Status, Distribution and Management of Aquatic Herpetofauna as Related to Reclamation Projects within the Middle Rio Grande and Missouri River Basins.

Project ID: 7650
Principal Investigator: Stanton Moore
Research Topic: Ecosystem Needs
Funded Fiscal Years: 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010
Keywords: None

Research Question

This proposal seeks to address the following questions:

* What are the primary reptile and amphibian species of concern in selected Reclamation project areas of the Middle Rio Grande and Missouri River basins?

* What are their habitat requirements?

* What management strategies can be implemented to avoid Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing of these species? Native aquatic herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians), because of their reliance on water for the proper functioning of all or part of their life-cycles, are often affected by management of aquatic environments. Unfortunately, these species are often overlooked by biologists and little is known of the distribution, status, and/or habitat requirements of these species. The goal of this proposal is to increase the information base for these species, and to identify management strategies--compatible with the continued delivery of water and hydroelectric power--that would preclude the ESA listing of these species.

Need and Benefit

Water management operations throughout the Rocky Mountain States have altered many river systems and have potentially affected many aquatic or semi-aquatic species of herpetofauna that rely on these systems. Many of these systems suffer from a lack of data regarding the distribution, habitat requirements, and management options of the herpetofauna that currently occupy them. Federal listing of herpetofauna in Reclamation project areas and the adherent critical habitat designation could severely impact Reclamation's abilities to manage rivers and provide the water and hydropower resources required by Reclamation stakeholders. Federal listing could potentially mean not only a loss of revenue from power and water deliveries, but lengthy, expensive litigation to determine Reclamation's culpability in the declines of federally listed species.

The study areas outlined in this proposal are prime examples of this potential situation. The Spiny Softshell (_Apalone spinifera_), Great Plains Toad (_Bufo cognatus_), Northern Leopard Frog (_Rana pipiens_), and Plains Spadefoot (_Spea bombifrons_) in the upper Missouri River Basin (between Ft. Peck Lake and the confluence with the Marias River) in Montana and the Big Bend Slider (_Trachemys gaigae_) and Northern Leopard Frog (_Rana pipiens_) in the Middle Rio Grande Basin of central New Mexico are all either Sensitive Species or Species of Concern in their respective states. This designation means that, given further documented population declines, the species could become a candidate for Federal protection under the ESA. This is of great concern to Reclamation in both locations because listing of these species under the ESA could result in altered timing, duration, and magnitude of irrigation releases and power generation from facilities such as Tiber, Canyon Ferry, San Acacia Diversion and Elephant Butte Dams. Not only would this result in a loss of revenue from power and water delivery, it is likely that a listing under the ESA would result in Reclamation being involved in costly consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service and litigation.

A proactive assessment of the distribution, status, and habitat requirements of these species in relation to Reclamation operations is of the utmost importance in terms of preserving Reclamation's ability to manage river systems and continue providing water and power to its stakeholders. This proposal seeks to spend a small amount of money up-front to prevent Reclamation from losing revenue and spending large amounts of money in the future.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 6/22/20