The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently proposed (pdf) to remove the island night lizard (Xantusia riversiana) from its current listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed removal is based on successful recovery efforts led by the U.S. Navy and National Park Service, which have resulted in the achievement of nearly all of the objectives established in the recovery plan for the species.
Island night lizards are found only on the Channel Islands – San Clemente Island, San Nicolas Island, and Santa Barbara Island – off the southern California coast. Historic land use practices, including ranching and grazing, severely impacted habitat for the species. Additionally, introduction of nonnative species, including goats, pigs, and rabbits, greatly damaged suitable island night lizard habitat.
The island night lizard was originally listed as threatened under the ESA in 1977. The Service implemented a recovery plan for the species in 1984, which focused on habitat restoration and education. By the mid-1990s, the nonnative species responsible for most of the habitat loss were removed from the islands, allowing for the slow recovery of the island night lizard.
Today, there are an estimated 21 million island night lizards on San Clemente Island, about 15,300 on San Nicolas Island, and about 17,600 on Santa Barbara Island. Though almost all of the recovery plan objectives for the species have been achieved, both the Navy and the National Park Service are actively cultivating native plants to further habitat restoration on San Nicolas and Santa Barbara Island.