U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Says Lake Erie Watersnake Has Recovered
Proposes Removing Endangered Species Act Protection.
Washington, DC –-(Ammoland.com)-The Lake Erie watersnake, a harmless species once threatened with extinction, has rebounded to the point that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove the snake from the list of federally endangered and threatened species. Lake Erie watersnakes inhabit offshore islands in western Lake Erie in Ohio and Ontario.
In a proposed rule published June 1, 2010 in the Federal Register, the Service said the Lake Erie watersnake has responded well to measures aimed at restoring its population and eliminating or reducing threats to the snake.
Recovery efforts included protecting the snake’s habitat and conducting outreach to island residents and visitors about the snake.
“As with the bald eagle, the American alligator, and many other species, the delisting of the watersnake demonstrates once again how effective the Endangered Species Act can be in bringing species back from the brink of extinction when we work hand-in-hand with states, local communities, and other partners,” said Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
“As with most conservation success stories, the comeback of the Lake Erie watersnake is the result of different groups of people working toward a common goal,” said Tom Melius, the Service’s Midwest Regional Director. “All partners – local citizens to government agencies – worked hard to address threats to this species and ensure its long-term survival.”
Lake Erie watersnakes were listed as threatened – defined as at risk of becoming endangered under the Endangered Species Act – in 1999. Threats to the species included intentional killing and loss of its shoreline habitat to development.
A recovery plan, developed by a range of agencies and interest groups, was finalized in 2003. The plan called for protecting habitat and providing outreach to reduce threats to the Lake Erie watersnake. Recovery criteria include a combined population of at least 5,555 snakes on the U.S. islands, sustained for six years, and protection of key habitat.
Through habitat protection and public education, the Lake Erie watersnake population grew to about 8,600 in 2008, and has exceeded the minimum recovery level since 2001. About 300 acres of inland habitat and 11 miles of shoreline have been protected for the snake since it was listed.
Partners in the efforts to recover the Lake Erie watersnake include the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Northern Illinois University, Lake Erie Islands Chapter of the Black Swamp Conservancy, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Put-in-Bay Township Park District, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and The Ohio State University Stone Laboratory.
The ESA requires that a species be monitored for a minimum of 5 years after delisting, to ensure that the species remains stable after the protections of the ESA are removed. The Service is issuing a draft Post-delisting Monitoring Plan for public and peer review and comment, concurrent with the proposed rule to delist the Lake Erie watersnake.
The Service is seeking comments on the proposed rule and the draft post-delisting monitoring plan. Comments may be submitted by August 2, 2010, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. Comments are also accepted via U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R3-ES-2010-0039; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.
The Service will evaluate information received from the public and, based on the best available scientific information, make a final decision within one year on whether to delist the Lake Erie watersnake.
For the complete proposed rule to delist the Lake Erie watersnake and the draft post-delisting monitoring plan, visit www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.