Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reclassification of Layia carnosa (Beach Layia) From Endangered to Threatened Species Status With Section 4(d) Rule, 61684-61700 [2020-19026]

Download as PDF jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 61684 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules ppm; Pigeon pea, succulent shelled at 0.3 ppm; lentil, succulent shelled at 0.3 ppm; African yam-bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; American potato bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; Andean lupin bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; blue lupin bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; grain lupin bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; sweet lupin bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; white lupin bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; white sweet lupin bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; yellow lupin bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; black bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; cranberry bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; dry bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; field bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; French bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; garden bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; great northern bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; green bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; kidney bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; Lima bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; navy bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; pink bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; pinto bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; red bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; scarlet runner bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; tepary bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; yellow bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; adzuki bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; asparagus bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; catjang bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; Chinese longbean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; cowpea, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; crowder pea, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; mung bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; moth bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; rice bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; urd bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; yardlong bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; broad bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; guar bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; goa bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; horse gram, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; jackbean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; lablab bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; morama bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; sword bean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; winged pea, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; velvet bean, seed, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; vegetable soybean, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; field pea, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; dry pea, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; green pea, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; garden pea, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; chickpea, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; lentil, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; grass-pea, dry seed at 0.5 ppm; pigeon pea, dry seed at 0.5 ppm. Also, tolerances with regional registrations are requested for residues of the insecticide, methoxyfenozide, including its metabolites and degradates. Compliance with the tolerance levels is to be determined by measuring only methoxyfenozide (3-methoxy-2methylbenzoic acid 2-(3,5dimethylbenzoyl)-2-(1,1-dimethylethyl) hydrazide) in or on the commodities: Rice, grain at 30 ppm; rice, hulls at 55 ppm; rice, straw at 30 ppm. Adequate methods are available for tolerance enforcement in primary crops and animal commodities. Contact: RD. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 5. PP 0E8848. (EPA–HQ–OPP–2019– 0233). Interregional Research Project No. 4 (IR–4), IR–4 Project Headquarters, Rutgers, The State University of NJ, 500 College Road East, Suite 201 W, Princeton, NJ 08540, requests to amend 40 CFR part 180 by establishing tolerances for residues of 2,4-D in or on the raw agricultural commodity Sesame, seed at 0.05 ppm. An adequate GC/ECD enforcement method for plants (designated as EN–CAS Method No. ENC–2/93) which has been independently validated. Adequate radiovalidation data have been submitted and evaluated for the enforcement method using samples from the wheat metabolism study. Contact: RD. 6. PP 9E8745. (EPA–HQ–OPP–2019– 0233). Interregional Research Project No. 4 (IR–4), IR–4 Project Headquarters, Rutgers, The State University of NJ, 500 College Road East, Suite 201 W, Princeton, NJ 08540, requests to amend 40 CFR part 180 by establishing tolerances for residues of 2,4-D in or on the raw agricultural commodities: Wheatgrass, intermediate, bran at 4 ppm; wheatgrass, intermediate, grain at 2 ppm; wheatgrass, intermediate, straw at 50 ppm; and wheatgrass, intermediate, forage at 25 ppm. An adequate GC/ECD enforcement method for plants (designated as EN–CAS Method No. ENC–2/93) which has been independently validated. Adequate radiovalidation data have been submitted and evaluated for the enforcement method using samples from the wheat metabolism study. Contact: RD. 7. PP 9E8819. (EPA–HQ–OPP–2020– 0050). BASF Corporation, 26 Davis Drive, P.O. Box 13528, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709 requests to establish a tolerance in 40 CFR part 180.589 for residues of the fungicide boscalid in or on tea at 80 ppm. The gas chromatography using mass spectrometry (GC/MS) or liquid chromatography in tandem mass spectrometry detection (LC/MS/MS) method are used to measure and evaluate the chemical boscalid. Contact: RD. Authority: 21 U.S.C. 346a. Dated: September 10, 2020. Delores Barber, Director, Information Technology and Resources Management Division, Office of Pesticide Programs. [FR Doc. 2020–21184 Filed 9–29–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2018–0042; FXES11130900000–167–FF09E42000] RIN 1018–BD00 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reclassification of Layia carnosa (Beach Layia) From Endangered to Threatened Species Status With Section 4(d) Rule Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to reclassify the plant beach layia (Layia carnosa) from an endangered to a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). This proposed reclassification is based on our evaluation of the best available scientific and commercial information, which indicates that the threats acting upon beach layia continue at the population or rangewide scales, albeit to a lesser degree than at the time of listing, and we find that beach layia meets the statutory definition of a threatened species. We also propose to issue protective regulations pursuant to section 4(d) of the Act (‘‘4(d) rule’’) that are necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of beach layia. We seek information and comments from the public regarding this proposed rule. DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before November 30, 2020. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by November 16, 2020. ADDRESSES: Written comments: You may submit comments by one of the following methods: (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R8–ES–2018–0042, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rule box to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on ‘‘Comment Now!’’ (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R8–ES–2018–0042, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules 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 Information Requested, below, for more information). Availability of supporting materials: A copy of the species status assessment (SSA) report referenced throughout this document can be viewed on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2018–0042, or at the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office’s website at http://www.fws.gov/Arcata/. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Norris, Assistant Field Supervisor, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, 1655 Heindon Rd., Arcata, CA 95521; telephone 707–822–7201. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Peer Review In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270) and our August 22, 2016, memorandum updating and clarifying the role of peer review of listing actions under the Act, we sought the expert opinions of seven appropriate specialists regarding the species status assessment (SSA) report, which informed the proposed reclassification portion of this proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure that our reclassification determination is based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. The peer reviewers have expertise in beach layia ecology, habitat, and threats to the species. We received a response from four of the seven peer reviewers, which we considered in our SSA report and this proposed rule. Additionally, we will consider all comments and information we receive during the comment period on this proposed rule as we prepare the final determination. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this proposal. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Information Requested We intend any final action resulting from this proposal will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information from other governmental agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning this VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 proposed rule. Because we will consider all comments and information we receive during the comment period, our final determination may differ from this proposal. We particularly seek comments concerning: (1) Reasons why we should or should not reclassify beach layia from an endangered species to a threatened species under the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); (2) New biological or other relevant data concerning any threat (or lack thereof) to this species (for example, those associated with climate change); (3) New information on any efforts by the State or other entities to protect or otherwise conserve the species; (4) New information concerning the range, distribution, and population size or trends of this species; and (5) New information on the current or planned activities in the habitat or range that may adversely affect or benefit the species. (6) Comments and suggestions regarding additional guidance and methods that the Service could provide or use, respectively, to streamline the implementation of the proposed 4(d) rule. Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial information you include. You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES. All comments submitted electronically via http:// www.regulations.gov will be presented on the website in their entirety as submitted. For comments submitted via hard copy, we will post your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—on http:// www.regulations.gov. You may request at the top of your document that we withhold personal information such as your street address, phone number, or email address from public review; however, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on the internet at http:// www.regulations.gov, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Please note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 61685 reclassification action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or threatened species must be made ‘‘solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.’’ Public Hearing Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for a public hearing on this proposal, if requested. Requests for a public hearing must be received by the date specified in DATES at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. We will schedule a public hearing on this proposal, if requested, and announce the date, time, and place of the hearing, as well as how to obtain reasonable accommodations, in the Federal Register and local newspapers at least 15 days before the hearing. For the immediate future, we will provide these public hearings using webinars that will be announced on the Service’s website, in addition to the Federal Register. The use of these virtual public hearings is consistent with our regulation at 50 CFR 424.16(c)(3). Species Status Assessment A species status assessment (SSA) team prepared an SSA report for beach layia. The SSA team was composed of Service biologists, in consultation with other species experts. The SSA report represents a compilation of the best scientific and commercial data available concerning the status of beach layia, including the impacts of past, present, and future factors (both negative and beneficial) affecting the species. As discussed above under Peer Review, the SSA report underwent independent peer review by scientists with expertise in beach layia ecology, habitat management, and stressors that negatively affect the species. The SSA report can be found on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2018–0042, and at the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Previous Federal Actions On June 22, 1992, we published a final rule (57 FR 27848) to list beach layia as an endangered species. On September 29, 1998, we finalized a recovery plan for this and six other coastal species (Service 1998, entire). In 2011, we completed a 5-year review (Service 2011, entire) and concluded that there was evidence to support a decision to reclassify beach layia from E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 61686 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules an endangered species to a threatened species under the Act. We announced the availability of this review on April 27, 2012 (77 FR 25112). I. Proposed Reclassification Determination jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Background It is our intent to discuss only those topics directly related to the reclassification of beach layia in this proposed rule. For more information on the species description, life history, genetics, and habitat of beach layia, please refer to the May 8, 2018, SSA report (Service 2018, entire), which is a comprehensive assessment of the biological status of beach layia. At the time of listing (57 FR 27848; June 22, 1992), we determined that humaninduced disturbances (particularly offhighway vehicle (OHV) activity, but also other disturbances from agriculture, pedestrians, development, etc.) were significant threats to beach layia, resulting in ongoing negative population or rangewide impacts. Thus, we determined that the best available information indicated that the species was in danger of extinction throughout all of its range. Since that time, these activities have been significantly reduced, especially OHV activity, with records of the species demonstrating positive responses in abundance. Additionally, significant areas have been set aside as preserves and conservation areas. After taking into consideration our threats analysis and recovery criteria (Service 1998, pp. 43– 48), we have determined that the species no longer meets the definition of an endangered species, but does meet the definition of a threatened species (likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future). Given this information, the best available scientific and commercial information now indicate that the species has improved to the point that it can be downlisted. The SSA report provides a thorough account of the species’ overall condition currently and into the future. In this section, we summarize the conclusions of that assessment, including: (1) The species’ description, ecology, habitat, and resource needs; (2) beach layia’s current condition, including population abundance, distribution, and factors affecting its viability; and (3) potential future conditions. The full report can be accessed on the internet at http:// www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2018–0042. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 Species Description Beach layia is a succulent annual herb belonging to the sunflower family (Asteraceae). Plants range up to 6 inches (in) (15.2 centimeter (cm)) tall and 16 in (40.6 cm) across (Baldwin et al. 2012, p. 369). Characteristics distinguishing beach layia from similar species include its fleshy leaves; inconspicuous flower heads with short (0.08 to 0.1 in (2 to 2.5 millimeter (mm)) long) white ray flowers (occasionally purple) and yellow disk flowers; and bristles around the top of the one-seeded achene, or dry fruit (Service 1998, p. 43). Ecology, Habitat, and Resource Needs of Beach Layia Beach layia germinates during the rainy season between fall and midwinter, blooms in spring (March to July), and completes its life cycle before the dry season (July–September) (Service 1998, p. 45). Populations tend to be patchy and subject to large annual fluctuations in size and dynamic changes in local distribution associated with the shifts in dune blowouts, remobilization, and natural dune stabilization that occur in the coastal dune ecosystem (Service 1998, p. 45). Beach layia plants often occur where sparse vegetation traps wind-dispersed seeds, but causes minimal shading. Seeds are dispersed by wind mostly during late spring and summer months (Service 1998, p. 45). Additionally, beach layia is self-compatible (i.e., able to be fertilized by its own pollen), capable of self-pollination, and is visited by a variety of insects that may assist in cross-pollination (Sahara 2000, entire). Although the role of pollinators is currently unclear, sexual reproduction does add to genetic diversity. Beach layia occurs in open spaces of sandy soil between the low-growing perennial plants in the Abronia latifolia—Ambrosia chamissonis herbaceous alliance (dune mat) and Leymus mollis herbaceous alliance (sea lyme grass patches) (Sawyer et al. 2009, pp. 743–745, 958–959). Typically, the total vegetation cover in both communities is relatively sparse, and many annual species, including beach layia, colonize the space between established, tufted perennials. Beach layia can also occur in narrow bands of moderately disturbed habitat along the edges of trails and roads in dune systems dominated by invasive species. Coastal dune systems are composed of a mosaic of vegetation communities of varying successional stages (see additional discussion in section 4.4 of the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 9–11). PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Beach layia occurs in early to midsuccessional communities in areas where sand is actively being deposited or eroding. Too much sand movement prevents plants from establishing, but areas with some movement on a periodic basis support early successional communities. Movement of sand by wind is essential for the development and sustainability of a dune system. Wind is also important to beach layia specifically because it is the mechanism by which seeds are dispersed. The achenes (a small, dry, one-seeded fruit that does not open to release the seed) have pappus (feathery bristles) that allow them to be carried by wind for a short distance. Although not all seeds may land on suitable habitat, this adaptation allows the small annual to spread across the landscape into uninhabited areas. As a winter germinating annual, beach layia requires rainfall during the winter months (November through February) for germination and, although it is relatively tolerant to the droughtlike conditions of upland dunes, it does need some moisture through the spring to prevent desiccation. Moisture also reduces the risk of burial, as dry sand is more mobile and mortality caused by burial has been documented (Imper 2014, p. 6). The overall resource needs that beach layia requires in order for individuals to complete their life cycles and for populations to maintain viability are: (1) Sandy soils with sparse native vegetation cover, (2) Rainfall during the winter germination period, (3) Sunlight (full sun exposure for photosynthesis), and (4) Unknown degree of crosspollination (to add to genetic diversity). Species Distribution and Abundance For the purposes of our analysis as summarized in our SSA report (Service 2018, entire), we grouped the populations by ecoregions based on average annual rainfall (precipitation is directly correlated with abundance for this species), habitat characteristics, and distance between population centers. The North Coast Ecoregion contains the largest and most resilient populations and receives the highest average annual rainfall. The Central Coast Ecoregion receives less rain than the North Coast but more than the South Coast, and is comprised of three small populations on the Monterey peninsula that are less resilient due to low abundance, although habitat quality is high at two of the sites. The South Coast Ecoregion, both historically and currently, consists of a single population on the E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 61687 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB). Average annual rainfall varies across the three ecoregions. Rainfall in the North Coast Ecoregion is around 38 in (96 cm), while the Central Coast Ecoregion receives 20 in (51 cm), and the South Coast Ecoregion receives 14 in (36 cm) (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 2017). Historical distribution of beach layia is similar to that known currently, while abundance values have increased, primarily due to increased survey efforts, amelioration of some threats, and a better understanding of the species’ reproduction pattern following years with high amounts of rainfall. The current distribution includes populations spread across dune systems in the following geographic areas (ecoregions) covering more than 500 miles (mi) (805 kilometers (km)) of shoreline in northern, central, and southern California (see figures 7–13 and table 2 in the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 15–24)): • North Coast Ecoregion: Humboldt County—Freshwater Lagoon Spit, Humboldt Bay area, mouth of the Eel River, McNutt Gulch, and mouth of the Mattole River Marin County—Point Reyes National Seashore • Central Coast Ecoregion: Monterey County—Monterey Peninsula • South Coast Ecoregion: Santa Barbara County—Vandenberg AFB (located on part of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes) Of the known historical populations, four are considered extirpated, including the San Francisco population, the Point Pinos population in the Monterey area, and two populations north of the Mad River in Humboldt County. All currently extant populations were known at the time of listing and when the recovery plan was finalized (1992 and 1998, respectively), with the exception of the Freshwater Lagoon population discovered in 2000, at the far northern extent of the species’ range (see table, below). The total number of individuals across the range of the species reported in the recovery plan was 300,000. However, sampling data collected at the Lanphere Dunes that same year yielded an estimate of over one million plants for that subpopulation alone, which indicates the estimate in the recovery plan was substantially lower than the actual number of individuals (Pickart 2018, pers. comm.). Current conditions and trend information (when available) are summarized below for the 13 extant populations (including the North Spit Humboldt Bay population that is comprised of 8 subpopulations and the largest proportion of plants throughout the species’ range). Information about extirpated populations is also shown in the table, below. Additional information on current conditions of these populations, as well as information about the four extirpated populations, is found in section 7.0 of the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 25–38). TABLE OF BEACH LAYIA’S HISTORICAL AND CURRENT POPULATIONS, SUBPOPULATIONS, OWNERSHIP, AND ABUNDANCE ESTIMATES, BASED ON THE BEST AVAILABLE SCIENTIFIC AND COMMERCIAL INFORMATION Population Subpopulation Status Ownership 2017 Acres 2017 Abundance estimate NORTH COAST ECOREGION (Humboldt County) Freshwater Lagoon Spit Mouth of Little River ..... Mouth of Mad River ...... North Spit Humboldt Bay. Elk River ....................... South Spit Humboldt Bay. North Spit Eel River ..... South Spit Eel River ..... McNutt Gulch ................ Mouth of Mattole River ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... Mad River Beach ......... Extant .................... Extirpated 2 ............ Extirpated 2 ............ Extant .................... Bair/Woll ...................... Lanphere Dunes .......... Ma-le’l North ................ Ma-le’l South ................ Extant Extant Extant Extant Manila North ................ Extant .................... Manila South ................ Samoa/Eureka Dunes ...................................... ...................................... Extant Extant Extant Extant .................... .................... .................... .................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... Extant Extant Extant Extant .................... .................... .................... .................... .................... .................... .................... .................... National Park Service ..................... California State Parks ..................... Humboldt County ............................ Humboldt County, Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). Refuge, Private ............................... Refuge ............................................ Refuge ............................................ Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Friends of the Dunes, Manila Community Services District. Private ............................................. BLM, City of Eureka ....................... City of Eureka ................................. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), BLM. CDFW ............................................. Wildlands Conservancy .................. Private ............................................. BLM ................................................ 3 1 ................... 0 ..................... 0 ..................... unknown ........ 842. 1 N/A. N/A. unknown. 13 3 33 3 29 3 48 3 ................. ................. ................. ................. unknown. 1.3 million. 3 1.3 million. 3 2.1 million. 3 82 3 ................. 1.4 million. 3 47 3 49 3 15 3 83 3 ................. ................. ................. ................. unknown. 6.7 million. 3 468,000. 6.1 million. 3 37 3 ................. 1.5 3 ................ 1 5 ................... 27 2 ................. 4.7 million. 3 11,307. 4 unknown. 3.1 million. 6 146 7 ............... 2.7 million. 7 0 ..................... N/A. 0 ..................... 0.17 8 .............. 0.55 9 .............. 1 5 ................... N/A. 1,541. 8 1,200. 10 unknown. NORTH COAST ECOREGION (Marin County) Point Reyes NS ............ ...................................... Extant .................... National Park Service ..................... jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS CENTRAL COAST ECOREGION (San Francisco County) San Francisco .............. ...................................... Extirpated .............. ......................................................... CENTRAL COAST ECOREGION (Monterey County) Point Pinos ................... Asilomar State Beach ... Indian Village Dunes .... Signal Hill Dunes .......... VerDate Sep<11>2014 ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Extirpated .............. Extant .................... Extant .................... Extant .................... Frm 00048 Fmt 4702 City of Pacific Grove ....................... California State Parks ..................... Private ............................................. Private ............................................. Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 61688 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules TABLE OF BEACH LAYIA’S HISTORICAL AND CURRENT POPULATIONS, SUBPOPULATIONS, OWNERSHIP, AND ABUNDANCE ESTIMATES, BASED ON THE BEST AVAILABLE SCIENTIFIC AND COMMERCIAL INFORMATION—Continued Population Subpopulation Status Ownership 2017 Abundance estimate 2017 Acres SOUTH COAST ECOREGION (Santa Barbara County) Vandenberg AFB .......... ...................................... Extant .................... Department of Defense .................. 0.83 11 ............ 5,069. 11 1 Census and mapping conducted by the National Park Service (Julian 2017, pers. comm.). Natural Diversity Database (California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB); 2017). 3 Mapping and population estimate conducted by the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, 2017. 4 Census conducted by the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office (Goldsmith 2017, pers. obs.). 5 Actual amount of occupied habitat not determined; conservative estimate. 6 Estimate based on average density from monitoring data collected by BLM (Hassett 2017, pers. comm.). 7 Point Reyes NS, mapping from 2001–2003 and 2017 sampling conducted in Abbots Lagoon area (Parsons 2017, pers. comm.). 8 Mapping and census conducted by California State Parks (Gray 2017, pers. comm.). 9 Mapping conducted as part of a capstone project by a student at Monterey Bay State University (Johns 2009). 10 Estimate provided by consultant (Dorrell-Canepa 2017). 11 Mapping and census conducted by Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (Schneider and Calloway 2017). 2 California jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Freshwater Lagoon Spit Population This is the northern-most population of beach layia, which was discovered during spring 2000, in northern Humboldt County at Redwood National Park, currently encompassing approximately 3 acres (ac) (1.2 hectares (ha)) (Julian 2017, pers. comm.). A census of the population has been conducted every year since 2000, and results indicate the population and individual patches fluctuate substantially, with a peak of 11,110 plants recorded in 2003, and as few as 263 plants in 2014 (Julian 2017, pers. comm.) (see figure 14 in the SSA report). The overall trend of this population is declining, likely due to drought conditions and high cover of native grasses (red fescue (Festuca rubra)) adversely affecting its resource needs (i.e., reduction of area of sparse vegetative cover and sunlight). North Spit Humboldt Bay Population Mad River Beach Subpopulation: The Mad River Beach subpopulation is the northern-most subpopulation (one of eight) within the North Spit Humboldt Bay population (hereafter referred to as ‘‘North Spit’’). There is little information available for this subpopulation, which resides on Humboldt County-owned land south of the mouth of the Mad River, as well as the nearby Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge-owned Long parcel. Beach layia is fairly abundant and widely distributed within the dune mat habitat in this area (Goldsmith 2018, pers. obs.). However, the vegetation community is dominated by invasive, nonnative species including European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria), annual grasses (ripgut brome (Bromus diandrus) and quaking grass (Briza maxima)), and yellow bush lupine (Lupinus arboreous) (Goldsmith 2018, VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 pers. obs.). The subpopulation is conservatively estimated to encompass approximately 1 ac (0.4 ha), although abundance, distribution, and trend information is unknown. Suitable habitat is limited due to overstabilization caused by a heavy invasion of invasive nonnative species. No efforts to restore ecosystem function are currently under way, nor does the County or Refuge have any restoration planned at this time. Bair/Woll Subpopulation: This subpopulation occurs on the Refugeowned Bair parcel and privately owned Woll parcel; acquisition and restoration of the entire subpopulation is a high priority for the Refuge (Refuge 2013, p. 2). The majority of the area is dominated by nonnative, invasive species including European beachgrass, iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis and C. chilensis), yellow bush lupine, and annual grasses (Pickart 2018, pers. comm.). To date, restoration has occurred on the southwest corner of the Bair parcel. The subpopulation encompasses approximately 13 ac (5.3 ha), although abundance and trend information, and adequacy of resource needs—beyond the visible reduction of sparse vegetative cover—are unknown. Lanphere Dunes Subpopulation: This subpopulation occurs on the Lanphere Dunes Unit of the Refuge and encompasses a conservative estimate of approximately 33 ac (13 ha) (Service 2017, unpublished data). Restoration has been underway since the 1980s, including removal of invasive plants in an effort to restore ecosystem function. Ongoing nonnative species removal/ maintenance appears necessary in this area to ensure that beach layia’s resource needs are met. Over the years, this population of beach layia has responded positively to restoration actions and negatively to lack of rainfall PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 in the winter months (see figure 15 in the SSA report). In 2017, abundance was estimated for both Lanphere Dunes and Ma-le’l North (see below) at approximately 1 million individual plants (Pickart 2017, pers. comm.). Ma-le’l North Subpopulation: This subpopulation resides directly south of the Lanphere Dunes on the Ma-le’l North Dunes Unit of the Refuge and comprises the northern end of the Male’l Cooperative Management Area (CMA), the southern portion of which is cooperatively owned/managed by BLM (see Ma-le’l South Subpopulation, below). Nonnative plants (i.e., European beachgrass, annual grasses, iceplant, and yellow bush lupine) require continued control to maintain the open/ sparse vegetative cover and adequate sunlight needs that beach layia relies on. The total subpopulation area is approximately 29 ac (11.7 ha) (Service 2017, unpublished data). Ma-le’l South Subpopulation: Extending immediately south of the Male’l North subpopulation, the Ma-le’l South subpopulation is approximately 48 ac (19.4 ha), had an estimate of approximately 2 million individuals in 2017, and is owned/managed by BLM. Restoration has produced positive results in favor of beach layia persistence, although periodic maintenance of nonnative, invasive plants is necessary (Wheeler 2017, pers. comm.) to ensure the open/sparse vegetative cover resource need that beach layia relies on. Additionally, the best available data indicate this subpopulation is less abundant during drought years (2012–2015), followed by a positive spike in abundance following a winter of substantial rainfall (Wheeler 2017, pers. comm.) (see also figure 16 in the SSA report). The results of this subpopulation’s monitoring (i.e., that beach layia is less abundant during E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules drought years and more abundant following winters with heavy rainfall) are likely representative of the species across its entire range, based on the best available data to date regarding the species ecology and life history characteristics. Manila North Subpopulation: This subpopulation encompasses two areas within close proximity to each other on lands owned/managed by the Manila Community Services District (CSD) and the nonprofit organization known as Friends of the Dunes. The total estimated subpopulation (both areas) was approximately 1.4 million individuals in 2017 and occupies approximately 82 ac (33 ha). Efforts have been made to remove nonnative, invasive species, but the efforts have not been consistent and many areas have been re-invaded. Active management is needed to ensure the open/sparse vegetative cover and adequate sunlight needs that beach layia relies on are available. Manila South Subpopulation: This subpopulation is immediately south of the north population but resides on private property, encompassing approximately 47 ac (19 ha) as reported most recently in 2017 (Service 2017, unpublished data). The area is dominated with nonnative, invasive European beachgrass, iceplant, and annual grasses. Abundance and trend information, and adequacy of resource needs—beyond the visible reduction of area of sparse vegetative cover—are unknown. Samoa/Eureka Dunes Subpopulation: This subpopulation is the southern extent/limit of the North Spit (Humboldt Bay) population, encompassing approximately 49 ac (20 ha) on lands owned/managed by both BLM and the City of Eureka and was estimated to include over 6 million individuals in 2017. The BLM lands occupied by the species are managed to provide both an Endangered Species Protection Area and an open OHV use area. The remainder of the City’s occupied habitat includes an additional OHV use area, an industrial zoned area containing an operational airport facility, and an 84-ac (34-ha) parcel under conservation easement known as the Eureka Dunes Protected Area held by the Center for Natural Lands Management. Some of this subpopulation has been restored; however, nonnative, invasive species continue to envelop open areas where beach layia plants occur. Some monitoring data recently available indicate the protected areas harbor a higher density of beach layia compared to the OHV area, including increased VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 density of beach layia over the past 2 years, which correlates with increased precipitation over this same time frame (BLM 2016b). Similar to the monitoring results discussed in the Ma-le’l South Subpopulation, above, the results of this subpopulation’s monitoring (i.e., beach layia occurring at higher densities in the restored, protected areas compared to heavily impacted OHV areas, and high densities of beach layia plants correlating with years that have heavy annual rainfall) are likely representative of the species across its entire range, based on the best available data to date regarding the species’ ecology and lifehistory characteristics. Elk River Population This population is owned and managed by the City of Eureka on the east shore of Humboldt Bay at the mouth of Elk River (see figure 8 in the SSA report). The spit is approximately 1.2 mi (1.9 km) long by up to 0.1 mi (0.16 km) wide, and beach layia occupies approximately 15 ac (6 ha) and was estimated to include 468,000 individuals in 2017 (Service 2017, unpublished data). Trend information is not available, although a recent survey in 2017 indicates the area is dominated by nonnative, invasive European beachgrass (Goldsmith 2017, pers. obs.). South Spit Humboldt Bay Population The 5-mi (8-km) stretch of dune that supports beach layia extends south from Humboldt Bay’s entrance to the base of Table Bluff (see Figure 8 in the SSA report). The majority of this population is owned by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) as the Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, and the remainder is owned by BLM, which also manages the entire population (BLM 2014b, p. 3). The best available information suggests this population has increased in size since 2003, currently encompassing 83 ac (34 ha) with a population estimate of approximately 6 million plants (Service 2017, unpublished data). The steady increase in occupied beach layia habitat over time is due to the continued restoration effort to remove nonnative, invasive European beachgrass and iceplant (BLM 2014b, p. 7; Wheeler 2017, pers. comm.). Additionally, monitoring data available from two plots established in 2008 indicate increased density of beach layia following restoration, decreased density during recent drought years, and a subsequent increased density with high levels of annual precipitation (BLM 2014b, p. 15). These monitoring data suggest that beach layia density increases dramatically following restoration, that density settles to a more PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 61689 moderate level as native plants fill in the previously invaded habitat, and that density is also strongly correlated to rainfall. North Spit Eel River Population Located immediately south of the South Spit Humboldt Bay Population, this population encompasses 37 ac (15 ha) of conserved lands within the CDFW’s Eel River Wildlife Area and was estimated to include 4.7 million individuals in 2017 (Service 2017, unpublished data). The area is dominated by nonnative, invasive species including European beachgrass, iceplant, yellow bush lupine, and annual grasses. Trend information and adequacy of resource needs—beyond the visible reduction of area of sparse vegetative cover—are unknown. South Spit Eel River Population On the south side of the Eel River mouth, this population occurs on an area owned and managed by the Wildlands Conservancy, encompassing approximately 1.5 ac (0.6 ha) of occupied beach layia habitat and 11,307 plants as recorded in 2017 (Service 2017, unpublished data). It is likely that beach layia occurs in other areas of the property, although additional survey data do not yet exist. The area harbors nonnative, invasive European beachgrass that is reducing the availability of open sandy areas for beach layia to persist. McNutt Gulch Population This population was discovered in 1987, on private property near the mouth of McNutt Gulch. Varied numbers of plants have been recorded, ranging from 200 to 500 plants (CNDDB 2017; Imper 2018, pers. comm.), although a complete survey has not yet occurred. The occupied area is estimated to be less than 1 ac (0.4 ha) (Imper 2018, pers. comm.). A comparison of current and historical aerial photos indicate encroachment of European beachgrass. At this time, there is no beach layia trend information available. Mouth of Mattole River Population This is the southern extent of the known beach layia populations within Humboldt County. This population occupies approximately 27 ac (11 ha) within part of the King Range National Conservation Area and was estimated to include 3.1 million individuals in 2017 (Hassett 2017, pers. comm.). The area is owned and managed by BLM and is located 35 mi (56 km) south of the entrance to Humboldt Bay. Monitoring data available from 2017 indicate this E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 61690 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules population had a spike in abundance that year compared to the previous year (estimated to be 725,000 individuals) that correlates to an increase in precipitation (Hassett 2017, pers. comm.). Point Reyes Population The next known population of beach layia to the south is located in Marin County, 200 mi (322 km) south of Humboldt Bay, in the dunes between Kehoe Beach Dunes and the Point Reyes lighthouse at Point Reyes (Service 1998, p. 44; figure 11 in the SSA report). This large dune system contains approximately 146 ac (59 ha) of dunes occupied by beach layia within 14 geographically concentrated areas, based on mapping conducted since 2001 (Point Reyes 2010, unpaginated). However, some of those areas were no longer occupied in 2017 (Goldsmith 2017, pers. obs.). The population was estimated to be 2.7 million in 2017 though varying levels of survey intensity over the years hamper our ability to track population trends (Parsons 2017, pers. comm.). However, sampling conducted from 2015–2017 in the Abbots Lagoon area, which includes recently restored areas, estimate increasing abundance (Parsons 2017, pers. comm.), which also correlates with an increase in precipitation. Restoration is ongoing and includes removal of nonnative, invasive European beachgrass and iceplant, which occur at various densities throughout the 14 subpopulations (Parsons 2017, pers. comm.). jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Asilomar State Beach Population The northern-most extant population in Monterey County was previously thought to be extirpated but was rediscovered in 1990 (Service 1998, p. 44). Since the time of the first survey effort in 1994, in which 192 plants were found, subsequent survey efforts found the abundance to remain relatively static within the same geographical footprint (Service 2011, p. 22; Gray 2017, pers. comm.). Most recently in 2017, the occupied beach layia habitat consisted of a sparse layer of native dune mat vegetation with no presence of nonnative, invasive species (DorrellCanepa 2017, pers. comm.). A total of 1,541 plants were counted within 0.17 ac (688 m2) (Gray 2017, pers. comm.). This 2017 count is the highest on record for this population, possibly correlated with the high amount of rainfall during the germination period. This population appears to be stable given its consistent year-to-year presence and relative protection from threats. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 Indian Village Dunes Population The second of three populations in Monterey County, the Indian Village Dunes population occurs on restored dune habitat owned by the Pebble Beach Company, most recently (2017) estimated at 1,200 plants on 0.55 ac (0.2 ha) (Dorrell-Canepa 2017, pers. comm.). Trends on distribution and abundance are not available, beyond one additional 2009 survey result of 1,783 plants over the same size acreage. This area is preserved through a conservation easement, and restoration activities have occurred and the habitat consists of sparse native vegetation. Signal Hill Dunes Population This southern-most population within Monterey County is located less than 1 mi (1.6 km) south of the Indian Village Dunes population and is also owned by Pebble Beach Company. No recent survey information exists. The best available information is from a 2001 survey effort indicating plants occurring in five semi-isolated areas (Zander Associates 2001, p. 7), likely encompassing less than 1 ac (0.4 ha). No information is known regarding adequacy of the area to meet the species’ resource needs. Vandenberg AFB Population The southern-most population of beach layia occurs on Vandenberg AFB in Santa Barbara County, separated by a distance of approximately 235 mi (378 km) from the Signal Hill Dunes population. This area receives less annual rainfall than the Central and North Coast Ecoregions (i.e., 14 in (36 cm) as compared to 20 in (51 cm) and 38 in (96 cm), respectively) (NOAA 2017). In both 2012 and 2016, a census of all known occupied habitat was conducted and 2,397 and 1,855 plants were counted, respectively. Most recently, in 2017, a total of 5,069 plants were counted (Schneider and Calloway 2017, p. 6). Due to varying levels of survey effort, there is no beach layia population trend information for this entire population, although the number of beach layia within a restoration area on the south side of the AFB demonstrates wide fluctuations in population size from year to year, which is often correlated to the amount of rainfall (see table 4 in the SSA report). Although restoration of beach layia habitat on Vandenberg AFB has occurred and is expected to continue into the future, it is highly stabilized due to the presence of nonnative, invasive species, including iceplant, European beachgrass, and veldt grass (Ehrharta erecta) (Schneider and PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Calloway 2017, p. 14), thus reducing the open sandy areas that beach layia relies on. Summary of Factors Affecting Beach Layia The Act directs us to determine whether any species is an endangered species or a threatened species because of any factors affecting its continued existence. Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 424) set forth the procedures for determining whether a species is an ‘‘endangered species’’ or a ‘‘threatened species.’’ The Act defines an endangered species as a species that is ‘‘in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range,’’ and a threatened species as a species that is ‘‘likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.’’ The Act requires that we determine whether any species is an ‘‘endangered species’’ or a ‘‘threatened species’’ because of any of the following 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. These factors represent broad categories of natural or human-caused actions or conditions that could have an effect on a species’ continued existence. In evaluating these actions and conditions, we look for those that may have a negative effect on individuals of the species, as well as other actions or conditions that may ameliorate any negative effects or may have positive effects. We use the term ‘‘threat’’ to refer in general to actions or conditions that are known to or are reasonably likely to negatively affect individuals of a species. The term ‘‘threat’’ includes actions or conditions that have a direct impact on individuals (direct impacts), as well as those that affect individuals through alteration of their habitat or required resources (stressors). The term ‘‘threat’’ may encompass—either together or separately—the source of the action or condition or the action or condition itself. However, the mere identification of any threat(s) does not necessarily mean that the species meets the statutory definition of an ‘‘endangered species’’ or a ‘‘threatened species.’’ In determining E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules whether a species meets either definition, we must evaluate all identified threats by considering the expected response by the species, and the effects of the threats—in light of those actions and conditions that will ameliorate the threats—on an individual, population, and species level. We evaluate each threat and its expected effects on the species, then analyze the cumulative effect of all of the threats on the species as a whole. We also consider the cumulative effect of the threats in light of those actions and conditions that will have positive effects on the species, such as any existing regulatory mechanisms or conservation efforts. The Secretary determines whether the species meets the definition of an ‘‘endangered species’’ or a ‘‘threatened species’’ only after conducting this cumulative analysis and describing the expected effect on the species now and in the foreseeable future. In our determination, we correlate the threats acting on the species to the factors in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. We summarize the SSA for beach layia (Service 2018, entire) below. Determining whether the status of a species has improved to the point that it can be downlisted (i.e., reclassified from endangered to threatened) or delisted (i.e., removed from listed status) requires consideration of whether the species meets the definition of either endangered species or threatened species contained in the Act. For species that are already listed as endangered species or threatened species, this analysis of threats is an evaluation of both the threats currently facing the species and the threats that are reasonably likely to affect the species in the foreseeable future following the delisting or downlisting and the removal or reduction of the Act’s protections. As stated previously, at the time of listing (57 FR 27848; June 22, 1992), we determined that human-induced disturbances (particularly OHV activity, but also other disturbances from agriculture, pedestrians, development, etc.) were significant threats to beach layia, resulting in ongoing negative population or rangewide impacts; thus, we determined that the best available information indicated that the species was in danger of extinction throughout all of its range. Since that time, these activities have been significantly reduced, especially OHV activity, with records of the species subsequently demonstrating positive responses in abundance. Additionally, significant areas have been set aside, including VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 preserves, conservation areas, and conservation easements. This current analysis considers the beneficial influences on beach layia, as well as the potential risk factors (i.e., threats) that are either remaining or new and could be affecting beach layia now or in the future. In this proposed rule, we will discuss in detail only those factors that could meaningfully impact the status of the species. The primary risk factors affecting beach layia are the present and threatened modification or destruction of its habitat from overstabilization/competition with invasive species (Factor A from the Act), modification of its habitat from changing climate conditions (Factor E), modification of its habitat from humaninfluenced erosion/high level of disturbance (e.g., recreation) (Factor A), and modification of its habitat from vertical land movement/shoreline erosion (i.e., varying levels of uplift and subsidence, as described below) (Factor A). Additional threats to the species include development (Factor A) and herbivory/disease (Factor C); however, our analysis shows that while these threats may be impacting individual beach layia plants, they are not having species-wide impacts. For a full description of all identified threats, refer to chapter 8 of the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 38–48). Overstabilization/Competition With Invasive Species Areas described as overstabilized in this document (and discussed in detail in section 8.2.1 of the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 41–43)) have high vegetation cover and restricted sand movement either due to presence of nonnative, invasive species or presence of species (native or nonnative) that move in after an area is stabilized by invasive species. Overstabilization caused by invasive species, as defined here, is a different ecological process from natural succession in which native vegetation changes over time from the semi-stable dune mat community to more stabilized communities. Both overstabilization and natural succession have a negative impact on the abundance of beach layia because the species requires open sand to colonize an area (see Ecology, Habitat, and Resource Needs of Beach Layia, above). At this time, the best available information indicates that large portions of the range of beach layia have been made unsuitable by overstabilization and competition with both native and nonnative invasive species (Service 2017 pp. 41–43). However, dune systems that are naturally succeeding often still contain areas of semi-stable PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 61691 dunes—although they may shift over time—that are suitable for beach layia. One population—the Freshwater Lagoon Spit—is the only beach layia population that is currently impacted by stabilization caused by native species, i.e., red fescue (Samuels 2017, pers. comm.). Although no measures are in place to address the stabilization effects, there is an experimental project underway to remove native species in order to create more suitable habitat for beach layia (Samuels 2017, pers. comm.). The remainder of beach layia’s range is subject to past introduction and invasion of its habitat by a variety of nonnative, invasive plant species (Service 1998, p. 45), which is one reason why the species was listed as an endangered species (57 FR 27848; June 22, 1992). These nonnative species adversely affect the long-term viability of coastal dune plants, including the entire distribution of beach layia (with the exception of the Freshwater Lagoon Spit population, as described above), through either direct competition for space (56 FR 12323; March 22, 1991); stabilization of the dunes (56 FR 12318; March 22, 1991); and in some cases, enrichment of the soils, which then stimulate invasion by other aggressive species (Maron and Connors 1996, p. 309; Pickart et al. 1998, pp. 59–68). Nonnative, invasive species are currently present at all populations throughout the species’ range, although to a lesser degree at the Lanphere Dunes, Ma-le’l North, and Ma-le’l South subpopulations; the Mouth of Mattole River population; and Asilomar State Beach and Indian Village Dunes populations due to restoration activities. The most common invasive species (European beachgrass, iceplant, yellow bush lupine, and ripgut brome) in dune systems throughout the range of beach layia are described in section 8.2.1.1 of the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 42– 43). The high level of invasion throughout the range of beach layia suggests these taxa will continue to invade beach layia habitat (i.e., invasive plants occur at varying densities within and adjacent to all extant populations), necessitating routine and long-term management actions. Many of the invasive plants have been mapped within the various dune systems occupied by beach layia (Johns 2009, p. 24; Point Reyes 2015, p. i; Mantech SRS Technologies 2018, p. 1), and there have been efforts for their removal or control (Service 2011, p. 10; Point Reyes 2015, p. 105; Mantech SRS Technologies 2018, p. 1). However, much potentially suitable habitat for beach layia remains E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 61692 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS to be restored, as identified in the 1992 recovery plan (i.e., the portion of the species’ range where the majority of occurrences are including the Mouth of the Mad River, the greater part of the North and South Spits of Humboldt Bay, Elk River Spit, the North and South Spits of the Eel River, McNutt Gulch, as well as Point Reyes, Signal Hill Dunes, and Vandenberg AFB (recovery criterion 2, see section 11.0)), in addition to routine maintenance to control this threat into the future. Overall, overstabilization and competition with native or nonnative, invasive species are reducing the availability of sandy soils with sparse vegetative cover, causing beach layia throughout its range to compete for open sandy space, sunlight, and rainfall during its winter germination period. Efforts at some locations to remove invasive species (such as, but not limited to, European beachgrass, iceplant, yellow bush lupine, and ripgut brome) that are adversely affecting resources needed by beach layia are reducing these negative influences and thus have improved the species’ current resiliency at many populations. However, the ability of land managers to continue manage the ongoing threat of invasive species into the future is uncertain. Changing Climate Conditions Changes in weather patterns have been observed in recent years and are predicted to continue (Frankson et al. 2017, p. 1). This can include extreme events such as multi-year droughts or heavy rain events (Frankson et al. 2017, pp. 2–5). All of these have the potential to remove, reduce, and degrade habitat, as well as remove individual plants, reduce germination and survival rates, and reduce fecundity. The best available scientific and commercial information at this time does not indicate how historical changes in climate may have affected beach layia, although recent drought conditions have had a negative impact on population size (BLM 2016a, p. 6; ManTech SRS Technologies 2016, p. 29). The best available information indicates that recent drought conditions (2012–2016) negatively influenced the abundance of beach layia (e.g., lack of rainfall for germination, reduced fecundity, desiccation during dry periods in the growing season) across the species’ range (BLM 2016a, p. 6; BLM 2014b, p. 16; Pickart 2017, pers. comm.; Gray 2017, pers. comm.; ManTech SRS Technologies 2018, p. 9). A subsequent increase in abundance was seen in 2017, corresponding with the increase in rainfall at the end of this VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 multi-year drought period, indicating the seedbank for the species has some ability to withstand multi-year droughts. However, at this point in time the full longevity of the seedbank is unknown; therefore, it is impossible to predict whether the species could withstand even longer drought periods or whether drought conditions could reach a point at which the seedbank would no longer be viable. All that can be reasonably concluded from the available information is that multi-year droughts have a negative effect on beach layia abundance, reducing above-ground vegetative growth, and that the seedbank for the species appears to be able to withstand at least four years of consecutive drought and then regenerate new vegetative growth once more normal rainfall patterns return (noting a tendency for the species to experience a spike in abundance following a drought). The Intergovernmental Panel on climate change states it is likely that the intensity and duration of droughts will increase on a regional to global scale (IPCC 2014, p. 53). We used the California Climate and Hydrology Change Graphs, a graphing tool that presents climate and hydrology data from the California Basin Characterization Model (BCM) dataset (Flint et al. 2013, entire), to analyze the potential impact of drought on beach layia in the future. Four future climate scenarios demonstrate a range of precipitation and temperatures projected by the 18 scenarios available from the BCM. We chose to use the climatic water deficit calculations because they take into account changes in air temperature, solar radiation, and evapotranspiration, and can be used as an estimate of drought stress on plants (Stephenson 1998, p. 857). There are large uncertainties with respect to future precipitation levels (some scenarios predict a hot dry future while others predict a hot wet future). While climatic water deficit magnitudes vary across the models, the trends are consistent in that all projections indicate increasing values. Climatic water deficit values, both historical (1931–2010) and projected (2021–2050), are higher in watersheds in the Central and South Coast Ecoregions. The South Coast Ecoregion has the highest values and is therefore considered to be the most vulnerable to stress caused by drought, followed by the Central Coast Ecoregion, and then the Point Reyes population at the southern end of the North Coast Ecoregion. The three watersheds in Humboldt County (which encompass all of the North Coast Ecoregion PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 populations except Point Reyes) are least likely to be stressed by drought, both currently and into the future, but the trend in climatic water deficit is still increasing. See section 8.2.2.1 of the SSA report for additional discussion regarding impacts associated with drought. While no definitive conclusions can be drawn about the potential for drought alone to result in permanent loss of beach layia populations, a compounding factor with changing climate conditions is the relationship to invasive plant species. Many of the invasive species that negatively affect beach layia or its habitat, such as European beachgrass and iceplant, are drought tolerant (Hertling and Lubke 2000, pp. 522–524; Hilton et al. 2005, pp. 175–185, Earnshaw et al. 1987, pp. 421–432). During a multi-year drought, it is possible that invasive species could persist and spread into areas where beach layia declined, resulting in less open space habitat for germination of beach layia when a sufficient amount of rainfall returns (assuming the seedbank survives). The high level of abundance of beach layia in 2017 suggests that the potential for invasive species to take over habitat and exclude beach layia regeneration is not a significant threat, at least for drought periods up to four years in duration. However, the likelihood of the increased duration and intensity of drought into the future increases the potential for this outcome, which could be particularly problematic for those populations in the Central and South Coast Ecoregions. In addition to drought, rising sea levels caused by changing climate conditions can lead to removal or reduction of habitat, and the removal of individual plants, seedbanks, and whole populations. However, an analysis conducted using RCP 8.5 and local sea level rise projections for 2050 based on the methodology developed by Kopp et al. (2014, pp. 384–393) as presented in Rising Seas in California (Griggs 2017, entire) suggests that rising seas are not likely to significantly influence beach layia into the foreseeable future, and it is unknown how changes in sea levels may have affected the species in the past. Likewise, projections for the lower emission scenario indicate that rising seas under RCP 4.5 are not likely to negatively influence beach layia (Griggs 2017, entire). For more information on the analysis conducted on the effects of sea level rise, please refer to section 10.3.2 of the SSA (Service 2017 pp. 52– 58) E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules Erosion/High Level of Disturbance Erosion of soil in a dune system can be caused by many factors, and any form of erosion or heavy soil disturbance can result in the removal of beach layia habitat, individual plants, and seedbank. Erosion and disturbance of beach layia habitat discussed in this document is associated with high levels of disturbance caused by pedestrian, equestrian, OHV, and grazing activity. First, the best available information suggests that trampling from both pedestrian and equestrian activities occur at insignificant levels at most populations throughout beach layia’s range, with the possible exception of the Signal Hill Dunes population on the Monterey Peninsula (Service 2011, p. 11), although that current level of impact is unknown. Monitoring data and anecdotal evidence consistently indicate a strong preference by beach layia for moderately disturbed habitat adjacent to roads and trails (whether pedestrian or equestrian) in what otherwise would be unoccupied habitat (Service 2011, p. 11). Dispersed equestrian use has been allowed at the South Spit Humboldt Bay population since BLM began management of the area in 2002, and beach layia abundance has remained high, suggesting that dispersed equestrian use, at least where large areas of occupied habitat are concerned, is compatible with large populations (Wheeler 2017, pers. comm.). Second, OHV activity within beach layia habitat across the species’ range is significantly reduced since the time of listing. Most occupied habitat is restricted from OHV use with the exception of five populations in Humboldt County. Monitoring data from one recent study confirm lower beach layia abundance within riding areas as compared to preserved areas that are closed to OHV use and managed to reduce threats to the species (BLM 2016a; BLM 2016b; Hassett 2017, pers. comm.; see also figure 17 in the SSA report). Additionally, within the OHV riding area, beach layia is restricted to the edges of trails, and the remainder of the habitat is overstabilized and dominated by invasive vegetation. It is possible that the higher beach layia abundance in the protected areas of the study could have more to do with invasive species management than eliminating the direct impacts of OHV use (Wheeler 2017, pers. comm.). Finally, livestock trampling was identified as a threat when beach layia was listed (57 FR 27848). Livestock trampling previously occurred at the Mouth of Mattole River population, but VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 fencing was replaced in 1997, thereby eliminating this threat (BLM 2014a, p. 5). Additionally, livestock were removed from the South Spit Eel River population that occurs on the Wildlands Conservancy Preserve (Allee 2018, pers. comm.). At this time, the only populations that are exposed to livestock are the McNutt Gulch population (Imper 2018, pers. comm.) and some portions of the Point Reyes population (Parsons 2018, pers. comm.). Observations made at Point Reyes suggest that livestock trampling is negatively impacting portions of the population there (Goldsmith 2018, personal observation). The current status of the McNutt Gulch population is unknown. Overall, the best available scientific and commercial information suggests that human-induced disturbances are not resulting in significant, negative, population-wide or rangewide impacts given most beach layia habitat is under some level of protection and responds well to slight disturbance. However, some risk to the species’ viability in the North Coast Ecoregion populations remains for some populations in the form of trampling or crushing of individuals plants. Vertical Land Movement/Shoreline Erosion Uplift or subduction (i.e., the geological process that occurs at convergent boundaries of tectonic plates where one plate moves under another and is forced to sink due to gravity into the mantle) both during and between seismic events can affect whether a beach/shoreline is prograding (i.e., advancing toward the sea as a result of the accumulation of waterborne sediment) or eroding. Vertical land movement (VLM) is site specific and is influenced by a number of factors. A study conducted in the Humboldt Bay area indicates that direction and magnitude differ depending on location, although most areas around the bay, including areas near beach layia habitat, are subsiding (Patton et al. 2017, pp. 26– 27). Removal or reduction of both habitat and individual plants can be caused by sea level rise associated with subduction while uplift may counterbalance those effects. Sudden movements associated with earthquakes can cause tsunamis, which have the potential to remove habitat and whole populations in one event. As with many ecosystems, dunes often undergo periods of cyclic stabilization and rejuvenation (Pickart and Sawyer 1998, p. 4). Rejuvenation events can be the result of changes in relative sea level, which in turn are PO 00000 Frm 00054 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 61693 attributed, at least in the past, to tectonic activity, including tsunamis (such as the following, as cited in Pickart and Sawyer 1998: Vick 1988, Pacific Watershed Associates 1991, Clarke and Carver 1992, and Komar and Shih 1993). Both uplift and subsidence can theoretically trigger reactivation of dunes, with the former potentially building or expanding dunes through increased sediment supply, while the latter can destroy dunes through increased wave action or limit the expansion of new dunes (Pickart and Sawyer 1998, p. 4). The southern end of the North Spit Humboldt Bay population and the South Spit Eel River population are particularly vulnerable to shoreline erosion (McDonald 2017, pp. 10–13). The San Andreas Fault, which runs along the eastern edge of Point Reyes and runs parallel to the Monterey Peninsula, regularly experiences plate movements. A vulnerability assessment conducted for Point Reyes indicates that the portion of shoreline where beach layia occurs has a high to very high vulnerability index (Pendleton et al. 2005, pp. 3, 15), suggesting that this population is subject to removal of occupied habitat caused by shoreline erosion. Similarly, the Monterey coastline where beach layia occurs has been shaped by varying levels of uplift and subsidence (Revell Coastal 2016, p. 2–1). The dunes at Asilomar are less vulnerable to erosion compared to those on the northern portion of the peninsula (EMC Planning Group 2015, figure 5). The best available information does not suggest any current or historical VLM or shoreline erosion for the Monterey Peninsula; thus, areas where beach layia occur appear relatively safe. No VLM/ shoreline erosion information is available for Vandenberg AFB. While some populations are more at risk than others to lose habitat via VLM based on historical data, coastal dune habitat will always be threatened by the potential loss of large expanses of habitat caused by subduction events or tsunami. Current Condition Summary While all of the threats discussed above have the potential to negatively influence the resiliency of beach layia populations, the threat that currently has the greatest negative impact on populations or the species rangewide is overstabilization/competition with invasive species. This threat reduces abundance of beach layia more than any other and has the potential to have significant negative impacts to populations across the range of the species by reducing the amount of open sandy areas with sparse vegetation that E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 61694 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS it needs. Although habitat has been restored for some populations, the threat of invasive species expanding their presence throughout the species’ range is always present, especially since most restored sites are near currently invaded areas, and has the potential to increase if changing climate conditions result in longer duration and higher intensity multi-year droughts. Efforts to remove nonnative or native invasive species and reverse the effects of overstabilization are ongoing throughout the species’ range (Martinez et al. 2013, p. 159; BLM 2014b, p. 17; ManTech SRS Technologies 2016, p. 1; California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) 2004, p. 3–14). However, these efforts are time consuming and costly. There are current management plans that include restoration for some populations, however, many populations have no plans for restoration and dedicated funding into the future is only available for the Asilomar State Beach population. Thus, this threat is not considered to be causing a significant negative influence across the entire range of beach layia at this time, but is reasonably likely to in the foreseeable future. Uncertainties regarding the species’ ecology and current impacts (or level of impacts) to beach layia or its habitat include (but are not limited to): Defined timelines for implementation of restoration and ongoing control of nonnative, invasive species; limiting factors for the populations in Monterey County; seedbank longevity; and the optimal disturbance regime to maximize recovery efforts (see also section 9.1.2 in the SSA report (Service 2018, p. 50)). Potential Future Condition Summary For the purpose of this proposed rule, we define viability as the ability of the species to sustain populations in the wild over time. This discussion explains how the stressors associated with overstabilization/competition with invasive species, changing climate conditions, erosion/high level of disturbance (e.g., recreation), and vertical land movement/shoreline erosion will influence resiliency, redundancy, and representation for beach layia throughout its current known range using the most likely plausible scenario. The future timeframes evaluated include a range of times that cover a variety of management plans that are expected to last the next 10 to 20 years and predictions for local sea level rise in the future through the year 2050. Thus, foreseeable future for this analysis is a range from approximately 15 to 30 years from current. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 Suitable occupied and unoccupied habitat is limited to coastal dune systems that are subject to modification or destruction by overstabilization/ competition with nonnative and native invasive species, changing climate conditions (which can result in drought and sea level rise), erosion from various disturbance activities (e.g., recreation), and VLM/shoreline erosion (see section 6.2 in the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 14–24)). Significant habitat modification in any portion of beach layia’s range could lead to reduced population size, growth rate, and habitat quality for the affected population(s), thus resulting in a higher risk level for the species’ viability into the future. Although the threats described above are generally spread throughout the species’ range, the best available data indicate that the most vulnerable populations, given current and potential future impacts to availability of sparsely vegetated native dune mat habitat subject to periodic disturbance during the dormant season, include: • North Coast Ecoregion—Freshwater Lagoon Spit, portions of North Spit Humboldt Bay (including the Mad River Beach, Bair/Woll, Manila South, and Samoa/Eureka Dunes subpopulations), portions of South Spit Humboldt Bay, Elk River, North Spit Eel River, South Spit Eel River, McNutt Gulch, and unrestored portions of Point Reyes; • Central Coast Ecoregion—Signal Hill Dunes; and • South Coast Ecoregion— Vandenberg AFB. This includes two of the three largest population centers in the North Coast Ecoregion, of which the North Spit Humboldt Bay harbors greater than 75 percent of the species’ abundance rangewide (see table, above). Depending on the severity of the impacts to the resources needed by beach layia, populations or portions thereof could be lost in the future. Populations in areas where habitat is limited or unsuitable in the future (see section 8.1 in the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 39–41)) are likely to be more susceptible to threats that continue or worsen in the future, potentially resulting in reduced population(s) size and growth rate. Loss of habitat caused by invasion of nonnative, invasive species is the most prominent negative influence on beach layia into the future. The populations in the Central and South Coast Ecoregions are at the greatest at risk of declines in abundance in the future based on their small size, limited distribution and expected continued threats in the future, particularly competition with nonnative, invasive species and drought PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 stress. No projected drought trends are available; however, extreme events, including multi-year droughts, are expected to increase in likelihood into the future (Frankson et al. 2017, pp. 2 –5) and an analysis on climatic water deficit shows an increasing trend throughout the range of the species into the future, particularly those in the Central and South Coast Ecoregions (See section 8.2.2.1 of the SSA report). Overall, it is likely that the most significant threat to beach layia’s resiliency in the future will be continued overstabilization/competition with invasive species and, to a lesser extent, changing climate conditions, erosion/high levels of disturbance and VLM/shoreline erosion. These threats are likely to result in a reduction in abundance of beach layia throughout its range stemming from removal, reduction, and degradation of habitat, and reduced abundance, such as from reduced germination, fecundity, and survival rates. Many populations are likely to see a reduction in abundance of beach layia because there are no existing management activities or no management plans that provide longterm assurances that management activities will continue into the future to improve existing suboptimal habitat conditions (e.g., invasive species), especially if the species is delisted. Very few populations have been managed in such a way that the natural processes that create habitat for the species are able to operate unhindered (i.e. Lanphere and Ma-le’l). The remaining populations are dependent on continued management into the future to improve habitat conditions. The low abundance and limited distribution of the species in the Central and South Coast Ecoregions make those populations particularly vulnerable to stochastic events, including, but not limited to, drought. It is likely that the intensity and duration of droughts will increase on a regional to global scale (IPCC 2014, p. 53). The high likelihood of increased intensity and duration of droughts in California (Frankson et al. 2017, pp. 2–5) is expected to negatively influence beach layia populations throughout the species’ range because rain is required for germination, but particularly in the Central and South Coast Ecoregions due to high projections of climatic water deficit in those watersheds. A compounding factor in the analysis of drought effects on beach layia is that two of the most common nonnative, invasive species that compete for habitat with beach layia— European beachgrass and iceplant—are both drought tolerant (Hertling and E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Lubke 2000, pp. 522–524; Lechuga-Lago et al. 2016, pp. 8–9). Resiliency, Redundancy, and Representation To characterize beach layia’s viability and demographic risks, we consider the concepts of resiliency, redundancy, and representation, and how the threats may negatively impact the resource needs that it relies on for survival and reproduction. Taking into account the impacts of the most significant threats and the potential for cumulative impacts to the resources that the species needs, our projections for future conditions are that beach layia’s ability to withstand and bounce back from stochastic events (resiliency) is currently high and likely to remain so into the future. This resiliency is demonstrated by the increased abundance at most populations during a heavy rainfall year (e.g., 2017; table 2 in the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 22– 24)) that followed four years of drought conditions. However, this rebound in 2017 did not occur throughout all of the species’ range, including at some of the smaller populations. Of greater concern for beach layia’s viability into the future is that the populations in the Central and South Coast Ecoregions are significantly smaller than the populations in the North Coast Ecoregion, thus decreasing the species’ representation and redundancy in a large proportion of the species’ range if these populations are lost in the future. The smaller abundance and acreage of these populations compared to the populations in the North Coast Ecoregion increases the chances of population loss in the foreseeable future, especially given the likelihood that: (1) Overstabilization/competition with invasive species is not adequately being addressed (e.g., lack of staff and funding for invasive species control at some locations). (2) Drought conditions are expected to worsen (continued multi-year droughts that result in reduced annual precipitation levels) across the species’ range, but particularly in the Central and South Coast Ecoregions. (3) Drought conditions can possibly benefit the abundance and spread of drought-tolerant invasive plants that are already present and adversely impacting the resources that beach layia relies on. See section 10.3 in the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 52–59) for additional analysis and discussion of factors influencing the viability of beach layia in the future. Taking into account the impacts of the most significant threats VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 and the potential for cumulative impacts to the resource needs, our projections for future conditions are that beach layia’s ability to withstand and bounce back from stochastic events (resiliency) is currently high and likely to remain so into the future. Additionally, multiple populations currently spread across a wide geographic range suggest high redundancy and representation. However, at this time, the populations in the Central and South Coast Ecoregions have lower abundance than the North Coast Ecoregion populations. Given the lower abundance compared to the rest of the species range and the continued threats into the foreseeable future, the species overall ability to maintain adequate representation and redundancy into the future is low. Recovery and Recovery Plan Implementation Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation and survival of endangered and threatened species unless we determine that such a plan will not promote the conservation of the species. Under section 4(f)(1)(B)(ii), recovery plans must, to the maximum extent practicable, include: ‘‘[O]bjective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination, in accordance with the provisions of [section 4 of the Act], that the species be removed from the list.’’ However, revisions to the list (adding, removing, or reclassifying a species) must reflect determinations made in accordance with sections 4(a)(1) and 4(b) of the Act. Section 4(a)(1) requires that the Secretary determine whether a species is an endangered species or threatened species (or not) because of one or more of five threat factors. Section 4(b) of the Act requires that the determination be made ‘‘solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.’’ Therefore, recovery criteria should help indicate when we would anticipate that an analysis of the species’ status under section 4(a)(1) would result in a determination that the species is no longer an endangered species or threatened species. Thus, while recovery plans provide important guidance to the Service, States, and other partners on methods of minimizing threats to listed species and measurable objectives against which to measure progress towards recovery, they are not regulatory documents and cannot substitute for the determinations and promulgation of regulations required under section 4(a)(1) of the Act. A decision to revise the status of or remove a species from the Federal List PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 61695 of Endangered and Threatened Plants (50 CFR 17.12) is ultimately based on an analysis of the best scientific and commercial data then available to determine whether a species is no longer an endangered species or a threatened species, regardless of whether that information differs from the recovery plan. Below, we summarize the recovery plan goals and discuss progress toward meeting the recovery objectives and how they inform our analysis of the species’ status and the stressors affecting it. In 1998, we finalized the Seven Coastal Plants and the Myrtle’s Silverspot Butterfly Recovery Plan, which included recovery objectives for beach layia (recovery plan; Service 1998, pp. 43–48). All of the downlisting criteria and a portion of the delisting criteria included in the recovery plan (Service 1998) applied to the entire suite of dune plant species covered by the plan. As such, some interpretation of those criteria may be warranted to account for the specific life history or other circumstances of the species in question. Therefore, we have based our analysis on the intent of the criteria as they relate to the five factor analysis for beach layia. Based on our review of the recovery plan and the information obtained from the various management activities, surveys, and research that have occurred to date, we conclude that the status of beach layia is improved throughout its range as a result of significant protections to preserve or conserve habitat, along with land use decisions and management activities implemented by many landowners undertaken since the time of listing. See appendix A in the SSA report for a detailed account of existing regulatory mechanisms and voluntary conservation efforts (Service 2018, pp. 75–80). Our analysis indicates that the intent of the downlisting criteria has been met. Our summary analysis of the downlisting criteria follows: Downlisting Criterion 1 (addresses Listing Factors A, D, and E): Habitat occupied by the species that is needed to allow delisting has been secured, with long-term commitments and, if possible, endowments to fund conservation of the native vegetation. There has been significant improvement in the security of habitat occupied by beach layia since the recovery plan was prepared, including land acquisition by Federal agencies, State and local agencies, and nongovernmental organizations; adoption of local coastal plans under the California Coastal Act; and implementation of management plans that address the needs of the species. Of E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 61696 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules the estimated 595 ac (240 ha) of dunes habitat currently occupied by beach layia, approximately 91 percent is owned by Federal and State governmental entities or other land owners with existing resource management direction precluding development within sensitive dunes habitat. Despite the fact that not all entities managing beach layia habitat have been able to demonstrate their ability to continue management into the future, especially if the species is delisted, due to the significant amount of occupied dune habitat that is now on protected lands (i.e., long-term commitments of approximately 32 years, including resource management plans that contain a restoration component), and state and federal mandates to conserve the species as long as it remains listed, we conclude that this recovery criterion has been adequately met. Downlisting Criterion 2 (in part, addresses Listing Factors A, D and E): Management measures are being implemented to address the threats of invasive species, pedestrians, and OHVs at some sites. The Service, BLM, National Park Service (Redwood National Park, Point Reyes), and several other land managers in the northern portion of the range, and the CDPR, Department of Defense, and several other managers in the southern portion of the range have all instituted relevant management policies since the recovery plan was completed or since the species was listed. Those policies have reduced, and in many cases eliminated, the threats to beach layia posed by pedestrians and OHV activity, as well as reduced to a certain degree the threat of native and nonnative, invasive species. Because of the many management measures currently implemented across the range of beach layia to address the threats of pedestrians and OHVs, and the work conducted thus far to address the ongoing threat of invasive species, we conclude that this criterion has been adequately met. Downlisting Criterion 3 (in part, addresses Listing Factor E): Monitoring reveals that management actions are successful in reducing threats of invasive, nonnative species. Management actions over the past 12 years have reduced the threats from native and nonnative, invasive species, at least into the foreseeable future. Because of these successful invasive species management measures, we conclude that this criterion has been adequately met. Downlisting Criterion 4 (in part, addresses Listing Factors A, D and E): VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 Additional restored habitat has been secured, with evidence of either natural or artificial long-term establishment of additional populations, and long-term commitments (and endowments where possible) to fund conservation of the native vegetation. Commitments by land managers across beach layia’s range, as described under Downlisting Criterion 1, above, have resulted in secured habitat (i.e., protected from development although native or nonnative, invasive species continue to reduce the availability of sandy soils with sparse vegetative cover) in multiple geographic areas since the recovery plan was completed. These include several protected areas on Federal, State, and local public lands, as well as land acquisition and protection (e.g., conservation easements) by nongovernmental organizations (protections are described in each population descriptions found in section 7.0 of the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 25–38)). Additionally, restoration has been conducted with a commensurate response by beach layia (e.g., the creation of an Endangered Species Protection Area within the Samoa/Eureka Subpopulation, North Spit Humboldt Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore, Vandenberg AFB). As a result, we conclude that this criterion has been adequately met. The intent of the delisting criteria has not yet been met for beach layia. The overarching goal for delisting beach layia includes removal of substantially all of the nonnative, invasive plants on the dunes where it occurs and securing written assurance of long-term support for continued management of the dunes, and monitoring (Service 1998, pp. 92– 93). The overarching goal is to restore natural processes that have been disrupted by the presence of nonnative, invasive species to dune systems so that beach layia and other native plants adapted to those environments can persist into the future. Determination of Beach Layia Status Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 424) set forth the procedures for determining whether a species meets the definition of an endangered species or a threatened species. The Act defines ‘‘endangered species’’ as a species ‘‘in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range,’’ and ‘‘threatened species’’ as a species ‘‘likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.’’ The Act requires that we determine whether a species meets the definition of ‘‘endangered species’’ or ‘‘threatened PO 00000 Frm 00057 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 species’’ because of any of the following 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. Status Throughout All of Its Range After evaluating threats to the species under the section 4(a)(1) factors, we examined the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, present, and future threats faced by the species. We reviewed information presented in the 2011 5-year review (Service 2011, entire), additional information that became available since the time our 2011 5-year review was completed, and other available published and unpublished information. We also consulted with species experts and land management staff who are actively managing for the conservation of beach layia. We examined the following threats that may be affecting beach layia: Development (Factor A), herbivory/ disease (Factor C), overstabilization/ competition with invasive species (Factor A), changing climate conditions (Factor E), erosion/high level of disturbance (e.g., recreation) (Factor A), and vertical land movement/shoreline erosion (Factor A). We found no threats associated with overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes, such as (but not limited to) collection of plants for scientific research (Factor B). We also considered and discussed existing regulatory mechanisms (Factor D) and voluntary conservation efforts as they relate to the threats that may affect beach layia (summarized within each threat discussions within chapters 8 and 10, and detailed in appendix A, of the SSA report, pp. 75–80). The most significant factors influencing the viability of beach layia populations at the time of listing were displacement by nonnative, invasive vegetation; recreational uses such as OHV activities and pedestrians; and urban development (June 22, 1992, 57 FR 27848; Service 1998, p. 45). Currently, our analysis indicates that the level of impacts to beach layia and its habitat that placed the species in danger of extinction in 1992 (i.e., human-induced disturbances including OHV activity, agriculture, pedestrians, development, etc.) have substantially been reduced as a result of the E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules significant commitments made by landowners to conserve lands and institute restoration activities at multiple populations throughout the species’ range. However, the extensive spread of nonnative, invasive vegetation throughout the species’ range remains a significant negative influence on the viability of the species. Additionally, the ability of the majority of landowners to continue management of habitat for the species into the future is uncertain, particularly if the species were to be delisted. At the time of the 5-year review (2011) and currently, we have become aware of the potential for anthropogenic climate change to affect all biota, including beach layia. Available information indicates that temperatures are increasing and annual rainfall is reduced during some years within beach layia’s range, resulting in prolonged drought conditions that negatively influence beach layia abundance. Beach layia’s response to these changes should be monitored into the future. Of the factors identified above, overstabilization/competition with invasive species (Factor A), changing climate conditions (Factor E), erosion/ high level of disturbance (e.g., recreation) (Factor A), and vertical land movement/shoreline erosion (Factor A) are the most significant threats to the species currently or into the foreseeable future. After review and analysis of the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the threats as they relate to the five statutory factors, we find that this information does not indicate that these threats are affecting individual populations or the species as a whole across its range to the extent that they currently are of sufficient imminence, scope, or magnitude to rise to the level that beach layia is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range. However, our review of information indicates that, while the overall range of the species has slightly increased since the time of listing (i.e., discovery of the northernmost population—Freshwater Lagoon Spit), the anticipated trajectory of the identified threats into the foreseeable future is likely to result in a condition whereby the abundance and density of the species across the majority of its range (including the population stronghold areas in a portion of Humboldt County) are likely to be negatively impacted. Specifically, the best available information indicates there is a likelihood of population- and rangewide-level impacts to beach layia abundance in the foreseeable future, despite beneficial management actions VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 at some of the populations at this time. Beach layia populations across the species’ range are likely to be negatively influenced predominantly from overstabilization/competition with invasive species, in conjunction with predicted drought conditions. Our analysis reveals that one or more threats continue to act on the species at the population level, likely contributing to low abundance in most years that do not experience substantial rainfall. Additionally, there is a lack of range expansion at some small populations (e.g., Asilomar State Beach, Indian Village Dunes, and Signal Hill Dunes populations), likely contributing to insufficient recruitment necessary for stable or, ideally, increasing populations. With respect to the remaining populations that are experiencing OHV and other recreation activities (noting this threat is substantially reduced with the exception of a few areas in the North Coast Ecoregion), the existing regulatory mechanisms are likely insufficient to manage the beach layia habitat specifically at the Signal Hill Dunes population. Overall, some disturbance appears compatible with large populations (Wheeler 2017, pers. comm.) Thus, after assessing the best available information, we conclude that beach layia is not currently in danger of extinction, but is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future throughout all of its range. Status Throughout a Significant Portion of Its Range Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a species may warrant listing if it is in danger of extinction or likely to become so in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The court in Center for Biological Diversity v. Everson, 2020 WL 437289 (D.D.C. Jan. 28, 2020) (Everson), vacated the aspect of the 2014 Significant Portion of its Range Policy that provided that the Services do not undertake an analysis of significant portions of a species’ range if the species warrants listing as threatened throughout all of its range. Therefore, we proceed to evaluating whether the species is endangered in a significant portion of its range—that is, whether there is any portion of the species’ range for which both (1) the portion is significant; and, (2) the species is in danger of extinction in that portion. Depending on the case, it might be more efficient for us to address the ‘‘significance’’ question or the ‘‘status’’ question first. We can choose to address PO 00000 Frm 00058 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 61697 either question first. Regardless of which question we address first, if we reach a negative answer with respect to the first question that we address, we do not need to evaluate the other question for that portion of the species’ range. Following the court’s holding in Everson, we now consider whether there are any significant portions of the species’ range where the species is in danger of extinction now (i.e., endangered). In undertaking this analysis for beach layia, we choose to address the status question first—we consider information pertaining to the geographic distribution of both the species and the threats that the species faces to identify any portions of the range where the species is endangered. The statutory difference between an endangered species and a threatened species is the time horizon in which the species becomes in danger of extinction; an endangered species is in danger of extinction now, while a threatened species is not in danger of extinction now but is likely to become so in the foreseeable future. Thus, we considered the time horizon for the threats that are driving the beach layia to warrant its classification as a threatened species throughout all of its range. We examined the following threats: Overstabilization/competition with invasive species, changing climate conditions, erosion/high level of disturbance (e.g., recreation), and vertical land movement/shoreline erosion, including cumulative effects. While some of these threats currently exist throughout the range of the species (e.g., the presence of invasive species, recreational impacts), it is the anticipated future increase in overstabilization/competition with invasives, exacerbated by climate change-influenced drought, that is driving the threatened status of the species. The best scientific and commercial data available indicate that the time horizon on which this heightened threat to beach layia from drought-influenced overstabilization/competition with invasive species, and beach layia’s negative response to that heightened threat, is likely to occur is the foreseeable future. In addition, the best scientific and commercial data available do not indicate that this heightened threat is more immediate in any portions of the species’ range. Therefore, we determine that the beach layia is not in danger of extinction now in any portion of its range, but that the species is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future throughout all of its range. This is consistent with the courts’ holdings in E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 61698 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules Desert Survivors v. Department of the Interior, No. 16–cv–01165–JCS, 2018 WL 4053447 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2018), and Center for Biological Diversity v. Jewell, 248 F. Supp. 3d, 946, 959 (D. Ariz. 2017). Therefore, on the basis of the best available scientific and commercial information, we propose to reclassify beach layia as a threatened species throughout all of its range in accordance with sections 3(20) and 4(a)(1) of the Act. Determination of Status Our review of the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that beach layia meets the definition of a threatened species. Therefore, we propose to downlist beach layia from an endangered species to a threatened species in accordance with sections 3(20) and 4(a)(1) of the Act. II. Proposed Rule Issued Under Section 4(d) of the Act jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Background Section 4(d) of the Act states that the ‘‘Secretary shall issue such regulations as he deems necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation’’ of species listed as threatened. The U.S. Supreme Court has noted that very similar statutory language demonstrates a large degree of deference’ to the agency. See Webster v. Doe, 486 U.S. 592 (1988). Conservation is defined in the Act to mean ‘‘the use of all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to [the Act] are no longer necessary.’’ Additionally, section 4(d) of the Act states that the Secretary ‘‘may by regulation prohibit with respect to any threatened species any act prohibited under section 9(a)(1) . . . . or 9(a)(2).’’ Thus, regulations promulgated under section 4(d) of the Act provide the Secretary with wide latitude of discretion to select appropriate provisions tailored to the specific conservation needs of the threatened species. The statute grants particularly broad discretion to the Service when adopting the prohibitions under section 9. The courts have recognized the extent of the Secretary’s discretion under this standard to develop rules that are appropriate for the conservation of a species. For example, courts have approved rules developed under section 4(d) that include a taking prohibition for threatened wildlife, or include a limited taking prohibition. See Alsea Valley Alliance v. Lautenbacher, 2007 U.S. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 Dist. Lexis 60203 (D. Or. 2007); Washington Environmental Council v. National Marine Fisheries Service, 2002 U.S. Dist. Lexis 5432 (W.D. Wash. 2002). Courts have also approved 4(d) rules that do not address all of the threats a species faces. See State of Louisiana v. Verity, 853 F.2d 322 (5th Cir. 1988). As noted in the legislative history when the Act was initially enacted, ‘‘once an animal is on the threatened list, the Secretary has an almost infinite number of options available to him with regard to the permitted activities for those species. He may, for example, permit taking, but not importation of such species,’’ or he may choose to forbid both taking and importation but allow the transportation of such species, as long as the prohibitions, and exceptions to those prohibitions, will ‘‘serve to conserve, protect, or restore the species concerned in accordance with the purposes of the Act’’ (H.R. Rep. No. 412, 93rd Cong., 1st Sess. 1973). The Service has developed a speciesspecific 4(d) rule that is designed to address the beach layia specific threats and conservation needs. Although the statute does not require the Service to make a ‘‘necessary and advisable’’ finding with respect to the adoption of specific prohibitions under section 9, we find that this regulation is necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of the beach layia. As discussed in the Determination of Beach Layia Status section, the Service has concluded that beach layia is at risk of extinction within the foreseeable future primarily due to overstabilization/ competition with invasive species and drought conditions, in addition to loss of habitat and plants at some locations from recreational disturbance and erosion (e.g., shoreline erosion, vertical land movement). The provisions of this 4(d) rule would promote conservation of beach layia by making it unlawful to remove and reduce to possession beach layia from Federal land. The provisions of this rule are one of many tools that the Service will use to promote the conservation of the beach layia. This proposed 4(d) rule would apply only if and when the Service makes final the listing of the beach layia as a threatened species. Provisions of the 4(d) Rule This proposed 4(d) rule would provide for the conservation of beach layia by prohibiting the following activities, except as otherwise authorized or permitted: For any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to remove and reduce to possession beach layia from areas under Federal jurisdiction; maliciously PO 00000 Frm 00059 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 damage or destroy the species on any area under Federal jurisdiction; or remove, cut, dig up, or damage or destroy the species on any area under Federal jurisdiction in knowing violation of any law or regulation of any State or in the course of any violation of a State criminal trespass law. This proposed 4(d) rule would enhance the conservation of beach layia by prohibiting detrimental activities and allowing activities that would be beneficial to the species. The proposed 4(d) rule only addresses Federal requirements under the Act and would not change any prohibitions provided for by State law. As explained above, the provisions included in this proposed 4(d) rule are necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of beach layia. Nothing in this proposed 4(d) rule would change in any way the recovery planning provisions of section 4(f) of the Act, the consultation requirements under section 7 of the Act, or the ability of the Service to enter into partnerships for the management and protection of beach layia. However, the consultation process may be further streamlined through planned programmatic consultations between Federal agencies and the Service for these activities. We ask the public, particularly State agencies and other interested stakeholders that may be affected by the proposed 4(d) rule, to provide comments and suggestions regarding additional guidance and methods that the Service could provide or use, respectively, to streamline the implementation of this proposed 4(d) rule (see Information Requested, above). As discussed in the Determination of Beach Layia Status (above), several factors are affecting the status of beach layia. A range of activities have the potential to impact the beach layia, including: The loss of habitat and plants at some locations from recreational disturbance. Regulating these activities will help preserve the species’ remaining populations, slow their rate of decline, and decrease synergistic, negative effects from other stressors. We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities, including those described above, involving threatened plants under certain circumstances. Regulations governing permits for threatened plants are codified at 50 CFR 17.72, which states that ‘‘the Director may issue a permit authorizing any activity otherwise prohibited with regard to threatened species.’’ That regulation also states, ‘‘The permit shall be governed by the provisions of this section unless a special rule applicable to the plan is provided in §§ 17.73 to E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules 17.78.’’ We interpret that second sentence to mean that permits for threatened species are governed by the provisions of § 17.72 unless a special rule provides otherwise. We recently promulgated revisions to § 17.71 providing that § 17.71 will no longer apply to plants listed as threatened in the future. We did not intend for those revisions to limit or alter the applicability of the permitting provisions in § 17.72, or require that every special rule spell out any permitting provisions that apply to that species and special rule. To the contrary, we anticipate that permitting provisions would generally be similar or identical for most species, so applying the provisions of § 17.72 unless a special rule provides otherwise would likely avoid substantial duplication. Moreover, this interpretation brings § 17.72 in line with the comparable provision for wildlife at 50 CFR 17.32, in which the second sentence states, ‘‘Such permit shall be governed by the provisions of this section unless a special rule applicable to the wildlife, appearing in §§ 17.40 to 17.48, of this part provides otherwise.’’ Under 50 CFR 17.72 with regard to threatened plants, a permit may be issued for the following purposes: scientific purposes, to enhance propagation or survival, for economic hardship, for botanical or horticultural exhibition, for educational purposes, or other purposes consistent with the purposes of the Act. Additional statutory exemptions from the prohibitions are found in sections 9 and 10 of the Act. The Service recognizes the special and unique relationship with our state natural resource agency partners in contributing to conservation of listed species. State agencies often possess scientific data and valuable expertise on the status and distribution of endangered, threatened, and candidate species of wildlife and plants. State agencies, because of their authorities and their close working relationships with local governments and landowners, are in a unique position to Scientific name assist the Services in implementing all aspects of the Act. In this regard, section 6 of the Act provides that the Services shall cooperate to the maximum extent practicable with the States in carrying out programs authorized by the Act. Therefore, any qualified employee or agent of a State Conservation Agency which is a party to a Cooperative Agreement with the Service in accordance with section 6(c) of the Act, who is designated by his or her agency for such purposes, will be able to conduct activities designed to conserve beach layia that may result in otherwise prohibited activities without additional authorization. III. Required Determinations Clarity of the Rule We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain language. This means that each rule we publish must: (a) Be logically organized; (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly; (c) Use clear language rather than jargon; (d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and (e) Use lists and tables wherever possible. If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us comments by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. To better help us revise this proposed rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For example, you should tell us the names of the sections or paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc. National Environmental Policy Act We determined that we do not need to prepare an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement, as defined under the authority of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), in Common name Where listed Status 61699 connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). References Cited A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2018– 0042, or upon request from the Assistant Field Supervisor, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Authors The primary authors of this proposed rule are the staff members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Assessment Team and the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office. Lists of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17 Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Transportation. Proposed Regulation Promulgation Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below: PART 17—ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS 1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361–1407; 1531– 1544; and 4201–4245, unless otherwise noted. 2. Amend § 17.12 in paragraph (h) by revising the entry for ‘‘Layia carnosa’’ under FLOWERING PLANTS to read as follows: ■ § 17.12 * Endangered and threatened plants. * * (h) * * * * * Listing citations and applicable rules FLOWERING PLANTS jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS * Layia carnosa ......................... * * * Beach layia ........................... Wherever found .................... * ■ * 3. Revise § 17.73 to read as follows: § 17.73 Special rules—flowering plants. (a) [Reserved] VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 * * * T * (b) Layia carnosa (beach layia). (1) Prohibitions. The following prohibitions that apply to endangered PO 00000 Frm 00060 Fmt 4702 * * 57 FR 27848, 6/22/1992; [Federal Register citation when published as a final rule]; 50 CFR 17.73(b).4d Sfmt 4702 * * plants also apply to Layia carnosa (beach layia). Except as provided under paragraph (b)(2) of this section, it is E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1 61700 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 190 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 / Proposed Rules jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to commit, to attempt to commit, to solicit another to commit, or cause to be committed, any of the following acts in regard to this species: (i) Import or export, as set forth at § 17.61(b). (ii) Remove and reduce to possession from areas under Federal jurisdiction, as set forth at § 17.61(c)(1). (iii) Maliciously damage or destroy the species on any areas under Federal jurisdiction, or remove, cut, dig up, or damage or destroy the species on any other area in knowing violation of any State law or regulation or in the course of any violation of a State criminal trespass law, as set forth at section 9(a)(2)(B) of the Act. (iv) Interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial activity, as set forth at § 17.61(d). (v) Sell or offer for sale, as set forth at § 17.61(e). (2) Exceptions from prohibitions. The following exceptions from prohibitions apply to beach layia: (i) The prohibitions described in paragraph (b)(1) of this section do not apply to activities conducted as authorized by a permit issued in accordance with the provisions set forth at § 17.72. (ii) Any employee or agent of the Service or of a State conservation agency that is operating a conservation program pursuant to the terms of a cooperative agreement with the Service in accordance with section 6(c) of the Act, who is designated by that agency for such purposes, may, when acting in the course of official duties, remove and reduce to possession from areas under Federal jurisdiction members of beach layia that are covered by an approved cooperative agreement to carry out conservation programs. (iii) You may engage in any act prohibited under paragraph (b)(1) of this section with seeds of cultivated specimens, provided that a statement that the seeds are of ‘‘cultivated origin’’ accompanies the seeds or their container. Aurelia Skipwith, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2020–19026 Filed 9–29–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:31 Sep 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2019–0069; FXES11130900000–189–FF0932000] RIN 1018–BE14 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reclassifying the Virgin Islands Tree Boa From Endangered to Threatened With a Section 4(d) Rule Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to reclassify the Virgin Islands tree boa (Virgin Islands boa; Chilabothrus (= Epicrates) granti) from an endangered species to a threatened species with a rule issued under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended. If we finalize this rule as proposed, it would reclassify the Virgin Islands boa from endangered to threatened on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (List). This proposal is based on a thorough review of the best available scientific data, which indicate that the species’ status has improved such that it is not currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. We are also proposing a rule under the authority of section 4(d) of the Act that provides measures that are necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of the Virgin Islands boa. Further, we are correcting the List to change the scientific name of the Virgin Islands boa in the List from Epicrates monensis granti to Chilabothrus granti to reflect the currently accepted taxonomy. Virgin Islands boa is a distinct species, not a subspecies, and Epicrates is no longer the scientifically accepted genus for this species. DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before November 30, 2020. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES, below) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We must receive requests for a public hearing, in writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by November 16, 2020. ADDRESSES: Written comments: You may submit comments on this proposed rule by one of the following methods: (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R4–ES–2019–0069, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rule box to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on ‘‘Comment Now!’’ (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2019–0069; 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 Information Requested, below, for more information). Document availability: The proposed rule and supporting documents (including the species status assessment (SSA) report and references cited) are available at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2019– 0069. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Edwin E. Mun˜iz, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, Road 301 Km 5.1, Corozo Ward, Boquero´n, Puerto Rico 00622; or P.O. Box 491, Boquero´n, Puerto Rico 00622; telephone 787–851–7297. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Executive Summary Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Act, a species may warrant reclassification from endangered to threatened if it no longer meets the definition of endangered (in danger of extinction). The Virgin Islands boa is listed as endangered, and we are proposing to reclassify it as threatened because we have determined it is no longer in danger of extinction. Reclassifications can only be made by issuing a rule. Furthermore, extending the ‘‘take’’ prohibitions in section 9 of the Act to threatened species, such as those we are proposing for this species under a section 4(d) rule, can only be made by issuing a rule. Finally, the change of the scientific name of the Virgin Islands boa in the List from Epicrates monensis granti to Chilabothrus granti, can only be made effective by issuing a rule. E:\FR\FM\30SEP1.SGM 30SEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 190 (Wednesday, September 30, 2020)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 61684-61700]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-19026]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2018-0042; FXES11130900000-167-FF09E42000]
RIN 1018-BD00


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reclassification 
of Layia carnosa (Beach Layia) From Endangered to Threatened Species 
Status With Section 4(d) Rule

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to 
reclassify the plant beach layia (Layia carnosa) from an endangered to 
a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act). This proposed reclassification is based on our 
evaluation of the best available scientific and commercial information, 
which indicates that the threats acting upon beach layia continue at 
the population or rangewide scales, albeit to a lesser degree than at 
the time of listing, and we find that beach layia meets the statutory 
definition of a threatened species. We also propose to issue protective 
regulations pursuant to section 4(d) of the Act (``4(d) rule'') that 
are necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of beach 
layia. We seek information and comments from the public regarding this 
proposed rule.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
November 30, 2020. We must receive requests for public hearings, in 
writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by 
November 16, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Written comments: You may submit comments by one of the 
following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R8-ES-2018-0042, 
which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the 
Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel on the left 
side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the 
Proposed Rule box to locate this document. You may submit a comment by 
clicking on ``Comment Now!''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Public Comments 
Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2018-0042, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
MS: BPHC, 5275

[[Page 61685]]

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 Information Requested, below, for more information).
    Availability of supporting materials: A copy of the species status 
assessment (SSA) report referenced throughout this document can be 
viewed on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. 
FWS-R8-ES-2018-0042, or at the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office's 
website at http://www.fws.gov/Arcata/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Norris, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, 1655 Heindon Rd., Arcata, 
CA 95521; telephone 707-822-7201. If you use a telecommunications 
device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-
8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the 
Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270) and our August 22, 2016, 
memorandum updating and clarifying the role of peer review of listing 
actions under the Act, we sought the expert opinions of seven 
appropriate specialists regarding the species status assessment (SSA) 
report, which informed the proposed reclassification portion of this 
proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure that our 
reclassification determination is based on scientifically sound data, 
assumptions, and analyses. The peer reviewers have expertise in beach 
layia ecology, habitat, and threats to the species. We received a 
response from four of the seven peer reviewers, which we considered in 
our SSA report and this proposed rule. Additionally, we will consider 
all comments and information we receive during the comment period on 
this proposed rule as we prepare the final determination. Accordingly, 
the final decision may differ from this proposal.

Information Requested

    We intend any final action resulting from this proposal will be 
based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as 
accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments 
or information from other governmental agencies, Native American 
tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
parties concerning this proposed rule. Because we will consider all 
comments and information we receive during the comment period, our 
final determination may differ from this proposal. We particularly seek 
comments concerning:
    (1) Reasons why we should or should not reclassify beach layia from 
an endangered species to a threatened species under the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.);
    (2) New biological or other relevant data concerning any threat (or 
lack thereof) to this species (for example, those associated with 
climate change);
    (3) New information on any efforts by the State or other entities 
to protect or otherwise conserve the species;
    (4) New information concerning the range, distribution, and 
population size or trends of this species; and
    (5) New information on the current or planned activities in the 
habitat or range that may adversely affect or benefit the species.
    (6) Comments and suggestions regarding additional guidance and 
methods that the Service could provide or use, respectively, to 
streamline the implementation of the proposed 4(d) rule.
    Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as 
scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to 
verify any scientific or commercial information you include.
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you 
send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES.
    All comments submitted electronically via http://www.regulations.gov will be presented on the website in their entirety 
as submitted. For comments submitted via hard copy, we will post your 
entire comment--including your personal identifying information--on 
http://www.regulations.gov. You may request at the top of your document 
that we withhold personal information such as your street address, 
phone number, or email address from public review; however, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment, during normal business hours, 
at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
    Please note that submissions merely stating support for or 
opposition to the reclassification action under consideration without 
providing supporting information, although noted, will not be 
considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act 
directs that determinations as to whether any species is an endangered 
or threatened species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best 
scientific and commercial data available.''

Public Hearing

    Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for a public hearing on this 
proposal, if requested. Requests for a public hearing must be received 
by the date specified in DATES at the address shown in FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT. We will schedule a public hearing on this 
proposal, if requested, and announce the date, time, and place of the 
hearing, as well as how to obtain reasonable accommodations, in the 
Federal Register and local newspapers at least 15 days before the 
hearing. For the immediate future, we will provide these public 
hearings using webinars that will be announced on the Service's 
website, in addition to the Federal Register. The use of these virtual 
public hearings is consistent with our regulation at 50 CFR 
424.16(c)(3).

Species Status Assessment

    A species status assessment (SSA) team prepared an SSA report for 
beach layia. The SSA team was composed of Service biologists, in 
consultation with other species experts. The SSA report represents a 
compilation of the best scientific and commercial data available 
concerning the status of beach layia, including the impacts of past, 
present, and future factors (both negative and beneficial) affecting 
the species. As discussed above under Peer Review, the SSA report 
underwent independent peer review by scientists with expertise in beach 
layia ecology, habitat management, and stressors that negatively affect 
the species. The SSA report can be found on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2018-0042, and at the 
Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Previous Federal Actions

    On June 22, 1992, we published a final rule (57 FR 27848) to list 
beach layia as an endangered species. On September 29, 1998, we 
finalized a recovery plan for this and six other coastal species 
(Service 1998, entire). In 2011, we completed a 5-year review (Service 
2011, entire) and concluded that there was evidence to support a 
decision to reclassify beach layia from

[[Page 61686]]

an endangered species to a threatened species under the Act. We 
announced the availability of this review on April 27, 2012 (77 FR 
25112).

I. Proposed Reclassification Determination

Background

    It is our intent to discuss only those topics directly related to 
the reclassification of beach layia in this proposed rule. For more 
information on the species description, life history, genetics, and 
habitat of beach layia, please refer to the May 8, 2018, SSA report 
(Service 2018, entire), which is a comprehensive assessment of the 
biological status of beach layia. At the time of listing (57 FR 27848; 
June 22, 1992), we determined that human-induced disturbances 
(particularly off-highway vehicle (OHV) activity, but also other 
disturbances from agriculture, pedestrians, development, etc.) were 
significant threats to beach layia, resulting in ongoing negative 
population or rangewide impacts. Thus, we determined that the best 
available information indicated that the species was in danger of 
extinction throughout all of its range. Since that time, these 
activities have been significantly reduced, especially OHV activity, 
with records of the species demonstrating positive responses in 
abundance. Additionally, significant areas have been set aside as 
preserves and conservation areas. After taking into consideration our 
threats analysis and recovery criteria (Service 1998, pp. 43-48), we 
have determined that the species no longer meets the definition of an 
endangered species, but does meet the definition of a threatened 
species (likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable 
future). Given this information, the best available scientific and 
commercial information now indicate that the species has improved to 
the point that it can be downlisted.
    The SSA report provides a thorough account of the species' overall 
condition currently and into the future. In this section, we summarize 
the conclusions of that assessment, including: (1) The species' 
description, ecology, habitat, and resource needs; (2) beach layia's 
current condition, including population abundance, distribution, and 
factors affecting its viability; and (3) potential future conditions. 
The full report can be accessed on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2018-0042.

Species Description

    Beach layia is a succulent annual herb belonging to the sunflower 
family (Asteraceae). Plants range up to 6 inches (in) (15.2 centimeter 
(cm)) tall and 16 in (40.6 cm) across (Baldwin et al. 2012, p. 369). 
Characteristics distinguishing beach layia from similar species include 
its fleshy leaves; inconspicuous flower heads with short (0.08 to 0.1 
in (2 to 2.5 millimeter (mm)) long) white ray flowers (occasionally 
purple) and yellow disk flowers; and bristles around the top of the 
one-seeded achene, or dry fruit (Service 1998, p. 43).

Ecology, Habitat, and Resource Needs of Beach Layia

    Beach layia germinates during the rainy season between fall and 
mid-winter, blooms in spring (March to July), and completes its life 
cycle before the dry season (July-September) (Service 1998, p. 45). 
Populations tend to be patchy and subject to large annual fluctuations 
in size and dynamic changes in local distribution associated with the 
shifts in dune blowouts, remobilization, and natural dune stabilization 
that occur in the coastal dune ecosystem (Service 1998, p. 45). Beach 
layia plants often occur where sparse vegetation traps wind-dispersed 
seeds, but causes minimal shading. Seeds are dispersed by wind mostly 
during late spring and summer months (Service 1998, p. 45). 
Additionally, beach layia is self-compatible (i.e., able to be 
fertilized by its own pollen), capable of self-pollination, and is 
visited by a variety of insects that may assist in cross-pollination 
(Sahara 2000, entire). Although the role of pollinators is currently 
unclear, sexual reproduction does add to genetic diversity.
    Beach layia occurs in open spaces of sandy soil between the low-
growing perennial plants in the Abronia latifolia--Ambrosia chamissonis 
herbaceous alliance (dune mat) and Leymus mollis herbaceous alliance 
(sea lyme grass patches) (Sawyer et al. 2009, pp. 743-745, 958-959). 
Typically, the total vegetation cover in both communities is relatively 
sparse, and many annual species, including beach layia, colonize the 
space between established, tufted perennials. Beach layia can also 
occur in narrow bands of moderately disturbed habitat along the edges 
of trails and roads in dune systems dominated by invasive species.
    Coastal dune systems are composed of a mosaic of vegetation 
communities of varying successional stages (see additional discussion 
in section 4.4 of the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 9-11). Beach layia 
occurs in early to mid-successional communities in areas where sand is 
actively being deposited or eroding. Too much sand movement prevents 
plants from establishing, but areas with some movement on a periodic 
basis support early successional communities. Movement of sand by wind 
is essential for the development and sustainability of a dune system. 
Wind is also important to beach layia specifically because it is the 
mechanism by which seeds are dispersed. The achenes (a small, dry, one-
seeded fruit that does not open to release the seed) have pappus 
(feathery bristles) that allow them to be carried by wind for a short 
distance. Although not all seeds may land on suitable habitat, this 
adaptation allows the small annual to spread across the landscape into 
uninhabited areas.
    As a winter germinating annual, beach layia requires rainfall 
during the winter months (November through February) for germination 
and, although it is relatively tolerant to the drought-like conditions 
of upland dunes, it does need some moisture through the spring to 
prevent desiccation. Moisture also reduces the risk of burial, as dry 
sand is more mobile and mortality caused by burial has been documented 
(Imper 2014, p. 6).
    The overall resource needs that beach layia requires in order for 
individuals to complete their life cycles and for populations to 
maintain viability are:
    (1) Sandy soils with sparse native vegetation cover,
    (2) Rainfall during the winter germination period,
    (3) Sunlight (full sun exposure for photosynthesis), and
    (4) Unknown degree of cross-pollination (to add to genetic 
diversity).

Species Distribution and Abundance

    For the purposes of our analysis as summarized in our SSA report 
(Service 2018, entire), we grouped the populations by ecoregions based 
on average annual rainfall (precipitation is directly correlated with 
abundance for this species), habitat characteristics, and distance 
between population centers. The North Coast Ecoregion contains the 
largest and most resilient populations and receives the highest average 
annual rainfall. The Central Coast Ecoregion receives less rain than 
the North Coast but more than the South Coast, and is comprised of 
three small populations on the Monterey peninsula that are less 
resilient due to low abundance, although habitat quality is high at two 
of the sites. The South Coast Ecoregion, both historically and 
currently, consists of a single population on the

[[Page 61687]]

Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB). Average annual rainfall varies across 
the three ecoregions. Rainfall in the North Coast Ecoregion is around 
38 in (96 cm), while the Central Coast Ecoregion receives 20 in (51 
cm), and the South Coast Ecoregion receives 14 in (36 cm) (National 
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 2017).
    Historical distribution of beach layia is similar to that known 
currently, while abundance values have increased, primarily due to 
increased survey efforts, amelioration of some threats, and a better 
understanding of the species' reproduction pattern following years with 
high amounts of rainfall. The current distribution includes populations 
spread across dune systems in the following geographic areas 
(ecoregions) covering more than 500 miles (mi) (805 kilometers (km)) of 
shoreline in northern, central, and southern California (see figures 7-
13 and table 2 in the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 15-24)):
     North Coast Ecoregion:

Humboldt County--Freshwater Lagoon Spit, Humboldt Bay area, mouth of 
the Eel River, McNutt Gulch, and mouth of the Mattole River

Marin County--Point Reyes National Seashore
     Central Coast Ecoregion:

Monterey County--Monterey Peninsula

     South Coast Ecoregion:

Santa Barbara County--Vandenberg AFB (located on part of the Guadalupe-
Nipomo Dunes)

    Of the known historical populations, four are considered 
extirpated, including the San Francisco population, the Point Pinos 
population in the Monterey area, and two populations north of the Mad 
River in Humboldt County. All currently extant populations were known 
at the time of listing and when the recovery plan was finalized (1992 
and 1998, respectively), with the exception of the Freshwater Lagoon 
population discovered in 2000, at the far northern extent of the 
species' range (see table, below). The total number of individuals 
across the range of the species reported in the recovery plan was 
300,000. However, sampling data collected at the Lanphere Dunes that 
same year yielded an estimate of over one million plants for that 
subpopulation alone, which indicates the estimate in the recovery plan 
was substantially lower than the actual number of individuals (Pickart 
2018, pers. comm.).
    Current conditions and trend information (when available) are 
summarized below for the 13 extant populations (including the North 
Spit Humboldt Bay population that is comprised of 8 subpopulations and 
the largest proportion of plants throughout the species' range). 
Information about extirpated populations is also shown in the table, 
below. Additional information on current conditions of these 
populations, as well as information about the four extirpated 
populations, is found in section 7.0 of the SSA report (Service 2018, 
pp. 25-38).

  Table of Beach Layia's Historical and Current Populations, Subpopulations, Ownership, and Abundance Estimates, Based on the Best Available Scientific
                                                               and Commercial Information
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                                      2017  Abundance
            Population                Subpopulation                Status                 Ownership             2017 Acres               estimate
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         NORTH COAST ECOREGION (Humboldt County)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Freshwater Lagoon Spit...........  ...................  Extant.....................  National Park        3 \1\.................  842. \1\
                                                                                      Service.
Mouth of Little River............  ...................  Extirpated \2\.............  California State     0.....................  N/A.
                                                                                      Parks.
Mouth of Mad River...............  ...................  Extirpated \2\.............  Humboldt County....  0.....................  N/A.
North Spit Humboldt Bay..........  Mad River Beach....  Extant.....................  Humboldt County,     unknown...............  unknown.
                                                                                      Humboldt Bay
                                                                                      National Wildlife
                                                                                      Refuge (Refuge).
                                   Bair/Woll..........  Extant.....................  Refuge, Private....  13 \3\................  unknown.
                                   Lanphere Dunes.....  Extant.....................  Refuge.............  33 \3\................  1.3 million. \3\
                                   Ma-le'l North......  Extant.....................  Refuge.............  29 \3\................  1.3 million. \3\
                                   Ma-le'l South......  Extant.....................  Bureau of Land       48 \3\................  2.1 million. \3\
                                                                                      Management (BLM).
                                   Manila North.......  Extant.....................  Friends of the       82 \3\................  1.4 million. \3\
                                                                                      Dunes, Manila
                                                                                      Community Services
                                                                                      District.
                                   Manila South.......  Extant.....................  Private............  47 \3\................  unknown.
                                   Samoa/Eureka Dunes.  Extant.....................  BLM, City of Eureka  49 \3\................  6.7 million. \3\
Elk River........................  ...................  Extant.....................  City of Eureka.....  15 \3\................  468,000.
South Spit Humboldt Bay..........  ...................  Extant.....................  California           83 \3\................  6.1 million. \3\
                                                                                      Department of Fish
                                                                                      and Wildlife
                                                                                      (CDFW), BLM.
North Spit Eel River.............  ...................  Extant.....................  CDFW...............  37 \3\................  4.7 million. \3\
South Spit Eel River.............  ...................  Extant.....................  Wildlands            1.5 \3\...............  11,307. \4\
                                                                                      Conservancy.
McNutt Gulch.....................  ...................  Extant.....................  Private............  1 \5\.................  unknown.
Mouth of Mattole River...........  ...................  Extant.....................  BLM................  27 \2\................  3.1 million. \6\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          NORTH COAST ECOREGION (Marin County)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Point Reyes NS...................  ...................  Extant.....................  National Park        146 \7\...............  2.7 million. \7\
                                                                                      Service.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     CENTRAL COAST ECOREGION (San Francisco County)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
San Francisco....................  ...................  Extirpated.................  ...................  0.....................  N/A.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        CENTRAL COAST ECOREGION (Monterey County)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Point Pinos......................  ...................  Extirpated.................  City of Pacific      0.....................  N/A.
                                                                                      Grove.
Asilomar State Beach.............  ...................  Extant.....................  California State     0.17 \8\..............  1,541. \8\
                                                                                      Parks.
Indian Village Dunes.............  ...................  Extant.....................  Private............  0.55 \9\..............  1,200. \10\
Signal Hill Dunes................  ...................  Extant.....................  Private............  1 \5\.................  unknown.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 61688]]

 
                                                      SOUTH COAST ECOREGION (Santa Barbara County)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Vandenberg AFB...................  ...................  Extant.....................  Department of        0.83 \11\.............  5,069. \11\
                                                                                      Defense.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Census and mapping conducted by the National Park Service (Julian 2017, pers. comm.).
\2\ California Natural Diversity Database (California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB); 2017).
\3\ Mapping and population estimate conducted by the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, 2017.
\4\ Census conducted by the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office (Goldsmith 2017, pers. obs.).
\5\ Actual amount of occupied habitat not determined; conservative estimate.
\6\ Estimate based on average density from monitoring data collected by BLM (Hassett 2017, pers. comm.).
\7\ Point Reyes NS, mapping from 2001-2003 and 2017 sampling conducted in Abbots Lagoon area (Parsons 2017, pers. comm.).
\8\ Mapping and census conducted by California State Parks (Gray 2017, pers. comm.).
\9\ Mapping conducted as part of a capstone project by a student at Monterey Bay State University (Johns 2009).
\10\ Estimate provided by consultant (Dorrell-Canepa 2017).
\11\ Mapping and census conducted by Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (Schneider and Calloway 2017).

Freshwater Lagoon Spit Population

    This is the northern-most population of beach layia, which was 
discovered during spring 2000, in northern Humboldt County at Redwood 
National Park, currently encompassing approximately 3 acres (ac) (1.2 
hectares (ha)) (Julian 2017, pers. comm.). A census of the population 
has been conducted every year since 2000, and results indicate the 
population and individual patches fluctuate substantially, with a peak 
of 11,110 plants recorded in 2003, and as few as 263 plants in 2014 
(Julian 2017, pers. comm.) (see figure 14 in the SSA report). The 
overall trend of this population is declining, likely due to drought 
conditions and high cover of native grasses (red fescue (Festuca 
rubra)) adversely affecting its resource needs (i.e., reduction of area 
of sparse vegetative cover and sunlight).

North Spit Humboldt Bay Population

    Mad River Beach Subpopulation: The Mad River Beach subpopulation is 
the northern-most subpopulation (one of eight) within the North Spit 
Humboldt Bay population (hereafter referred to as ``North Spit''). 
There is little information available for this subpopulation, which 
resides on Humboldt County-owned land south of the mouth of the Mad 
River, as well as the nearby Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge-
owned Long parcel. Beach layia is fairly abundant and widely 
distributed within the dune mat habitat in this area (Goldsmith 2018, 
pers. obs.). However, the vegetation community is dominated by 
invasive, nonnative species including European beachgrass (Ammophila 
arenaria), annual grasses (ripgut brome (Bromus diandrus) and quaking 
grass (Briza maxima)), and yellow bush lupine (Lupinus arboreous) 
(Goldsmith 2018, pers. obs.). The subpopulation is conservatively 
estimated to encompass approximately 1 ac (0.4 ha), although abundance, 
distribution, and trend information is unknown. Suitable habitat is 
limited due to overstabilization caused by a heavy invasion of invasive 
nonnative species. No efforts to restore ecosystem function are 
currently under way, nor does the County or Refuge have any restoration 
planned at this time.
    Bair/Woll Subpopulation: This subpopulation occurs on the Refuge-
owned Bair parcel and privately owned Woll parcel; acquisition and 
restoration of the entire subpopulation is a high priority for the 
Refuge (Refuge 2013, p. 2). The majority of the area is dominated by 
nonnative, invasive species including European beachgrass, iceplant 
(Carpobrotus edulis and C. chilensis), yellow bush lupine, and annual 
grasses (Pickart 2018, pers. comm.). To date, restoration has occurred 
on the southwest corner of the Bair parcel. The subpopulation 
encompasses approximately 13 ac (5.3 ha), although abundance and trend 
information, and adequacy of resource needs--beyond the visible 
reduction of sparse vegetative cover--are unknown.
    Lanphere Dunes Subpopulation: This subpopulation occurs on the 
Lanphere Dunes Unit of the Refuge and encompasses a conservative 
estimate of approximately 33 ac (13 ha) (Service 2017, unpublished 
data). Restoration has been underway since the 1980s, including removal 
of invasive plants in an effort to restore ecosystem function. Ongoing 
nonnative species removal/maintenance appears necessary in this area to 
ensure that beach layia's resource needs are met. Over the years, this 
population of beach layia has responded positively to restoration 
actions and negatively to lack of rainfall in the winter months (see 
figure 15 in the SSA report). In 2017, abundance was estimated for both 
Lanphere Dunes and Ma-le'l North (see below) at approximately 1 million 
individual plants (Pickart 2017, pers. comm.).
    Ma-le'l North Subpopulation: This subpopulation resides directly 
south of the Lanphere Dunes on the Ma-le'l North Dunes Unit of the 
Refuge and comprises the northern end of the Ma-le'l Cooperative 
Management Area (CMA), the southern portion of which is cooperatively 
owned/managed by BLM (see Ma-le'l South Subpopulation, below). 
Nonnative plants (i.e., European beachgrass, annual grasses, iceplant, 
and yellow bush lupine) require continued control to maintain the open/
sparse vegetative cover and adequate sunlight needs that beach layia 
relies on. The total subpopulation area is approximately 29 ac (11.7 
ha) (Service 2017, unpublished data).
    Ma-le'l South Subpopulation: Extending immediately south of the Ma-
le'l North subpopulation, the Ma-le'l South subpopulation is 
approximately 48 ac (19.4 ha), had an estimate of approximately 2 
million individuals in 2017, and is owned/managed by BLM. Restoration 
has produced positive results in favor of beach layia persistence, 
although periodic maintenance of nonnative, invasive plants is 
necessary (Wheeler 2017, pers. comm.) to ensure the open/sparse 
vegetative cover resource need that beach layia relies on. 
Additionally, the best available data indicate this subpopulation is 
less abundant during drought years (2012-2015), followed by a positive 
spike in abundance following a winter of substantial rainfall (Wheeler 
2017, pers. comm.) (see also figure 16 in the SSA report). The results 
of this subpopulation's monitoring (i.e., that beach layia is less 
abundant during

[[Page 61689]]

drought years and more abundant following winters with heavy rainfall) 
are likely representative of the species across its entire range, based 
on the best available data to date regarding the species ecology and 
life history characteristics.
    Manila North Subpopulation: This subpopulation encompasses two 
areas within close proximity to each other on lands owned/managed by 
the Manila Community Services District (CSD) and the nonprofit 
organization known as Friends of the Dunes. The total estimated 
subpopulation (both areas) was approximately 1.4 million individuals in 
2017 and occupies approximately 82 ac (33 ha). Efforts have been made 
to remove nonnative, invasive species, but the efforts have not been 
consistent and many areas have been re-invaded. Active management is 
needed to ensure the open/sparse vegetative cover and adequate sunlight 
needs that beach layia relies on are available.
    Manila South Subpopulation: This subpopulation is immediately south 
of the north population but resides on private property, encompassing 
approximately 47 ac (19 ha) as reported most recently in 2017 (Service 
2017, unpublished data). The area is dominated with nonnative, invasive 
European beachgrass, iceplant, and annual grasses. Abundance and trend 
information, and adequacy of resource needs--beyond the visible 
reduction of area of sparse vegetative cover--are unknown.
    Samoa/Eureka Dunes Subpopulation: This subpopulation is the 
southern extent/limit of the North Spit (Humboldt Bay) population, 
encompassing approximately 49 ac (20 ha) on lands owned/managed by both 
BLM and the City of Eureka and was estimated to include over 6 million 
individuals in 2017. The BLM lands occupied by the species are managed 
to provide both an Endangered Species Protection Area and an open OHV 
use area. The remainder of the City's occupied habitat includes an 
additional OHV use area, an industrial zoned area containing an 
operational airport facility, and an 84-ac (34-ha) parcel under 
conservation easement known as the Eureka Dunes Protected Area held by 
the Center for Natural Lands Management. Some of this subpopulation has 
been restored; however, nonnative, invasive species continue to envelop 
open areas where beach layia plants occur. Some monitoring data 
recently available indicate the protected areas harbor a higher density 
of beach layia compared to the OHV area, including increased density of 
beach layia over the past 2 years, which correlates with increased 
precipitation over this same time frame (BLM 2016b). Similar to the 
monitoring results discussed in the Ma-le'l South Subpopulation, above, 
the results of this subpopulation's monitoring (i.e., beach layia 
occurring at higher densities in the restored, protected areas compared 
to heavily impacted OHV areas, and high densities of beach layia plants 
correlating with years that have heavy annual rainfall) are likely 
representative of the species across its entire range, based on the 
best available data to date regarding the species' ecology and life-
history characteristics.

Elk River Population

    This population is owned and managed by the City of Eureka on the 
east shore of Humboldt Bay at the mouth of Elk River (see figure 8 in 
the SSA report). The spit is approximately 1.2 mi (1.9 km) long by up 
to 0.1 mi (0.16 km) wide, and beach layia occupies approximately 15 ac 
(6 ha) and was estimated to include 468,000 individuals in 2017 
(Service 2017, unpublished data). Trend information is not available, 
although a recent survey in 2017 indicates the area is dominated by 
nonnative, invasive European beachgrass (Goldsmith 2017, pers. obs.).

South Spit Humboldt Bay Population

    The 5-mi (8-km) stretch of dune that supports beach layia extends 
south from Humboldt Bay's entrance to the base of Table Bluff (see 
Figure 8 in the SSA report). The majority of this population is owned 
by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) as the Mike 
Thompson Wildlife Area, and the remainder is owned by BLM, which also 
manages the entire population (BLM 2014b, p. 3). The best available 
information suggests this population has increased in size since 2003, 
currently encompassing 83 ac (34 ha) with a population estimate of 
approximately 6 million plants (Service 2017, unpublished data). The 
steady increase in occupied beach layia habitat over time is due to the 
continued restoration effort to remove nonnative, invasive European 
beachgrass and iceplant (BLM 2014b, p. 7; Wheeler 2017, pers. comm.). 
Additionally, monitoring data available from two plots established in 
2008 indicate increased density of beach layia following restoration, 
decreased density during recent drought years, and a subsequent 
increased density with high levels of annual precipitation (BLM 2014b, 
p. 15). These monitoring data suggest that beach layia density 
increases dramatically following restoration, that density settles to a 
more moderate level as native plants fill in the previously invaded 
habitat, and that density is also strongly correlated to rainfall.

North Spit Eel River Population

    Located immediately south of the South Spit Humboldt Bay 
Population, this population encompasses 37 ac (15 ha) of conserved 
lands within the CDFW's Eel River Wildlife Area and was estimated to 
include 4.7 million individuals in 2017 (Service 2017, unpublished 
data). The area is dominated by nonnative, invasive species including 
European beachgrass, iceplant, yellow bush lupine, and annual grasses. 
Trend information and adequacy of resource needs--beyond the visible 
reduction of area of sparse vegetative cover--are unknown.

South Spit Eel River Population

    On the south side of the Eel River mouth, this population occurs on 
an area owned and managed by the Wildlands Conservancy, encompassing 
approximately 1.5 ac (0.6 ha) of occupied beach layia habitat and 
11,307 plants as recorded in 2017 (Service 2017, unpublished data). It 
is likely that beach layia occurs in other areas of the property, 
although additional survey data do not yet exist. The area harbors 
nonnative, invasive European beachgrass that is reducing the 
availability of open sandy areas for beach layia to persist.

McNutt Gulch Population

    This population was discovered in 1987, on private property near 
the mouth of McNutt Gulch. Varied numbers of plants have been recorded, 
ranging from 200 to 500 plants (CNDDB 2017; Imper 2018, pers. comm.), 
although a complete survey has not yet occurred. The occupied area is 
estimated to be less than 1 ac (0.4 ha) (Imper 2018, pers. comm.). A 
comparison of current and historical aerial photos indicate 
encroachment of European beachgrass. At this time, there is no beach 
layia trend information available.

Mouth of Mattole River Population

    This is the southern extent of the known beach layia populations 
within Humboldt County. This population occupies approximately 27 ac 
(11 ha) within part of the King Range National Conservation Area and 
was estimated to include 3.1 million individuals in 2017 (Hassett 2017, 
pers. comm.). The area is owned and managed by BLM and is located 35 mi 
(56 km) south of the entrance to Humboldt Bay. Monitoring data 
available from 2017 indicate this

[[Page 61690]]

population had a spike in abundance that year compared to the previous 
year (estimated to be 725,000 individuals) that correlates to an 
increase in precipitation (Hassett 2017, pers. comm.).

Point Reyes Population

    The next known population of beach layia to the south is located in 
Marin County, 200 mi (322 km) south of Humboldt Bay, in the dunes 
between Kehoe Beach Dunes and the Point Reyes lighthouse at Point Reyes 
(Service 1998, p. 44; figure 11 in the SSA report). This large dune 
system contains approximately 146 ac (59 ha) of dunes occupied by beach 
layia within 14 geographically concentrated areas, based on mapping 
conducted since 2001 (Point Reyes 2010, unpaginated). However, some of 
those areas were no longer occupied in 2017 (Goldsmith 2017, pers. 
obs.). The population was estimated to be 2.7 million in 2017 though 
varying levels of survey intensity over the years hamper our ability to 
track population trends (Parsons 2017, pers. comm.). However, sampling 
conducted from 2015-2017 in the Abbots Lagoon area, which includes 
recently restored areas, estimate increasing abundance (Parsons 2017, 
pers. comm.), which also correlates with an increase in precipitation. 
Restoration is ongoing and includes removal of nonnative, invasive 
European beachgrass and iceplant, which occur at various densities 
throughout the 14 subpopulations (Parsons 2017, pers. comm.).

Asilomar State Beach Population

    The northern-most extant population in Monterey County was 
previously thought to be extirpated but was rediscovered in 1990 
(Service 1998, p. 44). Since the time of the first survey effort in 
1994, in which 192 plants were found, subsequent survey efforts found 
the abundance to remain relatively static within the same geographical 
footprint (Service 2011, p. 22; Gray 2017, pers. comm.). Most recently 
in 2017, the occupied beach layia habitat consisted of a sparse layer 
of native dune mat vegetation with no presence of nonnative, invasive 
species (Dorrell-Canepa 2017, pers. comm.). A total of 1,541 plants 
were counted within 0.17 ac (688 m\2\) (Gray 2017, pers. comm.). This 
2017 count is the highest on record for this population, possibly 
correlated with the high amount of rainfall during the germination 
period. This population appears to be stable given its consistent year-
to-year presence and relative protection from threats.

Indian Village Dunes Population

    The second of three populations in Monterey County, the Indian 
Village Dunes population occurs on restored dune habitat owned by the 
Pebble Beach Company, most recently (2017) estimated at 1,200 plants on 
0.55 ac (0.2 ha) (Dorrell-Canepa 2017, pers. comm.). Trends on 
distribution and abundance are not available, beyond one additional 
2009 survey result of 1,783 plants over the same size acreage. This 
area is preserved through a conservation easement, and restoration 
activities have occurred and the habitat consists of sparse native 
vegetation.

Signal Hill Dunes Population

    This southern-most population within Monterey County is located 
less than 1 mi (1.6 km) south of the Indian Village Dunes population 
and is also owned by Pebble Beach Company. No recent survey information 
exists. The best available information is from a 2001 survey effort 
indicating plants occurring in five semi-isolated areas (Zander 
Associates 2001, p. 7), likely encompassing less than 1 ac (0.4 ha). No 
information is known regarding adequacy of the area to meet the 
species' resource needs.

Vandenberg AFB Population

    The southern-most population of beach layia occurs on Vandenberg 
AFB in Santa Barbara County, separated by a distance of approximately 
235 mi (378 km) from the Signal Hill Dunes population. This area 
receives less annual rainfall than the Central and North Coast 
Ecoregions (i.e., 14 in (36 cm) as compared to 20 in (51 cm) and 38 in 
(96 cm), respectively) (NOAA 2017). In both 2012 and 2016, a census of 
all known occupied habitat was conducted and 2,397 and 1,855 plants 
were counted, respectively. Most recently, in 2017, a total of 5,069 
plants were counted (Schneider and Calloway 2017, p. 6). Due to varying 
levels of survey effort, there is no beach layia population trend 
information for this entire population, although the number of beach 
layia within a restoration area on the south side of the AFB 
demonstrates wide fluctuations in population size from year to year, 
which is often correlated to the amount of rainfall (see table 4 in the 
SSA report). Although restoration of beach layia habitat on Vandenberg 
AFB has occurred and is expected to continue into the future, it is 
highly stabilized due to the presence of nonnative, invasive species, 
including iceplant, European beachgrass, and veldt grass (Ehrharta 
erecta) (Schneider and Calloway 2017, p. 14), thus reducing the open 
sandy areas that beach layia relies on.

Summary of Factors Affecting Beach Layia

    The Act directs us to determine whether any species is an 
endangered species or a threatened species because of any factors 
affecting its continued existence. Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1533) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 424) set forth the 
procedures for determining whether a species is an ``endangered 
species'' or a ``threatened species.'' The Act defines an endangered 
species as a species that is ``in danger of extinction throughout all 
or a significant portion of its range,'' and a threatened species as a 
species that is ``likely to become an endangered species within the 
foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range.'' The Act requires that we determine whether any species is an 
``endangered species'' or a ``threatened species'' because of any of 
the following 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.
    These factors represent broad categories of natural or human-caused 
actions or conditions that could have an effect on a species' continued 
existence. In evaluating these actions and conditions, we look for 
those that may have a negative effect on individuals of the species, as 
well as other actions or conditions that may ameliorate any negative 
effects or may have positive effects.
    We use the term ``threat'' to refer in general to actions or 
conditions that are known to or are reasonably likely to negatively 
affect individuals of a species. The term ``threat'' includes actions 
or conditions that have a direct impact on individuals (direct 
impacts), as well as those that affect individuals through alteration 
of their habitat or required resources (stressors). The term ``threat'' 
may encompass--either together or separately--the source of the action 
or condition or the action or condition itself.
    However, the mere identification of any threat(s) does not 
necessarily mean that the species meets the statutory definition of an 
``endangered species'' or a ``threatened species.'' In determining

[[Page 61691]]

whether a species meets either definition, we must evaluate all 
identified threats by considering the expected response by the species, 
and the effects of the threats--in light of those actions and 
conditions that will ameliorate the threats--on an individual, 
population, and species level. We evaluate each threat and its expected 
effects on the species, then analyze the cumulative effect of all of 
the threats on the species as a whole. We also consider the cumulative 
effect of the threats in light of those actions and conditions that 
will have positive effects on the species, such as any existing 
regulatory mechanisms or conservation efforts. The Secretary determines 
whether the species meets the definition of an ``endangered species'' 
or a ``threatened species'' only after conducting this cumulative 
analysis and describing the expected effect on the species now and in 
the foreseeable future.
    In our determination, we correlate the threats acting on the 
species to the factors in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. We summarize the 
SSA for beach layia (Service 2018, entire) below. Determining whether 
the status of a species has improved to the point that it can be 
downlisted (i.e., reclassified from endangered to threatened) or 
delisted (i.e., removed from listed status) requires consideration of 
whether the species meets the definition of either endangered species 
or threatened species contained in the Act. For species that are 
already listed as endangered species or threatened species, this 
analysis of threats is an evaluation of both the threats currently 
facing the species and the threats that are reasonably likely to affect 
the species in the foreseeable future following the delisting or 
downlisting and the removal or reduction of the Act's protections.
    As stated previously, at the time of listing (57 FR 27848; June 22, 
1992), we determined that human-induced disturbances (particularly OHV 
activity, but also other disturbances from agriculture, pedestrians, 
development, etc.) were significant threats to beach layia, resulting 
in ongoing negative population or rangewide impacts; thus, we 
determined that the best available information indicated that the 
species was in danger of extinction throughout all of its range. Since 
that time, these activities have been significantly reduced, especially 
OHV activity, with records of the species subsequently demonstrating 
positive responses in abundance. Additionally, significant areas have 
been set aside, including preserves, conservation areas, and 
conservation easements.
    This current analysis considers the beneficial influences on beach 
layia, as well as the potential risk factors (i.e., threats) that are 
either remaining or new and could be affecting beach layia now or in 
the future. In this proposed rule, we will discuss in detail only those 
factors that could meaningfully impact the status of the species. The 
primary risk factors affecting beach layia are the present and 
threatened modification or destruction of its habitat from 
overstabilization/competition with invasive species (Factor A from the 
Act), modification of its habitat from changing climate conditions 
(Factor E), modification of its habitat from human-influenced erosion/
high level of disturbance (e.g., recreation) (Factor A), and 
modification of its habitat from vertical land movement/shoreline 
erosion (i.e., varying levels of uplift and subsidence, as described 
below) (Factor A). Additional threats to the species include 
development (Factor A) and herbivory/disease (Factor C); however, our 
analysis shows that while these threats may be impacting individual 
beach layia plants, they are not having species-wide impacts. For a 
full description of all identified threats, refer to chapter 8 of the 
SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 38-48).

Overstabilization/Competition With Invasive Species

    Areas described as overstabilized in this document (and discussed 
in detail in section 8.2.1 of the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 41-43)) 
have high vegetation cover and restricted sand movement either due to 
presence of nonnative, invasive species or presence of species (native 
or nonnative) that move in after an area is stabilized by invasive 
species. Overstabilization caused by invasive species, as defined here, 
is a different ecological process from natural succession in which 
native vegetation changes over time from the semi-stable dune mat 
community to more stabilized communities. Both overstabilization and 
natural succession have a negative impact on the abundance of beach 
layia because the species requires open sand to colonize an area (see 
Ecology, Habitat, and Resource Needs of Beach Layia, above). At this 
time, the best available information indicates that large portions of 
the range of beach layia have been made unsuitable by overstabilization 
and competition with both native and nonnative invasive species 
(Service 2017 pp. 41-43). However, dune systems that are naturally 
succeeding often still contain areas of semi-stable dunes--although 
they may shift over time--that are suitable for beach layia. One 
population--the Freshwater Lagoon Spit--is the only beach layia 
population that is currently impacted by stabilization caused by native 
species, i.e., red fescue (Samuels 2017, pers. comm.). Although no 
measures are in place to address the stabilization effects, there is an 
experimental project underway to remove native species in order to 
create more suitable habitat for beach layia (Samuels 2017, pers. 
comm.).
    The remainder of beach layia's range is subject to past 
introduction and invasion of its habitat by a variety of nonnative, 
invasive plant species (Service 1998, p. 45), which is one reason why 
the species was listed as an endangered species (57 FR 27848; June 22, 
1992). These nonnative species adversely affect the long-term viability 
of coastal dune plants, including the entire distribution of beach 
layia (with the exception of the Freshwater Lagoon Spit population, as 
described above), through either direct competition for space (56 FR 
12323; March 22, 1991); stabilization of the dunes (56 FR 12318; March 
22, 1991); and in some cases, enrichment of the soils, which then 
stimulate invasion by other aggressive species (Maron and Connors 1996, 
p. 309; Pickart et al. 1998, pp. 59-68). Nonnative, invasive species 
are currently present at all populations throughout the species' range, 
although to a lesser degree at the Lanphere Dunes, Ma-le'l North, and 
Ma-le'l South subpopulations; the Mouth of Mattole River population; 
and Asilomar State Beach and Indian Village Dunes populations due to 
restoration activities. The most common invasive species (European 
beachgrass, iceplant, yellow bush lupine, and ripgut brome) in dune 
systems throughout the range of beach layia are described in section 
8.2.1.1 of the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 42-43). The high level of 
invasion throughout the range of beach layia suggests these taxa will 
continue to invade beach layia habitat (i.e., invasive plants occur at 
varying densities within and adjacent to all extant populations), 
necessitating routine and long-term management actions. Many of the 
invasive plants have been mapped within the various dune systems 
occupied by beach layia (Johns 2009, p. 24; Point Reyes 2015, p. i; 
Mantech SRS Technologies 2018, p. 1), and there have been efforts for 
their removal or control (Service 2011, p. 10; Point Reyes 2015, p. 
105; Mantech SRS Technologies 2018, p. 1). However, much potentially 
suitable habitat for beach layia remains

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to be restored, as identified in the 1992 recovery plan (i.e., the 
portion of the species' range where the majority of occurrences are 
including the Mouth of the Mad River, the greater part of the North and 
South Spits of Humboldt Bay, Elk River Spit, the North and South Spits 
of the Eel River, McNutt Gulch, as well as Point Reyes, Signal Hill 
Dunes, and Vandenberg AFB (recovery criterion 2, see section 11.0)), in 
addition to routine maintenance to control this threat into the future.
    Overall, overstabilization and competition with native or 
nonnative, invasive species are reducing the availability of sandy 
soils with sparse vegetative cover, causing beach layia throughout its 
range to compete for open sandy space, sunlight, and rainfall during 
its winter germination period. Efforts at some locations to remove 
invasive species (such as, but not limited to, European beachgrass, 
iceplant, yellow bush lupine, and ripgut brome) that are adversely 
affecting resources needed by beach layia are reducing these negative 
influences and thus have improved the species' current resiliency at 
many populations. However, the ability of land managers to continue 
manage the ongoing threat of invasive species into the future is 
uncertain.

Changing Climate Conditions

    Changes in weather patterns have been observed in recent years and 
are predicted to continue (Frankson et al. 2017, p. 1). This can 
include extreme events such as multi-year droughts or heavy rain events 
(Frankson et al. 2017, pp. 2-5). All of these have the potential to 
remove, reduce, and degrade habitat, as well as remove individual 
plants, reduce germination and survival rates, and reduce fecundity. 
The best available scientific and commercial information at this time 
does not indicate how historical changes in climate may have affected 
beach layia, although recent drought conditions have had a negative 
impact on population size (BLM 2016a, p. 6; ManTech SRS Technologies 
2016, p. 29).
    The best available information indicates that recent drought 
conditions (2012-2016) negatively influenced the abundance of beach 
layia (e.g., lack of rainfall for germination, reduced fecundity, 
desiccation during dry periods in the growing season) across the 
species' range (BLM 2016a, p. 6; BLM 2014b, p. 16; Pickart 2017, pers. 
comm.; Gray 2017, pers. comm.; ManTech SRS Technologies 2018, p. 9). A 
subsequent increase in abundance was seen in 2017, corresponding with 
the increase in rainfall at the end of this multi-year drought period, 
indicating the seedbank for the species has some ability to withstand 
multi-year droughts. However, at this point in time the full longevity 
of the seedbank is unknown; therefore, it is impossible to predict 
whether the species could withstand even longer drought periods or 
whether drought conditions could reach a point at which the seedbank 
would no longer be viable. All that can be reasonably concluded from 
the available information is that multi-year droughts have a negative 
effect on beach layia abundance, reducing above-ground vegetative 
growth, and that the seedbank for the species appears to be able to 
withstand at least four years of consecutive drought and then 
regenerate new vegetative growth once more normal rainfall patterns 
return (noting a tendency for the species to experience a spike in 
abundance following a drought).
    The Intergovernmental Panel on climate change states it is likely 
that the intensity and duration of droughts will increase on a regional 
to global scale (IPCC 2014, p. 53). We used the California Climate and 
Hydrology Change Graphs, a graphing tool that presents climate and 
hydrology data from the California Basin Characterization Model (BCM) 
dataset (Flint et al. 2013, entire), to analyze the potential impact of 
drought on beach layia in the future. Four future climate scenarios 
demonstrate a range of precipitation and temperatures projected by the 
18 scenarios available from the BCM. We chose to use the climatic water 
deficit calculations because they take into account changes in air 
temperature, solar radiation, and evapotranspiration, and can be used 
as an estimate of drought stress on plants (Stephenson 1998, p. 857). 
There are large uncertainties with respect to future precipitation 
levels (some scenarios predict a hot dry future while others predict a 
hot wet future). While climatic water deficit magnitudes vary across 
the models, the trends are consistent in that all projections indicate 
increasing values. Climatic water deficit values, both historical 
(1931-2010) and projected (2021-2050), are higher in watersheds in the 
Central and South Coast Ecoregions. The South Coast Ecoregion has the 
highest values and is therefore considered to be the most vulnerable to 
stress caused by drought, followed by the Central Coast Ecoregion, and 
then the Point Reyes population at the southern end of the North Coast 
Ecoregion. The three watersheds in Humboldt County (which encompass all 
of the North Coast Ecoregion populations except Point Reyes) are least 
likely to be stressed by drought, both currently and into the future, 
but the trend in climatic water deficit is still increasing. See 
section 8.2.2.1 of the SSA report for additional discussion regarding 
impacts associated with drought.
    While no definitive conclusions can be drawn about the potential 
for drought alone to result in permanent loss of beach layia 
populations, a compounding factor with changing climate conditions is 
the relationship to invasive plant species. Many of the invasive 
species that negatively affect beach layia or its habitat, such as 
European beachgrass and iceplant, are drought tolerant (Hertling and 
Lubke 2000, pp. 522-524; Hilton et al. 2005, pp. 175-185, Earnshaw et 
al. 1987, pp. 421-432). During a multi-year drought, it is possible 
that invasive species could persist and spread into areas where beach 
layia declined, resulting in less open space habitat for germination of 
beach layia when a sufficient amount of rainfall returns (assuming the 
seedbank survives).
    The high level of abundance of beach layia in 2017 suggests that 
the potential for invasive species to take over habitat and exclude 
beach layia regeneration is not a significant threat, at least for 
drought periods up to four years in duration. However, the likelihood 
of the increased duration and intensity of drought into the future 
increases the potential for this outcome, which could be particularly 
problematic for those populations in the Central and South Coast 
Ecoregions.
    In addition to drought, rising sea levels caused by changing 
climate conditions can lead to removal or reduction of habitat, and the 
removal of individual plants, seedbanks, and whole populations. 
However, an analysis conducted using RCP 8.5 and local sea level rise 
projections for 2050 based on the methodology developed by Kopp et al. 
(2014, pp. 384-393) as presented in Rising Seas in California (Griggs 
2017, entire) suggests that rising seas are not likely to significantly 
influence beach layia into the foreseeable future, and it is unknown 
how changes in sea levels may have affected the species in the past. 
Likewise, projections for the lower emission scenario indicate that 
rising seas under RCP 4.5 are not likely to negatively influence beach 
layia (Griggs 2017, entire). For more information on the analysis 
conducted on the effects of sea level rise, please refer to section 
10.3.2 of the SSA (Service 2017 pp. 52-58)

[[Page 61693]]

Erosion/High Level of Disturbance

    Erosion of soil in a dune system can be caused by many factors, and 
any form of erosion or heavy soil disturbance can result in the removal 
of beach layia habitat, individual plants, and seedbank. Erosion and 
disturbance of beach layia habitat discussed in this document is 
associated with high levels of disturbance caused by pedestrian, 
equestrian, OHV, and grazing activity.
    First, the best available information suggests that trampling from 
both pedestrian and equestrian activities occur at insignificant levels 
at most populations throughout beach layia's range, with the possible 
exception of the Signal Hill Dunes population on the Monterey Peninsula 
(Service 2011, p. 11), although that current level of impact is 
unknown. Monitoring data and anecdotal evidence consistently indicate a 
strong preference by beach layia for moderately disturbed habitat 
adjacent to roads and trails (whether pedestrian or equestrian) in what 
otherwise would be unoccupied habitat (Service 2011, p. 11). Dispersed 
equestrian use has been allowed at the South Spit Humboldt Bay 
population since BLM began management of the area in 2002, and beach 
layia abundance has remained high, suggesting that dispersed equestrian 
use, at least where large areas of occupied habitat are concerned, is 
compatible with large populations (Wheeler 2017, pers. comm.).
    Second, OHV activity within beach layia habitat across the species' 
range is significantly reduced since the time of listing. Most occupied 
habitat is restricted from OHV use with the exception of five 
populations in Humboldt County. Monitoring data from one recent study 
confirm lower beach layia abundance within riding areas as compared to 
preserved areas that are closed to OHV use and managed to reduce 
threats to the species (BLM 2016a; BLM 2016b; Hassett 2017, pers. 
comm.; see also figure 17 in the SSA report). Additionally, within the 
OHV riding area, beach layia is restricted to the edges of trails, and 
the remainder of the habitat is overstabilized and dominated by 
invasive vegetation. It is possible that the higher beach layia 
abundance in the protected areas of the study could have more to do 
with invasive species management than eliminating the direct impacts of 
OHV use (Wheeler 2017, pers. comm.).
    Finally, livestock trampling was identified as a threat when beach 
layia was listed (57 FR 27848). Livestock trampling previously occurred 
at the Mouth of Mattole River population, but fencing was replaced in 
1997, thereby eliminating this threat (BLM 2014a, p. 5). Additionally, 
livestock were removed from the South Spit Eel River population that 
occurs on the Wildlands Conservancy Preserve (Allee 2018, pers. comm.). 
At this time, the only populations that are exposed to livestock are 
the McNutt Gulch population (Imper 2018, pers. comm.) and some portions 
of the Point Reyes population (Parsons 2018, pers. comm.). Observations 
made at Point Reyes suggest that livestock trampling is negatively 
impacting portions of the population there (Goldsmith 2018, personal 
observation). The current status of the McNutt Gulch population is 
unknown.
    Overall, the best available scientific and commercial information 
suggests that human-induced disturbances are not resulting in 
significant, negative, population-wide or rangewide impacts given most 
beach layia habitat is under some level of protection and responds well 
to slight disturbance. However, some risk to the species' viability in 
the North Coast Ecoregion populations remains for some populations in 
the form of trampling or crushing of individuals plants.

Vertical Land Movement/Shoreline Erosion

    Uplift or subduction (i.e., the geological process that occurs at 
convergent boundaries of tectonic plates where one plate moves under 
another and is forced to sink due to gravity into the mantle) both 
during and between seismic events can affect whether a beach/shoreline 
is prograding (i.e., advancing toward the sea as a result of the 
accumulation of waterborne sediment) or eroding. Vertical land movement 
(VLM) is site specific and is influenced by a number of factors. A 
study conducted in the Humboldt Bay area indicates that direction and 
magnitude differ depending on location, although most areas around the 
bay, including areas near beach layia habitat, are subsiding (Patton et 
al. 2017, pp. 26-27). Removal or reduction of both habitat and 
individual plants can be caused by sea level rise associated with 
subduction while uplift may counterbalance those effects. Sudden 
movements associated with earthquakes can cause tsunamis, which have 
the potential to remove habitat and whole populations in one event.
    As with many ecosystems, dunes often undergo periods of cyclic 
stabilization and rejuvenation (Pickart and Sawyer 1998, p. 4). 
Rejuvenation events can be the result of changes in relative sea level, 
which in turn are attributed, at least in the past, to tectonic 
activity, including tsunamis (such as the following, as cited in 
Pickart and Sawyer 1998: Vick 1988, Pacific Watershed Associates 1991, 
Clarke and Carver 1992, and Komar and Shih 1993). Both uplift and 
subsidence can theoretically trigger reactivation of dunes, with the 
former potentially building or expanding dunes through increased 
sediment supply, while the latter can destroy dunes through increased 
wave action or limit the expansion of new dunes (Pickart and Sawyer 
1998, p. 4). The southern end of the North Spit Humboldt Bay population 
and the South Spit Eel River population are particularly vulnerable to 
shoreline erosion (McDonald 2017, pp. 10-13).
    The San Andreas Fault, which runs along the eastern edge of Point 
Reyes and runs parallel to the Monterey Peninsula, regularly 
experiences plate movements. A vulnerability assessment conducted for 
Point Reyes indicates that the portion of shoreline where beach layia 
occurs has a high to very high vulnerability index (Pendleton et al. 
2005, pp. 3, 15), suggesting that this population is subject to removal 
of occupied habitat caused by shoreline erosion. Similarly, the 
Monterey coastline where beach layia occurs has been shaped by varying 
levels of uplift and subsidence (Revell Coastal 2016, p. 2-1). The 
dunes at Asilomar are less vulnerable to erosion compared to those on 
the northern portion of the peninsula (EMC Planning Group 2015, figure 
5). The best available information does not suggest any current or 
historical VLM or shoreline erosion for the Monterey Peninsula; thus, 
areas where beach layia occur appear relatively safe. No VLM/shoreline 
erosion information is available for Vandenberg AFB. While some 
populations are more at risk than others to lose habitat via VLM based 
on historical data, coastal dune habitat will always be threatened by 
the potential loss of large expanses of habitat caused by subduction 
events or tsunami.

Current Condition Summary

    While all of the threats discussed above have the potential to 
negatively influence the resiliency of beach layia populations, the 
threat that currently has the greatest negative impact on populations 
or the species rangewide is overstabilization/competition with invasive 
species. This threat reduces abundance of beach layia more than any 
other and has the potential to have significant negative impacts to 
populations across the range of the species by reducing the amount of 
open sandy areas with sparse vegetation that

[[Page 61694]]

it needs. Although habitat has been restored for some populations, the 
threat of invasive species expanding their presence throughout the 
species' range is always present, especially since most restored sites 
are near currently invaded areas, and has the potential to increase if 
changing climate conditions result in longer duration and higher 
intensity multi-year droughts. Efforts to remove nonnative or native 
invasive species and reverse the effects of overstabilization are 
ongoing throughout the species' range (Martinez et al. 2013, p. 159; 
BLM 2014b, p. 17; ManTech SRS Technologies 2016, p. 1; California 
Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) 2004, p. 3-14). However, 
these efforts are time consuming and costly. There are current 
management plans that include restoration for some populations, 
however, many populations have no plans for restoration and dedicated 
funding into the future is only available for the Asilomar State Beach 
population. Thus, this threat is not considered to be causing a 
significant negative influence across the entire range of beach layia 
at this time, but is reasonably likely to in the foreseeable future.
    Uncertainties regarding the species' ecology and current impacts 
(or level of impacts) to beach layia or its habitat include (but are 
not limited to): Defined timelines for implementation of restoration 
and ongoing control of nonnative, invasive species; limiting factors 
for the populations in Monterey County; seedbank longevity; and the 
optimal disturbance regime to maximize recovery efforts (see also 
section 9.1.2 in the SSA report (Service 2018, p. 50)).

Potential Future Condition Summary

    For the purpose of this proposed rule, we define viability as the 
ability of the species to sustain populations in the wild over time. 
This discussion explains how the stressors associated with 
overstabilization/competition with invasive species, changing climate 
conditions, erosion/high level of disturbance (e.g., recreation), and 
vertical land movement/shoreline erosion will influence resiliency, 
redundancy, and representation for beach layia throughout its current 
known range using the most likely plausible scenario. The future 
timeframes evaluated include a range of times that cover a variety of 
management plans that are expected to last the next 10 to 20 years and 
predictions for local sea level rise in the future through the year 
2050. Thus, foreseeable future for this analysis is a range from 
approximately 15 to 30 years from current.
    Suitable occupied and unoccupied habitat is limited to coastal dune 
systems that are subject to modification or destruction by 
overstabilization/competition with nonnative and native invasive 
species, changing climate conditions (which can result in drought and 
sea level rise), erosion from various disturbance activities (e.g., 
recreation), and VLM/shoreline erosion (see section 6.2 in the SSA 
report (Service 2018, pp. 14-24)). Significant habitat modification in 
any portion of beach layia's range could lead to reduced population 
size, growth rate, and habitat quality for the affected population(s), 
thus resulting in a higher risk level for the species' viability into 
the future. Although the threats described above are generally spread 
throughout the species' range, the best available data indicate that 
the most vulnerable populations, given current and potential future 
impacts to availability of sparsely vegetated native dune mat habitat 
subject to periodic disturbance during the dormant season, include:
     North Coast Ecoregion--Freshwater Lagoon Spit, portions of 
North Spit Humboldt Bay (including the Mad River Beach, Bair/Woll, 
Manila South, and Samoa/Eureka Dunes subpopulations), portions of South 
Spit Humboldt Bay, Elk River, North Spit Eel River, South Spit Eel 
River, McNutt Gulch, and unrestored portions of Point Reyes;
     Central Coast Ecoregion--Signal Hill Dunes; and
     South Coast Ecoregion--Vandenberg AFB.
    This includes two of the three largest population centers in the 
North Coast Ecoregion, of which the North Spit Humboldt Bay harbors 
greater than 75 percent of the species' abundance rangewide (see table, 
above). Depending on the severity of the impacts to the resources 
needed by beach layia, populations or portions thereof could be lost in 
the future.
    Populations in areas where habitat is limited or unsuitable in the 
future (see section 8.1 in the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 39-41)) 
are likely to be more susceptible to threats that continue or worsen in 
the future, potentially resulting in reduced population(s) size and 
growth rate. Loss of habitat caused by invasion of nonnative, invasive 
species is the most prominent negative influence on beach layia into 
the future.
    The populations in the Central and South Coast Ecoregions are at 
the greatest at risk of declines in abundance in the future based on 
their small size, limited distribution and expected continued threats 
in the future, particularly competition with nonnative, invasive 
species and drought stress. No projected drought trends are available; 
however, extreme events, including multi-year droughts, are expected to 
increase in likelihood into the future (Frankson et al. 2017, pp. 2 -5) 
and an analysis on climatic water deficit shows an increasing trend 
throughout the range of the species into the future, particularly those 
in the Central and South Coast Ecoregions (See section 8.2.2.1 of the 
SSA report).
    Overall, it is likely that the most significant threat to beach 
layia's resiliency in the future will be continued overstabilization/
competition with invasive species and, to a lesser extent, changing 
climate conditions, erosion/high levels of disturbance and VLM/
shoreline erosion. These threats are likely to result in a reduction in 
abundance of beach layia throughout its range stemming from removal, 
reduction, and degradation of habitat, and reduced abundance, such as 
from reduced germination, fecundity, and survival rates.
    Many populations are likely to see a reduction in abundance of 
beach layia because there are no existing management activities or no 
management plans that provide long-term assurances that management 
activities will continue into the future to improve existing suboptimal 
habitat conditions (e.g., invasive species), especially if the species 
is delisted. Very few populations have been managed in such a way that 
the natural processes that create habitat for the species are able to 
operate unhindered (i.e. Lanphere and Ma-le'l). The remaining 
populations are dependent on continued management into the future to 
improve habitat conditions.
    The low abundance and limited distribution of the species in the 
Central and South Coast Ecoregions make those populations particularly 
vulnerable to stochastic events, including, but not limited to, 
drought. It is likely that the intensity and duration of droughts will 
increase on a regional to global scale (IPCC 2014, p. 53). The high 
likelihood of increased intensity and duration of droughts in 
California (Frankson et al. 2017, pp. 2-5) is expected to negatively 
influence beach layia populations throughout the species' range because 
rain is required for germination, but particularly in the Central and 
South Coast Ecoregions due to high projections of climatic water 
deficit in those watersheds. A compounding factor in the analysis of 
drought effects on beach layia is that two of the most common 
nonnative, invasive species that compete for habitat with beach layia--
European beachgrass and iceplant--are both drought tolerant (Hertling 
and

[[Page 61695]]

Lubke 2000, pp. 522-524; Lechuga-Lago et al. 2016, pp. 8-9).

Resiliency, Redundancy, and Representation

    To characterize beach layia's viability and demographic risks, we 
consider the concepts of resiliency, redundancy, and representation, 
and how the threats may negatively impact the resource needs that it 
relies on for survival and reproduction. Taking into account the 
impacts of the most significant threats and the potential for 
cumulative impacts to the resources that the species needs, our 
projections for future conditions are that beach layia's ability to 
withstand and bounce back from stochastic events (resiliency) is 
currently high and likely to remain so into the future. This resiliency 
is demonstrated by the increased abundance at most populations during a 
heavy rainfall year (e.g., 2017; table 2 in the SSA report (Service 
2018, pp. 22-24)) that followed four years of drought conditions. 
However, this rebound in 2017 did not occur throughout all of the 
species' range, including at some of the smaller populations.
    Of greater concern for beach layia's viability into the future is 
that the populations in the Central and South Coast Ecoregions are 
significantly smaller than the populations in the North Coast 
Ecoregion, thus decreasing the species' representation and redundancy 
in a large proportion of the species' range if these populations are 
lost in the future. The smaller abundance and acreage of these 
populations compared to the populations in the North Coast Ecoregion 
increases the chances of population loss in the foreseeable future, 
especially given the likelihood that:
    (1) Overstabilization/competition with invasive species is not 
adequately being addressed (e.g., lack of staff and funding for 
invasive species control at some locations).
    (2) Drought conditions are expected to worsen (continued multi-year 
droughts that result in reduced annual precipitation levels) across the 
species' range, but particularly in the Central and South Coast 
Ecoregions.
    (3) Drought conditions can possibly benefit the abundance and 
spread of drought-tolerant invasive plants that are already present and 
adversely impacting the resources that beach layia relies on.
    See section 10.3 in the SSA report (Service 2018, pp. 52-59) for 
additional analysis and discussion of factors influencing the viability 
of beach layia in the future. Taking into account the impacts of the 
most significant threats and the potential for cumulative impacts to 
the resource needs, our projections for future conditions are that 
beach layia's ability to withstand and bounce back from stochastic 
events (resiliency) is currently high and likely to remain so into the 
future. Additionally, multiple populations currently spread across a 
wide geographic range suggest high redundancy and representation. 
However, at this time, the populations in the Central and South Coast 
Ecoregions have lower abundance than the North Coast Ecoregion 
populations. Given the lower abundance compared to the rest of the 
species range and the continued threats into the foreseeable future, 
the species overall ability to maintain adequate representation and 
redundancy into the future is low.

Recovery and Recovery Plan Implementation

    Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement 
recovery plans for the conservation and survival of endangered and 
threatened species unless we determine that such a plan will not 
promote the conservation of the species. Under section 4(f)(1)(B)(ii), 
recovery plans must, to the maximum extent practicable, include: 
``[O]bjective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a 
determination, in accordance with the provisions of [section 4 of the 
Act], that the species be removed from the list.'' However, revisions 
to the list (adding, removing, or reclassifying a species) must reflect 
determinations made in accordance with sections 4(a)(1) and 4(b) of the 
Act. Section 4(a)(1) requires that the Secretary determine whether a 
species is an endangered species or threatened species (or not) because 
of one or more of five threat factors. Section 4(b) of the Act requires 
that the determination be made ``solely on the basis of the best 
scientific and commercial data available.'' Therefore, recovery 
criteria should help indicate when we would anticipate that an analysis 
of the species' status under section 4(a)(1) would result in a 
determination that the species is no longer an endangered species or 
threatened species.
    Thus, while recovery plans provide important guidance to the 
Service, States, and other partners on methods of minimizing threats to 
listed species and measurable objectives against which to measure 
progress towards recovery, they are not regulatory documents and cannot 
substitute for the determinations and promulgation of regulations 
required under section 4(a)(1) of the Act. A decision to revise the 
status of or remove a species from the Federal List of Endangered and 
Threatened Plants (50 CFR 17.12) is ultimately based on an analysis of 
the best scientific and commercial data then available to determine 
whether a species is no longer an endangered species or a threatened 
species, regardless of whether that information differs from the 
recovery plan. Below, we summarize the recovery plan goals and discuss 
progress toward meeting the recovery objectives and how they inform our 
analysis of the species' status and the stressors affecting it.
    In 1998, we finalized the Seven Coastal Plants and the Myrtle's 
Silverspot Butterfly Recovery Plan, which included recovery objectives 
for beach layia (recovery plan; Service 1998, pp. 43-48). All of the 
downlisting criteria and a portion of the delisting criteria included 
in the recovery plan (Service 1998) applied to the entire suite of dune 
plant species covered by the plan. As such, some interpretation of 
those criteria may be warranted to account for the specific life 
history or other circumstances of the species in question. Therefore, 
we have based our analysis on the intent of the criteria as they relate 
to the five factor analysis for beach layia. Based on our review of the 
recovery plan and the information obtained from the various management 
activities, surveys, and research that have occurred to date, we 
conclude that the status of beach layia is improved throughout its 
range as a result of significant protections to preserve or conserve 
habitat, along with land use decisions and management activities 
implemented by many landowners undertaken since the time of listing. 
See appendix A in the SSA report for a detailed account of existing 
regulatory mechanisms and voluntary conservation efforts (Service 2018, 
pp. 75-80). Our analysis indicates that the intent of the downlisting 
criteria has been met. Our summary analysis of the downlisting criteria 
follows:
    Downlisting Criterion 1 (addresses Listing Factors A, D, and E): 
Habitat occupied by the species that is needed to allow delisting has 
been secured, with long-term commitments and, if possible, endowments 
to fund conservation of the native vegetation.
    There has been significant improvement in the security of habitat 
occupied by beach layia since the recovery plan was prepared, including 
land acquisition by Federal agencies, State and local agencies, and 
nongovernmental organizations; adoption of local coastal plans under 
the California Coastal Act; and implementation of management plans that 
address the needs of the species. Of

[[Page 61696]]

the estimated 595 ac (240 ha) of dunes habitat currently occupied by 
beach layia, approximately 91 percent is owned by Federal and State 
governmental entities or other land owners with existing resource 
management direction precluding development within sensitive dunes 
habitat. Despite the fact that not all entities managing beach layia 
habitat have been able to demonstrate their ability to continue 
management into the future, especially if the species is delisted, due 
to the significant amount of occupied dune habitat that is now on 
protected lands (i.e., long-term commitments of approximately 32 years, 
including resource management plans that contain a restoration 
component), and state and federal mandates to conserve the species as 
long as it remains listed, we conclude that this recovery criterion has 
been adequately met.
    Downlisting Criterion 2 (in part, addresses Listing Factors A, D 
and E): Management measures are being implemented to address the 
threats of invasive species, pedestrians, and OHVs at some sites.
    The Service, BLM, National Park Service (Redwood National Park, 
Point Reyes), and several other land managers in the northern portion 
of the range, and the CDPR, Department of Defense, and several other 
managers in the southern portion of the range have all instituted 
relevant management policies since the recovery plan was completed or 
since the species was listed. Those policies have reduced, and in many 
cases eliminated, the threats to beach layia posed by pedestrians and 
OHV activity, as well as reduced to a certain degree the threat of 
native and nonnative, invasive species. Because of the many management 
measures currently implemented across the range of beach layia to 
address the threats of pedestrians and OHVs, and the work conducted 
thus far to address the ongoing threat of invasive species, we conclude 
that this criterion has been adequately met.
    Downlisting Criterion 3 (in part, addresses Listing Factor E): 
Monitoring reveals that management actions are successful in reducing 
threats of invasive, nonnative species.
    Management actions over the past 12 years have reduced the threats 
from native and nonnative, invasive species, at least into the 
foreseeable future. Because of these successful invasive species 
management measures, we conclude that this criterion has been 
adequately met.
    Downlisting Criterion 4 (in part, addresses Listing Factors A, D 
and E): Additional restored habitat has been secured, with evidence of 
either natural or artificial long-term establishment of additional 
populations, and long-term commitments (and endowments where possible) 
to fund conservation of the native vegetation.
    Commitments by land managers across beach layia's range, as 
described under Downlisting Criterion 1, above, have resulted in 
secured habitat (i.e., protected from development although native or 
nonnative, invasive species continue to reduce the availability of 
sandy soils with sparse vegetative cover) in multiple geographic areas 
since the recovery plan was completed. These include several protected 
areas on Federal, State, and local public lands, as well as land 
acquisition and protection (e.g., conservation easements) by 
nongovernmental organizations (protections are described in each 
population descriptions found in section 7.0 of the SSA report (Service 
2018, pp. 25-38)). Additionally, restoration has been conducted with a 
commensurate response by beach layia (e.g., the creation of an 
Endangered Species Protection Area within the Samoa/Eureka 
Subpopulation, North Spit Humboldt Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore, 
Vandenberg AFB). As a result, we conclude that this criterion has been 
adequately met.
    The intent of the delisting criteria has not yet been met for beach 
layia. The overarching goal for delisting beach layia includes removal 
of substantially all of the nonnative, invasive plants on the dunes 
where it occurs and securing written assurance of long-term support for 
continued management of the dunes, and monitoring (Service 1998, pp. 
92-93). The overarching goal is to restore natural processes that have 
been disrupted by the presence of nonnative, invasive species to dune 
systems so that beach layia and other native plants adapted to those 
environments can persist into the future.

Determination of Beach Layia Status

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing 
regulations (50 CFR part 424) set forth the procedures for determining 
whether a species meets the definition of an endangered species or a 
threatened species. The Act defines ``endangered species'' as a species 
``in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of 
its range,'' and ``threatened species'' as a species ``likely to become 
an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range.'' The Act requires that we determine 
whether a species meets the definition of ``endangered species'' or 
``threatened species'' because of any of the following 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.

Status Throughout All of Its Range

    After evaluating threats to the species under the section 4(a)(1) 
factors, we examined the best scientific and commercial information 
available regarding the past, present, and future threats faced by the 
species. We reviewed information presented in the 2011 5-year review 
(Service 2011, entire), additional information that became available 
since the time our 2011 5-year review was completed, and other 
available published and unpublished information. We also consulted with 
species experts and land management staff who are actively managing for 
the conservation of beach layia.
    We examined the following threats that may be affecting beach 
layia: Development (Factor A), herbivory/disease (Factor C), 
overstabilization/competition with invasive species (Factor A), 
changing climate conditions (Factor E), erosion/high level of 
disturbance (e.g., recreation) (Factor A), and vertical land movement/
shoreline erosion (Factor A). We found no threats associated with 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes, such as (but not limited to) collection of plants 
for scientific research (Factor B). We also considered and discussed 
existing regulatory mechanisms (Factor D) and voluntary conservation 
efforts as they relate to the threats that may affect beach layia 
(summarized within each threat discussions within chapters 8 and 10, 
and detailed in appendix A, of the SSA report, pp. 75-80).
    The most significant factors influencing the viability of beach 
layia populations at the time of listing were displacement by 
nonnative, invasive vegetation; recreational uses such as OHV 
activities and pedestrians; and urban development (June 22, 1992, 57 FR 
27848; Service 1998, p. 45). Currently, our analysis indicates that the 
level of impacts to beach layia and its habitat that placed the species 
in danger of extinction in 1992 (i.e., human-induced disturbances 
including OHV activity, agriculture, pedestrians, development, etc.) 
have substantially been reduced as a result of the

[[Page 61697]]

significant commitments made by landowners to conserve lands and 
institute restoration activities at multiple populations throughout the 
species' range. However, the extensive spread of nonnative, invasive 
vegetation throughout the species' range remains a significant negative 
influence on the viability of the species. Additionally, the ability of 
the majority of landowners to continue management of habitat for the 
species into the future is uncertain, particularly if the species were 
to be delisted.
    At the time of the 5-year review (2011) and currently, we have 
become aware of the potential for anthropogenic climate change to 
affect all biota, including beach layia. Available information 
indicates that temperatures are increasing and annual rainfall is 
reduced during some years within beach layia's range, resulting in 
prolonged drought conditions that negatively influence beach layia 
abundance. Beach layia's response to these changes should be monitored 
into the future.
    Of the factors identified above, overstabilization/competition with 
invasive species (Factor A), changing climate conditions (Factor E), 
erosion/high level of disturbance (e.g., recreation) (Factor A), and 
vertical land movement/shoreline erosion (Factor A) are the most 
significant threats to the species currently or into the foreseeable 
future. After review and analysis of the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the threats as they relate to the five 
statutory factors, we find that this information does not indicate that 
these threats are affecting individual populations or the species as a 
whole across its range to the extent that they currently are of 
sufficient imminence, scope, or magnitude to rise to the level that 
beach layia is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range. 
However, our review of information indicates that, while the overall 
range of the species has slightly increased since the time of listing 
(i.e., discovery of the northern-most population--Freshwater Lagoon 
Spit), the anticipated trajectory of the identified threats into the 
foreseeable future is likely to result in a condition whereby the 
abundance and density of the species across the majority of its range 
(including the population stronghold areas in a portion of Humboldt 
County) are likely to be negatively impacted.
    Specifically, the best available information indicates there is a 
likelihood of population- and rangewide-level impacts to beach layia 
abundance in the foreseeable future, despite beneficial management 
actions at some of the populations at this time. Beach layia 
populations across the species' range are likely to be negatively 
influenced predominantly from overstabilization/competition with 
invasive species, in conjunction with predicted drought conditions. Our 
analysis reveals that one or more threats continue to act on the 
species at the population level, likely contributing to low abundance 
in most years that do not experience substantial rainfall. 
Additionally, there is a lack of range expansion at some small 
populations (e.g., Asilomar State Beach, Indian Village Dunes, and 
Signal Hill Dunes populations), likely contributing to insufficient 
recruitment necessary for stable or, ideally, increasing populations. 
With respect to the remaining populations that are experiencing OHV and 
other recreation activities (noting this threat is substantially 
reduced with the exception of a few areas in the North Coast 
Ecoregion), the existing regulatory mechanisms are likely insufficient 
to manage the beach layia habitat specifically at the Signal Hill Dunes 
population. Overall, some disturbance appears compatible with large 
populations (Wheeler 2017, pers. comm.)
    Thus, after assessing the best available information, we conclude 
that beach layia is not currently in danger of extinction, but is 
likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future 
throughout all of its range.

Status Throughout a Significant Portion of Its Range

    Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a species may 
warrant listing if it is in danger of extinction or likely to become so 
in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of 
its range. The court in Center for Biological Diversity v. Everson, 
2020 WL 437289 (D.D.C. Jan. 28, 2020) (Everson), vacated the aspect of 
the 2014 Significant Portion of its Range Policy that provided that the 
Services do not undertake an analysis of significant portions of a 
species' range if the species warrants listing as threatened throughout 
all of its range. Therefore, we proceed to evaluating whether the 
species is endangered in a significant portion of its range--that is, 
whether there is any portion of the species' range for which both (1) 
the portion is significant; and, (2) the species is in danger of 
extinction in that portion. Depending on the case, it might be more 
efficient for us to address the ``significance'' question or the 
``status'' question first. We can choose to address either question 
first. Regardless of which question we address first, if we reach a 
negative answer with respect to the first question that we address, we 
do not need to evaluate the other question for that portion of the 
species' range.
    Following the court's holding in Everson, we now consider whether 
there are any significant portions of the species' range where the 
species is in danger of extinction now (i.e., endangered). In 
undertaking this analysis for beach layia, we choose to address the 
status question first--we consider information pertaining to the 
geographic distribution of both the species and the threats that the 
species faces to identify any portions of the range where the species 
is endangered.
    The statutory difference between an endangered species and a 
threatened species is the time horizon in which the species becomes in 
danger of extinction; an endangered species is in danger of extinction 
now, while a threatened species is not in danger of extinction now but 
is likely to become so in the foreseeable future. Thus, we considered 
the time horizon for the threats that are driving the beach layia to 
warrant its classification as a threatened species throughout all of 
its range. We examined the following threats: Overstabilization/
competition with invasive species, changing climate conditions, 
erosion/high level of disturbance (e.g., recreation), and vertical land 
movement/shoreline erosion, including cumulative effects. While some of 
these threats currently exist throughout the range of the species 
(e.g., the presence of invasive species, recreational impacts), it is 
the anticipated future increase in overstabilization/competition with 
invasives, exacerbated by climate change-influenced drought, that is 
driving the threatened status of the species.
    The best scientific and commercial data available indicate that the 
time horizon on which this heightened threat to beach layia from 
drought-influenced overstabilization/competition with invasive species, 
and beach layia's negative response to that heightened threat, is 
likely to occur is the foreseeable future. In addition, the best 
scientific and commercial data available do not indicate that this 
heightened threat is more immediate in any portions of the species' 
range. Therefore, we determine that the beach layia is not in danger of 
extinction now in any portion of its range, but that the species is 
likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future 
throughout all of its range. This is consistent with the courts' 
holdings in

[[Page 61698]]

Desert Survivors v. Department of the Interior, No. 16-cv-01165-JCS, 
2018 WL 4053447 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2018), and Center for Biological 
Diversity v. Jewell, 248 F. Supp. 3d, 946, 959 (D. Ariz. 2017).
    Therefore, on the basis of the best available scientific and 
commercial information, we propose to reclassify beach layia as a 
threatened species throughout all of its range in accordance with 
sections 3(20) and 4(a)(1) of the Act.

Determination of Status

    Our review of the best available scientific and commercial 
information indicates that beach layia meets the definition of a 
threatened species. Therefore, we propose to downlist beach layia from 
an endangered species to a threatened species in accordance with 
sections 3(20) and 4(a)(1) of the Act.

II. Proposed Rule Issued Under Section 4(d) of the Act

Background

    Section 4(d) of the Act states that the ``Secretary shall issue 
such regulations as he deems necessary and advisable to provide for the 
conservation'' of species listed as threatened. The U.S. Supreme Court 
has noted that very similar statutory language demonstrates a large 
degree of deference' to the agency. See Webster v. Doe, 486 U.S. 592 
(1988). Conservation is defined in the Act to mean ``the use of all 
methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered 
species or threatened species to the point at which the measures 
provided pursuant to [the Act] are no longer necessary.'' Additionally, 
section 4(d) of the Act states that the Secretary ``may by regulation 
prohibit with respect to any threatened species any act prohibited 
under section 9(a)(1) . . . . or 9(a)(2).'' Thus, regulations 
promulgated under section 4(d) of the Act provide the Secretary with 
wide latitude of discretion to select appropriate provisions tailored 
to the specific conservation needs of the threatened species. The 
statute grants particularly broad discretion to the Service when 
adopting the prohibitions under section 9.
    The courts have recognized the extent of the Secretary's discretion 
under this standard to develop rules that are appropriate for the 
conservation of a species. For example, courts have approved rules 
developed under section 4(d) that include a taking prohibition for 
threatened wildlife, or include a limited taking prohibition. See Alsea 
Valley Alliance v. Lautenbacher, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 60203 (D. Or. 
2007); Washington Environmental Council v. National Marine Fisheries 
Service, 2002 U.S. Dist. Lexis 5432 (W.D. Wash. 2002). Courts have also 
approved 4(d) rules that do not address all of the threats a species 
faces. See State of Louisiana v. Verity, 853 F.2d 322 (5th Cir. 1988). 
As noted in the legislative history when the Act was initially enacted, 
``once an animal is on the threatened list, the Secretary has an almost 
infinite number of options available to him with regard to the 
permitted activities for those species. He may, for example, permit 
taking, but not importation of such species,'' or he may choose to 
forbid both taking and importation but allow the transportation of such 
species, as long as the prohibitions, and exceptions to those 
prohibitions, will ``serve to conserve, protect, or restore the species 
concerned in accordance with the purposes of the Act'' (H.R. Rep. No. 
412, 93rd Cong., 1st Sess. 1973).
    The Service has developed a species-specific 4(d) rule that is 
designed to address the beach layia specific threats and conservation 
needs. Although the statute does not require the Service to make a 
``necessary and advisable'' finding with respect to the adoption of 
specific prohibitions under section 9, we find that this regulation is 
necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of the beach 
layia. As discussed in the Determination of Beach Layia Status section, 
the Service has concluded that beach layia is at risk of extinction 
within the foreseeable future primarily due to overstabilization/
competition with invasive species and drought conditions, in addition 
to loss of habitat and plants at some locations from recreational 
disturbance and erosion (e.g., shoreline erosion, vertical land 
movement). The provisions of this 4(d) rule would promote conservation 
of beach layia by making it unlawful to remove and reduce to possession 
beach layia from Federal land. The provisions of this rule are one of 
many tools that the Service will use to promote the conservation of the 
beach layia. This proposed 4(d) rule would apply only if and when the 
Service makes final the listing of the beach layia as a threatened 
species.

Provisions of the 4(d) Rule

    This proposed 4(d) rule would provide for the conservation of beach 
layia by prohibiting the following activities, except as otherwise 
authorized or permitted: For any person subject to the jurisdiction of 
the United States to remove and reduce to possession beach layia from 
areas under Federal jurisdiction; maliciously damage or destroy the 
species on any area under Federal jurisdiction; or remove, cut, dig up, 
or damage or destroy the species on any area under Federal jurisdiction 
in knowing violation of any law or regulation of any State or in the 
course of any violation of a State criminal trespass law.
    This proposed 4(d) rule would enhance the conservation of beach 
layia by prohibiting detrimental activities and allowing activities 
that would be beneficial to the species.
    The proposed 4(d) rule only addresses Federal requirements under 
the Act and would not change any prohibitions provided for by State 
law. As explained above, the provisions included in this proposed 4(d) 
rule are necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of 
beach layia. Nothing in this proposed 4(d) rule would change in any way 
the recovery planning provisions of section 4(f) of the Act, the 
consultation requirements under section 7 of the Act, or the ability of 
the Service to enter into partnerships for the management and 
protection of beach layia. However, the consultation process may be 
further streamlined through planned programmatic consultations between 
Federal agencies and the Service for these activities. We ask the 
public, particularly State agencies and other interested stakeholders 
that may be affected by the proposed 4(d) rule, to provide comments and 
suggestions regarding additional guidance and methods that the Service 
could provide or use, respectively, to streamline the implementation of 
this proposed 4(d) rule (see Information Requested, above).
    As discussed in the Determination of Beach Layia Status (above), 
several factors are affecting the status of beach layia. A range of 
activities have the potential to impact the beach layia, including: The 
loss of habitat and plants at some locations from recreational 
disturbance. Regulating these activities will help preserve the 
species' remaining populations, slow their rate of decline, and 
decrease synergistic, negative effects from other stressors.
    We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities, 
including those described above, involving threatened plants under 
certain circumstances. Regulations governing permits for threatened 
plants are codified at 50 CFR 17.72, which states that ``the Director 
may issue a permit authorizing any activity otherwise prohibited with 
regard to threatened species.'' That regulation also states, ``The 
permit shall be governed by the provisions of this section unless a 
special rule applicable to the plan is provided in Sec. Sec.  17.73 to

[[Page 61699]]

17.78.'' We interpret that second sentence to mean that permits for 
threatened species are governed by the provisions of Sec.  17.72 unless 
a special rule provides otherwise. We recently promulgated revisions to 
Sec.  17.71 providing that Sec.  17.71 will no longer apply to plants 
listed as threatened in the future. We did not intend for those 
revisions to limit or alter the applicability of the permitting 
provisions in Sec.  17.72, or require that every special rule spell out 
any permitting provisions that apply to that species and special rule. 
To the contrary, we anticipate that permitting provisions would 
generally be similar or identical for most species, so applying the 
provisions of Sec.  17.72 unless a special rule provides otherwise 
would likely avoid substantial duplication. Moreover, this 
interpretation brings Sec.  17.72 in line with the comparable provision 
for wildlife at 50 CFR 17.32, in which the second sentence states, 
``Such permit shall be governed by the provisions of this section 
unless a special rule applicable to the wildlife, appearing in 
Sec. Sec.  17.40 to 17.48, of this part provides otherwise.'' Under 50 
CFR 17.72 with regard to threatened plants, a permit may be issued for 
the following purposes: scientific purposes, to enhance propagation or 
survival, for economic hardship, for botanical or horticultural 
exhibition, for educational purposes, or other purposes consistent with 
the purposes of the Act. Additional statutory exemptions from the 
prohibitions are found in sections 9 and 10 of the Act.
    The Service recognizes the special and unique relationship with our 
state natural resource agency partners in contributing to conservation 
of listed species. State agencies often possess scientific data and 
valuable expertise on the status and distribution of endangered, 
threatened, and candidate species of wildlife and plants. State 
agencies, because of their authorities and their close working 
relationships with local governments and landowners, are in a unique 
position to assist the Services in implementing all aspects of the Act. 
In this regard, section 6 of the Act provides that the Services shall 
cooperate to the maximum extent practicable with the States in carrying 
out programs authorized by the Act. Therefore, any qualified employee 
or agent of a State Conservation Agency which is a party to a 
Cooperative Agreement with the Service in accordance with section 6(c) 
of the Act, who is designated by his or her agency for such purposes, 
will be able to conduct activities designed to conserve beach layia 
that may result in otherwise prohibited activities without additional 
authorization.

III. Required Determinations

Clarity of the Rule

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

National Environmental Policy Act

    We determined that we do not need to prepare an environmental 
assessment or an environmental impact statement, as defined under the 
authority of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 
4321 et seq.), in connection with regulations adopted pursuant to 
section 4(a) of the Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons 
for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 
FR 49244).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is 
available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket 
No. FWS-R8-ES-2018-0042, or upon request from the Assistant Field 
Supervisor, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT).

Authors

    The primary authors of this proposed rule are the staff members of 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Assessment Team and the 
Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office.

Lists of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

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

PART 17--ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS

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

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

0
2. Amend Sec.  17.12 in paragraph (h) by revising the entry for ``Layia 
carnosa'' under FLOWERING PLANTS to read as follows:


Sec.  17.12  Endangered and threatened plants.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                          Listing citations and
         Scientific name               Common name          Where listed       Status       applicable rules
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                FLOWERING PLANTS
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
Layia carnosa....................  Beach layia........  Wherever found.....         T   57 FR 27848, 6/22/1992;
                                                                                         [Federal Register
                                                                                         citation when published
                                                                                         as a final rule]; 50
                                                                                         CFR 17.73(b).\4d\
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

0
3. Revise Sec.  17.73 to read as follows:


Sec.  17.73   Special rules--flowering plants.

    (a) [Reserved]
    (b) Layia carnosa (beach layia).
    (1) Prohibitions. The following prohibitions that apply to 
endangered plants also apply to Layia carnosa (beach layia). Except as 
provided under paragraph (b)(2) of this section, it is

[[Page 61700]]

unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United 
States to commit, to attempt to commit, to solicit another to commit, 
or cause to be committed, any of the following acts in regard to this 
species:
    (i) Import or export, as set forth at Sec.  17.61(b).
    (ii) Remove and reduce to possession from areas under Federal 
jurisdiction, as set forth at Sec.  17.61(c)(1).
    (iii) Maliciously damage or destroy the species on any areas under 
Federal jurisdiction, or remove, cut, dig up, or damage or destroy the 
species on any other area in knowing violation of any State law or 
regulation or in the course of any violation of a State criminal 
trespass law, as set forth at section 9(a)(2)(B) of the Act.
    (iv) Interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial 
activity, as set forth at Sec.  17.61(d).
    (v) Sell or offer for sale, as set forth at Sec.  17.61(e).
    (2) Exceptions from prohibitions. The following exceptions from 
prohibitions apply to beach layia:
    (i) The prohibitions described in paragraph (b)(1) of this section 
do not apply to activities conducted as authorized by a permit issued 
in accordance with the provisions set forth at Sec.  17.72.
    (ii) Any employee or agent of the Service or of a State 
conservation agency that is operating a conservation program pursuant 
to the terms of a cooperative agreement with the Service in accordance 
with section 6(c) of the Act, who is designated by that agency for such 
purposes, may, when acting in the course of official duties, remove and 
reduce to possession from areas under Federal jurisdiction members of 
beach layia that are covered by an approved cooperative agreement to 
carry out conservation programs.
    (iii) You may engage in any act prohibited under paragraph (b)(1) 
of this section with seeds of cultivated specimens, provided that a 
statement that the seeds are of ``cultivated origin'' accompanies the 
seeds or their container.

Aurelia Skipwith,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-19026 Filed 9-29-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P