Endangered Species Act — Critical or Protected Habitat Designation
The next step in using the Endangered Species Act as a weapon to throttle virtually all human activity in the country is the designation of critical or protected habitat.
If the species or subspecies or “distinct” population is endangered oe threatened…obviously the plants or animals need a “place” to live without being harmed. That is the “critical or protected habitat”.
But first one must understand the definition of “harm” that threatens or endangers the plant or animal.
After a convoluted process US Fish and Wildlife will issue a “biological opinion” defining what it believes is threatening or endangered the plant or animal.
This is mostly a non-scientific exercise in speculation….this “may” that “might’ harm the plant or animal.
When you look at petitions for listing in the first place, you will see the alleged “harm” type activities that must be stopped…cattle grazing, global warming, road construction, obstructing natural migratory paths, wind turbine blades turning, whatever. If you really want to read some good science fantasy, read this stuff.
Here is just one example from the Sonoran Desert Tortoise decision from US Fish and Wildlife to make the turtle a candidate for listing as an endangered species:
Development as a Barrier
Urban development, canals, and transportation infrastructure, such
as roads and railroads, disrupt ecological processes, increase
mortality in animals, promote the degradation, loss, and isolation of
wildlife habitat, and cause fragmentation of populations (Sonoran desert tortoise populations are island-like in their distribution, meaning they are generally concentrated on the bajadas and hillsides of mountains, and less-
distributed within the valleys between these areas. As a result, they
may be particularly vulnerable to large-scale disturbances that affect
the suitability of intervening habitat.Factors that affect inter-population dynamics in Sonoran desert tortoises include distance between populations, physical size of habitat areas, sizes of source populations, and the ease of which intervening areas can be crossed by dispersing individuals.
The effect of potential barriers to inter-population movements of
Sonoran desert tortoises (discussed above in the Species Information
section) is not equal across their range. The ability for the Sonoran
desert tortoise to move among populations is also important for
allowing shifts in their range in response to climate change, and to
promote recolonization after fire or other regional disturbances. Dispersal of Sonoran desert tortoises between populations through sparse desertscrub is less likely in very hot, dry valleys in the Lower Colorado subdivision of Sonoran desertscrub and populations in mountain ranges, such as the Eagletails, Maricopas, and Sand Tanks, have likely been existing in isolation for a long time.
Genetic analysis of blood samples collected from Sonoran desert
tortoises in Saguaro National Park in Pima County, Arizona, suggest
that intermediate gene flow still occurs, or occurred recently, among
isolated populations at the rate of at least 1 migrant per generation
(12-15 years). However, thousands of acres of tortoise habitat have been recently lost to large residential developments in the foothills of the Santa Catalina, Tortolita, Rincon, and Tucson Mountains in the greater Tucson metropolitan area.
The importance of allowing movement of individual tortoises between
populations is observable by evaluating historical gene flow. Edwards
et al. (2004, p. 485) used seven microsatellite DNA markers to examine
the genetic relationships of tortoises in eight populations in southern
and central Arizona, in the vicinity of Tucson and Phoenix. They also
calculated migration rates among these populations to estimate
historical rates of gene flow, and, therefore, the importance of
individuals moving between populations (Edwards et al. 2004, p. 485).
Edwards et al. (2004, p. 496) found no evidence of recent loss of
genetic diversity that would indicate genetic bottlenecking that could
occur from lack of mixing among Sonoran desert tortoise populations in
southern Arizona. However, the authors acknowledged that a small sample
size and small number of genetic markers (alleles) used in their
analyses would likely not detect this genetic effect. Despite reduced
mixing among populations, Sonoran desert tortoises may be capable of
maintaining small effective population sizes (still viable populations,
despite small size), even with a low degree of genetic diversity
(Edwards et al. 2004, p. 496). However, Edwards et al. (2004, p. 496)
also stated, “Because effective population sizes of Sonoran desert
tortoises are small, dispersal events probably play an important role
in the long-term maintenance of these populations.” This suggests that
while dispersal and movement of tortoises may be rare, they may be
important events. Therefore, barriers that prevent this movement could
result in significant genetic impacts, by preventing mixing of
populations over the long term.
The effect of urban barriers limits inter-population movements of
Sonoran desert tortoises resulting in “closed” populations. Experts
believe that an isolated population of Sonoran desert tortoises that
experiences significant declines in population size could not overcome
losses simply through an increase in reproduction, based on evidence of
past gene flow (Edwards et al. 2004, p. 496). Therefore, if a
population were to experience a catastrophic decline as a result of a
stochastic event such as drought, the immigration of new tortoises from
adjacent populations would be necessary for population recovery
(Edwards et al. 2004, p. 496). Urban barriers effectively prevent this
immigration of new tortoises, resulting in closed, or isolated, Sonoran
desert tortoise populations, which are now evident within the
metropolitan areas of Phoenix and Tucson. Mountains and associated
foothills with Sonoran desertscrub habitat occur in these urban areas,
and although development within this habitat has been restricted by
zoning laws, development is still allowed to virtually surround the
bases of the mountains, isolating tortoise populations. Examples of
this development include the Union Hills, White Tank Mountains,
McDowell Mountains, Black Mountains, and South Mountain Park in the
Phoenix metropolitan area and Tumamoc Hill, Tucson Mountains, and
Saguaro National Park West in the Tucson metropolitan area (Edwards et
al. 2004, p. 496). Zylstra and Swann (2009, pp. 10-11) remarked that
the increasing negative effect of human-made barriers on Sonoran desert
tortoise movements between populations may require translocation
(moving animals out of harm’s way into more secured areas of suitable
habitat), or occasional augmentation of populations with tortoises from
other populations, to remain viable.
Translocation has been considered an option, and implemented to
some degree for Mojave desert tortoise conservation and recovery. In
assessing the viability of translocation as a recovery and conservation
tool for the Mojave population, concern has been expressed for
potentially moving tortoises into areas where threats to desert
tortoise populations remain, which could negate any conservation value
associated with the action. Our (Mojave) Desert Tortoise Recovery
Office stresses that translocation of tortoises should not occur under
such circumstances, emphasizing the need to address threats which
impact all tortoises regardless of origin.
Translocation of desert tortoises has received mixed reviews in the
scientific literature and, as noted, may not be a viable option for the
Sonoran desert tortoise. There are several factors that must be
considered in deciding whether or not to translocate tortoises into new
areas, including temporary or longer-term holding conditions of
tortoises; the propensity for post-release, long-distance movements;
drought; the status of receiving population; and disease screening,
among other factors (Berry 1986a, p. 113; Field et al. 2007, pp. 232,
237, 240, 242; Martel et al. 2009, p. 218). Translocated Mojave desert
tortoises have been shown to settle at release sites, travel in
straight lines for substantial distances, or disperse up to
approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) (Berry 1986a, p. 113). Translocated
desert tortoises may disrupt social hierarchies in receiving
populations by displacing residents or they may be displaced themselves
(Berry 1986a, p. 113). Howland and Rorabaugh (2002, p. 341) suggest
that translocation of Sonoran desert tortoises may not be a viable tool
for conservation because most intact Sonoran desert tortoise
populations in Arizona are currently considered relatively healthy, and
likely occur at or near carrying capacity. Mullen and Ross (1997, pp.
145-146) found that translocated Mojave desert tortoises have a lower
survivorship than resident individuals (especially when moved during
the summer versus during the spring), but that negative effects
commonly associated with translocations are generally short-lived (1-2
A 2004 population viability analysis for the Mojave desert tortoise
recommended that a minimum of 50,000 individuals are required for a 50
percent chance of persistence for 500 years, yet extrapolation of
Sonoran desert tortoise population data from southern Arizona suggest
that most populations number less than 20,000 individuals, with some as
low as several hundred (Edwards et al. 2004, p. 496). Because the
average generation time of a Sonoran desert tortoise is approximately
12-15 years and much of the urban development is relatively recent, the
full effect of developments as barriers to genetic exchange among
Sonoran desert tortoise populations cannot be fully assessed at this
time (Edwards et al. 2004, p. 486). Edwards et al. (2004, p. 495)
further cautioned that their estimates of gene flow are contingent on
what occurred pre-settlement, and should not be taken as evidence that
natural immigration or emigration still occurs.
In conclusion, the literature documents that urban development and
population growth, roads and highways, canals, railroad tracks, and
other types of development threaten the Sonoran desert tortoise by
creating barriers to movement in Arizona and, perhaps to a lesser
extent, in Sonora, Mexico. The creation of barriers affects the
tortoises’ genetic exchange capacity within and between populations,
which in turn affects their ability to recolonize habitat in the event
of population declines or extirpations, and may lead to isolation and
eventual genetic bottlenecking. This threat acts synergistically with
other factors as discussed above.
[Federal Register: December 14, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 239)]
The litanty of threats to plants and animals containined in petitions for endangered species listings and in US Fish and Wildlife decision to list…read like sermons on the evil of huamn activity.
The next step in the process is to throw the net as far and as wide as possible to define where the threatened or endangered plant or animal lives, could live, or once lived.
For prime example, Center for Biological Diversity is pushing for a “critical habitat” designation of most of southern and eastern Arizona for the jaguar.
Not coincidentally all efforts to designate “critical habitat” or “protected habitat” seem to intersect with proposed projects or existing activities the litigious environmental groups don’t like.
The “critical habitat” of many species pursued for listing and habitat protection cover all the riparian areas of the state, all grazing lands, and so forth.
Right now there is a fight going on about a protected habitat designation for the Chiricahua Leopard Frog, and the Center for Biological Diversity is pushing to have the proposed Rosemont Mine site designated as frog habitat.
Center for Biological Diversity demands Rosemont Mine site be included in protected habitat for frog
Why…because once a “critical habitat” or “proitected habitat” is designated, no one can do anything inside that declared “critical or protected habitat” without permission from US Fish and Wildlife.
You think you own your land or water? Not really if your land and water serves as designated critical or protected habitat for a threatened or endangered species, subspecies or distinct population.
The Endangered Species Act series of articles:
Endangered Species Act…it ain’t what you think it is — Part 1
Endangered Species Act — Part 2– this land is not your land
Endangered Species Act – Part 3 – Never swat a fly
Background info on Endangered Species Act:
Endangered Species Act — an Introduction
Endangered Species Act — Which Animals and Plants are “Threatened” or “Endangered”?
Endangered Species Act — Section 7 Consultation
Endangered Species Act — USF&W Introduction and Key Sections
Endangered Species Act — Definition of ”Harm” and “Take”
Endangered Species Act–Listing and Critical Habitat
Endangered Species Act–Habitat Conservation Plans
News about litigious environment group activities:
Center for Biological Diversity at war with US Military
Center for Biological Diversity demands Rosemont Mine site be included in protected habitat for frog
Judge puts WildEarth Guardian endangered species agreement on hold
Center for Biological Diversity fights imperiled species deal
Stop The Drilling! A Lizard Is Imperiled
Desert Pupfish Forces Border Agents to Patrol on Foot
New high recorded in frivolous environmental litigation
EPA Doles-Out Taxpayer Dollars to Environmentalist Activist Groups
Legislation to stop huge legal fee payments to environmental litigation factories poised to be introduced
Environmental groups bury feds with Endangered Species petitions