Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing Trifolium stoloniferum (Running Buffalo Clover) From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants, 44832-44841 [2019-18413]

Download as PDF 44832 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 166 / Tuesday, August 27, 2019 / Proposed Rules § 367.70 Fees under the Unified Carrier Registration Plan and Agreement for registration years beginning in 2021. 3. Add § 367.70 to subpart B to read as follows: ■ TABLE 1 TO § 367.70—FEES UNDER THE UNIFIED CARRIER REGISTRATION PLAN AND AGREEMENT FOR REGISTRATION YEAR 2021 AND EACH SUBSEQUENT REGISTRATION YEAR THEREAFTER Number of commercial motor vehicles owned or operated by exempt or non-exempt motor carrier, motor private carrier, or freight forwarder Bracket B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B6 ........................................................................... ........................................................................... ........................................................................... ........................................................................... ........................................................................... ........................................................................... Issued under authority delegated in 49 CFR 1.87. Raymond P. Martinez, Administrator. [FR Doc. 2019–18418 Filed 8–26–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–EX–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2018–0036; FXES111309BFLC0] RIN 1018–BC80 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing Trifolium stoloniferum (Running Buffalo Clover) From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to remove the Trifolium stoloniferum (running buffalo clover) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants, due to recovery. This determination is based on a thorough review of the best available scientific and commercial information, which indicates that the threats to the species have been eliminated or reduced to the point that it no longer meets the definition of an endangered or a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We are seeking information and comments from the public regarding this proposed rule. We are also seeking comments on the draft jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:02 Aug 26, 2019 Jkt 247001 0–2 .......................................................................... 3–5 .......................................................................... 6–20 ........................................................................ 21–100 .................................................................... 101–1,000 ............................................................... 1,001 and above .................................................... post-delisting monitoring plan for running buffalo clover. DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before October 28, 2019. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES, below) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by October 11, 2019. ADDRESSES: Written comments: You may submit comments by one of the following methods: (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R3–ES–2018–0036, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on ‘‘Comment Now!’’ (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R3–ES–2018– 0036, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803. We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on http:// www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see Public Comments, below, for more information). Document availability: This proposed rule and draft post-delisting monitoring (PDM) plan referenced throughout this document, as well as supporting materials, are available on http:// PO 00000 Fee per entity for exempt or non-exempt motor carrier, motor private carrier, or freight forwarder Frm 00043 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 $66 197 393 1,371 6,534 63,809 Fee per entity for broker or leasing company $66 www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2018–0036 and on the Service’s Midwest Region website at https://www.fws.gov/midwest/ endangered/plants/rbcl/index.html. In addition, the supporting file for this proposed rule will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at the Ohio Ecological Services Field Office, 4625 Morse Road, Suite 104, Columbus, OH 43230; telephone 614–416–8993. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Barbara Hosler, Ecological Services, Midwest Regional Office, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 900, Bloomington, MN 55437–1458, telephone 517–351–6326. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Information Requested Public Comments We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information from other concerned governmental agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning: (1) Reasons we should or should not ‘‘delist’’ running buffalo clover (that is, remove the species from the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants (List)); (2) New information concerning any threat (or lack thereof), including climate change, to running buffalo clover; E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1 jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 166 / Tuesday, August 27, 2019 / Proposed Rules (3) New information on any efforts by the States or other entities to protect or otherwise conserve running buffalo clover; (4) New information concerning the historical and current status, range, distribution, and population size of running buffalo clover, including the locations of any additional populations of this species; (5) Current or planned activities within the geographic range of running buffalo clover that may adversely affect or benefit the species; and (6) Information pertaining to the requirements for post-delisting monitoring of running buffalo clover. Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial information you include. Please note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) directs that determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or threatened species must be made ‘‘solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.’’ You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES. If you submit information via http:// www.regulations.gov, your entire submission—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the website. If your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ohio Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES). Public Hearing Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for one or more public hearings on this proposal, if requested. We must receive your request, in writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:02 Aug 26, 2019 Jkt 247001 CONTACT by the date specified above in DATES. We will schedule public hearings on this proposal, if any are requested, and announce the dates, times, and places of those hearings, as well as how to obtain reasonable accommodations, in the Federal Register and local newspapers at least 15 days before the hearing. Peer Review In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert opinions of at least three appropriate and independent specialists regarding scientific data and interpretations contained in this proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure that our determination is based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We will invite comment from the peer reviewers during this public comment period; these comments will be available along with other public comments in the docket for this proposed rule on http:// www.regulations.gov. Previous Federal Actions We published a final rule listing Running buffalo clover as an endangered species under the Act on June 5, 1987 (52 FR 21478). The Running Buffalo Clover Recovery Plan (Service 1989) was approved on June 8, 1989, and revised in 2007 (72 FR 35253, June 27, 2007). Running buffalo clover was included in a cursory 5-year review of all species listed before January 1, 1991 (56 FR 56882). The 5-year review did not result in a recommendation to change the species’ listing status. We completed comprehensive 5-year reviews of the status of running buffalo clover in 2008, 2011, and 2017 (Service 2008, 2011, 2017). These reviews recommended reclassification from endangered to threatened status, based on achievement of the recovery criteria at that time. Species Information It is our intent to discuss only those topics directly related to the proposed delisting of running buffalo clover. For more information on the description, biology, ecology, and habitat of running buffalo clover, please refer to the final listing rule (52 FR 21478, June 5, 1987), the Running Buffalo Clover (Trifolium stoloniferum) Recovery Plan: First Revision (Service 2007, pp. 1–13), and the 5-year reviews for running buffalo clover, completed on November 19, 2008 (Service 2008, entire), May 6, 2013 (Service 2013, entire), and April 21, 2017 (Service 2017, entire). These PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 44833 documents will be available as supporting materials at http:// www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2018–0036. Taxonomy and Species Description Running buffalo clover is a member of the Fabaceae (pea) family. This shortlived perennial forms long runners (stolons) from its base and produces erect flowering stems, 10–30 centimeters (cm) (4–12 inches (in)) tall. The flower heads are round and large, 9–12 millimeters (mm) (0.3–0.5 in). Flowers are white, tinged with purple. Distribution The known historical distribution of running buffalo clover includes Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and West Virginia (Brooks 1983, pp. 346, 349). There were very few reports rangewide between 1910 and 1983. Prior to 1983, the most recent collection had been made in 1940, in Webster County, West Virginia (Brooks 1983, p. 349). The species was thought extinct until it was rediscovered in 1983, in West Virginia (Bartgis 1985, p. 426). At the time of listing in 1987, only one population was known to exist, but soon afterward, several additional populations were found in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Populations were rediscovered in the wild in Missouri in 1994 (Hickey 1994, p. 1). A single population was discovered in Pennsylvania in 2017 (Grund 2017). Extant populations of running buffalo clover are known from 154 populations in three ecoregions, as described by Bailey (1998): Hot Continental, Hot Continental Mountainous, and Prairie. For recovery purposes, the populations are divided into three regions based on proximity to each other and overall habitat similarities. These regions are Appalachian (West Virginia, southeastern Ohio, and Pennsylvania), Bluegrass (southwestern Ohio, central Kentucky, and Indiana), and Ozark (Missouri). The majority of populations occur within the Appalachian and Bluegrass regions. Habitat Running buffalo clover typically occurs in mesic (moist) habitats with partial to filtered sunlight and a prolonged pattern of moderate, periodic disturbance, such as grazing, mowing, trampling, selective logging, or floodscouring. Populations have been reported from a variety of habitats, including mesic woodlands, savannahs, floodplains, stream banks, sandbars (especially where old trails cross or parallel intermittent streams), grazed E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1 jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 44834 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 166 / Tuesday, August 27, 2019 / Proposed Rules woodlots, mowed paths (e.g., in cemeteries, parks, and lawns), old logging roads, jeep trails, all-terrain vehicle trails, skid trails, mowed wildlife openings within mature forest, and steep ravines. Running buffalo clover is often found in regions with limestone or other calcareous bedrock underlying the site, although limestone soil is not a requisite determining factor for the locations of populations of this species. Sites that have not been disturbed within the last 20 years are unlikely to support running buffalo clover (Burkhart 2013, p. 158) because the species relies on periodic disturbances to set back succession and/or open the tree canopy to create and maintain the partial to filtered sunlight it requires. These disturbances can be natural (for example, tree falls and flood scouring) or anthropogenic (such as grazing, mowing, trampling, or selective logging) in origin. Although disturbances to the canopy cover may cause a temporary decline in running buffalo clover, populations usually increase 2 years later (Madarish and Schuler 2002, p. 127) and reach their highest density 14 years after disturbance (Burkhart 2013, p. 159). However, a complete loss of forest canopy can also be detrimental to running buffalo clover by allowing in too much sunlight and altering the microclimate. the wild (Taylor et al. 1994, p. 1,097). Selfed seeds have been shown to germinate well and develop into vigorous plants (Franklin 1998, p. 39). Seeds typically germinate during early spring (mid-March to early April) when temperatures are between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius (°C) (59–68 degrees Fahrenheit (°F)) during the day and 5 to 10 °C (41–50 °F) at night. Baskin (2004) suggested that spring temperature fluctuations appear to be a major dormancy breaker in natural populations of running buffalo clover. Scarification may aid in seed germination and seed dispersal. Scarification of seeds by the digestive system of herbivores, historically believed to be bison, deer, elk, or small herbivores such as rabbits or groundhogs, was likely a major event in natural populations (Thurman 1988, p. 4; Cusick 1989, pp. 475–476). Although deer are viable vectors for running buffalo clover seeds, the survival and germination rates of ingested seeds are low (Ford et al. 2003, pp. 426–427). Dispersal and establishment of new populations of running buffalo clover by white-tailed deer herbivory may not be significant (Ford et al. 2003, pp. 426– 427). It appears that scarification accelerates the germination process, whereas natural germination may occur over time if the right temperature fluctuations occur (Service 2007, p. 9). Biology Substantial variability in the growth and development of running buffalo clover has been documented, but the plant structure usually includes rooted crowns (rosettes that are rooted into the ground) and stolons (above-ground creeping stems) that connect several rooted or unrooted crowns, which eventually separate to leave ‘‘daughter’’ plants. Because of this stoloniferous growth form, individual plants can be difficult to distinguish. The Running Buffalo Clover Recovery Plan defines an individual plant as a rooted crown (Service 2007, p. 1). Rooted crowns may occur alone or be connected to other rooted crowns by runners. Flowers, which typically bloom between mid-May and June, are visited by a variety of bee species (Apis spp. and Bombus spp.) and are crosspollinated under field conditions (Taylor et al. 1994, p. 1,099). Running buffalo clover is also self-compatible (capable of pollinating itself); however, it requires a pollinator to transfer the pollen from the anthers to the stigma (Franklin 1998, p. 29). Although it may set fewer seeds by self-pollination than by outcrossing, the selfed seed set may be adequate to maintain the species in Genetics Genetic studies of running buffalo clover have shown relatively low levels of diversity and low levels of gene flow between populations, even between those separated by short distances (Hickey and Vincent 1992, p. 15). Crawford et al. (1998, entire) examined genetic variation within and among populations of running buffalo clover throughout its geographic range known at the time. They found slight geographic variation between the four areas examined (Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio-Indiana, and West Virginia) and concluded that much of the species’ genetic diversity resides among populations, and small populations of running buffalo clover contribute as much to the total species’ genetic diversity as large populations (Crawford et al. 1998, p. 88). VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:02 Aug 26, 2019 Jkt 247001 Conservation Measures The running buffalo clover recovery plan includes management recommendations for the species (Service 2007, p. 51). The recommendations include considerations for mowing, invasive plant control, and forest management. For sites that are actively managed, the PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 frequency of management intervention to create and maintain suitable habitat depends on the nature of the management action. Sites that are mowed may require mowing annually while selective logging happens on an 8to 14-year interval. Selection of appropriate management techniques are dictated by the conditions at each running buffalo clover population. Management actions specifically for running buffalo clover are in place where the plant occurs on Federal lands in Kentucky and West Virginia, State lands in Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and West Virginia, and three privatelyowned sites (Service 2017, pp. 21–24). Recovery Implementation Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation and survival of endangered and threatened species unless we determine that such a plan will not promote the conservation of the species. Under section 4(f)(1)(B)(ii), recovery plans must, to the maximum extent practicable, include ‘‘objective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination, in accordance with the provisions of this section [section 4 of the Act], that the species be removed from the list.’’ However, revisions to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants (adding, removing, or reclassifying a species) must reflect determinations made in accordance with sections 4(a)(1) and 4(b) of the Act. Section 4(a)(1) requires that the Secretary determine whether a species is endangered or threatened because of one or more of five threat factors. Section 4(b) of the Act requires that the determination be made ‘‘solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.’’ Therefore, recovery criteria should help indicate when we would anticipate that an analysis of the five threat factors under section 4(a)(1) would result in a determination that a species is no longer an endangered or threatened species because of any of the five statutory factors. Thus, while recovery plans provide important guidance to the Service, States, and other partners on methods of enhancing conservation and minimizing threats to listed species and measurable objectives against which to measure progress towards recovery, they are not regulatory documents and cannot substitute for the determinations and promulgation of regulations required under section 4(a)(1) of the Act. A decision to revise the status of a species on, or to remove a species from, the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants (50 CFR 17.12(h)) is E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 166 / Tuesday, August 27, 2019 / Proposed Rules jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS ultimately based on an analysis of the best scientific and commercial data available to determine whether a species is no longer an endangered species or a threatened species, regardless of whether that information differs from the recovery plan. There are many paths to accomplishing recovery of a species, and recovery may be achieved without all of the criteria in a recovery plan being fully met. For example, one or more criteria may be exceeded while other criteria may not yet be accomplished. In that instance, we may determine that the threats are minimized sufficiently and the species is robust enough to delist. In other cases, recovery opportunities may be discovered that were not known when the recovery plan was finalized. These opportunities may be used instead of methods identified in the recovery plan. Likewise, information on the species may be learned that was not known at the time the recovery plan was finalized. The new information may change the extent to which existing criteria are appropriate for recognizing recovery of the species. Recovery of a species is a dynamic process requiring adaptive management that may, or may not, follow all of the guidance provided in a recovery plan. The revised recovery plan for running buffalo clover (Service 2007, p. 24) states that the ultimate goal of the recovery program is to delist running buffalo clover, that is, to remove the species from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants (50 CFR 17.12(h)). The plan provides three criteria for reclassifying running buffalo clover from endangered to threatened status (i.e., to ‘‘downlist’’ the species) and three criteria for delisting running buffalo clover. All of the downlisting criteria have been met since 2008 (Service 2008, pp. 3–4; Service 2011, pp. 3–4; Service 2017, pp. 3–5). The following discussion provides an assessment of the delisting criteria as they relate to evaluating the status of this species. Criterion 1 for Delisting Criterion 1 states that 34 populations, in total, are distributed as follows: 2 A-ranked, 6 B-ranked, 6 C-ranked, and 20 D-ranked populations across at least two of the three regions in which running buffalo clover occurs (Appalachian, Bluegrass, and Ozark). The number of populations in each rank is based on what would be required to achieve a 95 percent probability of the persistence within the next 20 years; this number was doubled to ensure biological redundancy across the range VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:02 Aug 26, 2019 Jkt 247001 44835 of the species. Rankings refer to the element occurrence (E.O.) ranking categories. E.O. rankings, which integrate population size and habitat integrity, are explained in detail in the recovery plan (Service 2007, pp. 2–3). In summary, A-ranked populations are those with 1,000 or more naturally occurring rooted crowns; B-ranked populations have between 100 and 999 naturally occurring rooted crowns; C-ranked populations have between 30 and 99 naturally occurring rooted crowns; and D-ranked populations have between 1 and 29 naturally occurring rooted crowns. Populations are currently distributed as follows: 16 A-ranked, 35 B-ranked, 44 C-ranked, and 59 D-ranked, and they occur in all three regions across the range of the species. Thus, we conclude that this criterion has been substantially exceeded. Currently, 23 populations meet this criterion, as follows: 5 A-ranked, 7 B-ranked, 5 C-ranked, and 6 D-ranked. These include populations where land management prioritizes the needs of running buffalo clover, although written management plans are not in place. There are 6 more A- and B-ranked populations than required. Although these additional higher-ranked populations can count for lower-ranked populations, this criterion has still not been fully met. However, 60 additional populations occur on publicly-owned lands, such as national forests, State lands, and local parks, thereby minimizing threats from habitat loss and degradation. Thus, although this criterion is not met in the manner specifically identified in the recovery plan, we conclude that the intent of the criterion to ensure that sufficient populations were protected from threats into the future has been met. Criterion 2 for Delisting Criterion 2 states that for each A-ranked and B-ranked population described in Criterion 1, population viability analysis (PVA) indicates 95 percent probability of persistence within the next 20 years, or for any population that does not meet the 95 percent persistence standard, the population meets the definition of viable. For delisting purposes, viability is defined as: Seed production is occurring; the population is stable or increasing, based on at least 10 years of censusing; and appropriate management techniques are in place. Seven A-ranked and 13 B-ranked populations are considered viable, based on a PVA or 10 years of data. Thus, we conclude that this criterion has been exceeded. Summary of Factors Affecting the Species Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 424) set forth the procedures for listing species, reclassifying species, or removing species from listed status. ‘‘Species’’ is defined by the Act as including any species or subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct vertebrate population segment of fish or wildlife that interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). A species may be determined to be an endangered or threatened species due to one or more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. We must consider these same five factors in delisting a species. We may delist a species according to 50 CFR 424.11(d) if the best available scientific and commercial data indicate that the species is neither endangered nor threatened for the following reasons: (1) The species is extinct; (2) the species has recovered and is no longer endangered or threatened; and/or (3) the original scientific data used at the time the species was classified were in error. A recovered species is one that no longer meets the Act’s definition of endangered or threatened. Determining whether a species is recovered requires consideration of whether the species is still an endangered species or threatened species because of any of the Criterion 3 for Delisting Delisting criterion 3 states that the land on which each of the 34 populations described in delisting criterion 1 occurs is owned by a government agency or private conservation organization that identifies maintenance of the species as one of the primary conservation objectives for the site, or the population is protected by a conservation agreement that commits the private landowner to habitat management for the species. This criterion was intended to ensure that habitat-based threats for the species are addressed. Small populations (C- and D-ranked populations) were included because they contribute as much as large populations to the overall level of the species’ genetic diversity, which is important for survival of the species as a whole. PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1 44836 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 166 / Tuesday, August 27, 2019 / Proposed Rules jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS five categories of threats specified in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. For species that are already listed as endangered or threatened species, this analysis of threats is an evaluation of both the threats currently facing the species and those that are reasonably likely to affect the species in the foreseeable future following the delisting or downlisting and the removal or reduction of the Act’s protections. In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look beyond the exposure of the species to a particular factor to evaluate whether the species may respond to the factor in a way that causes actual impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a factor, but no response, or only a positive response, that factor is not a threat. If there is exposure to a factor and the species responds negatively, the factor may be a threat, and we attempt to determine how significant a threat it is. The threat is significant if it drives, or contributes to, the risk of extinction of the species such that the species warrants listing as an endangered species or a threatened species as those terms are defined by the Act. This does not necessarily require empirical proof of a threat. The combination of exposure and some corroborating evidence of how the species is likely impacted could suffice. The mere identification of factors that could impact a species negatively is not sufficient to compel a finding that listing is appropriate; we require evidence that these factors individually or cumulatively are operative threats that act on the species to the point that the species meets the definition of an endangered species or threatened species under the Act. The following analysis examines all five factors currently affecting or that are likely to affect the running buffalo clover in the foreseeable future. A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range The revised recovery plan for running buffalo clover (Service 2007, p. 14) identified the major threats to this species throughout its range as habitat destruction, habitat succession, and invasive plant competition. Land development and the consequential loss of habitat can also be a threat to running buffalo clover. Because the species relies on periodic disturbances to set back succession and/or open the tree canopy to create and maintain the partial to filtered sunlight it requires, activities that interfere with natural disturbance processes can negatively affect populations of running buffalo clover. Conversely, activities that VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:02 Aug 26, 2019 Jkt 247001 periodically set back natural succession can benefit the species. Current logging practices may benefit running buffalo clover. At the Fernow Experimental Forest in north-central West Virginia, running buffalo clover is most often associated with skid roads in uneven-aged silvicultural areas (Madarish and Schuler 2002, p. 121). A study examining running buffalo clover abundance before and after logging suggests that populations may initially decrease after disturbance, but then rebound to higher than pre-disturbance levels (Madarish and Schuler 2002, p. 127). In some populations it appears that both overgrazing and no grazing at all are threats to running buffalo clover. In Kentucky, overgrazing poses threats to running buffalo clover, but removal of cattle from clover populations has resulted in overshading and competition from other vegetation (White et al. 1999, p. 10). Periodic grazing at the Bluegrass Army Depot has provided the moderate disturbance needed to maintain running buffalo clover (Fields and White 1996, p. 14). Nonnative species, such as bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and white clover (Trifolium repens), compete with running buffalo clover for available resources (Jacobs and Bartgis 1987, p. 441). Other nonnative species that affect running buffalo clover include Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), and multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora). Threats by invasive competition can be mediated by treating the invasive plants by hand removal, herbicide application, and/or mowing. Although nonnative species are widespread across the range of running buffalo clover, not all running buffalo clover sites are affected by invasive species. For example, 13 of the 31 sites (42 percent) in Ohio have one or more nonnative species present at varying densities, and 4 of those sites are managed for invasive species control. The habitat needs of running buffalo clover on Federal, State, and locallyowned lands are included in plans or agreements for those lands. The Monongahela National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (U.S. Forest Service 2011, pp. II–27—II–28) and Wayne National Forest Revised Land and Resource Management Plan (U.S. Forest Service 2006, pp. 2–22, D–16) both include habitat management and protection measures for running buffalo clover. The Bluegrass Army Depot in Kentucky protects and manages running buffalo clover under an Endangered PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Species Management Plan (Floyd 2006, pp. 30–37), included as part of their Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan, and all running buffalo clover populations at the Army Depot are covered by these management actions (Littlefield 2017). A memorandum of understanding between the Ohio Historical Society, Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides for running buffalo clover habitat protection and management. We expect that these plans would remain in place and habitat management will continue after delisting running buffalo clover. In total, twenty-three populations are under some form of management that incorporates specific needs of running buffalo clover, and 60 additional populations occur on publicly-owned lands that prevent loss from development. Although the species benefits from active management, it does not appear to rely on management actions as demonstrated by the 46 populations that have been found over the last 10 years at unmanaged sites where natural processes are maintaining suitable habitat for running buffalo clover. For these reasons, threats from habitat destruction and modification have been reduced or are being adequately managed such that they are not affecting the species’ viability. Summary of Factor A Habitat destruction, habitat succession, and invasive plant competition are the primary threats to running buffalo clover. However, these stressors have been reduced or are being adequately managed now and into the foreseeable future. B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes When the species was listed in 1987, overutilization for scientific or educational purposes was identified as a threat, given that only one population consisting of four individuals was known at the time (52 FR 21478; June 5, 1987). Today, with more than 150 populations known, collection for scientific or educational purposes is very limited and distributed among many populations and is no longer considered a threat (Service 2017, p. 17). Running buffalo clover is listed as endangered or threatened under State laws in Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. The laws in Ohio and Missouri prohibit commercial taking of listed plants. We are aware of only one unpermitted collection in 2015 when a E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 166 / Tuesday, August 27, 2019 / Proposed Rules population in West Virginia appeared to have been dug up and the main plant group removed (Douglas 2015). The purpose of the collection is unknown. Despite this one event, running buffalo clover is not known to be used for any commercial or recreational purposes, and we have no information that commercial or recreational collection will occur in the future. jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Summary of Factor B Running buffalo clover is not known to be used for any commercial or recreational purpose, and collection for scientific or educational purposes is limited. Based on available information, we do not consider there to be threats now or in the foreseeable future related to overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes. C. Disease or Predation At the time of listing in 1987, disease was predicted to threaten running buffalo clover (52 FR 21478; June 5, 1987). Jacobs and Bartgis (1987, p. 441) suggested that the decline of this species may have partially centered on a pathogen introduced from the exotic white clover; however, no specific disease has been identified over the intervening years (Service 2008, p. 10). A number of viral and fungal diseases, including cucumber mosaic virus and the comovirus, are reported to have attacked the species in greenhouses at the Missouri Botanical Garden (Sehgal and Payne 1995, p. 320), but no evidence has been gathered showing these viruses’ impact on running buffalo clover decline in the wild (Service 2008, p. 10). Parasitism by root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.) is common in clovers and often limits productivity in cultivated clovers used as forage crops (Quesenberry et al. 1997, p. 270). Investigations have been conducted on the effects of root-knot nematodes on native North American clovers, including running buffalo clover. After inoculation of the parasite, running buffalo clover displayed high resistance to three of the four nematode species analyzed, and only an intermediate response to the fourth species of nematode (Quesenberry et al. 1997, p. 270). Thus, the threat from this parasite is not considered significant. Herbivory by a variety of species has been reported for running buffalo clover. In Missouri, running buffalo clover plants are repeatedly grazed by rabbits, rodents, and slugs (Pickering 1989, p. 3). Similar observations have been made in Kentucky (Davis 1987, p. 11). The Fayette County, West Virginia VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:02 Aug 26, 2019 Jkt 247001 population was eaten to the ground by a ground hog (Marmota monax), but more than a dozen rooted crowns were observed at the population the following year. White-tailed deer can also consume large amounts of running buffalo clover (Miller et al. 1992, p. 68– 69). Summary of Factor C Although disease has been observed in running buffalo clover in greenhouses, no diseases are known to affect entire populations of the species in the wild. Populations appear to be capable of withstanding herbivory during the growing season. In sum, while disease or predation has had an occasional negative impact, most of these impacts do not appear to affect entire populations, or the impacts do not persist for any extended period of time. Based on available information, we do not consider there to be threats now or in the foreseeable future related to disease or predation. D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms Under this factor, we examine whether the stressors identified within the other factors may be ameliorated or exacerbated by an existing regulatory mechanism. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act requires the Service to take into account ‘‘those efforts, if any, being made by any State or foreign nation, or any political subdivision of a State or foreign nation, to protect such species.’’ In relation to Factor D under the Act, we interpret this language to require the Service to consider relevant Federal, State, and Tribal laws, regulations, and other such binding legal mechanisms that may ameliorate or exacerbate any of the threats we describe in threats analyses under the other four factors, or otherwise enhance conservation of the species. Our consideration of these mechanisms is described in detail within our analysis of each of the factors (see discussion under each of the other factors). For currently listed species, we consider the adequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms to address threats to the species absent the protections of the Act. Therefore, we examine whether other regulatory mechanisms would remain in place if the species were delisted, and the extent to which those mechanisms will continue to help ensure that future threats will be reduced or minimized. In our discussion under Factors A, B, C, and E, we evaluate the significance of threats as mitigated by any conservation efforts and existing regulatory mechanisms. Where threats exist, we PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 44837 analyze the extent to which conservation measures and existing regulatory mechanisms address the specific threats to the species. Regulatory mechanisms, if they exist, may reduce or eliminate the impacts from one or more identified threats. Twenty-three populations are specifically managed to provide for the species’ habitat needs, and an additional 60 populations occur on publiclyowned lands where regulatory mechanisms now exist. These regulatory mechanisms include the Monongahela National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, the Wayne National Forest Revised Land and Resource Management, the Bluegrass Army Depot’s Endangered Species Management Plan, and a memorandum of understanding with the Ohio Historical Society, Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see discussion under Factor A). These plans and agreements also provide for education and outreach efforts and surveying and monitoring for running buffalo clover. We expect that these plans and agreements would remain in place after delisting running buffalo clover. Of the 154 extant populations of running buffalo clover, 74 (49%) are located on private land, with the remainder located on Federal, State, or local park land. Most of the privatelyowned populations are on lands without specific regulatory mechanisms. Although running buffalo clover benefits from habitat management efforts, it is not dependent on active management and persists on sites without any regulatory mechanism in place. Additionally, State protections in Ohio and Missouri prohibit commercial taking of listed plants although running buffalo clover is not known to be used for any commercial or recreational purposes (see discussion under Factor B). Summary of Factor D Regulatory mechanisms to provide for management and/or consideration of running buffalo clover are in place for 83 populations. Furthermore, the species has persisted on lands without specific regulatory mechanisms. Consequently, we find that existing regulatory mechanisms, as discussed above, will continue to address stressors to running buffalo clover absent protections under the Act. E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence Factor E requires the Service to consider any other factors that may be E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1 44838 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 166 / Tuesday, August 27, 2019 / Proposed Rules affecting running buffalo clover. Under this factor, we discuss small population size, inadequate seed dispersal, poor seed quality, and climate change. Small Population Size Long-term monitoring data suggest that running buffalo clover populations often display widely fluctuating population size. The cause for changes in population size may be due to disturbance, weather patterns, management strategy, natural succession, or other unknown factors. The cyclic nature of running buffalo clover and the high probability of small populations disappearing one year and returning a subsequent year, may lead to difficulty in protecting small populations. Regardless, small populations have displayed high levels of genetic diversity (Crawford et al. 1998, p. 88) that is important for survival of the species as a whole. Small population size is not a threat in and of itself. jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Inadequate Seed Dispersal Cusick (1989, p. 477) suggested that the loss of large herbivores, such as bison and white-tailed deer, after European settlement resulted in no effective means of dispersal remaining for running buffalo clover. Deer have now returned to pre-settlement numbers, but dispersal and establishment of new populations of running buffalo clover by white-tailed deer may not be significant (Ford et al. 2003, p. 427). With 154 occurrences of running buffalo clover now known, inadequate seed dispersal does not appear to be having population-level effects. Poor Seed Quality Although researchers have speculated that inbreeding depression may have contributed to the decline of running buffalo clover (Hickey et al. 1991, p. 315; Taylor et al. 1994, p. 1,099), selfed seeds have been shown to germinate well and develop into vigorous plants (Franklin 1998, p. 39). However, temporal variations in seed quality have been reported. Seed quality may be correlated with rainfall; quality decreases in years with unusually high rainfall (Franklin 1998, p. 38). With 154 occurrences of running buffalo clover now known, the impacts of poor seed quality do not appear to affect entire populations, nor do these impacts persist for any extended period of time. Climate Change Our current analyses under the Act include consideration of ongoing and projected changes in climate. The terms VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:02 Aug 26, 2019 Jkt 247001 ‘‘climate’’ and ‘‘climate change’’ are defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). ‘‘Climate’’ refers to the mean and variability of different types of weather conditions over time, with 30 years being a typical period for such measurements, although shorter or longer periods also may be used (IPCC 2007, p. 78). The term ‘‘climate change’’ thus refers to a change in the mean or variability of one or more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or precipitation) that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer, whether the change is due to natural variability, human activity, or both (IPCC 2007, p. 78). Various types of changes in climate can have direct or indirect effects on species. These effects may be positive, neutral, or negative, and they may change over time, depending on the species and other relevant considerations, such as the effects of interactions of climate with other variables (e.g., habitat fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, pp. 8–14, 18–19). In our analyses, we use our expert judgment to weigh relevant information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of various aspects of climate change. The effects of climate change are expected to result in rising average temperatures throughout the range of running buffalo clover, along with more frequent heat waves and increased periods of drought (IPCC 2014, p. 10), which may affect growth of running buffalo clover. For example, a prolonged drought in Missouri in 2012 may have impacted a running buffalo clover population for the next 2 years as plants were not observed again until 2015 (McKenzie and Newbold 2015, p. 20). High precipitation events are also expected to increase in number, volume of precipitation, and frequency in midlatitude areas (IPCC 2014, p. 11). Several running buffalo clover populations are located within the vicinity of a stream. Infrequent high flow events create moderate disturbance, which may be beneficial for this species. But increasing the magnitude or frequency of high flow events may increase storm flows and intensify disturbance from flood events, which may create excessive disturbance and alter the habitat suitability for running buffalo clover. According to IPCC, ‘‘most plant species cannot naturally shift their geographical ranges sufficiently fast to keep up with current and high projected rates of climate change on most landscapes’’ (IPCC 2014, p. 13). Shifts in the range of running buffalo clover as an adaptation to climate changes is unlikely, due to the limited dispersal of PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 seeds, restriction to specific habitat types, and the lack of connection between most populations. The effects of climate change may also result in a longer growing season and shorter dormant season, which may change flowering periods. For example, blossoms of running buffalo clover have been turning brown at the beginning of June (Becus 2016); and in 2016 and 2017, running buffalo clover plants in Ohio began blooming in April, which is the earliest this species had been observed blooming (Becus 2017). For some plant species, a change in flowering period may create an asynchrony between prime bloom time and when specific pollinators are available, resulting in a reduction in pollination and subsequent seed set. However, because running buffalo clover can be pollinated by a diversity of bee species, significant asynchrony with pollinators is not expected to occur. Summary of Factor E With their high levels of genetic diversity, small populations are important for survival of the species as a whole. Although inadequate seed dispersal and poor seed quality have been concerns in the past, they do not appear to affect entire populations, nor do their impacts persist for any extended period of time. Climate change presents a largely unknown influence on the species, with potential for negative and beneficial impacts. Populations of running buffalo clover occur within various ecoregions within the species’ range and are capable of recovering from stochastic events, such as droughts and heavy precipitation and high stream flows. Running buffalo clover is not dependent on particular species of pollinators and appears adaptable to potential changes to pollinator communities. This indicates that populations will persist in the face of climate change. Synergistic Effects Many of the stressors discussed in this analysis could work in concert with each other and result in a cumulative adverse effect to running buffalo clover, e.g., one stressor may make the species more vulnerable to other threats. However, most of the potential stressors we identified either have not occurred to the extent originally anticipated at the time of listing (Factors B, C, and D) or are adequately managed as described in this proposal to delist the species (Factors A and D). In addition, for the reasons discussed in this proposed rule, we do not anticipate stressors to E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 166 / Tuesday, August 27, 2019 / Proposed Rules increase on publicly-owned lands or lands that are managed for the species. Synergistic interactions are possible between effects of climate change and effects of other threats, such as nonnative plant invasion. However, it is difficult to project how the effects of climate change will affect interaction or competition between species. Uncertainty about how different plant species will respond under a changing climate makes projecting possible synergistic effects of climate change on running buffalo clover too speculative. However, the increases documented in the number of populations since the species was listed do not indicate that cumulative effects of various activities and stressors are affecting the viability of the species at this time or into the future. jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Determination Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and its implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 424, set forth the procedures for determining whether a species is an endangered species or threatened species and should be included on the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. The Act defines an endangered species as any species that is ‘‘in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range’’ and a threatened species as any species ‘‘that is likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the foreseeable future.’’ The Act does not define the term ‘‘foreseeable future.’’ For this proposed rule, our forecast of future impacts is based on a review of the period of available data for each threat and, when possible, a projection of the situation at least for a similar time period into the future. Natural succession from open to dense canopy in forests within the range of running buffalo clover occurs over a 30- to 40-year time span, depending on the dominant species and aspect of the site. The 1989 running buffalo clover recovery plan (Service 1989, pp. 4–5) indicates that invasive species were present at an Indiana population and that garlic mustard was abundant in unmanaged areas at a Kentucky population. In addition, garlic mustard was identified as being present at multiple Ohio populations in 1989. Therefore, many of the significant invasive species have been present within the range of running buffalo clover for more than 25 years. Further, we can extrapolate trends from the past 30 years that running buffalo clover has been listed as endangered. Thus, a timeframe of 25–30 years is reasonable VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:02 Aug 26, 2019 Jkt 247001 as the foreseeable future for running buffalo clover. We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, present, and future threats to running buffalo clover. The number of known running buffalo clover populations has increased from 1 at the time of listing to 154 currently. New populations continue to be found, and the known range has expanded most recently to include Pennsylvania. Although we are not relying on it for our analysis, we recognize that it is reasonable to conclude that there may be additional populations of which we are not yet aware. The main threat at many sites is habitat destruction, habitat succession, and competition with nonnative, invasive species (Factor A). Management to benefit running buffalo clover has been implemented since the time of listing and has shown to be effective. Twenty-three populations are under some form of management that addresses the needs of running buffalo clover. Because most managed populations occur on publicly-owned lands, we expect management will continue in the foreseeable future. Delisting Criterion 3 from the recovery plan was intended to ensure that habitat-based threats for the species are addressed. Although this criterion has not been met as specified in the recovery plan, we believe that its intention has been met between the 23 sites managed specifically for the conservation of the species plus the 60 additional locations on Federal and State lands. Additionally, the discovery of new populations at unmanaged sites indicates that the species does not wholly rely on management to maintain populations as we believed when the recovery criterion was drafted. The 23 populations currently under management in conjunction with the 60 other populations on publicly-owned lands are sufficient to maintain the species’ viability now and into the foreseeable future. During our analysis, we found that other factors believed to be threats at the time of listing—including overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes (Factor B), disease and predation (Factor C), and inbreeding depression and poor seed quality and dispersal (Factor E)—are no longer considered threats, and we do not expect any of these conditions to substantially change into the foreseeable future. Since listing, we have become aware of the potential for the effects of climate change (Factor E) to affect all PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 44839 biota, including running buffalo clover. While available information in the most recent 5-year review indicates that running buffalo clover may be responding to a change in temperatures or precipitation patterns, the lack of a declining trend in running buffalo clover populations suggests the effects of ongoing climate change are not a threat to the species within the foreseeable future. Thus, after assessing the best scientific and commercial data available and having considered the individual and cumulative impact of threats on this species, we conclude that running buffalo clover is not in danger of extinction throughout all of its range, nor is it likely to become so within the foreseeable future. Significant Portion of the Range Analysis Having determined that running buffalo clover is not in danger of extinction, or likely to become so, throughout all of its range, we next consider whether there are any significant portions of its range in which running buffalo clover is in danger of extinction or likely to become so. Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a species may warrant listing if it is an endangered species or a threatened species. The Act defines ‘‘endangered species’’ as any species which is ‘‘in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range,’’ and ‘‘threatened species’’ as any species which is ‘‘likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.’’ On July 1, 2014, we published a final policy interpreting the phrase ‘‘significant portion of its range’’ (SPR) (79 FR 37578). The final policy states that (1) if a species is found to be endangered or threatened throughout a significant portion of its range, the entire species is listed as an endangered species or a threatened species, respectively, and the Act’s protections apply to all individuals of the species wherever found; (2) a portion of the range of a species is ‘‘significant’’ if the species is not currently endangered or threatened throughout all of its range, but the portion’s contribution to the viability of the species is so important that, without the members in that portion, the species would be in danger of extinction, or likely to become so in the foreseeable future, throughout all of its range; (3) the range of a species is considered to be the general geographical area within which that species can be found at the time the Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service makes any particular E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1 jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 44840 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 166 / Tuesday, August 27, 2019 / Proposed Rules status determination; and (4) if a vertebrate species is endangered or threatened throughout an SPR, and the population in that significant portion is a valid distinct population segment (DPS), we will list the DPS rather than the entire taxonomic species or subspecies. The SPR policy is applied to all status determinations, including analyses for the purposes of making the listing, delisting, and reclassification determinations. However, we acknowledge the recent adverse ruling by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, which has vacated the ‘‘significant portion’’ part of the Services’ SPR Policy (Desert Survivors, et al. v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 16–cv–01165–JCS (Northern District of California, Aug. 24, 2018)). The procedure for analyzing whether any portion is an SPR is similar, regardless of the type of status determination we are making. The first step in our analysis of the status of a species is to determine its status throughout all of its range. If we determine that the species is in danger of extinction, or likely to become so in the foreseeable future, throughout all of its range, we list the species as an endangered (or threatened) species, and no SPR analysis will be required. When we conduct an SPR analysis, we first identify any portions of the species’ range that warrant further consideration. The range of a species can theoretically be divided into portions in an infinite number of ways. However, there is no purpose to analyzing portions of the range that are not reasonably likely to be significant and either endangered or threatened. To identify only those portions that warrant further consideration, we determine whether there is substantial information indicating that (1) the portions may be significant and (2) the species may be in danger of extinction in those portions or likely to become so within the foreseeable future. We emphasize that answering these questions in the affirmative is not a determination that the species is endangered or threatened throughout a significant portion of its range; rather, it is a step in determining whether a more detailed analysis of the issue is required. In practice, a key part of this analysis is whether the threats are geographically concentrated in some way. If the threats to the species are affecting it uniformly throughout its range, no portion is likely to warrant further consideration. Moreover, if any concentration of threats applies only to portions of the range that clearly do not meet the biologically based definition of VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:02 Aug 26, 2019 Jkt 247001 ‘‘significant’’ (i.e., the loss of that portion clearly would not be expected to increase the vulnerability to extinction of the entire species), then those portions will not warrant further consideration. If we identify any portions that may be both (1) significant and (2) endangered or threatened, we engage in a more detailed analysis. The identification of an SPR does not create a presumption, prejudgment, or other determination as to whether the species in that identified SPR is in danger of extinction or likely to become so. We must go through a separate analysis to determine whether the species is in danger of extinction or likely to become so in the SPR. To determine whether a species is endangered or threatened throughout an SPR, we will use the same standards and methodology that we use to determine if a species is endangered or threatened throughout its range. Depending on the biology of the species, its range, and the threats it faces, it may be more efficient to address either the significance question first, or the status question first. Thus, if we determine that a portion of the range is not ‘‘significant,’’ we do not need to determine whether the species is endangered or threatened there; if we determine that the species is not endangered or threatened in a portion of its range, we do not need to determine if that portion is ‘‘significant.’’ Running buffalo clover does not exhibit any substantial differences in morphology or other factors in any portions of its range. The identified threats have been reduced or are being adequately managed across the species’ range, and no portions of the range retain elevated threat levels. There is no indication that any portion of the species’ range is so important that its loss would cause the entire species to become endangered or threatened. For these reasons, we conclude that running buffalo clover is not in danger of extinction, or likely to become so within the foreseeable future, throughout a significant portion of its range. Effects of This Rule The Act sets forth a series of general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered plants. It is illegal for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to import or export, transport in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a commercial activity, sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce, or remove and reduce running buffalo clover to possession from areas under Federal jurisdiction. Section 7 of the Act PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 requires that Federal agencies consult with us to ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by them is not likely to jeopardize the species’ continued existence. If this proposed rule is made final, it would revise 50 CFR 17.12 to remove running buffalo clover from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants, and these prohibitions would no longer apply. Because critical habitat has not been designated for this taxon, this rule, if made final, would not affect 50 CFR 17.96. Post-Delisting Monitoring Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us, in cooperation with the States, to implement a monitoring program for not less than 5 years for all species that have been recovered and delisted. The purpose of this requirement is to verify that a species remains secure from risk of extinction after it has been removed from the protections of the Act. The monitoring is designed to detect the failure of any delisted species to sustain itself without the protective measures provided by the Act. If, at any time during the monitoring period, data indicate that protective status under the Act should be reinstated, we can initiate listing procedures, including, if appropriate, emergency listing under section 4(b)(7) of the Act. Section 4(g) of the Act explicitly requires us to cooperate with the States in development and implementation of post-delisting monitoring programs, but we remain responsible for compliance with section 4(g) of the Act and, therefore, must remain actively engaged in all phases of post-delisting monitoring. The States within the species’ range are providing information on proposed management guidelines as well as future monitoring protocols. We also seek active participation of other entities that are expected to assume responsibilities for the species’ conservation post-delisting. Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan Overview We have prepared a draft PDM plan for running buffalo clover. The draft plan discusses the current status of the taxon and describes the methods proposed for monitoring if the taxon is removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants. The draft plan: (1) Summarizes the status of running buffalo clover at the time of proposed delisting; (2) describes frequency and duration of monitoring; (3) discusses monitoring methods and potential sampling regimes; (4) defines what potential triggers will be evaluated for additional monitoring; (5) outlines reporting requirements and procedures; E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 166 / Tuesday, August 27, 2019 / Proposed Rules and (6) proposes a schedule for implementing the PDM plan and defines responsibilities. It is our intent to work with our partners towards monitoring the recovered status of running buffalo clover. We seek public and peer reviewer comments on the draft PDM plan, including its objectives and procedures (see Information Requested, above), with publication of this proposed rule. The draft PDM plan is available at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2018– 0036. You can submit your comments on the draft PDM plan by one of the methods listed above under ADDRESSES. Required Determinations Clarity of the Rule jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain language. This means that each rule we publish must: (1) Be logically organized; (2) Use the active voice to address readers directly; (3) Use clear language rather than jargon; (4) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and (5) Use lists and tables wherever possible. If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us comments by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. To better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:02 Aug 26, 2019 Jkt 247001 44841 National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) We determined that we do not need to prepare environmental assessments and environmental impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), in connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2018– 0036, or upon request from the Ohio Ecological Services Field Office, 4625 Morse Road, Suite 104, Columbus, OH 43230; telephone 614–416–8993. Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes In accordance with the President’s memorandum of April 29, 1994 (Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the Interior’s manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make information available to tribes. We are not aware of running buffalo clover occurring on any tribal lands. Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Transportation. References Cited A complete list of references cited in this rulemaking is available on the PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 Authors The primary authors of this proposed rule are the staff members of the Ohio Ecological Services Field Office and the Midwest Regional Office in Bloomington, Minnesota. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17 Proposed Regulation Promulgation Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below: PART 17—ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS 1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361–1407; 1531– 1544; and 4201–4245, unless otherwise noted. § 17.12 [Amended] 2. Amend § 17.12(h) by removing the entry for ‘‘Trifolium stoloniferum’’ under FLOWERING PLANTS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants. ■ Dated: March 19, 2019. Margaret E. Everson, Principal Deputy Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Exercising the Authority of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2019–18413 Filed 8–26–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 166 (Tuesday, August 27, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 44832-44841]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-18413]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2018-0036; FXES111309BFLC0]
RIN 1018-BC80


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing Trifolium 
stoloniferum (Running Buffalo Clover) From the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Plants

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to 
remove the Trifolium stoloniferum (running buffalo clover) from the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants, due to recovery. This 
determination is based on a thorough review of the best available 
scientific and commercial information, which indicates that the threats 
to the species have been eliminated or reduced to the point that it no 
longer meets the definition of an endangered or a threatened species 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We are 
seeking information and comments from the public regarding this 
proposed rule. We are also seeking comments on the draft post-delisting 
monitoring plan for running buffalo clover.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
October 28, 2019. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES, below) must be received by 11:59 
p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We must receive requests for 
public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT by October 11, 2019.

ADDRESSES: Written comments: You may submit comments by one of the 
following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R3-ES-2018-0036, 
which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the 
Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel on the left 
side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the 
Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment 
by clicking on ``Comment Now!''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R3-ES-2018-0036, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described 
above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide 
us (see Public Comments, below, for more information).
    Document availability: This proposed rule and draft post-delisting 
monitoring (PDM) plan referenced throughout this document, as well as 
supporting materials, are available on http://www.regulations.gov under 
Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2018-0036 and on the Service's Midwest Region 
website at https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/plants/rbcl/index.html. In addition, the supporting file for this proposed rule 
will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal 
business hours, at the Ohio Ecological Services Field Office, 4625 
Morse Road, Suite 104, Columbus, OH 43230; telephone 614-416-8993.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Barbara Hosler, Ecological Services, 
Midwest Regional Office, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 900, 
Bloomington, MN 55437-1458, telephone 517-351-6326. Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay 
Service at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Information Requested

Public Comments

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule 
will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request 
comments or information from other concerned governmental agencies, 
Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any 
other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. We particularly 
seek comments concerning:
    (1) Reasons we should or should not ``delist'' running buffalo 
clover (that is, remove the species from the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Plants (List));
    (2) New information concerning any threat (or lack thereof), 
including climate change, to running buffalo clover;

[[Page 44833]]

    (3) New information on any efforts by the States or other entities 
to protect or otherwise conserve running buffalo clover;
    (4) New information concerning the historical and current status, 
range, distribution, and population size of running buffalo clover, 
including the locations of any additional populations of this species;
    (5) Current or planned activities within the geographic range of 
running buffalo clover that may adversely affect or benefit the 
species; and
    (6) Information pertaining to the requirements for post-delisting 
monitoring of running buffalo clover.
    Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as 
scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to 
verify any scientific or commercial information you include. Please 
note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the 
action under consideration without providing supporting information, 
although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as 
section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) directs that 
determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or threatened 
species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best scientific and 
commercial data available.''
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you 
send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES.
    If you submit information via http://www.regulations.gov, your 
entire submission--including any personal identifying information--will 
be posted on the website. If your submission is made via a hardcopy 
that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the 
top of your document that we withhold this information from public 
review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We 
will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Ohio Ecological Services Field Office (see 
ADDRESSES).

Public Hearing

    Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for one or more public hearings 
on this proposal, if requested. We must receive your request, in 
writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by the 
date specified above in DATES. We will schedule public hearings on this 
proposal, if any are requested, and announce the dates, times, and 
places of those hearings, as well as how to obtain reasonable 
accommodations, in the Federal Register and local newspapers at least 
15 days before the hearing.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the 
Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert 
opinions of at least three appropriate and independent specialists 
regarding scientific data and interpretations contained in this 
proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure that our 
determination is based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and 
analyses. We will invite comment from the peer reviewers during this 
public comment period; these comments will be available along with 
other public comments in the docket for this proposed rule on http://www.regulations.gov.

Previous Federal Actions

    We published a final rule listing Running buffalo clover as an 
endangered species under the Act on June 5, 1987 (52 FR 21478). The 
Running Buffalo Clover Recovery Plan (Service 1989) was approved on 
June 8, 1989, and revised in 2007 (72 FR 35253, June 27, 2007).
    Running buffalo clover was included in a cursory 5-year review of 
all species listed before January 1, 1991 (56 FR 56882). The 5-year 
review did not result in a recommendation to change the species' 
listing status. We completed comprehensive 5-year reviews of the status 
of running buffalo clover in 2008, 2011, and 2017 (Service 2008, 2011, 
2017). These reviews recommended reclassification from endangered to 
threatened status, based on achievement of the recovery criteria at 
that time.

Species Information

    It is our intent to discuss only those topics directly related to 
the proposed delisting of running buffalo clover. For more information 
on the description, biology, ecology, and habitat of running buffalo 
clover, please refer to the final listing rule (52 FR 21478, June 5, 
1987), the Running Buffalo Clover (Trifolium stoloniferum) Recovery 
Plan: First Revision (Service 2007, pp. 1-13), and the 5-year reviews 
for running buffalo clover, completed on November 19, 2008 (Service 
2008, entire), May 6, 2013 (Service 2013, entire), and April 21, 2017 
(Service 2017, entire). These documents will be available as supporting 
materials at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-
2018-0036.

Taxonomy and Species Description

    Running buffalo clover is a member of the Fabaceae (pea) family. 
This short-lived perennial forms long runners (stolons) from its base 
and produces erect flowering stems, 10-30 centimeters (cm) (4-12 inches 
(in)) tall. The flower heads are round and large, 9-12 millimeters (mm) 
(0.3-0.5 in). Flowers are white, tinged with purple.

Distribution

    The known historical distribution of running buffalo clover 
includes Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, 
and West Virginia (Brooks 1983, pp. 346, 349). There were very few 
reports rangewide between 1910 and 1983. Prior to 1983, the most recent 
collection had been made in 1940, in Webster County, West Virginia 
(Brooks 1983, p. 349). The species was thought extinct until it was 
rediscovered in 1983, in West Virginia (Bartgis 1985, p. 426). At the 
time of listing in 1987, only one population was known to exist, but 
soon afterward, several additional populations were found in Indiana, 
Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Populations were rediscovered in the 
wild in Missouri in 1994 (Hickey 1994, p. 1). A single population was 
discovered in Pennsylvania in 2017 (Grund 2017).
    Extant populations of running buffalo clover are known from 154 
populations in three ecoregions, as described by Bailey (1998): Hot 
Continental, Hot Continental Mountainous, and Prairie. For recovery 
purposes, the populations are divided into three regions based on 
proximity to each other and overall habitat similarities. These regions 
are Appalachian (West Virginia, southeastern Ohio, and Pennsylvania), 
Bluegrass (southwestern Ohio, central Kentucky, and Indiana), and Ozark 
(Missouri). The majority of populations occur within the Appalachian 
and Bluegrass regions.

Habitat

    Running buffalo clover typically occurs in mesic (moist) habitats 
with partial to filtered sunlight and a prolonged pattern of moderate, 
periodic disturbance, such as grazing, mowing, trampling, selective 
logging, or flood-scouring. Populations have been reported from a 
variety of habitats, including mesic woodlands, savannahs, floodplains, 
stream banks, sandbars (especially where old trails cross or parallel 
intermittent streams), grazed

[[Page 44834]]

woodlots, mowed paths (e.g., in cemeteries, parks, and lawns), old 
logging roads, jeep trails, all-terrain vehicle trails, skid trails, 
mowed wildlife openings within mature forest, and steep ravines. 
Running buffalo clover is often found in regions with limestone or 
other calcareous bedrock underlying the site, although limestone soil 
is not a requisite determining factor for the locations of populations 
of this species.
    Sites that have not been disturbed within the last 20 years are 
unlikely to support running buffalo clover (Burkhart 2013, p. 158) 
because the species relies on periodic disturbances to set back 
succession and/or open the tree canopy to create and maintain the 
partial to filtered sunlight it requires. These disturbances can be 
natural (for example, tree falls and flood scouring) or anthropogenic 
(such as grazing, mowing, trampling, or selective logging) in origin. 
Although disturbances to the canopy cover may cause a temporary decline 
in running buffalo clover, populations usually increase 2 years later 
(Madarish and Schuler 2002, p. 127) and reach their highest density 14 
years after disturbance (Burkhart 2013, p. 159). However, a complete 
loss of forest canopy can also be detrimental to running buffalo clover 
by allowing in too much sunlight and altering the microclimate.

Biology

    Substantial variability in the growth and development of running 
buffalo clover has been documented, but the plant structure usually 
includes rooted crowns (rosettes that are rooted into the ground) and 
stolons (above-ground creeping stems) that connect several rooted or 
unrooted crowns, which eventually separate to leave ``daughter'' 
plants. Because of this stoloniferous growth form, individual plants 
can be difficult to distinguish. The Running Buffalo Clover Recovery 
Plan defines an individual plant as a rooted crown (Service 2007, p. 
1). Rooted crowns may occur alone or be connected to other rooted 
crowns by runners.
    Flowers, which typically bloom between mid-May and June, are 
visited by a variety of bee species (Apis spp. and Bombus spp.) and are 
cross-pollinated under field conditions (Taylor et al. 1994, p. 1,099). 
Running buffalo clover is also self-compatible (capable of pollinating 
itself); however, it requires a pollinator to transfer the pollen from 
the anthers to the stigma (Franklin 1998, p. 29). Although it may set 
fewer seeds by self-pollination than by outcrossing, the selfed seed 
set may be adequate to maintain the species in the wild (Taylor et al. 
1994, p. 1,097). Selfed seeds have been shown to germinate well and 
develop into vigorous plants (Franklin 1998, p. 39).
    Seeds typically germinate during early spring (mid-March to early 
April) when temperatures are between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius ([deg]C) 
(59-68 degrees Fahrenheit ([deg]F)) during the day and 5 to 10 [deg]C 
(41-50 [deg]F) at night. Baskin (2004) suggested that spring 
temperature fluctuations appear to be a major dormancy breaker in 
natural populations of running buffalo clover.
    Scarification may aid in seed germination and seed dispersal. 
Scarification of seeds by the digestive system of herbivores, 
historically believed to be bison, deer, elk, or small herbivores such 
as rabbits or groundhogs, was likely a major event in natural 
populations (Thurman 1988, p. 4; Cusick 1989, pp. 475-476). Although 
deer are viable vectors for running buffalo clover seeds, the survival 
and germination rates of ingested seeds are low (Ford et al. 2003, pp. 
426-427). Dispersal and establishment of new populations of running 
buffalo clover by white-tailed deer herbivory may not be significant 
(Ford et al. 2003, pp. 426-427). It appears that scarification 
accelerates the germination process, whereas natural germination may 
occur over time if the right temperature fluctuations occur (Service 
2007, p. 9).

Genetics

    Genetic studies of running buffalo clover have shown relatively low 
levels of diversity and low levels of gene flow between populations, 
even between those separated by short distances (Hickey and Vincent 
1992, p. 15). Crawford et al. (1998, entire) examined genetic variation 
within and among populations of running buffalo clover throughout its 
geographic range known at the time. They found slight geographic 
variation between the four areas examined (Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio-
Indiana, and West Virginia) and concluded that much of the species' 
genetic diversity resides among populations, and small populations of 
running buffalo clover contribute as much to the total species' genetic 
diversity as large populations (Crawford et al. 1998, p. 88).

Conservation Measures

    The running buffalo clover recovery plan includes management 
recommendations for the species (Service 2007, p. 51). The 
recommendations include considerations for mowing, invasive plant 
control, and forest management. For sites that are actively managed, 
the frequency of management intervention to create and maintain 
suitable habitat depends on the nature of the management action. Sites 
that are mowed may require mowing annually while selective logging 
happens on an 8- to 14-year interval. Selection of appropriate 
management techniques are dictated by the conditions at each running 
buffalo clover population. Management actions specifically for running 
buffalo clover are in place where the plant occurs on Federal lands in 
Kentucky and West Virginia, State lands in Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, 
and West Virginia, and three privately-owned sites (Service 2017, pp. 
21-24).

Recovery Implementation

    Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement 
recovery plans for the conservation and survival of endangered and 
threatened species unless we determine that such a plan will not 
promote the conservation of the species. Under section 4(f)(1)(B)(ii), 
recovery plans must, to the maximum extent practicable, include 
``objective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a 
determination, in accordance with the provisions of this section 
[section 4 of the Act], that the species be removed from the list.'' 
However, revisions to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Plants (adding, removing, or reclassifying a species) must reflect 
determinations made in accordance with sections 4(a)(1) and 4(b) of the 
Act. Section 4(a)(1) requires that the Secretary determine whether a 
species is endangered or threatened because of one or more of five 
threat factors. Section 4(b) of the Act requires that the determination 
be made ``solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial 
data available.'' Therefore, recovery criteria should help indicate 
when we would anticipate that an analysis of the five threat factors 
under section 4(a)(1) would result in a determination that a species is 
no longer an endangered or threatened species because of any of the 
five statutory factors. Thus, while recovery plans provide important 
guidance to the Service, States, and other partners on methods of 
enhancing conservation and minimizing threats to listed species and 
measurable objectives against which to measure progress towards 
recovery, they are not regulatory documents and cannot substitute for 
the determinations and promulgation of regulations required under 
section 4(a)(1) of the Act. A decision to revise the status of a 
species on, or to remove a species from, the Federal List of Endangered 
and Threatened Plants (50 CFR 17.12(h)) is

[[Page 44835]]

ultimately based on an analysis of the best scientific and commercial 
data available to determine whether a species is no longer an 
endangered species or a threatened species, regardless of whether that 
information differs from the recovery plan.
    There are many paths to accomplishing recovery of a species, and 
recovery may be achieved without all of the criteria in a recovery plan 
being fully met. For example, one or more criteria may be exceeded 
while other criteria may not yet be accomplished. In that instance, we 
may determine that the threats are minimized sufficiently and the 
species is robust enough to delist. In other cases, recovery 
opportunities may be discovered that were not known when the recovery 
plan was finalized. These opportunities may be used instead of methods 
identified in the recovery plan. Likewise, information on the species 
may be learned that was not known at the time the recovery plan was 
finalized. The new information may change the extent to which existing 
criteria are appropriate for recognizing recovery of the species. 
Recovery of a species is a dynamic process requiring adaptive 
management that may, or may not, follow all of the guidance provided in 
a recovery plan.
    The revised recovery plan for running buffalo clover (Service 2007, 
p. 24) states that the ultimate goal of the recovery program is to 
delist running buffalo clover, that is, to remove the species from the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants (50 CFR 17.12(h)). The 
plan provides three criteria for reclassifying running buffalo clover 
from endangered to threatened status (i.e., to ``downlist'' the 
species) and three criteria for delisting running buffalo clover. All 
of the downlisting criteria have been met since 2008 (Service 2008, pp. 
3-4; Service 2011, pp. 3-4; Service 2017, pp. 3-5). The following 
discussion provides an assessment of the delisting criteria as they 
relate to evaluating the status of this species.

Criterion 1 for Delisting

    Criterion 1 states that 34 populations, in total, are distributed 
as follows: 2 A-ranked, 6 B-ranked, 6 C-ranked, and 20 D-ranked 
populations across at least two of the three regions in which running 
buffalo clover occurs (Appalachian, Bluegrass, and Ozark). The number 
of populations in each rank is based on what would be required to 
achieve a 95 percent probability of the persistence within the next 20 
years; this number was doubled to ensure biological redundancy across 
the range of the species. Rankings refer to the element occurrence 
(E.O.) ranking categories.
    E.O. rankings, which integrate population size and habitat 
integrity, are explained in detail in the recovery plan (Service 2007, 
pp. 2-3). In summary, A-ranked populations are those with 1,000 or more 
naturally occurring rooted crowns; B-ranked populations have between 
100 and 999 naturally occurring rooted crowns; C-ranked populations 
have between 30 and 99 naturally occurring rooted crowns; and D-ranked 
populations have between 1 and 29 naturally occurring rooted crowns.
    Populations are currently distributed as follows: 16 A-ranked, 35 
B-ranked, 44 C-ranked, and 59 D-ranked, and they occur in all three 
regions across the range of the species. Thus, we conclude that this 
criterion has been substantially exceeded.

Criterion 2 for Delisting

    Criterion 2 states that for each A-ranked and B-ranked population 
described in Criterion 1, population viability analysis (PVA) indicates 
95 percent probability of persistence within the next 20 years, or for 
any population that does not meet the 95 percent persistence standard, 
the population meets the definition of viable. For delisting purposes, 
viability is defined as: Seed production is occurring; the population 
is stable or increasing, based on at least 10 years of censusing; and 
appropriate management techniques are in place.
    Seven A-ranked and 13 B-ranked populations are considered viable, 
based on a PVA or 10 years of data. Thus, we conclude that this 
criterion has been exceeded.

Criterion 3 for Delisting

    Delisting criterion 3 states that the land on which each of the 34 
populations described in delisting criterion 1 occurs is owned by a 
government agency or private conservation organization that identifies 
maintenance of the species as one of the primary conservation 
objectives for the site, or the population is protected by a 
conservation agreement that commits the private landowner to habitat 
management for the species.
    This criterion was intended to ensure that habitat-based threats 
for the species are addressed. Small populations (C- and D-ranked 
populations) were included because they contribute as much as large 
populations to the overall level of the species' genetic diversity, 
which is important for survival of the species as a whole.
    Currently, 23 populations meet this criterion, as follows: 5 A-
ranked, 7 B-ranked, 5 C-ranked, and 6 D-ranked. These include 
populations where land management prioritizes the needs of running 
buffalo clover, although written management plans are not in place. 
There are 6 more A- and B-ranked populations than required. Although 
these additional higher-ranked populations can count for lower-ranked 
populations, this criterion has still not been fully met. However, 60 
additional populations occur on publicly-owned lands, such as national 
forests, State lands, and local parks, thereby minimizing threats from 
habitat loss and degradation. Thus, although this criterion is not met 
in the manner specifically identified in the recovery plan, we conclude 
that the intent of the criterion to ensure that sufficient populations 
were protected from threats into the future has been met.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 
424) set forth the procedures for listing species, reclassifying 
species, or removing species from listed status. ``Species'' is defined 
by the Act as including any species or subspecies of fish or wildlife 
or plants, and any distinct vertebrate population segment of fish or 
wildlife that interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). A species 
may be determined to be an endangered or threatened species due to one 
or more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act: 
(A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment 
of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or 
predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) 
other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. We 
must consider these same five factors in delisting a species. We may 
delist a species according to 50 CFR 424.11(d) if the best available 
scientific and commercial data indicate that the species is neither 
endangered nor threatened for the following reasons: (1) The species is 
extinct; (2) the species has recovered and is no longer endangered or 
threatened; and/or (3) the original scientific data used at the time 
the species was classified were in error.
    A recovered species is one that no longer meets the Act's 
definition of endangered or threatened. Determining whether a species 
is recovered requires consideration of whether the species is still an 
endangered species or threatened species because of any of the

[[Page 44836]]

five categories of threats specified in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. For 
species that are already listed as endangered or threatened species, 
this analysis of threats is an evaluation of both the threats currently 
facing the species and those that are reasonably likely to affect the 
species in the foreseeable future following the delisting or 
downlisting and the removal or reduction of the Act's protections.
    In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look 
beyond the exposure of the species to a particular factor to evaluate 
whether the species may respond to the factor in a way that causes 
actual impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a factor, but no 
response, or only a positive response, that factor is not a threat. If 
there is exposure to a factor and the species responds negatively, the 
factor may be a threat, and we attempt to determine how significant a 
threat it is. The threat is significant if it drives, or contributes 
to, the risk of extinction of the species such that the species 
warrants listing as an endangered species or a threatened species as 
those terms are defined by the Act. This does not necessarily require 
empirical proof of a threat. The combination of exposure and some 
corroborating evidence of how the species is likely impacted could 
suffice. The mere identification of factors that could impact a species 
negatively is not sufficient to compel a finding that listing is 
appropriate; we require evidence that these factors individually or 
cumulatively are operative threats that act on the species to the point 
that the species meets the definition of an endangered species or 
threatened species under the Act. The following analysis examines all 
five factors currently affecting or that are likely to affect the 
running buffalo clover in the foreseeable future.

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

    The revised recovery plan for running buffalo clover (Service 2007, 
p. 14) identified the major threats to this species throughout its 
range as habitat destruction, habitat succession, and invasive plant 
competition. Land development and the consequential loss of habitat can 
also be a threat to running buffalo clover. Because the species relies 
on periodic disturbances to set back succession and/or open the tree 
canopy to create and maintain the partial to filtered sunlight it 
requires, activities that interfere with natural disturbance processes 
can negatively affect populations of running buffalo clover. 
Conversely, activities that periodically set back natural succession 
can benefit the species.
    Current logging practices may benefit running buffalo clover. At 
the Fernow Experimental Forest in north-central West Virginia, running 
buffalo clover is most often associated with skid roads in uneven-aged 
silvicultural areas (Madarish and Schuler 2002, p. 121). A study 
examining running buffalo clover abundance before and after logging 
suggests that populations may initially decrease after disturbance, but 
then rebound to higher than pre-disturbance levels (Madarish and 
Schuler 2002, p. 127).
    In some populations it appears that both overgrazing and no grazing 
at all are threats to running buffalo clover. In Kentucky, overgrazing 
poses threats to running buffalo clover, but removal of cattle from 
clover populations has resulted in overshading and competition from 
other vegetation (White et al. 1999, p. 10). Periodic grazing at the 
Bluegrass Army Depot has provided the moderate disturbance needed to 
maintain running buffalo clover (Fields and White 1996, p. 14).
    Nonnative species, such as bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and white 
clover (Trifolium repens), compete with running buffalo clover for 
available resources (Jacobs and Bartgis 1987, p. 441). Other nonnative 
species that affect running buffalo clover include Japanese stiltgrass 
(Microstegium vimineum), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), Japanese 
honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), 
and multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora). Threats by invasive competition 
can be mediated by treating the invasive plants by hand removal, 
herbicide application, and/or mowing. Although nonnative species are 
widespread across the range of running buffalo clover, not all running 
buffalo clover sites are affected by invasive species. For example, 13 
of the 31 sites (42 percent) in Ohio have one or more nonnative species 
present at varying densities, and 4 of those sites are managed for 
invasive species control.
    The habitat needs of running buffalo clover on Federal, State, and 
locally-owned lands are included in plans or agreements for those 
lands. The Monongahela National Forest Land and Resource Management 
Plan (U.S. Forest Service 2011, pp. II-27--II-28) and Wayne National 
Forest Revised Land and Resource Management Plan (U.S. Forest Service 
2006, pp. 2-22, D-16) both include habitat management and protection 
measures for running buffalo clover. The Bluegrass Army Depot in 
Kentucky protects and manages running buffalo clover under an 
Endangered Species Management Plan (Floyd 2006, pp. 30-37), included as 
part of their Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan, and all 
running buffalo clover populations at the Army Depot are covered by 
these management actions (Littlefield 2017). A memorandum of 
understanding between the Ohio Historical Society, Ohio Division of 
Natural Areas and Preserves, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
provides for running buffalo clover habitat protection and management. 
We expect that these plans would remain in place and habitat management 
will continue after delisting running buffalo clover.
    In total, twenty-three populations are under some form of 
management that incorporates specific needs of running buffalo clover, 
and 60 additional populations occur on publicly-owned lands that 
prevent loss from development. Although the species benefits from 
active management, it does not appear to rely on management actions as 
demonstrated by the 46 populations that have been found over the last 
10 years at unmanaged sites where natural processes are maintaining 
suitable habitat for running buffalo clover. For these reasons, threats 
from habitat destruction and modification have been reduced or are 
being adequately managed such that they are not affecting the species' 
viability.
Summary of Factor A
    Habitat destruction, habitat succession, and invasive plant 
competition are the primary threats to running buffalo clover. However, 
these stressors have been reduced or are being adequately managed now 
and into the foreseeable future.

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

    When the species was listed in 1987, overutilization for scientific 
or educational purposes was identified as a threat, given that only one 
population consisting of four individuals was known at the time (52 FR 
21478; June 5, 1987). Today, with more than 150 populations known, 
collection for scientific or educational purposes is very limited and 
distributed among many populations and is no longer considered a threat 
(Service 2017, p. 17).
    Running buffalo clover is listed as endangered or threatened under 
State laws in Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. The laws in Ohio 
and Missouri prohibit commercial taking of listed plants. We are aware 
of only one unpermitted collection in 2015 when a

[[Page 44837]]

population in West Virginia appeared to have been dug up and the main 
plant group removed (Douglas 2015). The purpose of the collection is 
unknown. Despite this one event, running buffalo clover is not known to 
be used for any commercial or recreational purposes, and we have no 
information that commercial or recreational collection will occur in 
the future.
Summary of Factor B
    Running buffalo clover is not known to be used for any commercial 
or recreational purpose, and collection for scientific or educational 
purposes is limited. Based on available information, we do not consider 
there to be threats now or in the foreseeable future related to 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes.

C. Disease or Predation

    At the time of listing in 1987, disease was predicted to threaten 
running buffalo clover (52 FR 21478; June 5, 1987). Jacobs and Bartgis 
(1987, p. 441) suggested that the decline of this species may have 
partially centered on a pathogen introduced from the exotic white 
clover; however, no specific disease has been identified over the 
intervening years (Service 2008, p. 10). A number of viral and fungal 
diseases, including cucumber mosaic virus and the comovirus, are 
reported to have attacked the species in greenhouses at the Missouri 
Botanical Garden (Sehgal and Payne 1995, p. 320), but no evidence has 
been gathered showing these viruses' impact on running buffalo clover 
decline in the wild (Service 2008, p. 10).
    Parasitism by root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.) is common in 
clovers and often limits productivity in cultivated clovers used as 
forage crops (Quesenberry et al. 1997, p. 270). Investigations have 
been conducted on the effects of root-knot nematodes on native North 
American clovers, including running buffalo clover. After inoculation 
of the parasite, running buffalo clover displayed high resistance to 
three of the four nematode species analyzed, and only an intermediate 
response to the fourth species of nematode (Quesenberry et al. 1997, p. 
270). Thus, the threat from this parasite is not considered 
significant.
    Herbivory by a variety of species has been reported for running 
buffalo clover. In Missouri, running buffalo clover plants are 
repeatedly grazed by rabbits, rodents, and slugs (Pickering 1989, p. 
3). Similar observations have been made in Kentucky (Davis 1987, p. 
11). The Fayette County, West Virginia population was eaten to the 
ground by a ground hog (Marmota monax), but more than a dozen rooted 
crowns were observed at the population the following year. White-tailed 
deer can also consume large amounts of running buffalo clover (Miller 
et al. 1992, p. 68-69).
Summary of Factor C
    Although disease has been observed in running buffalo clover in 
greenhouses, no diseases are known to affect entire populations of the 
species in the wild. Populations appear to be capable of withstanding 
herbivory during the growing season. In sum, while disease or predation 
has had an occasional negative impact, most of these impacts do not 
appear to affect entire populations, or the impacts do not persist for 
any extended period of time. Based on available information, we do not 
consider there to be threats now or in the foreseeable future related 
to disease or predation.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Under this factor, we examine whether the stressors identified 
within the other factors may be ameliorated or exacerbated by an 
existing regulatory mechanism. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act requires 
the Service to take into account ``those efforts, if any, being made by 
any State or foreign nation, or any political subdivision of a State or 
foreign nation, to protect such species.'' In relation to Factor D 
under the Act, we interpret this language to require the Service to 
consider relevant Federal, State, and Tribal laws, regulations, and 
other such binding legal mechanisms that may ameliorate or exacerbate 
any of the threats we describe in threats analyses under the other four 
factors, or otherwise enhance conservation of the species. Our 
consideration of these mechanisms is described in detail within our 
analysis of each of the factors (see discussion under each of the other 
factors).
    For currently listed species, we consider the adequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms to address threats to the species absent the 
protections of the Act. Therefore, we examine whether other regulatory 
mechanisms would remain in place if the species were delisted, and the 
extent to which those mechanisms will continue to help ensure that 
future threats will be reduced or minimized. In our discussion under 
Factors A, B, C, and E, we evaluate the significance of threats as 
mitigated by any conservation efforts and existing regulatory 
mechanisms. Where threats exist, we analyze the extent to which 
conservation measures and existing regulatory mechanisms address the 
specific threats to the species. Regulatory mechanisms, if they exist, 
may reduce or eliminate the impacts from one or more identified 
threats.
    Twenty-three populations are specifically managed to provide for 
the species' habitat needs, and an additional 60 populations occur on 
publicly-owned lands where regulatory mechanisms now exist. These 
regulatory mechanisms include the Monongahela National Forest Land and 
Resource Management Plan, the Wayne National Forest Revised Land and 
Resource Management, the Bluegrass Army Depot's Endangered Species 
Management Plan, and a memorandum of understanding with the Ohio 
Historical Society, Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, and 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see discussion under Factor A). 
These plans and agreements also provide for education and outreach 
efforts and surveying and monitoring for running buffalo clover. We 
expect that these plans and agreements would remain in place after 
delisting running buffalo clover.
    Of the 154 extant populations of running buffalo clover, 74 (49%) 
are located on private land, with the remainder located on Federal, 
State, or local park land. Most of the privately-owned populations are 
on lands without specific regulatory mechanisms. Although running 
buffalo clover benefits from habitat management efforts, it is not 
dependent on active management and persists on sites without any 
regulatory mechanism in place. Additionally, State protections in Ohio 
and Missouri prohibit commercial taking of listed plants although 
running buffalo clover is not known to be used for any commercial or 
recreational purposes (see discussion under Factor B).
Summary of Factor D
    Regulatory mechanisms to provide for management and/or 
consideration of running buffalo clover are in place for 83 
populations. Furthermore, the species has persisted on lands without 
specific regulatory mechanisms. Consequently, we find that existing 
regulatory mechanisms, as discussed above, will continue to address 
stressors to running buffalo clover absent protections under the Act.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Factor E requires the Service to consider any other factors that 
may be

[[Page 44838]]

affecting running buffalo clover. Under this factor, we discuss small 
population size, inadequate seed dispersal, poor seed quality, and 
climate change.
Small Population Size
    Long-term monitoring data suggest that running buffalo clover 
populations often display widely fluctuating population size. The cause 
for changes in population size may be due to disturbance, weather 
patterns, management strategy, natural succession, or other unknown 
factors. The cyclic nature of running buffalo clover and the high 
probability of small populations disappearing one year and returning a 
subsequent year, may lead to difficulty in protecting small 
populations. Regardless, small populations have displayed high levels 
of genetic diversity (Crawford et al. 1998, p. 88) that is important 
for survival of the species as a whole. Small population size is not a 
threat in and of itself.
Inadequate Seed Dispersal
    Cusick (1989, p. 477) suggested that the loss of large herbivores, 
such as bison and white-tailed deer, after European settlement resulted 
in no effective means of dispersal remaining for running buffalo 
clover. Deer have now returned to pre-settlement numbers, but dispersal 
and establishment of new populations of running buffalo clover by 
white-tailed deer may not be significant (Ford et al. 2003, p. 427). 
With 154 occurrences of running buffalo clover now known, inadequate 
seed dispersal does not appear to be having population-level effects.
Poor Seed Quality
    Although researchers have speculated that inbreeding depression may 
have contributed to the decline of running buffalo clover (Hickey et 
al. 1991, p. 315; Taylor et al. 1994, p. 1,099), selfed seeds have been 
shown to germinate well and develop into vigorous plants (Franklin 
1998, p. 39). However, temporal variations in seed quality have been 
reported. Seed quality may be correlated with rainfall; quality 
decreases in years with unusually high rainfall (Franklin 1998, p. 38). 
With 154 occurrences of running buffalo clover now known, the impacts 
of poor seed quality do not appear to affect entire populations, nor do 
these impacts persist for any extended period of time.
Climate Change
    Our current analyses under the Act include consideration of ongoing 
and projected changes in climate. The terms ``climate'' and ``climate 
change'' are defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 
(IPCC). ``Climate'' refers to the mean and variability of different 
types of weather conditions over time, with 30 years being a typical 
period for such measurements, although shorter or longer periods also 
may be used (IPCC 2007, p. 78). The term ``climate change'' thus refers 
to a change in the mean or variability of one or more measures of 
climate (e.g., temperature or precipitation) that persists for an 
extended period, typically decades or longer, whether the change is due 
to natural variability, human activity, or both (IPCC 2007, p. 78). 
Various types of changes in climate can have direct or indirect effects 
on species. These effects may be positive, neutral, or negative, and 
they may change over time, depending on the species and other relevant 
considerations, such as the effects of interactions of climate with 
other variables (e.g., habitat fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, pp. 8-14, 18-
19). In our analyses, we use our expert judgment to weigh relevant 
information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of various 
aspects of climate change.
    The effects of climate change are expected to result in rising 
average temperatures throughout the range of running buffalo clover, 
along with more frequent heat waves and increased periods of drought 
(IPCC 2014, p. 10), which may affect growth of running buffalo clover. 
For example, a prolonged drought in Missouri in 2012 may have impacted 
a running buffalo clover population for the next 2 years as plants were 
not observed again until 2015 (McKenzie and Newbold 2015, p. 20).
    High precipitation events are also expected to increase in number, 
volume of precipitation, and frequency in mid-latitude areas (IPCC 
2014, p. 11). Several running buffalo clover populations are located 
within the vicinity of a stream. Infrequent high flow events create 
moderate disturbance, which may be beneficial for this species. But 
increasing the magnitude or frequency of high flow events may increase 
storm flows and intensify disturbance from flood events, which may 
create excessive disturbance and alter the habitat suitability for 
running buffalo clover.
    According to IPCC, ``most plant species cannot naturally shift 
their geographical ranges sufficiently fast to keep up with current and 
high projected rates of climate change on most landscapes'' (IPCC 2014, 
p. 13). Shifts in the range of running buffalo clover as an adaptation 
to climate changes is unlikely, due to the limited dispersal of seeds, 
restriction to specific habitat types, and the lack of connection 
between most populations.
    The effects of climate change may also result in a longer growing 
season and shorter dormant season, which may change flowering periods. 
For example, blossoms of running buffalo clover have been turning brown 
at the beginning of June (Becus 2016); and in 2016 and 2017, running 
buffalo clover plants in Ohio began blooming in April, which is the 
earliest this species had been observed blooming (Becus 2017). For some 
plant species, a change in flowering period may create an asynchrony 
between prime bloom time and when specific pollinators are available, 
resulting in a reduction in pollination and subsequent seed set. 
However, because running buffalo clover can be pollinated by a 
diversity of bee species, significant asynchrony with pollinators is 
not expected to occur.
Summary of Factor E
    With their high levels of genetic diversity, small populations are 
important for survival of the species as a whole. Although inadequate 
seed dispersal and poor seed quality have been concerns in the past, 
they do not appear to affect entire populations, nor do their impacts 
persist for any extended period of time. Climate change presents a 
largely unknown influence on the species, with potential for negative 
and beneficial impacts. Populations of running buffalo clover occur 
within various ecoregions within the species' range and are capable of 
recovering from stochastic events, such as droughts and heavy 
precipitation and high stream flows. Running buffalo clover is not 
dependent on particular species of pollinators and appears adaptable to 
potential changes to pollinator communities. This indicates that 
populations will persist in the face of climate change.
Synergistic Effects
    Many of the stressors discussed in this analysis could work in 
concert with each other and result in a cumulative adverse effect to 
running buffalo clover, e.g., one stressor may make the species more 
vulnerable to other threats. However, most of the potential stressors 
we identified either have not occurred to the extent originally 
anticipated at the time of listing (Factors B, C, and D) or are 
adequately managed as described in this proposal to delist the species 
(Factors A and D). In addition, for the reasons discussed in this 
proposed rule, we do not anticipate stressors to

[[Page 44839]]

increase on publicly-owned lands or lands that are managed for the 
species.
    Synergistic interactions are possible between effects of climate 
change and effects of other threats, such as nonnative plant invasion. 
However, it is difficult to project how the effects of climate change 
will affect interaction or competition between species. Uncertainty 
about how different plant species will respond under a changing climate 
makes projecting possible synergistic effects of climate change on 
running buffalo clover too speculative. However, the increases 
documented in the number of populations since the species was listed do 
not indicate that cumulative effects of various activities and 
stressors are affecting the viability of the species at this time or 
into the future.

Determination

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and its implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR part 424, set forth the procedures for 
determining whether a species is an endangered species or threatened 
species and should be included on the Federal Lists of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and Plants. The Act defines an endangered species 
as any species that is ``in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range'' and a threatened species as any 
species ``that is likely to become endangered throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range within the foreseeable future.''
    The Act does not define the term ``foreseeable future.'' For this 
proposed rule, our forecast of future impacts is based on a review of 
the period of available data for each threat and, when possible, a 
projection of the situation at least for a similar time period into the 
future. Natural succession from open to dense canopy in forests within 
the range of running buffalo clover occurs over a 30- to 40-year time 
span, depending on the dominant species and aspect of the site. The 
1989 running buffalo clover recovery plan (Service 1989, pp. 4-5) 
indicates that invasive species were present at an Indiana population 
and that garlic mustard was abundant in unmanaged areas at a Kentucky 
population. In addition, garlic mustard was identified as being present 
at multiple Ohio populations in 1989. Therefore, many of the 
significant invasive species have been present within the range of 
running buffalo clover for more than 25 years. Further, we can 
extrapolate trends from the past 30 years that running buffalo clover 
has been listed as endangered. Thus, a timeframe of 25-30 years is 
reasonable as the foreseeable future for running buffalo clover.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
to running buffalo clover. The number of known running buffalo clover 
populations has increased from 1 at the time of listing to 154 
currently. New populations continue to be found, and the known range 
has expanded most recently to include Pennsylvania. Although we are not 
relying on it for our analysis, we recognize that it is reasonable to 
conclude that there may be additional populations of which we are not 
yet aware.
    The main threat at many sites is habitat destruction, habitat 
succession, and competition with nonnative, invasive species (Factor 
A). Management to benefit running buffalo clover has been implemented 
since the time of listing and has shown to be effective. Twenty-three 
populations are under some form of management that addresses the needs 
of running buffalo clover. Because most managed populations occur on 
publicly-owned lands, we expect management will continue in the 
foreseeable future. Delisting Criterion 3 from the recovery plan was 
intended to ensure that habitat-based threats for the species are 
addressed. Although this criterion has not been met as specified in the 
recovery plan, we believe that its intention has been met between the 
23 sites managed specifically for the conservation of the species plus 
the 60 additional locations on Federal and State lands. Additionally, 
the discovery of new populations at unmanaged sites indicates that the 
species does not wholly rely on management to maintain populations as 
we believed when the recovery criterion was drafted. The 23 populations 
currently under management in conjunction with the 60 other populations 
on publicly-owned lands are sufficient to maintain the species' 
viability now and into the foreseeable future.
    During our analysis, we found that other factors believed to be 
threats at the time of listing--including overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes (Factor 
B), disease and predation (Factor C), and inbreeding depression and 
poor seed quality and dispersal (Factor E)--are no longer considered 
threats, and we do not expect any of these conditions to substantially 
change into the foreseeable future. Since listing, we have become aware 
of the potential for the effects of climate change (Factor E) to affect 
all biota, including running buffalo clover. While available 
information in the most recent 5-year review indicates that running 
buffalo clover may be responding to a change in temperatures or 
precipitation patterns, the lack of a declining trend in running 
buffalo clover populations suggests the effects of ongoing climate 
change are not a threat to the species within the foreseeable future.
    Thus, after assessing the best scientific and commercial data 
available and having considered the individual and cumulative impact of 
threats on this species, we conclude that running buffalo clover is not 
in danger of extinction throughout all of its range, nor is it likely 
to become so within the foreseeable future.

Significant Portion of the Range Analysis

    Having determined that running buffalo clover is not in danger of 
extinction, or likely to become so, throughout all of its range, we 
next consider whether there are any significant portions of its range 
in which running buffalo clover is in danger of extinction or likely to 
become so. Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a species 
may warrant listing if it is an endangered species or a threatened 
species. The Act defines ``endangered species'' as any species which is 
``in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of 
its range,'' and ``threatened species'' as any species which is 
``likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range.'' On July 1, 
2014, we published a final policy interpreting the phrase ``significant 
portion of its range'' (SPR) (79 FR 37578). The final policy states 
that (1) if a species is found to be endangered or threatened 
throughout a significant portion of its range, the entire species is 
listed as an endangered species or a threatened species, respectively, 
and the Act's protections apply to all individuals of the species 
wherever found; (2) a portion of the range of a species is 
``significant'' if the species is not currently endangered or 
threatened throughout all of its range, but the portion's contribution 
to the viability of the species is so important that, without the 
members in that portion, the species would be in danger of extinction, 
or likely to become so in the foreseeable future, throughout all of its 
range; (3) the range of a species is considered to be the general 
geographical area within which that species can be found at the time 
the Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service makes any 
particular

[[Page 44840]]

status determination; and (4) if a vertebrate species is endangered or 
threatened throughout an SPR, and the population in that significant 
portion is a valid distinct population segment (DPS), we will list the 
DPS rather than the entire taxonomic species or subspecies.
    The SPR policy is applied to all status determinations, including 
analyses for the purposes of making the listing, delisting, and 
reclassification determinations. However, we acknowledge the recent 
adverse ruling by the United States District Court for the Northern 
District of California, which has vacated the ``significant portion'' 
part of the Services' SPR Policy (Desert Survivors, et al. v. U.S. 
Department of the Interior, et al., No. 16-cv-01165-JCS (Northern 
District of California, Aug. 24, 2018)). The procedure for analyzing 
whether any portion is an SPR is similar, regardless of the type of 
status determination we are making. The first step in our analysis of 
the status of a species is to determine its status throughout all of 
its range. If we determine that the species is in danger of extinction, 
or likely to become so in the foreseeable future, throughout all of its 
range, we list the species as an endangered (or threatened) species, 
and no SPR analysis will be required.
    When we conduct an SPR analysis, we first identify any portions of 
the species' range that warrant further consideration. The range of a 
species can theoretically be divided into portions in an infinite 
number of ways. However, there is no purpose to analyzing portions of 
the range that are not reasonably likely to be significant and either 
endangered or threatened. To identify only those portions that warrant 
further consideration, we determine whether there is substantial 
information indicating that (1) the portions may be significant and (2) 
the species may be in danger of extinction in those portions or likely 
to become so within the foreseeable future. We emphasize that answering 
these questions in the affirmative is not a determination that the 
species is endangered or threatened throughout a significant portion of 
its range; rather, it is a step in determining whether a more detailed 
analysis of the issue is required. In practice, a key part of this 
analysis is whether the threats are geographically concentrated in some 
way. If the threats to the species are affecting it uniformly 
throughout its range, no portion is likely to warrant further 
consideration. Moreover, if any concentration of threats applies only 
to portions of the range that clearly do not meet the biologically 
based definition of ``significant'' (i.e., the loss of that portion 
clearly would not be expected to increase the vulnerability to 
extinction of the entire species), then those portions will not warrant 
further consideration.
    If we identify any portions that may be both (1) significant and 
(2) endangered or threatened, we engage in a more detailed analysis. 
The identification of an SPR does not create a presumption, 
prejudgment, or other determination as to whether the species in that 
identified SPR is in danger of extinction or likely to become so. We 
must go through a separate analysis to determine whether the species is 
in danger of extinction or likely to become so in the SPR. To determine 
whether a species is endangered or threatened throughout an SPR, we 
will use the same standards and methodology that we use to determine if 
a species is endangered or threatened throughout its range.
    Depending on the biology of the species, its range, and the threats 
it faces, it may be more efficient to address either the significance 
question first, or the status question first. Thus, if we determine 
that a portion of the range is not ``significant,'' we do not need to 
determine whether the species is endangered or threatened there; if we 
determine that the species is not endangered or threatened in a portion 
of its range, we do not need to determine if that portion is 
``significant.''
    Running buffalo clover does not exhibit any substantial differences 
in morphology or other factors in any portions of its range. The 
identified threats have been reduced or are being adequately managed 
across the species' range, and no portions of the range retain elevated 
threat levels. There is no indication that any portion of the species' 
range is so important that its loss would cause the entire species to 
become endangered or threatened. For these reasons, we conclude that 
running buffalo clover is not in danger of extinction, or likely to 
become so within the foreseeable future, throughout a significant 
portion of its range.

Effects of This Rule

    The Act sets forth a series of general prohibitions and exceptions 
that apply to all endangered plants. It is illegal for any person 
subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to import or export, 
transport in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a 
commercial activity, sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign 
commerce, or remove and reduce running buffalo clover to possession 
from areas under Federal jurisdiction. Section 7 of the Act requires 
that Federal agencies consult with us to ensure that any action 
authorized, funded, or carried out by them is not likely to jeopardize 
the species' continued existence. If this proposed rule is made final, 
it would revise 50 CFR 17.12 to remove running buffalo clover from the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants, and these 
prohibitions would no longer apply. Because critical habitat has not 
been designated for this taxon, this rule, if made final, would not 
affect 50 CFR 17.96.

Post-Delisting Monitoring

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us, in cooperation with the 
States, to implement a monitoring program for not less than 5 years for 
all species that have been recovered and delisted. The purpose of this 
requirement is to verify that a species remains secure from risk of 
extinction after it has been removed from the protections of the Act. 
The monitoring is designed to detect the failure of any delisted 
species to sustain itself without the protective measures provided by 
the Act. If, at any time during the monitoring period, data indicate 
that protective status under the Act should be reinstated, we can 
initiate listing procedures, including, if appropriate, emergency 
listing under section 4(b)(7) of the Act. Section 4(g) of the Act 
explicitly requires us to cooperate with the States in development and 
implementation of post-delisting monitoring programs, but we remain 
responsible for compliance with section 4(g) of the Act and, therefore, 
must remain actively engaged in all phases of post-delisting 
monitoring. The States within the species' range are providing 
information on proposed management guidelines as well as future 
monitoring protocols. We also seek active participation of other 
entities that are expected to assume responsibilities for the species' 
conservation post-delisting.

Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan Overview

    We have prepared a draft PDM plan for running buffalo clover. The 
draft plan discusses the current status of the taxon and describes the 
methods proposed for monitoring if the taxon is removed from the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants. The draft plan: (1) 
Summarizes the status of running buffalo clover at the time of proposed 
delisting; (2) describes frequency and duration of monitoring; (3) 
discusses monitoring methods and potential sampling regimes; (4) 
defines what potential triggers will be evaluated for additional 
monitoring; (5) outlines reporting requirements and procedures;

[[Page 44841]]

and (6) proposes a schedule for implementing the PDM plan and defines 
responsibilities. It is our intent to work with our partners towards 
monitoring the recovered status of running buffalo clover. We seek 
public and peer reviewer comments on the draft PDM plan, including its 
objectives and procedures (see Information Requested, above), with 
publication of this proposed rule. The draft PDM plan is available at 
http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2018-0036. You 
can submit your comments on the draft PDM plan by one of the methods 
listed above under ADDRESSES.

Required Determinations

Clarity of the Rule

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the 
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain 
language. This means that each rule we publish must:
    (1) Be logically organized;
    (2) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (3) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (4) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (5) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. To better help us 
revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For 
example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs 
that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long, 
the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc.

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

    We determined that we do not need to prepare environmental 
assessments and environmental impact statements, as defined under the 
authority of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 
4321 et seq.), in connection with regulations adopted pursuant to 
section 4(a) of the Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons 
for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 
FR 49244).

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994 
(Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and 
Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), 
we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge 
that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal 
public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make 
information available to tribes. We are not aware of running buffalo 
clover occurring on any tribal lands.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited in this rulemaking is available 
on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R3-
ES-2018-0036, or upon request from the Ohio Ecological Services Field 
Office, 4625 Morse Road, Suite 104, Columbus, OH 43230; telephone 614-
416-8993.

Authors

    The primary authors of this proposed rule are the staff members of 
the Ohio Ecological Services Field Office and the Midwest Regional 
Office in Bloomington, Minnesota.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

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

PART 17--ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS

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

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


Sec.  17.12  [Amended]

0
2. Amend Sec.  17.12(h) by removing the entry for ``Trifolium 
stoloniferum'' under FLOWERING PLANTS from the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Plants.

    Dated: March 19, 2019.
Margaret E. Everson,
Principal Deputy Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Exercising 
the Authority of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-18413 Filed 8-26-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4333-15-P