Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Status for Arabis georgiana (Georgia rockcress), 54627-54635 [2014-21394]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 177 / Friday, September 12, 2014 / Rules and Regulations economic impact on a substantial number of small entities within the meaning of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. 4. National Environmental Policy Act The Department has analyzed the environmental impacts of this proposed action pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and has determined that it is categorically excluded pursuant to DOT Order 5610.1C, Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts (44 FR 56420, Oct. 1, 1979). Categorical exclusions are actions identified in an agency’s NEPA implementing procedures that do not normally have a significant impact on the environment and therefore do not require either an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS). See 40 CFR 1508.4. In analyzing the applicability of a categorical exclusion, the Department must also consider whether extraordinary circumstances are present that would warrant the preparation of an EA or EIS. Id. Paragraph 3.c.5 of DOT Order 5610.1C incorporates by reference the categorical exclusions for all DOT Operating Administrations. This action is covered by the categorical exclusion listed in the Federal Highway Administration’s implementing procedures, ‘‘[p]romulgation of rules, regulations, and directives.’’ 23 CFR 771.117(c)(20). The purpose of this rulemaking is to update TAR regulations to make them consistent with current law and to provide clarifications. The agency does not anticipate any environmental impacts, and there are no extraordinary circumstances present in connection with this rulemaking. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES 5. Paperwork Reduction Act Under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA) (44 U.S.C. 3501, et seq.), Federal agencies must obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget for each collection of information they conduct, sponsor, or require through regulations. The DOT has determined that this action does not contain a collection of information requirement for the purposes of the PRA. 6. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA) (Pub. L. 104–4, 109 Stat. 48, March 22, 1995) requires Federal agencies to assess the effects of certain regulatory actions on State, local, and tribal governments, and the private sector. The UMRA requires a written statement of economic and VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:18 Sep 11, 2014 Jkt 232001 regulatory alternatives for proposed and final rules that contain Federal mandates. A ‘‘Federal mandate’’ is a new or additional enforceable duty, imposed on any State, local, or tribal Government, or the private sector. If any Federal mandate causes those entities to spend, in aggregate, $143.1 million or more in any one year (adjusted for inflation), an UMRA analysis is required. This action would not impose Federal mandates on any State, local, or tribal governments or the private sector. List of Subjects 48 CFR Part 1201 Government procurement, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. 48 CFR Part 1202 Government procurement. 54627 system prescribed by (FAR) 48 CFR 1.104. Guidance that is OA/OST–Rspecific contains the OA/OST–R’s acronym directly after the heading. The following acronyms apply: FHWA—Federal Highway Administration FMCSA—Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration FRA—Federal Railroad Administration FTA—Federal Transit Administration MARAD—Maritime Administration NHTSA—National Highway Traffic Safety Administration OST—Office of the Secretary OST–R— Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology PHMSA—Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration SLSDC—Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation * * * * * This rule is issued this 28 day of August 2014, at Washington, DC, under authority delegated in 49 CFR 1.38a(a)(l). Willie H. Smith, Senior Procurement Executive. ■ For the reasons set out in the preamble, 48 CFR Chapter 12 is amended as follows: Authority: Pub. L. 113–76; 5 U.S.C. 301; 41 U.S.C. 418b; (FAR) 48 CFR 1.3. PART 1201—FEDERAL ACQUISITION REGULATIONS SYSTEM 1. The authority citation for part 1201 is revised to read as follows: PART 1202—DEFINITIONS OF WORDS AND TERMS 4. The authority citation for part 1202 is revised to read as follows: 5. In section 1202.1, in the definition of ‘‘Operating Administration (OA),’’ revise paragraph (10) to read as follows: ■ ■ Authority: Pub. L. 113–76; 5 U.S.C. 301; 41 U.S.C. 418(b); (FAR) 48 CFR 1.3. 2. Amend section 1201.104 by adding paragraph (e) to read as follows: ■ 1201.104 * * * * (e) For purposes of the (FAR), (TAR) and (TAM), the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (formerly the Research and Innovative Technology Administration; see Public Law 113–76; Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014) shall have the same authority as an Operating Administration as defined in (TAR) 1202.1, and the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology shall have the same authority as a Head of the Operating Administration as defined in (TAR) 1202.1. ■ 3. In section 1201.105–2, revise paragraph (a) to read as follows: Arrangement of regulations. (a) General. The (TAR) 48 CFR chapter 12, which encompasses both Department and Operating Administration (OA)/Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (OST–R)-specific guidance (see (TAR) 48 CFR 1201.3), conforms with the arrangement and numbering PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Definitions. * * * * * Operating Administration (OA) * * * (10) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (OST–R). * * * * * [FR Doc. 2014–21673 Filed 9–11–14; 8:45 am] Applicability. * 1201.105–2 1202.1 BILLING CODE 4910–9X–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013–0100; 4500030113] RIN 1018–AY72 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Status for Arabis georgiana (Georgia rockcress) Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, determine threatened species status under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), for Arabis georgiana (Georgia rockcress), a plant species in Georgia and Alabama. The effect of this regulation is to add SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\12SER1.SGM 12SER1 54628 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 177 / Friday, September 12, 2014 / Rules and Regulations this species to the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants and extend the Act’s protections to this species. DATES: This rule is effective October 14, 2014. ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the Internet at http:// www.regulations.gov and http:// www.fws.gov/athens/. Comments and materials we received, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this rule, are available for public inspection at http:// www.regulations.gov. All of the comments, materials, and documentation that we considered in this rulemaking are available by appointment, during normal business hours at: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Ecological Services Office, 105 Westpark Dr., Suite D, Athens, GA 30606; telephone 706–613–9493. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Don Imm, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 105 Westpark Dr., Suite D, Athens, GA 30606; telephone 706–613–9493; facsimile 706–613–6059. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We will refer to Arabis georgiana by its common name, Georgia rockcress, in this rule. Elsewhere in this Federal Register, we publish the final rule designating critical habitat for the Georgia rockcress under the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Previous Federal Actions Please refer to the proposed listing rule for the Georgia rockcress (78 FR 56192, September 12, 2013) for a detailed description of previous Federal actions concerning this species. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES Background Please refer to the proposed listing rule for the Georgia rockcress (78 FR 56192, September 12, 2013) for a summary of species information. The following section contains revisions to the proposed listing rule reflecting comments we received during peer review. There are two species known to be syntopic (occurring on same site) with Georgia rockcress that are easily misidentified as Georgia rockcress. They are Boechera canadensis and B. laevigata, previously assigned to the genus Arabis (Al-Shehbaz 2003, pp. 381–391). Confusion with the two Boechera taxa could lead to an overestimate of abundance for Georgia rockcress. Georgia rockcress generally occurs on steep river bluffs often with shallow VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:18 Sep 11, 2014 Jkt 232001 soils overlaying rock or with exposed rock outcroppings. These edaphic conditions result in micro-disturbances, such as sloughing soils with limited accumulation of leaf litter or canopy gap dynamics, possibly with wind-thrown trees, which provide small patches of exposed mineral soil in a patchy distribution across the river bluff (Schotz 2010, p. 6). While Georgia rockcress needs small-scale disturbances with slightly increased light, limited competition for water, and exposed soils for seed germination, the species is a poor competitor and is easily outcompeted by aggressive competitors (Allison 1995, p. 8; Moffett 2007, p. 4; Schotz 2010, p. 9). Natural large-scale disturbances, such as fire and catastrophic flooding, are unlikely to occur on the steep river bluffs occupied by Georgia rockcress. Populations of Georgia rockcress are healthiest in areas receiving full or partial sunlight. This species seems to be able to tolerate moderate shading, but it exists primarily as vegetative rosettes in heavily shaded areas (Moffett 2007, p. 4). Those populations occurring in forested areas will decline as the forest canopy closes. Allison (1999, p. 4) attributed the decline of a population in Bibb County, Alabama, to canopy closure. In addition, the small number of individuals at the majority of the sites makes these populations vulnerable to local extinctions from unfavorable habitat conditions such as extreme shading. Georgia rockcress is rare throughout its range. Moffett (2007, p. 8) found approximately 2,140 plants from all known sites in Georgia. During surveys in 1999, Allison (1999, pp. 1–7) found that populations of this species typically had a limited number of individuals restricted to a small area. Of the nine known localities (six populations) in Georgia, Allison (1995, pp. 18–28) reported that six sites consisted of only 3 to 25 plants, and the remaining three sites had 51 to 63 individuals. However, a 2007 survey by Moffett (2007, p. 8) of the six Georgia populations resulted in counts of 5 or fewer plants at one population; 30 to 50 plants at two populations; 150 plants at one population; and two populations (greatly expanded from 1995) of almost 1,000 plants each. In 2009, plants could not be relocated at one Floyd County, Georgia, site, and only one plant was seen at another site where 25 to 50 had been documented in 2007 (Garcia 2012, p. 76; Elmore 2010, p. 1). Moffett (2007, pp. 1–2) indicated that the overall status of the three populations in the Ridge and Valley ecoregion (Floyd and Gordon Counties, Georgia) was poor, as these PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 populations tended to be small, and declining in size and vigor. The largest population in Georgia is the multi-site Goat Rock Dam complex in the Piedmont province (Harris/Muscogee Counties) with approximately 1,000 flowering stems at last census (Garcia 2012, p. 76; Moffett 2007, p. 2). The Goat Rock Dam population has recently increased by 130 percent, which likely reflects management efforts to control invasive species by Georgia Power and the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance. Fort Benning also supports a vigorous population with an estimated 1,000 plants (Garcia 2012, p. 76; Moffett 2007, p. 2). Georgia rockcress has been extirpated from its type locality near Omaha, Georgia, in Stuart County (Garcia 2012, p. 76; Moffett 2007, p. 2). At another site, Blacks Bluff, Georgia, rockcress had declined to a few individuals by 2007 (Garcia 2012, p. 76; Moffett 2007, p. 2), but 100 individuals were replanted in 2009. During a count done in 2013, 31 individuals were found to be surviving at the site, and more than 15,000 seeds were broadcast to supplement this population (Goldstrohm 2013, p. 1). Schotz (2010, p. 8) documented fewer than 3,000 plants from all known sites in Alabama. Populations from Bibb County, Alabama, had between 16 and 229 plants, with 42 and 498 from Dallas County, 47 from Elmore County, 414 from Monroe County, 842 from Russell County, 4 from Sumter County, and 551 from Wilcox County. Allison (1999, pp. 2–4) originally documented this species at 18 localities (representing seven populations) in Bibb County. However, one of these Bibb County populations was not relocated during surveys in 2001 (Allison 2002, pers. comm.), and plants were not relocated at two other sites in Alabama (Schotz 2010, pp. 13, 57). Therefore, it is believed that Georgia rockcress has been extirpated from these three sites in Alabama. Summary of Comments and Recommendations In the proposed rule published on September 12, 2013 (78 FR 56192), we requested that all interested parties submit written comments on the proposal by November 12, 2013. We also contacted appropriate Federal and State agencies, scientific experts and organizations, and other interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposal. Newspaper notices inviting general public comment were published in the Atlanta JounalConstitution, Columbus Ledger, Montgemenry Advertiser, and Birmingham News. We conducted a public informational session and public E:\FR\FM\12SER1.SGM 12SER1 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 177 / Friday, September 12, 2014 / Rules and Regulations hearing in Columbus, Georgia, on May 28, 2014; no public comments were received, and only one individual attended the informational session. Peer Reviewer Comments In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinion from three knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with Georgia rockcress and its habitat, biological needs, and threats. We received responses from all of the peer reviewers. We reviewed all comments received from the peer reviewers for substantive issues and new information regarding the listing of Georgia rockcress. The peer reviewers generally concurred with our methods and conclusions and provided additional information, clarifications, and suggestions to improve the final rule. Peer reviewer comments are addressed in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule as appropriate. Comment: Two peer reviewers suggested that the Service should include several citations, figures, and a table from Garcia (2012). Our Response: We have incorporated information from Garcia (2012) into this final rule, with citations included, in the Background section, above, and Summary of Biological Status and Threats section, below. Figures and tables will be posted as supplemental information on http:// www.regulations.gov. Comments From States Both the States of Alabama and Georgia provided editorial comments on our proposed rule; these comments have been incorporated into this final rule as appropriate. The State of Georgia also provided additional detail about conditions on specific sites and recommended we add a brief discussion of two syntopic species, which we include in the Background section, above. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES Public Comments We received four public comments on the proposed listing determination during the public comment periods, and none on record at the public hearing. Only one of those comments was substantive; it is discussed below. Comment: One commenter expressed concern that the Service had not provided information about why the Georgia rockcress is necessary, useful, or beneficial, and noted that the Service had not determined what the costs of conservation for this species would be VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:18 Sep 11, 2014 Jkt 232001 or what would happen in a ‘‘no action’’ alternative. Our Response: When Congress passed the Act in 1973, it found and declared that [America’s] ‘‘species of fish, wildlife, and plants are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people’’ (16 U.S.C. 1531(a)(3)). The purpose of the Act is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and its implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 424, set forth the procedures for adding species to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, we may list a species based solely on (A) the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. Listing actions may be warranted based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in combination. We may not consider other criteria, including the value, use, or benefit associated with a species, in connection with the listing determination. We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, present, and future threats to Georgia rockcress. Habitat degradation (Factor A) and the subsequent invasion of nonnative species (Factor E) are the most serious threats to this species’ continued existence. Disturbance, associated with timber harvesting, road building, and grazing, has created favorable conditions for the invasion of nonnative weeds, especially Japanese honeysuckle, in this species’ habitat. Because nearly all populations are currently or potentially threatened by the presence of nonnatives, we find that this species is warranted for listing. We do not analyze the economic impact of listing a species under the Act; however, an economic analysis is done for the designation of critical habitat and has been completed for this species. It can be found at http:// www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013–0030. No analysis of a ‘‘no action’’ alternative is required under the Act; this is a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). We have determined that environmental assessments and environmental impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National Environmental PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 54629 Policy Act, need not be prepared in connection with listing a species as an endangered or threatened species under the Act (see Required Determinations, below). Summary of Changes From the Proposed Rule All changes are largely editorial and are addressed in the response to peer reviewer comments (see Peer Reviewer Comments, above). Summary of Biological Status and Threats Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and its implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 424, set forth the procedures for adding species to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, we may list a species based on: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. Listing actions may be warranted based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in combination. Please refer to the proposed listing rule for the Georgia rockcress (78 FR 56192, September 12, 2013) for a more complete description of the factors affecting this species. Our assessment evaluates the biological status of the species and threats affecting its continued existence. It is based upon the best available scientific and commercial data and the expert opinion of the species status assessment team members. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range Habitat fragmentation is a major feature of many landscapes within the eastern deciduous forest and creates boundaries or edges where disturbed patches of vegetation are adjacent to intact habitat. Disturbance events fragment the forest, creating edge habitat and promoting the invasion of nonnative species (Honu and Gibson 2006, pp. 263–264). Edges function as sources of propagules for disturbed habitats and represent complex environmental gradients with changes in light availability, temperature, humidity, wind speed, and soil moisture, with plant species responding directly to environmental changes (Meiners et al. 1999, p. 261). Edge effect, including any canopy break due to E:\FR\FM\12SER1.SGM 12SER1 54630 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 177 / Friday, September 12, 2014 / Rules and Regulations timber harvest, fields, or maintained rights-of-way, may penetrate as far as 175 meters (574 feet), resulting in changes in community composition (Honu and Gibson 2006, p. 264; Gehlhausen et al. 2000, p. 21; Meiners et al. 1999, p. 266; Fraver 1994). Roads create a canopy break, destroy the soil profile, and disrupt hydrology of the bluff habitat. Roads are also known corridors for the spread of invasive plant species (Forman et al. 2003, pp. 75–112), as disturbed soil and the maintenance of open, sunny conditions create favorable conditions where invasive species can establish and spread into the forest interior (Fraver 1994, pp. 828–830). Aspect is an important factor in determining how forest microclimate and vegetation are influenced by the external environment (Gehlhausen et al. 2000, p. 30; Fraver 1994, pp. 828–830). Aspect likely increases the distance that the edge effect can influence microclimate and plays an important role on the steep bluff habitat occupied by Georgia rockcress. Edge effects are reduced by a protective border with buffers that eliminate most microhabitat edge effect (Honu and Gibson 2006, p. 255; Gehlhausen et al. 2000, p. 32). Currently, habitat degradation is the most serious threat to this species’ continued existence. Most of the Coastal Plain rivers surveyed by Allison (1995, p. 11) were considered unsuitable for Georgia rockcress because their banks had been disturbed to the point where there was no remaining vegetative buffer. Recent habitat degradation (i.e., vegetation denuded and replaced by hard-packed, exposed mineral soil) has occurred at several Georgia sites in association with residential development and campsites atop the bluffs (Moffett 2007, pp. 3–4). Disturbance associated with timber harvesting, road building, and grazing in areas where the plant exists has created favorable conditions for the invasion of nonnative weeds in this species’ habitat (Factor E) (Schotz 2010, p. 10). Timber operations that remove the forest canopy promote early successional species and result in the decline of Georgia rockcress (Schotz 2010, p. 10). Encroachment of development, in the form of bridges, roads, houses, commercial buildings, or utility lines allowing for the introduction of nonnative species (Factor E), also results in the decline of Georgia rockcress (Schotz 2010, pp. 9–10; Moffett 2007, pp. 2–7; Allison 1995, pp. 7–18). The riparian bluff habitat surrounding 18 of the known populations has been adversely impacted in some way, and in many cases the habitat has suffered multiple impacts. Blacks Bluff, Fort Benning (Georgia), McGuire Ford, Limestone Park, Prairie Bluff, and Fort Benning (Alabama) all have roads that bisect the habitat while Murphys Bluff, Pratts Ferry, Fort Tombecbee, and Resaca Bluffs have roads associated with bridges that impact bluff habitat (Schotz 2010, pp. 20–57; Moffett 2007, pp. 5–8; Allison 1999, pp. 3–8; Allison 1995, pp. 18–28). Housing development requires a road network and further impacts bluff habitat by creating canopy gaps and soil disturbances, with landscaping that may introduce nonnative plants. Whitmore Bluff, McGuire Ford, Prairie Bluff, Fort Tombecbee, and Creekside Glades have bluff habitat that has been impacted by housing development (Schotz 2010, pp. 20–57; Allison 1999, pp. 3–8). Commercial development has the same impact as housing; Resaca Bluff and Fort Tombecbee are impacted by commercial development (Schotz 2010, pp. 20–57; Moffett 2007, pp. 5–8; Allison 1999, pp. 3–8; Allison 1995, pp. 18–28). Impervious surfaces associated with housing and commercial development have increased runoff and provided access for dumping of trash on some sites. The Resaca Bluffs population is further disturbed by the long-term camping at the site. McGuire Ford and Fort Toulouse have maintained fields for pasture or recreational use (Schotz 2010, pp. 20– 57; Allison 1999, pp. 3–8). The removal of the canopy to maintain a field provides an opportunity for nonnatives to invade. Utility lines have created canopy breaks at Creekside Glades, Little Schulz Creek, and Goat Rock Dam (Schotz 2010, pp. 20–57; Moffett 2007, pp. 5–8; Allison 1999, pp. 3–8; Allison 1995, pp. 18–28). Timber harvesting activities create soil disturbance and canopy breaks that provide access for nonnative plants to invade. Durant Bend, Portland Landing, Fort Gaines, Pratts Ferry, Fern Glade, and Sixmile Creek, and Whitmore Bluff have all been impacted by timber harvesting activates (Schotz 2010, pp. 20–57; Moffett 2007, pp. 5–8; Allison 1999, pp. 3–8; Allison 1995, pp. 18–28). While these impacts are to the bluff habitat that surrounds these populations, these disturbances eliminate potential habitat for expansion of populations, fragment the populations, and introduce nonnative species (Factor E). TABLE 1—IMPACTS TO POPULATIONS OF GEORGIA ROCKCRESS FROM HUMAN-INDUCED FACTORS AND NONNATIVE PLANTS Impacted by nonnative plants (Factor E) County/State Human-induced impact (Factor A) Fort Tombecbee ............................ Sumter/AL ..................................... Marshalls Bluff ............................... Prairie Bluff .................................... Monroe/AL .................................... Wilcox/AL ...................................... Road with bridge, housing, commercial. Quarry ........................................... Road, housing, hydropower ......... Portland Landing River Slopes ...... Dallas/AL ...................................... Timber harvest, hydropower ......... Durant Bend ................................... mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES Site name Dallas/AL ...................................... Timber harvest .............................. Murphys Bluff Bridge Cahaba River. Creekside Glades and Little Schulz Creek. Cottingham Creek Bluff and Pratts Ferry. Fern Glade and Sixmile Creek ...... Bibb/AL ......................................... Road with bridge .......................... Bibb/AL ......................................... Housing, utility lines ...................... Bibb/AL ......................................... Road with bridge, timber harvest Bibb/AL ......................................... Timber harvest .............................. Bibb/AL ......................................... None ............................................. Chinese privet honeysuckle. Chinese privet honeysuckle. Chinese privet. Bibb/AL ......................................... Road, housing, maintained field ... None. Browns Dam Glade North and South. McGuire Ford Limestone Park ....... VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:18 Sep 11, 2014 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\12SER1.SGM None. None. Chinese privet and Japanese honeysuckle. China berrytree, Japanese honeysuckle, and kudzu. Chinese privet and Japanese honeysuckle. Chinese privet, Japanese honeysuckle, and others. None. 12SER1 and Japanese and Japanese Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 177 / Friday, September 12, 2014 / Rules and Regulations 54631 TABLE 1—IMPACTS TO POPULATIONS OF GEORGIA ROCKCRESS FROM HUMAN-INDUCED FACTORS AND NONNATIVE PLANTS—Continued County/State Elmore/AL ..................................... Clay/GA ........................................ Chattahoochee/GA, Russell/AL .... Maintained field/recreation ........... Timber harvest .............................. Road ............................................. Goat Rock North and South .......... Harris, Muscogee/GA ................... Hydropower, utility lines ............... Blacks Bluff Preserve ..................... Floyd/GA ....................................... Road, quarry ................................. Whitmore Bluff ............................... Resaca Bluffs ................................. Floyd/GA ....................................... Gordon/GA .................................... Timber harvest, housing ............... Road with bridge, commercial, trash dumping, camping. Impacted by nonnative plants (Factor E) Human-induced impact (Factor A) Fort Toulouse State Park ............... Fort Gaines Bluff ............................ Fort Benning (GA and AL) ............. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES Site name Quarrying destroys the bluff habitat by removing the canopy and soil. The Blacks Bluff population of Georgia rockcress in Floyd County, Georgia, appears to be a surviving remnant of a once larger population. The primary habitat at this locality has been extensively quarried (Allison 1995, p. 10). The Marshalls Bluff population in Monroe County, Alabama, is adjacent to an area that was once quarried (Schotz 2010, pp. 45–47). Rock bluffs along rivers have also been favored sites for hydropower dam construction. The construction of Goat Rock Dam in Harris County, Georgia, destroyed a portion of suitable habitat for a population of Georgia rockcress, and the current population there may also represent a remnant of a once much larger population (Allison 1995, p. 10). The Prairie Bluff and Portland Landing populations in Wilcox and Dallas Counties, Alabama, occur on the banks of William ‘‘Bill’’ Dannelly Reservoir, where potential habitat was likely inundated (Schotz 2010, pp. 41 and 56). Due to the obscure nature of Georgia rockcress, it is likely that other populations on rocky bluffs, in the Piedmont and Ridge and Valley provinces, were destroyed by quarrying or inundated by hydropower projects (Allison 1995, p. 10). Conservation efforts by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Bibb County, Alabama, have included the land acquisition of the entire population of Georgia rockcress at Browns Dam Glade and a small portion of the Cottingham Creek Bluff population, and the proposed acquisition of the Sixmile Creek population. The Blacks Bluff Preserve population, Floyd County, Georgia, is in private ownership with a conservation easement held by TNC on the property. There were 27 Georgia rockcress reported on this site in 1995; however, the presence of nonnative species has VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:18 Sep 11, 2014 Jkt 232001 since extirpated Georgia rockcress from this site. The Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA) and TNC agreed to bolster the existing population with plants grown from seed collected from Blacks Bluff, and two planting sites have been established. In 2008, 100 Georgia rockcress plants were planted in this unit, with 31 Georgia rockcress surveyed on this site in 2013 (Goldstrohm 2013, p. 3). In April 2013, an additional 15,000 seeds where sown directly onsite to attempt to recruit new plants to this population (Goldstrohm 2013, p. 1). Two populations are on land owned by the Federal Government, and two are on land owned by the State of Alabama. In Federal ownership, the entire Fern Glade population, Bibb County, Alabama, is on land owned by the Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge. Also, along the banks of the Chattahoochee River in Russell County, Alabama, and Chattahoochee County, Georgia, the entire population at Fort Benning is on land that is in Federal ownership. The Department of Defense (DOD) is aware of the two sites on the Fort Benning property and is working with TNC to monitor and provide for the conservation of these populations (Elmore 2010, pp. 1–2). In August 2014, DOD modified its integrated natural resources management plan (INRMP 2001) for Fort Benning to address Georgia rockcress and its habitat. The Prairie Bluff population, in Wilcox County, Alabama, may be within an area under a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers easement. The State of Alabama owns Fort Tombecbee in Sumtner County and Fort Toulouse State Park in Elmore County, but there is no protection afforded to these State-owned properties. The majority of the Goat Rock Dam population in Georgia (Harris/Muscogee Counties) is mostly located on buffer lands of the Georgia Power Company PO 00000 Frm 00065 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Japanese honeysuckle. Japanese honeysuckle. Chinese privet and honeysuckle. Chinese privet and honeysuckle. Nepalese browntop and honeysuckle. Japanese honeysuckle. Chinese privet and honeysuckle. Japanese Japanese Japanese Japanese and receives a level of protection in the form of a shoreline management plan with vegetative management buffers developed to prohibit disturbance and protect Georgia rockcress; this management plan was developed during Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing (FERC 2004, pp. 7, 18– 19, 29–30; Moffett 2007, p. 4). However, the southernmost portion of the Goat Rock Dam population is on privately owned land. In total, at least some portions of nine populations are on land owned by potential conservation partners; however, with the exception of Ft. Benning’s INRMP, none of these populations has a formal management plan to benefit Georgia rockcress. These populations are afforded varying degrees of protection, and while none of these lands is likely to be developed, they could be subject to other impacts including recreation, military training, road construction, inappropriate timber harvest, and continued pressure from invasive species. Only the Fort Benning population has a management plan that specifically directs management for the benefit of Georgia rockcress. The Goat Rock Dam and Blacks Bluff populations are on land on which efforts have been directed to managing for Georgia rockcress. Historically, suitable habitat was destroyed or degraded due to quarrying, residential development, timber harvesting, road building, recreation, and hydropower dam construction. Severe impacts continue to occur across the range of this species, from quarrying, residential development, timber harvesting, road building, recreation, and hydropower dam construction, and one or more of these activities pose ongoing threats to all known populations. Given the extremely small size of Georgia rockress populations, projects that destroy even a small amount of habitat can have a E:\FR\FM\12SER1.SGM 12SER1 54632 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 177 / Friday, September 12, 2014 / Rules and Regulations serious impact on this species, including existing genetic diversity of the species (Factor E). Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes Overutilization is not known to pose a threat to this species (Allison 1995, p. 10; Moffett 2007, p. 2; Schotz 2010, p. 11). Factor C: Disease or Predation Limited browsing of Georgia rockcress plants has been noted in Georgia (Allison 1995, p. 10; Moffett 2007, p. 3; Schotz 2010, p. 11). However, disease and predation are not considered to be a threat to this species. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES Factor D: The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms Georgia rockcress is listed as threatened by the State of Georgia (Patrick et al. 1995, p. 17; Chaffin 2007, p. 47). This State listing provides legal standing under the Georgia Wildflower Preservation Act of 1973. This law prohibits the removal of this and other wildflower species from public land and regulates the taking and sale of plants from private land. This law also triggers the Georgia Environmental Protection Act process in the event of potential impacts to a population by State activities on State-owned land (Moffett 2007, p. 3). However, the greater problem of habitat destruction and degradation is not addressed by this law (Patrick et al. 1995, p. 6); therefore, there is no protection from projects like road construction, construction of reservoirs, installation of utility lines, quarrying, or timber harvest that degrade or fragment habitat, especially on private lands. Moreover, the decline of the species in Georgia is also attributed to invasive species (Factor E), and there are no State regulatory protections in place to ameliorate that threat on private lands. In Alabama, there is no protection or regulation, either direct or indirect, for Georgia rockcress (Schotz 2010, pp. 2, 11). Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence 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, VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:18 Sep 11, 2014 Jkt 232001 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). While severe drought would be expected to have an effect on the plant community, including the mature canopy and canopy gap dynamic, and increased storm intensity could accelerate erosion-related disturbances, the information currently available on the effects of global climate change and increasing temperatures does not make sufficiently precise estimates of the location and magnitude of the effects. In addition, we are not currently aware of any climate change information specific to the habitat of the Georgia rockcress that would indicate which areas may become important to the species in the future. The primary threat to extant populations of Georgia rockcress is the ongoing invasion of nonnative species due to the degradation of its habitat. Encroachment from timber management and development in the form of bridges, roads, houses, commercial buildings, or utility lines allowing for the introduction of nonnative species has resulted in the decline of Georgia rockcress (Schotz 2010, pp. 9–10; Moffett 2007, pp. 2–7; Allison 1995, pp. 7–18). Human-induced disturbance (quarrying, residential development, timber harvesting, road building, recreation, and hydropower dam construction) has fragmented river bluff habitats and created conditions so that these bluff habitats are receptive to invasion of nonnative species (Honu and Gibson 2006, pp. 263–264). Disturbance of 14 of the 18 known sites occupied by this species has provided opportunities for the invasion of aggressive, nonnative weeds, especially Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle). This species is a gap adaptor, that can easily invade disturbed areas to 90 meters (295 feet) into a forested habitat (Honu and Gibson 2006, p. 264). Other nonnatives include Melia azedarach (Chinaberry or beadtree), Pueraria montana var. lobata (kudzu), Albizia julibrissin (mimosa), Ligustrum japonica (Japanese privet), Ligustrum sinense (Chinese privet), Lygodium japonicum (Japanese PO 00000 Frm 00066 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 climbing fern), and Microstegium vimineum (Napalese browntop) (Allison 1995, pp. 18–29; Moffett 2007, p. 9; Schotz 2010, pp. 10, 19–57). While edge habitats are subject to invasion of nonnative species, a more limited group of nonnative plants can then invade closed-canopy habitats; furthermore, species with a rosette form (e.g., Georgia rockcress) are more susceptible to exclusion by some nonnatives (Meiners et al. 1999, p. 266). Georgia rockcress is not a strong competitor and is usually found in areas where growth of other plants is restrained due to the shallowness of the soils or the dynamic status of the site (e.g., eroding riverbanks) (Allison 1995, pp. 7–8; Moffett 2007, p. 5). However, nonnative species are effectively invading these riverbank sites, and the long-term survival of the at least five populations in the Coastal Plain province is questionable (Allison 1995, p. 11). This species is only able to avoid competition with nonnative species where the soil depth is limited (e.g., rocky bluffs) (Allison 1995, pp. 7–8; Moffett 2007, p. 4) Competition from nonnative species, exacerbated by adjacent land use changes (Factor A), likely contributed to the loss of the population at the type locality in Stewart County, Georgia (Allison 1995, p. 28), and possibly to one of the Bibb County, Alabama, populations and several other sites in this general area (Allison 2002, pers. comm.; Alabama Natural Heritage Program 2004, p. 2). Additional populations are also currently being negatively affected by competition with nonnative plants. According to Moffett (2007, p. 3), most of the sites in Georgia are being impacted by the presence of invasive plant species, primarily Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese privet, and Napalese browntop. Japanese honeysuckle was observed growing on individual plants of Georgia rockcress at three sites visited by Allison in 1995. At a fourth site, plants growing in a mat of Nepalese browntop declined in number from 27 individuals in 1995 (Allison 1995, p. 19) to 3 in 2006 (Moffet 2007 p. 8). Allison (1995, pp. 18–28; Allison 1999, pp. 1–5) considered four other populations to be imminently threatened by the nearby presence of nonnative plants. Thus, rangewide, approximately 40 percent of the populations visited by Allison in 1995 were reportedly threatened by nonnative species. By 2007, Moffett (2007, p, 3) reported all six of the Georgia rockcress populations in Georgia were threatened by nonnative species. By 2010, Schotz (2010, pp. 20– E:\FR\FM\12SER1.SGM 12SER1 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 177 / Friday, September 12, 2014 / Rules and Regulations mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES 57) reported 9 populations in Alabama were impacted by nonnative species. Currently 14 of the 18 extant populations are threatened by nonnatives. Given the extremely low number of total plants (fewer than 5,000 in a given year; 12 of the 18 populations have fewer than 50 plants (Garcia 2012, p. 76; Schotz 2010, p. iii; Elmore 2010, pp. 1– 4; Moffett 2007, pp. 2–7; Allison 1999, pp. 1–5; Allison 1995, pp. 7–18)), and because the species is distributed as disjunct populations across sixphysiographic provinces (Schotz 2010, pp. 9–10; Moffett 2007, pp. 2–7; Allison 1995, pp. 7–18) in three major river systems, each population is important to the conservation of genetics for the species (Garcia 2012, pp. 30–36). Only the Goat Rock Dam and Fort Benning populations are sufficiently large (greater than 1,000 individuals) to preclude a genetic bottleneck (Schotz 2010, pp. 13–57; Moffett 2007, p. 8). A genetic bottleneck would result in reduced genetic diversity with mating between closely related individuals, which can lead to reduced fitness due to inbreeding depression (Garcia 2012, Chapter 1; Ellstrand and Elam, pp. 217–237). This species is composed of three genetic groups: A North Georgia group, a Middle Georgia group, and an Alabama group (Garcia 2012, p. 32). While the Middle Georgia genetic group contains the largest populations (Goat Rock Dam and Fort Benning) and is the most important to the conservation of this species, the smaller populations in the North Georgia and Alabama genetic groups are more vunerable to localized extirpation and represent an important conservation element for this species. Any threats that remove or further deteriorate populations can also have a detrimental effect on the existing genetic diversity of the species. Determination We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, present, and future threats to Georgia rockcress. Habitat degradation (Factor A) and the subsequent invasion of nonnative species (Factor E), more than outright habitat destruction, are the most serious threats to this species’ continued existence. The riparian bluff habitat surrounding all 18 of the known populations has been adversely impacted in some way, and in some cases the habitat has suffered multiple impacts. As described above in Table 1, all sites are affected by one or more threats leading to habitat degration or nonnative species invasion. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:18 Sep 11, 2014 Jkt 232001 Specifically, in two locations, bluff habitat was quarried for limestone, resulting in the destruction of bluff habitat. Four sites have roads with bridges, and eight sites have roads that pass through or provide access to buildings. Five sites have been impacted by housing, and two sites are impacted by commercial buildings. Six sites have been impacted by timber management. Two sites have maintained fields, one of which is maintained for recreation, that encroach on bluff habitat and potential habitat has been inundated at three sites, and transmission lines bisect two sites. Because these sites are relatively small, even a single road corridor can have substantial impact on the population. While the initial infrastructure is already in place from many of these impacts, they continue to pose a threat to populations as they provide a means for nonnative species to overtake these sites. These threats are likely to continue slowly over time. However, they are of high severity because they often completely destroy the habitat and provide continuing opportunities for the introduction of nonnative species (Factor E). The Act defines an endangered species as any species that is ‘‘in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range’’ and a threatened species as any species ‘‘that is likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the foreseeable future.’’ We find that the Georgia rockcress is likely to become endangered throughout its entire range within the forseeable future, based on the immediacy, severity, and scope of the threats described above. However, we do not find the Georgia rockcress to meet the definition of an endangered species at this time because there are sufficient sites spread across the geographic range to ensure that the species is unlikely to be in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Therefore, on the basis of the best available scientific and commercial information, we are listing the Georgia rockcress (Arabis georgiana) as a threatened species in accordance with sections 3(20) and 4(a)(1) of the Act. Significant Portion of the Range Because we have determined that Georgia rockcress is threatened throughout all of its range, no portion of its range can be ‘‘significant’’ for purposes of the definitions of ‘‘endangered species’’ and ‘‘threatened species.’’ See the Service’s significant portion of the range (SPR) policy (79 FR 37578, July 1, 2014). PO 00000 Frm 00067 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 54633 Available Conservation Measures Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain practices. Recognition through listing results in public awareness, and conservation by Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies; private organizations; and individuals. The Act encourages cooperation with the States and requires that recovery actions be carried out for all listed species. The protection required by Federal agencies and the prohibitions against certain activities are discussed, in part, below. The primary purpose of the Act is the conservation of endangered and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The ultimate goal of such conservation efforts is the recovery of these listed species, so that they no longer need the protective measures of the Act. Subsection 4(f) of the Act requires the Service to develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation of endangered and threatened species. The recovery planning process involves the identification of actions that are necessary to halt or reverse the species’ decline by addressing the threats to its survival and recovery. The goal of this process is to restore listed species to a point where they are secure, selfsustaining, and functioning components of their ecosystems. Recovery planning includes the development of a recovery outline shortly after a species is listed and preparation of a draft and final recovery plan. The recovery outline guides the immediate implementation of urgent recovery actions and describes the process to be used to develop a recovery plan. Revisions of the plan may be done to address continuing or new threats to the species, as new substantive information becomes available. The recovery plan identifies site-specific management actions that set a trigger for review of the five factors that control whether a species remains endangered or may be downlisted or delisted, and methods for monitoring recovery progress. Recovery plans also establish a framework for agencies to coordinate their recovery efforts and provide estimates of the cost of implementing recovery tasks. Recovery teams (composed of species experts, Federal and State agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and stakeholders) are often established to develop recovery plans. E:\FR\FM\12SER1.SGM 12SER1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES 54634 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 177 / Friday, September 12, 2014 / Rules and Regulations When completed, the recovery outline, draft recovery plan, and the final recovery plan will be available on our Web site (http://www.fws.gov/ endangered or http://www.fws.gov/ athens/), or from our Georgia Ecological Services Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Implementation of recovery actions generally requires the participation of a broad range of partners, including other Federal agencies, States, Tribes, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and private landowners. Examples of recovery actions include habitat restoration (e.g., restoration of native vegetation), research, captive propagation and reintroduction, and outreach and education. The recovery of many listed species cannot be accomplished solely on Federal lands because their range may occur primarily or solely on non-Federal lands. To achieve recovery of these species requires cooperative conservation efforts on private, State, and Tribal lands. Following publication of this final listing rule, funding for recovery actions will be available from a variety of sources, including Federal budgets, State programs, and cost share grants for non-Federal landowners, the academic community, and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, pursuant to section 6 of the Act, the State(s) of Alabama and Georgia will be eligible for Federal funds to implement management actions that promote the protection or recovery of the Georgia rockcress. Information on our grant programs that are available to aid species recovery can be found at: http:// www.fws.gov/grants. Please let us know if you are interested in participating in recovery efforts for the Georgia rockcress. Additionally, we invite you to submit any new information on this species whenever it becomes available and any information you may have for recovery planning purposes (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Section 7(a) of the Act requires Federal agencies to evaluate their actions with respect to any species that is proposed or listed as an endangered or threatened species and with respect to its critical habitat, if any is designated. Regulations implementing this interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR part 402. Section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to confer with the Service on any action that is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a species proposed for listing or result in destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a species is listed subsequently, section 7(a)(2) of VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:18 Sep 11, 2014 Jkt 232001 the Act requires Federal agencies to ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or destroy or adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency must enter into consultation with the Service. Federal agency actions within the species’ habitat that may require conference or consultation or both as described in the preceding paragraph include management and any other landscape-altering activities on Federal lands administered by the Service or the DOD; issuance of permits under section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and construction and maintenance of roads or highways by the Federal Highway Administration. The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered and threatened plants. The prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act, codified at 50 CFR 17.61 for endangered plants and at 50 CFR 17.71 for threatened plants, in part, make it illegal for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to import, export, transport in interstate commerce in the course of commercial activity, sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce, or remove and reduce the species to possession from areas under Federal jurisdiction. In addition, for plants listed as endangered, the Act prohibits the malicious damage or destruction on areas under Federal jurisdiction and the removal, cutting, digging up, or damaging or destroying of such plants in knowing violation of any State law or regulation, including State criminal trespass law. It is also unlawful to violate any regulation pertaining to plant species listed as endangered or threatened (section 9(a)(2)(E) of the Act). We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities involving endangered and threatened plants species under certain circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 17.62 for endangered plants, and at 17.72 for threatened plants. With regard to endangered and threatened plants, a permit issued under this section must be for one of the following: scientific purposes, the enhancement of the propagation or survival of threatened species, economic hardship, botanical or horticultural exhibition, educational purposes, or other activities consistent with the purposes and policy of the Act. PO 00000 Frm 00068 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 It is our policy, as published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34272), to identify to the maximum extent practicable at the time a species is listed, those activities that would or would not constitute a violation of section 9 of the Act. The intent of this policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of a listing on proposed and ongoing activities within the range of listed species. The following activities could potentially result in a violation of section 9 of the Act: Unauthorized collecting, handling, possessing, selling, delivering, carrying, or transporting of the species, including import or export across State lines and international boundaries, except for properly documented antique specimens of these taxa at least 100 years old, as defined by section 10(h)(1) of the Act. Questions regarding whether specific activities would constitute a violation of section 9 of the Act should be directed to the Georgia Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Under section 4(d) of the Act, the Secretary has discretion to issue such regulations as she deems necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of threatened species. Our implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.61 and 17.71) for endangered and threatened plants generally incorporate the prohibitions of section 9 of the Act for endangered plants, except when a rule promulgated pursuant to section 4(d) of the Act (4(d) rule) has been issued with respect to a particular threatened species. In such a case, the general prohibitions in 50 CFR 17.61 and 17.71 would not apply to that species, and instead, the 4(d) rule would define the specific take prohibitions and exceptions that would apply for that particular threatened species, which we consider necessary and advisable to conserve the species. With respect to a threatened plant, the Secretary of the Interior also has the discretion to prohibit by regulation any act prohibited by section 9(a)(2) of the Act. Exercising this discretion, which has been delegated to the Service by the Secretary, the Service has developed general prohibitions that are appropriate for most threatened species in 50 CFR 17.71 and exceptions to those prohibitions in 50 CFR 17.72. We are not promulgating a 4(d) rule for Georgia rockcress and as a result, all of the section 9(a)(2) general prohibitions, including the ‘‘take’’ prohibitions, will apply to Georgia rockcress. E:\FR\FM\12SER1.SGM 12SER1 54635 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 177 / Friday, September 12, 2014 / Rules and Regulations Required Determinations National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) We have determined that environmental assessments and environmental impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National Environmental Policy Act need not be prepared in connection with listing a species as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). 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. This species is not currently known to occur on tribal lands. Services Office in Athens, Georgia (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17 Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Transportation. Regulation Promulgation Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below: PART 17—[AMENDED] Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes References Cited ■ 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 A complete list of all references cited in this rule is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov or upon request from the Field Supervisor, Ecological Services Office in Athens, Georgia (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361–1407; 1531– 1544; 4201–4245, unless otherwise noted. 1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows: Authors § 17.12 * * (h) * * * Status Historic range Family Common name Scientific name Endangered and threatened plants. * When listed The primary authors of this rule are the staff members of the Ecological Species 2. Amend § 17.12(h) by adding an entry for ‘‘Arabis georgiana’’ to the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants in alphabetical order under Flowering Plants, to read as follows: ■ * Georgia rockcress .. * U.S.A. (GA, AL) ...... * Brassicaceae .......... * * Critical habitat Special rules FLOWERING PLANTS * Arabis georgiana ..... * * * * * * * * [FR Doc. 2014–21394 Filed 9–11–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013–0030; 4500030113] mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES RIN 1018–AZ55 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for Georgia Rockcress Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:18 Sep 11, 2014 Jkt 232001 * We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, designate critical habitat for Arabis georgiana (Georgia rockcress) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In total, we are designating approximately 297 hectares (732 acres) of riparian, river bluff habitat in Georgia, including parts of Gordon, Floyd, Harris, Muscogee, and Clay Counties, and in Alabama, including parts of Bibb, Dallas, Elmore, Monroe, Sumter, and Wilcox Counties, as critical habitat for this species. DATES: This rule is effective October 14, 2014. ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the Internet at http:// www.regulations.gov and http:// www.fws.gov/athens/. Comments and materials we received, as well as some supporting documentation we used in preparing this final rule, are available for public inspection at http:// www.regulations.gov. All of the comments, materials, and SUMMARY: Dated: August 29, 2014. Rowan W. Gould, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. * 849 * * * T PO 00000 Frm 00069 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 * 17.96(a) NA * documentation that we considered in this rulemaking are available by appointment, during normal business hours at: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Ecological Services Office, 105 Westpark Dr., Suite D, Athens, GA 30606; telephone 706–613–9493; facsimile 706–613–6059. 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.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2013–0030, at http:// www.fws.gov/athens/, and at the Ecological Services Office in Athens, Georgia, (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 in the preamble and/or at http:// www.regulations.gov. E:\FR\FM\12SER1.SGM 12SER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 177 (Friday, September 12, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 54627-54635]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-21394]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2013-0100; 4500030113]
RIN 1018-AY72


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Status 
for Arabis georgiana (Georgia rockcress)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, determine threatened 
species status under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act), for Arabis georgiana (Georgia rockcress), a plant species in 
Georgia and Alabama. The effect of this regulation is to add

[[Page 54628]]

this species to the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants and extend 
the Act's protections to this species.

DATES: This rule is effective October 14, 2014.

ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and http://www.fws.gov/athens/. Comments and 
materials we received, as well as supporting documentation we used in 
preparing this rule, are available for public inspection at http://www.regulations.gov. All of the comments, materials, and documentation 
that we considered in this rulemaking are available by appointment, 
during normal business hours at: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Georgia Ecological Services Office, 105 Westpark Dr., Suite D, Athens, 
GA 30606; telephone 706-613-9493.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Don Imm, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 105 Westpark Dr., Suite D, Athens, GA 30606; 
telephone 706-613-9493; facsimile 706-613-6059. Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:  We will refer to Arabis georgiana by its 
common name, Georgia rockcress, in this rule.
    Elsewhere in this Federal Register, we publish the final rule 
designating critical habitat for the Georgia rockcress under the Act 
(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

Previous Federal Actions

    Please refer to the proposed listing rule for the Georgia rockcress 
(78 FR 56192, September 12, 2013) for a detailed description of 
previous Federal actions concerning this species.

Background

    Please refer to the proposed listing rule for the Georgia rockcress 
(78 FR 56192, September 12, 2013) for a summary of species information. 
The following section contains revisions to the proposed listing rule 
reflecting comments we received during peer review.
    There are two species known to be syntopic (occurring on same site) 
with Georgia rockcress that are easily misidentified as Georgia 
rockcress. They are Boechera canadensis and B. laevigata, previously 
assigned to the genus Arabis (Al-Shehbaz 2003, pp. 381-391). Confusion 
with the two Boechera taxa could lead to an overestimate of abundance 
for Georgia rockcress.
    Georgia rockcress generally occurs on steep river bluffs often with 
shallow soils overlaying rock or with exposed rock outcroppings. These 
edaphic conditions result in micro-disturbances, such as sloughing 
soils with limited accumulation of leaf litter or canopy gap dynamics, 
possibly with wind-thrown trees, which provide small patches of exposed 
mineral soil in a patchy distribution across the river bluff (Schotz 
2010, p. 6). While Georgia rockcress needs small-scale disturbances 
with slightly increased light, limited competition for water, and 
exposed soils for seed germination, the species is a poor competitor 
and is easily outcompeted by aggressive competitors (Allison 1995, p. 
8; Moffett 2007, p. 4; Schotz 2010, p. 9). Natural large-scale 
disturbances, such as fire and catastrophic flooding, are unlikely to 
occur on the steep river bluffs occupied by Georgia rockcress.
    Populations of Georgia rockcress are healthiest in areas receiving 
full or partial sunlight. This species seems to be able to tolerate 
moderate shading, but it exists primarily as vegetative rosettes in 
heavily shaded areas (Moffett 2007, p. 4). Those populations occurring 
in forested areas will decline as the forest canopy closes. Allison 
(1999, p. 4) attributed the decline of a population in Bibb County, 
Alabama, to canopy closure. In addition, the small number of 
individuals at the majority of the sites makes these populations 
vulnerable to local extinctions from unfavorable habitat conditions 
such as extreme shading.
    Georgia rockcress is rare throughout its range. Moffett (2007, p. 
8) found approximately 2,140 plants from all known sites in Georgia. 
During surveys in 1999, Allison (1999, pp. 1-7) found that populations 
of this species typically had a limited number of individuals 
restricted to a small area. Of the nine known localities (six 
populations) in Georgia, Allison (1995, pp. 18-28) reported that six 
sites consisted of only 3 to 25 plants, and the remaining three sites 
had 51 to 63 individuals. However, a 2007 survey by Moffett (2007, p. 
8) of the six Georgia populations resulted in counts of 5 or fewer 
plants at one population; 30 to 50 plants at two populations; 150 
plants at one population; and two populations (greatly expanded from 
1995) of almost 1,000 plants each. In 2009, plants could not be 
relocated at one Floyd County, Georgia, site, and only one plant was 
seen at another site where 25 to 50 had been documented in 2007 (Garcia 
2012, p. 76; Elmore 2010, p. 1). Moffett (2007, pp. 1-2) indicated that 
the overall status of the three populations in the Ridge and Valley 
ecoregion (Floyd and Gordon Counties, Georgia) was poor, as these 
populations tended to be small, and declining in size and vigor. The 
largest population in Georgia is the multi-site Goat Rock Dam complex 
in the Piedmont province (Harris/Muscogee Counties) with approximately 
1,000 flowering stems at last census (Garcia 2012, p. 76; Moffett 2007, 
p. 2). The Goat Rock Dam population has recently increased by 130 
percent, which likely reflects management efforts to control invasive 
species by Georgia Power and the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance. 
Fort Benning also supports a vigorous population with an estimated 
1,000 plants (Garcia 2012, p. 76; Moffett 2007, p. 2). Georgia 
rockcress has been extirpated from its type locality near Omaha, 
Georgia, in Stuart County (Garcia 2012, p. 76; Moffett 2007, p. 2). At 
another site, Blacks Bluff, Georgia, rockcress had declined to a few 
individuals by 2007 (Garcia 2012, p. 76; Moffett 2007, p. 2), but 100 
individuals were replanted in 2009. During a count done in 2013, 31 
individuals were found to be surviving at the site, and more than 
15,000 seeds were broadcast to supplement this population (Goldstrohm 
2013, p. 1).
    Schotz (2010, p. 8) documented fewer than 3,000 plants from all 
known sites in Alabama. Populations from Bibb County, Alabama, had 
between 16 and 229 plants, with 42 and 498 from Dallas County, 47 from 
Elmore County, 414 from Monroe County, 842 from Russell County, 4 from 
Sumter County, and 551 from Wilcox County. Allison (1999, pp. 2-4) 
originally documented this species at 18 localities (representing seven 
populations) in Bibb County. However, one of these Bibb County 
populations was not relocated during surveys in 2001 (Allison 2002, 
pers. comm.), and plants were not relocated at two other sites in 
Alabama (Schotz 2010, pp. 13, 57). Therefore, it is believed that 
Georgia rockcress has been extirpated from these three sites in 
Alabama.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    In the proposed rule published on September 12, 2013 (78 FR 56192), 
we requested that all interested parties submit written comments on the 
proposal by November 12, 2013. We also contacted appropriate Federal 
and State agencies, scientific experts and organizations, and other 
interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposal. 
Newspaper notices inviting general public comment were published in the 
Atlanta Jounal-Constitution, Columbus Ledger, Montgemenry Advertiser, 
and Birmingham News. We conducted a public informational session and 
public

[[Page 54629]]

hearing in Columbus, Georgia, on May 28, 2014; no public comments were 
received, and only one individual attended the informational session.

Peer Reviewer Comments

    In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 
(59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinion from three knowledgeable 
individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with 
Georgia rockcress and its habitat, biological needs, and threats. We 
received responses from all of the peer reviewers.
    We reviewed all comments received from the peer reviewers for 
substantive issues and new information regarding the listing of Georgia 
rockcress. The peer reviewers generally concurred with our methods and 
conclusions and provided additional information, clarifications, and 
suggestions to improve the final rule. Peer reviewer comments are 
addressed in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule 
as appropriate.
    Comment: Two peer reviewers suggested that the Service should 
include several citations, figures, and a table from Garcia (2012).
    Our Response: We have incorporated information from Garcia (2012) 
into this final rule, with citations included, in the Background 
section, above, and Summary of Biological Status and Threats section, 
below. Figures and tables will be posted as supplemental information on 
http://www.regulations.gov.

Comments From States

    Both the States of Alabama and Georgia provided editorial comments 
on our proposed rule; these comments have been incorporated into this 
final rule as appropriate. The State of Georgia also provided 
additional detail about conditions on specific sites and recommended we 
add a brief discussion of two syntopic species, which we include in the 
Background section, above.

Public Comments

    We received four public comments on the proposed listing 
determination during the public comment periods, and none on record at 
the public hearing. Only one of those comments was substantive; it is 
discussed below.
    Comment: One commenter expressed concern that the Service had not 
provided information about why the Georgia rockcress is necessary, 
useful, or beneficial, and noted that the Service had not determined 
what the costs of conservation for this species would be or what would 
happen in a ``no action'' alternative.
    Our Response: When Congress passed the Act in 1973, it found and 
declared that [America's] ``species of fish, wildlife, and plants are 
of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and 
scientific value to the Nation and its people'' (16 U.S.C. 1531(a)(3)). 
The purpose of the Act is to protect and recover imperiled species and 
the ecosystems upon which they depend. Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1533), and its implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 424, set forth 
the procedures for adding species to the Federal Lists of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, 
we may list a species based solely on (A) the present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence. Listing actions may be warranted 
based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in combination. We 
may not consider other criteria, including the value, use, or benefit 
associated with a species, in connection with the listing 
determination.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
to Georgia rockcress. Habitat degradation (Factor A) and the subsequent 
invasion of nonnative species (Factor E) are the most serious threats 
to this species' continued existence. Disturbance, associated with 
timber harvesting, road building, and grazing, has created favorable 
conditions for the invasion of nonnative weeds, especially Japanese 
honeysuckle, in this species' habitat. Because nearly all populations 
are currently or potentially threatened by the presence of nonnatives, 
we find that this species is warranted for listing.
    We do not analyze the economic impact of listing a species under 
the Act; however, an economic analysis is done for the designation of 
critical habitat and has been completed for this species. It can be 
found at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2013-
0030. No analysis of a ``no action'' alternative is required under the 
Act; this is a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act (42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). We have determined that environmental assessments 
and environmental impact statements, as defined under the authority of 
the National Environmental Policy Act, need not be prepared in 
connection with listing a species as an endangered or threatened 
species under the Act (see Required Determinations, below).

Summary of Changes From the Proposed Rule

    All changes are largely editorial and are addressed in the response 
to peer reviewer comments (see Peer Reviewer Comments, above).

Summary of Biological Status and Threats

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and its implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR part 424, set forth the procedures for adding 
species to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and 
Plants. Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, we may list a species based 
on: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) 
disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its 
continued existence. Listing actions may be warranted based on any of 
the above threat factors, singly or in combination.
    Please refer to the proposed listing rule for the Georgia rockcress 
(78 FR 56192, September 12, 2013) for a more complete description of 
the factors affecting this species. Our assessment evaluates the 
biological status of the species and threats affecting its continued 
existence. It is based upon the best available scientific and 
commercial data and the expert opinion of the species status assessment 
team members.

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

    Habitat fragmentation is a major feature of many landscapes within 
the eastern deciduous forest and creates boundaries or edges where 
disturbed patches of vegetation are adjacent to intact habitat. 
Disturbance events fragment the forest, creating edge habitat and 
promoting the invasion of nonnative species (Honu and Gibson 2006, pp. 
263-264). Edges function as sources of propagules for disturbed 
habitats and represent complex environmental gradients with changes in 
light availability, temperature, humidity, wind speed, and soil 
moisture, with plant species responding directly to environmental 
changes (Meiners et al. 1999, p. 261). Edge effect, including any 
canopy break due to

[[Page 54630]]

timber harvest, fields, or maintained rights-of-way, may penetrate as 
far as 175 meters (574 feet), resulting in changes in community 
composition (Honu and Gibson 2006, p. 264; Gehlhausen et al. 2000, p. 
21; Meiners et al. 1999, p. 266; Fraver 1994). Roads create a canopy 
break, destroy the soil profile, and disrupt hydrology of the bluff 
habitat. Roads are also known corridors for the spread of invasive 
plant species (Forman et al. 2003, pp. 75-112), as disturbed soil and 
the maintenance of open, sunny conditions create favorable conditions 
where invasive species can establish and spread into the forest 
interior (Fraver 1994, pp. 828-830). Aspect is an important factor in 
determining how forest microclimate and vegetation are influenced by 
the external environment (Gehlhausen et al. 2000, p. 30; Fraver 1994, 
pp. 828-830). Aspect likely increases the distance that the edge effect 
can influence microclimate and plays an important role on the steep 
bluff habitat occupied by Georgia rockcress. Edge effects are reduced 
by a protective border with buffers that eliminate most microhabitat 
edge effect (Honu and Gibson 2006, p. 255; Gehlhausen et al. 2000, p. 
32).
    Currently, habitat degradation is the most serious threat to this 
species' continued existence. Most of the Coastal Plain rivers surveyed 
by Allison (1995, p. 11) were considered unsuitable for Georgia 
rockcress because their banks had been disturbed to the point where 
there was no remaining vegetative buffer. Recent habitat degradation 
(i.e., vegetation denuded and replaced by hard-packed, exposed mineral 
soil) has occurred at several Georgia sites in association with 
residential development and campsites atop the bluffs (Moffett 2007, 
pp. 3-4). Disturbance associated with timber harvesting, road building, 
and grazing in areas where the plant exists has created favorable 
conditions for the invasion of nonnative weeds in this species' habitat 
(Factor E) (Schotz 2010, p. 10). Timber operations that remove the 
forest canopy promote early successional species and result in the 
decline of Georgia rockcress (Schotz 2010, p. 10). Encroachment of 
development, in the form of bridges, roads, houses, commercial 
buildings, or utility lines allowing for the introduction of nonnative 
species (Factor E), also results in the decline of Georgia rockcress 
(Schotz 2010, pp. 9-10; Moffett 2007, pp. 2-7; Allison 1995, pp. 7-18).
    The riparian bluff habitat surrounding 18 of the known populations 
has been adversely impacted in some way, and in many cases the habitat 
has suffered multiple impacts. Blacks Bluff, Fort Benning (Georgia), 
McGuire Ford, Limestone Park, Prairie Bluff, and Fort Benning (Alabama) 
all have roads that bisect the habitat while Murphys Bluff, Pratts 
Ferry, Fort Tombecbee, and Resaca Bluffs have roads associated with 
bridges that impact bluff habitat (Schotz 2010, pp. 20-57; Moffett 
2007, pp. 5-8; Allison 1999, pp. 3-8; Allison 1995, pp. 18-28). Housing 
development requires a road network and further impacts bluff habitat 
by creating canopy gaps and soil disturbances, with landscaping that 
may introduce nonnative plants. Whitmore Bluff, McGuire Ford, Prairie 
Bluff, Fort Tombecbee, and Creekside Glades have bluff habitat that has 
been impacted by housing development (Schotz 2010, pp. 20-57; Allison 
1999, pp. 3-8). Commercial development has the same impact as housing; 
Resaca Bluff and Fort Tombecbee are impacted by commercial development 
(Schotz 2010, pp. 20-57; Moffett 2007, pp. 5-8; Allison 1999, pp. 3-8; 
Allison 1995, pp. 18-28). Impervious surfaces associated with housing 
and commercial development have increased runoff and provided access 
for dumping of trash on some sites. The Resaca Bluffs population is 
further disturbed by the long-term camping at the site. McGuire Ford 
and Fort Toulouse have maintained fields for pasture or recreational 
use (Schotz 2010, pp. 20-57; Allison 1999, pp. 3-8). The removal of the 
canopy to maintain a field provides an opportunity for nonnatives to 
invade. Utility lines have created canopy breaks at Creekside Glades, 
Little Schulz Creek, and Goat Rock Dam (Schotz 2010, pp. 20-57; Moffett 
2007, pp. 5-8; Allison 1999, pp. 3-8; Allison 1995, pp. 18-28). Timber 
harvesting activities create soil disturbance and canopy breaks that 
provide access for nonnative plants to invade. Durant Bend, Portland 
Landing, Fort Gaines, Pratts Ferry, Fern Glade, and Sixmile Creek, and 
Whitmore Bluff have all been impacted by timber harvesting activates 
(Schotz 2010, pp. 20-57; Moffett 2007, pp. 5-8; Allison 1999, pp. 3-8; 
Allison 1995, pp. 18-28). While these impacts are to the bluff habitat 
that surrounds these populations, these disturbances eliminate 
potential habitat for expansion of populations, fragment the 
populations, and introduce nonnative species (Factor E).

      Table 1--Impacts to Populations of Georgia Rockcress From Human-Induced Factors and Nonnative Plants
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                  Human-induced impact    Impacted by nonnative
              Site name                      County/State              (Factor A)           plants (Factor E)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fort Tombecbee.......................  Sumter/AL..............  Road with bridge,        None.
                                                                 housing, commercial.
Marshalls Bluff......................  Monroe/AL..............  Quarry.................  None.
Prairie Bluff........................  Wilcox/AL..............  Road, housing,           Chinese privet and
                                                                 hydropower.              Japanese honeysuckle.
Portland Landing River Slopes........  Dallas/AL..............  Timber harvest,          China berrytree,
                                                                 hydropower.              Japanese honeysuckle,
                                                                                          and kudzu.
Durant Bend..........................  Dallas/AL..............  Timber harvest.........  Chinese privet and
                                                                                          Japanese honeysuckle.
Murphys Bluff Bridge Cahaba River....  Bibb/AL................  Road with bridge.......  Chinese privet,
                                                                                          Japanese honeysuckle,
                                                                                          and others.
Creekside Glades and Little Schulz     Bibb/AL................  Housing, utility lines.  None.
 Creek.
Cottingham Creek Bluff and Pratts      Bibb/AL................  Road with bridge,        Chinese privet and
 Ferry.                                                          timber harvest.          Japanese honeysuckle.
Fern Glade and Sixmile Creek.........  Bibb/AL................  Timber harvest.........  Chinese privet and
                                                                                          Japanese honeysuckle.
Browns Dam Glade North and South.....  Bibb/AL................  None...................  Chinese privet.
McGuire Ford Limestone Park..........  Bibb/AL................  Road, housing,           None.
                                                                 maintained field.

[[Page 54631]]

 
Fort Toulouse State Park.............  Elmore/AL..............  Maintained field/        Japanese honeysuckle.
                                                                 recreation.
Fort Gaines Bluff....................  Clay/GA................  Timber harvest.........  Japanese honeysuckle.
Fort Benning (GA and AL).............  Chattahoochee/GA,        Road...................  Chinese privet and
                                        Russell/AL.                                       Japanese honeysuckle.
Goat Rock North and South............  Harris, Muscogee/GA....  Hydropower, utility      Chinese privet and
                                                                 lines.                   Japanese honeysuckle.
Blacks Bluff Preserve................  Floyd/GA...............  Road, quarry...........  Nepalese browntop and
                                                                                          Japanese honeysuckle.
Whitmore Bluff.......................  Floyd/GA...............  Timber harvest, housing  Japanese honeysuckle.
Resaca Bluffs........................  Gordon/GA..............  Road with bridge,        Chinese privet and
                                                                 commercial, trash        Japanese honeysuckle.
                                                                 dumping, camping.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Quarrying destroys the bluff habitat by removing the canopy and 
soil. The Blacks Bluff population of Georgia rockcress in Floyd County, 
Georgia, appears to be a surviving remnant of a once larger population. 
The primary habitat at this locality has been extensively quarried 
(Allison 1995, p. 10). The Marshalls Bluff population in Monroe County, 
Alabama, is adjacent to an area that was once quarried (Schotz 2010, 
pp. 45-47). Rock bluffs along rivers have also been favored sites for 
hydropower dam construction. The construction of Goat Rock Dam in 
Harris County, Georgia, destroyed a portion of suitable habitat for a 
population of Georgia rockcress, and the current population there may 
also represent a remnant of a once much larger population (Allison 
1995, p. 10). The Prairie Bluff and Portland Landing populations in 
Wilcox and Dallas Counties, Alabama, occur on the banks of William 
``Bill'' Dannelly Reservoir, where potential habitat was likely 
inundated (Schotz 2010, pp. 41 and 56). Due to the obscure nature of 
Georgia rockcress, it is likely that other populations on rocky bluffs, 
in the Piedmont and Ridge and Valley provinces, were destroyed by 
quarrying or inundated by hydropower projects (Allison 1995, p. 10).
    Conservation efforts by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Bibb 
County, Alabama, have included the land acquisition of the entire 
population of Georgia rockcress at Browns Dam Glade and a small portion 
of the Cottingham Creek Bluff population, and the proposed acquisition 
of the Sixmile Creek population.
    The Blacks Bluff Preserve population, Floyd County, Georgia, is in 
private ownership with a conservation easement held by TNC on the 
property. There were 27 Georgia rockcress reported on this site in 
1995; however, the presence of nonnative species has since extirpated 
Georgia rockcress from this site. The Georgia Plant Conservation 
Alliance (GPCA) and TNC agreed to bolster the existing population with 
plants grown from seed collected from Blacks Bluff, and two planting 
sites have been established. In 2008, 100 Georgia rockcress plants were 
planted in this unit, with 31 Georgia rockcress surveyed on this site 
in 2013 (Goldstrohm 2013, p. 3). In April 2013, an additional 15,000 
seeds where sown directly onsite to attempt to recruit new plants to 
this population (Goldstrohm 2013, p. 1).
    Two populations are on land owned by the Federal Government, and 
two are on land owned by the State of Alabama. In Federal ownership, 
the entire Fern Glade population, Bibb County, Alabama, is on land 
owned by the Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge. Also, along the banks of 
the Chattahoochee River in Russell County, Alabama, and Chattahoochee 
County, Georgia, the entire population at Fort Benning is on land that 
is in Federal ownership. The Department of Defense (DOD) is aware of 
the two sites on the Fort Benning property and is working with TNC to 
monitor and provide for the conservation of these populations (Elmore 
2010, pp. 1-2). In August 2014, DOD modified its integrated natural 
resources management plan (INRMP 2001) for Fort Benning to address 
Georgia rockcress and its habitat. The Prairie Bluff population, in 
Wilcox County, Alabama, may be within an area under a U.S. Army Corps 
of Engineers easement. The State of Alabama owns Fort Tombecbee in 
Sumtner County and Fort Toulouse State Park in Elmore County, but there 
is no protection afforded to these State-owned properties.
    The majority of the Goat Rock Dam population in Georgia (Harris/
Muscogee Counties) is mostly located on buffer lands of the Georgia 
Power Company and receives a level of protection in the form of a 
shoreline management plan with vegetative management buffers developed 
to prohibit disturbance and protect Georgia rockcress; this management 
plan was developed during Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) 
licensing (FERC 2004, pp. 7, 18-19, 29-30; Moffett 2007, p. 4). 
However, the southernmost portion of the Goat Rock Dam population is on 
privately owned land.
    In total, at least some portions of nine populations are on land 
owned by potential conservation partners; however, with the exception 
of Ft. Benning's INRMP, none of these populations has a formal 
management plan to benefit Georgia rockcress. These populations are 
afforded varying degrees of protection, and while none of these lands 
is likely to be developed, they could be subject to other impacts 
including recreation, military training, road construction, 
inappropriate timber harvest, and continued pressure from invasive 
species. Only the Fort Benning population has a management plan that 
specifically directs management for the benefit of Georgia rockcress. 
The Goat Rock Dam and Blacks Bluff populations are on land on which 
efforts have been directed to managing for Georgia rockcress.
    Historically, suitable habitat was destroyed or degraded due to 
quarrying, residential development, timber harvesting, road building, 
recreation, and hydropower dam construction. Severe impacts continue to 
occur across the range of this species, from quarrying, residential 
development, timber harvesting, road building, recreation, and 
hydropower dam construction, and one or more of these activities pose 
ongoing threats to all known populations. Given the extremely small 
size of Georgia rockress populations, projects that destroy even a 
small amount of habitat can have a

[[Page 54632]]

serious impact on this species, including existing genetic diversity of 
the species (Factor E).

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

    Overutilization is not known to pose a threat to this species 
(Allison 1995, p. 10; Moffett 2007, p. 2; Schotz 2010, p. 11).

Factor C: Disease or Predation

    Limited browsing of Georgia rockcress plants has been noted in 
Georgia (Allison 1995, p. 10; Moffett 2007, p. 3; Schotz 2010, p. 11). 
However, disease and predation are not considered to be a threat to 
this species.

Factor D: The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Georgia rockcress is listed as threatened by the State of Georgia 
(Patrick et al. 1995, p. 17; Chaffin 2007, p. 47). This State listing 
provides legal standing under the Georgia Wildflower Preservation Act 
of 1973. This law prohibits the removal of this and other wildflower 
species from public land and regulates the taking and sale of plants 
from private land. This law also triggers the Georgia Environmental 
Protection Act process in the event of potential impacts to a 
population by State activities on State-owned land (Moffett 2007, p. 
3). However, the greater problem of habitat destruction and degradation 
is not addressed by this law (Patrick et al. 1995, p. 6); therefore, 
there is no protection from projects like road construction, 
construction of reservoirs, installation of utility lines, quarrying, 
or timber harvest that degrade or fragment habitat, especially on 
private lands. Moreover, the decline of the species in Georgia is also 
attributed to invasive species (Factor E), and there are no State 
regulatory protections in place to ameliorate that threat on private 
lands. In Alabama, there is no protection or regulation, either direct 
or indirect, for Georgia rockcress (Schotz 2010, pp. 2, 11).

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

    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).
    While severe drought would be expected to have an effect on the 
plant community, including the mature canopy and canopy gap dynamic, 
and increased storm intensity could accelerate erosion-related 
disturbances, the information currently available on the effects of 
global climate change and increasing temperatures does not make 
sufficiently precise estimates of the location and magnitude of the 
effects. In addition, we are not currently aware of any climate change 
information specific to the habitat of the Georgia rockcress that would 
indicate which areas may become important to the species in the future.
    The primary threat to extant populations of Georgia rockcress is 
the ongoing invasion of nonnative species due to the degradation of its 
habitat. Encroachment from timber management and development in the 
form of bridges, roads, houses, commercial buildings, or utility lines 
allowing for the introduction of nonnative species has resulted in the 
decline of Georgia rockcress (Schotz 2010, pp. 9-10; Moffett 2007, pp. 
2-7; Allison 1995, pp. 7-18). Human-induced disturbance (quarrying, 
residential development, timber harvesting, road building, recreation, 
and hydropower dam construction) has fragmented river bluff habitats 
and created conditions so that these bluff habitats are receptive to 
invasion of nonnative species (Honu and Gibson 2006, pp. 263-264). 
Disturbance of 14 of the 18 known sites occupied by this species has 
provided opportunities for the invasion of aggressive, nonnative weeds, 
especially Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle). This species is a 
gap adaptor, that can easily invade disturbed areas to 90 meters (295 
feet) into a forested habitat (Honu and Gibson 2006, p. 264). Other 
nonnatives include Melia azedarach (Chinaberry or bead-tree), Pueraria 
montana var. lobata (kudzu), Albizia julibrissin (mimosa), Ligustrum 
japonica (Japanese privet), Ligustrum sinense (Chinese privet), 
Lygodium japonicum (Japanese climbing fern), and Microstegium vimineum 
(Napalese browntop) (Allison 1995, pp. 18-29; Moffett 2007, p. 9; 
Schotz 2010, pp. 10, 19-57). While edge habitats are subject to 
invasion of nonnative species, a more limited group of nonnative plants 
can then invade closed-canopy habitats; furthermore, species with a 
rosette form (e.g., Georgia rockcress) are more susceptible to 
exclusion by some nonnatives (Meiners et al. 1999, p. 266). Georgia 
rockcress is not a strong competitor and is usually found in areas 
where growth of other plants is restrained due to the shallowness of 
the soils or the dynamic status of the site (e.g., eroding riverbanks) 
(Allison 1995, pp. 7-8; Moffett 2007, p. 5). However, nonnative species 
are effectively invading these riverbank sites, and the long-term 
survival of the at least five populations in the Coastal Plain province 
is questionable (Allison 1995, p. 11). This species is only able to 
avoid competition with nonnative species where the soil depth is 
limited (e.g., rocky bluffs) (Allison 1995, pp. 7-8; Moffett 2007, p. 
4)
    Competition from nonnative species, exacerbated by adjacent land 
use changes (Factor A), likely contributed to the loss of the 
population at the type locality in Stewart County, Georgia (Allison 
1995, p. 28), and possibly to one of the Bibb County, Alabama, 
populations and several other sites in this general area (Allison 2002, 
pers. comm.; Alabama Natural Heritage Program 2004, p. 2). Additional 
populations are also currently being negatively affected by competition 
with nonnative plants. According to Moffett (2007, p. 3), most of the 
sites in Georgia are being impacted by the presence of invasive plant 
species, primarily Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese privet, and Napalese 
browntop. Japanese honeysuckle was observed growing on individual 
plants of Georgia rockcress at three sites visited by Allison in 1995. 
At a fourth site, plants growing in a mat of Nepalese browntop declined 
in number from 27 individuals in 1995 (Allison 1995, p. 19) to 3 in 
2006 (Moffet 2007 p. 8). Allison (1995, pp. 18-28; Allison 1999, pp. 1-
5) considered four other populations to be imminently threatened by the 
nearby presence of nonnative plants. Thus, rangewide, approximately 40 
percent of the populations visited by Allison in 1995 were reportedly 
threatened by nonnative species. By 2007, Moffett (2007, p, 3) reported 
all six of the Georgia rockcress populations in Georgia were threatened 
by nonnative species. By 2010, Schotz (2010, pp. 20-

[[Page 54633]]

57) reported 9 populations in Alabama were impacted by nonnative 
species. Currently 14 of the 18 extant populations are threatened by 
nonnatives.
    Given the extremely low number of total plants (fewer than 5,000 in 
a given year; 12 of the 18 populations have fewer than 50 plants 
(Garcia 2012, p. 76; Schotz 2010, p. iii; Elmore 2010, pp. 1-4; Moffett 
2007, pp. 2-7; Allison 1999, pp. 1-5; Allison 1995, pp. 7-18)), and 
because the species is distributed as disjunct populations across 
sixphysiographic provinces (Schotz 2010, pp. 9-10; Moffett 2007, pp. 2-
7; Allison 1995, pp. 7-18) in three major river systems, each 
population is important to the conservation of genetics for the species 
(Garcia 2012, pp. 30-36). Only the Goat Rock Dam and Fort Benning 
populations are sufficiently large (greater than 1,000 individuals) to 
preclude a genetic bottleneck (Schotz 2010, pp. 13-57; Moffett 2007, p. 
8). A genetic bottleneck would result in reduced genetic diversity with 
mating between closely related individuals, which can lead to reduced 
fitness due to inbreeding depression (Garcia 2012, Chapter 1; Ellstrand 
and Elam, pp. 217-237). This species is composed of three genetic 
groups: A North Georgia group, a Middle Georgia group, and an Alabama 
group (Garcia 2012, p. 32). While the Middle Georgia genetic group 
contains the largest populations (Goat Rock Dam and Fort Benning) and 
is the most important to the conservation of this species, the smaller 
populations in the North Georgia and Alabama genetic groups are more 
vunerable to localized extirpation and represent an important 
conservation element for this species. Any threats that remove or 
further deteriorate populations can also have a detrimental effect on 
the existing genetic diversity of the species.

Determination

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
to Georgia rockcress. Habitat degradation (Factor A) and the subsequent 
invasion of nonnative species (Factor E), more than outright habitat 
destruction, are the most serious threats to this species' continued 
existence. The riparian bluff habitat surrounding all 18 of the known 
populations has been adversely impacted in some way, and in some cases 
the habitat has suffered multiple impacts. As described above in Table 
1, all sites are affected by one or more threats leading to habitat 
degration or nonnative species invasion. Specifically, in two 
locations, bluff habitat was quarried for limestone, resulting in the 
destruction of bluff habitat. Four sites have roads with bridges, and 
eight sites have roads that pass through or provide access to 
buildings. Five sites have been impacted by housing, and two sites are 
impacted by commercial buildings. Six sites have been impacted by 
timber management. Two sites have maintained fields, one of which is 
maintained for recreation, that encroach on bluff habitat and potential 
habitat has been inundated at three sites, and transmission lines 
bisect two sites. Because these sites are relatively small, even a 
single road corridor can have substantial impact on the population. 
While the initial infrastructure is already in place from many of these 
impacts, they continue to pose a threat to populations as they provide 
a means for nonnative species to overtake these sites. These threats 
are likely to continue slowly over time. However, they are of high 
severity because they often completely destroy the habitat and provide 
continuing opportunities for the introduction of nonnative species 
(Factor E).
    The Act defines an endangered species as any species that is ``in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range'' and a threatened species as any species ``that is likely to 
become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range 
within the foreseeable future.'' We find that the Georgia rockcress is 
likely to become endangered throughout its entire range within the 
forseeable future, based on the immediacy, severity, and scope of the 
threats described above. However, we do not find the Georgia rockcress 
to meet the definition of an endangered species at this time because 
there are sufficient sites spread across the geographic range to ensure 
that the species is unlikely to be in danger of extinction throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range. Therefore, on the basis of 
the best available scientific and commercial information, we are 
listing the Georgia rockcress (Arabis georgiana) as a threatened 
species in accordance with sections 3(20) and 4(a)(1) of the Act.

Significant Portion of the Range

    Because we have determined that Georgia rockcress is threatened 
throughout all of its range, no portion of its range can be 
``significant'' for purposes of the definitions of ``endangered 
species'' and ``threatened species.'' See the Service's significant 
portion of the range (SPR) policy (79 FR 37578, July 1, 2014).

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing results in public awareness, and 
conservation by Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies; private 
organizations; and individuals. The Act encourages cooperation with the 
States and requires that recovery actions be carried out for all listed 
species. The protection required by Federal agencies and the 
prohibitions against certain activities are discussed, in part, below.
    The primary purpose of the Act is the conservation of endangered 
and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The 
ultimate goal of such conservation efforts is the recovery of these 
listed species, so that they no longer need the protective measures of 
the Act. Subsection 4(f) of the Act requires the Service to develop and 
implement recovery plans for the conservation of endangered and 
threatened species. The recovery planning process involves the 
identification of actions that are necessary to halt or reverse the 
species' decline by addressing the threats to its survival and 
recovery. The goal of this process is to restore listed species to a 
point where they are secure, self-sustaining, and functioning 
components of their ecosystems.
    Recovery planning includes the development of a recovery outline 
shortly after a species is listed and preparation of a draft and final 
recovery plan. The recovery outline guides the immediate implementation 
of urgent recovery actions and describes the process to be used to 
develop a recovery plan. Revisions of the plan may be done to address 
continuing or new threats to the species, as new substantive 
information becomes available. The recovery plan identifies site-
specific management actions that set a trigger for review of the five 
factors that control whether a species remains endangered or may be 
downlisted or delisted, and methods for monitoring recovery progress. 
Recovery plans also establish a framework for agencies to coordinate 
their recovery efforts and provide estimates of the cost of 
implementing recovery tasks. Recovery teams (composed of species 
experts, Federal and State agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and 
stakeholders) are often established to develop recovery plans.

[[Page 54634]]

    When completed, the recovery outline, draft recovery plan, and the 
final recovery plan will be available on our Web site (http://www.fws.gov/endangered or http://www.fws.gov/athens/), or from our 
Georgia Ecological Services Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT).
    Implementation of recovery actions generally requires the 
participation of a broad range of partners, including other Federal 
agencies, States, Tribes, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, 
and private landowners. Examples of recovery actions include habitat 
restoration (e.g., restoration of native vegetation), research, captive 
propagation and reintroduction, and outreach and education. The 
recovery of many listed species cannot be accomplished solely on 
Federal lands because their range may occur primarily or solely on non-
Federal lands. To achieve recovery of these species requires 
cooperative conservation efforts on private, State, and Tribal lands.
    Following publication of this final listing rule, funding for 
recovery actions will be available from a variety of sources, including 
Federal budgets, State programs, and cost share grants for non-Federal 
landowners, the academic community, and nongovernmental organizations. 
In addition, pursuant to section 6 of the Act, the State(s) of Alabama 
and Georgia will be eligible for Federal funds to implement management 
actions that promote the protection or recovery of the Georgia 
rockcress. Information on our grant programs that are available to aid 
species recovery can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/grants.
    Please let us know if you are interested in participating in 
recovery efforts for the Georgia rockcress. Additionally, we invite you 
to submit any new information on this species whenever it becomes 
available and any information you may have for recovery planning 
purposes (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
    Section 7(a) of the Act requires Federal agencies to evaluate their 
actions with respect to any species that is proposed or listed as an 
endangered or threatened species and with respect to its critical 
habitat, if any is designated. Regulations implementing this 
interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR 
part 402. Section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
confer with the Service on any action that is likely to jeopardize the 
continued existence of a species proposed for listing or result in 
destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a 
species is listed subsequently, section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires 
Federal agencies to ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or 
carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the 
species or destroy or adversely modify its critical habitat. If a 
Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the 
responsible Federal agency must enter into consultation with the 
Service.
    Federal agency actions within the species' habitat that may require 
conference or consultation or both as described in the preceding 
paragraph include management and any other landscape-altering 
activities on Federal lands administered by the Service or the DOD; 
issuance of permits under section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 
1251 et seq.) by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and construction and 
maintenance of roads or highways by the Federal Highway Administration.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered and 
threatened plants. The prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act, 
codified at 50 CFR 17.61 for endangered plants and at 50 CFR 17.71 for 
threatened plants, in part, make it illegal for any person subject to 
the jurisdiction of the United States to import, export, transport in 
interstate commerce in the course of commercial activity, sell or offer 
for sale in interstate or foreign commerce, or remove and reduce the 
species to possession from areas under Federal jurisdiction. In 
addition, for plants listed as endangered, the Act prohibits the 
malicious damage or destruction on areas under Federal jurisdiction and 
the removal, cutting, digging up, or damaging or destroying of such 
plants in knowing violation of any State law or regulation, including 
State criminal trespass law. It is also unlawful to violate any 
regulation pertaining to plant species listed as endangered or 
threatened (section 9(a)(2)(E) of the Act).
    We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered and threatened plants species under certain 
circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 
17.62 for endangered plants, and at 17.72 for threatened plants. With 
regard to endangered and threatened plants, a permit issued under this 
section must be for one of the following: scientific purposes, the 
enhancement of the propagation or survival of threatened species, 
economic hardship, botanical or horticultural exhibition, educational 
purposes, or other activities consistent with the purposes and policy 
of the Act.
    It is our policy, as published in the Federal Register on July 1, 
1994 (59 FR 34272), to identify to the maximum extent practicable at 
the time a species is listed, those activities that would or would not 
constitute a violation of section 9 of the Act. The intent of this 
policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of a listing on 
proposed and ongoing activities within the range of listed species. The 
following activities could potentially result in a violation of section 
9 of the Act: Unauthorized collecting, handling, possessing, selling, 
delivering, carrying, or transporting of the species, including import 
or export across State lines and international boundaries, except for 
properly documented antique specimens of these taxa at least 100 years 
old, as defined by section 10(h)(1) of the Act.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities would constitute a 
violation of section 9 of the Act should be directed to the Georgia 
Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
    Under section 4(d) of the Act, the Secretary has discretion to 
issue such regulations as she deems necessary and advisable to provide 
for the conservation of threatened species. Our implementing 
regulations (50 CFR 17.61 and 17.71) for endangered and threatened 
plants generally incorporate the prohibitions of section 9 of the Act 
for endangered plants, except when a rule promulgated pursuant to 
section 4(d) of the Act (4(d) rule) has been issued with respect to a 
particular threatened species. In such a case, the general prohibitions 
in 50 CFR 17.61 and 17.71 would not apply to that species, and instead, 
the 4(d) rule would define the specific take prohibitions and 
exceptions that would apply for that particular threatened species, 
which we consider necessary and advisable to conserve the species. With 
respect to a threatened plant, the Secretary of the Interior also has 
the discretion to prohibit by regulation any act prohibited by section 
9(a)(2) of the Act. Exercising this discretion, which has been 
delegated to the Service by the Secretary, the Service has developed 
general prohibitions that are appropriate for most threatened species 
in 50 CFR 17.71 and exceptions to those prohibitions in 50 CFR 17.72. 
We are not promulgating a 4(d) rule for Georgia rockcress and as a 
result, all of the section 9(a)(2) general prohibitions, including the 
``take'' prohibitions, will apply to Georgia rockcress.

[[Page 54635]]

Required Determinations

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

    We have determined that environmental assessments and environmental 
impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act need not be prepared in connection with 
listing a species as an endangered or threatened species under the 
Endangered Species Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for 
this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 
49244).

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. This species is not currently known to 
occur on tribal lands.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this rule is available 
on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov or upon request from the 
Field Supervisor, Ecological Services Office in Athens, Georgia (see 
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Authors

    The primary authors of this rule are the staff members of the 
Ecological Services Office in Athens, Georgia (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 
of the Code of Federal Regulations, as 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. Amend Sec.  17.12(h) by adding an entry for ``Arabis georgiana'' to 
the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants in alphabetical order 
under Flowering Plants, to read as follows:


Sec.  17.12  Endangered and threatened plants.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Species
--------------------------------------------------------    Historic range           Family            Status      When listed    Critical     Special
         Scientific name                Common name                                                                               habitat       rules
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         Flowering Plants
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Arabis georgiana.................  Georgia rockcress...  U.S.A. (GA, AL)....  Brassicaceae.......  T                       849     17.96(a)           NA
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *

    Dated: August 29, 2014.
Rowan W. Gould,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-21394 Filed 9-11-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P