By Ronnie Weston| June 21, 2012 at 3:15 PM CDT - Updated June 27 at 8:35 AM
PARIS (AGFC) – The slow-moving Magazine Mountain shagreen snail is winning the race to become the first invertebrate to be proposed for delisting under the Endangered Species Act.
"Thanks to efforts of the U.S. Forest Service, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to restore and protect the habitat of the Magazine Mountain shagreen, the snail's populations are stable, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to delist the species," said Cindy Dohner, the FWS's Southeast Regional Director. "We still have a lot of work to do with our partners in the South to protect listed species. This snail is another sign that we are having success, and recovery is achievable."
The public is invited to comment on the delisting proposal for the next 60 days until August 20, 2012. The FWS particularly seeks comments relating to the biological information about this species, relevant data pertaining to threats, and the draft post-delisting monitoring plan.
When the Endangered Species Act was enacted in 1973, this landmark legislation allowed for protection of wildlife, both vertebrate and invertebrate (including snails, mussels, crustaceans, etc.), and plants. In the South, the FWS is working to recover over 320 federally listed species – close to 100 of these are invertebrates. Nationally, the FWS is working to recover about 600 listed animals. More than a third of them are invertebrates.
This tiny snail from the highest parts of the Ozarks in Arkansas is about to make history. If this rule is finalized, the Magazine Mountain shagreen will be the first invertebrate determined to have met its recovery goals for the FWS.
A dusky brown or buff colored terrestrial snail, the Magazine Mountain shagreen is only found on Mount Magazine in Logan County. It inhabits the mountain's north and west slopes above 2,200 feet. The Forest Service owns Mount Magazine, which has designated the mountain as a Special Interest Area to protect the species and its habitat. The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism has a long-term special use permit from the Forest Service to operate a state park on the summit. The Forest Service also is conducting annual surveys of the Magazine Mountain shagreen's population and worked cooperatively with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the FWS to fund life history and ecology research.
These studies increased the FWS's knowledge of the species' life history and more accurately mapped its habitat with new technologies.
The Magazine Mountain shagreen was listed as threatened in 1989. Annual monitoring conducted by researchers indicates that shagreen populations on Mount Magazine have remained stable since 1996. Additionally, a review of the Magazine Mountain shagreen's status shows adequate regulatory protection exists, and threats have been eliminated or reduced to the point that the species has recovered and no longer meets the definition of threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The Magazine Mountain shagreen prefers cool, moist conditions and lives within the talus (a sloping mass of rock fragments at the foot of a cliff) slopes of Mount Magazine. It is not known how many talus slopes or acres this species inhabited at the time of listing. Based on evaluation of recent data, the Magazine Mountain shagreen currently lives on 27 talus slopes on the mountain, cumulatively comprising about 22 acres. These populations are now considered secure from threats as the mountain is entirely owned and protected by the Forest Service and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
If the Magazine Mountain shagreen is removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, federal agencies will no longer need to consult with the FWS to ensure any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of this species. The FWS will continue to work with the Forest Service, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to implement a post-delisting monitoring plan for at least five years if the Magazine Mountain shagreen is delisted.
To ensure that the final decision resulting from this delisting proposal is as accurate and effective as possible, the FWS is requesting comments and information from the public, other governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties.
Comments may be submitted using one of the following methods:
• Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on docket number FWS--R4-ES-2012-0002.
• U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: No. FWS-R4-ES-2012-0002, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, Virginia 22203.
Copies of the proposed rule and post-delisting monitoring plan are available on the Internet at the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov, or by contacting Chris Davidson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 110 South Amity Road, Suite 300, Conway, AR 72032 (phone: 501-513-4481; fax: 501-513-4480).