Endangered and Threatened Species; Recovery Plans, 64110-64112 [2018-27003]

Download as PDF 64110 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 239 / Thursday, December 13, 2018 / Notices report which compiles and evaluates potential datasets and recommends which datasets are appropriate for assessment analyses, and describes the fisheries, evaluates the status of the stock, estimates biological benchmarks, projects future population conditions, and recommends research and monitoring needs. Participants for SEDAR Workshops are appointed by the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils and NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, and Southeast Fisheries Science Center. Participants include: Data collectors and database managers; stock assessment scientists, biologists, and researchers; constituency representatives including fishermen, environmentalists, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); international experts; and staff of Councils, Commissions, and state and federal agencies. The items of discussion in the Assessment Scoping webinar are as follows: Participants will review data and discuss data issues, as necessary, and initial modeling issues. Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided the public has been notified of the intent to take final action to address the emergency. Special Accommodations This meeting is accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for auxiliary aids should be directed to the SAFMC office (see ADDRESSES) at least 5 business days prior to the meeting. Note: The times and sequence specified in this agenda are subject to change. amozie on DSK3GDR082PROD with NOTICES1 Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 10, 2018. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2018–26979 Filed 12–12–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:12 Dec 12, 2018 Jkt 247001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XG648 Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; public meeting. AGENCY: The Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (Pacific Council) Groundfish Management Team (GMT) will hold a week-long work session that is open to the public. DATES: The GMT meeting will be held Monday, January 14, 2019 through Friday, January 18, 2019. The GMT meeting will begin on Monday, January 14, from 1 p.m. until business for the day is completed. The meeting will reconvene Tuesday, January 15 through Friday, January 18, from 8:30 a.m. until business for each day has been completed. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at the Pacific Council Office, Large Conference Room, 7700 NE Ambassador Place, Suite 101, Portland, OR 97220– 1384. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Todd Phillips, Pacific Council; phone: (503) 820–2426. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The primary purpose of this week-long work session is for the GMT to prepare for 2019 Pacific Council meetings. Specific agenda items will include: A detailed review of 2019/20 harvest specifications and management measure process, planning for the 2021/22 harvest specifications and management measure process, meeting with representatives from the Pacific Council’s Ecosystem Workgroup; consideration of the groundfish workload prioritization process and Council Operating Procedure 9, Endangered Species Act salmon mitigation measures, and GMT chair/vice chair elections. The GMT may also address work assigned by the Pacific Council that relates to groundfish management, such as: A methodology overview of Sablefish Management and Trawl Allocation Attainment Committee analysis needs and impact analysis of proposed changes to the directed Pacific halibut fishery on groundfish. A detailed agenda will be available on the Pacific Council’s website prior to the meeting. Although nonemergency issues not contained in the meeting agenda may be SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 discussed, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during these meetings. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically listed in this document and any issues arising after publication of this document that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided the public has been notified of the intent to take final action to address the emergency. Special Accommodations The meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Mr. Kris Kleinschmidt at (503) 820–2411, at least 10 business days prior to the meeting date. Dated: December 10, 2018. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2018–26982 Filed 12–12–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XG573 Endangered and Threatened Species; Recovery Plans National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments. AGENCY: We, NMFS, announce that the Proposed Endangered Species Act (ESA) Recovery Plan for Puget Sound Steelhead (Proposed Plan) is available for public review and comment. The Proposed Plan addresses the Puget Sound Steelhead (Onchorhynchus mykiss) Distinct Population Segment (DPS), which was listed as threatened under the ESA on May 11, 2007. As required under the ESA, the Proposed Plan contains objective, measurable delisting criteria, site-specific management actions necessary to achieve the Proposed Plan’s goals, and estimates of the time and cost required to implement recovery actions. We are soliciting review and comment from the public and all interested parties on the Proposed Plan. DATES: Comments on the Proposed Plan must be received by February 11, 2019. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the Proposed Plan, identified by SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\13DEN1.SGM 13DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 239 / Thursday, December 13, 2018 / Notices NOAA–NMFS–2018–0125, by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments on the Proposed Plan via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2018-0125. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments on the Proposed Plan to David Price, National Marine Fisheries Service, 510 Desmond Dr. SE, Lacey, WA 98503. Instructions: Comments or information sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments and information received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted 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 will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous. The Proposed Plan is available online at www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-20180125 or upon request from the NMFS West Coast Region, Protected Resources Division (see ADDRESSES or FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: David Price, (360) 753–9598, david.price@noaa.gov; or Elizabeth Babcock, (206) 526–4505, elizabeth.babcock@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: amozie on DSK3GDR082PROD with NOTICES1 Background We are responsible for developing and implementing recovery plans for Pacific salmon and steelhead listed under the ESA of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Section 4(f)(1) of the ESA requires that recovery plans include, to the extent practicable: (1) Objective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination that the species is no longer threatened or endangered; (2) site-specific management actions necessary to achieve the plan’s goals; and (3) estimates of the time required and costs to implement recovery actions. The ESA requires the development of recovery plans for each listed species unless such a plan would not promote its recovery. We believe it is essential to have local support of recovery plans by those VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:12 Dec 12, 2018 Jkt 247001 whose activities directly affect the listed species and whose continued commitment and leadership will be needed to implement the necessary recovery actions. We therefore support and participate in collaborative efforts to develop recovery plans that involve state, tribal, and Federal entities, local communities, and other stakeholders. For this Proposed Plan for threatened Puget Sound Steelhead, we worked collaboratively with local, state, tribal, and Federal partners to produce a recovery plan that satisfies the ESA requirements. We have determined that this Proposed ESA Recovery Plan for Puget Sound Steelhead meets the statutory requirements for a recovery plan and are proposing to adopt it as the ESA recovery plan for this threatened species. Section 4(f) of the ESA, as amended in 1988, requires that public notice and an opportunity for public review and comment be provided prior to final approval of a recovery plan. This notice solicits comments on this Proposed Plan. Development of the Proposed Plan The geographic area covered by the Proposed Plan is the Puget Sound basin, from the Elwha River (inclusive) eastward, including rivers in Hood Canal, South Sound, and North Sound, including steelhead from six artificial propagation programs: The Green River Natural Program; White River Winter Steelhead Supplementation Program; Hood Canal Steelhead Supplementation Off-station Projects in the Dewatto, Skokomish, and Duckabush Rivers; and the Lower Elwha Fish Hatchery Wild Steelhead Recovery Program. For the purpose of recovery planning for the ESA-listed species of Pacific salmon and steelhead in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, NMFS designated five geographically based ‘‘recovery domains.’’ The Puget Sound Steelhead DPS spawning range is in the Puget Sound domain. For each domain, NMFS appointed a team of scientists, nominated for their geographic and species expertise, to provide a solid scientific foundation for recovery plans. The Puget Sound Steelhead Technical Recovery Team included biologists from NMFS, other Federal agencies, state agencies, tribes, and academic institutions. A primary task for the Puget Sound Steelhead Technical Recovery Team was to recommend criteria for determining when each component population within a DPS or Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) should be considered viable (i.e., when they are have a low risk of extinction over a 100-year period) and when ESUs PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 64111 or DPSs have a risk of extinction consistent with no longer needing the protections of the ESA. All NMFS’ Technical Recovery Teams used the same biological principles for developing their recommendations; these principles are described in the NOAA technical memorandum Viable Salmonid Populations and the Recovery of Evolutionarily Significant Units (McElhany et al. 2000). Viable salmonid populations (VSP) are defined in terms of four parameters: Abundance, productivity or growth rate, spatial structure, and diversity. We also collaborated with the state of Washington, tribes, other Federal agencies, local governments, representatives of industry and environmental groups, other stakeholders, and the public to develop the Proposed Plan. The Plan for the Puget Sound steelhead DPS was developed by NMFS in cooperation with a Recovery Team made up of experts from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Nooksack Tribe, Seattle Light, Long Live the Kings, Puget Sound Partnership, and NMFS Northwest Fisheries Science Center. These groups provided vital input during the planning process, and their continued involvement during recovery plan implementation is critical to the success of our joint efforts to recover Puget Sound steelhead. Contents of Proposed Plan The Proposed Plan contains biological background and contextual information that includes description of the DPS, the planning area, and the context of the plan’s development. It presents relevant information on DPS structure and guidelines for assessing salmonid population and DPS status. It provides background on the natural history of steelhead, population status, and threats to their sustainability. The Puget Sound steelhead DPS consists of three Major Population Groups (MPGs) and 32 Demographically Independent Populations (DIPs). NMFS based its decision to list the species in 2007 on findings by the Puget Sound Steelhead Biological Review Team (Hard et al. 2007). This team considered the major risk factors facing Puget Sound steelhead to be widespread declines in abundance and productivity for most natural steelhead populations in the DPS, including those in Skagit and Snohomish Rivers, previously considered strongholds for steelhead in the DPS; the low abundance of several summer-run populations; and the sharply diminishing abundance of some E:\FR\FM\13DEN1.SGM 13DEN1 amozie on DSK3GDR082PROD with NOTICES1 64112 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 239 / Thursday, December 13, 2018 / Notices steelhead populations, especially in south Puget Sound, Hood Canal, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Continued releases of out-of-DPS hatchery fish from Skamania-derived summer run were a major concern for diversity in the DPS. In 2011, eight years after the ESAlisting decision, a status assessment of the DPS by NMFS’ Biological Review Team found that the status of Puget Sound steelhead regarding risk of extinction had not changed (NMFS 2016; 81 FR 33468; May 26, 2016). Scientists on the Biological Review Team identified degradation and fragmentation of freshwater habitat, with consequential effects on connectivity, as the primary limiting factors and threats facing the Puget Sound steelhead DPS. They determined that most of the steelhead populations within the DPS continued to show downward trends in estimated abundance, with a few sharp declines (Ford 2011). Most recently, a NMFS species status review (NMFS 2016) concluded that ‘‘The biological risks faced by the Puget Sound steelhead DPS have not substantively changed since the listing in 2007, or since the 2011 status review.’’ The NMFS review team concluded that the DPS was at very low viability, as were all three of its constituent MPGs, and many of its 32 DIPs (Hard et al. 2015). The Proposed Plan presents NMFS’ proposed recovery goals and the viability criteria and listing factor criteria for making a delisting decision. The proposed viability criteria for the Puget Sound steelhead DPS are designed to improve the DPS so it ‘‘has a negligible risk of extinction due to threats from demographic variation, local environmental variation, and genetic diversity changes over a 100year time frame’’ based on the status of the MPGs and DIPs, and supporting ecosystems (McElhany et al. 2000). A self-sustaining viable population has a negligible risk of extinction due to reasonably foreseeable changes in circumstances affecting its abundance, productivity, spatial structure, and diversity characteristics and achieves these characteristics without dependence upon artificial propagation. The proposed viability criteria for Puget Sound steelhead require that all three MPGs be viable because the three MPGs differ substantially in key biological and habitat characteristics that contribute in distinct ways to the overall viability, diversity and spatial structure of the DPS. The proposed listing factor criteria are based on the five listing factors found in the ESA section 4(a)(1). Before NMFS can remove the DPS from protection VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:12 Dec 12, 2018 Jkt 247001 under the ESA, the factors that led to ESA listing need to have been reduced or eliminated to the point where Federal protection under the ESA is no longer needed, and there is reasonable certainty that the relevant regulatory mechanisms are adequate to protect Puget Sound steelhead viability. NMFS listing factor criteria for Puget Sound steelhead address pressures from freshwater habitat degradation, hatcheries, and other factors that led to the species listing and continue to affect its viability. The Proposed Plan also describes specific information on the following: Current status of Puget Sound steelhead; pressures (limiting factors) and threats throughout the life cycle that have contributed to the species decline; recovery strategies to address the threats based on the best available science; sitespecific actions with timelines; and a proposed adaptive management framework for focusing needed research and evaluations and revising our recovery strategies and actions. The Proposed Plan also summarizes time and costs required to implement recovery actions. How NMFS and Others Expect To Use the Plan With approval of the final Puget Sound Steelhead recovery plan, we will implement the actions in the plan for which we have authority and funding; encourage other Federal, state and local agencies and tribal governments to implement recovery actions for which they have responsibility, authority, and funding; and work cooperatively with tribes, the public and local stakeholders on implementation of other actions. We expect the recovery plan to guide us and other Federal agencies in evaluating Federal actions under ESA section 7, as well as in implementing other provisions of the ESA and other statutes. For example, the plan will provide greater biological context for evaluating the effects that a proposed action may have on the species by providing delisting criteria, information on priority areas for addressing specific limiting factors, and information on how the DPS can tolerate varying levels of risk. When we are considering a species for delisting, the agency will examine whether the section 4(a)(1) listing factors have been addressed. To assist in this examination, we will use the delisting criteria described in Chapter 4 of the Proposed Plan, which include both viability criteria and listing factor criteria addressing each of the ESA section 4(a)(1) listing factors, as well as PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 any other relevant data and policy considerations. Public Comments Solicited We are soliciting written comments on the Proposed Plan. All substantive comments received by the date specified above will be considered and incorporated, as appropriate, prior to our decision whether to approve the plan. While we invite comments on all aspects of the Proposed Plan, we are particularly interested in comments on the proposed strategies and actions, comments on the cost of recovery actions, and comments on establishing an appropriate implementation forum for the plan. We will issue a news release announcing the adoption and availability of the final plan. We will post on the NMFS West Coast Region website (www.wcr.noaa.gov) a summary of, and responses to, the comments received, along with electronic copies of the final plan and its appendices. Literature Cited The complete citations for the references used in this document can be obtained by contacting NMFS (see ADDRESSES and FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq. Dated: December 6, 2018. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2018–27003 Filed 12–12–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XG668 Fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic; Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR); Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of SEDAR 64 Data webinar for Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic yellowtail snapper. AGENCY: The SEDAR 64 assessment process of Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic yellowtail snapper will consist of a Data Workshop, and a series of assessment webinars, and a Review Workshop. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\13DEN1.SGM 13DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 239 (Thursday, December 13, 2018)]
[Notices]
[Pages 64110-64112]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-27003]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XG573


Endangered and Threatened Species; Recovery Plans

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

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: We, NMFS, announce that the Proposed Endangered Species Act 
(ESA) Recovery Plan for Puget Sound Steelhead (Proposed Plan) is 
available for public review and comment. The Proposed Plan addresses 
the Puget Sound Steelhead (Onchorhynchus mykiss) Distinct Population 
Segment (DPS), which was listed as threatened under the ESA on May 11, 
2007. As required under the ESA, the Proposed Plan contains objective, 
measurable delisting criteria, site-specific management actions 
necessary to achieve the Proposed Plan's goals, and estimates of the 
time and cost required to implement recovery actions. We are soliciting 
review and comment from the public and all interested parties on the 
Proposed Plan.

DATES: Comments on the Proposed Plan must be received by February 11, 
2019.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the Proposed Plan, identified by

[[Page 64111]]

NOAA-NMFS-2018-0125, by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments on the Proposed Plan via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2018-0125. Click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments on the Proposed Plan to 
David Price, National Marine Fisheries Service, 510 Desmond Dr. SE, 
Lacey, WA 98503.
    Instructions: Comments or information sent by any other method, to 
any other address or individual, or received after the end of the 
comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments and 
information received are a part of the public record and will generally 
be posted 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 will be publicly accessible. NMFS 
will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if 
you wish to remain anonymous.

    The Proposed Plan is available online at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2018-0125 or upon request from the NMFS 
West Coast Region, Protected Resources Division (see ADDRESSES or FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: David Price, (360) 753-9598, 
[email protected]; or Elizabeth Babcock, (206) 526-4505, 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    We are responsible for developing and implementing recovery plans 
for Pacific salmon and steelhead listed under the ESA of 1973, as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Section 4(f)(1) of the ESA requires 
that recovery plans include, to the extent practicable: (1) Objective, 
measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination 
that the species is no longer threatened or endangered; (2) site-
specific management actions necessary to achieve the plan's goals; and 
(3) estimates of the time required and costs to implement recovery 
actions. The ESA requires the development of recovery plans for each 
listed species unless such a plan would not promote its recovery.
    We believe it is essential to have local support of recovery plans 
by those whose activities directly affect the listed species and whose 
continued commitment and leadership will be needed to implement the 
necessary recovery actions. We therefore support and participate in 
collaborative efforts to develop recovery plans that involve state, 
tribal, and Federal entities, local communities, and other 
stakeholders. For this Proposed Plan for threatened Puget Sound 
Steelhead, we worked collaboratively with local, state, tribal, and 
Federal partners to produce a recovery plan that satisfies the ESA 
requirements. We have determined that this Proposed ESA Recovery Plan 
for Puget Sound Steelhead meets the statutory requirements for a 
recovery plan and are proposing to adopt it as the ESA recovery plan 
for this threatened species. Section 4(f) of the ESA, as amended in 
1988, requires that public notice and an opportunity for public review 
and comment be provided prior to final approval of a recovery plan. 
This notice solicits comments on this Proposed Plan.

Development of the Proposed Plan

    The geographic area covered by the Proposed Plan is the Puget Sound 
basin, from the Elwha River (inclusive) eastward, including rivers in 
Hood Canal, South Sound, and North Sound, including steelhead from six 
artificial propagation programs: The Green River Natural Program; White 
River Winter Steelhead Supplementation Program; Hood Canal Steelhead 
Supplementation Off-station Projects in the Dewatto, Skokomish, and 
Duckabush Rivers; and the Lower Elwha Fish Hatchery Wild Steelhead 
Recovery Program.
    For the purpose of recovery planning for the ESA-listed species of 
Pacific salmon and steelhead in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, NMFS 
designated five geographically based ``recovery domains.'' The Puget 
Sound Steelhead DPS spawning range is in the Puget Sound domain. For 
each domain, NMFS appointed a team of scientists, nominated for their 
geographic and species expertise, to provide a solid scientific 
foundation for recovery plans. The Puget Sound Steelhead Technical 
Recovery Team included biologists from NMFS, other Federal agencies, 
state agencies, tribes, and academic institutions.
    A primary task for the Puget Sound Steelhead Technical Recovery 
Team was to recommend criteria for determining when each component 
population within a DPS or Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) should 
be considered viable (i.e., when they are have a low risk of extinction 
over a 100-year period) and when ESUs or DPSs have a risk of extinction 
consistent with no longer needing the protections of the ESA. All NMFS' 
Technical Recovery Teams used the same biological principles for 
developing their recommendations; these principles are described in the 
NOAA technical memorandum Viable Salmonid Populations and the Recovery 
of Evolutionarily Significant Units (McElhany et al. 2000). Viable 
salmonid populations (VSP) are defined in terms of four parameters: 
Abundance, productivity or growth rate, spatial structure, and 
diversity.
    We also collaborated with the state of Washington, tribes, other 
Federal agencies, local governments, representatives of industry and 
environmental groups, other stakeholders, and the public to develop the 
Proposed Plan. The Plan for the Puget Sound steelhead DPS was developed 
by NMFS in cooperation with a Recovery Team made up of experts from the 
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Northwest Indian Fisheries 
Commission, Nooksack Tribe, Seattle Light, Long Live the Kings, Puget 
Sound Partnership, and NMFS Northwest Fisheries Science Center. These 
groups provided vital input during the planning process, and their 
continued involvement during recovery plan implementation is critical 
to the success of our joint efforts to recover Puget Sound steelhead.

Contents of Proposed Plan

    The Proposed Plan contains biological background and contextual 
information that includes description of the DPS, the planning area, 
and the context of the plan's development. It presents relevant 
information on DPS structure and guidelines for assessing salmonid 
population and DPS status. It provides background on the natural 
history of steelhead, population status, and threats to their 
sustainability.
    The Puget Sound steelhead DPS consists of three Major Population 
Groups (MPGs) and 32 Demographically Independent Populations (DIPs). 
NMFS based its decision to list the species in 2007 on findings by the 
Puget Sound Steelhead Biological Review Team (Hard et al. 2007). This 
team considered the major risk factors facing Puget Sound steelhead to 
be widespread declines in abundance and productivity for most natural 
steelhead populations in the DPS, including those in Skagit and 
Snohomish Rivers, previously considered strongholds for steelhead in 
the DPS; the low abundance of several summer-run populations; and the 
sharply diminishing abundance of some

[[Page 64112]]

steelhead populations, especially in south Puget Sound, Hood Canal, and 
the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Continued releases of out-of-DPS hatchery 
fish from Skamania-derived summer run were a major concern for 
diversity in the DPS. In 2011, eight years after the ESA-listing 
decision, a status assessment of the DPS by NMFS' Biological Review 
Team found that the status of Puget Sound steelhead regarding risk of 
extinction had not changed (NMFS 2016; 81 FR 33468; May 26, 2016). 
Scientists on the Biological Review Team identified degradation and 
fragmentation of freshwater habitat, with consequential effects on 
connectivity, as the primary limiting factors and threats facing the 
Puget Sound steelhead DPS. They determined that most of the steelhead 
populations within the DPS continued to show downward trends in 
estimated abundance, with a few sharp declines (Ford 2011). Most 
recently, a NMFS species status review (NMFS 2016) concluded that ``The 
biological risks faced by the Puget Sound steelhead DPS have not 
substantively changed since the listing in 2007, or since the 2011 
status review.'' The NMFS review team concluded that the DPS was at 
very low viability, as were all three of its constituent MPGs, and many 
of its 32 DIPs (Hard et al. 2015).
    The Proposed Plan presents NMFS' proposed recovery goals and the 
viability criteria and listing factor criteria for making a delisting 
decision. The proposed viability criteria for the Puget Sound steelhead 
DPS are designed to improve the DPS so it ``has a negligible risk of 
extinction due to threats from demographic variation, local 
environmental variation, and genetic diversity changes over a 100-year 
time frame'' based on the status of the MPGs and DIPs, and supporting 
ecosystems (McElhany et al. 2000). A self-sustaining viable population 
has a negligible risk of extinction due to reasonably foreseeable 
changes in circumstances affecting its abundance, productivity, spatial 
structure, and diversity characteristics and achieves these 
characteristics without dependence upon artificial propagation. The 
proposed viability criteria for Puget Sound steelhead require that all 
three MPGs be viable because the three MPGs differ substantially in key 
biological and habitat characteristics that contribute in distinct ways 
to the overall viability, diversity and spatial structure of the DPS.
    The proposed listing factor criteria are based on the five listing 
factors found in the ESA section 4(a)(1). Before NMFS can remove the 
DPS from protection under the ESA, the factors that led to ESA listing 
need to have been reduced or eliminated to the point where Federal 
protection under the ESA is no longer needed, and there is reasonable 
certainty that the relevant regulatory mechanisms are adequate to 
protect Puget Sound steelhead viability. NMFS listing factor criteria 
for Puget Sound steelhead address pressures from freshwater habitat 
degradation, hatcheries, and other factors that led to the species 
listing and continue to affect its viability.
    The Proposed Plan also describes specific information on the 
following: Current status of Puget Sound steelhead; pressures (limiting 
factors) and threats throughout the life cycle that have contributed to 
the species decline; recovery strategies to address the threats based 
on the best available science; site-specific actions with timelines; 
and a proposed adaptive management framework for focusing needed 
research and evaluations and revising our recovery strategies and 
actions. The Proposed Plan also summarizes time and costs required to 
implement recovery actions.

How NMFS and Others Expect To Use the Plan

    With approval of the final Puget Sound Steelhead recovery plan, we 
will implement the actions in the plan for which we have authority and 
funding; encourage other Federal, state and local agencies and tribal 
governments to implement recovery actions for which they have 
responsibility, authority, and funding; and work cooperatively with 
tribes, the public and local stakeholders on implementation of other 
actions. We expect the recovery plan to guide us and other Federal 
agencies in evaluating Federal actions under ESA section 7, as well as 
in implementing other provisions of the ESA and other statutes. For 
example, the plan will provide greater biological context for 
evaluating the effects that a proposed action may have on the species 
by providing delisting criteria, information on priority areas for 
addressing specific limiting factors, and information on how the DPS 
can tolerate varying levels of risk.
    When we are considering a species for delisting, the agency will 
examine whether the section 4(a)(1) listing factors have been 
addressed. To assist in this examination, we will use the delisting 
criteria described in Chapter 4 of the Proposed Plan, which include 
both viability criteria and listing factor criteria addressing each of 
the ESA section 4(a)(1) listing factors, as well as any other relevant 
data and policy considerations.

Public Comments Solicited

    We are soliciting written comments on the Proposed Plan. All 
substantive comments received by the date specified above will be 
considered and incorporated, as appropriate, prior to our decision 
whether to approve the plan. While we invite comments on all aspects of 
the Proposed Plan, we are particularly interested in comments on the 
proposed strategies and actions, comments on the cost of recovery 
actions, and comments on establishing an appropriate implementation 
forum for the plan. We will issue a news release announcing the 
adoption and availability of the final plan. We will post on the NMFS 
West Coast Region website (www.wcr.noaa.gov) a summary of, and 
responses to, the comments received, along with electronic copies of 
the final plan and its appendices.

Literature Cited

    The complete citations for the references used in this document can 
be obtained by contacting NMFS (see ADDRESSES and FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT).

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

    Dated: December 6, 2018.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-27003 Filed 12-12-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P