Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Five Species Not Warranted for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species, 69707-69712 [2019-27334]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 244 / Thursday, December 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules • Have we organized the material to suit the public’s needs? • Are the requirements in the notice clearly stated? • Does the notice contain technical language or jargon that is not clear? • Would a different format (grouping and order of sections, use of headings, paragraphing) make the rule easier to understand? • Would more (but shorter) sections be better? • Could we improve clarity by adding tables, lists, or diagrams? If you have any responses to these questions, please include them in your comments on this proposal. k. Regulatory Identifier Number (RIN) The Department of Transportation assigns a regulation identifier number (RIN) to each regulatory action listed in the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations. The Regulatory Information Service Center publishes the Unified Agenda in April and October of each year. You may use the RIN contained in the heading at the beginning of this Issued in Washington, DC, under authority delegated in 49 CFR part 1.95 and 501.5. James Clayton Owens, Acting Administrator. [FR Doc. 2019–27209 Filed 12–18–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–59–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [4500090022] Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Five Species Not Warranted for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of findings. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce 12- SUMMARY: month findings on petitions to list three species as endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) and two additional findings that current candidate species no longer warrant listing. After a thorough review of the best scientific and commercial data available, we find that it is not warranted at this time to list the Ozark chub, purpledisk honeycombhead, red tree vole (North Oregon Coast distinct population segment (DPS)), sand verbena moth, and skiff milkvetch. However, we ask the public to submit to us at any time any new information relevant to the status of any of the species mentioned above or their habitats. The findings in this document were made on December 19, 2019. DATES: Detailed descriptions of the basis for each of these findings are available on the internet at http:// www.regulations.gov under the following docket numbers: ADDRESSES: Species Docket No. Ozark chub ........................................................................................................................................................................ Purpledisk honeycombhead .............................................................................................................................................. Red tree vole (North Oregon Coast DPS) ........................................................................................................................ Sand verbena moth ........................................................................................................................................................... Skiff milkvetch ................................................................................................................................................................... FWS–R4–ES–2019–0094 FWS–R4–ES–2019–0095 FWS–R1–ES–2019–0096 FWS–R1–ES–2010–0096 FWS–R6–ES–2019–0097 Supporting information used to prepare these findings is available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, by contacting the appropriate person, as specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Please submit any new information, materials, comments, or questions concerning these findings to the appropriate person, as specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Species Contact Information Ozark chub ......................................... Purpledisk honeycombhead ............... Red tree vole ...................................... Sand verbena moth ............................ Skiff milkvetch ..................................... Melvin Tobin, Supervisor, Arkansas Ecological Services Field Office, 501–513–4473. Tom McCoy, Field Supervisor, South Carolina Ecological Services Field Office, 843–727–4707, ext. 227. Paul Henson, State Supervisor, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, 503–231–6179. Brad Thompson, Acting State Supervisor, Washington Office of Fish and Wildlife, 360–753–9440. Ann Timberman, Field Supervisor, Western Colorado Ecological Services Office, 970–628–7181. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS document to find this action in the Unified Agenda. 69707 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 that we have determined contains substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted (‘‘12-month finding’’). We must make a VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:58 Dec 18, 2019 Jkt 250001 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 PO 00000 Frm 00068 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 necessary. Section 4(b)(3)(C) of the Act requires that, when we find that a petitioned action is warranted but precluded, we treat the petition 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 E:\FR\FM\19DEP1.SGM 19DEP1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS 69708 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 244 / Thursday, December 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules 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 stressor to determine whether the species responds to the stressor in a way that causes actual impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a stressor, but no response, or only a positive response, that stressor 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 stressor 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 stressors 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 stressors are operative threats to the species or 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 Ozark chub (Erimystax harryi), purpledisk honeycombhead (Balduina atropurpurea), North Oregon Coast DPS of red tree vole (Arborimus longicaudus), sand verbena moth (Copablepharon fuscum), and skiff milkvetch (Astragalus microcymbus) VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:58 Dec 18, 2019 Jkt 250001 meet the definition of ‘‘endangered species’’ or ‘‘threatened species,’’ we considered and thoroughly evaluated the best scientific and commercial data available regarding the past, present, and future stressors and threats. We reviewed the petitions, information available in our files, and other available published and unpublished information. These evaluations 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 assessments for the Ozark chub, purpledisk honeycombhead, North Oregon Coast DPS of red tree vole, sand verbena moth, and skiff milkvetch contain more-detailed biological information, a thorough analysis of the listing factors, and an explanation of why we determined that these species do 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 the appropriate docket number (see ADDRESSES, above). The following are informational summaries for each of the findings in this document. Ozark Chub Previous Federal Actions On April 20, 2010, we received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Alabama Rivers Alliance, Clinch Coalition, Dogwood Alliance, Gulf Restoration Network, Tennessee Forests Council, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Tierra Curry, and Noah Greenwald (referred to below as the CBD petition) to list 404 aquatic, riparian, and wetland species, including the Ozark chub, from the southeastern United States as endangered or threatened species under the Act. On September 27, 2011, we published in the Federal Register (76 FR 59836) a 90-day finding in which we announced that the petition contained substantial information indicating listing may be warranted for the Ozark chub. This document constitutes our 12month finding on the April 20, 2010, petition to list the Ozark chub under the Act. Summary of Finding The Ozark chub is a small, slender, freshwater fish in the minnow family, Cyprinidae, found in the White River basin in Arkansas and Missouri and the upper St. Francis River Basin in Missouri. Adult Ozark chubs most frequently occur in runs and riffles approximately 45–60 centimeters deep PO 00000 Frm 00069 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 over gravel, habitat directly below riffles, or shallow pools with noticeable current. Young individuals occupy backwater and shoreline or side channel habitats with low velocity, such as the shallow marginal areas of pool headwaters. Spawning occurs in April and May, with eggs deposited in clean gravel substrate. The average life span for females is about 3.5 years, whereas most males survive a little more than 2 years. Ozark chubs feed primarily on or near the stream bottom, consuming detritus composed of diatomaceous algae and bacteria in the winter, adding drifting algae and plant matter to their diet in the other seasons. Invertebrate insects, likely ingested incidentally, make up a much smaller portion (less than 10 percent) of the diet. We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the Ozark chub, and we evaluated all relevant factors under the five listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation measures addressing these stressors. The primary stressors affecting the Ozark chub’s biological status include large dams and their impoundments, and water quality impairment, including sedimentation. Altered natural flow in the impoundments formed by dams and in the tailwaters below dams has made habitat unsuitable in several stream and river segments historically occupied by Ozark chubs, and has fragmented populations. Water quality is impaired in some stream reaches within each watershed currently occupied by the chub. Predominant sources of water quality impairment are agriculture, forestry, mining, and urban development. While threats have acted on the species to reduce available habitat, the Ozark chub persists in 22 of 23 historically occupied watersheds, and the breadth of the species’ range has not changed. A majority of the range is rural, and large increases in urbanization are not anticipated, nor are any additional large high-head dams likely to be constructed. Many of the water-quality problems affecting the species currently are the legacy of past land-use practices that no longer or rarely occur. Currently 3, 14, and 5 of the occupied watersheds contain populations in high, moderate, and low condition, respectively. Based on current trends in population growth and land development, no extirpations are predicted. In addition, State-designated special use waters and Federal lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service—including 135 E:\FR\FM\19DEP1.SGM 19DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 244 / Thursday, December 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules miles of the Buffalo River, which harbors a high-condition population— will continue to protect large areas of the species’ habitat. Therefore, we find that listing the Ozark chub 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 Ozark chub species assessment and other supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above). Purpledisk Honeycombhead Previous Federal Actions On April 20, 2010, we received the CBD petition to list 404 aquatic, riparian, and wetland species, including purpledisk honeycombhead, from the southeastern United States as endangered or threatened species under the Act. On September 27, 2011, we published in the Federal Register (76 FR 59836) a 90-day finding in which we announced that the petition contained substantial information indicating listing may be warranted for purpledisk honeycombhead. This document constitutes our 12-month finding on the April 20, 2010, petition to list purpledisk honeycombhead under the Act. lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS Summary of Finding Purpledisk honeycombhead is a perennial herb found in pine savanna and flatwood ecosystems of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and (historically) Alabama. It is distinguished from other species in the genus by its dark purple disk flowers. Purpledisk honeycombhead occurs in a variety of habitat types where moisture and light are conducive for growth throughout the pine savanna and flatwood ecosystem. Large-scale or small-scale disturbance caused primarily by fire has shaped and characterized the wet pine savannas, seepage slopes, and pitcherplant bogs of the southeastern Coastal Plain where purpledisk honeycombhead occurs. Of the 79 purpledisk honeycombhead populations, 38 remain extant across the historical range. Currently, purpledisk honeycombhead is extant in Bladen County in North Carolina; Richland County in South Carolina; Ben Hill, Charlton, Coffee, Colquitt, Cook, Evans, Irwin, Jeff Davis, Jenkins, Liberty, Tattnall, Long, Toombs, Turner, and Worth Counties in Georgia; and Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties in Florida. We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data available regarding the past, present, and future threats to purpledisk honeycombhead, and we evaluated all relevant factors VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:58 Dec 18, 2019 Jkt 250001 under the five listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation measures addressing these stressors. The primary stressors affecting purpledisk honeycombhead’s biological status are habitat-based: Habitat loss due to development or land conversion (e.g., agriculture, pine plantations, etc.) and habitat degradation due to fire suppression. Across purpledisk honeycombhead’s range, the transition zone between longleaf pine uplands and aquatic wetlands has been heavily affected by habitat destruction and modification. Large tracts of land, containing both uplands and aquatic wetlands, are needed to protect these transitions zones. Further, purpledisk honeycombhead and its habitat requires frequent fire prescription to maintain the open conditions in these mesic transition zones to abate woody encroachment and facilitate nutrient releases. Other potential factors influencing the viability of purpledisk honeycombhead include nonnative, invasive species (i.e., feral hogs) and climate change. However, land management (prescribed fire, mowing, and mechanical treatment of woody vegetation) occurring on protected lands and some private lands is beneficial to purpledisk honeycombhead by maintaining suitable habitat conditions, and most of the high- to moderateresiliency populations occur on protected lands with active management. Impacts from habitat destruction and modification and fire suppression do not appear to be affecting high- or moderate-resiliency purpledisk honeycombhead populations. In the foreseeable future, purpledisk honeycombhead is predicted to have a core of high- and moderate-resiliency populations within three representative units on lands (including protected lands) on which management provides suitable habitat for the species. In addition, management on protected lands is predicted to continue providing a core of relatively secure populations such that the species will not become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future. Therefore, we find that listing purpledisk honeycombhead 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 purpledisk honeycombhead species assessment and other supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above). PO 00000 Frm 00070 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 69709 Red Tree Vole (North Oregon Coast DPS) Previous Federal Actions On June 18, 2007 we received a petition from Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, Audubon Society of Portland, Cascadia Wildlands Project, and OregonWild to list the north Oregon coast Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the red tree vole as endangered or threatened under the Act. On October 28, 2008, we published a 90-day finding in the Federal Register (73 FR 63919) concluding that the petition presented substantial information indicating that listing the north Oregon coast DPS of the red tree vole may be warranted. On October 13, 2011, we published in the Federal Register (76 FR 63720) a 12month finding in which we stated that listing the north Oregon coast population of the red tree vole as a DPS was warranted primarily due to habitat loss. However, listing was precluded at that time by higher priority actions, and the DPS of the red tree vole was added to the candidate species lists. From 2012 through 2016, we addressed the status of the north Oregon coast DPS of the red tree vole annually in our candidate notice of review, with the determination that listing was warranted but precluded (see 77 FR 69994, November 21, 2012; 78 FR 70104, November 22, 2013; 79 FR 72450, December 5, 2014; 80 FR 80584, December 24, 2015; 81 FR 87246, December 2, 2016). Summary of Finding Red tree voles are small, mouse-sized, arboreal rodents that live in conifer forests. They spend almost all of their time in the tree canopy; if they do come to the ground, it is typically only to move quickly between trees. The north Oregon coast population of the red tree vole is found in the conifer forests of the following counties in Oregon: Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook, Washington, Yamhill, Polk, Lincoln, Benton, and Lane. Their principal food is conifer needles, predominantly Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) but also western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla); they are one of the few animals to persist on this diet. The needs of individual red tree voles are met in conifer forest stands with: (1) Connected tree canopies to facilitate foraging and dispersal, and to minimize time on the ground that may increase predation risk; (2) available structures to support nests; and (3) structural complexity and taller trees that likely reduce visibility and vulnerability to predators. These features are more common in older forests (greater than 80 years old). E:\FR\FM\19DEP1.SGM 19DEP1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS 69710 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 244 / Thursday, December 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data regarding the past, present, and future threats to the north Oregon coast population of the red tree vole, and we evaluated all relevant factors under the five listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation measures addressing these stressors. Since the development of our 2016 CNOR, tree vole habitat was modeled across the DPS, and we were able to use that spatial data to more robustly assess existing habitat conditions, population resiliency, and associated future trends in a way that had been previously unattainable. Specifically, the spatial habitat layer allowed us to consider distribution of habitat and model clusters of occupied habitat to serve as proxies for red tree vole subpopulations or management units on which to do an analysis of resiliency, redundancy, and representation for the status assessment. This modeling indicated that 26 percent of the DPS area was suitable habitat, as compared to the 11 percent that the model we used in our previous status reviews had predicted. By projecting habitat trends in future scenarios, we developed a more informed picture of the future than had been available for the 2016 CNOR. The primary stressors affecting the north Oregon coast population of the red tree vole include habitat loss and fragmentation due to timber harvest and wildfire. Despite impacts from these stressors and some observed decline in abundance, the red tree vole in this area has maintained resilient populations over time, primarily in the two large habitat clusters under Federal management, the Nestucca Block and South Block. Although we predict some continued impacts from these stressors in the future, we anticipate these two large habitat clusters will continue to maintain resiliency and provide redundancy across a large portion of the DPS. Furthermore, it is reasonable to expect the Tillamook State Forest and Kilchis River clusters to increase and expand their areas based on habitat succession in the adjoining landscape. A portion of the State Forest land adjoining these two clusters will likely mature into red tree vole habitat (80 years old or older) over the coming years, thereby increasing the footprint of these two clusters, and even connecting them. With respect to future representation of the red tree vole, the two large habitat clusters will continue to maintain both the Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and western hemlock (Tsuga VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:58 Dec 18, 2019 Jkt 250001 heterophylla) vegetation zones even in light of climate change. For these reasons, we find that these stressors do not, alone or in combination, rise to a level that causes the north Oregon coast population of the red tree vole to meet the definition of an endangered species or a threatened species. Therefore, we find that listing the north Oregon coast DPS of the red tree vole as an endangered species or threatened species is not warranted. A detailed discussion of the basis for this finding can be found in the species assessment forms for the north Oregon coast population of the red tree vole and in other supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above). Sand Verbena Moth Previous Federal Actions On February 17, 2010, we received a petition, dated February 4, 2010, from WildEarth Guardians and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation requesting that the sand verbena moth be listed as endangered or threatened throughout its entire range. On February 17, 2011, we published in the Federal Register (76 FR 9309) a 90-day finding that the petition presented substantial information indicating that listing the sand verbena moth may be warranted. This document constitutes our 12month finding on the February 4, 2010, petition to list the sand verbena moth under the Act. Summary of Finding The sand verbena moth (Copablepharon fuscum) belongs to the second-largest family of the owlet moths (Noctuidae). It is a nocturnal moth that has a short flight period from mid-May to early July. Over the last 20 years, it has been detected at 11 sites: 5 in Canada and 6 in the State of Washington. Our status analysis indicated that six of these sites may currently support populations and are located in low-lying nearshore areas around the Salish Sea; three of these are in Canada on Vancouver Island, and three are in Washington in areas around the Puget Sound. These six sites (and 10 of the 11 total detection sites) occur in the rain shadows of the Coast Mountains on Vancouver Island or the Olympic Mountains in Washington. We do not have enough information to determine if the remaining five sites currently support populations of sand verbena moth. Like all species of Copablepharon, the sand verbena moth occurs in light sandy soils, and most are restricted to active dunes. However, the sand verbena moth is unique in the genus in that it PO 00000 Frm 00071 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 completes its entire life cycle on and around the yellow sand verbena plant (Abronia latifolia). The moth has an obligate mutualistic relationship with yellow sand verbena (i.e., the moth feeds on the plant during immature stages and provides pollination services in its adult phase). To the best of our understanding, the ecological needs of the sand verbena moth include the following features: Flowering patches of yellow sand verbena with total leaf cover greater than 400 to 500 square meters (0.04 to 0.05 hectares, or 0.10 to 0.12 acres), greater than 25 percent leaf cover of total area, and high flower production from May through July; loose, well-drained, sandy soil away from the tidal inundation zone; and climate associations for yellow sand verbena that support the sand verbena moth, such as 30-year normal precipitation of less than 1,950 millimeters (77 inches) and 30-year normal temperature greater than 7.47 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit). We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the sand verbena moth, and we evaluated all relevant factors under the five listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation measures addressing stressors to the species. The primary stressors affecting the sand verbena moth’s biological status include the effects of current and future habitat loss, modification, and fragmentation (Factor A) from erosion, inundation, recreation, development, and invasive species. Habitat appears to be exposed to stressors at all sites. Based on the available data, we cannot determine whether there is a declining or increasing population trend at the sites that may currently support populations, or whether the range of the species has contracted or expanded. Although there is no information on the average or maximum dispersal distance of the sand verbena moth, the species may possess the potential for long-distance dispersal capacity, and therefore may be able to colonize patches of yellow sand verbena that are separated by great distances. Projections show that sea-level rise and storms may lead to an increase in inundation events, potentially affecting the low-lying sites where the species has been detected. While these projections may appear concerning, there is much uncertainty with regard to the response of the sand verbena moth over time to changes in habitat, including inundation events. The beach dune system that supports yellow sand verbena is naturally dynamic with regular erosion and accretion, and it E:\FR\FM\19DEP1.SGM 19DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 244 / Thursday, December 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules remains unknown whether that dynamic quality will allow the system to adapt and integrate future local disturbance events due to the effects of climate change. For example, future local disturbances could cause the loss of sand verbena moth and its habitat at detection sites, or they could instead lead to a slow shift in the species’ distribution over time or the creation of new habitat due to accretion. The best scientific and commercial data available appear to point towards adaptation and integration because in the years since we received the petition to list the species in 2010, additional sites with positive detections of the moth have been discovered. In addition, although the species does not appear to be abundant, the sand verbena moth’s distribution across a relatively large area (for a narrow endemic) makes it possible for the species to maintain viability in the midst of local disturbance events. Therefore, we find that listing the sand verbena moth 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 sand verbena moth species assessment and other supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above). Skiff Milkvetch lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS Previous Federal Actions On July 30, 2007, we received a petition dated July 24, 2007, from Forest Guardians (now WildEarth Guardians) requesting that 206 species that occur in our Mountain Prairie Region be listed as either endangered or threatened under the Act, including skiff milkvetch. On August 18, 2009, we published a partial 90-day finding in the Federal Register (74 FR 41649) concluding that the petition presented substantial information indicating that listing the skiff milkvetch may be warranted. On December 15, 2010, we published a 12month finding in the Federal Register (75 FR 78514) in which we stated that listing skiff milkvetch as endangered or threatened was warranted primarily due to threats from off-road vehicle use and drought. However, listing was precluded at that time by higher-priority actions, and the species was added to the candidate species list. From 2011 through 2016, we addressed the status of skiff milkvetch annually in our candidate notice of review, with the determination that listing was warranted but precluded (see 76 FR 66370, October 26, 2011; 77 FR 69994, November 21, 2012; 78 FR 70104, November 22, 2013; 79 FR 72450, December 5, 2014; 80 FR 80584, VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:58 Dec 18, 2019 Jkt 250001 December 24, 2015; 81 FR 87246, December 2, 2016). Summary of Finding Skiff milkvetch is a narrow endemic perennial plant known to occur only in Gunnison and Saguache Counties in Colorado. The species occurs primarily on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), but also is found on small amounts of private land in the sagebrush steppe ecosystem. Skiff milkvetch habitat occupies approximately 310 acres (125 hectares). The majority of skiff milkvetch individuals are found along the South Beaver Creek drainage, containing approximately 93 percent of the species’ known range; approximately 7 percent is found along the Cebolla Creek drainage. The South Beaver Creek subpopulations are located within an area designated as the South Beaver Creek Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) that is managed by the BLM. Skiff milkvetch plants emerge in early spring and usually begin to flower from mid- to late May, into October. Skiff milkvetch is known to reproduce via mast seeding events (e.g., the production of many seeds by a plant every 2 or more years in regional synchrony with other plants of the same species), which are related to environmental conditions such as precipitation. The majority of individuals live 2 to 3 years; however, some individuals can exhibit whole plant dormancy, allowing them to live beyond 20 years. Annual population monitoring for skiff milkvetch on BLMmanaged lands since 1995 indicates that skiff milkvetch is stable in overall population size over the long term. Despite statistically significant shortterm population declines that have been documented during periods of drought, the species has been known to increase in abundance after periods of increased precipitation. We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data available regarding the past, present, and future threats to skiff milkvetch (including reevaluating stressors considered in previous Federal decisions and CNORs using updated data and analysis), and we evaluated all relevant factors under the five listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation measures addressing these stressors. The primary stressors affecting skiff milkvetch’s biological status include periodic drought and climate change. Other stressors were only found to be having effects on individuals or local areas, or their impacts were not as great as previously thought. We found PO 00000 Frm 00072 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 69711 that the species’ current viability is characterized by persistence on the landscape as a narrow endemic species with a stable population size over the long term, a lack of stressors other than drought and climate change, and protections in place on BLM lands. These protections cover approximately 80 percent of the species’ range, and include the South Beaver Creek ACEC, which was designated to protect skiff milkvetch, and designation of a State natural area. Seasonal dormancy may also provide protection from environmental change, as evidenced by recovery of individuals with aboveground growth after recent population declines. Given the levels of resiliency currently present in each analysis unit, the stability of the population over the long term, protections in place, and the life-history characteristics of the species, we believe skiff milkvetch currently has sufficient ability to withstand stochastic and catastrophic events and adapt to changes. Looking into the foreseeable future, we anticipate that, overall, the persistence of the species within the large Beaver Creek analysis unit combined with the ability to withstand drought through seasonal dormancy provide the species with sufficient levels of resiliency to future stochastic events through 2050. Despite the projected loss of some smaller subpopulations, we anticipate the species will still have multiple subpopulations across its narrow range, such that it will still have limited but sufficient ability to withstand catastrophic events and to adapt to changing conditions. Therefore, we find that listing the skiff milkvetch 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 skiff milkvetch 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 stressors to the Ozark chub, purpledisk honeycombhead, North Oregon Coast DPS of red tree vole, sand verbena moth, and skiff milkvetch to the appropriate person, as specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, whenever it becomes available. New information will help us monitor these species and make appropriate decisions about their conservation and status. We encourage local agencies and stakeholders to continue cooperative monitoring and conservation efforts. E:\FR\FM\19DEP1.SGM 19DEP1 69712 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 244 / Thursday, December 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules References Cited Lists of the references cited in the petition findings are available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov in the dockets provided above in ADDRESSES and upon request from the appropriate person, as 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: December 10, 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. 2019–27334 Filed 12–18–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2018–0105; 4500030113] RIN 1018–BD85 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Species Status for West Coast Distinct Population Segment of Fisher With Section 4(d) Rule Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Revised proposed rule; reopening of public comment period. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), recently published a document proposing changes to our October 7, 2014, proposed rule to list the West Coast distinct population segment (DPS) of fisher (Pekania pennanti) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (Act) and proposing a rule issued under section 4(d) of the Act for this DPS. We announced the opening of a 30-day public comment period on the revised proposed rule, ending December 9, 2019. We now reopen the public comment period for an additional 15 days, to allow all interested parties more time to comment on the revised proposed rule. Comments previously lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:58 Dec 18, 2019 Jkt 250001 submitted need not be resubmitted and will be fully considered in preparation of the final determination. DATES: The public comment period on the revised proposed rule that published November 7, 2019, at 84 FR 60278, is reopened. We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before January 3, 2020. Please note that if you are using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES, below), the deadline for submitting an electronic comment is 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on this date. ADDRESSES: 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–R8–ES–2018–0105, which is the docket number for the action. 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 Rule box to locate the correct document. You may submit a comment by clicking on ‘‘Comment Now!’’ Please ensure that you have found the correct rulemaking before submitting your comment. (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS–R8– ES–2018–0105, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: JAO/1N, 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: The revised proposed rule is available on http:// www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2018–0105 and on our website at https://www.fws.gov/Yreka. Comments and materials we received during a previous comment period, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing the preceding proposed rule, are also available for public inspection at Docket No. FWS– R8–ES–2014–0041. In addition, the supporting files for the revised proposed rule will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at our Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office, 1829 South Oregon Street, Yreka, CA 96097; telephone 530–842–5763. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jenny Ericson, Field Supervisor, Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office, telephone: 530–842–5763. Direct all questions or PO 00000 Frm 00073 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 requests for additional information to: WEST COAST DPS FISHER QUESTIONS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office, 1829 South Oregon Street, Yreka, CA 96097. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf may call the Federal Relay Service at 1– 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background On November 7, 2019, we published in the Federal Register (84 FR 60278) a document that proposed: (1) Changes to our October 7, 2014, proposed rule (79 FR 60419) to list the West Coast DPS of fisher as a threatened species under the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); and (2) a rule issued under section 4(d) of the Act for this DPS. The November 7, 2019, Federal Register publication (84 FR 60278) opened a 30-day public comment period, ending December 9, 2019. The Service now reopens the comment period as specified above in DATES. See the November 7, 2019, Federal Register publication (84 FR 60278) for more information about previous Federal actions concerning this DPS. Public Comments We will accept comments and information during this reopened comment period on our November 7, 2019, revised proposed rule (84 FR 60278). We will consider information and recommendations from all interested parties. We intend that any final action resulting from the proposal will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and will be as accurate and as effective as possible. Our final determination will take into consideration all comments and any additional information we receive during the comment period. Therefore, the final decision may differ from the November 7, 2019, revised proposed rule (84 FR 60278), based on our review of all information we receive during this rulemaking. Comments previously submitted need not be resubmitted and will be fully considered in preparation of the final determination. Comments should be as specific as possible. 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 assert. Please note that submissions merely stating support for, or opposition to, the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not meet the standard of best available scientific and commercial data. Section E:\FR\FM\19DEP1.SGM 19DEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 244 (Thursday, December 19, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 69707-69712]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-27334]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[4500090022]


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Five Species Not 
Warranted for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of findings.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce 12-
month findings on petitions to list three species as endangered or 
threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act) and two additional findings that current candidate species no 
longer warrant listing. After a thorough review of the best scientific 
and commercial data available, we find that it is not warranted at this 
time to list the Ozark chub, purpledisk honeycombhead, red tree vole 
(North Oregon Coast distinct population segment (DPS)), sand verbena 
moth, and skiff milkvetch. However, we ask the public to submit to us 
at any time any new information relevant to the status of any of the 
species mentioned above or their habitats.

DATES: The findings in this document were made on December 19, 2019.

ADDRESSES: Detailed descriptions of the basis for each of these 
findings are available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov 
under the following docket numbers:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Species                            Docket No.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ozark chub........................  FWS-R4-ES-2019-0094
Purpledisk honeycombhead..........  FWS-R4-ES-2019-0095
Red tree vole (North Oregon Coast   FWS-R1-ES-2019-0096
 DPS).
Sand verbena moth.................  FWS-R1-ES-2010-0096
Skiff milkvetch...................  FWS-R6-ES-2019-0097
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Supporting information used to prepare these findings is available 
for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, by 
contacting the appropriate person, as specified under FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT. Please submit any new information, materials, 
comments, or questions concerning these findings to the appropriate 
person, as specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: 

------------------------------------------------------------------------
           Species                        Contact Information
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ozark chub...................  Melvin Tobin, Supervisor, Arkansas
                                Ecological Services Field Office, 501-
                                513-4473.
Purpledisk honeycombhead.....  Tom McCoy, Field Supervisor, South
                                Carolina Ecological Services Field
                                Office, 843-727-4707, ext. 227.
Red tree vole................  Paul Henson, State Supervisor, Oregon
                                Fish and Wildlife Office, 503-231-6179.
Sand verbena moth............  Brad Thompson, Acting State Supervisor,
                                Washington Office of Fish and Wildlife,
                                360-753-9440.
Skiff milkvetch..............  Ann Timberman, Field Supervisor, Western
                                Colorado Ecological Services Office, 970-
                                628-7181.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    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 that we have 
determined contains 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, when 
we find that a petitioned action is warranted but precluded, we treat 
the petition 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

[[Page 69708]]

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 
stressor to determine whether the species responds to the stressor in a 
way that causes actual impacts to the species. If there is exposure to 
a stressor, but no response, or only a positive response, that stressor 
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 stressor 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 stressors 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 stressors are operative threats to the species or 
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 Ozark chub 
(Erimystax harryi), purpledisk honeycombhead (Balduina atropurpurea), 
North Oregon Coast DPS of red tree vole (Arborimus longicaudus), sand 
verbena moth (Copablepharon fuscum), and skiff milkvetch (Astragalus 
microcymbus) meet the definition of ``endangered species'' or 
``threatened species,'' we considered and thoroughly evaluated the best 
scientific and commercial data available regarding the past, present, 
and future stressors and threats. We reviewed the petitions, 
information available in our files, and other available published and 
unpublished information. These evaluations 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 assessments for the Ozark chub, purpledisk 
honeycombhead, North Oregon Coast DPS of red tree vole, sand verbena 
moth, and skiff milkvetch contain more-detailed biological information, 
a thorough analysis of the listing factors, and an explanation of why 
we determined that these species do 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 the 
appropriate docket number (see ADDRESSES, above). The following are 
informational summaries for each of the findings in this document.

Ozark Chub

Previous Federal Actions
    On April 20, 2010, we received a petition from the Center for 
Biological Diversity (CBD), Alabama Rivers Alliance, Clinch Coalition, 
Dogwood Alliance, Gulf Restoration Network, Tennessee Forests Council, 
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Tierra Curry, and Noah Greenwald 
(referred to below as the CBD petition) to list 404 aquatic, riparian, 
and wetland species, including the Ozark chub, from the southeastern 
United States as endangered or threatened species under the Act. On 
September 27, 2011, we published in the Federal Register (76 FR 59836) 
a 90-day finding in which we announced that the petition contained 
substantial information indicating listing may be warranted for the 
Ozark chub. This document constitutes our 12-month finding on the April 
20, 2010, petition to list the Ozark chub under the Act.
Summary of Finding
    The Ozark chub is a small, slender, freshwater fish in the minnow 
family, Cyprinidae, found in the White River basin in Arkansas and 
Missouri and the upper St. Francis River Basin in Missouri. Adult Ozark 
chubs most frequently occur in runs and riffles approximately 45-60 
centimeters deep over gravel, habitat directly below riffles, or 
shallow pools with noticeable current. Young individuals occupy 
backwater and shoreline or side channel habitats with low velocity, 
such as the shallow marginal areas of pool headwaters. Spawning occurs 
in April and May, with eggs deposited in clean gravel substrate. The 
average life span for females is about 3.5 years, whereas most males 
survive a little more than 2 years. Ozark chubs feed primarily on or 
near the stream bottom, consuming detritus composed of diatomaceous 
algae and bacteria in the winter, adding drifting algae and plant 
matter to their diet in the other seasons. Invertebrate insects, likely 
ingested incidentally, make up a much smaller portion (less than 10 
percent) of the diet.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data 
available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the Ozark 
chub, and we evaluated all relevant factors under the five listing 
factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation measures 
addressing these stressors. The primary stressors affecting the Ozark 
chub's biological status include large dams and their impoundments, and 
water quality impairment, including sedimentation. Altered natural flow 
in the impoundments formed by dams and in the tailwaters below dams has 
made habitat unsuitable in several stream and river segments 
historically occupied by Ozark chubs, and has fragmented populations. 
Water quality is impaired in some stream reaches within each watershed 
currently occupied by the chub. Predominant sources of water quality 
impairment are agriculture, forestry, mining, and urban development.
    While threats have acted on the species to reduce available 
habitat, the Ozark chub persists in 22 of 23 historically occupied 
watersheds, and the breadth of the species' range has not changed. A 
majority of the range is rural, and large increases in urbanization are 
not anticipated, nor are any additional large high-head dams likely to 
be constructed. Many of the water-quality problems affecting the 
species currently are the legacy of past land-use practices that no 
longer or rarely occur. Currently 3, 14, and 5 of the occupied 
watersheds contain populations in high, moderate, and low condition, 
respectively. Based on current trends in population growth and land 
development, no extirpations are predicted. In addition, State-
designated special use waters and Federal lands managed by the U.S. 
Forest Service and National Park Service--including 135

[[Page 69709]]

miles of the Buffalo River, which harbors a high-condition population--
will continue to protect large areas of the species' habitat.
    Therefore, we find that listing the Ozark chub 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 
Ozark chub species assessment and other supporting documents (see 
ADDRESSES, above).

Purpledisk Honeycombhead

Previous Federal Actions
    On April 20, 2010, we received the CBD petition to list 404 
aquatic, riparian, and wetland species, including purpledisk 
honeycombhead, from the southeastern United States as endangered or 
threatened species under the Act. On September 27, 2011, we published 
in the Federal Register (76 FR 59836) a 90-day finding in which we 
announced that the petition contained substantial information 
indicating listing may be warranted for purpledisk honeycombhead. This 
document constitutes our 12-month finding on the April 20, 2010, 
petition to list purpledisk honeycombhead under the Act.
Summary of Finding
    Purpledisk honeycombhead is a perennial herb found in pine savanna 
and flatwood ecosystems of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North 
Carolina, and (historically) Alabama. It is distinguished from other 
species in the genus by its dark purple disk flowers. Purpledisk 
honeycombhead occurs in a variety of habitat types where moisture and 
light are conducive for growth throughout the pine savanna and flatwood 
ecosystem. Large-scale or small-scale disturbance caused primarily by 
fire has shaped and characterized the wet pine savannas, seepage 
slopes, and pitcherplant bogs of the southeastern Coastal Plain where 
purpledisk honeycombhead occurs.
    Of the 79 purpledisk honeycombhead populations, 38 remain extant 
across the historical range. Currently, purpledisk honeycombhead is 
extant in Bladen County in North Carolina; Richland County in South 
Carolina; Ben Hill, Charlton, Coffee, Colquitt, Cook, Evans, Irwin, 
Jeff Davis, Jenkins, Liberty, Tattnall, Long, Toombs, Turner, and Worth 
Counties in Georgia; and Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties in Florida.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data 
available regarding the past, present, and future threats to purpledisk 
honeycombhead, and we evaluated all relevant factors under the five 
listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation 
measures addressing these stressors. The primary stressors affecting 
purpledisk honeycombhead's biological status are habitat-based: Habitat 
loss due to development or land conversion (e.g., agriculture, pine 
plantations, etc.) and habitat degradation due to fire suppression. 
Across purpledisk honeycombhead's range, the transition zone between 
longleaf pine uplands and aquatic wetlands has been heavily affected by 
habitat destruction and modification. Large tracts of land, containing 
both uplands and aquatic wetlands, are needed to protect these 
transitions zones. Further, purpledisk honeycombhead and its habitat 
requires frequent fire prescription to maintain the open conditions in 
these mesic transition zones to abate woody encroachment and facilitate 
nutrient releases. Other potential factors influencing the viability of 
purpledisk honeycombhead include nonnative, invasive species (i.e., 
feral hogs) and climate change. However, land management (prescribed 
fire, mowing, and mechanical treatment of woody vegetation) occurring 
on protected lands and some private lands is beneficial to purpledisk 
honeycombhead by maintaining suitable habitat conditions, and most of 
the high- to moderate-resiliency populations occur on protected lands 
with active management.
    Impacts from habitat destruction and modification and fire 
suppression do not appear to be affecting high- or moderate-resiliency 
purpledisk honeycombhead populations. In the foreseeable future, 
purpledisk honeycombhead is predicted to have a core of high- and 
moderate-resiliency populations within three representative units on 
lands (including protected lands) on which management provides suitable 
habitat for the species. In addition, management on protected lands is 
predicted to continue providing a core of relatively secure populations 
such that the species will not become in danger of extinction in the 
foreseeable future.
    Therefore, we find that listing purpledisk honeycombhead 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 purpledisk honeycombhead species assessment and other 
supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above).

Red Tree Vole (North Oregon Coast DPS)

Previous Federal Actions
    On June 18, 2007 we received a petition from Center for Biological 
Diversity, Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, Audubon Society of 
Portland, Cascadia Wildlands Project, and OregonWild to list the north 
Oregon coast Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the red tree vole as 
endangered or threatened under the Act. On October 28, 2008, we 
published a 90-day finding in the Federal Register (73 FR 63919) 
concluding that the petition presented substantial information 
indicating that listing the north Oregon coast DPS of the red tree vole 
may be warranted. On October 13, 2011, we published in the Federal 
Register (76 FR 63720) a 12-month finding in which we stated that 
listing the north Oregon coast population of the red tree vole as a DPS 
was warranted primarily due to habitat loss. However, listing was 
precluded at that time by higher priority actions, and the DPS of the 
red tree vole was added to the candidate species lists. From 2012 
through 2016, we addressed the status of the north Oregon coast DPS of 
the red tree vole annually in our candidate notice of review, with the 
determination that listing was warranted but precluded (see 77 FR 
69994, November 21, 2012; 78 FR 70104, November 22, 2013; 79 FR 72450, 
December 5, 2014; 80 FR 80584, December 24, 2015; 81 FR 87246, December 
2, 2016).
Summary of Finding
    Red tree voles are small, mouse-sized, arboreal rodents that live 
in conifer forests. They spend almost all of their time in the tree 
canopy; if they do come to the ground, it is typically only to move 
quickly between trees. The north Oregon coast population of the red 
tree vole is found in the conifer forests of the following counties in 
Oregon: Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook, Washington, Yamhill, Polk, 
Lincoln, Benton, and Lane. Their principal food is conifer needles, 
predominantly Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) but also western 
hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla); they are one of the few animals to 
persist on this diet. The needs of individual red tree voles are met in 
conifer forest stands with: (1) Connected tree canopies to facilitate 
foraging and dispersal, and to minimize time on the ground that may 
increase predation risk; (2) available structures to support nests; and 
(3) structural complexity and taller trees that likely reduce 
visibility and vulnerability to predators. These features are more 
common in older forests (greater than 80 years old).

[[Page 69710]]

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data 
regarding the past, present, and future threats to the north Oregon 
coast population of the red tree vole, and we evaluated all relevant 
factors under the five listing factors, including any regulatory 
mechanisms and conservation measures addressing these stressors. Since 
the development of our 2016 CNOR, tree vole habitat was modeled across 
the DPS, and we were able to use that spatial data to more robustly 
assess existing habitat conditions, population resiliency, and 
associated future trends in a way that had been previously 
unattainable. Specifically, the spatial habitat layer allowed us to 
consider distribution of habitat and model clusters of occupied habitat 
to serve as proxies for red tree vole subpopulations or management 
units on which to do an analysis of resiliency, redundancy, and 
representation for the status assessment. This modeling indicated that 
26 percent of the DPS area was suitable habitat, as compared to the 11 
percent that the model we used in our previous status reviews had 
predicted. By projecting habitat trends in future scenarios, we 
developed a more informed picture of the future than had been available 
for the 2016 CNOR.
    The primary stressors affecting the north Oregon coast population 
of the red tree vole include habitat loss and fragmentation due to 
timber harvest and wildfire. Despite impacts from these stressors and 
some observed decline in abundance, the red tree vole in this area has 
maintained resilient populations over time, primarily in the two large 
habitat clusters under Federal management, the Nestucca Block and South 
Block. Although we predict some continued impacts from these stressors 
in the future, we anticipate these two large habitat clusters will 
continue to maintain resiliency and provide redundancy across a large 
portion of the DPS. Furthermore, it is reasonable to expect the 
Tillamook State Forest and Kilchis River clusters to increase and 
expand their areas based on habitat succession in the adjoining 
landscape. A portion of the State Forest land adjoining these two 
clusters will likely mature into red tree vole habitat (80 years old or 
older) over the coming years, thereby increasing the footprint of these 
two clusters, and even connecting them. With respect to future 
representation of the red tree vole, the two large habitat clusters 
will continue to maintain both the Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and 
western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) vegetation zones even in light of 
climate change.
    For these reasons, we find that these stressors do not, alone or in 
combination, rise to a level that causes the north Oregon coast 
population of the red tree vole to meet the definition of an endangered 
species or a threatened species. Therefore, we find that listing the 
north Oregon coast DPS of the red tree vole as an endangered species or 
threatened species is not warranted. A detailed discussion of the basis 
for this finding can be found in the species assessment forms for the 
north Oregon coast population of the red tree vole and in other 
supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above).

Sand Verbena Moth

Previous Federal Actions
    On February 17, 2010, we received a petition, dated February 4, 
2010, from WildEarth Guardians and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate 
Conservation requesting that the sand verbena moth be listed as 
endangered or threatened throughout its entire range. On February 17, 
2011, we published in the Federal Register (76 FR 9309) a 90-day 
finding that the petition presented substantial information indicating 
that listing the sand verbena moth may be warranted. This document 
constitutes our 12-month finding on the February 4, 2010, petition to 
list the sand verbena moth under the Act.
Summary of Finding
    The sand verbena moth (Copablepharon fuscum) belongs to the second-
largest family of the owlet moths (Noctuidae). It is a nocturnal moth 
that has a short flight period from mid-May to early July. Over the 
last 20 years, it has been detected at 11 sites: 5 in Canada and 6 in 
the State of Washington. Our status analysis indicated that six of 
these sites may currently support populations and are located in low-
lying nearshore areas around the Salish Sea; three of these are in 
Canada on Vancouver Island, and three are in Washington in areas around 
the Puget Sound. These six sites (and 10 of the 11 total detection 
sites) occur in the rain shadows of the Coast Mountains on Vancouver 
Island or the Olympic Mountains in Washington. We do not have enough 
information to determine if the remaining five sites currently support 
populations of sand verbena moth.
    Like all species of Copablepharon, the sand verbena moth occurs in 
light sandy soils, and most are restricted to active dunes. However, 
the sand verbena moth is unique in the genus in that it completes its 
entire life cycle on and around the yellow sand verbena plant (Abronia 
latifolia). The moth has an obligate mutualistic relationship with 
yellow sand verbena (i.e., the moth feeds on the plant during immature 
stages and provides pollination services in its adult phase). To the 
best of our understanding, the ecological needs of the sand verbena 
moth include the following features: Flowering patches of yellow sand 
verbena with total leaf cover greater than 400 to 500 square meters 
(0.04 to 0.05 hectares, or 0.10 to 0.12 acres), greater than 25 percent 
leaf cover of total area, and high flower production from May through 
July; loose, well-drained, sandy soil away from the tidal inundation 
zone; and climate associations for yellow sand verbena that support the 
sand verbena moth, such as 30-year normal precipitation of less than 
1,950 millimeters (77 inches) and 30-year normal temperature greater 
than 7.47 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit).
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data 
available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the sand 
verbena moth, and we evaluated all relevant factors under the five 
listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation 
measures addressing stressors to the species. The primary stressors 
affecting the sand verbena moth's biological status include the effects 
of current and future habitat loss, modification, and fragmentation 
(Factor A) from erosion, inundation, recreation, development, and 
invasive species. Habitat appears to be exposed to stressors at all 
sites. Based on the available data, we cannot determine whether there 
is a declining or increasing population trend at the sites that may 
currently support populations, or whether the range of the species has 
contracted or expanded. Although there is no information on the average 
or maximum dispersal distance of the sand verbena moth, the species may 
possess the potential for long-distance dispersal capacity, and 
therefore may be able to colonize patches of yellow sand verbena that 
are separated by great distances.
    Projections show that sea-level rise and storms may lead to an 
increase in inundation events, potentially affecting the low-lying 
sites where the species has been detected. While these projections may 
appear concerning, there is much uncertainty with regard to the 
response of the sand verbena moth over time to changes in habitat, 
including inundation events. The beach dune system that supports yellow 
sand verbena is naturally dynamic with regular erosion and accretion, 
and it

[[Page 69711]]

remains unknown whether that dynamic quality will allow the system to 
adapt and integrate future local disturbance events due to the effects 
of climate change. For example, future local disturbances could cause 
the loss of sand verbena moth and its habitat at detection sites, or 
they could instead lead to a slow shift in the species' distribution 
over time or the creation of new habitat due to accretion. The best 
scientific and commercial data available appear to point towards 
adaptation and integration because in the years since we received the 
petition to list the species in 2010, additional sites with positive 
detections of the moth have been discovered. In addition, although the 
species does not appear to be abundant, the sand verbena moth's 
distribution across a relatively large area (for a narrow endemic) 
makes it possible for the species to maintain viability in the midst of 
local disturbance events.
    Therefore, we find that listing the sand verbena moth 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 sand verbena moth species assessment and other supporting 
documents (see ADDRESSES, above).

Skiff Milkvetch

Previous Federal Actions
    On July 30, 2007, we received a petition dated July 24, 2007, from 
Forest Guardians (now WildEarth Guardians) requesting that 206 species 
that occur in our Mountain Prairie Region be listed as either 
endangered or threatened under the Act, including skiff milkvetch. On 
August 18, 2009, we published a partial 90-day finding in the Federal 
Register (74 FR 41649) concluding that the petition presented 
substantial information indicating that listing the skiff milkvetch may 
be warranted. On December 15, 2010, we published a 12-month finding in 
the Federal Register (75 FR 78514) in which we stated that listing 
skiff milkvetch as endangered or threatened was warranted primarily due 
to threats from off-road vehicle use and drought. However, listing was 
precluded at that time by higher-priority actions, and the species was 
added to the candidate species list. From 2011 through 2016, we 
addressed the status of skiff milkvetch annually in our candidate 
notice of review, with the determination that listing was warranted but 
precluded (see 76 FR 66370, October 26, 2011; 77 FR 69994, November 21, 
2012; 78 FR 70104, November 22, 2013; 79 FR 72450, December 5, 2014; 80 
FR 80584, December 24, 2015; 81 FR 87246, December 2, 2016).
Summary of Finding
    Skiff milkvetch is a narrow endemic perennial plant known to occur 
only in Gunnison and Saguache Counties in Colorado. The species occurs 
primarily on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), 
but also is found on small amounts of private land in the sagebrush 
steppe ecosystem. Skiff milkvetch habitat occupies approximately 310 
acres (125 hectares). The majority of skiff milkvetch individuals are 
found along the South Beaver Creek drainage, containing approximately 
93 percent of the species' known range; approximately 7 percent is 
found along the Cebolla Creek drainage. The South Beaver Creek 
subpopulations are located within an area designated as the South 
Beaver Creek Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) that is 
managed by the BLM.
    Skiff milkvetch plants emerge in early spring and usually begin to 
flower from mid- to late May, into October. Skiff milkvetch is known to 
reproduce via mast seeding events (e.g., the production of many seeds 
by a plant every 2 or more years in regional synchrony with other 
plants of the same species), which are related to environmental 
conditions such as precipitation. The majority of individuals live 2 to 
3 years; however, some individuals can exhibit whole plant dormancy, 
allowing them to live beyond 20 years. Annual population monitoring for 
skiff milkvetch on BLM-managed lands since 1995 indicates that skiff 
milkvetch is stable in overall population size over the long term. 
Despite statistically significant short-term population declines that 
have been documented during periods of drought, the species has been 
known to increase in abundance after periods of increased 
precipitation.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data 
available regarding the past, present, and future threats to skiff 
milkvetch (including re-evaluating stressors considered in previous 
Federal decisions and CNORs using updated data and analysis), and we 
evaluated all relevant factors under the five listing factors, 
including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation measures 
addressing these stressors. The primary stressors affecting skiff 
milkvetch's biological status include periodic drought and climate 
change. Other stressors were only found to be having effects on 
individuals or local areas, or their impacts were not as great as 
previously thought. We found that the species' current viability is 
characterized by persistence on the landscape as a narrow endemic 
species with a stable population size over the long term, a lack of 
stressors other than drought and climate change, and protections in 
place on BLM lands. These protections cover approximately 80 percent of 
the species' range, and include the South Beaver Creek ACEC, which was 
designated to protect skiff milkvetch, and designation of a State 
natural area. Seasonal dormancy may also provide protection from 
environmental change, as evidenced by recovery of individuals with 
above-ground growth after recent population declines. Given the levels 
of resiliency currently present in each analysis unit, the stability of 
the population over the long term, protections in place, and the life-
history characteristics of the species, we believe skiff milkvetch 
currently has sufficient ability to withstand stochastic and 
catastrophic events and adapt to changes. Looking into the foreseeable 
future, we anticipate that, overall, the persistence of the species 
within the large Beaver Creek analysis unit combined with the ability 
to withstand drought through seasonal dormancy provide the species with 
sufficient levels of resiliency to future stochastic events through 
2050. Despite the projected loss of some smaller subpopulations, we 
anticipate the species will still have multiple subpopulations across 
its narrow range, such that it will still have limited but sufficient 
ability to withstand catastrophic events and to adapt to changing 
conditions.
    Therefore, we find that listing the skiff milkvetch 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 skiff milkvetch 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 stressors to the 
Ozark chub, purpledisk honeycombhead, North Oregon Coast DPS of red 
tree vole, sand verbena moth, and skiff milkvetch to the appropriate 
person, as specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, whenever it 
becomes available. New information will help us monitor these species 
and make appropriate decisions about their conservation and status. We 
encourage local agencies and stakeholders to continue cooperative 
monitoring and conservation efforts.

[[Page 69712]]

References Cited

    Lists of the references cited in the petition findings are 
available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov in the dockets 
provided above in ADDRESSES and upon request from the appropriate 
person, as 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: December 10, 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. 2019-27334 Filed 12-18-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4333-15-P