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Riverside fairy shrimp
The Press-Enterprise, May 31, 2011

Endangered fairy shrimp may get critical habitat
By Janet Davis

An additional 2,678 acres would be designated as critical habitat for the federally endangered Riverside fairy shrimp under a new proposal released Tuesday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service .

The tiny crustacean lives in seasonal pools between Perris and Hemet in Riverside County and is considered one of the rarest animal species native to Southern California .

The fairy shrimp also live in Ventura, Orange and San Diego counties. Because of urban sprawl, there are only 25 suitable pools left in the world that can support the species, according to the Center for Biological Diversity , a Tucson , Ariz.-based environmental group that sued to protect it.

Center biologist Ileene Anderson was pleased with the latest proposal.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction," she said. "Protecting the fairy shrimp will protect a host of other rare and unique species that rely on this vernal pool habitat," including plants, insects and invertebrates.

The latest critical habitat recommendation is part of a settlement agreement over a lawsuit by the center that challenged a 2005 designation setting aside 306 acres of critical habitat for the fairy shrimp.

None of that acreage was in Riverside County because Fish and Wildlife said the fairy shrimp was adequately protected under the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, a regional land use effort overseen by the county and 14 cities.

The latest proposal designates critical habitat of 2,984 acres total. Of that, 1,219 acres may be excluded because they are covered by such conservation plans; 865 acres fall under the Western Riverside County plan and the others are in Orange and San Diego counties.

"Habitat conservation plans provide a benefit to a whole suite of species," said Jane Hendron, spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife's Carlsbad office. "Critical habitat is an extra layer of review that only applies to projects that have a federal nexus."

A critical-habitat designation does not prohibit development, but it requires that any projects involving a federal agency go before the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure they don't jeopardize the species' survival.

Anderson said that species with critical habitat designations are twice as likely to recover as those without.

Most of the land proposed by Fish and Wildlife is privately owned. Nearly 2,000 acres of essential habitat is excluded because it is on military land and has management plans to benefit the species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is requesting public comments on the proposal by Aug 2. They can be submitted online at www.regulations.gov, and entering FWS-R8-ES-2011-0013 in the "keyword" box. Written comments can be submitted to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2011-0013; Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 222, Arlington, Va., 22203.

A final designation of critical habitat will be finished by Nov. 15.

© 2011 Enterprise Media

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton