Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola, 62529-62560 [2013-24169]

Download as PDF tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules such portions will not warrant further consideration. If we identify portions that warrant further consideration, we then determine whether the species is threatened or endangered in these portions of its range. Depending on the biology of the species, its range, and the threats it faces, the Service may address either the significance question or the status question first. Thus, if the Service considers significance first and determines that a portion of the range is not significant, the Service need not determine whether the species is threatened or endangered there. Likewise, if the Service considers status first and determines that the species is not threatened or endangered in a portion of its range, the Service need not determine if that portion is significant. However, if the Service determines that both a portion of the range of a species is significant and the species is threatened or endangered there, the Service will specify that portion of the range as threatened or endangered under section 4(c)(1) of the ESA. We evaluated the current range of the ashy storm-petrel to determine if there is any apparent geographic concentration of potential threats for the species. We examined potential threats from climate change (ocean acidification, ocean warming, and sea level rise); invasive species; human activities; military activities; overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; burrowing owl, western gull, house mouse, skunk, barn owl, and common raven predation; artificial light pollution; oil pollution; organochlorine contaminants; and ingestion of plastics. While some threats are affecting the species in only a portion of its range (for example, gull predation at SE Farallon Island or sea level rise affecting sea cave nesting sites at the Channel Islands), these threats are not having substantial impacts to the populations of ashy storm-petrels at those sites and are not resulting in a decline of the species. Therefore, we found no concentration of threats that suggests that the ashy stormpetrel may be in danger of extinction in a portion of its range. In addition, the 32 known breeding sites of the ashy storm-petrel stretch from Mendocino County, California, to Ensenada, Mexico, and these breeding sites provide for representation, redundancy, and resiliency for the ashy storm-petrel. Therefore, we find that no portion of the range of ashy storm-petrel warrants further consideration of possible endangered or threatened status under the Act. No available information indicates that there has been a range VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 contraction for ashy storm-petrel, and, therefore, we find that lost historical range does not constitute a significant portion of the range for this species. Our review of the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the ashy storm-petrel is not in danger of extinction (endangered) nor likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future (threatened), throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Therefore, we find that listing this species as an endangered or threatened species under the Act is not warranted at this time. We request that you submit any new information concerning the status of, or threats to, the ashy storm-petrel to our Bay–Delta Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section) whenever it becomes available. New information will help us monitor this species and encourage its conservation. If an emergency situation develops for this species, we will act to provide immediate protection. References Cited A complete list of references cited in this finding is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Bay–Delta Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Authors The primary authors of this finding are the staff members of the Pacific Southwest Regional Office and the Bay– Delta Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Authority The authority for this section is section 4 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Dated: September 25, 2013. Signed: Rowan Gould, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2013–24170 Filed 10–21–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P PO 00000 Frm 00058 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 62529 DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013–0040; 4500030114] RIN 1018–AZ79 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to designate critical habitat for three Caribbean plants, Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola, under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The effect of this rule, if it is made final, would be to conserve habitat for these three Caribbean plants under the Act. DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before December 23, 2013. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by December 6, 2013. SUMMARY: You may submit comments by one of the following methods: (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal Rulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R4–ES–2013–0040, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on ‘‘Comment Now!’’ (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2013– 0040; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on http:// www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the ADDRESSES: E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 62530 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules Information Requested section below for more information). The coordinates or plot points or both from which the critical habitat maps are generated are included in the administrative record for this rulemaking and are available at http:// www.fws.gov/caribbean/es, at http:// www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013–0040, and at the Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Any additional tools or supporting information that we may develop for this rulemaking will also be available at the Fish and Wildlife Service Web site and Field Office set out above, and may also be included at http://www.regulations.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marelisa Rivera, Deputy Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, P.O. Box 491, Road 301 ´ Km. 5.1, Boqueron, PR 00622; by telephone (787) 851–7297; or by facsimile (787) 851–7440. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Executive Summary Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Act, the Service shall designate critical habitat for any species or subspecies that is determined to be an endangered or threatened species, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable. Designations of critical habitat can only be completed by issuing a rule. Elsewhere in today’s Federal Register, we propose to list Agave eggersiana and Gonocalyx concolor as endangered species, and Varronia rupicola as a threatened species, under the Act. This rule consists of a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola under the Act. Specifically, we propose to: • Designate approximately 50.6 acres (ac) (20.5 hectares (ha)) of critical habitat for A. eggersiana in St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands (USVI). • Designate approximately 198 ac (80.1 ha) for G. concolor in Puerto Rico. • Designate approximately 6,547 ac (2,648 ha) for V. rupicola in southern Puerto Rico and Vieques Island. The basis for our action. Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, that the Secretary shall designate critical habitat on the basis of the best available scientific data after taking into consideration the economic impact, VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 national security impact, and any other relevant impact of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. The Secretary may exclude an area from critical habitat if he determines that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such area as part of the critical habitat, unless she determines, based on the best scientific data available, that the failure to designate such area as critical habitat will result in the extinction of the species. We will seek peer review. We are seeking comments from knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise to review our analysis of the best available science and application of that science and to provide any additional scientific information to improve this proposed rule. Because we will consider all comments and information we receive during the comment period, our final designations may differ from this proposal. Information Requested We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning: (1) The reasons why we should or should not designate habitat as ‘‘critical habitat’’ under section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), including whether there are threats to the species from human activity, the degree of which can be expected to increase due to the designation, and whether that increase in threats outweighs the benefit of designation such that the designation of critical habitat is not prudent. (2) Specific information on: (a) The amount and distribution of Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola (which we refer to collectively as the three Caribbean plants) and their habitat; (b) What areas, that were occupied at the time of listing (or are currently occupied) and that contain features essential to the conservation of the species, should be included in the designation and why; (c) Special management considerations or protection that may be needed in critical habitat areas we are proposing, including managing for the potential effects of climate change; and PO 00000 Frm 00059 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 (d) What areas not occupied at the time of listing are essential for the conservation of the species and why. (3) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the areas occupied by the species or proposed to be designated as critical habitat, and possible impacts of these activities on this species and proposed critical habitat. (4) Information on the projected and reasonably likely impacts of climate change on the three Caribbean plants and proposed critical habitat. (5) Any foreseeable economic, national security, or other relevant impacts that may result from designating any area that may be included in the final designation. We are particularly interested in any impacts on small entities, and the benefits of including or excluding areas from the proposed designation that are subject to these impacts. (6) Whether any specific areas we are proposing for critical habitat designation should be considered for exclusion under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, and whether the benefits of potentially excluding any specific area outweigh the benefits of including that area under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. (7) Whether we could improve or modify our approach to designating critical habitat in any way to provide for greater public participation and understanding, or to better accommodate public concerns and comments. Include sufficient information with your submission (such as scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial information you include. Note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(2) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether to designated critical habitat for any listed species must be made ‘‘on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.’’ You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. We request that you send comments only by the methods described in the ADDRESSES section. We will post your entire comment— including your personal identifying information—on http:// www.regulations.gov. You may request at the top of your document that we withhold personal information such as your street address, phone number, or email address from public review; E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules however, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Previous Federal Actions All previous Federal actions are described in the proposal to list the Agave eggersiana and Gonocalyx concolor as endangered species, and Varronia rupicola as a threatened species, which is published elsewhere in today’s Federal Register. Background Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as: (1) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found those physical or biological features: (a) Essential to the conservation of the species, and (b) Which may require special management considerations or protection; and (2) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species. Conservation, as defined under section 3 of the Act, means to use and the use of all methods and procedures that are necessary to bring an endangered or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary. Such methods and procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated with scientific resources management such as research, census, law enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live trapping, and transplantation, and, in the extraordinary case where population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise relieved, may include regulated taking. Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the Act through the requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation with the Service, that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. The designation of VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. Such designation does not allow the government or public to access private lands. Such designation does not require implementation of restoration, recovery, or enhancement measures by nonFederal landowners. Where a landowner requests Federal agency funding or authorization for an action that may affect a listed species or critical habitat, the consultation requirements of section 7(a)(2) of the Act would apply, but even in the event of a destruction or adverse modification finding, the obligation of the Federal action agency and the landowner is not to restore or recover the species, but to implement reasonable and prudent alternatives to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. Under the first prong of the Act’s definition of critical habitat, areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it was listed are included in a critical habitat designation if they contain physical or biological features (1) essential to the conservation of the species, and (2) which may require special management considerations or protection. For these areas, critical habitat designations identify, to the extent known using the best scientific and commercial data available, those physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species (such as space, food, cover, and protected habitat). In identifying those physical or biological features within an area, we focus on the principal biological or physical constituent elements (primary constituent elements such as roost sites, nesting grounds, seasonal wetlands, water quality, tide, soil type) that are essential to the conservation of the species. Primary constituent elements are those specific elements of the physical or biological features that provide for a species’ life-history processes and are essential to the conservation of the species. Under the second prong of the Act’s definition of critical habitat, we can designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographic area occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species. For example, an area currently occupied by the species but that was not occupied at the time of listing may be essential to the conservation of the species and may be included in the critical habitat designation. We designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographic area occupied by PO 00000 Frm 00060 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 62531 a species only when a designation limited to its range would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species. Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat on the basis of the best scientific data available. Further, our Policy on Information Standards under the Endangered Species Act (published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271)), the Information Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 106–554; H.R. 5658)), and our associated Information Quality Guidelines, provide criteria, establish procedures, and provide guidance to ensure that our decisions are based on the best scientific data available. They require our biologists, to the extent consistent with the Act and with the use of the best scientific data available, to use primary and original sources of information as the basis for recommendations to designate critical habitat. When we are determining which areas should be designated as critical habitat, our primary source of information is generally the information developed during the listing process for the species. Additional information sources may include the recovery plan for the species, articles in peer-reviewed journals, conservation plans developed by States and counties, scientific status surveys and studies, biological assessments, other unpublished materials, or experts’ opinions or personal knowledge. Habitat is dynamic, and species may move from one area to another over time. Climate change will be a particular challenge for biodiversity because the interaction of additional stressors associated with climate change and current stressors may push species beyond their ability to survive (Lovejoy 2005, pp. 325–326). The synergistic implications of climate change and habitat fragmentation are the most threatening facet of climate change for biodiversity (Hannah and Lovejoy 2005, p. 4). Current climate change predictions for terrestrial areas in the Northern Hemisphere indicate warmer air temperatures, more intense precipitation events, and increased summer continental drying (Field et al. 1999, pp. 1–3; Hayhoe et al. 2004, p. 12422; Cayan et al. 2005, p. 6; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007, p. 1181). Climate change may lead to increased frequency and duration of severe storms and droughts (Golladay et al. 2004, p. 504; McLaughlin et al. 2002, p. 6074; Cook et al. 2004, p. 1015). E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 62532 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS We recognize that critical habitat designated at a particular point in time may not include all of the habitat areas that we may later determine are necessary for the recovery of the species. For these reasons, a critical habitat designation does not signal that habitat outside the designated area is unimportant or may not be needed for recovery of the species. Areas that are important to the conservation of a listed species, both inside and outside the critical habitat designation, will continue to be subject to: (1) Conservation actions implemented under section 7(a)(1) of the Act, (2) regulatory protections afforded by the requirement in section 7(a)(2) of the Act for Federal agencies to ensure their actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species, and (3) section 9 of the Act’s prohibitions on taking any individual of the species, including taking caused by actions that affect habitat. Federally funded or permitted projects affecting listed species outside their designated critical habitat areas may still result in jeopardy findings in some cases. Similarly, critical habitat designations made on the basis of the best available information at the time of designation will not control the direction and substance of future recovery plans, habitat conservation plans (HCPs), or other species conservation planning efforts if new information available at the time of these planning efforts calls for a different outcome. Prudency Determination Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.12) require that, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, the Secretary designate critical habitat at the time the species is determined to be an endangered or threatened species. Our regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)) state that the designation of critical habitat is not prudent when one or both of the following situations exist: (1) The species is threatened by taking or other human activity, and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the degree of threat to the species, or (2) Such designation of critical habitat would not be beneficial to the species. There is currently no imminent threat of take attributed to collection or vandalism (see the discussion under Factor B in the proposed listing rule, which is published elsewhere in today’s Federal Register) for Gonocalyx concolor and Varronia rupicola. Although there may be a possible VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 immediate threat of take attributed to collection or vandalism for Agave eggersiana, the identification and mapping of critical habitat is not expected to intensify the threat to A. eggersiana. We have no evidence that collection or vandalism is a current threat to A. eggersiana. Even if we did, general agave locations are already published on the web, so publication of location information in connection with this proposed designation should not intensify such a threat. In the absence of a finding that the designation of critical habitat would increase threats to a species, if there are any benefits to a critical habitat designation, then we may find that such designation is prudent. Here, the potential benefits of designation include: (1)Triggering consultation under section 7 of the Act, in new areas for actions in which there may be a Federal nexus where it would not otherwise occur because, for example, it is or has become unoccupied or the occupancy is in question; (2) focusing conservation activities on the most essential features and areas; (3) providing educational benefits to State or county governments or private entities; and (4) preventing people from causing inadvertent harm to the species. Therefore, because we have determined that the designation of critical habitat would not likely increase the degree of threat to the species and may provide some measure of benefit, we find that designation of critical habitat is prudent for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola. Physical or Biological Features Critical Habitat Determinability Space for Individual and Population Growth and for Normal Behavior Having determined that designation is prudent, under section 4(a)(3) of the Act, we must find whether critical habitat for the three Caribbean plants is determinable. Our regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(a)(2) state that critical habitat is not determinable if information sufficient to perform required analyses of the impacts of the designation is lacking, or the biological needs of the species are not sufficiently well known to permit identification of an area as critical habitat. We reviewed the available information pertaining to the biological needs of the species and habitat characteristics where the species are located. This and other information represent the best scientific data available and have led us to conclude that the designation of critical habitat is determinable for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola. PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 In accordance with section 3(5)(A)(i) and 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act and regulations at 50 CFR 424.12, in determining which areas within the geographic area occupied by the species at the time of listing to designate as critical habitat, we consider the physical or biological features (PBFs) that are essential to the conservation of the species and which may require special management considerations or protection. These include, but are not limited to: (1) Space for individual and population growth and for normal behavior; (2) Food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or physiological requirements; (3) Cover or shelter; (4) Sites for breeding, reproduction, or rearing (or development) of offspring; and (5) Habitats that are protected from disturbance or are representative of the historical, geographic, and ecological distributions of a species. We derive the specific physical or biological features required for the three Caribbean plants from studies and observations of the three species’ habitat, ecology, and life history as described below. Unfortunately, little is known of the specific habitat requirements for the three Caribbean plants. To identify the physical and biological needs of the species, we have relied on current conditions at locations where the three species exist and the limited information available for these species. Agave eggersiana Agave eggersiana is endemic to the island of St. Croix, USVI. The species is found growing in the subtropical dry forest zone, which covers about 72 percent of the surface of St. Croix. The variables used to delineate any given life zone are defined by mean annual precipitation and mean annual biotemperature (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 2), and are characterized by an association of animals and plants (Mac et al. 1998, p. 317). Subtropical dry forests are lowland semi-deciduous and lowland drought deciduous forest. The vegetation in this life zone usually consists of a nearly continuous, singlelayered canopy, with little ground cover. Tree heights usually do not exceed 49 feet (ft) (15 meters (m)) and crowns are typically broad, spreading, and flattened (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 10). E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Dry forest structure is greatly influenced by wind, salt spray and the presence of fresh water. Some of the native tree species that are common in subtropical dry forest in the USVI are Bursera simaruba (L.) Sarg. (gumbo limbo), Amyris elemifera L. (torch wood), Capparis cynophallophora L. (Jamaican caper), Cordia rickseckeri Millsp. (black manjack), Pisonia subcordata Sw. (water mampoo), Plumeria alba L. (white frangipani), and Pictetia aculeata (Vahl) Urban (fustic) (Brandeis and Oswalt, 2007, p. 13; Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 16; Chakroff 2010, p. 8). Plant communities where Agave eggersiana occurs are coastal cliffs with sparse or no vegetation and coastal shrubland areas. The plant community in these areas is predominately native vegetation and either no competitive, nonnative, invasive plant species or such species in quantities low enough to have minimal effects on the survival of A. eggersiana. These communities and their associated native plant species are provided in the Status Assessment for A. eggersiana (see Habitat section of our proposed listing rule, which is published elsewhere in today’s Federal Register). Therefore, based on the above information, we identify the vegetation composition areas (e.g., dry coastal cliffs and dry shrubland) as an essential physical or biological feature for this species. Gonocalyx concolor Gonocalyx concolor is a Puerto Rican endemic plant species that has been found growing only in the elfin and ausubo (Manilkara bidentata) forests within the Carite Commonwealth Forest, which lies within the municipalities of Cayey, Patillas, and San Lorenzo in east-central Puerto Rico. Zonation of forests within montane habitats on tropical islands is condensed into a narrow altitudinal range (Weaver et al. 1986, p. 79). Both the elfin and ausubo forests are within the subtropical lower montane very wet forest life zone and have similar climate conditions (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 32). The elfin forest is found on exposed peaks and ridges of Cerro La Santa, above 2,900 ft (880 m) in elevation from sea level, occupying approximately 24.9 acres (ac) (10.1 hectares (ha)) in the Carite Commonwealth Forest (Silander et al. 1986, p. 178). The elfin forest vegetation is characterized by gnarled trees less than 7 meters tall, high basal area, small diameters, a large number of stems per unit area, and extremely slow growth rates (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 p. 45). The vegetation is commonly saturated with moisture, frequently enveloped in clouds, and both aerial and superficial roots are common (Weaver et al. 1986, p. 79). The plant association in this area is generally comprised by few species of native trees and native ferns, and is dense with epiphytes, including bromeliads and mosses (Weaver et al. 1986, p. 79). The native tree composition includes: Tabebuia schumanniana (roble colorado), Tabebuia rigida (roble de sierra), Ocotea spathulata (nemoca cimarrona), Eugenia borinquensis (guayabota), Clusia minor (cupey de monte), and Prestoea acuminata var. montana (sierra palm) (Weaver et al. 1986, p. 80; Silander et al. 1986, p. 191). Additionally, some areas were planted with Eucalyptus robusta (O. Monsegur, UPRM, unpublished data, 2006). The ausubo forest is only found along the Rio Grande de Patillas River basin and intermittent streams between 2,000 ft (620 m) and 2,300 ft (720 m) of elevation (DNR 1976, p. 169); occupying approximately 179.2 ac (72.5 ha) in the Charco Azul area within the Carite Commonwealth Forest (Silander et al. 1986, p.190). The ausubo forest is characterized by evergreen vegetation, high species richness, rapid growth rate of successional trees, epiphytic ferns, bromeliads, and orchids (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 32). The vegetation in this area is generally comprised of native trees (i.e., Manilkara bidentata (ausubo), Dacryodes excelsa (tabonuco), Guarea guidonia (guaraguao), and Cyrilla racemiflora (swamp titi)) (Francis and Lowe 2000, p. 345; DNER 2008, p. 2). Gonocalyx concolor has been found growing on the canopy of the tallest tree areas, growing on tree trunks (epiphytic), clambering (using other vegetation as support), and laying on the litter in the forest floor (C. Pacheco and O. Monsegur, Service, unpublished report, 2013, p. 3). The life history of this species has not been studied; however, it seems that the elfin and the ausubo forests provide space for individuals and population growth of G. concolor. Furthermore, the climate in these forests appears to support the normal behavior, growth, and viability of G. concolor during most of its life stages; suggesting the species may be a dwell obligate of these types of habitat, as it has not been found elsewhere. Changes in temperature, humidity, and solar insolation result in changes in habitat condition and vegetation composition, with serious effects on G. concolor. (See the Summary of Factors Affecting the Species section of our proposed listing rule, which is PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 62533 published elsewhere in today’s Federal Register). Therefore, based on the above information, we identify the vegetation composition found in the elfin and the ausubo forests as an essential physical or biological feature for this species. Varronia rupicola Varronia rupicola is a Puerto Rican bank (biogeographical area) endemic that grows within the subtropical dry forest life zone overlying a limestone substrate (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 72). The Puerto Rican bank is a geographical unit that includes the main island of Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, the USVI (excluding St. Croix), and the Island of Anegada. In Puerto Rico, this life zone is mainly located on the south coast extending 74 miles (mi) (120 kilometers (km)) from the Municipality of Cabo Rojo to the Municipality of Guayama, and to the eastern of Puerto Rico, including the Island of Vieques (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 72; Murphy and Lugo 1986, p. 89). The species has been recorded in forested hills with open to relatively dense scrub and shrub lands 6.5 to 9.8 ft (2 to 3 m) in height; in low forest with canopy from 8 to 15 ft (3 to 5 m) high; and at the edge of a dense, low, coastal shrubland and forest. Varronia rupicola is associated with dry forest native vegetation dominated by Gymnanthes ´ lucida (shiny oysterwood, or yaitı), Exostema caribaeum (princewood, or albarillo), Pisonia albida (corcho), Pictetia aculeata (fustic, or tachuelo), Thouinia portoricensis (ceboruquillo, or serrazuela), Coccoloba krugii (whitewood), Pilosocereus royenii ´ (Royen’s tree cactus, or sebucan), Bursera simaruba (gumbo limbo, or almacigo), Erithalis fruticosa (black torch), Guettarda krugii (frogwood, or cucubano), Tabebuia heterophylla (pink trumpet tree, or roble), Hypelate trifoliata (inkwood), Coccoloba diversifolia (pigeonplum, or uvilla), Cassine xylocarpa (marbletree, or ´ coscorron), Krugiodendron ferreum (black ironwood, or palo de hierro), Jacquinia berterii (barkwood), Bourreria succulenta (strongbark, or palo de vaca), Crossopetalum rhacoma (maidenberry, or pico de paloma), Antirhea acutata (placa chiquitu, or quina), and Amyris elemifera (torchwood). In the island of Anegada (British Virgin Islands), Varronia rupicola was found in open limestone pavement and sand dunes. During a recent study in this Island, the species was found in higher abundance (based on percentage occurrence across plots) on limestone, but also widespread within the sand dunes (Clubbe et al. 2004, p. 344). E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 62534 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules Therefore, based on the above information, we identify remnants of scrubland and shrubland forest that occurs within the subtropical dry forest life zone overlying limestone substrate as an essential physical or biological feature for this species. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Food, Water, Air, Light, Minerals, or Other Nutritional or Physiological Requirements Agave eggersiana The island of St. Croix, USVI, is located in the Caribbean, where the warm sea stabilizes air temperatures and diurnal temperature changes approximate annual fluctuations. The mean annual temperature of the region at sea level is lower than 75 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) (24 degrees Celsius (°C)). This subtropical climate results from the location of St. Croix at the lower limit of the tropical region (Ewel and Whitmore 1973 p. 8; Mac et al. 1998, p. 315). The island of St. Croix has easterly trade winds of 15 miles per hour (24 kilometers per hour) or more, which keep the humidity relatively low (Chakroff 2010, p. 7). This island is much drier than most of the Greater Antilles, averaging 40 inches (in) (102 centimeters (cm)) of rain in the west, and about 30 in (76 cm) in the east. Rain usually comes in the form of brief tropical showers. The wettest and hottest months are July to October. Hurricane season falls within these same months, with September being the most active for tropical storms. The USVI have been hit by four major hurricanes in recent years: Hugo (1989), Luis and Marilyn (1995), Lenny (1999), and Omar (2008) (Mac et al. 1998, p. 316; Chakroff 2010, p. 7; http:// www.srh.noaa.gov/sju/?n=mean_ annual_precipitation2). The average mid-island temperature is 78.8 °F (26 °C), with a variation of only 5 to 9 °F (3 to 5 °C) between the warmest and coolest months (Mac et al. 1998, p. 316). This type of climate regime regulates the dry forest structure conditions necessary for the establishment of the species. Soils substrates supporting Agave eggersiana for anchoring or nutrient absorption vary depending on the habitat and location. The natural populations of A. eggersiana grow on top of various soil classifications. Cramer, Glynn, Hasselberg, Southgate, and Victory series are among the ones where the species can be found. The general description of the soils mentioned above are provided in the Status Assessment for A. eggersiana (see Habitat section of our proposed listing rule, which is published elsewhere in VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 today’s Federal Register). The soils are all well-drained, and although there are rainy months, the ground does not retain excess water and change the vegetation of the dry forest structure. Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the dry climate regime that regulates the dry forest structure and the well-drained soils of Cramer, Glynn, Hasselberg, Southgate, and Victory series to be physical or biological features for this species. Gonocalyx concolor The variables used to delineate any given life zone are mean annual precipitation and mean annual temperature. The life zones and associations of which they are comprised only define the potential vegetation or range of vegetation types that might be found in an area (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 5). The mean annual precipitation at the Carite Commonwealth Forest is 88.7 in (225.3 cm), with February to April the drier months (NOAA 2013, http:// www.srh.noaa.gov/sju/?n=climo_cayey). The mean temperature is 72.3 °F (22.7 °C), varying from 68 °F (20 °C) in January to 73 °F (24 °C) in July (Silander et al. 1986, p.183). The Carite Commonwealth Forest is underlain by volcanic-sedimentary rock (DNR 1976, p. 168). The forest topography is rough and highly dissected by intermittent streams, with steep slopes ranging from 20 to 60 percent. The forest’s soil is primarily comprised by Los Guineos complex (Silander et al. 1986, p. 179). Los Guineos soils were formed from residuum gathering from sandstone parental material and consist of very deep, acidic, clayey, well-drained soils on side slopes of mountains (NRCS 2013, p. 11). This type of soil occupies more than 80 percent (5,860.1 ac (2,371.5 ha)) of the Carite Commonwealth Forest, at elevations from 1,900 ft (580 m) to 3,000 ft (900 m) from sea level (Silander et al. 1986, p. 179). Therefore, based on the information above, we identify mean annual precipitation of 88.7 in (225.3 cm), mean annual temperature of 72.3 °F (22.7 °C), and Los Guineos type of soil (i.e., very deep, acidic, clayey, welldrained soils on side slopes of mountains) to be physical or biological features for this species. Varronia rupicola Like Agave eggersiana, Varronia rupicola occurs within the subtropical dry forest life zone (sensu Holdridge 1967). Moisture availability as a function of shallow soils plus low PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 rainfall and its seasonality determines the forest productivity, growth characteristics, water loss, and physiognomy in subtropical dry forest life zones where temperature tends to be constant throughout the year (Lugo et al. 1978, p. 278). Average rainfall for the ´ Guanica Forest (important area for the species in Puerto Rico) is 860 mm (Lugo et al. 1996, p. 2). The majority of the suitable habitat and known populations of Varronia rupicola in Puerto Rico lie within the Ponce limestone formation, a MidTertiary pink to white, fine-grain limestone (Lugo et al. 1996, p. 2). In Puerto Rico, this formation extends from ´ the western end of the Guanica Commonwealth Forest, east toward the Municipality of Ponce (El Tuque). The ´ soils at the Guanica Forest are described as shallow, alkaline, and derived from limestone rock (Molina and Lugo 2006, p. 355). According to Murphy and Lugo (1986, p. 56), these soils are nutrientrich, but only a small fraction of the total phosphate and potassium is readily available. These soil factors increase the effects of low rainfall and its seasonality on the vegetation. Therefore, based on the information above, we identify shallow and alkaline soils derived from limestone rock and an average rainfall of 34 in (86 cm) to be physical or biological features for this species. Cover or Shelter Agave eggersiana Agave eggersiana occurs in open canopy and open understory habitats and thrives in areas of full sun exposure (O. Monsegur and M. Vargas, Service, pers. obs. 2010 and 2013). The coastal shrublands typically show a low canopy, ranging from 3.2 to 16.4 ft (1 to 5 m) (Moser et al. 2010, Appendix A, p. 8–11; O. Monsegur and M. Vargas, Service, pers. obs. 2013). In areas where native species remains dominant and nonnatives have not occupied the understory, these coastal shrublands provide suitable habitat for the natural recruitment of A. eggersiana. In addition, the bare rock of coastal cliffs seems to provide an ecological niche for A. eggersiana. Once the species gets established on cliff areas, it may become dominant as observed on the South Shore (Cane Garden) population. Therefore, based on the information above, we identify open cover habitats (e.g., open canopy or open understory) to be physical or biological features for this species. E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules Gonocalyx concolor Very little is known about habitat parameters specifically relating to cover or shelter for Gonocalyx concolor. In remnants and late successional vegetation of elfin forest, the species is normally found growing as epiphytic and clambering on dead and live stand trees, and crawling over the forest floor (C. Pacheco and O. Monsegur, Service, unpublished data, 2013). In the ausubo forest, this species has been described growing only as epiphytic and clambering on dead and live stand trees (O. Monsegur, unpublished data, 2006). Both types of forest show a single canopy layer that seldom exceeds 22 ft (7 m) in height. Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the remnants and late successional vegetation of elfin and ausubo forests with a single canopy layer of about 22 ft (7 m) in height to be physical or biological features for this species. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Varronia rupicola This species has been recorded in forested hills with open to relatively dense shrublands ranging between 6.5 to 9.8 ft (2 to 3 m) in height; in low forest with canopy from 8 to 15 ft (3 to 5 m) high; and at the edge of a dense, low, coastal shrubland and forest. On the island of Anegada, the species is located on open limestone pavement and sand dunes. Despite the species’ preference for gaps, it remains associated to remnants of native forest. In a recent study at Anegada, Varronia rupicola was found in higher abundance (based on percentage occurrence across plots) on limestone, but also widespread within the sand dunes (Clubbe et al. 2004, p. 344). This kind of forest structure provides protection against environmental variation and stochastic events, allowing the species to recover without compromising population numbers. The species is associated to remnants of native dry forest vegetation. At the ´ Guanica Commonwealth Forest, the most abundant species are Gymnanthes lucida, Exostema caribaeum, Pisonia albida, Pictetia aculeata, Thouinia portoricensis, Coccoloba krugii, and Pilosocereus royenii (Murphy and Lugo 1986, p. 91). These species account for 50 percent of the importance value (abundance) within the forest and characterize the Deciduous Forest and Scrub Forest vegetation described by Murphy et al. (1995, p. 187). Other dominant species within the V. rupicola habitat include Bursera simaruba, Erithalis fruticosa, Guettarda krugii, Tabebuia heterophylla, Hypelate trifoliata, Coccoloba diversifolia, VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 Cassine xylocarpa, Krugiodendron ferreum, Jacquinia berterii, Bourreria succulenta, Crossopetalum rhacoma, Antirhea acutata, and Amyris elemifera (Murphy and Lugo 1986, p. 91). The specie is also associated to a shrub layer dominated by Croton humilis, Eupatorium sinuatum, Lantana reticulata, and Turnera diffusa. Therefore, based on the information above, we identify forested hills with open to relatively dense shrubland forest dominated by native species to be physical or biological features for this species. Sites for Breeding, Reproduction, or Rearing (or Development) of Offspring Agave eggersiana Agave eggersiana dies after producing flowers (monocarpic life cycle) and produces a large flowering scape (massive inflorescence; a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches) (Rogers 2000, p. 218). After flowering, the panicles (inflorescence) produce numerous small vegetative bulbs (bulbils) (Proctor and Acevedo´ Rodrıguez 2005, p. 118). The small vegetative bulbils will fall near the parental agave and attach to the ground on the coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrubland. Coastal cliffs, which include bare rock or sparse native vegetation, create an environment where the canopy is less than 1 meter in height, and allow the bulbils to compete for ground area. The dry coastal shrubland includes dry forest structures where the open canopy and open understory habitat also allows the bulbils to compete for ground area. These open canopy or open understory structures allow A. eggersiana good sun exposure where the species seems to thrive (for further discussion of these communities and their associated native plant species, seethe Status Assessment for A. eggersiana in the Habitat section of our proposed listing rule, published elsewhere in today’s Federal Register). Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the vegetation communities in the coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrublands where A. eggersiana occurs to be physical or biological features for this species. Gonocalyx concolor The reproductive biology and ecology of Gonocalyx concolor have not been studied. We have no information available beyond the habitat where the species is found and its behavior in that habitat. However, as indicated above, it seems that the conditions of the elfin PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 62535 and ausubo forests support the normal behavior, growth, and viability of G. concolor during most of its life stages. Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the elfin and ausubo forests to be physical or biological features for this species. Varronia rupicola Varronia rupicola has been reported flowering and fruiting in December to January (Breckon and Kolterman 1996, p. 4), and in June–July (Monsegur and Breckon 2007, p. 1). Fruit production in ´ the wild at the Guanica Commonwealth Forest and in the Municipality of Ponce seem to be high, and there is evidence of recruitment associated to the majority of the clusters of individuals (Monsegur, USFWS, pers. obs. 2013). Under greenhouse conditions, seed germination has been reported at no less than 67 percent (Wenger et al. 2010, p. 23). Germination in the wild has also been observed to be high, particularly on shrubs growing exposed to sunlight. However, there seems to be a high mortality (natural thinning) of seedlings, and only a few individuals make the transition to sapling stages (O. Monsegur, Service, pers. obs. 2013). Furthermore, despite the showy red fruits of V. rupicola, its dispersion seems to be limited by gravity, as the majority of the seedlings lie under the parent tree or downslope. The wide range of the species suggests a former animal disperser, probably a bird. Material germinated in the Service greenhouse at Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge flowered and produced fruits about 1 year after planted (O. Monsegur, Service, pers. obs. 2013). The rapid development of the species as reproductive individuals, and the finding of individuals along recently disturbed sites (i.e., new dirt roads) and natural forest gaps, may indicate that Varronia rupicola is an early colonizer (pioneer) species of dry coastal forest. The above information highlights the importance of open to relatively low dense shrubland forest (scrub forest and deciduous forest or shrubland) dominated by native species for the selfrecruitment of the species and sustainability of the natural populations. As previously mentioned, moisture availability as a function of shallow soils, plus low rainfall and its seasonality, are the factors suggested as determining forest productivity, growth characteristics, water loss, and physiognomy. The diversity within the dry coastal native forest of Puerto Rico is explained by the wide diversity of habitats produced by the proximity of the limestone basement to the surface and the subsequent variation in soil E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 62536 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules depth. These unique native forests provide the adequate and stable environmental conditions for the reproduction and natural recruitment of the species. Therefore, based on the information above, we identify open to relatively dense shrubland forest (scrub forest and deciduous forest or shrubland) dominated by native species to be a physical or biological feature for this species. Habitats Protected From Disturbance or Representative of the Historical, Geographic, and Ecological Distributions of the Species Agave eggersiana tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS There are reports from Britton and Wilson (1923, p. 156) that Agave eggersiana occurred in the eastern dry areas in St. Croix. This area harbors dry forest conditions and native vegetation that provide suitable habitat for A. eggersiana. Most of that eastern end is currently owned and managed for conservation by the USVI Government and The Nature Conservancy. The upper slopes and steep areas of eastern St. Croix provide essential dry forest habitat conditions for the reintroduction and the recovery of the species. These forest harbors xeric native vegetation and forest structure that provides shelter, space for growing and breeding, and food and water resources necessary for the species. However, we do not have current evidence that A. eggersiana occurs in this area. Since 2007, Agave eggersiana has been introduced within U.S. National Park Service (NPS) properties (i.e., Salt River National Park and Ecological Preserve, and Buck Island Reef Monument) that are outside the known historical range of the species. In addition, there is an intra-agency agreement under the Service’s Coastal Program to restore habitat in the area and plant native flora in Salt River National Park and Ecological Preserve. A. eggerisana is one of the plants used as part of the native plant restoration agreement. Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the dry forest conditions in the eastern side of St. Croix to be part of the physical or biological features for this species. Gonocalyx concolor The elfin and the ausubo forest where Gonocalyx concolor currently exists are owned by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This land has been managed for conservation by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) since VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 1975 (back then, Department of Natural Resources; DNR 1976, p. 169). Before 1975, the elfin forest area in Cerro La Santa (Carite Commonwealth Forest) was managed by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as a preferred site for the installation of telecommunication tower facilities for television and radio, and for military and governmental purposes. These types of activities may have caused disturbance to the habitat of G. concolor, because Cerro La Santa is one of the two known locations of the species. Although the Carite Commonwealth Forest is under local government protection, the area of Cerro La Santa is still vulnerable to habitat modification resulting from maintenance and potential expansion of existing telecommunication facilities. Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the elfin and ausubo forests found within the Carite Commonwealth Forest to be physical or biological features for this species. Varronia rupicola The species has been historically recorded from the geographical area ´ comprising the Guanica Commonwealth Forest in southwestern Puerto Rico, and the area of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in the island of Vieques, eastern Puerto Rico. The ´ Guanica Forest was designated as a Commonwealth forest in 1917, by Governor Arthur Yager, and has been protected and managed since 1930 (Lugo et al. 1996, p. 2; Murphy and Lugo 1990, p. 15). It is now the largest Commonwealth-protected area over limestone substrate in Puerto Rico, with an estimated area of about 10,872 ac (4,400 ha) (Miguel Canals, DNER, pers. ´ comm. 2009). The Guanica Commonwealth Forest is divided in two main contiguous areas: The east section, which includes the original forest area, and the west section, added after 1950 (Lugo et al. 1996, p. 2). This forest is considered one of the best examples of a subtropical dry forest in the world (Murphy and Lugo 1990, p. 15; Ewel ´ and Whitmore 1973, p. 72). The Guanica Commonwealth Forest harbors remnants of native dry forest vegetation over limestone pavement, some of these considered as pristine forest. Since the forest have been protected and managed for over 90 years, native vegetation has recovered from previous deforestation for charcoal production. As a result of this, the forest harbors populations of several of the rarest plants endemic to the dry forest of Puerto Rico, and the presence of stands of invasive nonnatives remains associated to areas previously inhabited and along roads within the forest. However, it is PO 00000 Frm 00065 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 important to notice that Varronia rupicola also occurs within privately ´ owned lands outside the Guanica Commonwealth Forest, which makes it vulnerable to habitat destruction. On Vieques Island, about 54 percent of the land is a National Wildlife Refuge managed by the Service (Vieques NWR CCP & EIS 2007, p. 2). Some areas within the refuge harbor suitable habitat for Varronia rupicola, providing protection to the species’ habitat and probably to undetected populations (Vieques NWR CCP & EIS 2007, p. 2). However, only three patches of dry forest vegetation over limestone substrate that harbor V. rupicola populations have been currently identified in the island of Vieques and only two are located within the Vieques NWR. The remaining third patch belongs to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. These three natural areas are adjacent and represent the remnant of the prime habitat for the species in Vieques. Therefore, based on the information above, we identify remnants of scrubland and shrubland forest that occurs within the subtropical dry forest life zone overlying limestone substrate to be physical or biological features for this species. Primary Constituent Elements Under the Act and its implementing regulations, we are required to identify the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the three Caribbean plants in areas occupied at the time of listing, focusing on the features’ primary constituent elements. We consider primary constituent elements (PCEs) to be the elements of physical or biological features that provide for a species’ life-history processes and are essential to the conservation of the species. Based on our current knowledge of the physical or biological features and habitat characteristics required to sustain the species’ life-history processes, we determine the primary constituent elements specific for each of the three plants below: Agave eggersiana (1) Areas consisting of coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrublands. (a) Coastal cliff habitat includes: (i) Bare rock; and (ii) Sparse vegetation. (b) Dry coastal shrubland habitat includes: (i) Dry forest structure; and (ii) A plant community of predominately native vegetation. E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules (2) Well-drained soils from the series Cramer, Glynn, Hasselberg, Southgate, and Victory. (3) Habitat of sufficient area to sustain viable populations in the coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrublands listed in PCEs (1) and (2), above. Gonocalyx concolor (1) Elfin forest at elevations over 2,900 ft (880 m) in Cerro La Santa, Puerto Rico, which includes: (a) Forest with single canopy layer with trees seldom exceeding 22 ft (7 m) in height. (b) Associated native vegetation dominated by species such as Tabebuia schumanniana, Tabebuia rigida, Ocotea spathulata, Eugenia borinquensis, Clusia minor, and Prestoea acuminata var. montana, native ferns, and dense cover with epiphytes, including bromeliads and mosses. (2) Ausubo forest at elevations between 2,000 to 2,300 ft (620 to 720 m) in the Charco Azul, which includes: (a) Forest with single canopy layer with trees exceeding 22 ft (7 m) in height. (b) Plant association comprised by few species of native trees and associated native vegetation (e.g., Manilkara bidentata, Dacryodes excelsa, Guarea guidonia, and Cyrilla racemiflora), native ferns, and dense cover with epiphytes, including bromeliads and mosses. (3) The type locations described in PCEs (1) and (2), above, for this species should have mean annual precipitation of 88.7 in (225.3 cm), mean annual temperature of 72.3 °F (22.7 °C), and Los Guineos type of soil (i.e., very deep, acidic, clayey, well-drained soils on side slopes of mountains). tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Varronia rupicola (1) Remnants of native shrubland and scrubland forest on limestone substrate within the subtropical dry forest life zone. Dry shrubland and scrubland forest includes: (a) Shrubland vegetation with canopy from 6.5 to 9.8 ft (2 to 3 m) high; (b) Limestone pavement; (c) Associated native vegetation; and (d) A shrub layer dominated by Croton humilis, Eupatorium sinuatum, Lantana reticulata, and Turnera diffusa. (2) Semi-deciduous dry forest on limestone substrate within the subtropical dry forest life zone. Dry limestone semi-deciduous forest includes: (a) Low forest with canopy from 8 to 15 ft (3 to 5 m) high; (b) Limestone pavement; (c) Associated dry forest native vegetation; and VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 (d) A shrub layer dominated by Croton humilis, Eupatorium sinuatum, Lantana reticulata, and Turnera diffusa. (3) The type locations described in PCEs (1) and (2), above, for this species should have shallow and alkaline soils derived from limestone rock and an average rainfall of 34 in (86 cm). Special Management Considerations or Protection When designating critical habitat, we assess whether the specific areas within the geographic area occupied by the species at the time of listing contain features which are essential to the conservation of the species and which may require special management considerations or protection. Agave eggersiana and Varronia rupicola The primary threats to the PBFs that Agave eggersiana and Varronia rupicola depend on includes: (1) Habitat destruction and modification by development; (2) competition with nonnative plant species; (3) humaninduced fire; and (4) hurricanes and storm surge. The majority of these threats can be addressed by special management considerations or protection, while others (e.g., hurricanes and storm surges) are beyond the control of land owners and managers. Management activities that could ameliorate these threats include, but are not limited to, establishment of permanent conservation easements or land acquisition to protect the species and its habitat on private lands; establishment of conservation agreements on private, nongovernment, and government lands to protect the habitat; implementation of control of invasive, nonnative plant species to reduce competition and prevent habitat degradation; implementation of management practices to control fires; and creation or revision of management plans for the identification of the areas where current developments exist and to better guide the implementation of conservation measures for the species. For Agave eggersiana, precautions are needed to avoid inadvertent mowing and cutting of the species in the course of landscaping activities. In addition, for both A. eggersiana and Varronia rupicola, development of residential and tourism projects should avoid impacting these habitats directly or indirectly, and habitat fragmentation should be limited as much as possible to maintain connectivity between populations and to avoid habitat degradation due to the colonization by nonnative, invasive plants. PO 00000 Frm 00066 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 62537 Gonocalyx concolor The primary threats to the PBFs that Gonocalyx concolor depends on include: (1) Habitat destruction and modification by development of telecommunication towers and associated facilities on the mountain top of Cerro La Santa; (2) vegetation management; (3) hurricanes and tropical storms; (4) landslides; (5) invasive species; and (6) human-induced fire. The majority of these threats can be addressed by special management considerations or protection while others (e.g., hurricanes, landslides, and climate change) are beyond the control of land owners and managers. Management activities that could ameliorate these threats include, but are not limited to, implementation of conservation measures with DNER to reduce threats to the species in the Carite Commonwealth Forest; minimization of habitat disturbance, fragmentation, and destruction resulting from maintenance of telecommunication facilities; prevention of fires; and controlling invasive plant species. The reduction of all these threats for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola will require the implementation of special management actions within each of the critical habitat areas identified in this proposed rule. All proposed critical habitat requires active management to address the ongoing threats listed above and those presented in the discussions of Factors A through E (see Summary of Factors Affecting the Species section of our proposed listing rule, which is published elsewhere in today’s Federal Register). Special management considerations or protection for the features essential to the conservation of the species within each critical habitat area will depend on the threats to the essential features in that critical habitat area. Accordingly, the description of each critical habitat unit below will include a discussion of the threats and the special management actions needed to address them. Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat As required by section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we use the best scientific data available to designate critical habitat. Sources of data for the three Caribbean species and their habitat include multiple databases maintained by universities and by State and Federal agencies from Puerto Rico and USVI, reports on assessments and surveys throughout the species’ range, and assessments of current conditions of the three Caribbean species and their E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 62538 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules habitat at known locations (e.g., Monsegur and Vargas, Service, pers. obs. 2013; Dalmida-Smith, DPNR 2010, Moser et al. 2010). We review available information pertaining to the habitat requirements of the species. In accordance with the Act and its implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(e), we consider whether designating additional areas outside those currently occupied, as well as those that are currently occupied (i.e., occupied at the time of listing), is necessary to ensure the conservation of the species. We are proposing to designate critical habitat in areas within the geographical area currently occupied by the three Caribbean plants (i.e., occupied at the time of proposed listing). All of these units are proposed for designation based on sufficient elements of physical and biological features being present to support known life-history processes of the species. We have defined occupied critical habitat as areas where the three Caribbean plants are currently found and that have the PCEs mentioned above at the time of listing. We used information from site visits to the species’ habitats conducted by Service biologists, herbarium specimens, personal communications with researchers, and reports prepared by agencies and researchers to identify the specific locations occupied by the three species. We plotted all occurrence records of the three Caribbean plants on maps in geographic information system as points and polygons. Then, we used U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographic maps, aerial photographs, and U.S. Forest Service (USFS)— International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF) land cover layers to delineate the critical habitat units. Critical habitat units were then mapped using ArcMap version 10 (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.), a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program. We are also proposing to designate specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by Agave eggersiana at the time of listing (areas reported as historical) and Varronia rupicola, because the current amount of habitat that is occupied is not sufficient for the recovery of the species; hence, we have determined that such areas are essential for their conservation. The justification for why unoccupied habitat is essential to the conservation of these species, and the methodology used to identify the best unoccupied areas for consideration of inclusion, is set forth below. Small populations and plant species with limited distributions, like those of Agave eggersiana and Gonocalyx VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 concolor, are vulnerable to relatively minor environmental disturbances (Frankham 2005, pp. 135–136), and are subject to the loss of genetic diversity from genetic drift (Ellstrand and Elam 1993, pp. 217–237; Leimu et al. 2006, pp. 942–952; Honnay and Jacquemyn, 2007, p. 824). Plant populations with lowered genetic diversity are more prone to local extinction (Barrett and Kohn 1991, pp. 4, 28). Smaller plant populations generally have lower genetic diversity, and lower genetic diversity may in turn lead to even smaller populations by decreasing the species’ ability to adapt, thereby increasing the probability of population extinction (Newman and Pilson 1997, p. 360; Palstra and Ruzzante 2008, pp. 3428–3447). Because of the dangers associated with small populations or limited distributions, the recovery of many rare plant species includes the creation of new sites or reintroductions to ameliorate these effects. When proposing or designating critical habitat, we consider future recovery efforts and conservation of the species. The habitat of these species must be conserved to fulfill their recovery. Furthermore, it is important to ensure there are enough individuals of the species to secure their survival into the future as well as to ensure the habitat (with all associated plant communities) is adequate for the species. At present, there are only approximately 300 known adult individuals of Agave eggersiana, 31 individuals of Gonocalyx concolor, 75 individuals of Varronia rupicola, and only few areas where the three species have been documented. Although at this moment we do not know how many individuals would suffice to safeguard these species, having limited populations in limited areas is detrimental to the species, and even more detrimental if threats are not ameliorated. Determination of Critical Habitat Units We are proposing four areas that are currently occupied and two areas that are currently unoccupied, but on which the species have been historically reported as critical habitat, for Agave eggersiana; two occupied areas for Gonocalyx concolor; and five occupied areas and two unoccupied areas for Varronia rupicola. We believe the proposed areas are essential to ensure the protection of habitat over a wide geographic area and to help ensure that catastrophic events, such as hurricanes, fires, and diseases, will not affect all populations simultaneously. PO 00000 Frm 00067 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Areas Occupied at the Time of Listing The proposed critical habitat designation focuses on occupied areas throughout the range of the three Caribbean species that have the necessary PCEs to allow for the maintenance and expansion of existing populations. Agave eggersiana We identified seven populations of Agave eggersiana in St. Croix, five to the south and two to the north. Three of the five populations in the south are found in proximate locations, as explained further. One proximate location includes South Shore, Cane Garden, and Vagthus Point, which are all located along the same beach, and for the purpose of this document we will discuss these populations as one location (hereafter Cane Garden) allowing area for the expansion of the populations. Manchenil Bay, Great Pond, and Protestant Cay will be discussed as the other three locations. Gallows Bay is not proposed as critical habitat, even though it is occupied by the species, because the area lacks the identified PCEs. There is no habitat available for either the establishment of other individuals or the expansion of the species, because it is located within a condominium project. This existing population is of one individual hanging on a cliff/hillside, and when it is time to reproduce, all the bulbils will fall to the road (asphalted road) and the bulbils will not be able to continue their growth. There is no suitable habitat in this area aside from where the plant is currently located. Gonocalyx concolor We identified two units that harbor the only three populations known of Gonocalyx concolor: Two populations at Cerro La Santa and another population at Charco Azul, both in the Carite Commonwealth Forest. At Cerro La Santa, the species is found at elevations between 2,890 to 2,950 ft (880 to 900 m) from sea level, associated to remnants of elfin forest vegetation and to late successional vegetation. The species shows a limited distribution in its habitat, occupying only 0.75 ac (0.3 ha) at Cerro La Santa (Pacheco and Monsegur, USFWS, unpublished data, 2013) and approximately 0.12 ac (0.05 ha) at Charco Azul (O. Monsegur, unpublished data, 2006). Varronia rupicola We identified five natural areas currently occupied by Varronia rupicola ´ (Montalva, Guanica Commonwealth ˜ Forest, Montes de Barina, Penon de Ponce, and Puerto Ferro). The species E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules has been consistently reported from these areas during the last decade, and all areas harbor remnants of native forest characterized by a high plant diversity and endemism. All of these areas harbor remnants of native shrubland/scrubland forest vegetation and semi-deciduous dry forest on limestone substrate, showing a unique forest structure that is not present elsewhere in Puerto Rico and that represent the habitat that contains the features necessary for the conservation of the species. all of the PCEs. Hence, we consider the areas as essential for the conservation of A. eggersiana. Varronia rupicola Areas Outside of the Geographic Range at the Time of Listing For us to propose for designation areas not occupied by the three Caribbean species at the time of listing, we must demonstrate that these areas are essential to the conservation of the species. We are proposing to designate critical habitat outside of the geographic range at the time of listing for Agave eggersiana and Varronia rupicola. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Agave eggersiana The east end of St. Croix is within the historical range of Agave eggersiana (Britton and Wilson 1923, p. 156), but it is not within the geographic range currently occupied by the species. To determine if this area is essential for the conservation Agave eggersiana, we considered: (1) The importance of the site to the overall status of the species to prevent extinction and to contribute to future recovery of A. eggersiana; (2) whether the areas contain the PCEs and PBFs; (3) whether the area could be restored to contain the necessary habitat to support A. eggersiana; and (4) whether a population of the species could be reestablished in that unoccupied area. The easternmost area of St. Croix encompasses conservation areas managed by the USVI Government and The Nature Conservancy. In this area, we are proposing to designate two units (East End North and East End South). These areas may allow for important population expansion of Agave eggersiana. Furthermore, this area of land is a secluded location that would safeguard the species in the event of a catastrophic event such as a hurricane, or a threat such as a disease or pest (e.g., agave snout weevil (Scyphophorus acupunctatus)). These areas also contain We propose the designation of two areas that are not currently occupied by the species. These two areas are known as Punta Negra and Cerro Playuela on the Island of Vieques and lie adjacent to an area currently occupied by the species (Puerto Ferro), forming a continuous habitat that provides an ecological niche for the species. They contain the dry coastal shrubland habitat PCEs and PBFs, including substrates, and associated native plants and forest structure. We consider these three contiguous peninsulas (Punta Negra, Cerro Playuela, and Puerto Ferro) as a single ecological unit, which are separated by two narrow water channels. The channels are not representative of a barrier for dispersion or expansion of the species. Furthermore, these forested areas provide shelter for potential pollinators and dispersers of Varronia rupicola. This kind of habitat does not occur elsewhere in Vieques, as most of the Island was deforested for agricultural practices, and further degraded by military practices. Therefore, Punta Negra and Cerro Playuela provide suitable habitat conditions for natural recruitment of V. rupicola and for the expansion of its populations. It is very likely that V. rupicola also occurs within Punta Negra and Cerro Playuela, and that ecological interactions and genetic flow between these areas and Puerto Ferro is occurring. The loss of this forest fragments may compromise the conservation of the genetic stock represented in that population. Hence, we consider Punta Negra and Cerro Playuela to be essential for the conservation of the genetic diversity of the species. For Agave eggersiana and Varronia rupicola, the current amount of habitat that is occupied is not sufficient for the recovery of the species; therefore, we determined it essential to include additional unoccupied habitat units in this proposed critical habitat designation. When determining proposed critical habitat boundaries, we made every effort to avoid including developed 62539 areas such as buildings and pavement, and other structures because such lands lack the physical or biological features for the three Caribbean species. The scale of the maps we prepared under the parameters for publication within the Code of Federal Regulations may not reflect the exclusion of such developed lands. Any such lands inadvertently left inside critical habitat boundaries shown on the maps of this proposed rule have been excluded by text in the proposed rule and are not proposed for designation as critical habitat. Therefore, if the critical habitat is finalized as proposed, a Federal action involving these lands would not trigger section 7 consultation with respect to critical habitat and the requirement of no adverse modification unless the specific action would affect the physical or biological features in the adjacent critical habitat. The critical habitat designation is defined by the map or maps, as modified by any accompanying regulatory text, presented at the end of this document in the rule portion. We include more detailed information on the boundaries of the critical habitat designation in the preamble of this document. We will make the coordinates or plot points or both on which each map is based available to the public on http:// www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013–0040, on our Internet site at http://www.fws.gov/ caribbean/es, and at the field office responsible for the designation (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, above). Proposed Critical Habitat Designation Agave eggersiana We are proposing to designate 50.6 ac (20.5 ha) in six units as critical habitat for Agave eggersiana. The critical habitat units described below constitute our best current assessment of areas that meet the definition of critical habitat for this species. The six units we propose as critical habitat are: (1) Cane Garden, (2) Manchenil, (3) Great Pond, (4) Protestant Cay, (5) East End South, and (6) East End North. Table 1 shows the proposed critical habitat units, land ownership, and approximate extent of the proposed critical habitat for A. eggersiana. TABLE 1—AGAVE EGGERSIANA PROPOSED CRITICAL HABITAT UNITS Unit Occupied at time of listing? Land ownership 1. Cane Garden .......................................... 2. Manchenil ................................................ 3. Great Pond .............................................. Yes ................... Yes ................... Yes ................... Private ......................................................... Private ......................................................... Government ................................................ VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Frm 00068 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM Hectares 22OCP1 2.8 0.61 0.32 Acres 6.9 1.5 0.8 62540 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules TABLE 1—AGAVE EGGERSIANA PROPOSED CRITICAL HABITAT UNITS—Continued Unit Occupied at time of listing? Land ownership 4. Protestant Cay ........................................ 5. East End South ....................................... 6. East End North ....................................... Yes ................... No ..................... No ..................... Government, but leased to private ............. Private ......................................................... Government ................................................ Total ..................................................... ........................... ..................................................................... Hectares Acres 0.16 7.7 8.9 0.4 19 22 20.5 50.6 Note: Area sizes may not sum due to rounding. Below, we present brief descriptions of all units and reasons why these units meet the definition of critical habitat for Agave eggersiana. Unit 1: Cane Garden Unit 1 consists of 6.9 ac (2.8 ha) of privately owned lands located at Estate Cane Garden and Estate Peters Mindle, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. This unit is located in the south-central portion of the island, approximately 0.17 mi (0.27 km) south of Road 62 and approximately 0.2 mi (0.3 km) northeast of Vagthus Point, along the northeast coast of Canegarden Bay and south of a private trail. It is within the geographical area occupied at the time of listing. This unit contains all the PCEs. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, effects of hurricanes (i.e., storm surge and erosion), and habitat modification (e.g., trails expansion). tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Unit 2: Manchenil Unit 2 consists of 1.5 ac (0.61 ha) of privately owned lands located at Estate Granard, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. This unit is located in the south-central portion of the island, approximately 0.50 mi (0.82 km) south of Road 62 and approximately 0.02 mi (0.03 km) east of South Shore Road, along the northeast coast of Manchenil Bay. It is within the geographical area occupied at the time of listing. This unit contains all the PCEs. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address threats of fires, nonnative plant species, effects of hurricanes (i.e., storm surge), and habitat modification. Unit 3: Great Pond Unit 3 consists of 0.8 ac (0.32 ha) of government-owned land located at Estate Great Pond, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. This unit is located in the south of the island, approximately 6.5 ft (2 m) south of Road 62 and east of the entrance of East End Marine Park offices. It is within the geographical area occupied at the time of listing. This unit contains all the PCEs. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address threats of fire, nonnative plant species, and habitat modification (i.e., landscaping). conservation of the species because it contains the PCEs and because its designation would safeguard other established populations in case of any stochastic event that occurs within habitats currently occupied by the species. Unit 4: Protestant Cay Unit 4 consists of 0.4 ac (0.16 ha) of government-owned lands that are leased to a private party and are located at Protestant Cay, St. Croix, USVI. The Cay is located approximately 0.33 km (0.20 mi) north of Christiansted town. The unit is located on the northeast side of the Cay. It is within the geographical area occupied at the time of listing. This unit contains all the PCEs. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, effects of hurricanes (i.e., storm surge and erosion), and habitat modification (i.e., hotel landscaping and maintenance). The Protestant Cay unit is also currently designated as critical habitat for the St. Croix ground lizard (Ameiva polops) (42 FR 47840, September 22, 1977). Unit 6 consists of 22 ac (8.9 ha) of government-owned land located at Estate Cotton Garden, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. This unit is located north of the eastern end portion of the island, approximately 0.86 mi (1.4 km) northwest of Point Udall, north of Road 82 along the eastern coast of Cotton Garden Bay and western coast of Boiler Bay. This unit is not occupied at the time of listing. However, it is part of the historical range of the species. This unit is essential for the conservation of the species because it contains the PCEs and because its designation would safeguard other established populations in case of any stochastic event that occurs within habitats currently occupied by the species. Unit 5: East End South Unit 5 consists of 19 ac (7.7 ha) of located at Estate Jack’s Bay and Estate Isaac’s Bay, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. This unit is located south of the eastern end portion of the island, approximately 0.93 mi (1.5 km) southwest of Point Udall, approximately 0.02 mi (0.04 km) east of Point Road, along the north coast of Jack’s Bay, and south of a Jack’s and Issac’s Bay Preserve trail. It is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed as conservation land. This unit is not occupied at the time of listing. However, it is part of the historical range of the species. This unit is essential for the Unit 6: East End North Gonocalyx concolor We are proposing to designate approximately198 ac (80.1 ha) in two units as critical habitat for the Gonocalyx concolor. The critical habitat units described below constitute our best current assessment of areas that meet the definition of critical habitat for this species. The two units we propose as critical habitat are: (1) Cerro La Santa; and (2) Charco Azul. Both units fall within the Carite Commonwealth Forest, land owned by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and managed for conservation by the Puerto Rico DNER. Table 2 shows the proposed critical habitat units, land ownership, and approximate extent of the proposed critical habitat for G. concolor. TABLE 2—GONOCALYX CONCOLOR PROPOSED CRITICAL HABITAT UNITS Unit Occupied at time of listing? Land ownership 1. Cerro La Santa ....................................... Yes ................... Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ................... VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Frm 00069 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM Hectares 22OCP1 Acres 7.6 18.8 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules 62541 TABLE 2—GONOCALYX CONCOLOR PROPOSED CRITICAL HABITAT UNITS—Continued Unit Occupied at time of listing? Land ownership 2. Charco Azul ............................................ Yes ................... Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ................... 72.5 179.2 Total ..................................................... ........................... ..................................................................... 80.1 198 Hectares Acres Note: Area sizes may not sum due to rounding. Below, we present brief descriptions of all units and reasons why these units meet the definition of critical habitat for Gonocalyx. concolor. Unit 1: Cerro La Santa Unit 1 consists of 18.8 ac (7.6 ha) of elfin forest located on exposed peaks and ridges of Cerro La Santa, above 2,890 ft (880 m) in elevation from sea level. This unit is located in the Sierra de Cayey on Road PR 184, Km 27.1 in Espino Ward, between the Municipalities of Cayey and San Lorenzo. This unit is within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing. This unit contains all PCEs. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address threats of habitat modification resulting from maintenance and potential expansion of existing telecommunication facilities, humaninduced fires, invasive species, and degradation of forest quality. Unit 2: Charco Azul Unit 2 consists of 179.2 ac (72.5 ha) of ausubo forest located along the Rio Grande de Patillas River basin between 2,030 ft (620 m) and 2,330 ft (720 m) in elevation from sea level. This unit is approximately 2.0 mi (3.2 km) southeast of Unit 1. This unit is within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing. This unit contains all PCEs. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations and protection to address threats of habitat modification resulting from human- induced fires, invasive species, and degradation of forest quality. Varronia rupicola We are proposing to designate 6,547 ac (2,648 ha) in seven units as critical habitat for Varronia rupicola. The critical habitats described below constitute our best current assessment of areas that meet the definition of critical habitat for this species. The seven units ´ are: (1) Montalva, (2) Guanica Commonwealth Forest, (3) Montes de ˜ Barina, (4) Penon de Ponce, (5) Punta Negra, (6) Puerto Ferro, and (7) Cerro Playuela. Table 3 shows the proposed critical habitat units, land ownership, and approximate extent of the proposed critical habitat for V. rupicola. TABLE 3—VARRONIA RUPICOLA PROPOSED CRITICAL HABITAT UNITS Occupied at time of listing? Land ownership Montalva .................................................... ´ Guanica Commonwealth Forest ............... Montes de Barina ...................................... ˜ Penon de Ponce ....................................... Punta Negra .............................................. Puerto Ferro .............................................. Cerro Playuela .......................................... Yes ................... Yes ................... Yes ................... Yes ................... No ..................... Yes ................... No ..................... Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ..................... Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ..................... Private ........................................................... Private ........................................................... Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ..................... Federal Government (FWS) ......................... Federal Government (FWS) ......................... 401 236 810 880 117 154 50 992 584 2,002 2,174 291 381 123 Total ....................................................... ........................... ....................................................................... 2,648 6,547 Unit 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Hectares Acres Note: Area sizes may not sum due to rounding. Below, we present brief descriptions of all units and reasons why these units meet the definition of critical habitat for Varronia rupicola. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Unit 1: Montalva Unit 1 consists of 992 ac (401 ha) of Commonwealth-owned lands located at Montalva Ward in the Municipality of ´ Guanica, Puerto Rico. This unit is located just south of State Highway PR ´ 324 and the Town of Guanica, and includes Cerro Montalva. It is within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing. Due to the marginal agricultural value, these forests were minimally impacted by other land use practices (e.g., charcoal production and ranching). Therefore, the prime and essential habitat for the species has maintained its unique features, such as VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 the dry coastal shrubland habitat’s PCEs and PBFs, including suitable climate, substrates, and associated native plants and forest structure. Despite its conservation status the habitat has been affected by human-induced fires and maintenance of access roads and rightsof-way. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, human-induced fires, hurricanes, and habitat modification (e.g., urban development). ´ Unit 2: Guanica Commonwealth Forest Unit 2 consists of 584 ac (236 ha) of Commonwealth-owned lands located within Carenero, Barina, and Boca ´ Wards in the municipalities of Guanica, Yauco, and Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. This unit is located within the core of PO 00000 Frm 00070 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 ´ the east section of the Guanica Commonwealth Forest. The forested habitat in this unit was minimally impacted by other land use practices like charcoal production and ranching due to its marginal agricultural value; hence, it has maintained its unique features. It is within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing and contains the dry coastal shrubland habitat’s PCEs and PBFs, including suitable climate, substrates, and associated native plants and forest structure. Despite its conservation status, the habitat has been affected by human-induced fires and maintenance of access roads and rights-of-way. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, humaninduced fires, hurricanes, and habitat E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 62542 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules modification (e.g., urban development and right-of-way maintenance). Unit 3: Montes de Barina Unit 3 consists of 2,002 ac (810 ha) of privately owned lands primarily located along Indios Ward in the municipality of Guayanilla. A small section of this unit falls within the Cambalache Ward in Yauco, Puerto Rico. This unit is located just south of State Highway PR 2. The forested habitat in this unit was minimally impacted by other land use practices like charcoal production and ranching due to its marginal agricultural value; hence, it has maintained its unique features. The unit is within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing and contains the dry coastal shrubland habitat’s PCEs and PBFs, including suitable climate, substrates, and associated native plants and forest structure. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, human-induced fires, hurricanes, and habitat modification (e.g., urban development). tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS ˜ Unit 4: Penon de Ponce Unit 4 consists of 2,174 ac (880 ha) of privately owned lands located along ´ Encarnacion and Canas Wards in the ˜ municipalities of Penuelas and Ponce, Puerto Rico. This unit is located just north of State Highway PR 2 in the area known as Punta Cucharas. The forested habitat in this unit was minimally impacted by other land use practices like charcoal production and ranching due to its marginal agricultural value; hence, it has maintained its unique features. It is within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing and contains the dry coastal shrubland habitat’s PCEs and PBFs, including suitable climate, substrates, and associated native plants and forest structure. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, human-induced fires, hurricanes, and habitat modification (e.g., urban development). Unit 5: Punta Negra Unit 5 is a small peninsula that consists of 291 ac (117 ha) of Commonwealth-owned lands located within Puerto Ferro Ward on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. This unit is located about 1.5 mi (2.5 km) east of the town of Esperanza and west of Puerto Ferro, Vieques National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). This natural area is managed by the Puerto Rico DNER as part of the Puerto Mosquito Natural Reserve. The forested habitat in this unit was VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 minimally impacted by other land use practices like charcoal production and ranching due to its marginal agricultural value; hence, it has maintained its unique features. It is adjacent to an area currently occupied by the species (Unit 6), forming a continuous habitat and contains the dry coastal shrubland habitat’s PCEs and PBFs, including suitable climate, substrates, and associated native plants and forest structure. However, there is no specific record of the species within this unit. We consider Units 5, 6, and 7 to be a single ecological unit. The species is expected to occur within this area and ecological interactions and genetic flow between this area and Unit 6 may be essential for the recovery of the species. It was not included as a single unit with Units 6 and 7 because these peninsulas are united by a narrow mangrove forest that does not provide habitat for the species. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, human-induced fires, and hurricanes. Unit 6: Puerto Ferro Unit 6 is a small peninsula that consists of 381 ac (154 ha) of federally owned lands managed by the Service as the Vieques NWR, and is located within the Puerto Ferro Ward on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. This unit is located about 4 km (2.5 mi) east of the town of Esperanza. It is located just between Unit 5 and Unit 7, forming a continuous habitat and contains the dry coastal shrubland habitat’s PCEs and PBFs, and therefore we consider Units 5, 6, and 7 to be a single ecological unit. The forested habitat in this unit was minimally impacted by other land use practices like charcoal production and ranching due to its marginal agricultural value; hence, it has maintained its unique features. It is within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing and contains the dry coastal shrubland’s habitat PCEs and PBFs, including suitable climate, substrates, and associated native plants and forest structure. The species occurs within this area and ecological interactions and genetic flow between this area and the adjacent habitat (Unit 5 and Unit 7) may be essential for the recovery of the species. It was not included as a single unit with Units 5 and 7 because these peninsulas are united by a narrow mangrove forest that does not provide habitat for the species. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, human-induced fires, and hurricanes. PO 00000 Frm 00071 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Unit 7: Cerro Playuela Unit 7 is a small peninsula that consists of 123 ac (50 ha) of federally owned lands managed by the Service as the Vieques NWR, and is located within Puerto Ferro Ward on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. This unit is located about 0.5 km (0.31 mi) south of the former airport of Campamento ´ Garcıa (Vieques NWR). The forested habitat in this unit was minimally impacted by other land use practices like charcoal production and ranching due to its marginal agricultural value; hence, it has maintained its unique features. It is adjacent to an area currently occupied by the species (Unit 6), forming a continuous habitat, and contains the dry coastal shrubland habitat’s PCEs and PBFs, including suitable climate, substrates, and associated native plants and forest structure. However, there is no specific record of the species within this unit. We consider Units 5, 6, and 7 to be a single ecological unit. The species is expected to occur within this area and ecological interactions and genetic flow between this area and Unit 6 may be essential for the recovery of the species. It was not included as a single unit with Units 5 and 6 because these peninsulas are united by a narrow mangrove forest that does not provide habitat for the species. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, human-induced fires, and hurricanes. Effects of Critical Habitat Designation Section 7 Consultation Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies, including the Service, to ensure that any action they fund, authorize, or carry out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat of such species. In addition, section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to confer with the Service on any agency action which is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any species proposed to be listed under the Act or result in the destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. Decisions by the 5th and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals have invalidated our regulatory definition of ‘‘destruction or adverse modification’’ (50 CFR 402.02) (see Gifford Pinchot Task Force v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 378 F.3d 1059 (9th Cir. 2004) and Sierra Club v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service et al., 245 F.3d 434 (5th Cir. 2001)), and we do not rely E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules on this regulatory definition when analyzing whether an action is likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. Under the provisions of the Act, we determine destruction or adverse modification on the basis of whether, with implementation of the proposed Federal action, the affected critical habitat would continue to serve its intended conservation role for the species. If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency (action agency) must enter into consultation with us. Examples of actions that are subject to the section 7 consultation process are actions on State, tribal, local, or private lands that require a Federal permit (such as a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) or a permit from the Service under section 10 of the Act) or that involve some other Federal action (such as funding from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Federal actions not affecting listed species or critical habitat, and actions on State, tribal, local, or private lands that are not federally funded or authorized, do not require section 7 consultation. As a result of section 7 consultation, we document compliance with the requirements of section 7(a)(2) through our issuance of: (1) A concurrence letter for Federal actions that may affect, but are not likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat; or (2) A biological opinion for Federal actions that may affect and are likely to adversely affect listed species or critical habitat. When we issue a biological opinion concluding that a project is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species and/or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, we provide reasonable and prudent alternatives to the project, if any are identifiable, that would avoid the likelihood of jeopardy and/or destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. We define ‘‘reasonable and prudent alternatives’’ (at 50 CFR 402.02) as alternative actions identified during consultation that: (1) Can be implemented in a manner consistent with the intended purpose of the action, (2) Can be implemented consistent with the scope of the Federal agency’s legal authority and jurisdiction, (3) Are economically and technologically feasible, and VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 (4) Would, in the Director’s opinion, avoid the likelihood of jeopardizing the continued existence of the listed species and/or avoid the likelihood of destroying or adversely modifying critical habitat. Reasonable and prudent alternatives can vary from slight project modifications to extensive redesign or relocation of the project. Costs associated with implementing a reasonable and prudent alternative are similarly variable. Regulations at 50 CFR 402.16 require Federal agencies to reinitiate consultation on previously reviewed actions in instances where we have listed a new species or subsequently designated critical habitat that may be affected and the Federal agency has retained discretionary involvement or control over the action (or the agency’s discretionary involvement or control is authorized by law). Consequently, Federal agencies sometimes may need to request reinitiation of consultation with us on actions for which formal consultation has been completed, if those actions with discretionary involvement or control may affect subsequently listed species or designated critical habitat. Application of the ‘‘Adverse Modification’’ Standard The key factor related to the adverse modification determination is whether, with implementation of the proposed Federal action, the affected critical habitat would continue to serve its intended conservation role for the species. Activities that may destroy or adversely modify critical habitat are those that alter the physical or biological features to an extent that appreciably reduces the conservation value of critical habitat for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola. As discussed above, the role of critical habitat is to support life-history needs of the species and provide for the conservation of the species. Section 4(b)(8) of the Act requires us to briefly evaluate and describe, in any proposed or final regulation that designates critical habitat, activities involving a Federal action that may destroy or adversely modify such habitat, or that may be affected by such designation. Activities that may affect critical habitat, when carried out, funded, or authorized by a Federal agency, should result in consultation for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola. These activities include, but are not limited to: PO 00000 Frm 00072 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 62543 (1) Actions that would appreciably degrade or destroy the physical or biological features for the species. Such activities could include, but are not limited to, clearing or cutting native live trees and shrubs (e.g., bulldozing, vegetation pruning, construction, road building, maintenance of rights-of-way for powerlines, and herbicide application). These activities could pose a risk of take by fire to the survival of Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola. (2) Actions that would introduce or encourage the spread of nonnative plant species that would significantly alter vegetation structure. Such activities may include, but are not limited to, residential and commercial development and road construction. These activities can affect the growth, reproduction, and survival of Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola. (3) Actions that would significantly alter the structure and function of the elfin forest or the ausubo forest within the Carite Commonwealth Forest. Removal of vegetation could alter or eliminate the microclimate (e.g., change in temperature and humidity levels) and may allow invasion of competitor species and thereby negatively affect the habitat necessary for all life stages of the Gonocalyx concolor. Exemptions Application of Section 4(a)(3) of the Act The Sikes Act Improvement Act of 1997 (Sikes Act) (16 U.S.C. 670a) required each military installation that includes land and water suitable for the conservation and management of natural resources to complete an integrated natural resources management plan (INRMP) by November 17, 2001. An INRMP integrates implementation of the military mission of the installation with stewardship of the natural resources found on the base. Each INRMP includes: (1) An assessment of the ecological needs on the installation, including the need to provide for the conservation of listed species; (2) A statement of goals and priorities; (3) A detailed description of management actions to be implemented to provide for these ecological needs; and (4) A monitoring and adaptive management plan. Among other things, each INRMP must, to the extent appropriate and applicable, provide for fish and wildlife management; fish and wildlife habitat enhancement or modification; wetland E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 62544 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules protection, enhancement, and restoration where necessary to support fish and wildlife; and enforcement of applicable natural resource laws. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Pub. L. 108– 136) amended the Act to limit areas eligible for designation as critical habitat. Specifically, section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(B)(i)) now provides: ‘‘The Secretary shall not designate as critical habitat any lands or other geographic areas owned or controlled by the Department of Defense, or designated for its use, that are subject to an integrated natural resources management plan prepared under section 101 of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a), if the Secretary determines in writing that such plan provides a benefit to the species for which critical habitat is proposed for designation.’’ There are no Department of Defense lands within the proposed critical habitat designation for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, or Varronia rupicola. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Exclusions Application of Section 4(b)(2) of the Act Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary shall designate and make revisions to critical habitat on the basis of the best available scientific data after taking into consideration the economic impact, national security impact, and any other relevant impact of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. The Secretary may exclude an area from critical habitat if he determines that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such area as part of the critical habitat, unless he determines, based on the best scientific data available, that the failure to designate such area as critical habitat will result in the extinction of the species. In making that determination, the statute on its face, as well as the legislative history, are clear that the Secretary has broad discretion regarding which factor(s) to use and how much weight to give to any factor. Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we may exclude an area from designated critical habitat based on economic impacts, impacts on national security, or any other relevant impacts. In considering whether to exclude a particular area from the designation, we identify the benefits of including the area in the designation, identify the benefits of excluding the area from the designation, and evaluate whether the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion. If the analysis indicates that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion, the VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 Secretary may exercise her discretion to exclude the area only if such exclusion would not result in the extinction of the species. Economic Impacts Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider the economic impacts of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. In order to consider economic impacts, we are preparing an analysis of the economic impacts of the proposed critical habitat designation and related factors. We will announce the availability of the draft economic analysis as soon as it is completed, at which time we will seek public review and comment. At that time, copies of the draft economic analysis will be available for downloading from the Internet at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http:// www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013–0040, or by contacting the Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office directly (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). During the development of a final designation, we will consider economic impacts based on information in our economic analysis, public comments, and other new information, and areas may be excluded from the final critical habitat designation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act and our implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.19. National Security Impacts Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider whether there are lands where a national security impact might exist. As discussed above, we have determined that the lands within the proposed designation of critical habitat for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola are not owned or managed by the Department of Defense, and, therefore, we anticipate no impact on national security. Consequently, the Secretary is not intending to exercise her discretion to exclude any areas from the final designation based on impacts on national security. Other Relevant Impacts Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider any other relevant impacts, in addition to economic impacts and impacts on national security. We consider a number of factors, including whether the landowners have developed any HCPs or other management plans for the area, or whether there are conservation partnerships that would be encouraged by designation of, or exclusion from, critical habitat. In addition, we look at any tribal issues, and consider the government-to- PO 00000 Frm 00073 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 government relationship of the United States with tribal entities. We also consider any social impacts that might occur because of the designation. In preparing this proposal, we have determined that there are currently no HCPs or other management plans for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, or Varronia rupicola. The proposed designation does not include any tribal lands or trust resources. We anticipate no impact on tribal lands, partnerships, or HCPs from this proposed critical habitat designation. Accordingly, the Secretary does not intend to exercise his discretion to exclude any areas from the final designation based on other relevant impacts. Peer Review In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert opinions of at least three appropriate and independent specialists regarding this proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure that our critical habitat designations are based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We have invited these peer reviewers to comment during this public comment period. We will consider all comments and information we receive during this comment period on this proposed rule during our preparation of a final determination. Accordingly, the final determination may differ from this proposal. Public Hearings Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for one or more public hearings on this proposal, if requested. Requests must be received within 45 days after the date of publication of this proposed rule in the Federal Register. Such requests must be sent to the address shown in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section. We will schedule public hearings on this proposal, if any are requested, and announce the dates, times, and places of those hearings, as well as how to obtain reasonable accommodations, in the Federal Register and local newspapers at least 15 days before the hearing. Required Determinations Regulatory Planning and Review— Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs will review all significant rules. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has determined that this rule is not significant. Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of Executive Order 12866 E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS while calling for improvements in the nation’s regulatory system to promote predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and consistent with regulatory objectives. Executive Order 13563 emphasizes further that regulations must be based on the best available science and that the rulemaking process must allow for public participation and an open exchange of ideas. We have developed this rule in a manner consistent with these requirements. Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA; 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 1996 (5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), whenever an agency must publish a notice of rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that describes the effects of the rule on small entities (small businesses, small organizations, and small government jurisdictions). However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of the agency certifies the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The SBREFA amended the RFA to require Federal agencies to provide a certification statement of the factual basis for certifying that the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. According to the Small Business Administration, small entities include small organizations such as independent nonprofit organizations; small governmental jurisdictions, including school boards and city and town governments that serve fewer than 50,000 residents; and small businesses (13 CFR 121.201). Small businesses include such businesses as manufacturing and mining concerns with fewer than 500 employees, wholesale trade entities with fewer than 100 employees, retail and service businesses with less than $5 million in annual sales, general and heavy construction businesses with less than $27.5 million in annual business, special trade contractors doing less than $11.5 million in annual business, and forestry and logging operations with fewer than 500 employees and annual VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 business less than $7 million. To determine whether small entities may be affected, we will consider the types of activities that might trigger regulatory impacts under this designation as well as types of project modifications that may result. In general, the term ‘‘significant economic impact’’ is meant to apply to a typical small business firm’s business operations. Importantly, the incremental impacts of a rule must be both significant and substantial to prevent certification of the rule under the RFA and to require the preparation of an initial regulatory flexibility analysis. If a substantial number of small entities are affected by the proposed critical habitat designation, but the per-entity economic impact is not significant, the Service may certify. Likewise, if the per-entity economic impact is likely to be significant, but the number of affected entities is not substantial, the Service may also certify. Under the RFA, as amended, and following recent court decisions, Federal agencies are only required to evaluate the potential incremental impacts of rulemaking on those entities directly regulated by the rulemaking itself, and not the potential impacts to indirectly affected entities. The regulatory mechanism through which critical habitat protections are realized is section 7 of the Act, which requires Federal agencies, in consultation with the Service, to ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried by the agency is not likely to adversely modify critical habitat. Therefore, only Federal action agencies are directly subject to the specific regulatory requirement (avoiding destruction and adverse modification) imposed by critical habitat designation. Under these circumstances, it is our position that only Federal action agencies would be directly regulated by this designation. Therefore, because Federal agencies are not small entities, the Service certifies that the proposed critical habitat rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. In conclusion, based on our interpretation of directly regulated entities under the RFA and relevant case law, this designation of critical habitat will only directly regulate Federal agencies, which are not by definition small business entities. As such, we certify that, if promulgated, this designation of critical habitat will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small business entities. Therefore, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required. PO 00000 Frm 00074 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 62545 Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use— Executive Order 13211 Executive Order 13211 (Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use) requires agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. Within one of the units, vegetation maintenance will occur along the edges of an existing road that remains accessible for power line maintenance. We do not anticipate any effects to critical habitat from this activity. Therefore, we do not expect the designation of this proposed critical habitat to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, or use. Thus, this action is not a significant energy action, and no Statement of Energy Effects is required. However, we will further evaluate this issue as we conduct our economic analysis, and review and revise this assessment as warranted. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.) In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.), we make the following findings: (1) This proposed rule would not produce a Federal mandate. In general, a Federal mandate is a provision in legislation, statute, or regulation that would impose an enforceable duty upon State, local, or tribal governments, or the private sector, and includes both ‘‘Federal intergovernmental mandates’’ and ‘‘Federal private sector mandates.’’ These terms are defined in 2 U.S.C. 658(5)–(7). ‘‘Federal intergovernmental mandate’’ includes a regulation that ‘‘would impose an enforceable duty upon State, local, or tribal governments’’ with two exceptions. It excludes ‘‘a condition of Federal assistance.’’ It also excludes ‘‘a duty arising from participation in a voluntary Federal program,’’ unless the regulation ‘‘relates to a then-existing Federal program under which $500,000,000 or more is provided annually to State, local, and tribal governments under entitlement authority,’’ if the provision would ‘‘increase the stringency of conditions of assistance’’ or ‘‘place caps upon, or otherwise decrease, the Federal Government’s responsibility to provide funding,’’ and the State, local, or tribal governments ‘‘lack authority’’ to adjust accordingly. At the time of enactment, these entitlement programs were: Medicaid; Aid to Families with Dependent Children work programs; Child Nutrition; Food Stamps; Social Services Block Grants; Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants; Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and Independent E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 62546 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Living; Family Support Welfare Services; and Child Support Enforcement. ‘‘Federal private sector mandate’’ includes a regulation that ‘‘would impose an enforceable duty upon the private sector, except (i) a condition of Federal assistance or (ii) a duty arising from participation in a voluntary Federal program.’’ The designation of critical habitat does not impose a legally binding duty on non-Federal Government entities or private parties. Under the Act, the only regulatory effect is that Federal agencies must ensure that their actions do not destroy or adversely modify critical habitat under section 7. While nonFederal entities that receive Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that otherwise require approval or authorization from a Federal agency for an action, may be indirectly impacted by the designation of critical habitat, the legally binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency. Furthermore, to the extent that non-Federal entities are indirectly impacted because they receive Federal assistance or participate in a voluntary Federal aid program, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act would not apply, nor would critical habitat shift the costs of the large entitlement programs listed above onto State governments. (2) We lack the available economic information to determine if a Small Government Agency Plan is required. Therefore, we defer this finding until completion of the draft economic analysis is prepared under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. Takings—Executive Order 12630 In accordance with Executive Order 12630 (Government Actions and Interference with Constitutionally Protected Private Property Rights), we will analyze the potential takings implications of designating critical habitat for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola in a takings implications assessment. The draft economic analysis will provide the foundation for us to use in preparing a takings implication assessment. Critical habitat designation does not affect landowner actions that do not require Federal funding or permits, nor does it preclude development of habitat conservation programs or issuance of incidental take permits to permit actions that do require Federal funding or permits to go forward. Federalism—Executive Order 13132 In accordance with Executive Order 13132 (Federalism), this proposed rule VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 does not have significant Federalism effects. A federalism impact summary statement is not required. In keeping with Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce policy, we requested information from, and coordinated development of, this proposed critical habitat designation with appropriate State resource agencies in St. Croix, USVI, and Puerto Rico. The designation of critical habitat in areas currently occupied by the Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola imposes no additional restrictions to those currently in place and, therefore, has little incremental impact on State and local governments and their activities. The designation may have some benefit to these governments because the areas that contain the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species are more clearly defined, and the elements of the features of the habitat necessary to the conservation of the species are specifically identified. This information does not alter where and what federally sponsored activities may occur. However, it may assist local governments in long-range planning (rather than having them wait for caseby-case section 7 consultations to occur). Where State and local governments require approval or authorization from a Federal agency for actions that may affect critical habitat, consultation under section 7(a)(2) would be required. While non-Federal entities that receive Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that otherwise require approval or authorization from a Federal agency for an action, may be indirectly impacted by the designation of critical habitat, the legally binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency. Civil Justice Reform—Executive Order 12988 In accordance with Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform), the Office of the Solicitor has determined that this rule does not unduly burden the judicial system and that it meets the requirements of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the Order. We are proposing to designate critical habitat in accordance with the provisions of the Act. To assist the public in understanding the habitat needs of the species, the rule identifies the elements of physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species. The areas of proposed critical habitat are presented on maps, and the rule provides several options for the interested public to obtain more detailed location information, if desired. PO 00000 Frm 00075 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.) This rule does not contain any new collections of information that require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). This rule will not impose recordkeeping or reporting requirements on State or local governments, individuals, businesses, or organizations. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) 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 the National Environmental Policy Act 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)). Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes In accordance with the President’s memorandum of April 29, 1994 (Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the Interior’s manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make information available to tribes. As discussed above, there are no tribal lands in Puerto Rico or St. Croix, USVI. Clarity of the Rule We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the Presidential Memorandum of June 1, E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules 1998, to write all rules in plain language. This means that each rule we publish must: (1) Be logically organized; (2) Use the active voice to address readers directly; (3) Use clear language rather than jargon; (4) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and (5) Use lists and tables wherever possible. If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. To better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc. References Cited A complete list of references cited in this rulemaking is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013– 0040 and upon request from the Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Authors The primary authors of this proposed rule are the staff members of the Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Transportation. VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 Proposed Regulation Promulgation Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below: 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. In § 17.96, amend paragraph (a) as follows: ■ a. By adding entries for Family Agavaceae, Family Boraginaceae, and Family Ericaceae, in alphabetical order; ■ b. By adding an entry for Agave eggersiana in alphabetical order under Family Agavaceae; ■ c. By adding an entry for Gonocalyx concolor in alphabetical order under Family Ericaceae; and ■ d. By adding an entry for Varronia rupicola in alphabetical order under Family Boraginaceae. The additions read as follows: ■ § 17.96 Critical habitat—plants. (a) Flowering plants. Family Agavaceae: Agave eggersiana (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for St. Croix, USVI, on the maps in this entry. (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements of the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of Agave eggersiana consist of these components: (i) Areas consisting of coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrublands. (A) Coastal cliff habitat includes: (1) Bare rock; and (2) Sparse vegetation. (B) Dry coastal shrubland habitat includes: PO 00000 Frm 00076 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 62547 (1) Dry forest structure; and (2) A plant community of predominately native vegetation. (ii) Well-drained soils from the series Cramer, Glynn, Hasselberg, Southgate, and Victory. (iii) Habitat of sufficient area to sustain viable populations in the coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrublands described in paragraphs (2)(i)(A) and (2)(i)(B) of this entry. (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as bridges, docks, aqueducts, and paved areas) and the land on which they are located existing within the legal boundaries on the effective date of this rule. (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining map units were created on a base of an aerial image (USCOE) and USFS–IITF Landcover GAP raster. Critical habitat units were then mapped using Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) North American Datum (NAD) 1983 Zone 20 N coordinates. The maps in this entry, as modified by any accompanying regulatory text, establish the boundaries of the critical habitat designation. The coordinates or plot points or both on which each map is based are available to the public at the Service’s Internet site at http:// www.fws.gov/caribbean/es, at http:// www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013–0040, and at the field office responsible for this designation. You may obtain field office location information by contacting one of the Service regional offices, the addresses of which are listed at 50 CFR 2.2. (5) Index map of critical habitat units for Agave eggersiana follows: BILLING CODE 4310–55–P E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 62548 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules Index Map of All Critical Habitat Units for Agave eggersiana Caribbean Sea Unit 6. East End North Unit 5. East End South Unit 3. Great Pond Unit 2. Manchenil Unit 1. Cane Garden ~~ - Coastline 0.75 -- tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 0 VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Frm 00077 Fmt 4702 1.5 Sfmt 4725 2 A 4.5 3 Miles Kilometers 4 E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 6 22OCP1 EP22OC13.000</GPH> 0 St. Croix, USVI N Mayor Roads Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules (6) Unit 1: Cane Garden, Estate Canegarden and Estate Peters Mindle, 62549 Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. Map of Unit 1 follows: Map for Unit 1 Cane Garden Critical Habitat for Agave eggersiana Canegarden Bay Halfpenney Bay Caribbean Sea N -'--, Mayor Roads - A Roads -Coastline Cntical Habitat __ -=:::JI_':=:=:=::J_ _ _ Kilometers tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS o VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Frm 00078 Fmt 4702 0,1 Sfmt 4725 0.2 0.4 E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 0,6 22OCP1 EP22OC13.001</GPH> St. Croix, USVI 62550 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules (7) Unit 2: Manchenil, Estate Granard, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. Map of Unit 2 follows: Map for Unit 2 Manchenil Critical Habitat for Agave eggersiana Ha!fpenney Bay Maru::henil Bay caribbean Sea N .'--" Mayor Roads A Roads -Coastline Critical Habitat oIIII:::::I_III::==::::J___ Miles 0.05 0.2 0.3 __ OJ __ -=::::1_':====::::1___ Kilometers tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS o VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Frm 00079 Fmt 4702 0.1 Sfmt 4725 0.2 0.4 E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 0.6 22OCP1 EP22OC13.002</GPH> 51. Croix, U5VI Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules 62551 (8) Unit 3: Great Pond, Estate Great Pond, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. Map of Unit 3 follows: Map for Unit 3 Great Pond Critical Habitat for Agave eggersiana Great Pond Bay ~-~ N Mayor Roads A - - Roads - Coastline Critical Habitat a tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS o VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Frm 00080 Fmt 4702 0.040.08 Sfmt 4725 0.16 E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 0_24 22OCP1 EP22OC13.003</GPH> St. Croix, USVI 0.03 0.06 0.12 0.18 _-==--========-___ Miles __ -==-_-======-___ Kilometers 62552 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules (9) Unit 4: Protestant Cay, Protestant Cay, St. Croix, USVI. Map of Unit 4 follows: Map for Unit 4 Protestant Cay Critical Habitat for Agave eggersiana Caribbean Sea - N Roads A -Coastline Critical Habitat a 0.03 0.06 0.12 0.18 _":::::'IIl::====____ Miles _-==--======-___ Kilometers tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS o VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Frm 00081 Fmt 4702 0.0450.09 Sfmt 4725 0.18 E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 0.27 22OCP1 EP22OC13.004</GPH> St. Croix, US"I Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules (10) Unit 5: East End South, Estate Jack’s Bay and Estate Issac’s Bay, Map 62553 Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. Map of Units 5 and 6 follows: Unit 5 End South and Unit 6 Critical Habitat for Agave 9a1'JerSI caribbean Sea Boiler Bay Cottongarden Bay Issac Bay Roads ~ N A -Roads -Coastline Critical Habitat o 0.1 0.2 0.4 0.6 _c::.-======-___ Miles St. Croix, USVI (11) Unit 6: East End North, Estate Cotton Garden, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. Map of Unit 6 is provided at paragraph (10) of this entry. * * * * * Family Boraginaceae: Varronia rupicola (1) Critical habitat units are depicted ´ for the municipalities of Guanica, ˜ Yauco, Guayanilla, Penuelas, Ponce, VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 0.15 0.3 and Vieques, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, on the maps in this entry. (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements of the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of Varronia rupicola consist of the following components: (i) Remnants of native shrubland and scrubland forest on limestone substrate within the subtropical dry forest life PO 00000 Frm 00082 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 0.6 zone. Dry shrubland and scrubland forest includes: (A) Shrubland vegetation with canopy from 6.5 to 9.8 ft (2 to 3 m) high; (B) Limestone pavement; (C) Associated native vegetation; and (D) A shrub layer dominated by Croton humilis, Eupatorium sinuatum, Lantana reticulata, and Turnera diffusa. E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 EP22OC13.005</GPH> tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS o Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS (ii) Semi-deciduous dry forest on limestone substrate within the subtropical dry forest life zone. Dry limestone semi-deciduous forest includes: (A) Low forest with canopy from 8 to 15 ft (3 to 5 m) high; (B) Limestone pavement; (C) Associated dry forest native vegetation; and (D) A shrub layer dominated by Croton humilis, Eupatorium sinuatum, Lantana reticulata, and Turnera diffusa. (iii) The type locations described paragraphs (2)(i) and (2)(ii) of this entry for this species should have shallow and alkaline soils derived from limestone VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 rock and an average rainfall of 34 in (86 cm). (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as houses, bridges, aqueducts, and paved areas) and the land on which they are located existing within the legal boundaries on the effective date of this rule. (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining map units were created on a base of an aerial image (ESRI image Basemap) and USFS–IITF Landcover GAP raster. Critical habitat units were then mapped using the Geographic Coordinate System-World Geodetic System (WGS) 1984 datum. The maps in this entry, as modified by any PO 00000 Frm 00083 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4725 accompanying regulatory text, establish the boundaries of the critical habitat designation. The coordinates or plot points or both on which each map is based are available to the public at the Service’s Internet site, http:// www.fws.gov/caribbean/es, at http:// www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013–0040, and at the field office responsible for this designation. You may obtain field office location information by contacting one of the Service regional offices, the addresses of which are listed at 50 CFR 2.2. (5) Index map of critical habitat units for Varronia rupicola follows: E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 EP22OC13.006</GPH> 62554 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules 62555 (6) Unit 1: Montalva, municipality of ´ Guanica, Puerto Rico. Map of Units 1, 2, 3, and 4 follows: Map of Critical Habitat Units for Varronia rupicola in southern Puerto Rico N Caribbean Sea A Legend ~ Main Roads - - Municipal Boundaries ... - - Coastline Montalva (U nit 1) [ ] Montes de Barin. (Unit 3) tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Puerto RICO VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Pe Ron de Ponce (U nit 4) Frm 00084 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4725 o -=:JI_-==-__-====-___ Kjjometers 7.5 10 __ 1.25 2.5 19,600 29,400 39200 __ 4,900 9,800 -==-_-==-___-====____ FeBt E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 EP22OC13.007</GPH> Guanica forest (Unit 2) 62556 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules Puerto Rico. Map of Unit 3 is provided at paragraph (6) of this entry. ˜ (9) Unit 4: Penon de Ponce, ˜ municipalities of Penuelas and Ponce, Puerto Rico. Map of Unit 4 is provided at paragraph (6) of this entry. (10) Unit 5: Punta Negra, municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Map of Units 5, 6, and 7 follows: (11) Unit 6: Puerto Ferro, municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Map of Unit 6 is provided at paragraph (10) of this entry. (12) Unit 7: Cerro Playuela, municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Map of Unit 7 is provided at paragraph (10) of this entry. * * * * * (B) Associated native vegetation dominated by species such as Tabebuia schumanniana, Tabebuia rigida, Ocotea spathulata, Eugenia borinquensis, Clusia minor, and Prestoea acuminata var. montana, native ferns, and dense cover with epiphytes, including bromeliads and mosses. (ii) Ausubo forest at elevations between 2,000 to 2,300 ft (620 to 720 m) in the Charco Azul, which includes: (A) Forest with single canopy layer with trees exceeding 22 ft (7 m) in height. (B) Plant association comprised by few species of native trees and associated native vegetation (e.g., Manilkara bidentata, Dacryodes excelsa, Guarea guidonia, and Cyrilla racemiflora), native ferns, and dense cover with epiphytes, including bromeliads and mosses. (iii) The type locations described in paragraphs (2)(i) and (2)(ii) of this entry for this species should have mean annual precipitation of 88.7 in (225.3 cm), mean annual temperature of 72.3 °F (22.7 °C), and Los Guineos type of soil (i.e., very deep, acidic, clayey, welldrained soils on side slopes of mountains). (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as bridges, docks, and aqueducts) and the land on which they are located existing within the legal boundaries on the effective date of this rule. (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining map units were created on a base of U.S. Geological Survey digital ortho-photo quarter-quadrangles, and critical habitat units were then mapped using aerial photos (ArcGis) to limits of the boundaries of the elfin forest and ausubo forest. Critical habitat units were then mapped using ArcMap version 10 (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.), a Geographic Information Systems program. The maps in this entry, as modified by any accompanying regulatory text, establish the boundaries of the critical habitat designation. The coordinates or plot points or both on which each map is tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Family Ericaceae: Gonocalyx concolor (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for the municipalities of Cayey, San Lorenzo, and Patillas, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, on the maps in this entry. (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements of the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of Gonocalyx concolor consist of these components: (i) Elfin forest at elevations over 2,900 ft (880 m) in Cerro La Santa, Puerto Rico, which includes: (A) Forest with single canopy layer with trees seldom exceeding 22 ft (7 m) in height. VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Frm 00085 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 EP22OC13.008</GPH> ´ (7) Unit 2: Guanica Commonwealth ´ Forest, municipalities of Guanica and Yauco, Puerto Rico. Map of Unit 2 is provided at paragraph (6) of this entry. (8) Unit 3: Montes de Barina, municipalities of Yauco and Guayanilla, Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules based are available to the public at the Service’s Internet site at http:// www.fws.gov/caribbean/es, at http:// www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013–0040, and at the field office responsible for this designation. You may obtain field office location information by contacting one of the Service regional offices, the 62557 addresses of which are listed at 50 CFR 2.2. (5) Index map of critical habitat units for Gonocalyx concolor follows: Index Map of An Critical Habitat Units for Gonocalyx concolor at the Carite Commonwealth Forest, Puerto Rico '. oe dePatlt,as G~(': :-.,0 ~ 0 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 0 VerDate Mar<15>2010 1.2 0125 0.25 0.5 075 Jkt 232001 Gonocalyx con color Critical Habitat Paved roads Unpaved roads 0.8 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 ~ G 0.4 0.2 '9 Kilometers 1.6 Boundary oftha Carite Commonwealth Forest Miles PO 00000 Topography contour line (meters) 1 Frm 00086 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 EP22OC13.009</GPH> L::0RiCO --- legend ."';... 62558 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules (6) Unit 1: Cerro La Santa, Carite Commonwealth Forest, Puerto Rico. Map of Unit 1 follows: Map for Unit 1 Cerro La Santa Critical Habitat for Gonocalyx concolor N W4iE s 800 Legend Gonocalyx concolor Critical Habitat Puerto Rico Paved roads UnpaVed roads Boundary oUlle CariteCommonwealth Forest = ___-=====-____ Miles __ __ -=::::J VerDate Mar<15>2010 0.035 0.07 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 0.14 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 021 Frm 00087 Topography contour line (meters) 028 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 EP22OC13.010</GPH> tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS o Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules 62559 (7) Unit 2: Charco Azul, Carite Commonwealth Forest, Puerto Rico. Map of Unit 2 follows: Map for Unit 2 Charco Azul Critical Habitat for Gonocalyx concolor N A w.y .. . E Carite Commonwealth Forest Legend Gonocalyx con color Critical Habitat Puerto Rico Paved roads Kilometers tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 0.5 0 0.015 0.15 VerDate Mar<15>2010 0. 125 0.25 0.75 0.3 0.45 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Boundary of the Carite Commonwealth Forest 1 Miles Topography contour line (meters) 0.6 Frm 00088 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1 EP22OC13.011</GPH> --- 0 Unpaved roads 62560 * * Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 204 / Tuesday, October 22, 2013 / Proposed Rules * * * Dated: September 9, 2013. Rachel Jacobson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish Wildlife and Parks. [FR Doc. 2013–24169 Filed 10–3–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–C DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013–0103; 4500030113] RIN 1018–AZ10 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Status for Agave eggersiana and Gonocalyx concolor, and Threatened Status for Varronia rupicola Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Executive Summary We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to list Agave eggersiana (no common name) and Gonocalyx concolor (no common name) as endangered species, and Varronia rupicola (no common name) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). These three plants are endemic to the Caribbean. The effect of this regulation, if finalized, would be to conserve A. eggersiana, G. concolor, and V. rupicola under the Act. DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before December 23, 2013. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by December 6, 2013. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods: (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R4–ES–2013–0103, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on ‘‘Comment Now!’’ (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:53 Oct 21, 2013 Jkt 232001 Processing, Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2013– 0103; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on http:// www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Information Requested section below for more information). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marelisa Rivera, Deputy Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, P.O. Box 491, Road 301 ´ Km. 5.1, Boqueron, PR 00622; by telephone 787–851–7297; or by facsimile 787–851–7440. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Act, if we intend to list a species as endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of its range, we are required to promptly publish a proposal in the Federal Register and make a final determination on our proposal within 1 year. Listing a species as an endangered or threatened species can only be completed by issuing a rule. Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola are candidate species for which we have on file sufficient information on biological vulnerability and threats to support preparation of a listing proposal, but for which development of a listing proposal has until now been precluded by other higher priority listing activities. This rule consists of a proposed rule to list Agave eggersiana and Gonocalyx concolor as endangered, and Varronia rupicola as threatened. This proposed rule reassesses all available information regarding the status of and threats to A. eggersiana, G. concolor, and V. rupicola. Elsewhere in today’s Federal Register, we propose to designate critical habitat for A. eggersiana, G. concolor, and V. rupicola under the Act. The basis for our action. Under the Act, we may 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 PO 00000 Frm 00089 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. We have determined that listing is warranted for these species, which are currently at risk throughout all of their respective ranges due to threats related to: • A. eggersiana—potential future development for residential, urban, and tourist use; agriculture use; dropping of debris; competing nonnative plants; fires; predation; and disease cause by insects (weevils). • G. concolor—installation or expansion of telecommunication towers, road improvement, vegetation management, and small number of individuals and populations. • V. rupicola—loss of habitat due to urban development, right-of-way development and maintenance, deforestation, and hurricanes; and inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms (lack of enforcement). We will seek peer review. We are seeking comments from knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise to review our analysis of the best available science and application of that science and to provide any additional information to improve this proposed rule. Because we will consider all comments and information we receive during the comment period, our final determinations may differ from this proposal. Information Requested We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information from other concerned governmental agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning: (1) The biology, range, and population trends of A. eggersiana, G. concolor, and V. rupicola, including: (a) Habitat requirements for feeding, reproducing, and sheltering; (b) Genetics and taxonomy; (c) Historical and current range, including distribution patterns; (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and projected trends; and (e) Past and ongoing conservation measures for these species, their habitat, or both. (2) The factors that are the basis for making a listing determination for these E:\FR\FM\22OCP1.SGM 22OCP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 204 (Tuesday, October 22, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 62529-62560]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-24169]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2013-0040; 4500030114]
RIN 1018-AZ79


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of 
Critical Habitat for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia 
rupicola

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to 
designate critical habitat for three Caribbean plants, Agave 
eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola, under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The effect of this 
rule, if it is made final, would be to conserve habitat for these three 
Caribbean plants under the Act.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
December 23, 2013. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) must be received by 
11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We must receive requests 
for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT by December 6, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R4-ES-2013-0040, 
which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search 
panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, 
click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may 
submit a comment by clicking on ``Comment Now!''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2013-0040; Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described 
above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide 
us (see the

[[Page 62530]]

Information Requested section below for more information).
    The coordinates or plot points or both from which the critical 
habitat maps are generated are included in the administrative record 
for this rulemaking and are available at http://www.fws.gov/caribbean/es, at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2013-0040, 
and at the Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT). Any additional tools or supporting information 
that we may develop for this rulemaking will also be available at the 
Fish and Wildlife Service Web site and Field Office set out above, and 
may also be included at http://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marelisa Rivera, Deputy Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological 
Services Field Office, P.O. Box 491, Road 301 Km. 5.1, Boquer[oacute]n, 
PR 00622; by telephone (787) 851-7297; or by facsimile (787) 851-7440. 
Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call 
the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Executive Summary

    Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Act, the Service shall 
designate critical habitat for any species or subspecies that is 
determined to be an endangered or threatened species, to the maximum 
extent prudent and determinable. Designations of critical habitat can 
only be completed by issuing a rule. Elsewhere in today's Federal 
Register, we propose to list Agave eggersiana and Gonocalyx concolor as 
endangered species, and Varronia rupicola as a threatened species, 
under the Act.
    This rule consists of a proposed rule to designate critical habitat 
for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola under 
the Act. Specifically, we propose to:
     Designate approximately 50.6 acres (ac) (20.5 hectares 
(ha)) of critical habitat for A. eggersiana in St. Croix, United States 
Virgin Islands (USVI).
     Designate approximately 198 ac (80.1 ha) for G. concolor 
in Puerto Rico.
     Designate approximately 6,547 ac (2,648 ha) for V. 
rupicola in southern Puerto Rico and Vieques Island.
    The basis for our action. Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, that 
the Secretary shall designate critical habitat on the basis of the best 
available scientific data after taking into consideration the economic 
impact, national security impact, and any other relevant impact of 
specifying any particular area as critical habitat. The Secretary may 
exclude an area from critical habitat if he determines that the 
benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such 
area as part of the critical habitat, unless she determines, based on 
the best scientific data available, that the failure to designate such 
area as critical habitat will result in the extinction of the species.
    We will seek peer review. We are seeking comments from 
knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise to review our 
analysis of the best available science and application of that science 
and to provide any additional scientific information to improve this 
proposed rule. Because we will consider all comments and information we 
receive during the comment period, our final designations may differ 
from this proposal.

Information Requested

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule 
will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request 
comments or information from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, 
or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. We 
particularly seek comments concerning:
    (1) The reasons why we should or should not designate habitat as 
``critical habitat'' under section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.), including whether there are threats to the species from human 
activity, the degree of which can be expected to increase due to the 
designation, and whether that increase in threats outweighs the benefit 
of designation such that the designation of critical habitat is not 
prudent.
    (2) Specific information on:
    (a) The amount and distribution of Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx 
concolor, and Varronia rupicola (which we refer to collectively as the 
three Caribbean plants) and their habitat;
    (b) What areas, that were occupied at the time of listing (or are 
currently occupied) and that contain features essential to the 
conservation of the species, should be included in the designation and 
why;
    (c) Special management considerations or protection that may be 
needed in critical habitat areas we are proposing, including managing 
for the potential effects of climate change; and
    (d) What areas not occupied at the time of listing are essential 
for the conservation of the species and why.
    (3) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the 
areas occupied by the species or proposed to be designated as critical 
habitat, and possible impacts of these activities on this species and 
proposed critical habitat.
    (4) Information on the projected and reasonably likely impacts of 
climate change on the three Caribbean plants and proposed critical 
habitat.
    (5) Any foreseeable economic, national security, or other relevant 
impacts that may result from designating any area that may be included 
in the final designation. We are particularly interested in any impacts 
on small entities, and the benefits of including or excluding areas 
from the proposed designation that are subject to these impacts.
    (6) Whether any specific areas we are proposing for critical 
habitat designation should be considered for exclusion under section 
4(b)(2) of the Act, and whether the benefits of potentially excluding 
any specific area outweigh the benefits of including that area under 
section 4(b)(2) of the Act.
    (7) Whether we could improve or modify our approach to designating 
critical habitat in any way to provide for greater public participation 
and understanding, or to better accommodate public concerns and 
comments.
    Include sufficient information with your submission (such as 
scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to 
verify any scientific or commercial information you include.
    Note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to 
the action under consideration without providing supporting 
information, although noted, will not be considered in making a 
determination, as section 4(b)(2) of the Act directs that 
determinations as to whether to designated critical habitat for any 
listed species must be made ``on the basis of the best scientific and 
commercial data available.''
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. We request 
that you send comments only by the methods described in the ADDRESSES 
section. We will post your entire comment--including your personal 
identifying information--on http://www.regulations.gov. You may request 
at the top of your document that we withhold personal information such 
as your street address, phone number, or email address from public 
review;

[[Page 62531]]

however, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Previous Federal Actions

    All previous Federal actions are described in the proposal to list 
the Agave eggersiana and Gonocalyx concolor as endangered species, and 
Varronia rupicola as a threatened species, which is published elsewhere 
in today's Federal Register.

Background

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as:
    (1) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the 
species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which 
are found those physical or biological features:
    (a) Essential to the conservation of the species, and
    (b) Which may require special management considerations or 
protection; and
    (2) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the 
species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas 
are essential for the conservation of the species.
    Conservation, as defined under section 3 of the Act, means to use 
and the use of all methods and procedures that are necessary to bring 
an endangered or threatened species to the point at which the measures 
provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary. Such methods and 
procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated 
with scientific resources management such as research, census, law 
enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live 
trapping, and transplantation, and, in the extraordinary case where 
population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise 
relieved, may include regulated taking.
    Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the Act 
through the requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation 
with the Service, that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is 
not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of 
critical habitat. The designation of critical habitat does not affect 
land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or 
other conservation area. Such designation does not allow the government 
or public to access private lands. Such designation does not require 
implementation of restoration, recovery, or enhancement measures by 
non-Federal landowners. Where a landowner requests Federal agency 
funding or authorization for an action that may affect a listed species 
or critical habitat, the consultation requirements of section 7(a)(2) 
of the Act would apply, but even in the event of a destruction or 
adverse modification finding, the obligation of the Federal action 
agency and the landowner is not to restore or recover the species, but 
to implement reasonable and prudent alternatives to avoid destruction 
or adverse modification of critical habitat.
    Under the first prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
it was listed are included in a critical habitat designation if they 
contain physical or biological features (1) essential to the 
conservation of the species, and (2) which may require special 
management considerations or protection. For these areas, critical 
habitat designations identify, to the extent known using the best 
scientific and commercial data available, those physical or biological 
features essential to the conservation of the species (such as space, 
food, cover, and protected habitat). In identifying those physical or 
biological features within an area, we focus on the principal 
biological or physical constituent elements (primary constituent 
elements such as roost sites, nesting grounds, seasonal wetlands, water 
quality, tide, soil type) that are essential to the conservation of the 
species. Primary constituent elements are those specific elements of 
the physical or biological features that provide for a species' life-
history processes and are essential to the conservation of the species.
    Under the second prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
we can designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographic area 
occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a determination 
that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species. For 
example, an area currently occupied by the species but that was not 
occupied at the time of listing may be essential to the conservation of 
the species and may be included in the critical habitat designation. We 
designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographic area 
occupied by a species only when a designation limited to its range 
would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species.
    Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat on 
the basis of the best scientific data available. Further, our Policy on 
Information Standards under the Endangered Species Act (published in 
the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271)), the Information 
Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and General Government 
Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 106-554; H.R. 5658)), 
and our associated Information Quality Guidelines, provide criteria, 
establish procedures, and provide guidance to ensure that our decisions 
are based on the best scientific data available. They require our 
biologists, to the extent consistent with the Act and with the use of 
the best scientific data available, to use primary and original sources 
of information as the basis for recommendations to designate critical 
habitat.
    When we are determining which areas should be designated as 
critical habitat, our primary source of information is generally the 
information developed during the listing process for the species. 
Additional information sources may include the recovery plan for the 
species, articles in peer-reviewed journals, conservation plans 
developed by States and counties, scientific status surveys and 
studies, biological assessments, other unpublished materials, or 
experts' opinions or personal knowledge.
    Habitat is dynamic, and species may move from one area to another 
over time. Climate change will be a particular challenge for 
biodiversity because the interaction of additional stressors associated 
with climate change and current stressors may push species beyond their 
ability to survive (Lovejoy 2005, pp. 325-326). The synergistic 
implications of climate change and habitat fragmentation are the most 
threatening facet of climate change for biodiversity (Hannah and 
Lovejoy 2005, p. 4). Current climate change predictions for terrestrial 
areas in the Northern Hemisphere indicate warmer air temperatures, more 
intense precipitation events, and increased summer continental drying 
(Field et al. 1999, pp. 1-3; Hayhoe et al. 2004, p. 12422; Cayan et al. 
2005, p. 6; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007, p. 
1181). Climate change may lead to increased frequency and duration of 
severe storms and droughts (Golladay et al. 2004, p. 504; McLaughlin et 
al. 2002, p. 6074; Cook et al. 2004, p. 1015).

[[Page 62532]]

    We recognize that critical habitat designated at a particular point 
in time may not include all of the habitat areas that we may later 
determine are necessary for the recovery of the species. For these 
reasons, a critical habitat designation does not signal that habitat 
outside the designated area is unimportant or may not be needed for 
recovery of the species. Areas that are important to the conservation 
of a listed species, both inside and outside the critical habitat 
designation, will continue to be subject to: (1) Conservation actions 
implemented under section 7(a)(1) of the Act, (2) regulatory 
protections afforded by the requirement in section 7(a)(2) of the Act 
for Federal agencies to ensure their actions are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened 
species, and (3) section 9 of the Act's prohibitions on taking any 
individual of the species, including taking caused by actions that 
affect habitat. Federally funded or permitted projects affecting listed 
species outside their designated critical habitat areas may still 
result in jeopardy findings in some cases. Similarly, critical habitat 
designations made on the basis of the best available information at the 
time of designation will not control the direction and substance of 
future recovery plans, habitat conservation plans (HCPs), or other 
species conservation planning efforts if new information available at 
the time of these planning efforts calls for a different outcome.

Prudency Determination

    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and its implementing 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12) require that, to the maximum extent prudent 
and determinable, the Secretary designate critical habitat at the time 
the species is determined to be an endangered or threatened species. 
Our regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)) state that the designation of 
critical habitat is not prudent when one or both of the following 
situations exist:
    (1) The species is threatened by taking or other human activity, 
and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the 
degree of threat to the species, or
    (2) Such designation of critical habitat would not be beneficial to 
the species.
    There is currently no imminent threat of take attributed to 
collection or vandalism (see the discussion under Factor B in the 
proposed listing rule, which is published elsewhere in today's Federal 
Register) for Gonocalyx concolor and Varronia rupicola. Although there 
may be a possible immediate threat of take attributed to collection or 
vandalism for Agave eggersiana, the identification and mapping of 
critical habitat is not expected to intensify the threat to A. 
eggersiana. We have no evidence that collection or vandalism is a 
current threat to A. eggersiana. Even if we did, general agave 
locations are already published on the web, so publication of location 
information in connection with this proposed designation should not 
intensify such a threat.
    In the absence of a finding that the designation of critical 
habitat would increase threats to a species, if there are any benefits 
to a critical habitat designation, then we may find that such 
designation is prudent. Here, the potential benefits of designation 
include: (1)Triggering consultation under section 7 of the Act, in new 
areas for actions in which there may be a Federal nexus where it would 
not otherwise occur because, for example, it is or has become 
unoccupied or the occupancy is in question; (2) focusing conservation 
activities on the most essential features and areas; (3) providing 
educational benefits to State or county governments or private 
entities; and (4) preventing people from causing inadvertent harm to 
the species.
    Therefore, because we have determined that the designation of 
critical habitat would not likely increase the degree of threat to the 
species and may provide some measure of benefit, we find that 
designation of critical habitat is prudent for Agave eggersiana, 
Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola.

Critical Habitat Determinability

    Having determined that designation is prudent, under section 
4(a)(3) of the Act, we must find whether critical habitat for the three 
Caribbean plants is determinable. Our regulations at 50 CFR 
424.12(a)(2) state that critical habitat is not determinable if 
information sufficient to perform required analyses of the impacts of 
the designation is lacking, or the biological needs of the species are 
not sufficiently well known to permit identification of an area as 
critical habitat.
    We reviewed the available information pertaining to the biological 
needs of the species and habitat characteristics where the species are 
located. This and other information represent the best scientific data 
available and have led us to conclude that the designation of critical 
habitat is determinable for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and 
Varronia rupicola.

Physical or Biological Features

    In accordance with section 3(5)(A)(i) and 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act and 
regulations at 50 CFR 424.12, in determining which areas within the 
geographic area occupied by the species at the time of listing to 
designate as critical habitat, we consider the physical or biological 
features (PBFs) that are essential to the conservation of the species 
and which may require special management considerations or protection. 
These include, but are not limited to:
    (1) Space for individual and population growth and for normal 
behavior;
    (2) Food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or 
physiological requirements;
    (3) Cover or shelter;
    (4) Sites for breeding, reproduction, or rearing (or development) 
of offspring; and
    (5) Habitats that are protected from disturbance or are 
representative of the historical, geographic, and ecological 
distributions of a species.
    We derive the specific physical or biological features required for 
the three Caribbean plants from studies and observations of the three 
species' habitat, ecology, and life history as described below. 
Unfortunately, little is known of the specific habitat requirements for 
the three Caribbean plants. To identify the physical and biological 
needs of the species, we have relied on current conditions at locations 
where the three species exist and the limited information available for 
these species.

Space for Individual and Population Growth and for Normal Behavior

Agave eggersiana

    Agave eggersiana is endemic to the island of St. Croix, USVI. The 
species is found growing in the subtropical dry forest zone, which 
covers about 72 percent of the surface of St. Croix. The variables used 
to delineate any given life zone are defined by mean annual 
precipitation and mean annual bio-temperature (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, 
p. 2), and are characterized by an association of animals and plants 
(Mac et al. 1998, p. 317). Subtropical dry forests are lowland semi-
deciduous and lowland drought deciduous forest. The vegetation in this 
life zone usually consists of a nearly continuous, single-layered 
canopy, with little ground cover. Tree heights usually do not exceed 49 
feet (ft) (15 meters (m)) and crowns are typically broad, spreading, 
and flattened (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 10).

[[Page 62533]]

    Dry forest structure is greatly influenced by wind, salt spray and 
the presence of fresh water. Some of the native tree species that are 
common in subtropical dry forest in the USVI are Bursera simaruba (L.) 
Sarg. (gumbo limbo), Amyris elemifera L. (torch wood), Capparis 
cynophallophora L. (Jamaican caper), Cordia rickseckeri Millsp. (black 
manjack), Pisonia subcordata Sw. (water mampoo), Plumeria alba L. 
(white frangipani), and Pictetia aculeata (Vahl) Urban (fustic) 
(Brandeis and Oswalt, 2007, p. 13; Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 16; 
Chakroff 2010, p. 8).
    Plant communities where Agave eggersiana occurs are coastal cliffs 
with sparse or no vegetation and coastal shrubland areas. The plant 
community in these areas is predominately native vegetation and either 
no competitive, nonnative, invasive plant species or such species in 
quantities low enough to have minimal effects on the survival of A. 
eggersiana. These communities and their associated native plant species 
are provided in the Status Assessment for A. eggersiana (see Habitat 
section of our proposed listing rule, which is published elsewhere in 
today's Federal Register).
    Therefore, based on the above information, we identify the 
vegetation composition areas (e.g., dry coastal cliffs and dry 
shrubland) as an essential physical or biological feature for this 
species.

Gonocalyx concolor

    Gonocalyx concolor is a Puerto Rican endemic plant species that has 
been found growing only in the elfin and ausubo (Manilkara bidentata) 
forests within the Carite Commonwealth Forest, which lies within the 
municipalities of Cayey, Patillas, and San Lorenzo in east-central 
Puerto Rico. Zonation of forests within montane habitats on tropical 
islands is condensed into a narrow altitudinal range (Weaver et al. 
1986, p. 79). Both the elfin and ausubo forests are within the 
subtropical lower montane very wet forest life zone and have similar 
climate conditions (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 32).
    The elfin forest is found on exposed peaks and ridges of Cerro La 
Santa, above 2,900 ft (880 m) in elevation from sea level, occupying 
approximately 24.9 acres (ac) (10.1 hectares (ha)) in the Carite 
Commonwealth Forest (Silander et al. 1986, p. 178). The elfin forest 
vegetation is characterized by gnarled trees less than 7 meters tall, 
high basal area, small diameters, a large number of stems per unit 
area, and extremely slow growth rates (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 45). 
The vegetation is commonly saturated with moisture, frequently 
enveloped in clouds, and both aerial and superficial roots are common 
(Weaver et al. 1986, p. 79). The plant association in this area is 
generally comprised by few species of native trees and native ferns, 
and is dense with epiphytes, including bromeliads and mosses (Weaver et 
al. 1986, p. 79). The native tree composition includes: Tabebuia 
schumanniana (roble colorado), Tabebuia rigida (roble de sierra), 
Ocotea spathulata (nemoca cimarrona), Eugenia borinquensis (guayabota), 
Clusia minor (cupey de monte), and Prestoea acuminata var. montana 
(sierra palm) (Weaver et al. 1986, p. 80; Silander et al. 1986, p. 
191). Additionally, some areas were planted with Eucalyptus robusta (O. 
Monsegur, UPRM, unpublished data, 2006).
    The ausubo forest is only found along the Rio Grande de Patillas 
River basin and intermittent streams between 2,000 ft (620 m) and 2,300 
ft (720 m) of elevation (DNR 1976, p. 169); occupying approximately 
179.2 ac (72.5 ha) in the Charco Azul area within the Carite 
Commonwealth Forest (Silander et al. 1986, p.190). The ausubo forest is 
characterized by evergreen vegetation, high species richness, rapid 
growth rate of successional trees, epiphytic ferns, bromeliads, and 
orchids (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 32). The vegetation in this area is 
generally comprised of native trees (i.e., Manilkara bidentata 
(ausubo), Dacryodes excelsa (tabonuco), Guarea guidonia (guaraguao), 
and Cyrilla racemiflora (swamp titi)) (Francis and Lowe 2000, p. 345; 
DNER 2008, p. 2).
    Gonocalyx concolor has been found growing on the canopy of the 
tallest tree areas, growing on tree trunks (epiphytic), clambering 
(using other vegetation as support), and laying on the litter in the 
forest floor (C. Pacheco and O. Monsegur, Service, unpublished report, 
2013, p. 3). The life history of this species has not been studied; 
however, it seems that the elfin and the ausubo forests provide space 
for individuals and population growth of G. concolor. Furthermore, the 
climate in these forests appears to support the normal behavior, 
growth, and viability of G. concolor during most of its life stages; 
suggesting the species may be a dwell obligate of these types of 
habitat, as it has not been found elsewhere. Changes in temperature, 
humidity, and solar insolation result in changes in habitat condition 
and vegetation composition, with serious effects on G. concolor. (See 
the Summary of Factors Affecting the Species section of our proposed 
listing rule, which is published elsewhere in today's Federal 
Register).
    Therefore, based on the above information, we identify the 
vegetation composition found in the elfin and the ausubo forests as an 
essential physical or biological feature for this species.

Varronia rupicola

    Varronia rupicola is a Puerto Rican bank (biogeographical area) 
endemic that grows within the subtropical dry forest life zone 
overlying a limestone substrate (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 72). The 
Puerto Rican bank is a geographical unit that includes the main island 
of Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, the USVI (excluding St. Croix), and 
the Island of Anegada. In Puerto Rico, this life zone is mainly located 
on the south coast extending 74 miles (mi) (120 kilometers (km)) from 
the Municipality of Cabo Rojo to the Municipality of Guayama, and to 
the eastern of Puerto Rico, including the Island of Vieques (Ewel and 
Whitmore 1973, p. 72; Murphy and Lugo 1986, p. 89).
    The species has been recorded in forested hills with open to 
relatively dense scrub and shrub lands 6.5 to 9.8 ft (2 to 3 m) in 
height; in low forest with canopy from 8 to 15 ft (3 to 5 m) high; and 
at the edge of a dense, low, coastal shrubland and forest. Varronia 
rupicola is associated with dry forest native vegetation dominated by 
Gymnanthes lucida (shiny oysterwood, or yait[iacute]), Exostema 
caribaeum (princewood, or albarillo), Pisonia albida (corcho), Pictetia 
aculeata (fustic, or tachuelo), Thouinia portoricensis (ceboruquillo, 
or serrazuela), Coccoloba krugii (whitewood), Pilosocereus royenii 
(Royen's tree cactus, or sebuc[aacute]n), Bursera simaruba (gumbo 
limbo, or almacigo), Erithalis fruticosa (black torch), Guettarda 
krugii (frogwood, or cucubano), Tabebuia heterophylla (pink trumpet 
tree, or roble), Hypelate trifoliata (inkwood), Coccoloba diversifolia 
(pigeonplum, or uvilla), Cassine xylocarpa (marbletree, or 
coscorr[oacute]n), Krugiodendron ferreum (black ironwood, or palo de 
hierro), Jacquinia berterii (barkwood), Bourreria succulenta 
(strongbark, or palo de vaca), Crossopetalum rhacoma (maidenberry, or 
pico de paloma), Antirhea acutata (placa chiquitu, or quina), and 
Amyris elemifera (torchwood).
    In the island of Anegada (British Virgin Islands), Varronia 
rupicola was found in open limestone pavement and sand dunes. During a 
recent study in this Island, the species was found in higher abundance 
(based on percentage occurrence across plots) on limestone, but also 
widespread within the sand dunes (Clubbe et al. 2004, p. 344).

[[Page 62534]]

    Therefore, based on the above information, we identify remnants of 
scrubland and shrubland forest that occurs within the subtropical dry 
forest life zone overlying limestone substrate as an essential physical 
or biological feature for this species.

Food, Water, Air, Light, Minerals, or Other Nutritional or 
Physiological Requirements

Agave eggersiana

    The island of St. Croix, USVI, is located in the Caribbean, where 
the warm sea stabilizes air temperatures and diurnal temperature 
changes approximate annual fluctuations. The mean annual temperature of 
the region at sea level is lower than 75 degrees Fahrenheit ([deg]F) 
(24 degrees Celsius ([deg]C)). This subtropical climate results from 
the location of St. Croix at the lower limit of the tropical region 
(Ewel and Whitmore 1973 p. 8; Mac et al. 1998, p. 315).
    The island of St. Croix has easterly trade winds of 15 miles per 
hour (24 kilometers per hour) or more, which keep the humidity 
relatively low (Chakroff 2010, p. 7). This island is much drier than 
most of the Greater Antilles, averaging 40 inches (in) (102 centimeters 
(cm)) of rain in the west, and about 30 in (76 cm) in the east. Rain 
usually comes in the form of brief tropical showers. The wettest and 
hottest months are July to October. Hurricane season falls within these 
same months, with September being the most active for tropical storms. 
The USVI have been hit by four major hurricanes in recent years: Hugo 
(1989), Luis and Marilyn (1995), Lenny (1999), and Omar (2008) (Mac et 
al. 1998, p. 316; Chakroff 2010, p. 7; http://www.srh.noaa.gov/sju/?n=mean_annual_precipitation2). The average mid-island temperature is 
78.8 [deg]F (26 [deg]C), with a variation of only 5 to 9 [deg]F (3 to 5 
[deg]C) between the warmest and coolest months (Mac et al. 1998, p. 
316). This type of climate regime regulates the dry forest structure 
conditions necessary for the establishment of the species.
    Soils substrates supporting Agave eggersiana for anchoring or 
nutrient absorption vary depending on the habitat and location. The 
natural populations of A. eggersiana grow on top of various soil 
classifications. Cramer, Glynn, Hasselberg, Southgate, and Victory 
series are among the ones where the species can be found. The general 
description of the soils mentioned above are provided in the Status 
Assessment for A. eggersiana (see Habitat section of our proposed 
listing rule, which is published elsewhere in today's Federal 
Register). The soils are all well-drained, and although there are rainy 
months, the ground does not retain excess water and change the 
vegetation of the dry forest structure.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the dry 
climate regime that regulates the dry forest structure and the well-
drained soils of Cramer, Glynn, Hasselberg, Southgate, and Victory 
series to be physical or biological features for this species.

Gonocalyx concolor

    The variables used to delineate any given life zone are mean annual 
precipitation and mean annual temperature. The life zones and 
associations of which they are comprised only define the potential 
vegetation or range of vegetation types that might be found in an area 
(Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 5). The mean annual precipitation at the 
Carite Commonwealth Forest is 88.7 in (225.3 cm), with February to 
April the drier months (NOAA 2013, http://www.srh.noaa.gov/sju/?n=climo_cayey). The mean temperature is 72.3 [deg]F (22.7 [deg]C), 
varying from 68 [deg]F (20 [deg]C) in January to 73 [deg]F (24 [deg]C) 
in July (Silander et al. 1986, p.183).
    The Carite Commonwealth Forest is underlain by volcanic-sedimentary 
rock (DNR 1976, p. 168). The forest topography is rough and highly 
dissected by intermittent streams, with steep slopes ranging from 20 to 
60 percent. The forest's soil is primarily comprised by Los Guineos 
complex (Silander et al. 1986, p. 179). Los Guineos soils were formed 
from residuum gathering from sandstone parental material and consist of 
very deep, acidic, clayey, well-drained soils on side slopes of 
mountains (NRCS 2013, p. 11). This type of soil occupies more than 80 
percent (5,860.1 ac (2,371.5 ha)) of the Carite Commonwealth Forest, at 
elevations from 1,900 ft (580 m) to 3,000 ft (900 m) from sea level 
(Silander et al. 1986, p. 179).
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify mean annual 
precipitation of 88.7 in (225.3 cm), mean annual temperature of 72.3 
[deg]F (22.7 [deg]C), and Los Guineos type of soil (i.e., very deep, 
acidic, clayey, well-drained soils on side slopes of mountains) to be 
physical or biological features for this species.

Varronia rupicola

    Like Agave eggersiana, Varronia rupicola occurs within the 
subtropical dry forest life zone (sensu Holdridge 1967). Moisture 
availability as a function of shallow soils plus low rainfall and its 
seasonality determines the forest productivity, growth characteristics, 
water loss, and physiognomy in subtropical dry forest life zones where 
temperature tends to be constant throughout the year (Lugo et al. 1978, 
p. 278). Average rainfall for the Gu[aacute]nica Forest (important area 
for the species in Puerto Rico) is 860 mm (Lugo et al. 1996, p. 2).
    The majority of the suitable habitat and known populations of 
Varronia rupicola in Puerto Rico lie within the Ponce limestone 
formation, a Mid-Tertiary pink to white, fine-grain limestone (Lugo et 
al. 1996, p. 2). In Puerto Rico, this formation extends from the 
western end of the Gu[aacute]nica Commonwealth Forest, east toward the 
Municipality of Ponce (El Tuque). The soils at the Gu[aacute]nica 
Forest are described as shallow, alkaline, and derived from limestone 
rock (Molina and Lugo 2006, p. 355). According to Murphy and Lugo 
(1986, p. 56), these soils are nutrient-rich, but only a small fraction 
of the total phosphate and potassium is readily available. These soil 
factors increase the effects of low rainfall and its seasonality on the 
vegetation.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify shallow and 
alkaline soils derived from limestone rock and an average rainfall of 
34 in (86 cm) to be physical or biological features for this species.

Cover or Shelter

Agave eggersiana

    Agave eggersiana occurs in open canopy and open understory habitats 
and thrives in areas of full sun exposure (O. Monsegur and M. Vargas, 
Service, pers. obs. 2010 and 2013). The coastal shrublands typically 
show a low canopy, ranging from 3.2 to 16.4 ft (1 to 5 m) (Moser et al. 
2010, Appendix A, p. 8-11; O. Monsegur and M. Vargas, Service, pers. 
obs. 2013). In areas where native species remains dominant and 
nonnatives have not occupied the understory, these coastal shrublands 
provide suitable habitat for the natural recruitment of A. eggersiana. 
In addition, the bare rock of coastal cliffs seems to provide an 
ecological niche for A. eggersiana. Once the species gets established 
on cliff areas, it may become dominant as observed on the South Shore 
(Cane Garden) population. Therefore, based on the information above, we 
identify open cover habitats (e.g., open canopy or open understory) to 
be physical or biological features for this species.

[[Page 62535]]

Gonocalyx concolor

    Very little is known about habitat parameters specifically relating 
to cover or shelter for Gonocalyx concolor. In remnants and late 
successional vegetation of elfin forest, the species is normally found 
growing as epiphytic and clambering on dead and live stand trees, and 
crawling over the forest floor (C. Pacheco and O. Monsegur, Service, 
unpublished data, 2013). In the ausubo forest, this species has been 
described growing only as epiphytic and clambering on dead and live 
stand trees (O. Monsegur, unpublished data, 2006). Both types of forest 
show a single canopy layer that seldom exceeds 22 ft (7 m) in height. 
Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the remnants and 
late successional vegetation of elfin and ausubo forests with a single 
canopy layer of about 22 ft (7 m) in height to be physical or 
biological features for this species.

Varronia rupicola

    This species has been recorded in forested hills with open to 
relatively dense shrublands ranging between 6.5 to 9.8 ft (2 to 3 m) in 
height; in low forest with canopy from 8 to 15 ft (3 to 5 m) high; and 
at the edge of a dense, low, coastal shrubland and forest. On the 
island of Anegada, the species is located on open limestone pavement 
and sand dunes. Despite the species' preference for gaps, it remains 
associated to remnants of native forest.
    In a recent study at Anegada, Varronia rupicola was found in higher 
abundance (based on percentage occurrence across plots) on limestone, 
but also widespread within the sand dunes (Clubbe et al. 2004, p. 344). 
This kind of forest structure provides protection against environmental 
variation and stochastic events, allowing the species to recover 
without compromising population numbers. The species is associated to 
remnants of native dry forest vegetation. At the Gu[aacute]nica 
Commonwealth Forest, the most abundant species are Gymnanthes lucida, 
Exostema caribaeum, Pisonia albida, Pictetia aculeata, Thouinia 
portoricensis, Coccoloba krugii, and Pilosocereus royenii (Murphy and 
Lugo 1986, p. 91). These species account for 50 percent of the 
importance value (abundance) within the forest and characterize the 
Deciduous Forest and Scrub Forest vegetation described by Murphy et al. 
(1995, p. 187). Other dominant species within the V. rupicola habitat 
include Bursera simaruba, Erithalis fruticosa, Guettarda krugii, 
Tabebuia heterophylla, Hypelate trifoliata, Coccoloba diversifolia, 
Cassine xylocarpa, Krugiodendron ferreum, Jacquinia berterii, Bourreria 
succulenta, Crossopetalum rhacoma, Antirhea acutata, and Amyris 
elemifera (Murphy and Lugo 1986, p. 91). The specie is also associated 
to a shrub layer dominated by Croton humilis, Eupatorium sinuatum, 
Lantana reticulata, and Turnera diffusa.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify forested 
hills with open to relatively dense shrubland forest dominated by 
native species to be physical or biological features for this species.

Sites for Breeding, Reproduction, or Rearing (or Development) of 
Offspring

Agave eggersiana

    Agave eggersiana dies after producing flowers (monocarpic life 
cycle) and produces a large flowering scape (massive inflorescence; a 
group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a 
main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches) (Rogers 2000, p. 
218). After flowering, the panicles (inflorescence) produce numerous 
small vegetative bulbs (bulbils) (Proctor and Acevedo-Rodr[iacute]guez 
2005, p. 118). The small vegetative bulbils will fall near the parental 
agave and attach to the ground on the coastal cliffs and dry coastal 
shrubland. Coastal cliffs, which include bare rock or sparse native 
vegetation, create an environment where the canopy is less than 1 meter 
in height, and allow the bulbils to compete for ground area. The dry 
coastal shrubland includes dry forest structures where the open canopy 
and open understory habitat also allows the bulbils to compete for 
ground area. These open canopy or open understory structures allow A. 
eggersiana good sun exposure where the species seems to thrive (for 
further discussion of these communities and their associated native 
plant species, seethe Status Assessment for A. eggersiana in the 
Habitat section of our proposed listing rule, published elsewhere in 
today's Federal Register). Therefore, based on the information above, 
we identify the vegetation communities in the coastal cliffs and dry 
coastal shrublands where A. eggersiana occurs to be physical or 
biological features for this species.

Gonocalyx concolor

    The reproductive biology and ecology of Gonocalyx concolor have not 
been studied. We have no information available beyond the habitat where 
the species is found and its behavior in that habitat. However, as 
indicated above, it seems that the conditions of the elfin and ausubo 
forests support the normal behavior, growth, and viability of G. 
concolor during most of its life stages. Therefore, based on the 
information above, we identify the elfin and ausubo forests to be 
physical or biological features for this species.

Varronia rupicola

    Varronia rupicola has been reported flowering and fruiting in 
December to January (Breckon and Kolterman 1996, p. 4), and in June-
July (Monsegur and Breckon 2007, p. 1). Fruit production in the wild at 
the Gu[aacute]nica Commonwealth Forest and in the Municipality of Ponce 
seem to be high, and there is evidence of recruitment associated to the 
majority of the clusters of individuals (Monsegur, USFWS, pers. obs. 
2013). Under greenhouse conditions, seed germination has been reported 
at no less than 67 percent (Wenger et al. 2010, p. 23). Germination in 
the wild has also been observed to be high, particularly on shrubs 
growing exposed to sunlight. However, there seems to be a high 
mortality (natural thinning) of seedlings, and only a few individuals 
make the transition to sapling stages (O. Monsegur, Service, pers. obs. 
2013). Furthermore, despite the showy red fruits of V. rupicola, its 
dispersion seems to be limited by gravity, as the majority of the 
seedlings lie under the parent tree or downslope. The wide range of the 
species suggests a former animal disperser, probably a bird.
    Material germinated in the Service greenhouse at Cabo Rojo National 
Wildlife Refuge flowered and produced fruits about 1 year after planted 
(O. Monsegur, Service, pers. obs. 2013). The rapid development of the 
species as reproductive individuals, and the finding of individuals 
along recently disturbed sites (i.e., new dirt roads) and natural 
forest gaps, may indicate that Varronia rupicola is an early colonizer 
(pioneer) species of dry coastal forest. The above information 
highlights the importance of open to relatively low dense shrubland 
forest (scrub forest and deciduous forest or shrubland) dominated by 
native species for the self-recruitment of the species and 
sustainability of the natural populations. As previously mentioned, 
moisture availability as a function of shallow soils, plus low rainfall 
and its seasonality, are the factors suggested as determining forest 
productivity, growth characteristics, water loss, and physiognomy. The 
diversity within the dry coastal native forest of Puerto Rico is 
explained by the wide diversity of habitats produced by the proximity 
of the limestone basement to the surface and the subsequent variation 
in soil

[[Page 62536]]

depth. These unique native forests provide the adequate and stable 
environmental conditions for the reproduction and natural recruitment 
of the species.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify open to 
relatively dense shrubland forest (scrub forest and deciduous forest or 
shrubland) dominated by native species to be a physical or biological 
feature for this species.

Habitats Protected From Disturbance or Representative of the 
Historical, Geographic, and Ecological Distributions of the Species

Agave eggersiana

    There are reports from Britton and Wilson (1923, p. 156) that Agave 
eggersiana occurred in the eastern dry areas in St. Croix. This area 
harbors dry forest conditions and native vegetation that provide 
suitable habitat for A. eggersiana. Most of that eastern end is 
currently owned and managed for conservation by the USVI Government and 
The Nature Conservancy. The upper slopes and steep areas of eastern St. 
Croix provide essential dry forest habitat conditions for the 
reintroduction and the recovery of the species. These forest harbors 
xeric native vegetation and forest structure that provides shelter, 
space for growing and breeding, and food and water resources necessary 
for the species. However, we do not have current evidence that A. 
eggersiana occurs in this area.
    Since 2007, Agave eggersiana has been introduced within U.S. 
National Park Service (NPS) properties (i.e., Salt River National Park 
and Ecological Preserve, and Buck Island Reef Monument) that are 
outside the known historical range of the species. In addition, there 
is an intra-agency agreement under the Service's Coastal Program to 
restore habitat in the area and plant native flora in Salt River 
National Park and Ecological Preserve. A. eggerisana is one of the 
plants used as part of the native plant restoration agreement.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the dry 
forest conditions in the eastern side of St. Croix to be part of the 
physical or biological features for this species.

Gonocalyx concolor

    The elfin and the ausubo forest where Gonocalyx concolor currently 
exists are owned by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This land has been 
managed for conservation by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and 
Environmental Resources (DNER) since 1975 (back then, Department of 
Natural Resources; DNR 1976, p. 169). Before 1975, the elfin forest 
area in Cerro La Santa (Carite Commonwealth Forest) was managed by the 
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as a preferred site for the installation of 
telecommunication tower facilities for television and radio, and for 
military and governmental purposes. These types of activities may have 
caused disturbance to the habitat of G. concolor, because Cerro La 
Santa is one of the two known locations of the species. Although the 
Carite Commonwealth Forest is under local government protection, the 
area of Cerro La Santa is still vulnerable to habitat modification 
resulting from maintenance and potential expansion of existing 
telecommunication facilities. Therefore, based on the information 
above, we identify the elfin and ausubo forests found within the Carite 
Commonwealth Forest to be physical or biological features for this 
species.

Varronia rupicola

    The species has been historically recorded from the geographical 
area comprising the Gu[aacute]nica Commonwealth Forest in southwestern 
Puerto Rico, and the area of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) 
in the island of Vieques, eastern Puerto Rico. The Gu[aacute]nica 
Forest was designated as a Commonwealth forest in 1917, by Governor 
Arthur Yager, and has been protected and managed since 1930 (Lugo et 
al. 1996, p. 2; Murphy and Lugo 1990, p. 15). It is now the largest 
Commonwealth-protected area over limestone substrate in Puerto Rico, 
with an estimated area of about 10,872 ac (4,400 ha) (Miguel Canals, 
DNER, pers. comm. 2009). The Gu[aacute]nica Commonwealth Forest is 
divided in two main contiguous areas: The east section, which includes 
the original forest area, and the west section, added after 1950 (Lugo 
et al. 1996, p. 2). This forest is considered one of the best examples 
of a subtropical dry forest in the world (Murphy and Lugo 1990, p. 15; 
Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 72). The Gu[aacute]nica Commonwealth Forest 
harbors remnants of native dry forest vegetation over limestone 
pavement, some of these considered as pristine forest. Since the forest 
have been protected and managed for over 90 years, native vegetation 
has recovered from previous deforestation for charcoal production. As a 
result of this, the forest harbors populations of several of the rarest 
plants endemic to the dry forest of Puerto Rico, and the presence of 
stands of invasive nonnatives remains associated to areas previously 
inhabited and along roads within the forest. However, it is important 
to notice that Varronia rupicola also occurs within privately owned 
lands outside the Gu[aacute]nica Commonwealth Forest, which makes it 
vulnerable to habitat destruction.
    On Vieques Island, about 54 percent of the land is a National 
Wildlife Refuge managed by the Service (Vieques NWR CCP & EIS 2007, p. 
2). Some areas within the refuge harbor suitable habitat for Varronia 
rupicola, providing protection to the species' habitat and probably to 
undetected populations (Vieques NWR CCP & EIS 2007, p. 2). However, 
only three patches of dry forest vegetation over limestone substrate 
that harbor V. rupicola populations have been currently identified in 
the island of Vieques and only two are located within the Vieques NWR. 
The remaining third patch belongs to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. 
These three natural areas are adjacent and represent the remnant of the 
prime habitat for the species in Vieques.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify remnants of 
scrubland and shrubland forest that occurs within the subtropical dry 
forest life zone overlying limestone substrate to be physical or 
biological features for this species.

Primary Constituent Elements

    Under the Act and its implementing regulations, we are required to 
identify the physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the three Caribbean plants in areas occupied at the 
time of listing, focusing on the features' primary constituent 
elements. We consider primary constituent elements (PCEs) to be the 
elements of physical or biological features that provide for a species' 
life-history processes and are essential to the conservation of the 
species.
    Based on our current knowledge of the physical or biological 
features and habitat characteristics required to sustain the species' 
life-history processes, we determine the primary constituent elements 
specific for each of the three plants below:

Agave eggersiana

    (1) Areas consisting of coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrublands.
    (a) Coastal cliff habitat includes:
    (i) Bare rock; and
    (ii) Sparse vegetation.
    (b) Dry coastal shrubland habitat includes:
    (i) Dry forest structure; and
    (ii) A plant community of predominately native vegetation.

[[Page 62537]]

    (2) Well-drained soils from the series Cramer, Glynn, Hasselberg, 
Southgate, and Victory.
    (3) Habitat of sufficient area to sustain viable populations in the 
coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrublands listed in PCEs (1) and (2), 
above.

Gonocalyx concolor

    (1) Elfin forest at elevations over 2,900 ft (880 m) in Cerro La 
Santa, Puerto Rico, which includes:
    (a) Forest with single canopy layer with trees seldom exceeding 22 
ft (7 m) in height.
    (b) Associated native vegetation dominated by species such as 
Tabebuia schumanniana, Tabebuia rigida, Ocotea spathulata, Eugenia 
borinquensis, Clusia minor, and Prestoea acuminata var. montana, native 
ferns, and dense cover with epiphytes, including bromeliads and mosses.
    (2) Ausubo forest at elevations between 2,000 to 2,300 ft (620 to 
720 m) in the Charco Azul, which includes:
    (a) Forest with single canopy layer with trees exceeding 22 ft (7 
m) in height.
    (b) Plant association comprised by few species of native trees and 
associated native vegetation (e.g., Manilkara bidentata, Dacryodes 
excelsa, Guarea guidonia, and Cyrilla racemiflora), native ferns, and 
dense cover with epiphytes, including bromeliads and mosses.
    (3) The type locations described in PCEs (1) and (2), above, for 
this species should have mean annual precipitation of 88.7 in (225.3 
cm), mean annual temperature of 72.3[emsp14][deg]F (22.7 [deg]C), and 
Los Guineos type of soil (i.e., very deep, acidic, clayey, well-drained 
soils on side slopes of mountains).

Varronia rupicola

    (1) Remnants of native shrubland and scrubland forest on limestone 
substrate within the subtropical dry forest life zone. Dry shrubland 
and scrubland forest includes:
    (a) Shrubland vegetation with canopy from 6.5 to 9.8 ft (2 to 3 m) 
high;
    (b) Limestone pavement;
    (c) Associated native vegetation; and
    (d) A shrub layer dominated by Croton humilis, Eupatorium sinuatum, 
Lantana reticulata, and Turnera diffusa.
    (2) Semi-deciduous dry forest on limestone substrate within the 
subtropical dry forest life zone. Dry limestone semi-deciduous forest 
includes:
    (a) Low forest with canopy from 8 to 15 ft (3 to 5 m) high;
    (b) Limestone pavement;
    (c) Associated dry forest native vegetation; and
    (d) A shrub layer dominated by Croton humilis, Eupatorium sinuatum, 
Lantana reticulata, and Turnera diffusa.
    (3) The type locations described in PCEs (1) and (2), above, for 
this species should have shallow and alkaline soils derived from 
limestone rock and an average rainfall of 34 in (86 cm).

Special Management Considerations or Protection

    When designating critical habitat, we assess whether the specific 
areas within the geographic area occupied by the species at the time of 
listing contain features which are essential to the conservation of the 
species and which may require special management considerations or 
protection.

Agave eggersiana and Varronia rupicola

    The primary threats to the PBFs that Agave eggersiana and Varronia 
rupicola depend on includes: (1) Habitat destruction and modification 
by development; (2) competition with nonnative plant species; (3) 
human-induced fire; and (4) hurricanes and storm surge. The majority of 
these threats can be addressed by special management considerations or 
protection, while others (e.g., hurricanes and storm surges) are beyond 
the control of land owners and managers.
    Management activities that could ameliorate these threats include, 
but are not limited to, establishment of permanent conservation 
easements or land acquisition to protect the species and its habitat on 
private lands; establishment of conservation agreements on private, 
nongovernment, and government lands to protect the habitat; 
implementation of control of invasive, nonnative plant species to 
reduce competition and prevent habitat degradation; implementation of 
management practices to control fires; and creation or revision of 
management plans for the identification of the areas where current 
developments exist and to better guide the implementation of 
conservation measures for the species. For Agave eggersiana, 
precautions are needed to avoid inadvertent mowing and cutting of the 
species in the course of landscaping activities. In addition, for both 
A. eggersiana and Varronia rupicola, development of residential and 
tourism projects should avoid impacting these habitats directly or 
indirectly, and habitat fragmentation should be limited as much as 
possible to maintain connectivity between populations and to avoid 
habitat degradation due to the colonization by nonnative, invasive 
plants.

Gonocalyx concolor

    The primary threats to the PBFs that Gonocalyx concolor depends on 
include: (1) Habitat destruction and modification by development of 
telecommunication towers and associated facilities on the mountain top 
of Cerro La Santa; (2) vegetation management; (3) hurricanes and 
tropical storms; (4) landslides; (5) invasive species; and (6) human-
induced fire. The majority of these threats can be addressed by special 
management considerations or protection while others (e.g., hurricanes, 
landslides, and climate change) are beyond the control of land owners 
and managers.
    Management activities that could ameliorate these threats include, 
but are not limited to, implementation of conservation measures with 
DNER to reduce threats to the species in the Carite Commonwealth 
Forest; minimization of habitat disturbance, fragmentation, and 
destruction resulting from maintenance of telecommunication facilities; 
prevention of fires; and controlling invasive plant species.
    The reduction of all these threats for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx 
concolor, and Varronia rupicola will require the implementation of 
special management actions within each of the critical habitat areas 
identified in this proposed rule. All proposed critical habitat 
requires active management to address the ongoing threats listed above 
and those presented in the discussions of Factors A through E (see 
Summary of Factors Affecting the Species section of our proposed 
listing rule, which is published elsewhere in today's Federal 
Register).
    Special management considerations or protection for the features 
essential to the conservation of the species within each critical 
habitat area will depend on the threats to the essential features in 
that critical habitat area. Accordingly, the description of each 
critical habitat unit below will include a discussion of the threats 
and the special management actions needed to address them.

Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat

    As required by section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we use the best 
scientific data available to designate critical habitat. Sources of 
data for the three Caribbean species and their habitat include multiple 
databases maintained by universities and by State and Federal agencies 
from Puerto Rico and USVI, reports on assessments and surveys 
throughout the species' range, and assessments of current conditions of 
the three Caribbean species and their

[[Page 62538]]

habitat at known locations (e.g., Monsegur and Vargas, Service, pers. 
obs. 2013; Dalmida-Smith, DPNR 2010, Moser et al. 2010). We review 
available information pertaining to the habitat requirements of the 
species. In accordance with the Act and its implementing regulations at 
50 CFR 424.12(e), we consider whether designating additional areas 
outside those currently occupied, as well as those that are currently 
occupied (i.e., occupied at the time of listing), is necessary to 
ensure the conservation of the species.
    We are proposing to designate critical habitat in areas within the 
geographical area currently occupied by the three Caribbean plants 
(i.e., occupied at the time of proposed listing). All of these units 
are proposed for designation based on sufficient elements of physical 
and biological features being present to support known life-history 
processes of the species. We have defined occupied critical habitat as 
areas where the three Caribbean plants are currently found and that 
have the PCEs mentioned above at the time of listing. We used 
information from site visits to the species' habitats conducted by 
Service biologists, herbarium specimens, personal communications with 
researchers, and reports prepared by agencies and researchers to 
identify the specific locations occupied by the three species. We 
plotted all occurrence records of the three Caribbean plants on maps in 
geographic information system as points and polygons. Then, we used 
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographic maps, aerial photographs, and 
U.S. Forest Service (USFS)--International Institute of Tropical 
Forestry (IITF) land cover layers to delineate the critical habitat 
units. Critical habitat units were then mapped using ArcMap version 10 
(Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.), a Geographic 
Information Systems (GIS) program.
    We are also proposing to designate specific areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by Agave eggersiana at the time of listing 
(areas reported as historical) and Varronia rupicola, because the 
current amount of habitat that is occupied is not sufficient for the 
recovery of the species; hence, we have determined that such areas are 
essential for their conservation. The justification for why unoccupied 
habitat is essential to the conservation of these species, and the 
methodology used to identify the best unoccupied areas for 
consideration of inclusion, is set forth below.
    Small populations and plant species with limited distributions, 
like those of Agave eggersiana and Gonocalyx concolor, are vulnerable 
to relatively minor environmental disturbances (Frankham 2005, pp. 135-
136), and are subject to the loss of genetic diversity from genetic 
drift (Ellstrand and Elam 1993, pp. 217-237; Leimu et al. 2006, pp. 
942-952; Honnay and Jacquemyn, 2007, p. 824). Plant populations with 
lowered genetic diversity are more prone to local extinction (Barrett 
and Kohn 1991, pp. 4, 28). Smaller plant populations generally have 
lower genetic diversity, and lower genetic diversity may in turn lead 
to even smaller populations by decreasing the species' ability to 
adapt, thereby increasing the probability of population extinction 
(Newman and Pilson 1997, p. 360; Palstra and Ruzzante 2008, pp. 3428-
3447). Because of the dangers associated with small populations or 
limited distributions, the recovery of many rare plant species includes 
the creation of new sites or reintroductions to ameliorate these 
effects. When proposing or designating critical habitat, we consider 
future recovery efforts and conservation of the species.
    The habitat of these species must be conserved to fulfill their 
recovery. Furthermore, it is important to ensure there are enough 
individuals of the species to secure their survival into the future as 
well as to ensure the habitat (with all associated plant communities) 
is adequate for the species. At present, there are only approximately 
300 known adult individuals of Agave eggersiana, 31 individuals of 
Gonocalyx concolor, 75 individuals of Varronia rupicola, and only few 
areas where the three species have been documented. Although at this 
moment we do not know how many individuals would suffice to safeguard 
these species, having limited populations in limited areas is 
detrimental to the species, and even more detrimental if threats are 
not ameliorated.

Determination of Critical Habitat Units

    We are proposing four areas that are currently occupied and two 
areas that are currently unoccupied, but on which the species have been 
historically reported as critical habitat, for Agave eggersiana; two 
occupied areas for Gonocalyx concolor; and five occupied areas and two 
unoccupied areas for Varronia rupicola. We believe the proposed areas 
are essential to ensure the protection of habitat over a wide 
geographic area and to help ensure that catastrophic events, such as 
hurricanes, fires, and diseases, will not affect all populations 
simultaneously.

Areas Occupied at the Time of Listing

    The proposed critical habitat designation focuses on occupied areas 
throughout the range of the three Caribbean species that have the 
necessary PCEs to allow for the maintenance and expansion of existing 
populations.

Agave eggersiana

    We identified seven populations of Agave eggersiana in St. Croix, 
five to the south and two to the north. Three of the five populations 
in the south are found in proximate locations, as explained further. 
One proximate location includes South Shore, Cane Garden, and Vagthus 
Point, which are all located along the same beach, and for the purpose 
of this document we will discuss these populations as one location 
(hereafter Cane Garden) allowing area for the expansion of the 
populations. Manchenil Bay, Great Pond, and Protestant Cay will be 
discussed as the other three locations. Gallows Bay is not proposed as 
critical habitat, even though it is occupied by the species, because 
the area lacks the identified PCEs. There is no habitat available for 
either the establishment of other individuals or the expansion of the 
species, because it is located within a condominium project. This 
existing population is of one individual hanging on a cliff/hillside, 
and when it is time to reproduce, all the bulbils will fall to the road 
(asphalted road) and the bulbils will not be able to continue their 
growth. There is no suitable habitat in this area aside from where the 
plant is currently located.

Gonocalyx concolor

    We identified two units that harbor the only three populations 
known of Gonocalyx concolor: Two populations at Cerro La Santa and 
another population at Charco Azul, both in the Carite Commonwealth 
Forest. At Cerro La Santa, the species is found at elevations between 
2,890 to 2,950 ft (880 to 900 m) from sea level, associated to remnants 
of elfin forest vegetation and to late successional vegetation. The 
species shows a limited distribution in its habitat, occupying only 
0.75 ac (0.3 ha) at Cerro La Santa (Pacheco and Monsegur, USFWS, 
unpublished data, 2013) and approximately 0.12 ac (0.05 ha) at Charco 
Azul (O. Monsegur, unpublished data, 2006).

Varronia rupicola

    We identified five natural areas currently occupied by Varronia 
rupicola (Montalva, Gu[aacute]nica Commonwealth Forest, Montes de 
Barina, Pe[ntilde]on de Ponce, and Puerto Ferro). The species

[[Page 62539]]

has been consistently reported from these areas during the last decade, 
and all areas harbor remnants of native forest characterized by a high 
plant diversity and endemism. All of these areas harbor remnants of 
native shrubland/scrubland forest vegetation and semi-deciduous dry 
forest on limestone substrate, showing a unique forest structure that 
is not present elsewhere in Puerto Rico and that represent the habitat 
that contains the features necessary for the conservation of the 
species.

Areas Outside of the Geographic Range at the Time of Listing

    For us to propose for designation areas not occupied by the three 
Caribbean species at the time of listing, we must demonstrate that 
these areas are essential to the conservation of the species. We are 
proposing to designate critical habitat outside of the geographic range 
at the time of listing for Agave eggersiana and Varronia rupicola.

Agave eggersiana

    The east end of St. Croix is within the historical range of Agave 
eggersiana (Britton and Wilson 1923, p. 156), but it is not within the 
geographic range currently occupied by the species. To determine if 
this area is essential for the conservation Agave eggersiana, we 
considered: (1) The importance of the site to the overall status of the 
species to prevent extinction and to contribute to future recovery of 
A. eggersiana; (2) whether the areas contain the PCEs and PBFs; (3) 
whether the area could be restored to contain the necessary habitat to 
support A. eggersiana; and (4) whether a population of the species 
could be reestablished in that unoccupied area.
    The easternmost area of St. Croix encompasses conservation areas 
managed by the USVI Government and The Nature Conservancy. In this 
area, we are proposing to designate two units (East End North and East 
End South). These areas may allow for important population expansion of 
Agave eggersiana. Furthermore, this area of land is a secluded location 
that would safeguard the species in the event of a catastrophic event 
such as a hurricane, or a threat such as a disease or pest (e.g., agave 
snout weevil (Scyphophorus acupunctatus)). These areas also contain all 
of the PCEs. Hence, we consider the areas as essential for the 
conservation of A. eggersiana.

Varronia rupicola

    We propose the designation of two areas that are not currently 
occupied by the species. These two areas are known as Punta Negra and 
Cerro Playuela on the Island of Vieques and lie adjacent to an area 
currently occupied by the species (Puerto Ferro), forming a continuous 
habitat that provides an ecological niche for the species. They contain 
the dry coastal shrubland habitat PCEs and PBFs, including substrates, 
and associated native plants and forest structure. We consider these 
three contiguous peninsulas (Punta Negra, Cerro Playuela, and Puerto 
Ferro) as a single ecological unit, which are separated by two narrow 
water channels. The channels are not representative of a barrier for 
dispersion or expansion of the species. Furthermore, these forested 
areas provide shelter for potential pollinators and dispersers of 
Varronia rupicola. This kind of habitat does not occur elsewhere in 
Vieques, as most of the Island was deforested for agricultural 
practices, and further degraded by military practices. Therefore, Punta 
Negra and Cerro Playuela provide suitable habitat conditions for 
natural recruitment of V. rupicola and for the expansion of its 
populations. It is very likely that V. rupicola also occurs within 
Punta Negra and Cerro Playuela, and that ecological interactions and 
genetic flow between these areas and Puerto Ferro is occurring. The 
loss of this forest fragments may compromise the conservation of the 
genetic stock represented in that population. Hence, we consider Punta 
Negra and Cerro Playuela to be essential for the conservation of the 
genetic diversity of the species.
    For Agave eggersiana and Varronia rupicola, the current amount of 
habitat that is occupied is not sufficient for the recovery of the 
species; therefore, we determined it essential to include additional 
unoccupied habitat units in this proposed critical habitat designation.
    When determining proposed critical habitat boundaries, we made 
every effort to avoid including developed areas such as buildings and 
pavement, and other structures because such lands lack the physical or 
biological features for the three Caribbean species. The scale of the 
maps we prepared under the parameters for publication within the Code 
of Federal Regulations may not reflect the exclusion of such developed 
lands. Any such lands inadvertently left inside critical habitat 
boundaries shown on the maps of this proposed rule have been excluded 
by text in the proposed rule and are not proposed for designation as 
critical habitat. Therefore, if the critical habitat is finalized as 
proposed, a Federal action involving these lands would not trigger 
section 7 consultation with respect to critical habitat and the 
requirement of no adverse modification unless the specific action would 
affect the physical or biological features in the adjacent critical 
habitat.
    The critical habitat designation is defined by the map or maps, as 
modified by any accompanying regulatory text, presented at the end of 
this document in the rule portion. We include more detailed information 
on the boundaries of the critical habitat designation in the preamble 
of this document. We will make the coordinates or plot points or both 
on which each map is based available to the public on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2013-0040, on our Internet 
site at http://www.fws.gov/caribbean/es, and at the field office 
responsible for the designation (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, 
above).

Proposed Critical Habitat Designation

Agave eggersiana

    We are proposing to designate 50.6 ac (20.5 ha) in six units as 
critical habitat for Agave eggersiana. The critical habitat units 
described below constitute our best current assessment of areas that 
meet the definition of critical habitat for this species. The six units 
we propose as critical habitat are: (1) Cane Garden, (2) Manchenil, (3) 
Great Pond, (4) Protestant Cay, (5) East End South, and (6) East End 
North. Table 1 shows the proposed critical habitat units, land 
ownership, and approximate extent of the proposed critical habitat for 
A. eggersiana.

                            Table 1--Agave Eggersiana Proposed Critical Habitat Units
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Occupied at time of
              Unit                        listing?             Land ownership       Hectares          Acres
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Cane Garden..................  Yes.....................  Private............            2.8               6.9
2. Manchenil....................  Yes.....................  Private............            0.61              1.5
3. Great Pond...................  Yes.....................  Government.........            0.32              0.8

[[Page 62540]]

 
4. Protestant Cay...............  Yes.....................  Government, but                0.16              0.4
                                                             leased to private.
5. East End South...............  No......................  Private............            7.7              19
6. East End North...............  No......................  Government.........            8.9              22
                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total.......................  ........................  ...................           20.5              50.6
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Area sizes may not sum due to rounding.

    Below, we present brief descriptions of all units and reasons why 
these units meet the definition of critical habitat for Agave 
eggersiana.
Unit 1: Cane Garden
    Unit 1 consists of 6.9 ac (2.8 ha) of privately owned lands located 
at Estate Cane Garden and Estate Peters Mindle, Christiansted, St. 
Croix, USVI. This unit is located in the south-central portion of the 
island, approximately 0.17 mi (0.27 km) south of Road 62 and 
approximately 0.2 mi (0.3 km) northeast of Vagthus Point, along the 
northeast coast of Canegarden Bay and south of a private trail. It is 
within the geographical area occupied at the time of listing. This unit 
contains all the PCEs. The PCEs in this unit may require special 
considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, effects 
of hurricanes (i.e., storm surge and erosion), and habitat modification 
(e.g., trails expansion).
Unit 2: Manchenil
    Unit 2 consists of 1.5 ac (0.61 ha) of privately owned lands 
located at Estate Granard, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. This unit is 
located in the south-central portion of the island, approximately 0.50 
mi (0.82 km) south of Road 62 and approximately 0.02 mi (0.03 km) east 
of South Shore Road, along the northeast coast of Manchenil Bay. It is 
within the geographical area occupied at the time of listing. This unit 
contains all the PCEs. The PCEs in this unit may require special 
considerations to address threats of fires, nonnative plant species, 
effects of hurricanes (i.e., storm surge), and habitat modification.
Unit 3: Great Pond
    Unit 3 consists of 0.8 ac (0.32 ha) of government-owned land 
located at Estate Great Pond, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. This unit 
is located in the south of the island, approximately 6.5 ft (2 m) south 
of Road 62 and east of the entrance of East End Marine Park offices. It 
is within the geographical area occupied at the time of listing. This 
unit contains all the PCEs. The PCEs in this unit may require special 
considerations to address threats of fire, nonnative plant species, and 
habitat modification (i.e., landscaping).
Unit 4: Protestant Cay
    Unit 4 consists of 0.4 ac (0.16 ha) of government-owned lands that 
are leased to a private party and are located at Protestant Cay, St. 
Croix, USVI. The Cay is located approximately 0.33 km (0.20 mi) north 
of Christiansted town. The unit is located on the northeast side of the 
Cay. It is within the geographical area occupied at the time of 
listing. This unit contains all the PCEs. The PCEs in this unit may 
require special considerations to address threats of nonnative plant 
species, effects of hurricanes (i.e., storm surge and erosion), and 
habitat modification (i.e., hotel landscaping and maintenance).
    The Protestant Cay unit is also currently designated as critical 
habitat for the St. Croix ground lizard (Ameiva polops) (42 FR 47840, 
September 22, 1977).
Unit 5: East End South
    Unit 5 consists of 19 ac (7.7 ha) of located at Estate Jack's Bay 
and Estate Isaac's Bay, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. This unit is 
located south of the eastern end portion of the island, approximately 
0.93 mi (1.5 km) southwest of Point Udall, approximately 0.02 mi (0.04 
km) east of Point Road, along the north coast of Jack's Bay, and south 
of a Jack's and Issac's Bay Preserve trail. It is owned by The Nature 
Conservancy and managed as conservation land. This unit is not occupied 
at the time of listing. However, it is part of the historical range of 
the species. This unit is essential for the conservation of the species 
because it contains the PCEs and because its designation would 
safeguard other established populations in case of any stochastic event 
that occurs within habitats currently occupied by the species.
Unit 6: East End North
    Unit 6 consists of 22 ac (8.9 ha) of government-owned land located 
at Estate Cotton Garden, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. This unit is 
located north of the eastern end portion of the island, approximately 
0.86 mi (1.4 km) northwest of Point Udall, north of Road 82 along the 
eastern coast of Cotton Garden Bay and western coast of Boiler Bay. 
This unit is not occupied at the time of listing. However, it is part 
of the historical range of the species. This unit is essential for the 
conservation of the species because it contains the PCEs and because 
its designation would safeguard other established populations in case 
of any stochastic event that occurs within habitats currently occupied 
by the species.

Gonocalyx concolor

    We are proposing to designate approximately198 ac (80.1 ha) in two 
units as critical habitat for the Gonocalyx concolor. The critical 
habitat units described below constitute our best current assessment of 
areas that meet the definition of critical habitat for this species. 
The two units we propose as critical habitat are: (1) Cerro La Santa; 
and (2) Charco Azul. Both units fall within the Carite Commonwealth 
Forest, land owned by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and managed for 
conservation by the Puerto Rico DNER. Table 2 shows the proposed 
critical habitat units, land ownership, and approximate extent of the 
proposed critical habitat for G. concolor.

                           Table 2--Gonocalyx Concolor Proposed Critical Habitat Units
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Occupied at time of
              Unit                        listing?            Land ownership        Hectares          Acres
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Cerro La Santa...............  Yes.....................  Commonwealth of                 7.6             18.8
                                                             Puerto Rico.

[[Page 62541]]

 
2. Charco Azul..................  Yes.....................  Commonwealth of                72.5            179.2
                                                             Puerto Rico.
                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total.......................  ........................  ..................             80.1            198
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Area sizes may not sum due to rounding.

    Below, we present brief descriptions of all units and reasons why 
these units meet the definition of critical habitat for Gonocalyx. 
concolor.
Unit 1: Cerro La Santa
    Unit 1 consists of 18.8 ac (7.6 ha) of elfin forest located on 
exposed peaks and ridges of Cerro La Santa, above 2,890 ft (880 m) in 
elevation from sea level. This unit is located in the Sierra de Cayey 
on Road PR 184, Km 27.1 in Espino Ward, between the Municipalities of 
Cayey and San Lorenzo. This unit is within the geographical area 
occupied by the species at the time of listing. This unit contains all 
PCEs. The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to 
address threats of habitat modification resulting from maintenance and 
potential expansion of existing telecommunication facilities, human-
induced fires, invasive species, and degradation of forest quality.
Unit 2: Charco Azul
    Unit 2 consists of 179.2 ac (72.5 ha) of ausubo forest located 
along the Rio Grande de Patillas River basin between 2,030 ft (620 m) 
and 2,330 ft (720 m) in elevation from sea level. This unit is 
approximately 2.0 mi (3.2 km) southeast of Unit 1. This unit is within 
the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing. 
This unit contains all PCEs. The PCEs in this unit may require special 
considerations and protection to address threats of habitat 
modification resulting from human-induced fires, invasive species, and 
degradation of forest quality.

Varronia rupicola

    We are proposing to designate 6,547 ac (2,648 ha) in seven units as 
critical habitat for Varronia rupicola. The critical habitats described 
below constitute our best current assessment of areas that meet the 
definition of critical habitat for this species. The seven units are: 
(1) Montalva, (2) Gu[aacute]nica Commonwealth Forest, (3) Montes de 
Barina, (4) Pe[ntilde]on de Ponce, (5) Punta Negra, (6) Puerto Ferro, 
and (7) Cerro Playuela. Table 3 shows the proposed critical habitat 
units, land ownership, and approximate extent of the proposed critical 
habitat for V. rupicola.

                           Table 3--Varronia Rupicola Proposed Critical Habitat Units
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Occupied at time of
               Unit                        listing?             Land ownership       Hectares          Acres
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Montalva......................  Yes.....................  Commonwealth of                 401             992
                                                              Puerto Rico.
2. Gu[aacute]nica Commonwealth     Yes.....................  Commonwealth of                 236             584
 Forest.                                                      Puerto Rico.
3. Montes de Barina..............  Yes.....................  Private............             810           2,002
4. Pe[ntilde]on de Ponce.........  Yes.....................  Private............             880           2,174
5. Punta Negra...................  No......................  Commonwealth of                 117             291
                                                              Puerto Rico.
6. Puerto Ferro..................  Yes.....................  Federal Government              154             381
                                                              (FWS).
7. Cerro Playuela................  No......................  Federal Government               50             123
                                                              (FWS).
                                  ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total........................  ........................  ...................           2,648           6,547
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Area sizes may not sum due to rounding.

    Below, we present brief descriptions of all units and reasons why 
these units meet the definition of critical habitat for Varronia 
rupicola.
Unit 1: Montalva
    Unit 1 consists of 992 ac (401 ha) of Commonwealth-owned lands 
located at Montalva Ward in the Municipality of Gu[aacute]nica, Puerto 
Rico. This unit is located just south of State Highway PR 324 and the 
Town of Gu[aacute]nica, and includes Cerro Montalva. It is within the 
geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing. Due 
to the marginal agricultural value, these forests were minimally 
impacted by other land use practices (e.g., charcoal production and 
ranching). Therefore, the prime and essential habitat for the species 
has maintained its unique features, such as the dry coastal shrubland 
habitat's PCEs and PBFs, including suitable climate, substrates, and 
associated native plants and forest structure. Despite its conservation 
status the habitat has been affected by human-induced fires and 
maintenance of access roads and rights-of-way. The PCEs in this unit 
may require special considerations to address threats of nonnative 
plant species, human-induced fires, hurricanes, and habitat 
modification (e.g., urban development).
Unit 2: Gu[aacute]nica Commonwealth Forest
    Unit 2 consists of 584 ac (236 ha) of Commonwealth-owned lands 
located within Carenero, Barina, and Boca Wards in the municipalities 
of Gu[aacute]nica, Yauco, and Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. This unit is 
located within the core of the east section of the Gu[aacute]nica 
Commonwealth Forest. The forested habitat in this unit was minimally 
impacted by other land use practices like charcoal production and 
ranching due to its marginal agricultural value; hence, it has 
maintained its unique features. It is within the geographical area 
occupied by the species at the time of listing and contains the dry 
coastal shrubland habitat's PCEs and PBFs, including suitable climate, 
substrates, and associated native plants and forest structure. Despite 
its conservation status, the habitat has been affected by human-induced 
fires and maintenance of access roads and rights-of-way. The PCEs in 
this unit may require special considerations to address threats of 
nonnative plant species, human-induced fires, hurricanes, and habitat

[[Page 62542]]

modification (e.g., urban development and right-of-way maintenance).
Unit 3: Montes de Barina
    Unit 3 consists of 2,002 ac (810 ha) of privately owned lands 
primarily located along Indios Ward in the municipality of Guayanilla. 
A small section of this unit falls within the Cambalache Ward in Yauco, 
Puerto Rico. This unit is located just south of State Highway PR 2. The 
forested habitat in this unit was minimally impacted by other land use 
practices like charcoal production and ranching due to its marginal 
agricultural value; hence, it has maintained its unique features. The 
unit is within the geographical area occupied by the species at the 
time of listing and contains the dry coastal shrubland habitat's PCEs 
and PBFs, including suitable climate, substrates, and associated native 
plants and forest structure. The PCEs in this unit may require special 
considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, human-
induced fires, hurricanes, and habitat modification (e.g., urban 
development).
Unit 4: Pe[ntilde]on de Ponce
    Unit 4 consists of 2,174 ac (880 ha) of privately owned lands 
located along Encarnaci[oacute]n and Canas Wards in the municipalities 
of Pe[ntilde]uelas and Ponce, Puerto Rico. This unit is located just 
north of State Highway PR 2 in the area known as Punta Cucharas. The 
forested habitat in this unit was minimally impacted by other land use 
practices like charcoal production and ranching due to its marginal 
agricultural value; hence, it has maintained its unique features. It is 
within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of 
listing and contains the dry coastal shrubland habitat's PCEs and PBFs, 
including suitable climate, substrates, and associated native plants 
and forest structure. The PCEs in this unit may require special 
considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, human-
induced fires, hurricanes, and habitat modification (e.g., urban 
development).
Unit 5: Punta Negra
    Unit 5 is a small peninsula that consists of 291 ac (117 ha) of 
Commonwealth-owned lands located within Puerto Ferro Ward on the island 
of Vieques, Puerto Rico. This unit is located about 1.5 mi (2.5 km) 
east of the town of Esperanza and west of Puerto Ferro, Vieques 
National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). This natural area is managed by the 
Puerto Rico DNER as part of the Puerto Mosquito Natural Reserve. The 
forested habitat in this unit was minimally impacted by other land use 
practices like charcoal production and ranching due to its marginal 
agricultural value; hence, it has maintained its unique features. It is 
adjacent to an area currently occupied by the species (Unit 6), forming 
a continuous habitat and contains the dry coastal shrubland habitat's 
PCEs and PBFs, including suitable climate, substrates, and associated 
native plants and forest structure. However, there is no specific 
record of the species within this unit. We consider Units 5, 6, and 7 
to be a single ecological unit. The species is expected to occur within 
this area and ecological interactions and genetic flow between this 
area and Unit 6 may be essential for the recovery of the species. It 
was not included as a single unit with Units 6 and 7 because these 
peninsulas are united by a narrow mangrove forest that does not provide 
habitat for the species. The PCEs in this unit may require special 
considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, human-
induced fires, and hurricanes.
Unit 6: Puerto Ferro
    Unit 6 is a small peninsula that consists of 381 ac (154 ha) of 
federally owned lands managed by the Service as the Vieques NWR, and is 
located within the Puerto Ferro Ward on the island of Vieques, Puerto 
Rico. This unit is located about 4 km (2.5 mi) east of the town of 
Esperanza. It is located just between Unit 5 and Unit 7, forming a 
continuous habitat and contains the dry coastal shrubland habitat's 
PCEs and PBFs, and therefore we consider Units 5, 6, and 7 to be a 
single ecological unit. The forested habitat in this unit was minimally 
impacted by other land use practices like charcoal production and 
ranching due to its marginal agricultural value; hence, it has 
maintained its unique features. It is within the geographical area 
occupied by the species at the time of listing and contains the dry 
coastal shrubland's habitat PCEs and PBFs, including suitable climate, 
substrates, and associated native plants and forest structure. The 
species occurs within this area and ecological interactions and genetic 
flow between this area and the adjacent habitat (Unit 5 and Unit 7) may 
be essential for the recovery of the species. It was not included as a 
single unit with Units 5 and 7 because these peninsulas are united by a 
narrow mangrove forest that does not provide habitat for the species. 
The PCEs in this unit may require special considerations to address 
threats of nonnative plant species, human-induced fires, and 
hurricanes.
Unit 7: Cerro Playuela
    Unit 7 is a small peninsula that consists of 123 ac (50 ha) of 
federally owned lands managed by the Service as the Vieques NWR, and is 
located within Puerto Ferro Ward on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. 
This unit is located about 0.5 km (0.31 mi) south of the former airport 
of Campamento Garc[iacute]a (Vieques NWR). The forested habitat in this 
unit was minimally impacted by other land use practices like charcoal 
production and ranching due to its marginal agricultural value; hence, 
it has maintained its unique features. It is adjacent to an area 
currently occupied by the species (Unit 6), forming a continuous 
habitat, and contains the dry coastal shrubland habitat's PCEs and 
PBFs, including suitable climate, substrates, and associated native 
plants and forest structure. However, there is no specific record of 
the species within this unit. We consider Units 5, 6, and 7 to be a 
single ecological unit. The species is expected to occur within this 
area and ecological interactions and genetic flow between this area and 
Unit 6 may be essential for the recovery of the species. It was not 
included as a single unit with Units 5 and 6 because these peninsulas 
are united by a narrow mangrove forest that does not provide habitat 
for the species. The PCEs in this unit may require special 
considerations to address threats of nonnative plant species, human-
induced fires, and hurricanes.

Effects of Critical Habitat Designation

Section 7 Consultation

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies, including the 
Service, to ensure that any action they fund, authorize, or carry out 
is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered 
species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of designated critical habitat of such species. In 
addition, section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
confer with the Service on any agency action which is likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any species proposed to be listed 
under the Act or result in the destruction or adverse modification of 
proposed critical habitat.
    Decisions by the 5th and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals have 
invalidated our regulatory definition of ``destruction or adverse 
modification'' (50 CFR 402.02) (see Gifford Pinchot Task Force v. U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 378 F.3d 1059 (9th Cir. 2004) and Sierra 
Club v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service et al., 245 F.3d 434 (5th Cir. 
2001)), and we do not rely

[[Page 62543]]

on this regulatory definition when analyzing whether an action is 
likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. Under the 
provisions of the Act, we determine destruction or adverse modification 
on the basis of whether, with implementation of the proposed Federal 
action, the affected critical habitat would continue to serve its 
intended conservation role for the species.
    If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical 
habitat, the responsible Federal agency (action agency) must enter into 
consultation with us. Examples of actions that are subject to the 
section 7 consultation process are actions on State, tribal, local, or 
private lands that require a Federal permit (such as a permit from the 
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under section 404 of the Clean Water Act 
(33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) or a permit from the Service under section 10 
of the Act) or that involve some other Federal action (such as funding 
from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation 
Administration, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Federal 
actions not affecting listed species or critical habitat, and actions 
on State, tribal, local, or private lands that are not federally funded 
or authorized, do not require section 7 consultation.
    As a result of section 7 consultation, we document compliance with 
the requirements of section 7(a)(2) through our issuance of:
    (1) A concurrence letter for Federal actions that may affect, but 
are not likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat; 
or
    (2) A biological opinion for Federal actions that may affect and 
are likely to adversely affect listed species or critical habitat.
    When we issue a biological opinion concluding that a project is 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species and/or 
destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, we provide reasonable and 
prudent alternatives to the project, if any are identifiable, that 
would avoid the likelihood of jeopardy and/or destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat. We define ``reasonable and prudent 
alternatives'' (at 50 CFR 402.02) as alternative actions identified 
during consultation that:
    (1) Can be implemented in a manner consistent with the intended 
purpose of the action,
    (2) Can be implemented consistent with the scope of the Federal 
agency's legal authority and jurisdiction,
    (3) Are economically and technologically feasible, and
    (4) Would, in the Director's opinion, avoid the likelihood of 
jeopardizing the continued existence of the listed species and/or avoid 
the likelihood of destroying or adversely modifying critical habitat.
    Reasonable and prudent alternatives can vary from slight project 
modifications to extensive redesign or relocation of the project. Costs 
associated with implementing a reasonable and prudent alternative are 
similarly variable.
    Regulations at 50 CFR 402.16 require Federal agencies to reinitiate 
consultation on previously reviewed actions in instances where we have 
listed a new species or subsequently designated critical habitat that 
may be affected and the Federal agency has retained discretionary 
involvement or control over the action (or the agency's discretionary 
involvement or control is authorized by law). Consequently, Federal 
agencies sometimes may need to request reinitiation of consultation 
with us on actions for which formal consultation has been completed, if 
those actions with discretionary involvement or control may affect 
subsequently listed species or designated critical habitat.

Application of the ``Adverse Modification'' Standard

    The key factor related to the adverse modification determination is 
whether, with implementation of the proposed Federal action, the 
affected critical habitat would continue to serve its intended 
conservation role for the species. Activities that may destroy or 
adversely modify critical habitat are those that alter the physical or 
biological features to an extent that appreciably reduces the 
conservation value of critical habitat for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx 
concolor, and Varronia rupicola. As discussed above, the role of 
critical habitat is to support life-history needs of the species and 
provide for the conservation of the species.
    Section 4(b)(8) of the Act requires us to briefly evaluate and 
describe, in any proposed or final regulation that designates critical 
habitat, activities involving a Federal action that may destroy or 
adversely modify such habitat, or that may be affected by such 
designation.
    Activities that may affect critical habitat, when carried out, 
funded, or authorized by a Federal agency, should result in 
consultation for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia 
rupicola. These activities include, but are not limited to:
    (1) Actions that would appreciably degrade or destroy the physical 
or biological features for the species. Such activities could include, 
but are not limited to, clearing or cutting native live trees and 
shrubs (e.g., bulldozing, vegetation pruning, construction, road 
building, maintenance of rights-of-way for powerlines, and herbicide 
application). These activities could pose a risk of take by fire to the 
survival of Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia 
rupicola.
    (2) Actions that would introduce or encourage the spread of 
nonnative plant species that would significantly alter vegetation 
structure. Such activities may include, but are not limited to, 
residential and commercial development and road construction. These 
activities can affect the growth, reproduction, and survival of Agave 
eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola.
    (3) Actions that would significantly alter the structure and 
function of the elfin forest or the ausubo forest within the Carite 
Commonwealth Forest. Removal of vegetation could alter or eliminate the 
microclimate (e.g., change in temperature and humidity levels) and may 
allow invasion of competitor species and thereby negatively affect the 
habitat necessary for all life stages of the Gonocalyx concolor.

Exemptions

Application of Section 4(a)(3) of the Act

    The Sikes Act Improvement Act of 1997 (Sikes Act) (16 U.S.C. 670a) 
required each military installation that includes land and water 
suitable for the conservation and management of natural resources to 
complete an integrated natural resources management plan (INRMP) by 
November 17, 2001. An INRMP integrates implementation of the military 
mission of the installation with stewardship of the natural resources 
found on the base. Each INRMP includes:
    (1) An assessment of the ecological needs on the installation, 
including the need to provide for the conservation of listed species;
    (2) A statement of goals and priorities;
    (3) A detailed description of management actions to be implemented 
to provide for these ecological needs; and
    (4) A monitoring and adaptive management plan.
    Among other things, each INRMP must, to the extent appropriate and 
applicable, provide for fish and wildlife management; fish and wildlife 
habitat enhancement or modification; wetland

[[Page 62544]]

protection, enhancement, and restoration where necessary to support 
fish and wildlife; and enforcement of applicable natural resource laws.
    The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Pub. 
L. 108-136) amended the Act to limit areas eligible for designation as 
critical habitat. Specifically, section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act (16 
U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(B)(i)) now provides: ``The Secretary shall not 
designate as critical habitat any lands or other geographic areas owned 
or controlled by the Department of Defense, or designated for its use, 
that are subject to an integrated natural resources management plan 
prepared under section 101 of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a), if the 
Secretary determines in writing that such plan provides a benefit to 
the species for which critical habitat is proposed for designation.''
    There are no Department of Defense lands within the proposed 
critical habitat designation for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, 
or Varronia rupicola.

Exclusions

Application of Section 4(b)(2) of the Act

    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary shall 
designate and make revisions to critical habitat on the basis of the 
best available scientific data after taking into consideration the 
economic impact, national security impact, and any other relevant 
impact of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. The 
Secretary may exclude an area from critical habitat if he determines 
that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying 
such area as part of the critical habitat, unless he determines, based 
on the best scientific data available, that the failure to designate 
such area as critical habitat will result in the extinction of the 
species. In making that determination, the statute on its face, as well 
as the legislative history, are clear that the Secretary has broad 
discretion regarding which factor(s) to use and how much weight to give 
to any factor.
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we may exclude an area from 
designated critical habitat based on economic impacts, impacts on 
national security, or any other relevant impacts. In considering 
whether to exclude a particular area from the designation, we identify 
the benefits of including the area in the designation, identify the 
benefits of excluding the area from the designation, and evaluate 
whether the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion. 
If the analysis indicates that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the 
benefits of inclusion, the Secretary may exercise her discretion to 
exclude the area only if such exclusion would not result in the 
extinction of the species.
Economic Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider the economic impacts 
of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. In order to 
consider economic impacts, we are preparing an analysis of the economic 
impacts of the proposed critical habitat designation and related 
factors.
    We will announce the availability of the draft economic analysis as 
soon as it is completed, at which time we will seek public review and 
comment. At that time, copies of the draft economic analysis will be 
available for downloading from the Internet at the Federal eRulemaking 
Portal at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2013-
0040, or by contacting the Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office 
directly (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). During the development 
of a final designation, we will consider economic impacts based on 
information in our economic analysis, public comments, and other new 
information, and areas may be excluded from the final critical habitat 
designation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act and our implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 424.19.
National Security Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider whether there are 
lands where a national security impact might exist. As discussed above, 
we have determined that the lands within the proposed designation of 
critical habitat for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia 
rupicola are not owned or managed by the Department of Defense, and, 
therefore, we anticipate no impact on national security. Consequently, 
the Secretary is not intending to exercise her discretion to exclude 
any areas from the final designation based on impacts on national 
security.
Other Relevant Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider any other relevant 
impacts, in addition to economic impacts and impacts on national 
security. We consider a number of factors, including whether the 
landowners have developed any HCPs or other management plans for the 
area, or whether there are conservation partnerships that would be 
encouraged by designation of, or exclusion from, critical habitat. In 
addition, we look at any tribal issues, and consider the government-to-
government relationship of the United States with tribal entities. We 
also consider any social impacts that might occur because of the 
designation.
    In preparing this proposal, we have determined that there are 
currently no HCPs or other management plans for Agave eggersiana, 
Gonocalyx concolor, or Varronia rupicola. The proposed designation does 
not include any tribal lands or trust resources. We anticipate no 
impact on tribal lands, partnerships, or HCPs from this proposed 
critical habitat designation. Accordingly, the Secretary does not 
intend to exercise his discretion to exclude any areas from the final 
designation based on other relevant impacts.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the 
Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert 
opinions of at least three appropriate and independent specialists 
regarding this proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure 
that our critical habitat designations are based on scientifically 
sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We have invited these peer 
reviewers to comment during this public comment period.
    We will consider all comments and information we receive during 
this comment period on this proposed rule during our preparation of a 
final determination. Accordingly, the final determination may differ 
from this proposal.

Public Hearings

    Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for one or more public hearings 
on this proposal, if requested. Requests must be received within 45 
days after the date of publication of this proposed rule in the Federal 
Register. Such requests must be sent to the address shown in the FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section. We will schedule public hearings 
on this proposal, if any are requested, and announce the dates, times, 
and places of those hearings, as well as how to obtain reasonable 
accommodations, in the Federal Register and local newspapers at least 
15 days before the hearing.

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review--Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

    Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and 
Regulatory Affairs will review all significant rules. The Office of 
Information and Regulatory Affairs has determined that this rule is not 
significant.
    Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of Executive Order 
12866

[[Page 62545]]

while calling for improvements in the nation's regulatory system to 
promote predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, 
most innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory 
ends. The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory 
approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of 
choice for the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, 
and consistent with regulatory objectives. Executive Order 13563 
emphasizes further that regulations must be based on the best available 
science and that the rulemaking process must allow for public 
participation and an open exchange of ideas. We have developed this 
rule in a manner consistent with these requirements.

Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA; 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) as 
amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 
(SBREFA) of 1996 (5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), whenever an agency must 
publish a notice of rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must 
prepare and make available for public comment a regulatory flexibility 
analysis that describes the effects of the rule on small entities 
(small businesses, small organizations, and small government 
jurisdictions). However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required 
if the head of the agency certifies the rule will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
The SBREFA amended the RFA to require Federal agencies to provide a 
certification statement of the factual basis for certifying that the 
rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities.
    According to the Small Business Administration, small entities 
include small organizations such as independent nonprofit 
organizations; small governmental jurisdictions, including school 
boards and city and town governments that serve fewer than 50,000 
residents; and small businesses (13 CFR 121.201). Small businesses 
include such businesses as manufacturing and mining concerns with fewer 
than 500 employees, wholesale trade entities with fewer than 100 
employees, retail and service businesses with less than $5 million in 
annual sales, general and heavy construction businesses with less than 
$27.5 million in annual business, special trade contractors doing less 
than $11.5 million in annual business, and forestry and logging 
operations with fewer than 500 employees and annual business less than 
$7 million. To determine whether small entities may be affected, we 
will consider the types of activities that might trigger regulatory 
impacts under this designation as well as types of project 
modifications that may result. In general, the term ``significant 
economic impact'' is meant to apply to a typical small business firm's 
business operations.
    Importantly, the incremental impacts of a rule must be both 
significant and substantial to prevent certification of the rule under 
the RFA and to require the preparation of an initial regulatory 
flexibility analysis. If a substantial number of small entities are 
affected by the proposed critical habitat designation, but the per-
entity economic impact is not significant, the Service may certify. 
Likewise, if the per-entity economic impact is likely to be 
significant, but the number of affected entities is not substantial, 
the Service may also certify.
    Under the RFA, as amended, and following recent court decisions, 
Federal agencies are only required to evaluate the potential 
incremental impacts of rulemaking on those entities directly regulated 
by the rulemaking itself, and not the potential impacts to indirectly 
affected entities. The regulatory mechanism through which critical 
habitat protections are realized is section 7 of the Act, which 
requires Federal agencies, in consultation with the Service, to ensure 
that any action authorized, funded, or carried by the agency is not 
likely to adversely modify critical habitat. Therefore, only Federal 
action agencies are directly subject to the specific regulatory 
requirement (avoiding destruction and adverse modification) imposed by 
critical habitat designation. Under these circumstances, it is our 
position that only Federal action agencies would be directly regulated 
by this designation. Therefore, because Federal agencies are not small 
entities, the Service certifies that the proposed critical habitat rule 
will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities.
    In conclusion, based on our interpretation of directly regulated 
entities under the RFA and relevant case law, this designation of 
critical habitat will only directly regulate Federal agencies, which 
are not by definition small business entities. As such, we certify 
that, if promulgated, this designation of critical habitat will not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
business entities. Therefore, an initial regulatory flexibility 
analysis is not required.

Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use--Executive Order 13211

    Executive Order 13211 (Actions Concerning Regulations That 
Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use) requires 
agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking 
certain actions. Within one of the units, vegetation maintenance will 
occur along the edges of an existing road that remains accessible for 
power line maintenance. We do not anticipate any effects to critical 
habitat from this activity. Therefore, we do not expect the designation 
of this proposed critical habitat to significantly affect energy 
supplies, distribution, or use. Thus, this action is not a significant 
energy action, and no Statement of Energy Effects is required. However, 
we will further evaluate this issue as we conduct our economic 
analysis, and review and revise this assessment as warranted.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.)

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 
et seq.), we make the following findings:
    (1) This proposed rule would not produce a Federal mandate. In 
general, a Federal mandate is a provision in legislation, statute, or 
regulation that would impose an enforceable duty upon State, local, or 
tribal governments, or the private sector, and includes both ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandates'' and ``Federal private sector mandates.'' 
These terms are defined in 2 U.S.C. 658(5)-(7). ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would impose 
an enforceable duty upon State, local, or tribal governments'' with two 
exceptions. It excludes ``a condition of Federal assistance.'' It also 
excludes ``a duty arising from participation in a voluntary Federal 
program,'' unless the regulation ``relates to a then-existing Federal 
program under which $500,000,000 or more is provided annually to State, 
local, and tribal governments under entitlement authority,'' if the 
provision would ``increase the stringency of conditions of assistance'' 
or ``place caps upon, or otherwise decrease, the Federal Government's 
responsibility to provide funding,'' and the State, local, or tribal 
governments ``lack authority'' to adjust accordingly. At the time of 
enactment, these entitlement programs were: Medicaid; Aid to Families 
with Dependent Children work programs; Child Nutrition; Food Stamps; 
Social Services Block Grants; Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants; 
Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and Independent

[[Page 62546]]

Living; Family Support Welfare Services; and Child Support Enforcement. 
``Federal private sector mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would 
impose an enforceable duty upon the private sector, except (i) a 
condition of Federal assistance or (ii) a duty arising from 
participation in a voluntary Federal program.''
    The designation of critical habitat does not impose a legally 
binding duty on non-Federal Government entities or private parties. 
Under the Act, the only regulatory effect is that Federal agencies must 
ensure that their actions do not destroy or adversely modify critical 
habitat under section 7. While non-Federal entities that receive 
Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that otherwise require 
approval or authorization from a Federal agency for an action, may be 
indirectly impacted by the designation of critical habitat, the legally 
binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical 
habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency. Furthermore, to the 
extent that non-Federal entities are indirectly impacted because they 
receive Federal assistance or participate in a voluntary Federal aid 
program, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act would not apply, nor would 
critical habitat shift the costs of the large entitlement programs 
listed above onto State governments.
    (2) We lack the available economic information to determine if a 
Small Government Agency Plan is required. Therefore, we defer this 
finding until completion of the draft economic analysis is prepared 
under section 4(b)(2) of the Act.

Takings--Executive Order 12630

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630 (Government Actions and 
Interference with Constitutionally Protected Private Property Rights), 
we will analyze the potential takings implications of designating 
critical habitat for Agave eggersiana, Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia 
rupicola in a takings implications assessment. The draft economic 
analysis will provide the foundation for us to use in preparing a 
takings implication assessment. Critical habitat designation does not 
affect landowner actions that do not require Federal funding or 
permits, nor does it preclude development of habitat conservation 
programs or issuance of incidental take permits to permit actions that 
do require Federal funding or permits to go forward.

Federalism--Executive Order 13132

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132 (Federalism), this 
proposed rule does not have significant Federalism effects. A 
federalism impact summary statement is not required. In keeping with 
Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce policy, we 
requested information from, and coordinated development of, this 
proposed critical habitat designation with appropriate State resource 
agencies in St. Croix, USVI, and Puerto Rico. The designation of 
critical habitat in areas currently occupied by the Agave eggersiana, 
Gonocalyx concolor, and Varronia rupicola imposes no additional 
restrictions to those currently in place and, therefore, has little 
incremental impact on State and local governments and their activities. 
The designation may have some benefit to these governments because the 
areas that contain the physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the species are more clearly defined, and the elements 
of the features of the habitat necessary to the conservation of the 
species are specifically identified. This information does not alter 
where and what federally sponsored activities may occur. However, it 
may assist local governments in long-range planning (rather than having 
them wait for case-by-case section 7 consultations to occur).
    Where State and local governments require approval or authorization 
from a Federal agency for actions that may affect critical habitat, 
consultation under section 7(a)(2) would be required. While non-Federal 
entities that receive Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that 
otherwise require approval or authorization from a Federal agency for 
an action, may be indirectly impacted by the designation of critical 
habitat, the legally binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency.

Civil Justice Reform--Executive Order 12988

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform), 
the Office of the Solicitor has determined that this rule does not 
unduly burden the judicial system and that it meets the requirements of 
sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the Order. We are proposing to designate 
critical habitat in accordance with the provisions of the Act. To 
assist the public in understanding the habitat needs of the species, 
the rule identifies the elements of physical or biological features 
essential to the conservation of the species. The areas of proposed 
critical habitat are presented on maps, and the rule provides several 
options for the interested public to obtain more detailed location 
information, if desired.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

    This rule does not contain any new collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). This rule will not impose recordkeeping or 
reporting requirements on State or local governments, individuals, 
businesses, or organizations. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and 
a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information 
unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)

    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 the National Environmental Policy 
Act 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)).

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994 
(Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and 
Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), 
we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge 
that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal 
public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make 
information available to tribes.
    As discussed above, there are no tribal lands in Puerto Rico or St. 
Croix, USVI.

Clarity of the Rule

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the 
Presidential Memorandum of June 1,

[[Page 62547]]

1998, to write all rules in plain language. This means that each rule 
we publish must:
    (1) Be logically organized;
    (2) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (3) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (4) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (5) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. To 
better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as 
possible. For example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections 
or paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences 
are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be 
useful, etc.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited in this rulemaking is available 
on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R4-
ES-2013-0040 and upon request from the Caribbean Ecological Services 
Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Authors

    The primary authors of this proposed rule are the staff members of 
the Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter 
I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:

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. In Sec.  17.96, amend paragraph (a) as follows:
0
a. By adding entries for Family Agavaceae, Family Boraginaceae, and 
Family Ericaceae, in alphabetical order;
0
b. By adding an entry for Agave eggersiana in alphabetical order under 
Family Agavaceae;
0
c. By adding an entry for Gonocalyx concolor in alphabetical order 
under Family Ericaceae; and
0
d. By adding an entry for Varronia rupicola in alphabetical order under 
Family Boraginaceae.
    The additions read as follows:


Sec.  17.96  Critical habitat--plants.

    (a) Flowering plants.
Family Agavaceae: Agave eggersiana
    (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for St. Croix, USVI, on the 
maps in this entry.
    (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements of the 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of Agave 
eggersiana consist of these components:
    (i) Areas consisting of coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrublands.
    (A) Coastal cliff habitat includes:
    (1) Bare rock; and
    (2) Sparse vegetation.
    (B) Dry coastal shrubland habitat includes:
    (1) Dry forest structure; and
    (2) A plant community of predominately native vegetation.
    (ii) Well-drained soils from the series Cramer, Glynn, Hasselberg, 
Southgate, and Victory.
    (iii) Habitat of sufficient area to sustain viable populations in 
the coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrublands described in paragraphs 
(2)(i)(A) and (2)(i)(B) of this entry.
    (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as 
bridges, docks, aqueducts, and paved areas) and the land on which they 
are located existing within the legal boundaries on the effective date 
of this rule.
    (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining map units were 
created on a base of an aerial image (USCOE) and USFS-IITF Landcover 
GAP raster. Critical habitat units were then mapped using Universal 
Transverse Mercator (UTM) North American Datum (NAD) 1983 Zone 20 N 
coordinates. The maps in this entry, as modified by any accompanying 
regulatory text, establish the boundaries of the critical habitat 
designation. The coordinates or plot points or both on which each map 
is based are available to the public at the Service's Internet site at 
http://www.fws.gov/caribbean/es, at http://www.regulations.gov at 
Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2013-0040, and at the field office responsible for 
this designation. You may obtain field office location information by 
contacting one of the Service regional offices, the addresses of which 
are listed at 50 CFR 2.2.
    (5) Index map of critical habitat units for Agave eggersiana 
follows:
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[[Page 62548]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP22OC13.000


[[Page 62549]]


    (6) Unit 1: Cane Garden, Estate Canegarden and Estate Peters 
Mindle, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. Map of Unit 1 follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP22OC13.001


[[Page 62550]]


    (7) Unit 2: Manchenil, Estate Granard, Christiansted, St. Croix, 
USVI. Map of Unit 2 follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP22OC13.002


[[Page 62551]]


    (8) Unit 3: Great Pond, Estate Great Pond, Christiansted, St. 
Croix, USVI. Map of Unit 3 follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP22OC13.003


[[Page 62552]]


    (9) Unit 4: Protestant Cay, Protestant Cay, St. Croix, USVI. Map of 
Unit 4 follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP22OC13.004


[[Page 62553]]


    (10) Unit 5: East End South, Estate Jack's Bay and Estate Issac's 
Bay, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI. Map of Units 5 and 6 follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP22OC13.005

    (11) Unit 6: East End North, Estate Cotton Garden, Christiansted, 
St. Croix, USVI. Map of Unit 6 is provided at paragraph (10) of this 
entry.
* * * * *
Family Boraginaceae: Varronia rupicola
    (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for the municipalities of 
Gu[aacute]nica, Yauco, Guayanilla, Pe[ntilde]uelas, Ponce, and Vieques, 
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, on the maps in this entry.
    (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements of the 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of 
Varronia rupicola consist of the following components:
    (i) Remnants of native shrubland and scrubland forest on limestone 
substrate within the subtropical dry forest life zone. Dry shrubland 
and scrubland forest includes:
    (A) Shrubland vegetation with canopy from 6.5 to 9.8 ft (2 to 3 m) 
high;
    (B) Limestone pavement;
    (C) Associated native vegetation; and
    (D) A shrub layer dominated by Croton humilis, Eupatorium sinuatum, 
Lantana reticulata, and Turnera diffusa.

[[Page 62554]]

    (ii) Semi-deciduous dry forest on limestone substrate within the 
subtropical dry forest life zone. Dry limestone semi-deciduous forest 
includes:
    (A) Low forest with canopy from 8 to 15 ft (3 to 5 m) high;
    (B) Limestone pavement;
    (C) Associated dry forest native vegetation; and
    (D) A shrub layer dominated by Croton humilis, Eupatorium sinuatum, 
Lantana reticulata, and Turnera diffusa.
    (iii) The type locations described paragraphs (2)(i) and (2)(ii) of 
this entry for this species should have shallow and alkaline soils 
derived from limestone rock and an average rainfall of 34 in (86 cm).
    (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as 
houses, bridges, aqueducts, and paved areas) and the land on which they 
are located existing within the legal boundaries on the effective date 
of this rule.
    (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining map units were 
created on a base of an aerial image (ESRI image Basemap) and USFS-IITF 
Landcover GAP raster. Critical habitat units were then mapped using the 
Geographic Coordinate System-World Geodetic System (WGS) 1984 datum. 
The maps in this entry, as modified by any accompanying regulatory 
text, establish the boundaries of the critical habitat designation. The 
coordinates or plot points or both on which each map is based are 
available to the public at the Service's Internet site, http://www.fws.gov/caribbean/es, at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. 
FWS-R4-ES-2013-0040, and at the field office responsible for this 
designation. You may obtain field office location information by 
contacting one of the Service regional offices, the addresses of which 
are listed at 50 CFR 2.2.
    (5) Index map of critical habitat units for Varronia rupicola 
follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP22OC13.006


[[Page 62555]]


    (6) Unit 1: Montalva, municipality of Gu[aacute]nica, Puerto Rico. 
Map of Units 1, 2, 3, and 4 follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP22OC13.007


[[Page 62556]]


    (7) Unit 2: Gu[aacute]nica Commonwealth Forest, municipalities of 
Gu[aacute]nica and Yauco, Puerto Rico. Map of Unit 2 is provided at 
paragraph (6) of this entry.
    (8) Unit 3: Montes de Barina, municipalities of Yauco and 
Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. Map of Unit 3 is provided at paragraph (6) of 
this entry.
    (9) Unit 4: Pe[ntilde]on de Ponce, municipalities of 
Pe[ntilde]uelas and Ponce, Puerto Rico. Map of Unit 4 is provided at 
paragraph (6) of this entry.
    (10) Unit 5: Punta Negra, municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Map 
of Units 5, 6, and 7 follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP22OC13.008

    (11) Unit 6: Puerto Ferro, municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico. 
Map of Unit 6 is provided at paragraph (10) of this entry.
    (12) Unit 7: Cerro Playuela, municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico. 
Map of Unit 7 is provided at paragraph (10) of this entry.
* * * * *
Family Ericaceae: Gonocalyx concolor
    (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for the municipalities of 
Cayey, San Lorenzo, and Patillas, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, on the 
maps in this entry.
    (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements of the 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of 
Gonocalyx concolor consist of these components:
    (i) Elfin forest at elevations over 2,900 ft (880 m) in Cerro La 
Santa, Puerto Rico, which includes:
    (A) Forest with single canopy layer with trees seldom exceeding 22 
ft (7 m) in height.
    (B) Associated native vegetation dominated by species such as 
Tabebuia schumanniana, Tabebuia rigida, Ocotea spathulata, Eugenia 
borinquensis, Clusia minor, and Prestoea acuminata var. montana, native 
ferns, and dense cover with epiphytes, including bromeliads and mosses.
    (ii) Ausubo forest at elevations between 2,000 to 2,300 ft (620 to 
720 m) in the Charco Azul, which includes:
    (A) Forest with single canopy layer with trees exceeding 22 ft (7 
m) in height.
    (B) Plant association comprised by few species of native trees and 
associated native vegetation (e.g., Manilkara bidentata, Dacryodes 
excelsa, Guarea guidonia, and Cyrilla racemiflora), native ferns, and 
dense cover with epiphytes, including bromeliads and mosses.
    (iii) The type locations described in paragraphs (2)(i) and (2)(ii) 
of this entry for this species should have mean annual precipitation of 
88.7 in (225.3 cm), mean annual temperature of 72.3 [deg]F (22.7 
[deg]C), and Los Guineos type of soil (i.e., very deep, acidic, clayey, 
well-drained soils on side slopes of mountains).
    (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as 
bridges, docks, and aqueducts) and the land on which they are located 
existing within the legal boundaries on the effective date of this 
rule.
    (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining map units were 
created on a base of U.S. Geological Survey digital ortho-photo 
quarter-quadrangles, and critical habitat units were then mapped using 
aerial photos (ArcGis) to limits of the boundaries of the elfin forest 
and ausubo forest. Critical habitat units were then mapped using ArcMap 
version 10 (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.), a 
Geographic Information Systems program. The maps in this entry, as 
modified by any accompanying regulatory text, establish the boundaries 
of the critical habitat designation. The coordinates or plot points or 
both on which each map is

[[Page 62557]]

based are available to the public at the Service's Internet site at 
http://www.fws.gov/caribbean/es, at http://www.regulations.gov at 
Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2013-0040, and at the field office responsible for 
this designation. You may obtain field office location information by 
contacting one of the Service regional offices, the addresses of which 
are listed at 50 CFR 2.2.
    (5) Index map of critical habitat units for Gonocalyx concolor 
follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP22OC13.009


[[Page 62558]]


    (6) Unit 1: Cerro La Santa, Carite Commonwealth Forest, Puerto 
Rico. Map of Unit 1 follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP22OC13.010


[[Page 62559]]


    (7) Unit 2: Charco Azul, Carite Commonwealth Forest, Puerto Rico. 
Map of Unit 2 follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP22OC13.011


[[Page 62560]]


* * * * *

    Dated: September 9, 2013.
Rachel Jacobson,
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2013-24169 Filed 10-3-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-C