Service Designates Critical Habitat for Narrow-Headed Gartersnake
Found in Arizona and New Mexico
PHOENIX – To help protect and recover the narrow-headed gartersnake, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated critical habitat for the species. Critical habitat helps federal agencies focus their conservation activities in areas that are essential to the listed species. This species was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2014.
The critical habitat designation includes approximately 23,785 acres in Greenlee, Apache, Yavapai, Gila and Coconino counties in Arizona, and Grant, Hidalgo and Catron counties in New Mexico.
In 2020, the Service published a revised critical habitat proposal for the narrow-headed gartersnake, which included a considerable reduction in acreage. This final rule reflects a net increase of approximately 5,085 acres from the revised proposal to include expanded terrestrial areas along streams to better capture hibernation habitat used by the species. The Service excluded a total of 508 acres of Tribal lands that already include conservation plans for the gartersnake.
Narrow-headed gartersnake populations have declined primarily from interactions with predatory, non-native species such as crayfish and warm water sportfish. These non-native species compete with and prey upon both the gartersnakes themselves and their native prey species, causing both mortality of gartersnakes and starvation of individuals. Drought and large-scale wildfires that diminish surface water or degrade streamside vegetation are also significant threats, particularly where they occur in the presence of non-native species.
Critical habitat designations affect only federal agency actions or federally funded or permitted activities. For development to occur in these areas that may affect a listed species, federal agencies must consult with the Service first.
Healthy, native aquatic ecosystems contain some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the Southwest. Their protection and conservation is critical to both people and many other species of aquatic insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, waterfowl and wildlife. Efforts to protect the flow of rivers, manage threats, and encourage healthy streams that the narrow-headed gartersnake depends upon can benefit aquatic communities for future generations to enjoy.
America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. FWS is actively engaged with conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species.