Endangered and Threatened Species; Listing and Recovery Priority Guidelines, 24944-24950 [2017-11157]

Download as PDF 24944 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 103 / Wednesday, May 31, 2017 / Notices This amended initiation is issued and published in accordance with section 751(a) of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, and 19 CFR 351.221(c)(1)(i). Dated: May 24, 2017. Gary Taverman, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Operations. [FR Doc. 2017–11205 Filed 5–30–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P Special Accommodations This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. This meeting will be recorded. Consistent with U.S.C. 1852, a copy of the recording is available upon request. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, at 978–465–0492, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Dated: May 26, 2017. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [FR Doc. 2017–11284 Filed 5–30–17; 8:45 am] RIN 0648–XF462 BILLING CODE 3510–22–P New England Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Commerce. ACTION: Notice; public meeting. AGENCY: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF282 The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) is scheduling a joint public meeting of its Whiting Committee and Advisory Panel on June 14, 2017, to consider actions affecting New England fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Recommendations from this group will be brought to the full Council for formal consideration and action, if appropriate. DATES: This meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. ADDRESSES: Meeting address: The meeting will be held at the Holiday Inn, 31 Hampshire Street, Mansfield, MA 02048; Telephone: (508) 339–2200. Council address: New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council; telephone: (978) 465–0492. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: nlaroche on DSK30NT082PROD with NOTICES Agenda The Committee and Advisory Panel will receive a report from the Plan Development Team on estimated impacts of Amendment 22 limited access alternatives and develop recommendations for preferred alternatives for the draft amendment. Other business will be discussed as necessary. to the Tariff Act of 1930, As Amended, 70 FR 24533 (May 10, 2005). VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:54 May 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 Endangered and Threatened Species; Listing and Recovery Priority Guidelines National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability and request for comment. AGENCY: We, NMFS, are proposing to revise the Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities and Recovery Plans contained in the 1990 Listing and Recovery Priority Guidelines. We propose to revise the guidelines to better prioritize limited agency resources to advance the recovery of threatened and endangered species guided by the immediacy of the species’ overall extinction risk, extent of information regarding major threats, and certainty that management or protective actions can be implemented successfully. We are not proposing changes to the Listing, Reclassification, and Delisting Priorities contained in the 1990 Listing and Recovery Priority Guidelines. We have found those guidelines to be sufficient in prioritizing listing actions and thus do not warrant a revision at this time. DATES: Comments on the proposed revision must be received by close of business on June 30, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2017–0020 by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2017-0020. Click the ‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Therese Conant, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Instructions: You must submit comments by one of the above methods to ensure that we receive, document, and consider them. Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on http://www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. We will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Section 4(f) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (16 U.S.C. 1533(f)) requires the Secretary to develop recovery plans for all species listed pursuant to the ESA, unless he/she finds that such a plan will not promote the recovery of the species. Section 4(h) requires the Secretary to establish a system for developing and implementing, on a priority basis, recovery plans under Section 4(f). We finalized guidance for prioritizing recovery plan development and implementation on June 15, 1990 (55 FR 24296). However, through our application of the Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities and Recovery Plans (see parts ‘B’ and ‘C’ June 15, 1990 55 FR 24296), we have determined that the guidelines contain vague definitions and lack sufficient detail regarding factors that should be considered when evaluating threats and recovery potential. For these reasons, we propose revisions to the Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities and Recovery Plan parts of the 1990 Listing and Recovery Priority Guidelines. The Listing, Reclassification, and Delisting Priorities can be found in the original Federal Register notice (see part ‘A’ June 15, 1990 55 FR 24296). The Listing, Reclassification, and Delisting Priorities remain unchanged and will be repeated in the final notice revising E:\FR\FM\31MYN1.SGM 31MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 103 / Wednesday, May 31, 2017 / Notices parts B and Part C [to maintain the guidance in a single reference]. nlaroche on DSK30NT082PROD with NOTICES Proposed Revisions to Part B: Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities and Part C: Recovery Plans Part B: Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities The proposed changes to the Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities are: • The current guidelines consist of 12 species priority numbers. We propose to increase the number of species priority numbers to 24 by redefining the ‘magnitude of threat’ and ‘recovery potential’ criteria (see below); • The current guidelines consist of a first criterion—magnitude of threat. Magnitude of threat is divided by three categories: ‘high’ meaning extinction is almost certain in the immediate future because of a rapid population decline or habitat destruction; ‘moderate’ meaning the species will not face extinction if recovery is temporarily held off, although there is a continuing population decline or threat to its habitat; and ‘low’ meaning a population facing a short-term, self-correcting fluctuation, or the impacts of the threats to the species’ habitat are not fully known. We propose to change the magnitude of threat criterion to a demographic risk rank based on the species listing status (threatened or endangered) and species’ condition for productivity, spatial distribution, diversity, abundance, or trends. The ‘high,’ ‘moderate,’ and ‘low’ categories are now based on whether the species is threatened or endangered and whether it meets certain demographic risk conditions (see Table 1 in the revised guidelines below). This proposed change provides greater emphasis on the species’ risk and more detail on the factors considered in assigning the risk rank; • The current guidelines consist of a second criterion—recovery potential. Recovery potential is based on how well biological and ecological limiting factors and threats to the species’ existence are understood, and the extent of management actions needed. Recovery potential is divided into two categories: ‘High’ meaning limiting factors and theats to the species are well understood and the needed management actions are known and have a high probability of success; and ‘low to moderate’ meaning limiting factors or threats to the species are poorly understood or if the needed management actions are not known, are cost-prohibitive or are experimental with an uncertain probability of success. We propose to redefine the recovery VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:54 May 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 potential by splitting the criterion into three components: (1) Whether the origin of major threats is known and the species response to those major threats is well understood; (2) whether the United States has jurisdiction, authority, or influence to implement management or protective actions to address major threats; and (3) the certainty that management or protective actions will be effective. Each component has a ‘high’ or ‘low to moderate’ category (see definitions in the revised guidelines below). This proposed change improves the guidelines by including U.S. jurisdiction or ability to influence recovery actions as a consideration in recovery potential and providing greater detail in the recovery potential definition; • The current guidelines include a third criterion—conflict. Conflict reflects the ESA section 4(f)(1)(A) requirement that recovery priority be given to those species that are, or may be, in conflict with construction or other developmental projects or other forms of economic activity. We propose to revise the guidelines by considering all ESAlisted marine and anadromous species to be in conflict with activities related to construction or other developmental projects, or other forms of economic activity. We are unaware of any ESAlisted species under our authority that is not considered, either directly or indirectly, to be in conflict to some degree with an economic activity. We are therefore reasonably certain that any species under NMFS jurisdiction that may be listed in the future will be in similar conflict. As a result, conflict, is not considered further in the proposed guidance; and • The current guidelines contain three recovery task priorities defined as: Number 1—an action that must be taken to prevent extinction or to identify those actions necessary to prevent extinction; Number 2—an action that must be taken to prevent a significant decline in population numbers, habitat quality, or other significant negative impacts short of extinction; and number 3—all other actions necessary to provide for full recovery of the species. We propose to add two additional priority numbers: Number 4—actions that are not linked to downlisting and/or delisting criteria and are not needed for ESA recovery, but are needed to facilitate postdelisting monitoring, such as the development of a post-delisting monitoring plan that provides monitoring design (e.g., sampling error estimates); and number 0—actions that are not needed for ESA recovery but that would advance broader goals beyond delisting. Other actions include, for PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 24945 example, other legislative mandates or social, economic, and ecological values (see Table 3 in the revised guidelines below). Part C. Recovery Plans The current guidelines specify that as recovery plans are developed, specific recovery tasks are identified and prioritized according to the criteria in the part B Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities of the 1990 Listing and Recovery Priority Guidelines. We have updated the entire section to reflect the new proposed prioritization scheme outlined below. New Proposed Part B: Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities The objective of these guidelines is to implement a policy to prioritize limited agency resources to advance the recovery of threatened and endangered species guided by the immediacy of the species’ overall extinction risk, extent of information regarding major threats, and certainty that management and protective actions can be implemented successfully. To achieve the objective, we identified the following general principles for prioritizing recovery plan development and implementation: • Endangered species are a higher priority than threatened species because of the immediacy of the extinction risk; • Species with more severe demographic risks are a higher priority because they are at greater risk of extinction; • Species for which major threats are well understood are a higher priority because in such cases, effective objective, measureable recovery criteria, and site-specific management or protective actions are more likely to be identified for that species; • Species for which major threats are primarily under U.S. authority, or for which the United States can influence the abatement of such threats through international mechanisms (e.g., treaties, conventions, and agreements), are a higher priority because we have greater influence over the outcome; and • Species for which there exists possible management or protective actions to address major threats that are not novel or experimental, are technically feasible, and have been successful at removing, reducing, or mitigating effects of major threats are a higher priority, because these actions are more likely to be effective at advancing recovery. The process to prioritize recovery planning and implementation consists of four steps—(1) identify a category of demographic risk based on the listing E:\FR\FM\31MYN1.SGM 31MYN1 24946 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 103 / Wednesday, May 31, 2017 / Notices status and species’ condition related to productivity, spatial distribution, diversity, abundance, and trends (Step 1; Table 1); (2) identify categories for three components of recovery potential (Step 2); (3) based on results of steps 1 and 2, assign a recovery priority for recovery plan development and implementation (Step 3; Table 2); and (4) assign priority rankings to recovery actions within the recovery plan (Step 4; Table 3). This prioritization process reflects a logical sequence for recovery plan development and implementation for a species: First, identify the species’ risk; second develop the recovery plan; and third, implement the priority actions and monitor and evaluate progress. As new information is obtained through the monitoring and evaluation process, recovery plans will be updated or revised as described in the NMFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’ Interim Endangered and Threatened Species Recovery Planning Guidance Version 1.3 (http://www.nmfs. noaa.gov/pr/laws/esa/policies.htm). Step 1. Identify a Demographic Risk Category As a first step, we categorize the severity of an ESA-listed species’ extinction risk based on the productivity, spatial distribution, diversity, and abundance of the species. We assess the species’ demographic risk based on information on past threats that have contributed to the species’ current status and the biological response of the species to present and future threats. The severity of a species’ demographic risk, relative to all species under our jurisdiction, will inform how we prioritize resources toward recovery plan development and implementation. Depending on the listing status (endangered or threatened), we consider each Demographic Risk Category— productivity, spatial distribution, diversity, and abundance (Table 1; column 1) and the associated risk condition described in column 2 (Table 1; column 2). The risk condition is met when the listed entity (i.e., species, subspecies, or Distinct Population Segment) is considered at risk for that category. For example, populations or subpopulations within a listed entity may vary in terms of their productivity. Some may be at or below depensation, while others are stable and healthy. In those cases, we consider which population(s) contributes most substantially to the overall viability of the listed entity. If certain populations or subpopulations are at or below depensation and are so important to the listed entity that their loss would substantially increase the listed entity’s extinction risk, then the risk condition applies. If an endangered species meets any of the risk conditions in column 2 (Table 1), then the species is considered a HIGH demographic risk, regardless of its population trend. If an endangered species does not meet any of the risk conditions in column 2 (Table 1), then population trend information is used to categorize the demographic risk—e.g., HIGH if the population trend is declining or unknown, MODERATE or HIGH if the trend is mixed, and MODERATE if the trend is stable, or increasing. For a mixed population trend, a HIGH rating should be assigned if key populations are declining such that their continued decline would contribute substantially to the listed entity achieving the adverse risk conditions described in Table 1, otherwise a MODERATE rating should be assigned for mixed population trends. If a threatened species meets any of the risk conditions in column 2 (Table 1), the species is assigned a MODERATE demographic risk, regardless of its population trend. If a threatened species does not meet any of the risk conditions in column 2 (Table 1), its population trend is used to assign the demographic risk—e.g., MODERATE if the trend is declining or unknown, LOW or MODERATE if the trend is mixed, and LOW if the trend is stable, or increasing. For a mixed population trend, a MODERATE rating should be assigned if key populations are declining such that their continued decline would contribute substantially to the listed entity achieving the adverse risk conditions described in Table 1, otherwise a LOW should be assigned for mixed population trends. We report the species’ population trends biennially to Congress pursuant to section 4(f)(3). To ensure consistency with what we report to Congress and how we set priorities for recovery planning and implementation, we will apply the following general guidelines: Use a minimum of 3 or more abundance estimates for key population(s) over 10 year period or, depending on taxa (e.g., sea turtles), all available data years (>3 data points) for trend estimation. 1. Increasing: The species (includes consideration of all population units that make up the species ‘as-listed’) shows measurably higher numbers from assessment to assessment. 2. Stable: The species shows no measurable increase or decrease over the period of time between assessments. 3. Decreasing: The species shows measurably lower numbers from assessment to assessment. 4. Mixed: Mixed is a designation reserved for species with multiple populations, and species are considered mixed if there are at least 3 data points and the criteria for increasing, decreasing, and stable are not met. 5. Unknown: The species has fewer than 3 data points over a 10 year period to estimate trends or there is uncertainty over data quality. TABLE 1—SEVERITY OF SPECIES’ DEMOGRAPHIC RISK Demographic risk rank 1 Demographic risk category Risk condition Productivity ................ Spatial distribution ..... At or below depensation ............. Limited/fragmented Spatial Distribution; vulnerable to catastrophe. Low genetic and phenotypic diversity severely limiting adaptive potential. One, or a few, small population(s) or subpopulations. Decreasing Trend/Unknown ....... Mixed Trend ................................ Stable Trend ............................... nlaroche on DSK30NT082PROD with NOTICES Diversity ..................... Abundance ................ Trends ....................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 Endangered 14:54 May 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Threatened If any one of these risk conditions is met, the ranking is HIGH. If not, use the Trend information below to determine rank. If any one of these risk conditions is met, the ranking is MODERATE. If not, use the Trend information below to determine rank. HIGH ........................................................ HIGH/MODERATE ................................... MODERATE ............................................. MODERATE. MODERATE/LOW. LOW. Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\31MYN1.SGM 31MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 103 / Wednesday, May 31, 2017 / Notices 24947 TABLE 1—SEVERITY OF SPECIES’ DEMOGRAPHIC RISK—Continued Demographic risk rank 1 Demographic risk category Risk condition Endangered Increasing Trend ......................... Threatened MODERATE ............................................. LOW. 1 For those species with recovery plans, the endangered or threatened category may be applied to a species currently not listed as such if NMFS has recommended a reclassification through a 5-year review or proposed rule. Step 2. Identify Categories of Recovery Potential In Step 2, we evaluate a species’ recovery potential. We have defined recovery potential to include three components: (1) Whether the origin of major threats is known and the species response to those major threats is well understood; (2) whether the United States has jurisdiction, authority, or influence to implement management or protective actions to address major threats; and (3) the certainty that management or protective actions will be effective. Each of the three components is considered to be ‘‘High’’ or ‘‘Low to Moderate’’ based on the following definitions: Recovery Potential Component 1: Major Threats Well Understood • High: Natural and man-made threats that have a major impact on the species’ ability to persist have been identified, and the species’ response to those threats are well understood. Data needs to fill knowledge gaps on major threats that have an impact on the species’ ability to persist are minimal. • Low to Moderate: Natural and manmade threats that have or are believed to have a major impact on the species’ ability to persist may not have been identified, and/or the species’ response to those major threats are not well understood. Data needs to fill knowledge gaps on major threats that have or are believed to have an impact on the species’ ability to persist are substantial. nlaroche on DSK30NT082PROD with NOTICES Recovery Potential Component 2: U.S. Jurisdiction, Authority, or Influence Exists for Management or Protective Actions To Address Major Threats • High: Management or protective actions to address major threats are primarily under U.S. authority or the United States can influence the abatement of major threats through existing international mechanisms (e.g., treaties, conventions, and agreements).1 This also applies to transnational species that spend only a portion of their life cycle in U.S. waters, but major threats can be addressed by U.S. actions during that portion of their life cycle. Where climate change impacts are a major threat and necessary actions to abate the threat are global in nature, management or protective actions under U.S. authority to address a threat that would help offset the impacts of climate change would fall into this category. • Low to Moderate: Management or protective actions to address major threats are mainly outside U.S. authority or ability to influence the abatement of major threats in other waters through existing international mechanisms (e.g., treaties, conventions, and agreements). Recovery Potential Component 3: Certainty That Management or Protective Actions Will Be Effective • High: Management or protective actions do not use novel or experimental techniques, are technically feasible, and have been successful at removing, reducing or mitigating effects of major threats. Where climate change impacts are a major threat and actions to abate the threat are global, then management or protective actions under U.S. authority that effectively address a threat to help offset the impacts of climate change would fall into this category. Demonstrated success may be incremental on a small scale or with a few individuals, and can be demonstrated through surrogate species. For species with current recovery plans, high certainty of effectiveness may be measured on the basis of individual recovery actions. If there are multiple recovery actions needed to address a major threat that impedes recovery, not all need to fit the criteria of high certainty of effectiveness. If there are multiple major threats, only one major threat needs to meet the high level of certainty to be assigned this category. • Low to Moderate: Management or protective actions, if known, may be novel or experimental, may not be technically feasible, and have less certainty of removing, reducing, or mitigating effects of major threats. 1 Including in the U.S. territorial sea, Exclusive Economic Zone and the high seas. VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:54 May 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Step 3. Assign Recovery Priority Number for Plan Development and Implementation In Step 3, we combine the results of the Demographic Risk Rank (Step 1) and Recovery Potential (Step 2) to assign Recovery Priority numbers, which will be used to prioritize resources for recovery plan development and implementation. We assign the greatest weight to demographic risk (Table 2; column 1), because species with more severe demographic risks are at greater risk of extinction. Although demographic risk is the most important factor to consider in assigning a Recovery Priority number, the species’ recovery potential is also an important factor. For example, a species with a HIGH demographic risk and a low recovery potential for all three components (major threats understood, management actions exist under U.S. authority or influence to abate major threats, and certainty that actions will be effective) will be a lower priority than a species with a MODERATE or LOW demographic risk and a high recovery potential. For Recovery Potential (Table 2; Columns 2, 3, and 4), we assign the weights as follows: 1. The greatest weight is given to when major threats are well understood. In order to identify effective management or protective actions, we need to understand the threats that impact the species’ ability to persist; 2. The second greatest weight is given to management or protective actions under U.S. authority or ability to influence the abatement of major threats. We acknowledge that management or protective actions outside of U.S. authority exist and may greatly influence recovery progress for transnational species that spend a portion of their life history within U.S. waters. However, for the purposes of prioritizing, we assign a greater weight to those species and recovery plans for which recovery actions are or are expected to be mainly under U.S. authority because this is where we have the greatest influence to implement recovery actions; 3. The lowest weight is given to the certainty that management or protective E:\FR\FM\31MYN1.SGM 31MYN1 24948 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 103 / Wednesday, May 31, 2017 / Notices actions will be effective, because the likelihood of effectiveness depends on whether sufficient knowledge of threats to develop actions exists and are under U.S. authority or ability to influence implementation of such actions; TABLE 2—RECOVERY PRIORITY FOR RECOVERY PLAN DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION Recovery potential Demographic risk a HIGH ...................................... HIGH ...................................... HIGH ...................................... MODERATE ........................... HIGH ...................................... HIGH ...................................... MODERATE ........................... LOW ....................................... HIGH ...................................... MODERATE ........................... LOW ....................................... HIGH ...................................... MODERATE ........................... MODERATE ........................... LOW ....................................... HIGH ...................................... MODERATE ........................... LOW ....................................... LOW ....................................... MODERATE ........................... LOW ....................................... MODERATE ........................... LOW ....................................... LOW ....................................... Major threats are well understood U.S. Jurisdiction, authority, or influence exists for management or protective actions to address major threats Certainty that management or protective actions will be effective High ........................................ High ........................................ High ........................................ High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ High ........................................ High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ High ........................................ High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ High ........................................ High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... Low to Moderate .................... High ........................................ Low to Moderate .................... Recovery priority 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 nlaroche on DSK30NT082PROD with NOTICES a Demographic Risk Rank was determined in Table 1. HIGH or MODERATE may be an Endangered species and MODERATE or LOW may be a Threatened species (see Table 1). Step 4. Assign Recovery Action Priority In Step 4, we prioritize recovery actions contained in a recovery plan. NMFS will assign recovery action priorities of 1 to 4 based on the criteria described below. Assigning priorities does not imply that some recovery actions are not important; instead, it simply means that they may be deferred while higher priority recovery actions are being implemented. All recovery actions will be assigned priorities based on the following: Priority 1 Actions: These are the recovery actions that must be taken to prevent extinction and often require urgent implementation. Because threatened species by definition are likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future and are presently not in danger of extinction, Priority 1 should be given primarily to recovery actions for species ranked as HIGH demographic risk in Table 1. The use of Priority 1 recovery actions in a recovery plan for a species with MODERATE demographic risk should be done judiciously and thoughtfully. Even the highest priority actions within a particular plan will not be assigned a Priority 1 ranking unless they are VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 May 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 actions necessary to prevent a species from becoming extinct or are research actions to fill knowledge gaps and identify management actions necessary to prevent extinction. Therefore, some plans will not have any Priority 1 actions. Priority 2 Actions: These are actions to remove, reduce, or mitigate major threats or fill knowledge gaps and prevent continued population decline, but their implementation is less urgent than Priority 1 actions. Priority 3 Actions: These are all actions that should be taken to remove, reduce, or mitigate any remaining threats and ensure the species can maintain an increasing or stable population to achieve delisting criteria, including monitoring to demonstrate achievement of demographic criteria. Priority 4 Actions: These are actions that are not linked to downlisting and/ or delisting criteria and are not needed for ESA recovery, but are needed to facilitate post-delisting monitoring, such as the development of a post-delisting monitoring plan that provides monitoring design (e.g., sampling error estimates). Some of these actions may carry out post-delisting monitoring. PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Priority 0 Other Actions: These are actions that are not needed for ESA recovery but that would advance broader goals beyond delisting. Other actions include, for example, other legislative mandates or social, economic, and ecological values. These actions are given a zero priority number because they do not fall within the priorities for delisting the species, yet the numeric value allows tracking these types of actions in the NMFS’ Recovery Action Mapping Tool Database. We must avoid assigning recovery actions a higher priority than is warranted. For example, threatened species by definition are likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future and are presently not in danger of extinction; thus a Priority 1 would likely not apply to recovery actions for a threatened species. Even the highest priority actions within a particular plan should not be assigned a Priority 1 ranking unless they are actions necessary to prevent a species from becoming extinct or are research actions to fill knowledge gaps and identify management actions necessary to prevent extinction. Therefore, some plans will not have any E:\FR\FM\31MYN1.SGM 31MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 103 / Wednesday, May 31, 2017 / Notices Priority 1 actions. At the same time, we also need to be careful not to assign a lower priority than is warranted, simply because an action is but one component of a larger effort that must be undertaken. For instance, there is often confusion as to whether a research action can be assigned a Priority of 1 since, in and of itself, it will not prevent extinction. However, the outcome of a research project may provide critical information necessary to initiate a protective action to prevent extinction (e.g., applying the results of a genetics study to a captive propagation program for a seriously declining species) and would warrant Priority 1 status. Most actions will likely be Priority 2 or 3, since the majority of actions will likely contribute to preventing further declines of the species, but may not prevent extinction. This system recognizes the need to work toward the recovery of all listed species, not simply those facing the highest magnitude of threat. In general, NMFS intends that Priority 1 actions will be addressed before Priority 2 actions and Priority 2 actions before Priority 3 actions, etc. But we also recognize that some lower priority actions may be implemented before Priority 1 actions, for example because a partner is interested in implementing a lower priority action, 24949 because a Priority 1 action is not currently possible (e.g., there is lack of political support for the action), or because implementation of the Priority 1 action may take many years. For some species, especially those with complicated recovery programs involving many actions, it may be useful to assign sub-priorities within these categories, e.g., Priority 2a, Priority 2b, Priority 2c. If sub-priorities are assigned, a definition of, and criteria for, each sub-priority should be provided in the recovery plan. TABLE 3—RECOVERY PLAN RECOVERY ACTION PRIORITY NUMBERS Priority Description 1 .................. Actions that must be taken to prevent extinction, including research actions to identify those actions that must be taken to prevent extinction. Actions that must be taken to prevent a significant decline in species population/habitat quality or in some other significant negative impact short of extinction. This includes research actions to identify those actions that must be taken to prevent such impacts. Remaining actions that must be taken to achieve delisting criteria, including monitoring to demonstrate achievement of demographic criteria. Actions necessary to facilitate post-delisting monitoring. All other actions that are not required for ESA recovery but that would advance broader goals beyond delisting. 2 .................. 3 .................. 4 .................. 0 .................. nlaroche on DSK30NT082PROD with NOTICES Process for Applying the Revised Part B: Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities The lead NMFS Region or Headquarters will identify a species’ Recovery Priority number (Step 3; Table 2) by assessing the species’ Demographic Risk Category (Step 1; Table 1) and Recovery Potential (Step 2) and apply it to the Recovery Priority (Step 3; Table 2). Where multiple NMFS Regions are involved, the lead region or headquarters office will coordinate with all NMFS regions involved to reach consensus on the Demographic Risk Category, Recovery Potential, and Recovery Priority. Application of these guidelines to assess recovery priority relative to all species within our jurisdiction will be done on a biennial basis as part of the report to Congress (section 4(f)(3)) and through the 5-year review process (section 4(c)(2)). We anticipate the recovery prioritization to be a dynamic process—as more information is made available through research and monitoring about demographic risk, limiting factors and threats, the species could move up or down the priority scale depending on whether the new information reveals there are management or protective actions that can be implemented and be effective at recovering the species. Recovery Action Priority Numbers will be assigned to each recovery action VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:54 May 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 when the recovery plan is developed, revised, or updated. These revised guidelines will apply only to plans that are developed, revised, or updated after the finalization of these guidelines. As the results of research or monitoring of recovery implementation become available, the Recovery Action Priority Numbers can be modified through plan updates or revisions to address changing priorities based on this new information. Proposed Revisions to Part C: Recovery Plans NMFS believes that periodic review of and updates to recovery plans and tracking recovery efforts are important elements of a successful recovery program. As we develop recovery plans for each species, specific recovery actions are identified and prioritized according to the criteria discussed above. This prioritization process recognizes that recovery plans should be viewed as living documents, and that research and monitoring, planning, and implementation describe a cycle of adaptive implementation of recovery actions for ESA-listed species. Even after recovery planning is complete and the plan is being implemented, key information gaps and uncertainties should constantly be evaluated. Research and monitoring results should inform recovery plan changes and refine PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 strategies to implement recovery actions. The recovery action priority ranking, together with the species recovery priority, will be used to set priorities for funding and implementation of individual recovery actions. Definitions For purposes of this guidance only, the below terms have the following meanings: Endangered species: Any species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. NMFS interprets an ‘‘endangered species’’ to be one that is presently in danger of extinction. Demographic Risk: Characteristics of a population (productivity, spatial distribution, diversity, abundance, and population trend) that are indicators of the species ability to persist. Depensation: The effect on a population whereby, due to certain causes, a decrease in the breeding population leads to reduced production and survival of eggs or offspring. Foreseeable future: For purposes of this guidance, the ‘‘foreseeable future’’ describes the extent to which the Secretary can, in making determinations about the future conservation status of the species, reasonably rely on predictions about the future (Department of the Interior Solicitor’s Memorandum M–37021, ‘‘The Meaning E:\FR\FM\31MYN1.SGM 31MYN1 24950 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 103 / Wednesday, May 31, 2017 / Notices of ‘Foreseeable Future’ in Section 3(20) of the Endangered Species Act’’(Jan. 16, 2009)). The time period that constitutes the foreseeable future is case-specific and should consider the life history of the species, habitat characteristics, availability of data, kinds of threats, ability to predict threats and their impacts, and the reliability of models used to forecast threats over that ‘‘foreseeable future.’’ Major Threat: A ‘major’ threat is defined as a threat whose scope, immediacy, and intensity results in a response by the species that prevents the improvement of its status to the point that such species may not be reclassified or delisted based on the factors set out in section 4(a)(1) of the ESA. Conversely, non-major threats are those threats whose scope, immediacy, and intensity results in a response by the species but singularly or cumulatively do not prevent the improvement of its status to the point that such species may be reclassified or delisted based on the factors set out in section 4(a)(1) of the ESA. Technically Feasible: Technically feasible refers to the scientific, engineering, and operational aspects of management or protective actions that are capable of being implemented. Threatened species: Any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A ‘‘threatened species’’ is not presently in danger of extinction, but is likely to become so in the foreseeable future. The primary statutory difference between a threatened species and an endangered species is the timing of when a species is in danger of extinction, either presently (endangered) or in the foreseeable future (threatened). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq. Dated: May 24, 2017. Alan D. Risenhoover, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–11157 Filed 5–30–17; 8:45 am] nlaroche on DSK30NT082PROD with NOTICES BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:54 May 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XC969 Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing—Acoustic Threshold Levels for Onset of Permanent and Temporary Threshold Shifts National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; request for comments. AGENCY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) seeks public comment to assist the Secretary of Commerce’s review of NMFS’ August 2016 Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing: Underwater Acoustic Thresholds for Onset of Permanent and Temporary Threshold Shifts (Technical Guidance), pursuant to section 10 of Presidential Executive Order (EO) 13795, Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy (April 28, 2017). DATES: Comments must be received by July 17, 2017. ADDRESSES: The Technical Guidance is available in electronic form via the Internet at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/acoustics/. You may submit comments by including NOAA–NMFS– 2013–0177, by either of the following methods: Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2013-0177, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments Mail: Send comments to: Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910– 3226, Attn: Acoustic Guidance. Instructions: NMFS may not consider comments if they are sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the comment period ends. All comments received are a part of the public record and NMFS will generally post for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender is SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Amy Scholik-Schlomer, Office of Protected Resources, 301–427–8449, Amy.Scholik@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Presidential Executive Order (EO) 13795, Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy (82 FR 20815; April 28, 2017), states in section 2 that ‘‘It shall be the policy of the United States to encourage energy exploration and production, including on the Outer Continental Shelf, in order to maintain the Nation’s position as a global energy leader and foster energy security and resilience for the benefit of the American people, while ensuring that any such activity is safe and environmentally responsible.’’ Among the requirements of EO 13795 is section 10, which calls for a review of NMFS’ Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing as follows: ‘‘The Secretary of Commerce shall review [NMFS’ Technical Guidance] for consistency with the policy set forth in Section 2 of this order and, after consultation with the appropriate Federal agencies, take all steps permitted by law to rescind or revise that guidance, if appropriate.’’ The 2016 Technical Guidance referred to in EO 13795 is a technical document that compiles, interprets, and synthesizes scientific literature, to produce updated thresholds for assessing the effects of underwater sound on marine mammal hearing. The document provides updated received levels, or acoustic thresholds, above which individual marine mammals under NMFS’ jurisdiction are predicted to experience changes in their hearing sensitivity (either temporary or permanent) for all underwater humanmade sound sources. It is intended for use by NMFS analysts and managers and other relevant user groups and stakeholders, including other Federal agencies, when seeking to determine whether and how their activities are expected to result in hearing impacts to marine mammals via acoustic exposure. The Technical Guidance does not represent the entirety of an impact assessment but rather serves as one tool to help evaluate a proposed action. Mitigation and monitoring requirements in connection with any permits or authorizations issued by NMFS are management decisions made in the context of a proposed activity and a comprehensive effects analysis as well E:\FR\FM\31MYN1.SGM 31MYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 103 (Wednesday, May 31, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 24944-24950]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-11157]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF282


Endangered and Threatened Species; Listing and Recovery Priority 
Guidelines

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of availability and request for comment.

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

SUMMARY: We, NMFS, are proposing to revise the Recovery Plan 
Preparation and Implementation Priorities and Recovery Plans contained 
in the 1990 Listing and Recovery Priority Guidelines. We propose to 
revise the guidelines to better prioritize limited agency resources to 
advance the recovery of threatened and endangered species guided by the 
immediacy of the species' overall extinction risk, extent of 
information regarding major threats, and certainty that management or 
protective actions can be implemented successfully. We are not 
proposing changes to the Listing, Reclassification, and Delisting 
Priorities contained in the 1990 Listing and Recovery Priority 
Guidelines. We have found those guidelines to be sufficient in 
prioritizing listing actions and thus do not warrant a revision at this 
time.

DATES: Comments on the proposed revision must be received by close of 
business on June 30, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2017-0020 by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0020. Click the 
`Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach 
your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Therese Conant, National 
Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 
20910.
    Instructions: You must submit comments by one of the above methods 
to ensure that we receive, document, and consider them. Comments sent 
by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received 
after the end of the comment period, may not be considered. All 
comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be 
posted for public viewing on http://www.regulations.gov without change. 
All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), 
confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information 
submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. We 
will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if 
you wish to remain anonymous).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 4(f) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (16 U.S.C. 
1533(f)) requires the Secretary to develop recovery plans for all 
species listed pursuant to the ESA, unless he/she finds that such a 
plan will not promote the recovery of the species. Section 4(h) 
requires the Secretary to establish a system for developing and 
implementing, on a priority basis, recovery plans under Section 4(f). 
We finalized guidance for prioritizing recovery plan development and 
implementation on June 15, 1990 (55 FR 24296). However, through our 
application of the Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation 
Priorities and Recovery Plans (see parts `B' and `C' June 15, 1990 55 
FR 24296), we have determined that the guidelines contain vague 
definitions and lack sufficient detail regarding factors that should be 
considered when evaluating threats and recovery potential. For these 
reasons, we propose revisions to the Recovery Plan Preparation and 
Implementation Priorities and Recovery Plan parts of the 1990 Listing 
and Recovery Priority Guidelines.
    The Listing, Reclassification, and Delisting Priorities can be 
found in the original Federal Register notice (see part `A' June 15, 
1990 55 FR 24296). The Listing, Reclassification, and Delisting 
Priorities remain unchanged and will be repeated in the final notice 
revising

[[Page 24945]]

parts B and Part C [to maintain the guidance in a single reference].

Proposed Revisions to Part B: Recovery Plan Preparation and 
Implementation Priorities and Part C: Recovery Plans

Part B: Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities

    The proposed changes to the Recovery Plan Preparation and 
Implementation Priorities are:
     The current guidelines consist of 12 species priority 
numbers. We propose to increase the number of species priority numbers 
to 24 by redefining the `magnitude of threat' and `recovery potential' 
criteria (see below);
     The current guidelines consist of a first criterion--
magnitude of threat. Magnitude of threat is divided by three 
categories: `high' meaning extinction is almost certain in the 
immediate future because of a rapid population decline or habitat 
destruction; `moderate' meaning the species will not face extinction if 
recovery is temporarily held off, although there is a continuing 
population decline or threat to its habitat; and `low' meaning a 
population facing a short-term, self-correcting fluctuation, or the 
impacts of the threats to the species' habitat are not fully known. We 
propose to change the magnitude of threat criterion to a demographic 
risk rank based on the species listing status (threatened or 
endangered) and species' condition for productivity, spatial 
distribution, diversity, abundance, or trends. The `high,' `moderate,' 
and `low' categories are now based on whether the species is threatened 
or endangered and whether it meets certain demographic risk conditions 
(see Table 1 in the revised guidelines below). This proposed change 
provides greater emphasis on the species' risk and more detail on the 
factors considered in assigning the risk rank;
     The current guidelines consist of a second criterion--
recovery potential. Recovery potential is based on how well biological 
and ecological limiting factors and threats to the species' existence 
are understood, and the extent of management actions needed. Recovery 
potential is divided into two categories: `High' meaning limiting 
factors and theats to the species are well understood and the needed 
management actions are known and have a high probability of success; 
and `low to moderate' meaning limiting factors or threats to the 
species are poorly understood or if the needed management actions are 
not known, are cost-prohibitive or are experimental with an uncertain 
probability of success. We propose to redefine the recovery potential 
by splitting the criterion into three components: (1) Whether the 
origin of major threats is known and the species response to those 
major threats is well understood; (2) whether the United States has 
jurisdiction, authority, or influence to implement management or 
protective actions to address major threats; and (3) the certainty that 
management or protective actions will be effective. Each component has 
a `high' or `low to moderate' category (see definitions in the revised 
guidelines below). This proposed change improves the guidelines by 
including U.S. jurisdiction or ability to influence recovery actions as 
a consideration in recovery potential and providing greater detail in 
the recovery potential definition;
     The current guidelines include a third criterion--
conflict. Conflict reflects the ESA section 4(f)(1)(A) requirement that 
recovery priority be given to those species that are, or may be, in 
conflict with construction or other developmental projects or other 
forms of economic activity. We propose to revise the guidelines by 
considering all ESA-listed marine and anadromous species to be in 
conflict with activities related to construction or other developmental 
projects, or other forms of economic activity. We are unaware of any 
ESA-listed species under our authority that is not considered, either 
directly or indirectly, to be in conflict to some degree with an 
economic activity. We are therefore reasonably certain that any species 
under NMFS jurisdiction that may be listed in the future will be in 
similar conflict. As a result, conflict, is not considered further in 
the proposed guidance; and
     The current guidelines contain three recovery task 
priorities defined as: Number 1--an action that must be taken to 
prevent extinction or to identify those actions necessary to prevent 
extinction; Number 2--an action that must be taken to prevent a 
significant decline in population numbers, habitat quality, or other 
significant negative impacts short of extinction; and number 3--all 
other actions necessary to provide for full recovery of the species. We 
propose to add two additional priority numbers: Number 4--actions that 
are not linked to downlisting and/or delisting criteria and are not 
needed for ESA recovery, but are needed to facilitate post-delisting 
monitoring, such as the development of a post-delisting monitoring plan 
that provides monitoring design (e.g., sampling error estimates); and 
number 0--actions that are not needed for ESA recovery but that would 
advance broader goals beyond delisting. Other actions include, for 
example, other legislative mandates or social, economic, and ecological 
values (see Table 3 in the revised guidelines below).

Part C. Recovery Plans

    The current guidelines specify that as recovery plans are 
developed, specific recovery tasks are identified and prioritized 
according to the criteria in the part B Recovery Plan Preparation and 
Implementation Priorities of the 1990 Listing and Recovery Priority 
Guidelines. We have updated the entire section to reflect the new 
proposed prioritization scheme outlined below.

New Proposed Part B: Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation 
Priorities

    The objective of these guidelines is to implement a policy to 
prioritize limited agency resources to advance the recovery of 
threatened and endangered species guided by the immediacy of the 
species' overall extinction risk, extent of information regarding major 
threats, and certainty that management and protective actions can be 
implemented successfully. To achieve the objective, we identified the 
following general principles for prioritizing recovery plan development 
and implementation:
     Endangered species are a higher priority than threatened 
species because of the immediacy of the extinction risk;
     Species with more severe demographic risks are a higher 
priority because they are at greater risk of extinction;
     Species for which major threats are well understood are a 
higher priority because in such cases, effective objective, measureable 
recovery criteria, and site-specific management or protective actions 
are more likely to be identified for that species;
     Species for which major threats are primarily under U.S. 
authority, or for which the United States can influence the abatement 
of such threats through international mechanisms (e.g., treaties, 
conventions, and agreements), are a higher priority because we have 
greater influence over the outcome; and
     Species for which there exists possible management or 
protective actions to address major threats that are not novel or 
experimental, are technically feasible, and have been successful at 
removing, reducing, or mitigating effects of major threats are a higher 
priority, because these actions are more likely to be effective at 
advancing recovery.
    The process to prioritize recovery planning and implementation 
consists of four steps--(1) identify a category of demographic risk 
based on the listing

[[Page 24946]]

status and species' condition related to productivity, spatial 
distribution, diversity, abundance, and trends (Step 1; Table 1); (2) 
identify categories for three components of recovery potential (Step 
2); (3) based on results of steps 1 and 2, assign a recovery priority 
for recovery plan development and implementation (Step 3; Table 2); and 
(4) assign priority rankings to recovery actions within the recovery 
plan (Step 4; Table 3). This prioritization process reflects a logical 
sequence for recovery plan development and implementation for a 
species: First, identify the species' risk; second develop the recovery 
plan; and third, implement the priority actions and monitor and 
evaluate progress. As new information is obtained through the 
monitoring and evaluation process, recovery plans will be updated or 
revised as described in the NMFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service' 
Interim Endangered and Threatened Species Recovery Planning Guidance 
Version 1.3 (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/laws/esa/policies.htm).

Step 1. Identify a Demographic Risk Category

    As a first step, we categorize the severity of an ESA-listed 
species' extinction risk based on the productivity, spatial 
distribution, diversity, and abundance of the species. We assess the 
species' demographic risk based on information on past threats that 
have contributed to the species' current status and the biological 
response of the species to present and future threats. The severity of 
a species' demographic risk, relative to all species under our 
jurisdiction, will inform how we prioritize resources toward recovery 
plan development and implementation.
    Depending on the listing status (endangered or threatened), we 
consider each Demographic Risk Category--productivity, spatial 
distribution, diversity, and abundance (Table 1; column 1) and the 
associated risk condition described in column 2 (Table 1; column 2). 
The risk condition is met when the listed entity (i.e., species, 
subspecies, or Distinct Population Segment) is considered at risk for 
that category. For example, populations or subpopulations within a 
listed entity may vary in terms of their productivity. Some may be at 
or below depensation, while others are stable and healthy. In those 
cases, we consider which population(s) contributes most substantially 
to the overall viability of the listed entity. If certain populations 
or subpopulations are at or below depensation and are so important to 
the listed entity that their loss would substantially increase the 
listed entity's extinction risk, then the risk condition applies.
    If an endangered species meets any of the risk conditions in column 
2 (Table 1), then the species is considered a HIGH demographic risk, 
regardless of its population trend. If an endangered species does not 
meet any of the risk conditions in column 2 (Table 1), then population 
trend information is used to categorize the demographic risk--e.g., 
HIGH if the population trend is declining or unknown, MODERATE or HIGH 
if the trend is mixed, and MODERATE if the trend is stable, or 
increasing. For a mixed population trend, a HIGH rating should be 
assigned if key populations are declining such that their continued 
decline would contribute substantially to the listed entity achieving 
the adverse risk conditions described in Table 1, otherwise a MODERATE 
rating should be assigned for mixed population trends.
    If a threatened species meets any of the risk conditions in column 
2 (Table 1), the species is assigned a MODERATE demographic risk, 
regardless of its population trend. If a threatened species does not 
meet any of the risk conditions in column 2 (Table 1), its population 
trend is used to assign the demographic risk--e.g., MODERATE if the 
trend is declining or unknown, LOW or MODERATE if the trend is mixed, 
and LOW if the trend is stable, or increasing. For a mixed population 
trend, a MODERATE rating should be assigned if key populations are 
declining such that their continued decline would contribute 
substantially to the listed entity achieving the adverse risk 
conditions described in Table 1, otherwise a LOW should be assigned for 
mixed population trends.
    We report the species' population trends biennially to Congress 
pursuant to section 4(f)(3). To ensure consistency with what we report 
to Congress and how we set priorities for recovery planning and 
implementation, we will apply the following general guidelines:
    Use a minimum of 3 or more abundance estimates for key 
population(s) over 10 year period or, depending on taxa (e.g., sea 
turtles), all available data years (>3 data points) for trend 
estimation.
    1. Increasing: The species (includes consideration of all 
population units that make up the species `as-listed') shows measurably 
higher numbers from assessment to assessment.
    2. Stable: The species shows no measurable increase or decrease 
over the period of time between assessments.
    3. Decreasing: The species shows measurably lower numbers from 
assessment to assessment.
    4. Mixed: Mixed is a designation reserved for species with multiple 
populations, and species are considered mixed if there are at least 3 
data points and the criteria for increasing, decreasing, and stable are 
not met.
    5. Unknown: The species has fewer than 3 data points over a 10 year 
period to estimate trends or there is uncertainty over data quality.

                                 Table 1--Severity of Species' Demographic Risk
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                          Demographic risk rank \1\
    Demographic risk  category          Risk condition     -----------------------------------------------------
                                                                    Endangered                 Threatened
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Productivity......................  At or below             If any one of these risk   If any one of these risk
Spatial distribution..............   depensation.            conditions is met, the     conditions is met, the
                                    Limited/fragmented       ranking is HIGH. If not,   ranking is MODERATE. If
                                     Spatial Distribution;   use the Trend              not, use the Trend
                                     vulnerable to           information below to       information below to
                                     catastrophe.            determine rank.            determine rank.
Diversity.........................  Low genetic and
                                     phenotypic diversity
                                     severely limiting
                                     adaptive potential.
Abundance.........................  One, or a few, small
                                     population(s) or
                                     subpopulations.
Trends............................  Decreasing Trend/       HIGH.....................  MODERATE.
                                     Unknown.
                                    Mixed Trend...........  HIGH/MODERATE............  MODERATE/LOW.
                                    Stable Trend..........  MODERATE.................  LOW.

[[Page 24947]]

 
                                    Increasing Trend......  MODERATE.................  LOW.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ For those species with recovery plans, the endangered or threatened category may be applied to a species
  currently not listed as such if NMFS has recommended a reclassification through a 5-year review or proposed
  rule.

Step 2. Identify Categories of Recovery Potential

    In Step 2, we evaluate a species' recovery potential. We have 
defined recovery potential to include three components: (1) Whether the 
origin of major threats is known and the species response to those 
major threats is well understood; (2) whether the United States has 
jurisdiction, authority, or influence to implement management or 
protective actions to address major threats; and (3) the certainty that 
management or protective actions will be effective. Each of the three 
components is considered to be ``High'' or ``Low to Moderate'' based on 
the following definitions:
Recovery Potential Component 1: Major Threats Well Understood
     High: Natural and man-made threats that have a major 
impact on the species' ability to persist have been identified, and the 
species' response to those threats are well understood. Data needs to 
fill knowledge gaps on major threats that have an impact on the 
species' ability to persist are minimal.
     Low to Moderate: Natural and man-made threats that have or 
are believed to have a major impact on the species' ability to persist 
may not have been identified, and/or the species' response to those 
major threats are not well understood. Data needs to fill knowledge 
gaps on major threats that have or are believed to have an impact on 
the species' ability to persist are substantial.
Recovery Potential Component 2: U.S. Jurisdiction, Authority, or 
Influence Exists for Management or Protective Actions To Address Major 
Threats
     High: Management or protective actions to address major 
threats are primarily under U.S. authority or the United States can 
influence the abatement of major threats through existing international 
mechanisms (e.g., treaties, conventions, and agreements).\1\ This also 
applies to transnational species that spend only a portion of their 
life cycle in U.S. waters, but major threats can be addressed by U.S. 
actions during that portion of their life cycle. Where climate change 
impacts are a major threat and necessary actions to abate the threat 
are global in nature, management or protective actions under U.S. 
authority to address a threat that would help offset the impacts of 
climate change would fall into this category.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ Including in the U.S. territorial sea, Exclusive Economic 
Zone and the high seas.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

     Low to Moderate: Management or protective actions to 
address major threats are mainly outside U.S. authority or ability to 
influence the abatement of major threats in other waters through 
existing international mechanisms (e.g., treaties, conventions, and 
agreements).
Recovery Potential Component 3: Certainty That Management or Protective 
Actions Will Be Effective
     High: Management or protective actions do not use novel or 
experimental techniques, are technically feasible, and have been 
successful at removing, reducing or mitigating effects of major 
threats. Where climate change impacts are a major threat and actions to 
abate the threat are global, then management or protective actions 
under U.S. authority that effectively address a threat to help offset 
the impacts of climate change would fall into this category. 
Demonstrated success may be incremental on a small scale or with a few 
individuals, and can be demonstrated through surrogate species. For 
species with current recovery plans, high certainty of effectiveness 
may be measured on the basis of individual recovery actions. If there 
are multiple recovery actions needed to address a major threat that 
impedes recovery, not all need to fit the criteria of high certainty of 
effectiveness. If there are multiple major threats, only one major 
threat needs to meet the high level of certainty to be assigned this 
category.
     Low to Moderate: Management or protective actions, if 
known, may be novel or experimental, may not be technically feasible, 
and have less certainty of removing, reducing, or mitigating effects of 
major threats.

Step 3. Assign Recovery Priority Number for Plan Development and 
Implementation

    In Step 3, we combine the results of the Demographic Risk Rank 
(Step 1) and Recovery Potential (Step 2) to assign Recovery Priority 
numbers, which will be used to prioritize resources for recovery plan 
development and implementation. We assign the greatest weight to 
demographic risk (Table 2; column 1), because species with more severe 
demographic risks are at greater risk of extinction. Although 
demographic risk is the most important factor to consider in assigning 
a Recovery Priority number, the species' recovery potential is also an 
important factor. For example, a species with a HIGH demographic risk 
and a low recovery potential for all three components (major threats 
understood, management actions exist under U.S. authority or influence 
to abate major threats, and certainty that actions will be effective) 
will be a lower priority than a species with a MODERATE or LOW 
demographic risk and a high recovery potential.
    For Recovery Potential (Table 2; Columns 2, 3, and 4), we assign 
the weights as follows:
    1. The greatest weight is given to when major threats are well 
understood. In order to identify effective management or protective 
actions, we need to understand the threats that impact the species' 
ability to persist;
    2. The second greatest weight is given to management or protective 
actions under U.S. authority or ability to influence the abatement of 
major threats. We acknowledge that management or protective actions 
outside of U.S. authority exist and may greatly influence recovery 
progress for transnational species that spend a portion of their life 
history within U.S. waters. However, for the purposes of prioritizing, 
we assign a greater weight to those species and recovery plans for 
which recovery actions are or are expected to be mainly under U.S. 
authority because this is where we have the greatest influence to 
implement recovery actions;
    3. The lowest weight is given to the certainty that management or 
protective

[[Page 24948]]

actions will be effective, because the likelihood of effectiveness 
depends on whether sufficient knowledge of threats to develop actions 
exists and are under U.S. authority or ability to influence 
implementation of such actions;

                   Table 2--Recovery Priority for Recovery Plan Development and Implementation
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Recovery potential
                                  ---------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         U.S. Jurisdiction,
                                                           authority, or
       Demographic risk \a\                               influence exists      Certainty that       Recovery
                                    Major threats are    for  management or     management  or       priority
                                     well  understood   protective  actions   protective actions
                                                          to address major    will be effective
                                                              threats
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HIGH.............................  High...............  High...............  High...............               1
HIGH.............................  High...............  High...............  Low to Moderate....               2
HIGH.............................  High...............  Low to Moderate....  High...............               3
MODERATE.........................  High...............  High...............  High...............               4
HIGH.............................  Low to Moderate....  High...............  High...............               5
HIGH.............................  High...............  Low to Moderate....  Low to Moderate....               6
MODERATE.........................  High...............  High...............  Low to Moderate....               7
LOW..............................  High...............  High...............  High...............               8
HIGH.............................  Low to Moderate....  High...............  Low to Moderate....               9
MODERATE.........................  High...............  Low to Moderate....  High...............              10
LOW..............................  High...............  High...............  Low to Moderate....              11
HIGH.............................  Low to Moderate....  Low to Moderate....  High...............              12
MODERATE.........................  Low to Moderate....  High...............  High...............              13
MODERATE.........................  High...............  Low to Moderate....  Low to Moderate....              14
LOW..............................  High...............  Low to Moderate....  High...............              15
HIGH.............................  Low to Moderate....  Low to Moderate....  Low to Moderate....              16
MODERATE.........................  Low to Moderate....  High...............  Low to Moderate....              17
LOW..............................  Low to Moderate....  High...............  High...............              18
LOW..............................  High...............  Low to Moderate....  Low to Moderate....              19
MODERATE.........................  Low to Moderate....  Low to Moderate....  High...............              20
LOW..............................  Low to Moderate....  High...............  Low to Moderate....              21
MODERATE.........................  Low to Moderate....  Low to Moderate....  Low to Moderate....              22
LOW..............................  Low to Moderate....  Low to Moderate....  High...............              23
LOW..............................  Low to Moderate....  Low to Moderate....  Low to Moderate....              24
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\a\ Demographic Risk Rank was determined in Table 1. HIGH or MODERATE may be an Endangered species and MODERATE
  or LOW may be a Threatened species (see Table 1).

Step 4. Assign Recovery Action Priority

    In Step 4, we prioritize recovery actions contained in a recovery 
plan. NMFS will assign recovery action priorities of 1 to 4 based on 
the criteria described below. Assigning priorities does not imply that 
some recovery actions are not important; instead, it simply means that 
they may be deferred while higher priority recovery actions are being 
implemented. All recovery actions will be assigned priorities based on 
the following:
    Priority 1 Actions: These are the recovery actions that must be 
taken to prevent extinction and often require urgent implementation. 
Because threatened species by definition are likely to become an 
endangered species within the foreseeable future and are presently not 
in danger of extinction, Priority 1 should be given primarily to 
recovery actions for species ranked as HIGH demographic risk in Table 
1. The use of Priority 1 recovery actions in a recovery plan for a 
species with MODERATE demographic risk should be done judiciously and 
thoughtfully. Even the highest priority actions within a particular 
plan will not be assigned a Priority 1 ranking unless they are actions 
necessary to prevent a species from becoming extinct or are research 
actions to fill knowledge gaps and identify management actions 
necessary to prevent extinction. Therefore, some plans will not have 
any Priority 1 actions.
    Priority 2 Actions: These are actions to remove, reduce, or 
mitigate major threats or fill knowledge gaps and prevent continued 
population decline, but their implementation is less urgent than 
Priority 1 actions.
    Priority 3 Actions: These are all actions that should be taken to 
remove, reduce, or mitigate any remaining threats and ensure the 
species can maintain an increasing or stable population to achieve 
delisting criteria, including monitoring to demonstrate achievement of 
demographic criteria.
    Priority 4 Actions: These are actions that are not linked to 
downlisting and/or delisting criteria and are not needed for ESA 
recovery, but are needed to facilitate post-delisting monitoring, such 
as the development of a post-delisting monitoring plan that provides 
monitoring design (e.g., sampling error estimates). Some of these 
actions may carry out post-delisting monitoring.
    Priority 0 Other Actions: These are actions that are not needed for 
ESA recovery but that would advance broader goals beyond delisting. 
Other actions include, for example, other legislative mandates or 
social, economic, and ecological values. These actions are given a zero 
priority number because they do not fall within the priorities for 
delisting the species, yet the numeric value allows tracking these 
types of actions in the NMFS' Recovery Action Mapping Tool Database.
    We must avoid assigning recovery actions a higher priority than is 
warranted. For example, threatened species by definition are likely to 
become an endangered species within the foreseeable future and are 
presently not in danger of extinction; thus a Priority 1 would likely 
not apply to recovery actions for a threatened species. Even the 
highest priority actions within a particular plan should not be 
assigned a Priority 1 ranking unless they are actions necessary to 
prevent a species from becoming extinct or are research actions to fill 
knowledge gaps and identify management actions necessary to prevent 
extinction. Therefore, some plans will not have any

[[Page 24949]]

Priority 1 actions. At the same time, we also need to be careful not to 
assign a lower priority than is warranted, simply because an action is 
but one component of a larger effort that must be undertaken. For 
instance, there is often confusion as to whether a research action can 
be assigned a Priority of 1 since, in and of itself, it will not 
prevent extinction. However, the outcome of a research project may 
provide critical information necessary to initiate a protective action 
to prevent extinction (e.g., applying the results of a genetics study 
to a captive propagation program for a seriously declining species) and 
would warrant Priority 1 status.
    Most actions will likely be Priority 2 or 3, since the majority of 
actions will likely contribute to preventing further declines of the 
species, but may not prevent extinction. This system recognizes the 
need to work toward the recovery of all listed species, not simply 
those facing the highest magnitude of threat. In general, NMFS intends 
that Priority 1 actions will be addressed before Priority 2 actions and 
Priority 2 actions before Priority 3 actions, etc. But we also 
recognize that some lower priority actions may be implemented before 
Priority 1 actions, for example because a partner is interested in 
implementing a lower priority action, because a Priority 1 action is 
not currently possible (e.g., there is lack of political support for 
the action), or because implementation of the Priority 1 action may 
take many years.
    For some species, especially those with complicated recovery 
programs involving many actions, it may be useful to assign sub-
priorities within these categories, e.g., Priority 2a, Priority 2b, 
Priority 2c. If sub-priorities are assigned, a definition of, and 
criteria for, each sub-priority should be provided in the recovery 
plan.

         Table 3--Recovery Plan Recovery Action Priority Numbers
------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Priority                           Description
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1......................  Actions that must be taken to prevent
                          extinction, including research actions to
                          identify those actions that must be taken to
                          prevent extinction.
2......................  Actions that must be taken to prevent a
                          significant decline in species population/
                          habitat quality or in some other significant
                          negative impact short of extinction. This
                          includes research actions to identify those
                          actions that must be taken to prevent such
                          impacts.
3......................  Remaining actions that must be taken to achieve
                          delisting criteria, including monitoring to
                          demonstrate achievement of demographic
                          criteria.
4......................  Actions necessary to facilitate post-delisting
                          monitoring.
0......................  All other actions that are not required for ESA
                          recovery but that would advance broader goals
                          beyond delisting.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Process for Applying the Revised Part B: Recovery Plan Preparation and 
Implementation Priorities

    The lead NMFS Region or Headquarters will identify a species' 
Recovery Priority number (Step 3; Table 2) by assessing the species' 
Demographic Risk Category (Step 1; Table 1) and Recovery Potential 
(Step 2) and apply it to the Recovery Priority (Step 3; Table 2). Where 
multiple NMFS Regions are involved, the lead region or headquarters 
office will coordinate with all NMFS regions involved to reach 
consensus on the Demographic Risk Category, Recovery Potential, and 
Recovery Priority. Application of these guidelines to assess recovery 
priority relative to all species within our jurisdiction will be done 
on a biennial basis as part of the report to Congress (section 4(f)(3)) 
and through the 5-year review process (section 4(c)(2)). We anticipate 
the recovery prioritization to be a dynamic process--as more 
information is made available through research and monitoring about 
demographic risk, limiting factors and threats, the species could move 
up or down the priority scale depending on whether the new information 
reveals there are management or protective actions that can be 
implemented and be effective at recovering the species.
    Recovery Action Priority Numbers will be assigned to each recovery 
action when the recovery plan is developed, revised, or updated. These 
revised guidelines will apply only to plans that are developed, 
revised, or updated after the finalization of these guidelines. As the 
results of research or monitoring of recovery implementation become 
available, the Recovery Action Priority Numbers can be modified through 
plan updates or revisions to address changing priorities based on this 
new information.

Proposed Revisions to Part C: Recovery Plans

    NMFS believes that periodic review of and updates to recovery plans 
and tracking recovery efforts are important elements of a successful 
recovery program. As we develop recovery plans for each species, 
specific recovery actions are identified and prioritized according to 
the criteria discussed above. This prioritization process recognizes 
that recovery plans should be viewed as living documents, and that 
research and monitoring, planning, and implementation describe a cycle 
of adaptive implementation of recovery actions for ESA-listed species. 
Even after recovery planning is complete and the plan is being 
implemented, key information gaps and uncertainties should constantly 
be evaluated. Research and monitoring results should inform recovery 
plan changes and refine strategies to implement recovery actions. The 
recovery action priority ranking, together with the species recovery 
priority, will be used to set priorities for funding and implementation 
of individual recovery actions.

Definitions

    For purposes of this guidance only, the below terms have the 
following meanings:
    Endangered species: Any species that is in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range. NMFS interprets 
an ``endangered species'' to be one that is presently in danger of 
extinction.
    Demographic Risk: Characteristics of a population (productivity, 
spatial distribution, diversity, abundance, and population trend) that 
are indicators of the species ability to persist.
    Depensation: The effect on a population whereby, due to certain 
causes, a decrease in the breeding population leads to reduced 
production and survival of eggs or offspring.
    Foreseeable future: For purposes of this guidance, the 
``foreseeable future'' describes the extent to which the Secretary can, 
in making determinations about the future conservation status of the 
species, reasonably rely on predictions about the future (Department of 
the Interior Solicitor's Memorandum M-37021, ``The Meaning

[[Page 24950]]

of `Foreseeable Future' in Section 3(20) of the Endangered Species 
Act''(Jan. 16, 2009)). The time period that constitutes the foreseeable 
future is case-specific and should consider the life history of the 
species, habitat characteristics, availability of data, kinds of 
threats, ability to predict threats and their impacts, and the 
reliability of models used to forecast threats over that ``foreseeable 
future.''
    Major Threat: A `major' threat is defined as a threat whose scope, 
immediacy, and intensity results in a response by the species that 
prevents the improvement of its status to the point that such species 
may not be reclassified or delisted based on the factors set out in 
section 4(a)(1) of the ESA. Conversely, non-major threats are those 
threats whose scope, immediacy, and intensity results in a response by 
the species but singularly or cumulatively do not prevent the 
improvement of its status to the point that such species may be 
reclassified or delisted based on the factors set out in section 
4(a)(1) of the ESA.
    Technically Feasible: Technically feasible refers to the 
scientific, engineering, and operational aspects of management or 
protective actions that are capable of being implemented.
    Threatened species: Any species which is likely to become an 
endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. A ``threatened species'' is not 
presently in danger of extinction, but is likely to become so in the 
foreseeable future. The primary statutory difference between a 
threatened species and an endangered species is the timing of when a 
species is in danger of extinction, either presently (endangered) or in 
the foreseeable future (threatened).

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.

    Dated: May 24, 2017.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-11157 Filed 5-30-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P