Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding for the California Spotted Owl, 60371-60372 [2019-24336]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 217 / Friday, November 8, 2019 / Proposed Rules DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2015–0139; 4500090022] Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding for the California Spotted Owl Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notification of 12-month finding. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 12-month finding on petitions to list the California spotted owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). After a thorough review of the best available scientific and commercial information, we find that it is not warranted at this time to list the California spotted owl. However, we ask the public to submit to us at any time any new information relevant to the status of the subspecies or its habitat. DATES: The finding in this document was made on November 8, 2019. ADDRESSES: A detailed description of the basis for this finding is available on the internet at http:// www.regulations.gov under docket number FWS–R8–ES–2015–0139. Supporting information used to prepare this finding is available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, by contacting the person specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Please submit any new information, materials, comments, or questions concerning this finding to the person specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Josh Hull, telephone: 916–414–6742, email: josh_hull@fws.gov. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Background Under section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), we are required to make a finding whether or not a petitioned action is warranted within 12 months after receiving any petition for which we have determined contained substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Nov 07, 2019 Jkt 250001 (‘‘12-month finding’’). We must make a finding that the petitioned action is: (1) Not warranted; (2) warranted; or (3) warranted but precluded. ‘‘Warranted but precluded’’ means that (a) the petitioned action is warranted, but the immediate proposal of a regulation implementing the petitioned action is precluded by other pending proposals to determine whether species are endangered or threatened species, and (b) expeditious progress is being made to add qualified species to the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants (Lists) and to remove from the Lists species for which the protections of the Act are no longer necessary. Section 4(b)(3)(C) of the Act requires that we treat a petition for which the requested action is found to be warranted but precluded as though resubmitted on the date of such finding, that is, requiring that a subsequent finding be made within 12 months of that date. We must publish these 12month findings in the Federal Register. Summary of Information Pertaining to the Five Factors Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and the implementing regulations at part 424 of title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR part 424) set forth procedures for adding species to, removing species from, or reclassifying species on the Lists. The Act defines ‘‘endangered species’’ as any species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 1532(6)), and ‘‘threatened species’’ as any species that is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 1532(20)). Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, a species may be determined to be an endangered species or a threatened species because of any of the following five factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) Disease or predation; (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. In considering whether a species may meet the definition of an endangered species or a threatened species because of any of the five factors, we must look beyond the mere exposure of the species to the threat to determine whether the species responds to the threat in a way that causes actual impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a threat, PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 60371 but no response, or only a positive response, that threat does not cause a species to meet the definition of an endangered species or a threatened species. If there is exposure and the species responds negatively, we determine whether that threat drives or contributes to the risk of extinction of the species such that the species warrants listing as an endangered or threatened species. The mere identification of threats that could affect a species negatively is not sufficient to compel a finding that listing is or remains warranted. For a species to be listed or remain listed, we require evidence that these threats are operative threats to the species and its habitat, either singly or in combination, to the point that the species meets the definition of an endangered or a threatened species under the Act. In conducting our evaluation of the five factors provided in section 4(a)(1) of the Act to determine whether the California spotted owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) meets the definition of ‘‘endangered species’’ or ‘‘threatened species,’’ we considered and thoroughly evaluated the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, present, and future threats. We reviewed the petition, information available in our files, and other available published and unpublished information. This evaluation may include information from recognized experts; Federal, State, and tribal governments; academic institutions; foreign governments; private entities; and other members of the public. The species assessment for the California spotted owl contains more detailed biological information, a thorough analysis of the listing factors, and an explanation of why we determined that this subspecies does not meet the definition of an endangered species or a threatened species. This supporting information can be found on the internet at http:// www.regulations.gov under docket number FWS–R8–ES–2015–0139. The following is an informational summary of the finding in this document. Previous Federal Actions For a detailed history of prior petitions, listing actions, and litigation, please see the 12-month finding published on May 24, 2006 (71 FR 29886). Subsequent to that finding, the Service was petitioned twice to list the California spotted owl as endangered or threatened with critical habitat under the Act. The first petition was submitted in December 2014, by the Wild Nature Institute and John Muir Project of Earth E:\FR\FM\08NOP1.SGM 08NOP1 60372 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 217 / Friday, November 8, 2019 / Proposed Rules khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Island Institute, and the second was submitted in August 2015, by Sierra Forest Legacy and Defenders of Wildlife. On September 18, 2015, the Service published a 90-day finding (80 FR 56423) that the petitions presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing may be warranted for the California spotted owl. On March 16, 2016, the Center for Biological Diversity challenged the Service’s failure to timely issue the 12month finding in response to the recent petitions (CBD v. Jewell, et al., No. 1:16– cv–00503–JDB (D.D.C.)). The parties entered into a settlement agreement whereby the Service committed to submit a 12-month finding on California spotted owl to the Federal Register by September 30, 2019. On May 2, 2019, the court extended the deadline until November 4, 2019, due to a previous lapse in appropriations that stopped all progress on the California spotted owl petition finding for a period of time. Summary of Finding The California spotted owl is a subspecies of spotted owl that occurs throughout the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California and Nevada; in southern and coastal California in the Coastal, Transverse, and Peninsular mountain ranges; and in Sierra San Pedro Martir in Baja California Norte, Mexico. In the Sierra Nevada range, a majority of California spotted owls occur within mid-elevation ponderosa pine, mixedconifer, white fir, and mixed-evergreen forest types, with fewer owls occurring in the lower elevation oak woodlands of the western foothills. On the central coast of California and in southern California, California spotted owls are found in riparian/hardwood forests and woodlands, live oak/big cone fir forests, and redwood/California laurel forests. California spotted owls primarily prey upon a variety of small- to mediumsized mammals, such as northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) and woodrats (Neotoma spp.). California spotted owls require multi-layered high canopy cover, large trees, coarse woody debris, forest heterogeneity, and nest trees within a patch size large enough to fulfill the needs of the owls and in a particular pattern across the landscape. We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the California spotted owl, and we evaluated all relevant considerations under the five VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:12 Nov 07, 2019 Jkt 250001 listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation measures addressing the identified threats. The primary threats affecting the California spotted owl’s status include large-scale, high-severity fire; increased tree mortality; drought; effects of climate change; and the invasion of barred owls into the California spotted owl’s range. Many of these threats, such as wildfire and increased tree mortality, have been acting on the landscape for several decades, yet over half of the Sierra Nevada portion of the range is in moderate or high condition, meaning that populations in those areas are currently likely to be able to persist through a catastrophic event, and the California spotted owl currently demonstrates high representation and moderate redundancy. While some threats such as drought, tree mortality, and effects of climate change cannot be addressed by conservation measures, existing conservation measures and regulatory mechanisms will help increase resiliency so that the subspecies can withstand future threats, particularly in the northern Sierra Nevada portion of the owl’s range. Specifically, measures described in the 2004 Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment, the 2005 Southern California National Forest Land Management Plans, and other conservation measures will continue to decrease the negative effects of clearcutting and mechanical thinning. They will benefit the California spotted owl by maintaining high canopy cover and large trees within owl territories. Further, increased mechanical thinning will help to reduce the risk of largescale high-severity fire on the landscape. Though these forest plans and conservation measures cannot fully remove the risk of large-scale highseverity fire, they are reducing the overall potential for wildfires to become the large-scale high-severity fires that are particularly detrimental to California spotted owl habitat. Additionally, the Barred Owl Removal Project is currently reducing the density of barred owls on the landscape. Continued removal of barred owls is expected to stem the expansion of barred owl further into the California spotted owl range. Though the conditions of California spotted owl habitat and populations are expected to decline in some areas, existing conservation measures and regulatory mechanisms are expected to continue and will reduce the effects of threats to the owl such that the PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 California spotted owl will retain sufficient redundancy, resiliency and representation to allow it to persist into the foreseeable future. Overall, the threats are not affecting the subspecies at such a level to cause it to be in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range or to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Therefore, we find that listing the California spotted owl as an endangered species or threatened species under the Act is not warranted. A detailed discussion of the basis for this finding can be found in the California spotted owl species assessment and other supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above). New Information We request that you submit any new information concerning the taxonomy of, biology of, ecology of, status of, or threats to the California spotted owl to the person specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, whenever it becomes available. New information will help us monitor this subspecies and make appropriate decisions about its conservation and status. We encourage local agencies and stakeholders to continue cooperative monitoring and conservation efforts. References Cited The list of the references cited in the petition finding is available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov under docket number FWS–R8–ES– 2015–0139 and upon request from the person specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Authors The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the Species Assessment Team, Ecological Services Program. Authority The authority for this action is section 4 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Dated: November 1, 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. 2019–24336 Filed 11–7–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P E:\FR\FM\08NOP1.SGM 08NOP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 217 (Friday, November 8, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 60371-60372]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-24336]



[[Page 60371]]

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2015-0139; 4500090022]


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
for the California Spotted Owl

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notification of 12-month finding.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
12-month finding on petitions to list the California spotted owl (Strix 
occidentalis occidentalis) as an endangered or threatened species under 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). After a thorough 
review of the best available scientific and commercial information, we 
find that it is not warranted at this time to list the California 
spotted owl. However, we ask the public to submit to us at any time any 
new information relevant to the status of the subspecies or its 
habitat.

DATES: The finding in this document was made on November 8, 2019.

ADDRESSES: A detailed description of the basis for this finding is 
available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov under docket 
number FWS-R8-ES-2015-0139.
    Supporting information used to prepare this finding is available 
for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, by 
contacting the person specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. 
Please submit any new information, materials, comments, or questions 
concerning this finding to the person specified under FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Josh Hull, telephone: 916-414-6742, 
email: [email protected]. If you use a telecommunications device for 
the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Under section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), we 
are required to make a finding whether or not a petitioned action is 
warranted within 12 months after receiving any petition for which we 
have determined contained substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted 
(``12-month finding''). We must make a finding that the petitioned 
action is: (1) Not warranted; (2) warranted; or (3) warranted but 
precluded. ``Warranted but precluded'' means that (a) the petitioned 
action is warranted, but the immediate proposal of a regulation 
implementing the petitioned action is precluded by other pending 
proposals to determine whether species are endangered or threatened 
species, and (b) expeditious progress is being made to add qualified 
species to the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants 
(Lists) and to remove from the Lists species for which the protections 
of the Act are no longer necessary. Section 4(b)(3)(C) of the Act 
requires that we treat a petition for which the requested action is 
found to be warranted but precluded as though resubmitted on the date 
of such finding, that is, requiring that a subsequent finding be made 
within 12 months of that date. We must publish these 12-month findings 
in the Federal Register.

Summary of Information Pertaining to the Five Factors

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and the implementing 
regulations at part 424 of title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations 
(50 CFR part 424) set forth procedures for adding species to, removing 
species from, or reclassifying species on the Lists. The Act defines 
``endangered species'' as any species that is in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 
1532(6)), and ``threatened species'' as any species that is likely to 
become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 1532(20)). Under 
section 4(a)(1) of the Act, a species may be determined to be an 
endangered species or a threatened species because of any of the 
following five factors:
    (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (C) Disease or predation;
    (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.
    In considering whether a species may meet the definition of an 
endangered species or a threatened species because of any of the five 
factors, we must look beyond the mere exposure of the species to the 
threat to determine whether the species responds to the threat in a way 
that causes actual impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a 
threat, but no response, or only a positive response, that threat does 
not cause a species to meet the definition of an endangered species or 
a threatened species. If there is exposure and the species responds 
negatively, we determine whether that threat drives or contributes to 
the risk of extinction of the species such that the species warrants 
listing as an endangered or threatened species. The mere identification 
of threats that could affect a species negatively is not sufficient to 
compel a finding that listing is or remains warranted. For a species to 
be listed or remain listed, we require evidence that these threats are 
operative threats to the species and its habitat, either singly or in 
combination, to the point that the species meets the definition of an 
endangered or a threatened species under the Act.
    In conducting our evaluation of the five factors provided in 
section 4(a)(1) of the Act to determine whether the California spotted 
owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) meets the definition of 
``endangered species'' or ``threatened species,'' we considered and 
thoroughly evaluated the best scientific and commercial information 
available regarding the past, present, and future threats. We reviewed 
the petition, information available in our files, and other available 
published and unpublished information. This evaluation may include 
information from recognized experts; Federal, State, and tribal 
governments; academic institutions; foreign governments; private 
entities; and other members of the public.
    The species assessment for the California spotted owl contains more 
detailed biological information, a thorough analysis of the listing 
factors, and an explanation of why we determined that this subspecies 
does not meet the definition of an endangered species or a threatened 
species. This supporting information can be found on the internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov under docket number FWS-R8-ES-2015-0139. The 
following is an informational summary of the finding in this document.

Previous Federal Actions

    For a detailed history of prior petitions, listing actions, and 
litigation, please see the 12-month finding published on May 24, 2006 
(71 FR 29886). Subsequent to that finding, the Service was petitioned 
twice to list the California spotted owl as endangered or threatened 
with critical habitat under the Act. The first petition was submitted 
in December 2014, by the Wild Nature Institute and John Muir Project of 
Earth

[[Page 60372]]

Island Institute, and the second was submitted in August 2015, by 
Sierra Forest Legacy and Defenders of Wildlife. On September 18, 2015, 
the Service published a 90-day finding (80 FR 56423) that the petitions 
presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating 
that listing may be warranted for the California spotted owl. On March 
16, 2016, the Center for Biological Diversity challenged the Service's 
failure to timely issue the 12-month finding in response to the recent 
petitions (CBD v. Jewell, et al., No. 1:16-cv-00503-JDB (D.D.C.)). The 
parties entered into a settlement agreement whereby the Service 
committed to submit a 12-month finding on California spotted owl to the 
Federal Register by September 30, 2019. On May 2, 2019, the court 
extended the deadline until November 4, 2019, due to a previous lapse 
in appropriations that stopped all progress on the California spotted 
owl petition finding for a period of time.

Summary of Finding

    The California spotted owl is a subspecies of spotted owl that 
occurs throughout the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California and 
Nevada; in southern and coastal California in the Coastal, Transverse, 
and Peninsular mountain ranges; and in Sierra San Pedro Martir in Baja 
California Norte, Mexico.
    In the Sierra Nevada range, a majority of California spotted owls 
occur within mid-elevation ponderosa pine, mixed-conifer, white fir, 
and mixed-evergreen forest types, with fewer owls occurring in the 
lower elevation oak woodlands of the western foothills. On the central 
coast of California and in southern California, California spotted owls 
are found in riparian/hardwood forests and woodlands, live oak/big cone 
fir forests, and redwood/California laurel forests. California spotted 
owls primarily prey upon a variety of small- to medium-sized mammals, 
such as northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) and woodrats 
(Neotoma spp.). California spotted owls require multi-layered high 
canopy cover, large trees, coarse woody debris, forest heterogeneity, 
and nest trees within a patch size large enough to fulfill the needs of 
the owls and in a particular pattern across the landscape.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
to the California spotted owl, and we evaluated all relevant 
considerations under the five listing factors, including any regulatory 
mechanisms and conservation measures addressing the identified threats. 
The primary threats affecting the California spotted owl's status 
include large-scale, high-severity fire; increased tree mortality; 
drought; effects of climate change; and the invasion of barred owls 
into the California spotted owl's range. Many of these threats, such as 
wildfire and increased tree mortality, have been acting on the 
landscape for several decades, yet over half of the Sierra Nevada 
portion of the range is in moderate or high condition, meaning that 
populations in those areas are currently likely to be able to persist 
through a catastrophic event, and the California spotted owl currently 
demonstrates high representation and moderate redundancy.
    While some threats such as drought, tree mortality, and effects of 
climate change cannot be addressed by conservation measures, existing 
conservation measures and regulatory mechanisms will help increase 
resiliency so that the subspecies can withstand future threats, 
particularly in the northern Sierra Nevada portion of the owl's range. 
Specifically, measures described in the 2004 Sierra Nevada Forest Plan 
Amendment, the 2005 Southern California National Forest Land Management 
Plans, and other conservation measures will continue to decrease the 
negative effects of clearcutting and mechanical thinning. They will 
benefit the California spotted owl by maintaining high canopy cover and 
large trees within owl territories. Further, increased mechanical 
thinning will help to reduce the risk of large-scale high-severity fire 
on the landscape. Though these forest plans and conservation measures 
cannot fully remove the risk of large-scale high-severity fire, they 
are reducing the overall potential for wildfires to become the large-
scale high-severity fires that are particularly detrimental to 
California spotted owl habitat. Additionally, the Barred Owl Removal 
Project is currently reducing the density of barred owls on the 
landscape. Continued removal of barred owls is expected to stem the 
expansion of barred owl further into the California spotted owl range.
    Though the conditions of California spotted owl habitat and 
populations are expected to decline in some areas, existing 
conservation measures and regulatory mechanisms are expected to 
continue and will reduce the effects of threats to the owl such that 
the California spotted owl will retain sufficient redundancy, 
resiliency and representation to allow it to persist into the 
foreseeable future. Overall, the threats are not affecting the 
subspecies at such a level to cause it to be in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range or to become an 
endangered species in the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range.
    Therefore, we find that listing the California spotted owl as an 
endangered species or threatened species under the Act is not 
warranted. A detailed discussion of the basis for this finding can be 
found in the California spotted owl species assessment and other 
supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above).

New Information

    We request that you submit any new information concerning the 
taxonomy of, biology of, ecology of, status of, or threats to the 
California spotted owl to the person specified under FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT, whenever it becomes available. New information 
will help us monitor this subspecies and make appropriate decisions 
about its conservation and status. We encourage local agencies and 
stakeholders to continue cooperative monitoring and conservation 
efforts.

References Cited

    The list of the references cited in the petition finding is 
available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov under docket 
number FWS-R8-ES-2015-0139 and upon request from the person specified 
under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

Authors

    The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the 
Species Assessment Team, Ecological Services Program.

Authority

    The authority for this action is section 4 of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: November 1, 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. 2019-24336 Filed 11-7-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4333-15-P