Endangered Species: San Clemente Island
Management of Threatened, Endangered and At-Risk Species
San Clemente Island (SCI) is the southernmost of the eight California Channel
islands. It lies 55 nautical miles (nm) south of Long Beach and 68 nm
northwest of San Diego. The island is approximately 21 nm long and is
4.5 nm across at its widest point. Since 1934, the island has been owned
and operated by various U.S. naval commands. A dozen range and operational areas
are clustered within a 60-mile radius of the island as part of the Southern California
Offshore Range Complex. The Commander, Naval Forces Pacific, is the
major claimant for the island, and Naval Base Coronado is responsible for its administration.
For additional information, see the following web sites:
SCI possesses a remarkable biological diversity, including many endemic species
and ten species that are federally listed as either endangered or threatened:
- SCI loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus mearnsi)
- Western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus)
- Sage sparrow (Amphispiza belli clementeae)
- Island night lizard (Xantusia riversiana)
- SCI rock cress (Sibara filifolia)
- SCI bushmallow (Malacothamnus clementinus)
- SCI Indian paintbrush (Castilleja grisea)
- SCI broom (Lotus dendroideus ssp. Traskiae)
- SCI larkspur (Delphinium kinkiense)
- SCI woodland star (Lithophragma maxima)
Also, the island harbors the island fox, a species that occurs on five other Channel
islands, but which is a species of concern on SCI.
Management of Listed Species
- In the 1970s the Navy recognized that recovering listed species on the island
would not be possible without the removal of feral goat and pig populations,
which negatively impacted the entire native biota. By 1991, all feral goats and
pigs had been removed from the island.
- There are currently five separate Biological Opinions (BO) rendered by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the authority of the Endangered Species
- The terms and conditions from these bos have been translated into conservation
actions and/or goals in the SCI Integrated Natural Resources Management
- The INRMP also identified areas on the island with high and low inherent military
value, and high and low inherent natural resources values. Most conservation
efforts are focused on those parts of the island where high military and high
natural resources values overlap, such as at the extreme ends of the island, thereby
Management of Species at Risk
- The island fox, which is experiencing declines on other Channel islands, could
be listed at SCI.
- To obviate listing, the Navy has worked with the USFWS to eliminate major
threats to the island fox population:
- Development of non-lethal fox deterrents to protect the endangered loggerhead
shrikes from predation
- Reducing road kills
- In 2003, the Navy entered into a cooperative conservation agreement with the
USFWS to develop an island fox management plan.
- Also in 2003, the Navy nominated the island fox to the dod Legacy Species at
Risk Program. Through the program, implemented by the conservation organization
NatureServe, a management plan for the SCI fox was developed cooperatively
among Navy biologists, the USFWS, and the State of California Natural Heritage
Program. Visit the following web site for more details: www.natureserve.org/prodServices/speciesatRiskdod.jsp.
- The removal of feral animals has allowed for the recovery of native vegetation,
which has significantly enhanced habitat for most other animal species, especially
the SCI loggerhead shrike.
- A restoration program is enhancing habitats for endangered species by augmenting
the distribution of native plants propagated in the island's nursery. To
date, thousands of individuals have been planted, with a survival rate at about
- There have been no interruptions of the Navy's training and testing activities
on SCI due to threatened, endangered, or sensitive species.
- The island night lizard population may soon be de-listed by the USFWS.
- Navy-sponsored population studies on the San Clemente sage sparrow have
revealed valuable data for the development of recovery strategies for the species.
- Fostering good working relationships with federal regulatory agencies, in this
case the USFWS, increases management options for the conservation and recovery
of endangered species.
- By openly sharing operational training requirements and an assessment of associated
impacts with federal regulatory agencies, trust is enhanced. Over at least
a decade of coordination between the Navy and USFWS, the latter has gained both
an understanding and an appreciation for the military mission at sci, and for the
Navy's commitment to environmental stewardship.
- Environmental stewardship must be proactive, such as the identification of and
the application of management strategies for species of concern prior to their listing. The island fox candidate conservation agreement with the USFWS, implemented
through the Legacy-funded Species at Risk Program sponsored by NatureServe,
will both protect the population and obviate its listing.
San Clemente Island supports some of the most important weapons research, development,
test, and evaluation programs and essential military operational training
within the Navy. Despite such activity, the island's biological community is
being both preserved and enhanced through multiple natural resources conservation
and management programs. The Navy, in cooperation with the USFWS and
other governmental environmental agencies, and with the support and encouragement
of nongovernmental environmental organizations, such as The Nature
Conservancy and NatureServe, has been able to achieve to the maximum extent
possible both the military mission and environmental stewardship in a setting
unique to each.
|By Luis Perez
Installation Environmental Program
Naval Base Coronado