USFWS Announces 90-Day Finding on Petition to List the Western Pond Turtle

In recent years, the western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata) has shown signs of decline along the Pacific Coast, especially at either end of its range in Washington and Oregon to the north, and in southern California. Among the threats currently facing the species today include upland nesting and aquatic habitat loss/conversion; water diversion; drought; disease transmission and competition from invasive species like the red-eared slider; and predation from non-native species like the American bullfrog and large-mouth bass.

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In July 2012 the Center for Biological Diversity filed an Endangered Species Act petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, appropriately called the Petition to List 53 Amphibians and Reptiles in the United States as Threatened or Endangered Species Under the Endangered Species Act, including the western pond turtle as one of the 53 candidate species. After review as part of an (extended) 90-day Findings process to determine if there is enough information to warrant further review, on April 9, 2015 the USFWS announced in a proposed rule that there is sufficient evidence to suggest the western pond turtle’s situation warrants a formal status review, and will undergo the subsequent 12-month Findings process for consideration as a federally Threatened or Endangered species in all or portions of its range (see also the CBD’s press release, here).

Those individuals with scientific and commercial data or other information pertinent to the potential listing of the western pond turtle should submit all information on or before June 9, 2015 in accordance with the instructions provided in the proposed rule.

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  1. #1 by cohendc on April 14, 2015 - 10:45 pm

    If the western pond turtle is listed, would that give state or federal agencies authority in cemetery ponds. i’m thinking particularly of ponds in mountain view cemetery in oakland, where there are pond turtles. the ponds are managed in a strictly industrial sense without any regard for the aquatic wildlife.

  2. #2 by Don Stephens, turtle conservationist since 1950 on June 9, 2015 - 11:16 am

    Matt, I’d love to know just where you stand on this proposal to list….

    Frankly, in many ways, I suspect ESA “listing” often does more harm than good. For those that would like to better understand why, I’d suggest reading the several Pro-conservationists’ books that trace track-record to date, and the way it’s rule-making restricts effectively “bringing all concerned parties to the table”…

    • #3 by Matthew Bettelheim on June 11, 2015 - 6:43 pm

      Listing can be a double-edged sword for sure. From what I know, listing may be warranted at either end of the species’ range, especially with the effects of the drought in full swing this year. While there are areas where the species is abundant, there are as many areas – like California’s Central Valley, where they were once abundant but are no longer due to the poor management of our State’s water resources. And in some places in the Central Valley where they are reportedly abundant, those numbers are artificially sustained in waste-water treatment ponds. Hopefully, analysis at the Federal level will tease out what the states (Oregon, Washington, California, and Baja California) have been unable to do cooperatively.

  3. #4 by Don Stephens, turtle conservationist since 1950 on June 14, 2015 - 12:12 am

    I tried to leave a reply, but just got a message saying “sorry, this comment cannot be posted”, with no explaination….What gives???

  4. #5 by Matthew Bettelheim on June 14, 2015 - 8:12 am

    Haven’t got a clue. I would suggest trying again.

  5. #6 by Don Stephens, turtle conservationist since 1950 on June 14, 2015 - 12:34 pm

    So, I’ll try again, this time copying and saving it, before hitting “post”… 🙂

    Matt, what do you know regarding Baja efforts to “protect” and encourage propagation of their unique clade? Are “locals” still allowed to “take” them, as food?

    I worry about this population, which I last observed “in the field”, about 40 years ago. Even at that time, most stream-water was already being harvested by local subsistance farmers for irrigation, and then there’s the threat posed by periodic hurricanes that fill in the arroyos with sand and asociated flash-foods, to wash the PPTs out to sea.. 😦

  6. #7 by Matthew Bettelheim on June 23, 2015 - 10:02 pm

    Don, I don’t know much about Baja’s turtles – that’s a strange land to me. But I can only imagine that, given the light protections afforded the species there, they can’t be any better off than those in southern California.

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