Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Endangered Species Status for Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly, 57749-57775 [2013-22702]

Download as PDF Vol. 78 Thursday, No. 182 September 19, 2013 Part III Department of the Interior tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Endangered Species Status for Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly; Final Rule VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 PO 00000 Frm 00001 Fmt 4717 Sfmt 4717 E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 57750 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2012–0069; MO 92210–0–0008 B2] RIN 1018–AY52 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Endangered Species Status for Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), determine endangered species status under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Plebejus shasta charlestonensis), a butterfly subspecies from the Spring Mountains, Clark County, Nevada. The effect of this regulation will be to add this subspecies to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Based on information gathered from peer reviewers and the public during the comment period, we have determined that it is prudent to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Therefore, we will publish in a separate Federal Register notice, our proposed designation of critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. DATES: This rule is effective October 21, 2013. ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the Internet at http:// www.regulations.gov and http:// www.fws.gov/nevada. Comments and materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in the preparation of this rule, are available for public inspection at http:// www.regulations.gov. All of the comments, materials, and documentation that we considered in this rulemaking are available, by appointment, during normal business hours at: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nevada Ecological Services Office, 1340 Financial Boulevard, Suite 234, Reno, NV 89502–7147; (775) 861–6300 [phone]; (775) 861–6301 [facsimile]. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Edward D. Koch, Field Supervisor, Nevada Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES). If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 Executive Summary This document consists of a final rule to list the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Plebejus shasta charlestonensis) (formerly in genus Icaricia) as an endangered species. Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Act, a species may warrant protection through listing if it is endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Listing a species as an endangered or threatened species can only be completed by issuing a rule. If a species is determined to be an endangered or threatened species throughout all or a significant portion of its range, we are required to promptly publish a proposal in the Federal Register and make a determination on our proposal within 1 year. Critical habitat shall be designated, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, for any species determined to be an endangered or threatened species under the Act. We will propose to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly under the Act in a separate Federal Register notice. This rule will finalize the endangered status for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Based on information gathered from peer reviewers and the public during the comment period, we have determined that it is prudent to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Therefore, in a separate Federal Register notice, we will propose to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. We are not finalizing the threatened status for the lupine blue butterfly (Plebejus lupini texanus), Reakirt’s blue butterfly (Echinargus isola), Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly (Plebejus icarioides austinorum), and two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies (Euphilotes ancilla cryptica and Euphilotes ancilla purpura) based on similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly under section 4(e) of the Act. The basis for our action. Under the Act, we can determine that a species is an endangered or threatened species based on any of five factors: (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. We have determined that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is endangered due to four of these five factors (A, B, PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 D, and E), as discussed below. Threats facing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly increase the risk of extinction of the subspecies, given its few occurrences in a small area. The loss and degradation of habitat due to changes in natural fire regimes and succession, the implementation of recreational development projects and fuels reduction projects, and the increases in nonnative plants (see Factor A discussion) will increase the inherent risk of extinction of the remaining few occurrences of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Unpermitted and unlawful collection is a threat to the subspecies due to the small number of discrete populations, overall small metapopulation size, close proximity to roads and trails, and restricted range (Factor B). These threats are likely to be exacerbated by the impact of climate change, which is anticipated to increase drought and extreme precipitation events (see Factor E). The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is currently in danger of extinction because only small populations are known to occupy only 3 of the 17 historical locations, it may become extirpated in the near future at 7 other locations presumed to be occupied, and the threats are ongoing and persistent at all known and presumed-occupied locations. We have determined that listing the lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt’s blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, and two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies based on similarity of appearance is no longer advisable and unnecessary because the threat of inadvertent collection and misidentification of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly will be reduced by a closure order issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (Forest Service). The application processes for Service and Forest Service collection permits associated with the closure order require thorough review of applicant qualifications by agency personnel, and we believe only highly qualified individuals capable of distinguishing between small, blue butterfly species that occur in the Spring Mountains will be issued permits. As a result, we do not anticipate that individuals with permits will misidentify the butterfly species, and therefore, we do not believe inadvertent collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly by authorized individuals will occur. In addition, any collection without permits would be in violation of the closure order and subject to law enforcement action so any purposeful, unlawful collection should also be reduced. E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations Peer reviewers commented that designating critical habitat would not increase the threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly from collection because those individuals interested in collecting Mount Charleston blue butterflies would be able to obtain occurrence locations from other sources, such as the Internet. Based on these comments, we have determined that designation of critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is prudent. Therefore, elsewhere in a separate Federal Register notice, we will propose to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Peer review and public comment. We sought comments from knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise to ensure that our designation is based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We invited these peer reviewers to comment on our listing proposal. We also considered all comments and information we received during the comment period. We received five peer review responses. These peer reviewers generally concurred with listing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. We also received 10 comments from the general public, including one from a Federal agency. All responses provided additional information, clarifications, and suggestions to improve this final listing determination. Background tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Previous Federal Actions On September 27, 2012, we published a proposed rule (77 FR 59518) to list the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as endangered, and the lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt’s blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, and two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies as threatened due to similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Please refer to that proposed rule for a synopsis of previous Federal actions concerning the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. A 60day comment period following publication of the proposed rule closed on November 26, 2012. Species Information It is our intent to discuss below only those topics directly relevant to the listing of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as an endangered species in this final rule. Taxonomy and Subspecies Description The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is a distinct subspecies of the wider VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 ranging Shasta blue butterfly (Plebejus shasta), which is a member of the Lycaenidae family. Currently, seven subspecies of Shasta blue butterflies are recognized: P. s. shasta, P. s. calchas, P. s. pallidissima, P. s. minnehaha, P. s. charlestonensis, P. s. pitkinensis, and P. s. platazul (Pelham 2008, pp. 25–26, 379–380). The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is known only to occur in the high elevations of the Spring Mountains, located approximately 25 miles (mi) (40 kilometers (km)) west of Las Vegas in Clark County, Nevada (Austin 1980, p. 20; Scott 1986, p. 410). The first mention of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as a unique taxon was in 1928 by Garth (p. 93), who recognized it as distinct from the species Shasta blue butterfly (Austin 1980, p. 20). Howe (in 1975, Plate 59) described specimens from the Spring Mountains as the P. s. shasta form comstocki. However, in 1976, Ferris (p. 14) placed the Mount Charleston blue butterfly with the wider ranging Minnehaha blue subspecies. Finally, Austin asserted that Ferris had not included specimens from the Sierra Nevada Mountains of extreme western Nevada in his study, and in light of the geographic isolation and distinctiveness of the Shasta blue butterfly population in the Spring Mountains and the presence of at least three other welldefined races (subspecies) of butterflies endemic to the area, it was appropriate to name this population as a subspecies, P. s. charlestonensis (Austin 1980, p. 20). Our use of the genus name Plebejus, rather than the synonym Icaricia, reflects recent treatments of butterfly taxonomy (Opler and Warren 2003, p. 30; Pelham 2008, p. 265). The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) recognizes the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as a valid subspecies based on Austin (1980) (Retrieved May 1, 2013, from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System online database, http://www.itis.gov). The ITIS is hosted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Center for Biological Informatics (CBI) and is the result of a partnership of Federal agencies formed to satisfy their mutual needs for scientifically credible taxonomic information. As a subspecies, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is similar to other Shasta blue butterflies, with a wingspan of 0.75 to 1 inch (in) (19 to 26 millimeters (mm)) (Opler 1999, p. 251). The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is sexually dimorphic; males and females occur in two distinct forms. The upper side of males is dark to dull iridescent PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 57751 blue, and females are brown with some blue basally (Opler 1999, p. 251). The subspecies has a row of submarginal black spots on the dorsal side of the hind wing and a discal black spot on the dorsal side of the forewing and hind wing, which when viewed up close distinguishes it from other small, blue butterflies occurring in the Spring Mountains (Austin 1980, pp. 20, 23; Boyd and Austin 1999, p. 44). The underside of the wings is gray, with a pattern of black spots, brown blotches, and pale wing veins, giving it a mottled appearance (Opler 1999, p. 251). The underside of the hind wing has an inconspicuous band of submarginal metallic spots (Opler 1999, p. 251). Based on morphology, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is most closely related to the Great Basin populations of the Minnehaha blue butterfly (Austin 1980, p. 23), and it can be distinguished from other Shasta blue butterfly subspecies by the presence of a clearer, sharper, and blacker post-median spot row on the underside of the hind wing (Austin 1980, p. 23; Scott 1986, p. 410). Distribution Based on current and historical occurrences or locations (Austin 1980, pp. 20–24; Weiss et al. 1997, Map 3.1; Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 4; Pinyon 2011, Figure 9–11; Thompson et al. 2012, pp. 75–85), the geographic range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is in the upper elevations of the Spring Mountains, centered on lands managed by the Forest Service in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (SMNRA) of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest within Upper Kyle and Lee Canyons, Clark County, Nevada. The majority of the occurrences or locations are along the upper ridges in the Mount Charleston Wilderness and in the Upper Lee Canyon area, while a few are in Upper Kyle Canyon. Table 1 lists the various locations of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly that constitute the subspecies’ current and historical range. Estimates of population size for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly are not available. Although surveys have varied in methodology, effort, frequency, time of year conducted, and sites visited, the occurrence data summarized in Table 1 represent the best scientific information on the distribution of Mount Charleston blue butterfly and how that distribution has changed over time. E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 57752 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations TABLE 1—LOCATIONS WHERE THE MOUNT CHARLESTON BLUE BUTTERFLY HAS BEEN DETECTED SINCE 1928, AND THE STATUS OF THE BUTTERFLY AT THOSE LOCATIONS Most recent survey year(s) (y = detected, n = not detected) First/last time detected 1. South Loop Trail, Upper Kyle Canyon Weiss et al. 1997. 1928/2012 ... 2007 (y), 2008 (n), 2010 (y), 2011 (y), 2012 (y). Known occupied; adults consistently observed. 2. Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort (LVSSR), Upper Lee Canyon. 1963/2012 ... 2007 (n), 2008 (n), 2010 (y), 2011 (n), 2012 (y). Known occupied; adults consistently observed. 3. Foxtail, Upper Lee Canyon ................. 1995/1998 ... 2006 (n), 2007 (n), Presumed occupied; adults 2008 (n), 2012 (n). observed less than 20 years ago. 4. Youth Camp, Upper Lee Canyon ........ 1995/1995 ... 2006 (n), 2007 (n), Presumed occupied; adults 2008 (n), 2012 (n). observed less than 20 years ago. 5. Gary Abbott, Upper Lee Canyon ........ 1995/1995 ... 2006 (n), 2007 (n), Presumed occupied; adults 2008 (n), 2012 (n). observed less than 20 years ago. 6. Lower LVSSR Parking, Upper Lee Canyon. 1995/2002 ... 2007 (n), 2008 (n), 2012 (n). Presumed occupied; adults observed less than 20 years ago. 7. Mummy Spring, Upper Kyle Canyon .. 1995/1995 ... 2006 (n), 2012 (n) .. 8. Lee Meadows, Upper Lee Canyon ..... 1965/1965 ... 2006 (n), 2007 (n), 2008 (n), 2012 2 (n). Presumed occupied; adults observed less than 20 years ago. Presumed extirpated .............. 9. Bristlecone Trail ................................... 1990/1995 ... 2007 (n), 2011 (n), 2012 (n). 10. Bonanza Trail .................................... 1995/2012 ... 2006 (n), 2007 (n), Known occupied; adults con2011 (y), 2012 (y). sistently observed. 11. Upper Lee Canyon holotype ............. 1963/1976 ... 2006 (n), 2007 (n), 2012 1 (n). Presumed extirpated .............. 12. Cathedral Rock, Kyle Canyon ........... 1972/1972 ... 2007 (n), 2012 1 (n) Presumed extirpated .............. 13. Upper Kyle Canyon Ski Area ............ 1965/1972 ... 1995 (n), 2012 1 (n) Presumed extirpated .............. 14. Old Town, Kyle Canyon .................... 1970s/1970s 1995 (n), 2012 1 (n) Presumed extirpated .............. 15. Deer Creek, Kyle Canyon ................. 1950/1950 ... Unknown, 2012 1 (n) Presumed extirpated .............. 16. Willow Creek ..................................... tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Location name 1928/1928 ... 2010 (n),2012 2 ....... Presumed extirpated .............. 17. Griffith Peak ....................................... 1995/1995 ... 2006 (n), 2012 (n) .. Presumed occupied; adults observed less than 20 years ago. Status Primary references Presumed occupied; adults intermittently observed. Weiss et al. 1997; Boyd 2006; Kingsley 2007; SWCA 2008; Pinyon 2011; Andrew et al. 2013; Thompson et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1994; Weiss et al. 1997; Boyd and Austin 2002; Boyd 2006; Newfields 2006; Datasmiths 2007; Boyd and Murphy 2008; Andrew et al. 2013; Thompson et al. 2013. Boyd and Austin 1999; Boyd 2006; Datasmiths 2007; Boyd and Murphy 2008; Andrew et al. 2013; Thompson et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1997; Boyd 2006; Datasmiths 2007; Boyd and Murphy 2008; Andrew et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1997; Boyd 2006; Datasmiths 2007; Boyd and Murphy 2008; Andrew et al. 2013; Thompson et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1997; Boyd 2006; Datasmiths 2007; Boyd and Murphy 2008; Andrew et al. 2013; Thompson et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1997; Boyd 2006; Andrew et al. 2013; Thompson et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1997; Boyd 2006; Datasmiths 2007; Boyd and Murphy 2008; Andrew et al. 2013; Thompson et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1995; Weiss et al. 1997; Kingsley 2007; Thompson et al. 2013 Andrew et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1997; Boyd 2006; Kingsley 2007; Andrew et al. 2013; Thompson et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1997; Boyd 2006; Datasmiths 2007; Andrew et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1997; Datasmiths 2007; Andrew et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1997; Andrew et al. 2013. The Urban Wildlands Group, Inc. 2005. Howe 1975; Andrew et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1997; Thompson et al. 2010; Andrew et al. 2013. Weiss et al. 1997; Boyd 2006; Andrew et al. 2013. 1 Site was visited in 2012, but was not surveyed due to absence of larval host plants and lack of habitat suitability for Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 29–35, 56–57). VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations 57753 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 2 Site does not have habitat to support Mount Charleston blue butterfly, but it was surveyed in 2012 because blue butterflies from the surrounding area could possibly be observed (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 51–52, 60). We presume that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is extirpated from a location when it has not been recorded at that location through formal and informal surveys or incidental observation for more than 20 years. We selected a 20-year time period because it would likely allow for local extirpation and recolonization events to occur should the Mount Charleston blue butterfly function in a metapopulation dynamic, and a 20-year time period would be enough time for succession or other vegetation shifts to render the habitat unsuitable (see discussion in ‘‘Habitat’’ and ‘‘Biology’’ sections, below). Using this criterion, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is considered to be ‘‘presumed extirpated’’ from 7 of 17 locations (Locations 8 and 11 through 16 in Table 1) (Service 2006a, pp. 8–9). In the September 27, 2012, proposed rule (77 FR 59518), we identified Lee Meadows to be presumed occupied. After reviewing the available data, we determined the Mount Charleston blue butterfly has not been observed in Lee Meadows since 1965 (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10); therefore, this site should be considered presumed extirpated. We also consider these sites to be historic because they no longer have larval host plants or nectar plants to support the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 29– 31, 34–35, 51–52, 56–57, 60). Of the remaining 10 locations, 7 locations are ‘‘presumed occupied’’ by the subspecies (Locations 3 through 7, 9, and 17 in Table 1), and the other 3 are ‘‘known occupied’’ (Locations 1, 2, and 10 in Table 1) (Service 2006a, pp. 7–8). In the proposed rule (77 FR 59518), we identified the Bonanza Trail location (Location 10) as presumed occupied. Detections of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly at Bonanza Trail were confirmed during 2011 and 2012 surveys (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 58–59). Based on this new information, we now consider the Bonanza Trail area to be a known occupied location by the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. We note that the probability of detection of Mount Charleston blue butterflies at a particular location in a given year is affected by factors other than the butterfly’s abundance, such as survey effort and weather, both of which are highly variable from year to year. The presumed occupied category (Locations 3 through 7, 9, and 17 in Table 1) is defined as a location within the known range of the subspecies where adults have been observed within VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 the last 20 years and nectar plants are present to support Mount Charleston blue butterflies, and where there is potential for diapausing (a period of suspended growth or development similar to hibernation) larvae to be present because larval host plants are present (see ‘‘Biology’’ section, below, for details on Mount Charleston blue butterfly diapause). At some of these presumed occupied locations (Locations 4, 5, 7, 9, and 17 in Table 1), the Mount Charleston blue butterfly has not been recorded through formal surveys or informal observation since 1995 by Weiss et al. (1997, pp. 1–87). Of the presumed occupied locations, 3 and 6 have had the most recent observations (observed in 1998 and 2002, respectively) (Table 1). In the proposed rule (77 FR 59518), we did not identify Griffith Peak as a location for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, but after reviewing the available data, we determined Mount Charleston blue butterfly had been observed in 1995 at Griffith peak (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10 and Map 3.1); therefore, this location should be considered presumed occupied. In July 2013, the Carpenter 1 Fire burned into habitat of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly along the ridgelines between Griffith Peak and South Loop spanning a distance of approximately 3 miles (5 km). Within this area there are low, moderate, or high quality patches of Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat intermixed with non-habitat. The full extent of impacts to the habitat and Mount Charleston blue butterflies occurring at the Griffith Peak location are unknown, but the vegetation at this site may be unsuitable to support Mount Charleston blue butterflies until the appropriate plants reestablish. We consider the remaining three Mount Charleston blue butterfly locations or occurrences to be ‘‘known occupied’’ (Locations 1, 2, and 10 in Table 1). Known occupied locations have had successive observations during multiple years of surveys and have the nectar and larval host plants to support Mount Charleston blue butterflies. The South Loop Trail, Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort (LVSSR), and Bonanza Trail are considered to be known occupied locations. The South Loop Trail location is in Upper Kyle Canyon within the Mount Charleston Wilderness. The South Loop Trail location (Location 1 in Table 1) is considered known occupied because: (1) The butterfly was observed on the site PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 in 1995, 2002, 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2012 (Service 2007, pp. 1–2; Kingsley 2007, p. 5; Pinyon 2011, pp. 17–19; Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 20–26); and (2) the site supports at least one of the larval host plant species, Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus (Torrey’s milkvetch) (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 31; Kingsley 2007, pp. 5 and 10; Thompson et al. 2012, pp. 75–85), and known nectar plants, including Hymenoxys lemmonii (Lemmon’s bitterweed) and Erigeron clokeyi (Clokey fleabane) (SWCA 2008, pp. 2 and 5; Pinyon 2011, p. 11). This area has been mapped using a global positioning system unit and field-verified. The total area of habitat mapped by Pinyon in 2011 (Pinyon 2011, Figure 8; Service 2013, pp. 1–6) at South Loop Trail location is 190.8 acres (ac) (77.2 hectares (ha)). The area was delineated into polygons and classified as poor, moderate, and good habitat (Pinyon 2011, p. 11). Most observations in 2010 and 2011 occurred in two good habitat areas totaling 60.1 ac (24.3 ha) (Pinyon 2011). In July 2013, the Carpenter 1 Fire burned into habitat of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly along the ridgelines between Griffith Peak and South Loop spanning a distance of approximately 3 miles (5 km). The majority of Mount Charleston blue butterfly moderate- or high-quality habitat in the South Loop Trail location was classified as having a low or very low soil burn severity (Kallstrom 2013, p. 4). Adult butterflies may have been able to escape the fire, but the full extent of impacts to egg, larval, pupal, or adult life stages from exposure to lethal levels of smoke, gases, and convection or radiant heat from the fire will be unknown until surveys are performed on the ground. The areas in the South Loop Trail location with the highest density of Mount Charleston blue butterflies may have been unaffected by heat and smoke because it was outside the fire perimeter in an area slightly lower in elevation, below a topographic crest. Thus, Mount Charleston blue butterflies in these areas may have received topographic protection as smoke and convective heat moved above the area and may have been protected if they were in the soil or among the rocks; however, butterflies may have been exposed to lethal radiant heat. Damage to larval host and adult nectar plants in unburned, very low, or low soil burn severity areas has not been determined. The South Loop Trail area is considered the most important remaining population area for the E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 57754 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 21). We consider the LVSSR location in Upper Lee Canyon (Location 2 in Table 1) to be ‘‘known occupied’’ because: (1) The butterfly was first recorded at LVSSR in 1963 (Austin 1980, p. 22) and has been consistently observed at LVSSR every year between 1995 and 2006 (with the exception of 1997 when no surveys were performed (Service 2007, pp. 1–2)), and in 2010 (Thompson et al. 2010, p. 5) and 2012 (Andrew et al. 2013, p. 41); and (2) the site supports at least one of the known larval host plant species, Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 31), and known nectar plants, including Hymenoxys lemmonii and Erigeron clokeyi (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 37–47). These areas are LVSSR #1 (17.4 ac (7.0 ha)) and LVSSR #2 (8.3 ac (3.3 ha)) (Service 2006a, p. 1; Andrew et. al. 2013, pp. 79; Service 2013, pp. 1–6), which have been mapped using a global positioning system unit and fieldverified. We consider the Bonanza Trail location in Upper Lee Canyon (Location 10 in Table 1) to be ‘‘known occupied’’ because: (1) The butterfly has been recorded here in several years in the last 2 decades with the first record from 1995 (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10) and subsequent records in 2011 and 2012 (Andrew et al. 2013, 57–59); and (2) the site supports the larval host plant species, Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 31; Andrew et al. 2013, p. 57–59), and known nectar plants, including Erigeron clokeyi, Hymenoxys lemmonii and Eriogonum umbellatum var. subaridum (sulphur-flower buckwheat) (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 11; Andrew et al. 2013, p. 57–59). The total area of habitat at the Bonanza Trail area that has been mapped is 50.7 ac (20.5 ha) (Andrew et al. 2013, p. 87 and 89; Service 2013, pp. 1–6). Currently, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is known to persistently occupy less than 267.1 ac (108.1 ha) of habitat, and its known current distribution has decreased to a narrower range than it historically occupied. Status and Trends Surveys over the years have varied in methodology, effort, frequency, time of year conducted, and sites visited; therefore, we cannot statistically determine population size, dynamics, or trends for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. While there is no population size estimate for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, the best available information indicates a declining trend for this subspecies, as discussed below. VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 Prior to 1980, the population status of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly was characterized as usually rare but common in some years (Austin and Austin 1980, p. 30). A species can be considered rare when its spatial distribution is limited or when it occurs in low densities but is potentially widely distributed (MacKenzie et al. 2005). Based on this definition, we consider the Mount Charleston blue butterfly to be rare, because it occurs in a narrow range of the Spring Mountains in apparently low densities (Boyd and Austin 1999, p. 2). The number of locations where the Mount Charleston blue butterfly has been observed during surveys has decreased in the last 20 years, and the number of Mount Charleston blue butterfly observations at one historically important site (i.e., LVSSR) has also declined. Count statistics are products of the detection probability and the number of individuals present in a survey location (MacKenzie et al. 2005, p. 1101). While detection probabilities ‘‘may vary with environmental variables, such as weather conditions; different observers; or local habitats’’ (MacKenzie and Kendall 2002, p. 2388), the decrease in observations in recent years is most likely attributable to decreases in distribution and numbers of Mount Charleston blue butterflies. Year-to-year fluctuations in population numbers can also occur due to variations in precipitation and temperature, which affect both the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its larval host plant (Weiss et al. 1997, pp. 2–3 and 31–32). However, the failure to detect Mount Charleston blue butterflies at many of the known historical locations during the past 20 years, especially in light of increased survey efforts since 2006, indicates a reduction in the butterfly’s distribution and a likely decrease in total population size. Furthermore, four additional locations may be presumed to be extirpated in the near future, if surveys continue to fail to detect Mount Charleston blue butterflies. These include Youth Camp, Gary Abbott, Mummy Spring, and Griffith Peak (Table 1). Mount Charleston blue butterflies were last observed at these sites in 1995 (Weiss et al. 1997), which was considered a good year (Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 22) for Mount Charleston blue butterflies. Each of these four sites was surveyed in 2012, and no Mount Charleston blue butterflies were detected (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 32–37, 47–49, and 52–55). At Griffith Peak, larval host and nectar plants are present, and tree and shrub densities are minimal so that the site is PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 nearly free of canopy cover (Andrew et al. 2013, p. 35–37). While larval host and nectar plants were present at Youth Camp, Gary Abbott, and Mummy Spring, vegetation at these sites is threatened by increased understory and overstory (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 32– 35, 47–49, 52–55). Larval host and nectar plants are lacking at Lee Meadows (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 51– 52). Therefore, these sites, with the exception of Griffith Peak, are or may soon be considered unsuitable for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Surveys conducted in 1995 represent one of the years with the highest number of Mount Charleston blue butterflies recorded at LVSSR. Two areas of LVSSR were each surveyed twice, and 121 Mount Charleston blue butterflies were counted and their presence detected at several other locations (i.e., Foxtail, Gary Abbott, Mummy Spring, Bristlecone Trail, Bonanza Trail, South Loop, Griffith Peak) (Weiss 1996, p. 4; Weiss et al. 1997, Table 2 and Map 3.1). One LVSSR area was surveyed once in 2002, with an equally high number of Mount Charleston blue butterflies as recorded in 1995 (Dewberry et al. 2002, p. 8). Such high numbers at LVSSR have not been recorded since 2002 (Boyd 2006, p. 1; Datasmiths 2007, p. 18; Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 38–47; Thompson et al. 2012, pp. 76, 77). In 2006, Boyd (2006, pp. 1–2) surveyed for Mount Charleston blue butterflies at nearly all previously known locations and within potential habitat along Griffith Peak, North Loop Trail, Bristlecone Trail, and South Bonanza Trail, but did not observe the butterfly at any of these locations. One individual butterfly was observed at LVSSR adjacent to a pond that holds water for snowmaking (Newfields 2006, pp. 10, 13, and C5), but in a later report, the accuracy of this observation was questioned and considered erroneous (Newfields 2008, p. 27). In 2007, surveys were again conducted in previously known locations in Upper Lee Canyon and LVSSR, but no butterflies were recorded (Datasmiths 2007, p. 1; Newfields 2008, pp. 21–24). While LVSSR had relatively high counts of Mount Charleston blue butterflies in the mid-1990s and early 2000s (121 in 1995 (Weiss 1996, p. 4); 67 in 2002 (Dewberry et al. 2002, p. 8)), recent surveys have not yielded such high counts, suggesting a decline of Mount Charleston blue butterflies in this area. In 2010, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly was observed during surveys at LVSSR and the South Loop Trail area. One adult was observed in Lee Canyon at LVSSR on July 23, 2010, E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations but no other adults were detected at LVSSR during surveys of two areas conducted on August 2, 9, and 18, 2010 (Thompson et al. 2010, pp. 4–5). Mount Charleston blue butterflies were not observed at LVSSR in 2011, and three adults were observed at one of two surveyed areas in 2012 (female on June 27, one female on July 3, and one male on July 11) (Andrew et al. 2013, p. 41). Until 2010, only incidental observations of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly had been recorded at the South Loop Trail area, so it is unknown if there have been changes in occupancy here. However, surveys in recent years indicate that the South Loop Trail area is an important area for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. In 2007, two Mount Charleston blue butterflies were sighted on two different dates at the same location on the South Loop Trail in Upper Kyle Canyon (Kingsley 2007, p. 5). In 2008, butterflies were not observed during surveys of Upper Lee Canyon and the South Loop Trail (Boyd and Murphy 2008, pp. 1–3; Boyd 2008, p. 1; SWCA 2008, p. 6), although it is possible that adult butterflies may have been missed on the South Loop Trail because the surveys were performed very late in the season. No formal surveys were conducted in 2009, and during the few informal attempts made to observe the subspecies by Forest Service biologists, no Mount Charleston blue butterflies were observed (Service 2009). A total of 63 Mount Charleston blue butterflies were counted in this area in 2010, with the highest count of 17 occurring on July 28 (Pinyon 2011, p. 17). In 2011, a total of 55 Mount Charleston blue butterflies were documented at the South Loop Trail area, with the highest count of 25 occurring on August 11 (Thompson et al. 2012, pp. 77, 80). In 2012, 94 Mount Charleston blue butterflies were counted during all surveys, with a high count of 34 recorded on July 9 (Andrew et al. 2013, p. 22). Based on the available survey information, multiple Mount Charleston blue butterfly locations are currently considered extirpated, and several more locations may be considered extirpated if sightings are not made in upcoming surveys. Currently, three sites are known to be occupied, with LVSSR having much lower counts in recent years than prior to 2003. At the majority of the presumed occupied locations, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly has not been observed since the mid- to late1990s. These trends likely reflect a decrease in the distribution and population size of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and may be confirmed with repeated surveys of the same sites VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 with similar effort, surveyors, and methodology. Habitat Weiss et al. (1997, pp. 10–11) describe the natural habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as relatively flat ridgelines above 2,500 meters (m) (8,200 feet (ft)), but isolated individuals have been observed as low as 2,000 m (6,600 ft). Boyd and Murphy (2008, p. 19) indicate that areas occupied by the subspecies featured exposed soil and rock substrates with limited or no canopy cover or shading and flat to mild slopes. Like most butterfly species, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is dependent on plants both during larval development (larval host plants) and the adult butterfly flight period (nectar plants). The Mount Charleston blue butterfly requires areas that support Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus, which until recently was thought to be the only known larval host plant for the subspecies (Weiss et al. 1994, p. 3; Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10; Datasmiths 2007, p. 21), as well as primary nectar plants, Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus and Erigeron clokeyi; however, butterflies have also been observed using Hymenoxys lemmonii and Aster sp. as nectar plants (Boyd 2005, p. 1; Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 9). The best available habitat information relates mostly to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly’s larval host plant, with little information available characterizing the butterfly’s interactions with its known nectar plants or other elements of its habitat. The Mount Charleston blue butterfly has most frequently been documented using Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus as its larval host plant (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10). In 2011 and 2012, researchers from the University of Nevada Las Vegas observed female Mount Charleston blue butterflies landing on and exhibiting pre-oviposition behavior on Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus, Astragalus lentiginosus var. kernensis, and Astragalus platytropis (Andrew et al. 2012, p. 3). Andrew et al. (2013, p. 5) also documented Mount Charleston blue butterfly eggs on all three of these plant species and state that, unless it can be demonstrated that larvae are unable to develop and survive on the latter two species, these field observations indicate that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly utilizes a minimum of three larval host plants. Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus, Astragalus lentiginosus var. kernensis, and Astragalus platytropis are small, low-growing, perennial herbs that have been observed growing in open areas PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 57755 between 1,520 to 3,290 m (5,000 to 10,800 ft) (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 3–4) in subalpine, bristlecone, and mixedconifer vegetation communities of the Spring Mountains (Provencher 2008, Appendix II). Within the alpine and subalpine range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, Weiss et al. (1997, p. 10) observed the highest densities of Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus in exposed areas and within canopy openings and lower densities in forested areas. Because the Mount Charleston blue butterfly’s use of Astragalus lentiginosus var. kernensis and Astragalus platytropis as larval host plants is recent, little focus and documentation of these species in the Spring Mountains have been made. During 2012 surveys, Thompson et al. (2013b, presentation) qualitatively observed that Astragalus platytropis is fairly rare in the Spring Mountains and co-occurs with Astragalus lentiginosus, while Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus and Astragalus lentiginosus var. kernensis are more abundant. More information regarding the occurrence of Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus in the Spring Mountains exists than for Astragalus lentiginosus var. kernensis and Astragalus lentiginosus. In 1995, Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus plant densities at Mount Charleston blue butterfly sites were on the order of 1 to 5 plants per square meter (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10). Weiss et al. (1997, p. 31) stated that plant densities in favorable habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly could exceed more than 10 plants per square meter of Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus. Thompson et al. (2012, p. 84) documented an average of 41 Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus plants per square meter at the South Loop Trail location where the majority of recent Mount Charleston blue butterflies has been documented. Weiss et al. (1995, p. 5) and Datasmiths (2007, p. 21) indicate that, in some areas, butterfly habitat may be dependent on old or infrequent disturbances that create open understory and overstory. Overstory canopy within patches naturally becomes higher over time through succession, increasing shade and gradually becoming less favorable to the butterfly. Therefore, we conclude that open areas with visible mineral soil and relatively little grass cover and high densities of larval host plants support the highest densities of butterflies (Boyd 2005, p. 1; Service 2006b, p. 1). During 1995, an especially high-population year (a total of 121 butterflies were counted during surveys of two areas at LVSSR on two separate dates (Weiss E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 57756 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations 1996, p. 4)), Mount Charleston blue butterflies were observed in small habitat patches and with open understory and overstory where Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus was present in low densities, on the order of 1 to 5 plants per square meter (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10; Newfields 2006, pp. 10 and C5). Therefore, areas with lower densities of the larval host plant may also be important to the subspecies, as these areas may be intermittently occupied or may be important for dispersal. Lack of fire and management practices have likely limited the formation of new habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, as discussed below. The Forest Service began suppressing fires on the Spring Mountains in 1910 (Entrix 2008, p. 113). Throughout the Spring Mountains, the less-open areas, and higher density of trees and shrubs that are currently present, are likely due to a lack of fire, which has been documented in a proximate mountain range (Amell 2006, pp. 2–3). Other successional changes that have been documented include increased forest area and forest structure (higher canopy cover, more young trees, and expansion of species less tolerant of fire) (Nachlinger and Reese 1996, p. 37; Amell 2006, pp. 6–9; Boyd and Murphy 2008, pp. 22–28; Denton et al. 2008, p. 21; Abella et al. 2012, pp. 128, 130). All of these changes result in an increase in vegetative cover that is generally less suitable for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Boyd and Murphy (2008, pp. 23, 25) hypothesized that the loss of presettlement vegetation structure over time has caused the Mount Charleston blue butterfly’s metapopulation dynamics to collapse in Upper Lee Canyon. Similar losses of suitable butterfly habitat in woodlands and their negative effect on butterfly populations have been documented (Thomas 1984, pp. 337–338). The disturbed landscape at LVSSR provides important habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Weiss et al. 1995, p. 5; Weiss et al. 1997, p. 26). Periodic maintenance (removal of trees and shrubs) of the ski runs has effectively arrested forest succession on the ski slopes and serves to maintain conditions favorable to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, and to its host and nectar plants. However, the ski runs are not specifically managed to benefit habitat for this subspecies, and operational activities regularly modify Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat or prevent larval host plants from reestablishing in disturbed areas. An increase in forest canopy growth and encroachment, and lack of host or nectar plants, seems to be a limiting VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 factor for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Both host and nectar plants for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly are present at the locations we consider presumed occupied (Table 1), whereas the vegetation at the presumed extirpated locations no longer includes host or nectar plants sufficient to support the subspecies (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 5–65). While host and nectar plants are relatively abundant at the presumed occupied locations of Foxtail, Youth Camp, Gary Abbott, and LVSSR, these locations are threatened by forest canopy growth and encroachment (Andrew et al. 2012, p. 45 Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 47–54). Lee Meadows, Cathedral Rock, Upper Lee Canyon holotype, Upper Kyle Canyon Ski Area, Old Town, Deer Creek, and Willow Creek are presumed extirpated (Table 1) and have limited or entirely lack Mount Charleston blue butterfly host or nectar plants (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 29–60). While vegetation conditions in the past at these sites are not well-documented, we presume that they contained host and nectar plants for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly because individuals of the subspecies were observed at these locations. The vegetation at the majority of these sites is not likely to be suitable for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly without substantial changes (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 29–60), and therefore, restoration of these sites may be cost-prohibitive. Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus has been successfully germinated during lab experiments (Thompson et al. 2013a, pp. 244–265); however, we currently do not have information on whether or not germinated plants can successfully be transplanted to restoration sites. Therefore, we do not consider substantial restoration of sites to be a feasible option. The vegetation at Upper Lee Canyon holotype does have diffuse Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus present (Andrew et al. 2013, p. 56–57) and could be suitable for restoration with nectar plant species. Overall, the number of locations with suitable vegetation to support Mount Charleston blue butterflies is limited and appears to be declining due to a lack of disturbance to set back succession. Biology Specific information regarding diapause of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is lacking, and while geographic and subspecific variation in life histories can vary, we present information on the diapause of the closely related Shasta blue butterfly, as it may be similar to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. The Shasta blue butterfly is generally thought to PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 diapause at the base of its larval host plant or in the surrounding substrate (Emmel and Shields 1978, p. 132). The Shasta blue butterfly diapauses as an egg the first winter and as a larvae near maturity the second winter (Ferris and Brown 1981, pp. 203–204; Scott 1986, p. 411); however, Emmel and Shields (1978, p. 132) suggested that diapause was passed as partly grown larvae, because freshly hatched eggshells were found near newly laid eggs (indicating that the eggs do not overwinter). Prolonged or multiple years of diapause has been documented for several butterfly families, including Lycaenidae (Pratt and Emmel 2010, p. 108). For example, the pupae of the variable checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas chalcedona, which is in the Nymphalid family) are known to persist in diapause up to 5 to 7 years (Scott 1986, p. 28). The number of years the Mount Charleston blue butterfly can remain in diapause is unknown. Boyd and Murphy (2008, p. 21) suggest the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may be able to delay maturation during drought or the shortened growing seasons that follow winters with heavy snowfall and late snowmelt by remaining as eggs. Experts have hypothesized and demonstrated that, in some species of Lepidoptera, a prolonged diapause period may be possible in response to unfavorable environmental conditions (Scott 1986, pp. 26–30; Murphy 2006, p. 1; Datasmiths 2007, p. 6; Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 22), and this has been hypothesized for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as well (Thompson et al. 2013b, presentation). Little has been confirmed regarding the length of time or life stage in which the Mount Charleston blue butterfly diapauses. The typical flight and breeding period for the butterfly is early July to midAugust with a peak in late July, although the subspecies has been observed as early as mid-June and as late as mid-September (Austin 1980, p. 22; Boyd and Austin 1999, p. 17; Forest Service 2006, p. 9). As with most butterflies, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly typically flies during sunny conditions, which are particularly important for this subspecies given the cooler air temperatures at high elevations (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 31). Excessive winds also deter flight of most butterflies, although Weiss et al. (1997, p. 31) speculate that this may not be a significant factor for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly given its lowto-the-ground flight pattern. Like all butterfly species, both the phenology (timing) and number of Mount Charleston blue butterfly individuals that emerge and fly to E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations reproduce during a particular year are reliant on the combination of many environmental factors that may constitute a successful (‘‘favorable’’) or unsuccessful (‘‘poor’’) year for the subspecies. Other than observations by surveyors, little information is known regarding these aspects of the subspecies’ biology, since the key determinants for the interactions among the Mount Charleston blue butterfly’s flight and breeding period, larval host plant, and environmental conditions have not been specifically studied. Observations indicate that above- or below-average precipitation, coupled with above- or below-average temperatures, influence the phenology of this subspecies (Weiss et al. 1997, pp. 2–3 and 32; Boyd and Austin 1999, p. 8) and are likely responsible for the fluctuation in population numbers from year to year (Weiss et al. 1997, pp. 2– 3 and 31–32). Most butterfly populations exist as regional metapopulations (Murphy et al. 1990, p. 44). Boyd and Austin (1999, pp. 17, 53) suggest this is true of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Small habitat patches tend to support smaller butterfly populations that are frequently extirpated by events that are part of normal variation (Murphy et al. 1990, p. 44). According to Boyd and Austin (1999, p. 17), smaller colonies of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may be ephemeral in the long term, with the larger colonies of the subspecies more likely than smaller populations to persist in ‘‘poor’’ years, when environmental conditions do not support the emergence, flight, and reproduction of individuals. The ability of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly to move between habitat patches has not been studied; however, field observations indicate the subspecies has low vagility (capacity or tendency of a species to move about or disperse in a given environment), on the order of 10 to 100 m (33 to 330 ft) (Weiss et al. 1995, p. 9), and nearly sedentary behavior (Datasmiths 2007, p. 21; Boyd and Murphy 2008, pp. 3, 9). Furthermore, dispersal of lycaenid butterflies, in general, is limited and on the order of hundreds of meters (Cushman and Murphy 1993, p. 40). Based on this information, the likelihood of long-distance dispersal is low for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Thompson et al. (2013b, presentation) have hypothesized that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly could diapause for multiple years (more than 2) as larvae and pupae until vegetation conditions are favorable to support emergence, flight, and VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 reproduction. This could account for periodic high numbers of butterflies observed at more sites, as was documented by Weiss et al. in 1995, than years with unfavorable conditions. This would also suggest that Mount Charleston blue butterfly locations function as fairly isolated metapopulations and are not dependent on recolonization to persist. Additional future research regarding diapause patterns of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is needed to further our understanding of this subspecies. Summary of Comments and Recommendations In the proposed rule published on September 27, 2012 (77 FR 59518), we requested that all interested parties submit written comments on the proposal by November 26, 2012. We also contacted appropriate Federal and State agencies, scientific experts and organizations, and other interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposal. Newspaper notices inviting general public comment were published in the Las Vegas ReviewJournal and the Las Vegas Business Press on October 13, 2012. We did not receive any requests for a public hearing. During the comment period for the proposed rule, we received 15 comment letters directly addressing the proposed listing of Mount Charleston blue butterfly with endangered status and the lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt’s blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, and the two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies with threatened status due to similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, with a section 4(d) special rule, under section 4(e) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). We received 5 individual peer review responses and 10 comment letters from the public, including one Federal agency. With general regard to listing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, 10 comment letters were in support of the listing, with 4 fully supporting the basis for the listing, and 6 supporting only certain aspects related to the listing. Five comment letters did not support listing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. With regard to listing the five butterflies due to the similarity of appearance, 3 letters were in support, 10 letters were in opposition, and 2 letters were neutral. All substantive information provided during the comment period has either been incorporated directly into this final determination or is addressed below. In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 57757 34270), we solicited expert opinion from five knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with butterflies of the Spring Mountains, including the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, and their habitat, biological needs, and threats. We received responses from all five of the peer reviewers. We reviewed all comments we received from the peer reviewers for substantive issues and new information regarding the listing of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as endangered and the lupine blue, Reakirt’s blue, Spring Mountains icarioides blue, and the two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies as threatened due to similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Generally, the reviewers agreed with the need for listing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, but disagreed with certain aspects of the threats assessment. Two of the peer reviewers were in opposition to the proposed listing of the five other butterflies due to similarity of appearance; one peer reviewer was in support; and two peer reviewers were neutral on this topic. All reviewers offered additional information, clarifications, and suggestions to improve the final rule. We also received 10 comments from the general public, including one from a Federal agency. Peer reviewer and public comments are addressed in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule as appropriate. Peer Reviewer and Public Comments Comments Related to the Background Section (1) Comment: Two peer reviewers and five commenters stated that the methodology, effort, surveyor abilities, and time of year of the butterfly surveys have been variable over the years, and, therefore, the results from these surveys cannot be used to determine population trends and abundance of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Our Response: We agree that the survey methodology, effort, surveyor ability, and time of year when surveys were conducted have been variable over the years and do not allow us to quantitatively estimate changes in the population size of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. We agree that improving the consistency of these surveys would increase our understanding of the dynamics and population trends of the subspecies. Because of these shortcomings in the data collection, we place more importance on the occupancy status and vegetation suitability at Mount Charleston blue E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 57758 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 butterfly locations, both of which have decreased, in determining its overall status than the number of butterflies that were observed. We maintain that because several historical Mount Charleston blue butterfly locations are no longer suitable and no new locations have been identified, it is likely the Mount Charleston blue butterfly population has decreased. (2) Comment: One peer reviewer suggested that the South Loop Trail area is the only location that should be considered occupied by the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, but that other areas may be important for recovery of the subspecies. Our Response: We agree that other areas will be important for the recovery of the subspecies, but we disagree that the South Loop Trail area is the only location that should be considered occupied by the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. The Mount Charleston blue butterfly has been repeatedly observed in three areas in recent years, including the South Loop Trail, Bonanza Trail, and the LVSSR (see ‘‘Distribution’’ and ‘‘Status and Trends’’ sections, above, for more details). Additionally, Mount Charleston blue butterflies have been observed over the last several decades at both the Bonanza Trail and LVSSR areas. These repeated detections over multiple years indicate the sites are occupied by the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Comments Related to Factor A (3) Comment: We received many comments regarding threats to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly from peer reviewers and commenters. Two peer reviewers stated that general loss of habitat is the greatest threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. One peer reviewer suggested that listing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly would not alleviate the most significant threats to the butterfly. Other threats to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat that were identified by peer reviewers and commenters included fire management or the lack of fire; the presence and spread of nonnative plants; development, including roads, recreation projects, the LVSSR, and commercial and residential buildings; and wild horses. One peer reviewer was concerned that, given the current forest conditions, small, ‘‘controlled’’ fires could result in much larger fires and lead to more widespread effects than fire suppression and fuels management. Our Response: We agree that the threats to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat identified by the peer reviewers and commenters have contributed to the decline of the VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 subspecies and its distribution. We agree that much larger fires could increase the spread of invasive species and that fuel and fire management strategies must be considered carefully prior to implementation. (4) Comment: One commenter suggested that too little information is available to determine what the actual threats to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly are and that more research is needed. Our Response: We agree that more research on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly would provide further insight into how particular threats affect the subspecies and its habitat. Although many of the threats are interrelated and confounding, the threats presented in this rule, as demonstrated by the best available scientific and commercial data available, have contributed to the decreasing distribution and likely population decline of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. (5) Comment: One peer reviewer stated that personnel coordination between the Service and the Forest Service seems to be inadequate and could be improved by engaging an independent, impartial group [to mediate future discussions]. Our Response: Overall, the Service and Forest Service coordinate closely, and this coordination has improved in recent years. While there have been lapses in coordination (see Factor A discussion, below), these incidents have been exceptions. We appreciate the suggestion, and although we do not anticipate it being necessary, we will consider seeking an independent, impartial group if future coordination should require this. (6) Comment: One peer reviewer suggested that future Forest Service projects could be modified in order to avoid negatively affecting the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. This reviewer also stated that interagency consultation could improve the implementation of fire suppression efforts by the Forest Service. Our Response: With the listing of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as endangered, the Forest Service will be required to consult with the Service under section 7(a)(2) of the Act to ensure that activities it authorizes, funds, or carries out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the subspecies. Additionally, we will continue to coordinate with the Forest Service on future projects, including fuels and fire management projects, as is provided under the current SMNRA conservation agreement. (7) Comment: One commenter wanted to know why the 1998 conservation PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 agreement and 2004 memorandum of understanding between the Forest Service and the Service have not been fully implemented and adhered to, and, further, how listing the butterflies will rectify future coordination between the Forest Service and the Service. Our Response: More than half of the past projects that impacted Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat were reviewed by the Service and Forest Service under a process that was developed and agreed to in the SMNRA conservation agreement; however, the review process on several projects was never initiated. Listing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as an endangered species requires the Forest Service to consult on all projects that they authorize, fund, or carry out that may affect the subspecies. Comments Related to Factor B (8) Comment: Three peer reviewers and several commenters did not agree that the evidence in the proposed rule indicated that collection, commercial or noncommercial, has or will be a threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly or its long-term survival. Our Response: We provided a thorough and detailed description of the best available scientific and commercial information available regarding the threat posed by collection in the proposed rule. In addition, we believe that it is necessary to fully discuss the many activities that go beyond collection for scientific research. Because the evidence of collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is limited, we compare to other listed or imperiled butterflies, including those on protected lands, to evaluate the impact of illegal and illicit activities, and the establishment of markets for specimens, on those species and subspecies. We have determined that poaching is a potential and significant threat that could occur at any time. We recognize that listing may inadvertently increase the threat of collection and trade (i.e., raise value, create demand). However, we acknowledge that most individuals who are interested in butterflies would follow guidelines and procedures to ensure responsible collecting of sensitive species. (9) Comment: One peer reviewer stated that, given where the Mount Charleston blue butterfly tends to occur, it is unlikely that it would be collected by individuals with little experience who do not know what they are catching, and that inexperienced individuals typically are not effective at capturing butterflies and would be unable to collect so intensively that a population-level effect was plausible. E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations Our Response: Mount Charleston blue butterflies do occur in easily accessible locations, including areas at the LVSSR and Bonanza Trail. Staff of the LVSSR have anecdotally relayed to the Service that they have seen people apparently collecting butterflies on the ski slopes and have been asked on which ski runs the Mount Charleston blue butterfly occurs. We acknowledge that a less experienced butterfly collector may have more difficulty capturing a Mount Charleston blue butterfly than an experienced person, but these less experienced individuals may also more easily mistake the Mount Charleston blue butterfly for another butterfly species. We maintain that because the Mount Charleston blue butterfly occurs in low numbers and so little is known about its population dynamics, collection at low levels could pose a threat to the subspecies. (10) Comment: One peer reviewer thought Table 2 in the proposed rule, which summarized the numbers of Mount Charleston blue butterfly specimens collected by area, year, and sex, did not support the argument that collection has negatively impacted the subspecies, because the commenter thought it underrepresented the number of Mount Charleston blue butterflies that have been collected. Our Response: We acknowledge the information presented in the proposed rule’s Table 2 may under-represent the total number of Mount Charleston blue butterflies that have been collected; not all collectors document all collected butterflies in records that are available to the Service. We presented the best scientific and commercial information on collection that was available to the Service. We maintain that unregulated collection has contributed to the decline of multiple butterfly species (see Factor B discussion, below, for more details), and could contribute to the decline of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly when coupled with habitat loss and other threats. (11) Comment: One peer reviewer and one commenter stated that there needs to be better publicity regarding the need for permits to collect butterflies in the Spring Mountains, and many people who may be collecting may be unaware of the permit requirement. Our Response: We agree that the outreach regarding the Forest Service’s requirement for a permit to collect butterflies in the Lee Canyon, Kyle Canyon, Willow Creek, and Cold Creek areas of SMNRA has generally been lacking. This requirement is stated in the Forest Service’s Humboldt-Toiyabe General Management Plan, which is not widely available to the general public. VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 Beyond this, we are unaware of additional outreach the Forest Service made. We agree this lack of outreach likely led to unknowing, unpermitted collection of butterflies, including the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. We anticipate the outreach for the new Forest Service closure order will be much wider and more available. Per Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) regulations at 36 CFR 261.51, the Forest Service is required to: (1) Post a copy of the closure order in the offices of the Forest Supervisor and District Ranger who have jurisdiction of the lands affected by the order, and (2) display each prohibition imposed by an order in such locations and manner as to reasonably bring the prohibition to the attention of the public. In addition to fulfilling these requirements, the Forest Service intends to post information on the closure order on its Web site (http:// www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/htnf/alertsnotices), at kiosks and trailheads in the Spring Mountains, and on the Internet at Lepidopterist message boards, such as http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/ DesertLeps/ and http:// pet.groups.yahoo.com/group/ SoWestLep/. Comments Related to Factor E (12) Comment: Two peer reviewers identified a need to provide more sitespecific evidence of how climate change is affecting Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat. Our Response: We agree that sitespecific information about climate change and its effects on Mount Charleston blue butterfly should be included if it is available. However, sitespecific information on climate change and its effects on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat is not available at this time. Any information that is available that would improve our analyses of the effects of climate change on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may be sent to the Nevada Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES, above). (13) Comment: One commenter suggested that climate change or global warming will extirpate the Mount Charleston blue butterfly in the Spring Mountains (this would imply extinction). Our Response: We agree that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is at greater risk of extinction because of climate change, but there is no information to suggest that extinction is imminent only because of climate change. Threats related to climate change are discussed under Factor E, below. PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 57759 Comments Related to Listing Because of Similarity of Appearance Under Section 4(e) of the Act and the Associated Section 4(d) Special Rule (14) Comment: Four peer reviewers and eight commenters opposed listing the five other butterflies due to similarity of appearance, as proposed, for a variety of reasons. The proposed action was generally opposed because it was thought that the species can be readily discerned by differences in coloration and markings, size, and flight pattern, and because they are not fully sympatric, or overlapping in their ranges (they occur in distinct habitats, they occur in close association with different plant species, and they occur at different mean elevations). In general, those in opposition to the similarity of appearance proposed listings believed that people with even moderate experience with butterflies would be able to distinguish between the species. Those in opposition also generally believed that listing similar butterflies would be overly restrictive and prohibitive, impede research, and discourage scientific support that could inform future management decisions or listing actions. One comment letter included photographs of the five butterflies proposed for listing with detailed descriptions of characteristics that may be used to distinguish the five butterflies from each other. Others provided textual descriptions of the diagnostic characteristics of the butterflies. Our Response: We carefully considered all of the comments we received, reviewed the information and data provided by reviewers and commenters, and evaluated recent research and data we have acquired since the proposed rule was published. We used data on the historical range of the five species proposed for listing under similarity of appearance, and reported this information in our proposed rule (77 FR 59518; September 27, 2012). Since then, we have evaluated more current range information on these five species, and we find that the current known ranges of some of the species previously proposed for listing under similarity of appearance do not overlap or do not significantly overlap with the range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, so it would not be advisable to list these species under section 4(e) of the Act. In addition, since the closure order closes most of the known range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly to all butterfly collection, it is closed to the collection of all five of these species as well. Therefore, listing the additional E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 57760 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations similarity of appearance species is no longer necessary because collection of these species will not take place in the range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly without a permit. Permitted individuals will have the qualifications that enable them to differentiate between the species. Further, as one peer reviewer stated, whether the taxa are similar in appearance is highly subjective. We agree with this statement. We agree that individuals who are more experienced with butterflies would be able to differentiate between the butterfly species. As described in the proposed rule, there are morphological differences between the species, but the distinguishing characteristics may not be obvious to all individuals who are collecting butterflies; thus, the similarity between the species is relative to the experience level and abilities of the observer. We believe that the threat of the mistaken capture and collection of Mount Charleston blue butterfly has been reduced by a closure order and administrative permitting process recently issued by the Forest Service. This closure order (Order Number 04– 17–13–20) closes all areas within the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area to the collection, possession, storage, or transport of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and four other sensitive butterfly species (Morand’s checkerspot [Euphydryas anicia morandi], Spring Mountains acastus checkerspot [Chlosyne acastus robusta], and the two subspecies of Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies [Euphilotes ancilla cryptica and Euphilotes ancilla purpura]). The closure order provides additional protections by closing most of the known range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly to the collection of all butterfly species, except under a specific permit. Permits to collect nonlisted butterflies in these areas may be issued by the Forest Service through the administrative permit process. This process requires applicants to provide information regarding their qualifications and experience with butterflies and intended uses of the permit, including the specific purpose of collection; a list of which species will be collected; the number of each sex and life stage for each species that will be collected; a list of locations where collection would occur; the time period in which collection would occur; and how the information and knowledge gained from the collection will be disseminated (Ramirez, 2013). The entire SMNRA is closed to possession, storing or transport of these five species, VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 because they are USFS sensitive species. It provides additional protection to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly by prohibiting possession and storage of Mount Charleston blue butterfly throughout the SMNRA, allowing Forest Service law enforcement officers to enforce this prohibition within the SMNRA. The second part of the closure order closes the vast majority of the habitat where the Mount Charleston blue butterfly occurs to the possession, storing and transport of all butterfly species in any life stage. This effectively eliminates the risk of unintentional collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly in two ways: (1) the Forest Service cannot issue a permit for collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly without the Service’s concurrence (which we will not do unless we know the researcher and the work is authorized by the Service), and (2) anyone wanting to collect any butterfly species in this area (including any of the species proposed for listing under similarity of appearance) would need to demonstrate their credentials, including the ability to clearly distinguish blue butterfly species, to the Forest Service, before they would issue a permit. In summary, these requirements should effectively eliminate the unintentional collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, because only those individuals with the demonstrated ability to identify and distinguish butterfly species (including two of the butterfly species similar in appearance originally proposed to be listed) would be eligible for a permit to collect butterflies within most of the of the known range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. The Forest Service permit does not allow the collection of any species listed under the Act, including the Mount Charleston blue butterfly being added to the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Species by this rule. Permits to collect the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, as well as any other endangered or threatened species, requires a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit issued by the Service; the section 10(a)(1)(A) permit process ensures that those that are interested in conducting research, which may include collection for scientific purposes, are qualified to work with this butterfly subspecies and have research objectives that will enhance the survival of the subspecies. Individuals who are issued a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit to research the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may then apply for a collection permit from the Forest Service if such research activities will be conducted on Forest Service lands. Because the PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 application processes for a Serviceissued section 10(a)(1)(A) permit and a Forest Service collection permit require thorough review of applicant qualifications by agency personnel, we believe only highly qualified individuals capable of distinguishing between small, blue butterfly species that occur in the Spring Mountains will be issued permits. As a result, we do not anticipate that individuals with permits will misidentify the butterfly species, and therefore, no inadvertent collection by authorized individuals will occur. Any collection without permits would be in violation of the closure order and subject to law enforcement action. In addition, any purposeful collection of a listed species, such as Mt Charleston blue butterfly, without a section 10 permit authorizing this activity, would be a violation of the Act. Therefore, the threat from incidental, accidental, or purposeful, unlawful collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly will be reduced (see Factor B discussion, below, for more details). The main goal of proposing other butterfly species for listing under similarity of appearance was to afford regulatory protection to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly in potential situations of misidentification of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as one of the other five species, in order to prevent the subspecies from going extinct. We recognize and acknowledge that amateurs and professionals interested in butterflies have made significant contributions to our knowledge of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and other butterfly species that occur in the Spring Mountains. We do not want to discourage research or scientific support for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly or other butterfly species that occur in the Spring Mountains. As described above, listing does not prohibit conducting research on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly; the section 10(a)(1)(A) permit process ensures that those that are interested in conducting research are qualified to work with this butterfly subspecies and have research objectives that will enhance the survival of the subspecies. (15) Comment: One commenter stated that these subspecies occur in disjunct areas away from the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, and one peer reviewer and one commenter suggested that the only two taxa that realistically might be difficult to distinguish from the Mount Charleston blue butterfly are the two subspecies of Euphilotes ancilla. Our Response: We considered this comment, and we reviewed historical and recent sightings of the two Spring E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations Mountains dark blue butterfly subspecies (Euphilotes ancilla cryptica and Euphilotes ancilla purpura) and the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Historical data indicate that these subspecies co-occurred at the South Loop Trail and Willow Creek areas. In 2011, researchers documented both the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and the Spring Mountains dark blue butterfly (Euphilotes ancilla purpura) at the Bonanza Trail area, and noted that plants with which each subspecies is closely associated were present (Thompson et al. 2012, p. 3 and 4). Therefore, we believe the two Euphilotes ancilla subspecies do overlap with the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and are not disjunct. We agree the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may be difficult to distinguish from the two subspecies of Euphilotes ancilla by some individuals (see Response to Comment 14 for more details). We believe the closure order issued by the Forest Service (described above) and the requirement for a scientific collection permit from the Forest Service for collection of the two subspecies of Euphilotes ancilla and a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit from the Service for collection of any listed butterflies for research on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly reduces the threat from incidental or accidental collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly when other butterflies are being targeted (see Factor B discussion, below, and Response to Comment 14, above, for more details). (16) Comment: Three peer reviewers commented that the area which we identified in the proposed listing under section 4(e) of the Act protecting five species of butterflies similar in appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly was too large. Our Response: We selected the SMNRA boundary in the proposed listing under section 4(e) of the Act because it is easily identified on major roads accessing the area and, therefore, would be easily recognized by the general public and law enforcement. However, we are not listing under section 4(e) of the Act the lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt’s blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, and two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies based on similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (see Factor B discussion for more details); therefore, this comment no longer applies to our rulemaking. (17) Comment: One commenter stated that the listing of the five additional butterfly species on the basis of the similarity of appearance should only VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 prohibit their collection, and not extend to otherwise lawful activities. Our Response: We agree that, had we finalized the proposed listing of five butterfly species based on their similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, the rule should have only prohibited their collection and not extended to otherwise lawful activities. However, based on comments and further evaluation, we are not listing the lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt’s blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, and two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies based on similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly under section 4(e) of the Act (see Factor B discussion, below, for more details). (18) Comment: One commenter suggested that there are many unknowns regarding blue butterflies in the Plebejus lupini and Plebejus acmon complex, and it is debatable whether the lupine blue butterfly (Plebejus lupini texanus) actually occurs in the Spring Mountains, or if the butterfly that is identified as this subspecies is actually the Acmon blue butterfly (Plebejus acmon). Our Response: We agree that further taxonomic work may be needed for the Plebejus lupini and Plebejus acmon complex. We used the most currently available scientific literature to identify taxonomic entities in the Spring Mountains. Recent observations of the subject butterflies occurring in the Spring Mountains have been identified as Plebejus lupini texanus (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 41 and 61). Until new taxonomic information becomes available to suggest otherwise, we rely on the best available scientific and commercial information, which states that the subspecies described as occurring in the Spring Mountains is Plebejus lupini texanus. Comments Related to Critical Habitat Prudency Determination (19) Comment: Four peer reviewers and one commenter expressed concern over the Service’s determination that critical habitat is not prudent, disagreed with this decision, or otherwise suggested we reconsider the basis for this determination. One peer reviewer and one commenter supported, or agreed to some extent with, the basis of our determination. Comments in opposition to our not prudent determination were largely based on the potential benefits of designating critical habitat, and skepticism that increased risk and harm from collection to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly would occur with designation, because ample PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 57761 detail could be obtained from other sources for potential poachers to locate remaining populations. Our Response: We have considered the peer review and public comments. Based on these comments, and further consideration of the best scientific information available, we have determined that it is prudent to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Therefore, elsewhere in a separate Federal Register notice, we will propose to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Comments From the State Section 4(i) of the Act states, ‘‘the Secretary shall submit to the State agency a written justification for his failure to adopt regulations consistent with the agency’s comments or petition.’’ We received comments from the State from one peer reviewer. These comments were included under Peer Reviewer and Public Comments. Federal Agency Comments (20) Comment: The Forest Service noted that the baseline population that was chosen to determine the status of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly was the highest recorded in at least 20 years, and, therefore, the distribution and occupied habitat was likely greater than average, and may have included ecological sinks. They suggested a more typical year should have been used as the baseline average population and that the 20-year timeframe we used to determine occupancy status is too long. Our Response: We agree that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly was recorded in high numbers at two areas of LVSSR in 1995, but note that an equally high number were counted at one of these areas (the second area was not visited) in 2002. We considered data from these and subsequent years to assess the occupancy of Mount Charleston blue butterfly locations. We did not choose the data from 1995 as a baseline for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly; rather, we selected a 20-year timeframe to assess the Mount Charleston blue butterfly’s status, based on the butterfly’s biology and ecological factors of its habitat as stated in the ‘‘Distribution’’ section, above. At this time, not enough information is known about the diapause period or the population dynamics of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly to determine how metapopulations of this subspecies may or may not be connected. We can make inferences using information from other closely related species, but until further research is conducted on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, there E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 57762 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations is a great deal that is unknown. We do know that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly has not been detected at several sites since 1995. We attribute this, in large part, to a lack of habitat, resulting from human disturbances and vegetation succession (see discussions under Factors A, B, D, and E, below) that have occurred in the last 20 years. Some of these vegetation shifts may have occurred in short time periods (e.g., 2 years for a LVSSR ski run to shift from low-growing species to shrub cover), but the vegetation at sites where trees are encroaching (e.g., Gary Abbott) are shifting over longer time periods. Thus, we used a 20-year timeframe to determine site occupancy status because it takes into account: (1) The variable time periods in which vegetation shifts can occur at Mount Charleston blue butterfly locations, and (2) population dynamics that may affect the presence of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly at a particular location. (21) Comment: The Forest Service stated that it has complied with the regulations required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and the Act. The commenter stated that the Forest Service has taken conservation of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly into consideration and consulted with the Service on the implementation of plans and projects, including the LVSSR Master Plan. The commenter went on to state that many unknowns exist regarding the Mount Charleston blue butterfly; therefore, the Forest Service’s land management practices are not responsible for potential declines, especially because the Forest Service has incorporated the Service’s minimization measures. Our Response: We are confident the Forest Service has complied with NEPA and the Act. Overall, the Forest Service has closely coordinated with the Service, and this coordination has improved in recent years. While there have been lapses in coordination (see Factor A discussion, below), these incidents have been exceptions. We agree that many unknowns exist regarding the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its ecology, but we conclude (see information under the discussions of Factors A and C, below) that some of the Forest Service’s land management practices may have contributed to the loss of Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat. (22) Comment: The Forest Service stated that no fuel reduction funds are currently in place, but should fuel reduction activities be planned in the future, they can be done in a manner that minimizes impacts to and actually VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 benefits the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat. Our Response: We agree and look forward to working with the Forest Service to further the conservation of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. (23) Comment: The Forest Service stated that ‘‘if climate change predictions hold true in southern Nevada, low-elevation sites are likely to become less suitable for occupation by the butterfly.’’ Our Response: We do not agree that it can be stated at this time with a reasonable degree of certainty that there will be a unidirectional shift or decrease in the importance of sites in lower elevations. There is currently inadequate site-specific information from climate change models, combined with topographic variability at each site, to predict the relative importance of various sites. We agree that there may be some correlation with elevation, but we are unaware of any analysis identifying the magnitude of shifts in climate as they relate to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat. Summary of Changes From Proposed Rule After consideration of the comments we received during the public comment period (see above), we made several changes to the final listing rule. Many small, nonsubstantive changes and corrections not affecting the determination (for example, updating the Background section in response to comments and minor clarifications) were made throughout the document. All substantial changes relate to the proposed similarity of appearance listings under section 4(e) of the Act and the prudency of designating critical habitat. Based on comments and further evaluation, we are not listing the lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt’s blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, and two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies based on similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly under section 4(e) of the Act. The protection that would have been provided to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly through these listings (see discussion in response to Comment 14, above) is no longer advisable, as similar or greater protection will be provided by the closure order issued by the Forest Service. Specifically, the application processes for Service and Forest Service collection permits associated with the closure order require thorough review of applicant qualifications by agency personnel, and we believe only highly qualified individuals capable of distinguishing between small, blue PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 butterfly species that occur in the Spring Mountains will be issued permits. As a result, we do not anticipate that individuals with authorized collection permits will misidentify the butterfly species, and therefore, inadvertent collection should be greatly reduced. In addition, persons found collecting any butterfly species without permits within most of the the Mount Charleston blue butterfly’s known range, or found to be possessing, storing, or transporting the Mount Charleston blue butterfly anywhere within the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, would be in violation of the closure order and subject to law enforcement action. Comparing the potential protections from our proposal of listing the remaining two similar butterfly species whose ranges overlap that of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly under section 4(e) of the Act (similarity of appearance) to the protections that will be afforded by the Forest Service’s closure order, the closure order provides equal or greater protections. As stated in the proposed rule (77 FR 59518; September 27, 2012), the special 4(d) rule would have established ‘‘prohibitions on collection of the lupine blue butterfly (Plebejus lupini texanus), Reakirt’s blue butterfly (Echinargus isola), Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly (Plebejus icarioides austinorum), and two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies (Euphilotes ancilla cryptica and E. a. purpura), or their immature stages, where their ranges overlap with the Mt. Charleston blue butterfly, in order to protect the Mt. Charleston blue butterfly from collection, possession, and trade.’’ Further, ‘‘Capture of the lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt’s blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, and the two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies, or their immature stages, is not prohibited if it is accidental, such as during research, provided the animal is released immediately upon discovery at the point of capture,’’ and ‘‘Scientific activities involving collection or propagation of these similarity-ofappearance butterflies are not prohibited provided there is prior written authorization from the Service. All otherwise legal activities that may involve what we would normally define as incidental take (take that results from, but is not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity) of these similar butterflies, and which are conducted in accordance with applicable State, Federal, Tribal, and local laws and regulations, will not be considered take under this regulation.’’ For example, the special 4(d) rule would E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations have exempted ‘‘legal application of pesticides, grounds maintenance, recreational facilities maintenance, vehicle use, vegetation management, exotic plant removal, and burning. These actions will not be considered as violations of section 9 of the Act if they result in incidental take of any of the similarity of appearance butterflies.’’ The Forest Service closure order and permitting requirement goes farther by prohibiting not only intentional or inadvertent capture, but even the attempt to collect any butterfly species within most of the known range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, without a specific permit. The closure order establishes broader take and possession prohibitions against the five butterfly species specifically listed in the closure order, which includes the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, and establishes a permitting requirement for any collection of these species within the entire Spring Mountains Natural Resource Area. Additionally, collection of all butterflies within most of the known range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is prohibited unless a special permit is obtained from the Regional Forester. This will likely have the desirable effect of reducing collection even more than would our proposed 4(d) rule. Based on the more recent information that some of the species proposed for listing under similarity of appearance do not in fact overlap the range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, and the greater protections that will be afforded by the Forest Service closure order, we are not listing the lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt’s blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, or the two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies, based on similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly under section 4(e) of the Act (see Factor B discussion, below, for more details). In the proposed rule, we did not include Griffith Peak as a Mount Charleston blue butterfly location. After reviewing the available data, we determined that Griffith Peak should be considered a presumed occupied location for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly because the most recent observation was in 1995, and the appropriate larval host plants and nectar plants are present to support Mount Charleston blue butterflies. As defined earlier, we presume a location to be occupied if adults have been observed within the last 20 years and nectar plants are present to support Mount Charleston blue butterflies. In the proposed rule we considered Lee Meadows to be a presumed VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 occupied location for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. After reviewing the available data, we determined that Lee Meadows is a presumed extirpated location for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly because no detections of Mount Charleston blue butterflies have occurred there since 1965 (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10). As discussed earlier, we presume that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is extirpated from a location when it has not been recorded at that location through formal and informal surveys or incidental observation for more than 20 years. In addition, based on information gathered from peer reviewers and the public during the comment period, we have determined that it is prudent to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Therefore, elsewhere in a separate Federal Register notice, we will propose to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Summary of Factors Affecting the Species Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 424) set forth the procedures for adding species to 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. Listing actions may be warranted based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in combination. Each of these factors is discussed below. Factor A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range Below, we evaluate several factors that negatively impact the Mount Charleston blue butterfly’s habitat, including fire suppression, fuels reduction, succession, introduction of nonnative species, recreation, and development. We also examine current conservation agreements and plans, and the extent to which they address the threats to the butterfly. PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 57763 Fire Suppression, Succession, and Nonnative Species Butterflies have extremely specialized habitat requirements (Thomas 1984, p. 337). Cushman and Murphy (1993, p. 4) determined 28 at-risk lycaenid butterfly species, including the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, to be dependent on one or two closely related larval host plants. Many of these larval host plants are dependent on early successional environments. Butterflies that specialize on such plants must track an ephemeral resource base that itself depends on unpredictable and perhaps infrequent ecosystem disturbances. For such butterfly species, local extinction events are both frequent and inevitable (Cushman and Murphy 1993, p. 4). The Mount Charleston blue butterfly may, in part, depend on disturbances that open up the subalpine canopy and create conditions more favorable to the larval host plant, Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus, and nectar resources (Weiss et al. 1995, p. 5; Boyd and Murphy 2008, pp. 22–28) (see ‘‘Habitat’’ section, above). A lack of disturbances, such as fire or mechanical alteration, may prevent open understory and overstory canopy conditions needed for Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus to grow, thereby decreasing the amount of potential Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat. Datasmiths (2007, p. 21) suggests that Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat consisting of patches of Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus are often, but not exclusively, associated with older or infrequent disturbance. Weiss et al. (1995, p. 5) note that a colony once existed on the Upper Kyle Canyon Ski Area (Location 13 in Table 1), but, since the ski run was abandoned, no butterflies have been collected there since 1965; presumably, the lack of disturbance at this site diminished the habitat quality for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Boyd and Austin (2002, p. 13) observed that the butterfly was common at Lee Meadows (Location 8 in Table 1) in the 1960s, but became uncommon at the site because of succession and a lack of disturbance. Weiss et al. (1995, p. 5) concluded that most of Lee Meadows did not support any larval host plants in the mid-1990s and would not support a Mount Charleston blue butterfly population over the long term; in 2012, Andrew et al. (2013, p. 51–52) assessed the site similarly. Although no published fire histories for the Spring Mountains are known (Abella et al. 2012, p. 128), the Forest Service’s policy regarding fire exclusion in the early and mid-1900s is well- E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 57764 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations documented (Interagency Federal Wildland Fire Policy Review Working Group 2001, p. 1) and presumably affected fire management practices in the Spring Mountains. The current dominance of certain tree species indicate a recent lack of fire due to fire exclusion or reduction in natural fire cycles in the Spring Mountains (Abella et al. 2012, pp. 129–130), which has resulted in long-term successional changes, including increased forest area and forest structure (higher canopy cover, more young trees, and more trees intolerant of fire) (Nachlinger and Reese 1996, p. 37; Amell 2006, pp. 6–9; Boyd and Murphy 2008, pp. 22–28; Denton et al. 2008, p. 21; Abella et al. 2012, pp. 128, 130). Frequent low-severity fires, as historically occurred in Pinus ponderosa (ponderosa pine)-dominated forests, would have maintained an open forest structure characterized by uneven-aged stands of fire-resistant Pinus ponderosa trees in Lee and Kyle Canyons (Amell 2006, p. 5). Because of changes to historic fire regimes, there has been an increase in area covered by forest canopy and an increase in stem densities with more smaller trees intolerant of fire within the lowerelevation Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat. Large-diameter Pinus ponderosa trees with multiple fire scars in Upper Lee and Kyle Canyons indicate that lowseverity fires historically burned through mixed-conifer forests within the range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Amell 2006, p. 3). There are no empirical estimates of fire intervals or frequencies in the Spring Mountains, but extensive research in the Southwest indicates that return intervals prior to the fire exclusion policy were generally less than 10 years in Pinus ponderosa forests (Abella et al. 2012, p. 130), and return intervals in the proximate San Bernardino Mountains have been reported to be 4 to 20, or 2 to 39, years, prior to fire exclusion in the 20th century (Minnich et al. 1995, p. 903; Denton et al. 2008, p. 23). Open mixedconifer forests in the Spring Mountains were likely characterized by more abundant and diverse understory plant communities compared to current conditions (Entrix 2008, pp. 73–78). These successional changes have been hypothesized to have contributed to the decline of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly because of reduced densities of larval and nectar plants, decreased solar insolation, and inhibited butterfly movements that subsequently determine colonization or recolonization processes (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 26; Boyd and Murphy 2008, pp. 22–28). VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 Changes in forest structure and understory plant communities result in habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly across a broad spatial scale. Boyd and Murphy (2008, p. 23) note that important habitat characteristics required by Mount Charleston blue butterfly—Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus and preferred nectar plants occurring together in open sites not shaded by tree canopies— would have occurred more frequently across a more open forested landscape. Comparatively, the current, more densely forested landscape reduces the connectivity of existing or potential Mount Charleston blue butterfly locations. These more densely forested landscapes decrease the likelihood that the butterfly will expand to unoccupied locations. Although the butterfly’s population dynamics are unknown, if the Mount Charleston blue butterfly functions in a metapopulation dynamic, vegetation shifts to a denser forest structure could impact key metapopulation processes by reducing the probability of recolonization following local population extirpations in remaining patches of Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat (Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 25). The introduction of forbs, shrubs, and nonnative grasses can be a threat to the butterfly’s habitat because these species can compete with, and decrease, the quality and abundance of larval host plant and adult nectar sources. This has been observed for many butterfly species, including the Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino) (62 FR 2313; January 16, 1997) and Fender’s blue butterfly (Plebejus (= Icaricia) icarioides fenderi) (65 FR 3875; January 25, 2000). Succession, coupled with the introduction of nonnative species, is also believed to be the reason the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is no longer present at the Old Town site in Kyle Canyon (Location 14 in Table 1) and at the Mount Charleston blue butterfly holotype (the type specimen used in the original description of a species or subspecies) site in Upper Lee Canyon (Location 11 in Table 1) (Urban Wildlands Group, Inc. 2005, p. 3; Boyd and Austin 1999, p. 17). Introduction of nonnative species within its habitat negatively impacts the quality of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly’s habitat. As mentioned previously (see ‘‘Habitat’’ section, above), periodic maintenance (removal of trees and shrubs) of the ski runs has effectively arrested succession on the ski slopes and maintains conditions that can be favorable to the Mount PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 Charleston blue butterfly. However, the ski runs are not specifically managed to benefit habitat for this subspecies and its habitat requirements, and operational activities (including seeding of nonnative species) regularly modify Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat or prevent larval host plants from reestablishing in disturbed areas. Weiss et al. (1995, pp. 5–6) recognized that a positive management action for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly would be to establish more Astragalus on additional ski runs at LVSSR, especially in areas of thin soils where grasses and Melilotus (sweetclover) are difficult to establish. Titus and Landau (2003, p. 1) observed that vegetation on highly and moderately disturbed areas of the LVSSR ski runs are floristically very different from natural openings in the adjacent forested areas that support this subspecies. Seeding nonnative species for erosion control was discontinued in 2005; however, because of erosion problems during 2006 and 2007, and the lack of native seed, LVSSR resumed using a nonnative seed mix, particularly in the lower portions of the ski runs (not adjacent to Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat) where erosion problems persist. The best available information indicates that, in at least five of the seven locations where the Mount Charleston blue butterfly has been extirpated, habitat is no longer present due to vegetation changes attributed to changes in the natural fire regime, vegetation succession, the introduction of nonnative species, or a combination of these. Recreation, Development, and Other Projects As discussed in the ‘‘Distribution’’ section, above, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is a narrow endemic subspecies that is currently known to occupy three locations and presumed to occupy seven others. One of the three areas where Mount Charleston blue butterflies have been detected in recent years is the LVSSR. Several grounddisturbing projects occurred within Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat at LVSSR between 2000 and 2011 (see 76 FR 12667, March 8, 2011, pp. 12672, 12673). These projects were of small spatial scale (ground disturbance was less than about 10 ac each) but are known to have impacted habitat and possibly impacted individual Mount Charleston blue butterflies (eggs, larvae, pupae, or adults). In addition to these recreation development projects at LVSSR, a small area of habitat and possibly individual Mount Charleston blue butterflies were impacted by a E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations water system replacement project in Upper Lee Canyon in 2003, and a small area of habitat (less than 1 acre) was impacted by a stream restoration project at Lee Meadows in 2011. It is difficult to know the full extent of impacts and whether the impacts were negative or positive to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly’s habitat as a result of these projects because Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat was not mapped, nor were some project areas surveyed, prior to implementation. Four ongoing and future projects also may impact Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat in Upper Lee Canyon. These projects are summarized below: (1) A March 2011 master development plan for LVSSR proposes to improve, upgrade, and expand the existing facilities to provide year-round recreational activities. The plan proposes to increase snow trails, beginner terrain, and snowmaking reservoir capacity and coverage; widen existing ski trails; replace and add lifts; and develop ‘‘gladed’’ areas for sliding that would remove deadfall timber to reduce fire hazards (Ecosign 2011, pp. I– 3–I–4, IV–5–IV–7). The plan proposes to add summer activities including liftaccessed sightseeing and hiking, nature interpretive hikes, evening stargazing, mountain biking, conference retreats and seminars, weddings, family reunions, mountain music concerts, festivals, climbing walls, bungee trampoline, beach and grass volleyball, a car rally, and other activities (Ecosign 2011, pp. I–3–I–4). Widening existing ski trails and increasing snowmaking reservoir capacity (Ecosign 2011, p. IV– 5, Figure 21a) would impact the Mount Charleston blue butterfly at a known occupied and at a presumed occupied location (Locations 2 and 5 in Table 1). Summer activities would impact the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its known occupied and presumed occupied habitat by attracting visitors in higher numbers during the time of year when larvae and larval host plants are especially vulnerable to trampling (Location 2 in Table 1). The LVSSR master development plan, which has been accepted by the Forest Service, considered Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat during development of the plan. Impacts to Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat from the LVSSR master development plan will be addressed further during its NEPA process (discussed further under Factor D, below) (Forest Service 2011, p. 3). (2) In the proposed rule, we reported that the Old Mill, Dolomite, and McWilliams Reconstruction Projects to improve camping and picnic areas in Upper Lee Canyon were being planned VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 and evaluated under NEPA. The Service coordinated with and provided recommendations to the Forest Service to prevent impacts to Mount Charleston blue butterflies and their habitat (Service 2012a, p. 2). In January 2013, the Forest Service issued a decision notice and finding of no significant impact for the project, which incorporated design criteria to avoid impacts to Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat and individuals (Forest Service 2013a, p. 1). Design criteria included early coordination between work crews and specialists familiar with the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat, temporary fencing around potential habitat areas, weed prevention, restoration of disturbed areas, and avoidance of potential habitat areas during construction boundary and trail layout (Forest Service 2013a, p. 17– 19). The Forest Service began implementing this project in November 2012, and the project is expected to be completed in May 2015 (Forest Service 2013b). These projects are ongoing with the design criteria being implemented to minimize the likelihood of impacts. Until the work is completed, we will not be able to tell whether the design criteria that were implemented will be effective at avoiding or minimizing impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. (3) In the proposed rule, we reported that the Foxtail Group Picnic Area Reconstruction Project in Upper Lee Canyon was being planned and evaluated under NEPA. The Service coordinated with and provided recommendations to the Forest Service to prevent impacts to Mount Charleston blue butterflies or their habitat (Service 2012b, p. 2). In December 2012, the Forest Service issued a decision notice and finding of no significant impact for the project, which incorporated design criteria to avoid impacts to Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat and individuals (Forest Service 2012, p. 1). Design criteria included early coordination between work crews and specialists familiar with the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat, temporary fencing around potential habitat areas, weed prevention, restoration of disturbed areas, and avoidance of potential habitat areas during construction boundary and trail layout (Forest Service 2012, pp. 12–15). The Forest Service began implementing this project in November 2012, and the project is expected to be completed in May 2015 (Forest Service 2013b). These projects are ongoing with the design criteria being implemented to minimize the likelihood of impacts. Until the PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 57765 work is completed, we will not be able to tell whether the design criteria that were implemented will be effective at avoiding or minimizing impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. (4) The Ski Lift 2 Replacement Project is being planned and evaluated under NEPA. The proposed action includes removing and replacing chair lift number 2 and moving the base terminal down slope to the elevation of the base lodge deck. In order to accomplish this, chair lift number 1 will have to be moved to the south to accommodate both loading terminals. Construction activities would include removing and replacing all terminals, lift towers, tower footings, lift lines, metal rope, chairs, communication equipment, and backup power generation. This proposed action is consistent with the LVSSR master development plan accepted by the Forest Service in 2011. We met with the Forest Service and provided recommendations regarding potential direct and indirect impacts of these activities to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its potential habitat within or in close proximity to the project area. The recommendations provided by the Service will assist with the development of the proposed action in order to avoid or minimize adverse effects to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its potential habitat. The Forest Service expects to issue a decision notice on this project in August 2013, and begin implementation immediately after that time (Forest Service 2013b). Fuels Reduction Projects In December 2007, the Forest Service approved the SMNRA Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project (Forest Service 2007a, pp. 1–127). This project resulted in tree removals and vegetation thinning in three presumed occupied Mount Charleston blue butterfly locations in Upper Lee Canyon, including Foxtail Ridge and Lee Canyon Youth Camp, and impacted approximately 32 ac (13 ha) of presumed occupied habitat that has been mapped in Upper Lee Canyon (Locations 3 and 4 in Table 1) (Forest Service 2007a, Appendix A-Map 2; Datasmiths 2007, p. 26). Manual and mechanical clearing of shrubs and trees will be repeated on a 5- to 10-year rotating basis and will result in direct impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat, including crushing or removal of larval host plants and diapausing larvae (if present). Implementation of this project began in the spring of 2008 throughout the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, including Lee Canyon, and the project is nearly complete for its initial E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 57766 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 implementation (Forest Service 2011, p. 2). Although Boyd and Murphy (2008, p. 26) recommended increased forest thinning to improve habitat quality for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, the primary goal of this project was to reduce wildfire risk to life and property in the SMNRA wildland urban interface (Forest Service 2007a, p. 6), not to improve Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat. Mount Charleston blue butterflies require larval host plants and nectar plants that are flowering concurrent with the butterfly’s flight period and that occur in areas without forest canopy cover, which can reduce solar exposure during critical larval feeding periods (Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 23; Fleishman 2012, peer review comment). Although the fuel reduction project incorporated measures to minimize impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat, shaded fuel breaks created for this project may not result in open areas to create or significantly improve Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat. Although this project may result in increased understory herbaceous plant productivity and diversity, there are short-term risks to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly’s habitat associated with project implementation. In recommending increased forest thinning to improve Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat, Boyd and Murphy (2008, p. 26) cautioned that thinning treatments would need to be implemented carefully to minimize short-term disturbance impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat. Individual butterflies (larvae, pupae, and adults), and larval host plants and nectar plants, may be crushed during project implementation. In areas where thinned trees are chipped (mastication), layers of wood chips may become too deep and impact survival of Mount Charleston blue butterfly larvae and pupae, as well as larval host plants and nectar plants. Soil and vegetation disturbance during project implementation would increase the probability of colonization and establishment of weeds and disturbance-adapted species, such as Chrysothamnus spp. (rabbitbrush); these plants would compete with Mount Charleston blue butterfly larval host and nectar plants. Conservation Agreement and Plans That May Offset Habitat Threats A conservation agreement was developed in 1998, to facilitate voluntary cooperation among the Forest Service, the Service, and the State of Nevada Department of Conservation and VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 Natural Resources in providing longterm protection for the rare and sensitive flora and fauna of the Spring Mountains, including the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Forest Service 1998a, pp. 1–50). The conservation agreement was in effect for a period of 10 years after it was signed on April 13, 1998 (Forest Service et al. 1998, pp. 44, 49), and was renewed in 2008 (Forest Service 2008). Coordination between the Forest Service and Service has continued. Many of the conservation actions described in the conservation agreement have been implemented; however, several important conservation actions that may have directly benefited the Mount Charleston blue butterfly have not been implemented. Regardless, many of the conservation actions in the conservation agreement (for example, inventory and monitoring) would not directly reduce threats to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly or its habitat. In 2004, the Service and Forest Service signed a memorandum of agreement that provides a process for review of activities that involve species covered under the 1998 conservation agreement (Forest Service and Service 2004, pp. 1–9). Formal coordination through this memorandum of agreement was established to: (1) Jointly develop projects that avoid or minimize impacts to species that are listed, candidate species, and species that are proposed for listing, and species under the 1998 conservation agreement; and (2) to ensure consistency with commitments and direction provided for in recovery planning efforts and in conservation agreement efforts. More than half of the past projects that impacted Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat were reviewed by the Service and Forest Service under this review process, but the review process on several projects was never initiated. Some efforts under this memorandum of agreement have been successful in reducing or avoiding project impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, while other efforts have not. Recent examples of projects that have been planned to reduce or avoid impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly include the Lee Meadows Restoration Project (discussed above in ‘‘Recreation, Development, and Other Projects’’ under Factor A) and the Bristlecone Trail Habitat Improvement Project (Forest Service 2007b, pp. 1–7; Forest Service 2007c, pp. 1–14; Service 2007, p. 1–2). However, the projects are currently under implementation so effectiveness of the avoidance and minimization measures cannot be evaluated at this time. A new PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 conservation agreement is currently being developed for the SMNRA. The loss or modification of known occupied and presumed occupied Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat in Upper Lee Canyon, as discussed above, has occurred in the past. However, more recently, the Forest Service has suspended decisions on certain projects that would potentially impact Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat (see discussion of lower parking lot expansion and new snowmaking lines projects in the 12-month status finding ‘‘Recreation, Development Projects,’’ (76 FR 12673)). In addition, the Forest Service has reaffirmed its commitment to collaborate with the Service in order to avoid implementation of projects or actions that would impact the viability of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Forest Service 2010). This commitment includes: (1) Developing a mutually agreeable process to review future proposed projects to ensure that implementation of these actions will not lead to loss of population viability; (2) reviewing proposed projects that may pose a threat to the continued viability of the subspecies; and (3) jointly developing a conservation agreement (strategy) that identifies actions that will be taken to ensure the conservation of the subspecies (Forest Service 2010). The Forest Service and the Service are currently in the process of cooperatively developing the conservation agreement. The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is a covered subspecies under the 2000 Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP). The Clark County MSHCP identifies two goals for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly: (a) ‘‘Maintain stable or increasing population numbers and host and larval plant species’’; and (b) ‘‘No net unmitigated loss of larval host plant or nectar plant species habitat’’ (RECON 2000a, Table 2.5, pp. 2–154; RECON 2000b, pp. B158–B161). The Forest Service is one of several signatories to the implementing agreement for the Clark County MSHCP, because many of the activities from the 1998 conservation agreement were incorporated into the MSHCP. Primarily, activities undertaken by the Forest Service focused on conducting surveying and monitoring for butterflies. Although some surveying and monitoring occurred through contracts by the Forest Service, Clark County, and the Service, a butterfly monitoring plan was not fully implemented. Recently, the Forest Service has been implementing the LVSSR Adaptive Vegetation Management Plan (Forest Service 2005, pp. 1–24) to provide E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 mitigation for approximately 11 ac (4.45 ha) of impacts to presumed-occupied Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat (and other sensitive wildlife and plant species habitat) resulting from projects that the Forest Service implemented in 2005 and 2006. Under the plan, LVSSR will revegetate impacted areas using native plant species, including Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus. However, this program is experimental and has experienced difficulties due to the challenges of native seed availability and propagation. Under the plan, Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus is being brought into horticultural propagation. Several methods have been used to propagate Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus, including germination from seed and salvaging plants to grow in pots (Thiell 2011, pp. 4–6). Overall survival of plants to the time of planting with either method was low, although many variables may have factored into this success rate (Thiell 2011, pp. 4–6, 14–15). Thus, additional methods to propagate Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus and other larval host plants and nectar plants will need to be tested in order to establish successful methodology for restoration of Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat. Summary of Factor A The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is currently known to occur in three locations: the South Loop Trail area in upper Kyle Canyon, LVSSR in Upper Lee Canyon, and Bonanza Trail. In addition, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is presumed to occupy seven locations: Foxtail, Youth Camp, Gary Abbott, Lower LVSSR Parking, Bristlecone Trail, Mummy Spring, and Griffith Peak. Habitat loss and modification, as a result of changes in fire regimes and long-term successional changes in forest structure, implementation of recreational development projects and fuels reduction projects, and nonnative species, are continuing threats to the butterfly’s habitat in Upper Lee Canyon. Recreational area reconstruction projects currently planned also may negatively impact Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat in Upper Lee Canyon. In addition, proposed future activities under a draft master development plan at LVSSR may impact the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat in Upper Lee Canyon. Because of its likely small population size, projects that impact even relatively small areas of occupied habitat could threaten the long-term population viability of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. The continued loss or modification of presumed occupied VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 habitat would further impair the longterm population viability of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly in Upper Lee Canyon by removing diapausing larvae and, potentially, pupae (if present), and by reducing the ability of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly to disperse during favorable years. The successional advance of trees, shrubs, and grasses, along with the spread of nonnative species, are continuing threats to the subspecies in Upper Lee Canyon. While host and nectar plants are relatively abundant at the presumed-occupied locations of Foxtail, Youth Camp, Gary Abbott, and the known occupied location of LVSSR, these locations are threatened by forest canopy growth and encroachment (Andrew et al. 2013, p. 47–54). The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is presumed extirpated from seven historical locations (Lee Meadows, Cathedral Rock, Upper Lee Canyon holotype, Upper Kyle Canyon Ski Area, Old Town, Deer Creek, and Willow Creek), likely due to successional changes and the introduction of nonnative plants. Nonnative forbs and grasses are a threat to the subspecies and its habitat at LVSSR. There are agreements and plans in place (including the 2008 Spring Mountains conservation agreement and the 2000 Clark County MSHCP) or in development that are intended to conserve the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat. Future voluntary conservation actions could be implemented in accordance with the terms of these agreements and plans, but are largely dependent on the level of funding available to the Forest Service for such work. If all of these projects were able to be implemented, the threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat could be reduced. Conservation actions (for example, mechanical thinning of timber stands and prescribed burns to create openings in the forest canopy suitable for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its host and nectar plants) could reduce to some degree the ongoing adverse effects to the butterfly of vegetative succession promoted by alteration of the natural fire regime in the Spring Mountains. The Forest Service’s commitment to collaboratively review proposed projects to minimize impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may reduce the threat posed by activities under the Forest Service’s control, although we are unable to determine the potential effectiveness of this new strategy at this time. Therefore, based on the current distribution of suitable habitat and recent, existing, and likely future trends PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 57767 in habitat loss, we find that the present and future destruction, modification, and curtailment of its habitat or range is a threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Factor B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes Rare butterflies and moths are highly prized by collectors, and an international trade exists in specimens for both live and decorative markets, as well as the specialist trade that supplies hobbyists, collectors, and researchers (Collins and Morris 1985, pp. 155–179; Morris et al. 1991, pp. 332–334; Williams 1996, pp. 30–37). The specialist trade differs from both the live and decorative market in that it concentrates on rare and threatened species (U.S. Department of Justice [USDOJ] 1993, pp. 1–3; United States v. Skalski et al., Case No. CR9320137, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California [U.S. Attorney’s Office] 1993, pp. 1–86). In general, the rarer the species, the more valuable it is; prices can exceed $25,000 for exceedingly rare specimens. For example, during a 4-year investigation, special agents of the Service’s Office of Law Enforcement executed warrants and seized over 30,000 endangered and protected butterflies and beetles, with a total wholesale commercial market value of about $90,000 in the United States (USDJ 1995, pp. 1–4). In another case, special agents found at least 13 species protected under the Act, and another 130 species illegally taken from lands administered by the Department of the Interior and other State lands (USDC 1993, pp. 1–86; Service 1995, pp. 1–2). Several listings of butterflies as endangered or threatened species under the Act have been based, at least partially, on intense collection pressure. Notably, the Saint Francis’ satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci) was emergency-listed as an endangered species on April 18, 1994 (59 FR 18324). The Saint Francis’ satyr was demonstrated to have been significantly impacted by collectors in just a 3-year period (59 FR 18324). The Callippe and Behren’s silverspot butterflies (Speyeria callippe callippe and Speyeria zerene behrensii) were listed as endangered species on December 5, 1997 (62 FR 64306), partially due to overcollection. Most recently, the Miami blue butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri) was emergency-listed as an endangered species (76 FR 49542; August 10, 2011), with collection being one of the primary threats. Butterflies in small populations may be vulnerable to harm from collection E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 57768 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations (Gall 1984, p. 133). A population may be reduced to below sustainable numbers by removal of females, reducing the probability that new colonies will be founded. Collectors can pose threats to butterflies, notably when populations are already severely reduced by other factors, because they may be unable to recognize when they are depleting colonies below the thresholds of survival or recovery (Collins and Morris 1985, pp. 162–165). There is ample evidence of collectors impacting other imperiled and endangered butterflies (Gochfeld and Burger 1997, pp. 208– 209), impacting larval host plants (Cech and Tudor 2005, p. 55), and even contributing to extirpations (Duffey 1968, p. 94). For example, the federally endangered Mitchell’s satyr (Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii) is believed to have been extirpated from New Jersey due to overcollection coupled with habitat loss (57 FR 21564, May 20, 1992; Gochfeld and Burger 1997, p. 209). Rare butterflies can be highly prized by insect collectors, and collection is a known threat to some butterfly species, such as the Fender’s blue butterfly (65 FR 3875; January 25, 2000). In some cases, private collectors have more extensive collections of particular butterfly species than museums (Alexander 1996, p. 2). In particular, small colonies and populations are at the highest risk. Overcollection or repeated handling and marking of females in years of low abundance can seriously damage populations through loss of reproductive individuals and genetic variability (65 FR 3875; January 25, 2000). In areas of the southwestern United States surrounding the range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, other diminutive lycaenid butterflies such as Western-tailed blue butterfly (Everes amyntula), Pygmy blue butterfly (Brephidium exilis), Ceraunus blue butterfly (Hemiargus ceraunus), and Boisduval’s blue butterfly (Plebejus icarioides ssp.) have been confiscated from commercial traders who illegally collected them (U.S. Attorney’s Office 1993, pp. 4, 8, 16; Alexander 1996, pp. 1–6). Since the publication of the 12month finding (76 FR 12667) on March 8, 2011, we have discovered additional information that indicates butterfly collecting occurs at some level in the Spring Mountains (Service 2012c, pp. 1–4), and the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and other small, blue butterflies that co-occur with the Mount Charleston blue butterfly have been collected (Service 2012c, pp. 1–4; Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 22, 28, 41, 49, 55, 61). Therefore, while we do not know to what extent the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is specifically targeted for collection, we do know the inadvertent or unpermitted collection of Mount Charleston blue butterflies has occurred in the past and is anticipated to continue in the future to some degree. When Austin first described the Mount Charleston blue butterfly in 1980 (Austin 1980, p. 22), he indicated that collectors regularly visited areas close to the known collection sites of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Records indicate collection has occurred in several locations within the Spring Mountains, with Lee Canyon being among the most popular areas for butterfly collecting (Table 2; Austin 1980, p. 22; Service 2012, p. 2). Butterfly collectors may sometimes remove the only individual of a subspecies observed during collecting trips, even if it is known to be a unique specimen (Service 2012, p. 3). In many instances, a collector may not know he has a particularly rare or scarce species until after collection and subsequent identification takes place. The best available information indicates that Mount Charleston blue butterflies have been collected for personal use (Service 2012c, p. 2). TABLE 2—NUMBERS OF MOUNT CHARLESTON BLUE BUTTERFLY SPECIMENS COLLECTED BY AREA, YEAR, AND SEX Collection area/year Male Mount Charleston: 1928 .......................................................................................................... Willow Creek: 1928 .......................................................................................................... Lee Canyon: 1963 .......................................................................................................... 1976 .......................................................................................................... 2002 .......................................................................................................... Kyle Canyon: 1965 .......................................................................................................... Cathedral Rock: 1972 .......................................................................................................... Deer Creek Rd.: 1950 .......................................................................................................... South Loop: 2007 .......................................................................................................... Female ........................ ........................ * ∼700 * ∼700 15 19 ........................ 34 8 1 1 6 ........................ ........................ 8 ........................ ........................ 22 1 1 3 ........................ ........................ 3 ........................ ........................ 1 1 2 ........................ ........................ 2 ........................ ........................ 1 1 30 25 10 65 Total ................................................................................................... Unknown Total tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 References: Garth 1928, p. 93; Howe 1975, Plate 59; Austin 1980, p. 22; Austin and Austin 1980, p. 30; Kingsley 2007, p. 4; Service 2012c, p. 2 * = Collections by Frank Morand as reported in Garth 1928, p. 93. Not included in totals. For most butterfly species, collecting is generally thought to have less of an impact on butterfly populations compared to other threats. Weiss et al. (1997, p. 29) indicated that, in general, responsible collecting posed little harm to populations. However, when a butterfly population is very small, any collection of butterflies results in the VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 direct mortality of individuals and may greatly affect the population’s viability and ability to recover. Populations already stressed by other factors may be severely threatened by intensive collecting (Thomas 1984, p. 345; Miller 1994, pp. 76, 83; New et al. 1995, p. 62). Thomas 1984 (p. 345) suggested that small (fewer than 250 adults), closed, PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 sedentary populations of those butterfly species that fly often, fly fairly weakly, and are in areas of readily accessible terrain are most likely to be at risk from overcollection. Butterfly collecting (except those with protected status) for noncommercial (recreational and personal) purposes does not require a special use E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations authorization (Forest Service 1998b, p. 1; Joslin 1998, p. 74). However, the Forest Service’s 1996 General Management Plan identified Lee Canyon, Cold Creek, Willow Creek, and upper Kyle Canyon in the SMNRA as areas where permits are required for any butterfly collecting (Forest Service 1998, pp. 28, E9). On Forest Serviceadministered lands, a special use permit has been required for commercial activities (36 CFR 251.50), which, although not identified specifically, would presumably include the commercial collection of butterflies. There are no records indicating any butterfly collection permits have been issued under the Forest Service’s general management plan (GMP) provision (although at least one application has been submitted), or that any special use permits have been issued for commercial collecting of Mount Charleston blue butterflies under 36 CFR 251.50 in the Spring Mountains (S. Hinman 2011, personal communication). However, outreach and public notification regarding this requirement was not wide, and many individuals probably were not aware that a permit was required, resulting in unauthorized collection in the past. Collection targeting other butterfly species that are similar in appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may have resulted in incidental collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly or mistaken identification of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly for another similar species. Based on this, we proposed to list five additional butterfly species (lupine blue, Reakirt’s blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, and two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies) under section 4(e) of the Act (77 FR 59518, September 27, 2012). Since our proposed rule, we have evaluated more recent range data for the five species, and find that not all of those species actually overlap the known range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Although the butterflies species that we proposed for listing are similar in appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, we believe the protection from misidentification and incidental collection that their listing would have provided is now unnecessary because the Forest Service has issued a closure order prohibiting collection, possession and transportation of all butterfly species without a special permit within the majority of the occupied range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly that will significantly reduce or eliminate the threat of incidental collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. This VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 closure order has two prohibitions, the first prohibits the collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and four other sensitive butterfly species (Morand’s checkerspot [Euphydryas anicia morandi], Spring Mountains acastus checkerspot [Chlosyne acastus robusta], and the two subspecies of Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies) in all areas within the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area. A second prohibition of the order closes the majority of theknown range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly to the collection of all butterfly species, including those species for which the Mount Charleston blue butterfly could be mistaken. Permits to collect nonlisted butterflies in these areas may be issued by the Forest Service through the collection permit process. This process requires applicants to provide information regarding their qualifications and experience with butterflies and intended uses of the permit, including the specific purpose of collection; a list of which species will be collected; the number of each sex and life stage for each species that will be collected; a list of locations where collection would occur; the time period in which collection would occur; and how information and knowledge gained from the collection will be disseminated. The Forest Service permit does not allow the collection of any species listed under the Act, including the Mount Charleston blue butterfly being added to the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Species by this rule. Collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, as well as any other endangered or threatened species, requires a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit issued by the Service; the section 10(a)(1)(A) permit process ensures that those that are interested in conducting research, which may include collection for scientific purposes, are qualified to work with this butterfly subspecies and have research objectives that will enhance the survival of the subspecies. Individuals who are issued a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit to research the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may then apply for a scientific collection permit from the Forest Service if such research activities will be conducted on Forest Service lands. Because the application processes for a Service-issued section 10(a)(1)(A) permit and a Forest Service scientific collection permit require thorough review of applicant qualifications by agency personnel, we believe only highly qualified individuals capable of distinguishing between small, blue butterfly species that occur in the Spring Mountains will PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 57769 be issued permits. Therefore, the threat from incidental or accidental collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly will be reduced. As a result, we do not anticipate that individuals with permits will misidentify the butterfly species, and therefore, inadvertent collection by authorized individuals should be greatly reduced. In addition, any collection without permits would be in violation of the closure order and subject to law enforcement action so purposeful, unlawful collection should also be reduced. This closure order is expected to provide more protection from the threat of collection to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly than the listing of the five additional butterflies based on similarity of appearance would have provided, for several reasons. First, the recently issued Forest Service closure order provides an enforcement mechanism for law enforcement officers through the Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 261.51), which the GMP provision did not provide. Law enforcement officers will be able to ticket or cite individuals who are out of compliance with the closure order. Secondly, individuals interested in collecting nonlisted butterflies in the SMNRA will have to apply for a collection permit and provide thorough justification and description of their research and need for collection as described above. Based on the current number of known butterfly researchers in the Spring Mountains, the Forest Service is unlikely to issue many collection permits for any butterfly species in Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat. Those who are issued permits will have provided information demonstrating their qualifications and ability to research and identify butterfly species of the Spring Mountains; therefore, only individuals who are highly qualified and competent with butterflies and their identification will be issued collection permits. Further, qualified and competent collectors will be able to identify the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and know that its collection is prohibited under the Act. Therefore, the threat from incidental or accidental collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly while collecting other butterfly species will be reduced. Thirdly, Forest Service law enforcement will be able to more readily and easily enforce a closure order than our law enforcement would be able to enforce potential violations based on similarity of appearance listings under the Act. The areas identified in the closure area receive the highest amount of recreation in the SMNRA, so these E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 57770 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations areas often receive the greatest presence of Forest Service law enforcement. This will provide substantially more law enforcement presence to deter possible unlawful collection than if the species similar in appearance were listed without the closure order. Law enforcement personnel will not need to be able to distinguish between different butterfly species during potential enforcement actions, because anyone collecting or attempting to collect butterflies within the closure area must be permitted, or that person will be in violation of the closure order, and law enforcement may take appropriate enforcement action. Because individuals applying for a Forest Service collection permit must demonstrate adequate qualifications and expertise in butterfly identification, we believe individuals that are permitted will be qualified and able to distinguish the Mount Charleston blue butterfly from other species and will be in compliance with his or her permit. Should someone be stopped with blue butterflies outside of the closure order area, law enforcement will still be able to seize the blue butterflies, with probable cause, and have them identified by an expert to ensure that they are not listed species. If they are a listed species, the individual would need to prove lawful possession or be subject to law enforcement action, including potential criminal or civil prosecution for violations of the Act. Based on these reasons, the Forest Service closure order is expected to be more effective in protecting the Mount Charleston blue butterfly from the threat of collection than the listing of species due to their similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. For more information on the Forest Service closure order, please visit http:// www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/htnf/alertsnotices. In summary, the threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly from collection is expected to be reduced by the Forest Service’s closure order on collection, and we are confident that most individuals will follow the Forest Service’s and our permitting regulations. However, it is possible that unlawful collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly could occur. Due to the small number of discrete populations, overall small metapopulation size, close proximity to roads and trails, and restricted range, we have determined that unpermitted and unlawful collection is a threat to the subspecies and may continue to be in the future. VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 Factor C. Disease or Predation We are not aware of any information specific to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly regarding impacts from either disease or predation. Research on these topics and their impacts on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is lacking. Researchers have observed potential predator species (for example, spiders (class Arachnida), ambush bugs (Phymata spp.), and flycatchers (Empidonax spp.)) at Mount Charleston blue butterfly locations (Thompson et al. 2013b, presentation), but we are not aware of any documented predation events and cannot confirm if any of these species do predate Mount Charleston blue butterflies. The extent to which parasitoids regulate butterfly populations is not adequately understood (Gilbert and Singer 1975, p. 367), and we do not have information specific to this regarding the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. As a result, the best available scientific and commercial information does not indicate that disease or predation are a threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms Under this factor, we examine whether existing regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to address the threats to the subspecies discussed under the other factors. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act requires the Service to take into account ‘‘those efforts, if any, being made by any State or foreign nation, or any political subdivision of a State or foreign nation, to protect such species . . .’’ In relation to Factor D under the Act, we interpret this language to require the Service to consider relevant Federal, State, and tribal laws, regulations, and other such mechanisms that may minimize any of the threats we describe in threat analyses under the other four factors, or otherwise enhance conservation of the species. We give strongest weight to statutes and their implementing regulations and to management direction that stems from those laws and regulations. An example would be State governmental actions enforced under a State statute or constitution, or Federal action under statute. Having evaluated the significance of the threat as mitigated by any such conservation efforts, we analyze under Factor D the extent to which existing regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to address the specific threats to the species. Regulatory mechanisms, if they exist, may reduce or eliminate the impacts from one or more identified PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 threats. In this section, we review existing State and Federal regulatory mechanisms to determine whether they effectively reduce or remove threats to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Mount Charleston blue butterflies have been detected in only three general areas in recent years—the South Loop Trail area, LVSSR, and the Bonanza Trail area, all of which occur primarily on Federal land under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service; therefore, the discussion below focuses on Federal laws. There is no available information regarding local land use laws and ordinances that have been issued by Clark County or other local government entities for the protection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Nevada Revised Statutes sections 503 and 527 offer protective measures to wildlife and plants, but do not include invertebrate species such as the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Therefore, no regulatory protection is offered under Nevada State law. Please note that actions adopted by local groups, States, or Federal entities that are discretionary, including conservation strategies and guidance, are not regulatory mechanisms and were discussed above in the ‘‘Conservation Agreement and Plans That May Offset Habitat Threats’’ section under Factor A, above. The Forest Service manages lands designated as wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131– 1136). With respect to these areas, section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act states in part that ‘‘except as specifically provided for in this Act, . . . there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.’’ Although the Wilderness Act is not specifically intended to protect at-risk species, such as the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, the Wilderness Act provides ancillary protection to this subspecies by the prohibitions restricting development in habitat in the South Loop Trail and Bonanza Trail areas. Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat at LVSSR and elsewhere in Lee Canyon and Kyle Canyon is located outside of the Mount Charleston Wilderness, and thus is not subject to protections afforded by the Wilderness Act. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), requires Federal agencies, such as the Forest Service, to describe proposed agency actions, consider alternatives, identify and disclose potential environmental impacts of each alternative, and involve E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations the public in the decision-making process. Federal agencies are not required to select the NEPA alternative having the least significant environmental impacts. A Federal agency may select an action that will adversely affect sensitive species provided that these effects are identified in a NEPA document. The NEPA itself is a disclosure law, and does not require subsequent minimization or mitigation of actions taken by Federal agencies. Although Federal agencies may include conservation measures for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as a result of the NEPA process, such measures are not required by the statute. The Forest Service is required to analyze its projects, including those listed under the Factor A discussion, above, in accordance with the NEPA. The SMNRA is one of 10 districts of the Humboldt–Toiyabe National Forest and was established by Public Law 103– 63, dated August 4, 1993 (the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area Act, 16 U.S.C. 460hhh et seq.). The Federal lands of the SMNRA are managed by the Forest Service in Clark and Nye Counties, Nevada, for the following purposes: (1) To preserve the scenic, scientific, historic, cultural, natural, wilderness, watershed, riparian, wildlife, endangered and threatened species, and other values contributing to public enjoyment and biological diversity in the Spring Mountains of Nevada; (2) To ensure appropriate conservation and management of natural and recreational resources in the Spring Mountains; and (3) To provide for the development of public recreational opportunities in the Spring Mountains for the enjoyment of present and future generations. Habitat of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is predominantly in the SMNRA and one of several resources considered by the Forest Service under the guidance of its land management plans. The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1600 et seq.), provides the principal guidance for the management of activities on lands under Forest Service jurisdiction through associated land and resource management plans for each forest unit. Under NFMA and other Federal laws, the Forest Service has authority to regulate recreation, vehicle travel and other human disturbance, livestock grazing, fire management, energy development, and mining on lands within its jurisdiction. Current guidance for the management of Forest Service lands in the SMNRA is under the Toiyabe National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan and the VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 Spring Mountains National Recreation Area GMP (Forest Service 1996). In June 2006, the Forest Service added the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, and three other endemic butterflies, to the Regional Forester’s Sensitive Species List, in accordance with Forest Service Manual 2670. The Forest Service’s objective in managing sensitive species is to prevent listing of species under the Act, maintain viable populations of native species, and develop and implement management objectives for populations and habitat of sensitive species. Projects listed under the Factor A discussion, above, have been guided by these Forest Service plans, policies, and guidance. These plans, policies, and guidance notwithstanding, removal or degradation of known occupied and presumed-occupied butterfly habitat has occurred as a result of projects approved by the Forest Service in Upper Lee Canyon. Additionally, this guidance has not been effective in reducing other threats to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (for example, invasion of nonnative plant species and commercial and personal collection activities) (Weiss et al. 1995, pp. 5–6; Titus and Landau 2003, p. 1; Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 6; Service 2012c, pp. 1–4). Until recently, the effectiveness of the Forest Service’s GMP provision requiring a permit in order to collect butterflies was inadequate because it was not well publicized and did not provide a mechanism for law enforcement personnel to enforce it (77 FR 59518, September 27, 2012). However, as described in detail under Factor B, above, the Forest Service has recently issued a closure order prohibiting the collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and four other sensitive butterfly species throughout the SMNRA and prohibiting the collection of all butterfly species in the area where the majority of known occupied and presumed occupied locations of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly occur. The Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 261.51) requires the Forest Service to provide information on the closure area in multiple locations, and the Forest Service has notified the public on its Web site, at kiosks and trailheads in the SMNRA, and on butterfly discussion boards. Any violation of the prohibitions in the closure order issued pursuant to 36 CFR 261.50(a) and (b) is subject to law enforcement action and punishable as a misdemeanor offense [Title 16 U.S.C. 551, 18 U.S.C. 3571(b)(6), Title 18 U.S.C. 3581(b)(7)]. Based on this, we believe the Forest Service’s closure order will be effective PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 57771 in protecting the Mount Charleston blue butterfly from most butterfly collection. Summary of Factor D While not the intent of the Wilderness Act, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly receives ancillary protection from the Wilderness Act from its prohibitions on development. We consider the recent issuance of a butterfly collection closure order by the Forest Service to reduce the threat of collection to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Other existing regulatory mechanisms have not provided effective protection to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat. Forest Service plans, policies, and guidance notwithstanding, removal or degradation of known occupied and presumed-occupied butterfly habitat has occurred as a result of projects approved by the Forest Service in Upper Lee Canyon, and Forest Service guidance has not been effective in reducing other threats to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (for example, invasion of nonnative plant species and commercial and personal collection activities) (Weiss et al. 1995, pp. 5–6; Titus and Landau 2003, p. 1; Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 6; Service 2012c, pp. 1–4). Factor E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence Our analyses under the Act include consideration of ongoing and projected changes in climate. The terms ‘‘climate’’ and ‘‘climate change’’ are defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (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 2007a, 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 2007a, 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 2007b, 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. E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 57772 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations Global climate projections are informative, and, in some cases, the only or the best scientific information available for us to use. However, projected changes in climate and related impacts can vary substantially across and within different regions of the world (e.g., IPCC 2007b, pp. 8–12). Therefore, we use ‘‘downscaled’’ projections when they are available and have been developed through appropriate scientific procedures, because such projections provide higher resolution information that is more relevant to spatial scales used for analyses of a given species (see Glick et al. 2011, pp. 58–61, for a discussion of downscaling). IPCC models are at a landscape scale and project that precipitation will decrease in the southwestern United States (IPCC 2007c, p. 8, Table SPM.2). The IPCC reports that temperature increases and rising air and ocean temperature is unquestionable (IPCC 2007b, p. 4). The average annual temperature is projected to increase 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.4 degrees Fahrenheit) from the 1961–1990 baseline average to the 2050s (average of 16 general circulation models performed with three emission scenarios) (TNC 2011, Web site). Precipitation variability in the Mojave Desert region is linked spatially and temporally with events in the tropical and northern Pacific Oceans ˜ ˜ (El Nino and La Nina) (USGS 2004, pp. 2–3). In our analyses, we use our expert judgment to weigh relevant information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of various aspects of climate change as it affects the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. The Mount Charleston blue butterfly population has declined since the last high-population year in 1995 (a total of 121 butterflies were counted during surveys of 2 areas at LVSSR on 2 separate dates (Weiss 1996, p. 4)). This subspecies has a limited distribution within 267.1 ac (108.1 ha) of habitat at only 3 known occupied locations, and based on numbers of observations made at these locations in a single season, the populations are likely small. Small populations have a higher risk of extinction due to random environmental events (Shaffer 1981, p. 131; Shaffer 1987, pp. 69–75; Gilpin and Soule 1986, pp. 24–28). Weather extremes can cause severe butterfly population reductions or extinctions (Murphy et al. 1990, p. 43; Weiss et al. 1987, pp. 164–167; Thomas et al. 1996, pp. 964–969). Given the limited distribution and likely low population numbers of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, late-season snowstorms, severe summer monsoon thunderstorms, and drought have the VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 potential to adversely impact the subspecies. Late-season snowstorms have caused alpine butterfly extirpations (Ehrlich et al. 1972, pp. 101–105), and false spring conditions followed by normal winter snowstorms have caused adult and prediapause larvae mortality (Parmesan 2005, pp. 56–60). In addition, high rainfall years have been associated with butterfly population declines (Dobkin et al. 1987, pp. 161–176). Extended periods of rainy weather can also slow larval development and reduce overwintering survival (Weiss et al. 1993, pp. 261–270). Weiss et al. (1997, p. 32) suggested that heavy summer monsoon thunderstorms adversely impacted Mount Charleston blue butterflies during the 1996 flight season. During the 2006 and 2007 flight season, severe summer thunderstorms may have affected the flight season at LVSSR and the South Loop Trail (Newfields 2006, pp. 11 and 14; Kingsley 2007, p. 8). Additionally, drought has been shown to lower butterfly populations (Ehrlich et al. 1980, pp. 101–105; Thomas 1984, p. 344). Drought can cause larval butterfly host plants to mature early and reduce larval food availability (Ehrlich et al. 1980, pp. 101–105; Weiss 1987, p. 165). This has likely affected the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Murphy (2006, p. 3) and Boyd (2006, p. 1) both assert a series of drought years, followed by a season of above-average snowfall and then more drought, could be a reason for the lack of butterfly sightings in 2006. Continuing drought could be responsible for the lack of sightings in 2007 and 2008 (Datasmiths 2007, p. 1; Boyd 2008, p. 2). High-elevation species like the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may be susceptible to some level of habitat loss due to global climate change exacerbating threats already impacting the subspecies (Peters and Darling 1985, p. 714; Hill et al. 2002, p. 2170). Effects on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly or its habitat from climate change will vary across its range because of topographic heterogeneity (Luoto and Heikkinen 2008, p. 487). The IPCC has high confidence in predictions that extreme weather events, warmer temperatures, and regional drought are very likely to increase in the northern hemisphere as a result of climate change (IPCC 2007c, pp. 15–16). Climate models show the southwestern United States has transitioned into a more arid climate of drought that is predicted to continue into the next century (Seager et al. 2007, p. 1181). In the past 60 years, the frequency of storms with extreme precipitation has increased in Nevada by 29 percent (Madsen and Figdor 2007, PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 p. 37). Changes in local southern Nevada climatic patterns cannot be definitively tied to global climate change; however, they are consistent with IPCC-predicted patterns of extreme precipitation, warmer than average temperatures, and drought (Redmond 2007, p. 1). Therefore, we think it likely that climate change will impact the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its high-elevation habitat through predicted increases in extreme precipitation and drought. Based on the above evidence, we believe that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly has likely been affected by unfavorable climatic changes in precipitation and temperature that are both ongoing and projected to continue into the future, and alternating extreme precipitation and drought may exacerbate threats already facing the subspecies as a result of its small population size and threats to its habitat. Summary of Factor E Small butterfly populations have a higher risk of extinction due to random environmental events (Shaffer 1981, p. 131; Gilpin and Soule 1986, pp. 24–28; Shaffer 1987, pp. 69–75). Because of its presumed small population and restricted range, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is vulnerable to random environmental events; in particular, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is threatened by extreme precipitation events and drought. In the past 60 years, the frequency of storms with extreme precipitation has increased in Nevada by 29 percent (Madsen and Figdor 2007, p. 37), and it is predicted that altered regional patterns of temperature and precipitation as a result of global climate change will continue (IPCC 2007c, pp. 15–16). While we may not have detailed, site-specific information on climate change and its effects on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat at this time (see responses to Comments 12 and 13, above), altered climate patterns throughout the entire range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly could increase the potential for extreme precipitation events and drought, and may exacerbate the threats the subspecies already faces given its presumed small population size and the threats to the alpine environment where it occurs. Based on this information, we find that other natural or manmade factors are affecting the Mount Charleston blue butterfly such that these factors are a threat to the subspecies’ continued existence. Determination We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial information E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is sensitive to environmental variability with the butterfly population rising and falling in response to environmental conditions (see ‘‘Status and Trends’’ section, above). The best available information for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly shows that the range and population have been in decline over the last 20 years, and that the population is now likely extremely small (see ‘‘Status and Trends’’ section, above). Threats facing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, discussed above under listing Factors A, B, D, and E, increase the risk of extinction of the subspecies, given its few occurrences in a small area. The loss and degradation of habitat due to changes in natural fire regimes and succession; the implementation of recreational development projects and fuels reduction projects; and the increases in nonnative plants (see Factor A discussion) will increase the inherent risk of extinction of the remaining few occurrences of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. In addition, the threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly from collection (see Factor B discussion) is expected to be reduced by the Forest Service’s closure order on collection. However, due to the small number of discrete populations, overall small metapopulation size, close proximity to roads and trails, and restricted range, we have determined that unpermitted and unlawful collection is a threat to the subspecies and may continue to be in the future. Regarding the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms (see Factor D discussion), we consider the recent issuance of a butterfly collection closure order by the Forest Service to reduce the threat of collection to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. However, other existing regulatory mechanisms have not provided effective protection to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat. These threats are likely to be exacerbated by the impact of climate change, which is anticipated to increase drought and extreme precipitation events (see Factor E discussion). The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is currently in danger of extinction because only small populations are known to occupy only 3 of the 17 historical locations, it may become extirpated in the near future at 7 other locations presumed to be occupied, and the threats are ongoing and persistent at all known and presumed-occupied locations. The Act defines an endangered species as any species that is ‘‘in danger VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range’’ and a threatened species as any species ‘‘that is likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the foreseeable future.’’ We determine that Mount Charleston blue butterfly is presently in danger of extinction throughout its entire range, based on the immediacy, severity, and scope of the threats described above and its limited distribution of three known occupied locations and seven presumed-occupied locations nearing extirpation. The Mount Charleston blue butterfly thus meets the definition of an endangered species rather than threatened species because: (1) It has been extirpated from seven locations, (2) it is limited to only three small populations and possibly 7 other populations at presumed-occupied areas, (3) the known-occupied and presumed-occupied populations are facing severe and imminent threats, and (4) threats are ongoing and expected to continue into the future. Therefore, on the basis of the best available scientific and commercial information, we are listing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as endangered in accordance with sections 3(6) and 4(a)(1) of the Act. Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a species may warrant listing if it is an endangered or threatened species throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is highly restricted in its range and the threats occur throughout its range. Therefore, we assessed the status of the subspecies throughout its entire range. The threats to the survival of the subspecies occur throughout the subspecies’ range and are not restricted to any particular significant portion of that range. Accordingly, our assessment and determination applies to the subspecies throughout its entire range, and we did not further evaluate a significant portion of the subspecies’ range. Protections and Conservation Measures Available Upon Listing Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or threatened species under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain practices. Recognition through listing results in public awareness and conservation by Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies, private organizations, and individuals. The Act encourages cooperation with the States and requires that recovery actions be carried out for all listed species. The protection PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 57773 required by Federal agencies and the prohibitions against certain activities are discussed, in part, below. The primary purpose of the Act is the conservation of endangered and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The ultimate goal of such conservation efforts is the recovery of these listed species, so that they no longer need the protective measures of the Act. Subsection 4(f) of the Act requires the Service to develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation of endangered and threatened species. The recovery planning process involves the identification of actions that are necessary to halt or reverse the species’ decline by addressing the threats to its survival and recovery. The goal of this process is to restore listed species to a point where they are secure, selfsustaining, and functioning components of their ecosystems. Recovery planning includes the development of a recovery outline shortly after a species is listed and preparation of a draft and final recovery plan. The recovery outline guides the immediate implementation of urgent recovery actions and describes the process to be used to develop a recovery plan. Revisions of the plan may be done to address continuing or new threats to the species, as new substantive information becomes available. The recovery plan identifies site-specific management actions that set a trigger for review of the five factors that control whether a species remains endangered or may be downlisted or delisted, and methods for monitoring recovery progress. Recovery plans also establish a framework for agencies to coordinate their recovery efforts and provide estimates of the cost of implementing recovery tasks. Recovery teams (comprised of species experts, Federal and State agencies, nongovernment organizations, and stakeholders) are often established to develop recovery plans. When completed, the recovery outline, draft recovery plan, and the final recovery plan will be available on our Web site (http://www.fws.gov/ endangered), or from our Nevada Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES). Implementation of recovery actions generally requires the participation of a broad range of partners, including other Federal agencies, States, Tribal, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and private landowners. Examples of recovery actions include habitat restoration (e.g., restoration of native vegetation), research, captive propagation and reintroduction, and outreach and education. The recovery of E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 57774 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 many listed species cannot be accomplished solely on Federal lands because their range may occur primarily or solely on non-Federal lands. To achieve recovery of these species requires cooperative conservation efforts on private, State, and Tribal lands. Once this rule is effective (see DATES section, above), funding for recovery actions will be available from a variety of sources, including Federal budgets, State programs, and cost share grants for non-Federal landowners, the academic community, and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, pursuant to section 6 of the Act, the State of Nevada will be eligible for Federal funds to implement management actions that promote the protection or recovery of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Information on our grant programs that are available to aid species recovery can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/grants. Section 7(a) of the Act requires Federal agencies to evaluate their actions with respect to any species that is proposed or listed as endangered or threatened and with respect to its critical habitat, if any is designated. Regulations implementing this interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR part 402. Section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to confer with the Service on any action that is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a species proposed for listing or result in destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a species is listed subsequently, section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies to ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or destroy or adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency must enter into formal consultation with the Service. Federal agency actions within the subspecies’ habitat that may require conference or consultation or both as described in the preceding paragraph include management and any other landscape-altering activities on Federal lands administered by the Forest VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 Service; issuance of section 404 Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) permits by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and construction and maintenance of roads or highways by the Federal Highway Administration. The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered wildlife. The prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act, codified at 50 CFR 17.21 for endangered wildlife, in part, make it illegal for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take (includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect; or to attempt any of these), import, export, ship in interstate commerce in the course of commercial activity, or sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce any listed species. Under the Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42–43; 16 U.S.C. 3371–3378), it is also illegal to possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such wildlife that has been taken illegally. Certain exceptions apply to agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and State conservation agencies. We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities involving endangered and threatened wildlife species under certain circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 17.22 for endangered wildlife, and at 17.32 for threatened wildlife. With regard to endangered wildlife, a permit must be issued for the following purposes: for scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation or survival of the species, and for incidental take in connection with otherwise lawful activities. Required Determinations National Environmental Policy Act We have determined that environmental assessments and environmental impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), need not be prepared in connection with listing a species as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). It is our position that, outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, we do not need to prepare environmental analyses pursuant to NEPA in connection with designating critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). This position was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Douglas County v. Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied 516 U.S. 1042 (1996)). References Cited A complete list of all references cited in this rule is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov or upon request from the Nevada Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES). Authors The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the Nevada Ecological Services Office. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17 Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Transportation. Regulation Promulgation Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as follows: PART 17—[AMENDED] 1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361–1407; 1531– 1544; 4201–4245, unless otherwise noted. 2. Amend § 17.11(h) by adding an entry for ‘‘Butterfly, Mount Charleston blue’’, in alphabetical order under INSECTS, to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, to read as follows: ■ § 17.11 Endangered and threatened wildlife. * * * (h) * * * E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 * * 57775 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations Species Historic range Common name Scientific name * INSECTS * * Butterfly, Mount Charleston blue. * Plebejus shasta charlestonensis. * * * * * * * * Vertebrate population where endangered or threatened * * * Spring Mountains, Clark County, NV, U.S.A. * * Entire .................. * * tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES3 BILLING CODE 4310–55–P 18:14 Sep 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\19SER3.SGM 19SER3 * 820 * Special rules * * E ....... [FR Doc. 2013–22702 Filed 9–18–13; 8:45 am] VerDate Mar<15>2010 Critical habitat * Dated: September 10, 2013. Stephen Guertin, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. * When listed Status NA ........ NA *

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 182 (Thursday, September 19, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 57749-57775]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-22702]



[[Page 57749]]

Vol. 78

Thursday,

No. 182

September 19, 2013

Part III





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of 
Endangered Species Status for Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly; Final 
Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 78 , No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2013 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 57750]]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2012-0069; MO 92210-0-0008 B2]
RIN 1018-AY52


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of 
Endangered Species Status for Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), determine 
endangered species status under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act), for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Plebejus shasta 
charlestonensis), a butterfly subspecies from the Spring Mountains, 
Clark County, Nevada. The effect of this regulation will be to add this 
subspecies to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Based on 
information gathered from peer reviewers and the public during the 
comment period, we have determined that it is prudent to designate 
critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Therefore, we 
will publish in a separate Federal Register notice, our proposed 
designation of critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly.

DATES: This rule is effective October 21, 2013.

ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and http://www.fws.gov/nevada. Comments and 
materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in the 
preparation of this rule, are available for public inspection at http://www.regulations.gov. All of the comments, materials, and documentation 
that we considered in this rulemaking are available, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nevada 
Ecological Services Office, 1340 Financial Boulevard, Suite 234, Reno, 
NV 89502-7147; (775) 861-6300 [phone]; (775) 861-6301 [facsimile].

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Edward D. Koch, Field Supervisor, 
Nevada Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES). If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Executive Summary

    This document consists of a final rule to list the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly (Plebejus shasta charlestonensis) (formerly in genus 
Icaricia) as an endangered species.
    Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Act, a species may warrant 
protection through listing if it is endangered or threatened throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range. Listing a species as an 
endangered or threatened species can only be completed by issuing a 
rule. If a species is determined to be an endangered or threatened 
species throughout all or a significant portion of its range, we are 
required to promptly publish a proposal in the Federal Register and 
make a determination on our proposal within 1 year. Critical habitat 
shall be designated, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, 
for any species determined to be an endangered or threatened species 
under the Act. We will propose to designate critical habitat for the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly under the Act in a separate Federal 
Register notice.
    This rule will finalize the endangered status for the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly. Based on information gathered from peer 
reviewers and the public during the comment period, we have determined 
that it is prudent to designate critical habitat for the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly. Therefore, in a separate Federal Register 
notice, we will propose to designate critical habitat for the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly. We are not finalizing the threatened status 
for the lupine blue butterfly (Plebejus lupini texanus), Reakirt's blue 
butterfly (Echinargus isola), Spring Mountains icarioides blue 
butterfly (Plebejus icarioides austinorum), and two Spring Mountains 
dark blue butterflies (Euphilotes ancilla cryptica and Euphilotes 
ancilla purpura) based on similarity of appearance to the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly under section 4(e) of the Act.
    The basis for our action. Under the Act, we can determine that a 
species is an endangered or threatened species based on any of five 
factors: (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. We have determined that the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly is endangered due to four of these five factors (A, B, D, and 
E), as discussed below. Threats facing the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly increase the risk of extinction of the subspecies, given its 
few occurrences in a small area. The loss and degradation of habitat 
due to changes in natural fire regimes and succession, the 
implementation of recreational development projects and fuels reduction 
projects, and the increases in nonnative plants (see Factor A 
discussion) will increase the inherent risk of extinction of the 
remaining few occurrences of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. 
Unpermitted and unlawful collection is a threat to the subspecies due 
to the small number of discrete populations, overall small 
metapopulation size, close proximity to roads and trails, and 
restricted range (Factor B). These threats are likely to be exacerbated 
by the impact of climate change, which is anticipated to increase 
drought and extreme precipitation events (see Factor E). The Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly is currently in danger of extinction because 
only small populations are known to occupy only 3 of the 17 historical 
locations, it may become extirpated in the near future at 7 other 
locations presumed to be occupied, and the threats are ongoing and 
persistent at all known and presumed-occupied locations.
    We have determined that listing the lupine blue butterfly, 
Reakirt's blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, 
and two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies based on similarity of 
appearance is no longer advisable and unnecessary because the threat of 
inadvertent collection and misidentification of the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly will be reduced by a closure order issued by the U.S. 
Department of Agriculture's Forest Service (Forest Service). The 
application processes for Service and Forest Service collection permits 
associated with the closure order require thorough review of applicant 
qualifications by agency personnel, and we believe only highly 
qualified individuals capable of distinguishing between small, blue 
butterfly species that occur in the Spring Mountains will be issued 
permits. As a result, we do not anticipate that individuals with 
permits will misidentify the butterfly species, and therefore, we do 
not believe inadvertent collection of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly by authorized individuals will occur. In addition, any 
collection without permits would be in violation of the closure order 
and subject to law enforcement action so any purposeful, unlawful 
collection should also be reduced.

[[Page 57751]]

    Peer reviewers commented that designating critical habitat would 
not increase the threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly from 
collection because those individuals interested in collecting Mount 
Charleston blue butterflies would be able to obtain occurrence 
locations from other sources, such as the Internet. Based on these 
comments, we have determined that designation of critical habitat for 
the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is prudent. Therefore, elsewhere in 
a separate Federal Register notice, we will propose to designate 
critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.
    Peer review and public comment. We sought comments from 
knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise to ensure that our 
designation is based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and 
analyses. We invited these peer reviewers to comment on our listing 
proposal. We also considered all comments and information we received 
during the comment period. We received five peer review responses. 
These peer reviewers generally concurred with listing the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly. We also received 10 comments from the 
general public, including one from a Federal agency. All responses 
provided additional information, clarifications, and suggestions to 
improve this final listing determination.

Background

Previous Federal Actions

    On September 27, 2012, we published a proposed rule (77 FR 59518) 
to list the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as endangered, and the 
lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt's blue butterfly, Spring Mountains 
icarioides blue butterfly, and two Spring Mountains dark blue 
butterflies as threatened due to similarity of appearance to the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly. Please refer to that proposed rule for a 
synopsis of previous Federal actions concerning the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly. A 60-day comment period following publication of the 
proposed rule closed on November 26, 2012.

Species Information

    It is our intent to discuss below only those topics directly 
relevant to the listing of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as an 
endangered species in this final rule.
Taxonomy and Subspecies Description
    The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is a distinct subspecies of the 
wider ranging Shasta blue butterfly (Plebejus shasta), which is a 
member of the Lycaenidae family. Currently, seven subspecies of Shasta 
blue butterflies are recognized: P. s. shasta, P. s. calchas, P. s. 
pallidissima, P. s. minnehaha, P. s. charlestonensis, P. s. 
pitkinensis, and P. s. platazul (Pelham 2008, pp. 25-26, 379-380). The 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly is known only to occur in the high 
elevations of the Spring Mountains, located approximately 25 miles (mi) 
(40 kilometers (km)) west of Las Vegas in Clark County, Nevada (Austin 
1980, p. 20; Scott 1986, p. 410). The first mention of the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly as a unique taxon was in 1928 by Garth (p. 
93), who recognized it as distinct from the species Shasta blue 
butterfly (Austin 1980, p. 20). Howe (in 1975, Plate 59) described 
specimens from the Spring Mountains as the P. s. shasta form comstocki. 
However, in 1976, Ferris (p. 14) placed the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly with the wider ranging Minnehaha blue subspecies. Finally, 
Austin asserted that Ferris had not included specimens from the Sierra 
Nevada Mountains of extreme western Nevada in his study, and in light 
of the geographic isolation and distinctiveness of the Shasta blue 
butterfly population in the Spring Mountains and the presence of at 
least three other well-defined races (subspecies) of butterflies 
endemic to the area, it was appropriate to name this population as a 
subspecies, P. s. charlestonensis (Austin 1980, p. 20).
    Our use of the genus name Plebejus, rather than the synonym 
Icaricia, reflects recent treatments of butterfly taxonomy (Opler and 
Warren 2003, p. 30; Pelham 2008, p. 265). The Integrated Taxonomic 
Information System (ITIS) recognizes the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly as a valid subspecies based on Austin (1980) (Retrieved May 
1, 2013, from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System online 
database, http://www.itis.gov). The ITIS is hosted by the U.S. 
Geological Survey (USGS) Center for Biological Informatics (CBI) and is 
the result of a partnership of Federal agencies formed to satisfy their 
mutual needs for scientifically credible taxonomic information.
    As a subspecies, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is similar to 
other Shasta blue butterflies, with a wingspan of 0.75 to 1 inch (in) 
(19 to 26 millimeters (mm)) (Opler 1999, p. 251). The Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly is sexually dimorphic; males and females occur in two 
distinct forms. The upper side of males is dark to dull iridescent 
blue, and females are brown with some blue basally (Opler 1999, p. 
251). The subspecies has a row of submarginal black spots on the dorsal 
side of the hind wing and a discal black spot on the dorsal side of the 
forewing and hind wing, which when viewed up close distinguishes it 
from other small, blue butterflies occurring in the Spring Mountains 
(Austin 1980, pp. 20, 23; Boyd and Austin 1999, p. 44). The underside 
of the wings is gray, with a pattern of black spots, brown blotches, 
and pale wing veins, giving it a mottled appearance (Opler 1999, p. 
251). The underside of the hind wing has an inconspicuous band of 
submarginal metallic spots (Opler 1999, p. 251). Based on morphology, 
the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is most closely related to the 
Great Basin populations of the Minnehaha blue butterfly (Austin 1980, 
p. 23), and it can be distinguished from other Shasta blue butterfly 
subspecies by the presence of a clearer, sharper, and blacker post-
median spot row on the underside of the hind wing (Austin 1980, p. 23; 
Scott 1986, p. 410).
Distribution
    Based on current and historical occurrences or locations (Austin 
1980, pp. 20-24; Weiss et al. 1997, Map 3.1; Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 
4; Pinyon 2011, Figure 9-11; Thompson et al. 2012, pp. 75-85), the 
geographic range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is in the upper 
elevations of the Spring Mountains, centered on lands managed by the 
Forest Service in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (SMNRA) 
of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest within Upper Kyle and Lee 
Canyons, Clark County, Nevada. The majority of the occurrences or 
locations are along the upper ridges in the Mount Charleston Wilderness 
and in the Upper Lee Canyon area, while a few are in Upper Kyle Canyon. 
Table 1 lists the various locations of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly that constitute the subspecies' current and historical range. 
Estimates of population size for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
are not available. Although surveys have varied in methodology, effort, 
frequency, time of year conducted, and sites visited, the occurrence 
data summarized in Table 1 represent the best scientific information on 
the distribution of Mount Charleston blue butterfly and how that 
distribution has changed over time.

[[Page 57752]]



Table 1--Locations Where the Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly Has Been Detected Since 1928, and the Status of the
                                          Butterfly at Those Locations
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          Most recent
                                   First/last  time   survey year(s)  (y
          Location name                detected        = detected,  n =         Status        Primary references
                                                         not detected)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. South Loop Trail, Upper Kyle   1928/2012.........  2007 (y), 2008      Known occupied;     Weiss et al. 1997;
 Canyon Weiss et al. 1997.                             (n), 2010 (y),      adults              Boyd 2006;
                                                       2011 (y), 2012      consistently        Kingsley 2007;
                                                       (y).                observed.           SWCA 2008; Pinyon
                                                                                               2011; Andrew et
                                                                                               al. 2013;
                                                                                               Thompson et al.
                                                                                               2013.
2. Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard    1963/2012.........  2007 (n), 2008      Known occupied;     Weiss et al. 1994;
 Resort (LVSSR), Upper Lee                             (n), 2010 (y),      adults              Weiss et al.
 Canyon.                                               2011 (n), 2012      consistently        1997; Boyd and
                                                       (y).                observed.           Austin 2002; Boyd
                                                                                               2006; Newfields
                                                                                               2006; Datasmiths
                                                                                               2007; Boyd and
                                                                                               Murphy 2008;
                                                                                               Andrew et al.
                                                                                               2013; Thompson et
                                                                                               al. 2013.
3. Foxtail, Upper Lee Canyon....  1995/1998.........  2006 (n), 2007      Presumed occupied;  Boyd and Austin
                                                       (n), 2008 (n),      adults observed     1999; Boyd 2006;
                                                       2012 (n).           less than 20        Datasmiths 2007;
                                                                           years ago.          Boyd and Murphy
                                                                                               2008; Andrew et
                                                                                               al. 2013;
                                                                                               Thompson et al.
                                                                                               2013.
4. Youth Camp, Upper Lee Canyon.  1995/1995.........  2006 (n), 2007      Presumed occupied;  Weiss et al. 1997;
                                                       (n), 2008 (n),      adults observed     Boyd 2006;
                                                       2012 (n).           less than 20        Datasmiths 2007;
                                                                           years ago.          Boyd and Murphy
                                                                                               2008; Andrew et
                                                                                               al. 2013.
5. Gary Abbott, Upper Lee Canyon  1995/1995.........  2006 (n), 2007      Presumed occupied;  Weiss et al. 1997;
                                                       (n), 2008 (n),      adults observed     Boyd 2006;
                                                       2012 (n).           less than 20        Datasmiths 2007;
                                                                           years ago.          Boyd and Murphy
                                                                                               2008; Andrew et
                                                                                               al. 2013;
                                                                                               Thompson et al.
                                                                                               2013.
6. Lower LVSSR Parking, Upper     1995/2002.........  2007 (n), 2008      Presumed occupied;  Weiss et al. 1997;
 Lee Canyon.                                           (n), 2012 (n).      adults observed     Boyd 2006;
                                                                           less than 20        Datasmiths 2007;
                                                                           years ago.          Boyd and Murphy
                                                                                               2008; Andrew et
                                                                                               al. 2013;
                                                                                               Thompson et al.
                                                                                               2013.
7. Mummy Spring, Upper Kyle       1995/1995.........  2006 (n), 2012 (n)  Presumed occupied;  Weiss et al. 1997;
 Canyon.                                                                   adults observed     Boyd 2006; Andrew
                                                                           less than 20        et al. 2013;
                                                                           years ago.          Thompson et al.
                                                                                               2013.
8. Lee Meadows, Upper Lee Canyon  1965/1965.........  2006 (n), 2007      Presumed            Weiss et al. 1997;
                                                       (n), 2008 (n),      extirpated.         Boyd 2006;
                                                       2012 \2\ (n).                           Datasmiths 2007;
                                                                                               Boyd and Murphy
                                                                                               2008; Andrew et
                                                                                               al. 2013;
                                                                                               Thompson et al.
                                                                                               2013.
9. Bristlecone Trail............  1990/1995.........  2007 (n), 2011      Presumed occupied;  Weiss et al. 1995;
                                                       (n), 2012 (n).      adults              Weiss et al.
                                                                           intermittently      1997; Kingsley
                                                                           observed.           2007; Thompson et
                                                                                               al. 2013 Andrew
                                                                                               et al. 2013.
10. Bonanza Trail...............  1995/2012.........  2006 (n), 2007      Known occupied;     Weiss et al. 1997;
                                                       (n), 2011 (y),      adults              Boyd 2006;
                                                       2012 (y).           consistently        Kingsley 2007;
                                                                           observed.           Andrew et al.
                                                                                               2013; Thompson et
                                                                                               al. 2013.
11. Upper Lee Canyon holotype...  1963/1976.........  2006 (n), 2007      Presumed            Weiss et al. 1997;
                                                       (n), 2012 \1\ (n).  extirpated.         Boyd 2006;
                                                                                               Datasmiths 2007;
                                                                                               Andrew et al.
                                                                                               2013.
12. Cathedral Rock, Kyle Canyon.  1972/1972.........  2007 (n), 2012 \1\  Presumed            Weiss et al. 1997;
                                                       (n).                extirpated.         Datasmiths 2007;
                                                                                               Andrew et al.
                                                                                               2013.
13. Upper Kyle Canyon Ski Area..  1965/1972.........  1995 (n), 2012 \1\  Presumed            Weiss et al. 1997;
                                                       (n).                extirpated.         Andrew et al.
                                                                                               2013.
14. Old Town, Kyle Canyon.......  1970s/1970s.......  1995 (n), 2012 \1\  Presumed            The Urban
                                                       (n).                extirpated.         Wildlands Group,
                                                                                               Inc. 2005.
15. Deer Creek, Kyle Canyon.....  1950/1950.........  Unknown, 2012 \1\   Presumed            Howe 1975; Andrew
                                                       (n).                extirpated.         et al. 2013.
16. Willow Creek................  1928/1928.........  2010 (n),2012 \2\.  Presumed            Weiss et al. 1997;
                                                                           extirpated.         Thompson et al.
                                                                                               2010; Andrew et
                                                                                               al. 2013.
17. Griffith Peak...............  1995/1995.........  2006 (n), 2012 (n)  Presumed occupied;  Weiss et al. 1997;
                                                                           adults observed     Boyd 2006; Andrew
                                                                           less than 20        et al. 2013.
                                                                           years ago.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Site was visited in 2012, but was not surveyed due to absence of larval host plants and lack of habitat
  suitability for Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 29-35, 56-57).

[[Page 57753]]

 
\2\ Site does not have habitat to support Mount Charleston blue butterfly, but it was surveyed in 2012 because
  blue butterflies from the surrounding area could possibly be observed (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 51-52, 60).

    We presume that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is extirpated 
from a location when it has not been recorded at that location through 
formal and informal surveys or incidental observation for more than 20 
years. We selected a 20-year time period because it would likely allow 
for local extirpation and recolonization events to occur should the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly function in a metapopulation dynamic, 
and a 20-year time period would be enough time for succession or other 
vegetation shifts to render the habitat unsuitable (see discussion in 
``Habitat'' and ``Biology'' sections, below). Using this criterion, the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly is considered to be ``presumed 
extirpated'' from 7 of 17 locations (Locations 8 and 11 through 16 in 
Table 1) (Service 2006a, pp. 8-9). In the September 27, 2012, proposed 
rule (77 FR 59518), we identified Lee Meadows to be presumed occupied. 
After reviewing the available data, we determined the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly has not been observed in Lee Meadows since 1965 (Weiss 
et al. 1997, p. 10); therefore, this site should be considered presumed 
extirpated. We also consider these sites to be historic because they no 
longer have larval host plants or nectar plants to support the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 29-31, 34-35, 51-52, 
56-57, 60). Of the remaining 10 locations, 7 locations are ``presumed 
occupied'' by the subspecies (Locations 3 through 7, 9, and 17 in Table 
1), and the other 3 are ``known occupied'' (Locations 1, 2, and 10 in 
Table 1) (Service 2006a, pp. 7-8). In the proposed rule (77 FR 59518), 
we identified the Bonanza Trail location (Location 10) as presumed 
occupied. Detections of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly at Bonanza 
Trail were confirmed during 2011 and 2012 surveys (Andrew et al. 2013, 
pp. 58-59). Based on this new information, we now consider the Bonanza 
Trail area to be a known occupied location by the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly. We note that the probability of detection of Mount 
Charleston blue butterflies at a particular location in a given year is 
affected by factors other than the butterfly's abundance, such as 
survey effort and weather, both of which are highly variable from year 
to year.
    The presumed occupied category (Locations 3 through 7, 9, and 17 in 
Table 1) is defined as a location within the known range of the 
subspecies where adults have been observed within the last 20 years and 
nectar plants are present to support Mount Charleston blue butterflies, 
and where there is potential for diapausing (a period of suspended 
growth or development similar to hibernation) larvae to be present 
because larval host plants are present (see ``Biology'' section, below, 
for details on Mount Charleston blue butterfly diapause). At some of 
these presumed occupied locations (Locations 4, 5, 7, 9, and 17 in 
Table 1), the Mount Charleston blue butterfly has not been recorded 
through formal surveys or informal observation since 1995 by Weiss et 
al. (1997, pp. 1-87). Of the presumed occupied locations, 3 and 6 have 
had the most recent observations (observed in 1998 and 2002, 
respectively) (Table 1). In the proposed rule (77 FR 59518), we did not 
identify Griffith Peak as a location for the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly, but after reviewing the available data, we determined Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly had been observed in 1995 at Griffith peak 
(Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10 and Map 3.1); therefore, this location should 
be considered presumed occupied. In July 2013, the Carpenter 1 Fire 
burned into habitat of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly along the 
ridgelines between Griffith Peak and South Loop spanning a distance of 
approximately 3 miles (5 km). Within this area there are low, moderate, 
or high quality patches of Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat 
intermixed with non-habitat. The full extent of impacts to the habitat 
and Mount Charleston blue butterflies occurring at the Griffith Peak 
location are unknown, but the vegetation at this site may be unsuitable 
to support Mount Charleston blue butterflies until the appropriate 
plants reestablish.
    We consider the remaining three Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
locations or occurrences to be ``known occupied'' (Locations 1, 2, and 
10 in Table 1). Known occupied locations have had successive 
observations during multiple years of surveys and have the nectar and 
larval host plants to support Mount Charleston blue butterflies. The 
South Loop Trail, Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort (LVSSR), and 
Bonanza Trail are considered to be known occupied locations.
    The South Loop Trail location is in Upper Kyle Canyon within the 
Mount Charleston Wilderness. The South Loop Trail location (Location 1 
in Table 1) is considered known occupied because: (1) The butterfly was 
observed on the site in 1995, 2002, 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2012 (Service 
2007, pp. 1-2; Kingsley 2007, p. 5; Pinyon 2011, pp. 17-19; Andrew et 
al. 2013, pp. 20-26); and (2) the site supports at least one of the 
larval host plant species, Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus 
(Torrey's milkvetch) (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 31; Kingsley 2007, pp. 5 
and 10; Thompson et al. 2012, pp. 75-85), and known nectar plants, 
including Hymenoxys lemmonii (Lemmon's bitterweed) and Erigeron clokeyi 
(Clokey fleabane) (SWCA 2008, pp. 2 and 5; Pinyon 2011, p. 11). This 
area has been mapped using a global positioning system unit and field-
verified. The total area of habitat mapped by Pinyon in 2011 (Pinyon 
2011, Figure 8; Service 2013, pp. 1-6) at South Loop Trail location is 
190.8 acres (ac) (77.2 hectares (ha)). The area was delineated into 
polygons and classified as poor, moderate, and good habitat (Pinyon 
2011, p. 11). Most observations in 2010 and 2011 occurred in two good 
habitat areas totaling 60.1 ac (24.3 ha) (Pinyon 2011). In July 2013, 
the Carpenter 1 Fire burned into habitat of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly along the ridgelines between Griffith Peak and South Loop 
spanning a distance of approximately 3 miles (5 km). The majority of 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly moderate- or high-quality habitat in 
the South Loop Trail location was classified as having a low or very 
low soil burn severity (Kallstrom 2013, p. 4). Adult butterflies may 
have been able to escape the fire, but the full extent of impacts to 
egg, larval, pupal, or adult life stages from exposure to lethal levels 
of smoke, gases, and convection or radiant heat from the fire will be 
unknown until surveys are performed on the ground. The areas in the 
South Loop Trail location with the highest density of Mount Charleston 
blue butterflies may have been unaffected by heat and smoke because it 
was outside the fire perimeter in an area slightly lower in elevation, 
below a topographic crest. Thus, Mount Charleston blue butterflies in 
these areas may have received topographic protection as smoke and 
convective heat moved above the area and may have been protected if 
they were in the soil or among the rocks; however, butterflies may have 
been exposed to lethal radiant heat. Damage to larval host and adult 
nectar plants in unburned, very low, or low soil burn severity areas 
has not been determined. The South Loop Trail area is considered the 
most important remaining population area for the

[[Page 57754]]

Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 21).
    We consider the LVSSR location in Upper Lee Canyon (Location 2 in 
Table 1) to be ``known occupied'' because: (1) The butterfly was first 
recorded at LVSSR in 1963 (Austin 1980, p. 22) and has been 
consistently observed at LVSSR every year between 1995 and 2006 (with 
the exception of 1997 when no surveys were performed (Service 2007, pp. 
1-2)), and in 2010 (Thompson et al. 2010, p. 5) and 2012 (Andrew et al. 
2013, p. 41); and (2) the site supports at least one of the known 
larval host plant species, Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus (Weiss 
et al. 1997, p. 31), and known nectar plants, including Hymenoxys 
lemmonii and Erigeron clokeyi (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 37-47). These 
areas are LVSSR 1 (17.4 ac (7.0 ha)) and LVSSR 2 (8.3 
ac (3.3 ha)) (Service 2006a, p. 1; Andrew et. al. 2013, pp. 79; Service 
2013, pp. 1-6), which have been mapped using a global positioning 
system unit and field-verified.
    We consider the Bonanza Trail location in Upper Lee Canyon 
(Location 10 in Table 1) to be ``known occupied'' because: (1) The 
butterfly has been recorded here in several years in the last 2 decades 
with the first record from 1995 (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10) and 
subsequent records in 2011 and 2012 (Andrew et al. 2013, 57-59); and 
(2) the site supports the larval host plant species, Astragalus 
calycosus var. calycosus (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 31; Andrew et al. 2013, 
p. 57-59), and known nectar plants, including Erigeron clokeyi, 
Hymenoxys lemmonii and Eriogonum umbellatum var. subaridum (sulphur-
flower buckwheat) (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 11; Andrew et al. 2013, p. 57-
59). The total area of habitat at the Bonanza Trail area that has been 
mapped is 50.7 ac (20.5 ha) (Andrew et al. 2013, p. 87 and 89; Service 
2013, pp. 1-6).
    Currently, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is known to 
persistently occupy less than 267.1 ac (108.1 ha) of habitat, and its 
known current distribution has decreased to a narrower range than it 
historically occupied.
Status and Trends
    Surveys over the years have varied in methodology, effort, 
frequency, time of year conducted, and sites visited; therefore, we 
cannot statistically determine population size, dynamics, or trends for 
the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. While there is no population size 
estimate for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, the best available 
information indicates a declining trend for this subspecies, as 
discussed below. Prior to 1980, the population status of the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly was characterized as usually rare but common 
in some years (Austin and Austin 1980, p. 30). A species can be 
considered rare when its spatial distribution is limited or when it 
occurs in low densities but is potentially widely distributed 
(MacKenzie et al. 2005). Based on this definition, we consider the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly to be rare, because it occurs in a 
narrow range of the Spring Mountains in apparently low densities (Boyd 
and Austin 1999, p. 2).
    The number of locations where the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
has been observed during surveys has decreased in the last 20 years, 
and the number of Mount Charleston blue butterfly observations at one 
historically important site (i.e., LVSSR) has also declined. Count 
statistics are products of the detection probability and the number of 
individuals present in a survey location (MacKenzie et al. 2005, p. 
1101). While detection probabilities ``may vary with environmental 
variables, such as weather conditions; different observers; or local 
habitats'' (MacKenzie and Kendall 2002, p. 2388), the decrease in 
observations in recent years is most likely attributable to decreases 
in distribution and numbers of Mount Charleston blue butterflies. Year-
to-year fluctuations in population numbers can also occur due to 
variations in precipitation and temperature, which affect both the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its larval host plant (Weiss et al. 
1997, pp. 2-3 and 31-32). However, the failure to detect Mount 
Charleston blue butterflies at many of the known historical locations 
during the past 20 years, especially in light of increased survey 
efforts since 2006, indicates a reduction in the butterfly's 
distribution and a likely decrease in total population size. 
Furthermore, four additional locations may be presumed to be extirpated 
in the near future, if surveys continue to fail to detect Mount 
Charleston blue butterflies. These include Youth Camp, Gary Abbott, 
Mummy Spring, and Griffith Peak (Table 1). Mount Charleston blue 
butterflies were last observed at these sites in 1995 (Weiss et al. 
1997), which was considered a good year (Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 22) 
for Mount Charleston blue butterflies. Each of these four sites was 
surveyed in 2012, and no Mount Charleston blue butterflies were 
detected (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 32-37, 47-49, and 52-55). At Griffith 
Peak, larval host and nectar plants are present, and tree and shrub 
densities are minimal so that the site is nearly free of canopy cover 
(Andrew et al. 2013, p. 35-37). While larval host and nectar plants 
were present at Youth Camp, Gary Abbott, and Mummy Spring, vegetation 
at these sites is threatened by increased understory and overstory 
(Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 32-35, 47-49, 52-55). Larval host and nectar 
plants are lacking at Lee Meadows (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 51-52). 
Therefore, these sites, with the exception of Griffith Peak, are or may 
soon be considered unsuitable for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.
    Surveys conducted in 1995 represent one of the years with the 
highest number of Mount Charleston blue butterflies recorded at LVSSR. 
Two areas of LVSSR were each surveyed twice, and 121 Mount Charleston 
blue butterflies were counted and their presence detected at several 
other locations (i.e., Foxtail, Gary Abbott, Mummy Spring, Bristlecone 
Trail, Bonanza Trail, South Loop, Griffith Peak) (Weiss 1996, p. 4; 
Weiss et al. 1997, Table 2 and Map 3.1). One LVSSR area was surveyed 
once in 2002, with an equally high number of Mount Charleston blue 
butterflies as recorded in 1995 (Dewberry et al. 2002, p. 8). Such high 
numbers at LVSSR have not been recorded since 2002 (Boyd 2006, p. 1; 
Datasmiths 2007, p. 18; Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 38-47; Thompson et al. 
2012, pp. 76, 77).
    In 2006, Boyd (2006, pp. 1-2) surveyed for Mount Charleston blue 
butterflies at nearly all previously known locations and within 
potential habitat along Griffith Peak, North Loop Trail, Bristlecone 
Trail, and South Bonanza Trail, but did not observe the butterfly at 
any of these locations. One individual butterfly was observed at LVSSR 
adjacent to a pond that holds water for snowmaking (Newfields 2006, pp. 
10, 13, and C5), but in a later report, the accuracy of this 
observation was questioned and considered erroneous (Newfields 2008, p. 
27). In 2007, surveys were again conducted in previously known 
locations in Upper Lee Canyon and LVSSR, but no butterflies were 
recorded (Datasmiths 2007, p. 1; Newfields 2008, pp. 21-24).
    While LVSSR had relatively high counts of Mount Charleston blue 
butterflies in the mid-1990s and early 2000s (121 in 1995 (Weiss 1996, 
p. 4); 67 in 2002 (Dewberry et al. 2002, p. 8)), recent surveys have 
not yielded such high counts, suggesting a decline of Mount Charleston 
blue butterflies in this area. In 2010, the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly was observed during surveys at LVSSR and the South Loop Trail 
area. One adult was observed in Lee Canyon at LVSSR on July 23, 2010,

[[Page 57755]]

but no other adults were detected at LVSSR during surveys of two areas 
conducted on August 2, 9, and 18, 2010 (Thompson et al. 2010, pp. 4-5). 
Mount Charleston blue butterflies were not observed at LVSSR in 2011, 
and three adults were observed at one of two surveyed areas in 2012 
(female on June 27, one female on July 3, and one male on July 11) 
(Andrew et al. 2013, p. 41).
    Until 2010, only incidental observations of the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly had been recorded at the South Loop Trail area, so it is 
unknown if there have been changes in occupancy here. However, surveys 
in recent years indicate that the South Loop Trail area is an important 
area for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. In 2007, two Mount 
Charleston blue butterflies were sighted on two different dates at the 
same location on the South Loop Trail in Upper Kyle Canyon (Kingsley 
2007, p. 5). In 2008, butterflies were not observed during surveys of 
Upper Lee Canyon and the South Loop Trail (Boyd and Murphy 2008, pp. 1-
3; Boyd 2008, p. 1; SWCA 2008, p. 6), although it is possible that 
adult butterflies may have been missed on the South Loop Trail because 
the surveys were performed very late in the season. No formal surveys 
were conducted in 2009, and during the few informal attempts made to 
observe the subspecies by Forest Service biologists, no Mount 
Charleston blue butterflies were observed (Service 2009). A total of 63 
Mount Charleston blue butterflies were counted in this area in 2010, 
with the highest count of 17 occurring on July 28 (Pinyon 2011, p. 17). 
In 2011, a total of 55 Mount Charleston blue butterflies were 
documented at the South Loop Trail area, with the highest count of 25 
occurring on August 11 (Thompson et al. 2012, pp. 77, 80). In 2012, 94 
Mount Charleston blue butterflies were counted during all surveys, with 
a high count of 34 recorded on July 9 (Andrew et al. 2013, p. 22).
    Based on the available survey information, multiple Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly locations are currently considered 
extirpated, and several more locations may be considered extirpated if 
sightings are not made in upcoming surveys. Currently, three sites are 
known to be occupied, with LVSSR having much lower counts in recent 
years than prior to 2003. At the majority of the presumed occupied 
locations, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly has not been observed 
since the mid- to late-1990s. These trends likely reflect a decrease in 
the distribution and population size of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly and may be confirmed with repeated surveys of the same sites 
with similar effort, surveyors, and methodology.
Habitat
    Weiss et al. (1997, pp. 10-11) describe the natural habitat for the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly as relatively flat ridgelines above 
2,500 meters (m) (8,200 feet (ft)), but isolated individuals have been 
observed as low as 2,000 m (6,600 ft). Boyd and Murphy (2008, p. 19) 
indicate that areas occupied by the subspecies featured exposed soil 
and rock substrates with limited or no canopy cover or shading and flat 
to mild slopes. Like most butterfly species, the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly is dependent on plants both during larval development (larval 
host plants) and the adult butterfly flight period (nectar plants). The 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly requires areas that support Astragalus 
calycosus var. calycosus, which until recently was thought to be the 
only known larval host plant for the subspecies (Weiss et al. 1994, p. 
3; Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10; Datasmiths 2007, p. 21), as well as 
primary nectar plants, Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus and Erigeron 
clokeyi; however, butterflies have also been observed using Hymenoxys 
lemmonii and Aster sp. as nectar plants (Boyd 2005, p. 1; Boyd and 
Murphy 2008, p. 9).
    The best available habitat information relates mostly to the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly's larval host plant, with little information 
available characterizing the butterfly's interactions with its known 
nectar plants or other elements of its habitat. The Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly has most frequently been documented using Astragalus 
calycosus var. calycosus as its larval host plant (Weiss et al. 1997, 
p. 10). In 2011 and 2012, researchers from the University of Nevada Las 
Vegas observed female Mount Charleston blue butterflies landing on and 
exhibiting pre-oviposition behavior on Astragalus calycosus var. 
calycosus, Astragalus lentiginosus var. kernensis, and Astragalus 
platytropis (Andrew et al. 2012, p. 3). Andrew et al. (2013, p. 5) also 
documented Mount Charleston blue butterfly eggs on all three of these 
plant species and state that, unless it can be demonstrated that larvae 
are unable to develop and survive on the latter two species, these 
field observations indicate that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
utilizes a minimum of three larval host plants.
    Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus, Astragalus lentiginosus var. 
kernensis, and Astragalus platytropis are small, low-growing, perennial 
herbs that have been observed growing in open areas between 1,520 to 
3,290 m (5,000 to 10,800 ft) (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 3-4) in 
subalpine, bristlecone, and mixed-conifer vegetation communities of the 
Spring Mountains (Provencher 2008, Appendix II). Within the alpine and 
subalpine range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, Weiss et al. 
(1997, p. 10) observed the highest densities of Astragalus calycosus 
var. calycosus in exposed areas and within canopy openings and lower 
densities in forested areas. Because the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly's use of Astragalus lentiginosus var. kernensis and 
Astragalus platytropis as larval host plants is recent, little focus 
and documentation of these species in the Spring Mountains have been 
made. During 2012 surveys, Thompson et al. (2013b, presentation) 
qualitatively observed that Astragalus platytropis is fairly rare in 
the Spring Mountains and co-occurs with Astragalus lentiginosus, while 
Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus and Astragalus lentiginosus var. 
kernensis are more abundant.
    More information regarding the occurrence of Astragalus calycosus 
var. calycosus in the Spring Mountains exists than for Astragalus 
lentiginosus var. kernensis and Astragalus lentiginosus. In 1995, 
Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus plant densities at Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly sites were on the order of 1 to 5 plants per square 
meter (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10). Weiss et al. (1997, p. 31) stated 
that plant densities in favorable habitat for the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly could exceed more than 10 plants per square meter of 
Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus. Thompson et al. (2012, p. 84) 
documented an average of 41 Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus plants 
per square meter at the South Loop Trail location where the majority of 
recent Mount Charleston blue butterflies has been documented. Weiss et 
al. (1995, p. 5) and Datasmiths (2007, p. 21) indicate that, in some 
areas, butterfly habitat may be dependent on old or infrequent 
disturbances that create open understory and overstory. Overstory 
canopy within patches naturally becomes higher over time through 
succession, increasing shade and gradually becoming less favorable to 
the butterfly. Therefore, we conclude that open areas with visible 
mineral soil and relatively little grass cover and high densities of 
larval host plants support the highest densities of butterflies (Boyd 
2005, p. 1; Service 2006b, p. 1). During 1995, an especially high-
population year (a total of 121 butterflies were counted during surveys 
of two areas at LVSSR on two separate dates (Weiss

[[Page 57756]]

1996, p. 4)), Mount Charleston blue butterflies were observed in small 
habitat patches and with open understory and overstory where Astragalus 
calycosus var. calycosus was present in low densities, on the order of 
1 to 5 plants per square meter (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10; Newfields 
2006, pp. 10 and C5). Therefore, areas with lower densities of the 
larval host plant may also be important to the subspecies, as these 
areas may be intermittently occupied or may be important for dispersal.
    Lack of fire and management practices have likely limited the 
formation of new habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, as 
discussed below. The Forest Service began suppressing fires on the 
Spring Mountains in 1910 (Entrix 2008, p. 113). Throughout the Spring 
Mountains, the less-open areas, and higher density of trees and shrubs 
that are currently present, are likely due to a lack of fire, which has 
been documented in a proximate mountain range (Amell 2006, pp. 2-3). 
Other successional changes that have been documented include increased 
forest area and forest structure (higher canopy cover, more young 
trees, and expansion of species less tolerant of fire) (Nachlinger and 
Reese 1996, p. 37; Amell 2006, pp. 6-9; Boyd and Murphy 2008, pp. 22-
28; Denton et al. 2008, p. 21; Abella et al. 2012, pp. 128, 130). All 
of these changes result in an increase in vegetative cover that is 
generally less suitable for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Boyd 
and Murphy (2008, pp. 23, 25) hypothesized that the loss of 
presettlement vegetation structure over time has caused the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly's metapopulation dynamics to collapse in 
Upper Lee Canyon. Similar losses of suitable butterfly habitat in 
woodlands and their negative effect on butterfly populations have been 
documented (Thomas 1984, pp. 337-338). The disturbed landscape at LVSSR 
provides important habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
(Weiss et al. 1995, p. 5; Weiss et al. 1997, p. 26). Periodic 
maintenance (removal of trees and shrubs) of the ski runs has 
effectively arrested forest succession on the ski slopes and serves to 
maintain conditions favorable to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, 
and to its host and nectar plants. However, the ski runs are not 
specifically managed to benefit habitat for this subspecies, and 
operational activities regularly modify Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
habitat or prevent larval host plants from reestablishing in disturbed 
areas.
    An increase in forest canopy growth and encroachment, and lack of 
host or nectar plants, seems to be a limiting factor for the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly. Both host and nectar plants for the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly are present at the locations we consider 
presumed occupied (Table 1), whereas the vegetation at the presumed 
extirpated locations no longer includes host or nectar plants 
sufficient to support the subspecies (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 5-65). 
While host and nectar plants are relatively abundant at the presumed 
occupied locations of Foxtail, Youth Camp, Gary Abbott, and LVSSR, 
these locations are threatened by forest canopy growth and encroachment 
(Andrew et al. 2012, p. 45 Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 47-54). Lee Meadows, 
Cathedral Rock, Upper Lee Canyon holotype, Upper Kyle Canyon Ski Area, 
Old Town, Deer Creek, and Willow Creek are presumed extirpated (Table 
1) and have limited or entirely lack Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
host or nectar plants (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 29-60). While vegetation 
conditions in the past at these sites are not well-documented, we 
presume that they contained host and nectar plants for the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly because individuals of the subspecies were 
observed at these locations. The vegetation at the majority of these 
sites is not likely to be suitable for the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly without substantial changes (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 29-60), 
and therefore, restoration of these sites may be cost-prohibitive. 
Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus has been successfully germinated 
during lab experiments (Thompson et al. 2013a, pp. 244-265); however, 
we currently do not have information on whether or not germinated 
plants can successfully be transplanted to restoration sites. 
Therefore, we do not consider substantial restoration of sites to be a 
feasible option. The vegetation at Upper Lee Canyon holotype does have 
diffuse Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus present (Andrew et al. 
2013, p. 56-57) and could be suitable for restoration with nectar plant 
species. Overall, the number of locations with suitable vegetation to 
support Mount Charleston blue butterflies is limited and appears to be 
declining due to a lack of disturbance to set back succession.
Biology
    Specific information regarding diapause of the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly is lacking, and while geographic and subspecific 
variation in life histories can vary, we present information on the 
diapause of the closely related Shasta blue butterfly, as it may be 
similar to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. The Shasta blue 
butterfly is generally thought to diapause at the base of its larval 
host plant or in the surrounding substrate (Emmel and Shields 1978, p. 
132). The Shasta blue butterfly diapauses as an egg the first winter 
and as a larvae near maturity the second winter (Ferris and Brown 1981, 
pp. 203-204; Scott 1986, p. 411); however, Emmel and Shields (1978, p. 
132) suggested that diapause was passed as partly grown larvae, because 
freshly hatched eggshells were found near newly laid eggs (indicating 
that the eggs do not overwinter). Prolonged or multiple years of 
diapause has been documented for several butterfly families, including 
Lycaenidae (Pratt and Emmel 2010, p. 108). For example, the pupae of 
the variable checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas chalcedona, which is in 
the Nymphalid family) are known to persist in diapause up to 5 to 7 
years (Scott 1986, p. 28). The number of years the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly can remain in diapause is unknown. Boyd and Murphy 
(2008, p. 21) suggest the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may be able 
to delay maturation during drought or the shortened growing seasons 
that follow winters with heavy snowfall and late snowmelt by remaining 
as eggs. Experts have hypothesized and demonstrated that, in some 
species of Lepidoptera, a prolonged diapause period may be possible in 
response to unfavorable environmental conditions (Scott 1986, pp. 26-
30; Murphy 2006, p. 1; Datasmiths 2007, p. 6; Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 
22), and this has been hypothesized for the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly as well (Thompson et al. 2013b, presentation). Little has 
been confirmed regarding the length of time or life stage in which the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly diapauses.
    The typical flight and breeding period for the butterfly is early 
July to mid-August with a peak in late July, although the subspecies 
has been observed as early as mid-June and as late as mid-September 
(Austin 1980, p. 22; Boyd and Austin 1999, p. 17; Forest Service 2006, 
p. 9). As with most butterflies, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
typically flies during sunny conditions, which are particularly 
important for this subspecies given the cooler air temperatures at high 
elevations (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 31). Excessive winds also deter 
flight of most butterflies, although Weiss et al. (1997, p. 31) 
speculate that this may not be a significant factor for the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly given its low-to-the-ground flight pattern.
    Like all butterfly species, both the phenology (timing) and number 
of Mount Charleston blue butterfly individuals that emerge and fly to

[[Page 57757]]

reproduce during a particular year are reliant on the combination of 
many environmental factors that may constitute a successful 
(``favorable'') or unsuccessful (``poor'') year for the subspecies. 
Other than observations by surveyors, little information is known 
regarding these aspects of the subspecies' biology, since the key 
determinants for the interactions among the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly's flight and breeding period, larval host plant, and 
environmental conditions have not been specifically studied. 
Observations indicate that above- or below-average precipitation, 
coupled with above- or below-average temperatures, influence the 
phenology of this subspecies (Weiss et al. 1997, pp. 2-3 and 32; Boyd 
and Austin 1999, p. 8) and are likely responsible for the fluctuation 
in population numbers from year to year (Weiss et al. 1997, pp. 2-3 and 
31-32).
    Most butterfly populations exist as regional metapopulations 
(Murphy et al. 1990, p. 44). Boyd and Austin (1999, pp. 17, 53) suggest 
this is true of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Small habitat 
patches tend to support smaller butterfly populations that are 
frequently extirpated by events that are part of normal variation 
(Murphy et al. 1990, p. 44). According to Boyd and Austin (1999, p. 
17), smaller colonies of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may be 
ephemeral in the long term, with the larger colonies of the subspecies 
more likely than smaller populations to persist in ``poor'' years, when 
environmental conditions do not support the emergence, flight, and 
reproduction of individuals. The ability of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly to move between habitat patches has not been studied; 
however, field observations indicate the subspecies has low vagility 
(capacity or tendency of a species to move about or disperse in a given 
environment), on the order of 10 to 100 m (33 to 330 ft) (Weiss et al. 
1995, p. 9), and nearly sedentary behavior (Datasmiths 2007, p. 21; 
Boyd and Murphy 2008, pp. 3, 9). Furthermore, dispersal of lycaenid 
butterflies, in general, is limited and on the order of hundreds of 
meters (Cushman and Murphy 1993, p. 40). Based on this information, the 
likelihood of long-distance dispersal is low for the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly. Thompson et al. (2013b, presentation) have hypothesized 
that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly could diapause for multiple 
years (more than 2) as larvae and pupae until vegetation conditions are 
favorable to support emergence, flight, and reproduction. This could 
account for periodic high numbers of butterflies observed at more 
sites, as was documented by Weiss et al. in 1995, than years with 
unfavorable conditions. This would also suggest that Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly locations function as fairly isolated metapopulations 
and are not dependent on recolonization to persist. Additional future 
research regarding diapause patterns of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly is needed to further our understanding of this subspecies.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    In the proposed rule published on September 27, 2012 (77 FR 59518), 
we requested that all interested parties submit written comments on the 
proposal by November 26, 2012. We also contacted appropriate Federal 
and State agencies, scientific experts and organizations, and other 
interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposal. 
Newspaper notices inviting general public comment were published in the 
Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Business Press on October 
13, 2012. We did not receive any requests for a public hearing.
    During the comment period for the proposed rule, we received 15 
comment letters directly addressing the proposed listing of Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly with endangered status and the lupine blue 
butterfly, Reakirt's blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue 
butterfly, and the two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies with 
threatened status due to similarity of appearance to the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly, with a section 4(d) special rule, under 
section 4(e) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). We received 5 
individual peer review responses and 10 comment letters from the 
public, including one Federal agency. With general regard to listing 
the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, 10 comment letters were in support 
of the listing, with 4 fully supporting the basis for the listing, and 
6 supporting only certain aspects related to the listing. Five comment 
letters did not support listing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. 
With regard to listing the five butterflies due to the similarity of 
appearance, 3 letters were in support, 10 letters were in opposition, 
and 2 letters were neutral. All substantive information provided during 
the comment period has either been incorporated directly into this 
final determination or is addressed below.
    In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 
(59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinion from five knowledgeable 
individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with 
butterflies of the Spring Mountains, including the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly, and their habitat, biological needs, and threats. We 
received responses from all five of the peer reviewers.
    We reviewed all comments we received from the peer reviewers for 
substantive issues and new information regarding the listing of the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly as endangered and the lupine blue, 
Reakirt's blue, Spring Mountains icarioides blue, and the two Spring 
Mountains dark blue butterflies as threatened due to similarity of 
appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Generally, the 
reviewers agreed with the need for listing the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly, but disagreed with certain aspects of the threats 
assessment. Two of the peer reviewers were in opposition to the 
proposed listing of the five other butterflies due to similarity of 
appearance; one peer reviewer was in support; and two peer reviewers 
were neutral on this topic. All reviewers offered additional 
information, clarifications, and suggestions to improve the final rule. 
We also received 10 comments from the general public, including one 
from a Federal agency. Peer reviewer and public comments are addressed 
in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule as 
appropriate.

Peer Reviewer and Public Comments

Comments Related to the Background Section
    (1) Comment: Two peer reviewers and five commenters stated that the 
methodology, effort, surveyor abilities, and time of year of the 
butterfly surveys have been variable over the years, and, therefore, 
the results from these surveys cannot be used to determine population 
trends and abundance of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.
    Our Response: We agree that the survey methodology, effort, 
surveyor ability, and time of year when surveys were conducted have 
been variable over the years and do not allow us to quantitatively 
estimate changes in the population size of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly. We agree that improving the consistency of these surveys 
would increase our understanding of the dynamics and population trends 
of the subspecies. Because of these shortcomings in the data 
collection, we place more importance on the occupancy status and 
vegetation suitability at Mount Charleston blue

[[Page 57758]]

butterfly locations, both of which have decreased, in determining its 
overall status than the number of butterflies that were observed. We 
maintain that because several historical Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly locations are no longer suitable and no new locations have 
been identified, it is likely the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
population has decreased.
    (2) Comment: One peer reviewer suggested that the South Loop Trail 
area is the only location that should be considered occupied by the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly, but that other areas may be important 
for recovery of the subspecies.
    Our Response: We agree that other areas will be important for the 
recovery of the subspecies, but we disagree that the South Loop Trail 
area is the only location that should be considered occupied by the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly. The Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
has been repeatedly observed in three areas in recent years, including 
the South Loop Trail, Bonanza Trail, and the LVSSR (see 
``Distribution'' and ``Status and Trends'' sections, above, for more 
details). Additionally, Mount Charleston blue butterflies have been 
observed over the last several decades at both the Bonanza Trail and 
LVSSR areas. These repeated detections over multiple years indicate the 
sites are occupied by the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.
Comments Related to Factor A
    (3) Comment: We received many comments regarding threats to the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly from peer reviewers and commenters. Two 
peer reviewers stated that general loss of habitat is the greatest 
threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. One peer reviewer 
suggested that listing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly would not 
alleviate the most significant threats to the butterfly. Other threats 
to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat that were 
identified by peer reviewers and commenters included fire management or 
the lack of fire; the presence and spread of nonnative plants; 
development, including roads, recreation projects, the LVSSR, and 
commercial and residential buildings; and wild horses. One peer 
reviewer was concerned that, given the current forest conditions, 
small, ``controlled'' fires could result in much larger fires and lead 
to more widespread effects than fire suppression and fuels management.
    Our Response: We agree that the threats to the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly and its habitat identified by the peer reviewers and 
commenters have contributed to the decline of the subspecies and its 
distribution. We agree that much larger fires could increase the spread 
of invasive species and that fuel and fire management strategies must 
be considered carefully prior to implementation.
    (4) Comment: One commenter suggested that too little information is 
available to determine what the actual threats to the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly are and that more research is needed.
    Our Response: We agree that more research on the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly would provide further insight into how particular 
threats affect the subspecies and its habitat. Although many of the 
threats are interrelated and confounding, the threats presented in this 
rule, as demonstrated by the best available scientific and commercial 
data available, have contributed to the decreasing distribution and 
likely population decline of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.
    (5) Comment: One peer reviewer stated that personnel coordination 
between the Service and the Forest Service seems to be inadequate and 
could be improved by engaging an independent, impartial group [to 
mediate future discussions].
    Our Response: Overall, the Service and Forest Service coordinate 
closely, and this coordination has improved in recent years. While 
there have been lapses in coordination (see Factor A discussion, 
below), these incidents have been exceptions. We appreciate the 
suggestion, and although we do not anticipate it being necessary, we 
will consider seeking an independent, impartial group if future 
coordination should require this.
    (6) Comment: One peer reviewer suggested that future Forest Service 
projects could be modified in order to avoid negatively affecting the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly. This reviewer also stated that 
interagency consultation could improve the implementation of fire 
suppression efforts by the Forest Service.
    Our Response: With the listing of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly as endangered, the Forest Service will be required to consult 
with the Service under section 7(a)(2) of the Act to ensure that 
activities it authorizes, funds, or carries out are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of the subspecies. Additionally, we 
will continue to coordinate with the Forest Service on future projects, 
including fuels and fire management projects, as is provided under the 
current SMNRA conservation agreement.
    (7) Comment: One commenter wanted to know why the 1998 conservation 
agreement and 2004 memorandum of understanding between the Forest 
Service and the Service have not been fully implemented and adhered to, 
and, further, how listing the butterflies will rectify future 
coordination between the Forest Service and the Service.
    Our Response: More than half of the past projects that impacted 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat were reviewed by the Service 
and Forest Service under a process that was developed and agreed to in 
the SMNRA conservation agreement; however, the review process on 
several projects was never initiated. Listing the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly as an endangered species requires the Forest Service to 
consult on all projects that they authorize, fund, or carry out that 
may affect the subspecies.
Comments Related to Factor B
    (8) Comment: Three peer reviewers and several commenters did not 
agree that the evidence in the proposed rule indicated that collection, 
commercial or noncommercial, has or will be a threat to the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly or its long-term survival.
    Our Response: We provided a thorough and detailed description of 
the best available scientific and commercial information available 
regarding the threat posed by collection in the proposed rule. In 
addition, we believe that it is necessary to fully discuss the many 
activities that go beyond collection for scientific research. Because 
the evidence of collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is 
limited, we compare to other listed or imperiled butterflies, including 
those on protected lands, to evaluate the impact of illegal and illicit 
activities, and the establishment of markets for specimens, on those 
species and subspecies. We have determined that poaching is a potential 
and significant threat that could occur at any time. We recognize that 
listing may inadvertently increase the threat of collection and trade 
(i.e., raise value, create demand). However, we acknowledge that most 
individuals who are interested in butterflies would follow guidelines 
and procedures to ensure responsible collecting of sensitive species.
    (9) Comment: One peer reviewer stated that, given where the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly tends to occur, it is unlikely that it would 
be collected by individuals with little experience who do not know what 
they are catching, and that inexperienced individuals typically are not 
effective at capturing butterflies and would be unable to collect so 
intensively that a population-level effect was plausible.

[[Page 57759]]

    Our Response: Mount Charleston blue butterflies do occur in easily 
accessible locations, including areas at the LVSSR and Bonanza Trail. 
Staff of the LVSSR have anecdotally relayed to the Service that they 
have seen people apparently collecting butterflies on the ski slopes 
and have been asked on which ski runs the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly occurs. We acknowledge that a less experienced butterfly 
collector may have more difficulty capturing a Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly than an experienced person, but these less experienced 
individuals may also more easily mistake the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly for another butterfly species. We maintain that because the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly occurs in low numbers and so little is 
known about its population dynamics, collection at low levels could 
pose a threat to the subspecies.
    (10) Comment: One peer reviewer thought Table 2 in the proposed 
rule, which summarized the numbers of Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
specimens collected by area, year, and sex, did not support the 
argument that collection has negatively impacted the subspecies, 
because the commenter thought it underrepresented the number of Mount 
Charleston blue butterflies that have been collected.
    Our Response: We acknowledge the information presented in the 
proposed rule's Table 2 may under-represent the total number of Mount 
Charleston blue butterflies that have been collected; not all 
collectors document all collected butterflies in records that are 
available to the Service. We presented the best scientific and 
commercial information on collection that was available to the Service. 
We maintain that unregulated collection has contributed to the decline 
of multiple butterfly species (see Factor B discussion, below, for more 
details), and could contribute to the decline of the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly when coupled with habitat loss and other threats.
    (11) Comment: One peer reviewer and one commenter stated that there 
needs to be better publicity regarding the need for permits to collect 
butterflies in the Spring Mountains, and many people who may be 
collecting may be unaware of the permit requirement.
    Our Response: We agree that the outreach regarding the Forest 
Service's requirement for a permit to collect butterflies in the Lee 
Canyon, Kyle Canyon, Willow Creek, and Cold Creek areas of SMNRA has 
generally been lacking. This requirement is stated in the Forest 
Service's Humboldt-Toiyabe General Management Plan, which is not widely 
available to the general public. Beyond this, we are unaware of 
additional outreach the Forest Service made. We agree this lack of 
outreach likely led to unknowing, unpermitted collection of 
butterflies, including the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. We 
anticipate the outreach for the new Forest Service closure order will 
be much wider and more available. Per Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 
regulations at 36 CFR 261.51, the Forest Service is required to: (1) 
Post a copy of the closure order in the offices of the Forest 
Supervisor and District Ranger who have jurisdiction of the lands 
affected by the order, and (2) display each prohibition imposed by an 
order in such locations and manner as to reasonably bring the 
prohibition to the attention of the public. In addition to fulfilling 
these requirements, the Forest Service intends to post information on 
the closure order on its Web site (http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/htnf/alerts-notices), at kiosks and trailheads in the Spring Mountains, and 
on the Internet at Lepidopterist message boards, such as http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/DesertLeps/ and http://pet.groups.yahoo.com/group/SoWestLep/.
Comments Related to Factor E
    (12) Comment: Two peer reviewers identified a need to provide more 
site-specific evidence of how climate change is affecting Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly habitat.
    Our Response: We agree that site-specific information about climate 
change and its effects on Mount Charleston blue butterfly should be 
included if it is available. However, site-specific information on 
climate change and its effects on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
and its habitat is not available at this time. Any information that is 
available that would improve our analyses of the effects of climate 
change on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may be sent to the Nevada 
Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES, above).
    (13) Comment: One commenter suggested that climate change or global 
warming will extirpate the Mount Charleston blue butterfly in the 
Spring Mountains (this would imply extinction).
    Our Response: We agree that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is 
at greater risk of extinction because of climate change, but there is 
no information to suggest that extinction is imminent only because of 
climate change. Threats related to climate change are discussed under 
Factor E, below.
Comments Related to Listing Because of Similarity of Appearance Under 
Section 4(e) of the Act and the Associated Section 4(d) Special Rule
    (14) Comment: Four peer reviewers and eight commenters opposed 
listing the five other butterflies due to similarity of appearance, as 
proposed, for a variety of reasons. The proposed action was generally 
opposed because it was thought that the species can be readily 
discerned by differences in coloration and markings, size, and flight 
pattern, and because they are not fully sympatric, or overlapping in 
their ranges (they occur in distinct habitats, they occur in close 
association with different plant species, and they occur at different 
mean elevations). In general, those in opposition to the similarity of 
appearance proposed listings believed that people with even moderate 
experience with butterflies would be able to distinguish between the 
species.
    Those in opposition also generally believed that listing similar 
butterflies would be overly restrictive and prohibitive, impede 
research, and discourage scientific support that could inform future 
management decisions or listing actions. One comment letter included 
photographs of the five butterflies proposed for listing with detailed 
descriptions of characteristics that may be used to distinguish the 
five butterflies from each other. Others provided textual descriptions 
of the diagnostic characteristics of the butterflies.
    Our Response: We carefully considered all of the comments we 
received, reviewed the information and data provided by reviewers and 
commenters, and evaluated recent research and data we have acquired 
since the proposed rule was published. We used data on the historical 
range of the five species proposed for listing under similarity of 
appearance, and reported this information in our proposed rule (77 FR 
59518; September 27, 2012). Since then, we have evaluated more current 
range information on these five species, and we find that the current 
known ranges of some of the species previously proposed for listing 
under similarity of appearance do not overlap or do not significantly 
overlap with the range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, so it 
would not be advisable to list these species under section 4(e) of the 
Act. In addition, since the closure order closes most of the known 
range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly to all butterfly 
collection, it is closed to the collection of all five of these species 
as well. Therefore, listing the additional

[[Page 57760]]

similarity of appearance species is no longer necessary because 
collection of these species will not take place in the range of the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly without a permit. Permitted individuals 
will have the qualifications that enable them to differentiate between 
the species.
    Further, as one peer reviewer stated, whether the taxa are similar 
in appearance is highly subjective. We agree with this statement. We 
agree that individuals who are more experienced with butterflies would 
be able to differentiate between the butterfly species. As described in 
the proposed rule, there are morphological differences between the 
species, but the distinguishing characteristics may not be obvious to 
all individuals who are collecting butterflies; thus, the similarity 
between the species is relative to the experience level and abilities 
of the observer.
    We believe that the threat of the mistaken capture and collection 
of Mount Charleston blue butterfly has been reduced by a closure order 
and administrative permitting process recently issued by the Forest 
Service. This closure order (Order Number 04-17-13-20) closes all areas 
within the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area to the collection, 
possession, storage, or transport of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly and four other sensitive butterfly species (Morand's 
checkerspot [Euphydryas anicia morandi], Spring Mountains acastus 
checkerspot [Chlosyne acastus robusta], and the two subspecies of 
Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies [Euphilotes ancilla cryptica and 
Euphilotes ancilla purpura]). The closure order provides additional 
protections by closing most of the known range of the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly to the collection of all butterfly species, except under 
a specific permit. Permits to collect non-listed butterflies in these 
areas may be issued by the Forest Service through the administrative 
permit process. This process requires applicants to provide information 
regarding their qualifications and experience with butterflies and 
intended uses of the permit, including the specific purpose of 
collection; a list of which species will be collected; the number of 
each sex and life stage for each species that will be collected; a list 
of locations where collection would occur; the time period in which 
collection would occur; and how the information and knowledge gained 
from the collection will be disseminated (Ramirez, 2013). The entire 
SMNRA is closed to possession, storing or transport of these five 
species, because they are USFS sensitive species. It provides 
additional protection to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly by 
prohibiting possession and storage of Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
throughout the SMNRA, allowing Forest Service law enforcement officers 
to enforce this prohibition within the SMNRA. The second part of the 
closure order closes the vast majority of the habitat where the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly occurs to the possession, storing and 
transport of all butterfly species in any life stage. This effectively 
eliminates the risk of unintentional collection of the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly in two ways: (1) the Forest Service cannot issue a 
permit for collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly without 
the Service's concurrence (which we will not do unless we know the 
researcher and the work is authorized by the Service), and (2) anyone 
wanting to collect any butterfly species in this area (including any of 
the species proposed for listing under similarity of appearance) would 
need to demonstrate their credentials, including the ability to clearly 
distinguish blue butterfly species, to the Forest Service, before they 
would issue a permit. In summary, these requirements should effectively 
eliminate the unintentional collection of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly, because only those individuals with the demonstrated ability 
to identify and distinguish butterfly species (including two of the 
butterfly species similar in appearance originally proposed to be 
listed) would be eligible for a permit to collect butterflies within 
most of the of the known range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.
    The Forest Service permit does not allow the collection of any 
species listed under the Act, including the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly being added to the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Species 
by this rule. Permits to collect the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, 
as well as any other endangered or threatened species, requires a 
section 10(a)(1)(A) permit issued by the Service; the section 
10(a)(1)(A) permit process ensures that those that are interested in 
conducting research, which may include collection for scientific 
purposes, are qualified to work with this butterfly subspecies and have 
research objectives that will enhance the survival of the subspecies. 
Individuals who are issued a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit to research the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly may then apply for a collection permit 
from the Forest Service if such research activities will be conducted 
on Forest Service lands. Because the application processes for a 
Service-issued section 10(a)(1)(A) permit and a Forest Service 
collection permit require thorough review of applicant qualifications 
by agency personnel, we believe only highly qualified individuals 
capable of distinguishing between small, blue butterfly species that 
occur in the Spring Mountains will be issued permits. As a result, we 
do not anticipate that individuals with permits will misidentify the 
butterfly species, and therefore, no inadvertent collection by 
authorized individuals will occur. Any collection without permits would 
be in violation of the closure order and subject to law enforcement 
action. In addition, any purposeful collection of a listed species, 
such as Mt Charleston blue butterfly, without a section 10 permit 
authorizing this activity, would be a violation of the Act. Therefore, 
the threat from incidental, accidental, or purposeful, unlawful 
collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly will be reduced (see 
Factor B discussion, below, for more details).
    The main goal of proposing other butterfly species for listing 
under similarity of appearance was to afford regulatory protection to 
the Mount Charleston blue butterfly in potential situations of 
misidentification of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as one of the 
other five species, in order to prevent the subspecies from going 
extinct. We recognize and acknowledge that amateurs and professionals 
interested in butterflies have made significant contributions to our 
knowledge of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and other butterfly 
species that occur in the Spring Mountains. We do not want to 
discourage research or scientific support for the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly or other butterfly species that occur in the Spring 
Mountains. As described above, listing does not prohibit conducting 
research on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly; the section 
10(a)(1)(A) permit process ensures that those that are interested in 
conducting research are qualified to work with this butterfly 
subspecies and have research objectives that will enhance the survival 
of the subspecies.
    (15) Comment: One commenter stated that these subspecies occur in 
disjunct areas away from the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, and one 
peer reviewer and one commenter suggested that the only two taxa that 
realistically might be difficult to distinguish from the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly are the two subspecies of Euphilotes ancilla.
    Our Response: We considered this comment, and we reviewed 
historical and recent sightings of the two Spring

[[Page 57761]]

Mountains dark blue butterfly subspecies (Euphilotes ancilla cryptica 
and Euphilotes ancilla purpura) and the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly. Historical data indicate that these subspecies co-occurred 
at the South Loop Trail and Willow Creek areas. In 2011, researchers 
documented both the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and the Spring 
Mountains dark blue butterfly (Euphilotes ancilla purpura) at the 
Bonanza Trail area, and noted that plants with which each subspecies is 
closely associated were present (Thompson et al. 2012, p. 3 and 4). 
Therefore, we believe the two Euphilotes ancilla subspecies do overlap 
with the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and are not disjunct.
    We agree the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may be difficult to 
distinguish from the two subspecies of Euphilotes ancilla by some 
individuals (see Response to Comment 14 for more details). We believe 
the closure order issued by the Forest Service (described above) and 
the requirement for a scientific collection permit from the Forest 
Service for collection of the two subspecies of Euphilotes ancilla and 
a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit from the Service for collection of any 
listed butterflies for research on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
reduces the threat from incidental or accidental collection of the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly when other butterflies are being 
targeted (see Factor B discussion, below, and Response to Comment 14, 
above, for more details).
    (16) Comment: Three peer reviewers commented that the area which we 
identified in the proposed listing under section 4(e) of the Act 
protecting five species of butterflies similar in appearance to the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly was too large.
    Our Response: We selected the SMNRA boundary in the proposed 
listing under section 4(e) of the Act because it is easily identified 
on major roads accessing the area and, therefore, would be easily 
recognized by the general public and law enforcement. However, we are 
not listing under section 4(e) of the Act the lupine blue butterfly, 
Reakirt's blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, 
and two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies based on similarity of 
appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (see Factor B 
discussion for more details); therefore, this comment no longer applies 
to our rulemaking.
    (17) Comment: One commenter stated that the listing of the five 
additional butterfly species on the basis of the similarity of 
appearance should only prohibit their collection, and not extend to 
otherwise lawful activities.
    Our Response: We agree that, had we finalized the proposed listing 
of five butterfly species based on their similarity of appearance to 
the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, the rule should have only 
prohibited their collection and not extended to otherwise lawful 
activities. However, based on comments and further evaluation, we are 
not listing the lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt's blue butterfly, Spring 
Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, and two Spring Mountains dark blue 
butterflies based on similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly under section 4(e) of the Act (see Factor B discussion, 
below, for more details).
    (18) Comment: One commenter suggested that there are many unknowns 
regarding blue butterflies in the Plebejus lupini and Plebejus acmon 
complex, and it is debatable whether the lupine blue butterfly 
(Plebejus lupini texanus) actually occurs in the Spring Mountains, or 
if the butterfly that is identified as this subspecies is actually the 
Acmon blue butterfly (Plebejus acmon).
    Our Response: We agree that further taxonomic work may be needed 
for the Plebejus lupini and Plebejus acmon complex. We used the most 
currently available scientific literature to identify taxonomic 
entities in the Spring Mountains. Recent observations of the subject 
butterflies occurring in the Spring Mountains have been identified as 
Plebejus lupini texanus (Andrew et al. 2013, pp. 41 and 61). Until new 
taxonomic information becomes available to suggest otherwise, we rely 
on the best available scientific and commercial information, which 
states that the subspecies described as occurring in the Spring 
Mountains is Plebejus lupini texanus.
Comments Related to Critical Habitat Prudency Determination
    (19) Comment: Four peer reviewers and one commenter expressed 
concern over the Service's determination that critical habitat is not 
prudent, disagreed with this decision, or otherwise suggested we 
reconsider the basis for this determination. One peer reviewer and one 
commenter supported, or agreed to some extent with, the basis of our 
determination. Comments in opposition to our not prudent determination 
were largely based on the potential benefits of designating critical 
habitat, and skepticism that increased risk and harm from collection to 
the Mount Charleston blue butterfly would occur with designation, 
because ample detail could be obtained from other sources for potential 
poachers to locate remaining populations.
    Our Response: We have considered the peer review and public 
comments. Based on these comments, and further consideration of the 
best scientific information available, we have determined that it is 
prudent to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly. Therefore, elsewhere in a separate Federal Register notice, 
we will propose to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly.

Comments From the State

    Section 4(i) of the Act states, ``the Secretary shall submit to the 
State agency a written justification for his failure to adopt 
regulations consistent with the agency's comments or petition.'' We 
received comments from the State from one peer reviewer. These comments 
were included under Peer Reviewer and Public Comments.

Federal Agency Comments

    (20) Comment: The Forest Service noted that the baseline population 
that was chosen to determine the status of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly was the highest recorded in at least 20 years, and, 
therefore, the distribution and occupied habitat was likely greater 
than average, and may have included ecological sinks. They suggested a 
more typical year should have been used as the baseline average 
population and that the 20-year timeframe we used to determine 
occupancy status is too long.
    Our Response: We agree that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly was 
recorded in high numbers at two areas of LVSSR in 1995, but note that 
an equally high number were counted at one of these areas (the second 
area was not visited) in 2002. We considered data from these and 
subsequent years to assess the occupancy of Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly locations. We did not choose the data from 1995 as a baseline 
for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly; rather, we selected a 20-year 
timeframe to assess the Mount Charleston blue butterfly's status, based 
on the butterfly's biology and ecological factors of its habitat as 
stated in the ``Distribution'' section, above. At this time, not enough 
information is known about the diapause period or the population 
dynamics of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly to determine how 
metapopulations of this subspecies may or may not be connected. We can 
make inferences using information from other closely related species, 
but until further research is conducted on the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly, there

[[Page 57762]]

is a great deal that is unknown. We do know that the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly has not been detected at several sites since 1995. We 
attribute this, in large part, to a lack of habitat, resulting from 
human disturbances and vegetation succession (see discussions under 
Factors A, B, D, and E, below) that have occurred in the last 20 years. 
Some of these vegetation shifts may have occurred in short time periods 
(e.g., 2 years for a LVSSR ski run to shift from low-growing species to 
shrub cover), but the vegetation at sites where trees are encroaching 
(e.g., Gary Abbott) are shifting over longer time periods. Thus, we 
used a 20-year timeframe to determine site occupancy status because it 
takes into account: (1) The variable time periods in which vegetation 
shifts can occur at Mount Charleston blue butterfly locations, and (2) 
population dynamics that may affect the presence of the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly at a particular location.
    (21) Comment: The Forest Service stated that it has complied with 
the regulations required by the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and the Act. The commenter stated that 
the Forest Service has taken conservation of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly into consideration and consulted with the Service on the 
implementation of plans and projects, including the LVSSR Master Plan. 
The commenter went on to state that many unknowns exist regarding the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly; therefore, the Forest Service's land 
management practices are not responsible for potential declines, 
especially because the Forest Service has incorporated the Service's 
minimization measures.
    Our Response: We are confident the Forest Service has complied with 
NEPA and the Act. Overall, the Forest Service has closely coordinated 
with the Service, and this coordination has improved in recent years. 
While there have been lapses in coordination (see Factor A discussion, 
below), these incidents have been exceptions. We agree that many 
unknowns exist regarding the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its 
ecology, but we conclude (see information under the discussions of 
Factors A and C, below) that some of the Forest Service's land 
management practices may have contributed to the loss of Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly habitat.
    (22) Comment: The Forest Service stated that no fuel reduction 
funds are currently in place, but should fuel reduction activities be 
planned in the future, they can be done in a manner that minimizes 
impacts to and actually benefits the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
and its habitat.
    Our Response: We agree and look forward to working with the Forest 
Service to further the conservation of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly.
    (23) Comment: The Forest Service stated that ``if climate change 
predictions hold true in southern Nevada, low-elevation sites are 
likely to become less suitable for occupation by the butterfly.''
    Our Response: We do not agree that it can be stated at this time 
with a reasonable degree of certainty that there will be a 
unidirectional shift or decrease in the importance of sites in lower 
elevations. There is currently inadequate site-specific information 
from climate change models, combined with topographic variability at 
each site, to predict the relative importance of various sites. We 
agree that there may be some correlation with elevation, but we are 
unaware of any analysis identifying the magnitude of shifts in climate 
as they relate to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat.

Summary of Changes From Proposed Rule

    After consideration of the comments we received during the public 
comment period (see above), we made several changes to the final 
listing rule. Many small, nonsubstantive changes and corrections not 
affecting the determination (for example, updating the Background 
section in response to comments and minor clarifications) were made 
throughout the document. All substantial changes relate to the proposed 
similarity of appearance listings under section 4(e) of the Act and the 
prudency of designating critical habitat.
    Based on comments and further evaluation, we are not listing the 
lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt's blue butterfly, Spring Mountains 
icarioides blue butterfly, and two Spring Mountains dark blue 
butterflies based on similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly under section 4(e) of the Act. The protection that would 
have been provided to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly through these 
listings (see discussion in response to Comment 14, above) is no longer 
advisable, as similar or greater protection will be provided by the 
closure order issued by the Forest Service. Specifically, the 
application processes for Service and Forest Service collection permits 
associated with the closure order require thorough review of applicant 
qualifications by agency personnel, and we believe only highly 
qualified individuals capable of distinguishing between small, blue 
butterfly species that occur in the Spring Mountains will be issued 
permits. As a result, we do not anticipate that individuals with 
authorized collection permits will misidentify the butterfly species, 
and therefore, inadvertent collection should be greatly reduced. In 
addition, persons found collecting any butterfly species without 
permits within most of the the Mount Charleston blue butterfly's known 
range, or found to be possessing, storing, or transporting the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly anywhere within the Spring Mountains National 
Recreation Area, would be in violation of the closure order and subject 
to law enforcement action.
    Comparing the potential protections from our proposal of listing 
the remaining two similar butterfly species whose ranges overlap that 
of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly under section 4(e) of the Act 
(similarity of appearance) to the protections that will be afforded by 
the Forest Service's closure order, the closure order provides equal or 
greater protections. As stated in the proposed rule (77 FR 59518; 
September 27, 2012), the special 4(d) rule would have established 
``prohibitions on collection of the lupine blue butterfly (Plebejus 
lupini texanus), Reakirt's blue butterfly (Echinargus isola), Spring 
Mountains icarioides blue butterfly (Plebejus icarioides austinorum), 
and two Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies (Euphilotes ancilla 
cryptica and E. a. purpura), or their immature stages, where their 
ranges overlap with the Mt. Charleston blue butterfly, in order to 
protect the Mt. Charleston blue butterfly from collection, possession, 
and trade.'' Further, ``Capture of the lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt's 
blue butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, and the two 
Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies, or their immature stages, is 
not prohibited if it is accidental, such as during research, provided 
the animal is released immediately upon discovery at the point of 
capture,'' and ``Scientific activities involving collection or 
propagation of these similarity-of-appearance butterflies are not 
prohibited provided there is prior written authorization from the 
Service. All otherwise legal activities that may involve what we would 
normally define as incidental take (take that results from, but is not 
the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity) of these 
similar butterflies, and which are conducted in accordance with 
applicable State, Federal, Tribal, and local laws and regulations, will 
not be considered take under this regulation.'' For example, the 
special 4(d) rule would

[[Page 57763]]

have exempted ``legal application of pesticides, grounds maintenance, 
recreational facilities maintenance, vehicle use, vegetation 
management, exotic plant removal, and burning. These actions will not 
be considered as violations of section 9 of the Act if they result in 
incidental take of any of the similarity of appearance butterflies.'' 
The Forest Service closure order and permitting requirement goes 
farther by prohibiting not only intentional or inadvertent capture, but 
even the attempt to collect any butterfly species within most of the 
known range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, without a specific 
permit. The closure order establishes broader take and possession 
prohibitions against the five butterfly species specifically listed in 
the closure order, which includes the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, 
and establishes a permitting requirement for any collection of these 
species within the entire Spring Mountains Natural Resource Area. 
Additionally, collection of all butterflies within most of the known 
range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is prohibited unless a 
special permit is obtained from the Regional Forester. This will likely 
have the desirable effect of reducing collection even more than would 
our proposed 4(d) rule.
    Based on the more recent information that some of the species 
proposed for listing under similarity of appearance do not in fact 
overlap the range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, and the 
greater protections that will be afforded by the Forest Service closure 
order, we are not listing the lupine blue butterfly, Reakirt's blue 
butterfly, Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, or the two 
Spring Mountains dark blue butterflies, based on similarity of 
appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly under section 4(e) of 
the Act (see Factor B discussion, below, for more details).
    In the proposed rule, we did not include Griffith Peak as a Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly location. After reviewing the available data, 
we determined that Griffith Peak should be considered a presumed 
occupied location for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly because the 
most recent observation was in 1995, and the appropriate larval host 
plants and nectar plants are present to support Mount Charleston blue 
butterflies. As defined earlier, we presume a location to be occupied 
if adults have been observed within the last 20 years and nectar plants 
are present to support Mount Charleston blue butterflies.
    In the proposed rule we considered Lee Meadows to be a presumed 
occupied location for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. After 
reviewing the available data, we determined that Lee Meadows is a 
presumed extirpated location for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
because no detections of Mount Charleston blue butterflies have 
occurred there since 1965 (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 10). As discussed 
earlier, we presume that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is 
extirpated from a location when it has not been recorded at that 
location through formal and informal surveys or incidental observation 
for more than 20 years.
    In addition, based on information gathered from peer reviewers and 
the public during the comment period, we have determined that it is 
prudent to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly. Therefore, elsewhere in a separate Federal Register notice, 
we will propose to designate critical habitat for the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 424) 
set forth the procedures for adding species to 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. Listing actions may 
be warranted based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in 
combination. Each of these factors is discussed below.

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

    Below, we evaluate several factors that negatively impact the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly's habitat, including fire suppression, fuels 
reduction, succession, introduction of nonnative species, recreation, 
and development. We also examine current conservation agreements and 
plans, and the extent to which they address the threats to the 
butterfly.
Fire Suppression, Succession, and Nonnative Species
    Butterflies have extremely specialized habitat requirements (Thomas 
1984, p. 337). Cushman and Murphy (1993, p. 4) determined 28 at-risk 
lycaenid butterfly species, including the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly, to be dependent on one or two closely related larval host 
plants. Many of these larval host plants are dependent on early 
successional environments. Butterflies that specialize on such plants 
must track an ephemeral resource base that itself depends on 
unpredictable and perhaps infrequent ecosystem disturbances. For such 
butterfly species, local extinction events are both frequent and 
inevitable (Cushman and Murphy 1993, p. 4). The Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly may, in part, depend on disturbances that open up the 
subalpine canopy and create conditions more favorable to the larval 
host plant, Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus, and nectar resources 
(Weiss et al. 1995, p. 5; Boyd and Murphy 2008, pp. 22-28) (see 
``Habitat'' section, above).
    A lack of disturbances, such as fire or mechanical alteration, may 
prevent open understory and overstory canopy conditions needed for 
Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus to grow, thereby decreasing the 
amount of potential Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat. Datasmiths 
(2007, p. 21) suggests that Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat 
consisting of patches of Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus are often, 
but not exclusively, associated with older or infrequent disturbance. 
Weiss et al. (1995, p. 5) note that a colony once existed on the Upper 
Kyle Canyon Ski Area (Location 13 in Table 1), but, since the ski run 
was abandoned, no butterflies have been collected there since 1965; 
presumably, the lack of disturbance at this site diminished the habitat 
quality for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Boyd and Austin (2002, 
p. 13) observed that the butterfly was common at Lee Meadows (Location 
8 in Table 1) in the 1960s, but became uncommon at the site because of 
succession and a lack of disturbance. Weiss et al. (1995, p. 5) 
concluded that most of Lee Meadows did not support any larval host 
plants in the mid-1990s and would not support a Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly population over the long term; in 2012, Andrew et al. (2013, 
p. 51-52) assessed the site similarly.
    Although no published fire histories for the Spring Mountains are 
known (Abella et al. 2012, p. 128), the Forest Service's policy 
regarding fire exclusion in the early and mid-1900s is well-

[[Page 57764]]

documented (Interagency Federal Wildland Fire Policy Review Working 
Group 2001, p. 1) and presumably affected fire management practices in 
the Spring Mountains. The current dominance of certain tree species 
indicate a recent lack of fire due to fire exclusion or reduction in 
natural fire cycles in the Spring Mountains (Abella et al. 2012, pp. 
129-130), which has resulted in long-term successional changes, 
including increased forest area and forest structure (higher canopy 
cover, more young trees, and more trees intolerant of fire) (Nachlinger 
and Reese 1996, p. 37; Amell 2006, pp. 6-9; Boyd and Murphy 2008, pp. 
22-28; Denton et al. 2008, p. 21; Abella et al. 2012, pp. 128, 130). 
Frequent low-severity fires, as historically occurred in Pinus 
ponderosa (ponderosa pine)-dominated forests, would have maintained an 
open forest structure characterized by uneven-aged stands of fire-
resistant Pinus ponderosa trees in Lee and Kyle Canyons (Amell 2006, p. 
5). Because of changes to historic fire regimes, there has been an 
increase in area covered by forest canopy and an increase in stem 
densities with more smaller trees intolerant of fire within the lower-
elevation Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat.
    Large-diameter Pinus ponderosa trees with multiple fire scars in 
Upper Lee and Kyle Canyons indicate that low-severity fires 
historically burned through mixed-conifer forests within the range of 
the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Amell 2006, p. 3). There are no 
empirical estimates of fire intervals or frequencies in the Spring 
Mountains, but extensive research in the Southwest indicates that 
return intervals prior to the fire exclusion policy were generally less 
than 10 years in Pinus ponderosa forests (Abella et al. 2012, p. 130), 
and return intervals in the proximate San Bernardino Mountains have 
been reported to be 4 to 20, or 2 to 39, years, prior to fire exclusion 
in the 20th century (Minnich et al. 1995, p. 903; Denton et al. 2008, 
p. 23). Open mixed-conifer forests in the Spring Mountains were likely 
characterized by more abundant and diverse understory plant communities 
compared to current conditions (Entrix 2008, pp. 73-78). These 
successional changes have been hypothesized to have contributed to the 
decline of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly because of reduced 
densities of larval and nectar plants, decreased solar insolation, and 
inhibited butterfly movements that subsequently determine colonization 
or recolonization processes (Weiss et al. 1997, p. 26; Boyd and Murphy 
2008, pp. 22-28).
    Changes in forest structure and understory plant communities result 
in habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation for the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly across a broad spatial scale. Boyd and Murphy 
(2008, p. 23) note that important habitat characteristics required by 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly--Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus 
and preferred nectar plants occurring together in open sites not shaded 
by tree canopies--would have occurred more frequently across a more 
open forested landscape. Comparatively, the current, more densely 
forested landscape reduces the connectivity of existing or potential 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly locations. These more densely forested 
landscapes decrease the likelihood that the butterfly will expand to 
unoccupied locations. Although the butterfly's population dynamics are 
unknown, if the Mount Charleston blue butterfly functions in a 
metapopulation dynamic, vegetation shifts to a denser forest structure 
could impact key metapopulation processes by reducing the probability 
of recolonization following local population extirpations in remaining 
patches of Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat (Boyd and Murphy 
2008, p. 25).
    The introduction of forbs, shrubs, and nonnative grasses can be a 
threat to the butterfly's habitat because these species can compete 
with, and decrease, the quality and abundance of larval host plant and 
adult nectar sources. This has been observed for many butterfly 
species, including the Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha 
quino) (62 FR 2313; January 16, 1997) and Fender's blue butterfly 
(Plebejus (= Icaricia) icarioides fenderi) (65 FR 3875; January 25, 
2000). Succession, coupled with the introduction of nonnative species, 
is also believed to be the reason the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
is no longer present at the Old Town site in Kyle Canyon (Location 14 
in Table 1) and at the Mount Charleston blue butterfly holotype (the 
type specimen used in the original description of a species or 
subspecies) site in Upper Lee Canyon (Location 11 in Table 1) (Urban 
Wildlands Group, Inc. 2005, p. 3; Boyd and Austin 1999, p. 17).
    Introduction of nonnative species within its habitat negatively 
impacts the quality of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly's habitat. 
As mentioned previously (see ``Habitat'' section, above), periodic 
maintenance (removal of trees and shrubs) of the ski runs has 
effectively arrested succession on the ski slopes and maintains 
conditions that can be favorable to the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly. However, the ski runs are not specifically managed to 
benefit habitat for this subspecies and its habitat requirements, and 
operational activities (including seeding of nonnative species) 
regularly modify Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat or prevent 
larval host plants from reestablishing in disturbed areas. Weiss et al. 
(1995, pp. 5-6) recognized that a positive management action for the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly would be to establish more Astragalus 
on additional ski runs at LVSSR, especially in areas of thin soils 
where grasses and Melilotus (sweetclover) are difficult to establish. 
Titus and Landau (2003, p. 1) observed that vegetation on highly and 
moderately disturbed areas of the LVSSR ski runs are floristically very 
different from natural openings in the adjacent forested areas that 
support this subspecies. Seeding nonnative species for erosion control 
was discontinued in 2005; however, because of erosion problems during 
2006 and 2007, and the lack of native seed, LVSSR resumed using a 
nonnative seed mix, particularly in the lower portions of the ski runs 
(not adjacent to Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat) where erosion 
problems persist.
    The best available information indicates that, in at least five of 
the seven locations where the Mount Charleston blue butterfly has been 
extirpated, habitat is no longer present due to vegetation changes 
attributed to changes in the natural fire regime, vegetation 
succession, the introduction of nonnative species, or a combination of 
these.
Recreation, Development, and Other Projects
    As discussed in the ``Distribution'' section, above, the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly is a narrow endemic subspecies that is 
currently known to occupy three locations and presumed to occupy seven 
others. One of the three areas where Mount Charleston blue butterflies 
have been detected in recent years is the LVSSR. Several ground-
disturbing projects occurred within Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
habitat at LVSSR between 2000 and 2011 (see 76 FR 12667, March 8, 2011, 
pp. 12672, 12673). These projects were of small spatial scale (ground 
disturbance was less than about 10 ac each) but are known to have 
impacted habitat and possibly impacted individual Mount Charleston blue 
butterflies (eggs, larvae, pupae, or adults). In addition to these 
recreation development projects at LVSSR, a small area of habitat and 
possibly individual Mount Charleston blue butterflies were impacted by 
a

[[Page 57765]]

water system replacement project in Upper Lee Canyon in 2003, and a 
small area of habitat (less than 1 acre) was impacted by a stream 
restoration project at Lee Meadows in 2011. It is difficult to know the 
full extent of impacts and whether the impacts were negative or 
positive to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly's habitat as a result 
of these projects because Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat was 
not mapped, nor were some project areas surveyed, prior to 
implementation.
    Four ongoing and future projects also may impact Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly habitat in Upper Lee Canyon. These projects are 
summarized below:
    (1) A March 2011 master development plan for LVSSR proposes to 
improve, upgrade, and expand the existing facilities to provide year-
round recreational activities. The plan proposes to increase snow 
trails, beginner terrain, and snowmaking reservoir capacity and 
coverage; widen existing ski trails; replace and add lifts; and develop 
``gladed'' areas for sliding that would remove deadfall timber to 
reduce fire hazards (Ecosign 2011, pp. I-3-I-4, IV-5-IV-7). The plan 
proposes to add summer activities including lift-accessed sightseeing 
and hiking, nature interpretive hikes, evening stargazing, mountain 
biking, conference retreats and seminars, weddings, family reunions, 
mountain music concerts, festivals, climbing walls, bungee trampoline, 
beach and grass volleyball, a car rally, and other activities (Ecosign 
2011, pp. I-3-I-4). Widening existing ski trails and increasing 
snowmaking reservoir capacity (Ecosign 2011, p. IV-5, Figure 21a) would 
impact the Mount Charleston blue butterfly at a known occupied and at a 
presumed occupied location (Locations 2 and 5 in Table 1). Summer 
activities would impact the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its 
known occupied and presumed occupied habitat by attracting visitors in 
higher numbers during the time of year when larvae and larval host 
plants are especially vulnerable to trampling (Location 2 in Table 1). 
The LVSSR master development plan, which has been accepted by the 
Forest Service, considered Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat 
during development of the plan. Impacts to Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly habitat from the LVSSR master development plan will be 
addressed further during its NEPA process (discussed further under 
Factor D, below) (Forest Service 2011, p. 3).
    (2) In the proposed rule, we reported that the Old Mill, Dolomite, 
and McWilliams Reconstruction Projects to improve camping and picnic 
areas in Upper Lee Canyon were being planned and evaluated under NEPA. 
The Service coordinated with and provided recommendations to the Forest 
Service to prevent impacts to Mount Charleston blue butterflies and 
their habitat (Service 2012a, p. 2). In January 2013, the Forest 
Service issued a decision notice and finding of no significant impact 
for the project, which incorporated design criteria to avoid impacts to 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat and individuals (Forest Service 
2013a, p. 1). Design criteria included early coordination between work 
crews and specialists familiar with the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
and its habitat, temporary fencing around potential habitat areas, weed 
prevention, restoration of disturbed areas, and avoidance of potential 
habitat areas during construction boundary and trail layout (Forest 
Service 2013a, p. 17-19). The Forest Service began implementing this 
project in November 2012, and the project is expected to be completed 
in May 2015 (Forest Service 2013b). These projects are ongoing with the 
design criteria being implemented to minimize the likelihood of 
impacts. Until the work is completed, we will not be able to tell 
whether the design criteria that were implemented will be effective at 
avoiding or minimizing impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.
    (3) In the proposed rule, we reported that the Foxtail Group Picnic 
Area Reconstruction Project in Upper Lee Canyon was being planned and 
evaluated under NEPA. The Service coordinated with and provided 
recommendations to the Forest Service to prevent impacts to Mount 
Charleston blue butterflies or their habitat (Service 2012b, p. 2). In 
December 2012, the Forest Service issued a decision notice and finding 
of no significant impact for the project, which incorporated design 
criteria to avoid impacts to Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat 
and individuals (Forest Service 2012, p. 1). Design criteria included 
early coordination between work crews and specialists familiar with the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat, temporary fencing 
around potential habitat areas, weed prevention, restoration of 
disturbed areas, and avoidance of potential habitat areas during 
construction boundary and trail layout (Forest Service 2012, pp. 12-
15). The Forest Service began implementing this project in November 
2012, and the project is expected to be completed in May 2015 (Forest 
Service 2013b). These projects are ongoing with the design criteria 
being implemented to minimize the likelihood of impacts. Until the work 
is completed, we will not be able to tell whether the design criteria 
that were implemented will be effective at avoiding or minimizing 
impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.
    (4) The Ski Lift 2 Replacement Project is being planned and 
evaluated under NEPA. The proposed action includes removing and 
replacing chair lift number 2 and moving the base terminal down slope 
to the elevation of the base lodge deck. In order to accomplish this, 
chair lift number 1 will have to be moved to the south to accommodate 
both loading terminals. Construction activities would include removing 
and replacing all terminals, lift towers, tower footings, lift lines, 
metal rope, chairs, communication equipment, and backup power 
generation. This proposed action is consistent with the LVSSR master 
development plan accepted by the Forest Service in 2011. We met with 
the Forest Service and provided recommendations regarding potential 
direct and indirect impacts of these activities to the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly and its potential habitat within or in close proximity 
to the project area. The recommendations provided by the Service will 
assist with the development of the proposed action in order to avoid or 
minimize adverse effects to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its 
potential habitat. The Forest Service expects to issue a decision 
notice on this project in August 2013, and begin implementation 
immediately after that time (Forest Service 2013b).
Fuels Reduction Projects
    In December 2007, the Forest Service approved the SMNRA Hazardous 
Fuels Reduction Project (Forest Service 2007a, pp. 1-127). This project 
resulted in tree removals and vegetation thinning in three presumed 
occupied Mount Charleston blue butterfly locations in Upper Lee Canyon, 
including Foxtail Ridge and Lee Canyon Youth Camp, and impacted 
approximately 32 ac (13 ha) of presumed occupied habitat that has been 
mapped in Upper Lee Canyon (Locations 3 and 4 in Table 1) (Forest 
Service 2007a, Appendix A-Map 2; Datasmiths 2007, p. 26). Manual and 
mechanical clearing of shrubs and trees will be repeated on a 5- to 10-
year rotating basis and will result in direct impacts to the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat, including crushing or 
removal of larval host plants and diapausing larvae (if present). 
Implementation of this project began in the spring of 2008 throughout 
the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, including Lee Canyon, 
and the project is nearly complete for its initial

[[Page 57766]]

implementation (Forest Service 2011, p. 2).
    Although Boyd and Murphy (2008, p. 26) recommended increased forest 
thinning to improve habitat quality for the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly, the primary goal of this project was to reduce wildfire risk 
to life and property in the SMNRA wildland urban interface (Forest 
Service 2007a, p. 6), not to improve Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
habitat. Mount Charleston blue butterflies require larval host plants 
and nectar plants that are flowering concurrent with the butterfly's 
flight period and that occur in areas without forest canopy cover, 
which can reduce solar exposure during critical larval feeding periods 
(Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 23; Fleishman 2012, peer review comment). 
Although the fuel reduction project incorporated measures to minimize 
impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat, shaded 
fuel breaks created for this project may not result in open areas to 
create or significantly improve Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
habitat.
    Although this project may result in increased understory herbaceous 
plant productivity and diversity, there are short-term risks to the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly's habitat associated with project 
implementation. In recommending increased forest thinning to improve 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat, Boyd and Murphy (2008, p. 26) 
cautioned that thinning treatments would need to be implemented 
carefully to minimize short-term disturbance impacts to the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat. Individual butterflies 
(larvae, pupae, and adults), and larval host plants and nectar plants, 
may be crushed during project implementation. In areas where thinned 
trees are chipped (mastication), layers of wood chips may become too 
deep and impact survival of Mount Charleston blue butterfly larvae and 
pupae, as well as larval host plants and nectar plants. Soil and 
vegetation disturbance during project implementation would increase the 
probability of colonization and establishment of weeds and disturbance-
adapted species, such as Chrysothamnus spp. (rabbitbrush); these plants 
would compete with Mount Charleston blue butterfly larval host and 
nectar plants.
Conservation Agreement and Plans That May Offset Habitat Threats
    A conservation agreement was developed in 1998, to facilitate 
voluntary cooperation among the Forest Service, the Service, and the 
State of Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in 
providing long-term protection for the rare and sensitive flora and 
fauna of the Spring Mountains, including the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly (Forest Service 1998a, pp. 1-50). The conservation agreement 
was in effect for a period of 10 years after it was signed on April 13, 
1998 (Forest Service et al. 1998, pp. 44, 49), and was renewed in 2008 
(Forest Service 2008). Coordination between the Forest Service and 
Service has continued. Many of the conservation actions described in 
the conservation agreement have been implemented; however, several 
important conservation actions that may have directly benefited the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly have not been implemented. Regardless, 
many of the conservation actions in the conservation agreement (for 
example, inventory and monitoring) would not directly reduce threats to 
the Mount Charleston blue butterfly or its habitat.
    In 2004, the Service and Forest Service signed a memorandum of 
agreement that provides a process for review of activities that involve 
species covered under the 1998 conservation agreement (Forest Service 
and Service 2004, pp. 1-9). Formal coordination through this memorandum 
of agreement was established to: (1) Jointly develop projects that 
avoid or minimize impacts to species that are listed, candidate 
species, and species that are proposed for listing, and species under 
the 1998 conservation agreement; and (2) to ensure consistency with 
commitments and direction provided for in recovery planning efforts and 
in conservation agreement efforts. More than half of the past projects 
that impacted Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat were reviewed by 
the Service and Forest Service under this review process, but the 
review process on several projects was never initiated. Some efforts 
under this memorandum of agreement have been successful in reducing or 
avoiding project impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, while 
other efforts have not. Recent examples of projects that have been 
planned to reduce or avoid impacts to the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly include the Lee Meadows Restoration Project (discussed above 
in ``Recreation, Development, and Other Projects'' under Factor A) and 
the Bristlecone Trail Habitat Improvement Project (Forest Service 
2007b, pp. 1-7; Forest Service 2007c, pp. 1-14; Service 2007, p. 1-2). 
However, the projects are currently under implementation so 
effectiveness of the avoidance and minimization measures cannot be 
evaluated at this time. A new conservation agreement is currently being 
developed for the SMNRA.
    The loss or modification of known occupied and presumed occupied 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat in Upper Lee Canyon, as 
discussed above, has occurred in the past. However, more recently, the 
Forest Service has suspended decisions on certain projects that would 
potentially impact Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat (see 
discussion of lower parking lot expansion and new snowmaking lines 
projects in the 12-month status finding ``Recreation, Development 
Projects,'' (76 FR 12673)).
    In addition, the Forest Service has reaffirmed its commitment to 
collaborate with the Service in order to avoid implementation of 
projects or actions that would impact the viability of the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly (Forest Service 2010). This commitment 
includes: (1) Developing a mutually agreeable process to review future 
proposed projects to ensure that implementation of these actions will 
not lead to loss of population viability; (2) reviewing proposed 
projects that may pose a threat to the continued viability of the 
subspecies; and (3) jointly developing a conservation agreement 
(strategy) that identifies actions that will be taken to ensure the 
conservation of the subspecies (Forest Service 2010). The Forest 
Service and the Service are currently in the process of cooperatively 
developing the conservation agreement.
    The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is a covered subspecies under 
the 2000 Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan 
(MSHCP). The Clark County MSHCP identifies two goals for the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly: (a) ``Maintain stable or increasing 
population numbers and host and larval plant species''; and (b) ``No 
net unmitigated loss of larval host plant or nectar plant species 
habitat'' (RECON 2000a, Table 2.5, pp. 2-154; RECON 2000b, pp. B158-
B161). The Forest Service is one of several signatories to the 
implementing agreement for the Clark County MSHCP, because many of the 
activities from the 1998 conservation agreement were incorporated into 
the MSHCP. Primarily, activities undertaken by the Forest Service 
focused on conducting surveying and monitoring for butterflies. 
Although some surveying and monitoring occurred through contracts by 
the Forest Service, Clark County, and the Service, a butterfly 
monitoring plan was not fully implemented.
    Recently, the Forest Service has been implementing the LVSSR 
Adaptive Vegetation Management Plan (Forest Service 2005, pp. 1-24) to 
provide

[[Page 57767]]

mitigation for approximately 11 ac (4.45 ha) of impacts to presumed-
occupied Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat (and other sensitive 
wildlife and plant species habitat) resulting from projects that the 
Forest Service implemented in 2005 and 2006. Under the plan, LVSSR will 
revegetate impacted areas using native plant species, including 
Astragalus calycosus var. calycosus. However, this program is 
experimental and has experienced difficulties due to the challenges of 
native seed availability and propagation. Under the plan, Astragalus 
calycosus var. calycosus is being brought into horticultural 
propagation. Several methods have been used to propagate Astragalus 
calycosus var. calycosus, including germination from seed and salvaging 
plants to grow in pots (Thiell 2011, pp. 4-6). Overall survival of 
plants to the time of planting with either method was low, although 
many variables may have factored into this success rate (Thiell 2011, 
pp. 4-6, 14-15). Thus, additional methods to propagate Astragalus 
calycosus var. calycosus and other larval host plants and nectar plants 
will need to be tested in order to establish successful methodology for 
restoration of Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat.
Summary of Factor A
    The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is currently known to occur in 
three locations: the South Loop Trail area in upper Kyle Canyon, LVSSR 
in Upper Lee Canyon, and Bonanza Trail. In addition, the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly is presumed to occupy seven locations: 
Foxtail, Youth Camp, Gary Abbott, Lower LVSSR Parking, Bristlecone 
Trail, Mummy Spring, and Griffith Peak. Habitat loss and modification, 
as a result of changes in fire regimes and long-term successional 
changes in forest structure, implementation of recreational development 
projects and fuels reduction projects, and nonnative species, are 
continuing threats to the butterfly's habitat in Upper Lee Canyon. 
Recreational area reconstruction projects currently planned also may 
negatively impact Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat in Upper Lee 
Canyon. In addition, proposed future activities under a draft master 
development plan at LVSSR may impact the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly and its habitat in Upper Lee Canyon.
    Because of its likely small population size, projects that impact 
even relatively small areas of occupied habitat could threaten the 
long-term population viability of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. 
The continued loss or modification of presumed occupied habitat would 
further impair the long-term population viability of the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly in Upper Lee Canyon by removing diapausing 
larvae and, potentially, pupae (if present), and by reducing the 
ability of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly to disperse during 
favorable years. The successional advance of trees, shrubs, and 
grasses, along with the spread of nonnative species, are continuing 
threats to the subspecies in Upper Lee Canyon. While host and nectar 
plants are relatively abundant at the presumed-occupied locations of 
Foxtail, Youth Camp, Gary Abbott, and the known occupied location of 
LVSSR, these locations are threatened by forest canopy growth and 
encroachment (Andrew et al. 2013, p. 47-54). The Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly is presumed extirpated from seven historical locations (Lee 
Meadows, Cathedral Rock, Upper Lee Canyon holotype, Upper Kyle Canyon 
Ski Area, Old Town, Deer Creek, and Willow Creek), likely due to 
successional changes and the introduction of nonnative plants. 
Nonnative forbs and grasses are a threat to the subspecies and its 
habitat at LVSSR.
    There are agreements and plans in place (including the 2008 Spring 
Mountains conservation agreement and the 2000 Clark County MSHCP) or in 
development that are intended to conserve the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly and its habitat. Future voluntary conservation actions could 
be implemented in accordance with the terms of these agreements and 
plans, but are largely dependent on the level of funding available to 
the Forest Service for such work. If all of these projects were able to 
be implemented, the threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and 
its habitat could be reduced. Conservation actions (for example, 
mechanical thinning of timber stands and prescribed burns to create 
openings in the forest canopy suitable for the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly and its host and nectar plants) could reduce to some degree 
the ongoing adverse effects to the butterfly of vegetative succession 
promoted by alteration of the natural fire regime in the Spring 
Mountains. The Forest Service's commitment to collaboratively review 
proposed projects to minimize impacts to the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly may reduce the threat posed by activities under the Forest 
Service's control, although we are unable to determine the potential 
effectiveness of this new strategy at this time. Therefore, based on 
the current distribution of suitable habitat and recent, existing, and 
likely future trends in habitat loss, we find that the present and 
future destruction, modification, and curtailment of its habitat or 
range is a threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.

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

    Rare butterflies and moths are highly prized by collectors, and an 
international trade exists in specimens for both live and decorative 
markets, as well as the specialist trade that supplies hobbyists, 
collectors, and researchers (Collins and Morris 1985, pp. 155-179; 
Morris et al. 1991, pp. 332-334; Williams 1996, pp. 30-37). The 
specialist trade differs from both the live and decorative market in 
that it concentrates on rare and threatened species (U.S. Department of 
Justice [USDOJ] 1993, pp. 1-3; United States v. Skalski et al., Case 
No. CR9320137, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of 
California [U.S. Attorney's Office] 1993, pp. 1-86). In general, the 
rarer the species, the more valuable it is; prices can exceed $25,000 
for exceedingly rare specimens. For example, during a 4-year 
investigation, special agents of the Service's Office of Law 
Enforcement executed warrants and seized over 30,000 endangered and 
protected butterflies and beetles, with a total wholesale commercial 
market value of about $90,000 in the United States (USDJ 1995, pp. 1-
4). In another case, special agents found at least 13 species protected 
under the Act, and another 130 species illegally taken from lands 
administered by the Department of the Interior and other State lands 
(USDC 1993, pp. 1-86; Service 1995, pp. 1-2).
    Several listings of butterflies as endangered or threatened species 
under the Act have been based, at least partially, on intense 
collection pressure. Notably, the Saint Francis' satyr (Neonympha 
mitchellii francisci) was emergency-listed as an endangered species on 
April 18, 1994 (59 FR 18324). The Saint Francis' satyr was demonstrated 
to have been significantly impacted by collectors in just a 3-year 
period (59 FR 18324). The Callippe and Behren's silverspot butterflies 
(Speyeria callippe callippe and Speyeria zerene behrensii) were listed 
as endangered species on December 5, 1997 (62 FR 64306), partially due 
to overcollection. Most recently, the Miami blue butterfly (Cyclargus 
thomasi bethunebakeri) was emergency-listed as an endangered species 
(76 FR 49542; August 10, 2011), with collection being one of the 
primary threats.
    Butterflies in small populations may be vulnerable to harm from 
collection

[[Page 57768]]

(Gall 1984, p. 133). A population may be reduced to below sustainable 
numbers by removal of females, reducing the probability that new 
colonies will be founded. Collectors can pose threats to butterflies, 
notably when populations are already severely reduced by other factors, 
because they may be unable to recognize when they are depleting 
colonies below the thresholds of survival or recovery (Collins and 
Morris 1985, pp. 162-165). There is ample evidence of collectors 
impacting other imperiled and endangered butterflies (Gochfeld and 
Burger 1997, pp. 208-209), impacting larval host plants (Cech and Tudor 
2005, p. 55), and even contributing to extirpations (Duffey 1968, p. 
94). For example, the federally endangered Mitchell's satyr (Neonympha 
mitchellii mitchellii) is believed to have been extirpated from New 
Jersey due to overcollection coupled with habitat loss (57 FR 21564, 
May 20, 1992; Gochfeld and Burger 1997, p. 209).
    Rare butterflies can be highly prized by insect collectors, and 
collection is a known threat to some butterfly species, such as the 
Fender's blue butterfly (65 FR 3875; January 25, 2000). In some cases, 
private collectors have more extensive collections of particular 
butterfly species than museums (Alexander 1996, p. 2). In particular, 
small colonies and populations are at the highest risk. Overcollection 
or repeated handling and marking of females in years of low abundance 
can seriously damage populations through loss of reproductive 
individuals and genetic variability (65 FR 3875; January 25, 2000). In 
areas of the southwestern United States surrounding the range of the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly, other diminutive lycaenid butterflies 
such as Western-tailed blue butterfly (Everes amyntula), Pygmy blue 
butterfly (Brephidium exilis), Ceraunus blue butterfly (Hemiargus 
ceraunus), and Boisduval's blue butterfly (Plebejus icarioides ssp.) 
have been confiscated from commercial traders who illegally collected 
them (U.S. Attorney's Office 1993, pp. 4, 8, 16; Alexander 1996, pp. 1-
6). Since the publication of the 12-month finding (76 FR 12667) on 
March 8, 2011, we have discovered additional information that indicates 
butterfly collecting occurs at some level in the Spring Mountains 
(Service 2012c, pp. 1-4), and the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and 
other small, blue butterflies that co-occur with the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly have been collected (Service 2012c, pp. 1-4; Andrew et 
al. 2013, pp. 22, 28, 41, 49, 55, 61). Therefore, while we do not know 
to what extent the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is specifically 
targeted for collection, we do know the inadvertent or unpermitted 
collection of Mount Charleston blue butterflies has occurred in the 
past and is anticipated to continue in the future to some degree.
    When Austin first described the Mount Charleston blue butterfly in 
1980 (Austin 1980, p. 22), he indicated that collectors regularly 
visited areas close to the known collection sites of the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly. Records indicate collection has occurred in 
several locations within the Spring Mountains, with Lee Canyon being 
among the most popular areas for butterfly collecting (Table 2; Austin 
1980, p. 22; Service 2012, p. 2). Butterfly collectors may sometimes 
remove the only individual of a subspecies observed during collecting 
trips, even if it is known to be a unique specimen (Service 2012, p. 
3). In many instances, a collector may not know he has a particularly 
rare or scarce species until after collection and subsequent 
identification takes place. The best available information indicates 
that Mount Charleston blue butterflies have been collected for personal 
use (Service 2012c, p. 2).

         Table 2--Numbers of Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly Specimens Collected by Area, Year, and Sex
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Collection area/year                     Male           Female          Unknown          Total
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mount Charleston:
    1928........................................  ..............  ..............          * ~700          * ~700
Willow Creek:
    1928........................................              15              19  ..............              34
Lee Canyon:
    1963........................................               8               6               8              22
    1976........................................               1  ..............  ..............               1
    2002........................................               1  ..............  ..............               1
Kyle Canyon:
    1965........................................               3  ..............  ..............               3
Cathedral Rock:
    1972........................................  ..............  ..............               1               1
Deer Creek Rd.:
    1950........................................               2  ..............  ..............               2
South Loop:
    2007........................................  ..............  ..............               1               1
                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------
        Total...................................              30              25              10              65
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
References: Garth 1928, p. 93; Howe 1975, Plate 59; Austin 1980, p. 22; Austin and Austin 1980, p. 30; Kingsley
  2007, p. 4; Service 2012c, p. 2
* = Collections by Frank Morand as reported in Garth 1928, p. 93. Not included in totals.

    For most butterfly species, collecting is generally thought to have 
less of an impact on butterfly populations compared to other threats. 
Weiss et al. (1997, p. 29) indicated that, in general, responsible 
collecting posed little harm to populations. However, when a butterfly 
population is very small, any collection of butterflies results in the 
direct mortality of individuals and may greatly affect the population's 
viability and ability to recover. Populations already stressed by other 
factors may be severely threatened by intensive collecting (Thomas 
1984, p. 345; Miller 1994, pp. 76, 83; New et al. 1995, p. 62). Thomas 
1984 (p. 345) suggested that small (fewer than 250 adults), closed, 
sedentary populations of those butterfly species that fly often, fly 
fairly weakly, and are in areas of readily accessible terrain are most 
likely to be at risk from overcollection.
    Butterfly collecting (except those with protected status) for 
noncommercial (recreational and personal) purposes does not require a 
special use

[[Page 57769]]

authorization (Forest Service 1998b, p. 1; Joslin 1998, p. 74). 
However, the Forest Service's 1996 General Management Plan identified 
Lee Canyon, Cold Creek, Willow Creek, and upper Kyle Canyon in the 
SMNRA as areas where permits are required for any butterfly collecting 
(Forest Service 1998, pp. 28, E9). On Forest Service-administered 
lands, a special use permit has been required for commercial activities 
(36 CFR 251.50), which, although not identified specifically, would 
presumably include the commercial collection of butterflies. There are 
no records indicating any butterfly collection permits have been issued 
under the Forest Service's general management plan (GMP) provision 
(although at least one application has been submitted), or that any 
special use permits have been issued for commercial collecting of Mount 
Charleston blue butterflies under 36 CFR 251.50 in the Spring Mountains 
(S. Hinman 2011, personal communication). However, outreach and public 
notification regarding this requirement was not wide, and many 
individuals probably were not aware that a permit was required, 
resulting in unauthorized collection in the past.
    Collection targeting other butterfly species that are similar in 
appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may have resulted in 
incidental collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly or 
mistaken identification of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly for 
another similar species. Based on this, we proposed to list five 
additional butterfly species (lupine blue, Reakirt's blue butterfly, 
Spring Mountains icarioides blue butterfly, and two Spring Mountains 
dark blue butterflies) under section 4(e) of the Act (77 FR 59518, 
September 27, 2012). Since our proposed rule, we have evaluated more 
recent range data for the five species, and find that not all of those 
species actually overlap the known range of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly. Although the butterflies species that we proposed for 
listing are similar in appearance to the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly, we believe the protection from misidentification and 
incidental collection that their listing would have provided is now 
unnecessary because the Forest Service has issued a closure order 
prohibiting collection, possession and transportation of all butterfly 
species without a special permit within the majority of the occupied 
range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly that will significantly 
reduce or eliminate the threat of incidental collection of the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly. This closure order has two prohibitions, the 
first prohibits the collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
and four other sensitive butterfly species (Morand's checkerspot 
[Euphydryas anicia morandi], Spring Mountains acastus checkerspot 
[Chlosyne acastus robusta], and the two subspecies of Spring Mountains 
dark blue butterflies) in all areas within the Spring Mountain National 
Recreation Area. A second prohibition of the order closes the majority 
of theknown range of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly to the 
collection of all butterfly species, including those species for which 
the Mount Charleston blue butterfly could be mistaken. Permits to 
collect non-listed butterflies in these areas may be issued by the 
Forest Service through the collection permit process. This process 
requires applicants to provide information regarding their 
qualifications and experience with butterflies and intended uses of the 
permit, including the specific purpose of collection; a list of which 
species will be collected; the number of each sex and life stage for 
each species that will be collected; a list of locations where 
collection would occur; the time period in which collection would 
occur; and how information and knowledge gained from the collection 
will be disseminated.
    The Forest Service permit does not allow the collection of any 
species listed under the Act, including the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly being added to the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Species 
by this rule. Collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, as 
well as any other endangered or threatened species, requires a section 
10(a)(1)(A) permit issued by the Service; the section 10(a)(1)(A) 
permit process ensures that those that are interested in conducting 
research, which may include collection for scientific purposes, are 
qualified to work with this butterfly subspecies and have research 
objectives that will enhance the survival of the subspecies. 
Individuals who are issued a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit to research the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly may then apply for a scientific 
collection permit from the Forest Service if such research activities 
will be conducted on Forest Service lands. Because the application 
processes for a Service-issued section 10(a)(1)(A) permit and a Forest 
Service scientific collection permit require thorough review of 
applicant qualifications by agency personnel, we believe only highly 
qualified individuals capable of distinguishing between small, blue 
butterfly species that occur in the Spring Mountains will be issued 
permits. Therefore, the threat from incidental or accidental collection 
of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly will be reduced. As a result, we 
do not anticipate that individuals with permits will misidentify the 
butterfly species, and therefore, inadvertent collection by authorized 
individuals should be greatly reduced. In addition, any collection 
without permits would be in violation of the closure order and subject 
to law enforcement action so purposeful, unlawful collection should 
also be reduced.
    This closure order is expected to provide more protection from the 
threat of collection to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly than the 
listing of the five additional butterflies based on similarity of 
appearance would have provided, for several reasons. First, the 
recently issued Forest Service closure order provides an enforcement 
mechanism for law enforcement officers through the Code of Federal 
Regulations (36 CFR 261.51), which the GMP provision did not provide. 
Law enforcement officers will be able to ticket or cite individuals who 
are out of compliance with the closure order.
    Secondly, individuals interested in collecting nonlisted 
butterflies in the SMNRA will have to apply for a collection permit and 
provide thorough justification and description of their research and 
need for collection as described above. Based on the current number of 
known butterfly researchers in the Spring Mountains, the Forest Service 
is unlikely to issue many collection permits for any butterfly species 
in Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat. Those who are issued 
permits will have provided information demonstrating their 
qualifications and ability to research and identify butterfly species 
of the Spring Mountains; therefore, only individuals who are highly 
qualified and competent with butterflies and their identification will 
be issued collection permits. Further, qualified and competent 
collectors will be able to identify the Mount Charleston blue butterfly 
and know that its collection is prohibited under the Act. Therefore, 
the threat from incidental or accidental collection of the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly while collecting other butterfly species will 
be reduced.
    Thirdly, Forest Service law enforcement will be able to more 
readily and easily enforce a closure order than our law enforcement 
would be able to enforce potential violations based on similarity of 
appearance listings under the Act. The areas identified in the closure 
area receive the highest amount of recreation in the SMNRA, so these

[[Page 57770]]

areas often receive the greatest presence of Forest Service law 
enforcement. This will provide substantially more law enforcement 
presence to deter possible unlawful collection than if the species 
similar in appearance were listed without the closure order. Law 
enforcement personnel will not need to be able to distinguish between 
different butterfly species during potential enforcement actions, 
because anyone collecting or attempting to collect butterflies within 
the closure area must be permitted, or that person will be in violation 
of the closure order, and law enforcement may take appropriate 
enforcement action. Because individuals applying for a Forest Service 
collection permit must demonstrate adequate qualifications and 
expertise in butterfly identification, we believe individuals that are 
permitted will be qualified and able to distinguish the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly from other species and will be in compliance 
with his or her permit. Should someone be stopped with blue butterflies 
outside of the closure order area, law enforcement will still be able 
to seize the blue butterflies, with probable cause, and have them 
identified by an expert to ensure that they are not listed species. If 
they are a listed species, the individual would need to prove lawful 
possession or be subject to law enforcement action, including potential 
criminal or civil prosecution for violations of the Act. Based on these 
reasons, the Forest Service closure order is expected to be more 
effective in protecting the Mount Charleston blue butterfly from the 
threat of collection than the listing of species due to their 
similarity of appearance to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. For 
more information on the Forest Service closure order, please visit 
http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/htnf/alerts-notices.
    In summary, the threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly from 
collection is expected to be reduced by the Forest Service's closure 
order on collection, and we are confident that most individuals will 
follow the Forest Service's and our permitting regulations. However, it 
is possible that unlawful collection of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly could occur. Due to the small number of discrete populations, 
overall small metapopulation size, close proximity to roads and trails, 
and restricted range, we have determined that unpermitted and unlawful 
collection is a threat to the subspecies and may continue to be in the 
future.

Factor C. Disease or Predation

    We are not aware of any information specific to the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly regarding impacts from either disease or 
predation. Research on these topics and their impacts on the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly is lacking. Researchers have observed 
potential predator species (for example, spiders (class Arachnida), 
ambush bugs (Phymata spp.), and flycatchers (Empidonax spp.)) at Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly locations (Thompson et al. 2013b, 
presentation), but we are not aware of any documented predation events 
and cannot confirm if any of these species do predate Mount Charleston 
blue butterflies. The extent to which parasitoids regulate butterfly 
populations is not adequately understood (Gilbert and Singer 1975, p. 
367), and we do not have information specific to this regarding the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly. As a result, the best available 
scientific and commercial information does not indicate that disease or 
predation are a threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.

Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Under this factor, we examine whether existing regulatory 
mechanisms are inadequate to address the threats to the subspecies 
discussed under the other factors. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act 
requires the Service to take into account ``those efforts, if any, 
being made by any State or foreign nation, or any political subdivision 
of a State or foreign nation, to protect such species . . .'' In 
relation to Factor D under the Act, we interpret this language to 
require the Service to consider relevant Federal, State, and tribal 
laws, regulations, and other such mechanisms that may minimize any of 
the threats we describe in threat analyses under the other four 
factors, or otherwise enhance conservation of the species. We give 
strongest weight to statutes and their implementing regulations and to 
management direction that stems from those laws and regulations. An 
example would be State governmental actions enforced under a State 
statute or constitution, or Federal action under statute.
    Having evaluated the significance of the threat as mitigated by any 
such conservation efforts, we analyze under Factor D the extent to 
which existing regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to address the 
specific threats to the species. Regulatory mechanisms, if they exist, 
may reduce or eliminate the impacts from one or more identified 
threats. In this section, we review existing State and Federal 
regulatory mechanisms to determine whether they effectively reduce or 
remove threats to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.
    Mount Charleston blue butterflies have been detected in only three 
general areas in recent years--the South Loop Trail area, LVSSR, and 
the Bonanza Trail area, all of which occur primarily on Federal land 
under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service; therefore, the discussion 
below focuses on Federal laws. There is no available information 
regarding local land use laws and ordinances that have been issued by 
Clark County or other local government entities for the protection of 
the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. Nevada Revised Statutes sections 
503 and 527 offer protective measures to wildlife and plants, but do 
not include invertebrate species such as the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly. Therefore, no regulatory protection is offered under Nevada 
State law. Please note that actions adopted by local groups, States, or 
Federal entities that are discretionary, including conservation 
strategies and guidance, are not regulatory mechanisms and were 
discussed above in the ``Conservation Agreement and Plans That May 
Offset Habitat Threats'' section under Factor A, above.
    The Forest Service manages lands designated as wilderness under the 
Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131-1136). With respect to these 
areas, section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act states in part that ``except 
as specifically provided for in this Act, . . . there shall be no 
temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or 
motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical 
transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.'' 
Although the Wilderness Act is not specifically intended to protect at-
risk species, such as the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, the 
Wilderness Act provides ancillary protection to this subspecies by the 
prohibitions restricting development in habitat in the South Loop Trail 
and Bonanza Trail areas. Mount Charleston blue butterfly habitat at 
LVSSR and elsewhere in Lee Canyon and Kyle Canyon is located outside of 
the Mount Charleston Wilderness, and thus is not subject to protections 
afforded by the Wilderness Act.
    The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended 
(42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), requires Federal agencies, such as the Forest 
Service, to describe proposed agency actions, consider alternatives, 
identify and disclose potential environmental impacts of each 
alternative, and involve

[[Page 57771]]

the public in the decision-making process. Federal agencies are not 
required to select the NEPA alternative having the least significant 
environmental impacts. A Federal agency may select an action that will 
adversely affect sensitive species provided that these effects are 
identified in a NEPA document. The NEPA itself is a disclosure law, and 
does not require subsequent minimization or mitigation of actions taken 
by Federal agencies. Although Federal agencies may include conservation 
measures for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as a result of the 
NEPA process, such measures are not required by the statute. The Forest 
Service is required to analyze its projects, including those listed 
under the Factor A discussion, above, in accordance with the NEPA.
    The SMNRA is one of 10 districts of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National 
Forest and was established by Public Law 103-63, dated August 4, 1993 
(the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area Act, 16 U.S.C. 460hhh et 
seq.). The Federal lands of the SMNRA are managed by the Forest Service 
in Clark and Nye Counties, Nevada, for the following purposes:
    (1) To preserve the scenic, scientific, historic, cultural, 
natural, wilderness, watershed, riparian, wildlife, endangered and 
threatened species, and other values contributing to public enjoyment 
and biological diversity in the Spring Mountains of Nevada;
    (2) To ensure appropriate conservation and management of natural 
and recreational resources in the Spring Mountains; and
    (3) To provide for the development of public recreational 
opportunities in the Spring Mountains for the enjoyment of present and 
future generations. Habitat of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is 
predominantly in the SMNRA and one of several resources considered by 
the Forest Service under the guidance of its land management plans.
    The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976, as amended (16 
U.S.C. 1600 et seq.), provides the principal guidance for the 
management of activities on lands under Forest Service jurisdiction 
through associated land and resource management plans for each forest 
unit. Under NFMA and other Federal laws, the Forest Service has 
authority to regulate recreation, vehicle travel and other human 
disturbance, livestock grazing, fire management, energy development, 
and mining on lands within its jurisdiction. Current guidance for the 
management of Forest Service lands in the SMNRA is under the Toiyabe 
National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan and the Spring 
Mountains National Recreation Area GMP (Forest Service 1996). In June 
2006, the Forest Service added the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, and 
three other endemic butterflies, to the Regional Forester's Sensitive 
Species List, in accordance with Forest Service Manual 2670. The Forest 
Service's objective in managing sensitive species is to prevent listing 
of species under the Act, maintain viable populations of native 
species, and develop and implement management objectives for 
populations and habitat of sensitive species. Projects listed under the 
Factor A discussion, above, have been guided by these Forest Service 
plans, policies, and guidance. These plans, policies, and guidance 
notwithstanding, removal or degradation of known occupied and presumed-
occupied butterfly habitat has occurred as a result of projects 
approved by the Forest Service in Upper Lee Canyon. Additionally, this 
guidance has not been effective in reducing other threats to the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly (for example, invasion of nonnative plant 
species and commercial and personal collection activities) (Weiss et 
al. 1995, pp. 5-6; Titus and Landau 2003, p. 1; Boyd and Murphy 2008, 
p. 6; Service 2012c, pp. 1-4).
    Until recently, the effectiveness of the Forest Service's GMP 
provision requiring a permit in order to collect butterflies was 
inadequate because it was not well publicized and did not provide a 
mechanism for law enforcement personnel to enforce it (77 FR 59518, 
September 27, 2012). However, as described in detail under Factor B, 
above, the Forest Service has recently issued a closure order 
prohibiting the collection of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and 
four other sensitive butterfly species throughout the SMNRA and 
prohibiting the collection of all butterfly species in the area where 
the majority of known occupied and presumed occupied locations of the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly occur. The Code of Federal Regulations 
(36 CFR 261.51) requires the Forest Service to provide information on 
the closure area in multiple locations, and the Forest Service has 
notified the public on its Web site, at kiosks and trailheads in the 
SMNRA, and on butterfly discussion boards. Any violation of the 
prohibitions in the closure order issued pursuant to 36 CFR 261.50(a) 
and (b) is subject to law enforcement action and punishable as a 
misdemeanor offense [Title 16 U.S.C. 551, 18 U.S.C. 3571(b)(6), Title 
18 U.S.C. 3581(b)(7)]. Based on this, we believe the Forest Service's 
closure order will be effective in protecting the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly from most butterfly collection.
Summary of Factor D
    While not the intent of the Wilderness Act, the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly receives ancillary protection from the Wilderness Act 
from its prohibitions on development. We consider the recent issuance 
of a butterfly collection closure order by the Forest Service to reduce 
the threat of collection to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.
    Other existing regulatory mechanisms have not provided effective 
protection to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat. 
Forest Service plans, policies, and guidance notwithstanding, removal 
or degradation of known occupied and presumed-occupied butterfly 
habitat has occurred as a result of projects approved by the Forest 
Service in Upper Lee Canyon, and Forest Service guidance has not been 
effective in reducing other threats to the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly (for example, invasion of nonnative plant species and 
commercial and personal collection activities) (Weiss et al. 1995, pp. 
5-6; Titus and Landau 2003, p. 1; Boyd and Murphy 2008, p. 6; Service 
2012c, pp. 1-4).

Factor E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence

    Our analyses under the Act include consideration of ongoing and 
projected changes in climate. The terms ``climate'' and ``climate 
change'' are defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 
(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 2007a, 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 2007a, 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 2007b, 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.

[[Page 57772]]

    Global climate projections are informative, and, in some cases, the 
only or the best scientific information available for us to use. 
However, projected changes in climate and related impacts can vary 
substantially across and within different regions of the world (e.g., 
IPCC 2007b, pp. 8-12). Therefore, we use ``downscaled'' projections 
when they are available and have been developed through appropriate 
scientific procedures, because such projections provide higher 
resolution information that is more relevant to spatial scales used for 
analyses of a given species (see Glick et al. 2011, pp. 58-61, for a 
discussion of downscaling). IPCC models are at a landscape scale and 
project that precipitation will decrease in the southwestern United 
States (IPCC 2007c, p. 8, Table SPM.2). The IPCC reports that 
temperature increases and rising air and ocean temperature is 
unquestionable (IPCC 2007b, p. 4). The average annual temperature is 
projected to increase 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.4 degrees Fahrenheit) from 
the 1961-1990 baseline average to the 2050s (average of 16 general 
circulation models performed with three emission scenarios) (TNC 2011, 
Web site). Precipitation variability in the Mojave Desert region is 
linked spatially and temporally with events in the tropical and 
northern Pacific Oceans (El Ni[ntilde]o and La Ni[ntilde]a) (USGS 2004, 
pp. 2-3). In our analyses, we use our expert judgment to weigh relevant 
information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of various 
aspects of climate change as it affects the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly.
    The Mount Charleston blue butterfly population has declined since 
the last high-population year in 1995 (a total of 121 butterflies were 
counted during surveys of 2 areas at LVSSR on 2 separate dates (Weiss 
1996, p. 4)). This subspecies has a limited distribution within 267.1 
ac (108.1 ha) of habitat at only 3 known occupied locations, and based 
on numbers of observations made at these locations in a single season, 
the populations are likely small. Small populations have a higher risk 
of extinction due to random environmental events (Shaffer 1981, p. 131; 
Shaffer 1987, pp. 69-75; Gilpin and Soule 1986, pp. 24-28). Weather 
extremes can cause severe butterfly population reductions or 
extinctions (Murphy et al. 1990, p. 43; Weiss et al. 1987, pp. 164-167; 
Thomas et al. 1996, pp. 964-969). Given the limited distribution and 
likely low population numbers of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, 
late-season snowstorms, severe summer monsoon thunderstorms, and 
drought have the potential to adversely impact the subspecies.
    Late-season snowstorms have caused alpine butterfly extirpations 
(Ehrlich et al. 1972, pp. 101-105), and false spring conditions 
followed by normal winter snowstorms have caused adult and pre-diapause 
larvae mortality (Parmesan 2005, pp. 56-60). In addition, high rainfall 
years have been associated with butterfly population declines (Dobkin 
et al. 1987, pp. 161-176). Extended periods of rainy weather can also 
slow larval development and reduce overwintering survival (Weiss et al. 
1993, pp. 261-270). Weiss et al. (1997, p. 32) suggested that heavy 
summer monsoon thunderstorms adversely impacted Mount Charleston blue 
butterflies during the 1996 flight season. During the 2006 and 2007 
flight season, severe summer thunderstorms may have affected the flight 
season at LVSSR and the South Loop Trail (Newfields 2006, pp. 11 and 
14; Kingsley 2007, p. 8). Additionally, drought has been shown to lower 
butterfly populations (Ehrlich et al. 1980, pp. 101-105; Thomas 1984, 
p. 344). Drought can cause larval butterfly host plants to mature early 
and reduce larval food availability (Ehrlich et al. 1980, pp. 101-105; 
Weiss 1987, p. 165). This has likely affected the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly. Murphy (2006, p. 3) and Boyd (2006, p. 1) both assert a 
series of drought years, followed by a season of above-average snowfall 
and then more drought, could be a reason for the lack of butterfly 
sightings in 2006. Continuing drought could be responsible for the lack 
of sightings in 2007 and 2008 (Datasmiths 2007, p. 1; Boyd 2008, p. 2).
    High-elevation species like the Mount Charleston blue butterfly may 
be susceptible to some level of habitat loss due to global climate 
change exacerbating threats already impacting the subspecies (Peters 
and Darling 1985, p. 714; Hill et al. 2002, p. 2170). Effects on the 
Mount Charleston blue butterfly or its habitat from climate change will 
vary across its range because of topographic heterogeneity (Luoto and 
Heikkinen 2008, p. 487). The IPCC has high confidence in predictions 
that extreme weather events, warmer temperatures, and regional drought 
are very likely to increase in the northern hemisphere as a result of 
climate change (IPCC 2007c, pp. 15-16). Climate models show the 
southwestern United States has transitioned into a more arid climate of 
drought that is predicted to continue into the next century (Seager et 
al. 2007, p. 1181). In the past 60 years, the frequency of storms with 
extreme precipitation has increased in Nevada by 29 percent (Madsen and 
Figdor 2007, p. 37). Changes in local southern Nevada climatic patterns 
cannot be definitively tied to global climate change; however, they are 
consistent with IPCC-predicted patterns of extreme precipitation, 
warmer than average temperatures, and drought (Redmond 2007, p. 1). 
Therefore, we think it likely that climate change will impact the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly and its high-elevation habitat through 
predicted increases in extreme precipitation and drought. Based on the 
above evidence, we believe that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly has 
likely been affected by unfavorable climatic changes in precipitation 
and temperature that are both ongoing and projected to continue into 
the future, and alternating extreme precipitation and drought may 
exacerbate threats already facing the subspecies as a result of its 
small population size and threats to its habitat.
Summary of Factor E
    Small butterfly populations have a higher risk of extinction due to 
random environmental events (Shaffer 1981, p. 131; Gilpin and Soule 
1986, pp. 24-28; Shaffer 1987, pp. 69-75). Because of its presumed 
small population and restricted range, the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly is vulnerable to random environmental events; in particular, 
the Mount Charleston blue butterfly is threatened by extreme 
precipitation events and drought. In the past 60 years, the frequency 
of storms with extreme precipitation has increased in Nevada by 29 
percent (Madsen and Figdor 2007, p. 37), and it is predicted that 
altered regional patterns of temperature and precipitation as a result 
of global climate change will continue (IPCC 2007c, pp. 15-16). While 
we may not have detailed, site-specific information on climate change 
and its effects on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat 
at this time (see responses to Comments 12 and 13, above), altered 
climate patterns throughout the entire range of the Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly could increase the potential for extreme precipitation 
events and drought, and may exacerbate the threats the subspecies 
already faces given its presumed small population size and the threats 
to the alpine environment where it occurs. Based on this information, 
we find that other natural or manmade factors are affecting the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly such that these factors are a threat to the 
subspecies' continued existence.

Determination

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information

[[Page 57773]]

available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly. The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is 
sensitive to environmental variability with the butterfly population 
rising and falling in response to environmental conditions (see 
``Status and Trends'' section, above). The best available information 
for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly shows that the range and 
population have been in decline over the last 20 years, and that the 
population is now likely extremely small (see ``Status and Trends'' 
section, above).
    Threats facing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, discussed above 
under listing Factors A, B, D, and E, increase the risk of extinction 
of the subspecies, given its few occurrences in a small area. The loss 
and degradation of habitat due to changes in natural fire regimes and 
succession; the implementation of recreational development projects and 
fuels reduction projects; and the increases in nonnative plants (see 
Factor A discussion) will increase the inherent risk of extinction of 
the remaining few occurrences of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly. 
In addition, the threat to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly from 
collection (see Factor B discussion) is expected to be reduced by the 
Forest Service's closure order on collection. However, due to the small 
number of discrete populations, overall small metapopulation size, 
close proximity to roads and trails, and restricted range, we have 
determined that unpermitted and unlawful collection is a threat to the 
subspecies and may continue to be in the future. Regarding the 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms (see Factor D discussion), 
we consider the recent issuance of a butterfly collection closure order 
by the Forest Service to reduce the threat of collection to the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly. However, other existing regulatory 
mechanisms have not provided effective protection to the Mount 
Charleston blue butterfly and its habitat. These threats are likely to 
be exacerbated by the impact of climate change, which is anticipated to 
increase drought and extreme precipitation events (see Factor E 
discussion). The Mount Charleston blue butterfly is currently in danger 
of extinction because only small populations are known to occupy only 3 
of the 17 historical locations, it may become extirpated in the near 
future at 7 other locations presumed to be occupied, and the threats 
are ongoing and persistent at all known and presumed-occupied 
locations.
    The Act defines an endangered species as any species that is ``in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range'' and a threatened species as any species ``that is likely to 
become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range 
within the foreseeable future.'' We determine that Mount Charleston 
blue butterfly is presently in danger of extinction throughout its 
entire range, based on the immediacy, severity, and scope of the 
threats described above and its limited distribution of three known 
occupied locations and seven presumed-occupied locations nearing 
extirpation. The Mount Charleston blue butterfly thus meets the 
definition of an endangered species rather than threatened species 
because: (1) It has been extirpated from seven locations, (2) it is 
limited to only three small populations and possibly 7 other 
populations at presumed-occupied areas, (3) the known-occupied and 
presumed-occupied populations are facing severe and imminent threats, 
and (4) threats are ongoing and expected to continue into the future. 
Therefore, on the basis of the best available scientific and commercial 
information, we are listing the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as 
endangered in accordance with sections 3(6) and 4(a)(1) of the Act.
    Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a species may 
warrant listing if it is an endangered or threatened species throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range. The Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly is highly restricted in its range and the threats occur 
throughout its range. Therefore, we assessed the status of the 
subspecies throughout its entire range. The threats to the survival of 
the subspecies occur throughout the subspecies' range and are not 
restricted to any particular significant portion of that range. 
Accordingly, our assessment and determination applies to the subspecies 
throughout its entire range, and we did not further evaluate a 
significant portion of the subspecies' range.

Protections and Conservation Measures Available Upon Listing

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened species under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing results in public awareness and 
conservation by Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies, private 
organizations, and individuals. The Act encourages cooperation with the 
States and requires that recovery actions be carried out for all listed 
species. The protection required by Federal agencies and the 
prohibitions against certain activities are discussed, in part, below.
    The primary purpose of the Act is the conservation of endangered 
and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The 
ultimate goal of such conservation efforts is the recovery of these 
listed species, so that they no longer need the protective measures of 
the Act. Subsection 4(f) of the Act requires the Service to develop and 
implement recovery plans for the conservation of endangered and 
threatened species. The recovery planning process involves the 
identification of actions that are necessary to halt or reverse the 
species' decline by addressing the threats to its survival and 
recovery. The goal of this process is to restore listed species to a 
point where they are secure, self-sustaining, and functioning 
components of their ecosystems.
    Recovery planning includes the development of a recovery outline 
shortly after a species is listed and preparation of a draft and final 
recovery plan. The recovery outline guides the immediate implementation 
of urgent recovery actions and describes the process to be used to 
develop a recovery plan. Revisions of the plan may be done to address 
continuing or new threats to the species, as new substantive 
information becomes available. The recovery plan identifies site-
specific management actions that set a trigger for review of the five 
factors that control whether a species remains endangered or may be 
downlisted or delisted, and methods for monitoring recovery progress. 
Recovery plans also establish a framework for agencies to coordinate 
their recovery efforts and provide estimates of the cost of 
implementing recovery tasks. Recovery teams (comprised of species 
experts, Federal and State agencies, nongovernment organizations, and 
stakeholders) are often established to develop recovery plans. When 
completed, the recovery outline, draft recovery plan, and the final 
recovery plan will be available on our Web site (http://www.fws.gov/endangered), or from our Nevada Ecological Services Office (see 
ADDRESSES).
    Implementation of recovery actions generally requires the 
participation of a broad range of partners, including other Federal 
agencies, States, Tribal, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, 
and private landowners. Examples of recovery actions include habitat 
restoration (e.g., restoration of native vegetation), research, captive 
propagation and reintroduction, and outreach and education. The 
recovery of

[[Page 57774]]

many listed species cannot be accomplished solely on Federal lands 
because their range may occur primarily or solely on non-Federal lands. 
To achieve recovery of these species requires cooperative conservation 
efforts on private, State, and Tribal lands.
    Once this rule is effective (see DATES section, above), funding for 
recovery actions will be available from a variety of sources, including 
Federal budgets, State programs, and cost share grants for non-Federal 
landowners, the academic community, and nongovernmental organizations. 
In addition, pursuant to section 6 of the Act, the State of Nevada will 
be eligible for Federal funds to implement management actions that 
promote the protection or recovery of the Mount Charleston blue 
butterfly. Information on our grant programs that are available to aid 
species recovery can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/grants.
    Section 7(a) of the Act requires Federal agencies to evaluate their 
actions with respect to any species that is proposed or listed as 
endangered or threatened and with respect to its critical habitat, if 
any is designated. Regulations implementing this interagency 
cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR part 402. 
Section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to confer with the 
Service on any action that is likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of a species proposed for listing or result in destruction or 
adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a species is 
listed subsequently, section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal 
agencies to ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out 
are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or 
destroy or adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action 
may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible 
Federal agency must enter into formal consultation with the Service.
    Federal agency actions within the subspecies' habitat that may 
require conference or consultation or both as described in the 
preceding paragraph include management and any other landscape-altering 
activities on Federal lands administered by the Forest Service; 
issuance of section 404 Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) 
permits by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and construction and 
maintenance of roads or highways by the Federal Highway Administration.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered 
wildlife. The prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act, codified at 
50 CFR 17.21 for endangered wildlife, in part, make it illegal for any 
person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take 
(includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, 
capture, or collect; or to attempt any of these), import, export, ship 
in interstate commerce in the course of commercial activity, or sell or 
offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce any listed species. 
Under the Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42-43; 16 U.S.C. 3371-3378), it is also 
illegal to possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such 
wildlife that has been taken illegally. Certain exceptions apply to 
agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and State 
conservation agencies.
    We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered and threatened wildlife species under certain 
circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 
17.22 for endangered wildlife, and at 17.32 for threatened wildlife. 
With regard to endangered wildlife, a permit must be issued for the 
following purposes: for scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation 
or survival of the species, and for incidental take in connection with 
otherwise lawful activities.

Required Determinations

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that environmental assessments and environmental 
impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), need not be 
prepared in connection with listing a species as an endangered or 
threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. We published a 
notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal 
Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).
    It is our position that, outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court 
of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, we do not need to prepare 
environmental analyses pursuant to NEPA in connection with designating 
critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act. We published a 
notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal 
Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). This position was upheld by 
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Douglas County v. 
Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied 516 U.S. 1042 
(1996)).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this rule is available 
on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov or upon request from the 
Nevada Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES).

Authors

    The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the 
Nevada Ecological Services Office.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 
of the Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:

PART 17--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; 4201-4245, unless 
otherwise noted.


0
2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by adding an entry for ``Butterfly, Mount 
Charleston blue'', in alphabetical order under INSECTS, to the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, to read as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

[[Page 57775]]



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Species                                              Vertebrate  population
------------------------------------------------------   Historic range      where  endangered  or      Status      When       Critical    Special rules
           Common name              Scientific name                               threatened                       listed      habitat
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
INSECTS
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Butterfly, Mount Charleston blue  Plebejus shasta      Spring Mountains,   Entire..................  E..........       820  NA...........  NA
                                   charlestonensis.     Clark County, NV,
                                                        U.S.A.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *

    Dated: September 10, 2013.
Stephen Guertin,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-22702 Filed 9-18-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P