[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 59 (Thursday, March 27, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 17106-17125]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-06665]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007; FXES11130900000-145-FF09E42000]
RIN 1018-AY82


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
on a Petition To Downlist the Arroyo Toad (Anaxyrus californicus), and 
a Proposed Rule To Reclassify the Arroyo Toad as Threatened

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule and 12-month petition finding.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a 12-month 
finding on a petition to reclassify the arroyo toad (Anaxyrus 
californicus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended (Act). After review of all available scientific and 
commercial information, we find that reclassifying the arroyo toad as 
threatened is warranted, and, therefore, we propose to reclassify the 
arroyo toad as threatened under the Act. We are seeking information and 
comments from the public regarding this proposed rule.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before May 
27, 2014. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at 
the address shown in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section by May 
12, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Comment submission: You may submit comments by one of the 
following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007, 
which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search 
panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, 
click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may 
submit a comment by clicking on ``Comment Now!''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007; 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 Information Requested section below for more information).
    Document availability: A copy of the Species Report referenced 
throughout this document can be viewed at http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=D020, at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007, or at the 
Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office's Web site at http://www.fws.gov/ventura/ ventura/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephen P. Henry, Deputy Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife 
Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003; telephone 805-
644-1766; facsimile 805-644-3958. 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

    Purpose of Regulatory Action. In December 2011, we received a 
petition to reclassify the arroyo toad from endangered to threatened, 
based on analysis and recommendations contained in our August 2009 5-
year status review of the species. On June 4, 2012, we published a 90-
day finding that the petition presented substantial information 
indicating that reclassifying the arroyo toad may be warranted (77 FR 
32922) and initiated a status review. After review of all available 
scientific and commercial information, we find that the petitioned 
action is warranted and propose to reclassify the arroyo toad

[[Page 17107]]

from an endangered species to a threatened species on the Federal List 
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. This document constitutes our 
12-month finding in response to the petition to reclassify the arroyo 
toad from endangered to threatened.
    The basis for our action. Under the Act, we can determine that a 
species is an endangered species or threatened species because of any 
of five factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence. We must consider whether or not the 
species is an endangered species or threatened species because of the 
same factors when we consider reclassifying or delisting a species.
    We have determined that there are still significant threats 
impacting the arroyo toad currently and into the future, particularly 
operation of dams and water diversions (Factors A and E); urban 
development (Factors A and E); introduced predator species (Factors A 
and C); and drought (Factors A and E). However, despite the existence 
of these ongoing threats, we conclude that the overall magnitude of 
threats impacting the arroyo toad has decreased since the time of 
listing, due in part to implementation of conservation and management 
actions. Furthermore, we find that the intent of the recovery criteria 
for downlisting of the arroyo toad has been met, and that the arroyo 
toad now fits the definition of a threatened rather than an endangered 
species.

Information Requested

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be based on the best scientific and commercial data available, and be 
as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request 
comments or information from other governmental agencies, tribes, the 
scientific community, industry, or other interested parties concerning 
this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning:
    (1) Reasons why we should or should not reclassify the arroyo toad 
under the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).
    (2) New biological or other relevant data concerning any threat (or 
lack thereof) to this species.
    (3) New information concerning the distribution and population size 
or trends of this species.
    (4) New information on the current or planned activities within the 
range of the arroyo toad that may adversely affect or benefit the 
species.
    (5) New information and data on the projected and reasonably likely 
impacts to the arroyo toad or its habitat associated with climate 
change.
    (6) New information on threats or impacts to the arroyo toad in the 
Mexico portion of its range.
    Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as 
scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to 
verify any scientific or commercial information you include. Please 
note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the 
action under consideration without providing supporting information, 
although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as 
section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether 
any species is an endangered or threatened species must be made 
``solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data 
available.''
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. We request 
that you send comments only by the methods described in the ADDRESSES 
section. If you submit information via http://www.regulations.gov, your 
entire submission--including any personal identifying information--will 
be posted on the Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy 
that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the 
top of your document that we withhold this information from public 
review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We 
will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov.
    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, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT).

Public Hearings

    Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for one or more public hearings 
on this proposal, if requested. We must receive your request within 45 
days after the date of this Federal Register publication. Send your 
request to the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. 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.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the 
Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (50 FR 34270), we will seek the expert 
opinions of at least three appropriate and independent specialists 
regarding this proposed rule. A thorough review of information that we 
relied on in preparing this proposed rule--including information on 
taxonomy, life history, ecology, population distribution and abundance, 
and potential threats--is presented in the arroyo toad Species Report 
(Service 2013) available at http://www.regulations.gov (Docket Number 
FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007). The purpose of peer review is to ensure that 
decisions are based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and 
analyses. The peer reviewers will conduct assessments of the proposed 
rule, and the specific assumptions and conclusions regarding the 
proposed downlisting. These assessments will be completed during the 
public comment period.
    We will consider all comments and information we receive during the 
comment period on this proposed rule as we prepare the final 
determination. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this 
proposal.

Previous Federal Action

    We proposed to list the arroyo toad as an endangered species under 
the Act on August 3, 1993 (58 FR 41231), based primarily on threats 
from urban development, agricultural conversion, construction of new 
dams, roads and road maintenance, recreational activities, introduced 
predator species, and drought. We published a final rule listing the 
arroyo toad as an endangered species on December 16, 1994 (59 FR 
64859). We published a recovery plan for the arroyo toad in 1999 
(Service 1999). Critical habitat was designated in 2001 (66 FR 9414, 
February 7, 2001) and revised in 2005 (70 FR 19562, April 13, 2005) and 
2011 (76 FR 7246, February 9, 2011).
    Under the Act, we maintain the Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants at 50 CFR 17.11 (for animals) and 17.12 (for 
plants) (Lists). We amend the Lists by publishing final rules in the 
Federal Register. Section 4(c)(2)(A) of the Act requires that we 
conduct a review of listed species at least once every 5 years. Section 
4(c)(2)(B) requires that we determine: (1) Whether a

[[Page 17108]]

species no longer meets the definition of endangered or threatened and 
should be removed from the Lists (delisted), (2) whether a species 
listed as endangered more properly meets the definition of threatened 
and should be reclassified to threatened (downlisted), or (3) whether a 
species listed as threatened more properly meets the definition of 
endangered and should be reclassified to endangered (uplisted). In 
accordance with 50 CFR 424.11(d), using the best scientific and 
commercial data available, we will consider a species for delisting 
only if the data substantiate that the species is neither endangered 
nor threatened for one or more of the following reasons: (1) The 
species is considered extinct; (2) the species is considered recovered; 
or (3) the original data available when the species was listed, or the 
interpretation of such data, were in error.
    We published a notice announcing active review and requested public 
comments concerning the status of the arroyo toad under section 4(c)(2) 
of the Act on March 5, 2008 (73 FR 11945). We notified the public of 
completion of the 5-year review on May 21, 2010 (75 FR 28636). The 5-
year review, completed on August 17, 2009 (Service 2009), resulted in a 
recommendation to change the status of the species from endangered to 
threatened. A copy of the 2009 5-year review for the arroyo toad is 
available on the Service's Environmental Conservation Online System 
(http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc2592.pdf).
    On December 21, 2011, we received a petition dated December 19, 
2011, from the Pacific Legal Foundation, requesting the Service to 
delist the Inyo California towhee (Pipilo crissalis eremophilus), and 
to reclassify from endangered to threatened the arroyo toad (Anaxyrus 
californicus), Modoc sucker (Catostomus microps), Eriodictyon 
altissimum (Indian Knob mountainbalm), Astragalus jaegerianus (Lane 
Mountain milk-vetch), and Hesperocyparis abramsiana (Santa Cruz 
cypress). The petition was based on the analysis and recommendations 
contained in the most recent 5-year reviews for these taxa. On June 4, 
2012 (77 FR 32922), we published in the Federal Register a 90-day 
finding for the 2011 petition to reclassify these six taxa. In our 90-
day finding, we determined the 2011 petition provided substantial 
information indicating the petitioned actions may be warranted, and we 
initiated status reviews for each species.
    In April 2013, we received a complaint on our failure to complete 
12-month findings on the above-mentioned species, including the arroyo 
toad (Case No. 2:13-cv-00800-GEB-AC; April 24, 2013). In August 2013, 
we settled that case by committing to a schedule for completing all of 
the 12-month findings; the settlement date for completion of the arroyo 
toad finding is March 21, 2014. This proposed downlisting rule 
constitutes the 12-month finding on the 2011 petition to reclassify the 
arroyo toad and our latest 5-year status review for the species. We are 
addressing the 12-month findings for the other petitioned species 
separately.

Background

    A scientific analysis of the status of the species is presented in 
detail within the arroyo toad Species Report (Service 2013, entire), 
which is available at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-
R8-ES-2014-0007. The Species Report was prepared by Service biologists 
to provide thorough discussion of the species ecology, biological 
needs, and analysis of the threats that may be impacting the species. 
The Species Report includes discussion of the following: life history; 
taxonomy; habitat requirements; species range, distribution, and 
abundance; threats analysis; and progress towards recovery. This 
detailed information is summarized in the following paragraphs of this 
BACKGROUND section and the Summary of Factors Affecting the Species 
section.
    The arroyo toad is a small, stocky, warty toad that is about 2 to 3 
inches (in) (5.1 to 7.6 centimeters (cm)) in length (Stebbins 2003, p. 
212). The skin of this toad is light olive green, gray, or light brown 
in color with a light-colored stripe shaped like a ``V'' across the 
head and eyelids. The belly is white or buff colored, usually without 
spots. Arroyo toads are found in low-gradient, medium-to-large streams 
and rivers with intermittent and perennial flow in coastal and desert 
drainages in central and southern California and Baja California, 
Mexico. Arroyo toads occupy aquatic, riparian, and upland habitats in 
the remaining suitable drainages within its range. Arroyo toads are 
breeding habitat specialists and need slow-moving streams that are 
composed of sandy soils with sandy streamside terraces (Sweet 1992, pp. 
23-28). Reproduction is dependent upon the availability of very 
shallow, still, or low-flow pools in which breeding, egg-laying, and 
tadpole development occur. Suitable habitat for the arroyo toad is 
created and maintained by periodic flooding and scouring that modify 
stream channels, redistribute channel sediments, and alter pool 
location and form. These habitat requirements are largely dependent 
upon natural hydrological cycles and scouring events (Madden-Smith et 
al. 2003, p. 3).
    At the time the species was listed, it was classified as a 
subspecies (Bufo microscaphus californicus) of the southwestern toad 
(B. microscaphus). However, the taxonomy of the arroyo toad was 
reexamined (Gergus 1998, entire), and as a result, in 2001, we formally 
changed the name on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to 
B. californicus (66 FR 9414, February 7, 2001). Based on a phylogenetic 
analysis of comparative anatomical and molecular genetic data for 
amphibians (Frost et al. 2006, p. 363) that was accepted by the 
scientific community, we again formally changed the name on the List to 
Anaxyrus californicus in 2011 (76 FR 7246, February 9, 2011).
    The arroyo toad was once relatively abundant in the coastal 
portions of central and southern California. At the time of listing, 
arroyo toads were known to occur in 22 river basins from the upper 
Salinas River system in Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties; south 
through the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez River basins in Santa Barbara 
County; the Santa Clara River basin in Ventura County; the Los Angeles 
River basin in Los Angeles County; river basins of Orange, Riverside, 
and San Diego Counties; and south to the Arroyo San Simeon system in 
Baja California, Mexico (Sweet 1992, p. 18; Service 1999, p. 12; 
Service 2013, Map 1). Prior to the time of listing, Jennings and Hayes 
(1994, p. 57) documented a decline of 76 percent of arroyo toad 
populations throughout the species' range due to loss of habitat and 
hydrological alterations to stream systems as a result of dam 
construction and flood control. This figure was based on studies done 
in the early 1990s by Sam Sweet (Jennings and Hayes 1994, p. 57) that 
addressed the natural history and status of arroyo toad populations on 
a portion of the species' range on the Los Padres National Forest.
    Though arroyo toads have been extirpated from some rivers and 
streams within river basins that they occupied at the time of listing, 
the number of areas known to be occupied by arroyo toads has increased 
since the time of listing, mostly due to increased survey efforts. 
Although Jennings and Hayes (1994, p. 57) estimated that arroyo toads 
had been eliminated from 76 percent of their historical range prior to 
the time of listing, subsequent discoveries of new localities and 
remnant populations reduce this estimate to 65 percent (Lanoo 2005, p. 
4). We now consider there to be a total of 35 river basins that support 
arroyo toads with 25 in the United States and 10 in Mexico; arroyo

[[Page 17109]]

toads are still extant in all 22 river basins occupied at the time of 
listing. Currently, arroyo toads are limited to isolated populations 
primarily in the headwaters of coastal streams along the central and 
southern coast of California and southward to Rio Santa Maria near San 
Quintin in northwestern Baja California, Mexico (Lovich 2009, p. 62).
    The 1999 recovery plan divided the range of the arroyo toad into 
three recovery units: the Northern Recovery Unit, the Southern Recovery 
Unit, and the Desert Recovery Unit. The recovery plan did not address 
river basins in Baja California, Mexico. In the Species Report, we 
analyzed threats by river basin, grouping those basins by recovery 
unit. We also considered all known occurrences in Baja California, 
Mexico. Based on new distribution information and correction of some 
locality records now known to be in error (Ervin et al. 2013, pp. 197-
204), we updated the river basins in each recovery unit for the 
purposes of our analysis (Service 2013, p. 15, Map 1, Table 1).
    The Northern Recovery Unit consists of the following five river 
basins: Salinas, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez, Santa Clara, and Los Angeles 
(Service 1999, Table 1; Service 2013, Table 1). The Southern Recovery 
Unit consists of the following river 18 basins: Lower Santa Ana, Upper 
Santa Ana, San Jacinto, San Juan Creek, San Mateo Creek, San Onofre 
Creek, Lower Santa Margarita, Upper Santa Margarita, Murrieta Creek, 
Lower and Middle San Luis Rey, Upper San Luis Rey, Lower Santa Ysabel 
Creek, Upper Santa Ysabel Creek, Upper San Diego, Lower Sweetwater, 
Upper Sweetwater, Lower Cottonwood Creek, and Upper Cottonwood Creek 
(Service 1999, Table 1; Service 2013, Table 1). The Desert Recovery 
Unit consists of the following two river basins: Antelope-Fremont and 
Mojave (Service 1999, Table 1; Service 2013, Table 1). Baja California 
includes the following 10 river basins: Rio Las Palmas, Rio Guadalupe, 
Arroyo San Carlos, Rio El Zorillo, Rio Santo Tomas, Rio San Vincente, 
Rio San Rafael, Rio San Telmo, Rio Santo Domingo, and Rio Santa Maria. 
Of those 25 river basins in the United States and an additional 10 
river basins in Baja California, Mexico, 28 contain arroyo toad 
occurrences that are extant or presumed to be extant, and many of these 
contain multiple populations of arroyo toads in different creeks and 
rivers (Service 2013, Table 1). Identification of the river basins 
containing occurrences that are known to be or presumed to be extant is 
based solely on the existence of reliable surveys or sightings of 
arroyo toads in recent years (Service 2013, p. 18, Table 1). The 
statuses of the remaining seven occurrences are unknown, because no 
surveys have been conducted in the past 6 years.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 
424) set forth the procedures for listing species, reclassifying 
species, or removing species from listed status. ``Species'' is defined 
by the Act as including any species or subspecies of fish or wildlife 
or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of 
vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 
1532(16)). A species may be determined to be an endangered or 
threatened species because of any one or a combination of the five 
factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act: (A) The present or 
threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or 
range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or human-made 
factors affecting its continued existence. A species may be 
reclassified on the same basis.
    Determining whether the status of a species has improved to the 
point that it can be downlisted requires consideration of whether the 
species is endangered or threatened because of the same five categories 
of threats specified in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. For species that 
are already listed as endangered or threatened, this analysis of 
threats is an evaluation of both the threats currently facing the 
species and the threats that are reasonably likely to affect the 
species in the foreseeable future following the delisting or 
downlisting and the removal or reduction of the Act's protections.
    A species is an ``endangered species'' for purposes of the Act if 
it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range and is a ``threatened species'' if it is likely to become 
an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. The word ``range'' in the significant 
portion of its range phrase refers to the range in which the species 
currently exists, and the word ``significant'' refers to the value of 
that portion of the range being considered to the conservation of the 
species. The ``foreseeable future'' is the period of time over which 
events or effects reasonably can or should be anticipated, or trends 
extrapolated. For the purposes of this analysis, we first evaluate the 
status of the species throughout all its range, then consider whether 
the species is in danger of extinction or likely to become so in any 
significant portion of its range.
    At the time of listing, the primary threats to the arroyo toad were 
urban development, agricultural conversion, construction of new dams, 
roads and road maintenance, recreational activities, introduced 
predator species, and drought (59 FR 64859; December 16, 1994). Other 
threats identified in 1994 included livestock grazing, mining and 
prospecting, and alteration of the natural fire regime (59 FR 64859).
    Most of the threats identified at the time of listing are still 
impacting the arroyo toad and its habitat; however, in many cases, the 
way in which they impact the species has changed. Some new threats have 
also been identified. Current or potential future threats to the arroyo 
toad include urban development (Factors A and E), agriculture (Factors 
A and E), operation of dams and water diversions (Factors A and E), 
mining and prospecting (Factors A and E), livestock grazing (Factors A 
and E), roads and road maintenance (Factors A and E), recreation 
(Factors A and E), invasive, nonnative plants (Factors A and E), 
introduced predator species (Factors A and C), drought (Factors A and 
E), fire and fire suppression (Factors A and E), and effects of climate 
change (Factors A and E) (Service 2013, pp. 32-87). Threats identified 
at the time of listing that have been found either to be of no concern, 
insignificant concern, or negligible at this time include construction 
of new dams (Factor A), collection for recreational or scientific 
purposes (Factor B), and disease (Factor C); the best available 
scientific and commercial information indicates that these are not 
threats at this time (Service 2013, p. 28). Inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms (Factor D) was not considered to be a threat at 
the time of listing, and is not considered to be a threat now (Service 
2013, pp. 28-29).
    In the Species Report, we examined the scope and severity of 
threats. The severity of threats measures the degree of impact to 
arroyo toad populations or habitat. The scope of the threat considers 
the proportion of arroyo toad occurrences that are reasonably expected 
to be affected by a threat. The interaction between scope and severity 
provided the overall impact of the threat, which we classified as very 
high, high, medium, or low. A very high threat impact was one with 
extreme severity and pervasive scope; a high threat impact had large 
scope and extreme or serious severity; a medium threat impact had a 
more restricted

[[Page 17110]]

scope and high severity, or more widespread scope and moderate 
severity; and a low threat impact had either small or restricted scope 
and a slight or moderate severity (Service 2013, pp. 29-31).
    The following sections provide a summary of the current threats 
impacting the arroyo toad.

Urban Development

    At the time of listing, urban development caused both permanent 
loss of riparian wetlands and ongoing degradation of riparian habitat 
that supported arroyo toads. At that time, habitat loss and degradation 
were extensive in rivers of southern California as a result of 
agricultural and urban development (Griffin et al. 1999, p. 5). Since 
then, conservation measures have reduced the amount and scale of direct 
habitat loss due to urban development, and many river basins have land 
protected from development by State, Federal and local agencies, 
including four river basins in Mexico that occur in part within the 
boundaries of national parks. However, not all land is protected, and 
urban development impacts are expected to continue. Today, 23 of the 35 
river basins occupied by arroyo toads are affected by both direct and 
indirect effects of urban development, including 18 river basins in the 
United States (Service 2013, pp. 34-35).
    Permanent loss and alteration of arroyo toad habitat is caused by 
activities that include: construction and maintenance of 
infrastructure; alteration of stream dynamics; declines in water 
quality; stabilization of stream banks; and maintenance of flood, 
drainage, and water quality protection features. In addition to the 
loss and alteration of habitat, construction activities can directly 
kill, injure, or limit foraging and breeding by arroyo toads by 
excluding arroyo toads from portions of their habitat that are present 
within a development project area (Campbell et al. 1996, p. 15; Service 
1999, p. 40; Service 2013, pp. 34, 80-81).
    Though losses of small amounts of habitat due to urban development 
still occur, urban development more commonly impacts arroyo toads and 
their habitat through alteration of stream dynamics and water quality. 
Stream dynamics can be altered by both groundwater extraction and 
increased surface flows. Groundwater extraction related to urban 
development reduces the amount of surface flow available for creeks and 
rivers. This reduction in water can be detrimental to arroyo toads 
because they require breeding pools that persist for at least 2 months 
in the summer for larval development and tadpole metamorphosis 
(Campbell et al. 1996, p. 6). Extraction can also lower groundwater 
levels below the depth that streamside or wetland vegetation needs to 
survive, resulting in a loss of riparian vegetation and habitat (USGS 
2012). Production from groundwater supplies in San Diego County is 
anticipated to increase 75 percent by 2015 (CEC 2009, p. 19). 
Currently, the City of San Diego is considering groundwater extraction 
in San Pasqual Valley (lower Santa Ysabel Creek) (Brown, USGS, pers. 
comm. 2012).
    Arroyo toads and their habitat can also be impacted by increased 
surface flows due to urban runoff. Generally, increases in surface 
runoff, particularly during large storm events, can affect arroyo toads 
by disrupting breeding and by sedimentation which buries eggs or 
displaces adults and juveniles (Service 2013b, p. 17). Increased flows 
in streams due to urban runoff can also lead to changes in the 
invertebrate communities that may lead to decreased survival of arroyo 
toad tadpoles due to competition or predation, and may reduce the food 
supply for post-metamorphic toads (Service 1999, p. 41). Alterations to 
surface flows resulting from groundwater extraction or increased 
surface runoff can impact all stages of arroyo toad life history and 
alter breeding habitat.
    Urban runoff from storm events or from regularly occurring 
irrigation of urban areas may also decrease the water quality in 
streams and rivers that support arroyo toads. Runoff from roads, 
residential housing, and golf courses often contains chemicals that are 
toxic to wildlife (for example, car fluids, pesticides, and herbicides) 
(Service 1999, p. 41). Arroyo toads are exposed to hazardous materials 
by absorbing them through their skin from the water or contaminated 
vegetation, or by ingesting them from contaminated vegetation, prey 
species, or water. However, the life-history characteristics of arroyo 
toads may decrease the impacts of contaminated runoff. Sweet (1992, pp. 
54-57) observed that arroyo toads almost never breed in pools that are 
isolated from the flowing channel and where contaminants would be found 
in highest concentrations. Arroyo toads may use side channels and 
washouts as long as there is some flow through them, but they are 
abandoned as soon as this flow ceases (Lanoo 2005, p. 2). Therefore, 
the arroyo toad's sensitivity to aquatic contaminants may be decreased.
    Despite these impacts, the amount of urban development resulting in 
the destruction and removal of arroyo toad habitat has largely 
decreased since the time of listing, as much of the undeveloped arroyo 
toad habitat is now conserved in protected areas. Of the 25 river 
basins that support arroyo toads and their habitat in the United 
States, 20 contain land owned and managed in part by State or Federal 
agencies (Service 2013, Table 1). The impacts that do remain from urban 
development on private or locally owned land have been reduced through 
conservation measures. These additional measures have been put in place 
on privately and locally owned land at 10 of 18 river basins in the 
United States impacted by urban development: 1 river basin in the 
Northern Recovery Unit, and 9 river basins in the Southern Recovery 
Unit.
    In the Northern Recovery Unit, a proposed East Area 1 project in 
Santa Paula (EDC 2012) and current and future development plans for 
Newhall Ranch have the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the 
suitable arroyo toad habitat in this area; however, to reduce the 
impacts associated with urban development, Newhall Ranch developed a 
Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP) for the Santa Clara River. The 
plan provides measures designed to protect, restore, monitor, manage, 
and enhance habitat for multiple species, including the arroyo toad 
(EDC 2012, entire). Of particular importance to the conservation of the 
arroyo toad and its habitat are the substantial conservation easements 
that are included in the NRMP, which, when completed, will protect 
almost all arroyo toad breeding habitat and riparian habitat within the 
Newhall Ranch development. At the present time, approximately 1,011 ac 
(409 ha) of Newhall Ranch lands have been conveyed to the California 
Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and additional easements are 
awaiting approval.
    Since the time of listing, multiple habitat conservation plans 
(HCPs) have been implemented in the Southern Recovery Unit to provide 
protection to the arroyo toad and decrease habitat loss and alteration 
due to urbanization. These HCPs are responsible for placing land within 
seven river basins into reserves; for example, all arroyo toad habitat 
within the Orange County Central-Coastal Natural Community Conservation 
Plan (NCCP) (Lower Santa Ana River Basin) is within reserves. Within 
the Orange County Central-Coastal NCCP reserves, monitoring and 
management related to the arroyo toad have included reserve-wide 
herpetofauna surveys conducted from 1997 through 2001 and ongoing 
control of invasive, nonnative vegetation in the upland environment. 
Development of

[[Page 17111]]

adaptive management plans for the arroyo toad within these and other 
dedicated reserves within HCPs is being planned for the future, but is 
not yet in place. Additional land within five river basins has been 
acquired by Federal, State and local government. These conservation 
measures have resulted in land acquisition in 9 of the 14 river basins 
in the Southern Recovery Unit impacted by urban development.
    Very limited information is available on the effects of urban 
development in Mexico. We are aware that urban development is occurring 
at five river basins within Mexico (Lovich 2009, pp. 77, 85); however, 
the magnitude of impacts at these locations from urban development is 
unclear.
    Urban development continues to impact the arroyo toad throughout 
its range. Though altered flow regimes and other indirect effects from 
development continue to impact habitat that supports the arroyo toad, 
the amount of direct destruction and removal of habitat has decreased. 
This decrease in the severity of direct habitat loss from urban 
development since the time of listing is due to the amount of land 
within river basins in the United States that has been added to 
reserves though local HCPs and that overall is managed by state or 
Federal agencies (for more details on land ownership, see Table 1 in 
Service 2013). The reduction in the threat of urban development is also 
due to conservation measures that have been put in place on private and 
locally owned land to reduce, eliminate, or mitigate for the existing 
and future effects of urban development. Although urban development 
continues to pose a threat to the continued existence of the arroyo 
toad, the magnitude of this threat has decreased since the time of 
listing on local and private lands at 10 of the 25 river basins in the 
United States described above where conservation plans are being 
implemented. In these river basins, arroyo toad occurrences are no 
longer at risk of being extirpated through permanent loss and 
destruction of riparian habitat. However, indirect effects of 
development, such as altered flow regimes, continue to cause longer 
term alterations to arroyo toad populations and the habitat that 
supports them. These alterations, while not likely to result in 
immediate extirpation of populations, can reduce the rates of survival 
and reproduction within populations, and result in a long-term decline 
in populations.
    Even with the conservation actions described above, we still 
consider urban development is a threat with high impact to the arroyo 
toad and its habitat. Urban development currently has a large scope 
(affects portions of 23 out of the 35 occurrences of arroyo toad) and a 
serious severity, as it poses immediate and ongoing impacts to the 
species (Service 2013, p. 37). We also conclude that the current 
effects from urban development, while no longer likely to directly 
destroy habitat or result in immediate extirpation of occurrences, 
continue to degrade habitat and affect the health of the populations of 
arroyo toads. We consider overall that urban development is a threat 
with a high level of impact to the arroyo toad and its habitat (Service 
2013, pp. 32-37).

Agriculture

    At the time of listing, habitat loss and degradation from 
agricultural development was a major threat to the continued existence 
of the arroyo toad. Today, direct loss of habitat from agricultural 
development is no longer considered a threat. However, ongoing 
agricultural practices are known to impact arroyo toads and their 
habitat. These practices currently convert stream terraces and upland 
habitats adjacent to occupied arroyo toad habitat to farmland and road 
corridors, eliminate foraging and burrowing habitat for arroyo toads, 
and create barriers to dispersal. Streams may also be diverted for 
agricultural use, resulting in permanent loss of arroyo toad breeding 
habitat. Currently, 15 of the 35 river basins that support arroyo toads 
are impacted by agricultural practices.
    Agricultural use adjacent to riparian areas can result in direct 
mortality of adult arroyo toads, as agricultural fields can act as 
ecological traps for arroyo toads. Toads are often attracted to 
agricultural fields for cover, food, and moisture, and can be killed by 
trampling, chemicals, and machinery (Griffin and Case 2001, pp. 641-
642). In the Griffin and Case study (2001, p. 641), more than half of 
the male arroyo toads observed after July 29 were active in burrows or 
made new burrows in agricultural lands adjacent to breeding habitat. 
Mechanized tilling, pesticide application, and trampling were 
frequently observed in these agricultural fields within the study site 
(Griffin and Case 2001, p. 641).
    Another concern related to agricultural development is agricultural 
runoff. As discussed in the Urban Development section above, runoff 
contains contaminants such as herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers 
that may kill toads, affect development of larvae, or affect their food 
supplies or habitat (Service 1999, p. 41). For example, granular 
fertilizers, particularly ammonium nitrate, are highly caustic and have 
caused mass injuries and mortality to frogs and newts in Europe 
(Schneeweiss and Schneeweiss 1997 in Service 1999, p. 41). Though 
arroyo toads primarily inhabit areas with moving water (Lanoo 2005, p. 
2), they may also be more susceptible to areas with chemical 
contamination in both terrestrial and aquatic environments, because 
their life history involves both aquatic larvae and terrestrial adult 
stages.
    Since the time of listing, actions have been taken to reduce the 
impact of agriculture on arroyo toads and their habitat at two 
occurrences in the United States. An agricultural lease was 
discontinued on Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Pendleton adjacent to 
lower San Mateo Creek, where impacts to arroyo toads were documented in 
the Griffin and Case (2001) study. Also, within City of San Diego lands 
encompassing lower Santa Ysabel Creek, some agricultural leases have 
been moved away from riparian areas (McGinnis, City of San Diego, pers. 
comm. 2012).
    Very limited information is available on the effects of agriculture 
to arroyo toads and their habitat in Mexico. We are aware that 
agriculture is affecting five river basins in Mexico, three of which 
are specifically impacted by groundwater pumping for irrigation (Lovich 
2009, p. 85); however, the magnitude of these impacts is unclear.
    Because arroyo toads use both aquatic and terrestrial environments, 
they are doubly impacted by agricultural activities that subject their 
habitats to increased fragmentation and decreased water quality. 
Efforts since the time of listing have removed the threat of direct 
habitat loss due to agricultural development, and reduced the impact of 
agricultural use near some occurrences. However, despite these efforts, 
this threat has a large scope, as impacts from agriculture continue 
throughout most of the species' range at 15 of 35 river basins. Though 
arroyo toad occurrences are no longer at risk of being extirpated 
through permanent conversion of riparian habitat to agriculture, arroyo 
toad populations may experience impacts such as alteration of water 
quality and barriers to dispersal; as such, we conclude that this 
threat has a moderate severity. While not likely to result in immediate 
extirpation of populations, these effects can cause mortality of 
individuals and reduce the rates of survival and reproduction within 
populations, and result in a long-term decline in populations. 
Therefore, we conclude that agriculture has a moderate level of impact 
to the arroyo toad and its habitat (Service 2013, pp. 37-39).

[[Page 17112]]

Operation of Dams and Water Diversions

    Prior to listing, short- and long-term changes in river hydrology, 
including construction of dams and water diversions, were responsible 
for the loss of approximately 40 percent of the original range of the 
arroyo toad; furthermore, nearly half of all population extirpations 
prior to listing are attributed to impacts from original dam 
construction and operation (Sweet 1992, pp. 4-5; Ramirez 2003, p. 7). 
Today, the potential for construction of new dams has been greatly 
reduced, and no dams are presently anticipated to be built in river 
basins that support arroyo toads. However, water diversions and altered 
flow regimes due to operation of existing dams continue to affect 
arroyo toads in 19 of the 35 river basins that support them.
    Because river flow forms physical habitats, such as riffles, pools, 
and bars in rivers and floodplains, the primary impacts to habitat from 
dams and water diversions are caused by flow alteration. Impacts of 
flow alteration on arroyo toad habitat include changes in the timing, 
amount, and duration of channel flows; loss of coarse sediments below 
the dam; and an increase in vegetation density due to the decrease or 
elimination of scouring flows (Madden-Smith et al. 2003, p. 3).
    Arroyo toads and their breeding habitat can also be negatively 
impacted by sudden releases of excess water from dams. When these 
releases occur during the breeding season, they can reconfigure 
suitable breeding pools, thus disrupting clutch and larval development 
(Ramirez 2003, p. 7). Excessive water releases also wash away arroyo 
toad eggs and tadpoles, promote the growth of nonnative species, and 
reduce the availability of open sand bar habitat. For example, at 
Barrett Dam on Cottonwood Creek, water releases of several million 
gallons per day during the period when larval arroyo toads were 
metamorphosing negatively affected the population in San Diego County 
by washing away potential recruits from that year's population 
(Campbell et al. 1996, p. 15).
    Flow alteration also causes habitat modification by promoting the 
growth of nonnative plants (Jennings and Hayes 1994, p. 56; Campbell et 
al. 1996, pp. 15-16; Madden-Smith et al. 2003, p. 3; Service 1999, pp. 
42-44). Persistent releases from dams throughout the normal dry season 
cause changes in vegetation by discouraging the growth of native 
riparian species such as willow, sycamore, and cattails (Typha spp.) 
while encouraging the growth of some introduced species such as Tamarix 
ramosissima (tamarisk) and Arundo donax (giant reed) (Service 1999, p. 
43). Increased vegetation density reduces the amount of open streambed 
and shallow pool habitat preferred by arroyo toads. For example, in 
Piru Creek, habitat has been degraded by the lack of scouring flows 
after the construction of Pyramid Dam, leading to an influx of 
vegetation that has made habitat unsuitable for arroyo toads (Sweet 
2012, pers. comm.).
    Dams also alter arroyo toad habitat through the creation of 
reservoirs. Reservoirs turn running water habitats into lake-like 
systems, resulting in the proliferation of nonnative species that are 
adapted to still waters and are able to move downstream or upstream of 
the reservoir (BIP 2012). Additionally, persistent water releases from 
dams throughout the year changes the water supply from ephemeral to 
permanent, which maintains nonnative predator populations (Campbell et 
al. 1996, p. 16; Madden-Smith et al. 2003, p. 3). Finally, reservoirs 
block in-stream movement of arroyo toads, which effectively isolates 
populations upstream and downstream of dams and may preclude 
recolonization of areas formerly occupied by the arroyo toad (Campbell 
et al. 1996, p. 18).
    The ongoing impacts of dam operations to arroyo toads and their 
habitat have been reduced at four river basins since the time of 
listing through conservation measures. Recent coordination among the 
California Department of Water Resources, Forest Service, and Fish and 
Wildlife Service have resulted in releases from Pyramid Dam into Piru 
Creek that more closely mimic natural flows, benefitting the arroyo 
toad (Service 2009). In 2006, the Sweetwater Authority (Authority) 
implemented a Standard Operating Procedure of Loveland Reservoir to 
Sweetwater Reservoir water transfers in the lower Sweetwater River so 
that, if possible, no water is released during the arroyo toad breeding 
season except in the event of an emergency. Although these procedures 
are voluntary and may need further review, they improve on the prior 
conditions (water transfers occurring during the spring), which lessens 
the impacts to arroyo toads in the lower Sweetwater River.
    The City of San Diego (City) has a voluntary internal policy 
guiding water transfers at two of the City's reservoir systems: (1) 
Morena Reservoir to Barrett Reservoir to Otay Reservoir; and (2) 
Sutherland Reservoir to San Vicente Reservoir. This policy minimizes 
impacts of water transfers to the Lower Cottonwood Creek Basin 
occurrence below Barrett Dam and the Upper San Diego River Basin 
occurrence that is above San Vicente Reservoir (it does not affect 
water transfers within the Upper San Diego River Basin occurrence below 
Cuyamaca Dam). Water transfers generally occur during winter months 
between October and March in order to take advantage of existing flows 
and minimize water lost to the river system, and avoid the breeding 
season of arroyo toad. City staff coordinates with the Service and 
contracts with an arroyo toad specialist to monitor before, during, and 
after a water transfer event (McGinnis, City of San Diego, pers. comm. 
2012).
    Very limited information is available on the effects of the 
operation of dams and water diversions in Mexico. Out of the 10 
drainages in Mexico where arroyo toads occur, only the Rio Tijuana-Rio 
Las Palmas drainage has a municipal dam (Lovich 2009, p. 86). 
Consequently, the magnitude of effects on arroyo toad occurrences from 
the operation of dams and water diversions in Mexico is unclear.
    Overall, the magnitude of the threat posed by the operation of dams 
and related water diversions has decreased since the time of listing. 
In four river basins, water releases that more closely mimic natural 
flow regimes have strongly decreased the impact of dams on local arroyo 
toad populations. However, within the other 15 river basins with dams 
and reservoirs, the altered stream dynamics resulting from dam 
operation result in encouragement of nonnative predators and nonnative, 
invasive plants, direct removal of habitat that supports arroyo toad 
populations, reduction of arroyo toad dispersal, and direct mortality 
of arroyo toads at all life stages. While construction of new dams and 
reservoirs that would result in destruction of habitat and extirpation 
of occurrences is not expected, operation of existing dams and 
reservoirs in 19 river basins will continue to alter the stream 
dynamics of arroyo toad habitat and affect the long-term survival and 
reproductive success of arroyo toad populations. Though the magnitude 
of the impacts from dam operations has decreased since the time of 
listing, because of the large scope and serious severity posed by the 
operation of dams and water diversions, we expect that this threat will 
continue to cause a high level of impact to the arroyo toad and its 
habitat now and into the future (Service 2013, pp. 39-45).

Mining and Prospecting

    At the time of listing, in-stream recreational suction dredging for 
gold caused localized impacts and population effects to the arroyo 
toad.

[[Page 17113]]

For example, in 1991, during the Memorial Day weekend, four small 
dredges operating on Piru Creek in the Los Padres National Forest 
produced sedimentation visible more than 0.8 mi (1 km) downstream and 
adversely affected 40,000 to 60,000 arroyo toad larvae. Subsequent 
surveys revealed nearly total loss of the species in this stream 
section; fewer than 100 larvae survived, and only 4 juvenile toads were 
located (Sweet 1992, pp. 180-187). Since listing, we have become aware 
of impacts to arroyo toad habitat from sand and gravel mining, which 
causes runoff that can degrade arroyo toad habitat. Currently, sand, 
gravel, and suction dredge mining are taking place in 8 of the 35 river 
basins occupied by arroyo toads rangewide (Service 2013, p. 46); 
however, the impact of mining activities has been greatly reduced since 
the time of listing.
    Where sand, gravel, and suction dredge mining activities occur, 
they can cause substantial alteration of arroyo toad habitat by 
degrading water quality, altering stream morphology, increasing 
siltation downstream, and creating deep pools that hold water year-
round for introduced predators of arroyo toad eggs and larvae (Campbell 
et al. 1996, p. 16). Mining can also increase water temperature and 
turbidity and result in degrading or even destroying arroyo toad 
breeding habitat (CDFG 2005). The increase in suspended sediments in 
the stream can suffocate arroyo toad eggs and small larvae (Sweet 1992, 
pp. 179-185; Campbell et al. 1996, p. 16). In the case of suction 
dredge mining, arroyo toad eggs and larvae can also be entrained in the 
suction pump and killed (Reine and Clarke 1998, pp. 1, 12).
    Though some mining activities are currently taking place, their 
impacts are localized. At two of the six river basins in the United 
States impacted by mines, for example, sand and gravel extraction 
continues to degrade habitat and increase sedimentation (Service 2008). 
Additionally, due to a 2012 change in CDFW regulations, suction dredge 
mining is now prohibited in Class A streams (Title 14, Natural 
Resources, Sec. Sec.  228 and 228.5). Most of the streams and rivers 
occupied by arroyo toads in the United States are now classified as 
Class A (24 out of 25 occurrences in the United States), and, 
therefore, suction dredge mining no longer occurs in those streams. 
However, suction dredge mining could potentially impact arroyo toads in 
Lower Cottonwood Creek Basin. These new regulations do not affect 
current sand and gravel mining practices, which currently occur or have 
recently occurred at 4 of 25 occurrences in the United States.
    In Baja California, Mexico, the sand mining industry is impacting 
the Rio Guadalupe, Rio Las Palmas, Rio Ensenada, and other smaller 
coastal arroyos (Lovich 2009, p. 90). Sand and rock are extracted in 
such large volumes that the hydrology in coastal canyons is affected, 
and associated riparian habitats are eliminated. The public has 
demonstrated opposition to this scale of sand mining, but the Mexican 
Government supports the industry (Lovich 2009, p. 90). Therefore, we 
find that mining activities pose a threat to the arroyo toad in Mexico 
(Service 2013, pp. 45-47).
    Though some mining activities continue to occur in habitat that 
supports arroyo toad, these impacts have decreased in magnitude since 
the time of listing. Furthermore, given the reclassification of streams 
to disallow suction dredge mining, its impacts are unlikely to increase 
in the foreseeable future. Overall, as the scope of this threat is low 
(affecting 8 of 35 river basins rangewide), and the severity of the 
threat is moderate (likely to moderately degrade habitat or reduce 11 
to 30 percent of occurrences), we find that mining activities are 
having a low level of impact on the arroyo toad in the United States 
(Service 2013, pp. 47-48).

Livestock Grazing

    At the time of listing, we found overgrazing in riparian areas to 
be a potential source of mortality to arroyo toads, although it was not 
considered to be one of the factors that most adversely impacted the 
arroyo toad. Poorly managed grazing is known to have multiple impacts 
on arroyo toads and their habitat. Pastured cattle (and other 
livestock) can contribute to stream bank degradation and erosion (Moore 
2000, p. 1). Cattle grazing can result in soil compaction, loss or 
reduction in vegetative bank cover, stream bank collapse, and increased 
in-stream water temperatures from loss of shade. Cattle can also 
trample or compact sandbars, preventing burrowing by adult toads 
(Campbell et al. 1996, p. 27). The extent of grazing at the time of 
listing is unknown; cattle grazing currently occurs at 10 of the 35 
arroyo toad occurrences rangewide (Service 2013, pp. 48-49).
    Since the time of listing, significant progress has been made 
toward reducing or eliminating the impact of cattle grazing. The Forest 
Service has developed grazing allotment management guidelines to reduce 
the effects of livestock grazing on threatened and endangered species 
and habitat. Consultation between the Forest Service and the Service 
through section 7 of the Act on grazing allotment permit renewals has 
resulted in minimization and mitigation of impacts on arroyo toads 
(Service 2000a; 2001a; 2001b; 2004a; 2009). Los Padres National Forest 
has kept the Sisquoc Grazing Allotment in the Santa Maria River Basin 
vacant for approximately 10 years due to concerns about impacts to 
arroyo toads and other sensitive riparian species (Cooper 2009, pers. 
comm.). On the Cleveland National Forest, grazing has a minimal impact 
because the Forest Service excluded most of the habitat occupied by 
arroyo toads from grazing allotments during the 1990s. The Cleveland 
National Forest has also formally excluded grazing from some arroyo 
toad habitat, including 12,112 ac (4,901 ha) centered around riparian 
areas (Service 2005, entire), as well as areas with arroyo toad habitat 
in Lower Santa Ysabel Creek Basin and Upper Cottonwood Creek Basin 
(Service 2001a, entire). The Pine Valley Allotment, which was the only 
streamside grazing allotment in the Cleveland National Forest still 
active at the time of the 5-year review in 2009, is now vacant (Winter 
2012, pers. comm.).
    Though grazing can result in alteration of the streamside habitat 
that supports arroyo toads, multiple conservation actions have been put 
into place since the time of listing. We anticipate that reductions of 
impacts from grazing will continue to be implemented through the 
continued implementation of the forest plans, which include 
minimization measures implemented on grazing allotments issued by Los 
Padres and Cleveland National Forest. We also expect continued 
consultation between the Forest Service and the Service through the 
section 7 consultation process. These two forests manage portions of 
nine river basins that support arroyo toads. Furthermore, we expect 
that the conservation measures currently in place will continue to be 
implemented regardless of the listing status of the arroyo toad.
    Some impacts from livestock grazing are occurring in Mexico (Lovich 
2009, p. 85); however, the magnitude of these impacts is unclear, and 
we have no information on how many river basins in Mexico are impacted 
by grazing activity.
    Overall, grazing is a threat with a restricted scope, as only 10 of 
the 25 river basins in the United States that support arroyo toads are 
currently affected by livestock grazing. Based on the best available 
scientific and commercial information, the remaining

[[Page 17114]]

15 river basins are not of appropriate land use or habitat type to 
support grazing; therefore, we do not expect that grazing will occur at 
these river basins in the future. At the river basins where grazing 
does occur, reductions in the level of grazing and improved management 
practices have significantly reduced the impacts to arroyo toads and 
riparian habitat. We conclude that grazing has a moderate impact on 
arroyo toads. Although it may result in localized impacts to streams, 
which reduce the quality of habitat and may cause some decrease in 
rates of survival and reproduction within populations, it is unlikely 
to result in a long-term decline in populations. Therefore, we find 
that grazing is a low-level threat to the arroyo toad and its habitat 
(Service 2013, pp. 47-50).

Roads and Road Maintenance

    When roads occur within or in close proximity to stream habitat 
that supports arroyo toads, road use, construction and maintenance can 
have a detrimental impact on arroyo toads and their habitat. Toads are 
crushed by equipment on the roads or when vehicles use low water 
crossings during normal daytime project activities. Toads can also be 
harmed or disturbed when rocks and debris are removed from the road 
surface or ditches near habitat. On unpaved, sandy roads, toad 
mortality can occur because increased food sources (ants, other 
insects) lure toads onto roads at night, and because arroyo toads like 
to burrow into sandy roadbeds during the day (Sandburg, U.S. Forest 
Service, pers. comm., 1997). At the time of listing, the use of heavy 
equipment in yearly reconstruction of roads and stream crossings in the 
national forests caused ongoing impacts to arroyo toads and their 
habitat. On the Cleveland National Forest, roads are still identified 
as one of the top three threats to arroyo toad, along with drought and 
aquatic predators (Winter, pers. comm. 2012). Currently, impacts from 
road construction, use, and maintenance on Federal, public, and private 
lands affect 20 out of the 35 river basins where the arroyo toad is 
known to occur.
    Low water stream crossings pose a particular risk to arroyo toads. 
Unimproved stream crossings can develop characteristics of suitable 
toad habitat that attracts arroyo toads--shallow, sand or gravel-based 
pools with low current velocity and minimal shoreline woody vegetation 
(USFS 2012, p. 45). Adults burrow during the day but come out at night 
to forage, so are more likely be killed by nighttime traffic or during 
wet weather. Vehicles using low water crossings over streams cause 
increased siltation, which can cover and suffocate egg masses and 
larvae (Service 2000b, p. 14). Eggs or larvae could also be crushed or 
disturbed when vehicles use low water crossings (Service 2000b, p. 13). 
Hardened crossings lack the substrate that toads prefer, but adults 
will forage on any stream crossing at night (USFS 2012, p. 45).
    Apart from direct injury to toads, road maintenance can also alter 
habitat so that it is unsuitable for arroyo toads. Low water crossing 
maintenance above or below crossings, such as removal or shaping of 
sediments, debris, or vegetation, can alter habitat suitability for 
arroyo toads by increasing the flow over the crossing (USFS 2012, p. 
45). Soil disturbance, such as can occur from vehicle use, has been 
directly implicated in both lethal and sublethal effects on amphibians 
(Maxell and Hokit 1999, p. 2.11). If not contained, road construction 
may cause increased sedimentation in adjoining aquatic habitats (Maxell 
and Hokit 1999, p. 2.11). Traffic on native surface and dirt roads 
causes soil erosion that can run off into streams, particularly during 
wet weather. Furthermore, pollutants from exhaust and tire wear can 
build up along roadsides and enter riparian areas.
    Since the time of listing, the impacts of roads and road 
maintenance have been reduced through conservation measures and 
protection under the Act. To reduce this threat on Federal lands, Los 
Padres National Forest reinitiated section 7 consultation (8-8-12-F-43) 
(Service 2012, entire) with the Service for ongoing activities related 
to their transportation system and road use in the Santa Clara River 
Basin and Santa Ynez River Basin. Los Padres National Forest must 
repair and maintain approximately 1,025 mi (1,649 km) of roads and 137 
low water stream crossings on forest lands, and implements best 
management practices and conservation measures to protect the arroyo 
toad before conducting any road or water crossing maintenance. Such 
measures may include pre-construction surveys, relocating individuals 
to suitable habitat nearby, removing nonnative species, avoiding 
maintenance during the breeding season, and developing water control 
plans. In addition, Los Padres National Forest has rerouted trails and 
closed roads in arroyo toad habitat. In the Southern Recovery Unit, the 
Angeles, Cleveland, and San Bernardino National Forests have completed 
similar section 7 consultations to reduce or avoid effects from ongoing 
road use and maintenance to arroyo toads and habitat within the 
portions of 11 arroyo toad occurrences that occur on their land. The 
minimization and mitigation measures within these consultations have 
been incorporated into recent management plans completed by the Forest 
Service; the measures in these plans are not dependent on the listing 
status of the arroyo toad.
    Very limited information is available on the effects of roads and 
road maintenance in Mexico. We are aware that one paved road, Highway 
1, is impacting one river basin that supports arroyo toads in Mexico 
(Lovich 2009, pp. 79, 86); however, the magnitude of impacts from the 
use and maintenance of this coastal highway is unclear.
    Overall, conservation measures have recently reduced the threat of 
road use and construction and maintenance at three occurrences. 
Furthermore, we expect to continue to coordinate with our partners 
through existing section 7 processes to minimize and mitigate the 
impacts of roads and road maintenance. Overall, this threat has a large 
scope, affecting 20 of 35 river basins, and a moderate severity, as it 
can potentially cause effects such as permanent loss of breeding 
habitat, and creation of barriers to dispersal. Therefore, we find that 
roads and road maintenance have a moderate level of impact on the 
arroyo toad and its habitat (Service 2013, pp. 51-54).

Recreation

    At the time of listing, recreational activities in riparian 
wetlands had substantial negative effects on arroyo toad habitat and 
individuals. Streamside campgrounds in southern California national 
forests were frequently located adjacent to arroyo toad habitat (Sweet 
1992). With nearly 20 million people living within driving distance of 
the national forests and other public lands in southern California, 
recreational access and its subsequent effects are an ongoing concern 
(CDFG 2005). Currently, 22 out of 35 river basins are impacted by 
recreational facilities and activities, including 13 river basins with 
land managed by the Forest Service.
    Recreational activities that currently affect the arroyo toad are 
trail use, swimming, trail maintenance, and off-highway vehicle (OHV) 
activity. Activities such as construction of roads, trails, 
recreational facilities, and water impoundments may permanently replace 
natural toad habitat (Maxell and Hokit 1999, p. 2.15). Recreational use 
may also degrade habitat; for example, grazing by pack horses at stream 
crossings may impact streamside vegetation or trample various life 
stages of the arroyo toad (USFS 2013a, p. 17). Additionally, 
campgrounds focus large

[[Page 17115]]

numbers of people and intensive use on limited habitats. Streamside 
campgrounds in the three southern California National Forests (Los 
Padres, Angeles, and Cleveland) have frequently been located in or near 
(165 to 300 feet (ft) (50 to 92 meters (m)) arroyo toad habitat (Sweet 
1992, pp. 158-160). In the Los Padres National Forest, almost all 
occurrences that support arroyo toads are located where hiking trails 
follow the floodplain and cross the stream channels in multiple 
locations within a short distance. Streamside campgrounds and 
recreational activities also reduce riparian vegetation and increase 
soil erosion and sedimentation that can cover and kill algae, bacteria, 
and fungi on the surface of rocks that act as food sources for arroyo 
toad tadpoles (Sweet 1992, p. 190; USFS 2013a, p. 17).
    Disturbances created by recreation favor the germination, 
establishment, and growth of nonnative plant species, substantially 
altering food availability within a habitat (Service 2013a, pp. 17-18). 
Furthermore, people swimming and wading in the creek increases the 
turbidity of water and can create excess sedimentation, which is known 
to bury eggs or suffocate larvae (Sweet 1992, p. 150). Decreased 
populations of amphibians including arroyo toads have been found 
downstream from popular swimming destinations in Cleveland National 
Forest and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park (Brown, USGS, pers. comm. 2012). 
Currently, recreational use (mostly campgrounds and swimming) is still 
impacting six river basins in Cleveland National Forest (Winter, pers. 
comm. 2012).
    OHVs may also pose a threat to arroyo toads. Sweet (1992, pp. 162-
163) observed OHV use in arroyo toad breeding sites on the Los Padres 
National Forest that resulted in the deaths of arroyo toad egg 
clutches, larvae, and juveniles. OHVs used on sandy, unpaved roads may 
cause mortality of adult toads because increased food sources (ants, 
other insects) lure toads onto roads at night and because arroyo toads 
like to burrow into sandy roadbeds during the day (Sandburg, USFS, 
pers. comm., 1997). In addition to direct mortality resulting from 
collisions, OHVs may disrupt habitat to the point that it becomes 
unusable by herpetofauna (Maxell and Hokit 1999, p. 2.10). OHVs spread 
seeds of nonnative plants and disturb soils, contributing to excess 
erosion and sedimentation of aquatic habitats. Noise from on- and off-
road vehicles is also likely to have negative indirect impacts on 
amphibians. Although we did not find studies that targeted arroyo toads 
specifically, a study by Nash et al. (1970), found that leopard frogs 
exposed to loud noises (120 decibels) remained immobilized for much 
longer periods of time than a similarly handled control group. Thus, an 
immobility reaction resulting from noise-induced fear could increase 
mortality of amphibians that inhabit areas used by OHVs or individuals 
that are crossing roads by inhibiting their ability to find shelter or 
move across a roadway (Maxell and Hokit 1999, pp. 2.2-2.10).
    Conservation measures have been enacted in habitat surrounding 
several river basins to reduce or eliminate the impact of recreational 
activities on arroyo toads and their habitat. The Los Padres, Angeles, 
Cleveland and San Bernardino National Forests are taking measures to 
decrease the effects of recreational activities on arroyo toads and 
their habitat, including seasonal or permanent closure of campgrounds, 
posting of interpretive signs, closure of trails, installation of 
stream crossings, and public education programs (Service 1999, pp. 55-
56; Service 2003a, entire; Service 2005, entire; Cooper 2009, pers. 
comm.; USFS 2013b, pp. 1-85).
    Where recreational activities occur, they may result in the loss 
and fragmentation of arroyo toad habitat; however, conservation 
measures have reduced the effects of recreational use on the arroyo 
toad and its habitat at 6 of the 22 occurrences where recreational 
activities occur. We do not have any information on whether 
recreational activities are impacting river basins that support arroyo 
toads in Mexico, but we would expect the level and types of 
recreational activities to be similar and to have similar impacts as in 
the United States. Overall, because this threat has a large scope, and 
because it has a moderate level of severity, we conclude that effects 
from recreational use have a medium level of impact on the arroyo toad 
and its habitat (Service 2013, pp. 54-59).

Invasive, Nonnative Plants

    At the time of listing, invasive, nonnative plants were not 
identified as a threat to arroyo toads. Since then, nonnative plants 
have been recorded in 16 of the 35 river basins that support arroyo 
toads. Nonnative plant species impact arroyo toads and their habitat by 
altering the natural hydrology of stream drainages and eliminating 
sandbars, breeding pools, and upland habitats (Service 2009, p. 11). 
Nonnative plants can be spread by OHVs, recreation, livestock, and 
camping activities (Maxell and Hokit 1999, p. 2.8). Currently, 16 of 35 
river basins are impacted by invasive, nonnative plants.
    The most problematic nonnative plant species in aquatic systems in 
southern California is Arundo donax (giant reed), which is widespread 
along the Ventura, Santa Clara, Santa Ana, Santa Margarita, San Luis 
Rey, and San Diego Rivers (CDFG 2005). Giant reed invades stream banks 
and lakeshores, where it can completely displace native vegetation, 
reduce wildlife habitat, increase fire risk, and alter flow regimes, 
resulting in flooding (Ventura County 2006, pp. 21-23). Additionally, 
as of 2010, dense stands of giant reed were still common along sections 
of the lower Santa Margarita River on MCB Camp Pendleton despite 
control efforts (Brehme et al. 2011, p. 32).
    Another problematic nonnative species, Tamarix ramosissima 
(tamarisk), is less widespread than giant reed but also invades 
riparian habitats in the above-listed rivers and is distributed in 
coastal and desert drainages (Coffman et al. 2005, p. 2724). Tamarisk 
can replace or displace native woody species such as cottonwood and 
willow that occupy similar habitats, especially when timing and amount 
of peak water discharge, salinity, temperature, and substrate texture 
have been altered by human activities (Carpenter 2004, pp. 1-30). It is 
an aggressive, woody invasive plant that can tolerate a variety of 
environmental conditions and has become established over as much as a 
million acres of floodplains, riparian areas, wetlands, and lake 
margins in the western United States (Carpenter 2004, pp. 1-30). 
Tamarisk also consumes large quantities of water, possibly more than 
woody native plant species occupying the same habitat (Carpenter 2004, 
p. 3). Highly resistant to removal by flooding, tamarisk has the 
potential to form dense corridors along most large streams. Where this 
has been allowed to occur, tamarisk has replaced native vegetation, 
invaded sand bars, and led to channelization by constricting flood 
flows. In recent years, tamarisk has been recorded in all watersheds on 
MCB Camp Pendleton, although large stands persisted only along the 
lower Santa Margarita River (Brehme et al. 2011, p. 32).
    Centaurea solstitialis (yellow star thistle) and Nasturtium 
officinale (watercress) are also altering the habitat that supports the 
arroyo toad. Yellow star thistle is one of the most ecologically and 
economically damaging nonnative plants in California (UC Davis 2007, p. 
1). It is a fast-growing invasive plant whose taproot can reach over 3 
ft (1 m) deep into the soil, allowing it to thrive during dry, hot 
summers. When yellow star thistle becomes well-

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established on stream terraces, arroyo toads are unable to dig burrows 
for shelter or estivation (Sweet 2007a, p. 1). Watercress can also 
invade arroyo toad habitat. After a fire in the upper Sweetwater River 
resulted in increased sedimentation that created more breeding habitat 
for the arroyo toad, watercress subsequently invaded and covered the 
water surface, and arroyo toad recruitment declined (Brown, USGS, pers. 
comm. 2012). It is possible that, while reducing available breeding 
area, the watercress reduced detectability of arroyo toads. However, in 
sandy open areas, larvae of other toad species were detected while 
arroyo toads were not (Brown, USGS, pers. comm. 2012). Watercress has 
become well established in the Lower Santa Margarita River Basin, and 
scattered patches of watercress have been observed in the upper 
portions of San Mateo and San Onofre Creeks (Brehme et al. 2011, p. 
32).
    Conservation measures and management are currently being enacted to 
reduce the impact of nonnative plants on arroyo toads. The Los Padres 
National Forest has made a concerted effort to remove giant reed and 
tamarisk from arroyo toad habitat. Forest Service staff and volunteers 
conduct annual tamarisk removal along portions of Piru Creek, Sisquoc 
River, Santa Ynez River, and Sespe Creek to protect and restore arroyo 
toad habitat. At MCB Camp Pendleton, measures mandating control of 
nonnative plants have been implemented through section 7 consultation 
(Service 1995, pp. 1, 26, 32, 35). These measures are further described 
and incorporated into the most recent Integrated National Resources 
Management Plan (INRMP) for MCB Camp Pendleton (MCB Camp Pendleton 
2007, pp. C-1-C-19). Removal efforts on the Base have reduced 
prevalence of giant reed, with the help of naturally occurring scouring 
from flooding events. Researchers recommend continued eradication 
efforts of nonnative plants on MCB Camp Pendleton, particularly those 
that alter the natural hydrology of watersheds occupied by arroyo toad 
(Brehme et al. 2011, p. 38). Though these efforts have aided in 
decreasing the threats posed by nonnative plants, management methods of 
these plants are limited, as control by herbicides and pesticides can 
have impacts to arroyo toads.
    Where invasive, nonnative plants occur, they can degrade arroyo 
toad habitat and alter stream dynamics. Though conservation measures 
have been successful in reducing the spread of these nonnative plants 
at 6 of the 16 occurrences affected by nonnative plants, impacts 
continue. We do not have any information regarding whether invasive, 
nonnative plants are impacting river basins that support arroyo toads 
in Mexico, but would expect that some effects are occurring. While the 
impact of invasive, nonnative plants will not result in the immediate 
loss of habitat and extirpation of populations, they will continue to 
degrade arroyo toad habitat and reduce its carrying capacity over the 
long term and result in decreased survival and reproduction of affected 
populations. Overall, due to the large scope and moderate severity of 
the effects of invasive, nonnative plants on arroyo toads and their 
habitat, we find that this threat has a medium level of impact (Service 
2013, pp. 54-63).

Introduced Predator Species

    At the time of listing, nonnative predators had caused substantial 
reductions in the sizes of extant populations of arroyo toads, and had 
caused arroyo toads to disappear from large portions of historically 
occupied habitat (Jennings and Hayes 1994, p. 57). The introduction of 
nonnative aquatic species has been facilitated by the construction of 
the California Aqueduct and other sources of inter-basin water 
transport (Service 1999, p. 48). Today, 28 of 35 river basins are 
impacted by introduced predator species.
    Predatory species known to prey on arroyo toad adults, tadpoles, or 
eggs include green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), largemouth bass 
(Micropterous salmoides), black bullhead (Ictalurus nebulosus), prickly 
sculpin (Cottus asper), stocked rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), 
oriental gobies (Tridentiger spp.), red shiners (Notropis lutrensis), 
American bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeiana), African clawed frogs 
(Xenopus laevis), crayfish (Procambarus clarkia), and mammalian species 
including raccoons (Procyon lotor) and opossums (Didelphis virginiana) 
(Sweet 1992, pp. 118-122; Service 1999, pp. 17, 48). All of these 
species prey on arroyo toad tadpoles, and all but the crayfish, red 
shiners, and African clawed frogs were known to impact arroyo toads at 
the time of listing (59 FR 64859; December 16, 1994). Where nonnative 
predators occur, they can be widespread and occur in high abundances. 
For example, surveys along San Mateo Creek on the Cleveland National 
Forest confirmed a very high abundance and widespread distribution of 
nonnative aquatic species, with approximately 77 percent of the 
``major'' pools and 45 percent of the ``minor'' pools occupied by at 
least one nonnative species (ECORP 2004, pp. 18, 25).
    Bullfrogs and African clawed frogs are two of the primary 
introduced species that prey upon arroyo toads. Both species feed on 
arroyo toads at all life stages (Sweet 1992, p. 128; Ramirez 2007, p. 
102). Sweet (1992, p. 132) found that bullfrogs, which target calling 
male arroyo toads, were associated with resulting sex ratio biases in 
arroyo toads of 1:14 (1 male to 14 females) in Sespe Creek. Of 40 
bullfrogs captured along the Santa Margarita River in 2008, arroyo toad 
remains were found in the stomach contents of over half of them (Brehme 
et al. 2011, p. 44). USGS further estimated 125 arroyo toads were being 
consumed by bullfrogs per kilometer per month along the lower Santa 
Margarita River (Backin and Brehme, USGS, pers. comm. 2012). 
Additionally, over the past 20 years, at least 60 species of fishes 
have been introduced to the western United States, 59 percent of which 
are predatory. Arroyo toad tadpoles are subject to predation by many of 
these introduced fish species, especially green sunfish and prickly 
sculpin. Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and crayfish have also been 
observed to prey on both tadpoles and eggs.
    In recent years, wild pigs (Sus scrofa) have been recognized as a 
likely new stressor to arroyo toads, and are now found at 5 of 35 river 
basins. Arroyo toads are expected to be adversely affected in the San 
Diego River watershed as a result of wild pig introductions (SDNHM 
2010, pp. 3, 23, 29, 32, 34-35). The mild climate of San Diego County 
can support rapid population growth and expansion of wild pig 
populations, making eradication of wild pigs unlikely and control 
difficult (CBI 2009, pp. 14, 20-21; SDNHM 2010, p. 42; Winchell, USFWS, 
pers. comm. 2012). Wild pigs negatively affect almost all aspects of 
ecosystem structure and function; for example, areas where pigs have 
rooted appear as if rototilled, leaving large areas of bare earth that 
can be easily colonized by invasive, nonnative weeds (Jolley et al. 
2010, p. 519). Wild pigs may also directly consume arroyo toads, as 
they are opportunistic omnivores whose diet has been observed to 
include reptiles and amphibians (Barrett and Birmingham 1994, p. D-66; 
Wilcox and Van Vuren 2009, p. 114; Jolley et al. 2010, pp. 520-522).
    Detrimental effects of arroyo toad predation have been demonstrated 
throughout the range of the species. Along the Santa Margarita River in 
MCB Camp Pendleton, occupancy models for wet arroyo toad habitat 
indicate that

[[Page 17117]]

nonnative aquatic predators had the largest negative impact on arroyo 
toad occupancy and detectability (Brehme et al. 2006, p. 43). This 
negative association weakened to a level of insignificance in 2009--
which corresponded with elevated aquatic predator removal efforts--but 
returned again in 2010 along with a greater number of sites where 
nonnative predator fish and crayfish were detected (Brehme et al. 2011, 
pp. 29, 31, 35-36). Brehme et al. (2011, pp. 2-3) strongly recommend 
continued control of nonnative aquatic species, especially bullfrogs 
and crayfish, for continued persistence of arroyo toad in the lower 
Santa Margarita River. Once established, nonnative predators appear 
resilient and persist in the system except when drying creates a period 
of habitat unsuitability (Miller et al. 2012, pp. 2, 7). Thus, Brehme 
et al. (2011, p. 2) recommend modifying water releases along the lower 
Santa Margarita River to simulate a more natural hydrology pattern 
(i.e., no releases in summer months), along with continued, elevated 
control of nonnative aquatic species.
    Some progress has been made since listing toward reducing the 
threat of introduced predators to arroyo toads and their habitat. 
Efforts are being made to remove or reduce nonnative animal populations 
in several areas, including the Santa Ynez River Basin on the Los 
Padres National Forest and in the Santa Clara River Basin on the 
Angeles National Forest. Forest Service personnel have also worked with 
animal control agencies to reduce the releases of raccoons and opossums 
in arroyo toad habitats. At MCB Camp Pendleton, pursuant to a 
biological opinion issued in 1995, the Base must take measures to 
assess threats to the survival and recovery of arroyo toad, including 
those from nonnative predators (Service 1995, pp. 1, 26, 32, 35). 
Measures to control nonnative predators are further described and 
incorporated in the most recent INRMP for MCB Camp Pendleton (MCB Camp 
Pendleton 2007, pp. C-1-C-19). Nonnative aquatic predator removal on 
Base has been ongoing for several years and has shown a benefit to 
arroyo toads in the Lower Santa Margarita River Basin.
    In the San Juan Creek Basin in Orange County, a 6-year aquatic 
predator control program was conducted as mitigation for two California 
Department of Transportation (CalTrans) projects on adjacent State 
Route 74. The program was effective in reducing bullfrog adults and 
larvae from the headwaters of the creek and has slowed local 
proliferation of this species. Continuation of removal efforts is 
recommended within the creek and at downstream breeding populations 
that provide sources of dispersal into the study area (LSA and BonTerra 
2012, pp. 12-13). However, the program ended in 2012. As another 
CalTrans project is anticipated along State Route 74, the work could be 
continued through this new project, but may not be initiated for 
another year or more. Actions such as these provide benefits only in 
the short term unless replaced with a long-term mechanism for continued 
predator control and/or eradication.
    In order to address the impacts of feral pigs, the Cleveland 
National Forest prepared an environmental assessment of a proposed 
feral pig damage control project on the Forest, Bureau of Land 
Management lands, and on the Capitan Grande Indian Reservation (USDA 
2012, p. 49). However, implementation of this project is uncertain. 
Securing funding and access to private lands where wild pigs might be 
found outside Federal lands are necessary in order to control this 
species, but are currently challenging (Winchell, USFWS, pers. comm. 
2012).
    Very limited information is available on the effects of introduced 
predators in Mexico. We are aware that introduced predators are present 
at all 10 river basins in Mexico that support arroyo toads (Lovich 
2009, pp. 90-91); however, the magnitude of impacts on local 
populations is unknown.
    Introduced predators are currently impacting arroyo toads at 28 out 
of the 35 river basins where the arroyo toad is known to occur. Where 
introduced predators occur, they have an extreme effect on arroyo toads 
and their habitats. Currently, 5 of the 28 river basins impacted by 
nonnative predators have conservation measures to mitigate the impacts 
of introduced predators. We find that introduced predators are the most 
important factor threatening the arroyo toad across its range. 
Introduced predators have a pervasive scope and an extreme threat 
severity, as introduced predators may cause reductions in population 
size or even extirpation of entire arroyo toad populations. Therefore, 
introduced predators are a threat with a very high impact on the toad 
and its habitat (Service 2013, pp. 64-69). However, despite this high 
level of impact, and the fact that bullfrogs and other predators have 
become well-established in arroyo toad habitat (Service 2013, p. 69), 
no populations have yet been extirpated.

Drought

    At the time of listing, drought and the resultant deterioration of 
riparian habitats in Southern California was considered to be the most 
significant natural factor adversely affecting the arroyo toad. Though 
arroyo toads likely naturally evolved with periodic drought conditions, 
the 1994 listing rule concluded that drought conditions, when combined 
with alteration of natural flow regimes, had degraded riparian 
ecosystems and created extremely stressful conditions for most aquatic 
species; drought years are also known to result in low food supplies 
that can be detrimental to breeding arroyo toads (59 FR 64859, December 
16, 1994). Today, 21 of the 25 occurrences in the United States are 
impacted by drought as exacerbated by altered flow regimes.
    Drought conditions continue to impact both arroyo toad populations 
and the riparian habitat that supports them. As drought conditions 
increase, reduction in plant growth results in less available canopy 
cover and shade, which could increase predation rates on arroyo toads 
(Campbell et al. 1996, p. 12).
    As stated in the 1994 listing rule, drought can also directly 
impact breeding arroyo toads. During drought conditions, plants produce 
fewer flowers for insects; fewer insects result in less available food 
for arroyo toads. A major concern regarding the effect of drought on 
arroyo toads is that female toads may not be able to find sufficient 
insect prey to build up enough fat storage for egg production in time 
to find a mate, resulting in no reproduction for that year (Sweet 1992, 
pp. 56, 172, and 190; Campbell et al. 1996, p. 11). In addition, if 
streams dry up too early in the breeding season, arroyo toad tadpoles 
may not have enough time to reach metamorphosis.
    The habitat requirements and life history of the arroyo toad 
increases the impact of drought on the species. Most waterways occupied 
by arroyo toads are small and are ephemeral streams at high elevations. 
At lower elevations, impacts from drought on arroyo toad occurrences 
are exacerbated by alteration of hydrology from dams, water diversions, 
and groundwater extraction due to urbanization and agriculture (see 
discussion under the Urban Development, Agriculture, and Operation of 
Dams and Water Diversions sections above). The arroyo toad's lifespan 
averages 5 to 6 years; if drought persists longer than 6 years, entire 
populations could be extirpated for lack of water (Sweet 1992, p. 147; 
Backlin and Brehme, USGS, pers. comm. 2012). For example, arroyo toad 
occurrences in ephemeral streams on MCB Camp Pendleton (San Mateo 
Creek, San Onofre Creek basins) and

[[Page 17118]]

Remote Training Site Warner Springs (Upper San Luis Rey River Basin) 
are at increased risk of extirpation from a prolonged drought and may 
be more dependent upon dispersal from more stable sites for 
recolonization (Brehme et al. 2006, pp. 43-44; Clark et al. 2011, p. 
18).
    At this time (March, 2014), the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that the 
worst drought category, ``exceptional drought,'' covers 9 percent of 
California and ``extreme drought'' (the second worst category) has 
increased to cover 67 percent of California (U.S. Drought Monitor 
2014). According to the drought map (U.S. Drought Monitor 2014), most 
of the known arroyo toad occurrences in California are within drainages 
affected by the current drought. Therefore, we estimate that arroyo 
toad occurrences in 21 out of the 25 river basins in the United States 
are being affected by drought as exacerbated by altered hydrology. We 
do not have any information on how or if drought impacts river basins 
that support arroyo toads in Mexico but we expect that at least some of 
the river basins would be affected by regional droughts in similar 
fashion as the river basins in the United States, particularly at the 
one occurrence in Mexico that has a dam that alters natural flow 
regimes. Drought is certainly not unique in southern California and 
arroyo toad populations have withstood such episodes in the past, such 
that we are not aware of any occurrences that have become extirpated 
since listing due to drought conditions. However, the continued 
operation of dams and other water diversions adds stress to arroyo toad 
populations in ephemeral streams. Because the scope of the impacts from 
droughts are large (affecting 21 of the 25 river basins in the United 
States, and likely additional river basins in Mexico), and because 
drought has a serious level of severity on arroyo toad population and 
habitat, we find that drought conditions are a threat that results in a 
high level of impact to arroyo toad populations throughout their range 
(Service 2013, pp. 32-37).

Periodic Fire and Fire Suppression

    In recent decades, large fires in the West have become more 
frequent, more widespread, and potentially more deadly to wildlife 
(Joint Fire Science Program 2007). At the time of listing, periodic 
fires were considered a threat to the arroyo toad and its habitat. In 
1991, the Lions Fire on upper Sespe Creek in the Los Padres National 
Forest directly destroyed riparian habitat along Sespe Creek in the 
Santa Clara River Basin, which contained the largest known extant 
population of arroyo toads. The fire also destroyed 15 known breeding 
pools and over 50 percent of the known adult population on the Sespe 
drainage; however, by 1993, the population and its habitat had largely 
recovered due to recruitment from healthy populations of arroyo toads 
downstream (Sweet 1993, p. 19). Today, a robust population continues to 
persist in upper Sespe Creek. Currently, 22 of the 25 river basins in 
the United States are affected by fire suppression and periodic fire 
(Service 2013, p. 74), particularly as the natural fire regimes in 
Southern California have altered in frequency and intensity in recent 
decades. The remaining three river basins in the United States are not 
in habitats characterized as at high risk from altered fire regimes.
    Periodic fires are considered a threat to the arroyo toads because 
fires can cause direct mortality of arroyo toads, destroy streamside 
vegetation, or eliminate vegetation that sustains the watershed. 
Pilliod et al. (2003, p. 176) state that the effects of fire may be 
greatest for amphibians that are habitat specialists, such as arroyo 
toads, compared to species that occupy different types of habitat and 
tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions. Other effects from 
fires include increased water temperature (as a result of canopy loss), 
toxic effects of smoke and fire retardant to water chemistry, increased 
sedimentation in streams and ponds that negatively impact reproduction 
and recruitment, and the effects of fire and post-fire conditions on 
arroyo toad terrestrial movements (Pilliod et al. 2003, pp. 163-181). 
In addition, wildfires often generate a substantial increase in erosion 
following the loss of protective ground cover and root anchors (Service 
2003, p. 8). Although arroyo toads may recolonize areas impacted by 
fire (as occurred in upper Sespe Creek), recruitment from downstream 
occurrences is likely not possible in all locations due to habitat 
alteration from urbanization, existing dams, and other impacts.
    Since the time the arroyo toad was listed in 1994, we now recognize 
that arroyo toads may also be impacted by fire suppression and 
firefighting activities, including fire line construction, hand line 
construction, bulldozing, water withdrawal using helicopters and pumps, 
backfiring, and fire camp and safety zone construction. After the 2007 
Zaca Fire in Los Padres National Forest, a number of broad fuelbreaks 
and safety zones were bulldozed in several areas, including the lower 
portions of Mono and Indian Creeks (Sweet 2007a, pp. 1-9; 2007b, p. 1). 
At that time of year, a large proportion of the population would have 
been within burrows on the terraces, and any toads that were in burrows 
were very likely killed by bulldozing (Sweet 2007a, p. 1). Sweet 
(2007a, p. 1) also reported that the bulldozing operations also 
severely degraded upland habitat; for example, bulldozing created large 
piles of woody debris between the creek bed and the terraces that 
created substantial barriers to arroyo toad movement.
    Periodic fire and fire suppression activities could potentially 
impact the arroyo toad through permanent loss of breeding habitat; 
permanent loss of upland habitat; and mortality, injury, or 
displacement of individuals. Currently, fire could impact 22 out of the 
25 river basins in the United States where the arroyo toad is known to 
occur. Although we expect that fire could also impact river basins that 
support arroyo toads in Mexico, we currently lack information on 
habitat types and fire regimes in those areas.
    Despite the potentially high level of impacts that fire and fire 
suppression can have on the species, very few fires have occurred in 
arroyo toad habitat since the time of listing, and we expect the 
incidence of fires will remain relatively constant. Fire and fire 
suppression activities have a large scope (affecting 22 of the 25 river 
basins in the United States) and a moderate severity, as fire could 
permanently or temporarily alter breeding habitat and cause mortality 
of arroyo toads. Therefore, we find that fire and fire suppression 
activities are a threat with a medium level of impact on the arroyo 
toad (Service 2013, pp. 72-37).

Climate Change

    At the time of listing, the potential impacts of climate change to 
the arroyo toad and its habitat were not assessed. In the 2009 5-year 
review, we recognized that climate change could impact arroyo toad 
habitat; however, we lacked downscaled projections to make predictions 
on how a changing climate could impact arroyo toad habitat. Today, more 
information on downscaled climate projections has become available, and 
we conclude that effects of climate change could impact all 35 river 
basins that support arroyo toads and their habitat.
    The term ``climate change'' refers to a change in the mean or 
variability of one or more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or 
precipitation) that persists for an extended period, usually decades or 
longer, whether the change is due to natural variability, human 
activity, or both (IPCC 2007a, p. 78).

[[Page 17119]]

Various types of changes in climate can have direct or indirect effects 
on species, including the arroyo toad. Specific effects of climate 
change on the arroyo toad and its habitat depend on the magnitude of 
future changes.
    Predictions for changes in temperature vary across the range of the 
arroyo toad. Downscaled projections of temperature were available for 
the 25 river basins in the United States that support arroyo toads. In 
the Central Western California Ecoregion, which contains four river 
basins in the northern portion of the arroyo toad's range, mean annual 
temperatures are predicted to increase from 1.6 to 1.9 [deg]C (2.9 to 
3.4[emsp14][deg]F) by 2070 (PRBO 2011, pp. 35, 40). In the Southwestern 
California Ecoregion, which contains 21 river basins, temperatures are 
predicted to rise 1.7 to 2.2 [deg]C (3.1 to 4.0[emsp14][deg]F) (PRBO 
2011, pp. 35, 40). High temperature events are expected to become more 
common in both ecoregions, and taxa with very narrow temperature 
tolerance levels may experience thermal stress to the point of direct 
mortality or diminished reproduction in the Southwestern California 
Ecoregion (PRBO 2011, pp. 38, 42).
    There is a general lack of consensus of the effects of future 
climate change on precipitation patterns in both ecoregions. Some 
models suggest almost no change, whereas others project decreases of up 
to 32 percent in the Central Western California Ecoregion and 37 
percent in the Southwestern California Ecoregion by 2070 (PRBO 2011, 
pp. 35, 40). Qualitative indicators of changes in concentrated near-
surface water vapor (atmospheric rivers) above the Pacific Ocean in 
current projections suggest flood risks in California from warm-wet 
storms may increase beyond those known historically, mostly in the form 
of occasional more-extreme-than-historical storm seasons (Dettinger 
2011, p. 522).
    Changes in climate may impact the historical flow regimes that 
support arroyo toads. Snyder et al. (2004, pp. 594, 600) has projected 
that annual snow accumulation will decrease significantly for all 
hydrologic regions in California. Reduced snowpack will lead to reduced 
stream-flows, especially in the spring (EPA 2012). Additionally, rising 
temperatures cause snow to begin melting earlier in the year, which 
alters the timing of stream-flow in rivers that have their sources in 
mountainous areas (EPA 2013). Thus, taxa that rely on runoff from 
snowmelt will find streams and rivers drying up much earlier than 
before, and temperatures of the water are likely to increase due to a 
reduction in snowmelt contribution, likely altering riparian 
communities downstream (Snyder et al. 2004, p. 600; PRBO 2011, p. 42).
    Additional impacts from climate change on arroyo toad habitat 
include reductions in groundwater systems and overall water supply. 
Surficial aquifers, which supply much of the flow to streams, lakes, 
wetlands, and springs, are likely to be the part of the groundwater 
system most sensitive to climate change (Alley et al. 1999, p. 21). 
Increased competition for water resources in the southwestern United 
States and Mexico are expected due to projected temperature increases, 
river-flow reductions, dwindling reservoirs, decreased groundwater 
recharge, and rapid population growth (EPA 2012). For example, the 
California Energy Commission (CEC) (2009, p. 22) predicts the combined 
effects of climate change, water use practices, and regional growth 
will expose San Diego County to greater risk of water shortfalls before 
2050.
    Aspects of arroyo toad life history and biology make them sensitive 
to potential climate-change-related impacts. Arroyo toads have a 
relative inability to disperse longer distances in order to occupy more 
favorable habitat conditions (i.e., move up and down stream corridors, 
or across river basins). This reduced adaptive capacity for arroyo toad 
is a function of its highly specialized habitat requirements, the 
dynamic nature of its habitat, natural barriers such as steep 
topography at higher elevations, and extensive fragmentation (unnatural 
barriers) within and between river basins from reservoirs, 
urbanization, agriculture, roads, and the introduction of nonnative 
plants and predators. Climate change also could affect the distribution 
of pathogens and their vectors, exposing arroyo toads (potentially with 
weakened immune systems as a result of other environmental stressors) 
to new pathogens (Blaustein et al. 2001, p. 1808). Climate change may 
result in a range shift of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis 
(Bd), (Pounds et al. 2006, p. 161; Bosch et al. 2007, p. 253), a 
virulent amphibian disease. Though Bd has the potential to infect and 
kill arroyo toads (Nichols 2003, entire), it is not currently found 
within the range of the arroyo toad and, therefore, is not expected to 
affect arroyo toads in the near future, though it remains a potential 
future threat. More information on the potential impact of Bd on arroyo 
toads is available in the ``Disease'' section of the Species Report 
(Service 2013, pp. 62-64).
    We conclude that because climate change is likely to impact all 
river basins where the arroyo toad is known to occur in the future, it 
has a pervasive scope. We also conclude that climate change has a 
serious severity, as it has the potential to degrade habitat and reduce 
populations over a large proportion of the range of the arroyo toad. 
Therefore, we expect that climate change will have a high level of 
impact on the arroyo toad and its habitat throughout its range. See 
additional discussion in the ``Climate Change'' section of the Species 
Report (Service 2013, pp. 75-80).

Combination of Threats

    Combinations of threats working in concert with one another have 
the ability to negatively impact species to a greater degree than 
individual threats operating alone. Multiple stressors can alter the 
effects of other stressors or act synergistically to affect individuals 
and populations (IPCC 2002, p. 22; Boone et al. 2003, pp. 138-143; 
Westerman et al. 2003, pp. 90-91; Opdam and Wascher 2004, pp. 285-297; 
Boone et al. 2007, pp. 293-297; Vredenburg and Wake 2007, p. 7; Lawler 
et al. 2010, p. 47; Miller et al. 2011, pp. 2360-2361).
    Alterations in habitat caused by dam operation, urban development, 
and invasive plants interact with nonnative predators by increasing the 
suitability of habitat for nonnative predators. Artificially sustained 
flow regimes from urban runoff, agricultural runoff, or dam operation 
create ponds that make habitat more suitable for bullfrogs and African 
clawed frogs than for arroyo toads (Sweet 1992, p. 156; Riley et al. 
2005, p. 1905). Bullfrogs are well-adapted to deep-water conditions in 
ponded areas above dams, and dam releases can introduce them to 
downstream habitats (CDFG 2005, p. 178). In these modified systems with 
deep pools that persist year-round, both bullfrogs and arroyo toads 
must rely on the same habitat for breeding, even though their 
biological needs differ. This situation allows bullfrogs more 
opportunity to prey on all of the life stages of arroyo toads. 
Furthermore, the introduction of nonnative plant species may enhance 
the probability of successful introduction of other nonnative species. 
For example, there is some evidence that the survival of bullfrogs is 
enhanced by the presence of nonnative aquatic vegetation, which 
provides habitat more suitable to bullfrogs (Maxell and Hokit 1999, p. 
2.8).
    Invasive, nonnative plants can interact with fire to exacerbate its 
effects on riparian habitats and natural stream flow. Large riparian 
corridors have historically acted as natural firebreaks

[[Page 17120]]

in southern California because of their low-lying topography and 
relative absence of flammable fuels. However, recent studies suggest 
that invasive plants are making riparian systems more fire-prone 
(Lambert et al. 2010). Giant reed and tamarisk are highly flammable, 
yet both species recover rapidly from fire by vigorous regrowth from 
below-ground plant parts. By contrast, cottonwoods, willows, and other 
native woody plants are much less tolerant of direct exposure to fire. 
Coffman et al. (2010, pp. 2723-2734) examined the regrowth rates of 
giant reed and nearby native woody vegetation following a 741-acre 
(300-ha) fire in the Santa Clara River watershed in 2005. Giant reed 
grew three to four times faster following the fire, and within 11 
years, its density was 20 times greater than native species. This 
suggests that rapid regrowth of the highly flammable biomass creates an 
invasive plant-fire cycle that ultimately leads to a decline in native 
species in the ecosystem (Coffman et al. 2010, pp. 2730-2731).
    Overall reductions in available habitat and population size through 
all the threats described in this document could cause further 
fragmentation of remaining arroyo toad populations. In particular, 
fragmentation can cause a ``habitat split,'' which is a separation 
between the two habitats critical for amphibian reproduction (Dixo et 
al. 2009, p. 1567). Habitat split may have an even larger effect on 
amphibian species with aquatic larval development and a terrestrial 
adult stage, such as the arroyo toad. Because of its dual habitat 
needs, the arroyo toad would be particularly susceptible to 
fragmentation that isolates breeding wetlands from upland areas that 
are the preferred habitats of adults. A number of studies have reported 
changes in genetic diversity associated with habitat fragmentation in 
amphibians (Young et al. 1996; Cushman 2006; Dixo et al. 2009). Genetic 
consequences of fragmentation center on a significant decrease in 
genetic diversity from (1) relatively low dispersal capabilities; (2) 
mortality when moving across roads and unsuitable habitats, which 
depresses growth rates; (3) narrow habitat tolerances; and (4) high 
vulnerability to pathogens, invasive species, climate change, and 
environmental pollutants (Cushman 2006, p. 232), ultimately leading to 
decreased survival or reproductive success.
    Both dispersal ability and habitat availability determine how 
vulnerable arroyo toads are to reduced genetic diversity due to 
fragmentation. A study by Dixo et al. (2009, p. 1561) found that while 
a generalist species of amphibian (Rhinella ornata) was relatively 
tolerant of larger habitat fragments and maintained genetic diversity 
within them, gene flow in populations was negatively impacted in small 
patches of remaining habitat. This result implies that more specialized 
species like the arroyo toad would suffer even more severe genetic 
consequences from a fragmented and isolated landscape. In fact, arroyo 
toads have narrow environmental tolerances (highly specialized 
breeding, foraging, and shelter requirements), generally low dispersal 
abilities (Service 2013, pp. 6-7), and are vulnerable to being killed 
when burrowing into or crossing roads at night, all characteristics 
that exacerbate the negative effects of fragmentation, habitat loss, 
and habitat degradation. Combined with the small population sizes of 
arroyo toad occurrences, the species could find it difficult to persist 
while sustaining the impacts of urban, suburban, and rural development 
that have already resulted in severe arroyo toad habitat loss and 
fragmentation.
    Effects of climate change may exacerbate other threats to the 
arroyo toad by increasing the frequency or severity of droughts which 
could result in increases in groundwater pumping and water diversion 
for urban and agriculture use, increasing runoff and erosion during 
extreme flood events, increasing the frequency or intensity of 
wildfire, and increasing the spread and virulence of pathogens.
    Based on the best available scientific and commercial information, 
we find that the cumulative and combined effects of multiple factors 
acting on the arroyo toad are pervasive in scope, as they affect all 
arroyo toad occurrences, and are of serious severity, as these impacts 
could cause the loss or degradation of habitat and potential reductions 
in arroyo toad populations. Therefore, we conclude that combined 
effects of multiple factors pose a high level of threat to the arroyo 
toad and its habitat (Service 2013, pp. 84-85).

Recovery and Recovery Plan Implementation

    Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement 
recovery plans for the conservation and survival of endangered and 
threatened species unless we determine that such a plan will not 
promote the conservation of the species. Under section 4(f)(1)(B)(ii), 
recovery plans must, to the maximum extent practicable, include: 
``Objective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a 
determination, in accordance with the provisions of [section 4 of the 
Act], that the species be removed from the list.'' However, revisions 
to the list (adding, removing, or reclassifying a species) must reflect 
determinations made in accordance with sections 4(a)(1) and 4(b) of the 
Act. Section 4(a)(1) requires that the Secretary determine whether a 
species is endangered or threatened (or not) because of one or more of 
five threat factors. Section 4(b) of the Act requires that the 
determination be made ``solely on the basis of the best scientific and 
commercial data available.'' Therefore, recovery criteria should help 
indicate when we would anticipate an analysis of the five threat 
factors under section 4(a)(1) would result in a determination that a 
species is no longer an endangered species or threatened species 
because of any of the five statutory factors.
    Thus, while recovery plans provide important guidance to the 
Service, States, and other partners on methods of minimizing threats to 
listed species and measurable objectives against which to measure 
progress towards recovery, they are not regulatory documents and cannot 
substitute for the determinations and promulgation of regulations 
required under section 4(a)(1) of the Act. A decision to revise the 
status of or remove a species from the Federal List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife (50 CFR 17.11) is ultimately based on an analysis 
of the best scientific and commercial data then available to determine 
whether a species is no longer an endangered species or a threatened 
species, regardless of whether that information differs from the 
recovery plan.
    The Service finalized a recovery plan for the arroyo toad in 1999 
(Service 1999, pp. 1-119). The intent of the arroyo toad recovery plan 
was to prescribe recovery criteria that would demonstrate population 
stability and good habitat management over a period of years, which 
would indicate a substantially improved situation for arroyo toads. We 
anticipated later developing better information on the status and needs 
of arroyo toads, based on the surveys, research, and monitoring 
prescribed in the plan. Because the recovery plan incorporated an 
adaptive management approach to recovery, new information would be used 
to modify the recovery tasks and criteria, as appropriate (Service 
1999, p. 108).
    The overall objectives of the recovery plan are to prevent further 
loss of individuals, populations, and habitat critical for the survival 
of the species; and to recover existing populations to normal 
reproductive capacity to ensure viability in the long term, prevent

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extinction, maintain genetic viability, and improve conservation status 
(Service 1999, p. 108). The general goal to achieve recovery of the 
species is to establish sufficient self-sustaining populations. The 
recovery plan describes 22 river basins in the coastal and desert areas 
of 9 counties along the central and southern coast of California, and 
the recovery plan divides the range of the arroyo toad into three large 
recovery units--Northern, Southern, and Desert. These recovery units 
were established to reflect the ecological and geographic distribution 
of the species and its current and historic range (Service 1999, pp. 
71-72); we have since received updated information on the number and 
extent of river basins that support arroyo toads. The Recovery Plan did 
not address any occurrences in Baja California, Mexico, as very limited 
information on the species was available when the plan was drafted.
    The Recovery Plan provides two criteria for determining when the 
arroyo toad should be considered for reclassification from endangered 
to threatened status: (1) That management plans have been approved and 
implemented on federally managed lands to provide for securing the 
genetic and phenotypic variation of the arroyo toad in each recovery 
unit by conserving, maintaining, and restoring the riparian and upland 
habitats used by arroyo toads for breeding, foraging, and wintering 
habitat; and (2) that at least 20 self-sustaining metapopulations or 
populations must be maintained at specific locations (Service 1999, pp. 
75-76). The Recovery Plan states that self-sustaining metapopulations 
or populations are those documented as having successful recruitment 
(i.e., inclusion of newly matured individuals into the breeding 
population) equal to 20 percent or more of the average number of 
breeding adults in 7 of 10 years of average to above average rainfall 
amounts with normal rainfall patterns. Such recruitment would be 
documented by statistically valid trend data indicating stable or 
increasing populations. In addition, self-sustaining populations 
require no direct human assistance (such as captive breeding or 
rearing, or translocation of toads between sites). This does not 
include activities such as patrolling or closing of roads, campgrounds, 
or recreational areas, or maintaining stream crossings or fencing 
(Service 2013, p. 76).
    The Recovery Plan also states that arroyo toad should be considered 
for delisting when the genetic and phenotypic variation of the arroyo 
toad throughout its range in California is secured by maintaining 15 
additional self-sustaining populations of arroyo toads in coastal 
plain, coastal slope, desert slope, and desert river basins, including 
known populations outside of Federal jurisdiction (Service 1999, p. 
76).
    In our analysis of the status of the arroyo toad in the Species 
Report, we reviewed the 22 river basin occurrences that were identified 
at the time of listing (59 FR 64859; Service 1999, pp. 12-31). Of these 
22 occurrences, 4 occurrences (Whitewater River, San Felipe Creek, 
Vallecitos Creek, and Pinto Wash basins) were determined to be reported 
erroneously, as examination of locality records, museum specimens, 
photographs and other records, as well as new visits to these river 
basins found no evidence that they had ever supported arroyo toads 
(Ervin et al. 2013, pp. 197--204). Additionally, the status of arroyo 
toads was unknown in 2 river basins (Santa Ana River and Otay River) 
identified for recovery actions in the recovery plan (Service 1999, pp. 
23-24, 30).
    The arroyo toad is currently extant or presumed to be extant at 16 
occurrences on federal lands, including those known at listing, while 
the status of the Otay River Basin and Lower Santa Ana River Basin 
occurrences is still unknown (Service 2013, Table 1). However, arroyo 
toads were redetected in the San Jacinto River Basin, which was 
previously identified as part of the greater Santa Ana River Basin in 
the recovery plan (Service 1999, pp. 23-24); the split of the Greater 
Santa Ana River Basin into two occurrences adds an additional 
occurrence to those recognized in the recovery plan. Thus, at least one 
population within each of these 17 river basins supporting the arroyo 
toad identified at listing is currently extant or presumed to be extant 
on Federal land. Furthermore, the arroyo toad is extant at 5 additional 
river basins with no populations on Federal land. Updated information 
indicates some locations where erroneously reported, while the arroyo 
toad has been identified in three additional river basins. The arroyo 
toad continues to occur at 22 occurrences. While some of these 
locations differ from those identified in the downlisting criteria, the 
number of populations exceeds that identified to meet downlisting 
criteria in the recovery plan. Finally, management plans have been 
approved and are being implemented to help conserve, maintain, and 
restore habitat on Federal lands (Service 2013, pp. 87-94).
    As stated above, the recovery plan also identifies the need for 
populations or metapopulations to be self-sustaining. We do not have 
statistically valid trend data of arroyo toad occurrences that would 
allow us to project whether populations are declining, stable, or 
increasing as described in the Recovery Plan. We will instead consider, 
based on the best available scientific and commercial data, whether 
available information indicates arroyo toads are self-sustaining. 
Available survey data does report that arroyo toads remain extant or 
presumed extant at 28 of the 35 occurrences rangewide, and have 
continued to reproduce and survive throughout their range without 
direct human assistance as described in the Recovery Plan. After 
reviewing recent survey data, we have found that, while threats 
identified at listing are ongoing, arroyo toads remain extant or 
presumed extant at all of the occurrences occupied at listing. The best 
available information indicates that these populations have become 
self-sustaining in part due to the management plans that are being 
implemented to address some of the impacts of 9 of the 12 current 
threats (excluding fire, drought, and climate change); these plans are 
managed through coordinated efforts with our partners. The majority of 
waterways that support arroyo toads occur on Federal land where efforts 
are in progress to minimize impacts to listed species. Each of the 
National Forests have land management plans that include measures to 
minimize impacts to listed species. MCB Camp Pendleton and Fort Hunter 
Ligget Military Reservation have developed INRMPs that include 
conservation measures that benefit the arroyo toad. Five HCPs have also 
been completed and provide protection to covered species, including 
arroyo toad. These plans help to minimize some of the impacts from 
currently identified threats for continued conservation of this taxon.
    Furthermore, we are not aware of any river basins that have been 
confirmed as completely extirpated (no arroyo toads at any rivers or 
streams within the river basin) since listing. Therefore, absent the 
survey data required to fulfill the definition of self-sustaining in 
the 1999 Recovery Plan, we conclude that these factors are indicative 
of self-sustaining populations.
    As stated above, the intent of the recovery plan was to prescribe 
recovery criteria that would at least demonstrate population stability 
and good habitat management over a period of years, which would 
indicate a substantially improved situation for arroyo toads. Despite 
the important progress made toward meeting the reclassification 
criteria outlined in the 1999 recovery plan, we recognize that we have 
not met the exact number of occupied river

[[Page 17122]]

basins identified in the plan. New information indicates that four of 
the river basins identified in the recovery plan were never occupied by 
arroyo toad, and there are eight river basins in the United States 
where no management plans have been approved or implemented on 
federally managed lands, in part because several of those basins do not 
contain a large amount of federally owned land. There are 17 river 
basins where management plans have been approved and implemented on 
federally managed land. At all those 17 occurrences, at least one 
population within the river basin has remained extant since the time of 
listing despite the threats still impacting arroyo toads and their 
habitat. Additionally, 5 occurrences on non-Federal lands have been 
acquired or conserved through other mechanisms, such as HCPs. We 
therefore conclude that we have met the overall intent of the 
downlisting criteria for the arroyo toad for the number of self-
sustaining populations required for downlisting, in that these river 
basins demonstrate population stability and good habitat management 
over multiple years.
    We also conclude that the arroyo toad has not met the delisting 
criteria, either by intent or by the letter of the plan, as we are only 
aware of management plans on non-Federal land at eight river basins, 
many of which overlap with the river basins that have management plans 
on Federal lands. Therefore, we have not achieved the delisting 
criteria of 15 additional self-sustaining arroyo toad populations 
outside of Federal jurisdiction. Further detail on our analysis of 
river basins and the recovery criteria is described in the Species 
Report (Service 2013, pp. 88-95).

Finding

    An assessment of the need for a species' protection under the Act 
is based on whether a species is in danger of extinction or likely to 
become so because of any of five factors: (A) The present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence. As required by section 4(a)(1) of 
the Act, we conducted a review of the status of the arroyo toad and 
assessed the five factors to evaluate whether the arroyo toad is 
endangered or threatened throughout all of its range. We examined the 
best scientific and commercial information available regarding the 
past, present, and future threats faced by the species. We reviewed 
information presented in the 2011 petition, information available in 
our files and gathered through our 90-day finding in response to this 
petition, and other available published and unpublished information. We 
also consulted with species experts and land management staff with the 
Forest Service, CDFW, the California Department of Parks and Recreation 
(CDPR), and HCP permittees who are actively managing for the 
conservation of the arroyo toad.
    In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look 
beyond the mere exposure of the species to the factor to determine 
whether the exposure causes actual impacts to the species. If there is 
exposure to a factor, but no response, or only a positive response, 
that factor is not a threat. If there is exposure and the species 
responds negatively, the factor may be a threat and we then attempt to 
determine how significant the threat is. If the threat is significant, 
it may drive, or contribute to, the risk of extinction of the species 
such that the species warrants listing as endangered or threatened as 
those terms are defined by the Act. This does not necessarily require 
empirical proof of a threat. The combination of exposure and some 
corroborating evidence of how the species is likely impacted could 
suffice. The mere identification of factors that could impact a species 
negatively is not sufficient to compel a finding that listing is 
appropriate; we require evidence that these factors are operative 
threats that act on the species to the point that the species meets the 
definition of endangered or threatened under the Act.
    Since the arroyo toad was listed in 1994, new threats have been 
identified: invasive, nonnative plants (Factors A and E) and climate 
change (Factors A and E). However, some factors known to pose a threat 
to the arroyo toad and its habitat at the time of listing are no longer 
of concern (for example, new dam construction or collection for 
scientific or commercial purposes). Conservation activities and 
preservation of habitat have further reduced threats from mining and 
prospecting (Factors A and E), livestock grazing (Factors A and E), 
roads and road maintenance (Factors A and E), and recreation (Factors A 
and E).
    Overall, a large number of stressors continue to impact the arroyo 
toad. We find that urban development, operations of dams and water 
diversions, climate change, and drought continue to pose a high level 
of threat to the continued existence of the arroyo toad (affecting many 
or most occurrences, likely to seriously degrade habitat or reduce 
species occurrences), and introduced predators pose a very high level 
of threat to the arroyo toad (affecting most occurrences and likely to 
destroy habitat or eliminate species occurrences).
    We also find that fire and fire suppression, invasive plants, 
recreation, roads and road maintenance and agriculture pose a moderate 
level of threat to the arroyo toad. These threats are of lower severity 
and are less widespread than the high and very high-level threats. 
Livestock and mining and prospecting continue to pose a threat to the 
arroyo toad; however, these threats pose a low level of impact to the 
arroyo toad and its habitat, meaning they affect a limited number of 
occurrences and moderately or slightly degrade habitat or reduce 
occurrences.
    Though some conservation measures have been put in place to 
decrease the current impacts of urban development, operation of dams, 
and introduced predators, some threats present ongoing challenges. For 
example, management of introduced predators has been difficult to 
implement once predators are established and requires ongoing 
eradication and management efforts. Drought and climate change are not 
easily amenable to management through existing regulatory or 
conservation actions, although their impacts can be reduced through 
improved management and reduction of other stressors. The combination 
of factors, such as the interaction between altered flow regimes caused 
by urban development and operation of dams and water diversions with 
the invasive potential of nonnative plants and introduced predators, 
can also increase the magnitude of the individual threats.
    As stated above, many of the threats currently impacting the arroyo 
toad were also known at the time of listing. However, we also recognize 
that both the magnitude and the type of some threats impacting the 
arroyo toad have changed since the time of listing. In the case of 
urban development, agriculture, and operations of dams and water 
diversions, conservation actions and consultation through section 7 of 
the Act have decreased the severity of these threats since the time of 
listing, such that these threats cause alteration or degradation of 
habitat rather than the direct and permanent removal of habitat that 
was a concern at the time of listing. Conservation measures have 
overall decreased the impact of multiple other threats facing the 
arroyo toad, including invasive plants, introduced predator species, 
road and road maintenance,

[[Page 17123]]

recreation, and livestock grazing. Conservation efforts are being 
implemented on Federal lands in portions of 17 river basins supporting 
arroyo toad through the land management plans for each of the four 
southern California National Forests (Los Padres, Angeles, San 
Bernardino, and Cleveland), and through the INRMPs on MCB Camp 
Pendleton and Fort Hunter Liggett. In Mexico, 4 of 10 river basins are 
within or partially within a national park. Arroyo toads have remained 
extant or are presumed extant within the range they occupied at the 
time of listing. Furthermore, the known range of the species had been 
expanded with discovery of the Fort Hunter Liggett population in 
Monterey County.
    We examined the downlisting criteria provided in the recovery plan 
for the arroyo toad (Service 1999). The downlisting recovery criteria 
state that for the arroyo toad to be reclassified to threatened, 
management plans must have been approved and implemented on federally 
managed lands, and at least 20 self-sustaining metapopulations or 
populations at specified locations on Federal lands must be maintained. 
Since the time of listing, we have found some of those populations were 
identified in error, as the river basins were never occupied by arroyo 
toads. Furthermore, current available information indicates that arroyo 
toads are persisting or are presumed to be persisting on Federal lands 
in 17 river basin occurrences and 5 additional occurrences on non-
Federal lands, for a total of 22 extant or presumed extant occurrences 
in California. Portions of these occurrences are afforded protections 
from habitat destruction and from some effects of habitat alteration 
through current land management plans, INRMPs, and HCPs, and arroyo 
toads have persisted throughout their geographic range since listing, 
supporting that the occurrences are self-sustaining. Therefore, we find 
that the arroyo toad has met the intent of the criteria identified in 
the recovery plan for downlisting.
    In conclusion, we have carefully assessed the best scientific and 
commercial information available regarding the past, present, and 
future threats faced by this species. After review of the information 
pertaining to the five statutory factors, we find that the ongoing 
threats are not of sufficient imminence, intensity, or magnitude to 
indicate that arroyo toad is presently in danger of extinction 
throughout all its range. Although threats to the arroyo toad still 
exist and will continue into the foreseeable future, the Service, 
Forest Service, CDFW, CDPR, and HCP permittees are implementing 
conservation measures or regulatory actions to reduce the level of 
impact on the arroyo toad, and overall the magnitude of threats has 
decreased since the time of listing. We also find that the intent of 
the reclassification criteria in the recovery plan has been met. We 
therefore find the arroyo toad to be threatened throughout all its 
range.

Significant Portion of the Range

    Having examined the status of the arroyo toad throughout all its 
range, we next examine whether the species is in danger of extinction 
in a significant portion of its range. The range of a species can 
theoretically be divided into portions in an infinite number of ways. 
However, there is no purpose in analyzing portions of the range that 
have no reasonable potential to be significant or in analyzing portions 
of the range in which there is no reasonable potential for the species 
to be endangered or threatened. To identify only those portions that 
warrant further consideration, we determine whether there is 
substantial information indicating that: (1) The portions may be 
``significant'' and (2) the species may be in danger of extinction 
there or likely to become so within the foreseeable future. Depending 
on the biology of the species, its range, and the threats it faces, it 
might be more efficient for us to address the significance question 
first or the status question first. Thus, if we determine that a 
portion of the range is not ``significant,'' we do not need to 
determine whether the species is endangered or threatened there; if we 
determine that the species is not endangered or threatened in a portion 
of its range, we do not need to determine if that portion is 
``significant.'' In practice, a key part of the determination that a 
species is in danger of extinction in a significant portion of its 
range is whether the threats are geographically concentrated in some 
way. If the threats to the species are essentially uniform throughout 
its range, no portion is likely to warrant further consideration. 
Moreover, if any concentration of threats to the species occurs only in 
portions of the species' range that clearly would not meet the 
biologically based definition of ``significant,'' such portions will 
not warrant further consideration.
    We consider the ``range'' of the arroyo toad to be from Fort Hunter 
Liggett in Monterey County, California, United States, to northwestern 
Baja California, Mexico. We are, therefore, proposing to revise the 
entry for the arroyo toad in the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife at 50 CFR 17.11(h) to reflect that the historical range in 
Mexico specifically pertains to Baja California and not the rest of the 
country. The historical range data in the List is non-regulatory in 
nature and is provided as information for the reader; this change 
therefore does not alter or limit application of the prohibitions of 
the Act or its implementation (50 CFR 17.11(d) and (e)). We consider a 
total of 28 river basins within this range to contain extant 
populations of arroyo toads. Since the toad was listed, several new 
populations have been found as a result of increased search efforts in 
Riverside County and Baja California; however, these areas were all 
within the historical range occupied by the species (WRCRCA 2006, p. 5; 
Lovich 2009, pp. 74-97). Since its listing, an arroyo toad population 
was discovered in the San Antonio River Basin at Fort Hunter Ligget, 
resulting in a northward expansion of the known range (by 93 mi (150 
km)). However, this area was likely always part of the historical range 
of the species.
    Habitat loss and other anthropogenic (human-caused) factors have 
resulted in the arroyo toad now being absent from several localities 
where it historically occurred. Jennings and Hayes (1994, p. 57) 
estimated that arroyo toads had been eliminated from 76 percent of 
their historical range prior to the time of listing. However, 
subsequent discoveries of new localities and remnant populations reduce 
this estimate to 65 percent (Lanoo 2005, p. 4). These disappearances 
from specific localities have created artificial gaps in the species' 
geographic range and resulted in a fragmented and patchy distribution. 
However, despite these gaps, arroyo toads remain extant in scattered 
populations throughout their historical range (Service 2013, Map 1). 
Overall, arroyo toads have not been extirpated from any of the 16 river 
basins known to be occupied at the time of listing (Service 2013, p. 
94, Table 1).
    Given the patchy distribution of arroyo toads throughout their 
range, no individual area is likely to be of greater biological or 
conservation importance than any other area. Additionally, river basins 
containing arroyo toad occurrences that are extant or presumed to be 
extant span the entire extent of the species' historical range. As 
such, we conclude that no major portion of the species' range has been 
lost, and that the lost historical range is not a significant portion 
of the arroyo toad's range.
    We evaluated the current range of the arroyo toad to determine if 
potential threats to the species have any apparent geographic 
concentration. We examined

[[Page 17124]]

threats from urban development (Factors A and E), agriculture (Factors 
A and E), operation of dams and water diversions (Factors A and E), 
mining and prospecting (Factors A and E), livestock grazing (Factors A 
and E), roads and road maintenance (Factors A and E), recreation 
(Factors A and E), invasive, nonnative plants (Factors A and E), 
introduced predator species (Factor C), drought (Factors A and E), fire 
and fire suppression (Factors A and E), and climate change (Factors A 
and E). While the range of the arroyo toad could be divided by recovery 
units or by occurrences in the United States and occurrences in Mexico, 
we conclude that all occurrences are experiencing similar levels of 
threats. As discussed above, although the specific threats affecting 
the species may be different at individual sites or in different parts 
of the arroyo toad's range, on the whole threats are occurring 
throughout the species' range. While the types of threats affecting 
arroyo toads differ among occurrences, all are experiencing a similar 
level or intensity of threat and no portion is experiencing a greater 
level of risk than other portions; see the Geographic Breakdown of 
Threats section of the Species Report for more detail on threats in 
each Recovery Unit (Service 2013, pp. 86-88). In no portions of its 
range are threats significantly concentrated or substantially greater 
than in other portions of its range. Therefore, no portion of the 
arroyo toad's range warrants further consideration.

Conclusion

    Based on the analyses above, we conclude that the arroyo toad is no 
longer in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range, but instead is likely to become endangered in the 
foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range. While no populations of the arroyo toad are at imminent risk of 
extirpation, ongoing threats continue to affect the likelihood of long-
term persistence of the populations and the species such that the 
arroyo toad more appropriately meets the definition of a threatened 
species under the Act. Therefore, we find that the petitioned action is 
warranted, and we propose to reclassify the arroyo toad from an 
endangered species to a threatened species.

Effects of This Rule

    If this proposed rule is made final, it would revise 50 CFR 
17.11(h) to reclassify the arroyo toad from endangered to threatened on 
the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. However, this 
reclassification does not significantly change the protections afforded 
this species under the Act. The statutory and regulatory protections 
provided pursuant to sections 9 and 7 of the Act remain in place. 
Anyone taking, attempting to take, or otherwise possessing an arroyo 
toad, or parts thereof, in violation of section 9 of the Act is subject 
to a penalty under section 11 of the Act, unless their action is 
covered under a special rule under section 4(d) of the Act. However, no 
4(d) rules are proposed for the arroyo toad. Pursuant to section 7 of 
the Act, all Federal agencies must ensure that any actions they 
authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the 
continued existence of the arroyo toad. This rule would not affect the 
critical habitat designation for the arroyo toad at 50 CFR 17.95(d).
    Recovery actions directed at the arroyo toad will continue to be 
implemented as outlined in the Recovery Plan for this species (Service 
1999, entire).

Required Determinations

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:
    (a) Be logically organized;
    (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (c) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (e) 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 names 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.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We determined we do not need to prepare an Environmental Assessment 
or an Environmental Impact Statement, as defined under the authority of 
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), 
in connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination 
in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is 
available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket 
No. FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007 or upon request from the Field Supervisor, 
Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT 
section).

Author

    The primary author of this proposed rule is the Pacific Southwest 
Regional Office in Sacramento, California, in coordination with the 
Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office in Ventura, California (see FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

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 amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter 
I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:

PART 17--ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; 4201-4245, unless 
otherwise noted.

0
2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by revising the entry for ``Toad, arroyo'' 
under ``Amphibians'' in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
to read as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

[[Page 17125]]



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                         Species                                                  Vertebrate population
----------------------------------------------------------     Historic range      where endangered or       Status         When     Critical   Special
            Common name                Scientific name                                  threatened                         listed    habitat     rules
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Amphibians
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Toad, arroyo (=arroyo               Anaxyrus californicus  U.S.A. (CA), Mexico    Entire...............  T                     568   17.95(d)         NA
 southwestern).                                             (Baja California).
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Dated: March 16, 2014.
Rowan W. Gould,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-06665 Filed 3-26-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P