. Such designation does not require 
implementation of restoration, recovery, or enhancement measures by 
non-Federal landowners. Where a landowner requests Federal agency 
funding or authorization for an action that may affect a listed species 
or critical habitat, the consultation requirements of section 7(a)(2) 
of the Act would apply, but even in the event of a destruction or 
adverse modification finding, the obligation of the Federal action 
agency and the landowner is not to restore or recover the species, but 
to implement reasonable and prudent alternatives to avoid destruction 
or adverse modification of critical habitat.
    Under the first prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
areas within the geographic area occupied by the species at the time it 
was listed are included in a critical habitat designation if they 
contain physical or biological features (1) which are essential to the 
conservation of the species and (2) which may require special 
management considerations or protection. For these areas, critical 
habitat designations identify, to the extent known using the best 
scientific and commercial data available, those physical or biological 
features that are essential to the conservation of the species (such as 
space, food, cover, and protected habitat). In identifying those 
physical and biological features within an area, we focus on the 
principal biological or physical constituent elements (primary 
constituent elements such as roost sites, nesting grounds, seasonal 
wetlands, water quality, tide, soil type) that are essential to the 
conservation of the species. Primary constituent elements are the 
elements of physical or biological features that are essential to the 
conservation of the species.
    Under the second prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
we can designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographic area 
occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a determination 
that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species. For 
example, an area currently occupied by the species but that was not 
occupied at the time of listing may be essential to the conservation of 
the species and may be included in the critical habitat designation. We 
designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographic area 
occupied by a species only when a designation limited to its range 
would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species.

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    Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat on 
the basis of the best scientific data available. Further, our Policy on 
Information Standards Under the Endangered Species Act (published in 
the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271)), the Information 
Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and General Government 
Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 106-554; H.R. 5658)), 
and our associated Information Quality Guidelines, provide criteria, 
establish procedures, and provide guidance to ensure that our decisions 
are based on the best scientific data available. They require our 
biologists, to the extent consistent with the Act and with the use of 
the best scientific data available, to use primary and original sources 
of information as the basis for recommendations to designate critical 
habitat.
    When we are determining which areas should be designated as 
critical habitat, our primary source of information is generally the 
information developed during the listing process for the species. 
Additional information sources may include the recovery plan for the 
species, articles in peer-reviewed journals, conservation plans 
developed by States and counties, scientific status surveys and 
studies, biological assessments, other unpublished materials, or 
experts' opinions or personal knowledge.
    Habitat is dynamic, and species may move from one area to another 
over time. We recognize that critical habitat designated at a 
particular point in time may not include all of the habitat areas that 
we may later determine are necessary for the recovery of the species. 
For these reasons, a critical habitat designation does not signal that 
habitat outside the designated area is unimportant or may not be needed 
for recovery of the species. Areas that are important to the 
conservation of the species, both inside and outside the critical 
habitat designation, will continue to be subject to: (1) Conservation 
actions implemented under section 7(a)(1) of the Act, (2) regulatory 
protections afforded by the requirement in section 7(a)(2) of the Act 
for Federal agencies to ensure their actions are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened 
species, and (3) the prohibitions of section 9 of the Act if actions 
occurring in these areas may affect the species. Federally funded or 
permitted projects affecting listed species outside their designated 
critical habitat areas may still result in jeopardy findings in some 
cases. These protections and conservation tools will continue to 
contribute to recovery of this species. Similarly, critical habitat 
designations made on the basis of the best available information at the 
time of designation will not control the direction and substance of 
future recovery plans, habitat conservation plans (HCPs), or other 
species conservation planning efforts if new information available at 
the time of these planning efforts calls for a different outcome.

Physical or Biological Features

    In accordance with section 3(5)(A)(i) and 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act and 
regulations at 50 CFR 424.12, in determining which areas within the 
geographic area occupied by the species at the time of listing to 
designate as critical habitat, we consider the physical or biological 
features that are essential to the conservation of the species and 
which may require special management considerations or protection. 
These include, but are not limited to:
    (1) Space for individual and population growth and for normal 
behavior;
    (2) Food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or 
physiological requirements;
    (3) Cover or shelter;
    (4) Sites for breeding, reproduction, or rearing (or development) 
of offspring; and
    (5) Habitats that are protected from disturbance or are 
representative of the historical, geographic, and ecological 
distributions of a species.
    We derive the specific physical or biological features required for 
the shrew from studies of the species habitat, ecology, and life 
history as described below. Additional information can be found in the 
final listing rule published in the Federal Register on March 6, 2002 
(67 FR 10101), the Recovery Plan for Upland Species of the San Joaquin 
Valley, California (Service 1998), and the Five-Year Review of the 
Buena Vista Lake Ornate Shrew (Service 2011). We have determined that 
the following physical or biological features are essential for the 
Buena Vista Lake shrew:

Space for Individual and Population Growth and Normal Behavior

    Historically, the Buena Vista Lake shrew was recorded in 
association with perennial and intermittent wetland habitats along 
riparian corridors, marsh edges, and other palustrine (marsh type) 
habitats in the southern San Joaquin Valley of California. The shrew 
presumably occurred in the moist habitat surrounding wetland margins in 
the Kern, Buena Vista, Goose, and Tulare Lakes on the valley floor 
below elevations of 350 feet (ft) (107 meters (m)) (Grinnell 1932 p. 
389; Hall 1981 p. 38; Williams and Kilburn 1984 p. 953; Williams 1986 
p. 13; Service 1998 p. 163). With the draining and conversion of the 
majority of the Buena Vista Lake shrew's natural habitat from wetland 
to agriculture, and the channelization of riparian corridors for water 
conveyance structures, the vegetative communities associated with the 
Buena Vista Lake shrew were lost or degraded, and nonnative plant 
species replaced those associated with the shrew (Grinnell 1932 p. 389; 
Mercer and Morgan 1991 p. 9; Griggs 1992 p. 11; Service 1998 p. 163). 
Open water does not appear to be necessary for the survival of the 
shrew. The habitat where the shrew has been found contains areas with 
both open water and mesic environments (Maldonado 1992 p. 3; Williams 
and Harpster 2001 p. 12). However, the availability of water 
contributes to improved vegetation structure and diversity, which 
improves cover availability. The presence of water also attracts 
potential prey species, improving prey diversity and availability.
    Current survey information has identified eight areas where the 
Buena Vista Lake shrew has been found in recent years (Maldonado 2006 
p. 16; Williams and Harpster 2001 p. 1; ESRP 2005 p. 11): the former 
Kern Lake Preserve (Kern Preserve) on the old Kern Lake bed, the Kern 
Fan water recharge area, Coles Levee Ecological Preserve (Coles Levee), 
the Kern National Wildlife Refuge (Kern NWR), the Goose Lake slough 
bottoms (Goose Lake), the Atwell Island land retirement demonstration 
site (Atwell Island), the Lemoore Wetland Reserve, and the Semitropic 
Ecological Reserve (also known as Main Drain or Chicca and Sons). Based 
on changes in the native habitat composition and structure, and 
descriptions of the habitat where the Buena Vista Lake shrew have been 
found, we identify habitat adjacent to, or within, a matrix of 
perennial and intermittent wetland habitats along riparian corridors, 
marsh edges, and other palustrine (marsh type) habitats as physical 
features that are needed by the Buena Vista Lake shrew.

Food, Water, Air, Light, Minerals, or Other Nutritional or 
Physiological Requirements

    The specific feeding and foraging habits of the Buena Vista Lake 
shrew are not well known. In general, shrews primarily feed on insects 
and other animals, mostly invertebrates (Harris 1990 p. 2; Maldonado 
1992 p. 6). Food

[[Page 40712]]

probably is not cached and stored, so the shrew must forage 
periodically day and night to maintain its high metabolic rate (Burt 
and Grossenheider 1964, p. 3).
    The vegetation communities described above provide a diversity of 
structural layers and plant species and likely contribute to the 
availability of prey for shrews. Therefore, conservation of the shrew 
should include consideration of the habitat needs of prey species, 
including structural and species diversity and seasonal availability. 
Shrew habitat must provide sufficient prey base and cover from which to 
hunt in an appropriate configuration and proximity to nesting sites. 
The shrew feeds indiscriminately on available larvae and adults of 
several species of aquatic and terrestrial insects. An abundance of 
invertebrates is associated with moist habitats, such as wetland edges, 
riparian habitat, or edges of lakes, ponds, or drainages that possess a 
dense vegetative cover (Owen and Hoffmann 1983 p. 3). Therefore, based 
on the information above, we identify a consistent and diverse supply 
of invertebrate prey to be an essential component of the biological 
features essential for the conservation of the Buena Vista Lake shrew.

Cover or Shelter

    The vegetative communities associated in general with Buena Vista 
Lake shrew occupancy are characterized by the presence of (but are not 
limited to): Populus fremontii (Fremont cottonwood), Salix spp. 
(willows), Salicornia spp. (glasswort), Elymus spp. (wild-rye grass), 
Juncus spp. (rush grass), and other emergent vegetation (Service 1998, 
p. 163). These communities are present at all sites but Atwell Island. 
In addition, Maldonado (1992, p. 6) found shrews in areas of moist 
ground that was covered with leaf litter and near other low-lying 
vegetation, branches, tree roots, and fallen logs; or in areas with 
cool, moist soil beneath dense mats of vegetation that were kept moist 
by proximity to the water line. He described specific habitat features 
that would provide suitable habitat for the shrew: (1) Dense vegetative 
cover; (2) a thick, three-dimensional understory layer of vegetation 
and felled logs, branches, and detritus or debris; (3) heavy understory 
of leaf litter with duff overlying soils; (4) proximity to suitable 
moisture; and (5) a year-round supply of invertebrate prey. Williams 
and Harpster (2001, p. 12) determined that, although moist soil in 
areas with an overstory of willows or cottonwoods appeared to be 
favored, they doubted that such overstory was essential.
    The communities in which Buena Vista Lake shrews have primarily 
been found are characterized by dense mats of leaf litter or herbaceous 
vegetation. The insect prey of the shrew also thrives in the dense 
matted vegetation. Although shrews have also been found at Atwell 
Island, in an area largely devoid of vegetation but characterized by 
deep cracks in the soils, little is currently known of the shrew or 
habitat needs at this site.
    The Buena Vista Lake shrew is preyed upon by small mammalian 
predators as well as by avian predators (Maldonado 1992, p. 7). Dense 
vegetative structure provides the cover or shelter essential for 
evading predators. It also serves as habitat for breeding and 
reproduction, and allows for the protection and rearing of offspring 
and the growth of adult shrews. Therefore, based on the information 
above, we identify riparian and wetland communities, and areas with 
suitable soil moisture that support a complex vegetative structure with 
a thick cover of leaf litter or dense mats of low-lying vegetation to 
be the essential components of the physical and biological features 
essential to the conservation of the species.

Sites for Breeding, Reproduction, or Rearing (or Development) of 
Offspring

    Little is known about the reproductive needs of the Buena Vista 
Lake shrew. The breeding season begins in February or March and ends in 
May or June, but can be extended depending on habitat quality and 
available moisture (Paul Collins 2000, p. 12). The edges of wetland or 
marshy habitat provide the shrew with a sheltered and hospitable 
environment, and provide a prey base that enables the shrew to give 
birth and raise its young. The dense vegetative understory also 
provides young with cover from predators. Dense vegetation also allows 
for the soil moisture necessary for a consistent supply of terrestrial 
and aquatic insect prey (Freas 1990, p. 8; Kirkland 1991, p. 15; 
Maldonado 1992, p. 3; Maldonado et al. 1998, p. 1; Ma and Talmage 2001, 
p. 123).

Habitats Protected From Disturbance or Representative of the 
Historical, Geographic, and Ecological Distributions of the Species

    Preserving what little habitat remains for the Buena Vista Lake 
shrew is crucial to the survival of the species. There are many factors 
negatively impacting and restricting the shrew and its habitat, 
including selenium toxicity, habitat fragmentation, urban development, 
and the effects of climate change. The combined effects of climate 
change and habitat fragmentation have put immense pressure on species 
in highly developed areas like the San Joaquin Valley (Hannah and 
Lovejoy 2005, p. 4). Development has restricted the species to small 
islands of habitat with little to no connectivity or opportunity for 
expansion of its range. Climate change is a particular challenge for a 
variety of species because the interaction between additional stressors 
associated with climate change and current stressors could push species 
beyond their ability to survive (Lovejoy 2005, pp. 325-326), including 
the Buena Vista Lake shrew.

Climate Change

    Our analyses under the Endangered Species Act include consideration 
of ongoing and projected changes in climate. The terms ``climate'' and 
``climate change'' are defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on 
Climate Change (IPCC). The term ``climate'' refers to the mean and 
variability of different types of weather conditions over time, with 30 
years being a typical period for such measurements, although shorter or 
longer periods also may be used (IPCC 2007a, p. 78). The term ``climate 
change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or variability of one or 
more measures of climate (such as, temperature or precipitation) that 
persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer, whether 
the change is due to natural variability, human activity, or both (IPCC 
2007a, p. 78).
    Scientific measurements spanning several decades demonstrate that 
changes in climate are occurring, and that the rate of change has been 
faster since the 1950s. Examples include warming of the global climate 
system, and substantial increases in precipitation in some regions of 
the world and decreases in other regions. (For these and other 
examples, see IPCC 2007a, p. 30; and Solomon et al. 2007, pp. 35-54, 
82-85). Results of scientific analyses presented by the IPCC show that 
most of the observed increase in global average temperature since the 
mid-20th century cannot be explained by natural variability in climate, 
and is ``very likely'' (defined by the IPCC as 90 percent or higher 
probability) due to the observed increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) 
concentrations in the atmosphere as a result of human activities, 
particularly carbon dioxide emissions from use of fossil fuels (IPCC 
2007a, pp. 5-6 and figures SPM.3 and SPM.4; Solomon et al. 2007, pp. 
21-35). Further confirmation of the role of GHGs comes from analyses by 
Huber and Knutti (2011, p. 4), who concluded it is

[[Page 40713]]

extremely likely that approximately 75 percent of global warming since 
1950 has been caused by human activities.
    Scientists use a variety of climate models, which include 
consideration of natural processes and variability, as well as various 
scenarios of potential levels and timing of GHG emissions, to evaluate 
the causes of changes already observed and to project future changes in 
temperature and other climate conditions (e.g., Meehl et al. 2007, 
entire; Ganguly et al. 2009, pp. 11555, 15558; Prinn et al. 2011, pp. 
527, 529). All combinations of models and emissions scenarios yield 
very similar projections of increases in the most common measure of 
climate change, average global surface temperature (commonly known as 
global warming), until about 2030. Although projections of the 
magnitude and rate of warming differ after about 2030, the overall 
trajectory of all the projections is one of increased global warming 
through the end of this century, even for the projections based on 
scenarios that assume that GHG emissions will stabilize or decline. 
Thus, there is strong scientific support for projections that warming 
will continue through the 21st century, and that the magnitude and rate 
of change will be influenced substantially by the extent of GHG 
emissions (IPCC 2007a, pp. 44-45; Meehl et al. 2007, pp. 760-764 and 
797-811; Ganguly et al. 2009, pp. 15555-15558; Prinn et al. 2011, pp. 
527, 529). (See IPCC 2007b, p. 8, for a summary of other global 
projections of climate-related changes, such as frequency of heat waves 
and changes in precipitation. Also see IPCC 2011(entire) for a summary 
of observations and projections of extreme climate events.)
    Various changes in climate may have direct or indirect effects on 
species. These effects may be positive, neutral, or negative, and they 
may change over time, depending on the species and other relevant 
considerations, such as interactions of climate with other variables 
(e.g., habitat fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, pp. 8-14, 18-19). Identifying 
likely effects often involves aspects of climate change vulnerability 
analysis. Vulnerability refers to the degree to which a species (or 
system) is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of 
climate change, including climate variability and extremes. 
Vulnerability is a function of the type, magnitude, and rate of climate 
change and variation to which a species is exposed, its sensitivity, 
and its adaptive capacity (IPCC 2007a, p. 89; see also Glick et al. 
2011, pp. 19-22). There is no single method for conducting such 
analyses that applies to all situations (Glick et al. 2011, p. 3). We 
use our expert judgment and appropriate analytical approaches to weigh 
relevant information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of 
various aspects of climate change.
    Current climate change projections for terrestrial areas in the 
Northern Hemisphere indicate warmer air temperatures, more intense 
precipitation events, and increased summer continental drying (Field et 
al. 1999, pp. 1-3; Hayhoe et al. 2004, p. 12422; Cayan et al. 2005, p. 
6; IPCC 2007, p. 1181). Climate change may lead to increased frequency 
and duration of severe storms and droughts (McLaughlin et al. 2002, p. 
6074; Cook et al. 2004, p. 1015; Golladay et al. 2004, p. 504). Climate 
projections for smaller subregions such as California remain uncertain. 
However, modeling of hydrological responses to potential climate change 
in the San Joaquin watershed suggests that the hydrological system is 
very sensitive to climatic variations on a monthly and annual basis, 
with changes in crop phenology and water use suggested (Ficklin et al. 
2009, pp. 25-27).
    Use of downscaled climate modeling for the Sacramento-San Joaquin 
River Basin shows projected warming, with substantial decadal and 
interannual variability and altered streamflow seasonality in the 
southern San Joaquin Valley, suggesting that water infrastructure 
modifications would be needed to address changing conditions 
(Vanrheenen et al. 2004, pp. 1, 265-279). Due to the Buena Vista Lake 
shrew's reliance on dense riparian vegetation and adequate moisture in 
wetland areas, either increased drying of its home range or changes in 
water delivery practices that reduce water runoff could negatively 
affect the shrew, while increases in runoff could benefit the shrew. 
However, at this time we lack adequate information to make projections 
regarding the specific effects of climate change and its associated 
impacts on the Buena Vista Lake shrew and its habitat.
Primary Constituent Elements for the Buena Vista Lake Shrew
    Under the Act and its implementing regulations, we are required to 
identify the physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the Buena Vista Lake shrew in areas occupied at the 
time of listing, focusing on the features' primary constituent 
elements. We consider primary constituent elements to be those 
components of the physical or biological features that provide for a 
species' life-history processes and are essential to the conservation 
of the species.
    Based on our current knowledge of the physical or biological 
features and habitat characteristics required to sustain the species' 
life-history processes, we determine that the primary constituent 
elements for the Buena Vista Lake shrew are:
    Permanent and intermittent riparian or wetland communities that 
contain:
     A complex vegetative structure with a thick cover of leaf 
litter or dense mats of low-lying vegetation. Associated plant species 
can include, but are not limited to, Fremont cottonwoods, willows, 
glasswort, wild-rye grass, and rush grass. Although moist soil in areas 
with an overstory of willows or cottonwoods appears to be favored, such 
overstory may not be essential.
     Suitable moisture supplied by a shallow water table, 
irrigation, or proximity to permanent or semipermanent water; and
     A consistent and diverse supply of prey. Although the 
specific prey species utilized by the Buena Vista Lake shrew have not 
been identified, ornate shrews are known to eat a variety of 
terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, including amphipods, slugs, and 
insects.
    With this proposed designation of critical habitat, we intend to 
identify the physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the species, through the identification of the 
features' primary constituent elements sufficient to support the life-
history processes of the species. All units and subunits proposed to be 
designated as critical habitat are currently occupied by the Buena 
Vista Lake shrew.

Special Management Considerations or Protections

    When designating critical habitat, we assess whether the specific 
areas within the geographic area occupied by the species at the time of 
listing contain features that are essential to the conservation of the 
species and that may require special management considerations or 
protection. The features essential to the conservation of this species 
may require special management considerations or protection to reduce 
the following threats:
    All areas included in this proposed revision of critical habitat 
will require some level of management to address the current and future 
threats to the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of the Buena Vista Lake shrew. Special management 
considerations or protection may be required to minimize habitat 
destruction, degradation, or

[[Page 40714]]

fragmentation associated with such threats as the following: Changes in 
the water supply allocations, water diversions, flooding, oil and gas 
extraction, nonnative vegetation, and agriculture. For example, the 
Coles Levee area is within the boundaries of a proposed oil and gas 
exploration proposal. Agricultural pressures to convert land to 
agriculture remain in the southern San Joaquin Valley, with 
unauthorized agricultural conversion to orchards noted to have occurred 
recently in the general area.
    The designated units are located in areas characterized by large-
scale agricultural production, and consequently, the units may be 
exposed to a number of pesticides, which could detrimentally impact the 
species. The Buena Vista Lake shrew currently exists on small remnant 
patches of natural habitat in and around the margins of a landscape 
that is otherwise dominated by agriculture. The Buena Vista Lake shrew 
could be directly exposed to lethal and sublethal concentrations of 
pesticides from drift during spraying of crops, or potentially directly 
exposed during herbicide treatment of canal zones and ditch banks, 
wetland or riparian edges, or roadsides where shrews might exist. 
Reduced reproduction in Buena Vista Lake shrews could be directly 
caused by pesticides ingested through grooming, and secondarily from 
feeding on contaminated insects (Sheffield and Lochmiller 2001, p. 
284). A variety of toxicants, including pesticides and heavy metals, 
have been shown to negatively affect insectivores, including shrews, 
that have a high basal metabolism and tight energy balance. Treatment-
related decreases in invertebrate prey availability may be especially 
significant to such insectivore populations (Ma and Talmage 2001, pp. 
133-152).
    The Buena Vista Lake shrew also faces high risks of extinction from 
random catastrophic events (such as floods or drought (Service 1998, p. 
163). The low numbers of Buena Vista Lake shrews located in small 
isolated areas increases the risk of a random catastrophic event wiping 
out entire populations or severely diminishing Buena Vista Lake shrew 
numbers beyond the scope of recovery. These threats and others 
mentioned above could render the habitat less suitable for the Buena 
Vista Lake shrew by washing away leaf litter and complex vegetation 
structure (floods) or drying wetland habitat so that vegetative and 
prey communities die (drought), and special management may be needed to 
address these threats.
    In summary, the critical habitat units identified in this 
designation may require special management considerations or protection 
to provide a functioning hydrological regime to maintain the requisite 
riparian and wetland habitat, which is essential in providing the space 
and cover necessary to sustain the entire life-cycle needs of the 
shrew, as well as its invertebrate prey. Changes in water supply could 
result in the alteration of the moisture regime, which could lead to 
reduced water quality or hydroperiod, loss of suitable invertebrate 
supply for feeding, and loss of complex vegetative structure for cover. 
The units may also require special management considerations due to 
ongoing pressures for agricultural conversion and oil and gas 
exploration, and pesticide use, and vulnerabilities associated with low 
population size and population fragmentation.

Summary of Changes From Previously Proposed Critical Habitat

    On January 24, 2005, we designated 84 ac (34 ha) in Kern County, 
California, as critical habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew (70 FR 
3438). On October 21, 2009, we published in the Federal Register a 
revised proposed critical habitat by reissuing the August 19, 2004, 
proposed critical habitat, which totaled approximately 4,649 ac (1,881 
ha) (69 FR 51417). That acreage has been recalculated, with use of 
current Geographic Information Systems technology, as 4,657 ac (1,885 
ha). We are now proposing to revise this designation to a total of 
approximately 5,182 ac (2,098 ha) consisting of seven critical habitat 
units. This is an increase of approximately 525 ac (212 ha) from the 
October 21, 2009 revised proposed designation. The additional areas 
include revisions to Unit 4 (Coles Levee) and the addition of Unit 6 
(Semitropic Ecological Reserve) and Unit 7 (Lemoore Wetland) (see Table 
1). We have also updated the unit descriptions and revised the criteria 
and methods sections to accommodate newer geographical information 
systems technologies. Finally, as the result of our new system for 
designating critical habitat (77 FR 25611; May 1, 2012), our rule 
portion now consists of maps only, without accompanying GIS 
coordinates. However, the coordinates for these maps are available on 
the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-
2009-0062, at http://www.fws.gov/sacramento/, or at the Sacramento Fish 
and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825.

Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat

    As required by section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we use the best 
scientific data available to designate critical habitat. We review 
available information pertaining to the habitat requirements of the 
species. In accordance with the Act and its implementing regulation at 
50 CFR 424.12(e), we consider whether designating additional areas--
outside those currently occupied as well as those occupied at the time 
of listing--is necessary to ensure the conservation of the species. At 
the time of listing, we were aware of four locations (Kern Lake, Kern 
National Wildlife Refuge, Coles Levee, and the Kern Fan Water Recharge 
Area) where the Buena Vista Lake shrew was extant, but we also noted 
that additional remnant patches of wetland and riparian habitat within 
the Tulare Basin had not been surveyed and might support the shrew 
(Service 2002, p. 10103). We considered the geographical area occupied 
by the species to include areas of remnant wetland and riparian habitat 
within the Tulare Basin.
    As noted previously, shrews were also known from Atwell Island, 
Tulare County (Williams and Harpster 2001, pp. 13, 14), but had not 
been identified as Buena Vista Lake shrews. In January 2003, a fifth 
site, Goose Lake, was surveyed and Buena Vista Lake shrews were also 
identified at this location (ESRP 2004, p. 8). The Goose Lake Unit was 
included in the original proposal to designate critical habitat 
(Service 2004). The Lemoore and Semitropic sites were first surveyed 
for the Buena Vista Lake shrew in April 2005, and Buena Vista Lake 
shrews were captured at these sites (ESRP 2005, p. 11, 12).
    We propose to designate critical habitat in areas within the 
geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing. We 
include as occupied those areas that meet the following two conditions: 
(1) They contain the physical or biological features that are essential 
to the conservation of the species, and (2) they were identified as 
occupied in the original listing documents or determined to be occupied 
after 2002. Our reasoning for the inclusion of these additional areas 
(post-2002) is that, based on the biology of the Buena Vista Lake shrew 
and the conditions at these units, we have concluded that these areas 
were occupied at the time of original listing, but the areas had not 
yet been surveyed at that time. All proposed critical habitat units 
contain natural habitat containing the physical and biological features 
essential to the conservation of the species.

[[Page 40715]]

    As noted above, the Buena Vista Lake shrew is a very small mammal, 
with an annual life cycle. Shrews, in general, have small home ranges 
in which they spend most of their lives, and generally exhibit a high 
degree of site-attachment, although males and juveniles of some species 
have been documented to disperse during the breeding season, with 
movement within a season varying between species from under 10 feet (a 
few meters) to, in one case, documented movement of 0.5 mi (800 meters) 
within a year (Churchfield 1990, pp. 55, 56). No proposed critical 
habitat unit is in close proximity to other units, precluding the 
potential for movement of shrews from other known occupied sites over 
the relatively short timeframe of 1 to 2 years. All proposed units 
retain wetland or riparian features and are within the Tulare Basin, 
the described historical range of the Buena Vista Lake shrew.
    We also consider these proposed critical habitat units to be 
essential for the conservation of the species because they are areas 
located throughout the historical range of the species, are occupied, 
and are needed to maintain the existing distribution of the shrew. All 
areas are currently occupied and we consider these areas to be 
sufficient for the conservation of the species. Our generalized 
criteria for long-term conservation of the Buena Vista Lake shrew 
specify that three or more disjunct occupied sites, which collectively 
provide at least 4,940 ac (2,000 ha) of occupied habitat for the shrew, 
be secured and protected from incompatible uses (Service 1998, p. 192).
    We have identified the proposed lands based on the presence of the 
physical or biological features described above, coupled with occupancy 
by the shrew. Protecting a variety of habitats and conditions that 
contain the physical or biological features will allow for the 
conservation of the species because it will increase the ability of the 
shrew to survive stochastic environmental events (fire, drought, or 
flood), or demographic (low recruitment), or genetic (inbreeding) 
problems. Suitable habitat within the historical range is limited, 
although conservation of substantial areas of remaining habitat in the 
Semitropic area is expected to benefit the shrew. Remaining habitats 
are vulnerable to both anthropogenic and natural threats. Also, these 
areas provide habitats essential for the maintenance and growth of 
self-sustaining populations and metapopulations (a set of local 
populations where typically migration from one local population to 
other areas containing suitable habitat is possible) of shrews 
throughout its range. Therefore, these areas are essential to the 
conservation of the shrew.
    In our development of this revised proposed critical habitat for 
the shrew, we used the following methods. As required by section 
4(b)(2) of the Act and regulations at 50 CFR 424.12, we used the best 
scientific and commercial data available to determine areas that 
contain the physical and biological features that are essential for the 
conservation of the shrew. This included data and information contained 
in, but not limited to, the proposed and final rules listing the shrew 
(65 FR 35033, June 1, 2000, and 67 FR 10101, March 6, 2002), the 
Recovery Plan for Upland Species of the San Joaquin Valley, California 
(Service 1998), the proposed rule designating critical habitat (69 FR 
51417, August 19, 2004), the 5-year status review for the shrew (Buena 
Vista Lake Ornate Shrew 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation, Service 
2011), research and survey observations published in peer-reviewed 
articles (Grinnell 1932, 1933; Hall 1981; Owen and Hoffman 1983; 
Williams and Kilburn 1984; Williams 1986; Maldonado et al. 2001; and 
Maldonado et al. 2004), habitat and wetland mapping and other data 
collected and reports submitted by biologists holding section 
10(a)(1)(A) recovery permits, biological assessments provided to the 
Service through section 7 consultations, reports and documents that are 
on file in the Service's field office (Center for Conservation Biology 
1990; Maldonado et al. 1998; ESRP 1999a; ESRP 2004; ESRP 2005; and 
Maldonado 2006), personal discussions with experts inside and outside 
of the Service with extensive knowledge of the shrew and habitat in the 
area, and information received during the two previous comment periods.
    The five critical habitat units that we originally proposed were 
delineated by creating rough areas for each unit by screen-digitizing 
polygons (map units) using ArcView (Environmental Systems Research 
Institute, Inc. (ESRI)), a computer Geographic Information System (GIS) 
program. The polygons were created by overlaying current and historical 
species location points (California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) 
2004), and mapped wetland habitats (California Department of Water 
Resources 1998) or other wetland location information, onto SPOT 
imagery (satellite aerial photography) (CNES/SPOT Image Corporation 
1993-2000) and Digital Ortho-rectified Quarter Quadrangles (DOQQs) 
(USGS 1993-1998) for areas containing the Buena Vista Lake shrew. We 
utilized GIS data derived from a variety of Federal, State, and local 
agencies, and from private organizations and individuals. To identify 
where essential habitat for the shrew occurs, we evaluated the GIS 
habitat mapping and species occurrence information from the CNDDB 
(2004). We presumed occurrences identified in CNDDB to be extant unless 
there was affirmative documentation that an occurrence had been 
extirpated. We also relied on unpublished species occurrence data 
contained within our files, including section 10(a)(1)(A) reports and 
biological assessments, on site visits, and on visual habitat 
evaluation in areas known to have shrews, and in areas within the 
historical ranges that had potential to contain shrew habitat.
    For the five units, the polygons of identified habitat were further 
evaluated. Several factors were used to delineate the proposed critical 
habitat units from these land areas. We reviewed any information in the 
Recovery Plan for Upland Species of the San Joaquin Valley, California 
(Service 1998), other peer-reviewed literature or expert opinion for 
the shrew to determine if the designated areas would meet the species' 
needs for conservation and whether these areas contained the 
appropriate primary constituent elements. We refined boundaries using 
satellite imagery, soil type coverages, vegetation land cover data, and 
agricultural or urban land use data to eliminate areas that did not 
contain the appropriate vegetation or associated native plant species, 
as well as features such as cultivated agriculture fields, development, 
and other areas that are unlikely to contribute to the conservation of 
the shrew.
    For the revision of the Coles Levee Unit, and the addition of the 
Lemoore and Semitropic Units, we utilized shrew occurrence data 
collected by ESRP (Maldonado 2006, pp. 24-27; Phillips 2011), projected 
data within Arcview (ESRI), and delineated unit polygons. The polygons 
were created by overlaying species location points (Phillips 2011) onto 
NAIP imagery (current satellite aerial photography) (National 
Agriculture Imagery Program 2010) to identify wetland and vegetation 
features, such as vegetated canals, canals with cleared vegetation, 
vegetated sloughs, agricultural fields, and general changes in 
vegetation and land type. We also projected the original proposed units 
onto NAIP imagery and again utilized additional GIS data derived from a 
variety of Federal, State, and local agencies.
    When determining revised proposed critical habitat boundaries, we 
made

[[Page 40716]]

every effort to avoid including developed areas such as lands covered 
by buildings, pavement, and other structures because such lands lack 
physical or biological features necessary for the Buena Vista Lake 
shrew. The scale of the maps we prepared under the parameters for 
publication within the Code of Federal Regulations may not reflect the 
exclusion of such developed lands. Any such lands inadvertently left 
inside critical habitat boundaries shown on the maps of this proposed 
rule have been excluded by text in the proposed rule and are not 
proposed for designation as critical habitat. Therefore, if the 
critical habitat is finalized as proposed, a Federal action involving 
these lands would not trigger section 7 consultation with respect to 
critical habitat and the requirement of no adverse modification unless 
the specific action would affect the physical or biological features in 
the adjacent critical habitat.
    In summary, we are proposing to designate seven units as critical 
habitat. We have determined that the units were occupied at the time of 
listing, and that they are currently occupied (see Table 2). The units 
provide the physical or biological features needed to support the Buena 
Vista Lake shrew. The seven units contain the physical or biological 
features essential to the conservation of the species. We currently are 
proposing to include seven of eight known occupied sites, totaling 
5,182 ac (2,098 ha), as critical habitat. We have determined that 
unoccupied areas are not currently essential to the conservation of the 
species.

    Table 2--Occupancy of Buena Vista Lake Shrew by Revised Proposed
                         Critical Habitat Units
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    Occupied at time       Currently
              Unit                    of listing?          occupied?
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Kern National Wildlife Refuge  yes...............  yes.
 Unit.
2. Goose Lake Unit..............  yes...............  yes.
3. Kern Fan Water Recharge Unit.  yes...............  yes.
4. Coles Levee Unit.............  yes...............  yes.
5. Kern Lake Unit...............  yes...............  yes.
6. Semitropic Ecological Reserve  yes...............  yes.
 Unit.
7. Lemoore Wetland Unit.........  yes...............  yes.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The approximate area of each revised proposed critical habitat unit 
is shown in Table 3.

                                     Table 3--Revised Proposed Critical Habitat Units for the Buena Vista Lake Shrew
                                        [Area estimates reflect all land within critical habitat unit boundaries]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      Total            Federal            State             Local            Private
                     Critical habitat unit                     -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                   ac       ha       ac       ha       ac       ha       ac       ha       ac       ha
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Unit 1, Kern National Wildlife Refuge:
    Subunit 1A................................................      274      111      274      111  .......  .......  .......  .......  .......  .......
    Subunit 1B................................................       66       27       66       27  .......  .......  .......  .......  .......  .......
    Subunit 1C................................................       47       19       47       19  .......  .......  .......  .......  .......  .......
Unit 2, Goose Lake............................................    1,279      518  .......  .......  .......  .......  .......  .......    1,279      518
Unit 3, Kern Fan Water Recharge...............................    2,687    1,088  .......  .......  .......  .......    2,687    1,088  .......  .......
Unit 4, Coles Levee...........................................      270      109  .......  .......       46       19  .......  .......      223       90
Unit 5, Kern Lake Unit........................................       90       36  .......  .......  .......  .......  .......  .......       90       36
Unit 6, Semitropic Ecological Reserve Unit....................      372      151  .......  .......      345      140  .......  .......       27       11
Unit 7, Lemoore Wetland Unit..................................       97       39  .......  .......  .......  .......  .......  .......       97       39
                                                               -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total.....................................................    5,182    2,098      387      157      391      159  .......  .......    1,716      694
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Area sizes may not sum due to rounding.

    We present brief descriptions of all units, and reasons why they 
meet the definition of critical habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew, 
below.
Unit 1: Kern National Wildlife Refuge (Kern NWR) Unit
    The Kern NWR Unit is completely comprised of Federal lands, and is 
located within the Kern NWR in northwestern Kern County. The Kern NWR 
Critical Habitat Unit consists of three subunits totaling approximately 
387 ac (157 ha): Subunit 1A contains 274 ac (111 ha); subunit 1B 
contains 66 ac (27 ha); and subunit 1C contains 47 ac (19 ha). The unit 
was occupied at the time of listing, is currently occupied, and 
contains the physical and biological features that are essential to the 
conservation of the shrew. Shrew habitat in Unit 1 receives water from 
the California Aqueduct. One of the areas where Buena Vista Lake shrews 
are present has standing water from September 1 through approximately 
April 15. After that time, the trees in the area may receive irrigation 
water so the area may possibly remain damp through May, but the area is 
dry for approximately 3 months during the summer. Another area of known 
Buena Vista Lake shrew occurrences has standing water from the second 
week of August through the winter and into early July, and is only dry 
for a short time during the summer. Buena Vista Lake shrew captures 
have occurred in remnant riparian and slough habitat at the refuge 
(Service 2005b, pp. 48, 49).
    This unit is essential to the conservation of the species because 
it is occupied, and the subunits include riparian habitat that contain 
the primary constituent elements. Populus fremontii trees (Fremont 
cottonwood), and Salix spp. (willow) are the dominant woody plants in 
riparian areas. Additional plants include Scirpus spp. (bulrushes), 
Typha spp. (cattails), Juncus spp. (rushes), Heleocharis palustris 
(spike rush), and Sagittaria longiloba (arrowhead). Other plant 
communities on the refuge that support shrews are valley iodine bush 
scrub, dominated by Allenrolfea occidentalis (iodine bush), Suaeda spp. 
(suaeda or seepweed), Frankenia salina (alkali heath), and salt-cedar 
scrub, which is dominated by Tamarix spp. (salt cedar). Both of these 
communities occupy sites with moist, alkaline soils.
    The Kern NWR completed a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for 
the Kern and Pixley NWRs in February 2005 (Service 2005b, pp. 1-103). 
The CCP provides objectives for maintenance and restoration of Buena 
Vista Lake shrew habitat on the Kern NWR. Objectives listed in the CCP 
include completing baseline censuses and monitoring for the shrew,

[[Page 40717]]

enhancement and maintenance of the 215-ac (87-ha) riparian habitat, 
through regular watering, to provide habitat for riparian species, 
including the shrew, and additional restoration of 15 ac (6 ha) of 
riparian habitat along canals in a portion of the refuge to benefit the 
shrew and riparian bird species (Service 2005b, pp. 84, 85). The 
physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the 
species in this unit may require special management considerations or 
protection to address threats from nonnative species such as salt 
cedar, and from changes in hydrology due to off-site water management.
Unit 2: Goose Lake Unit
    The Goose Lake Unit consists of 1,279 ac (518 ha) of private land, 
and is located about 10 mi (16 km) south of Kern NWR in northwestern 
Kern County, in the historical lake bed of Goose Lake. We consider that 
the unit was occupied at the time of listing and assume that it was not 
identified as occupied at that time because it had not yet been 
surveyed for small mammals. In January 2003, when the area was first 
surveyed for small mammals, approximately 6.5 ac (2.6 ha) of potential 
shrew habitat located along the Goose Lake sloughs were surveyed (ESRP 
2004, p. 8), resulting in the capture of five Buena Vista Lake shrews. 
The maximum distance between two shrew captures was 1.6 mi (2.6 km), 
suggesting that Buena Vista Lake shrews are widely distributed on the 
site. The unit has been determined to have the necessary PCEs present 
and therefore meets the definition of critical habitat under section 
3(5)(A)(i) of the Act. The unit was included in the 2004 proposed 
critical habitat designation. Although we continue to presume that the 
unit meets the definition of critical habitat under section 3(5)(A)(i) 
of the Act, we are also proposing to designate the unit under section 
3(5)(A)(ii) of the Act. Even if the unit was not occupied at the time 
of listing, it is essential for the conservation of the shrew because 
it is considered to be currently occupied, is within the subspecies' 
range, and includes riparian habitat containing the PCEs in sloughs and 
wetlands and meets our criteria for designation as critical habitat.
    In the past, Buena Vista Lake shrew habitat in this unit 
experienced widespread losses due to the diversion of water for 
agricultural purposes. However, small, degraded examples of freshwater 
marsh and riparian communities still exist in the area of Goose Lake 
and Jerry Slough (a portion of historical Goose Slough, an overflow 
channel of the Kern River), allowing shrews to persist in the area. 
Dominant vegetation along the slough channels includes Frankenia spp. 
(frankenia), Allenrolfea occidentalis (iodine bush), and Suaeda spp. 
(seepweed). The northern portion of the unit consists of scattered 
mature Allenrolfea occidentalis shrubs in an area that has relatively 
moist soils. The southern portion of the unit is characterized by a 
dense mat of Distichilis spp. (saltgrass) and clumps of Allenrolfea and 
Suaeda spp. A portion of the unit currently exhibits inundation and 
saturation during the winter months. Dominant vegetation in these areas 
has included cattails, bulrushes, Juncus spp., and saltgrass.
    The Goose Lake area is managed by the Semitropic Water Storage 
District (WSD) as a ground-water recharge basin. Water from the 
California Aqueduct is transferred to the Goose Lake area in years of 
abundant water, where it is allowed to recharge the aquifer that is 
used for irrigated agriculture. At the time that the unit was 
originally proposed, the landowners, in cooperation with Ducks 
Unlimited, Inc. and Semitropic WSD, proposed to create and restore 
habitat for waterfowl in the unit area; wetland restoration that we 
expected to substantially increase the quantity and quality of Buena 
Vista Lake shrew habitat on the site. Restoration activities were 
completed in the last 5 years. The physical and biological features 
essential to the conservation of the species in this unit may require 
special management considerations or protection to address threats from 
nonnative species such as salt cedar, from recreational use, and from 
changes in hydrology due to water management and maintenance of water 
conveyance facilities. There are currently no conservation agreements 
covering this land.
Unit 3: Kern Fan Water Recharge Unit
    The Kern Fan Water Recharge Area Unit consists of 2,687 ac (1,088 
ha) of private land, which is within the 2,800-ac, (1,133-ha) Kern Fan 
Water Recharge Area, and is owned by the City of Bakersfield. The unit 
is located along the banks of the Kern River, west of Bakersfield, and 
is adjacent to the Kern Water Bank, a 19,000-ac (7,689-ha) area owned 
by the Kern Water Bank Authority. Portions of the recharge area are 
flooded sporadically, forming fragmented wetland communities throughout 
the area.
    This unit was occupied at the time of listing, is currently 
occupied by the Buena Vista Lake shrew, and includes the physical and 
biological features that are essential to the conservation of the Buena 
Vista Lake shrew. Remnant riparian areas are found throughout the area, 
but are mainly located in narrow strips near the main channel of the 
Kern River and are dominated by Fremont cottonwood, Salix spp. (willow 
species), Urtica dioica (stinging nettle), Leymus triticoides (creeping 
wild rye), Baccharis salicifolia (mulefat), and Asclepias fascicularis 
(narrow-leaved milkweed). The plant communities of the Kern Fan Water 
Recharge Area also include a mixture of Valley saltbush scrub and Great 
Valley mesquite shrub. The Valley saltbush scrub is characterized by 
the presence of Atriplex polycarpa (Valley saltbush), alkali heath, 
Isocoma acradenia (goldenbush), and Hemizonia pungens (common 
spikeweed). The soils in this area are sandy to loamy with no surface 
alkalinity. This community seems to intergrade with the Great Valley 
mesquite scrub plant community. This is an open scrubland dominated by 
Prosopis juliflora (mesquite), Valley saltbush, and goldenbush. The 
soils also are sandy loams of alluvial origin (soil types deposited by 
rivers).
    Willow species, stinging nettles, and a thick mat of creeping wild 
rye dominate the location of the captured Buena Vista Lake shrews. 
Other plant species found in locations where the Buena Vista Lake 
shrews were trapped include Fremont cottonwood and salt grass. At the 
time of capture, this site had no standing water within 328 feet (100 
meters) of the location where the Buena Vista Lake shrews were caught.
    The physical and biological features essential to the conservation 
of the species in this unit may require special management 
considerations or protection to address threats from nonnative species 
such as salt cedar, and from changes in hydrology due to off-site water 
management, especially in dry years. The unit is adjacent to, but not 
included within, the Kern Water Bank Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural 
Community Conservation Plan (Kern Water Bank HCP/NCCP) permit area 
(Kern Water Bank Authority 1997, p. 7).
    Over the past seven years, the City of Bakersfield has worked with 
the Service to make management changes to benefit the Buena Vista Lake 
shrew, and has completed annual monitoring to assess habitat conditions 
for the Buena Vista Lake shrew. The City of Bakersfield is working with 
the Service to improve assurances for protection of the Buena Vista 
Lake shrew in this unit. The Service is considering whether to exclude 
this unit from critical habitat.

[[Page 40718]]

Unit 4: Coles Levee Unit
    The Coles Levee Unit is approximately 270 ac (109 ha) in Kern 
County, of which 223 ac (90 ha) is owned by Aera Energy. An additional 
46 ac (19 ha) are State lands within the Tule Elk Reserve. The unit is 
located northeast of Tupman Road near the town of Tupman, is directly 
northeast of the California Aqueduct, and is largely within the Coles 
Levee Ecosystem Preserve, which was established as a mitigation bank in 
1992, in an agreement between Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) and 
California Department of Fish and Game. The preserve serves as a 
mitigation bank to compensate for the loss of habitat for listed upland 
species; the Buena Vista Lake shrew is not a covered species. The 
preserve is mostly highly degraded upland saltbush and mesquite scrub, 
and is interlaced with slough channels for the historical Kern River 
fan where the river entered Buena Vista Lake from the northeast. Most 
slough channels are dry except in times of heavy flooding, every 
several years. The preserve also contains approximately 2 mi (3.2 km) 
of much-degraded riparian communities along the Kern River.
    A manmade pond, which was constructed in the late 1990s or early 
2000s, is located within the unit. Water from the adjacent oil fields 
is constantly pumped into the basin. Vegetation includes bulrushes, 
stinging nettle, mulefat, salt grass, Atriplex lentiformis (quailbush), 
and Conium maculatum (poison hemlock). There are a few willows and 
Fremont cottonwoods scattered throughout the area. This site runs 
parallel to the Kern River bed.
    In the 2009 proposed rule (74 FR 53999. October 21, 2009), we 
reproposed 214 ac (87 ha) of critical habitat as the Coles Levee Unit. 
In this unit, Buena Vista Lake shrews were originally captured along a 
nature trail that was adjacent to a slough, and were close to the 
water's edge where there was abundant ground cover but little or no 
canopy cover. The unit is delineated in a general southeast to 
northwest direction, along both sides of the Kern River Flood Channel 
and Outlet Canal, which runs through the Preserve. During a 
construction project in the summer of 2011, two Buena Vista Lake shrews 
were found just north of the previous northerly boundary of the unit. 
We have therefore extended the unit boundary along both sides of the 
canal to encompass the contiguous riparian habitat to the point where 
water is no longer retained and riparian vegetation essentially stops, 
thereby including riparian habitat along the Outlet Canal within the 
Tule Elk Reserve.
    This unit is essential to the conservation of the species because 
it is occupied and includes willow-cottonwood riparian habitat that 
contains the PCEs. The physical and biological features essential to 
the conservation of the species in this unit may require special 
management considerations or protection to address threats from 
construction activities associated with projects to tie-in water 
conveyance facilities to the California Aqueduct and oil and gas-
related activites, including pipeline projects. The area adjacent to 
Coles Levee is the site of active gas and oil production, and the Coles 
Levee Unit is within an area that was recently proposed for oil and gas 
exploration.
    An HCP was issued for the Coles Levee Ecological Preserve Area. 
However, the HCP permit expired when ARCO sold the property to the 
current owner and the permit was not transferred.
Unit 5: Kern Lake Unit
    The Kern Lake Unit is approximately 90 ac (36 ha) in size, and is 
located at the edge of the historical Kern Lake, approximately 16 miles 
south of Bakersfield in southwestern Kern County. This unit lies 
between Hwy 99 and Interstate 5, south of Herring Road near the New Rim 
Ditch. The unit was occupied at the time of listing, is considered 
currently occupied, and contains the physical and biological features 
that are essential to the conservation of the Buena Vista Lake shrew. 
Since the advent of reclamation and development, the surrounding lands 
have seen intensive cattle and sheep ranching and, more recently, 
cotton and alfalfa farming. Currently, Kern Lake itself is generally a 
dry lake bed; however, the unit contains wet alkali meadows and a 
spring-fed pond known as ``Gator Pond,'' which is located near the 
shoreline of the lake bed. A portion of the runoff from the surrounding 
hills travels through underground aquifers, surfacing as artesian 
springs at the pond. The heavy clay soils support a distinctive 
assemblage of native species, providing an island of native vegetation 
situated among agricultural lands. The unit contains three ecologically 
significant natural communities: Freshwater marsh, alkali meadow, and 
iodine bush scrub.
    The moisture regime for shrew habitat in this unit is maintained by 
agricultural runoff from the New Rim ditch. This unit is essential to 
the conservation of the species because it is currently occupied and 
includes habitat that contains the PCEs identified for the shrew. The 
Kern Lake area was formerly managed by the Nature Conservancy for the 
Boswell Corporation, and was once thought to contain the last remaining 
population of the Buena Vista Lake shrew.
    The physical and biological features essential to the conservation 
of the species in this unit may require special management 
considerations or protection to address threats from reductions in 
water delivery, from effects of surrounding agricultural use, and from 
industrial and commercial development. The proposed Maricopa Sun solar 
development is within a 2-mile radius of the unit. This area does not 
have a conservation easement and is managed by the landowners. We are 
unaware of any plans to develop this site; however, it is within a 
matrix of lands managed for agricultural production.
Unit 6: Semitropic Ecological Reserve Unit
    Unit 6 is located about 7 mi (11 km) south of Kern NWR and 7 mi (11 
km) north of the Goose Lake unit along the Main Drain Canal. It is 
bordered on the south by State Route 46, approximately 2 mi (3 km) east 
of the intersection with Interstate 5, and is 372 ac (151 ha) in size. 
The State of California, Department of Fish and Game, holds 345 ac (140 
ha) under fee title, and manages the area as part of the Semitropic 
Ecological Reserve. An additional 27 ac (11 ha) of the unit are private 
land.
    We consider that the unit was occupied at the time of listing and 
assume that it was not identified as occupied at that time because it 
had not yet been surveyed for small mammals (see Criteria Used To 
Identify Critical Habitat). Buena Vista Lake shrews were identified in 
the unit on April 27, 2005, when it was first surveyed for small 
mammals (ESRP 2005, pp. 10-13). At that time, Buena Vista Lake shrews 
were found in the southwestern portion of the unit, next to the Main 
Drain Canal. The unit has been determined to have the necessary PCEs 
present and therefore meets the definition of critical habitat under 
section 3(5)(A)(i) of the Act. Although we presume that the unit meets 
the definition of critical habitat under section 3(5)(A)(i) of the Act, 
we are also proposing to designate the unit under section 3(5)(A)(ii) 
of the Act. Even if the unit was not occupied at the time of listing, 
it is essential for the conservation of the Buena Vista Lake shrew due 
to its location approximately midway between Units 1 and 2, and 
location near the southern edge of remnant natural wetland and riparian

[[Page 40719]]

habitat. The unit is also considered essential for the conservation of 
the shrew because it is considered to be currently occupied, and 
contains a matrix of riparian and wetland habitat, including riparian 
habitat both along the canal, and within and adjacent to oxbow and 
slough features.
    The major vegetative associations at the site are valley saltbush 
scrub and valley sink scrub. Valley saltbush scrub is found within the 
relatively well-drained soils at slightly higher elevations, and the 
valley sink scrub is found in the heavier clay soils. Dominant 
vegetation at the site includes Bromus diandrus (ripgut brome), Bromus 
madritensis ssp. rubens (red brome), Carex spp. (sedges), Juncus spp. 
(rushes), Polygonum spp. (knotweed), Polypogon monspeliensis 
(rabbitfoot grass), Rumex crispus (curly dock), and Vulpia myuros 
(foxtail fescue). There is a light overstory of Populus ssp. 
(cottonwoods) at the most successful Buena Vista Lake shrew capture 
site.
    The physical and biological features essential to the conservation 
of the species in this unit may require special management 
considerations or protection to address threats from ongoing oil and 
gas exploration and development, ongoing conversion of natural lands 
for agricultural development, changes in water management, weed control 
activities, including use of herbicides, and the occurrence of range 
trespass in an open range area. Semitropic reserve lands are not fenced 
and are subject to occasional range trespass by sheep and cattle (CDFG 
2012). State lands in the unit were acquired under the provisions of 
the Metro Bakersfield Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), and are managed 
for listed upland species. Location of the Main Drain Canal in the 
unit, and the presence of wetland features are expected to benefit the 
shrew, although the shrew is not a covered species under the HCP. The 
State does not yet have a management plan for the Semitropic Ecological 
Reserve.
Unit 7: Lemoore Wetland Reserve Unit
    The Lemoore Wetland Reserve Unit is located east of the Lemoore 
Naval Air Station and is 4 mi (6 km) west of the City of Lemoore in 
Kings County. The unit is bounded along the southern border by State 
Route 198, and on the north and west sides by a bare water-conveyance 
canal. It is 97 ac (39 ha) in size. The Unit is managed by the Natural 
Resources Conservation Service for waterfowl enhancement.
    We consider that the unit was occupied at the time of listing and 
that it was not identified as occupied at that time because it had not 
yet been surveyed for small mammals (see Criteria Used To Identify 
Critical Habitat). Buena Vista Lake shrews were identified in the unit 
April 20-22, 2005, when it was first surveyed for small mammals (ESRP 
2005, pp. 10-13). The unit has been determined to have the necessary 
PCEs present and, therefore, meets the definition of critical habitat 
under section 3(5)(A)(i) of the Act. Although we presume that the unit 
meets the definition of critical habitat under section 3(5)(A)(i) of 
the Act, we are also proposing to designate the unit under section 
3(5)(A)(ii) of the Act. The unit is essential for the conservation of 
the shrew due to its location approximately at the northernmost extent 
of the subspecies' range, due to occupancy, and due to remnant natural 
wetland and riparian habitat that contains the PCEs.
    The site was created to provide a place for city storm water to 
percolate and drop contaminants to shield the Kings River during years 
of flood runoff. Portions of the area are flooded periodically, forming 
fragmented wetland communities throughout the area.
    The plant communities of the Lemoore Wetland Reserve Unit include a 
mixture of vegetation communities: nonnative grassland, vernal marsh, 
and elements of valley sink scrub. Brassica nigra (black mustard), 
Bromus madritensis ssp. rubens (red brome), B. hordeaceus (soft chess), 
Distichlis spicata (saltgrass), Frankenia salina (alkali heath), Juncus 
spp. (rushes), Lactuca serriola (prickly lettuce), Polypogon 
monspeliensis (rabbitfoot grass), Populus ssp. (cottonwood), curly dock 
(Rumex crispus), willow (Salix ssp), bulrush (Scirpus ssp.), common 
sowthistle (Sonchus oleraceus), cattails (Typha ssp.), foxtail fescue 
(Vulpia myuros) and cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) are common 
throughout the site. This unit is essential to the conservation of the 
species because it is currently occupied and contains the PCEs 
identified for the shrew. It is the northernmost occurrence of the 
shrew and, therefore, would be considered essential to protecting the 
outermost portions of its known range.

Effects of Critical Habitat Designation

Section 7 Consultation

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies, including the 
Service, to ensure that any action they fund, authorize, or carry out 
is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered 
species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of designated critical habitat of such species. In 
addition, section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
confer with the Service on any agency action which is likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any species proposed to be listed 
under the Act, or result in the destruction or adverse modification of 
any critical habitat proposed to be designated for such species.
    Decisions by the 5th and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals have 
invalidated our regulatory definition of ``destruction or adverse 
modification'' (50 CFR 402.02) (see Gifford Pinchot Task Force v. U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 378 F. 3d 1059 (9th Cir. 2004) and Sierra 
Club v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service et al., 245 F.3d 434, 442 (5th 
Cir. 2001)), and we do not rely on this regulatory definition when 
analyzing whether an action is likely to destroy or adversely modify 
critical habitat. Under the statutory provisions of the Act, we 
determine destruction or adverse modification on the basis of whether, 
with implementation of the proposed Federal action, the affected 
critical habitat would continue to serve its intended conservation role 
for the species.
    If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical 
habitat, the responsible Federal agency (action agency) must enter into 
consultation with us. Examples of actions that are subject to the 
section 7 consultation process are actions on State, tribal, local, or 
private lands that require a Federal permit (such as a permit from the 
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under section 404 of the Clean Water Act 
(33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) or a permit from the Service under section 10 
of the Act) or that involve some other Federal action (such as funding 
from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation 
Administration, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Federal 
actions not affecting listed species or critical habitat, and actions 
on State, tribal, local, or private lands that are not federally funded 
or authorized, do not require section 7 consultation.
    As a result of section 7 consultation, we document compliance with 
the requirements of section 7(a)(2) through our issuance of:
    (1) A concurrence letter for Federal actions that may affect, but 
are not likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat; 
or
    (2) A biological opinion for Federal actions that may affect, or 
are likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat.

[[Page 40720]]

    When we issue a biological opinion concluding that a project is 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species and/or 
destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, we may provide reasonable 
and prudent alternatives to the project, if any are identifiable, that 
would avoid the likelihood of jeopardy and/or destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat. We define ``reasonable and prudent 
alternatives'' (at 50 CFR 402.02) as alternative actions identified 
during consultation that:
    (1) Can be implemented in a manner consistent with the intended 
purpose of the action,
    (2) Can be implemented consistent with the scope of the Federal 
agency's legal authority and jurisdiction,
    (3) Are economically and technologically feasible, and
    (4) Would, in the Director's opinion, avoid the likelihood of 
jeopardizing the continued existence of the listed species and/or avoid 
the likelihood of destroying or adversely modifying critical habitat.
    Reasonable and prudent alternatives can vary from slight project 
modifications to extensive redesign or relocation of the project. Costs 
associated with implementing a reasonable and prudent alternative are 
similarly variable.
    Regulations at 50 CFR 402.16 require Federal agencies to reinitiate 
consultation on previously reviewed actions in instances where we have 
listed a new species or subsequently designated critical habitat that 
may be affected and the Federal agency has retained discretionary 
involvement or control over the action (or the agency's discretionary 
involvement or control is authorized by law). Consequently, Federal 
agencies sometimes may need to request reinitiation of consultation 
with us on actions for which formal consultation has been completed, if 
those actions with discretionary involvement or control may affect 
subsequently listed species or designated critical habitat.

Application of the ``Adverse Modification'' Standard

    The key factor related to the adverse modification determination is 
whether, with implementation of the proposed Federal action, the 
affected critical habitat would continue to serve its intended 
conservation role for the species. Activities that may destroy or 
adversely modify critical habitat are those that alter the physical or 
biological features to an extent that appreciably reduces the 
conservation value of critical habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew. 
As discussed above, the role of critical habitat is to support life-
history needs of the species and provide for the conservation of the 
species.
    Section 4(b)(8) of the Act requires us to briefly evaluate and 
describe, in any proposed or final regulation that designates critical 
habitat, activities involving a Federal action that may destroy or 
adversely modify such habitat, or that may be affected by such 
designation.
    Activities that may affect critical habitat, when carried out, 
funded, or authorized by a Federal agency, should result in 
consultation for the Buena Vista Lake shrew. These activities include, 
but are not limited to:
    (1) Actions that would affect riparian or wetland areas by any 
Federal agency. Such activities could include, but are not limited to, 
flood control or changes in water banking activities. These activities 
could eliminate or reduce the habitat necessary for the reproduction, 
sheltering, or growth of Buena Vista Lake shrews.
    (2) Actions that would affect the regulation of water flows by any 
Federal agency. Such activities could include, but are not limited to, 
damming, diversion, and channelization. These activities could 
eliminate or reduce the habitat necessary for the reproduction, 
sheltering, or growth of Buena Vista Lake shrews.
    (3) Actions that would involve regulations funded or permitted by 
the Federal Highway Administration (We note that the Federal Highway 
Administration does not fund the routine operations and maintenance of 
the State highway system). Such activities could include, but are not 
limited to, new road construction and right-of-way designation. These 
activities could eliminate or reduce riparian or wetland habitat along 
river crossings necessary for reproduction, sheltering, or growth of 
Buena Vista Lake shrews.
    (4) Actions that would involve licensing of construction of 
communication sites by the Federal Communications Commission. Such 
activities could include, but are not limited to, the installation of 
new radio equipment and facilities. These activities could eliminate or 
reduce the habitat necessary for the reproduction, sheltering, 
foraging, or growth of Buena Vista Lake shrews.
    (5) Actions that would involve funding of activities by the U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Federal 
Emergency Management Agency, or any other Federal agency. Such 
activities could include, but are not limited to, activities associated 
with the cleaning up of Superfund sites, erosion control activities, 
and flood control activities. These activities could eliminate or 
reduce upland or aquatic habitat for Buena Vista Lake shrews.
    (6) Actions that would affect waters of the United States by the 
Army Corps under section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Such activities 
could include, but are not limited to, placement of fill into wetlands. 
These activities could eliminate or reduce the habitat necessary for 
the reproduction, feeding, or growth of Buena Vista Lake shrews.

Exemptions

Application of Section 4(a)(3) of the Act

    The Sikes Act Improvement Act of 1997 (Sikes Act) (16 U.S.C. 670a) 
required each military installation that includes land and water 
suitable for the conservation and management of natural resources to 
complete an integrated natural resources management plan (INRMP) by 
November 17, 2001. An INRMP integrates implementation of the military 
mission of the installation with stewardship of the natural resources 
found on the base. Each INRMP includes:
    (1) An assessment of the ecological needs on the installation, 
including the need to provide for the conservation of listed species;
    (2) A statement of goals and priorities;
    (3) A detailed description of management actions to be implemented 
to provide for these ecological needs; and
    (4) A monitoring and adaptive management plan.
    Among other things, each INRMP must, to the extent appropriate and 
applicable, provide for fish and wildlife management; fish and wildlife 
habitat enhancement or modification; wetland protection, enhancement, 
and restoration where necessary to support fish and wildlife; and 
enforcement of applicable natural resource laws.
    The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Pub. 
L. 108-136) amended the Act to limit areas eligible for designation as 
critical habitat. Specifically, section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act (16 
U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(B)(i)) now provides: ``The Secretary shall not 
designate as critical habitat any lands or other geographic areas owned 
or controlled by the Department of Defense, or designated for its use, 
that are subject to an integrated natural resources management plan 
prepared under section 101 of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a), if the 
Secretary determines

[[Page 40721]]

in writing that such plan provides a benefit to the species for which 
critical habitat is proposed for designation.''
    There are no Department of Defense lands within the revised 
proposed critical habitat designation and as a result, we are not 
exempting any lands under section 4(a)(3)(B) of the Act.

Exclusions

Application of Section 4(b)(2) of the Act

    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary shall 
designate and make revisions to critical habitat on the basis of the 
best available scientific data after taking into consideration the 
economic impact, national security impact, and any other relevant 
impact of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. The 
Secretary may exclude an area from critical habitat if he determines 
that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying 
such area as part of the critical habitat, unless he determines, based 
on the best scientific data available, that the failure to designate 
such area as critical habitat will result in the extinction of the 
species. In making that determination, the statute on its face, as well 
as the legislative history, are clear that the Secretary has broad 
discretion regarding which factor(s) to use and how much weight to give 
to any factor.
    In considering whether to exclude a particular area from the 
designation, we identify the benefits of including the area in the 
designation, identify the benefits of excluding the area from the 
designation, and evaluate whether the benefits of exclusion outweigh 
the benefits of inclusion. If the analysis indicates that the benefits 
of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion, the Secretary may 
exercise his discretion to exclude the area only if such exclusion 
would not result in the extinction of the species.
    When identifying the benefits of inclusion for an area, we consider 
the additional regulatory benefits that area would receive from the 
protection from adverse modification or destruction as a result of 
actions with a Federal nexus; the educational benefits of mapping 
essential habitat for recovery of the listed species; and any benefits 
that may result from a designation due to State or Federal laws that 
may apply to critical habitat.
    When identifying the benefits of exclusion, we consider, among 
other things, whether exclusion of a specific area is likely to result 
in conservation; the continuation, strengthening, or encouragement of 
partnerships; or implementation of a management plan that provides 
equal to or more conservation than a critical habitat designation would 
provide.
    In the case of the Buena Vista Lake shrew, the benefits of critical 
habitat include public awareness of the shrew's presence and the 
importance of habitat protection, and in cases where a Federal nexus 
exists, increased habitat protection for the shrew due to the 
protection from adverse modification or destruction of critical 
habitat. Since the shrew was first listed, we have consulted on 
projects on privately owned land that involved waterways, oil and gas 
development and exploration, and operations and maintenance of 
electricity transmission lines.
    When we evaluate the existence of a conservation plan when 
considering the benefits of exclusion, we consider a variety of 
factors, including but not limited to, whether the plan is finalized; 
how it provides for the conservation of the essential physical or 
biological features; whether there is a reasonable expectation that the 
conservation management strategies and actions contained in a 
management plan will be implemented into the future; whether the 
conservation strategies in the plan are likely to be effective; and 
whether the plan contains a monitoring program or adaptive management 
to ensure that the conservation measures are effective and can be 
adapted in the future in response to new information.
    After identifying the benefits of inclusion and the benefits of 
exclusion, we carefully weigh the two sides to evaluate whether the 
benefits of exclusion outweigh those of inclusion. If our analysis 
indicates that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of 
inclusion, we then determine whether exclusion would result in 
extinction. If exclusion of an area from critical habitat will result 
in extinction, we will not exclude it from the designation.
    Based on the information provided by entities seeking exclusion, as 
well as any additional public comments received, we will evaluate 
whether certain lands in the revised proposed critical habitat are 
appropriate for exclusion from the final designation pursuant to 
section 4(b)(2) of the Act. If the analysis indicates that the benefits 
of excluding lands from the final designation outweigh the benefits of 
designating those lands as critical habitat, then the Secretary may 
exercise his discretion to exclude the lands from the final 
designation.
    We have not proposed to exclude any areas from critical habitat, 
but we are considering whether to exclude the Kern Fan Water Recharge 
Unit (Unit 3) (2,687 ac (1,088 ha)), from final critical habitat 
designation. The Kern Fan Water Recharge Unit is owned by the City of 
Bakersfield and is managed as a groundwater recharge zone. The unit is 
adjacent to, but is not included in the Kern Water Bank Habitat 
Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan permit area. 
The City of Bakersfield has managed the unit under a Service-approved 
management plan that was designed to benefit the shrew. The Service is 
currently working with the City to enhance the management plan to 
increase monitoring and funding assurances for the shrew. We are 
continuing to coordinate with the City, and will examine conservation 
actions for the shrew, including current management planning documents, 
in our consideration of the Kern Fan Water Recharge Unit for exclusion 
from the final designation of critical habitat for the shrew, under 
section 4(b)(2) of the Act. We specifically solicit comments on the 
benefits of inclusion or benefits of exclusion of this area as critical 
habitat.
Exclusions Based on Economic Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider the economic impacts 
of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. In order to 
consider economic impacts, we are preparing an analysis of the economic 
impacts of the revised proposed critical habitat designation and 
related factors.
    On April 28, 2011, we released a draft economic analysis (DEA) 
(Industrial Economics Incorporated (IEc) 2011) analyzing the impacts of 
designating critical habitat, as proposed in the October 21, 2009, 
proposed rule (74 FR 53999). In the DEA, the analysts concluded that 
incremental impacts resulting from the critical habitat designation for 
the previously proposed units are limited to additional administrative 
costs of section 7 consultation, and noted two primary sources of 
uncertainty associated with the incremental effects analysis: (1) The 
actual rate of future consultation is unknown, and (2) future land use 
on private lands is uncertain. The analysis did not identify any future 
projects on private lands beyond those covered by existing baseline 
projections. Section 7 consultation on the Buena Vista Lake shrew has 
not occurred on private lands that are not covered by conservation 
plans (Units 2 and 5). As a result, the analysis did not forecast 
incremental impacts due to such measures.
    For the five units, the DEA estimated total potential incremental 
economic impacts in areas proposed as revised critical habitat over the 
next 20 years

[[Page 40722]]

(2011 to 2030) to be approximately $133,000 ($11,700 annualized) in 
present value terms applying a 7 percent discount rate (IEc 2011, p. 4-
2). Administrative costs associated with section 7 consultations on a 
variety of activities (including pipeline construction and removal, 
delivery of water supplies under the Central Valley Project, pesticide 
applications for invasive species, and restoration activities) in 
proposed critical habitat Units 2, 3, and 4 were expected to total 
approximately $53,900 over the next 20 years and made up the largest 
portion of post-designation incremental impacts, accounting for 
approximately 39 percent of the forecast incremental impacts (IEc 2011, 
pp. 4-11--4-12). Impacts were associated with section 7 consultations 
on Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) operations and maintenance 
activities, internal consultations at the Kern National Wildlife 
Refuge, section 7 consultations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
due to Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) permitting, and the 
incremental impact of consultations and management plan review for the 
City of Bakersfield's Kern Fan Recharge Area.
    The incremental costs were broken down by location of expected 
incremental costs within the five proposed critical habitat units, as 
follows: Unit 3, Kern Fan ($84,000 (present-value impacts)), Unit 1, 
Kern National Wildlife Refuge ($20,800), Unit 2, Goose Lake Unit 
($16,500), Unit 4, Coles Levee Unit ($6,340), and Unit 5, Kern Lake 
Unit (no identified costs). The consultations forecast for proposed 
critical habitat Units 2 and 5 were limited to those associated with 
occasional permitted pipeline, restoration, or water projects. We are 
currently in the process of analyzing the additional areas we are 
currently proposing as critical habitat for potential economic impacts 
and we will issue a revised draft economic analysis once our review has 
been completed. As a result of the revisions, the potential impacts 
identified above may change.
    We will announce the availability of the revised draft economic 
analysis as soon as it is completed, at which time we will seek public 
review and comment. At that time, copies of the draft economic analysis 
will be available for downloading from the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov, or by contacting the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife 
Office directly (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section). During 
the development of a final designation, we will consider economic 
impacts, public comments, and other new information, and areas may be 
excluded from the final critical habitat designation under section 
4(b)(2) of the Act and our implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.19.
Exclusions Based on National Security Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider whether there are 
lands owned or managed by the Department of Defense (DOD) where a 
national security impact might exist. In preparing this revised 
proposal, we have determined that the lands within the revised proposed 
designation of critical habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew are not 
owned or managed by the Department of Defense, and, therefore, we 
anticipate no impact on national security. Consequently, the Secretary 
does not propose to exercise his discretion to exclude any areas from 
the final designation based on impacts on national security.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the 
Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert 
opinions of at least three appropriate and independent specialists 
regarding this proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure 
that our critical habitat designation is based on scientifically sound 
data, assumptions, and analyses. We have invited these peer reviewers 
to comment during this public comment period on our specific 
assumptions and conclusions in this proposed designation of critical 
habitat.
    We will consider all comments and information received during this 
comment period on this revised proposed rule during our preparation of 
a final determination. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from 
this revised proposal.

Public Hearings

    Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for one or more public hearings 
on this proposal, if requested. Requests must be received within 45 
days after the date of publication of this proposed rule in the Federal 
Register. Such requests must be sent to the address shown in the FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section. We will schedule public hearings 
on this proposal, if any are requested, and announce the dates, times, 
and places of those hearings, as well as how to obtain reasonable 
accommodations, in the Federal Register and local newspapers at least 
15 days before the hearing.

Required Determinations--Amended

    In our proposed rule published in the Federal Register on October 
21, 2009 (74 FR 53999), we indicated that we would defer our 
determination of compliance with several statutes and executive orders 
until the information concerning potential economic impacts of the 
designation and potential effects on landowners and stakeholders became 
available in the DEA. In the April 28, 2011, document making available 
the DEA (76 FR 23781) we made use of the DEA data to make these 
determinations. We affirmed the information in our proposed rule 
concerning Executive Order (E.O.) 12866 (Regulatory Planning and 
Review), E.O. 12630 (Takings), E.O. 13132 (Federalism), E.O. 12988 
(Civil Justice Reform), the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 
et seq.), the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), 
the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and the 
President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, ``Government-to-Government 
Relations with Native American Tribal Governments'' (59 FR 22951). 
However, based on the DEA's data, we amended our required 
determinations concerning the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 
et seq.) and E.O. 13211 (Energy Supply, Distribution, and Use). A 
revised economic analysis will be completed to consider economic 
impacts due to the revisions to proposed critical habitat that are 
included in this document.

Regulatory Planning and Review--Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

    Executive Order (E.O.) 12866 provides that the Office of 
Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) will review all significant 
rules. The OIRA has determined that this rule is not significant. E.O. 
13563 reaffirms the principles of E.O. 12866 while calling for 
improvements in the nation's regulatory system to promote 
predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most 
innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. 
The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches 
that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for 
the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and 
consistent with regulatory objectives. E.O. 13563 emphasizes further 
that regulations must be based on the best available science and that 
the rulemaking process must allow for public participation and an open 
exchange of ideas. We have developed this rule in a manner consistent 
with these requirements.

[[Page 40723]]

Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA; 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) as 
amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 
1996 (SBREFA; 5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), whenever an agency is required to 
publish a notice of rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must 
prepare and make available for public comment a regulatory flexibility 
analysis that describes the effects of the rule on small entities 
(small businesses, small organizations, and small government 
jurisdictions). However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required 
if the head of the agency certifies the rule will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
The SBREFA amended the RFA to require Federal agencies to provide a 
certification statement of the factual basis for certifying that the 
rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities.
    According to the Small Business Administration, small entities 
include small organizations such as independent nonprofit 
organizations; small governmental jurisdictions, including school 
boards and city and town governments that serve fewer than 50,000 
residents; and small businesses (13 CFR 121.201). Small businesses 
include such businesses as manufacturing and mining concerns with fewer 
than 500 employees, wholesale trade entities with fewer than 100 
employees, retail and service businesses with less than $5 million in 
annual sales, general and heavy construction businesses with less than 
$27.5 million in annual business, special trade contractors doing less 
than $11.5 million in annual business, and forestry and logging 
operations with fewer than 500 employees and annual business less than 
$7 million. To determine whether small entities may be affected, we 
will consider the types of activities that might trigger regulatory 
impacts under this designation as well as types of project 
modifications that may result. In general, the term ``significant 
economic impact'' is meant to apply to a typical small business firm's 
business operations.
    Importantly, the incremental impacts of a rule must be both 
significant and substantial to prevent certification of the rule under 
the RFA and to require the preparation of an initial regulatory 
flexibility analysis. If a substantial number of small entities are 
affected by the proposed critical habitat designation, but the per-
entity economic impact is not significant, the Service may certify. 
Likewise, if the per-entity economic impact is likely to be 
significant, but the number of affected entities is not substantial, 
the Service may also certify.
    Under the RFA, as amended, and following recent court decisions, 
Federal agencies are only required to evaluate the potential 
incremental impacts of rulemaking on those entities directly regulated 
by the rulemaking itself, and not the potential impacts to indirectly 
affected entities. The regulatory mechanism through which critical 
habitat protections are realized is section 7 of the Act, which 
requires Federal agencies, in consultation with the Service, to ensure 
that any action authorized, funded, or carried by the Agency is not 
likely to adversely modify critical habitat. Therefore, only Federal 
action agencies are directly subject to the specific regulatory 
requirement (avoiding destruction and adverse modification) imposed by 
critical habitat designation. Under these circumstances, it is our 
position that only Federal action agencies will be directly regulated 
by this designation. Therefore, because Federal agencies are not small 
entities, the Service may certify that the proposed critical habitat 
rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities.
    We acknowledge, however, that in some cases, third-party proponents 
of the action subject to permitting or funding may participate in a 
section 7 consultation, and thus may be indirectly affected. We believe 
it is good policy to assess these impacts if we have sufficient data 
before us to complete the necessary analysis, whether or not this 
analysis is strictly required by the RFA. While this regulation does 
not directly regulate these entities, in our revision to the draft 
economic analysis, we will conduct a brief evaluation of the potential 
number of third parties participating in consultations on an annual 
basis in order to ensure a more complete examination of the incremental 
effects of this proposed rule in the context of the RFA. In the April 
25, 2011, Federal Register document (76 FR 23781) announcing the 
availability of the DEA, we discussed the incremental impacts that were 
identified in the DEA, and we include this information above under the 
section, ``Exclusions Based on Economic Impacts.'' The previous 
economic analysis did not review the additional areas proposed in this 
rule; therefore, we defer our evaluation of the potential indirect 
effects to non-Federal parties until completion of the revised draft 
economic analysis we will prepare under section 4(b)(2) of the Act and 
Executive Order 12866.
    In conclusion, we believe that, based on our interpretation of 
directly regulated entities under the RFA and relevant case law, this 
designation of critical habitat will only directly regulate Federal 
agencies which are not by definition small business entities. And as 
such, we certify that, if promulgated, this designation of critical 
habitat would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small business entities. Therefore, an initial regulatory 
flexibility analysis is not required. However, though not necessarily 
required by the RFA, in our revision to the draft economic analysis for 
this current proposal, we will consider and evaluate the potential 
effects to third parties that may be involved with consultations with 
Federal action agencies related to this action. Upon completion of the 
revised draft economic analysis, we will announce availability of the 
draft economic analysis of the proposed designation in the Federal 
Register and reopen the public comment period for the revised proposed 
designation.

Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use--Executive Order 13211

    Executive Order 13211 (Actions Concerning Regulations That 
Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use) requires 
agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking 
certain actions. We do not expect the designation of this revised 
proposed critical habitat to significantly affect energy supplies, 
distribution, or use. Appendix A.2, of the 2011 DEA, provides the 
finding that although PG&E and Southern California Gas Company operate 
facilities within the proposed critical habitat designation, no 
incremental changes in facility operation are forecast and, therefore, 
the 2011 DEA included the determination that no changes in energy use, 
production, or distribution were anticipated (IEc 2011, p. A-6). 
Therefore, this action is not a significant energy action, and no 
Statement of Energy Effects is required. However, we will further 
evaluate this issue as we conduct our revised economic analysis, and 
review and revise this assessment as warranted.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.)

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 
et seq.), we make the following findings:
    (1) This rule will not produce a Federal mandate. In general, a 
Federal

[[Page 40724]]

mandate is a provision in legislation, statute, or regulation that 
would impose an enforceable duty upon State, local, or tribal 
governments, or the private sector, and includes both ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandates'' and ``Federal private sector mandates.'' 
These terms are defined in 2 U.S.C. 658(5)-(7). ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would impose 
an enforceable duty upon State, local, or tribal governments'' with two 
exceptions. It excludes ``a condition of Federal assistance.'' It also 
excludes ``a duty arising from participation in a voluntary Federal 
program,'' unless the regulation ``relates to a then-existing Federal 
program under which $500,000,000 or more is provided annually to State, 
local, and tribal governments under entitlement authority,'' if the 
provision would ``increase the stringency of conditions of assistance'' 
or ``place caps upon, or otherwise decrease, the Federal Government's 
responsibility to provide funding,'' and the State, local, or tribal 
governments ``lack authority'' to adjust accordingly. At the time of 
enactment, these entitlement programs were: Medicaid; Aid to Families 
with Dependent Children work programs; Child Nutrition; Food Stamps; 
Social Services Block Grants; Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants; 
Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and Independent Living; Family 
Support Welfare Services; and Child Support Enforcement. ``Federal 
private sector mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would impose an 
enforceable duty upon the private sector, except (i) a condition of 
Federal assistance or (ii) a duty arising from participation in a 
voluntary Federal program.''
    The designation of critical habitat does not impose a legally 
binding duty on non-Federal Government entities or private parties. 
Under the Act, the only regulatory effect is that Federal agencies must 
ensure that their actions do not destroy or adversely modify critical 
habitat under section 7. While non-Federal entities that receive 
Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that otherwise require 
approval or authorization from a Federal agency for an action, may be 
indirectly impacted by the designation of critical habitat, the legally 
binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical 
habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency. Furthermore, to the 
extent that non-Federal entities are indirectly impacted because they 
receive Federal assistance or participate in a voluntary Federal aid 
program, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act would not apply, nor would 
critical habitat shift the costs of the large entitlement programs 
listed above onto State governments.
    (2) We do not believe that this rule will significantly or uniquely 
affect small governments because none of the third-party entities 
identified in the 2011 DEA met the SBA's definition of a small 
government or business. Our finding is based in part on the previous 
economic analysis conducted for the previous designation of critical 
habitat and extrapolated to this designation, and partly on where the 
additional areas proposed for critical habitat within this designation 
are located. Therefore, a Small Government Agency Plan is not required. 
However, we will further evaluate this issue as we conduct our revised 
economic analysis, and review and revise this assessment if 
appropriate.

Takings--Executive Order 12630

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630 (``Government Actions and 
Interference with Constitutionally Protected Private Property 
Rights''), this rule is not anticipated to have significant takings 
implications. As discussed above, the designation of critical habitat 
affects only Federal actions. Critical habitat designation does not 
affect landowner actions that do not require Federal funding or 
permits, nor does it preclude development of habitat conservation 
programs or issuance of incidental take permits to permit actions that 
do require Federal funding or permits to go forward. Due to current 
public knowledge of the species protections and the prohibition against 
take of the species both within and outside of the proposed areas we do 
not anticipate that property values will be significantly affected by 
the critical habitat designation. However, we have not yet completed 
the economic analysis for this revised proposed rule. Once the revised 
economic analysis is available, we will review and revise this 
preliminary assessment as warranted, and prepare a Takings Implication 
Assessment.

Federalism--Executive Order 13132

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132 (Federalism), this 
proposed rule does not have significant Federalism effects. A 
Federalism summary impact statement is not required. In keeping with 
Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce policy, we 
requested information from, and coordinated development of, the October 
21, 2009, proposed critical habitat designation (74 FR 53999) with 
appropriate State resource agencies in California. The designation of 
critical habitat in areas currently occupied by the Buena Vista Lake 
shrew is expected to impose nominal additional regulatory restrictions 
to those currently in place and, therefore, is expected to have little 
incremental impact on State and local governments and their activities. 
The designation may have some benefit to these governments because the 
areas that contain the physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the species are more clearly defined, and the elements 
of the features necessary to the conservation of the species are 
specifically identified. This information does not alter where and what 
federally sponsored activities may occur. However, it may assist local 
governments in long-range planning (rather than having them wait for 
case-by-case section 7 consultations to occur).
    Where State and local governments require approval or authorization 
from a Federal agency for actions that may affect critical habitat, 
consultation under section 7(a)(2) would be required. While non-Federal 
entities that receive Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that 
otherwise require approval or authorization from a Federal agency for 
an action, may be indirectly impacted by the designation of critical 
habitat, the legally binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency.

Civil Justice Reform--Executive Order 12988

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform), 
the Office of the Solicitor has determined that the rule does not 
unduly burden the judicial system and that it meets the requirements of 
sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the Order. We have proposed designating 
critical habitat in accordance with the provisions of the Act. This 
proposed rule uses standard property descriptions and identifies the 
elements of physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the Buena Vista Lake shrew within the designated areas 
to assist the public in understanding the habitat needs of the species.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

    This rule does not contain any new collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). This rule will not impose recordkeeping or 
reporting requirements on State or local governments, individuals, 
businesses, or

[[Page 40725]]

organizations. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is 
not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it 
displays a currently valid OMB control number.

National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)

    It is our position that, outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court 
of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, we do not need to prepare 
environmental analyses pursuant to the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) in connection with designating 
critical habitat under the Act. We published a notice outlining our 
reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 
1983 (48 FR 49244). This position was upheld by the U.S. Court of 
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Douglas County v. Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495 
(9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied 516 U.S. 1042 (1996)).

Clarity of the Rule

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the 
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain 
language. This means that each rule we publish must:
    (1) Be logically organized;
    (2) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (3) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (4) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (5) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. To 
better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as 
possible. For example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections 
or paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences 
are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be 
useful, etc.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994 
(Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and 
Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), 
we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge 
that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal 
public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make 
information available to tribes.
    We determined that there are no tribal lands that were occupied by 
the Buena Vista Lake shrew at the time of listing that contain the 
features essential for conservation of the species, and no tribal lands 
unoccupied by the Buena Vista Lake shrew that are essential for the 
conservation of the species. Therefore, we are not proposing to 
designate critical habitat for the Buena Vista Lake shrew on tribal 
lands.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited in this rulemaking is available 
on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT).

Authors

    The primary authors of this package are the staff members of the 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we propose to further amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as proposed to 
be revised at 74 FR 53999 (Ocotber 21, 2009) and set forth below:

PART 17--ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS

    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

    2. Amend Sec.  17.95(a) by revising the entry for ``Buena Vista 
Lake Shrew (Sorex ornatus relictus)'' to read as follows:


Sec.  17.95  Critical habitat--fish and wildlife.

    (a) Mammals.
* * * * *

Buena Vista Lake Shrew (Sorex ornatus relictus)

    (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for Kern and Kings 
Counties, California, on the maps below.
    (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements of the 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the 
Buena Vista Lake shrew consist of permanent and intermittent riparian 
or wetland communities that contain:
    (i) A complex vegetative structure with a thick cover of leaf 
litter or dense mats of low-lying vegetation. Associated plant species 
can include, but are not limited to, Fremont cottonwoods, willows, 
glasswort, wild-rye grass, and rush grass. Although moist soil in areas 
with an overstory of willows or cottonwoods appears to be favored, such 
overstory may not be essential.
    (ii) Suitable moisture supplied by a shallow water table, 
irrigation, or proximity to permanent or semipermanent water.
    (iii) A consistent and diverse supply of prey. Although the 
specific prey species utilized by the Buena Vista Lake shrew have not 
been identified, ornate shrews are known to eat a variety of 
terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, including amphipods, slugs, and 
insects.
    (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as 
buildings, aqueducts, runways, roads, and other paved areas) and the 
land on which they are located existing within the legal boundaries on 
the effective date of this rule.
    (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining map units were 
created on a base of USGS digital ortho-photo quarter-quadrangles, and 
critical habitat units were then mapped using Universal Transverse 
Mercator (UTM) Zone 11 coordinates.
    (5) The coordinates for these maps are available on the Internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2009-0062, at http://www.fws.gov/sacramento/, or at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife 
Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825.
    (6) The index map of critical habitat units for the Buena Vista 
Lake shrew (Sorex ornatus relictus) in Kern and Kings Counties, 
California follows:
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P

[[Page 40726]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP10JY12.000


[[Page 40727]]


    (7) Subunit 1A: Kern National Wildlife Refuge, Kern County, 
California. Map of Subunits 1A, 1B, and 1C follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP10JY12.001


[[Page 40728]]


    (8) Subunit 1B: Kern National Wildlife Refuge, Kern County, 
California. Map of Subunits 1A, 1B, and 1C is provided at paragraph (7) 
of this entry.
    (9) Subunit 1C: Kern National Wildlife Refuge, Kern County, 
California. Map of Subunits 1A, 1B, and 1C is provided at paragraph (7) 
of this entry.
    (10) Unit 2: Goose Lake, Kern County, California. Map follows:
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP10JY12.002
    

[[Page 40729]]


    (11) Unit 3: Kern Fan Recharge Unit, Kern County, California. Map 
follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP10JY12.003


[[Page 40730]]


    (12) Unit 4: Kern Lake, Kern County, California. Map follows:
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP10JY12.004
    

[[Page 40731]]


    (13) Unit 5: Coles Levee, Kern County, California. Map follows:
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP10JY12.005
    

[[Page 40732]]


    (14) Unit 6: Lemoore Unit, Kern County, California. Map follows:
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP10JY12.006
    

[[Page 40733]]


    (15) Unit 7: Semitropic Unit, Kern County, California. Map follows:
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP10JY12.007
    
* * * * *

    Dated: June 26, 2012.
 Michael J. Bean,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2012-16479 Filed 7-9-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-C