Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on a Petition To List Mimulus gemmiparus, 52293-52300 [2012-21244]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 168 / Wednesday, August 29, 2012 / Proposed Rules Comments must be filed on or before October 1, 2012, and reply comments on or before October 16, 2012. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by Docket No. 12–225 by any of the following methods: D Federal Communications Commission’s Web Site: http:// fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. D People with Disabilities: Contact the FCC to request reasonable accommodations (accessible format documents, sign language interpreters, CART, etc.) by email: FCC504@fcc.gov or phone: 202–418–0530 or TTY: 202– 418–0432. In addition to filing comments with the FCC, interested parties should serve the petitioner as follows: Mark N. Lipp, Esq., Counsel for Word Power, Inc., Wiley Rein LLP, 1776 K St. NW., Washington, DC 20006. For detailed instructions for submitting comments and additional information on the rulemaking process, see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rolanda F. Smith, Media Bureau, (202) 418–2700. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a synopsis of the Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making, MB Docket No. 12–225, adopted August 9, 2012, and released August 10, 2012. The full text of this Commission decision is available for inspection and copying during normal business hours in the FCC’s Reference Information Center at Portals II, CY–A257, 445 Twelfth Street SW., Washington, DC 20554. This document may also be purchased from the Commission’s duplicating contractors, Best Copy and Printing, Inc., 445 12th Street SW., Room CY–B402, Washington, DC 20554, telephone 1– 800–378–3160 or via email www.BCPIWEB.com. This document does not contain proposed information collection requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104–13. In addition, therefore, it does not contain any proposed information collection burden ‘‘for small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees,’’ pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107–198, see 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4). Provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 do not apply to this proceeding. Members of the public should note that from the time a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is issued until the matter is no longer subject to Commission srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS DATES: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:17 Aug 28, 2012 Jkt 226001 consideration or court review, all ex parte contacts are prohibited in Commission proceedings, such as this one, which involve channel allotments. See 47 CFR 1.1204(b) for rules governing permissible ex parte contacts. For information regarding proper filing procedures for comments, see 47 CFR 1.415 and 1.420. List of Subjects in 47 CFR Part 73 Radio, Radio broadcasting. Federal Communications Commission. Nazifa Sawez, Assistant Chief, Audio Division, Media Bureau. For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal Communications Commission proposes to amend 47 CFR part 73 as follows: PART 73—RADIO BROADCAST SERVICES 1. The authority citation for part 73 continues to read as follows: Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 303, 334, 336 and 339. § 73.202 [Amended] 2. Section 73.202(b), the Table of FM Allotments under Illinois, is amended by adding Channel *230A at Greenup. [FR Doc. 2012–21315 Filed 8–28–12; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R6–ES–2012–0052; 4500030113] Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on a Petition To List Mimulus gemmiparus (Rocky Mountain Monkeyflower) as Endangered or Threatened and To Designate Critical Habitat Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of petition finding and initiation of status review. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list Mimulus gemmiparus (Rocky Mountain monkeyflower; also known as budding monkeyflower, or Weber’s monkeyflower) as an endangered or threatened species throughout its entire range and to designate critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). For the SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 52293 purposes of this document, we will refer to Mimulus gemmiparus as Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. Based on our review, we find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing Rocky Mountain monkeyflower may be warranted. Therefore, with the publication of this notice, we will be initiating a review of the status of the species to determine whether listing Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is warranted. To ensure that this status review is comprehensive, we are requesting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding this species. Based on the status review, we will issue a 12-month finding on the petition, which will address whether the petitioned action is warranted, as provided in section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act. We will make a determination on critical habitat for this species if and when we initiate a listing action. DATES: To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we request that we receive information on or before October 29, 2012. The deadline for submitting an electronic comment using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on this date. After October 29, 2012, you must submit information directly to the Division of Policy and Directives Management (see ADDRESSES section below). Please note that we might not be able to address or incorporate information that we receive after the above requested date. ADDRESSES: You may submit information by one of the following methods: (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Search for Docket No. FWS–R6–ES–2012–0052, which is the docket number for this action. You may submit a comment by clicking on ‘‘Comment Now!’’ (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R6–ES–2012– 0052; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. We will not accept email or faxes. We will post all information we receive on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Request for Information section below for more details). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patty Gelatt, Western Colorado Supervisor, Ecological Services, 764 Horizon Drive, Bldg. B, Grand Junction, CO 81506–3946; telephone (970) 243– E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1 52294 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 168 / Wednesday, August 29, 2012 / Proposed Rules srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 2778; fax (970) 245–6933. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at (800) 877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Request for Information When we make a finding that a petition presents substantial information indicating that listing a species may be warranted, we are required to promptly review the status of the species (status review). For the status review to be complete and based on the best available scientific and commercial information, we request information on Rocky Mountain monkeyflower from governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties. We seek information on: (1) The species’ biology, range, and population trends, including: (a) Habitat requirements; (b) Genetics and taxonomy; (c) Historical and current range, including distribution patterns; (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and projected trends; and (e) Past and ongoing conservation measures and programs for the species, its habitat, or both. (2) The factors that are the basis for making a listing determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), which are: (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (c) Disease or predation; (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. If, after the status review, we determine that listing Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is warranted, we will propose critical habitat (see definition in section 3(5)(A) of the Act), in accordance with section 4 of the Act, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable at the time we propose to list the species. Therefore, we also request data and information on: (1) What may constitute ‘‘physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species’’ within the geographical range currently occupied by the species; (2) Where these features are currently found; (3) Whether any of these features may require special management considerations or protection; VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:17 Aug 28, 2012 Jkt 226001 (4) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species that are ‘‘essential for the conservation of the species’’; and (5) What, if any, critical habitat you think we should propose for designation if the species is proposed for listing, and why such habitat meets the requirements of section 4 of the Act. Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial information you include. Submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or threatened species must be made ‘‘solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.’’ You may submit your information concerning this status review by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. If you submit information via http://www.regulations.gov, your entire submission—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this personal identifying information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov. Information and supporting documentation that we received and used in preparing this finding will be available for public inspection at http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Colorado Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Background Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act requires that we make a finding on whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. We are to base this finding on information provided in the petition, supporting information submitted with the petition, and information otherwise available in our files. To the maximum extent practicable, we are to make this finding within 90 days of our receipt of the petition and publish our notice of PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 the finding promptly in the Federal Register. Our standard for substantial scientific or commercial information within the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) with regard to a 90-day petition finding is ‘‘that amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted’’ (50 CFR 424.14(b)). If we find that substantial scientific or commercial information was presented, we are required to promptly commence a review of the status of the species, which is subsequently summarized in our 12-month finding. Petition History On October 4, 2011, we received a petition dated September 30, 2011, prepared by WildEarth Guardians (petitioner) requesting that Rocky Mountain monkeyflower be given immediate protection and listed as an endangered or threatened species under the Act and that we designate critical habitat for the species. The petition clearly identified itself as such and included the requisite identification information for the petitioners, as required at 50 CFR 424.14(a). In a December 20, 2011, letter to WildEarth Guardians, we responded that we reviewed the information presented in this and eight other petitions that we received in September and October of 2011 (Alt 2011, entire). We noted that these petitions will be considered submitted within Fiscal Year 2011 for purposes of accounting under our multidistrict litigation settlement and its petition cap provision, which limits the number of petitions that WildEarth Guardians may submit each fiscal year. We also noted that emergency listing of a species is not a petitionable action under the Administrative Procedure Act or the Endangered Species Act (Act); therefore, we treat requesting emergency listing solely as a petition to list a species under the Act. We stated in the letter to the petitioners that, while we had not made a decision on whether the petition presents substantial information that the petitioned actions may be warranted, we had looked at the immediacy of possible threats to the species to determine if emergency listing may be necessary at this time. Our initial review of the petition indicated that an emergency situation does not exist for this species. However, if at any time conditions change and we determine emergency listing is necessary, an emergency rule may be developed. We stated that we are currently required to complete a significant number of listing and critical E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 168 / Wednesday, August 29, 2012 / Proposed Rules habitat actions by the end of Fiscal Year 2016 pursuant to court orders, judicially approved settlement agreements, and other statutory deadlines. We said we may conduct a review of this petition prior to that time should budget and workload permit. This finding addresses the petition. Previous Federal Actions Rocky Mountain monkeyflower was included in the 1985 Review of Plant Taxa for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species (50 FR 39526, September 27, 1985). In that document, we included the species as a Category 2 candidate, based on our evaluation at that time. Category 2 candidates were species for which the Service had information indicating that protection under the Act may be warranted but for which we lacked sufficient information on status and threats to determine if elevation to ‘‘Category-1 candidate’’ status was warranted. We published our decision to discontinue candidate categories and to restrict candidate status to those taxa for which we have sufficient information to support issuance of a proposed rule on December 5, 1996 (61 FR 64481). This decision resulted in the deletion of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower from the list of candidate taxa for listing. In 2009, we published a 90-day finding on 165 species from a petition to list 206 species, including Rocky Mountain monkeyflower (74 FR 6122, February 5, 2009). We found that the petition did not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing Rocky Mountain monkeyflower may be warranted. The information we reviewed for the species described one or more threats for a general area, but did not link the threats to the species or the habitat occupied by the species. We were subsequently petitioned to list this species on October 4, 2011. This finding is in response to that petition. Species Information Species Description and Taxonomy Ruth Ashton Nelson discovered Rocky Mountain monkeyflower in 1950 (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 13). The species was identified and described by William A. Weber (Weber 1972, pp. 423–425). Taxonomic classification of the genus Mimulus has been changed from the family Scrophulariaceae to the family Phrymaceae (Beardsley and Olmstead 2002, p. 1098; Olmstead 2002, pp. 16, 18, 21, 22). We consider Rocky Mountain monkeyflower to be a valid species and, therefore, a listable entity under the Act (ITIS 2012, p. 1). Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is a small annual herb 1 to 10 centimeters (cm) (0.4 to 4 inches (in.)) tall, weak, and somewhat fleshy (Weber 1972, p. 423), with a hairless, usually unbranched, stem. Leaves are opposite, entire, oval in shape, and hairless, and will grow to 10 millimeters (mm) (0.4 in.) long and 7 mm (0.3 in.) wide. Leaf stems are 2 to 3 mm (about 0.11 in.) long, with a small pocket at the base that contains a dormant embryonic shoot called a bulbil or gemma, which reproduces vegetatively (Spackman et al. 1999a; Spackman et al. 1999b, p. 34; Moody et al., 1999, p. 1521). Rocky Mountain monkeyflower plants do not usually have flowers, but they can produce flowers and seeds in laboratory conditions (Beardsley 1997, p. 3). The solitary yellow flowers are about 5 mm (0.20 in.) long, with spreading petals and an open throat (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 14); they bloom in mid-July. Life History The asexual gemmae of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower are dispersed when the parent plant dies, and are capable of overwintering in the soil and germinating the following spring. The flat, lens-shaped gemmae float down slope in seepage water and tend to collect in drifts in sites suitable for 52295 germination (Weber 1972, p. 3). Thus, the species behaves like an annual, but with asexually produced bulbils carrying out the function of seeds (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, p. 2). This particular method of reproduction and development is unique within the genus Mimulus, and probably unique within all flowering plants (Beardsley et al. 2004, p. 487; Moody et al. 1999, p. 1522). Habitat Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is a montane to subalpine species that grows at elevations of 2,572 to 3,413 meters (m) (8,438 to 11,198 feet (ft)) (CNHP 2011b, p. 1). Plants grow primarily on substrates of granite with surface seepage water and on moist forest soils near seeps, waterfalls, and springs. Often they are protected by granite overhangs, on south- or west-facing aspects, and are associated with mosses and ferns (CNHP 2012, p. 2). Distribution and Abundance Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is currently known from seven populations in five counties (Boulder, Clear Creek, Grand, Jefferson, and Larimer) along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. As noted in the petition, one additional population in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is no longer considered extant. The species’ estimated range is 2,519 square kilometers (972 square miles) (CNHP 2011a, p. 3). The total estimated occupied habitat is about 10.5 hectares (ha) (26 acres (ac)) (CNHP 2011a, p. 3). Actual occupied area as measured on the ground during surveys within the documented populations is 168 square meters (sq m) (1,808 sq ft) (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, p. 22). Estimated total abundance is about 126,000 plants (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, pp. 9, 22). TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF CURRENTLY KNOWN POPULATIONS [Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, pp. 9, 22] Estimated number of plants srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Site name Area occupied in square meters (square feet) St. Vrain ..................................................................................................................................... Hankins Gulch ........................................................................................................................... Guanella Pass ........................................................................................................................... Horseshoe Park ......................................................................................................................... North Inlet .................................................................................................................................. East Inlet .................................................................................................................................... Staunton State Park .................................................................................................................. 14,660 102,000 600 3,200 4,400 800 73 68 (732) 13 (140) 10 (108) 38 (409) 25 (269) 13 (140) 1 (11) Total .................................................................................................................................... 125,733 168 (1,808) CDNR = Colorado Department of Natural Resources. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:17 Aug 28, 2012 Jkt 226001 PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1 Management USFS USFS USFS RMNP RMNP RMNP CDNR 52296 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 168 / Wednesday, August 29, 2012 / Proposed Rules Conservation Status NatureServe ranks Rocky Mountain monkeyflower as a ‘‘G1’’ species (critically imperiled globally and at very high risk of extinction) (NatureServe 2010, p. 1). The Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) ranks the species as ‘‘S1’’ (critically endangered throughout its range in Colorado) (CNHP 2011, p. 1). The USFS, Rocky Mountain Region (Region 2) has designated Rocky Mountain monkeyflower as a sensitive species (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 3). USFS objectives for designated sensitive species are to develop and implement management practices to ensure that species do not become endangered or threatened species because of USFS actions (Wrigley et al. 2007, p. 3). srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Evaluation of Information for This Finding Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 424 set forth the procedures for adding a species to, or removing a species from, the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. A species may be determined to be an endangered or threatened species due to one or more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) Disease or predation; (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look beyond the mere exposure of the species to the factor to determine whether the species responds to the factor in a way that causes actual impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a factor, but no response, or only a positive response, that factor is not a threat. If there is exposure and the species responds negatively, the factor may be a threat and we then attempt to determine how significant a threat it is. If the threat is significant, it may drive or contribute to the risk of extinction of the species such that the species may meet the definition of endangered or threatened under the Act. This does not necessarily require empirical proof of a threat. The combination of exposure and some corroborating evidence of how the species is likely impacted could suffice. The mere identification of factors that VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:17 Aug 28, 2012 Jkt 226001 could impact the species negatively may not be sufficient to compel a substantial finding. The information must contain evidence sufficient to suggest that these factors may be operative threats that act on the species to the point that the species may meet the definition of an endangered or threatened species under the Act. In making this 90-day finding, we evaluated whether information regarding threats to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower, as presented in the petition and other information available in our files, is substantial, thereby indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. Our evaluation of this information is presented below. A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range Recreation, Trails, and Roads Information Provided in the Petition The petitioner states that recreational activities are the primary threats to the habitat for Rocky Mountain monkeyflower (CNHP 2011a, p. 3). Nearly all known locations are near trails and roads subject to impacts from hikers, people fishing, horses, dogs, offroad vehicles (except in wilderness locations), or road and trail maintenance activity (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 3). Habitat for the plants also provides good camping and shelter areas, given their proximity to trails, water, and protective overhangs. Resulting impacts include crushed plants, disturbed soil, and diversion of water away from the plants, as well as introduction of weedy species that compete with Rocky Mountain monkeyflower (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 3). A hiking trail bisects one population in RMNP (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 28). The location in Hankins Gulch is about 2 m (6 ft) from a trail, where observers saw clusters of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower trampled by human, dog, and horse footprints (Beardsley 1997, p. 221). One of the other locations in RMNP is used as a latrine and rest stop by hikers (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 28). The waterfall area where Rocky Mountain monkeyflower occurs in Staunton State Park will likely be a popular destination for visitors when the park opens to the public (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 28). The park opening is expected before the end of 2012. Road improvement and construction activities at Guanella Pass could change the amount of water available to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower at that location (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 12; CFLHD 2009, entire). PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in Service Files Information cited in the petition and available in our files is consistent with the petitioners’ assertions that recreational activities have caused documented impacts to the habitat for Rocky Mountain monkeyflower as well as to the plants (CNHP 2011a, p. 3). At least 54 percent of the known occupied habitat for the species, which supports about 88 percent of the documented plants, is highly vulnerable to trampling of plants and the moist soils they grow on (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, pp. 9, 22). The trail through the large Hankins Gulch population, where observers saw clusters of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower trampled by human, dog, and horse footprints (Beardsley 1997, p. 221), was rerouted to the other side of the creek in 2011, to protect the plants (Olson in Anderson et al. 2011, p. 19). Information on the current status of this population is not in our files. Plant surveyors have found new locations that were inaccessible by trail, but they have been unsuccessful at detecting the plant at similar remote sites. Four areas of additional suitable habitat have been identified but not surveyed (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, p. 8). All four are near known locations and within the known range of the species. We will use all information available at the time we conduct our status review to determine the total percent of suitable habitat that may be subject to impacts by recreational use. Information in our files shows that inadvertent trampling due to off-trail hiking, rock climbing, and scrambling is likely to impact this species in Staunton State Park, because the species is found in areas that are attractive to visitors (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 29). A 2007 survey report noted that ‘‘a park visitor could easily stop for a break near the waterfall and unknowingly eliminate nearly the entire population by settling down in the wrong area’’ (Colorado State Parks 2010, p. 5). However, because the park is not yet open to public use, we do not have substantial scientific or commercial information in our files, nor was any provided by the petitioners, indicating that trampling by recreational users is a threat to the Staunton State Park population of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. We will analyze this potential threat in more detail in our status review for the species. Although we do not have substantial information that trampling may be a threat to the Rocky Mountain monkeyflower in Staunton State park, this population comprises only a small E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 168 / Wednesday, August 29, 2012 / Proposed Rules portion of the species’ total known numbers. The majority (88 percent) of documented plants and 54 percent of the known occupied habitat are in areas near roads and trails commonly used for hiking and other recreational and maintenance activities, where the plants are considered highly vulnerable to trampling. Additionally, Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is a small, fragile, and inconspicuous plant that is highly susceptible to inadvertent trampling and is unlikely to withstand such impacts. Therefore, we find there is substantial information overall to indicate that trampling by recreational users may pose a threat to the species. Human Population Growth Information Provided in the Petition The petitioners point out that all Rocky Mountain monkeyflower locations are close to large human populations that have grown significantly over the last several decades along the Colorado Front Range Urban Corridor, and are projected to increase another 26.5 percent by 2025 (State Demography Office 2011, entire). This increased population may have significant impacts on Rocky Mountain monkeyflower locations due to increased recreational use of public lands. Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in Service Files References cited by the petitioners support their assertion that recent and projected population growth within day-trip distance of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower habitat is likely to occur. Although it is likely that an increasing human population will result in an increase in visitor use of the surrounding areas, and that heavier use of the trails where the species is located would increase the likelihood of plant damage and habitat disturbance, we have no substantial information to show that this may pose a threat to the species at this time. We will analyze this potential threat in more detail in our status review for the species. Livestock and Herbivore Grazing srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Information Provided in the Petition The petitioners state that Rocky Mountain monkeyflower plants may be trampled and their habitat degraded by excessively large herds of elk (Cervus elaphus) in RMNP that are overutilizing willow (Salix spp.) thickets and aspen (Populus tremuloides) stands that provide habitat for Rocky Mountain monkeyflower (RMNP 2009, entire). VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:17 Aug 28, 2012 Jkt 226001 Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in Service Files References cited by the petitioners support their assertion that large elk herds are degrading willow and aspen stands near Rocky Mountain monkeyflower habitat. However, available information does not show substantial evidence of direct impacts by elk on the seeps and stream habitat where Rocky Mountain monkeyflower occurs (Beatty et al. 2003, pp. 26–27). Therefore, we find that there is not substantial information to indicate that livestock and herbivore grazing may pose a threat to the species. We will evaluate this factor more thoroughly during our status review. Changes in Natural Regimes Information Provided in the Petition The petitioners list wildfires, drought, rockfalls, flash floods, global warming, erosion, blow-downs, and timber harvests as impacts that can alter the hydrology, topography, soils, or shading of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower habitat (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 28). They cite a report of areas intensely burned by wildfire that were observed within 9 to 12 m (30 to 40 ft) of the Rocky Mountain monkeyflower population at Hankins Gulch in 2003 (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, p. 9). While the riparian location of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower protected it from direct fire impacts, ecology of the site was reportedly altered in its hydrology and vegetation, as were possibly soils, water runoff, erosion, and deposition of biotic mass (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 28). According to the petitioner, loss of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower habitat has been documented in RMNP (2007b, p. 3). There has been a 69 percent reduction in surface water, as well as lowered water tables, attributed to the loss of beaver (Castor canadensis), which has led to a significant decline in montane riparian willows (RMNP 2007b, p. 3). Like willows, the riparian habitat occupied by Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is more dependent on groundwater from streams and snowmelt than from rainfall. The petitioners say it is reasonable to conclude that the same factors responsible for declining willow populations may impact Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in Service Files Information cited in the petition and available in our files is consistent with the petitioners’ description of impacts to PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 52297 Rocky Mountain monkeyflower habitat due to natural events. An intense wildfire and subsequent drying of soil and erosion by water runoff occurred at the largest known population of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower (Hankins Gulch) in 2002 (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, p. 9). The petitioner’s descriptions of lowered water tables and reduced surface water in RMNP are based on reports from the park (RMNP 2007b, p. 3). The conclusion that Rocky Mountain monkeyflower populations will decline from lack of groundwater in the same way that willows have is reasonable. However, we have no information in our files to show that reduced groundwater for willow and aspen habitat due to lack of beaver ponds is affecting the seeps and drainages on shaded slopes that support Rocky Mountain monkeyflower habitat. Therefore, we find that there is not substantial information to indicate that changes in natural regimes may pose a threat to the species. We will evaluate this factor more thoroughly during our status review. Climate Change Information Provided in the Petition The petitioner states that the western United States will likely suffer a decrease in water resources due to climate change, which will affect montane and subalpine ecosystems in RMNP and across Colorado. In support of this assertion, they cite conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2007, p. 52) and RMNP (2007a, p. 6). The IPCC projected that warming in western mountains will cause decreased snowpack and reduced summer flows (IPCC 2007, p. 52). RMNP postulates that the subalpine ecosystem will change due to dramatic disturbances, such as fire and insects, and from more gradual processes, such as warming temperatures (RMNP 2007a, p. 13). Regional changes in precipitation play a major role in large-scale fires in subalpine forests, which take place during extreme regional drought conditions. Increased numbers or intensities of fires could have a damaging impact on Rocky Mountain monkeyflower, easily destroying entire populations. Tree community composition will likely shift within the subalpine zone. For instance, northfacing hillsides may no longer be moist enough to support Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir) regeneration (RMNP 2007a, p. 13), or Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. ‘‘Mountain ecosystems such as those found in RMNP could shift upslope, reducing habitat for many subalpine species. E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1 52298 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 168 / Wednesday, August 29, 2012 / Proposed Rules srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Changes in rainfall and snowfall could alter streamflows and affect wetlands and wildlife’’ (Environmental Protection Agency 1997, p. 4). The petitioners assert that, as a montane and subalpine plant that depends on seeps and streams for survival, reproduction, and dispersal, Rocky Mountain monkeyflower will likely be adversely affected by reductions in stream flows and decreases in habitat acreage. Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in Service Files Our analyses under the Act include consideration of ongoing and projected changes in climate. The terms ‘‘climate’’ and ‘‘climate change’’ are defined by the IPCC. ‘‘Climate’’ refers to the mean and variability of different types of weather conditions over time, with 30 years being a typical period for such measurements, although shorter or longer periods also may be used (IPCC 2007, p. 78). The term ‘‘climate change’’ thus refers to a change in the mean or variability of one or more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or precipitation) that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer, whether the change is due to natural variability, human activity, or both (IPCC 2007, p. 78). Various types of changes in climate can have direct or indirect effects on species. These effects may be positive, neutral, or negative, and they may change over time, depending on the species and other relevant considerations, such as the effects of interactions of climate with other variables (e.g., habitat fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, pp. 8–14, 18–19). In our analyses, we use our expert judgment to weigh relevant information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of various aspects of climate change. Sources cited by the petitioners and in our files support their assertion that climate change is occurring and likely to continue to occur within Rocky Mountain monkeyflower habitat. However, the petition did not present information on the species’ likely response to these changes. The response of species to climate change can be extremely complex, and we have no information in our files on the actual or likely response of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. We think it possible that, as a montane and subalpine plant that disperses generally by gemmae floating downstream, Rocky Mountain monkeyflower will likely be adversely affected by decreases in range and upward shifts in its suitable habitat. Because Rocky Mountain monkeyflower depends on a constant source of VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:17 Aug 28, 2012 Jkt 226001 moisture for survival, reproduction, and dispersal, reduction in stream flows may affect its survival. Because the climate is expected to become warmer and drier, habitat for Rocky Mountain monkeyflower may diminish, and fire danger will likely increase. High fire risk is more than a theoretical threat for this species, because two major fires have occurred within the past 4 years in and near two of the populations. Overall, the information regarding the species’ response to climate change appears speculative in nature, and therefore we find that there is not substantial information to indicate that the effects of climate change may pose a threat to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. However, we will analyze this potential threat in more detail during our status review of the species. Summary of Factor A Information provided in the petition, as well as available information in our files, presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that trampling by recreational users may pose a threat to the Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. Habitat alteration and destruction of plants due to trampling may pose a threat to at least 54 percent of the known occupied habitat for the species, supporting about 88 percent of the documented plants, which are located near roads or trails used for recreational and maintenance activities. The biology of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower as a small, fragile, and inconspicuous plant makes it highly susceptible to inadvertent trampling and means that the plant is unlikely to withstand such impacts. Therefore, the petition and information in our files presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range may be a threat to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes Neither the petition nor information within our files presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes may present a threat to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. C. Disease or Predation Neither the petition nor information within our files presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that disease or predation may PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 present a threat to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms Information Provided in the Petition The petitioners state that current regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to protect the documented populations of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. Habitat for the known populations is managed by RMNP, USFS, and CDNR. The petitioners claim that the efforts by these agencies to balance conflicting interests with conservation and survival of sensitive species threatens Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. Populations in the RMNP are protected under National Park Service (NPS) guidelines in general, which prohibit the collection of any native plants without a permit, but RMNP also provides recreational opportunities that negatively affect Rocky Mountain monkeyflower (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, p. 10). A hiking trail bisects one population in the park, and another location is used as a latrine and rest stop by hikers (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 28). The petitioners point out that Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is designated as a USFS Region 2 sensitive species. As such, the species may obtain some protection under various conservation strategies designed to protect plants and animals within Federal lands. USFS policies require a biological evaluation to assess project impacts to sensitive species and prohibit collection of sensitive plants without a permit. On the other hand, the USFS has a statutory, multiple-use mandate governing its land management activities. Some authorized activities on USFS lands, such as timber harvesting, cattle grazing, and recreational uses, may affect Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. The petitioners assert that balancing these other interests with the species’ survival threatens Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. The petitioners assert that populations in wilderness areas within the forest are still threatened by recreational activities. As an example, they cite information concerning the population at Hankins Gulch (in Lost Creek Wilderness Area) about 2 m (6 ft) from a trail, where observers saw clusters of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower trampled by human, dog, and horse footprints (Beardsley 1997, p. 221). The petitioners say that this trail was expected to be rerouted in 2011 to avoid damage to the plant (USFS 2011, p. 1), and also that Staunton State Park managers were expected to consider Rocky Mountain monkeyflower in their E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 168 / Wednesday, August 29, 2012 / Proposed Rules land use plans (Beatty 2003, p. 12), but they do not mention whether these actions have been implemented. srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in Service Files Information cited in the petition and available in our files is not sufficient to support the claim that existing regulations for management of designated sensitive plant species on RMNP- and USFS-managed lands may be inadequate to protect Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. Adequacy of the management plan for Staunton State Park cannot be considered because it consists of ‘‘non-regulatory protective designations that are intended to promote the conservation of sensitive resources through voluntary measures and proactive partnerships’’ (Colorado State Parks 2010, Appendix A. p. 2). Voluntary measures in the Staunton State Park management plan have yet to be implemented, and the new park is not yet open to the public. The NPS Organic Act of 1916 (16 U.S.C. 1 et seq.), as amended, states that the NPS ‘‘shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, * * * to conserve the scenery and the national and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.’’ To meet these obligations, ‘‘the National Park Service will inventory, monitor, and manage state and locally listed species in a manner similar to its treatment of federally listed species to the greatest extent possible. In addition, the [Park] Service will inventory other native species that are of special management concern to parks (such as rare, declining, sensitive, or unique species and their habitats) and will manage them to maintain their natural distribution and abundance’’ (San Miguel 2011, p. 5). We do not have information readily available in our files to indicate that RMNP has a management plan specific to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower, or whether any protective measures have been taken to restrict hikers from trampling plants and habitat along the trails, or digging latrines in the soft soil where the plants grow. Steingraeber and Beardsley (2005, p. 10) reported that RMNP had not rerouted trails or monitored impacts to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower populations. We have no recent information in our files to show whether the Organic Act regulations are adequate to protect Rocky Mountain VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:17 Aug 28, 2012 Jkt 226001 monkeyflower from the threat of trampling by hikers in RMNP. The National Forest Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1600 et seq.) directs the USFS, as part of the land use planning process, to manage for protection of scientific values and protect wildlife habitat. The USFS Sensitive Species Management directive states that sensitive species of native plants and animals must receive special management emphasis to ensure their viability and to preclude trends toward endangerment that would result in the need for Federal listing (USFS 2002, p. 1). On USFS land, the trail at Hankins Gulch was rerouted in 2011 to avoid the plant population (Anderson et al. 2011, p. 19). Although we do not yet have monitoring results to show whether implementation of the regulations has reduced impacts to the largest population, we estimate that this is a positive step and should ameliorate the impacts to this population from recreational use on USFS lands. CDNR—Colorado State Parks has completed the Staunton State Park Master Plan, which includes recommendations for protecting two rare and unique plant species: Telesonix jamesii (James’ telesonix) and Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. The greatest threat to these species in the park is from inadvertent trampling due to off-trail hiking and rock climbing and scrambling, as both species grow in areas that are attractive to visitors. Surveys for these two species were conducted in 2007. The plan contains the following recommendations to minimize human activity in habitat areas that are known to support these species: protect known Rocky Mountain monkeyflower locations as well as highpriority introduction sites; carefully plan trails and climbing access in known or potential habitat areas to minimize the potential for trampling or other impacts; survey climbing areas before they are open to the public; and provide interpretive opportunities at the Visitor’s Center, including experimental introduction efforts. These recommendations are nonregulatory and, as such, are intended to promote the conservation of sensitive resources through voluntary measures and proactive partnerships (Colorado State Parks 2010, Appendix A. pp. 4–5). Therefore, we are not considering the adequacy of the plan as a regulatory mechanism. Projects conducted within the species’ range may be subject to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). All Federal agencies are required to adhere to NEPA for projects they fund, PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 52299 authorize, or carry out. The Council on Environmental Quality’s regulations for implementing NEPA (40 CFR parts 1500–1518) state that agencies shall include a discussion on the environmental impacts of the various project alternatives, any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided, and any irreversible or irretrievable commitments of resources involved (40 CFR part 1502). NEPA is a disclosure law that does not require subsequent minimization or mitigation measures by the Federal agency involved. Summary of Factor D Based on the information provided in the petition, as well as other information available in our files, we find that there is no substantial scientific or commercial information to indicate that the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms may be a threat to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. RMNP has nearly 7 percent of the entire known population of the species on 45 percent of the occupied habitat, and impacts to plants and habitat have been observed, but aside from the 2005 survey reports, we have no available information in our files or from the petitioners to indicate whether RMNP is implementing their directives to protect the species. The USFS has about 93 percent of the plants on 54 percent of the occupied habitat. About 81 percent of these plants are on the site that has been heavily trampled by hikers and exposed to drying after a large wildfire. Use of a newly built trail is expected to avoid further hiking impacts, although monitoring results are not yet available. Given the level of information we have at this 90-day finding stage, it is unclear whether these Federal laws and regulations are adequate as they pertain to addressing the threats to the habitat of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. We lack information regarding the implementation of existing regulatory mechanisms, and there is uncertainty about the efficacy of new protective measures and plans. We will contact RMNP and other agencies during the status review process to gather information to determine how and to what extent the existing regulations provide protection. E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence Biological Vulnerability and Small Population Size Information Provided in the Petition The petitioners assert that Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is especially vulnerable to extinction due to its E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1 52300 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 168 / Wednesday, August 29, 2012 / Proposed Rules unique asexual reproductive strategy, which does not produce seeds or a seed bank to maintain populations during dry years. Plants produce a small propagation tool (the gemma) inside the stalk of each leaf, which separates at the end of each season and seems to die, but then regerminates from the ground in the spring. Because of the limited reproductive ability of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower, the petitioners assert that loss of any individuals could undermine the survival of the species. Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in Service Files The Service does not consider rarity in and of itself to be a threat. Some species, such as Rocky Mountain monkeyflower, have existed in low numbers throughout their history. However, we recognize that limited reproduction, small population size, and restricted range can increase the species’ vulnerability to extinction in the presence of threats or other stressors. Another vulnerability is the stature of the plants. Being small, fragile annuals that seldom produce flowers to advertise their presence, Rocky Mountain monkeyflower plants are easily overlooked and crushed underfoot and are, therefore, vulnerable to trampling, which is the primary threat to the species. The crushed plants cannot produce gemmae for reproduction, which reduces the size of the population the following year. Due to their fragile and inconspicuous nature, uniquely limited reproduction, small population size, and limited range, all populations of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower may be vulnerable to local extirpation from seemingly insignificant disturbances. Cumulative Threats srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Information Provided in the Petition The petitioners assert that any of the above-mentioned threats working in tandem could lead to the extinction of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. For example, they assert that habitat loss and degradation due to impacts from human recreation is exacerbated by the threats of increased temperatures and more extreme weather caused by climate change, which may impact the plant’s reproductive success. They state that Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is already at risk due to its small population size and, thus, could easily be at risk from cumulative impacts of other threats. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:17 Aug 28, 2012 Jkt 226001 Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in Service Files Information cited in the petition and available in our files is consistent with the petitioners’ assertions that the vulnerability of small populations with limited range may be increased when threats are present. Warming, drying weather trends due to changing climate in the Rocky Mountains decreases the water available to support the moist habitat conditions essential for the Rocky Mountain monkeyflower’s survival. The same warmer, drier weather increases the frequency of wildfire, which, in one such wildfire incident, has increased the exposure of the largest plant population to more drying. Drier conditions reduce the numbers and growth of these annual plants. Trampling by hikers further reduces the numbers of individuals available for continued reproduction. Summary for Factor E This finding is based on information provided under Factors A and E. We determine that the information provided under Factors B and C is not substantial. The information on Factor D is unclear; we will further analyze this issue in our status review. Because we have found that the petition presents substantial information indicating that listing Rocky Mountain monkeyflower may be warranted, we will initiate a status review to determine whether listing Rocky Mountain monkeyflower under the Act is warranted. The ‘‘substantial information’’ standard for a 90-day finding differs from the Act’s ‘‘best scientific and commercial data’’ standard that applies to a status review to determine whether a petitioned action is warranted. A 90day finding does not constitute a status review under the Act. In a 12-month finding, we will determine whether a petitioned action is warranted after we have completed a thorough status review of the species, which is conducted following a substantial 90day finding. Because the Act’s standards for 90-day and 12-month findings are different, as described above, a substantial 90-day finding does not mean that the 12-month finding will result in a warranted finding. We find that the information provided in the petition, as well as other information available in our files, presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that other natural or manmade factors affecting the continued existence of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower may be a threat. Its unique asexual reproduction, annual life history, small population size, specialized habitat needs, reliance on surface water and moist soils, and discontinuous distribution all make the species vulnerable to increasingly drier habitat conditions, wildfires, and trampling by hikers. A complete list of references cited is available on the Internet at http:// www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Western Colorado Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Finding Authors On the basis of our determination under section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act, we find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing Rocky Mountain monkeyflower throughout its entire range may be warranted. Given the rarity of this species, its specific life-history traits that increase vulnerability to extinction in the presence of other stressors, and potential impacts to the existing populations from trampling, the petition and our files contain substantial information that Rocky Mountain monkeyflower may be threatened by at least two of the five listing factors: present and threatened destruction, modification, and curtailment of its habitat and range, and other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. The primary authors of this notice are the staff members of the Western Colorado Ecological Services Field Office. PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 References Cited Authority The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Dated: August 17, 2012. Benjamin N. Tuggle, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2012–21244 Filed 8–28–12; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 168 (Wednesday, August 29, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 52293-52300]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-21244]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2012-0052; 4500030113]


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition To List Mimulus gemmiparus (Rocky Mountain Monkeyflower) as 
Endangered or Threatened and To Designate Critical Habitat

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of petition finding and initiation of status review.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to list Mimulus gemmiparus (Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower; also known as budding monkeyflower, or Weber's 
monkeyflower) as an endangered or threatened species throughout its 
entire range and to designate critical habitat under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). For the purposes of this 
document, we will refer to Mimulus gemmiparus as Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower. Based on our review, we find that the petition presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that 
listing Rocky Mountain monkeyflower may be warranted. Therefore, with 
the publication of this notice, we will be initiating a review of the 
status of the species to determine whether listing Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower is warranted. To ensure that this status review is 
comprehensive, we are requesting scientific and commercial data and 
other information regarding this species. Based on the status review, 
we will issue a 12-month finding on the petition, which will address 
whether the petitioned action is warranted, as provided in section 
4(b)(3)(B) of the Act. We will make a determination on critical habitat 
for this species if and when we initiate a listing action.

DATES: To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we request 
that we receive information on or before October 29, 2012. The deadline 
for submitting an electronic comment using the Federal eRulemaking 
Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on 
this date. After October 29, 2012, you must submit information directly 
to the Division of Policy and Directives Management (see ADDRESSES 
section below). Please note that we might not be able to address or 
incorporate information that we receive after the above requested date.

ADDRESSES: You may submit information by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Search for Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2012-0052, which 
is the docket number for this action. You may submit a comment by 
clicking on ``Comment Now!''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2012-0052; Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We will not accept email or faxes. We will post all information we 
receive on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we 
will post any personal information you provide us (see the Request for 
Information section below for more details).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patty Gelatt, Western Colorado 
Supervisor, Ecological Services, 764 Horizon Drive, Bldg. B, Grand 
Junction, CO 81506-3946; telephone (970) 243-

[[Page 52294]]

2778; fax (970) 245-6933. If you use a telecommunications device for 
the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Information Relay Service 
(FIRS) at (800) 877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Request for Information

    When we make a finding that a petition presents substantial 
information indicating that listing a species may be warranted, we are 
required to promptly review the status of the species (status review). 
For the status review to be complete and based on the best available 
scientific and commercial information, we request information on Rocky 
Mountain monkeyflower from governmental agencies, the scientific 
community, industry, and any other interested parties. We seek 
information on:
    (1) The species' biology, range, and population trends, including:
    (a) Habitat requirements;
    (b) Genetics and taxonomy;
    (c) Historical and current range, including distribution patterns;
    (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and 
projected trends; and
    (e) Past and ongoing conservation measures and programs for the 
species, its habitat, or both.
    (2) The factors that are the basis for making a listing 
determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.), which are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.
    If, after the status review, we determine that listing Rocky 
Mountain monkeyflower is warranted, we will propose critical habitat 
(see definition in section 3(5)(A) of the Act), in accordance with 
section 4 of the Act, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable at 
the time we propose to list the species. Therefore, we also request 
data and information on:
    (1) What may constitute ``physical or biological features essential 
to the conservation of the species'' within the geographical range 
currently occupied by the species;
    (2) Where these features are currently found;
    (3) Whether any of these features may require special management 
considerations or protection;
    (4) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the 
species that are ``essential for the conservation of the species''; and
    (5) What, if any, critical habitat you think we should propose for 
designation if the species is proposed for listing, and why such 
habitat meets the requirements of section 4 of the Act.
    Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as 
scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to 
verify any scientific or commercial information you include.
    Submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action 
under consideration without providing supporting information, although 
noted, will not be considered in making a determination. Section 
4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any 
species is an endangered or threatened species must be made ``solely on 
the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.''
    You may submit your information concerning this status review by 
one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. If you submit 
information via http://www.regulations.gov, your entire submission--
including any personal identifying information--will be posted on the 
Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes 
personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your 
document that we withhold this personal identifying information from 
public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do 
so. We will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov.
    Information and supporting documentation that we received and used 
in preparing this finding will be available for public inspection at 
http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment, during normal business 
hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Colorado 
Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Background

    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted. We are to base this finding on 
information provided in the petition, supporting information submitted 
with the petition, and information otherwise available in our files. To 
the maximum extent practicable, we are to make this finding within 90 
days of our receipt of the petition and publish our notice of the 
finding promptly in the Federal Register.
    Our standard for substantial scientific or commercial information 
within the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) with regard to a 90-day 
petition finding is ``that amount of information that would lead a 
reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition 
may be warranted'' (50 CFR 424.14(b)). If we find that substantial 
scientific or commercial information was presented, we are required to 
promptly commence a review of the status of the species, which is 
subsequently summarized in our 12-month finding.

Petition History

    On October 4, 2011, we received a petition dated September 30, 
2011, prepared by WildEarth Guardians (petitioner) requesting that 
Rocky Mountain monkeyflower be given immediate protection and listed as 
an endangered or threatened species under the Act and that we designate 
critical habitat for the species. The petition clearly identified 
itself as such and included the requisite identification information 
for the petitioners, as required at 50 CFR 424.14(a).
    In a December 20, 2011, letter to WildEarth Guardians, we responded 
that we reviewed the information presented in this and eight other 
petitions that we received in September and October of 2011 (Alt 2011, 
entire). We noted that these petitions will be considered submitted 
within Fiscal Year 2011 for purposes of accounting under our 
multidistrict litigation settlement and its petition cap provision, 
which limits the number of petitions that WildEarth Guardians may 
submit each fiscal year.
    We also noted that emergency listing of a species is not a 
petitionable action under the Administrative Procedure Act or the 
Endangered Species Act (Act); therefore, we treat requesting emergency 
listing solely as a petition to list a species under the Act. We stated 
in the letter to the petitioners that, while we had not made a decision 
on whether the petition presents substantial information that the 
petitioned actions may be warranted, we had looked at the immediacy of 
possible threats to the species to determine if emergency listing may 
be necessary at this time. Our initial review of the petition indicated 
that an emergency situation does not exist for this species. However, 
if at any time conditions change and we determine emergency listing is 
necessary, an emergency rule may be developed. We stated that we are 
currently required to complete a significant number of listing and 
critical

[[Page 52295]]

habitat actions by the end of Fiscal Year 2016 pursuant to court 
orders, judicially approved settlement agreements, and other statutory 
deadlines. We said we may conduct a review of this petition prior to 
that time should budget and workload permit. This finding addresses the 
petition.

Previous Federal Actions

    Rocky Mountain monkeyflower was included in the 1985 Review of 
Plant Taxa for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species (50 FR 
39526, September 27, 1985). In that document, we included the species 
as a Category 2 candidate, based on our evaluation at that time. 
Category 2 candidates were species for which the Service had 
information indicating that protection under the Act may be warranted 
but for which we lacked sufficient information on status and threats to 
determine if elevation to ``Category-1 candidate'' status was 
warranted. We published our decision to discontinue candidate 
categories and to restrict candidate status to those taxa for which we 
have sufficient information to support issuance of a proposed rule on 
December 5, 1996 (61 FR 64481). This decision resulted in the deletion 
of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower from the list of candidate taxa for 
listing.
    In 2009, we published a 90-day finding on 165 species from a 
petition to list 206 species, including Rocky Mountain monkeyflower (74 
FR 6122, February 5, 2009). We found that the petition did not present 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that 
listing Rocky Mountain monkeyflower may be warranted. The information 
we reviewed for the species described one or more threats for a general 
area, but did not link the threats to the species or the habitat 
occupied by the species. We were subsequently petitioned to list this 
species on October 4, 2011. This finding is in response to that 
petition.

Species Information

Species Description and Taxonomy
    Ruth Ashton Nelson discovered Rocky Mountain monkeyflower in 1950 
(Beatty et al. 2003, p. 13). The species was identified and described 
by William A. Weber (Weber 1972, pp. 423-425). Taxonomic classification 
of the genus Mimulus has been changed from the family Scrophulariaceae 
to the family Phrymaceae (Beardsley and Olmstead 2002, p. 1098; 
Olmstead 2002, pp. 16, 18, 21, 22). We consider Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower to be a valid species and, therefore, a listable entity 
under the Act (ITIS 2012, p. 1).
    Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is a small annual herb 1 to 10 
centimeters (cm) (0.4 to 4 inches (in.)) tall, weak, and somewhat 
fleshy (Weber 1972, p. 423), with a hairless, usually unbranched, stem. 
Leaves are opposite, entire, oval in shape, and hairless, and will grow 
to 10 millimeters (mm) (0.4 in.) long and 7 mm (0.3 in.) wide. Leaf 
stems are 2 to 3 mm (about 0.11 in.) long, with a small pocket at the 
base that contains a dormant embryonic shoot called a bulbil or gemma, 
which reproduces vegetatively (Spackman et al. 1999a; Spackman et al. 
1999b, p. 34; Moody et al., 1999, p. 1521). Rocky Mountain monkeyflower 
plants do not usually have flowers, but they can produce flowers and 
seeds in laboratory conditions (Beardsley 1997, p. 3). The solitary 
yellow flowers are about 5 mm (0.20 in.) long, with spreading petals 
and an open throat (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 14); they bloom in mid-July.
Life History
    The asexual gemmae of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower are dispersed 
when the parent plant dies, and are capable of overwintering in the 
soil and germinating the following spring. The flat, lens-shaped gemmae 
float down slope in seepage water and tend to collect in drifts in 
sites suitable for germination (Weber 1972, p. 3). Thus, the species 
behaves like an annual, but with asexually produced bulbils carrying 
out the function of seeds (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, p. 2). This 
particular method of reproduction and development is unique within the 
genus Mimulus, and probably unique within all flowering plants 
(Beardsley et al. 2004, p. 487; Moody et al. 1999, p. 1522).
Habitat
    Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is a montane to subalpine species that 
grows at elevations of 2,572 to 3,413 meters (m) (8,438 to 11,198 feet 
(ft)) (CNHP 2011b, p. 1). Plants grow primarily on substrates of 
granite with surface seepage water and on moist forest soils near 
seeps, waterfalls, and springs. Often they are protected by granite 
overhangs, on south- or west-facing aspects, and are associated with 
mosses and ferns (CNHP 2012, p. 2).
Distribution and Abundance
    Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is currently known from seven 
populations in five counties (Boulder, Clear Creek, Grand, Jefferson, 
and Larimer) along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. 
As noted in the petition, one additional population in Rocky Mountain 
National Park (RMNP) is no longer considered extant. The species' 
estimated range is 2,519 square kilometers (972 square miles) (CNHP 
2011a, p. 3). The total estimated occupied habitat is about 10.5 
hectares (ha) (26 acres (ac)) (CNHP 2011a, p. 3). Actual occupied area 
as measured on the ground during surveys within the documented 
populations is 168 square meters (sq m) (1,808 sq ft) (Steingraeber and 
Beardsley 2005, p. 22). Estimated total abundance is about 126,000 
plants (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, pp. 9, 22).

                                 Table 1--Summary of Currently Known Populations
                                  [Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, pp. 9, 22]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                 Area occupied in
                  Site name                    Estimated number    square meters             Management
                                                   of plants       (square feet)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
St. Vrain....................................            14,660          68 (732)  USFS
Hankins Gulch................................           102,000          13 (140)  USFS
Guanella Pass................................               600          10 (108)  USFS
Horseshoe Park...............................             3,200          38 (409)  RMNP
North Inlet..................................             4,400          25 (269)  RMNP
East Inlet...................................               800          13 (140)  RMNP
Staunton State Park..........................                73            1 (11)  CDNR
                                              ------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total....................................           125,733       168 (1,808)  .............................
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
CDNR = Colorado Department of Natural Resources.


[[Page 52296]]

Conservation Status
    NatureServe ranks Rocky Mountain monkeyflower as a ``G1'' species 
(critically imperiled globally and at very high risk of extinction) 
(NatureServe 2010, p. 1). The Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) 
ranks the species as ``S1'' (critically endangered throughout its range 
in Colorado) (CNHP 2011, p. 1). The USFS, Rocky Mountain Region (Region 
2) has designated Rocky Mountain monkeyflower as a sensitive species 
(Beatty et al. 2003, p. 3). USFS objectives for designated sensitive 
species are to develop and implement management practices to ensure 
that species do not become endangered or threatened species because of 
USFS actions (Wrigley et al. 2007, p. 3).

Evaluation of Information for This Finding

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR part 424 set forth the procedures for adding a 
species to, or removing a species from, the Federal Lists of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. A species may be determined to be 
an endangered or threatened species due to one or more of the five 
factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act:
    (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (C) Disease or predation;
    (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.
    In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look 
beyond the mere exposure of the species to the factor to determine 
whether the species responds to the factor in a way that causes actual 
impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a factor, but no 
response, or only a positive response, that factor is not a threat. If 
there is exposure and the species responds negatively, the factor may 
be a threat and we then attempt to determine how significant a threat 
it is. If the threat is significant, it may drive or contribute to the 
risk of extinction of the species such that the species may meet the 
definition of endangered or threatened under the Act. This does not 
necessarily require empirical proof of a threat. The combination of 
exposure and some corroborating evidence of how the species is likely 
impacted could suffice. The mere identification of factors that could 
impact the species negatively may not be sufficient to compel a 
substantial finding. The information must contain evidence sufficient 
to suggest that these factors may be operative threats that act on the 
species to the point that the species may meet the definition of an 
endangered or threatened species under the Act.
    In making this 90-day finding, we evaluated whether information 
regarding threats to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower, as presented in the 
petition and other information available in our files, is substantial, 
thereby indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. Our 
evaluation of this information is presented below.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

Recreation, Trails, and Roads
Information Provided in the Petition
    The petitioner states that recreational activities are the primary 
threats to the habitat for Rocky Mountain monkeyflower (CNHP 2011a, p. 
3). Nearly all known locations are near trails and roads subject to 
impacts from hikers, people fishing, horses, dogs, off-road vehicles 
(except in wilderness locations), or road and trail maintenance 
activity (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 3). Habitat for the plants also 
provides good camping and shelter areas, given their proximity to 
trails, water, and protective overhangs. Resulting impacts include 
crushed plants, disturbed soil, and diversion of water away from the 
plants, as well as introduction of weedy species that compete with 
Rocky Mountain monkeyflower (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 3). A hiking trail 
bisects one population in RMNP (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 28). The 
location in Hankins Gulch is about 2 m (6 ft) from a trail, where 
observers saw clusters of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower trampled by 
human, dog, and horse footprints (Beardsley 1997, p. 221). One of the 
other locations in RMNP is used as a latrine and rest stop by hikers 
(Beatty et al. 2003, p. 28). The waterfall area where Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower occurs in Staunton State Park will likely be a popular 
destination for visitors when the park opens to the public (Beatty et 
al. 2003, p. 28). The park opening is expected before the end of 2012. 
Road improvement and construction activities at Guanella Pass could 
change the amount of water available to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower at 
that location (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 12; CFLHD 2009, entire).
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    Information cited in the petition and available in our files is 
consistent with the petitioners' assertions that recreational 
activities have caused documented impacts to the habitat for Rocky 
Mountain monkeyflower as well as to the plants (CNHP 2011a, p. 3). At 
least 54 percent of the known occupied habitat for the species, which 
supports about 88 percent of the documented plants, is highly 
vulnerable to trampling of plants and the moist soils they grow on 
(Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, pp. 9, 22). The trail through the 
large Hankins Gulch population, where observers saw clusters of Rocky 
Mountain monkeyflower trampled by human, dog, and horse footprints 
(Beardsley 1997, p. 221), was rerouted to the other side of the creek 
in 2011, to protect the plants (Olson in Anderson et al. 2011, p. 19). 
Information on the current status of this population is not in our 
files. Plant surveyors have found new locations that were inaccessible 
by trail, but they have been unsuccessful at detecting the plant at 
similar remote sites. Four areas of additional suitable habitat have 
been identified but not surveyed (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, p. 
8). All four are near known locations and within the known range of the 
species. We will use all information available at the time we conduct 
our status review to determine the total percent of suitable habitat 
that may be subject to impacts by recreational use.
    Information in our files shows that inadvertent trampling due to 
off[hyphen]trail hiking, rock climbing, and scrambling is likely to 
impact this species in Staunton State Park, because the species is 
found in areas that are attractive to visitors (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 
29). A 2007 survey report noted that ``a park visitor could easily stop 
for a break near the waterfall and unknowingly eliminate nearly the 
entire population by settling down in the wrong area'' (Colorado State 
Parks 2010, p. 5). However, because the park is not yet open to public 
use, we do not have substantial scientific or commercial information in 
our files, nor was any provided by the petitioners, indicating that 
trampling by recreational users is a threat to the Staunton State Park 
population of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. We will analyze this 
potential threat in more detail in our status review for the species.
    Although we do not have substantial information that trampling may 
be a threat to the Rocky Mountain monkeyflower in Staunton State park, 
this population comprises only a small

[[Page 52297]]

portion of the species' total known numbers. The majority (88 percent) 
of documented plants and 54 percent of the known occupied habitat are 
in areas near roads and trails commonly used for hiking and other 
recreational and maintenance activities, where the plants are 
considered highly vulnerable to trampling. Additionally, Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower is a small, fragile, and inconspicuous plant that is 
highly susceptible to inadvertent trampling and is unlikely to 
withstand such impacts. Therefore, we find there is substantial 
information overall to indicate that trampling by recreational users 
may pose a threat to the species.
Human Population Growth
Information Provided in the Petition
    The petitioners point out that all Rocky Mountain monkeyflower 
locations are close to large human populations that have grown 
significantly over the last several decades along the Colorado Front 
Range Urban Corridor, and are projected to increase another 26.5 
percent by 2025 (State Demography Office 2011, entire). This increased 
population may have significant impacts on Rocky Mountain monkeyflower 
locations due to increased recreational use of public lands.
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    References cited by the petitioners support their assertion that 
recent and projected population growth within day-trip distance of 
Rocky Mountain monkeyflower habitat is likely to occur. Although it is 
likely that an increasing human population will result in an increase 
in visitor use of the surrounding areas, and that heavier use of the 
trails where the species is located would increase the likelihood of 
plant damage and habitat disturbance, we have no substantial 
information to show that this may pose a threat to the species at this 
time. We will analyze this potential threat in more detail in our 
status review for the species.
Livestock and Herbivore Grazing
Information Provided in the Petition
    The petitioners state that Rocky Mountain monkeyflower plants may 
be trampled and their habitat degraded by excessively large herds of 
elk (Cervus elaphus) in RMNP that are overutilizing willow (Salix spp.) 
thickets and aspen (Populus tremuloides) stands that provide habitat 
for Rocky Mountain monkeyflower (RMNP 2009, entire).
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    References cited by the petitioners support their assertion that 
large elk herds are degrading willow and aspen stands near Rocky 
Mountain monkeyflower habitat. However, available information does not 
show substantial evidence of direct impacts by elk on the seeps and 
stream habitat where Rocky Mountain monkeyflower occurs (Beatty et al. 
2003, pp. 26-27). Therefore, we find that there is not substantial 
information to indicate that livestock and herbivore grazing may pose a 
threat to the species. We will evaluate this factor more thoroughly 
during our status review.
Changes in Natural Regimes
Information Provided in the Petition
    The petitioners list wildfires, drought, rockfalls, flash floods, 
global warming, erosion, blow-downs, and timber harvests as impacts 
that can alter the hydrology, topography, soils, or shading of Rocky 
Mountain monkeyflower habitat (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 28). They cite a 
report of areas intensely burned by wildfire that were observed within 
9 to 12 m (30 to 40 ft) of the Rocky Mountain monkeyflower population 
at Hankins Gulch in 2003 (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, p. 9). While 
the riparian location of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower protected it from 
direct fire impacts, ecology of the site was reportedly altered in its 
hydrology and vegetation, as were possibly soils, water runoff, 
erosion, and deposition of biotic mass (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 28).
    According to the petitioner, loss of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower 
habitat has been documented in RMNP (2007b, p. 3). There has been a 69 
percent reduction in surface water, as well as lowered water tables, 
attributed to the loss of beaver (Castor canadensis), which has led to 
a significant decline in montane riparian willows (RMNP 2007b, p. 3). 
Like willows, the riparian habitat occupied by Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower is more dependent on groundwater from streams and snowmelt 
than from rainfall. The petitioners say it is reasonable to conclude 
that the same factors responsible for declining willow populations may 
impact Rocky Mountain monkeyflower.
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    Information cited in the petition and available in our files is 
consistent with the petitioners' description of impacts to Rocky 
Mountain monkeyflower habitat due to natural events. An intense 
wildfire and subsequent drying of soil and erosion by water runoff 
occurred at the largest known population of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower 
(Hankins Gulch) in 2002 (Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, p. 9). The 
petitioner's descriptions of lowered water tables and reduced surface 
water in RMNP are based on reports from the park (RMNP 2007b, p. 3). 
The conclusion that Rocky Mountain monkeyflower populations will 
decline from lack of groundwater in the same way that willows have is 
reasonable. However, we have no information in our files to show that 
reduced groundwater for willow and aspen habitat due to lack of beaver 
ponds is affecting the seeps and drainages on shaded slopes that 
support Rocky Mountain monkeyflower habitat. Therefore, we find that 
there is not substantial information to indicate that changes in 
natural regimes may pose a threat to the species. We will evaluate this 
factor more thoroughly during our status review.
Climate Change
Information Provided in the Petition
    The petitioner states that the western United States will likely 
suffer a decrease in water resources due to climate change, which will 
affect montane and subalpine ecosystems in RMNP and across Colorado. In 
support of this assertion, they cite conclusions from the 
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2007, p. 52) and RMNP 
(2007a, p. 6). The IPCC projected that warming in western mountains 
will cause decreased snowpack and reduced summer flows (IPCC 2007, p. 
52). RMNP postulates that the subalpine ecosystem will change due to 
dramatic disturbances, such as fire and insects, and from more gradual 
processes, such as warming temperatures (RMNP 2007a, p. 13). Regional 
changes in precipitation play a major role in large-scale fires in 
subalpine forests, which take place during extreme regional drought 
conditions. Increased numbers or intensities of fires could have a 
damaging impact on Rocky Mountain monkeyflower, easily destroying 
entire populations. Tree community composition will likely shift within 
the subalpine zone. For instance, north-facing hillsides may no longer 
be moist enough to support Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir) 
regeneration (RMNP 2007a, p. 13), or Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. 
``Mountain ecosystems such as those found in RMNP could shift upslope, 
reducing habitat for many subalpine species.

[[Page 52298]]

Changes in rainfall and snowfall could alter streamflows and affect 
wetlands and wildlife'' (Environmental Protection Agency 1997, p. 4). 
The petitioners assert that, as a montane and subalpine plant that 
depends on seeps and streams for survival, reproduction, and dispersal, 
Rocky Mountain monkeyflower will likely be adversely affected by 
reductions in stream flows and decreases in habitat acreage.
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    Our analyses under the Act include consideration of ongoing and 
projected changes in climate. The terms ``climate'' and ``climate 
change'' are defined by the IPCC. ``Climate'' refers to the mean and 
variability of different types of weather conditions over time, with 30 
years being a typical period for such measurements, although shorter or 
longer periods also may be used (IPCC 2007, p. 78). The term ``climate 
change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or variability of one or 
more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or precipitation) that 
persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer, whether 
the change is due to natural variability, human activity, or both (IPCC 
2007, p. 78). Various types of changes in climate can have direct or 
indirect effects on species. These effects may be positive, neutral, or 
negative, and they may change over time, depending on the species and 
other relevant considerations, such as the effects of interactions of 
climate with other variables (e.g., habitat fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, 
pp. 8-14, 18-19). In our analyses, we use our expert judgment to weigh 
relevant information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of 
various aspects of climate change.
    Sources cited by the petitioners and in our files support their 
assertion that climate change is occurring and likely to continue to 
occur within Rocky Mountain monkeyflower habitat. However, the petition 
did not present information on the species' likely response to these 
changes. The response of species to climate change can be extremely 
complex, and we have no information in our files on the actual or 
likely response of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. We think it possible 
that, as a montane and subalpine plant that disperses generally by 
gemmae floating downstream, Rocky Mountain monkeyflower will likely be 
adversely affected by decreases in range and upward shifts in its 
suitable habitat. Because Rocky Mountain monkeyflower depends on a 
constant source of moisture for survival, reproduction, and dispersal, 
reduction in stream flows may affect its survival. Because the climate 
is expected to become warmer and drier, habitat for Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower may diminish, and fire danger will likely increase. High 
fire risk is more than a theoretical threat for this species, because 
two major fires have occurred within the past 4 years in and near two 
of the populations. Overall, the information regarding the species' 
response to climate change appears speculative in nature, and therefore 
we find that there is not substantial information to indicate that the 
effects of climate change may pose a threat to Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower. However, we will analyze this potential threat in more 
detail during our status review of the species.
Summary of Factor A
    Information provided in the petition, as well as available 
information in our files, presents substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that trampling by recreational users may pose a 
threat to the Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. Habitat alteration and 
destruction of plants due to trampling may pose a threat to at least 54 
percent of the known occupied habitat for the species, supporting about 
88 percent of the documented plants, which are located near roads or 
trails used for recreational and maintenance activities. The biology of 
Rocky Mountain monkeyflower as a small, fragile, and inconspicuous 
plant makes it highly susceptible to inadvertent trampling and means 
that the plant is unlikely to withstand such impacts. Therefore, the 
petition and information in our files presents substantial scientific 
or commercial information indicating that the present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range may 
be a threat to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Neither the petition nor information within our files presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes may present a threat to Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower.

C. Disease or Predation

    Neither the petition nor information within our files presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that 
disease or predation may present a threat to Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

Information Provided in the Petition
    The petitioners state that current regulatory mechanisms are 
inadequate to protect the documented populations of Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower. Habitat for the known populations is managed by RMNP, 
USFS, and CDNR. The petitioners claim that the efforts by these 
agencies to balance conflicting interests with conservation and 
survival of sensitive species threatens Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. 
Populations in the RMNP are protected under National Park Service (NPS) 
guidelines in general, which prohibit the collection of any native 
plants without a permit, but RMNP also provides recreational 
opportunities that negatively affect Rocky Mountain monkeyflower 
(Steingraeber and Beardsley 2005, p. 10). A hiking trail bisects one 
population in the park, and another location is used as a latrine and 
rest stop by hikers (Beatty et al. 2003, p. 28).
    The petitioners point out that Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is 
designated as a USFS Region 2 sensitive species. As such, the species 
may obtain some protection under various conservation strategies 
designed to protect plants and animals within Federal lands. USFS 
policies require a biological evaluation to assess project impacts to 
sensitive species and prohibit collection of sensitive plants without a 
permit. On the other hand, the USFS has a statutory, multiple-use 
mandate governing its land management activities. Some authorized 
activities on USFS lands, such as timber harvesting, cattle grazing, 
and recreational uses, may affect Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. The 
petitioners assert that balancing these other interests with the 
species' survival threatens Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. The 
petitioners assert that populations in wilderness areas within the 
forest are still threatened by recreational activities. As an example, 
they cite information concerning the population at Hankins Gulch (in 
Lost Creek Wilderness Area) about 2 m (6 ft) from a trail, where 
observers saw clusters of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower trampled by 
human, dog, and horse footprints (Beardsley 1997, p. 221). The 
petitioners say that this trail was expected to be rerouted in 2011 to 
avoid damage to the plant (USFS 2011, p. 1), and also that Staunton 
State Park managers were expected to consider Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower in their

[[Page 52299]]

land use plans (Beatty 2003, p. 12), but they do not mention whether 
these actions have been implemented.
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    Information cited in the petition and available in our files is not 
sufficient to support the claim that existing regulations for 
management of designated sensitive plant species on RMNP- and USFS-
managed lands may be inadequate to protect Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. 
Adequacy of the management plan for Staunton State Park cannot be 
considered because it consists of ``non[hyphen]regulatory protective 
designations that are intended to promote the conservation of sensitive 
resources through voluntary measures and proactive partnerships'' 
(Colorado State Parks 2010, Appendix A. p. 2). Voluntary measures in 
the Staunton State Park management plan have yet to be implemented, and 
the new park is not yet open to the public.
    The NPS Organic Act of 1916 (16 U.S.C. 1 et seq.), as amended, 
states that the NPS ``shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal 
areas known as national parks, * * * to conserve the scenery and the 
national and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide 
for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will 
leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.'' To 
meet these obligations, ``the National Park Service will inventory, 
monitor, and manage state and locally listed species in a manner 
similar to its treatment of federally listed species to the greatest 
extent possible. In addition, the [Park] Service will inventory other 
native species that are of special management concern to parks (such as 
rare, declining, sensitive, or unique species and their habitats) and 
will manage them to maintain their natural distribution and abundance'' 
(San Miguel 2011, p. 5). We do not have information readily available 
in our files to indicate that RMNP has a management plan specific to 
Rocky Mountain monkeyflower, or whether any protective measures have 
been taken to restrict hikers from trampling plants and habitat along 
the trails, or digging latrines in the soft soil where the plants grow. 
Steingraeber and Beardsley (2005, p. 10) reported that RMNP had not 
rerouted trails or monitored impacts to Rocky Mountain monkeyflower 
populations. We have no recent information in our files to show whether 
the Organic Act regulations are adequate to protect Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower from the threat of trampling by hikers in RMNP.
    The National Forest Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1600 et seq.) directs 
the USFS, as part of the land use planning process, to manage for 
protection of scientific values and protect wildlife habitat. The USFS 
Sensitive Species Management directive states that sensitive species of 
native plants and animals must receive special management emphasis to 
ensure their viability and to preclude trends toward endangerment that 
would result in the need for Federal listing (USFS 2002, p. 1). On USFS 
land, the trail at Hankins Gulch was rerouted in 2011 to avoid the 
plant population (Anderson et al. 2011, p. 19). Although we do not yet 
have monitoring results to show whether implementation of the 
regulations has reduced impacts to the largest population, we estimate 
that this is a positive step and should ameliorate the impacts to this 
population from recreational use on USFS lands.
    CDNR--Colorado State Parks has completed the Staunton State Park 
Master Plan, which includes recommendations for protecting two rare and 
unique plant species: Telesonix jamesii (James' telesonix) and Rocky 
Mountain monkeyflower. The greatest threat to these species in the park 
is from inadvertent trampling due to off[hyphen]trail hiking and rock 
climbing and scrambling, as both species grow in areas that are 
attractive to visitors. Surveys for these two species were conducted in 
2007. The plan contains the following recommendations to minimize human 
activity in habitat areas that are known to support these species: 
protect known Rocky Mountain monkeyflower locations as well as high-
priority introduction sites; carefully plan trails and climbing access 
in known or potential habitat areas to minimize the potential for 
trampling or other impacts; survey climbing areas before they are open 
to the public; and provide interpretive opportunities at the Visitor's 
Center, including experimental introduction efforts. These 
recommendations are nonregulatory and, as such, are intended to promote 
the conservation of sensitive resources through voluntary measures and 
proactive partnerships (Colorado State Parks 2010, Appendix A. pp. 4-
5). Therefore, we are not considering the adequacy of the plan as a 
regulatory mechanism.
    Projects conducted within the species' range may be subject to the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.). All Federal agencies are required to adhere to NEPA for projects 
they fund, authorize, or carry out. The Council on Environmental 
Quality's regulations for implementing NEPA (40 CFR parts 1500-1518) 
state that agencies shall include a discussion on the environmental 
impacts of the various project alternatives, any adverse environmental 
effects which cannot be avoided, and any irreversible or irretrievable 
commitments of resources involved (40 CFR part 1502). NEPA is a 
disclosure law that does not require subsequent minimization or 
mitigation measures by the Federal agency involved.
Summary of Factor D
    Based on the information provided in the petition, as well as other 
information available in our files, we find that there is no 
substantial scientific or commercial information to indicate that the 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms may be a threat to Rocky 
Mountain monkeyflower. RMNP has nearly 7 percent of the entire known 
population of the species on 45 percent of the occupied habitat, and 
impacts to plants and habitat have been observed, but aside from the 
2005 survey reports, we have no available information in our files or 
from the petitioners to indicate whether RMNP is implementing their 
directives to protect the species. The USFS has about 93 percent of the 
plants on 54 percent of the occupied habitat. About 81 percent of these 
plants are on the site that has been heavily trampled by hikers and 
exposed to drying after a large wildfire. Use of a newly built trail is 
expected to avoid further hiking impacts, although monitoring results 
are not yet available.
    Given the level of information we have at this 90-day finding 
stage, it is unclear whether these Federal laws and regulations are 
adequate as they pertain to addressing the threats to the habitat of 
Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. We lack information regarding the 
implementation of existing regulatory mechanisms, and there is 
uncertainty about the efficacy of new protective measures and plans. We 
will contact RMNP and other agencies during the status review process 
to gather information to determine how and to what extent the existing 
regulations provide protection.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

Biological Vulnerability and Small Population Size
Information Provided in the Petition
    The petitioners assert that Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is 
especially vulnerable to extinction due to its

[[Page 52300]]

unique asexual reproductive strategy, which does not produce seeds or a 
seed bank to maintain populations during dry years. Plants produce a 
small propagation tool (the gemma) inside the stalk of each leaf, which 
separates at the end of each season and seems to die, but then 
regerminates from the ground in the spring. Because of the limited 
reproductive ability of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower, the petitioners 
assert that loss of any individuals could undermine the survival of the 
species.
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    The Service does not consider rarity in and of itself to be a 
threat. Some species, such as Rocky Mountain monkeyflower, have existed 
in low numbers throughout their history. However, we recognize that 
limited reproduction, small population size, and restricted range can 
increase the species' vulnerability to extinction in the presence of 
threats or other stressors. Another vulnerability is the stature of the 
plants. Being small, fragile annuals that seldom produce flowers to 
advertise their presence, Rocky Mountain monkeyflower plants are easily 
overlooked and crushed underfoot and are, therefore, vulnerable to 
trampling, which is the primary threat to the species. The crushed 
plants cannot produce gemmae for reproduction, which reduces the size 
of the population the following year. Due to their fragile and 
inconspicuous nature, uniquely limited reproduction, small population 
size, and limited range, all populations of Rocky Mountain monkeyflower 
may be vulnerable to local extirpation from seemingly insignificant 
disturbances.
Cumulative Threats
Information Provided in the Petition
    The petitioners assert that any of the above-mentioned threats 
working in tandem could lead to the extinction of Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower. For example, they assert that habitat loss and 
degradation due to impacts from human recreation is exacerbated by the 
threats of increased temperatures and more extreme weather caused by 
climate change, which may impact the plant's reproductive success. They 
state that Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is already at risk due to its 
small population size and, thus, could easily be at risk from 
cumulative impacts of other threats.
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    Information cited in the petition and available in our files is 
consistent with the petitioners' assertions that the vulnerability of 
small populations with limited range may be increased when threats are 
present. Warming, drying weather trends due to changing climate in the 
Rocky Mountains decreases the water available to support the moist 
habitat conditions essential for the Rocky Mountain monkeyflower's 
survival. The same warmer, drier weather increases the frequency of 
wildfire, which, in one such wildfire incident, has increased the 
exposure of the largest plant population to more drying. Drier 
conditions reduce the numbers and growth of these annual plants. 
Trampling by hikers further reduces the numbers of individuals 
available for continued reproduction.
Summary for Factor E
    We find that the information provided in the petition, as well as 
other information available in our files, presents substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that other natural or 
manmade factors affecting the continued existence of Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower may be a threat. Its unique asexual reproduction, annual 
life history, small population size, specialized habitat needs, 
reliance on surface water and moist soils, and discontinuous 
distribution all make the species vulnerable to increasingly drier 
habitat conditions, wildfires, and trampling by hikers.

Finding

    On the basis of our determination under section 4(b)(3)(A) of the 
Act, we find that the petition presents substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that listing Rocky Mountain 
monkeyflower throughout its entire range may be warranted. Given the 
rarity of this species, its specific life-history traits that increase 
vulnerability to extinction in the presence of other stressors, and 
potential impacts to the existing populations from trampling, the 
petition and our files contain substantial information that Rocky 
Mountain monkeyflower may be threatened by at least two of the five 
listing factors: present and threatened destruction, modification, and 
curtailment of its habitat and range, and other natural or manmade 
factors affecting its continued existence.
    This finding is based on information provided under Factors A and 
E. We determine that the information provided under Factors B and C is 
not substantial. The information on Factor D is unclear; we will 
further analyze this issue in our status review.
    Because we have found that the petition presents substantial 
information indicating that listing Rocky Mountain monkeyflower may be 
warranted, we will initiate a status review to determine whether 
listing Rocky Mountain monkeyflower under the Act is warranted.
    The ``substantial information'' standard for a 90-day finding 
differs from the Act's ``best scientific and commercial data'' standard 
that applies to a status review to determine whether a petitioned 
action is warranted. A 90-day finding does not constitute a status 
review under the Act. In a 12-month finding, we will determine whether 
a petitioned action is warranted after we have completed a thorough 
status review of the species, which is conducted following a 
substantial 90-day finding. Because the Act's standards for 90-day and 
12-month findings are different, as described above, a substantial 90-
day finding does not mean that the 12-month finding will result in a 
warranted finding.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available on the Internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Western Colorado 
Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Authors

    The primary authors of this notice are the staff members of the 
Western Colorado Ecological Services Field Office.

Authority

    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: August 17, 2012.
Benjamin N. Tuggle,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-21244 Filed 8-28-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P