Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing Golden Paintbrush From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants, 34695-34711 [2021-13882]

Download as PDF 34695 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules § 9.19 Reliability of covered 911 service providers. (a) * * * (4) * * * (i) * * * (B) Operates one or more central offices that directly serve a PSAP. For purposes of this section, a central office directly serves a PSAP if it hosts a selective router or ALI/ANI database, provides equivalent NG911 capabilities, or is the last service-provider facility through which a 911 trunk or administrative line (i.e., a business line or line group that connects to a PSAP but is not used as the default or primary route over which 911 calls are transmitted to the PSAP) passes before connecting to a PSAP. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2021–13974 Filed 6–29–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION 47 CFR Part 73 [MB Docket No. 21–248; RM–11910; DA 21– 694; FR ID 34410] Television Broadcasting Services Staunton, Virginia Federal Communications Commission. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: The Commission has before it a petition for rulemaking filed by VPM Media Corporation (Petitioner), the licensee of noncommercial educational television station WVPT (PBS), channel *11, Staunton, Virginia. The Petitioner requests the substitution of channel *15 for channel *11 at Staunton in the DTV Table of Allotments. DATES: Comments must be filed on or before July 30, 2021 and reply comments on or before August 16, 2021. ADDRESSES: Federal Communications Commission, Office of the Secretary, 45 L Street NE, Washington, DC 20554. In addition to filing comments with the FCC, interested parties should serve counsel for the Petitioner as follows: Ari Meltzer, Esq., Wiley Rein LLP, 1776 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20006. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joyce Bernstein, Media Bureau, at (202) 418–1647; or at Joyce.Bernstein@fcc.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In support of its channel substitution request, the Petitioner states that the proposed channel substitution would resolve significant over the air reception problems in the WVPT service area. The Petitioner states that the challenges of jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 digital reception are well-documented, and that the Commission has recognized the deleterious effects of manmade noise on the reception of digital VHF signals. The Petitioner also believes that the channel substitution will allow for more efficient construction of WVPT’s post-incentive auction facilities. The Petitioner explains that it initially planned to retune WVPT’s existing Distributed Transmission System (DTS) transmitters from channel *11 to channel *12, its repacked channel. The transmitter and antenna manufacturers, however, were unable to support the planned retuning effort. Meanwhile, a structural analysis of WVPT’s existing tower revealed that it could not support a replacement antenna for VHF channel 12. According to the Petitioner, the tower can support a lighter weight UHF antenna, and thus, allowing WVPT to move to channel *15 will obviate the need to construct a new tower, saving both time and money. It further states that the proposed channel *15 facility will result in a net gain of 56,814 people, and while there is a loss area of 27,033 people, only seven people would lose their only PBS noncommercial educational service, a number the Commission considers de minimis. This is a synopsis of the Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, MB Docket No. 21–248; RM–11910; DA 21–694, adopted June 15, 2021, and released June 15, 2021. The full text of this document is available for download at https:// www.fcc.gov/edocs. To request materials in accessible formats (braille, large print, computer diskettes, or audio recordings), please send an email to FCC504@fcc.gov or call the Consumer & Government Affairs Bureau at (202) 418–0530 (VOICE), (202) 418–0432 (TTY). This document does not contain information collection requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104–13. In addition, therefore, it does not contain any proposed information collection burden ‘‘for small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees,’’ pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107–198, see 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4). Provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, 5 U.S.C. 601– 612, do not apply to this proceeding. Members of the public should note that all ex parte contacts are prohibited from the time a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is issued to the time the matter is no longer subject to Commission consideration or court review, see 47 CFR 1.1208. There are, however, exceptions to this prohibition, PO 00000 Frm 00059 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 which can be found in § 1.1204(a) of the Commission’s rules, 47 CFR 1.1204(a). See §§ 1.415 and 1.420 of the Commission’s rules for information regarding the proper filing procedures for comments, 47 CFR 1.415 and 1.420. List of Subjects in 47 CFR Part 73 Television. Federal Communications Commission. Thomas Horan, Chief of Staff, Media Bureau. Proposed Rule For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal Communications Commission proposes to amend 47 CFR part 73 as follows: PART 73—RADIO BROADCAST SERVICES 1. The authority citation for part 73 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 155, 301, 303, 307, 309, 310, 334, 336, 339. 2. In § 73.622(i), amend the PostTransition Table of DTV Allotments under Virginia by revising the entry for Staunton to read as follows: ■ § 73.622 Digital television table of allotments. * * * (i) * * * * * Community * * Channel No. * * * * * Virginia * * * Staunton ............................... * * * * 15 * * [FR Doc. 2021–13564 Filed 6–29–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2020–0060; FF09E22000 FXES11130900000 201] RIN 1018–BE72 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing Golden Paintbrush From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 34696 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules Proposed rule; availability of draft post-delisting monitoring plan. ACTION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to remove the golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants as it no longer meets the definition of an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The golden paintbrush is a flowering plant native to southwestern British Columbia, western Washington, and western Oregon. Our review of the best available scientific and commercial data indicates threats to the golden paintbrush have been eliminated or reduced to the point that the species is not in danger of extinction or likely to become so in the foreseeable future. We request information and comments from the public regarding this proposed rule and the draft postdelisting monitoring plan for the golden paintbrush. DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or August 30, 2021. 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 August 16, 2021. ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments by one of the following methods: jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2020– 0060, 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, check 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–R1–ES–2020–0060, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 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 details). VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 Document availability: This proposed rule and supporting documents, including the species biological report and the draft post-delisting monitoring plan, are available at http:// www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2020–0060. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Direct all questions or requests for additional information to: GOLDEN PAINTBRUSH QUESTIONS, Brad Thompson, State Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond Drive SE, Suite 102, Lacey, WA 98503; telephone: 360–753–9440. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: existence. Based on an assessment of the best available information regarding the status of and threats to the golden paintbrush, we have determined that the species no longer meets the definition of an endangered or threatened species under the Act. Because we will consider all comments and information we receive during the comment period, our final determination may differ from this proposal. Based on the new information we receive (and any comments on that new information), we may conclude that the species should remain listed as threatened instead of being delisted, or we may conclude that the species should remain listed and be reclassified as an endangered species. Executive Summary Public Comments Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Act, if we determine a plant species is no longer an endangered or threatened species, we remove it from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants (i.e., we ‘‘delist’’ it). A species is an ‘‘endangered species’’ for purposes of the Act if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range and is a ‘‘threatened species’’ if it is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The golden paintbrush is listed as a threatened species. We are proposing to remove this species from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants (List), because we have determined that it no longer meets the definition of a threatened species, nor does it meet the definition of an endangered species. Delisting a species can only be completed by issuing a rule. What this document does. This rule proposes to remove (delist) the golden paintbrush from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants under the Act because it no longer meets the definition of either a threatened species or an endangered species. The basis for our action. Under the Act, we can determine that a species is an endangered or threatened species based on any one or more of the following five factors or the cumulative effects thereof: (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 We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information from governmental agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning: (1) Reasons why we should, or should not, remove the golden paintbrush from the List; (2) New biological or other relevant data concerning any threat (or lack thereof) to the golden paintbrush, including threats related to its pollinators; (3) New information on any existing regulations addressing threats or any of the other stressors to the golden paintbrush; (4) New information on any efforts by States, tribes, or other entities to protect or otherwise conserve the species; (5) New information concerning the range, distribution, population size, or population trends of this species; (6) New information on the current or planned activities in the habitat or range of the golden paintbrush that may have adverse or beneficial impacts on the species; and (7) Information pertaining to postdelisting monitoring of the golden paintbrush. 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 provided. Please note that submissions merely stating support for, or opposition to, the PO 00000 Frm 00060 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Information Requested E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) directs that determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or threatened species must be made ‘‘solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.’’ You may submit your comments and materials concerning the proposed rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES. If you submit information via http:// www.regulations.gov, your entire submission—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the website. If your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov. Comments and materials we receive, as well as, supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule and the draft post-delisting monitoring (PDM) plan, will be available for public inspection on http:// www.regulations.gov. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Public Hearing Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for a public hearing on this proposal, if requested. Requests must be received by the date specified in DATES, above. Such requests must be sent to 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 regulations at 50 CFR 424.16(c)(3). Supporting Documents Staff at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (WFWO), in consultation with other species experts, prepared a species biological report for golden paintbrush. The report represents a compilation of the best scientific and commercial data available concerning the status of the species, including the impacts of past and present factors (both VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 negative and beneficial) affecting the species. In accordance with our July 1, 1994, peer review policy (59 FR 34270), our August 22, 2016, Director’s Memo on the Peer Review Process, and the Office of Management and Budget’s December 16, 2004, Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review (revised June 2012), we solicited independent scientific reviews of the information contained in the golden paintbrush species biological report (Service 2019). We sent the report to four appropriate and independent specialists with knowledge of the biology and ecology of the golden paintbrush and received three responses. The report forms the scientific basis for our 5-year status review and this proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure that our determination regarding the status of the species under the Act is based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. The comments and recommendations of the peer reviewers have been incorporated into the species biological report, as appropriate. In addition, we have posted the peer reviews on http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2020– 0060. Previous Federal Actions On May 10, 1994, we proposed to list the golden paintbrush as a threatened species (59 FR 24106). On June 11, 1997, we finalized the listing (62 FR 31740). The final rule included a determination that the designation of critical habitat for the golden paintbrush was not prudent. In August 2000, we finalized a recovery plan for the species (Service 2000, entire), which we supplemented in May 2010 with the final recovery plan for the prairie species of western Oregon and southwestern Washington (Service 2010, entire). On July 6, 2005, we initiated 5-year reviews for 33 plant and animal species, including the golden paintbrush, under section 4(c)(2) of the Act (70 FR 38972). The 5-year status review, completed in September 2007 (Service 2007, entire), resulted in a recommendation to maintain the status of the golden paintbrush as threatened. The 2007 5year status review is available on the Service’s website at https:// ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/ doc1764.pdf. On January 22, 2018, we initiated 5year status reviews for 18 plant and animal species, including the golden paintbrush, and requested information on the species’ status (83 FR 3014). This proposed rule follows from the recommendation of that 5-year review PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 34697 for the golden paintbrush, as well as the data and analysis contained in the species biological report (Service 2019). Proposed Delisting Determination Background Below, we summarize information for the golden paintbrush directly relevant to this proposed rule. For more information on the description, biology, ecology, and habitat of the golden paintbrush, please refer to the species biological report for golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta), completed in June 2019 (Service 2019, entire). The species biological report is available under Supporting Documents on http:// www.regulations.gov in Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2020–0060. Other relevant supporting documents are available on the golden paintbrush’s species profile page on the Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS) at https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/ speciesProfile?sId=7706. Species Description and Habitat Information The golden paintbrush is native to the northwestern United States and southwest British Columbia. It has been historically reported from more than 30 sites from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to the Willamette Valley of Oregon (Hitchcock et al., 1959; Sheehan and Sprague 1984; Gamon 1995). The taxonomy of the golden paintbrush as a full species is widely accepted as valid by the scientific community (ITIS 2020). The golden paintbrush is a short-lived perennial herb formerly included in the figwort or snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae), with current classification in the Orobanchaceae family. The genus Castilleja is hemiparasitic, with roots of paintbrushes capable of forming parasitic connections to roots of other plants; however, paintbrush plants are probably not host-specific (Mills and Kummerow 1988, entire) and can grow successfully, though not as well, even without a host. Golden paintbrush has superior performance (survival, height, number of flowering stems, number of fruiting stems, number of seed capsules) where it co-occurs with certain prairie species, including several perennial native forbs (e.g., common woolly sunflower or Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) and common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)), as well as species in other functional groups, including grasses (e.g., Roemer’s fescue (Festuca roemeri) and California oatgrass (Danthonia californica)) and shrubs (e.g., snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)) (Schmidt 2016, E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 34698 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules pp. 10–17). Anecdotal observations suggest that it grows poorly when associated with annual grasses (Gamon 1995, p. 17). Individual golden paintbrush plants have a median survival of 1 to 5 years, but some plants can survive for more than a decade (Service 2019, p. 7). Plants are up to 30 centimeters (cm) (12 inches (in)) tall and are covered with soft, somewhat sticky hairs. Stems may be erect or spreading, in the latter case giving the appearance of being several plants, especially when in tall grass. The lower leaves are broader, with one to three pairs of short lateral lobes. The bracts are softly hairy and sticky, golden yellow, and about the same width as the upper leaves. Golden paintbrush plants typically emerge in early March, with flowering generally beginning the last week in April and continuing until early June. Most plants complete flowering by early to mid-June, although occasionally plants flower throughout the summer and into October. Based on historical collections and observations, flowering seems to occur at about the same time throughout the species’ range. Individual plants of golden paintbrush typically need pollinators to set seed. Bumble bee species (Bombus) appear to be the most common pollinators visiting golden paintbrush (Wentworth 1994, p. 5; Kolar and Fessler 2006, in litt.; Waters 2018, in litt,; Kaye 2019, in litt.), although sweat bees (Halictidea), miner bee (Andrena chlorogaster), syrphid fly (Eristalis hirta), and bee fly (Bombylius major) have also been observed visiting golden paintbrush plants (Kolar and Fessler 2006, in litt.; Waters 2018, in litt,). Fruits typically mature from late June through July, with seed capsules beginning to open and disperse seed in August. By mid-July, plants at most sites are in senescence (the process of deterioration with age), although this can vary considerably depending on available moisture. Capsules persist on the plants well into the winter, and often retain seed into the following spring. Seeds are likely shaken from the seed capsules by wind, with most falling a short distance from the parent plant (Godt et al. 2005, p. 88). The seeds are light (approximately 8,000 seeds/ gram) and could possibly be dispersed short distances by wind (Kaye et al. 2012, p. 7). Additionally, there is at least one reported instance of shortdistance movement of seeds via vole activity (Kolar and Fessler 2006, in litt.). Therefore, natural colonization of new sites would likely occur only over short distances as plants disperse from established sites. Germination tests in VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 different years with seed from various wild populations suggests that germination rates can vary extremely widely both between sites and between years (Wentworth 1994, entire). Germination tests also revealed that seeds likely remain viable in the wild for several years (Wentworth 1994, p. 17). Individuals of the golden paintbrush require open prairie soils, near-bedrock soils, or clayey alluvial soils with suitable host plants. These suitable habitats occur from zero to 100 meters (330 feet) above sea level (Service 2000, p. 5). The golden paintbrush may have historically grown in deeper soils, but nearly all of these soils within the known range of the species have been converted to agriculture (Lawrence and Kaye 2006, p. 150; Dunwiddie and Martin 2016, p. 1). Populations currently occur on the mainland in Washington and Oregon, and on islands in Washington and British Columbia. Mainland and island populations form two broad categories of populations that can vary slightly in habitat setting. Individuals in mainland populations are found in open, undulating remnant prairies dominated by Roemer’s fescue and red fescue (Festuca rubra) on gravelly or clayey glacial outwash. Individuals in island populations are often on the upper slopes or rims of steep, southwest- or west-facing sandy bluffs that are exposed to salt spray. Individuals in island populations may also occur on remnant coastal prairie flats on glacial deposits of sandy loam. Island prairies may have historically been dominated by forbs and foothill sedge (Carex tumulicola) rather than grasses (WDNR 2004b, pp. 11, 17); however, many island sites are now dominated by red fescue or weedy forbs. All golden paintbrush sites are subject to encroachment by woody vegetation if not managed. Historically, fire was significant in maintaining open prairie conditions in parts of the range of the golden paintbrush (Boyd 1986, p. 82; Gamon 1995, p. 14; Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 162). The golden paintbrush is a poor competitor, intolerant of shade cast by encroaching tall nonnatives and litter duff in fire-suppressed prairies. Native perennial communities are likely to support more host species appropriate for the golden paintbrush than those dominated by nonnative annuals (Lawrence and Kaye 2011, p. 173). Thus, habitats with low presence of nonnative annuals and high presence of a diverse assemblage of perennial, native prairie species are more likely to provide the best conditions for survival PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 of golden paintbrush plants year-to-year (Dunwiddie and Martin 2016, p. 1). Range, Distribution, Abundance, and Trends of Golden Paintbrush The golden paintbrush is endemic to the Pacific Northwest, historically occurring from southeastern Vancouver Island and adjacent islands in British Columbia, Canada, to the San Juan Islands and Puget Trough in western Washington and into the Willamette Valley of western Oregon (Fertig 2019, p. 23). Currently, the species occurs within British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, representing, generally, four distinct geographic areas (British Columbia, North Puget Sound, South Puget Sound, and the Willamette Valley). The species’ historical distribution—before European settlement and modern development in the Pacific Northwest—is unknown. However, the species’ current distribution is generally representative of the areas where we suspect the species occurred historically. Since its Federal listing in 1997, only one new wild population of golden paintbrush has been discovered across the species’ range (Service 2007, p. 6). All other new populations (referred to as sites or populations established since the time of listing) across the range are the result of reintroductions through outplanting or direct seeding. Seeds used to grow plugs for outplanting, and plant stock for seed production, were derived from occurrences that remained at the time of listing (wild sites) (Service 2019, p. 5). At the time of listing (see 62 FR 31740; June 11, 1997), there were 10 known golden paintbrush populations: 8 in Washington and 2 in British Columbia. No golden paintbrush populations were known from Oregon at the time of listing (Sheehan and Sprague 1984, pp. 8–9; WDNR 2004b). Despite its limited geographic range and isolation of populations, the golden paintbrush retained exceptionally high levels of genetic diversity, possibly because there were several large populations that remained (Godt et al. 2005, p. 87). Since its Federal listing, the distribution and abundance of golden paintbrush have increased significantly as a result of outplanting (seeding or plugging). In 2018, a minimum of 48 sites were documented (Service 2019, pp. 11–14). In Washington, there are 19 sites: 5 in the South Puget Sound prairie landscape, 6 in the San Juan Islands, 7 on Whidbey Island, and 1 near Dungeness Bay in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In Oregon, there are 26 extant E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules sites within the Willamette Valley. In British Columbia, there are three extant sites, each located on a separate island. Of these 48 sites, only three are on private property (Service 2019, p. 12). The remaining 45 golden paintbrush sites are in either public ownership, are owned by a conservation-oriented, 34699 nongovernmental organization, or are under conservation easement. Current Distribution ofGolden Paintbrush Populations .Uf"OVW LEGEND ® * kiiom!!ters 25 50 O 100 1., .. , I I I [I.I I I 01530 Miles 60 ■ Major Cities ['.] Stites Q D Counties Bl'itish Columbia Figure 1. Extant sites ("populations") of golden paintbrush across the species' known range. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 EP30JN21.001</GPH> jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS ~~di~ /\./Highways 1 ·,, , .. , I Wild sll¢(eldaiit' !rt)997) 34700 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Trends in abundance for the golden paintbrush have been consistently monitored since 2004 (Fertig 2019, p. 14), with refinements to monitoring protocols made in 2008 and 2011 (Arnett 2011, entire). As a whole, abundance has substantially increased from approximately 11,500 flowering plants in 2011, to over 560,000 flowering plants counted in 2018 (Fertig 2019, pp. 9–12). We attribute this rapid increase in abundance to the development of direct seeding techniques for establishing new populations, as opposed to outplanting individual plants (or plugs) grown in greenhouses. Most of the sites in Washington and Oregon’s Willamette Valley were established by incorporating direct seeding. The current population abundance is not necessarily reflective of the eventual long-term population level at a site; however, as a number of reestablished sites are going through a period of prairie development/progression and species succession. For example, at some reestablished sites, abundance initially increased over several years then dropped to about 15–20 percent of the peak abundance (Fertig 2019, pp. 10–11, 15–21). Drops in abundance are somewhat expected as the populations stabilize after direct seeding, and we anticipate that the long-term population level at these re-established sites will meet recovery criteria. In contrast to the newly-established golden paintbrush sites, there has been a steady decline in overall abundance at the original wild sites (golden paintbrush occurrences that were extant at the time of listing) since about 2012. Abundance at these sites dropped from just over 15,500 flowering plants in 2012, to just over 5,600 flowering plants in 2018 (Fertig 2019, p. 11). Recovery Criteria 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. Recovery plans must, to the maximum extent practicable, include ‘‘objective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination, in accordance with the provisions [of section 4 of the Act], that the species be removed from the list.’’ Recovery plans provide a roadmap for us and our partners on methods of enhancing conservation and minimizing threats to listed species, as well as measurable criteria against which to evaluate progress towards recovery and assess the species’ likely future VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 condition. However, they are not regulatory documents and do not substitute for the determinations and promulgation of regulations required under section 4(a)(1) of the Act. A decision to revise the status of a species, or to delist a species is ultimately based on an analysis of the best scientific and commercial data available to determine whether a species is no longer an endangered species or a threatened species, regardless of whether that information differs from the recovery plan. There are many paths to accomplishing recovery of a species, and recovery may be achieved without all of the criteria in a recovery plan being fully met. For example, one or more criteria may be exceeded while other criteria may not yet be accomplished. In that instance, we may determine that the threats are minimized sufficiently and that the species is robust enough that it no longer meets the definition of an endangered species or a threatened species. In other cases, we may discover new recovery opportunities after having finalized the recovery plan. Parties seeking to conserve the species may use these opportunities instead of methods identified in the recovery plan. Likewise, we may learn new information about the species after we finalize the recovery plan. The new information may change the extent to which existing criteria are appropriate for identifying recovery of the species. The recovery of a species is a dynamic process requiring adaptive management that may, or may not, follow all of the guidance provided in a recovery plan. Here, we provide a summary of progress made toward achieving the recovery criteria for the golden paintbrush. More detailed information related to conservation efforts can be found below under Summary of Biological Status and Threats. We completed a final recovery plan for the golden paintbrush in 2000 (Service 2000, entire), and later supplemented the plan for part of the species’ range in 2010 (Service 2010, entire). The 2000 plan includes objective, measurable criteria for delisting; however, the plan has not been updated for 20 years, so some aspects of the plan may no longer reflect the best scientific information available for the golden paintbrush. For example, we did not anticipate the ability to rapidly establish large golden paintbrush populations through direct seeding at the time the recovery plan was developed. Since about 2012, a significant increase in the number of new populations has occurred, because of PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 direct seeding within the historical range in Washington and Oregon, with perhaps the most significant being the reestablishment of the golden paintbrush at a number of sites in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where the species was once extirpated. In addition to improved propagation techniques, substantial research has been conducted on the population biology, fire ecology, and restoration of the golden paintbrush (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, entire; Gamon 2001, entire; Kaye 2001, entire; Kaye and Lawrence 2003, entire; Swenerton 2003, entire; Wayne 2004, entire; WDNR 2004b, entire; Lawrence 2005, entire; Dunwiddie and Martin 2016, entire; Lawrence 2015, entire; Schmidt 2016, entire). The results of these studies have been used to guide management of the species at sites being managed for native prairie and grassland ecosystems. Active management to promote the golden paintbrush is being done to varying degrees (from targeted to infrequent) across prairie and grassland sites. An active seed production program has been maintained to provide golden paintbrush seeds and other native prairie plant seeds to land managers for population augmentation and restoration projects across the species’ range in Washington and Oregon. Additionally, as recommended by the recovery plan for the golden paintbrush (Service 2000, p. 31), the State of Washington prepared a reintroduction plan for the Service as both internal and external guidance (WDNR 2004a, entire). Below are the delisting criteria described in the 2000 golden paintbrush recovery plan (Service 2000, p. 24), as supplemented in 2010, and the progress made to date in achieving each criterion. Criterion 1 for Delisting There are at least 20 stable populations distributed throughout the historical range of the species. To be deemed stable, a population must maintain a 5-year ‘running’ average population size of at least 1,000 individuals, where the actual count never falls below 1,000 individuals in any year. The golden paintbrush technical team recommended in the 2007 5-year status review that this criterion should be modified. Because it is impractical to count individual vegetative plants, the team recommended that the criterion should be modified to specifically account for a recovered population as equal to 1,000 flowering individuals and known to be stable or increasing as evidenced by population trends (Service 2007, p. 3). E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules While we did not officially amend or make an addendum to the recovery plan to incorporate this recommendation, we accepted that this is the best way to count population abundance and more recent surveys (starting about 2007) for the species counted only flowering plants. The Service supplemented this criterion in its 2010 recovery plan for the prairie species of western Oregon and southwestern Washington by identifying locations for golden paintbrush reintroductions, specifically to establish five additional populations distributed across at least three of the following recovery zones: Southwest Washington, Portland, Salem East, Salem West, Corvallis East, Corvallis West, Eugene East, and Eugene West. Priority was given to reestablishing populations in zones with historical records of golden paintbrush (Southwest Washington, Portland, Salem East, Corvallis East) (Service 2010, p. IV–37). Progress: As of 2018, 23 populations averaged at least 1,000 individual plant per year over the 5-year period from 2013 to 2018. Of these 23 populations, 8 had a 5-year running average of at least 1,000 individuals, and an additional 5 populations had a 3-year running average of at least 1,000 individuals between 2016 and 2018 (Hanson 2019, in litt.). While this does not meet the recovery criteria (of 20 such populations), we find that many of the species’ populations are sufficiently resilient to make up for the smaller number of populations based on the following analysis. As noted above, we only count flowering plants during monitoring, so in most years a proportion of individual plants may not be represented in annual counts, because they are not flowering during surveys. Six populations currently number in the tens of thousands of individuals, the largest totaling just over 224,000 flowering plants (Pigeon Butte on Finley National Wildlife Refuge) (Service 2019, pp. 28–29). Prior to listing, the largest known population totaled just over 15,000 individuals (Rocky Prairie Natural Area Preserve) (62 FR 31740; June 11, 1997). Although it is likely that a number of the more recently established populations are still undergoing some level of stabilization, population abundance at eight sites is significantly greater (approximately 10,000 or more flowering plants) than the 1,000 individual threshold established at the time of the drafting of the recovery plan for this species (Service 2019, pp. 12–13). Populations numbering in the tens of thousands of individuals have a significantly higher VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 level of viability and significantly lower risk of extirpation than populations near 1,000 individuals. Finally, there are now a minimum of 26 golden paintbrush populations in western Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and these populations are distributed across at least three (Corvallis West, Salem West, Portland, Eugene West) of the recovery zones (Kaye 2019, pp. 11– 23) identified in the 2010 supplement to the species’ recovery plan (Service 2010, pp. IV–4, IV–37). Therefore, significant progress has been made toward achieving this criterion, and at some sites, the progress is well beyond numerical levels that were anticipated at the time of recovery criteria development. Although we acknowledge annual variability of abundance across sites, at least six sites across Washington and Oregon number in the tens of thousands of individuals (Service 2019, pp. 12–13), which significantly surpasses the minimum 1,000 individual threshold. This increases our confidence that the overall viability of the species is secured, despite having fewer than 20 populations with a 5-year running average of at least 1,000 individuals. In addition, we now have the ability to rapidly create new populations through direct seeding, which is something that was not considered when we developed this recovery criterion. Criterion 2 for Delisting At least 15 populations over 1,000 individuals are located on protected sites. In order for a site to be deemed protected, it must be either owned and/ or managed by a government agency or private conservation organization that identifies maintenance of the species as the primary management objective for the site, or the site must be protected by a permanent conservation easement or covenant that commits present and future landowners to the conservation of the species. Progress: This recovery criterion has not been met as phrased in the recovery plan, because the primary management objective of the protected sites is not always to protect only golden paintbrush. However, we find that the goal of the criterion, a significant number of populations under conservation ownership protective of the species that are likely to be selfsustaining over time, has been greatly exceeded. Forty-five of the 48 golden paintbrush sites are in either public ownership, are owned by a conservation-oriented, nongovernmental organization, or are under conservation easement (Service 2019, p. 62). Such ownership is expected to protect sites PO 00000 Frm 00065 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 34701 from development and land use that would have long-term, wide-ranging deleterious effects on this species. Additionally, 37 sites currently have management practices that at least preserve essential characteristics of golden paintbrush habitat, and 24 sites have management plans and resources for their implementation for at least the next year (Service 2019, pp. 40, 42–44). Additionally, two of the five conservation easement sites are also enrolled in the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, which provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners to restore, enhance, and manage private land to improve native habitat. At least three sites in Washington and 14 sites in Oregon also support other prairiedependent species currently listed as endangered or threatened, and another five are part of designated critical habitat for one of these species. Therefore, we anticipate prairie management or maintenance will be ongoing at these golden paintbrush sites for the foreseeable future. Two of the three extant sites in British Columbia that are managed by Parks Canada are also located within designated ‘‘ecological reserves’’ (Service 2019, p. 14). The level of management specific to golden paintbrush varies at each site, but all sites are generally being managed to conserve and/or restore native prairie or grassland habitats (for additional detail on species management status at sites, see discussion under Summary of Biological Status and Threats, Factor A, below). Criterion 3 for Delisting Genetic material, in the form of seeds adequately representing the geographic distribution or genetic diversity within the species, is stored in a facility approved by the Center for Plant Conservation. Progress: This recovery criterion is met. Seeds are being stored at two approved facilities, the Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank at Portland State University and the Miller Seed Vault at the University of Washington Botanic Garden. In addition, the active seed production programs at Center for Natural Lands Management and the Institute for Applied Ecology continue to provide golden paintbrush seeds to land managers for population augmentation and prairie restoration projects. Production programs were started using seeds from nearly all the extant populations at the time of listing to maintain existing genetic diversity across the historical range and to allow for the greatest opportunity for local adaptation at reintroduction sites. E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 34702 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules Criterion 4 for Delisting Post-delisting monitoring of the condition of the species and the status of all individual populations is ready to begin. Progress: We have developed a draft post-delisting monitoring plan in cooperation with our lead State partner in Washington, Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and in Oregon, Oregon Department of Agriculture. The draft post-delisting monitoring plan is available for public review on http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2020– 0060. We anticipate that the WDNR’s Natural Heritage Program would coordinate future monitoring of the golden paintbrush if the species is delisted. In the post-delisting monitoring plan, we propose to monitor, at a minimum, all populations established and counted in 2018 that were identified in the species biological report (Service 2019, pp. 12–13). These populations would be monitored every other year after final delisting for a 5year period (i.e., years 1, 3, and 5). Several key prairie conservation partners may choose to monitor these golden paintbrush sites more frequently and may also choose to monitor additional golden paintbrush sites as more become established across the range in Oregon and Washington. Parks Canada oversees periodic monitoring of the three extant populations within British Columbia, Canada. Therefore, this recovery criterion is met. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Criterion 5 for Delisting Post-delisting procedures for the ecological management of habitats for all populations have been initiated. Progress: This criterion has not been met as phrased in the recovery plan, because procedures for ecological management for all populations are not in place. However, we find that the intent of this criterion has been met because a substantial proportion of known golden paintbrush sites—more than the 20 populations originally envisioned for these recovery criteria— meet this criterion. As described earlier, significant strides have been made in the ecological management techniques for restoration and maintenance of prairie landscapes and the reintroduction and management of golden paintbrush at these and other sites. The current level of management varies across extant sites, influenced by need, conservation partner capacity, and funding availability. We anticipate ongoing management at a minimum of 37 of these sites, but note that the level of management will continue to vary VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 across sites based on these same factors (Service 2019, pp. 40, 42–44) (see additional discussion regarding ongoing site management under Summary of Biological Status and Threats, Factor A, below). The most actively managed sites may include plantings, fencing, prescribed fire, herbicide use for weed control, mowing, and controlled public use. As described above under ‘‘Criterion 2 for Delisting,’’ at least 17 sites currently contain multiple, prairiedependent species and an additional 5 sites are designated critical habitat for another prairie-dependent species. Those golden paintbrush sites that support multiple, prairie-dependent species listed under the Act are anticipated to receive the most consistent ecological management into the future. While this recovery criterion has not been fully achieved (i.e., not all populations have post-delisting management procedures in place), ecological management of habitat is expected to occur on the vast majority of the known sites and management will occur on far more than the originally projected 15 sites identified above under ‘‘Criterion 2 for Delisting.’’ With the more recently identified threat of hybridization from harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), additional measures are being implemented and refined to address the impacts to golden paintbrush on contaminated sites and prevent the spread of harsh paintbrush to uncontaminated golden paintbrush sites. The Service has developed a strategy and guidance document for securing golden paintbrush sites and has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with prairie conservation partners to ensure hybridization is contained and the conservation strategy is followed to benefit golden paintbrush while supporting recovery of other sympatric (occurring within the same geographical area) prairie species listed under the Act (Service et al. 2020) (for more on the conservation strategy, see discussion under Summary of Biological Status and Threats, Factor E, below). Regulatory and Analytical Framework Regulatory Framework 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 PO 00000 Frm 00066 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 ‘‘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 whether a species meets either definition, we must evaluate all identified threats by considering the species’ expected response 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 E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules 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. The Act does not define the term ‘‘foreseeable future,’’ which appears in the statutory definition of ‘‘threatened species.’’ Our implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.11(d) set forth a framework for evaluating the foreseeable future on a case-by-case basis. The term foreseeable future extends only so far into the future as we can reasonably determine that both the future threats and the species’ responses to those threats are likely. In other words, the foreseeable future is the period of time in which we can make reliable predictions. ‘‘Reliable’’ does not mean ‘‘certain’’; it means sufficient to provide a reasonable degree of confidence in the prediction. Thus, a prediction is reliable if it is reasonable to depend on when making decisions. It is not always possible or necessary to define foreseeable future as a particular number of years. Analysis of the foreseeable future uses the best scientific and commercial data available and should consider the timeframes applicable to the relevant threats and to the species’ likely responses to those threats in view of its life-history characteristics. Data that are typically relevant to assessing the species’ biological response include speciesspecific factors such as lifespan, reproductive rates or productivity, certain behaviors, and other demographic factors. For species that are already listed as endangered or threatened species, this analysis of threats is an evaluation of both the threats currently facing the species and the threats that are reasonably likely to affect the species in the foreseeable future following the delisting or downlisting and the removal of the Act’s protections. A recovered species is one that no longer meets the Act’s definition of an endangered species or a threatened species. For the golden paintbrush, we consider 30 years to be a reasonable period of time within which reliable predictions can be made for stressors and species’ response. This time period includes multiple generations of the golden paintbrush, generally includes the term of and likely period of response to many of the management plans for the species and/or its habitat, and encompasses planning horizons for prairie habitat conservation efforts (e.g., Dunwiddie and Bakker 2011, pp. 86–88; Service 2011, entire; Altman et al. 2017, pp. 6, 20); additionally, various global climate models and emission scenarios VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 provide consistent predictions within that timeframe (IPCC 2014, p. 11). We consider 30 years a relatively conservative timeframe in view of the long-term protection afforded to 93 percent of the species’ occupied sites (45 of 48), which occur on conserved/ protected lands (Service 2019, p. 62). Analytical Framework The species biological report documents the results of our comprehensive biological review of the best scientific and commercial data regarding the status of the species. The report does not represent our decision on whether the species should be reclassified as a threatened species under the Act. It does, however, provide the scientific basis that informs our regulatory decisions, which involve the further application of standards within the Act and its implementing regulations and policies. The following is a summary of the key results and conclusions from the report, which can be found at Docket FWS–R1–ES–2020– 0060 on http://www.regulations.gov. To assess golden paintbrush viability, we used the three conservation biology principles of resiliency, redundancy, and representation (Shaffer and Stein 2000, pp. 306–310). Briefly, resiliency supports the ability of the species to withstand environmental and demographic stochasticity (for example, wet or dry, warm or cold years); redundancy supports the ability of the species to withstand catastrophic events (for example, droughts, large pollution events), and representation supports the ability of the species to adapt over time to long-term changes in the environment (for example, climate changes). In general, the more resilient and redundant a species is and the more representation it has, the more likely it is to sustain populations over time, even under changing environmental conditions. Using these principles, we identified the species’ ecological requirements for survival and reproduction at the individual, population, and species levels, and described the beneficial and risk factors influencing the species’ viability. We use this information to inform our regulatory decision. Summary of Biological Status and Threats In this section, we review the biological condition of the species and its resources, and the threats that influence the species’ condition in order to assess the species’ overall viability and the risks to that viability. The following potential threats were identified for this species at the time of PO 00000 Frm 00067 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 34703 listing: (1) Succession of prairie and grassland habitats to shrub and forest lands (due to fire suppression, interspecific competition, and invasive species); (2) development of property for commercial, residential, and agricultural use; (3) low potential for expansion and refugia due to constriction of habitat (from surrounding development or land use); (4) recreational picking (including associated trampling); and (5) herbivory (on plants and seeds) (62 FR 31740; June 11, 1997). For our analysis, we assessed their influence on the current status of the species, as well as the influence of two potential threats not considered at the time of listing, hybridization of golden paintbrush with harsh paintbrush, and the impacts of climate change. We also assessed current voluntary and regulatory conservation mechanisms relative to how they reduce or ameliorate existing threats to golden paintbrush. Habitat Loss At the time of listing, the principal cause of ongoing habitat loss was succession of prairie and grassland habitats to shrub and forest due to fire suppression, interspecific competition, and invasive species (62 FR 31740; June 11, 1997). The potential for development at, or surrounding, extant sites for commercial, residential, and agricultural purposes also posed a threat to the golden paintbrush at the time of listing. Both of these threat factors were preventing or limiting extant populations from expanding and recruiting into new or adjacent areas and afforded no refugia for the species in the case of catastrophic events. Currently, ongoing prairie or grassland management or maintenance occurs at the majority of extant golden paintbrush sites. This management includes removal or suppression of trees and both native and nonnative woody shrubs, as well as control of nonnative, invasive grassland plant species through a number of different approaches according to species (e.g., mowing, prescribed fire, mechanical removal, selective-herbicide application, restoration reseeding, etc.). At least 24 of the 48 sites have prairie or grassland management plans in place for the next 3 or more years. An additional 13 sites that lack a long-term management plan for the golden paintbrush receive basic maintenance to preserve the prairie characteristics of golden paintbrush habitat (Service 2019, pp. 42–44). Three golden paintbrush sites in Washington also currently support other prairie- or grassland-dependent species listed under the Act—the endangered Taylor’s E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 34704 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori) and three subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama spp.) (Olympia pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama pugetensis), Tenino pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama tumuli), and Yelm pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama yelmensis))—while an additional five sites are included in designated critical habitat for the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. Although these five critical habitat sites are currently unoccupied by the butterfly, they were designated because they were found to be essential to the conservation of Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (78 FR 61452; October 3, 2013). Specifically, these areas will be managed in a way that is conducive for eventual reintroduction of Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, which will maintain the prairie ecosystem characteristics that are supportive of long-term conservation of the golden paintbrush. In addition, at least 14 golden paintbrush sites in Oregon’s Willamette Valley currently support one or more other prairie- or grasslanddependent species listed under the Act—the endangered Fender’s blue butterfly (Icaricia icarioides fenderi), endangered Willamette daisy (Erigeron decumbens), threatened Kincaid’s lupine (Lupinus oreganus var. kincaidii, listed as Lupinus sulphureus ssp. kincaidii), and threatened Nelson’s checker-mallow (Sidalcea nelsoniana) (Institute for Applied Ecology 2019, in litt.). We expect a number of these golden paintbrush sites in both Washington and Oregon to continue to be managed in a way that supports the recovery of other prairie- or grassland-dependent species in addition to the long-term conservation of the golden paintbrush. As long as periodic management or maintenance continues to occur at golden paintbrush sites across the species’ range, the threat of prairie or grassland succession is expected to remain adequately addressed into the foreseeable future. State and Federal management plans include specific objectives to continue to protect and conserve the golden paintbrush at a number of sites (see Factor D discussion, below). States, Federal agencies, and conservation organizations have invested significant resources into golden paintbrush recovery, as well as general prairie and grassland restoration and conservation for a variety of at-risk prairie-dependent species. We do not anticipate habitat for these prairie-dependent species to contract further given the limited amount of remaining prairie habitat and VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 the long-term investments conservation partners have made, and continue to make, to restore, rebuild, maintain, and conserve these relatively rare regional ecosystems (Dunwiddie and Bakker 2011, entire; Center of Natural Lands Management 2012, in litt., entire; The News Tribune 2014, in litt.; Altman et al. 2017, entire; The Nature Conservancy 2019, in litt., entire). Golden paintbrush now occurs at 48 separate sites, as a result of the numerous reintroduction efforts implemented to recover this species. Only three of these sites are on lands possibly subject to future development. The remaining 45 sites are all under some type of public or conservation ownership (Service 2019, pp. 11–14). Of the 48 extant sites, at least 81 percent (n=39) are on land with some known level of protected status (at a minimum, formally protected as a natural area or other such designation, although not all of these designations are permanent) (Service 2019, pp. 42–44). In addition, of the 39 sites with some protected land status, 19 also include stipulations for, or statements of specific protection of, perpetual management of the golden paintbrush. Although the total area occupied by the golden paintbrush at 19 sites is relatively small (less than 0.4 hectare (ha) (1 acre (ac)), 14 sites have from between 2 to 18.6 occupied ha (5 to 46 ac) (Service 2019, pp. 37–38). All but four sites have available land for future golden paintbrush population expansion or shifts in distribution. Of the 34 sites with less than 2 ha (5 ac) of occupied habitat, 10 have an estimated range of 0.8 to 2 ha (2 to 5 ac) of additional habitat for expansion, and at least 13 have an estimated range of 2 to 6 ha (5 to 15 ac) of additional habitat for future expansion (Service 2019, pp. 37–38). In addition, the species is much less reliant on expanding site-use and refugia than at the time of listing, when only 10 extant sites of the golden paintbrush remained. The reintroduction and seed production techniques developed for golden paintbrush recovery have provided the means to more easily establish or reestablish populations at prairie restoration sites. Many of these sites have been specifically acquired for their potential overall size, conservation value, and conservation status. The golden paintbrush has been reintroduced and established at prairie restoration sites that are well distributed across the species’ historical range, well beyond the 10 extant sites at the time of listing. As a result of these conditions, we do not anticipate development in or around these sites to become a threat to PO 00000 Frm 00068 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 the golden paintbrush in the foreseeable future. Recreational Picking and Trampling At the time of listing, we considered overutilization from recreational picking (flowers) to be a threat (62 FR 31740; June 11, 1997). Our concern with recreational picking or collection of flowers was that it would reduce overall potential seed-set at a site. Concern has also been noted regarding the direct harvesting of seed capsules (Dunwiddie in litt. 2018). Although there is evidence of occasional recreational or possible commercial collection of capsules that reduced the amount of seed available on a site, collection is no longer considered a significant stressor to the species across its range (Service 2019, p. 47). In addition, the current number of established and protected golden paintbrush sites, many with limited or restricted access, largely ameliorates this previously identified threat. We acknowledge that the golden paintbrush is likely a desirable species for some gardeners or plant collectors. However, if delisted, golden paintbrush seeds or plants are likely to become available through controlled sale to the public from regional prairie conservation partners and/or regional native plant nurseries, similar to what occurs with other non-listed prairie plant species. For these reasons, we do not expect the possible collection of golden paintbrush flowers or seeds to become a threat to the species in the foreseeable future. At the time of listing, we identified trampling of golden paintbrush plants by recreationalists as impacting the species at some sites with high levels of public use, especially where and when associated with recreational picking of golden paintbrush flowers. Although some risk of trampling to plants will always be present across public sites (e.g., State parks, national wildlife refuges), most sites often have some level of restricted access when golden paintbrush plants are in bloom (e.g., fenced from deer or inaccessible to the public) or there are defined walking or viewing areas. Therefore, when compared with the potential impact of trampling at the time of listing, the current impact is likely insignificant, due to the number of reestablished golden paintbrush sites, the large size of many of these sites, and considerable abundance of golden paintbrush plants at some of these sites. For the above reasons, we also do not anticipate that trampling will become a threat in the foreseeable future. E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Herbivory At the time of listing, we considered predation (herbivory) on the golden paintbrush by native (voles and deer) and introduced (rabbits) species to be a threat to the plant (62 FR 31740; June 11, 1997). Deer continue to exhibit significant herbivory on the golden paintbrush at some sites; however, there is annual and site-specific variability in the overall level of herbivory (Service 2019, p. 48). Herbivory impacts from voles on the golden paintbrush have not been broadly or consistently observed and also appear to be variable across sites and years. Where herbivory by deer and/or rabbits has been significant, control with fencing has been successfully implemented, but controlling herbivory through fencing over large areas is limited by cost (Service 2019, p. 48). In addition, encouraging localized reduction of deer populations through lethal removal near some sites (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 2019, in litt.; Pelant 2019, in litt.) and installing raptor perch poles to control rodents and rabbits at some sites are also being implemented to reduce impacts of herbivory on the golden paintbrush (Service 2019, p. 48). As a consequence of the significant increase in the number of golden paintbrush sites that have been successfully established since the species was listed, and because the impact of herbivory is being successfully managed in at least a portion of those sites where noted as significant (potential site/population level effect), we conclude predation (herbivory) no longer has a significant impact across the majority of the golden paintbrush’s 48 sites/populations, nor at the species level, and is unlikely to become a threat to the species in the foreseeable future. Hybridization A potential threat to the golden paintbrush identified after the species was listed in 1997 was the impact of hybridization with the harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida). The harsh paintbrush is one of the host plants introduced to prairie sites targeted for endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly recovery efforts. Our 2007 5year status review recommended ‘‘the evaluation of the potential for genetic contamination of golden paintbrush populations by hybridization with other species of Castilleja’’ (Service 2007, p. 15). After initial evaluation, the potential risk of hybridization was considered relatively low and manageable (Kaye and Blakeley-Smith 2008, p. 13). However, after further VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 evaluation and additional observations in the field, hybridization with the harsh paintbrush has now been identified as a significant potential threat to golden paintbrush populations where the two species occur together or in close proximity (Clark 2015, entire; Sandlin 2018, entire). Three former golden paintbrush recovery sites have now been discounted by the Service for the purposes of recovery due to the level of hybridization at these sites (Service 2019, p. 15). At least one other site is currently vulnerable to the effects of hybridization, but management efforts to date (removal of plants that exhibit hybrid characteristics and creation of a zone of separation between harsh paintbrush and golden paintbrush areas at the site) have seemingly preserved this golden paintbrush population. Currently, hybridization appears to be confined to those areas located in the south Puget Sound prairie region where both species of Castilleja were used at some of the same habitat restoration sites. The only known incident of hybridization outside of this region was at Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Washington, where we unknowingly used a seed mix that included the harsh paintbrush. This site has since been eradicated of both Castilleja species, but we anticipate reintroducing the golden paintbrush to the site in the future (Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex 2019, in litt., entire). As a response to this emerging threat, efforts were implemented, and are ongoing, to reduce or eliminate the risk of hybridization to the golden paintbrush. These include efforts such as maintaining isolated growing areas for the golden paintbrush and harsh paintbrush at native seed production facilities used in prairie restoration efforts, maintaining buffers between golden paintbrush and harsh paintbrush patches at sites where both species are currently present, and delineating which of the two species will be used at current and future prairie conservation or restoration sites. We recently developed a strategy and guidance document for securing golden paintbrush sites to address containment of hybridization at existing contaminated sites and prevention of unintentional spread of hybridization to other regions within the golden paintbrush’s range, specifically north Puget Sound and the Willamette Valley (Service et al. 2020). We have also entered into an associated MOU with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and WDNR to ensure the strategy is implemented as agreed to by PO 00000 Frm 00069 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 34705 all prairie conservation partners in the range of the golden paintbrush. The three agencies have authority over these species and will oversee most prairie restoration efforts in Washington, particularly in south Puget Sound. This MOU is expected to facilitate awareness and compliance with the hybridization strategy and guidance by our prairie conservation partners. The formal adoption and implementation of the hybridization strategy and guidance is expected to prevent hybridization from becoming a threat to the golden paintbrush in the foreseeable future. Climate Change At the time of listing, the potential impacts of climate change on the golden paintbrush was not discussed. The term ‘‘climate’’ refers to the mean and variability of relevant quantities (i.e., temperature, precipitation, wind) over time (IPCC 2014, pp. 119–120). The term ‘‘climate change’’ thus refers to a change in the mean or variability of one or more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or precipitation) that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer, whether the change is due to internal processes or anthropogenic changes (IPCC 2014, p. 120). Scientific measurements spanning several decades demonstrate that changes in climate are occurring. In particular, warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and many of the observed changes in the last 60 years are unprecedented over decades to millennia (IPCC 2014, p. 2). The current rate of climate change may be as fast as any extended warming period over the past 65 million years and is projected to accelerate in the next 30 to 80 years (National Research Council 2013, p. 5). Thus, rapid climate change is adding to other sources of extinction pressures, such as land use and invasive species, which will likely place extinction rates in this era among just a handful of the severe biodiversity crises observed in Earth’s geological record (AAAS 2014, p. 7). Global climate projections are informative, and in some cases, the only or the best scientific information available for us to use. However, projected changes in climate and related impacts can vary substantially across and within different regions of the world (e.g., IPCC 2013, 2014; entire) and within the United States (Melillo et al. 2014, entire). Therefore, we use ‘‘downscaled’’ projections when they are available and have been developed through appropriate scientific procedures, because such projections provide higher resolution information E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 34706 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules that is more relevant to spatial scales used for analyses of a given species (see Glick et al. 2011, pp. 58–61, for a discussion of downscaling). Climate change trends predicted for the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana) broadly consist of an increase in annual average temperature; an increase in extreme precipitation events; and, with less certainty, variability in annual precipitation (Dalton et al. 2013, pp. 31– 38, Figure 1.1; Snover et al. 2013, pp. 5– 1–5–4). According to the NatureServe Climate Vulnerability Index, the golden paintbrush has experienced mean annual precipitation variation over the last 50 years ranging from 53 cm to 130 cm (21 to 51 in), resulting in a rating of ‘‘Somewhat Decreased Vulnerability’’ to climate change (Young et al. 2011, pp. 26–27; Gamon 2014, pp. 1, 5; Climate Change Sensitivity Database 2014, in litt., p. 4). Prolonged or more intense summer droughts are likely to increase in the Pacific Northwest due to climate change (Snover et al. 2013, p. 2–1). Even though the golden paintbrush senesces as the prairies dry out in the summer, increased intensity or length of drought conditions will likely stress plants and increase mortality, resulting in reduced numbers of individuals in populations at less-than-optimal sites (Kaye 2018, in litt.). As is the case with all stressors we assess, even if we conclude that a species is currently affected or is likely to be affected in a negative way by one or more climate-related impacts, it does not necessarily follow that the species meets the definition of an ‘‘endangered species’’ or a ‘‘threatened species’’ under the Act. Knowledge regarding the vulnerability of the species to, and known or anticipated impacts from, climate-associated changes in environmental conditions can be used to help devise appropriate conservation strategies. Predicted environmental changes resulting from climate change may have both positive and negative effects on the golden paintbrush, depending on the extent and type of impact and depending on site-specific conditions within each habitat type. The primary predicted negative effect is drought conditions resulting in inconsistent growing seasons. This effect will likely be buffered by the ability of the golden paintbrush to survive in a range of soil conditions, with a number of different host plants, and under a range of precipitation levels. We have not identified any predicted environmental effects from climate change that may be positive for the golden paintbrush at VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 this time. Climate change could result in a decline or change in bumble bee diversity within the range of the golden paintbrush (Soroye et al. 2020, entire); the bumble bee is an important pollinator for the golden paintbrush. However, there are limited data at this time to indicate this is a specific and present threat to the golden paintbrush. In summary, climate change is affecting, and will continue to affect, temperature and precipitation events within the range of the golden paintbrush. The extent, duration, and impact of those changes are unknown, but could potentially increase or decrease precipitation in some areas. The golden paintbrush may experience climate change-related effects in the future, most likely at the individual or local population scale. Regional occurrences may experience some shifts; however, we anticipate the species will remain viable, because: (1) It is more resilient than at the time of listing as a result of increased geographic distribution in a variety of ecological settings; (2) available information indicates the golden paintbrush is somewhat adaptable to some level of future variation in climatic conditions (Service 2019, pp. 22–25, 45); (3) there are ongoing efforts to expand the golden paintbrush to additional suitable sites; and (4) we now have the technical ability to readily establish populations, which could help to mitigate any future population losses. Therefore, based upon the best available scientific and commercial information, we conclude that climate change does not currently pose a significant threat, nor is it likely to become a significant threat in the foreseeable future (next 30 years), to the golden paintbrush. Voluntary and Regulatory Conservation Mechanisms Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act requires the Service to take into account ‘‘those efforts, if any, being made by any State or foreign nation, or any political subdivision of a State or foreign nation, to protect such species.’’ We interpret this language to require us to consider relevant Federal, State, and Tribal laws, regulations, and other such mechanisms that may minimize any of the threats or otherwise enhance conservation of the species. We give the strongest weight to statutes and their implementing regulations and to management direction that stems from those laws and regulations; an example would be State governmental actions enforced under a State statute or constitution or Federal action under the statute. For currently listed species, we consider existing regulatory PO 00000 Frm 00070 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 mechanisms relative to how they reduce or ameliorate threats to the species absent the protections of the Act. Therefore, we examine whether other regulatory mechanisms would remain in place if the species were delisted, and the extent to which those mechanisms will continue to help ensure that future threats will be reduced or eliminated. At the time of listing (62 FR 31740; June 11, 1997), we noted that habitat management for the golden paintbrush was not assured, despite the fact that most populations occurred in areas designated as reserves or parks that typically afforded the golden paintbrush and its habitat some level of protection through those designations. As discussed in our species biological report (Service 2019), the threat of habitat loss from potential residential or commercial development has decreased since the time of listing due to the establishment of new golden paintbrush populations on protected sites. Although a few privately owned sites are still at some potential risk, development is no longer considered a significant threat to the viability of the golden paintbrush due to the number of sites largely provided protection from development (Service 2019, pp. 12–14). Federal National Environmental Policy Act— The National Environmental Policy Act requires Federal agencies to consider the environmental effects of their proposed actions (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). Federal agency NEPA analyses may identify and disclose potential effects of Federal actions on the golden paintbrush if the species is delisted. However, NEPA does not require that adverse impacts be mitigated, only disclosed. Therefore, it is unclear what level of protection would be conveyed to the golden paintbrush through NEPA, in the absence of protections under the Act. Sikes Act—One golden paintbrush site currently occurs on a Federal military installation (Forbes Point, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington) and is managed under an integrated natural resources management plan (INRMP) (USDOD 2012, pp. 4–6) authorized by the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670 et seq.). Special management and protection requirements for golden paintbrush habitat in the INRMP include maintenance of a 10-ac management area for the species, including maintaining and improving a fence around the population to exclude both people and herbivores, posting signs that state the area is accessible to ‘‘authorized personnel only,’’ mowing E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules and hand-cutting competing shrubs from the area, outplanting nurserygrown plants from seeds previously collected on site, and implementing additional habitat management actions that are identified in the future to enhance the golden paintbrush population such as control burns or herbicide control of competing vegetation (USDOD 2012, pp. 3–5). These protections are effective in protecting the golden paintbrush on this site and are expected to continue in the absence of protections under the Act because the Sikes Act mandates the Department of Defense to conserve and rehabilitate wildlife, fish, and game on military reservations. National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act—Ten golden paintbrush sites currently occur on National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) lands (Dungeness NWR in Washington, and Ankeny, William L. Finley, Tualatin River, and Baskett Slough NWRs in Oregon). As directed by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Pub. L. 105–57), refuge managers have the authority and responsibility to protect native ecosystems, fulfill the purposes for which an individual refuge was founded, and implement strategies to achieve the goals and objectives stated in management plans. For example, William L. Finley NWR (Benton County, Oregon) includes extensive habitat for the golden paintbrush, including four known occupied sites, while a number of additional NWRs in Oregon (Ankeny NWR, Marion County; Tualatin River NWR, Washington County; and Baskett Slough NWR, Polk County) and Washington (Dungeness NWR, Clallam County) each also support at least one golden paintbrush occupied site. The Willamette Valley comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for William L. Finley, Ankeny, and Baskett Slough NWRs is a land management plan finalized in 2011 with a 15-year term that directs maintenance, protection, and restoration of the species and its habitat and identifies specific objectives related to establishment of populations and monitoring, as well as related habitat maintenance/management (Service 2011, pp. 2–45—2–46, 2–66— 2–70). Given the 15-year timeframe of CCPs, these protections would remain in place until at least 2026, regardless of the golden paintbrush’s Federal listing status. Tualatin River NWR finalized a CCP in 2013, and although it does not have conservation actions specific to the golden paintbrush identified in the plan, it does have maintenance and management activities for oak savanna VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 habitat on the NWR, which supports the golden paintbrush (Service 2013a, pp. 4–9—4–10). These activities include various methods (e.g., mechanical and chemical) for reducing encroachment of woody species, controlling nonnative and invasive plant species, and reestablishing native grasses and forbs. Given the 15-year timeframe of CCPs, protections outlined in the Tualatin River NWR CCP are expected to remain in place until at least 2028, regardless of the golden paintbrush’s Federal listing status. Dungeness NWR also finalized a CCP in 2013 (Service 2013b, entire). The CCP does not have any conservation actions specific to the golden paintbrush identified; however, it does identify general actions taken to control nonnative and invasive plant species that invade habitats on the refuge, including those inhabited by the golden paintbrush (Service 2013b, pp. 4–44— 4–45). The golden paintbrush site at this NWR’s headquarters continues to be maintained and protected. In addition to specific protections for the golden paintbrush provided under CCPs, the species is permanently protected by the mission of all NWRs to manage their lands and waters for the conservation of fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats. National Park Service Organic Act— One golden paintbrush site currently occurs on National Park Service (NPS) lands (American Camp, San Juan Island National Historical Park, Washington). The NPS Organic Act of 1916, as amended (39 Stat. 535), states the NPS shall promote and regulate the use of the National Park system ‘‘to conserve the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wild life’’ therein, to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means ‘‘as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations’’ (54 U.S.C. 100101(a)). Further, in title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at § 2.1(a)(1)(i) and (a)(1)(ii), NPS regulations specifically prohibit possessing, destroying, injuring, defacing, removing, digging, or disturbing from its natural state living or dead wildlife, fish, or plants, or parts or products thereof, on lands under NPS jurisdiction. This prohibition extends to the golden paintbrush where it exists on NPS-managed lands. In addition, the General Management Plan for the San Juan Island National Historical Park includes the NPS’s goal of restoring a prairie community that support functions and values of native habitat, including habitat for native wildlife and rare species, such as the golden paintbrush (NPS 2008, p. 249). PO 00000 Frm 00071 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 34707 Endangered Species Act—The golden paintbrush often co-occurs with other plant and animal species that are listed under the Act, such as the endangered Willamette daisy and endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. Therefore, some of the general habitat protections (e.g., section 7 consultation and ongoing recovery implementation efforts, including prairie habitat restoration, maintenance, and protection) for these other prairiedependent, listed species will indirectly extend to some golden paintbrush sites if we delist the golden paintbrush. Protections in Canada—The golden paintbrush in Canada is currently federally listed as ‘‘endangered’’ under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) (COSEWIC 2007, entire). SARA regulations protect species from harm, possession, collection, buying, selling, or trading (Statutes of Canada 2002, c. 29). SARA also prohibits damage to or destroying the habitat of a species that is listed as an endangered species. The population at Trial Island is on Canadian federal lands protected under SARA (COSEWIC 2011, in litt., p. 5). The golden paintbrush is not currently protected under any provincial legislation in British Columbia. However, the golden paintbrush occurs in the ecological reserves that include Trial Island and Alpha Islet, which are protected under the British Columbia Park Act (COSEWIC 2011, in litt., p. 5). The British Columbia Park Act allows lands identified under the Ecological Reserve Act to be regulated to restrict or prohibit any use, development, or occupation of the land or any use or development of the natural resources in an ecological reserve (Revised Statutes of British Columbia 1996, c. 103). This includes particular areas where rare or endangered native plants and animals in their natural habitat may be preserved. State Washington Natural Heritage Plan— Washington State’s Natural Heritage Plan identifies priorities for preserving natural diversity in Washington State (WDNR 2018, entire). The plan aids WDNR in conserving key habitats that are currently imperiled, or are expected to be imperiled in the future. The prioritization of conservation efforts provided by this plan is expected to remain in place if we delist the golden paintbrush. The golden paintbrush is currently identified as a priority 2 species (species likely to become endangered across their range or in Washington within the foreseeable future) in the State’s 2018 plan (WDNR 2018a, in litt. p. 4), which is a recent change from the species’ priority 1 E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 34708 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules designation (species are in danger of extinction across their range, including Washington) in 2011 (WDNR 2018b, in litt. p. 2). If we delist the golden paintbrush, WDNR may assign the species a priority 3 designation (species that are vulnerable or declining and could become threatened without active management or removal of threats to their existence) in the next iteration of their plan, which may result in WDNR expending less effort in the continued conservation of the golden paintbrush. However, we anticipate that WDNR will continue to monitor the species where it occurs on their own lands and more broadly as a partner in the post-delisting monitoring plan. We also anticipate that WDNR will continue to actively manage their golden paintbrush sites, because these areas are not only important to the long-term conservation of golden paintbrush, but also to other at-risk prairie species. Washington State Park Regulations and Management—State park regulations, in general, require an evaluation of any activity conducted on a park that has the potential to damage park resources, and require mitigation as appropriate (Washington Administrative Code 2016, entire). Wildlife, plants, all park buildings, signs, tables, and other structures are protected; removal or damage of any kind is prohibited (Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission 2019, in litt., p. 2). One golden paintbrush site currently exists on Fort Casey Historical State Park. One of the objectives for natural resources on Fort Casey Historical State Park under the Central Whidbey State Parks Management Plan is to protect and participate in the recovery of the golden paintbrush, including protecting native plant communities, managing vegetative succession, and removing weeds through integrated pest management (Washington State Park and Recreation Commission 2008, p. 15). The plan further states that areas where the golden paintbrush occurs will be classified as ‘‘heritage affording a high degree of protection,’’ and the Nass Natural Area Preserve (also known as Admiralty Inlet Natural Area Preserve) is included in the long-term park boundary to also assure continued preservation of the golden paintbrush in this area (Washington State Park and Recreation Commission 2008, p. 26). Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS), Chapter 564—Oregon Revised Statutes, chapter 564, ‘‘Wildflowers; Threatened or Endangered Plants,’’ requires State agencies to protect State-listed plant species found on their lands (Oregon Revised Statutes 2017, entire). Any land VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 action on Oregon land owned or leased by the State, for which the State holds a recorded easement, and which results, or might result, in the taking of an endangered or threatened plant species, requires consultation with Oregon Department of Agriculture staff. The golden paintbrush is currently Statelisted as endangered in Oregon. At this time, no populations of the golden paintbrush are known to occur on State lands in Oregon. However, should populations of the golden paintbrush occur on Oregon State lands in the future, the removal of Federal protections for the golden paintbrush would not affect State protection of the species under this statute. In summary, conservation measures and existing regulatory mechanisms have minimized, and are continuing to address, the previously identified threats to the golden paintbrush, including habitat succession of prairie and grassland habitats to shrub and forest lands; development of property for commercial, residential, and agricultural use; recreational picking (including associated trampling); and herbivory (on plants and seeds). As indicated above, we anticipate the majority of these mechanisms will remain in place regardless of the species’ Federal listing status. Cumulative Impacts When multiple stressors co-occur, one may exacerbate the effects of the other, leading to effects not accounted for when each stressor is analyzed individually. The full impact of these synergistic effects may be observed within a short period of time, or may take many years before it is noticeable. For example, high levels of predation (herbivory) on the golden paintbrush by deer could cause large temporary losses in seed production in a population, but are not generally considered to be a significant threat to long-term viability; populations that are relatively large and well-distributed should be able to withstand such naturally occurring events. However, the relative impact of predation (herbivory) by deer may be intensified when it occurs in conjunction with other factors that may lessen the resiliency of golden paintbrush populations, such as prolonged woody species encroachment (prairie succession); extensive nonnative, invasive plant infestations; or possible increased plant mortality resulting from the effects of climate change (i.e., prolonged drought). Although the types, magnitude, or extent of potential cumulative impacts are difficult to predict, we are not aware of any combination of factors that is PO 00000 Frm 00072 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 likely to co-occur resulting in significant negative consequences for the species. We anticipate that any negative consequence of co-occurring threats will be successfully addressed through the same active management actions that have contributed to the ongoing recovery of the golden paintbrush and the conservation of regional prairie ecosystems that are expected to continue into the future. Summary of Biological Status To assess golden paintbrush viability, we evaluated the three conservation biology principles of resiliency, redundancy, and representation (Shaffer and Stein 2000, pp. 306–310). We assessed the current resiliency of golden paintbrush sites (Service 2019, pp. 52– 63) by scoring each site’s management level, site condition, threats addressed, site abundance of plants, and site protection, resulting in a high, moderate, or low condition ranking. One-third of sites were determined to have a high condition ranking, one-third a moderate condition ranking, and onethird a low condition ranking (Service 2019, p. 63). Golden paintbrush sites are welldistributed across the species’ historical range and provide representation across the four distinct geographic areas within that range (British Columbia, North Puget Sound, South Puget Sound, and the Willamette Valley). Multiple sites or populations exist within each of these geographic areas, providing a relatively secure level of redundancy across the historical range, with the lowest level of redundancy within British Columbia. The resiliency of the golden paintbrush is more variable across the historical range given differences in site or population abundance, level of management at a site, and site condition, but overall most sites appear to be in moderate and high condition. The best scientific and commercial data available indicate that the golden paintbrush is composed of multiple populations, primarily in moderate to high condition (Service 2019, p. 63), which are sufficiently resilient, welldistributed (redundancy and representation), largely protected, and managed such that they will be relatively robust or resilient to any potential cumulative effects to which they may be exposed. Determination of Golden Paintbrush 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 ‘‘endangered species’’ E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS or ‘‘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.’’ For a more detailed discussion on the factors considered when determining whether a species meets the definition of an endangered species or a threatened species and our analysis on how we determine the foreseeable future in making these decisions, please see Regulatory and Analytical Framework. Status Throughout All of Its Range After evaluating threats to the species and assessing the cumulative effect of the threats under the section 4(a)(1) factors, we find, based on the best available information, and as described in our analysis above, stressors identified at the time of listing and several additional potential stressors analyzed for this assessment do not affect golden paintbrush to a degree that causes it to be in danger of extinction either now or in the foreseeable future. Development of property for commercial, residential, and agricultural use (Factor A), has not occurred to the extent anticipated at the time of listing and is adequately managed; existing information indicates this condition is unlikely to change in the future. Potential constriction of habitat for expansion and refugia (Factor A) also has not occurred to the extent anticipated at the time of listing, and existing information indicates this condition is unlikely to change in the future. Habitat modification through succession of prairie and grassland habitats to shrub and forest lands (Factor A) is adequately managed, and existing information indicates this condition is unlikely to change in the future. Recreational picking and associated trampling (Factor B) has not occurred to the extent anticipated at the time of listing; the species appears to tolerate current levels of this activity, and existing information indicates that this condition is unlikely to change in the future. Herbivory on plants and seeds (Factor C) has not occurred to the extent anticipated at the time of listing; the species appears to tolerate current levels of herbivory, and existing information indicates that this condition is unlikely to change in the future. Hybridization with the harsh paintbrush (Factor E) is adequately managed, and existing information indicates this condition is unlikely to change in the future. Finally, golden paintbrush VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 appears to tolerate the effects of climate change (Factor E), and existing information indicates that this condition is unlikely to change in the future. The existing regulatory mechanisms (Factor D) are sufficient to ensure protection of the species at the reduced levels of threat that remain. Thus, after assessing the best available information, we determine that golden paintbrush is not in danger of extinction, or likely to become so in 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. Having determined that the golden paintbrush is not in danger of extinction or likely to become so in the foreseeable future throughout all of its range, we now consider whether it may be in danger of extinction or likely to become so in the foreseeable future 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 now or likely to become so in the foreseeable future 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. In undertaking this analysis for the golden paintbrush, we choose to evaluate 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 or threatened. For golden paintbrush, we considered whether the threats are geographically concentrated in any portion of the species’ range at a biologically meaningful scale. We examined the following threats: (1) Habitat succession of prairie and grassland habitats to shrub and forest due to fire suppression, interspecific competition, and invasive species; (2) development of property for commercial, residential, and agricultural use; (3) low potential for expansion and refugia due to constriction of habitat by surrounding PO 00000 Frm 00073 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 34709 development or land use; (4) recreational picking (including associated trampling); (5) herbivory (on plants and seeds); (6) hybridization with harsh paintbrush; and (7) the effects of climate change, including cumulative effects. Although the impact of hybridization with the harsh paintbrush is most evident in the south Puget Sound region of the species’ range, this potential stressor is being addressed throughout the species’ range with the hybridization strategy and guidance. We found no concentration of threats in any portion of the golden paintbrush’s range at a biologically meaningful scale. Therefore, no portion of the species’ range can provide a basis for determining that the species is in danger of extinction now, or likely to become so in the foreseeable future, in a significant portion of its range, and we find the species is not in danger of extinction now, or likely to become so in the foreseeable future, in any significant portion of its range. This is consistent with the courts’ holdings in 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). Determination of Status Our review of the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the golden paintbrush does not meet the definition of an endangered species or a threatened species in accordance with sections 3(6) and 3(20) of the Act. Therefore, we propose to remove the golden paintbrush from the List. Effects of the Rule This proposal, if made final, would revise 50 CFR 17.12(h) by removing the golden paintbrush from the List. The prohibitions and conservation measures provided by the Act, particularly through sections 7 and 9, would no longer apply to the golden paintbrush. Federal agencies would no longer be required to consult with the Service under section 7 of the Act in the event that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out may affect the golden paintbrush. There is no critical habitat designated for this species, so there would be no effect to 50 CFR 17.96. Post-Delisting Monitoring Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us to implement a system to monitor effectively, for not less than 5 years, all species that have been recovered and delisted (50 CFR 17.11, 17.12). The purpose of this post-delisting E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 34710 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules monitoring is to verify that a species remains secure from the risk of extinction after it has been removed from the protections of the Act. The monitoring is designed to detect the failure of any delisted species to sustain itself without the protective measures provided by the Act. If, at any time during the monitoring period, data indicate that the protective status under the Act should be reinstated, we can initiate listing procedures, including, if appropriate, emergency listing under section 4(b)(7) of the Act. Section 4(g) of the Act explicitly requires us to cooperate with the States in development and implementation of post-delisting monitoring programs, but we remain responsible for compliance with section 4(g) and, therefore, must remain actively engaged in all phases of post-delisting monitoring. We also seek active participation of other entities that are expected to assume responsibilities for the species’ conservation postdelisting. We propose to delist the golden paintbrush in light of new information available and recovery actions taken. We prepared a draft post-delisting monitoring plan that describes the methods proposed for monitoring the species, if it is removed from the List. Monitoring of flowering plants at each golden paintbrush site extant in 2018 would take place every other year, over a minimum of 5 years after final delisting. Proposed monitoring efforts would be slightly modified from prior protocols, by only requiring a visual estimation of population size when clearly numbering >1,000 but <10,000, or ≥10,000 flowering individuals, as opposed to an actual count or calculated estimate of flowering plants. This modification should streamline monitoring efforts. It is our intent to work with our partners to maintain the recovered status of golden paintbrush. With publication of this proposed rule, we seek public and peer review comments on the draft post-delisting monitoring plan, including its objectives and methods (see Public Comments, above). The draft post-delisting monitoring plan can be found at http:// www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2020–0060. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Required Determinations Clarity of the Rule We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain language. This means that each rule we publish must: (1) Be logically organized; VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 (2) Use the active voice to address readers directly; (3) Use clear language rather than jargon; (4) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and (5) Use lists and tables wherever possible. If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us comments by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. To better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For example, you should tell us the 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 It is our position that, outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, we do not need to prepare environmental analyses pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) in connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). This position was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Douglas County v. Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied 516 U.S. 1042 (1996)). Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes In accordance with the President’s memorandum of April 29, 1994 (Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the Interior’s manual at 512 DM 2, we acknowledge our responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), we acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with Tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal public lands, to remain sensitive to Native American culture, and to make information available to Tribes. We do not believe that any Tribes would be affected if we adopt this rule PO 00000 Frm 00074 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 as proposed. There are currently no golden paintbrush sites on Tribal lands, although some sites may lie within the usual and accustomed places for Tribal collection and gathering of resources. We welcome input from potentially affected Tribes on our proposal. References Cited A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2020–0060, or upon request from the State Supervisor, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Authors The primary authors of this proposed rule are the staff of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office. Signing Authority The Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, approved this document and authorized the undersigned to sign and submit the document to the Office of the Federal Register for publication electronically as an official document of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Martha Williams, Principal Deputy Director Exercising the Delegated Authority of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, approved this document on June 21, 2021, for publication. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17 Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Transportation. Proposed Regulation Promulgation Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below: PART 17—ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS 1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361–1407; 1531– 1544; and 4201–4245, unless otherwise noted. § 17.12 [Amended] 2. Amend § 17.12(h) by removing the entry for ‘‘Castilleja levisecta’’ under ■ E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 123 / Wednesday, June 30, 2021 / Proposed Rules FLOWERING PLANTS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants. Anissa Craghead, Acting Regulations and Policy Chief, Division of Policy, Economics, Risk Management, and Analytics, Joint Administrative Operations, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2021–13882 Filed 6–29–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 665 RIN 0648–BH65 Pacific Island Fisheries; Amendment 9 to the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific; Modifications to the American Samoa Longline Fishery Limited Entry Program National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notification of availability of a fishery ecosystem plan amendment; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS announces that the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) proposes to amend the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific (FEP). If approved, Amendment 9 would reduce regulatory barriers that may be limiting small vessel participation in the American Samoa longline fishery. Specifically, Amendment 9 would consolidate vessel class sizes, modify permit eligibility requirements, and reduce the minimum harvest requirements for small vessels. The Council recommended Amendment 9 to provide for sustained community and indigenous American Samoan participation in the small vessel longline fishery. DATES: NMFS must receive comments on Amendment 9 by August 30, 2021. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2018–0023, by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to http:// www.regulations.gov and enter NOAA– NMFS–2018–0023 in the Search box, click the ‘‘Comment’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Send written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, Regional jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:55 Jun 29, 2021 Jkt 253001 Administrator, NMFS Pacific Islands Region (PIR), 1845 Wasp Blvd. Bldg. 176, Honolulu, HI 96818. Instructions: NMFS may not consider comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. All comments received are a part of the public record, and NMFS will generally post them for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Amendment 9 includes a draft environmental assessment (EA) that analyzes the potential impacts of the proposed measures and alternatives considered. Copies of Amendment 9, including the draft EA and a Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), and other supporting documents, are available at https://www.regulations.gov, or from the Council, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400, Honolulu, HI 96813, tel 808–522–8220, www.wpcouncil.org. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Taylor, Sustainable Fisheries, NMFS PIR, 808–725–5182. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS and the Council manage the American Samoa longline fishery under the FEP and implementing regulations. The fishery targets primarily albacore, which are sold frozen to the fish processing industry in Pago Pago, American Samoa. During the 1980s and 1990s, the longline fleet was mainly comprised of alia, locally-built catamarans between 24 and 38 ft in length. In the early 2000s, the longline fishery expanded rapidly with the influx of large (≥50 ft) conventional vessels similar to the type used in the Hawaii-based longline fishery, including some vessels from Hawaii. To manage capacity in the thenrapidly developing fishery, the Council in 2001 (through Amendment 11 to the Fishery Management Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific, superseded by the FEP) established a limited entry program with vessel size classes and criteria for participation. In 2005, NMFS implemented the limited entry program and issued 60 permits to qualified candidates among four vessel size classes. Only a few small vessels have been active in the fishery since 2007. Participation by large vessels was somewhat stable from 2001 through PO 00000 Frm 00075 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 34711 2010, but has declined and remained below 20 active vessels annually. In response, the Council developed Amendment 9 to reduce the programmatic barriers that may be limiting small vessel participation. The purpose of Amendment 9 is to reduce the complexity of the limited entry program and provide for sustained community participation, especially for small vessels. Amendment 9 could allow new entrants to obtain a small vessel permit by removing requirements that previously would have made some new entrants ineligible. If approved, Amendment 9 would do the following: (a) Replace the four vessel classes with two, where Class A and B vessels would be classified as ‘‘small’’ vessels, and Class C and D vessels would be classified as ‘‘large’’ vessels; (b) Restrict permit holders to U.S. citizens and nationals, and eliminate the requirement to have documented history of participation to be eligible for a permit, but maintain the priority ranking system based on earliest documented history of fishing participation in vessel class size, if there is competition between two or more applicants for a permit; (c) Require that permits can only be transferred among U.S. citizens or nationals, and eliminate the requirement for documented participation in the fishery to receive a transferred permit; (d) Reduce the small vessel minimum harvest requirement to 500 lb (227 kg) of pelagic management unit species within a 3-year period, but maintain the existing 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) harvest requirement for large vessels; (e) Require that the entire minimum harvest amounts for the respective vessel classes are to be landed in American Samoa within a three-year permit period, but that the minimum harvests not be required to be caught within the U.S. EEZ around American Samoa; (f) Specify a fixed three-year permit period that is the same as the three-year period to make a minimum harvest requirement; and (g) Clarify that the minimum harvest period would not restart in the event of a permit transfer. If the minimum harvest amount has not been caught at the time of transfer, the new permit holder would be required to meet the harvest requirement based on the following formula: The product of percentage of time left within the threeyear permit period and the minimum harvest amount. E:\FR\FM\30JNP1.SGM 30JNP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 123 (Wednesday, June 30, 2021)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 34695-34711]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-13882]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2020-0060; FF09E22000 FXES11130900000 201]
RIN 1018-BE72


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing Golden 
Paintbrush From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

[[Page 34696]]


ACTION: Proposed rule; availability of draft post-delisting monitoring 
plan.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to 
remove the golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) from the Federal 
List of Endangered and Threatened Plants as it no longer meets the 
definition of an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The golden paintbrush is a 
flowering plant native to southwestern British Columbia, western 
Washington, and western Oregon. Our review of the best available 
scientific and commercial data indicates threats to the golden 
paintbrush have been eliminated or reduced to the point that the 
species is not in danger of extinction or likely to become so in the 
foreseeable future. We request information and comments from the public 
regarding this proposed rule and the draft post-delisting monitoring 
plan for the golden paintbrush.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or August 30, 
2021. 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 August 16, 2021.

ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments by one of the following 
methods:

    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-
2020-0060, 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, check 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-R1-ES-2020-0060, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
MS: PRB/3W, 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 details).
    Document availability: This proposed rule and supporting documents, 
including the species biological report and the draft post-delisting 
monitoring plan, are available at http://www.regulations.gov under 
Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2020-0060.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Direct all questions or requests for 
additional information to: GOLDEN PAINTBRUSH QUESTIONS, Brad Thompson, 
State Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Fish and 
Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond Drive SE, Suite 102, Lacey, WA 98503; 
telephone: 360-753-9440. If you use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Executive Summary

    Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Act, if we determine a 
plant species is no longer an endangered or threatened species, we 
remove it from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants 
(i.e., we ``delist'' it). A species is an ``endangered species'' for 
purposes of the Act if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or 
a significant portion of its range and is a ``threatened species'' if 
it is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable 
future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The golden 
paintbrush is listed as a threatened species. We are proposing to 
remove this species from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Plants (List), because we have determined that it no longer meets the 
definition of a threatened species, nor does it meet the definition of 
an endangered species. Delisting a species can only be completed by 
issuing a rule.
    What this document does. This rule proposes to remove (delist) the 
golden paintbrush from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Plants under the Act because it no longer meets the definition of 
either a threatened species or an endangered species.
    The basis for our action. Under the Act, we can determine that a 
species is an endangered or threatened species based on any one or more 
of the following five factors or the cumulative effects thereof: (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. Based on an 
assessment of the best available information regarding the status of 
and threats to the golden paintbrush, we have determined that the 
species no longer meets the definition of an endangered or threatened 
species under the Act.
    Because we will consider all comments and information we receive 
during the comment period, our final determination may differ from this 
proposal. Based on the new information we receive (and any comments on 
that new information), we may conclude that the species should remain 
listed as threatened instead of being delisted, or we may conclude that 
the species should remain listed and be reclassified as an endangered 
species.

Information Requested

Public Comments

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule 
will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request 
comments or information from governmental agencies, Native American 
Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
parties concerning this proposed rule.
    We particularly seek comments concerning:
    (1) Reasons why we should, or should not, remove the golden 
paintbrush from the List;
    (2) New biological or other relevant data concerning any threat (or 
lack thereof) to the golden paintbrush, including threats related to 
its pollinators;
    (3) New information on any existing regulations addressing threats 
or any of the other stressors to the golden paintbrush;
    (4) New information on any efforts by States, tribes, or other 
entities to protect or otherwise conserve the species;
    (5) New information concerning the range, distribution, population 
size, or population trends of this species;
    (6) New information on the current or planned activities in the 
habitat or range of the golden paintbrush that may have adverse or 
beneficial impacts on the species; and
    (7) Information pertaining to post-delisting monitoring of the 
golden paintbrush.
    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 provided.
    Please note that submissions merely stating support for, or 
opposition to, the

[[Page 34697]]

action under consideration without providing supporting information, 
although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as 
section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) directs that 
determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or threatened 
species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best scientific and 
commercial data available.''
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning the proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you 
send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES.
    If you submit information via http://www.regulations.gov, your 
entire submission--including any personal identifying information--will 
be posted on the website. If your submission is made via a hardcopy 
that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the 
top of your document that we withhold this information from public 
review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We 
will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as, supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule and the draft 
post-delisting monitoring (PDM) plan, will be available for public 
inspection on http://www.regulations.gov.

Public Hearing

    Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for a public hearing on this 
proposal, if requested. Requests must be received by the date specified 
in DATES, above. Such requests must be sent to 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 regulations at 50 CFR 
424.16(c)(3).

Supporting Documents

    Staff at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (WFWO), in 
consultation with other species experts, prepared a species biological 
report for golden paintbrush. The report represents a compilation of 
the best scientific and commercial data available concerning the status 
of the species, including the impacts of past and present factors (both 
negative and beneficial) affecting the species.
    In accordance with our July 1, 1994, peer review policy (59 FR 
34270), our August 22, 2016, Director's Memo on the Peer Review 
Process, and the Office of Management and Budget's December 16, 2004, 
Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review (revised June 2012), 
we solicited independent scientific reviews of the information 
contained in the golden paintbrush species biological report (Service 
2019). We sent the report to four appropriate and independent 
specialists with knowledge of the biology and ecology of the golden 
paintbrush and received three responses. The report forms the 
scientific basis for our 5-year status review and this proposed rule. 
The purpose of peer review is to ensure that our determination 
regarding the status of the species under the Act is based on 
scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. The comments and 
recommendations of the peer reviewers have been incorporated into the 
species biological report, as appropriate. In addition, we have posted 
the peer reviews on http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R1-
ES-2020-0060.

Previous Federal Actions

    On May 10, 1994, we proposed to list the golden paintbrush as a 
threatened species (59 FR 24106). On June 11, 1997, we finalized the 
listing (62 FR 31740). The final rule included a determination that the 
designation of critical habitat for the golden paintbrush was not 
prudent.
    In August 2000, we finalized a recovery plan for the species 
(Service 2000, entire), which we supplemented in May 2010 with the 
final recovery plan for the prairie species of western Oregon and 
southwestern Washington (Service 2010, entire).
    On July 6, 2005, we initiated 5-year reviews for 33 plant and 
animal species, including the golden paintbrush, under section 4(c)(2) 
of the Act (70 FR 38972). The 5-year status review, completed in 
September 2007 (Service 2007, entire), resulted in a recommendation to 
maintain the status of the golden paintbrush as threatened. The 2007 5-
year status review is available on the Service's website at https://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc1764.pdf.
    On January 22, 2018, we initiated 5-year status reviews for 18 
plant and animal species, including the golden paintbrush, and 
requested information on the species' status (83 FR 3014). This 
proposed rule follows from the recommendation of that 5-year review for 
the golden paintbrush, as well as the data and analysis contained in 
the species biological report (Service 2019).

Proposed Delisting Determination

Background

    Below, we summarize information for the golden paintbrush directly 
relevant to this proposed rule. For more information on the 
description, biology, ecology, and habitat of the golden paintbrush, 
please refer to the species biological report for golden paintbrush 
(Castilleja levisecta), completed in June 2019 (Service 2019, entire). 
The species biological report is available under Supporting Documents 
on http://www.regulations.gov in Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2020-0060. Other 
relevant supporting documents are available on the golden paintbrush's 
species profile page on the Environmental Conservation Online System 
(ECOS) at https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/speciesProfile?sId=7706.

Species Description and Habitat Information

    The golden paintbrush is native to the northwestern United States 
and southwest British Columbia. It has been historically reported from 
more than 30 sites from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to the 
Willamette Valley of Oregon (Hitchcock et al., 1959; Sheehan and 
Sprague 1984; Gamon 1995). The taxonomy of the golden paintbrush as a 
full species is widely accepted as valid by the scientific community 
(ITIS 2020).
    The golden paintbrush is a short-lived perennial herb formerly 
included in the figwort or snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae), with 
current classification in the Orobanchaceae family. The genus 
Castilleja is hemiparasitic, with roots of paintbrushes capable of 
forming parasitic connections to roots of other plants; however, 
paintbrush plants are probably not host-specific (Mills and Kummerow 
1988, entire) and can grow successfully, though not as well, even 
without a host. Golden paintbrush has superior performance (survival, 
height, number of flowering stems, number of fruiting stems, number of 
seed capsules) where it co-occurs with certain prairie species, 
including several perennial native forbs (e.g., common woolly sunflower 
or Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) and common yarrow (Achillea 
millefolium)), as well as species in other functional groups, including 
grasses (e.g., Roemer's fescue (Festuca roemeri) and California 
oatgrass (Danthonia californica)) and shrubs (e.g., snowberry 
(Symphoricarpos albus)) (Schmidt 2016,

[[Page 34698]]

pp. 10-17). Anecdotal observations suggest that it grows poorly when 
associated with annual grasses (Gamon 1995, p. 17).
    Individual golden paintbrush plants have a median survival of 1 to 
5 years, but some plants can survive for more than a decade (Service 
2019, p. 7). Plants are up to 30 centimeters (cm) (12 inches (in)) tall 
and are covered with soft, somewhat sticky hairs. Stems may be erect or 
spreading, in the latter case giving the appearance of being several 
plants, especially when in tall grass. The lower leaves are broader, 
with one to three pairs of short lateral lobes. The bracts are softly 
hairy and sticky, golden yellow, and about the same width as the upper 
leaves.
    Golden paintbrush plants typically emerge in early March, with 
flowering generally beginning the last week in April and continuing 
until early June. Most plants complete flowering by early to mid-June, 
although occasionally plants flower throughout the summer and into 
October. Based on historical collections and observations, flowering 
seems to occur at about the same time throughout the species' range. 
Individual plants of golden paintbrush typically need pollinators to 
set seed. Bumble bee species (Bombus) appear to be the most common 
pollinators visiting golden paintbrush (Wentworth 1994, p. 5; Kolar and 
Fessler 2006, in litt.; Waters 2018, in litt,; Kaye 2019, in litt.), 
although sweat bees (Halictidea), miner bee (Andrena chlorogaster), 
syrphid fly (Eristalis hirta), and bee fly (Bombylius major) have also 
been observed visiting golden paintbrush plants (Kolar and Fessler 
2006, in litt.; Waters 2018, in litt,).
    Fruits typically mature from late June through July, with seed 
capsules beginning to open and disperse seed in August. By mid-July, 
plants at most sites are in senescence (the process of deterioration 
with age), although this can vary considerably depending on available 
moisture. Capsules persist on the plants well into the winter, and 
often retain seed into the following spring. Seeds are likely shaken 
from the seed capsules by wind, with most falling a short distance from 
the parent plant (Godt et al. 2005, p. 88). The seeds are light 
(approximately 8,000 seeds/gram) and could possibly be dispersed short 
distances by wind (Kaye et al. 2012, p. 7). Additionally, there is at 
least one reported instance of short-distance movement of seeds via 
vole activity (Kolar and Fessler 2006, in litt.). Therefore, natural 
colonization of new sites would likely occur only over short distances 
as plants disperse from established sites. Germination tests in 
different years with seed from various wild populations suggests that 
germination rates can vary extremely widely both between sites and 
between years (Wentworth 1994, entire). Germination tests also revealed 
that seeds likely remain viable in the wild for several years 
(Wentworth 1994, p. 17).
    Individuals of the golden paintbrush require open prairie soils, 
near-bedrock soils, or clayey alluvial soils with suitable host plants. 
These suitable habitats occur from zero to 100 meters (330 feet) above 
sea level (Service 2000, p. 5). The golden paintbrush may have 
historically grown in deeper soils, but nearly all of these soils 
within the known range of the species have been converted to 
agriculture (Lawrence and Kaye 2006, p. 150; Dunwiddie and Martin 2016, 
p. 1).
    Populations currently occur on the mainland in Washington and 
Oregon, and on islands in Washington and British Columbia. Mainland and 
island populations form two broad categories of populations that can 
vary slightly in habitat setting. Individuals in mainland populations 
are found in open, undulating remnant prairies dominated by Roemer's 
fescue and red fescue (Festuca rubra) on gravelly or clayey glacial 
outwash. Individuals in island populations are often on the upper 
slopes or rims of steep, southwest- or west-facing sandy bluffs that 
are exposed to salt spray. Individuals in island populations may also 
occur on remnant coastal prairie flats on glacial deposits of sandy 
loam. Island prairies may have historically been dominated by forbs and 
foothill sedge (Carex tumulicola) rather than grasses (WDNR 2004b, pp. 
11, 17); however, many island sites are now dominated by red fescue or 
weedy forbs. All golden paintbrush sites are subject to encroachment by 
woody vegetation if not managed.
    Historically, fire was significant in maintaining open prairie 
conditions in parts of the range of the golden paintbrush (Boyd 1986, 
p. 82; Gamon 1995, p. 14; Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 162). The golden 
paintbrush is a poor competitor, intolerant of shade cast by 
encroaching tall nonnatives and litter duff in fire-suppressed 
prairies. Native perennial communities are likely to support more host 
species appropriate for the golden paintbrush than those dominated by 
nonnative annuals (Lawrence and Kaye 2011, p. 173). Thus, habitats with 
low presence of nonnative annuals and high presence of a diverse 
assemblage of perennial, native prairie species are more likely to 
provide the best conditions for survival of golden paintbrush plants 
year-to-year (Dunwiddie and Martin 2016, p. 1).

Range, Distribution, Abundance, and Trends of Golden Paintbrush

    The golden paintbrush is endemic to the Pacific Northwest, 
historically occurring from southeastern Vancouver Island and adjacent 
islands in British Columbia, Canada, to the San Juan Islands and Puget 
Trough in western Washington and into the Willamette Valley of western 
Oregon (Fertig 2019, p. 23).
    Currently, the species occurs within British Columbia, Washington, 
and Oregon, representing, generally, four distinct geographic areas 
(British Columbia, North Puget Sound, South Puget Sound, and the 
Willamette Valley). The species' historical distribution--before 
European settlement and modern development in the Pacific Northwest--is 
unknown. However, the species' current distribution is generally 
representative of the areas where we suspect the species occurred 
historically.
    Since its Federal listing in 1997, only one new wild population of 
golden paintbrush has been discovered across the species' range 
(Service 2007, p. 6). All other new populations (referred to as sites 
or populations established since the time of listing) across the range 
are the result of reintroductions through outplanting or direct 
seeding. Seeds used to grow plugs for outplanting, and plant stock for 
seed production, were derived from occurrences that remained at the 
time of listing (wild sites) (Service 2019, p. 5).
    At the time of listing (see 62 FR 31740; June 11, 1997), there were 
10 known golden paintbrush populations: 8 in Washington and 2 in 
British Columbia. No golden paintbrush populations were known from 
Oregon at the time of listing (Sheehan and Sprague 1984, pp. 8-9; WDNR 
2004b). Despite its limited geographic range and isolation of 
populations, the golden paintbrush retained exceptionally high levels 
of genetic diversity, possibly because there were several large 
populations that remained (Godt et al. 2005, p. 87).
    Since its Federal listing, the distribution and abundance of golden 
paintbrush have increased significantly as a result of outplanting 
(seeding or plugging). In 2018, a minimum of 48 sites were documented 
(Service 2019, pp. 11-14). In Washington, there are 19 sites: 5 in the 
South Puget Sound prairie landscape, 6 in the San Juan Islands, 7 on 
Whidbey Island, and 1 near Dungeness Bay in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 
In Oregon, there are 26 extant

[[Page 34699]]

sites within the Willamette Valley. In British Columbia, there are 
three extant sites, each located on a separate island. Of these 48 
sites, only three are on private property (Service 2019, p. 12). The 
remaining 45 golden paintbrush sites are in either public ownership, 
are owned by a conservation-oriented, nongovernmental organization, or 
are under conservation easement.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP30JN21.001


[[Page 34700]]


    Trends in abundance for the golden paintbrush have been 
consistently monitored since 2004 (Fertig 2019, p. 14), with 
refinements to monitoring protocols made in 2008 and 2011 (Arnett 2011, 
entire). As a whole, abundance has substantially increased from 
approximately 11,500 flowering plants in 2011, to over 560,000 
flowering plants counted in 2018 (Fertig 2019, pp. 9-12). We attribute 
this rapid increase in abundance to the development of direct seeding 
techniques for establishing new populations, as opposed to outplanting 
individual plants (or plugs) grown in greenhouses. Most of the sites in 
Washington and Oregon's Willamette Valley were established by 
incorporating direct seeding. The current population abundance is not 
necessarily reflective of the eventual long-term population level at a 
site; however, as a number of reestablished sites are going through a 
period of prairie development/progression and species succession. For 
example, at some reestablished sites, abundance initially increased 
over several years then dropped to about 15-20 percent of the peak 
abundance (Fertig 2019, pp. 10-11, 15-21). Drops in abundance are 
somewhat expected as the populations stabilize after direct seeding, 
and we anticipate that the long-term population level at these re-
established sites will meet recovery criteria.
    In contrast to the newly-established golden paintbrush sites, there 
has been a steady decline in overall abundance at the original wild 
sites (golden paintbrush occurrences that were extant at the time of 
listing) since about 2012. Abundance at these sites dropped from just 
over 15,500 flowering plants in 2012, to just over 5,600 flowering 
plants in 2018 (Fertig 2019, p. 11).

Recovery Criteria

    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. Recovery plans must, to the 
maximum extent practicable, include ``objective, measurable criteria 
which, when met, would result in a determination, in accordance with 
the provisions [of section 4 of the Act], that the species be removed 
from the list.''
    Recovery plans provide a roadmap for us and our partners on methods 
of enhancing conservation and minimizing threats to listed species, as 
well as measurable criteria against which to evaluate progress towards 
recovery and assess the species' likely future condition. However, they 
are not regulatory documents and do not substitute for the 
determinations and promulgation of regulations required under section 
4(a)(1) of the Act. A decision to revise the status of a species, or to 
delist a species is ultimately based on an analysis of the best 
scientific and commercial data available to determine whether a species 
is no longer an endangered species or a threatened species, regardless 
of whether that information differs from the recovery plan.
    There are many paths to accomplishing recovery of a species, and 
recovery may be achieved without all of the criteria in a recovery plan 
being fully met. For example, one or more criteria may be exceeded 
while other criteria may not yet be accomplished. In that instance, we 
may determine that the threats are minimized sufficiently and that the 
species is robust enough that it no longer meets the definition of an 
endangered species or a threatened species. In other cases, we may 
discover new recovery opportunities after having finalized the recovery 
plan. Parties seeking to conserve the species may use these 
opportunities instead of methods identified in the recovery plan. 
Likewise, we may learn new information about the species after we 
finalize the recovery plan. The new information may change the extent 
to which existing criteria are appropriate for identifying recovery of 
the species. The recovery of a species is a dynamic process requiring 
adaptive management that may, or may not, follow all of the guidance 
provided in a recovery plan.
    Here, we provide a summary of progress made toward achieving the 
recovery criteria for the golden paintbrush. More detailed information 
related to conservation efforts can be found below under Summary of 
Biological Status and Threats. We completed a final recovery plan for 
the golden paintbrush in 2000 (Service 2000, entire), and later 
supplemented the plan for part of the species' range in 2010 (Service 
2010, entire). The 2000 plan includes objective, measurable criteria 
for delisting; however, the plan has not been updated for 20 years, so 
some aspects of the plan may no longer reflect the best scientific 
information available for the golden paintbrush. For example, we did 
not anticipate the ability to rapidly establish large golden paintbrush 
populations through direct seeding at the time the recovery plan was 
developed.
    Since about 2012, a significant increase in the number of new 
populations has occurred, because of direct seeding within the 
historical range in Washington and Oregon, with perhaps the most 
significant being the reestablishment of the golden paintbrush at a 
number of sites in Oregon's Willamette Valley, where the species was 
once extirpated. In addition to improved propagation techniques, 
substantial research has been conducted on the population biology, fire 
ecology, and restoration of the golden paintbrush (Dunwiddie et al. 
2001, entire; Gamon 2001, entire; Kaye 2001, entire; Kaye and Lawrence 
2003, entire; Swenerton 2003, entire; Wayne 2004, entire; WDNR 2004b, 
entire; Lawrence 2005, entire; Dunwiddie and Martin 2016, entire; 
Lawrence 2015, entire; Schmidt 2016, entire).
    The results of these studies have been used to guide management of 
the species at sites being managed for native prairie and grassland 
ecosystems. Active management to promote the golden paintbrush is being 
done to varying degrees (from targeted to infrequent) across prairie 
and grassland sites. An active seed production program has been 
maintained to provide golden paintbrush seeds and other native prairie 
plant seeds to land managers for population augmentation and 
restoration projects across the species' range in Washington and 
Oregon. Additionally, as recommended by the recovery plan for the 
golden paintbrush (Service 2000, p. 31), the State of Washington 
prepared a reintroduction plan for the Service as both internal and 
external guidance (WDNR 2004a, entire).
    Below are the delisting criteria described in the 2000 golden 
paintbrush recovery plan (Service 2000, p. 24), as supplemented in 
2010, and the progress made to date in achieving each criterion.

Criterion 1 for Delisting

    There are at least 20 stable populations distributed throughout the 
historical range of the species. To be deemed stable, a population must 
maintain a 5-year `running' average population size of at least 1,000 
individuals, where the actual count never falls below 1,000 individuals 
in any year. The golden paintbrush technical team recommended in the 
2007 5-year status review that this criterion should be modified. 
Because it is impractical to count individual vegetative plants, the 
team recommended that the criterion should be modified to specifically 
account for a recovered population as equal to 1,000 flowering 
individuals and known to be stable or increasing as evidenced by 
population trends (Service 2007, p. 3).

[[Page 34701]]

While we did not officially amend or make an addendum to the recovery 
plan to incorporate this recommendation, we accepted that this is the 
best way to count population abundance and more recent surveys 
(starting about 2007) for the species counted only flowering plants.
    The Service supplemented this criterion in its 2010 recovery plan 
for the prairie species of western Oregon and southwestern Washington 
by identifying locations for golden paintbrush reintroductions, 
specifically to establish five additional populations distributed 
across at least three of the following recovery zones: Southwest 
Washington, Portland, Salem East, Salem West, Corvallis East, Corvallis 
West, Eugene East, and Eugene West. Priority was given to 
reestablishing populations in zones with historical records of golden 
paintbrush (Southwest Washington, Portland, Salem East, Corvallis East) 
(Service 2010, p. IV-37).
    Progress: As of 2018, 23 populations averaged at least 1,000 
individual plant per year over the 5-year period from 2013 to 2018. Of 
these 23 populations, 8 had a 5-year running average of at least 1,000 
individuals, and an additional 5 populations had a 3-year running 
average of at least 1,000 individuals between 2016 and 2018 (Hanson 
2019, in litt.). While this does not meet the recovery criteria (of 20 
such populations), we find that many of the species' populations are 
sufficiently resilient to make up for the smaller number of populations 
based on the following analysis. As noted above, we only count 
flowering plants during monitoring, so in most years a proportion of 
individual plants may not be represented in annual counts, because they 
are not flowering during surveys.
    Six populations currently number in the tens of thousands of 
individuals, the largest totaling just over 224,000 flowering plants 
(Pigeon Butte on Finley National Wildlife Refuge) (Service 2019, pp. 
28-29). Prior to listing, the largest known population totaled just 
over 15,000 individuals (Rocky Prairie Natural Area Preserve) (62 FR 
31740; June 11, 1997). Although it is likely that a number of the more 
recently established populations are still undergoing some level of 
stabilization, population abundance at eight sites is significantly 
greater (approximately 10,000 or more flowering plants) than the 1,000 
individual threshold established at the time of the drafting of the 
recovery plan for this species (Service 2019, pp. 12-13). Populations 
numbering in the tens of thousands of individuals have a significantly 
higher level of viability and significantly lower risk of extirpation 
than populations near 1,000 individuals.
    Finally, there are now a minimum of 26 golden paintbrush 
populations in western Oregon's Willamette Valley, and these 
populations are distributed across at least three (Corvallis West, 
Salem West, Portland, Eugene West) of the recovery zones (Kaye 2019, 
pp. 11-23) identified in the 2010 supplement to the species' recovery 
plan (Service 2010, pp. IV-4, IV-37). Therefore, significant progress 
has been made toward achieving this criterion, and at some sites, the 
progress is well beyond numerical levels that were anticipated at the 
time of recovery criteria development. Although we acknowledge annual 
variability of abundance across sites, at least six sites across 
Washington and Oregon number in the tens of thousands of individuals 
(Service 2019, pp. 12-13), which significantly surpasses the minimum 
1,000 individual threshold. This increases our confidence that the 
overall viability of the species is secured, despite having fewer than 
20 populations with a 5-year running average of at least 1,000 
individuals. In addition, we now have the ability to rapidly create new 
populations through direct seeding, which is something that was not 
considered when we developed this recovery criterion.

Criterion 2 for Delisting

    At least 15 populations over 1,000 individuals are located on 
protected sites. In order for a site to be deemed protected, it must be 
either owned and/or managed by a government agency or private 
conservation organization that identifies maintenance of the species as 
the primary management objective for the site, or the site must be 
protected by a permanent conservation easement or covenant that commits 
present and future landowners to the conservation of the species.
    Progress: This recovery criterion has not been met as phrased in 
the recovery plan, because the primary management objective of the 
protected sites is not always to protect only golden paintbrush. 
However, we find that the goal of the criterion, a significant number 
of populations under conservation ownership protective of the species 
that are likely to be self-sustaining over time, has been greatly 
exceeded. Forty-five of the 48 golden paintbrush sites are in either 
public ownership, are owned by a conservation-oriented, nongovernmental 
organization, or are under conservation easement (Service 2019, p. 62). 
Such ownership is expected to protect sites from development and land 
use that would have long-term, wide-ranging deleterious effects on this 
species. Additionally, 37 sites currently have management practices 
that at least preserve essential characteristics of golden paintbrush 
habitat, and 24 sites have management plans and resources for their 
implementation for at least the next year (Service 2019, pp. 40, 42-
44). Additionally, two of the five conservation easement sites are also 
enrolled in the Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, which 
provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners to 
restore, enhance, and manage private land to improve native habitat. At 
least three sites in Washington and 14 sites in Oregon also support 
other prairie-dependent species currently listed as endangered or 
threatened, and another five are part of designated critical habitat 
for one of these species. Therefore, we anticipate prairie management 
or maintenance will be ongoing at these golden paintbrush sites for the 
foreseeable future. Two of the three extant sites in British Columbia 
that are managed by Parks Canada are also located within designated 
``ecological reserves'' (Service 2019, p. 14). The level of management 
specific to golden paintbrush varies at each site, but all sites are 
generally being managed to conserve and/or restore native prairie or 
grassland habitats (for additional detail on species management status 
at sites, see discussion under Summary of Biological Status and 
Threats, Factor A, below).

Criterion 3 for Delisting

    Genetic material, in the form of seeds adequately representing the 
geographic distribution or genetic diversity within the species, is 
stored in a facility approved by the Center for Plant Conservation.
    Progress: This recovery criterion is met. Seeds are being stored at 
two approved facilities, the Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank at Portland 
State University and the Miller Seed Vault at the University of 
Washington Botanic Garden. In addition, the active seed production 
programs at Center for Natural Lands Management and the Institute for 
Applied Ecology continue to provide golden paintbrush seeds to land 
managers for population augmentation and prairie restoration projects. 
Production programs were started using seeds from nearly all the extant 
populations at the time of listing to maintain existing genetic 
diversity across the historical range and to allow for the greatest 
opportunity for local adaptation at reintroduction sites.

[[Page 34702]]

Criterion 4 for Delisting

    Post-delisting monitoring of the condition of the species and the 
status of all individual populations is ready to begin.
    Progress: We have developed a draft post-delisting monitoring plan 
in cooperation with our lead State partner in Washington, Washington 
Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and in Oregon, Oregon Department 
of Agriculture. The draft post-delisting monitoring plan is available 
for public review on http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-
R1-ES-2020-0060. We anticipate that the WDNR's Natural Heritage Program 
would coordinate future monitoring of the golden paintbrush if the 
species is delisted. In the post-delisting monitoring plan, we propose 
to monitor, at a minimum, all populations established and counted in 
2018 that were identified in the species biological report (Service 
2019, pp. 12-13). These populations would be monitored every other year 
after final delisting for a 5-year period (i.e., years 1, 3, and 5). 
Several key prairie conservation partners may choose to monitor these 
golden paintbrush sites more frequently and may also choose to monitor 
additional golden paintbrush sites as more become established across 
the range in Oregon and Washington. Parks Canada oversees periodic 
monitoring of the three extant populations within British Columbia, 
Canada. Therefore, this recovery criterion is met.

Criterion 5 for Delisting

    Post-delisting procedures for the ecological management of habitats 
for all populations have been initiated.
    Progress: This criterion has not been met as phrased in the 
recovery plan, because procedures for ecological management for all 
populations are not in place. However, we find that the intent of this 
criterion has been met because a substantial proportion of known golden 
paintbrush sites--more than the 20 populations originally envisioned 
for these recovery criteria--meet this criterion. As described earlier, 
significant strides have been made in the ecological management 
techniques for restoration and maintenance of prairie landscapes and 
the reintroduction and management of golden paintbrush at these and 
other sites. The current level of management varies across extant 
sites, influenced by need, conservation partner capacity, and funding 
availability. We anticipate ongoing management at a minimum of 37 of 
these sites, but note that the level of management will continue to 
vary across sites based on these same factors (Service 2019, pp. 40, 
42-44) (see additional discussion regarding ongoing site management 
under Summary of Biological Status and Threats, Factor A, below). The 
most actively managed sites may include plantings, fencing, prescribed 
fire, herbicide use for weed control, mowing, and controlled public 
use. As described above under ``Criterion 2 for Delisting,'' at least 
17 sites currently contain multiple, prairie-dependent species and an 
additional 5 sites are designated critical habitat for another prairie-
dependent species. Those golden paintbrush sites that support multiple, 
prairie-dependent species listed under the Act are anticipated to 
receive the most consistent ecological management into the future. 
While this recovery criterion has not been fully achieved (i.e., not 
all populations have post-delisting management procedures in place), 
ecological management of habitat is expected to occur on the vast 
majority of the known sites and management will occur on far more than 
the originally projected 15 sites identified above under ``Criterion 2 
for Delisting.''
    With the more recently identified threat of hybridization from 
harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), additional measures are being 
implemented and refined to address the impacts to golden paintbrush on 
contaminated sites and prevent the spread of harsh paintbrush to 
uncontaminated golden paintbrush sites. The Service has developed a 
strategy and guidance document for securing golden paintbrush sites and 
has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with prairie 
conservation partners to ensure hybridization is contained and the 
conservation strategy is followed to benefit golden paintbrush while 
supporting recovery of other sympatric (occurring within the same 
geographical area) prairie species listed under the Act (Service et al. 
2020) (for more on the conservation strategy, see discussion under 
Summary of Biological Status and Threats, Factor E, below).

Regulatory and Analytical Framework

Regulatory Framework

    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 
whether a species meets either definition, we must evaluate all 
identified threats by considering the species' expected response 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

[[Page 34703]]

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.
    The Act does not define the term ``foreseeable future,'' which 
appears in the statutory definition of ``threatened species.'' Our 
implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.11(d) set forth a framework for 
evaluating the foreseeable future on a case-by-case basis. The term 
foreseeable future extends only so far into the future as we can 
reasonably determine that both the future threats and the species' 
responses to those threats are likely. In other words, the foreseeable 
future is the period of time in which we can make reliable predictions. 
``Reliable'' does not mean ``certain''; it means sufficient to provide 
a reasonable degree of confidence in the prediction. Thus, a prediction 
is reliable if it is reasonable to depend on when making decisions.
    It is not always possible or necessary to define foreseeable future 
as a particular number of years. Analysis of the foreseeable future 
uses the best scientific and commercial data available and should 
consider the timeframes applicable to the relevant threats and to the 
species' likely responses to those threats in view of its life-history 
characteristics. Data that are typically relevant to assessing the 
species' biological response include species-specific factors such as 
lifespan, reproductive rates or productivity, certain behaviors, and 
other demographic factors.
    For species that are already listed as endangered or threatened 
species, this analysis of threats is an evaluation of both the threats 
currently facing the species and the threats that are reasonably likely 
to affect the species in the foreseeable future following the delisting 
or downlisting and the removal of the Act's protections. A recovered 
species is one that no longer meets the Act's definition of an 
endangered species or a threatened species. For the golden paintbrush, 
we consider 30 years to be a reasonable period of time within which 
reliable predictions can be made for stressors and species' response. 
This time period includes multiple generations of the golden 
paintbrush, generally includes the term of and likely period of 
response to many of the management plans for the species and/or its 
habitat, and encompasses planning horizons for prairie habitat 
conservation efforts (e.g., Dunwiddie and Bakker 2011, pp. 86-88; 
Service 2011, entire; Altman et al. 2017, pp. 6, 20); additionally, 
various global climate models and emission scenarios provide consistent 
predictions within that timeframe (IPCC 2014, p. 11). We consider 30 
years a relatively conservative timeframe in view of the long-term 
protection afforded to 93 percent of the species' occupied sites (45 of 
48), which occur on conserved/protected lands (Service 2019, p. 62).

Analytical Framework

    The species biological report documents the results of our 
comprehensive biological review of the best scientific and commercial 
data regarding the status of the species. The report does not represent 
our decision on whether the species should be reclassified as a 
threatened species under the Act. It does, however, provide the 
scientific basis that informs our regulatory decisions, which involve 
the further application of standards within the Act and its 
implementing regulations and policies. The following is a summary of 
the key results and conclusions from the report, which can be found at 
Docket FWS-R1-ES-2020-0060 on http://www.regulations.gov.
    To assess golden paintbrush viability, we used the three 
conservation biology principles of resiliency, redundancy, and 
representation (Shaffer and Stein 2000, pp. 306-310). Briefly, 
resiliency supports the ability of the species to withstand 
environmental and demographic stochasticity (for example, wet or dry, 
warm or cold years); redundancy supports the ability of the species to 
withstand catastrophic events (for example, droughts, large pollution 
events), and representation supports the ability of the species to 
adapt over time to long-term changes in the environment (for example, 
climate changes). In general, the more resilient and redundant a 
species is and the more representation it has, the more likely it is to 
sustain populations over time, even under changing environmental 
conditions. Using these principles, we identified the species' 
ecological requirements for survival and reproduction at the 
individual, population, and species levels, and described the 
beneficial and risk factors influencing the species' viability. We use 
this information to inform our regulatory decision.

Summary of Biological Status and Threats

    In this section, we review the biological condition of the species 
and its resources, and the threats that influence the species' 
condition in order to assess the species' overall viability and the 
risks to that viability. The following potential threats were 
identified for this species at the time of listing: (1) Succession of 
prairie and grassland habitats to shrub and forest lands (due to fire 
suppression, interspecific competition, and invasive species); (2) 
development of property for commercial, residential, and agricultural 
use; (3) low potential for expansion and refugia due to constriction of 
habitat (from surrounding development or land use); (4) recreational 
picking (including associated trampling); and (5) herbivory (on plants 
and seeds) (62 FR 31740; June 11, 1997). For our analysis, we assessed 
their influence on the current status of the species, as well as the 
influence of two potential threats not considered at the time of 
listing, hybridization of golden paintbrush with harsh paintbrush, and 
the impacts of climate change. We also assessed current voluntary and 
regulatory conservation mechanisms relative to how they reduce or 
ameliorate existing threats to golden paintbrush.

Habitat Loss

    At the time of listing, the principal cause of ongoing habitat loss 
was succession of prairie and grassland habitats to shrub and forest 
due to fire suppression, interspecific competition, and invasive 
species (62 FR 31740; June 11, 1997). The potential for development at, 
or surrounding, extant sites for commercial, residential, and 
agricultural purposes also posed a threat to the golden paintbrush at 
the time of listing. Both of these threat factors were preventing or 
limiting extant populations from expanding and recruiting into new or 
adjacent areas and afforded no refugia for the species in the case of 
catastrophic events.
    Currently, ongoing prairie or grassland management or maintenance 
occurs at the majority of extant golden paintbrush sites. This 
management includes removal or suppression of trees and both native and 
nonnative woody shrubs, as well as control of nonnative, invasive 
grassland plant species through a number of different approaches 
according to species (e.g., mowing, prescribed fire, mechanical 
removal, selective-herbicide application, restoration reseeding, etc.). 
At least 24 of the 48 sites have prairie or grassland management plans 
in place for the next 3 or more years. An additional 13 sites that lack 
a long-term management plan for the golden paintbrush receive basic 
maintenance to preserve the prairie characteristics of golden 
paintbrush habitat (Service 2019, pp. 42-44). Three golden paintbrush 
sites in Washington also currently support other prairie- or grassland-
dependent species listed under the Act--the endangered Taylor's

[[Page 34704]]

checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori) and three subspecies 
of Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama spp.) (Olympia pocket gopher 
(Thomomys mazama pugetensis), Tenino pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama 
tumuli), and Yelm pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama yelmensis))--while an 
additional five sites are included in designated critical habitat for 
the Taylor's checkerspot butterfly.
    Although these five critical habitat sites are currently unoccupied 
by the butterfly, they were designated because they were found to be 
essential to the conservation of Taylor's checkerspot butterfly (78 FR 
61452; October 3, 2013). Specifically, these areas will be managed in a 
way that is conducive for eventual reintroduction of Taylor's 
checkerspot butterflies, which will maintain the prairie ecosystem 
characteristics that are supportive of long-term conservation of the 
golden paintbrush. In addition, at least 14 golden paintbrush sites in 
Oregon's Willamette Valley currently support one or more other prairie- 
or grassland-dependent species listed under the Act--the endangered 
Fender's blue butterfly (Icaricia icarioides fenderi), endangered 
Willamette daisy (Erigeron decumbens), threatened Kincaid's lupine 
(Lupinus oreganus var. kincaidii, listed as Lupinus sulphureus ssp. 
kincaidii), and threatened Nelson's checker-mallow (Sidalcea 
nelsoniana) (Institute for Applied Ecology 2019, in litt.).
    We expect a number of these golden paintbrush sites in both 
Washington and Oregon to continue to be managed in a way that supports 
the recovery of other prairie- or grassland-dependent species in 
addition to the long-term conservation of the golden paintbrush. As 
long as periodic management or maintenance continues to occur at golden 
paintbrush sites across the species' range, the threat of prairie or 
grassland succession is expected to remain adequately addressed into 
the foreseeable future. State and Federal management plans include 
specific objectives to continue to protect and conserve the golden 
paintbrush at a number of sites (see Factor D discussion, below). 
States, Federal agencies, and conservation organizations have invested 
significant resources into golden paintbrush recovery, as well as 
general prairie and grassland restoration and conservation for a 
variety of at-risk prairie-dependent species. We do not anticipate 
habitat for these prairie-dependent species to contract further given 
the limited amount of remaining prairie habitat and the long-term 
investments conservation partners have made, and continue to make, to 
restore, rebuild, maintain, and conserve these relatively rare regional 
ecosystems (Dunwiddie and Bakker 2011, entire; Center of Natural Lands 
Management 2012, in litt., entire; The News Tribune 2014, in litt.; 
Altman et al. 2017, entire; The Nature Conservancy 2019, in litt., 
entire).
    Golden paintbrush now occurs at 48 separate sites, as a result of 
the numerous reintroduction efforts implemented to recover this 
species. Only three of these sites are on lands possibly subject to 
future development. The remaining 45 sites are all under some type of 
public or conservation ownership (Service 2019, pp. 11-14). Of the 48 
extant sites, at least 81 percent (n=39) are on land with some known 
level of protected status (at a minimum, formally protected as a 
natural area or other such designation, although not all of these 
designations are permanent) (Service 2019, pp. 42-44). In addition, of 
the 39 sites with some protected land status, 19 also include 
stipulations for, or statements of specific protection of, perpetual 
management of the golden paintbrush.
    Although the total area occupied by the golden paintbrush at 19 
sites is relatively small (less than 0.4 hectare (ha) (1 acre (ac)), 14 
sites have from between 2 to 18.6 occupied ha (5 to 46 ac) (Service 
2019, pp. 37-38). All but four sites have available land for future 
golden paintbrush population expansion or shifts in distribution. Of 
the 34 sites with less than 2 ha (5 ac) of occupied habitat, 10 have an 
estimated range of 0.8 to 2 ha (2 to 5 ac) of additional habitat for 
expansion, and at least 13 have an estimated range of 2 to 6 ha (5 to 
15 ac) of additional habitat for future expansion (Service 2019, pp. 
37-38). In addition, the species is much less reliant on expanding 
site-use and refugia than at the time of listing, when only 10 extant 
sites of the golden paintbrush remained. The reintroduction and seed 
production techniques developed for golden paintbrush recovery have 
provided the means to more easily establish or reestablish populations 
at prairie restoration sites. Many of these sites have been 
specifically acquired for their potential overall size, conservation 
value, and conservation status. The golden paintbrush has been 
reintroduced and established at prairie restoration sites that are well 
distributed across the species' historical range, well beyond the 10 
extant sites at the time of listing. As a result of these conditions, 
we do not anticipate development in or around these sites to become a 
threat to the golden paintbrush in the foreseeable future.

Recreational Picking and Trampling

    At the time of listing, we considered overutilization from 
recreational picking (flowers) to be a threat (62 FR 31740; June 11, 
1997). Our concern with recreational picking or collection of flowers 
was that it would reduce overall potential seed-set at a site. Concern 
has also been noted regarding the direct harvesting of seed capsules 
(Dunwiddie in litt. 2018). Although there is evidence of occasional 
recreational or possible commercial collection of capsules that reduced 
the amount of seed available on a site, collection is no longer 
considered a significant stressor to the species across its range 
(Service 2019, p. 47). In addition, the current number of established 
and protected golden paintbrush sites, many with limited or restricted 
access, largely ameliorates this previously identified threat. We 
acknowledge that the golden paintbrush is likely a desirable species 
for some gardeners or plant collectors. However, if delisted, golden 
paintbrush seeds or plants are likely to become available through 
controlled sale to the public from regional prairie conservation 
partners and/or regional native plant nurseries, similar to what occurs 
with other non-listed prairie plant species. For these reasons, we do 
not expect the possible collection of golden paintbrush flowers or 
seeds to become a threat to the species in the foreseeable future.
    At the time of listing, we identified trampling of golden 
paintbrush plants by recreationalists as impacting the species at some 
sites with high levels of public use, especially where and when 
associated with recreational picking of golden paintbrush flowers. 
Although some risk of trampling to plants will always be present across 
public sites (e.g., State parks, national wildlife refuges), most sites 
often have some level of restricted access when golden paintbrush 
plants are in bloom (e.g., fenced from deer or inaccessible to the 
public) or there are defined walking or viewing areas. Therefore, when 
compared with the potential impact of trampling at the time of listing, 
the current impact is likely insignificant, due to the number of 
reestablished golden paintbrush sites, the large size of many of these 
sites, and considerable abundance of golden paintbrush plants at some 
of these sites. For the above reasons, we also do not anticipate that 
trampling will become a threat in the foreseeable future.

[[Page 34705]]

Herbivory

    At the time of listing, we considered predation (herbivory) on the 
golden paintbrush by native (voles and deer) and introduced (rabbits) 
species to be a threat to the plant (62 FR 31740; June 11, 1997). Deer 
continue to exhibit significant herbivory on the golden paintbrush at 
some sites; however, there is annual and site-specific variability in 
the overall level of herbivory (Service 2019, p. 48). Herbivory impacts 
from voles on the golden paintbrush have not been broadly or 
consistently observed and also appear to be variable across sites and 
years. Where herbivory by deer and/or rabbits has been significant, 
control with fencing has been successfully implemented, but controlling 
herbivory through fencing over large areas is limited by cost (Service 
2019, p. 48). In addition, encouraging localized reduction of deer 
populations through lethal removal near some sites (Washington 
Department of Fish and Wildlife 2019, in litt.; Pelant 2019, in litt.) 
and installing raptor perch poles to control rodents and rabbits at 
some sites are also being implemented to reduce impacts of herbivory on 
the golden paintbrush (Service 2019, p. 48). As a consequence of the 
significant increase in the number of golden paintbrush sites that have 
been successfully established since the species was listed, and because 
the impact of herbivory is being successfully managed in at least a 
portion of those sites where noted as significant (potential site/
population level effect), we conclude predation (herbivory) no longer 
has a significant impact across the majority of the golden paintbrush's 
48 sites/populations, nor at the species level, and is unlikely to 
become a threat to the species in the foreseeable future.

Hybridization

    A potential threat to the golden paintbrush identified after the 
species was listed in 1997 was the impact of hybridization with the 
harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida). The harsh paintbrush is one of 
the host plants introduced to prairie sites targeted for endangered 
Taylor's checkerspot butterfly recovery efforts. Our 2007 5-year status 
review recommended ``the evaluation of the potential for genetic 
contamination of golden paintbrush populations by hybridization with 
other species of Castilleja'' (Service 2007, p. 15). After initial 
evaluation, the potential risk of hybridization was considered 
relatively low and manageable (Kaye and Blakeley-Smith 2008, p. 13). 
However, after further evaluation and additional observations in the 
field, hybridization with the harsh paintbrush has now been identified 
as a significant potential threat to golden paintbrush populations 
where the two species occur together or in close proximity (Clark 2015, 
entire; Sandlin 2018, entire). Three former golden paintbrush recovery 
sites have now been discounted by the Service for the purposes of 
recovery due to the level of hybridization at these sites (Service 
2019, p. 15). At least one other site is currently vulnerable to the 
effects of hybridization, but management efforts to date (removal of 
plants that exhibit hybrid characteristics and creation of a zone of 
separation between harsh paintbrush and golden paintbrush areas at the 
site) have seemingly preserved this golden paintbrush population. 
Currently, hybridization appears to be confined to those areas located 
in the south Puget Sound prairie region where both species of 
Castilleja were used at some of the same habitat restoration sites. The 
only known incident of hybridization outside of this region was at 
Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Washington, 
where we unknowingly used a seed mix that included the harsh 
paintbrush. This site has since been eradicated of both Castilleja 
species, but we anticipate reintroducing the golden paintbrush to the 
site in the future (Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex 2019, 
in litt., entire).
    As a response to this emerging threat, efforts were implemented, 
and are ongoing, to reduce or eliminate the risk of hybridization to 
the golden paintbrush. These include efforts such as maintaining 
isolated growing areas for the golden paintbrush and harsh paintbrush 
at native seed production facilities used in prairie restoration 
efforts, maintaining buffers between golden paintbrush and harsh 
paintbrush patches at sites where both species are currently present, 
and delineating which of the two species will be used at current and 
future prairie conservation or restoration sites. We recently developed 
a strategy and guidance document for securing golden paintbrush sites 
to address containment of hybridization at existing contaminated sites 
and prevention of unintentional spread of hybridization to other 
regions within the golden paintbrush's range, specifically north Puget 
Sound and the Willamette Valley (Service et al. 2020). We have also 
entered into an associated MOU with the Washington Department of Fish 
and Wildlife and WDNR to ensure the strategy is implemented as agreed 
to by all prairie conservation partners in the range of the golden 
paintbrush. The three agencies have authority over these species and 
will oversee most prairie restoration efforts in Washington, 
particularly in south Puget Sound. This MOU is expected to facilitate 
awareness and compliance with the hybridization strategy and guidance 
by our prairie conservation partners. The formal adoption and 
implementation of the hybridization strategy and guidance is expected 
to prevent hybridization from becoming a threat to the golden 
paintbrush in the foreseeable future.

Climate Change

    At the time of listing, the potential impacts of climate change on 
the golden paintbrush was not discussed. The term ``climate'' refers to 
the mean and variability of relevant quantities (i.e., temperature, 
precipitation, wind) over time (IPCC 2014, pp. 119-120). The term 
``climate change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or variability 
of one or more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or precipitation) 
that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer, 
whether the change is due to internal processes or anthropogenic 
changes (IPCC 2014, p. 120).
    Scientific measurements spanning several decades demonstrate that 
changes in climate are occurring. In particular, warming of the climate 
system is unequivocal, and many of the observed changes in the last 60 
years are unprecedented over decades to millennia (IPCC 2014, p. 2). 
The current rate of climate change may be as fast as any extended 
warming period over the past 65 million years and is projected to 
accelerate in the next 30 to 80 years (National Research Council 2013, 
p. 5). Thus, rapid climate change is adding to other sources of 
extinction pressures, such as land use and invasive species, which will 
likely place extinction rates in this era among just a handful of the 
severe biodiversity crises observed in Earth's geological record (AAAS 
2014, p. 7).
    Global climate projections are informative, and in some cases, the 
only or the best scientific information available for us to use. 
However, projected changes in climate and related impacts can vary 
substantially across and within different regions of the world (e.g., 
IPCC 2013, 2014; entire) and within the United States (Melillo et al. 
2014, entire). Therefore, we use ``downscaled'' projections when they 
are available and have been developed through appropriate scientific 
procedures, because such projections provide higher resolution 
information

[[Page 34706]]

that is more relevant to spatial scales used for analyses of a given 
species (see Glick et al. 2011, pp. 58-61, for a discussion of 
downscaling).
    Climate change trends predicted for the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, 
Washington, Idaho, and Montana) broadly consist of an increase in 
annual average temperature; an increase in extreme precipitation 
events; and, with less certainty, variability in annual precipitation 
(Dalton et al. 2013, pp. 31-38, Figure 1.1; Snover et al. 2013, pp. 5-
1-5-4).
    According to the NatureServe Climate Vulnerability Index, the 
golden paintbrush has experienced mean annual precipitation variation 
over the last 50 years ranging from 53 cm to 130 cm (21 to 51 in), 
resulting in a rating of ``Somewhat Decreased Vulnerability'' to 
climate change (Young et al. 2011, pp. 26-27; Gamon 2014, pp. 1, 5; 
Climate Change Sensitivity Database 2014, in litt., p. 4). Prolonged or 
more intense summer droughts are likely to increase in the Pacific 
Northwest due to climate change (Snover et al. 2013, p. 2-1). Even 
though the golden paintbrush senesces as the prairies dry out in the 
summer, increased intensity or length of drought conditions will likely 
stress plants and increase mortality, resulting in reduced numbers of 
individuals in populations at less-than-optimal sites (Kaye 2018, in 
litt.).
    As is the case with all stressors we assess, even if we conclude 
that a species is currently affected or is likely to be affected in a 
negative way by one or more climate-related impacts, it does not 
necessarily follow that the species meets the definition of an 
``endangered species'' or a ``threatened species'' under the Act. 
Knowledge regarding the vulnerability of the species to, and known or 
anticipated impacts from, climate-associated changes in environmental 
conditions can be used to help devise appropriate conservation 
strategies.
    Predicted environmental changes resulting from climate change may 
have both positive and negative effects on the golden paintbrush, 
depending on the extent and type of impact and depending on site-
specific conditions within each habitat type. The primary predicted 
negative effect is drought conditions resulting in inconsistent growing 
seasons. This effect will likely be buffered by the ability of the 
golden paintbrush to survive in a range of soil conditions, with a 
number of different host plants, and under a range of precipitation 
levels. We have not identified any predicted environmental effects from 
climate change that may be positive for the golden paintbrush at this 
time. Climate change could result in a decline or change in bumble bee 
diversity within the range of the golden paintbrush (Soroye et al. 
2020, entire); the bumble bee is an important pollinator for the golden 
paintbrush. However, there are limited data at this time to indicate 
this is a specific and present threat to the golden paintbrush.
    In summary, climate change is affecting, and will continue to 
affect, temperature and precipitation events within the range of the 
golden paintbrush. The extent, duration, and impact of those changes 
are unknown, but could potentially increase or decrease precipitation 
in some areas. The golden paintbrush may experience climate change-
related effects in the future, most likely at the individual or local 
population scale. Regional occurrences may experience some shifts; 
however, we anticipate the species will remain viable, because: (1) It 
is more resilient than at the time of listing as a result of increased 
geographic distribution in a variety of ecological settings; (2) 
available information indicates the golden paintbrush is somewhat 
adaptable to some level of future variation in climatic conditions 
(Service 2019, pp. 22-25, 45); (3) there are ongoing efforts to expand 
the golden paintbrush to additional suitable sites; and (4) we now have 
the technical ability to readily establish populations, which could 
help to mitigate any future population losses. Therefore, based upon 
the best available scientific and commercial information, we conclude 
that climate change does not currently pose a significant threat, nor 
is it likely to become a significant threat in the foreseeable future 
(next 30 years), to the golden paintbrush.

Voluntary and Regulatory Conservation Mechanisms

    Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act requires the Service to take into 
account ``those efforts, if any, being made by any State or foreign 
nation, or any political subdivision of a State or foreign nation, to 
protect such species.'' We interpret this language to require us to 
consider relevant Federal, State, and Tribal laws, regulations, and 
other such mechanisms that may minimize any of the threats or otherwise 
enhance conservation of the species. We give the strongest weight to 
statutes and their implementing regulations and to management direction 
that stems from those laws and regulations; an example would be State 
governmental actions enforced under a State statute or constitution or 
Federal action under the statute.
    For currently listed species, we consider existing regulatory 
mechanisms relative to how they reduce or ameliorate threats to the 
species absent the protections of the Act. Therefore, we examine 
whether other regulatory mechanisms would remain in place if the 
species were delisted, and the extent to which those mechanisms will 
continue to help ensure that future threats will be reduced or 
eliminated. At the time of listing (62 FR 31740; June 11, 1997), we 
noted that habitat management for the golden paintbrush was not 
assured, despite the fact that most populations occurred in areas 
designated as reserves or parks that typically afforded the golden 
paintbrush and its habitat some level of protection through those 
designations. As discussed in our species biological report (Service 
2019), the threat of habitat loss from potential residential or 
commercial development has decreased since the time of listing due to 
the establishment of new golden paintbrush populations on protected 
sites. Although a few privately owned sites are still at some potential 
risk, development is no longer considered a significant threat to the 
viability of the golden paintbrush due to the number of sites largely 
provided protection from development (Service 2019, pp. 12-14).
Federal
    National Environmental Policy Act--The National Environmental 
Policy Act requires Federal agencies to consider the environmental 
effects of their proposed actions (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). 
Federal agency NEPA analyses may identify and disclose potential 
effects of Federal actions on the golden paintbrush if the species is 
delisted. However, NEPA does not require that adverse impacts be 
mitigated, only disclosed. Therefore, it is unclear what level of 
protection would be conveyed to the golden paintbrush through NEPA, in 
the absence of protections under the Act.
    Sikes Act--One golden paintbrush site currently occurs on a Federal 
military installation (Forbes Point, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island 
in Island County, Washington) and is managed under an integrated 
natural resources management plan (INRMP) (USDOD 2012, pp. 4-6) 
authorized by the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670 et seq.). Special management 
and protection requirements for golden paintbrush habitat in the INRMP 
include maintenance of a 10-ac management area for the species, 
including maintaining and improving a fence around the population to 
exclude both people and herbivores, posting signs that state the area 
is accessible to ``authorized personnel only,'' mowing

[[Page 34707]]

and hand-cutting competing shrubs from the area, outplanting nursery-
grown plants from seeds previously collected on site, and implementing 
additional habitat management actions that are identified in the future 
to enhance the golden paintbrush population such as control burns or 
herbicide control of competing vegetation (USDOD 2012, pp. 3-5). These 
protections are effective in protecting the golden paintbrush on this 
site and are expected to continue in the absence of protections under 
the Act because the Sikes Act mandates the Department of Defense to 
conserve and rehabilitate wildlife, fish, and game on military 
reservations.
    National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act--Ten golden 
paintbrush sites currently occur on National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) 
lands (Dungeness NWR in Washington, and Ankeny, William L. Finley, 
Tualatin River, and Baskett Slough NWRs in Oregon). As directed by the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Pub. L. 105-
57), refuge managers have the authority and responsibility to protect 
native ecosystems, fulfill the purposes for which an individual refuge 
was founded, and implement strategies to achieve the goals and 
objectives stated in management plans. For example, William L. Finley 
NWR (Benton County, Oregon) includes extensive habitat for the golden 
paintbrush, including four known occupied sites, while a number of 
additional NWRs in Oregon (Ankeny NWR, Marion County; Tualatin River 
NWR, Washington County; and Baskett Slough NWR, Polk County) and 
Washington (Dungeness NWR, Clallam County) each also support at least 
one golden paintbrush occupied site.
    The Willamette Valley comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for 
William L. Finley, Ankeny, and Baskett Slough NWRs is a land management 
plan finalized in 2011 with a 15-year term that directs maintenance, 
protection, and restoration of the species and its habitat and 
identifies specific objectives related to establishment of populations 
and monitoring, as well as related habitat maintenance/management 
(Service 2011, pp. 2-45--2-46, 2-66--2-70). Given the 15-year timeframe 
of CCPs, these protections would remain in place until at least 2026, 
regardless of the golden paintbrush's Federal listing status.
    Tualatin River NWR finalized a CCP in 2013, and although it does 
not have conservation actions specific to the golden paintbrush 
identified in the plan, it does have maintenance and management 
activities for oak savanna habitat on the NWR, which supports the 
golden paintbrush (Service 2013a, pp. 4-9--4-10). These activities 
include various methods (e.g., mechanical and chemical) for reducing 
encroachment of woody species, controlling nonnative and invasive plant 
species, and reestablishing native grasses and forbs. Given the 15-year 
timeframe of CCPs, protections outlined in the Tualatin River NWR CCP 
are expected to remain in place until at least 2028, regardless of the 
golden paintbrush's Federal listing status.
    Dungeness NWR also finalized a CCP in 2013 (Service 2013b, entire). 
The CCP does not have any conservation actions specific to the golden 
paintbrush identified; however, it does identify general actions taken 
to control nonnative and invasive plant species that invade habitats on 
the refuge, including those inhabited by the golden paintbrush (Service 
2013b, pp. 4-44--4-45). The golden paintbrush site at this NWR's 
headquarters continues to be maintained and protected. In addition to 
specific protections for the golden paintbrush provided under CCPs, the 
species is permanently protected by the mission of all NWRs to manage 
their lands and waters for the conservation of fish, wildlife, and 
plant resources and their habitats.
    National Park Service Organic Act--One golden paintbrush site 
currently occurs on National Park Service (NPS) lands (American Camp, 
San Juan Island National Historical Park, Washington). The NPS Organic 
Act of 1916, as amended (39 Stat. 535), states the NPS shall promote 
and regulate the use of the National Park system ``to conserve the 
scenery, natural and historic objects, and wild life'' therein, to 
provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means 
``as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future 
generations'' (54 U.S.C. 100101(a)). Further, in title 36 of the Code 
of Federal Regulations (CFR) at Sec.  2.1(a)(1)(i) and (a)(1)(ii), NPS 
regulations specifically prohibit possessing, destroying, injuring, 
defacing, removing, digging, or disturbing from its natural state 
living or dead wildlife, fish, or plants, or parts or products thereof, 
on lands under NPS jurisdiction. This prohibition extends to the golden 
paintbrush where it exists on NPS-managed lands. In addition, the 
General Management Plan for the San Juan Island National Historical 
Park includes the NPS's goal of restoring a prairie community that 
support functions and values of native habitat, including habitat for 
native wildlife and rare species, such as the golden paintbrush (NPS 
2008, p. 249).
    Endangered Species Act--The golden paintbrush often co-occurs with 
other plant and animal species that are listed under the Act, such as 
the endangered Willamette daisy and endangered Taylor's checkerspot 
butterfly. Therefore, some of the general habitat protections (e.g., 
section 7 consultation and ongoing recovery implementation efforts, 
including prairie habitat restoration, maintenance, and protection) for 
these other prairie-dependent, listed species will indirectly extend to 
some golden paintbrush sites if we delist the golden paintbrush.
    Protections in Canada--The golden paintbrush in Canada is currently 
federally listed as ``endangered'' under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) 
(COSEWIC 2007, entire). SARA regulations protect species from harm, 
possession, collection, buying, selling, or trading (Statutes of Canada 
2002, c. 29). SARA also prohibits damage to or destroying the habitat 
of a species that is listed as an endangered species. The population at 
Trial Island is on Canadian federal lands protected under SARA (COSEWIC 
2011, in litt., p. 5). The golden paintbrush is not currently protected 
under any provincial legislation in British Columbia. However, the 
golden paintbrush occurs in the ecological reserves that include Trial 
Island and Alpha Islet, which are protected under the British Columbia 
Park Act (COSEWIC 2011, in litt., p. 5). The British Columbia Park Act 
allows lands identified under the Ecological Reserve Act to be 
regulated to restrict or prohibit any use, development, or occupation 
of the land or any use or development of the natural resources in an 
ecological reserve (Revised Statutes of British Columbia 1996, c. 103). 
This includes particular areas where rare or endangered native plants 
and animals in their natural habitat may be preserved.
State
    Washington Natural Heritage Plan--Washington State's Natural 
Heritage Plan identifies priorities for preserving natural diversity in 
Washington State (WDNR 2018, entire). The plan aids WDNR in conserving 
key habitats that are currently imperiled, or are expected to be 
imperiled in the future. The prioritization of conservation efforts 
provided by this plan is expected to remain in place if we delist the 
golden paintbrush. The golden paintbrush is currently identified as a 
priority 2 species (species likely to become endangered across their 
range or in Washington within the foreseeable future) in the State's 
2018 plan (WDNR 2018a, in litt. p. 4), which is a recent change from 
the species' priority 1

[[Page 34708]]

designation (species are in danger of extinction across their range, 
including Washington) in 2011 (WDNR 2018b, in litt. p. 2). If we delist 
the golden paintbrush, WDNR may assign the species a priority 3 
designation (species that are vulnerable or declining and could become 
threatened without active management or removal of threats to their 
existence) in the next iteration of their plan, which may result in 
WDNR expending less effort in the continued conservation of the golden 
paintbrush. However, we anticipate that WDNR will continue to monitor 
the species where it occurs on their own lands and more broadly as a 
partner in the post-delisting monitoring plan. We also anticipate that 
WDNR will continue to actively manage their golden paintbrush sites, 
because these areas are not only important to the long-term 
conservation of golden paintbrush, but also to other at-risk prairie 
species.
    Washington State Park Regulations and Management--State park 
regulations, in general, require an evaluation of any activity 
conducted on a park that has the potential to damage park resources, 
and require mitigation as appropriate (Washington Administrative Code 
2016, entire). Wildlife, plants, all park buildings, signs, tables, and 
other structures are protected; removal or damage of any kind is 
prohibited (Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission 2019, in 
litt., p. 2). One golden paintbrush site currently exists on Fort Casey 
Historical State Park. One of the objectives for natural resources on 
Fort Casey Historical State Park under the Central Whidbey State Parks 
Management Plan is to protect and participate in the recovery of the 
golden paintbrush, including protecting native plant communities, 
managing vegetative succession, and removing weeds through integrated 
pest management (Washington State Park and Recreation Commission 2008, 
p. 15). The plan further states that areas where the golden paintbrush 
occurs will be classified as ``heritage affording a high degree of 
protection,'' and the Nass Natural Area Preserve (also known as 
Admiralty Inlet Natural Area Preserve) is included in the long-term 
park boundary to also assure continued preservation of the golden 
paintbrush in this area (Washington State Park and Recreation 
Commission 2008, p. 26).
    Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS), Chapter 564--Oregon Revised 
Statutes, chapter 564, ``Wildflowers; Threatened or Endangered 
Plants,'' requires State agencies to protect State-listed plant species 
found on their lands (Oregon Revised Statutes 2017, entire). Any land 
action on Oregon land owned or leased by the State, for which the State 
holds a recorded easement, and which results, or might result, in the 
taking of an endangered or threatened plant species, requires 
consultation with Oregon Department of Agriculture staff. The golden 
paintbrush is currently State-listed as endangered in Oregon. At this 
time, no populations of the golden paintbrush are known to occur on 
State lands in Oregon. However, should populations of the golden 
paintbrush occur on Oregon State lands in the future, the removal of 
Federal protections for the golden paintbrush would not affect State 
protection of the species under this statute.
    In summary, conservation measures and existing regulatory 
mechanisms have minimized, and are continuing to address, the 
previously identified threats to the golden paintbrush, including 
habitat succession of prairie and grassland habitats to shrub and 
forest lands; development of property for commercial, residential, and 
agricultural use; recreational picking (including associated 
trampling); and herbivory (on plants and seeds). As indicated above, we 
anticipate the majority of these mechanisms will remain in place 
regardless of the species' Federal listing status.

Cumulative Impacts

    When multiple stressors co-occur, one may exacerbate the effects of 
the other, leading to effects not accounted for when each stressor is 
analyzed individually. The full impact of these synergistic effects may 
be observed within a short period of time, or may take many years 
before it is noticeable. For example, high levels of predation 
(herbivory) on the golden paintbrush by deer could cause large 
temporary losses in seed production in a population, but are not 
generally considered to be a significant threat to long-term viability; 
populations that are relatively large and well-distributed should be 
able to withstand such naturally occurring events. However, the 
relative impact of predation (herbivory) by deer may be intensified 
when it occurs in conjunction with other factors that may lessen the 
resiliency of golden paintbrush populations, such as prolonged woody 
species encroachment (prairie succession); extensive nonnative, 
invasive plant infestations; or possible increased plant mortality 
resulting from the effects of climate change (i.e., prolonged drought).
    Although the types, magnitude, or extent of potential cumulative 
impacts are difficult to predict, we are not aware of any combination 
of factors that is likely to co-occur resulting in significant negative 
consequences for the species. We anticipate that any negative 
consequence of co-occurring threats will be successfully addressed 
through the same active management actions that have contributed to the 
ongoing recovery of the golden paintbrush and the conservation of 
regional prairie ecosystems that are expected to continue into the 
future.

Summary of Biological Status

    To assess golden paintbrush viability, we evaluated the three 
conservation biology principles of resiliency, redundancy, and 
representation (Shaffer and Stein 2000, pp. 306-310). We assessed the 
current resiliency of golden paintbrush sites (Service 2019, pp. 52-63) 
by scoring each site's management level, site condition, threats 
addressed, site abundance of plants, and site protection, resulting in 
a high, moderate, or low condition ranking. One-third of sites were 
determined to have a high condition ranking, one-third a moderate 
condition ranking, and one-third a low condition ranking (Service 2019, 
p. 63).
    Golden paintbrush sites are well-distributed across the species' 
historical range and provide representation across the four distinct 
geographic areas within that range (British Columbia, North Puget 
Sound, South Puget Sound, and the Willamette Valley). Multiple sites or 
populations exist within each of these geographic areas, providing a 
relatively secure level of redundancy across the historical range, with 
the lowest level of redundancy within British Columbia. The resiliency 
of the golden paintbrush is more variable across the historical range 
given differences in site or population abundance, level of management 
at a site, and site condition, but overall most sites appear to be in 
moderate and high condition. The best scientific and commercial data 
available indicate that the golden paintbrush is composed of multiple 
populations, primarily in moderate to high condition (Service 2019, p. 
63), which are sufficiently resilient, well-distributed (redundancy and 
representation), largely protected, and managed such that they will be 
relatively robust or resilient to any potential cumulative effects to 
which they may be exposed.

Determination of Golden Paintbrush 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 ``endangered species''

[[Page 34709]]

or ``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.'' For a more detailed discussion on the factors considered when 
determining whether a species meets the definition of an endangered 
species or a threatened species and our analysis on how we determine 
the foreseeable future in making these decisions, please see Regulatory 
and Analytical Framework.

Status Throughout All of Its Range

    After evaluating threats to the species and assessing the 
cumulative effect of the threats under the section 4(a)(1) factors, we 
find, based on the best available information, and as described in our 
analysis above, stressors identified at the time of listing and several 
additional potential stressors analyzed for this assessment do not 
affect golden paintbrush to a degree that causes it to be in danger of 
extinction either now or in the foreseeable future. Development of 
property for commercial, residential, and agricultural use (Factor A), 
has not occurred to the extent anticipated at the time of listing and 
is adequately managed; existing information indicates this condition is 
unlikely to change in the future. Potential constriction of habitat for 
expansion and refugia (Factor A) also has not occurred to the extent 
anticipated at the time of listing, and existing information indicates 
this condition is unlikely to change in the future. Habitat 
modification through succession of prairie and grassland habitats to 
shrub and forest lands (Factor A) is adequately managed, and existing 
information indicates this condition is unlikely to change in the 
future. Recreational picking and associated trampling (Factor B) has 
not occurred to the extent anticipated at the time of listing; the 
species appears to tolerate current levels of this activity, and 
existing information indicates that this condition is unlikely to 
change in the future. Herbivory on plants and seeds (Factor C) has not 
occurred to the extent anticipated at the time of listing; the species 
appears to tolerate current levels of herbivory, and existing 
information indicates that this condition is unlikely to change in the 
future. Hybridization with the harsh paintbrush (Factor E) is 
adequately managed, and existing information indicates this condition 
is unlikely to change in the future. Finally, golden paintbrush appears 
to tolerate the effects of climate change (Factor E), and existing 
information indicates that this condition is unlikely to change in the 
future. The existing regulatory mechanisms (Factor D) are sufficient to 
ensure protection of the species at the reduced levels of threat that 
remain.
    Thus, after assessing the best available information, we determine 
that golden paintbrush is not in danger of extinction, or likely to 
become so in 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. Having determined that the golden paintbrush is not in 
danger of extinction or likely to become so in the foreseeable future 
throughout all of its range, we now consider whether it may be in 
danger of extinction or likely to become so in the foreseeable future 
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 now or 
likely to become so in the foreseeable future 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.
    In undertaking this analysis for the golden paintbrush, we choose 
to evaluate 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 or threatened.
    For golden paintbrush, we considered whether the threats are 
geographically concentrated in any portion of the species' range at a 
biologically meaningful scale. We examined the following threats: (1) 
Habitat succession of prairie and grassland habitats to shrub and 
forest due to fire suppression, interspecific competition, and invasive 
species; (2) development of property for commercial, residential, and 
agricultural use; (3) low potential for expansion and refugia due to 
constriction of habitat by surrounding development or land use; (4) 
recreational picking (including associated trampling); (5) herbivory 
(on plants and seeds); (6) hybridization with harsh paintbrush; and (7) 
the effects of climate change, including cumulative effects. Although 
the impact of hybridization with the harsh paintbrush is most evident 
in the south Puget Sound region of the species' range, this potential 
stressor is being addressed throughout the species' range with the 
hybridization strategy and guidance. We found no concentration of 
threats in any portion of the golden paintbrush's range at a 
biologically meaningful scale. Therefore, no portion of the species' 
range can provide a basis for determining that the species is in danger 
of extinction now, or likely to become so in the foreseeable future, in 
a significant portion of its range, and we find the species is not in 
danger of extinction now, or likely to become so in the foreseeable 
future, in any significant portion of its range. This is consistent 
with the courts' holdings in 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).

Determination of Status

    Our review of the best available scientific and commercial 
information indicates that the golden paintbrush does not meet the 
definition of an endangered species or a threatened species in 
accordance with sections 3(6) and 3(20) of the Act. Therefore, we 
propose to remove the golden paintbrush from the List.

Effects of the Rule

    This proposal, if made final, would revise 50 CFR 17.12(h) by 
removing the golden paintbrush from the List. The prohibitions and 
conservation measures provided by the Act, particularly through 
sections 7 and 9, would no longer apply to the golden paintbrush. 
Federal agencies would no longer be required to consult with the 
Service under section 7 of the Act in the event that activities they 
authorize, fund, or carry out may affect the golden paintbrush. There 
is no critical habitat designated for this species, so there would be 
no effect to 50 CFR 17.96.

Post-Delisting Monitoring

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us to implement a system to 
monitor effectively, for not less than 5 years, all species that have 
been recovered and delisted (50 CFR 17.11, 17.12). The purpose of this 
post-delisting

[[Page 34710]]

monitoring is to verify that a species remains secure from the risk of 
extinction after it has been removed from the protections of the Act. 
The monitoring is designed to detect the failure of any delisted 
species to sustain itself without the protective measures provided by 
the Act. If, at any time during the monitoring period, data indicate 
that the protective status under the Act should be reinstated, we can 
initiate listing procedures, including, if appropriate, emergency 
listing under section 4(b)(7) of the Act. Section 4(g) of the Act 
explicitly requires us to cooperate with the States in development and 
implementation of post-delisting monitoring programs, but we remain 
responsible for compliance with section 4(g) and, therefore, must 
remain actively engaged in all phases of post-delisting monitoring. We 
also seek active participation of other entities that are expected to 
assume responsibilities for the species' conservation post-delisting.
    We propose to delist the golden paintbrush in light of new 
information available and recovery actions taken. We prepared a draft 
post-delisting monitoring plan that describes the methods proposed for 
monitoring the species, if it is removed from the List. Monitoring of 
flowering plants at each golden paintbrush site extant in 2018 would 
take place every other year, over a minimum of 5 years after final 
delisting. Proposed monitoring efforts would be slightly modified from 
prior protocols, by only requiring a visual estimation of population 
size when clearly numbering >1,000 but <10,000, or >=10,000 flowering 
individuals, as opposed to an actual count or calculated estimate of 
flowering plants. This modification should streamline monitoring 
efforts. It is our intent to work with our partners to maintain the 
recovered status of golden paintbrush. With publication of this 
proposed rule, we seek public and peer review comments on the draft 
post-delisting monitoring plan, including its objectives and methods 
(see Public Comments, above). The draft post-delisting monitoring plan 
can be found at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-
2020-0060.

Required Determinations

Clarity of the Rule

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

    It is our position that, outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court 
of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, we do not need to prepare 
environmental analyses pursuant to the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) in connection with 
regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act. We published a 
notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal 
Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). This position was upheld by 
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Douglas County v. 
Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied 516 U.S. 1042 
(1996)).

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994 
(Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and 
Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we acknowledge our responsibility to 
communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal Tribes on a 
government-to-government basis. In accordance with Secretarial Order 
3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, Federal-Tribal 
Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), we acknowledge 
our responsibilities to work directly with Tribes in developing 
programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge that tribal lands are 
not subject to the same controls as Federal public lands, to remain 
sensitive to Native American culture, and to make information available 
to Tribes.
    We do not believe that any Tribes would be affected if we adopt 
this rule as proposed. There are currently no golden paintbrush sites 
on Tribal lands, although some sites may lie within the usual and 
accustomed places for Tribal collection and gathering of resources. We 
welcome input from potentially affected Tribes on our proposal.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is 
available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. 
FWS-R1-ES-2020-0060, or upon request from the State Supervisor, 
Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT).

Authors

    The primary authors of this proposed rule are the staff of the 
Washington Fish and Wildlife Office.

Signing Authority

    The Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, approved this 
document and authorized the undersigned to sign and submit the document 
to the Office of the Federal Register for publication electronically as 
an official document of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Martha 
Williams, Principal Deputy Director Exercising the Delegated Authority 
of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, approved this document 
on June 21, 2021, for publication.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

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

PART 17--ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS

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

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


Sec.  17.12  [Amended]

0
2. Amend Sec.  17.12(h) by removing the entry for ``Castilleja 
levisecta'' under

[[Page 34711]]

FLOWERING PLANTS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants.

Anissa Craghead,
Acting Regulations and Policy Chief, Division of Policy, Economics, 
Risk Management, and Analytics, Joint Administrative Operations, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2021-13882 Filed 6-29-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P