The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its Conservation Strategy for the Mohave Ground Squirrel, a species listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. The 129-page document, which is available on CDFW’s website, summarizes the available scientific information on the species and lays the foundation for its conservation and recovery in California.
The Mohave ground squirrel, Xerospermophilus mohavensis, is a small day-active rodent endemic to the western Mojave Desert of California. It has one of the smallest geographic ranges of any North American ground squirrel and spends much of the year in underground burrows to avoid the harsh conditions of its desert environment. It is threatened by climate change, habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, and small population size, among other stressors.
CDFW has been engaged in conservation planning for the Mohave ground squirrel since it was listed as Rare in 1971; however, with recent emphasis on development of large-scale renewable energy facilities in California’s desert came recognition that such development could pose additional risks to the species. CDFW finalized the Mohave Ground Squirrel Conservation Strategy to help guide renewable energy and other development projects to ensure they are consistent with the conservation needs of the squirrel.
The document consists of three main parts: a comprehensive list of conservation goals, objectives and measures; background information on the squirrel’s ecology and conservation status; and a summary of actions for the species by the various wildlife and land management agencies with jurisdiction in the species’ geographic range. The document can be considered CDFW’s policy for conservation of the Mohave ground squirrel and may be referenced in making decisions in the environmental review process, funding for habitat protection and restoration activities and prioritizing research and information needs.
The Mohave Ground Squirrel Conservation Strategy may also be used as the foundation for recovery planning for the species. Under newly enacted state law, CDFW may prepare recovery plans for listed species if funding is available.
According to Scott Osborn, CDFW wildlife ecologist and co-author of the document, such planning is an essential next step to help the species persist. “The Strategy provides good guidance, but real recovery of the Mohave ground squirrel requires implementation of specific actions for its conservation. Such actions need to be planned using a comprehensive and scientific process.”