Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding for Pascagoula Map Turtle; Threatened Species Status With Section 4(d) Rule for Pearl River Map Turtle; and Threatened Species Status for Alabama Map Turtle, Barbour's Map Turtle, Escambia Map Turtle, and Pascagoula Map Turtle Due to Similarity of Appearance With a Section 4(d) Rule, 66624-66659 [2021-23992]

Download as PDF 66624 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2021–0097; FF09E21000 FXES1111090FEDR 223] RIN 1018–BF42 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding for Pascagoula Map Turtle; Threatened Species Status With Section 4(d) Rule for Pearl River Map Turtle; and Threatened Species Status for Alabama Map Turtle, Barbour’s Map Turtle, Escambia Map Turtle, and Pascagoula Map Turtle Due to Similarity of Appearance With a Section 4(d) Rule Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Proposed rule; announcement of 12-month petition finding. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce our 12-month findings for two freshwater turtle species, the Pascagoula map turtle (Graptemys gibbonsi) and the Pearl River map turtle (Graptemys pearlensis), as endangered or threatened species. The Pascagoula map turtle is endemic to the Pascagoula River drainage in Mississippi, and the Pearl River map turtle is endemic to the Pearl River drainage in Mississippi and Louisiana. We propose to list the Pearl River map turtle as a threatened species with a rule issued under section 4(d) of the Act (‘‘4(d) rule’’). After a thorough review of the best available scientific and commercial information, we find that it is not warranted at this time to list the Pascagoula map turtle; however, we propose to list the Pascagoula map turtle along with Alabama map turtle (Graptemys pulchra), Barbour’s map turtle (Graptemys barbouri), and Escambia map turtle (Graptemys ernsti) as threatened species due to similarity of appearance to the Pearl River map turtle with a 4(d) rule. If we finalize this rule as proposed, it would add the Pearl River map turtle, Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and extend the Act’s protections to the species. DATES: Comment submission: For the proposed rules to list the Pearl River map turtle and the four other species (Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle) due to similarity lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 of appearance, we will accept comments received or postmarked on or before January 24, 2022. We also request comments on the proposed 4(d) rule for the Pearl River map turtle and the proposed 4(d) rule for the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle during the same timeframe as comments for the proposed listing actions. 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 January 7, 2022. 12-month petition finding: For the Pascagoula map turtle, the finding in this document was made on November 23, 2021. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods: (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: https:// www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter the RIN or docket number (presented above in the document headings). For best results, do not copy and paste either number; instead, type the docket number or RIN into the Search box using hyphens. Then, click on the Search button. On the resulting page, in the 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.’’ (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2021–0097, 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 https:// www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see Information Requested, below, for more information). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephen Ricks, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office, 6578 Dogwood View Park, Jackson, MS 39213; telephone 601–321–1122. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Executive Summary Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Act, if we determine that a species PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 warrants listing, we are required to promptly publish a proposal in the Federal Register, unless doing so is precluded by higher-priority actions and expeditious progress is being made to add and remove qualified species to or from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. The Service will make a determination on our proposal within one year. If there is substantial disagreement regarding the sufficiency and accuracy of the available data relevant to the proposed listing, we may extend the final determination for not more than six months. To the maximum extent prudent and determinable, we must designate critical habitat for any species that we determine to be an endangered or threatened species under the Act. Listing a species as an endangered or threatened species and designation of critical habitat can be completed only by issuing a rule. What this document does. We find that listing the Pascagoula map turtle as an endangered or threatened species is not warranted at this time. We propose to list the Pearl River map turtle as a threatened species with a rule under section 4(d) of the Act. We also propose to list the Pascagoula map turtle, Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, and Escambia map turtle as threatened species based on their similarity of appearance to the Pearl River map turtle and propose a rule under section 4(d) of the Act for these species. We find that designation of critical habitat for the Pearl River map turtle is not prudent. The basis for our action. Under the Act, we may determine that a species is an endangered or threatened species because of any of five factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. We have determined that threats to the Pearl River map turtle include habitat degradation or loss (degraded water quality, channel and hydrologic modifications/impoundments, agricultural runoff, and development— Factor B), collection (Factor C), and effects of climate change (increasing temperatures, drought, sea level rise (SLR), hurricane regime changes, and increased seasonal precipitation—Factor E). Section 4(a)(3) of the Act requires the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) to designate critical habitat concurrent E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 with listing to the maximum extent prudent and determinable. We have determined that designation of critical habitat for the Pearl River map turtle is not prudent at this time. Information Requested We intend that any final action resulting from these proposed rules will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information from other concerned governmental agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning: (1) The species’ biology, range, and population trends, including: (a) Biological or ecological requirements of the species, including habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering; (b) Genetics and taxonomy; (c) Historical and current range, including distribution patterns; (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and projected trends; and (e) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the species, their habitats, or both. (2) Factors that may affect the continued existence of the species, which may include habitat modification or destruction, overutilization, disease, predation, the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, or other natural or manmade factors. (3) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning any threats (or lack thereof) to the species and existing regulations that may be addressing the threats. (4) Additional information concerning the historical and current status, range, distribution, and population size of this species, including the locations of any additional populations of this species. (5) Information on regulations that are necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of the Pearl River map turtle, and that the Service can consider in developing a 4(d) rule for the species. We seek information concerning the extent to which we should include any of the section 9 prohibitions in the 4(d) rule or whether we should consider any additional exceptions from the prohibitions in the 4(d) rule. This proposed 4(d) rule will not apply take prohibitions for otherwise legal activities to the four turtles listed due to similarity of appearance (Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle) if those activities will not pose a threat to the Pearl River map turtle. (6) Specific information on bycatch of Pearl River map turtle from fishing or trapping gear due to recreational and commercial fishing activities for other species. (7) Information on why we should or should not designate habitat as ‘‘critical habitat’’ under section 4 of the Act, including information to inform the following factors that the regulations identify as reasons why designation of critical habitat may be not prudent: (a) The species is threatened by taking or other human activity and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the degree of such threat to the species; (b) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of a species’ habitat or range is not a threat to the species, or threats to the species’ habitat stem solely from causes that cannot be addressed through management actions resulting from consultations under section 7(a)(2) of the Act; (c) Areas within the jurisdiction of the United States provide no more than negligible conservation value, if any, for a species occurring primarily outside the jurisdiction of the United States; or (d) No areas meet the definition of critical habitat. (8) For the Pascagoula map turtle, we ask the public to submit to us at any time new information relevant to the species’ status, threats, or its habitat. (9) Information regarding legal or illegal collection of the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, Pascagoula map turtle, or Pearl River map turtle. (10) Threats to the Pearl River map turtle from collection of or commercial trade involving the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle. (11) Information regarding domestic and international trade of the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, Pascagoula map turtle, or Pearl River map turtle. Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial information you include. Please note that submissions merely stating support for, or opposition to, the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or a threatened PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66625 species must be made ‘‘solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.’’ You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES. If you submit information via https:// 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 https://www.regulations.gov. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on https://www.regulations.gov. Because we will consider all comments and information we receive during the comment period, our final determinations 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 are endangered instead of threatened, or we may conclude that the species do not warrant listing as either endangered species or threatened species. In addition, we may change the parameters of the prohibitions or the exceptions to those prohibitions in the 4(d) rules if we conclude it is appropriate in light of comments and new information received. For example, we may expand the prohibitions to include prohibiting take related to additional activities if we conclude that those additional activities are not compatible with conservation of the species. Conversely, we may establish additional exceptions to the prohibitions in the final rule if we conclude that the activities would facilitate or are compatible with the conservation and recovery of the species. Public Hearing Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for one or more public hearings on this proposal, if requested. Requests must be received by the date specified in DATES. 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, E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 66626 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules 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). lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Previous Federal Actions On April 20, 2010, we received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Alabama Rivers Alliance, Clinch Coalition, Dogwood Alliance, Gulf Restoration Network, Tennessee Forests Council, and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (referred to below as the CBD petition) to list 404 aquatic, riparian, and wetland species, including the Pascagoula map turtle as an endangered or threatened species under the Act. On September 27, 2011, we published a 90-day finding that the petition contained substantial information indicating listing may be warranted for the Pascagoula map turtle (76 FR 59836). At the time of the petition, the Pascagoula map turtle description included turtles that occur in the Pascagoula and Pearl rivers. Since then, the Pascagoula map turtle was determined to be two similar, yet distinct species, the Pascagoula map turtle (Graptemys gibbonsi) and the Pearl River map turtle (Graptemys pearlensis) (Ennen et al. 2010, pp. 109– 110). On January 21, 2020, CBD filed a complaint challenging the Service’s failure to complete 12-month findings for both species within the statutory deadline. The Service and CBD reached a stipulated settlement agreement whereby the Service agreed to deliver 12-month findings for the Pascagoula map turtle and the Pearl River map turtle to the Office of the Federal Register by October 29, 2021. This document constitutes our 12-month finding for the April 20, 2010, petition to list the Pascagoula map turtle and Pearl River map turtle under the Act in compliance with the October 29, 2021, stipulated settlement agreement. Supporting Documents A species status assessment (SSA) team prepared SSA reports for the Pascagoula map turtle and the Pearl River map turtle. The SSA team was composed of Service biologists, in consultation with other species experts. The SSA reports represent compilations of the best scientific and commercial data available concerning the status of the species, including the impacts of past, present, and future factors (both VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 negative and beneficial) affecting the species. In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), and our August 22, 2016, memorandum updating and clarifying the role of peer review of listing actions under the Act, we sought the expert opinions of four appropriate specialists regarding the Pascagoula map turtle SSA report, and five appropriate specialists regarding the Pearl River map turtle SSA report. We received responses from all the peer reviewers; feedback we received informed our findings and this proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure that our listing determinations and 4(d) rules are based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. The peer reviewers have expertise in the biology, habitat, and threats to the species. In addition, we provided the draft SSA reports for review to Federal partners, State partners, and scientists with expertise in aquatic ecology and freshwater turtle biology, taxonomy, and conservation. We notified Tribal nations early in the SSA process for the Pearl River map turtle. We sent the draft SSA report for review to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and received comments that were addressed in the SSA report. There are no Tribes associated with the Pascagoula map turtle across its range. 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. PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 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 expected response by the species, and the effects of the threats—in light of those actions and conditions that will ameliorate the threats—on an individual, population, and species level. We evaluate each threat and its expected effects on the species, then analyze the cumulative effect of all of the threats on the species as a whole. We also consider the cumulative effect of the threats in light of those actions and conditions that will have positive effects on the species, such as any existing regulatory mechanisms or conservation efforts. The Secretary determines whether the species meets the definition of an ‘‘endangered species’’ or a ‘‘threatened species’’ only after conducting this cumulative analysis and describing the expected effect on the species now and in the foreseeable future. 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 the Service 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 E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 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 it 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. Analytical Framework Each SSA report documents the results of our comprehensive biological review of the best scientific and commercial data regarding the status of the species, including an assessment of potential threats to the species. SSA reports do not represent a decision by the Service on whether either species should be proposed for listing as an endangered or threatened species under the Act. However, they do 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. We completed SSA reports for the Pascagoula map turtle and the Pearl River map turtle and summarize the key results and conclusions from the reports below, beginning with the Pascagoula map turtle, followed by the Pearl River map turtle. The Pascagoula map turtle SSA report can be found in docket number FWS–R4–ES–2021–0097 on https:// www.regulations.gov, and on the species profile page of the Service’s Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS) internet site, https:// www.ecos.gov/ecp/species/3198. The Pascagoula map turtle SSA report can be found in docket number FWS–R4–ES– 2021–0097 on https:// www.regulations.gov, and on the species profile page of the Service’s Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS) internet site, https:// www.ecos.gov/ecp/species/10895. To assess the species’ 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 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. The SSA process can be categorized into three sequential stages. During the first stage, we evaluated the individual species’ life-history needs. The next stage involved an assessment of the historical and current condition of the species’ demographics and habitat characteristics, including an explanation of how the species arrived at its current condition. The final stage of the SSA involved making predictions about the species’ responses to positive and negative environmental and anthropogenic influences. Throughout all of these stages, we used the best available information to characterize viability as the ability of a species to sustain populations in the wild over time. We use this information to inform our regulatory decision. I. 12-Month Finding for the Pascagoula Map Turtle Under section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act, we are required to make a finding whether or not a petitioned action is warranted within 12 months after receiving any petition that we have determined contains substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted (‘‘12-month finding’’). We must make a finding that the petitioned action is: (1) Not warranted; (2) warranted; or (3) warranted but precluded. ‘‘Warranted but precluded’’ means that (a) the petitioned action is warranted, but the immediate proposal of a regulation implementing the petitioned action is precluded by other pending proposals to determine whether species are endangered or threatened species, and (b) expeditious progress is being made to add qualified species to the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants (Lists) and to remove from the Lists species for which the protections of the Act are no longer PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66627 necessary. Section 4(b)(3)(C) of the Act requires that, when we find that a petitioned action is warranted but precluded, we treat the petition as though resubmitted on the date of such finding, that is, requiring that a subsequent finding be made within 12 months of that date. We must publish these 12-month findings in the Federal Register. In conducting our evaluation of the five factors provided in section 4(a)(1) of the Act to determine whether the Pascagoula map turtle (Graptemys gibbonsi; Service 2021a, entire) currently meets the definition of ‘‘endangered species’’ or ‘‘threatened species,’’ we considered and thoroughly evaluated the best scientific and commercial data available regarding the past, present, and future stressors and threats. We reviewed the petition, information available in our files, and other available published and unpublished information. This evaluation may include information from recognized experts; Federal, State, and Tribal governments; academic institutions; private entities; and other members of the public. After comprehensive assessment of the best scientific and commercial data available, we determined that the Pascagoula map turtle does not meet the definition of an endangered or a threatened species. The SSA report for the Pascagoula map turtle contains more detailed biological information, a thorough description of the factors influencing the species’ viability, and the current and future conditions of the species. (Service 2021, entire). This supporting information can be found on the internet at https://www.regulations.gov under docket number FWS–R4–ES– 2021–0097. The following is a summary of our determination for the Pascagoula map turtle. Summary of Finding The Pascagoula map turtle is a freshwater turtle in the family Emydidae (that includes all map turtles) and the megacephalic (broad-headed) clade. Map turtles (genus Graptemys) are named for the intricate pattern on the carapace (top half of shell) that often resembles a topographical map. In addition to the intricate pattern, the shape of map turtle carapaces is very different from that of other turtle genera. The carapace is keeled, and most species show some type of knobby projections or spikes down the vertebral (located down the center of the carapace) scutes (thickened plates similar to scales on the turtle’s shell) (Service 2021a, p. 5). Specific to E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 66628 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules Pascagoula map turtle, the plastron (entire ventral surface of the shell) can reach lengths of up to 8.6 inches (in) (21.8 centimeters (cm)) in mature females and in mature males can range from 2.8 to 4.0 in (7.2 to 10.1 cm) (Lindeman 2013, p. 294). Typically, male map turtles mature in 2 to 3 years, while females mature at approximately 11 years of age (Service 2021a, pp. 18 and 26). The species is endemic to the Pascagoula River drainage in Mississippi including the Pascagoula, Leaf, and Chickasawhay Rivers and associated tributaries. Before 1992, all megacephalic map turtles from the Pascagoula River system in southeastern Mississippi, the Pearl River system in central Mississippi and eastern Louisiana, the EscambiaConecuh River system in western Florida and eastern Alabama, and the Mobile Bay system in Alabama, eastern Mississippi, northwestern Georgia, and southeastern Tennessee were recognized as the Alabama map turtle (Graptemys pulchra) (Baur 1893, pp. 675–676). The Pascagoula map turtle was taxonomically separated from the Alabama map turtle in 1992, when morphological features were analyzed for four operational taxonomic units, resulting in the name G. pulchra being restricted to the Mobile Bay drainages, individuals from the Escambia-Conecuh River system being elevated to a new species G. ernsti (Escambia map turtle), and individuals from the Pascagoula and Pearl River systems being elevated to the new species G. gibbonsi (Pascagoula map turtle; Lovich and McCoy 1992, pp. 296–306). A molecular systematics study supported the division of G. pulchra into three species, although G. gibbonsi was only represented in the analysis by genetic material collected from individuals in the Pearl River drainage (Lamb et al. 1994, pp. 554–559). The Pearl River map turtle (G. pearlensis) was taxonomically separated from the Pascagoula map turtle (G. gibbonsi) in 2010 based on morphological and genetic features (Ennen et al. 2010, pp. 109–110). This separation was subsequently supported with a molecular analysis of the phylogeny of the entire genus Graptemys (Thomson et al. 2018, p. 65). The Pascagoula map turtle is recognized as a separate species from the Pearl River map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Alabama map turtle, and the distinction as a valid species is supported in the literature and recognized by the herpetological community (Crother et al. 2017, p. 82). The Pascagoula map turtle inhabits stretches of perennial rivers and creeks with sand or gravel substrates, with VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 higher population densities near dense accumulations of deadwood (Lindeman 2013, p. 293). Emergent deadwood serves as thermoregulatory basking structure, foraging structure for males and juveniles (Selman and Lindeman 2015, pp. 794–795), and as an overnight resting place for males and juveniles (Cagle 1952, p. 227). Pascagoula map turtles prefer clean water (Lovich et al. 2009, p. 029.4). They have never been documented in oxbow lakes or other floodplain hydrological features, despite the fact that other microcephalic map turtle species can be found in oxbows (Lindeman 2013, p. 293). They have also never been documented in saltwater or within a mile of estuaries (McCoy and Vogt 1979, p. 15; Lovich et al. 2009, p. 029.4). Adult female Pascagoula map turtles feed mostly on freshwater mussel species, with nonnative Asian clams (Corbicula fluminea) as the major source of food; however, they may also consume insects and vegetation (Ennen et al. 2007, p. 200; Floyd and Floyd 2013, p. 5). Adult males forage on mussels, insects, and some vegetation (Vucenovic´ and Lindeman 2021, pp. 123–124). Juveniles, small females, and mature males rely on insects (Dundee and Rossman 1989, p.187; Lovich et al. 2009, p. 029.4; Vucˇenovic´ and Lindeman 2021, p. 123). Additionally, other aquatic invertebrates such as sponges and snails are also consumed by all sex and age classes (Selman and Lindeman 2015, pp. 794–795; Vucˇenovic´ and Lindeman 2021, p. 20). For the Pascagoula map turtle to survive and reproduce, individuals need suitable habitat that supports essential life functions at all life stages. Several elements appear to be essential to the survival and reproduction of individuals: Mainstem and tributary reaches within the Pascagoula River system that have sandbars, natural hydrologic regimes, adequate supply of invertebrate prey items including insects and mollusks, an abundance of emergent and floating basking structures of various sizes, and sand, gravel, or rocky substrates (Service 2021a, p. 22). Additional resource needs of the Pascagoula map turtle include appropriate terrestrial nesting habitat (patches of bare sand adjacent to adult habitat with sparse vegetation, typically on sandbars; adequate sand incubation temperatures to yield an appropriate hatchling sex ratio; and adequate river flow to prevent nest mortality due to flooding). To assess the species’ viability in terms of resiliency, redundancy, and representation, we delineated the range into resilience units as a proxy for PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 populations. As data are not available to delineate biological populations at this time, these units were intended to subdivide the species’ range to facilitate assessing and reporting the variation in current and future resilience across the range. To describe the species’ current and future conditions in the SSA, we delineated eight resilience units of Pascagoula River map turtles based on Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) 8 watersheds and in accordance with guidance from species experts. These units are: Black, Chunky-Okatibbee, Escatawpa, Lower Chickasawhay, Lower Leaf, Pascagoula, Upper Chickasawhay, and Upper Leaf. Historically, the majority of the range of the species was likely connected in a single interbreeding biological population, but we used the eight units in the SSA to most accurately describe trends in resiliency, forecast future resiliency, and capture differences in stressors among units. Additional descriptions of the methodology for delineating units and the current resiliency of each unit are available in the SSA report (Service 2021a, pp. 41–65). For units to be resilient, the needs of individuals (sandbars, adequate flow, adequate supply of invertebrate prey items, basking structures, and sand or gravel substrates) must be met at a larger scale. Tributary and mainstem reaches with suitable habitat uninterrupted by impoundments must be sizable enough to support a large enough population of individuals to avoid issues associated with small population sizes, such as inbreeding depression (Service 2021a, p. 22). The resiliency of the eight units was assessed for the current and future condition to inform the species’ viability (Service 2021a, pp. 41–105). The current condition of the eight units are described as one population with low resiliency (Escatawpa), five populations with moderate resiliency (Black, Chunky-Okatibbee, Lower Chickasawhay, Pascagoula, and Upper Chickasawhay), and two units with high resiliency (Lower Leaf and Upper Leaf) (Service 2021a, p. 66). For the species to maintain viability, there must be adequate redundancy (suitable number of populations and connectivity to allow the species to withstand catastrophic events) and representation (genetic and environmental diversity to allow the species to adapt to changing environmental conditions). Redundancy improves with increasing numbers of populations (natural or reintroduced) distributed across the species’ range, and connectivity (either natural or human-facilitated) allows connected populations to ‘‘rescue’’ each other after E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 catastrophes. The Pascagoula map turtle is found across the eight resilience units in varying densities within the mainstems and tributaries that would prevent extinction of the entire species from the impacts of a single catastrophic event. Representation improves with the persistence of populations spread across the range of genetic and/or ecological diversity within the species. Long-term viability will require resilient populations to persist into the future; for the Pascagoula map turtle, this will mean maintaining high-quality tributary and mainstem habitat and water quality to support many redundant populations across the species’ range, while preventing barriers to dispersal between populations such as dams or impoundments (Service 2021a, p. 22). The Pascagoula map turtle has distinct genetic characteristics in at least three of the rivers: Leaf, Chickasawhay, and Pascagoula (Pearson et al. 2020, entire). We described representation based on four representative units: Chickasawhay River representative unit (includes the Chunky-Okatibbee, Upper Chickasawhay, and Lower Chickasawhay resilience units), Leaf River representative unit (consists of the Upper and Lower Leaf resilience units), Pascagoula River representative unit (consists of the Black and Pascagoula resilience units), and the Escatawpa River representative unit (consists of the Escatawpa resilience unit only) (Service 2021a, pp. 67–70). All representative units are currently occupied, though the Escatawpa is occupied at a very low density. The Leaf River representative units substantially contribute to representation with high resiliency. The Pascagoula River and Chickasawhay River representative units both significantly contribute to representation with moderate resiliency (Service 2021a, pp. 72–73). Status Throughout All of Its Range We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the Pascagoula map turtle, and we evaluated all relevant factors under the five listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation measures addressing these stressors. The primary stressors (which are pervasive across the species’ range) affecting the Pascagoula map turtle’s biological status include habitat degradation or loss (i.e., channel and hydrological modifications and impoundments; removal or loss of deadwood; declines in water quality from agricultural runoff; development; and mining), collection, and effects of VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 climate change (SLR, drought, and flooding). Additional stressors acting on the species include disease and invasive species and the synergistic effects of a multitude of stressors that affect the species or its habitat over time. When considering the threats acting on the species, there are adequate numbers of sufficiently resilient units with redundancy and representation across the species’ range to withstand any imminent threats. The current conditions of the eight resilience units range from low to high with only a single unit, Escatawpa, with low resiliency, five units with moderate resiliency (Black, Chunky-Okatibbee, Lower Chickasawhay, Pascagoula, and Upper Chickasawhay), and two with high resiliency (Lower Leaf and Upper Leaf). The species is distributed throughout the Pascagoula River watershed and thus has sufficient redundancy such that a catastrophic event, like a major, direct-hit hurricane, would only affect the small portion of the range that is in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. The species is also not confined to the mainstem rivers, and there are many tributaries that serve as refugia for the species. This species’ habitat is surrounded by protected lands in many areas and the species is buffered from many threats such as development. Because the species currently retains moderate to high resiliency in seven out of eight of the units with sufficient redundancy and representation, the species is not currently in danger of extinction throughout all of its range. For the species to maintain viability, there must be adequate redundancy (suitable number of populations and connectivity to allow the species to withstand catastrophic events) and representation (genetic and environmental diversity to allow the species to adapt to changing environmental conditions). Our projections of Pascagoula map turtle viability into the foreseeable future (i.e., approximately 20 to 50 years (2040 and 2070)) consider habitat and population factors, plus available climate modeling projections to inform future conditions. The greatest future threats to the Pascagoula map turtle include the effects of climate change: Loss of suitable habitat through salinization due to SLR, overall habitat changes, and other effects of climate (more precipitation extremes, including drought and floods). However, future condition projections that extend out to 2040 and 2070 do not indicate the threats will act on the species within this timeframe in a manner that would place the species in danger of extinction PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66629 throughout its range. We can reasonably rely on the predictions within the timeframe presented in the future condition scenarios because these timeframes are based on input from species experts, generation time for the species, and the confidence in predicting patterns of urbanization and agriculture. This is sufficient time to account for the species’ response to threats over three to seven generations. Confidence in how these land uses will interact with the species and its habitat diminishes beyond 50 years. Habitat in the lower portions of the Escatawpa and Pascagoula units would likely experience SLR effects and a contraction of suitable habitat due to the effects of salinization. However, six of the eight populations would remain in high or moderate resiliency and moderate or better redundancy, and representation would still occur in all eight units into the foreseeable future. The two units with the greatest impacts from the above listed threats, the Escatawpa and the Pascagoula units, would also remain extant but likely with less habitat overall and some reduced resiliency. There will be sufficient redundancy with the units across the range and representation for adaptive capacity for the species to maintain viability into the future. Therefore, this species is not likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future. After assessing the best available information, we determine that the Pascagoula map turtle is not in danger of extinction now 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 Pascagoula map turtle 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 it is true that 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 E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 66630 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules 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 Pascagoula map turtle, we choose to address the status question first—we consider information pertaining to the geographic distribution of both the species and the threats that the species faces to identify any portions of the range where the species is endangered or threatened. For the Pascagoula map turtle, we considered whether the threats are geographically concentrated in any portion of the species’ range at a biologically meaningful scale, which may signal that it is more likely to be endangered or threatened in that portion. We examined the following threats: Habitat degradation or loss (i.e., channel and hydrological modifications and impoundments, removal or loss of deadwood, declines in water quality from agricultural runoff, development, and mining); collection; and the effects of climate change (SLR, drought, and flooding). We also considered whether cumulative effects contributed to a concentration of threats across the species’ range. Overall, we found that the effects of SLR are concentrated in the lower portion of the Pascagoula and Escatawpa resilience units and will affect the southern portions of these units in the future. We first consider the threat of SLR acting on the Pascagoula resiliency unit. The effects of SLR will encroach in the southern portion of the unit, which currently has a moderate resiliency. The unit is linearly aligned along a northsouth axis and connects to the Gulf of Mexico, which is the source of the saltwater inundation into the unit. The future conditions of the habitat within the unit are projected to improve because forest cover is expected to increase. The amount of available habitat will decline due to SLR; however, this situation will affect less than 15 percent of occupied habitat within the unit. This threat will create a gradual shift in conditions, allowing turtles within the area that will be affected to move north into other suitable areas not affected by saltwater intrusion from SLR. Because such a small percentage of occupied habitat in the unit will be affected by SLR, we find that SLR is not acting at a biologically meaningful scale in the Pascagoula resiliency unit such that the species may be in danger of extinction currently or within the foreseeable future in the Pascagoula unit. Therefore, this portion of the species’ range does not provide a VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 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. We next consider the threat of SLR acting on the Escatawpa resilience unit. This unit will be impacted by SLR in its southern portion as it also is connected to the Pascagoula River in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. In the Escatawpa, the area projected to be inundated has only a single record of Pascagoula map turtle occurrence. Another recent detection was approximately 25 river miles (rmi) (40 river kilometers (rkm)) upstream, so it is logical to assume there are other undetected turtles that may be impacted by inundation. Depending on the magnitude of SLR over the next 50 years, the Escatawpa unit will be inundated between 2.5 rmi (4.0 rkm) and 5.5 rmi (8.9 rkm) with 1-ft (0.3-m) and 5-ft (1.5-m) level increase, respectively (Service 2021a, p. 89). Between 5–17 percent of the species’ habitat within the Escatawpa resilience unit will be affected by SLR. Because such a small percentage of the unit and such a low density and abundance of turtles within it will be affected by SLR, we find that SLR is not acting at a biologically meaningful scale in the Escatawpa resiliency unit such that the species may be in danger of extinction currently or within the foreseeable future in the Escatawpa unit. Therefore, this portion of the species’ range does not 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. All other threats to the species are distributed throughout its range and affect the species uniformly throughout its range. After evaluating the areas that will be disproportionately affected by SLR in the future, our examination leads us to find that 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 that the Pascagoula map turtle 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). PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Determination of Pascagoula Map Turtle Status Our review of the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the Pascagoula map turtle 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 find that listing the Pascagoula map turtle is not warranted at this time. A detailed discussion of the basis for this finding can be found in the Pascagoula map turtle species assessment form (Service 2021, entire) and other supporting documents, such as the accompanying SSA report (Service 2021a, entire) (see https://www.regulations.gov under docket number FWS–R4–ES–2021– 0097). II. Proposed Listing Determination for Pearl River Map Turtle Background The Pearl River map turtle (Graptemys pearlensis) is a freshwater turtle species belonging to the Emydidae family that includes terrapins, pond turtles, and marsh turtles. Turtles in the genus Graptemys are also known as map turtles or sawback turtles for the intricate pattern on the carapace that often resembles a topographical map. The species is in the megacephalic (large-headed) clade as females grow proportionally larger heads and jaws than males as they age; the carapace length of adult females is over two times the length of adult males on average (Gibbons and Lovich 1990, pp. 2–3). The species inhabits rivers and large creeks with sand and gravel bottoms in the Pearl River drainage from central Mississippi to the border of southern Mississippi and Louisiana. For the Pearl River map turtle to survive and reproduce, individuals need suitable habitat that supports essential life functions at all life stages. Several elements appear to be essential to the survival and reproduction of individuals: Mainstem and tributary reaches within the Pearl River system that have sandbars, adequate flow, adequate supply of invertebrate prey items including insects and mollusks (particularly freshwater mussels), and an abundance of emergent and floating basking structures of various sizes. The diet of the Pearl River map turtle varies between females and males; mature females consume mostly Asian clams (Corbicula fluminea), while males and juveniles eat insects, with mature males specializing in caddisfly larvae and consuming more mollusks than juveniles (Vucenovic´ and Lindeman 2021, entire; Service 2021a, p. 11). E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules Pearl River map turtles are found in rivers and creeks with sand and gravel bottoms and dense accumulations of deadwood; turtles have not been documented in oxbow lakes or other floodplain habitats. They were notably absent from lakes where their sympatric microcephalic species, the ringed map turtle (Graptemys oculifera), is present, but do occur at the upstream reach of Ross Barnett Reservoir, an impoundment of the Pearl River (Lindeman 2013, p. 298). Accounts from before the Pearl River map turtle and Pascagoula map turtle were taxonomically divided described ideal habitat as rivers and creeks with sand or gravel bottoms, abundant basking structures, and swift currents (Lovich 2009, p. 304; Service 2006, p. 2). Although some species of Graptemys may tolerate conditions with some salinity, there is evidence that the genus is largely intolerant of brackish and saltwater environments (Selman and Qualls 2008, pp. 228–229; Lindeman 2013, pp. 396–397). The species requires semi-exposed structure for basking. Emergent deadwood serves as thermoregulatory basking structure, foraging structure for males and juveniles (Selman and Lindeman 2015, pp. 794–795), and as an overnight resting place for males and juveniles (Cagle 1952, p. 227). Moderate-to-high basking densities of Pearl River map turtles were always associated with moderate-to-high deadwood densities, but some sites with ample deadwood structure did not have high densities of basking map turtles, indicating that those sites may lack other important characteristics (Lindeman 1999, pp. 37–40). Deadwood and its source in riparian forests are positively correlated to the abundance of riverine turtles (Sterrett et al. 2011, entire). The life history of the Pearl River map turtle can be described as the stages of egg, hatchling, juvenile, and adult. Typically, male map turtles mature in 2 to 3 years, while females mature much later (Lindeman 2013, p. 109). Maturity for adult female Pearl River map turtles may occur around 9 years of age (Vogt et al. 2019, pp. 557–558). Female Pearl River map turtles excavate nests and lay their eggs on sandbars and beaches along riverbanks during the late spring and early summer months. Nesting habitat has been described as sandy substrates near the water’s edge. At a beach on the Pearl River downstream of the Strong River, a nest was found in fine sand 82 ft (25 m) from the water (Vogt et al. 2019, p. 557). Three confirmed Pearl River map turtle nests found on sandbars along the Pearl VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 River were dug in relatively fine sand ranging from 23 to 180 ft (7 to 55 m) from the water’s edge and averaging 5.2 ft (1.6 m) from the closest vegetation (Ennen et al. 2016, pp. 094.4–094.6). Another account states that nests are typically near the vegetation lines of sandbars (Anderson 1958, pp. 212–215). The time from deposition to nest emergence by hatchlings in natural clutches ranged from 67 to 79 days and averaged 69.3 days. Hatchlings incubated in captivity averaged 3.66 cm (1.44 in) in carapace length (Jones, unpublished data, summarized in Ennen et al. 2016, pp. 094.4094.6). Hatchlings typically emerge from the nest within 3 hours after sunset, and this life stage depends on adequate abundance of invertebrate prey and emergent branches near the riverbank. All life stages require adequate quality and quantity of water as they are primarily freshwater aquatic turtles. A more thorough review of the taxonomy, life history, and ecology of the Pearl River map turtle is presented in detail in the SSA report (Service 2021b, pp. 15–30). Summary of Biological Status and Threats In this discussion, we review the biological condition of the Pearl River map turtle, its resources, and the threats that influence the species’ current and future conditions in order to assess its overall viability and the risks to that viability. Species Needs We assessed the best available information to identify the physical and biological needs to support individual fitness at all life stages for the Pearl River map turtle. Full descriptions of all needs are available in chapter 3 of the SSA report (Service 2021b, pp. 19–21), which can be found in docket number FWS–R4–ES–2021–0097 on https:// www.regulations.gov. Based upon the best available scientific and commercial information, and acknowledging existing ecological uncertainties, the resource and demographic needs for breeding, feeding, sheltering, and dispersal of the Pearl River map turtle are characterized as: • For successful reproduction, the species requires patches of fine sand adjacent to adult habitat with sparse vegetation, typically on sandbars, adequate sand incubation temperatures to yield an appropriate hatchling sex ratio, and appropriate river flow to prevent nest mortality due to flooding. • Hatchlings require an adequate abundance of invertebrate prey and of PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66631 emergent branches and tangles near the riverbank. • Adult males require an adequate abundance of insect prey, emergent logs, branches, and tangles near the bank. • Adult females require an adequate abundance of native mussels or Asian clams; deeper, sand or gravel-bottomed stretches for foraging; and emergent logs and branches for basking. • Population needs include the same requirements as individuals (sandbars; natural hydrologic regimes; and an adequate supply of invertebrate prey items, basking structures, and sand, gravel, or rocky substrates) but must be met at a larger scale. Connectivity that facilitates genetic exchange and maintains high genetic diversity is needed; tributary and mainstem reaches with suitable habitat uninterrupted by impoundments must be sufficient in size to support a large enough population of individuals to avoid issues associated with small populations, such as inbreeding depression. Threats Analysis The following discussions include evaluations of three threats and associated sources that are affecting the Pearl River map turtle and its habitat: (1) Habitat degradation or loss, (2) collection, and (3) climate change (Service 2021b, Chapter 4). In addition, potential impacts from disease and invasive species were evaluated but were found to have minimal effects on viability of the species based on current knowledge (Service 2021b, pp. 43–45). Habitat Degradation or Loss Water Quality Degradation of stream and wetland systems through reduced water quality and increased concentrations of contaminants can affect the occurrence and abundance of freshwater turtles (DeCatanzaro and Chow-Fraser 2010, p. 360). Infrastructure development increases the percentage of impervious surfaces, reducing and degrading terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Increased water volume and land-based contaminants (e.g., heavy metals, pesticides, oils) flow into aquatic systems, modifying hydrologic and sediment regimes of rivers and wetlands (Walsh et al. 2005, entire). Aquatic toxicants can have both immediate and long-term negative impacts on species and ecosystems by degrading the water quality and causing direct and indirect effects to the species or its required resources (Service 2021b, p. 25). Despite these effects, species vary widely in their tolerances and abilities to adapt to E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 66632 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules water quality degradation, including variation in stress and immune responses (French et al. 2008, pp. 5–6), population structure (Patrick and Gibbs 2010, pp. 795–797), survival and recruitment (Eskew and Dorcas 2010, pp. 368–371), and ultimately distribution and abundance (Riley et al. 2005, pp. 6–8). Freshwater mussels and snails are important food sources for the Pearl River map turtle, and sedimentation and pollution can have adverse impacts on mollusk populations (Box and Mossa 1999, entire). While past studies have focused on the closely related Pascagoula map turtle’s prey, we expect impacts to be similar for the Pearl River map turtle. Inputs of point (point source discharge from particular pipes, discharges, etc.) and nonpoint (diffuse land surface runoff) source pollution across the range are numerous and widespread. Point source pollution can be generated from inadequately treated effluent from industrial plants, sanitary landfills, sewage treatment plants, active surface mining, drain fields from individual private homes, and others (Service 2000, pp. 14–15). Nonpoint source pollution may originate from agricultural activities, poultry and cattle feedlots, abandoned mine runoff, construction, silviculture, failing septic tanks, and contaminated runoff from urban areas (Deutsch et al. 1990, entire; Service 2000, pp. 14–15). These sources may contribute pollution to streams via sediments, heavy metals, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, animal wastes, septic tank and gray water leakage, and oils and greases. Glyphosate (found in Roundup and other herbicides), which is widely used as an herbicide, has been found in many waterways across the United States from agricultural runoff and exposure has been associated with endocrine and reproductive disorders in animals (Jerrell et al. 2020, entire; Medalie et al 2020, entire; Mesnage et al. 2015, entire). Water quality and many native aquatic fauna often decline as a result of this pollution, which causes nitrification, decreases in dissolved oxygen concentration, and increases in acidity and conductivity. These alterations likely have direct (e.g., decreased survival and/or reproduction) and indirect (e.g., loss, degradation, and fragmentation of habitat) effects. For aquatic species, submergent vegetation provides critical spawning habitat for adults, refugia from predators, and habitat for prey of all life stages (Jude and Pappas 1992, pp. 666–667), and degraded water quality and high algal biomass that result from pollutant inputs, cause loss of these critical VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 submergent plant species (Chow-Fraser et al. 1998, pp. 38–39). A wide range of current activities and land uses within the range of the Pearl River map turtle can lead to sedimentation within streams: Agricultural practices, construction activities, stormwater runoff, unpaved roads, incompatible timber harvest, utility crossings, and mining. Fine sediments are not only input into streams during these activities, but historical land use practices may also have substantially altered hydrological and geological processes such that sediments continue to be input into streams for several decades after those activities cease (Harding et al. 1998, p. 14846). The negative effects of increased sedimentation are well understood for aquatic species (Burkhead et al. 1997, p. 411; Burkhead and Jelks 2001, p. 964). Sedimentation can alter food webs and stream productivity (Schofield et al. 2004, p. 907), force altered behaviors (Sweka and Hartman 2003, p. 346), and even have sublethal effects on and result in mortality of individual aquatic organisms (Sutherland 2005, p. 94; Wenger and Freeman 2007, p. 7). Degradation of water quality from municipal and industrial effluents is recognized as a cause of decline in the ringed map turtle (Graptemys oculifera), a sympatric endangered species (Lindeman 1998, p. 137). Lower numbers of ringed map turtles have been recorded near gravel and sand mining operations (Shively 1999, p. 10). Native mussel and gastropod populations have likely already decreased due to sedimentation and other anthropogenic alterations (Jones at al. 2005, entire). Pearl River map turtles’ mollusk prey species may be affected by municipal (e.g., sewage) and industrial (e.g., paper mills and chicken farms) effluents that are discharged into the Pearl River (EPA 2018, entire). Because of the similar life-history traits of the ringed map turtle and the Pearl River map turtle, it is reasonable to expect that water quality also impacts the Pearl River map turtle populations (Selman 2020a, p. 2). Additionally, water quality for the Pearl River map turtle is impacted by four processes that are further discussed below: Channel and hydrology modifications and impoundments, agriculture, development (urbanization), and mining. Water quality is affected across the range of the species; however, the source and effects are greater in certain units. PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Channel and Hydrology Modifications and Impoundments Dredging and channelization have led to loss of aquatic habitat in the Southeast (Warren Jr. et al. 1997, unpaginated). Dredging and channelization projects are extensive throughout the region for flood control, navigation, sand and gravel mining, and conversion of wetlands into croplands (Neves et al. 1997, unpaginated; Herrig and Shute 2002, pp. 542–543). Many rivers are continually dredged to maintain a channel for shipping traffic. Dredging and channelization modify and destroy habitat for aquatic species by destabilizing the substrate, increasing erosion and siltation, removing woody debris, decreasing habitat heterogeneity, and stirring up contaminants, which settle onto the substrate (Williams et al. 1993, pp. 7–8; Buckner et al. 2002, entire; Bennett et al. 2008, pp. 467–468). Channelization can also lead to headcutting, which causes further erosion and sedimentation (Hartfield 1993, pp. 131–141). Dredging removes woody debris, which provides cover and nest locations for many aquatic species (Bennett et al. 2008, pp. 467– 468). Anthropogenic deadwood removal has been noted as a reason for decline in a microcephalic species, the ringed map turtle (Lindeman 1998, p. 137). Snags and logs are removed from some sites to facilitate boat navigation (Dundee and Rossman 1989, p. 187). Experiments with manual deposition of deadwood in stretches with less riparian forest have been suggested as potential habitat restoration measures (Lindeman 2019, p. 33). Stream channelization, point-bar mining, and impoundments were identified as potential threats in a report issued prior to the Pascagoula map turtle and Pearl River map turtle being recognized as taxonomically distinct (Service 2006, p. 2). Channel modification is recognized as a cause of decline in the ringed map turtle, a sympatric endangered species (Lindeman 1998, p. 137). Considerably low densities of Pearl River map turtles were observed in the lower reaches of the Pearl, where much channelization and flow diversion has occurred (Lindeman 2019, pp. 23–29). Impoundment of rivers is a primary threat to aquatic species in the Southeast (Benz and Collins 1997, unpaginated; Buckner et al. 2002, entire). Dams modify habitat conditions and aquatic communities both upstream and downstream of an impoundment (Winston et al. 1991, pp. 103–104; Mulholland and Lenat 1992, pp. 193– 231; Soballe et al. 1992, pp. 421–474). E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules Upstream of dams, habitat is flooded, and in-channel conditions change from flowing to still water, with increased depth, decreased levels of dissolved oxygen, and increased sedimentation. Sedimentation alters substrate conditions by filling in interstitial spaces between rocks that provide habitat for many species (Neves et al. 1997, unpaginated). Downstream of dams, flow regime fluctuates with resulting fluctuations in water temperature and dissolved oxygen levels, the substrate is scoured, and downstream tributaries are eroded (Schuster 1997, unpaginated; Buckner et al. 2002, unpaginated). Negative ‘‘tailwater’’ effects on habitat can extend many kilometers downstream (Neves et al. 1997, unpaginated). Dams fragment habitat for aquatic species by blocking corridors for migration and dispersal, resulting in population geographic and genetic isolation and heightened susceptibility to extinction (Neves et al. 1997, unpaginated). Dams also preclude the ability of aquatic organisms to escape from polluted waters and accidental spills (Buckner et al. 2002, unpaginated). Damming of streams and springs is extensive throughout the Southeast (Etnier 1997, unpaginated; Morse et al. 1997, unpaginated; Shute et al. 1997, unpaginated). Most Southeastern streams are impacted by impoundment (Shute et al. 1997, p. 458). Many streams have both small ponds in their headwaters and large reservoirs in their lower reaches. Small streams on private lands are regularly dammed to create ponds for cattle, irrigation, recreation, and fishing, with significant ecological effects due to the sheer abundance of these structures (Morse et al. 1997, unpaginated). Small headwater streams are increasingly being dammed in the Southeast to supply water for municipalities (Buckner et al. 2002, unpaginated), and many Southeastern springs have also been impounded (Etnier 1997, unpaginated). Dams are known to have caused the extirpation and extinction of many Southeastern species, and existing and proposed dams pose an ongoing threat to many aquatic species (Folkerts 1997, unpaginated; Neves et al. 1997, unpaginated; Service 2000, p. 15; Buckner et al. 2002, unpaginated). On the Pearl River, Ross Barnett Reservoir was constructed between 1960 and 1963 and provides a water supply for the City of Jackson, Mississippi, and the associated area, as well as recreational opportunities on the 33,000-acre (ac) (13,355 hectares (ha)) lake and the 17,000 ac (6,880 ha) surrounding it (Pearl River Valley Water VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 Management District 2020, entire). A total of 20.9 rmi (33.6 rkm) of the Pearl River that was previously suitable habitat is now submerged beneath the Ross Barnett Reservoir (Lindeman 2019, p. 19). The Ross Barnett Reservoir has greatly reduced habitat suitability of five percent of the mainstem Pearl River by altering the lotic (flowing water) habitat preferred by Pearl River map turtles to lentic (lake) habitat and fragmented the contiguous habitat for the species. Low population densities of Pearl River map turtles have been observed upstream of the Ross Barnett Reservoir, possibly due to recreational boating and extended recreational foot traffic or camping on sandbars by reservoir visitors (Selman and Jones 2017, pp. 32–34). Between the late 1980s and early 2010s, notable population declines also have been observed in the stretch of the Pearl River downstream of the Ross Barnett Reservoir (north of Lakeland Drive), but the exact reason for the decline is unknown (Selman 2020b, p. 194). Additionally, plans for new reservoirs on the Pearl River both upstream and downstream of Jackson have been or are being considered (Lindeman 2013, pp. 202–203). Up to 170 individual Pearl River map turtles could be impacted by the construction of the One Lake Project, one of several proposed impoundments (Selman 2020b, entire). Agriculture Agriculture is generally high across the Pearl River basin, where levels of agriculture within the units ranged from 12–23 percent, with the Bogue Chitto Unit having the highest levels of agriculture (Service 2021b, pp. 53–56). Some of the major crops in the area include soybeans and cotton, and much of the livestock farming includes chickens and cattle. Agricultural practices such as traditional farming, feedlot operations, and associated land use practices can contribute pollutants to rivers and may affect the Pearl River map turtle’s aquatic habitat. These practices degrade habitat by eroding stream banks, which results in alterations to stream hydrology and geomorphology. Nutrients, bacteria, pesticides, and other organic compounds are generally found in higher concentrations in areas affected by agriculture than in forested areas. Contaminants associated with agriculture (e.g., fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and animal waste) can cause degradation of water quality and habitats through instream oxygen deficiencies, excess nutrification, and excessive algal growths. These, in turn, alter the aquatic community composition, shifting food webs and PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66633 stream productivity, forcing altered behaviors, and even having sublethal effects or outright killing individual aquatic organisms (Petersen et al. 1999, p. 6). These alterations likely have direct (e.g., decreased survival and/or reproduction) and indirect (e.g., loss, degradation, and fragmentation of habitat) effects on the Pearl River map turtle or its habitat. Agricultural development may also reduce the amount of adjacent riparian forest available to produce deadwood through land conversion; in another megacephalic map turtle species (Barbour’s map turtle), turtle abundance decreased in areas where adjacent riparian corridors had been disturbed by agriculture, while the abundance of the red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta), a cosmopolitan species, increased (Sterrett et al. 2011, entire). Pesticide application and use of animal waste for soil amendment are becoming common in many regions and pose a threat to biotic diversity in freshwater systems. Over the past two decades, these practices have corresponded with marked declines in populations of fish and mussel species in the Upper Conasauga River watershed in Georgia/Tennessee (Freeman et al. 2017, p. 419). Nutrient enrichment of streams was widespread with nitrate and phosphorus exceeding levels associated with eutrophication, and hormone concentrations in sediments were often above those shown to cause endocrine disruption in fish, possibly reflecting widespread application of poultry litter and manure (Lasier et al. 2016, entire). Researchers postulate that species declines observed in the Conasauga watershed may be at least partially due to hormones, as well as excess nutrients and herbicide surfactants (Freeman et al. 2017, p. 429). Development The Pearl River map turtle range includes areas of the Pearl River that are adjacent to several urban areas, including the Jackson, Mississippi, metropolitan area where urbanization is expected to increase; other areas within the Pearl River basin that are expected to grow in the future include the cities of Monticello and Columbia, Mississippi. Urbanization is a significant source of water quality degradation that can reduce the survival of aquatic organisms. Urban development can stress aquatic systems in a variety of ways, which could affect the diet and habitat needs of aquatic turtles. This includes increasing the frequency and magnitude of high flows in streams, increasing sedimentation and nutrient loads, increasing E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 66634 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 contamination and toxicity, decreasing the diversity of fish, aquatic insects, plants, and amphibians, and changing stream morphology and water chemistry (Coles et al. 2012, entire; CWP 2003, entire). Activities related to development can also reduce the amount of adjacent riparian forest available to produce deadwood; in another megacephalic map turtle species (Barbour’s map turtle), abundance decreased in areas where adjacent riparian corridors had been disturbed (Service 2021b, p. 10). In addition, sources and risks of an acute or catastrophic contamination event, such as a leak from an underground storage tank or a hazardous materials spill on a highway or by train, increase as urbanization increases. Mining The rapid rise in urbanization and construction of large-scale infrastructure projects are driving increasing demands for construction materials such as sand and gravel. Rivers are a major source of sand and gravel because transport costs are low; river energy produces the gravel and sand, thus eliminating the cost of mining, grinding, and sorting rocks; and the material produced by rivers tends to consist of resilient minerals of angular shape that are preferred for construction (Koehnken et al. 2020, p. 363). Impacts of sand and gravel mining can be direct or indirect. Direct impacts include physical changes to the river system and the removal of gravel and floodplain habitats from the system. Indirect impacts include shifting of habitat types due to channel and sedimentation changes; changes in water quality, which changes the chemical and physical conditions of the system; and hydraulic changes that can impact movement of species and habitat availability, which is vital for supporting turtle nesting and basking activities. Gravel mining is a major industry in southeastern Louisiana, particularly along the Bogue Chitto River, within the range of the Pearl River map turtle (Selman 2020a, p. 20). In-stream and unpermitted point-bar mining was observed in the late 1990s and was the biggest concern for Graptemys species in the Bogue Chitto River (Shively 1999, pp. 10–11). Gravel mining is perhaps still the greatest threat to the Pearl River system in southeastern Louisiana, particularly in the Bogue Chitto floodplain where run-off and effluents would affect the downstream of these point sources (Selman 2020a, p. 20). Gravel mining can degrade water quality, increase erosion, and ultimately impact movement and habitat quality VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 for aquatic species such as the Pearl River map turtle (Koehnken et al. 2020, p. 363). A recent comparison of aerial imagery from the mid-1980s and late 1990s with images from 2019 reveal increases in distribution and magnitude of gravel mines in the Bogue Chitto River system, and recent surveys have reported several areas where mining appears to have degraded water quality significantly (Selman 2020a, pp. 20–21, and p. 40). Mining in the floodplain continues to be a threat to the species; however, permit requirements in Louisiana and Mississippi have reduced the threat of instream gravel mining. Collection Due to the intricacy of the shell morphology, map turtles are popular in the pet trade (Service 2006, p. 2), both domestically and internationally. An analysis of online marketplace offerings in Hong Kong revealed that interest in turtles as pets is increasing, that many of the species offered for sale are from North America, and that there is a higher interest in rare species (Sung and Fong 2018, p. 221). The common map turtle (Graptemys geographica) is one of three most-traded species in the international wildlife trade market, with individuals being sold both as pets and incorporated into Chinese aquaculture for consumption (Luiselli et al. 2016, p. 170). Exploitation of Pearl River map turtles for the pet trade domestically and in Asian markets has been documented, but the degree of impact is unclear, as it is unknown whether captive individuals were Pascagoula map turtles or Pearl River map turtles (Lindeman 1998, p. 137; Cheung and Dudgeon 2006, p. 756; Service 2006, p. 2; Selman and Qualls 2007, pp. 32–34; Ennen et al. 2016, p. 094.6). According to a species expert, collection of wild turtles in the Pearl River system is probably occurring, and similar to what has been observed in other States, these turtles are likely destined for the high-end turtle pet trade in China and possibly other Southeast Asian countries (Selman 2020a, p. 23). Information has been documented from three different local individuals, at three different locations, concerning turtle bycatch or harvesting in local Louisiana waterways occupied by Pearl River map turtles (Selman 2020a, pp. 22–23). These locations included the Pearl River south of Bogalusa, Louisiana (possible mortality resulting from bycatch in hoop nets), the West Pearl River Navigation Canal (turtles captured and sold, possibly for shipment to China), and the Bogue Chitto River (local comment that baby turtles were being captured and shipped PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 to China) (Selman 2020a, pp. 22–23). The specific species captured were not documented; however, it is likely that at least some of these turtles were Pearl River map turtles. The Service manages information related to species exports in the Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS). According to a LEMIS report from 2005 to 2019, more than 300,000 turtles identified as Graptemys spp. or their parts were exported from the United States to 29 countries (Service 2021b, Appendix B). The number of turtles recorded in each shipment ranged widely. Due to their similarity in appearance, species of Graptemys are difficult to differentiate. Records from 2005, when the highest number of Graptemys were exported, show more than 35,000 turtles (Graptemys spp.) in a single shipment to Spain and a total of 172,645 individual Graptemys exported to 24 different countries. However, there is some uncertainty in the sources of the exported turtles as they could have originated from captive stock. Collection is allowed in Mississippi with an appropriate license through the State; a person may possess and harvest from the wild no more than 10 nongame turtles per license year. No more than four can be of the same species or subspecies. It is illegal to harvest turtles between April 1 to June 30 (40 MISS Admin Code Part 5 Rule 2.3 on Nongame Species in Need of Management). Climate Change In the Southeastern United States, climate change is expected to result in a high degree of variability in climate conditions with more frequent drought, more extreme heat (resulting in increases in air and water temperatures), increased heavy precipitation events (e.g., flooding), more intense storms (e.g., increased frequency of major hurricanes), and rising sea level and accompanying storm surge (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2013, entire). Warming in the Southeast is expected to be greatest in the summer, which is predicted to increase drought frequency, while annual mean precipitation is expected to increase slightly, leading to increased flooding events (IPCC 2013, entire; Alder and Hostetler 2013, unpaginated). This variability in climate may affect ecosystem processes and communities by altering the abiotic conditions experienced by biotic assemblages resulting in potential effects on community composition and individual species interactions (DeWan et al. 2010, p. 7). These changes have the potential to impact Pearl River map turtles and/ E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules or their habitat, are ongoing, and will likely become more evident in the future. The dual stressors of climate change and direct human impact have the potential to impact aquatic ecosystems by altering stream flows and nutrient cycles, eliminating habitats, and changing community structure (Moore et al. 1997, p. 942). Increased water temperatures and alterations in stream flow are the climate change effects that are most likely to affect stream communities (Poff 1992, entire), and each of these variables is strongly influenced by land use patterns. For example, in agricultural areas, lower precipitation may trigger increased irrigation resulting in reduced stream flow (Backlund et al. 2008, pp. 42–43). Alternatively, increased urbanization may lead to more impervious surfaces, increasing runoff and flashiness of stream flows (Nelson et al. 2009, pp. 156–159). lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Increasing Temperatures Another area where climate change may affect the viability of the Pearl River map turtle is through temperaturedependent sex determination (TDSD) during embryo development within buried nests. In turtle species that exhibit TDSD, increasing seasonal temperatures may result in unnatural sex ratios among hatchlings. This could be an important factor as climate change drives increasing temperatures. Since male map turtles with TDSD develop at lower temperatures than females, rising temperatures during developmental periods may result in sex ratios that are increasingly female-biased. Drought Climate change may increase the frequency of drought events, such as the one that occurred in the Southeastern United States in 2007. Based on downscaled climate models for the Southeastern United States, the frequency, duration, and intensity of droughts are likely to increase in this region in the future (Keellings and Engstrom 2019, pp. 4–6). Stream flow is strongly correlated with important physical and chemical parameters that limit the distribution and abundance of riverine species (Power et al. 1995, entire; Resh et al. 1988, pp. 438–439). The Pearl River map turtle is aquatic and requires adequate flow for all life stages. Sea Level Rise As a result of climate change, the world’s oceanic surface-waters and land are warming. The density of water decreases as temperature increases VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 causing it to expand. This process of ‘‘thermal expansion,’’ exacerbated by an influx of melt water from glaciers and polar ice fields, is causing sea levels to rise. During the 20th century, global sea level rose by 0.56 feet (ft) (0.17 meters (m)) at an average annual rate of 0.079 in (2.01 millimeter (mm) per year, which was 10 times faster than the average during the previous 3,000 years (IPCC 2007, pp. 30–31). The rate of SLR continues to accelerate and is currently believed to be about 0.12 in (3 mm) per year (Church and White 2006, pp. 2–4). It is estimated that sea level will rise by a further 0.59 ft (0.18 m) to 1.94 ft (0.59 m) by the century’s end (IPCC 2007, p. 46). However, some research suggests the magnitude may be far greater than previously predicted due to recent rapid ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica (Rignot and Kanagaratnam 2006, pp. 989–990). Accounting for this accelerated melting, sea level could rise by between 1.64 ft (0.5 m) and 4.6 ft (1.4 m) by 2100 (Rahmstorf et al. 2007, p. 709). SLR is likely to impact downstream Pearl River map turtle populations directly by reducing the quality and quantity of available habitat through increased salinity of the freshwater system upstream from the Gulf of Mexico (Service 2021b, p. 86). Local scenarios based on downscaled climate models predict between 2–10 ft (0.6–3.0 m) of SLR in the northern Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Pearl River and could inundate up to 23.73 rmi (38.18 rkm) of the Pearl River under an extreme scenario (NOAA 2020, unpaginated). SLR may also affect the salt marsh wetlands at the mouth of the Pearl River deteriorating the protective effect of the marsh in reducing saltwater intrusion. Barrier islands off the coast may also be submerged, resulting in loss of the protections from the small land masses that buffer the effects of hurricanes and storms. Although some species of Graptemys appear to handle some salinity increases, there is evidence that the group is largely intolerant of brackish and saltwater environments (Selman and Qualls 2008, pp. 228–229; Selman et al. 2013, p. 1201; Lindeman 2013, pp. 396–397). Hurricane Regime Changes—Increased Intensity and Frequency Since 1996, the frequency of hurricane landfalls in the Southeastern United States has increased, and that trend is predicted to continue for some years into the future (Goldenberg et al. 2001, p. 475; Emanuel 2005, entire; Webster et al. 2005, p. 1845). Individual storm characteristics play a large role in the types and temporal extent of PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66635 impacts (Greening et al. 2006, p. 878). For example, direction and speed of approach, point of landfall, and intensity all influence the magnitude of storm surge and resultant flooding (Weisberg and Zheng 2006, p. 164) and consequent environmental damage. The storm surge from storms of increased intensity, when compounded with SLR, will force salt water higher upstream with storm surges. Conditions that result from storm surge that correspond with high tides are amplified and change the salinity of waters ever farther upstream, negatively affecting freshwater species, such as map turtles, that are not tolerant of saline environments. Increased Precipitation—Flooding While river flooding under natural hydrologic conditions may be important for sandbar construction and deposition of nesting sand on riverine beaches (Dieter et al. 2014, pp. 112–117), an increase in hurricane frequency and stochastic catastrophic floods could cause an increase in nest mortality. Nest mortality from flooding has not been studied in the Pearl River map turtle but has been documented in several other riverine turtle species. A study on the sympatric yellow-blotched map turtle (Graptemys flavimaculata) revealed that nest mortality from flooding can be as high as 86.3 percent in some years (Horne et al. 2003, p. 732). In a study on nests of the Ouachita map turtle (Graptemys ouachitensis), two 10-day floods (in 2008 and 2010) were believed to have caused the complete mortality of all nests existing before the floods, as hatchlings were found dead inside eggs after the flood. However, a shorter flooding event in 2011 (approximately 4 days of inundation) caused no known nest mortalities (Geller 2012, pp. 210– 211). A study on freshwater turtles in South America indicated that as flooding incidents have increased since the 1970s, the number of days that nesting sandbars remain above the inundation threshold has been steadily and significantly decreasing, causing steep declines in the number of hatchlings produced per year (Eisemberg et al. 2016, p. 6). The effects of climate change will continue affecting the species into the future with chronic and acute exposure to the changes that will occur in its aquatic and terrestrial habitats over time. Additional Stressors Additional stressors that affect the Pearl River map turtle that are not well studied or considered major threats to the species’ viability include disease, E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 66636 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules contaminants, and persecution by humans. Some of the contaminants include pesticides (herbicides and insecticides) and heavy metals. The culmination of stress due to disease and chronic exposure to contaminants may exacerbate the effects of the other threats on individuals. Wanton shooting of turtles has been documented for Graptemys species and may impact populations (Lindeman 1998, p. 137; Service 2006, p. 2). However, this practice often goes unreported and is thus difficult to study and/or quantify. lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Cumulative/Synergistic Effects The Pearl River map turtle uses both aquatic and terrestrial habitats that may be affected by activities along the Pearl River basin. Ongoing and future stressors that may contribute to cumulative effects include habitat fragmentation, genetic isolation, invasive species, disease, climate change, and impacts from increased human interactions due to human population increases. When considering the compounding and synergistic effects acting on the species, the resiliency of the analysis units will be further reduced in the future. However, these effects would not change the overall VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 current and future conditions of the species. We note that, by using the SSA framework to guide our analysis of the scientific information documented in the SSA report, we have not only analyzed individual effects on the species, but we have also analyzed their potential cumulative effects. We incorporate the cumulative effects into our SSA analysis when we characterize the current and future condition of the species. To assess the current and future conditions of the species, we undertake an iterative analysis that encompasses and incorporates the threats individually and then accumulates and evaluates the effects of all the factors that may be influencing the species, including threats and conservation efforts. Because the SSA framework considers not just the presence of the factors, but to what degree they collectively influence risk to the entire species, our assessment integrates the cumulative effects of the factors and replaces a standalone cumulative effects analysis. Current Condition The current condition of the Pearl River map turtle is described in terms of PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 population resiliency, redundancy, and representation across the species. The analysis of these conservation principles to understand the species’ current viability is described in more detail in the Pearl River map turtle SSA report (Service 2021b, pp. 52–75). Resiliency In order to analyze the species’ resiliency, we delineated the species into resiliency units that represent groups of interbreeding individuals. Historically, the majority of the range of the species was likely a single, connected biological population prior to the fragmentation from the Ross Barrett Reservoir; however, we delineated five different resilience units to more accurately describe trends in resiliency, forecast future resiliency, and capture differences in stressors between the units. We considered population and habitat factors to describe the overall resiliency of each unit. The resilience units are: Upper Pearl, Middle Pearl— Silver, Middle Pearl—Strong, Bogue Chitto, and Lower Pearl (figure 1). BILLING CODE 4333–15–P E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 66637 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules Pearl River Map Turtle (Graptemys pearlensis) Distribution AR AL MS LA Legend D State Boundaries Resilience Units Upper Pearl Middle Pearl-Strong Middle Pearl-Silver Lower Pearl Bogue Chitto o 14,5 29 Miles I BILLING CODE 4333–15–C The factors used to assess current resiliency of Pearl River map turtle resilience units include two population factors: (1) Occupied tributaries as a proxy for presence and (2) density and abundance of four habitat factors: (a) VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 t t I I 1 inch :::: 28 miles 1 centimeter :::: 18 kilometers --------------------- Water quality, (b) forested riparian cover, (c) protected land, and (d) presence of channelization/reservoirs/ gravel mining. These population and habitat factors are collectively described as resiliency factors. PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Forty-nine percent of the total range occupied by the Pearl River map turtle is in the mainstem Pearl and West Pearl Rivers, with the remaining 51 percent of the occupied range found in various tributary systems (Lindeman 2019, p. E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 EP23NO21.000</GPH> lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 1 2 3 4 5 66638 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules 19). Tributary populations have been shown to be less densely populated compared to mainstem populations, although some tributaries (e.g., Bogue Chitto River) contain relatively large populations of Pearl River map turtles, including some that have only recently been discovered. To assess the occupancy of tributaries, we used survey data collected from 2005–2020. These data were collected by several different observers through a variety of survey types, including bridge surveys, basking surveys, and live trapping. We used 2005 as the cutoff based on the species’ biology and expert input. Females typically reach sexual maturity after 8 years, so 15 years approximates two generations. Species experts also noted that most surveys conducted for the species have occurred after 2005. When assessing the occupancy of tributaries within the range, we considered all surveyed tributaries including those where Pearl River map turtles were not detected. We established thresholds to describe the occupancy of the surveyed tributaries within each resilience unit by applying the following rule set: • Very Low: No currently occupied tributaries; • Low: Between 1–25 percent of surveyed tributaries are currently occupied; • Moderate: Between 25–50 percent of surveyed tributaries are currently occupied; • High: 50 Percent or more of surveyed tributaries are currently occupied. Using this threshold rule set, we found that one unit was determined to be ranked very low (Middle Pearl— Silver); three ranked moderate (Upper Pearl, Bogue Chitto, and Lower Pearl); and one ranked high (Middle Pearl— Strong). The Middle Pearl—Silver unit has four surveyed tributaries, with zero detections in any of those tributaries, leading to the very low rank. In the Lower Pearl, although only 43 percent of surveyed tributaries were found to be occupied, this unit had by far, the most occupied tributaries (7), thus the moderate rank is likely more a function of survey effort. Half of the tributaries surveyed within the Middle Pearl— Strong unit were found to be occupied, giving it a high rank. Data from point counts, basking density surveys, and results from trapping efforts in 2006–2018 were combined to estimate density and abundance for stream segments throughout the range of the Pearl River map turtle (Lindeman 2019, pp. 11–12). The entire species’ population estimate is 21,841 individuals, with 61 percent occurring on mainstem reaches, 34 percent occurring in 4 large tributaries, and the remaining 5 percent spread amongst other smaller tributaries (Lindeman 2019, p. 21). Generally, abundance of the species declined with the size of the river reach surveyed, where smaller tributaries generally had lower numbers of turtles compared to larger, mainstem reaches (Lindeman 2019, p. 13). For example, basking density was found to be 2.2 times higher on mainstem reaches than on tributary reaches, and 2.1 times higher on large tributaries than on small tributaries (Lindeman 2019, p. 15). When applying the population factors of density and abundance to determine resiliency, each river drainage was divided into river reaches that were categorized as high, moderate, low, and very low density based on basking density surveys and point count results. All mainstem reaches of the Pearl River were classified as moderate with the exception of the Lower Pearl, which was low. The tributaries and sections of the mainstems of each resilience unit were classified resulting in all moderate to low scores, with only the Pearl River mainstem within the Upper Pearl resiliency unit scoring moderate/high for its density classification. To determine a composite (combined) score for population factors within individual units, we combined the results of the assessment of the occupancy of tributaries and density classes of mainstream reaches and large tributaries. The resulting population factor composite scoring for each resiliency unit describes three units (Bogue Chitto, Middle Pearl—Strong, and Upper Pearl) as moderate and two units (Lower Pearl and Middle Pearl— Strong) as low (table 1). Additional information regarding the methodology is described in detail in the SSA report (Service, 2021b, pp. 47–50). TABLE 1—POPULATION FACTORS AND THE COMPILED COMPOSITE SCORE FOR EACH RESILIENCY UNIT Resiliency unit Tributary occupancy Density Bogue Chitto .......................................................................... Lower Pearl ............................................................................ Middle Pearl—Silver .............................................................. Middle Pearl—Strong ............................................................. Upper Pearl ............................................................................ Moderate ............................... Moderate ............................... Very Low ............................... High ....................................... Moderate ............................... Moderate ............................... Low ........................................ Moderate ............................... Moderate ............................... Moderate ............................... The habitat factors used to describe resiliency include water quality; hydrological and structural changes from channelization, reservoirs, and gravel mining; amount of protected land adjacent to the rivers and streams; and forested riparian cover (a proxy for deadwood abundance). All four of the habitat factors were then compiled into a composite score (table 2) that is Composite score Moderate. Low. Low. Moderate. Moderate. analyzed together with the population factors composite score for an overall assessment of the current resiliency of the Pearl River map turtle (table 3). lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 TABLE 2—HABITAT FACTOR COMPOSITE SCORES FOR ALL PEARL RIVER MAP TURTLE UNITS AS A FUNCTION OF FOUR HABITAT FACTORS (WATER QUALITY, CHANNELIZATION/RESERVOIRS, PROTECTED LAND, AND DEADWOOD ABUNDANCE) Resiliency unit Bogue Chitto ....................................... Lower Pearl ......................................... Middle Pearl—Silver ........................... Middle Pearl—Strong .......................... Upper Pearl ......................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Channelization/ reservoirs Protected land Deadwood Low ...................... Low ...................... High ...................... Low ...................... Moderate .............. Low ...................... Low ...................... Low ...................... Moderate .............. Low ...................... Moderate .............. High ...................... Moderate .............. High ...................... High ...................... Water quality Moderate Moderate Moderate Moderate Moderate Jkt 256001 .............. .............. .............. .............. .............. PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 Composite score Low. Low. Moderate. Moderate. Moderate. lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules Water quality is an important habitat component of Pearl River map turtle resiliency because it affects how well all life stages can survive and, for the adults, reproductive success. To characterize water quality, we considered the watershed health, riparian health, and land use. Water quality is monitored by Mississippi and Louisiana Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ); however, the surveyed sites do not cover all of the tributaries or provide information for the entire range. Instead of using water quality monitoring data to describe the species’ habitat conditions, we used land use as a proxy as it can be an indicator of overall watershed health and provide insight into water quality. Agricultural land use within riparian zones has been shown to directly impact biotic integrity when assessed within intermediate-sized zones (i.e., 200-ft (61-m) buffer) surrounding streams in the region (Diamond et al. 2002, p. 1150). Urbanization has also been shown to impair stream quality by impacting riparian health (Diamond et al. 2002, p. 1150). We assessed watershed health by combining several metrics within each resiliency unit: Percent urban and agricultural land use at the watershed level, as well as riparian effects, which included urban and agricultural land use in close proximity to the stream (within a 200ft (61-m) buffer from the center of the waterbody). The resulting water quality composite scores based on land use for all five units were moderate (table 2). The only stream that was assessed as having a relatively high degree of threat based on land use was the Lower Pearl, driven primarily by a high degree of development within the riparian buffer (33 percent). In general, development is low throughout the Pearl River basin, although there is continual development across the Middle Pearl—Strong Unit (12 percent development) associated with the area near the city of Jackson, Mississippi. Agriculture is generally high across the Pearl River basin, where levels of agriculture within the units ranged from 12 to 23 percent, with the Bogue Chitto Unit having the highest levels of agriculture. The next habitat factor evaluated for resiliency is the presence and abundance of channelization, reservoirs, and gravel mining. We assume that substantial channelization, the presence of a major reservoir, or evidence of gravel mining operations has a negative impact on resiliency and include these as a resiliency factor. Considerably low densities of Pearl River map turtles were observed in the VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 Lower Pearl unit, where much channelization and flow diversion has occurred (Lindeman 2019, pp. 23–29). Low densities of Pearl River map turtles in the West and East Pearl Rivers have been attributed to flow alteration due to the construction of the Pearl River Navigation Canal, which also has very low densities of turtles, suggesting that substantial loss of population in the lower reaches of the Pearl River drainage has occurred historically due to river engineering (Lindeman 2019, p. 27). Significantly lower basking densities of Pearl River map turtles have been reported in the West Pearl (0.16/ rmi (0.1/rkm)) compared to the Upper Pearl (2.9/rmi (1.8/rkm)) (Dickerson and Reine 1996, Table 4, unpaginated; Selman 2020a, pp. 17–18). Because of these stream alterations, we assessed the Lower Pearl unit as low (i.e., high degree of threats) for this factor. Within the Middle Pearl—Strong unit, 20.9 rmi (33.6 rkm) of the middle Pearl River is inundated by the Ross Barnett Reservoir, which is a suspected contributing factor to the overall decline in Pearl River map turtle population densities upstream and downstream. Near Jackson, Mississippi, river channelization has also impacted the species’ habitat negatively (Selman 2020b, entire), and Pearl River map turtles are almost nonexistent in a highly channelized stretch of the Pearl River. However, upstream and downstream of this section, the species occurs in low numbers (Selman 2020b, entire). Due to the presence of the Ross Barnett Reservoir, and the river channelization that has occurred in and around Jackson, we assessed the Middle Pearl—Strong unit as low habitat quality due to the effects of channelization and reservoirs. In the Upper Pearl unit, channelization has occurred along Tuscolameta Creek and the upper Yockanookany River. In 1924, the Tuscolameta Creek received a 24-mile (mi) (39-kilometer (km)) channelization, and Yockanookany River received a 36mi (58-km) canal, which was completed in 1928 (Dunbar and Coulters 1988, p. 51). In the Yockanookany, low water stages in 1960 were 6 feet higher than those of 1939, as the channel silted significantly during that period (Speer et al. 1964, pp. 26–27). In some areas of the Yockanookany, water continues to flow in the river’s old natural channel (Speer et al. 1964, pp. 26–27). Although stream alteration has occurred within these streams, there has yet to be any reported evidence of Pearl River map turtle decline, thus we assessed this habitat factor as moderate for the Upper Pearl unit. PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66639 In-stream and unpermitted point-bar mining in the Bogue Chitto unit was a concern in the late 1990s (Shively 1999, entire), and although these activities no longer occur, gravel mining operations within floodplains do occur (Selman 2020a, pp. 20–21). Recent surveys have reported several areas where mining appears to have degraded water quality significantly (Selman 2020a, pp. 20–21). There is also a concern that historical in-stream and point-bar mining can have deleterious legacy effects that could be negatively impacting the species (Selman 2020a, p. 21). For these reasons, we assessed this habitat factor as low for the Bogue Chitto unit. The next habitat factor considered protected lands adjacent to or including the terrestrial and aquatic habitat of the species. For the purposes of this analysis, we apply the definition of protected area as a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated, and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature (IUCN 2008, pp. 8–9). Protected areas are a generally accepted, although not always uncontroversial, mechanism for halting the global decline of biodiversity. Some examples of the positive effects that protected areas can have on freshwater biodiversity have been reported, such as increased local abundance or size classes of some fish species (Suski and Cooke, 2007, entire). From an indirect standpoint, the presence of protected lands will function to minimize human disturbance in an area, which may benefit freshwater environments at multiple levels. First, enforcement of restrictions in protected areas can serve to minimize boat traffic that has been shown to have deleterious impacts to other Graptemys species (Selman 2013 et al., entire). The presence of protected areas may help ameliorate some of these conflicts by segregating user groups into defined areas (Suski and Cooke 2007, p. 2024). Finally, the more land within a unit that is under some sort of protection (e.g., easement, State and Federal ownership), the less likely land will be developed. Because development can have negative impacts to aquatic fauna, as discussed previously, the more protected land that exists in a unit, the more resilient that unit is assumed to be. Conservation areas have been established along the Pearl River that have positively influenced riparian forest along the river or forest land cover in the basin. Riparian conservation areas include Nanih Waiya Wildlife Management Area (WMA) (Neshoba County), Mississippi Band of Choctaw E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 66640 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules Indian Reservation (Neshoba County), Pearl River WMA (Madison County), Fannye Cook Natural Area (Rankin County), Old River WMA (Pearl River County), Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge (St. Tammany and Washington Parishes), and Pearl River WMA (St. Tammany Parish). Bienville National Forest contributes positively to increased forest cover in headwater streams that drain into the Pearl River, especially the Strong River. The most extensive habitat preservation on the Pearl River is the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge along the upper West and East Pearl and lower Bogue Chitto Rivers, which is contiguous with the Pearl River WMA, which protects the area between the West and East Pearl Rivers downstream to the Gulf of Mexico. To assess the contribution of protected areas to the resilience of Pearl River map turtle resilience units, we calculated the percentage of the HUC 8 that is in protected status. We used the Protected Areas Database of the U.S. version 2.0 (PAD—US 2.0), released in 2019 (USGS 2019, unpaginated). The results of the analysis of protected lands show that the Pearl River basin in general has relatively small amounts of land in protected status. Four of the units have a low condition (i.e., <10 percent of land protected), and one unit has a moderate condition (10–20 percent of land protected). The Middle Pearl—Strong unit has by far the greatest amount of land in protection with 147,597 ac (59,730 ha) in protection (11.67 percent), with all other units having less than 6 percent of land in protected status. The final habitat factor used to determine current resiliency is the amount of forested riparian cover, which we used as a proxy for available deadwood. Correlations of Pearl River map turtle density is positively associated with deadwood density (Lindeman 1999, pp. 35–38). Abundance of basking substrates has shown to be an important habitat component driving Graptemys abundance in Kansas and Pennsylvania (Pluto and Bellis 1986, pp. 26–30; Fuselier and Edds 1994, entire), and radiotelemetry work with yellow- blotched map turtles (G. flavimaculata) has indicated the importance of deadwood to habitat selection on the lower Pascagoula River (Jones 1996, pp. 376, 379–380, 383). Anthropogenic deadwood removal, mainly through dredging, has been noted as a reason for decline in the sympatric microcephalic species, the ringed map turtle (G. oculifera) (Lindeman 1998, p. 137). Experiments with manual deposition of deadwood in stretches with less riparian forest have been recommended as potential habitat restoration measures (Lindeman 2019, p. 33). An intact riparian habitat provides numerous benefits to map turtles, including the stabilization of stream banks and the reduction of erosional processes and channel sedimentation. Under normal erosional processes, riparian forests also provide material for in-stream deposition of deadwood, and deadwood is known to provide important basking sites for thermoregulation and also foraging sites for prey items (Lindeman 1999, entire). To assess the contribution of riparian forests to the resilience of Pearl River map turtle units, we calculated the percentage of forest within a 200-ft (61m) riparian buffer using the 2016 National Land Cover Database land use land cover data. We considered forests to include four land use classes: deciduous forest, evergreen forest, mixed forest, and woody wetlands. An assessment of forested cover resulted in three units in high condition (Lower Pearl, Middle Pearl—Strong, and Upper Pearl) and two units in moderate condition (Bogue Chitto and Middle Pearl—Silver). Forested cover within riparian buffers ranged from 60–98 percent across the 5 resilience units. Forested cover was highest in the Upper Pearl, where cover ranged from 90–96 percent across the occupied streams within the unit, and lowest in the Middle Pearl—Silver, where forested cover was 60 percent across the single occupied river segment. The Bogue Chitto unit was assessed as moderate for forested cover, primarily due to the Bogue Chitto and Topisaw having relatively low cover compared to other streams across the range. The habitat factors were combined into a single composite score determined by combining the results of the water quality, channelization/ reservoirs, protected lands, and deadwood abundance assessments (table 2). The final habitat composite score for each resiliency unit resulted in low condition for two units (Bogue Chitto and Lower Pearl) and moderate condition for three units (Middle Pearl—Silver, Middle Pearl—Strong, and Upper Pearl). Additional details and methodologies for determining each habitat condition score are described in the SSA report (Service 2021b, pp. 74– 80). After evaluating the population and habitat factors together, we describe the overall current resiliency of each unit. Current resiliency results are as follows: Two units have low resiliency (Bogue Chitto and Lower Pearl), and three units have moderate resiliency (Middle Pearl—Silver, Middle Pearl—Strong, and Upper Pearl) (table 3). The Lower Pearl seems particularly vulnerable, as both the population and habitat composite scores were low. The Lower Pearl has significant channelization issues, low amounts of protected land, and a low density of individual turtles, all of which are driving the low resilience of this unit. Although the Middle Pearl—Silver unit scored moderate for composite habitat score, the low composite population score (mainly a function of there being no occupied tributaries) is what is driving the low resilience of this unit. When looking at the three units with moderate resiliency, the Middle Pearl—Strong and Bogue Chitto units appear to be vulnerable to further decreases in resiliency. For the Bogue Chitto unit, low amounts of protected land and substantial mining activity make this unit vulnerable. For the Middle Pearl— Strong, development in the Jackson area and the presence of the Ross Barnett Reservoir make this unit vulnerable. If development increases substantially in this unit, or if proposed reservoir projects move forward, it is likely there would be population-level impacts that would drop the resiliency to low in the future conditions. lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 TABLE 3—CURRENT RESILIENCY OF PEARL RIVER MAP TURTLE UNITS BASED ON COMPOSITE HABITAT AND POPULATION FACTORS Resiliency unit Composite habitat score Composite population score Bogue Chitto .......................................................................... Lower Pearl ............................................................................ Middle Pearl—Silver .............................................................. Middle Pearl—Strong ............................................................. Low ........................................ Low ........................................ Moderate ............................... Moderate ............................... Moderate ............................... Low ........................................ Low ........................................ Moderate ............................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 Current resilience Moderate. Low. Low. Moderate. 66641 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules TABLE 3—CURRENT RESILIENCY OF PEARL RIVER MAP TURTLE UNITS BASED ON COMPOSITE HABITAT AND POPULATION FACTORS—Continued Resiliency unit Composite habitat score Composite population score Upper Pearl ............................................................................ Moderate ............................... Moderate ............................... Redundancy Redundancy refers to the ability of a species to withstand catastrophic events and is measured by the amount and distribution of sufficiently resilient populations across the species’ range. Catastrophic events that could severely impact or extirpate entire Pearl River map turtle units include chemical spills, changes in upstream land use that alter stream characteristics and water quality downstream, dam construction with a reservoir drowning lotic river habitat, and potential effects of climate change such as rising temperatures and SLR. The Middle Pearl—Silver unit is the most vulnerable to a catastrophic landbased spill due to transportation via train or automobile, and there are no known occupied tributaries at this time. However, extant units of the species are distributed relatively widely, and several of those units have moderate resilience, thus it is highly unlikely that a catastrophic event would impact the entire species’ range. Consequently, the Pearl River map turtle exhibits a moderate-high degree of redundancy. lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Representation Representation refers to the breadth of genetic and environmental diversity within and among populations, which influences the ability of a species to adapt to changing environmental conditions over time. Differences in lifehistory traits, habitat features, and/or genetics across a species’ range often aid in the delineation of representative units, which are used to assess species representation. Between 2005 and 2018, researchers genotyped 124 Pearl River map turtles from 15 sites across the Pearl River basin (Pearson et al. 2020, pp. 6–7). No distinct genetic variation was found across the Pearl River system. A single genetic population has been described, and there was no evidence of isolation by distance (Pearson et al. 2020, pp. 11– 12). For this reason, we consider the entire range of the Pearl River map turtle to be a single representative unit; however, the Strong River, located in the Pearl River—Strong unit, may have some unique habitat features that could facilitate adaptative capacity (Lindeman 2020, pers. comm.). Perhaps most notably, the Strong River has some very VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 rocky stretches that are unlike anything else in the drainage and could conceivably have a population with unique diet, behaviors, or other lifehistory parameters, though no studies to date have addressed this question (Lindeman 2020, pers. comm.). The Strong River is a large tributary and occupies an estimated 54.3 rmi (87.4 rkm), with an estimated 1,749 individuals, accounting for 8 percent of the species’ total population (Lindeman 2019, p. 47). Although we do not consider the Strong River to be a separate representative unit, we consider the Strong River to be a potentially significant stream for the species from a habitat diversity perspective. The species is described as consisting of a single representative unit due to the lack of genetic structuring across the range; the limited genetic diversity may reduce the ability of the species to adapt to changing conditions (Pearson et al. 2020, entire). However, we acknowledge the habitat differences for the Strong River and the potential importance of that system to the adaptive capacity of the species. In summary, the current condition of the Pearl River map turtle is described using resiliency, redundancy, and representation. We assessed current resiliency as a function of two population factors (occupied tributaries and density) and four habitat factors (water quality, protected areas, deadwood abundance, and reservoirs/ channelization) for each resiliency unit. Based on these factors, there are two units with low resiliency (Lower Pearl and Middle Pearl—Silver) and three units with moderate resiliency (Upper Pearl, Middle Pearl—Strong, and Bogue Chitto); no units were assessed as highly resilient. Because three of the five units are classified as moderate resilience, and those units are distributed relatively widely, the Pearl River map turtle exhibits a moderate-high degree of redundancy (i.e., it is unlikely that a catastrophic event would impact the entire range of the species). Even with the unique habitat in the Strong River, we only recognize a single representative unit based on low genetic variation, however, the wide distribution within the five resilience units across the range provides PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Current resilience Moderate. sufficient adaptive capacity to remain viable. Future Condition As described in the ‘‘Summary of Biological Status and Threats’’ section above, we describe what the Pearl River map turtle needs to maintain viability. We describe the future conditions of the species by forecasting the species’ response applying plausible future scenarios of varying environmental conditions and conservation efforts. The future scenarios project the threats into the future and consider the impacts those threats could have on the viability of the Pearl River map turtle. The scenarios described in the SSA report represent six plausible future conditions for the species. The scenarios include land use changes and SLR in a matrix to determine the effects of both factors to each unit. We then considered future water engineering projects for each matrix and found the resiliency of each unit based on whether the project is installed or not. All six scenarios were projected out to two different time steps: 2040 (∼20 years) and 2070 (∼50 years). These timeframes are based on input from species experts, generation time for the species, and the confidence in predicting patterns of urbanization and agriculture. Confidence in how these land uses will interact with the species and its habitat diminishes beyond 50 years. We continue to apply the concepts of resiliency, redundancy, and representation to the future scenarios to describe possible future conditions of the Pearl River map turtle and understand the overall future viability of the species. When assessing the future, viability is not a specific state, but rather a continuous measure of the likelihood that the species will sustain populations over time. Using the best available information regarding the factors influencing the species’ viability in the future, we applied the following factors to inform the future resiliency of the five units: Changes in land use/water quality, SLR, and future water engineering projects. We considered projected land-use changes regarding agricultural and developed land in assessing future resiliency of each unit for the Pearl River map turtle. We also considered E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 66642 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 these land-use classes as surrogates for potential changes in water quality, a primary risk factor for the species. We used data available at the resiliency unit scale from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Forecasting Scenarios of Landuse Change (FORE–SCE) modelling framework (USGS 2017, unpaginated) to characterize nonpoint source pollution (i.e., development and agriculture). The FORE—SCE model provides spatially explicit historical, current, and future projections of land use and land cover. Projecting future land cover requires modelers to account for driving forces of land-cover change operating at scales from local (‘‘bottom-up’’) to global (‘‘top-down’’) and how those driving forces interact over space and time. As a result of the high level of uncertainty associated with predicting future developments in complex socioenvironmental systems, a scenario framework is needed to represent a wide range of plausible future conditions. As previously mentioned, SLR impacts the future resiliency of Pearl River map turtles directly through loss/ degradation of habitat. To estimate loss/ degradation of habitat due to inundation from SLR, we used National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shapefiles available at their online SLR viewer (NOAA 2020, unpaginated). Projected SLR scenarios from NOAA provide a range of inundation levels from low to extreme. We used NOAA’s SLR projections corresponding to the representative concentration pathways (RCP) of RCP6 and RCP8.5 emission scenarios to provide realistic future possible trajectories. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through the different emission scenarios are influenced by human behavior. With uncertainty in future emissions, we included two plausible trajectories of SLR by considering RCP6 (intermediatehigh) and RCP8.5 (extreme). Local scenarios were available from a monitoring station located near Mobile Bay, Alabama, providing estimates of SLR at decadal time steps out to the year 2100. We found the average SLR estimate for the intermediate-high and extreme NOAA scenarios from this station and used the estimate (rounded to the nearest foot, because shapefiles of topography were available at only 1-ft VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 (0.30-m) increments) to project estimated habitat loss at years 2040 and 2070. If SLR estimates overlap with known occupied portions of the river system, we assume that area is no longer suitable or occupiable; thus, resiliency would decrease. SLR is occurring, but the rate at which it continues is dependent on the different atmospheric emissions scenarios. The range is 1 ft (0.30 m) to 2 ft (0.61 m) in the next 20 years. By 2070, 3 ft (0.91 m) to 5 ft (1.52 m) are projected for the lower and higher emissions scenarios. The effects of the SLR and saltwater intrusion are exacerbated with storm surge and high tides. Pulses of saltwater from increased storm frequency and intensity on top of slower SLR can have direct effects on freshwater habitats and species that are not salt-tolerant. Stream channelization, point-bar mining, and impoundment have been listed as potential threats in a report written before the Pascagoula map turtle and Pearl River map turtle were taxonomically separated (Service 2006, p. 2). As noted above, in the Threats Analysis section, the proposed One Lake project proposes a new dam and commercial development area 9 mi (14.5 km) south of the current Ross Barnett Reservoir Dam near Interstate 20. However, the One Lake project is still being debated, and there is uncertainty as to whether the project will proceed. Because of this uncertainty, we have created two scenarios based around the proposed One Lake project: One in which the project occurs, and one in which it does not, within the next 50 years. Because of the potential for negative impacts on Pearl River map turtles from the proposed One Lake project, we assume a decrease in resiliency of the Middle Pearl—Strong unit if the project moves forward. We do not assess population factors (occupancy of tributaries and density) in our future conditions analysis because the data are not comparable through time or space; the baseline data come from recent surveys and no historical data are available to allow for analyses of trends or comparisons over time. Additionally, we assume the amount of protected land within each unit stays the same within our projection PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 timeframes, although it is possible that additional land could be converted to a protected status or lands could degrade over time. Rather than attempting to categorize future resiliency as was done in the current condition analysis, we indicate a magnitude and direction of anticipated change in resiliency of Pearl River map turtle units. Scenario Descriptions Scenarios were built around three factors: Land use, SLR, and water engineering projects. To present plausible future conditions for the species and to assess the viability for the Pearl River map turtle in response to those conditions, we projected two land use and two SLR scenarios out to the years 2040 (20 years) and 2070 (50 years). The two land use scenarios are based on scenarios from the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES). The SRES presents a set of scenarios developed to represent the range of driving forces and emissions in the scenario literature so as to reflect current understanding and knowledge about underlying uncertainties. Four different narrative storylines were developed to describe consistently the relationships between emission driving forces and their evolution and add context for the scenario quantification. Each storyline represents different demographic, social, economic, technological, and environmental developments. The four qualitative storylines yield four sets of scenarios called ‘‘families’’: A1, A2, B1, and B2. The two land use scenarios we examined are embedded within the FORE–SCE model (A2 and B1). The two SLR projections are based on NOAA’s intermediate-high (RCP6) and extreme (RCP8.5) scenarios. We also considered whether a proposed water engineering project (i.e., One Lake) would be constructed within the species’ range. This results in six plausible scenarios for each of two time increments (2040 and 2070), with the A2–Extreme—One Lake project scenarios representing the highest threat scenario for 2040 and 2070, the B1–Intermediate High—No One Lake project scenario the lowest threat scenario for 2040 and 2070, and the other four scenarios representing moderate threat scenarios (table 4). E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules 66643 TABLE 4—SCENARIOS USED TO MODEL FUTURE CONDITION FOR PEARL RIVER MAP TURTLE [Scenarios were built around three factors: Land use (SRES emission scenarios A2 and B1), sea level rise (emission scenarios Intermediate High (IH) and Extreme (EX)), and water engineering projects (One Lake Project: Yes or No). Scenarios were projected under two timeframes: 2040 and 2070] Sea level rise 2040 Intermediate high I 2070 Extreme Intermediate high I Extreme One Lake Project (Yes) Land Use: A2 .............................................................. B1 .............................................................. A2–IH—OneLake ....... B1–IH—OneLake ....... A2–EX—OneLake ...... A2–IH—OneLake ....... B1–IH—OneLake. A2–EX—OneLake. A2—IH—NoProject .... B1–IH—NoProject. A2–EX—NoProject. One Lake Project (No) Land Use: A2 .............................................................. B1 .............................................................. lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Future Resiliency Bogue Chitto—Under all scenarios, development remains low across the Bogue Chitto unit. Agriculture is high across the entire unit in all scenarios, except for the B1 scenario in the year 2070, where agriculture is moderate. Forested cover is relatively high across the unit under all scenarios; thus, deadwood does not appear to be a limiting factor. There are no predicted SLR or water engineering project impacts directly affecting this unit. It is likely that the condition of the unit will decline into the future, though there is uncertainty regarding future impacts related to mining activity, which has the potential to further reduce resiliency. Even with declines in condition of the Bogue Chitto unit, there will be no change in the resiliency category over the next 50 years according to the future scenarios. Lower Pearl—SLR impacts this unit under all scenarios, although the impacts of inundation are localized to the southern portion of the unit, mainly in the East Pearl River. Under the A2 scenarios, a few streams are impacted by high levels of development, although most of the unit has low levels of development; under the B1 scenario, development is low across the entire unit. Agriculture is predicted to be high across the unit under the A2 scenarios, and moderate across the unit under the B1 scenario. There are no predicted water engineering projects, and forested cover is anticipated to be relatively high. Current resiliency for this unit is low, and resiliency is anticipated to decrease across all scenarios, with the A2 scenarios with extreme SLR associated with the most substantial decreases. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 A2–IH—NoProject ...... B1–IH—NoProject ...... A2–EX—NoProject ..... Middle Pearl—Silver—Development remains low across the unit under all scenarios at both time steps. Agriculture increases to high under the A2 scenarios and stays moderate under the B1 scenario. There are no predicted SLR effects or water engineering project impacts on this unit. Forested cover is relatively high across the unit under all scenarios and is predicted to increase under the B1 scenario; thus, deadwood does not appear to be a limiting factor. Current resiliency for this unit is low, and although declines in condition of the Middle Pearl–Silver unit are predicted, there will be no change in the resiliency category in the future based on the factors assessed. Middle Pearl—Strong—Development is substantial in a few areas within this unit, particularly around Jackson, Mississippi. The current resiliency for this unit is moderate and the future resiliency is likely to decline due to increased agriculture and decreased forest cover within the unit (without One Lake). Agriculture is predicted to be high across the unit under all scenarios. If the One Lake project moves forward, there is a substantial decrease in resiliency predicted within and adjacent to the project area. A few streams are predicted to lose a substantial amount of forested cover. No SLR impacts are predicted in this unit. The Middle Pearl—Strong unit is perhaps the most vulnerable unit, as development, agriculture, and water engineering projects are all potential stressors in this unit. Upper Pearl—The habitat associated with this unit provides conditions to potentially support a stronghold for the species because it has the highest amount of protected lands compared to the other four units (Service 2021a, p. PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 92). Development remains low across the entire unit under all scenarios. Agriculture is high across the entire unit in all scenarios, except for the B1 scenario in the year 2070, where agriculture is moderate. Forested cover is relatively high across the unit under all scenarios; thus, deadwood does not appear to be a limiting factor. There are no predicted SLR or water engineering project impacts in this unit; however, this population may experience genetic drift over time due to isolation caused by habitat fragmentation from the existing (Ross Barnett) and planned (One Lake) reservoirs in the adjacent unit. Even though the threats are projected to be low, the overall condition of the Upper Pearl unit is likely to decline as a result of the loss of connectivity with the rest of the turtle’s range. Even with declines in condition of the Upper Pearl unit, it will remain in the moderate category over the next 50 years according to the future scenarios. Future Redundancy Although we do not project any of the units to be extirpated in any scenarios, we do anticipate resiliency to decline in two units. For example, the Middle Pearl—Strong unit will potentially lose a substantial amount of habitat and individuals under all scenarios in which the One Lake project is built. Also, the Lower Pearl unit will be impacted by SLR under all scenarios, and this is compounded by projected increases in both development and agriculture. All other units are anticipated to remain relatively stable. Because extant units of the species are predicted to be distributed relatively widely, it is highly unlikely that a catastrophic event would impact the entire species’ range, thus E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 66644 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules the Pearl River map turtle is predicted to exhibit a moderate degree of redundancy in the future under all scenarios. Conservation Efforts and Regulatory Mechanisms lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Future Representation As described under the current conditions, the species is a single representative unit regarding genetic variation. Relatively unique habitat conditions in the Strong River may influence the species’ adaptive capacity and its overall representation. When looking at projections of threats within the Strong River, a few general trends can be seen. First, for land use, development is projected to remain low. In the A2 climate scenarios, agriculture increases from moderate to high; in the B1 climate scenario, agriculture stays moderate. Also, forested cover within the riparian zone of the Strong River remains relatively high (68–83 percent), although it does drop across all climate scenarios from the current condition (92 percent). SLR does not impact this river in any of our scenarios, as the Strong River is far enough inland to avoid the effects of inundation. Finally, the One Lake project is not anticipated to directly impact the Strong River due to the location of the project (i.e., mainstem Pearl River). Given all of this information, although the resiliency of the Strong River might decrease slightly due to land use projections, it is likely the Strong River will support a moderate density of individual turtles, and thus contribute to representation through maintenance of potential genetic diversity based on unique habitat features. It is noteworthy that a recent genetics study has revealed that genetic diversity is lower in Pearl River map turtles compared to the closely related congener, Pascagoula map turtles (Pearson et al. 2020, pp. 11–12). Declining populations generally have reduced genetic diversity, which can potentially elevate the risk of extinction by reducing a species’ ability and potential to adapt to environmental changes (Spielman et al. 2004, entire). Future studies could help to elucidate whether levels of genetic diversity seen in Pearl River map turtles are low enough to suggest potential genetic bottlenecks, thus clarifying the species’ level of representation. Genetic bottleneck and low overall genetic diversity are more of a concern for populations that become geographically isolated by physical barriers that inhibit connectivity. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 Federal The Clean Water Act of 1972 (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) regulates dredge and fill activities that would adversely affect wetlands. Such activities are commonly associated with dry land projects for development, flood control, and land clearing, as well as for water-dependent projects such as docks/marinas and maintenance of navigational channels. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) share the responsibility for implementing the permitting program under section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Permit review and issuance follows a process that encourages avoidance, minimizing and requiring mitigation for unavoidable impacts to the aquatic environment and habitats. This includes protecting the riverine habitat occupied by the Pearl River map turtle. This law has resulted in some enhancement of water quality and habitat for aquatic life, particularly by reducing point-source pollutants. The regulatory mechanisms have improved water quality within the Pearl River drainage, as evidenced by a resurgence of intolerant fishes (Wagner et al. 2018, p. 13). Because the Pearl River map turtle has a greater tolerance for variances in water quality compared to intolerant fishes, these regulatory mechanisms provide some protection for the species and its habitat from the threat of water quality degradation; however, there may be some instances where sources and occurrences may exceed EPA thresholds and degrade water quality. Additionally, Federal agencies are required to evaluate the effects of their discretionary actions on federally listed species and must consult with the Service if a project is likely to affect a species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Such discretionary Federal actions within the Pearl River map turtle’s habitat that may affect other listed species include: Maintenance dredging for navigation in the lower Pearl River by the Corps and their issuance of section 404 Clean Water Act permits; construction and maintenance of gas and oil pipelines and power line rights-of-way by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; EPA pesticide registration; construction and maintenance of roads or highways by the Federal Highway Administration; and funding of various projects administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Section 7 consultations on other federally listed aquatic species are known to frequently require and recommend Federal agencies implement conservation measures, best management practices, and other actions that may also minimize or eliminate potential harmful effects on Pearl River map turtle and encourage best management practice for all aquatic species. Accordingly, requirements under section 7 of the Act may provide some protections indirectly to the Pearl River map turtle and its habitat. National Wildlife Refuges The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act (NWRAA) represents organic legislation that set up the administration of a national network of lands and water for the conservation, management, and restoration of fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of the American people and is managed by the Service. Conservation-minded management of public lands allows for: (1) Natural processes to operate freely and thus changes to habitat occur due to current and future environmental conditions; (2) managing the use of resources and activities, which minimizes impacts; (3) preservation and restoration to maintain habitats; and (4) reduction of the adverse physical impacts from human use. Amendment of the NWRAA in 1997 required the refuge system to ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of refuges be maintained. The Pearl River map turtle occurs on the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge within Pearl River County, Mississippi, and St. Tammany and Washington Parishes, Louisiana. A Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) has been developed to provide the framework of fish and wildlife management on the refuge (Service 2011, entire). Within the CCP, specific actions are described to protect the ringed map turtle that will also benefit the Pearl River map turtle. Actions include ongoing habitat management to provide downed woody debris for basking turtles and to maintain 330-ft (100.6-m) buffers along all named streams during forest habitat improvement and harvest to protect water quality in streams (Service 2011, pp. 21, 73, 89, 179). National Forests The National Forest Management Act (1976) provides standards for National Forest management and planning to protect the designated forest lands while maintaining viable populations of existing native and desired non-native E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 vertebrate species. The Planning Rule (2012) requires that the U.S. Forest Service develop land management plans for all units within the National Forest system. The National Forests in Mississippi have adopted, and in most cases exceeded, the best management practices (BMPs) (see discussion below of State BMPs) established by the State of Mississippi (U.S. Forest Service 2014, p. 66). These include practices such as establishing streamside buffer zones, restricting vegetation management in riparian zones, and employing erosion control measures. The Bienville National Forest has no known records for the Pearl River map turtle but contains tributaries that flow into the Pearl and Strong Rivers; thus, these practices may provide some protective measures for habitat occupied by the species downstream. The regulations and practices applied across the national forests upstream from the Pearl River map turtle habitat provide protections for the species’ aquatic habitat and contribute to the conservation of the species. Department of Defense Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans The Sikes Act Improvement Act (1997) led to Department of Defense guidance regarding development of Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans (INRMPs) for promoting environmental conservation on military installations. The U.S. Navy operates the Stennis Western Maneuver Area located along the western edge of the NASA Stennis Space Center and incorporated into the Stennis Space Center Buffer Zone. The Stennis Western Maneuver Area encompasses a 4-mile reach of the East Pearl River and a smaller eastern tributary named Mikes River (Buhlman 2014, p. 4) in Hancock and Pearl River Counties, Mississippi. These river reaches are used by the Navy’s Construction Battalion Center for riverboat warfare training. The western bank of the East Pearl River denotes the boundary of the Navy property and is managed as the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area by the State of Louisiana (see below under State/ Louisiana). There are records of the Pearl River map turtle from Stennis Western Maneuver Area (Buhlman 2014, pp. 11–12, 31–32). The U.S. Navy has developed an INRMP for the Stennis Western Maneuver Area (U.S. Navy 2011, entire). Measures within the INRMP are expected to protect listed species, and also provide a level of protection for the Pearl River map turtle, include erosion and storm water control, floodplain management, invasive plant species management, and VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 the use of an ecosystem approach to general fish and wildlife management (U.S. Navy 2011, pp. 4–4–4–20). Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, Appendix III All species of Graptemys are included on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s (CITES) Appendix III (CITES 2019, p. 43). The Pearl River map turtle was added to the CITES Appendix III list in 2006 (70 FR 74700; December 16, 2005). Appendix III is a list of species included at the request of a Party to the Convention that already regulates trade in the species and that needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable, illegal exploitation. International trade in specimens of species listed in Appendix III is allowed only on presentation of the appropriate permits or certificates. The information that is provided in export reports for the Pearl River map turtle does not provide sufficient information to support identification of the source of the turtles. According to a LEMIS report from 2005 to 2019, more than 300,000 turtles identified as Graptemys spp. or their parts were exported from the United States to 29 countries (Service 2021b, Appendix B). Due to their similarity in appearance, species of Graptemys are difficult to differentiate. Records from 2005, when the highest number of Graptemys were exported, show more than 35,000 turtles (Graptemys spp.) in a single shipment to Spain and a total of 172,645 individual Graptemys exported to 24 different countries. However, there is some uncertainty regarding the sources of the exported turtles as they could have originated from captive stock. The CITES Appendix III reporting does not provide sufficient protections for the Pearl River map turtle because only the genus name, Graptemys, is used to describe the turtles, resulting in no mechanism to understand the number or source of Pearl River map turtles that are exported. State Protections—Louisiana In Louisiana, the species has no State status under Louisiana regulations or law (LDWF 2021, entire). Protections under State law for collecting the Pearl River map turtle are limited to licensing restrictions for turtles. In Louisiana, a recreational basic fishing license is required but allows unlimited take of most species of turtles, including the Pearl River map turtle; exceptions are that no turtle eggs or nesting turtles may be taken (LDWF 2020, pp. 50–51). A recreational gear license is also required PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66645 for operating specified trap types (see Louisiana’s regulations for details on trap types), for instance, five or fewer hoop nets; greater than five hoop nets requires a Commercial Fisherman License. The Louisiana Scenic Rivers Act (1988) was established as a regulatory program administered by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) through a system of regulations and permits. Certain actions that may negatively affect the Pearl River map turtle are either prohibited or require a permit on rivers included on the natural and scenic river list. Prohibited actions include channelization, channel realignment, clearing and snagging, impoundments, and commercial clearcutting within 100 ft (30.5 m) of the river low water mark (Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) undated, p. 45). Permits are required for river crossing structures, bulkheads, land development adjacent to the river, and water withdrawals (LDAF undated, p. 45). Rivers with the natural and scenic river designation that are occupied by the Pearl River map turtle include the Bogue Chitto River, Holmes Bayou, and West Pearl River in St. Tammany Parish and Pushepatapa Creek in Washington Parish (LDAF undated, p. 48). Additional protected areas of Pearl River map turtle habitat in Louisiana include the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area located in St. Tammany Parish and Bogue Chitto State Park located on the Bogue Chitto River in Washington Parish. A master plan for management of Wildlife Management Areas and State Refuges has been developed for Louisiana, which describes the role of these lands in improving wildlife populations and their habitat including identifying and prioritizing issues threatening wildlife resources (LDWF and The Conservation Fund 2014, entire). Bogue Chitto State Park is managed by the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism for public use. The Louisiana State Comprehensive Wildlife Action Plan (Holcomb et al. 2015, entire) was developed as a roadmap for nongame conservation in Louisiana. The primary focus of the plan is the recovery of Species of Greatest Conservation Need, those wildlife species in need of conservation action within Louisiana, which includes the Pearl River map turtle. Specific actions identified for the Pearl River map turtle include conducting ecological studies of the turtle’s reproduction, nest success, and recruitment as well as developing general population estimates via mark E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 66646 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 and recapture studies (Holcomb et al. 2015, p. 69). Recent Pearl River map turtle survey work in Louisiana was conducted using funding from the SWG program (Selman 2020a, entire). Gravel mining activities that occur within Louisiana require review and permits by Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. Additional permits are required by LDWF for any mining activities that occur within designated Scenic Streams in Louisiana. The permit requirements ensure all projects are reviewed and approved by the State, thus ensuring oversight by the State and application of State laws. State Protections—Mississippi The Pearl River map turtle is S2 (imperiled because of rarity or because of some factor making it very vulnerable to extinction) in Mississippi (Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (MMNS) 2015, p. 38) but is not listed on the Mississippi State list of protected species (Mississippi Natural Heritage Program 2015, entire). Protections under State law are limited to licensing restrictions for take for personal use of nongame species in need of management (which includes native species of turtles). A Mississippi resident is required to obtain one of three licenses for capture and possession of Pearl River map turtles (Mississippi Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks 2016, pp. 3–5). The three licenses available for this purpose are a Sportsman License, an All Game Hunting/Freshwater Fishing License, and a Small Game Hunting/Freshwater Fishing License. A nonresident would require a Nonresident All Game Hunting License. Restrictions on take for personal use include no more than four turtles of any species or subspecies may be possessed or taken within a single year and that no turtles may be taken between April 1st and June 30th except by permit from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (Mississippi Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, MDWFP 2016, pp. 3–5). Additional restrictions apply to this species if removed from the wild; non-game wildlife or their parts taken from wild Mississippi populations may not be bought, possessed, transported, exported, sold, offered for sale, shipped, bartered, or exhibited for commercial purposes. The Mississippi Comprehensive Wildlife Action Plan (MMNS 2015, entire) was developed to provide a guide for effective and efficient longterm conservation of biodiversity in Mississippi. As in Louisiana, the VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 primary focus of the plan is on the recovery of species designated as SGCN, which includes the Pearl River map turtle. Specific actions identified for the Pearl River map turtle in Mississippi include planning and conducting status surveys for the species (MMNS 2015, p. 686). Lands managed for wildlife by the State of Mississippi, which may provide habitat protections for the Pearl River map turtle, include the Old River Wildlife Management Area, Pearl River County and Pearl River Wildlife Management Area, Madison County. In addition, a ringed map turtle sanctuary was designated in 1990 by the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (District), north of the Ross Barnett Reservoir, Madison County, which also provides habitat for the Pearl River map turtle. One of the goals of management on Wildlife Management Areas in Mississippi is to improve wildlife populations and their habitat (MDWFP 2020, entire). The District sanctuary is approximately 12 rmi (19.3 rkm) north from Ratliff Ferry to Lowhead Dam on the Pearl River (Service 2010, p. 4). Within the sanctuary, the District maintains informational signs to facilitate public awareness of the sanctuary and of the importance of the area to the species and conducts channel maintenance by methods that do not hinder the propagation of the species. The District has recorded a notation on the deed of the property comprising the sanctuary area that will in perpetuity notify transferees that the sanctuary must be maintained in accordance with the stated provisions (Service 2010, p. 4). Additionally, gravel mining activities that occur within Mississippi require review and permits by Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. The permit requirements ensure all projects are reviewed and approved by the State, thus ensuring oversight by the State and application of State laws. U.S. Fish and Wildlife State Wildlife Grants In 2000, the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) Program was created through the Fiscal Year 2001 Interior Appropriations Act and provided funding to States ‘‘for the development and implementation of programs for the benefit of wildlife and their habitat, including species that are not hunted or fished.’’ The SWG Program is administered by the Service and allocates Federal funding for proactive nongame conservation measures nationwide. Congress stipulated that each State fish and wildlife agency that wished to participate in the SWG program develop PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 a Wildlife Action Plan to guide the use of SWG funds (see discussion below regarding the plans developed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP)). This program funds studies that assist conservation by providing needed information regarding the species or its habitat and has contributed to the conservation of the species by assessing the current status and range of the Pearl River map turtle. Additional Conservation Measures— Best Management Practices Most of the land adjacent to the Pearl and Bogue Chitto Rivers in Louisiana and Mississippi is privately owned and much of it is managed for timber. Both States have developed voluntary BMPs for forestry activities conducted in their respective States with the intent to protect water quality and minimize the impacts to plants and wildlife. In addition, the forest industry has a number of forest certification programs, such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which require participating landowners to meet or exceed State forestry BMPs. Silvicultural practices implemented with State-approved BMPs can reduce negative impacts to aquatic species, such as turtles, through reductions in nonpoint source pollution, such as sedimentation. Although nonpoint source pollution is a localized threat to the Pearl River map turtle, it is less prevalent in areas where State-approved BMPs are used (Service 2021b, p. 41). In Louisiana, BMPs include streamside management zones (SMZ) of 50 ft (15.24 m), measured from the top of the streambank, for streams of less than 20 ft (6.1 m) under estimated normal flow, to a width of 100 ft (30.5 m) for streams more than 20 ft (6.1 m) wide (LDAF undated, p. 15). Guidance includes maintaining adequate forest canopy cover for normal water and shade conditions as well as an appropriate amount of residual cover to minimize soil erosion (LDAF undated, p. 14). An overall rate of 97.4 percent of 204 forestry operations surveyed by the LDAF in 2018 complied with the State’s voluntary guidelines; compliance with guidelines in SMZs was 98.6 percent (LDAF 2018, entire). The State of Mississippi has voluntary BMPs developed by the Mississippi Forestry Commission (MFC) (MFC 2008, entire). These BMPs include SMZs with the purpose of maintaining bank stability and enhancing wildlife habitat by leaving 50 percent crown cover during timber cuts (MFC 2008, p. 6). The width of SMZs is based on slope, E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 with a minimum SMZ width of 30 ft (9.14 m) extending to 60 ft (18.3 m) at sites with over 40 percent slope (MFC 2008, p. 6). The most recent monitoring survey of 174 Mississippi forestry sites indicated that 95 percent of applicable sites were implemented in accordance with the 2008 guidelines (MFC 2019, p. 6). Overall, voluntary BMPs related to forest management activities conducted on private lands throughout the riparian corridor of the Pearl River System have provided a significant foothold for Pearl River map turtle conservation. As a result of high BMP compliance in these specific areas, non-point source pollution associated with silvicultural operations is not a major contributor to impacts on the species. Determination of Pearl River Map Turtle 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 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. The Act requires that we determine whether a species meets the definition of endangered species or threatened species because of any of the following factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) Disease or predation; (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. In conducting our status assessment of the Pearl River map turtle, we evaluated all identified threats under the Act’s section 4(a)(1) factors and assessed how the cumulative impact of all threats acts on the current and future viability of the species based on resiliency, redundancy, and representation. In assessing future viability, all the anticipated effects from both habitat-based and direct threats to the species are examined in total and then evaluated in the context of what those combined negative effects will mean to the future condition of the Pearl River map turtle. We use the best available information to determine the magnitude of each individual threat on the species, and then assess how those VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 effects combined (and as may be ameliorated by any existing regulatory mechanisms or conservation efforts) will impact the Pearl River map turtle’s future viability. 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 determined that the species currently has sufficient resiliency, redundancy, and representation contributing to its overall viability across its range. Even though the species is described as a single population, the current condition of the units are all below optimal or high resiliency, three units have moderate resiliency, and the remaining two units have low resiliency. There are no units within the range that demonstrate high resiliency. Despite the moderate and low conditions of all units, the species is widely distributed across much of its range. Current threats to the species include habitat degradation and loss due to alterations in the aquatic and terrestrial environments that affect water quality through sedimentation, impoundment, and gravel mining; and collection for the pet trade is also an ongoing threat to the species. The Ross Barnett Reservoir was completed in 1963 and has reduced the amount of available habitat for the species and fragmented contiguous suitable habitat. Pearl River map turtles prefer flowing water in rivers and creeks. Indirect effects from the reservoir are associated with recreational use from boat traffic and foot traffic from day visitors and campers. Declines in Pearl River map turtles have been documented both upstream (lower density) and downstream (population declines) from the reservoir (Selman and Jones 2017, pp. 32–34). A total of 20.9 rmi (33.6 rkm) of the Pearl River is submerged beneath the Ross Barnett Reservoir and no longer suitable for the Pearl River map turtle. This reservoir is currently affecting the Middle Pearl–Strong unit and the Upper Pearl unit, reducing the suitable habitat of five percent of the mainstem Pearl River by altering the lotic (flowing water) habitat preferred by Pearl River map turtles to lentic (lake) habitat. The reservoir reduces the resiliency and overall condition of these affected units. Despite the effects of the existing reservoir on the Upper Pearl and Middle Pearl–Strong resilience units, sufficient habitat remains to provide adequate resiliency of these units to contribute to the viability of the species. The effects from the reservoir may continue PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66647 affecting the species in the future as the turtles in the Upper Pearl unit (above the reservoir) become more isolated over time; however, there is currently adequate resiliency. In terms of redundancy and the ability of the species to respond to catastrophic events, the species currently has enough redundancy across the five resilience units to protect it from a catastrophe such as a large hurricane or oil spill. The Middle Pearl–Silver and Middle Pearl–Strong units are particularly vulnerable to a potential spill from railways and transportation corridors that are near or adjacent to habitat occupied by Pearl River map turtles. The Lower Pearl unit is vulnerable to the effects from hurricanes as it is in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. However, because the species is a single population distributed across five resilience units encompassing 1,279.6 rkm (795.1 rm), it is buffered against catastrophic events such as these. While the overall current condition of the species exhibits low redundancy, the species is still widespread across its range in all resilience units across the single representative unit. Although we do not project any of the units to be extirpated in any scenarios, we do anticipate resilience to drop significantly in several units across many scenarios. Thus, after assessing the best available information, we conclude that the Pearl River map turtle is not currently in danger of extinction throughout all of its range. A threatened species, as defined by the Act, is any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Because the species is not currently in danger of extinction (endangered) throughout its entire range, we evaluated the viability of the species over the foreseeable future considering the condition of the species in relation to its resiliency, redundancy, and representation. We analyzed future conditions based on input from species experts, generation time for the species, and the confidence in predicting patterns of urbanization and agriculture, enabling us to reliably predict threats and conservation actions and the species’ response over time. Details regarding the future condition analyses are available in the SSA report (Service 2021b, pp. 81–118). The threats included in the future scenarios are projected to negatively affect the Pearl River map turtle and result in a decline of resiliency throughout four (Bogue Chitto, Lower Pearl, Middle Pearl–Strong, and Upper Pearl) of the five resilience units (table E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 66648 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules 2). While the Middle Pearl–Silver unit is not expected to see major declines in resiliency, its current resiliency is low and it is anticipated to remain low in the future projections. None of the resilience units will improve from current conditions to provide high resiliency; three units are moderate, but the conditions decline in the future scenarios. Three resilience units may have additional stressors including isolation for the Upper Pearl, compounded by the addition of another planned reservoir for the Middle Pearl– Strong unit, and gravel mining for the Bogue Chitto unit. These threats will likely cause a decline in the amount of available suitable habitat, thereby affecting the future resiliency; however, the development of the reservoir and future sand and gravel mining activities are uncertain. Two of the resilience units are low (Lower Pearl and Middle Pearl), with the most southern unit (Lower Pearl) facing threats from SLR. The single population that consists of five resilience units has low genetic variability resulting in low adaptive capacity or the potential to adapt to environmental or habitat changes within the units. Most of the population primarily uses the main stem river, which is subject to more catastrophic events (e.g., an oil spill) as any point source pollutants would flow downstream throughout the range of the turtle below the point of contamination. The species has limited occurrence in tributaries in its range, resulting in limited refugia from future catastrophic effects. In terms of resiliency, the future condition is expected to decline for all resilience units. The future scenarios project out to the year 2070 to capture the species’ response to threats and changing landscape conditions. The impacts from the existing Ross Barnett Reservoir will continue affecting the species, and resilience of the units will decline as the turtles in the most northern unit (Upper Pearl) will become even more spatially isolated. An additional planned development project adjacent to the existing reservoir could affect up to 170 turtles directly and 360 turtles indirectly in the Upper Pearl and Middle Pearl–Strong units (Selman 2020b, pp. 192–193). If this impoundment project moves forward, the species’ viability will continue to decline in the foreseeable future as resiliency declines through loss of suitable habitat and further isolation of turtles above the reservoirs. The turtles in the Upper Pearl unit are subject to genetic isolation and potentially the effects of small population size as the VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 species here will not be connected to the rest of the contiguous habitat south of the reservoir. Another future threat to the species is SLR, which will cause a contraction in the most southern unit (Lower Pearl) as saline waters encroach farther north from the Gulf of Mexico in rising seas, and the effects will be magnified with hurricane-related storm surge pulsing saline water upstream into the freshwater system. The amount of habitat affected over time depends on the rate of SLR and other factors that influence surge such as increased hurricane or storm frequency and severity. An additional threat that is expected to impact the species in the foreseeable future includes the continued collection from wild populations for the domestic and international pet trade. Map turtles are desired by collectors for their intricate shell patterns. Despite the less distinctive shell patterns and markings of adult Pearl River map turtles, the species remains a target for some herptile enthusiasts and personal collections. The demand for turtles globally is increasing, which results in more intense pressures on wild populations. The threat of illegal collection is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. The overall future condition of the species is expected to continue a declining trajectory resulting in compromised viability as described in the future scenarios out to year 2070. Therefore, the species is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future throughout all of its range. Status Throughout a Significant Portion of Its Range Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a species may warrant listing if it is in danger of extinction or likely to become so in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The court in Center for Biological Diversity v. Everson, 2020 WL 437289 (D.D.C. Jan. 28, 2020) (Center for Biological Diversity), vacated the aspect of the Final Policy on Interpretation of the Phrase ‘‘Significant Portion of Its Range’’ in the Endangered Species Act’s Definitions of ‘‘Endangered Species’’ and ‘‘Threatened Species’’ (79 FR 37578; July 1, 2014) that provided that the Service does not undertake an analysis of significant portions of a species’ range if the species warrants listing as threatened throughout all of its range. Therefore, we proceed to evaluating whether the species is endangered in a significant portion of its range—that is, whether PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 there is any portion of the species’ range for which both (1) the portion is significant; and (2) the species is in danger of extinction in that portion. Depending on the case, it might be more efficient for us to address the ‘‘significance’’ question or the ‘‘status’’ question first. We can choose to address either question first. Regardless of which question we address first, if we reach a negative answer with respect to the first question that we address, we do not need to evaluate the other question for that portion of the species’ range. Following the court’s holding in Center for Biological Diversity, we now consider whether there are any significant portions of the species’ range where the species is in danger of extinction now (i.e., endangered). In undertaking this analysis for the Pearl River map turtle, we choose to address the status question first—we consider information pertaining to the geographic distribution of both the species and the threats that the species faces to identify any portions of the range where the species is endangered. 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: Effects of climate change (including SLR), habitat loss and degradation, and illegal collection. We also considered whether cumulative effects contributed to a concentration of threats across the species’ range. Overall, we found that the threat of SLR and habitat loss are likely acting disproportionately to particular areas within the species’ range. The threat of SLR is concentrated in the Lower Pearl, which is the most southern resilience unit that connects to the Gulf of Mexico. However, the salinity influx into the species’ habitat due to SLR is not currently affecting this area but will affect the species’ habitat within the foreseeable future; thus, we excluded SLR from the significant portion of its range analysis as we have already determined the species is threatened across all of its range. The threat of habitat loss and degradation is concentrated on the Middle Pearl–Strong and Upper Pearl units due to an existing reservoir and a planned project that disjoins the connectivity of turtles above and below the reservoir. The impacts due to habitat degradation and loss are acting on the species’ current condition and possibly future condition if the One Lake project is constructed as planned. Future reduction in habitat in the Middle Pearl–Strong and Upper Pearl units will occur, and increased isolation of the Upper Pearl unit will further reduce E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules connectivity if the additional One Lake project is completed. Researchers have estimated that up to 170 individual Pearl River map turtles could be directly impacted by the One Lake Project (Selman 2020b, pp. 192–193). The impacts from this project are in the future and are not currently affecting the species; therefore, we will only consider the existing reservoir for the analysis to determine if the species is endangered in a significant portion of its range. After identifying areas where the concentration of threats of habitat degradation and loss affects the species or its habitat and the time horizon of these threats, we considered the status to determine if the species is endangered in the affected portion of the range. The area that currently contains a concentration of threats includes a portion of the Middle Pearl– Strong and Upper Pearl units. Habitat loss and degradation from an existing reservoir has reduced the amount and quality of existing habitat for the species in these units. The Ross Barnett Reservoir constructed between 1960 and 1963 near Jackson, Mississippi, changed the natural hydrology of the Pearl River and resulted in 20.9 rmi (33.6 rkm) of river submerged and made unsuitable for the Pearl River map turtle (Lindeman 2019, p. 19). Low population densities of turtles have been observed upstream from the reservoir (Selman and Jones 2017, pp. 32–34). Notable population declines also have been observed in the stretch of the Pearl River downstream of the Ross Barnett Reservoir (north of Lakeland Drive), but the exact reason for the decline is unknown (Selman 2020b, p. 194). However, despite these declines, the species currently exhibits adequate resiliency in these portions. As a result, the Pearl River map turtle is not in danger of extinction in the portion of the range affected by the Barnett Ross Reservoir. In other words, we found no concentration of threats in any portion of the Pearl River map turtle’s range at a biologically meaningful scale. Thus, there are no portions of the species’ range where the species has a different status from its rangewide status. Therefore, no portion of the species’ range provides a basis for determining that the species is in danger of extinction in a significant portion of its range, and we determine that the Pearl River map turtle is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future throughout all of its range. This is consistent with the courts’ holdings in 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 Diversity v. Jewell, 248 F. Supp. 3d, 946, 959 (D. Ariz. 2017). Determination of Pearl River Map Turtle Status Our review of the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the Pearl River map turtle meets the definition of a threatened species. Therefore, we propose to list the Pearl River map turtle as a threatened species in accordance with sections 3(20) and 4(a)(1) of the Act. Available Conservation Measures Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or threatened species under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain practices. Recognition through listing results in public awareness, and conservation by Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies, private organizations, and individuals. The Act encourages cooperation with the States and other countries and calls for recovery actions to be carried out for listed species. The protection required by Federal agencies and the prohibitions against certain activities are discussed, in part, below. The primary purpose of the Act is the conservation of endangered and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The ultimate goal of such conservation efforts is the recovery of listed species, so that they no longer need the protective measures of the Act. Section 4(f) of the Act calls for the Service to develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation of endangered and threatened species. The recovery planning process involves the identification of actions that are necessary to halt or reverse the species’ decline by addressing the threats to its survival and recovery. The goal of this process is to restore listed species to a point where they are secure, selfsustaining, and functioning components of their ecosystems. Recovery planning consists of preparing draft and final recovery plans, beginning with the development of a recovery outline and making it available to the public within 30 days of a final listing determination. The recovery outline guides the immediate implementation of urgent recovery actions and describes the process to be used to develop a recovery plan. Revisions of the plan may be done to address continuing or new threats to the species, as new substantive information becomes available. The recovery plan also identifies recovery criteria for review of when a species may be ready PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66649 for reclassification from endangered to threatened (‘‘downlisting’’) or removal from protected status (‘‘delisting’’), and methods for monitoring recovery progress. Recovery plans also establish a framework for agencies to coordinate their recovery efforts and provide estimates of the cost of implementing recovery tasks. Recovery teams (composed of species experts, Federal and State agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and stakeholders) are often established to develop recovery plans. When completed, the recovery outline, draft recovery plan, and the final recovery plan will be available on our website (http://www.fws.gov/ endangered) or from our Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Implementation of recovery actions generally requires the participation of a broad range of partners, including other Federal agencies, States, Tribes, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and private landowners. Examples of recovery actions include habitat restoration (e.g., restoration of native vegetation), research, captive propagation and reintroduction, and outreach and education. The recovery of many listed species cannot be accomplished solely on Federal lands because their range may occur primarily or solely on non-Federal lands. To achieve recovery of these species requires cooperative conservation efforts on private, State, and Tribal lands. If the Pearl River map turtle is listed, funding for recovery actions will be available from a variety of sources, including Federal budgets, State programs, and cost-share grants for nonFederal landowners, the academic community, and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, pursuant to section 6 of the Act, the States of Louisiana and Mississippi would be eligible for Federal funds to implement management actions that promote the protection or recovery of the Pearl River map turtle. Information on our grant programs that are available to aid species recovery can be found at: http:// www.fws.gov/grants. Although the Pearl River map turtle is only proposed for listing under the Act at this time, please let us know if you are interested in participating in recovery efforts for this species. Additionally, we invite you to submit any new information on this species whenever it becomes available and any information you may have for recovery planning purposes (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Section 7(a) of the Act requires Federal agencies to evaluate their actions with respect to any species that E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 66650 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules is proposed or listed as an endangered or threatened species and with respect to its critical habitat, if any is designated. Regulations implementing this interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR part 402. Section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to confer with the Service on any action that is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a species proposed for listing or result in destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a species is listed subsequently, section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies to ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or destroy or adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency must enter into consultation with the Service. Federal agency actions within the species’ range that may require conference or consultation or both as described in the preceding paragraph include actions that fund, authorize, or carry out management and any other landscape-altering activities include, but are not limited to: (1) Actions that would increase sediment deposition within the stream channel. Such activities could include, but are not limited to, channelization, channel alteration, dredging, impoundment, flood-control structures, road and bridge construction, desnagging (submerged dead-wood removal), timber harvests, destruction of riparian vegetation, oil or natural gas development, pipeline construction, offroad vehicle use, and other landdisturbing activities in the watershed and floodplain. Sedimentation from these activities could lead to stream bottom embeddedness that eliminates or reduces the quality of aquatic habitat necessary for the conservation of the Pearl River map turtle. (2) Actions that would alter river or tributary morphology or geometry. Such activities could include, but are not limited to, channelization, dredging, impoundment, road and bridge construction, pipeline construction, and destruction of riparian vegetation. These activities may cause changes in water flows or channel stability and lead to increased sedimentation that eliminates or reduces the sheltering habitat necessary for the conservation of the Pearl River map turtle. (3) Actions that would alter water chemistry or quality. Such activities could include, but are not limited to, the release of chemicals, fill, biological pollutants, or off-label pesticide use. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 These activities could alter water conditions to levels that are beyond the tolerances of the Pearl River map turtle and result in direct or cumulative adverse effects to individual turtles. It is our policy, as published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34272), to identify to the maximum extent practicable at the time a species is listed, those activities that would or would not constitute a violation of section 9 of the Act. The intent of this policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of a proposed listing on proposed and ongoing activities within the range of the species proposed for listing. The discussion below (section III. Proposed Rule Issued Under Section 4(d) of the Act for the Pearl River Map Turtle) regarding protective regulations under section 4(d) of the Act complies with our policy. III. Proposed Rule Issued Under Section 4(d) of the Act for the Pearl River Map Turtle Background Section 4(d) of the Act contains two sentences. The first sentence states that the Secretary shall issue such regulations as she deems necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of species listed as threatened. The U.S. Supreme Court has noted that statutory language like ‘‘necessary and advisable’’ demonstrates a large degree of deference to the agency (see Webster v. Doe, 486 U.S. 592 (1988)). Conservation is defined in the Act to mean the use of all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary. Additionally, the second sentence of section 4(d) of the Act states that the Secretary may by regulation prohibit with respect to any threatened species any act prohibited under section 9(a)(1), in the case of fish or wildlife, or section 9(a)(2), in the case of plants. Thus, the combination of the two sentences of section 4(d) provides the Secretary with wide latitude of discretion to select and promulgate appropriate regulations tailored to the specific conservation needs of threatened species. The second sentence grants particularly broad discretion to the Service when adopting the prohibitions under section 9. The courts have recognized the extent of the Secretary’s discretion under this standard to develop rules that are appropriate for the conservation of a species. For example, courts have upheld rules developed under section 4(d) as a valid exercise of agency PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 authority where they prohibited take of threatened wildlife or include a limited taking prohibition (see Alsea Valley Alliance v. Lautenbacher, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 60203 (D. Or. 2007); Washington Environmental Council v. National Marine Fisheries Service, 2002 U.S. Dist. Lexis 5432 (W.D. Wash. 2002)). Courts have also upheld 4(d) rules that do not address all of the threats a species faces (see State of Louisiana v. Verity, 853 F.2d 322 (5th Cir. 1988)). As noted in the legislative history when the Act was initially enacted, ‘‘once an animal is on the threatened list, the Secretary has an almost infinite number of options available to him/[her] with regard to the permitted activities for those species. [S]he may, for example, permit taking, but not importation of such species, or [s]he may choose to forbid both taking and importation but allow the transportation of such species’’ (H.R. Rep. No. 412, 93rd Cong., 1st Sess. 1973). Exercising our authority under section 4(d), we have developed a proposed rule that is designed to address the Pearl River map turtle’s conservation needs. Although the statute does not require us to make a ‘‘necessary and advisable’’ finding with respect to the adoption of specific prohibitions under section 9, we find that this proposed rule as a whole satisfies the requirement in section 4(d) of the Act to issue regulations deemed necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of the Pearl River map turtle. As discussed under Summary of Biological Status and Threats, we have concluded that the Pearl River map turtle is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future primarily due to habitat degradation and loss due to impoundments, dams, agricultural runoff, development, mining, loss of riparian habitat and deadwood abundance, collection, and climate change. Additional stressors acting on the species include disease and contaminants (pesticides and heavy metals). Drowning and/or capture due to bycatch associated with recreational and commercial fishing of some species of freshwater fish also may affect the species but are of unknown frequency or severity. The provisions of this proposed 4(d) rule would promote conservation of the Pearl River map turtle by encouraging responsible land management activities and implementing use of best management practices for activities near and in rivers, streams, and riparian areas to minimize habitat alteration to the maximum extent practicable. The rule will also address the threat of E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules collection by prohibiting take of individuals from the wild. The provisions of this proposed rule include some of the many tools that we would use to promote the conservation of Pearl River map turtle. This proposed 4(d) rule would apply only if and when we make final the listing of Pearl River map turtle as a threatened species. Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies, including the Service, to ensure that any action they fund, authorize, or carry out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat of such species. In addition, section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to confer with the Service on any agency action which is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any species proposed to be listed under the Act or result in the destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency (action agency) must enter into consultation with us. Examples of actions that are subject to the section 7 consultation process are actions on State, Tribal, local, or private lands that require a Federal permit (such as a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) or a permit from the Service under section 10 of the Act) or that involve some other Federal action (such as funding from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Federal actions not affecting listed species or critical habitat—and actions on State, Tribal, local, or private lands that are not federally funded, authorized, or carried out by a Federal agency—do not require section 7 consultation. This obligation does not change in any way for a threatened species with a species-specific 4(d) rule. Actions that result in a determination by a Federal agency of ‘‘not likely to adversely affect’’ continue to require the Service’s written concurrence and actions that are ‘‘likely to adversely affect’’ a species require formal consultation and the formulation of a biological opinion. Provisions of the Proposed 4(d) Rule for the Pearl River Map Turtle This proposed 4(d) rule would provide for the conservation of the Pearl River map turtle by prohibiting the following activities, except as otherwise authorized or permitted: Importing or VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 exporting; take; possession and other acts with unlawfully taken specimens; delivering, receiving, transporting, or shipping in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial activity; or selling or offering for sale in interstate or foreign commerce. We also include several exceptions to these prohibitions, which along with the prohibitions, are set forth under Proposed Regulation Promulgation, below. As discussed above under Summary of Biological Status and Threats, habitat degradation and loss (aquatic and terrestrial nesting) and collection are affecting the status of the Pearl River map turtle. A range of activities has the potential to affect the Pearl River map turtle, including: Dredging, de-snagging, removal of riparian cover, channelization, in-stream activities that result in stream bank erosion and siltation (e.g., stream crossings, bridge replacements, flood control structures, impoundments, etc.), improper pesticide use, and changes in land use within the riparian zone of waterbodies (e.g., clearing land for agriculture). Regulating take associated with these activities would provide for the conservation of the species by better preserving the condition of the species’ resilience units, slowing its rate of decline, and decreasing synergistic, negative effects from other ongoing or future threats. Under the Act, ‘‘take’’ means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. Some of these provisions have been further defined in regulation at 50 CFR 17.3. Take can result knowingly or otherwise, by direct and indirect impacts, intentionally or incidentally. This proposed 4(d) rule would provide for the conservation of Pearl River map turtle by prohibiting intentional and incidental take, except as otherwise authorized or permitted. Prohibiting take of the species resulting from activities, including but not limited to habitat alteration and collection, will provide for the conservation of the species. Regulating take from these activities under a 4(d) rule would prevent continued declines in population abundance and decrease synergistic, negative effects from other threats; this regulatory approach will provide for the conservation of the species by improving resiliency of the species across all units within its range and prevent future projected declines in its viability. PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66651 Prohibitions Aquatic and terrestrial nesting habitat alteration is a threat to the Pearl River map turtle, as the species is endemic to the Pearl River basin and its river ecosystems, including tributary waterbodies, where structure (e.g., tree root masses, stumps, submerged trees, etc.) provides habitat for the species and its prey. Pearl River map turtles spend the majority of their time in aquatic habitat; overland movements are generally restricted to nesting females and juveniles moving from the nest to water (Jones 2006, pp. 207–208; Lindeman 2013, pp. 211–212). The primary causes for aquatic habitat alteration include actions that change hydrologic conditions to the extent that dispersal and genetic interchange are impeded. The activities that alter Pearl River map turtle aquatic and terrestrial nesting habitats may directly or indirectly affect the species. As well as providing basking sites for all age classes of Pearl River map turtles, fallen riparian woody debris provides important feeding areas for juvenile and male turtles. The species’ habitat needs include flowing water with limited sedimentation, sufficient water quality to support the invertebrate and mussel food source of the species, and sandbars for nesting sites. We recommend the implementation of industry and/or State-approved best management practices for activities that may change the hydrology or water quality or reduce available basking structures such as deadwood. Additionally, pesticides should be applied according to label guidelines complying with State and Federal regulations. State regulatory programs for Pearl River map turtle include regulations in Louisiana and Mississippi that limit or prohibit possession, purchase, sale, transport, or export. Additionally, collection of turtles for the pet trade and aquaculture is a practice that continues to threaten many turtle species globally and also within the Southeastern United States. Based on the provisions of this proposed 4(d) rule, the following actions would be prohibited across the range of the species: Importing or exporting individuals; take (as set forth at 50 CFR 17.21(c)(1) with exceptions as discussed below); possession, sale, delivery, carrying, transporting, or shipping of specimens from any source; delivering, receiving, transporting, or shipping individuals in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial activity; and selling or offering for sale individuals in interstate or foreign commerce. E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 66652 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules Exceptions to the Prohibitions We are proposing several exceptions to the prohibitions: Take incidental to any otherwise lawful activity caused by pesticide and herbicide use; construction, operation, and maintenance activities that implement industry and/or State-approved best management practices accordingly; silviculture practices and forestry activities that implement industry and/ or State-approved best management practices accordingly; and maintenance dredging that affects previously disturbed portions of the maintained channel. Best Management Practices for Implementing Actions That Occur Nearor In-Stream—Implementing best management practices to avoid and/or minimize the effects of habitat alterations in areas that support Pearl River map turtles would provide additional measures for conserving the species by reducing direct and indirect effects to the species. We consider that certain construction, forestry, and pesticide/herbicide management activities that occur near- and in-stream may remove riparian cover or forested habitat, change land use within the riparian zone, or increase stream bank erosion and/or siltation. These actions and activities, if implemented using appropriate best management practices, may have some minimal level of incidental take of the Pearl River map turtle, but any such take is expected to be rare and insignificant and is not expected to negatively impact the species’ conservation and recovery efforts. Construction, operation, and maintenance activities such as installation of stream crossings, replacement of existing in-stream structures (e.g., bridges, culverts, water control structures, boat launches, etc.), operation and maintenance of existing flood control features (or other existing structures), and directional boring, when implemented with industry and State-approved standard best management practices, will have minimal impacts to Pearl River map turtles and their habitat. In addition, silviculture practices and forestry management activities that follow Stateapproved best management practices to protect water and sediment quality and stream and riparian habitat will not impair the species’ conservation. Lastly, invasive species removal activities, particularly through pesticide (insecticide and herbicide) application, are considered beneficial to the native ecosystem and are likely to improve habitat conditions for the species; all VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 excepted pesticide applications must be conducted in a manner consistent with Federal and applicable State laws, including Environmental Protection Agency label restrictions and pesticide application guidelines as prescribed by pesticide manufacturers that would not impair the species’ conservation. These activities should have minimal impacts to Pearl River map turtles if industry and/or State-approved best management practices are implemented. These activities and management practices should be carried out in accordance with any existing regulations, permit and label requirements, and best management practices to avoid or minimize impacts to the species and its habitat. Thus, under this proposed 4(d) rule, incidental take associated with the following activities are excepted: (1) Construction, operation, and maintenance activities that occur nearand in-stream, such as installation of stream crossings, replacement of existing in-stream structures (e.g., bridges, culverts, water control structures, boat launches, etc.), operation and maintenance of existing flood control features (or other existing structures), and directional boring, when implemented with industry and/ or State-approved best management practices for construction; (2) Pesticide and herbicide applications that follow the chemical label and appropriate application rates; and (3) Silviculture practices and forest management activities that use Stateapproved best management practices to protect water and sediment quality and stream and riparian habitat. Maintenance Dredging of Navigable Waterways—We considered that maintenance dredging activities generally disturb the same area of the waterbody in each cycle; thus, there is less likelihood that suitable turtle habitat (e.g., submerged logs, cover, etc.) occurs in the maintained portion of the channel. Accordingly, incidental take associated with maintenance dredging activities that occur within the previously disturbed portion of the navigable waterway is excepted from the prohibitions as long as these activities do not encroach upon suitable turtle habitat outside the maintained portion of the channel and provide for the conservation of the species. We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities, including those described above, involving threatened wildlife under certain circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 17.32. With regard to threatened PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 wildlife, a permit may be issued for the following purposes: For scientific purposes, to enhance propagation or survival, for economic hardship, for zoological exhibition, for educational purposes, for incidental taking, or for special purposes consistent with the purposes of the Act. The statute also contains certain exemptions from the prohibitions, which are found in sections 9 and 10 of the Act. We recognize the special and unique relationship with State natural resource agency partners in contributing to conservation of listed species. State agencies often possess scientific data and valuable expertise on the status and distribution of endangered, threatened, and candidate species of wildlife and plants. State agencies, because of their authorities and their close working relationships with local governments and landowners, are in a unique position to assist the Service in implementing all aspects of the Act. In this regard, section 6 of the Act provides that the Service shall cooperate to the maximum extent practicable with the States in carrying out programs authorized by the Act. Therefore, any qualified employee or agent of a State conservation agency that is a party to a cooperative agreement with the Service in accordance with section 6(c) of the Act, who is designated by his or her agency for such purposes, would be able to conduct activities designed to conserve Pearl River map turtle that may result in otherwise prohibited take without additional authorization. The proposed 4(d) rule would also allow any employee or agent of the Service, or other Federal land management agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service, a State conservation agency, or a State-licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility staff member designated by his/her agency for such purposes, when acting in the course of official duties, to take endangered wildlife without a permit in accordance with 50 CFR 17.21(c)(3). Nothing in this proposed 4(d) rule would change in any way the recovery planning provisions of section 4(f) of the Act, the consultation requirements under section 7 of the Act, or the ability of the Service to enter into partnerships for the management and protection of the Pearl River map turtle. However, interagency cooperation may be further streamlined through planned programmatic consultations for the species between Federal agencies and the Service, where appropriate. We ask the public, particularly State agencies and other interested stakeholders that may be affected by the proposed 4(d) rule, to provide comments and E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules suggestions regarding additional guidance and methods that the Service could provide or use, respectively, to streamline the implementation of this proposed 4(d) rule (see Information Requested, above). IV. Critical Habitat for the Pearl River Map Turtle lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Background Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as: (1) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found those physical or biological features (a) Essential to the conservation of the species, and (b) Which may require special management considerations or protection; and (2) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species. Our regulations at 50 CFR 424.02 define the geographical area occupied by the species as an area that may generally be delineated around species’ occurrences, as determined by the Secretary (i.e., range). Such areas may include those areas used throughout all or part of the species’ life cycle, even if not used on a regular basis (e.g., migratory corridors, seasonal habitats, and habitats used periodically, but not solely by vagrant individuals). Conservation, as defined under section 3 of the Act, means to use and the use of all methods and procedures that are necessary to bring an endangered or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary. Such methods and procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated with scientific resources management such as research, census, law enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, habitat restoration, propagation, live trapping, and transplantation, and, in the extraordinary case where population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise relieved, may include regulated taking. Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the Act through the requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation with the Service, that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. The designation of VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. Designation also does not allow the government or public to access private lands. Designation does not require implementation of restoration, recovery, or enhancement measures by non-Federal landowners. Where a landowner requests Federal agency funding or authorization for an action that may affect a listed species or critical habitat, the Federal agency would be required to consult with the Service under section 7(a)(2) of the Act. However, even if the Service were to conclude that the proposed activity would result in destruction or adverse modification of the critical habitat, the Federal action agency and the landowner are not required to abandon the proposed activity, or to restore or recover the species; instead, they must implement ‘‘reasonable and prudent alternatives’’ to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. Under the first prong of the Act’s definition of critical habitat, areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it was listed are included in a critical habitat designation if they contain physical or biological features (1) which are essential to the conservation of the species and (2) which may require special management considerations or protection. For these areas, critical habitat designations identify, to the extent known using the best scientific and commercial data available, those physical or biological features that are essential to the conservation of the species (such as space, food, cover, and protected habitat). In identifying those physical or biological features that occur in specific occupied areas, we focus on the specific features that are essential to support the life-history needs of the species, including, but not limited to, water characteristics, soil type, geological features, prey, vegetation, symbiotic species, or other features. A feature may be a single habitat characteristic or a more complex combination of habitat characteristics. Features may include habitat characteristics that support ephemeral or dynamic habitat conditions. Features may also be expressed in terms relating to principles of conservation biology, such as patch size, distribution distances, and connectivity. Under the second prong of the Act’s definition of critical habitat, we can designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66653 species. The implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(b)(2) further delineate unoccupied critical habitat by setting out three specific parameters: (1) When designating critical habitat, the Secretary will first evaluate areas occupied by the species; (2) the Secretary will consider unoccupied areas to be essential only where a critical habitat designation limited to geographical areas occupied by the species would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species; and (3) for an unoccupied area to be considered essential, the Secretary must determine that there is a reasonable certainty both that the area will contribute to the conservation of the species and that the area contains one or more of those physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species. Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat on the basis of the best scientific data available. Further, our Policy on Information Standards Under the Endangered Species Act (published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271)), the Information Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 106–554; H.R. 5658)), and our associated Information Quality Guidelines provide criteria, establish procedures, and provide guidance to ensure that our decisions are based on the best scientific data available. They require our biologists, to the extent consistent with the Act and with the use of the best scientific data available, to use primary and original sources of information as the basis for recommendations to designate critical habitat. When we are determining which areas should be designated as critical habitat, our primary source of information is generally the information from the SSA report and information developed during the listing process for the species. Additional information sources may include any generalized conservation strategy, criteria, or outline that may have been developed for the species; the recovery plan for the species; articles in peer-reviewed journals; conservation plans developed by States and counties; scientific status surveys and studies; biological assessments; other unpublished materials; or experts’ opinions or personal knowledge. Habitat is dynamic, and species may move from one area to another over time. We recognize that critical habitat designated at a particular point in time may not include all of the habitat areas that we may later determine are necessary for the recovery of the E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 66654 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 species. For these reasons, a critical habitat designation does not signal that habitat outside the designated area is unimportant or may not be needed for recovery of the species. Areas that are important to the conservation of the species, both inside and outside the critical habitat designation, will continue to be subject to: (1) Conservation actions implemented under section 7(a)(1) of the Act; (2) regulatory protections afforded by the requirement in section 7(a)(2) of the Act for Federal agencies to ensure their actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species; and (3) the prohibitions found in section 9 of the Act. Federally funded or permitted projects affecting listed species outside their designated critical habitat areas may still result in jeopardy findings in some cases. These protections and conservation tools will continue to contribute to recovery of the species. Similarly, critical habitat designations made on the basis of the best available information at the time of designation will not control the direction and substance of future recovery plans, habitat conservation plans, or other species conservation planning efforts if new information available at the time of those planning efforts calls for a different outcome. Prudency Determination Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.12) require that, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, the Secretary shall designate critical habitat at the time the species is determined to be an endangered or threatened species. Our regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)) state that the Secretary may, but is not required to, determine that a designation would not be prudent in the following circumstances: (i) The species is threatened by taking or other human activity and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the degree of such threat to the species; (ii) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of a species’ habitat or range is not a threat to the species, or threats to the species’ habitat stem solely from causes that cannot be addressed through management actions resulting from consultations under section 7(a)(2) of the Act; (iii) Areas within the jurisdiction of the United States provide no more than negligible conservation value, if any, for a species occurring primarily outside the jurisdiction of the United States; VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 (iv) No areas meet the definition of critical habitat; or (v) The Secretary otherwise determines that designation of critical habitat would not be prudent based on the best scientific data available. Increased Degree of Threat to the Pearl River Map Turtle After evaluating the status of the species and considering the threats acting on the species, we find the designation of critical habitat would not be prudent for Pearl River map turtle because the species is threatened by taking or other human activity, and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the degree of such threat to the species. As discussed earlier in the proposed listing determination for Pearl River map turtle, there is currently an imminent threat of collection identified under Factor B for the Pearl River map turtle. Identification and mapping of critical habitat is expected to facilitate any such threat. Collection of wild turtles in the Pearl River system is probably occurring, and similar to what has been observed in other States, these turtles are likely destined for the high-end turtle pet trade in China and possibly other Southeast Asian countries (Selman 2020a, p. 23). Information has been documented from three different local individuals, at three different locations, concerning turtle bycatch or harvesting in local Louisiana waterways occupied by Pearl River map turtles (Selman 2020a, pp. 22–23). These locations included the Pearl River south of Bogalusa, Louisiana (possible mortality resulting from bycatch in hoop nets), the West Pearl River Navigation Canal (turtles captured and sold, possibly for shipment to China), and the Bogue Chitto River (local comment that baby turtles were being captured and shipped to China) (Selman 2020a, pp. 22–23). The specific species captured were not documented; however, it is likely that at least some of these turtles were Pearl River map turtles. The Service manages information related to species exports in the Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS). According to a LEMIS report from 2005 to 2019, more than 300,000 turtles identified as Graptemys spp. or their parts were exported from the United States to 29 countries (Service 2021b, Appendix B). The number of turtles recorded in each shipment ranged widely. Due to their similarity in appearance, species of Graptemys are difficult to differentiate (Selman 2021, pers comm.). Records from 2005, when the highest number of PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Graptemys were exported, show more than 35,000 turtles (Graptemys spp.) in a single shipment to Spain and a total of 172,645 individual Graptemys exported to 24 different countries (Service 2021b, Appendix B). However, there is some uncertainty regarding the sources of the exported turtles as they could have originated from captive stock. The Pearl River map turtle is declining throughout its range as a consequence of factors including collection of live adult turtles from the wild for the pet trade. All life stages of aquatic turtles are at risk of collection for both domestic and international distribution (Stanford et al. 2020, p. R722). All species of map turtles are prized by collectors because of their intricate shell patterns. While the Pearl River map turtle lacks many of the distinct intricacies, there is still a demand for all map turtles and this species is collected and trafficked domestically and internationally (Service 2021b, Appendix B). The unauthorized collection of Pearl River map turtles for the pet trade is a factor contributing to the species’ decline and remains a threat today. Pearl River map turtles can be found near basking structures because many turtles may use the same logs and semisubmerged features (Selman and Lindeman 2015, pp. 794–795). Therefore, publishing specific location information would provide a high level of assurance that any person going to a specific location would be able to successfully locate and collect multiple individuals given the species’ concentrated use of limited basking sites. Designation of critical habitat requires the publication of maps and a narrative description of specific critical habitat areas in the Federal Register. We are concerned that designation of critical habitat would more widely announce the exact locations of Pearl River map turtles and their suitable habitat that may facilitate unauthorized collection/ poaching and contribute to further declines of the species’ viability. Moreover, as species become rarer and more difficult to obtain, the monetary value increases, thus driving increased collection pressure on remaining wild individuals. We anticipate that listing the Pearl River map turtle under the Act may promote further interest in black market sales of the turtles and increase the likelihood that the species will be sought out for the pet trade as demand rises. The removal of the species by taking is expected to increase if we identify critical habitat; thus, we find that designation of critical habitat for E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules the Pearl River map turtle is not prudent. Therefore, because the species is threatened by taking or other human activity and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the degree of such threat to the species, the criterion as provided in regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(a)(1) has been met. Accordingly, we have determined that the designation of critical habitat is not prudent for the Pearl River map turtle. lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 Critical Habitat Determinability Having determined that designation is not prudent, under section 4(a)(3) of the Act we do not evaluate the extent to which critical habitat for the Pearl River map turtle is determinable. V. Similarity of Appearance for the Alabama Map Turtle, Barbour’s Map Turtle, Escambia Map Turtle, and Pascagoula Map Turtle Whenever a species which is not endangered or threatened closely resembles an endangered or threatened species, such species may be treated as either endangered or threatened if the Secretary makes such determination in accordance with section 4(e) of the Act for similarity of appearance. Section 4(e) authorizes the treatment of a species, subspecies, or population segment as an endangered or threatened species if: ‘‘(a) Such species so closely resembles in appearance, at the point in question, a species which has been listed pursuant to such section that enforcement personnel would have substantial difficulty in attempting to differentiate between the listed and unlisted species; (b) the effect of this substantial difficulty is an additional threat to an endangered or threatened species; and (c) such treatment of an unlisted species will substantially facilitate the enforcement and further the policy of this Act.’’ A designation of an endangered or threatened species due to similarity of appearance under section 4(e) of the Act, however, does not extend other protections of the Act, such as consultation requirements for Federal agencies under section 7 and the recovery planning provisions under section 4(f), that apply to species that are listed as an endangered or threatened species under section 4(a). All applicable prohibitions and exceptions for species listed under section 4(e) of the Act due to similarity of appearance to a threatened or endangered species will be set forth in a species-specific rule issued under section 4(d) of the Act. The Service implements this Section 4(e) authority in accordance with the Act and our regulations at 50 CFR 17.50. Our VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 analysis of the criteria for the 4(e) rule is described below for the similarity of appearance of the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle in relation to the proposed threatened Pearl River map turtle. Do the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle so closely resemble in appearance, at the point in question, the Pearl River map turtle such that enforcement personnel would have substantial difficulty in attempting to differentiate between the listed and unlisted species? Map turtles (genus Graptemys) are named for the intricate pattern on the carapace that often resembles a topographical map. In addition to the intricate markings, the shape of the carapace (top half of shell) in map turtles is very distinctive. The carapace is keeled, and many species show some type of knobby projections or spikes down the vertebral scutes (located down the midline of the carapace). All five of these map turtle species are in the megacephalic (large-headed) clade where the females have large, broad heads and all occur in the Southeastern United States. There are only slight morphological differences between the Pearl River map turtle and four other map turtle species in the megacephalic clade from the Southeastern United States: Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle. The ranges of these species do not geographically overlap, with the exception of Barbour’s and Escambia map turtle ranges in some areas of the Choctawhatchee River drainage in Alabama and Florida (figure 2). Additional information regarding characteristics and identification of megacephalic map turtles is described in the SSA report (Service 2021b, pp. 17–24). The lack of distinctive physical features makes it difficult to differentiate among these species, even for law enforcement officers, especially considering their similar body form, shell markings, and head markings (Selman 2021, pers. comm). The Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle all closely resemble in appearance, at the point in question, the Pearl River map turtle such that enforcement personnel would have substantial difficulty in attempting to differentiate between the listed and unlisted species. PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66655 Is the effect of this substantial difficulty an additional threat to Pearl River map turtle? As provided in 50 CFR 17.50(b)(2), we considered the additional threat posed to the proposed threatened Pearl River map turtle because of its similarity of appearance to the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle. Specifically, we considered the possibility that an additional threat is posed to the Pearl River map turtle by unauthorized trade or commerce by persons who misrepresent Pearl River map turtle specimens as Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, or Pascagoula map turtle specimens, because this might result in the Pearl River map turtle (if listed) entering the global black market via the United States or contributing to market demand for the Pearl River map turtle. Due to the lack of distinct physical characteristics and difficulty in distinguishing individual species of megacephalic map turtles, the similarity of these species poses a problem for Federal and State law enforcement agents trying to stem unauthorized collection of the Pearl River map turtle. Collection is a real threat to many turtle species in the United States and also affects species globally (Stanford et al. 2020, entire). Turtles are collected in the wild and sold into the pet trade both domestically and internationally. The proposed listing of the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle as threatened due to similarity of appearance minimizes the possibility that private and commercial collectors will be able to misrepresent Pearl River map turtles as Alabama map turtles, Barbour’s map turtles, Escambia map turtles, or Pascagoula map turtles for private or commercial purposes. We find that the difficulty enforcement personnel have in attempting to differentiate between the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle species would pose an additional threat to the Pearl River map turtle. Would treatment of the four unlisted map turtles as threatened or endangered due to similarity of appearance substantially further the enforcement and policy of the Act? The listing of the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle due to similarity of appearance will facilitate Federal, State, and local law enforcement agents’ efforts to curtail E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 66656 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules unauthorized possession, collection, and trade in the Pearl River map turtle. Listing the four similar map turtle species due to similarity of appearance under section 4(e) of the Act and providing applicable prohibitions and exceptions under section 4(d) of the Act will substantially facilitate the enforcement and further the policy of the Act for the Pearl River map turtle. For these reasons, we propose to list Alabama map turtle (occurring in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee), Barbour’s map turtle (occurring in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia), Escambia map turtle (occurring in Alabama and Florida), and Pascagoula map turtle (occurring in Mississippi) as threatened due to similarity of appearance to the Pearl River map turtle pursuant to section 4(e) of the Act (see figure 2). With this proposed rule, we do not consider the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, or Pascagoula map turtle to be biologically threatened or endangered but we have determined that listing the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle as threatened species under the similarity of appearance provision of the Act, coupled with a proposed 4(d) rule as discussed below, minimizes misidentification and enforcementrelated issues. This proposed listing would promote and enhance the conservation of the Pearl River map turtle. BILLING CODE 4333–15–P Tennessee Alabama, Mississippi J :1ilH .·\t~HH: ••• 0 •~••H••·t ···<<··~:..-... 't· . • ::::::.~::n:: r ::·::::::,::· \::::::' ... ,1:::,::, p:::::.: <~!:::::::: '"""""" Legend • Alabama Map Turtle • Barbour's Map Turtle ~---------~ Figure 2-Range map of the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, Pascagoula map turtle, and Pearl River map turtle. BILLING CODE 4333–15–C VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 EP23NO21.001</GPH> lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 ~ EscambiaMapTurtle O 32.5· as Miles EzZl Pascagoula Map Turtte .1 . , • , 1 b:::11:I Pearl RiverMap Tuttle 1 cent~:~~~ 46; kri~~~ters Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 VI. Proposed Rule Issued Under Section 4(d) of the Act for the Alabama Map Turtle, Barbour’s Map Turtle, Escambia Map Turtle, and Pascagoula Map Turtle Background Whenever a species is listed as a threatened species under the Act, the Secretary may specify regulations that she deems necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of that species under the authorization of section 4(d) of the Act. Because we are proposing to list the Alabama map turtle (Graptemys pulchra), Barbour’s map turtle (Graptemys barbouri), Escambia map turtle (Graptemys ernsti), and Pascagoula map turtle (Graptemys gibbonsi) as threatened species due to similarity of appearance to the Pearl River map turtle (see V. Similarity of Appearance for the Alabama Map Turtle, Barbour’s Map Turtle, Escambia Map Turtle, and Pascagoula Map Turtle section), we are proposing a 4(d) rule to minimize misidentification and enforcement-related issues. This proposed 4(d) rule would promote and enhance the conservation of the Pearl River map turtle. This proposed 4(d) rule, to be promulgated for addition to 50 CFR 17.42, will establish prohibitions on collection of these four similar-inappearance species of map turtle in order to protect the Pearl River map turtle from unlawful collection, unlawful possession, and unlawful trade. In this context, collection is defined as any activity where Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle are, or are attempted to be, collected from wild populations. Capture of the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle is not prohibited if it is not intentional, such as during research or fishing activities, provided live animals are released immediately upon discovery at the point of capture and dead animals are reported to the Service. Incidental take associated with all otherwise legal activities involving the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle that are conducted in accordance with applicable State, Federal, Tribal, and local laws and regulations is not considered prohibited under this proposed rule. Provisions of the Proposed 4(d) Rule for the Alabama Map Turtle, Barbour’s Map Turtle, Escambia Map Turtle, and Pascagoula Map Turtle This proposed 4(d) rule would provide for the conservation of the Pearl VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 River map turtle by prohibiting the following activities for Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle, except as otherwise authorized or permitted: Take in the form of collection (other than for scientific purposes); importing or exporting individuals; possession and other acts with unlawfully taken specimens; delivering, receiving, transporting, or shipping of unlawfully taken specimens from any source; delivering, receiving, transporting, or shipping individuals in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial activity; and selling or offering for sale individuals in interstate or foreign commerce. The proposed 4(d) rule does not prohibit incidental take of the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle through permitted and other excepted activities as described below. Incidental take is take that results from, but is not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. For example, construction activities, application of pesticides and fertilizers according to label, silviculture and forest management practices, maintenance dredging activities that remain in the previously disturbed portion of a maintained channel, and any other legally undertaken actions that result in the accidental take of an Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle will not be considered a violation of section 9 of the Act in the southern States of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Effect of the Proposed Rule Listing the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle as threatened species under the ‘‘similarity of appearance’’ provisions of the Act, and the promulgation of a rule under section 4(d) of the Act, to extend take prohibitions regarding collection, import, export, and commerce to these species will provide a conservation benefit to the Pearl River map turtle. Capture of these species is not prohibited if it is accidental, such as during research, provided the animal is released immediately upon discovery at the point of capture. As Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle can be confused with the Pearl River map turtle, we strongly recommend maintaining the appropriate documentation and declarations with legal specimens at all times, especially when importing them PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 66657 into the United States, and permit holders should also comply with the import/export transfer regulations under 50 CFR part 14, where applicable. All otherwise legal activities that may involve what we would normally define as incidental take (take that results from, but is not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity) of these similar turtles, and which are conducted in accordance with applicable State, Federal, Tribal, and local laws and regulations, are not prohibited under this proposed regulation. This proposed 4(d) rule will not consider instances of incidental take as violations of section 9 of the Act if they result in incidental take of any of the similarity of appearance turtles. We do not find it necessary to apply incidental take prohibitions for those otherwise legal activities to these four similar turtles (Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle), as these activities will not pose a threat to the Pearl River map turtle because: (1) Activities that affect the waters where Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle reside will not affect Pearl River map turtle and (2) the primary threat to the Pearl River map turtle comes from collection and commercial trade as it relates to the similar turtles. Listing the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle under the similarity of appearance provision of the Act, coupled with this 4(d) rule, will help minimize enforcement problems related to collection and enhance conservation of the Pearl River map turtle. 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 E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2 66658 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc. National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) 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 (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 readily acknowledge our responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In Common name lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 * REPTILES accordance with Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with Tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge that Tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make information available to Tribes. We coordinated with Tribes within the Pearl River map turtle’s range when we initiated the SSA process. We also requested review and addressed comments accordingly. We also coordinated with Tribes within the Alabama, Barbour’s, and Escambia map turtles’ ranges, requesting information regarding threats and conservation actions for those species. There are no Tribes within the range of the Pascagoula map turtle. We will continue to work with Tribal entities during the development of a final rule. * A complete list of references cited in the petition finding for the Pascagoula map turtle and this proposed rulemaking for the Pearl River map turtle is available on the internet at https://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Where listed * The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Species Assessment Team and the Service’s Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office. 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. 2. Amend § 17.11(h) by adding entries for ‘‘Turtle, Alabama map’’, ‘‘Turtle, Barbour’s map’’, ‘‘Turtle, Escambia map’’, ‘‘Turtle, Pascagoula map’’ and ‘‘Turtle, Pearl River map’’ to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in alphabetical order under Reptiles to read as set forth below: ■ References Cited Scientific name Authors § 17.11 Endangered and threatened wildlife. * * * (h) * * * * Listing citations and applicable rules Status * * * * * * Turtle, Alabama map ...... * * Graptemys pulchra ....... * Wherever found ............ * T (S/A) * * [Federal Register citation when published as a final rule]; 50 CFR 17.42(n).4d * Turtle, Barbour’s map .... * * Graptemys barbouri ...... * Wherever found ............ * T (S/A) * * [Federal Register citation when published as a final rule]; 50 CFR 17.42(n).4d * Turtle, Escambia map .... * * Graptemys ernsti .......... * Wherever found ............ * T (S/A) * * [Federal Register citation when published as a final rule]; 50 CFR 17.42(n).4d * Turtle, Pascagoula map * * Graptemys gibbonsi ...... * Wherever found ............ * T (S/A) * * [Federal Register citation when published as a final rule]; 50 CFR 17.42(n).4d * Turtle, Pearl River map .. * * Graptemys pearlensis ... * Wherever found ............ * T * * [Federal Register citation when published as a final rule]; 50 CFR 17.42(m).4d * VerDate Sep<11>2014 * 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 * Jkt 256001 PO 00000 * Frm 00036 Fmt 4701 * Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM * 23NOP2 * Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / Proposed Rules 3. As proposed to be amended at 85 FR 61700 (September 30, 2020), 86 FR 18014 (April 7, 2021), and 86 FR 62122 (November 9, 2021), § 17.42 is further amended by adding paragraphs (m) and (n) to read as follows: ■ § 17.42 Special rules—reptiles. * * * * (m) Pearl River map turtle (Graptemys pearlensis)—(1) Prohibitions. The following prohibitions that apply to endangered wildlife also apply to the Pearl River map turtle. Except as provided under paragraph (m)(2) of this section and §§ 17.4 and 17.5, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to commit, to attempt to commit, to solicit another to commit, or cause to be committed, any of the following acts in regard to this species: (i) Import or export as set forth at § 17.21(b) for endangered wildlife. (ii) Take, as set forth at § 17.21(c)(1) for endangered wildlife. (iii) Possession and other acts with unlawfully taken specimens, as set forth at § 17.21(d)(1) for endangered wildlife. (iv) Interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a commercial activity, as set forth at § 17.21(e) for endangered wildlife. (v) Sale or offer for sale, as set forth at § 17.21(f) for endangered wildlife. (2) Exceptions from prohibitions. In regard to this species, you may: (i) Conduct activities as authorized by a permit under § 17.32. lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with PROPOSALS2 * VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:36 Nov 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 (ii) Take, as set forth at § 17.21(c)(2) through (4) for endangered wildlife. (iii) Possess and engage in other acts with unlawfully taken wildlife, as set forth at § 17.21(d)(2) for endangered wildlife. (iv) Take as set forth at § 17.31(b). (v) Take incidental to an otherwise lawful activity caused by: (A) Construction, operation, and maintenance activities that occur nearand in-stream, such as installation of stream crossings, replacement of existing in-stream structures (e.g., bridges, culverts, water control structures, boat launches, etc.), operation and maintenance of existing flood control features (or other existing structures), and directional boring, when implemented with industry and/or State-approved best management practices for construction. (B) Pesticide (insecticide or herbicide) application that follows approved chemical label instructions and appropriate application rates. (C) Silviculture practices and forest management activities that use Stateapproved best management practices to protect water and sediment quality and stream and riparian habitat. (D) Maintenance dredging activities that remain in the previously disturbed portion of the maintained channel. (n) Alabama map turtle (Graptemys pulchra), Barbour’s map turtle (Graptemys barbouri), Escambia map turtle (Graptemys ernsti), and Pascagoula map turtle (Graptemys PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 9990 66659 gibbonsi)—(1) Prohibitions. The following prohibitions that apply to endangered wildlife also apply to the Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle. Except as provided under paragraph (n)(2) of this section and §§ 17.4 and 17.5, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to commit, to attempt to commit, to solicit another to commit, or cause to be committed, any of the following acts in regard to these species: (i) Take in the form of collection (other than for scientific purposes). (ii) Import or export, as set forth at § 17.21(b) for endangered wildlife. (iii) Possession and other acts with unlawfully taken specimens, as set forth at § 17.21(d)(1) for endangered wildlife. (v) Interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a commercial activity, as set forth at § 17.21(e) for endangered wildlife. (vi) Sale or offer for sale, as set forth at § 17.21(f) for endangered wildlife. (2) Exceptions from prohibitions. In regard to these species, you may: (i) Conduct activities as authorized by a permit under § 17.32. (ii) Take as set forth at § 17.31(b). Martha Williams, Principal Deputy Director, Exercising the Delegated Authority of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2021–23992 Filed 11–22–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P E:\FR\FM\23NOP2.SGM 23NOP2

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 223 (Tuesday, November 23, 2021)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 66624-66659]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-23992]



[[Page 66623]]

Vol. 86

Tuesday,

No. 223

November 23, 2021

Part II





 Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding for 
Pascagoula Map Turtle; Threatened Species Status With Section 4(d) Rule 
for Pearl River Map Turtle; and Threatened Species Status for Alabama 
Map Turtle, Barbour's Map Turtle, Escambia Map Turtle, and Pascagoula 
Map Turtle Due to Similarity of Appearance With a Section 4(d) Rule; 
Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 223 / Tuesday, November 23, 2021 / 
Proposed Rules

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2021-0097; FF09E21000 FXES1111090FEDR 223]
RIN 1018-BF42


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
for Pascagoula Map Turtle; Threatened Species Status With Section 4(d) 
Rule for Pearl River Map Turtle; and Threatened Species Status for 
Alabama Map Turtle, Barbour's Map Turtle, Escambia Map Turtle, and 
Pascagoula Map Turtle Due to Similarity of Appearance With a Section 
4(d) Rule

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; announcement of 12-month petition finding.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce our 
12-month findings for two freshwater turtle species, the Pascagoula map 
turtle (Graptemys gibbonsi) and the Pearl River map turtle (Graptemys 
pearlensis), as endangered or threatened species. The Pascagoula map 
turtle is endemic to the Pascagoula River drainage in Mississippi, and 
the Pearl River map turtle is endemic to the Pearl River drainage in 
Mississippi and Louisiana. We propose to list the Pearl River map 
turtle as a threatened species with a rule issued under section 4(d) of 
the Act (``4(d) rule''). After a thorough review of the best available 
scientific and commercial information, we find that it is not warranted 
at this time to list the Pascagoula map turtle; however, we propose to 
list the Pascagoula map turtle along with Alabama map turtle (Graptemys 
pulchra), Barbour's map turtle (Graptemys barbouri), and Escambia map 
turtle (Graptemys ernsti) as threatened species due to similarity of 
appearance to the Pearl River map turtle with a 4(d) rule. If we 
finalize this rule as proposed, it would add the Pearl River map 
turtle, Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, 
and Pascagoula map turtle to the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and extend the Act's protections to the species.

DATES: 
    Comment submission: For the proposed rules to list the Pearl River 
map turtle and the four other species (Alabama map turtle, Barbour's 
map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle) due to 
similarity of appearance, we will accept comments received or 
postmarked on or before January 24, 2022. We also request comments on 
the proposed 4(d) rule for the Pearl River map turtle and the proposed 
4(d) rule for the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia 
map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle during the same timeframe as 
comments for the proposed listing actions. 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 January 7, 2022.
    12-month petition finding: For the Pascagoula map turtle, the 
finding in this document was made on November 23, 2021.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter the RIN or docket number 
(presented above in the document headings). For best results, do not 
copy and paste either number; instead, type the docket number or RIN 
into the Search box using hyphens. Then, click on the Search button. On 
the resulting page, in the 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.''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Public Comments 
Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2021-0097, 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 https://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide 
us (see Information Requested, below, for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephen Ricks, Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi Ecological Services Field 
Office, 6578 Dogwood View Park, Jackson, MS 39213; telephone 601-321-
1122. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) 
may call the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Executive Summary

    Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Act, if we determine that 
a species warrants listing, we are required to promptly publish a 
proposal in the Federal Register, unless doing so is precluded by 
higher-priority actions and expeditious progress is being made to add 
and remove qualified species to or from the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and Plants. The Service will make a determination 
on our proposal within one year. If there is substantial disagreement 
regarding the sufficiency and accuracy of the available data relevant 
to the proposed listing, we may extend the final determination for not 
more than six months. To the maximum extent prudent and determinable, 
we must designate critical habitat for any species that we determine to 
be an endangered or threatened species under the Act. Listing a species 
as an endangered or threatened species and designation of critical 
habitat can be completed only by issuing a rule.
    What this document does. We find that listing the Pascagoula map 
turtle as an endangered or threatened species is not warranted at this 
time. We propose to list the Pearl River map turtle as a threatened 
species with a rule under section 4(d) of the Act. We also propose to 
list the Pascagoula map turtle, Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map 
turtle, and Escambia map turtle as threatened species based on their 
similarity of appearance to the Pearl River map turtle and propose a 
rule under section 4(d) of the Act for these species. We find that 
designation of critical habitat for the Pearl River map turtle is not 
prudent.
    The basis for our action. Under the Act, we may determine that a 
species is an endangered or threatened species because of any of five 
factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) 
disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its 
continued existence. We have determined that threats to the Pearl River 
map turtle include habitat degradation or loss (degraded water quality, 
channel and hydrologic modifications/impoundments, agricultural runoff, 
and development--Factor B), collection (Factor C), and effects of 
climate change (increasing temperatures, drought, sea level rise (SLR), 
hurricane regime changes, and increased seasonal precipitation--Factor 
E).
    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act requires the Secretary of the Interior 
(Secretary) to designate critical habitat concurrent

[[Page 66625]]

with listing to the maximum extent prudent and determinable. We have 
determined that designation of critical habitat for the Pearl River map 
turtle is not prudent at this time.

Information Requested

    We intend that any final action resulting from these proposed rules 
will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request 
comments or information from other concerned governmental agencies, 
Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any 
other interested parties concerning this proposed rule.
    We particularly seek comments concerning:
    (1) The species' biology, range, and population trends, including:
    (a) Biological or ecological requirements of the species, including 
habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;
    (b) Genetics and taxonomy;
    (c) Historical and current range, including distribution patterns;
    (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and 
projected trends; and
    (e) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the species, their 
habitats, or both.
    (2) Factors that may affect the continued existence of the species, 
which may include habitat modification or destruction, overutilization, 
disease, predation, the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, 
or other natural or manmade factors.
    (3) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any threats (or lack thereof) to the species and existing regulations 
that may be addressing the threats.
    (4) Additional information concerning the historical and current 
status, range, distribution, and population size of this species, 
including the locations of any additional populations of this species.
    (5) Information on regulations that are necessary and advisable to 
provide for the conservation of the Pearl River map turtle, and that 
the Service can consider in developing a 4(d) rule for the species. We 
seek information concerning the extent to which we should include any 
of the section 9 prohibitions in the 4(d) rule or whether we should 
consider any additional exceptions from the prohibitions in the 4(d) 
rule. This proposed 4(d) rule will not apply take prohibitions for 
otherwise legal activities to the four turtles listed due to similarity 
of appearance (Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map 
turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle) if those activities will not pose a 
threat to the Pearl River map turtle.
    (6) Specific information on bycatch of Pearl River map turtle from 
fishing or trapping gear due to recreational and commercial fishing 
activities for other species.
    (7) Information on why we should or should not designate habitat as 
``critical habitat'' under section 4 of the Act, including information 
to inform the following factors that the regulations identify as 
reasons why designation of critical habitat may be not prudent:
    (a) The species is threatened by taking or other human activity and 
identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the 
degree of such threat to the species;
    (b) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of a species' habitat or range is not a threat to the 
species, or threats to the species' habitat stem solely from causes 
that cannot be addressed through management actions resulting from 
consultations under section 7(a)(2) of the Act;
    (c) Areas within the jurisdiction of the United States provide no 
more than negligible conservation value, if any, for a species 
occurring primarily outside the jurisdiction of the United States; or
    (d) No areas meet the definition of critical habitat.
    (8) For the Pascagoula map turtle, we ask the public to submit to 
us at any time new information relevant to the species' status, 
threats, or its habitat.
    (9) Information regarding legal or illegal collection of the 
Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, 
Pascagoula map turtle, or Pearl River map turtle.
    (10) Threats to the Pearl River map turtle from collection of or 
commercial trade involving the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map 
turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle.
    (11) Information regarding domestic and international trade of the 
Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, 
Pascagoula map turtle, or Pearl River map turtle.
    Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as 
scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to 
verify any scientific or commercial information you include.
    Please note that submissions merely stating support for, or 
opposition to, the action under consideration without providing 
supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in 
making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that 
determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or a 
threatened species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best 
scientific and commercial data available.''
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you 
send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES.
    If you submit information via https://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 https://www.regulations.gov.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection on https://www.regulations.gov.
    Because we will consider all comments and information we receive 
during the comment period, our final determinations 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 are 
endangered instead of threatened, or we may conclude that the species 
do not warrant listing as either endangered species or threatened 
species. In addition, we may change the parameters of the prohibitions 
or the exceptions to those prohibitions in the 4(d) rules if we 
conclude it is appropriate in light of comments and new information 
received. For example, we may expand the prohibitions to include 
prohibiting take related to additional activities if we conclude that 
those additional activities are not compatible with conservation of the 
species. Conversely, we may establish additional exceptions to the 
prohibitions in the final rule if we conclude that the activities would 
facilitate or are compatible with the conservation and recovery of the 
species.

Public Hearing

    Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for one or more public hearings 
on this proposal, if requested. Requests must be received by the date 
specified in DATES. 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,

[[Page 66626]]

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).

Previous Federal Actions

    On April 20, 2010, we received a petition from the Center for 
Biological Diversity (CBD), Alabama Rivers Alliance, Clinch Coalition, 
Dogwood Alliance, Gulf Restoration Network, Tennessee Forests Council, 
and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (referred to below as the CBD 
petition) to list 404 aquatic, riparian, and wetland species, including 
the Pascagoula map turtle as an endangered or threatened species under 
the Act. On September 27, 2011, we published a 90-day finding that the 
petition contained substantial information indicating listing may be 
warranted for the Pascagoula map turtle (76 FR 59836). At the time of 
the petition, the Pascagoula map turtle description included turtles 
that occur in the Pascagoula and Pearl rivers. Since then, the 
Pascagoula map turtle was determined to be two similar, yet distinct 
species, the Pascagoula map turtle (Graptemys gibbonsi) and the Pearl 
River map turtle (Graptemys pearlensis) (Ennen et al. 2010, pp. 109-
110).
    On January 21, 2020, CBD filed a complaint challenging the 
Service's failure to complete 12-month findings for both species within 
the statutory deadline. The Service and CBD reached a stipulated 
settlement agreement whereby the Service agreed to deliver 12-month 
findings for the Pascagoula map turtle and the Pearl River map turtle 
to the Office of the Federal Register by October 29, 2021. This 
document constitutes our 12-month finding for the April 20, 2010, 
petition to list the Pascagoula map turtle and Pearl River map turtle 
under the Act in compliance with the October 29, 2021, stipulated 
settlement agreement.

Supporting Documents

    A species status assessment (SSA) team prepared SSA reports for the 
Pascagoula map turtle and the Pearl River map turtle. The SSA team was 
composed of Service biologists, in consultation with other species 
experts. The SSA reports represent compilations of the best scientific 
and commercial data available concerning the status of the species, 
including the impacts of past, present, and future factors (both 
negative and beneficial) affecting the species. In accordance with our 
joint policy on peer review published in the Federal Register on July 
1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), and our August 22, 2016, memorandum updating and 
clarifying the role of peer review of listing actions under the Act, we 
sought the expert opinions of four appropriate specialists regarding 
the Pascagoula map turtle SSA report, and five appropriate specialists 
regarding the Pearl River map turtle SSA report. We received responses 
from all the peer reviewers; feedback we received informed our findings 
and this proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure that 
our listing determinations and 4(d) rules are based on scientifically 
sound data, assumptions, and analyses. The peer reviewers have 
expertise in the biology, habitat, and threats to the species.
    In addition, we provided the draft SSA reports for review to 
Federal partners, State partners, and scientists with expertise in 
aquatic ecology and freshwater turtle biology, taxonomy, and 
conservation. We notified Tribal nations early in the SSA process for 
the Pearl River map turtle. We sent the draft SSA report for review to 
the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and received comments that were 
addressed in the SSA report. There are no Tribes associated with the 
Pascagoula map turtle across its range.

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 expected response by the species, 
and the effects of the threats--in light of those actions and 
conditions that will ameliorate the threats--on an individual, 
population, and species level. We evaluate each threat and its expected 
effects on the species, then analyze the cumulative effect of all of 
the threats on the species as a whole. We also consider the cumulative 
effect of the threats in light of those actions and conditions that 
will have positive effects on the species, such as any existing 
regulatory mechanisms or conservation efforts. The Secretary determines 
whether the species meets the definition of an ``endangered species'' 
or a ``threatened species'' only after conducting this cumulative 
analysis and describing the expected effect on the species now and in 
the foreseeable future.
    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 the 
Service 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

[[Page 66627]]

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 it 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.

Analytical Framework

    Each SSA report documents the results of our comprehensive 
biological review of the best scientific and commercial data regarding 
the status of the species, including an assessment of potential threats 
to the species. SSA reports do not represent a decision by the Service 
on whether either species should be proposed for listing as an 
endangered or threatened species under the Act. However, they do 
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. We completed SSA reports for 
the Pascagoula map turtle and the Pearl River map turtle and summarize 
the key results and conclusions from the reports below, beginning with 
the Pascagoula map turtle, followed by the Pearl River map turtle. The 
Pascagoula map turtle SSA report can be found in docket number FWS-R4-
ES-2021-0097 on https://www.regulations.gov, and on the species profile 
page of the Service's Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS) 
internet site, https://www.ecos.gov/ecp/species/3198. The Pascagoula 
map turtle SSA report can be found in docket number FWS-R4-ES-2021-0097 
on https://www.regulations.gov, and on the species profile page of the 
Service's Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS) internet 
site, https://www.ecos.gov/ecp/species/10895.
    To assess the species' 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.
    The SSA process can be categorized into three sequential stages. 
During the first stage, we evaluated the individual species' life-
history needs. The next stage involved an assessment of the historical 
and current condition of the species' demographics and habitat 
characteristics, including an explanation of how the species arrived at 
its current condition. The final stage of the SSA involved making 
predictions about the species' responses to positive and negative 
environmental and anthropogenic influences. Throughout all of these 
stages, we used the best available information to characterize 
viability as the ability of a species to sustain populations in the 
wild over time. We use this information to inform our regulatory 
decision.

I. 12-Month Finding for the Pascagoula Map Turtle

    Under section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act, we are required to make a 
finding whether or not a petitioned action is warranted within 12 
months after receiving any petition that we have determined contains 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted (``12-month finding''). We must make 
a finding that the petitioned action is: (1) Not warranted; (2) 
warranted; or (3) warranted but precluded. ``Warranted but precluded'' 
means that (a) the petitioned action is warranted, but the immediate 
proposal of a regulation implementing the petitioned action is 
precluded by other pending proposals to determine whether species are 
endangered or threatened species, and (b) expeditious progress is being 
made to add qualified species to the Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants (Lists) and to remove from the Lists species for 
which the protections of the Act are no longer necessary. Section 
4(b)(3)(C) of the Act requires that, when we find that a petitioned 
action is warranted but precluded, we treat the petition as though 
resubmitted on the date of such finding, that is, requiring that a 
subsequent finding be made within 12 months of that date. We must 
publish these 12-month findings in the Federal Register.
    In conducting our evaluation of the five factors provided in 
section 4(a)(1) of the Act to determine whether the Pascagoula map 
turtle (Graptemys gibbonsi; Service 2021a, entire) currently meets the 
definition of ``endangered species'' or ``threatened species,'' we 
considered and thoroughly evaluated the best scientific and commercial 
data available regarding the past, present, and future stressors and 
threats. We reviewed the petition, information available in our files, 
and other available published and unpublished information. This 
evaluation may include information from recognized experts; Federal, 
State, and Tribal governments; academic institutions; private entities; 
and other members of the public. After comprehensive assessment of the 
best scientific and commercial data available, we determined that the 
Pascagoula map turtle does not meet the definition of an endangered or 
a threatened species.
    The SSA report for the Pascagoula map turtle contains more detailed 
biological information, a thorough description of the factors 
influencing the species' viability, and the current and future 
conditions of the species. (Service 2021, entire). This supporting 
information can be found on the internet at https://www.regulations.gov 
under docket number FWS-R4-ES-2021-0097. The following is a summary of 
our determination for the Pascagoula map turtle.

Summary of Finding

    The Pascagoula map turtle is a freshwater turtle in the family 
Emydidae (that includes all map turtles) and the megacephalic (broad-
headed) clade. Map turtles (genus Graptemys) are named for the 
intricate pattern on the carapace (top half of shell) that often 
resembles a topographical map. In addition to the intricate pattern, 
the shape of map turtle carapaces is very different from that of other 
turtle genera. The carapace is keeled, and most species show some type 
of knobby projections or spikes down the vertebral (located down the 
center of the carapace) scutes (thickened plates similar to scales on 
the turtle's shell) (Service 2021a, p. 5). Specific to

[[Page 66628]]

Pascagoula map turtle, the plastron (entire ventral surface of the 
shell) can reach lengths of up to 8.6 inches (in) (21.8 centimeters 
(cm)) in mature females and in mature males can range from 2.8 to 4.0 
in (7.2 to 10.1 cm) (Lindeman 2013, p. 294). Typically, male map 
turtles mature in 2 to 3 years, while females mature at approximately 
11 years of age (Service 2021a, pp. 18 and 26). The species is endemic 
to the Pascagoula River drainage in Mississippi including the 
Pascagoula, Leaf, and Chickasawhay Rivers and associated tributaries.
    Before 1992, all megacephalic map turtles from the Pascagoula River 
system in southeastern Mississippi, the Pearl River system in central 
Mississippi and eastern Louisiana, the Escambia-Conecuh River system in 
western Florida and eastern Alabama, and the Mobile Bay system in 
Alabama, eastern Mississippi, northwestern Georgia, and southeastern 
Tennessee were recognized as the Alabama map turtle (Graptemys pulchra) 
(Baur 1893, pp. 675-676). The Pascagoula map turtle was taxonomically 
separated from the Alabama map turtle in 1992, when morphological 
features were analyzed for four operational taxonomic units, resulting 
in the name G. pulchra being restricted to the Mobile Bay drainages, 
individuals from the Escambia-Conecuh River system being elevated to a 
new species G. ernsti (Escambia map turtle), and individuals from the 
Pascagoula and Pearl River systems being elevated to the new species G. 
gibbonsi (Pascagoula map turtle; Lovich and McCoy 1992, pp. 296-306). A 
molecular systematics study supported the division of G. pulchra into 
three species, although G. gibbonsi was only represented in the 
analysis by genetic material collected from individuals in the Pearl 
River drainage (Lamb et al. 1994, pp. 554-559). The Pearl River map 
turtle (G. pearlensis) was taxonomically separated from the Pascagoula 
map turtle (G. gibbonsi) in 2010 based on morphological and genetic 
features (Ennen et al. 2010, pp. 109-110). This separation was 
subsequently supported with a molecular analysis of the phylogeny of 
the entire genus Graptemys (Thomson et al. 2018, p. 65). The Pascagoula 
map turtle is recognized as a separate species from the Pearl River map 
turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Alabama map turtle, and the 
distinction as a valid species is supported in the literature and 
recognized by the herpetological community (Crother et al. 2017, p. 
82).
    The Pascagoula map turtle inhabits stretches of perennial rivers 
and creeks with sand or gravel substrates, with higher population 
densities near dense accumulations of deadwood (Lindeman 2013, p. 293). 
Emergent deadwood serves as thermoregulatory basking structure, 
foraging structure for males and juveniles (Selman and Lindeman 2015, 
pp. 794-795), and as an overnight resting place for males and juveniles 
(Cagle 1952, p. 227). Pascagoula map turtles prefer clean water (Lovich 
et al. 2009, p. 029.4). They have never been documented in oxbow lakes 
or other floodplain hydrological features, despite the fact that other 
microcephalic map turtle species can be found in oxbows (Lindeman 2013, 
p. 293). They have also never been documented in saltwater or within a 
mile of estuaries (McCoy and Vogt 1979, p. 15; Lovich et al. 2009, p. 
029.4).
    Adult female Pascagoula map turtles feed mostly on freshwater 
mussel species, with nonnative Asian clams (Corbicula fluminea) as the 
major source of food; however, they may also consume insects and 
vegetation (Ennen et al. 2007, p. 200; Floyd and Floyd 2013, p. 5). 
Adult males forage on mussels, insects, and some vegetation 
(Vucenovi[cacute] and Lindeman 2021, pp. 123-124). Juveniles, small 
females, and mature males rely on insects (Dundee and Rossman 1989, 
p.187; Lovich et al. 2009, p. 029.4; Vu[ccaron]enovi[cacute] and 
Lindeman 2021, p. 123). Additionally, other aquatic invertebrates such 
as sponges and snails are also consumed by all sex and age classes 
(Selman and Lindeman 2015, pp. 794-795; Vu[ccaron]enovi[cacute] and 
Lindeman 2021, p. 20).
    For the Pascagoula map turtle to survive and reproduce, individuals 
need suitable habitat that supports essential life functions at all 
life stages. Several elements appear to be essential to the survival 
and reproduction of individuals: Mainstem and tributary reaches within 
the Pascagoula River system that have sandbars, natural hydrologic 
regimes, adequate supply of invertebrate prey items including insects 
and mollusks, an abundance of emergent and floating basking structures 
of various sizes, and sand, gravel, or rocky substrates (Service 2021a, 
p. 22).
    Additional resource needs of the Pascagoula map turtle include 
appropriate terrestrial nesting habitat (patches of bare sand adjacent 
to adult habitat with sparse vegetation, typically on sandbars; 
adequate sand incubation temperatures to yield an appropriate hatchling 
sex ratio; and adequate river flow to prevent nest mortality due to 
flooding).
    To assess the species' viability in terms of resiliency, 
redundancy, and representation, we delineated the range into resilience 
units as a proxy for populations. As data are not available to 
delineate biological populations at this time, these units were 
intended to subdivide the species' range to facilitate assessing and 
reporting the variation in current and future resilience across the 
range. To describe the species' current and future conditions in the 
SSA, we delineated eight resilience units of Pascagoula River map 
turtles based on Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) 8 watersheds and in 
accordance with guidance from species experts. These units are: Black, 
Chunky-Okatibbee, Escatawpa, Lower Chickasawhay, Lower Leaf, 
Pascagoula, Upper Chickasawhay, and Upper Leaf. Historically, the 
majority of the range of the species was likely connected in a single 
interbreeding biological population, but we used the eight units in the 
SSA to most accurately describe trends in resiliency, forecast future 
resiliency, and capture differences in stressors among units. 
Additional descriptions of the methodology for delineating units and 
the current resiliency of each unit are available in the SSA report 
(Service 2021a, pp. 41-65).
    For units to be resilient, the needs of individuals (sandbars, 
adequate flow, adequate supply of invertebrate prey items, basking 
structures, and sand or gravel substrates) must be met at a larger 
scale. Tributary and mainstem reaches with suitable habitat 
uninterrupted by impoundments must be sizable enough to support a large 
enough population of individuals to avoid issues associated with small 
population sizes, such as inbreeding depression (Service 2021a, p. 22). 
The resiliency of the eight units was assessed for the current and 
future condition to inform the species' viability (Service 2021a, pp. 
41-105). The current condition of the eight units are described as one 
population with low resiliency (Escatawpa), five populations with 
moderate resiliency (Black, Chunky-Okatibbee, Lower Chickasawhay, 
Pascagoula, and Upper Chickasawhay), and two units with high resiliency 
(Lower Leaf and Upper Leaf) (Service 2021a, p. 66).
    For the species to maintain viability, there must be adequate 
redundancy (suitable number of populations and connectivity to allow 
the species to withstand catastrophic events) and representation 
(genetic and environmental diversity to allow the species to adapt to 
changing environmental conditions). Redundancy improves with increasing 
numbers of populations (natural or reintroduced) distributed across the 
species' range, and connectivity (either natural or human-facilitated) 
allows connected populations to ``rescue'' each other after

[[Page 66629]]

catastrophes. The Pascagoula map turtle is found across the eight 
resilience units in varying densities within the mainstems and 
tributaries that would prevent extinction of the entire species from 
the impacts of a single catastrophic event.
    Representation improves with the persistence of populations spread 
across the range of genetic and/or ecological diversity within the 
species. Long-term viability will require resilient populations to 
persist into the future; for the Pascagoula map turtle, this will mean 
maintaining high-quality tributary and mainstem habitat and water 
quality to support many redundant populations across the species' 
range, while preventing barriers to dispersal between populations such 
as dams or impoundments (Service 2021a, p. 22). The Pascagoula map 
turtle has distinct genetic characteristics in at least three of the 
rivers: Leaf, Chickasawhay, and Pascagoula (Pearson et al. 2020, 
entire). We described representation based on four representative 
units: Chickasawhay River representative unit (includes the Chunky-
Okatibbee, Upper Chickasawhay, and Lower Chickasawhay resilience 
units), Leaf River representative unit (consists of the Upper and Lower 
Leaf resilience units), Pascagoula River representative unit (consists 
of the Black and Pascagoula resilience units), and the Escatawpa River 
representative unit (consists of the Escatawpa resilience unit only) 
(Service 2021a, pp. 67-70).
    All representative units are currently occupied, though the 
Escatawpa is occupied at a very low density. The Leaf River 
representative units substantially contribute to representation with 
high resiliency. The Pascagoula River and Chickasawhay River 
representative units both significantly contribute to representation 
with moderate resiliency (Service 2021a, pp. 72-73).

Status Throughout All of Its Range

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data 
available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the 
Pascagoula map turtle, and we evaluated all relevant factors under the 
five listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and 
conservation measures addressing these stressors. The primary stressors 
(which are pervasive across the species' range) affecting the 
Pascagoula map turtle's biological status include habitat degradation 
or loss (i.e., channel and hydrological modifications and impoundments; 
removal or loss of deadwood; declines in water quality from 
agricultural runoff; development; and mining), collection, and effects 
of climate change (SLR, drought, and flooding). Additional stressors 
acting on the species include disease and invasive species and the 
synergistic effects of a multitude of stressors that affect the species 
or its habitat over time.
    When considering the threats acting on the species, there are 
adequate numbers of sufficiently resilient units with redundancy and 
representation across the species' range to withstand any imminent 
threats. The current conditions of the eight resilience units range 
from low to high with only a single unit, Escatawpa, with low 
resiliency, five units with moderate resiliency (Black, Chunky-
Okatibbee, Lower Chickasawhay, Pascagoula, and Upper Chickasawhay), and 
two with high resiliency (Lower Leaf and Upper Leaf). The species is 
distributed throughout the Pascagoula River watershed and thus has 
sufficient redundancy such that a catastrophic event, like a major, 
direct-hit hurricane, would only affect the small portion of the range 
that is in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. The species is also 
not confined to the mainstem rivers, and there are many tributaries 
that serve as refugia for the species.
    This species' habitat is surrounded by protected lands in many 
areas and the species is buffered from many threats such as 
development. Because the species currently retains moderate to high 
resiliency in seven out of eight of the units with sufficient 
redundancy and representation, the species is not currently in danger 
of extinction throughout all of its range.
    For the species to maintain viability, there must be adequate 
redundancy (suitable number of populations and connectivity to allow 
the species to withstand catastrophic events) and representation 
(genetic and environmental diversity to allow the species to adapt to 
changing environmental conditions). Our projections of Pascagoula map 
turtle viability into the foreseeable future (i.e., approximately 20 to 
50 years (2040 and 2070)) consider habitat and population factors, plus 
available climate modeling projections to inform future conditions. The 
greatest future threats to the Pascagoula map turtle include the 
effects of climate change: Loss of suitable habitat through 
salinization due to SLR, overall habitat changes, and other effects of 
climate (more precipitation extremes, including drought and floods). 
However, future condition projections that extend out to 2040 and 2070 
do not indicate the threats will act on the species within this 
timeframe in a manner that would place the species in danger of 
extinction throughout its range. We can reasonably rely on the 
predictions within the timeframe presented in the future condition 
scenarios because these timeframes are based on input from species 
experts, generation time for the species, and the confidence in 
predicting patterns of urbanization and agriculture. This is sufficient 
time to account for the species' response to threats over three to 
seven generations. Confidence in how these land uses will interact with 
the species and its habitat diminishes beyond 50 years.
    Habitat in the lower portions of the Escatawpa and Pascagoula units 
would likely experience SLR effects and a contraction of suitable 
habitat due to the effects of salinization. However, six of the eight 
populations would remain in high or moderate resiliency and moderate or 
better redundancy, and representation would still occur in all eight 
units into the foreseeable future. The two units with the greatest 
impacts from the above listed threats, the Escatawpa and the Pascagoula 
units, would also remain extant but likely with less habitat overall 
and some reduced resiliency. There will be sufficient redundancy with 
the units across the range and representation for adaptive capacity for 
the species to maintain viability into the future. Therefore, this 
species is not likely to become an endangered species in the 
foreseeable future. After assessing the best available information, we 
determine that the Pascagoula map turtle is not in danger of extinction 
now 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 Pascagoula map turtle 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 it is true that 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

[[Page 66630]]

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 Pascagoula map turtle, we 
choose to address the status question first--we consider information 
pertaining to the geographic distribution of both the species and the 
threats that the species faces to identify any portions of the range 
where the species is endangered or threatened.
    For the Pascagoula map turtle, we considered whether the threats 
are geographically concentrated in any portion of the species' range at 
a biologically meaningful scale, which may signal that it is more 
likely to be endangered or threatened in that portion. We examined the 
following threats: Habitat degradation or loss (i.e., channel and 
hydrological modifications and impoundments, removal or loss of 
deadwood, declines in water quality from agricultural runoff, 
development, and mining); collection; and the effects of climate change 
(SLR, drought, and flooding). We also considered whether cumulative 
effects contributed to a concentration of threats across the species' 
range. Overall, we found that the effects of SLR are concentrated in 
the lower portion of the Pascagoula and Escatawpa resilience units and 
will affect the southern portions of these units in the future.
    We first consider the threat of SLR acting on the Pascagoula 
resiliency unit. The effects of SLR will encroach in the southern 
portion of the unit, which currently has a moderate resiliency. The 
unit is linearly aligned along a north-south axis and connects to the 
Gulf of Mexico, which is the source of the saltwater inundation into 
the unit. The future conditions of the habitat within the unit are 
projected to improve because forest cover is expected to increase. The 
amount of available habitat will decline due to SLR; however, this 
situation will affect less than 15 percent of occupied habitat within 
the unit. This threat will create a gradual shift in conditions, 
allowing turtles within the area that will be affected to move north 
into other suitable areas not affected by saltwater intrusion from SLR. 
Because such a small percentage of occupied habitat in the unit will be 
affected by SLR, we find that SLR is not acting at a biologically 
meaningful scale in the Pascagoula resiliency unit such that the 
species may be in danger of extinction currently or within the 
foreseeable future in the Pascagoula unit. Therefore, this portion of 
the species' range does not 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.
    We next consider the threat of SLR acting on the Escatawpa 
resilience unit. This unit will be impacted by SLR in its southern 
portion as it also is connected to the Pascagoula River in close 
proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. In the Escatawpa, the area projected 
to be inundated has only a single record of Pascagoula map turtle 
occurrence. Another recent detection was approximately 25 river miles 
(rmi) (40 river kilometers (rkm)) upstream, so it is logical to assume 
there are other undetected turtles that may be impacted by inundation. 
Depending on the magnitude of SLR over the next 50 years, the Escatawpa 
unit will be inundated between 2.5 rmi (4.0 rkm) and 5.5 rmi (8.9 rkm) 
with 1-ft (0.3-m) and 5-ft (1.5-m) level increase, respectively 
(Service 2021a, p. 89). Between 5-17 percent of the species' habitat 
within the Escatawpa resilience unit will be affected by SLR. Because 
such a small percentage of the unit and such a low density and 
abundance of turtles within it will be affected by SLR, we find that 
SLR is not acting at a biologically meaningful scale in the Escatawpa 
resiliency unit such that the species may be in danger of extinction 
currently or within the foreseeable future in the Escatawpa unit. 
Therefore, this portion of the species' range does not 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.
    All other threats to the species are distributed throughout its 
range and affect the species uniformly throughout its range. After 
evaluating the areas that will be disproportionately affected by SLR in 
the future, our examination leads us to find that 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 that the 
Pascagoula map turtle 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 Pascagoula Map Turtle Status

    Our review of the best available scientific and commercial 
information indicates that the Pascagoula map turtle 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 find 
that listing the Pascagoula map turtle is not warranted at this time. A 
detailed discussion of the basis for this finding can be found in the 
Pascagoula map turtle species assessment form (Service 2021, entire) 
and other supporting documents, such as the accompanying SSA report 
(Service 2021a, entire) (see https://www.regulations.gov under docket 
number FWS-R4-ES-2021-0097).

II. Proposed Listing Determination for Pearl River Map Turtle

Background

    The Pearl River map turtle (Graptemys pearlensis) is a freshwater 
turtle species belonging to the Emydidae family that includes 
terrapins, pond turtles, and marsh turtles. Turtles in the genus 
Graptemys are also known as map turtles or sawback turtles for the 
intricate pattern on the carapace that often resembles a topographical 
map. The species is in the megacephalic (large-headed) clade as females 
grow proportionally larger heads and jaws than males as they age; the 
carapace length of adult females is over two times the length of adult 
males on average (Gibbons and Lovich 1990, pp. 2-3).
    The species inhabits rivers and large creeks with sand and gravel 
bottoms in the Pearl River drainage from central Mississippi to the 
border of southern Mississippi and Louisiana. For the Pearl River map 
turtle to survive and reproduce, individuals need suitable habitat that 
supports essential life functions at all life stages. Several elements 
appear to be essential to the survival and reproduction of individuals: 
Mainstem and tributary reaches within the Pearl River system that have 
sandbars, adequate flow, adequate supply of invertebrate prey items 
including insects and mollusks (particularly freshwater mussels), and 
an abundance of emergent and floating basking structures of various 
sizes. The diet of the Pearl River map turtle varies between females 
and males; mature females consume mostly Asian clams (Corbicula 
fluminea), while males and juveniles eat insects, with mature males 
specializing in caddisfly larvae and consuming more mollusks than 
juveniles (Vucenovi[cacute] and Lindeman 2021, entire; Service 2021a, 
p. 11).

[[Page 66631]]

    Pearl River map turtles are found in rivers and creeks with sand 
and gravel bottoms and dense accumulations of deadwood; turtles have 
not been documented in oxbow lakes or other floodplain habitats. They 
were notably absent from lakes where their sympatric microcephalic 
species, the ringed map turtle (Graptemys oculifera), is present, but 
do occur at the upstream reach of Ross Barnett Reservoir, an 
impoundment of the Pearl River (Lindeman 2013, p. 298). Accounts from 
before the Pearl River map turtle and Pascagoula map turtle were 
taxonomically divided described ideal habitat as rivers and creeks with 
sand or gravel bottoms, abundant basking structures, and swift currents 
(Lovich 2009, p. 304; Service 2006, p. 2). Although some species of 
Graptemys may tolerate conditions with some salinity, there is evidence 
that the genus is largely intolerant of brackish and saltwater 
environments (Selman and Qualls 2008, pp. 228-229; Lindeman 2013, pp. 
396-397).
    The species requires semi-exposed structure for basking. Emergent 
deadwood serves as thermoregulatory basking structure, foraging 
structure for males and juveniles (Selman and Lindeman 2015, pp. 794-
795), and as an overnight resting place for males and juveniles (Cagle 
1952, p. 227). Moderate-to-high basking densities of Pearl River map 
turtles were always associated with moderate-to-high deadwood 
densities, but some sites with ample deadwood structure did not have 
high densities of basking map turtles, indicating that those sites may 
lack other important characteristics (Lindeman 1999, pp. 37-40). 
Deadwood and its source in riparian forests are positively correlated 
to the abundance of riverine turtles (Sterrett et al. 2011, entire).
    The life history of the Pearl River map turtle can be described as 
the stages of egg, hatchling, juvenile, and adult. Typically, male map 
turtles mature in 2 to 3 years, while females mature much later 
(Lindeman 2013, p. 109). Maturity for adult female Pearl River map 
turtles may occur around 9 years of age (Vogt et al. 2019, pp. 557-
558).
    Female Pearl River map turtles excavate nests and lay their eggs on 
sandbars and beaches along riverbanks during the late spring and early 
summer months. Nesting habitat has been described as sandy substrates 
near the water's edge. At a beach on the Pearl River downstream of the 
Strong River, a nest was found in fine sand 82 ft (25 m) from the water 
(Vogt et al. 2019, p. 557). Three confirmed Pearl River map turtle 
nests found on sandbars along the Pearl River were dug in relatively 
fine sand ranging from 23 to 180 ft (7 to 55 m) from the water's edge 
and averaging 5.2 ft (1.6 m) from the closest vegetation (Ennen et al. 
2016, pp. 094.4-094.6). Another account states that nests are typically 
near the vegetation lines of sandbars (Anderson 1958, pp. 212-215).
    The time from deposition to nest emergence by hatchlings in natural 
clutches ranged from 67 to 79 days and averaged 69.3 days. Hatchlings 
incubated in captivity averaged 3.66 cm (1.44 in) in carapace length 
(Jones, unpublished data, summarized in Ennen et al. 2016, pp. 
094.4094.6). Hatchlings typically emerge from the nest within 3 hours 
after sunset, and this life stage depends on adequate abundance of 
invertebrate prey and emergent branches near the riverbank. All life 
stages require adequate quality and quantity of water as they are 
primarily freshwater aquatic turtles.
    A more thorough review of the taxonomy, life history, and ecology 
of the Pearl River map turtle is presented in detail in the SSA report 
(Service 2021b, pp. 15-30).

Summary of Biological Status and Threats

    In this discussion, we review the biological condition of the Pearl 
River map turtle, its resources, and the threats that influence the 
species' current and future conditions in order to assess its overall 
viability and the risks to that viability.

Species Needs

    We assessed the best available information to identify the physical 
and biological needs to support individual fitness at all life stages 
for the Pearl River map turtle. Full descriptions of all needs are 
available in chapter 3 of the SSA report (Service 2021b, pp. 19-21), 
which can be found in docket number FWS-R4-ES-2021-0097 on https://www.regulations.gov. Based upon the best available scientific and 
commercial information, and acknowledging existing ecological 
uncertainties, the resource and demographic needs for breeding, 
feeding, sheltering, and dispersal of the Pearl River map turtle are 
characterized as:
     For successful reproduction, the species requires patches 
of fine sand adjacent to adult habitat with sparse vegetation, 
typically on sandbars, adequate sand incubation temperatures to yield 
an appropriate hatchling sex ratio, and appropriate river flow to 
prevent nest mortality due to flooding.
     Hatchlings require an adequate abundance of invertebrate 
prey and of emergent branches and tangles near the riverbank.
     Adult males require an adequate abundance of insect prey, 
emergent logs, branches, and tangles near the bank.
     Adult females require an adequate abundance of native 
mussels or Asian clams; deeper, sand or gravel-bottomed stretches for 
foraging; and emergent logs and branches for basking.
     Population needs include the same requirements as 
individuals (sandbars; natural hydrologic regimes; and an adequate 
supply of invertebrate prey items, basking structures, and sand, 
gravel, or rocky substrates) but must be met at a larger scale. 
Connectivity that facilitates genetic exchange and maintains high 
genetic diversity is needed; tributary and mainstem reaches with 
suitable habitat uninterrupted by impoundments must be sufficient in 
size to support a large enough population of individuals to avoid 
issues associated with small populations, such as inbreeding 
depression.

Threats Analysis

    The following discussions include evaluations of three threats and 
associated sources that are affecting the Pearl River map turtle and 
its habitat: (1) Habitat degradation or loss, (2) collection, and (3) 
climate change (Service 2021b, Chapter 4). In addition, potential 
impacts from disease and invasive species were evaluated but were found 
to have minimal effects on viability of the species based on current 
knowledge (Service 2021b, pp. 43-45).

Habitat Degradation or Loss

Water Quality
    Degradation of stream and wetland systems through reduced water 
quality and increased concentrations of contaminants can affect the 
occurrence and abundance of freshwater turtles (DeCatanzaro and Chow-
Fraser 2010, p. 360). Infrastructure development increases the 
percentage of impervious surfaces, reducing and degrading terrestrial 
and aquatic habitats. Increased water volume and land-based 
contaminants (e.g., heavy metals, pesticides, oils) flow into aquatic 
systems, modifying hydrologic and sediment regimes of rivers and 
wetlands (Walsh et al. 2005, entire). Aquatic toxicants can have both 
immediate and long-term negative impacts on species and ecosystems by 
degrading the water quality and causing direct and indirect effects to 
the species or its required resources (Service 2021b, p. 25). Despite 
these effects, species vary widely in their tolerances and abilities to 
adapt to

[[Page 66632]]

water quality degradation, including variation in stress and immune 
responses (French et al. 2008, pp. 5-6), population structure (Patrick 
and Gibbs 2010, pp. 795-797), survival and recruitment (Eskew and 
Dorcas 2010, pp. 368-371), and ultimately distribution and abundance 
(Riley et al. 2005, pp. 6-8).
    Freshwater mussels and snails are important food sources for the 
Pearl River map turtle, and sedimentation and pollution can have 
adverse impacts on mollusk populations (Box and Mossa 1999, entire). 
While past studies have focused on the closely related Pascagoula map 
turtle's prey, we expect impacts to be similar for the Pearl River map 
turtle. Inputs of point (point source discharge from particular pipes, 
discharges, etc.) and nonpoint (diffuse land surface runoff) source 
pollution across the range are numerous and widespread. Point source 
pollution can be generated from inadequately treated effluent from 
industrial plants, sanitary landfills, sewage treatment plants, active 
surface mining, drain fields from individual private homes, and others 
(Service 2000, pp. 14-15). Nonpoint source pollution may originate from 
agricultural activities, poultry and cattle feedlots, abandoned mine 
runoff, construction, silviculture, failing septic tanks, and 
contaminated runoff from urban areas (Deutsch et al. 1990, entire; 
Service 2000, pp. 14-15).
    These sources may contribute pollution to streams via sediments, 
heavy metals, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, animal wastes, 
septic tank and gray water leakage, and oils and greases. Glyphosate 
(found in Roundup and other herbicides), which is widely used as an 
herbicide, has been found in many waterways across the United States 
from agricultural runoff and exposure has been associated with 
endocrine and reproductive disorders in animals (Jerrell et al. 2020, 
entire; Medalie et al 2020, entire; Mesnage et al. 2015, entire). Water 
quality and many native aquatic fauna often decline as a result of this 
pollution, which causes nitrification, decreases in dissolved oxygen 
concentration, and increases in acidity and conductivity. These 
alterations likely have direct (e.g., decreased survival and/or 
reproduction) and indirect (e.g., loss, degradation, and fragmentation 
of habitat) effects. For aquatic species, submergent vegetation 
provides critical spawning habitat for adults, refugia from predators, 
and habitat for prey of all life stages (Jude and Pappas 1992, pp. 666-
667), and degraded water quality and high algal biomass that result 
from pollutant inputs, cause loss of these critical submergent plant 
species (Chow-Fraser et al. 1998, pp. 38-39).
    A wide range of current activities and land uses within the range 
of the Pearl River map turtle can lead to sedimentation within streams: 
Agricultural practices, construction activities, stormwater runoff, 
unpaved roads, incompatible timber harvest, utility crossings, and 
mining. Fine sediments are not only input into streams during these 
activities, but historical land use practices may also have 
substantially altered hydrological and geological processes such that 
sediments continue to be input into streams for several decades after 
those activities cease (Harding et al. 1998, p. 14846). The negative 
effects of increased sedimentation are well understood for aquatic 
species (Burkhead et al. 1997, p. 411; Burkhead and Jelks 2001, p. 
964). Sedimentation can alter food webs and stream productivity 
(Schofield et al. 2004, p. 907), force altered behaviors (Sweka and 
Hartman 2003, p. 346), and even have sublethal effects on and result in 
mortality of individual aquatic organisms (Sutherland 2005, p. 94; 
Wenger and Freeman 2007, p. 7).
    Degradation of water quality from municipal and industrial 
effluents is recognized as a cause of decline in the ringed map turtle 
(Graptemys oculifera), a sympatric endangered species (Lindeman 1998, 
p. 137). Lower numbers of ringed map turtles have been recorded near 
gravel and sand mining operations (Shively 1999, p. 10). Native mussel 
and gastropod populations have likely already decreased due to 
sedimentation and other anthropogenic alterations (Jones at al. 2005, 
entire). Pearl River map turtles' mollusk prey species may be affected 
by municipal (e.g., sewage) and industrial (e.g., paper mills and 
chicken farms) effluents that are discharged into the Pearl River (EPA 
2018, entire). Because of the similar life-history traits of the ringed 
map turtle and the Pearl River map turtle, it is reasonable to expect 
that water quality also impacts the Pearl River map turtle populations 
(Selman 2020a, p. 2).
    Additionally, water quality for the Pearl River map turtle is 
impacted by four processes that are further discussed below: Channel 
and hydrology modifications and impoundments, agriculture, development 
(urbanization), and mining. Water quality is affected across the range 
of the species; however, the source and effects are greater in certain 
units.
Channel and Hydrology Modifications and Impoundments
    Dredging and channelization have led to loss of aquatic habitat in 
the Southeast (Warren Jr. et al. 1997, unpaginated). Dredging and 
channelization projects are extensive throughout the region for flood 
control, navigation, sand and gravel mining, and conversion of wetlands 
into croplands (Neves et al. 1997, unpaginated; Herrig and Shute 2002, 
pp. 542-543). Many rivers are continually dredged to maintain a channel 
for shipping traffic. Dredging and channelization modify and destroy 
habitat for aquatic species by destabilizing the substrate, increasing 
erosion and siltation, removing woody debris, decreasing habitat 
heterogeneity, and stirring up contaminants, which settle onto the 
substrate (Williams et al. 1993, pp. 7-8; Buckner et al. 2002, entire; 
Bennett et al. 2008, pp. 467-468). Channelization can also lead to 
headcutting, which causes further erosion and sedimentation (Hartfield 
1993, pp. 131-141). Dredging removes woody debris, which provides cover 
and nest locations for many aquatic species (Bennett et al. 2008, pp. 
467-468). Anthropogenic deadwood removal has been noted as a reason for 
decline in a microcephalic species, the ringed map turtle (Lindeman 
1998, p. 137). Snags and logs are removed from some sites to facilitate 
boat navigation (Dundee and Rossman 1989, p. 187). Experiments with 
manual deposition of deadwood in stretches with less riparian forest 
have been suggested as potential habitat restoration measures (Lindeman 
2019, p. 33).
    Stream channelization, point-bar mining, and impoundments were 
identified as potential threats in a report issued prior to the 
Pascagoula map turtle and Pearl River map turtle being recognized as 
taxonomically distinct (Service 2006, p. 2). Channel modification is 
recognized as a cause of decline in the ringed map turtle, a sympatric 
endangered species (Lindeman 1998, p. 137). Considerably low densities 
of Pearl River map turtles were observed in the lower reaches of the 
Pearl, where much channelization and flow diversion has occurred 
(Lindeman 2019, pp. 23-29).
    Impoundment of rivers is a primary threat to aquatic species in the 
Southeast (Benz and Collins 1997, unpaginated; Buckner et al. 2002, 
entire). Dams modify habitat conditions and aquatic communities both 
upstream and downstream of an impoundment (Winston et al. 1991, pp. 
103-104; Mulholland and Lenat 1992, pp. 193-231; Soballe et al. 1992, 
pp. 421-474).

[[Page 66633]]

Upstream of dams, habitat is flooded, and in-channel conditions change 
from flowing to still water, with increased depth, decreased levels of 
dissolved oxygen, and increased sedimentation. Sedimentation alters 
substrate conditions by filling in interstitial spaces between rocks 
that provide habitat for many species (Neves et al. 1997, unpaginated). 
Downstream of dams, flow regime fluctuates with resulting fluctuations 
in water temperature and dissolved oxygen levels, the substrate is 
scoured, and downstream tributaries are eroded (Schuster 1997, 
unpaginated; Buckner et al. 2002, unpaginated). Negative ``tailwater'' 
effects on habitat can extend many kilometers downstream (Neves et al. 
1997, unpaginated). Dams fragment habitat for aquatic species by 
blocking corridors for migration and dispersal, resulting in population 
geographic and genetic isolation and heightened susceptibility to 
extinction (Neves et al. 1997, unpaginated). Dams also preclude the 
ability of aquatic organisms to escape from polluted waters and 
accidental spills (Buckner et al. 2002, unpaginated).
    Damming of streams and springs is extensive throughout the 
Southeast (Etnier 1997, unpaginated; Morse et al. 1997, unpaginated; 
Shute et al. 1997, unpaginated). Most Southeastern streams are impacted 
by impoundment (Shute et al. 1997, p. 458). Many streams have both 
small ponds in their headwaters and large reservoirs in their lower 
reaches. Small streams on private lands are regularly dammed to create 
ponds for cattle, irrigation, recreation, and fishing, with significant 
ecological effects due to the sheer abundance of these structures 
(Morse et al. 1997, unpaginated). Small headwater streams are 
increasingly being dammed in the Southeast to supply water for 
municipalities (Buckner et al. 2002, unpaginated), and many 
Southeastern springs have also been impounded (Etnier 1997, 
unpaginated). Dams are known to have caused the extirpation and 
extinction of many Southeastern species, and existing and proposed dams 
pose an ongoing threat to many aquatic species (Folkerts 1997, 
unpaginated; Neves et al. 1997, unpaginated; Service 2000, p. 15; 
Buckner et al. 2002, unpaginated).
    On the Pearl River, Ross Barnett Reservoir was constructed between 
1960 and 1963 and provides a water supply for the City of Jackson, 
Mississippi, and the associated area, as well as recreational 
opportunities on the 33,000-acre (ac) (13,355 hectares (ha)) lake and 
the 17,000 ac (6,880 ha) surrounding it (Pearl River Valley Water 
Management District 2020, entire). A total of 20.9 rmi (33.6 rkm) of 
the Pearl River that was previously suitable habitat is now submerged 
beneath the Ross Barnett Reservoir (Lindeman 2019, p. 19). The Ross 
Barnett Reservoir has greatly reduced habitat suitability of five 
percent of the mainstem Pearl River by altering the lotic (flowing 
water) habitat preferred by Pearl River map turtles to lentic (lake) 
habitat and fragmented the contiguous habitat for the species. Low 
population densities of Pearl River map turtles have been observed 
upstream of the Ross Barnett Reservoir, possibly due to recreational 
boating and extended recreational foot traffic or camping on sandbars 
by reservoir visitors (Selman and Jones 2017, pp. 32-34). Between the 
late 1980s and early 2010s, notable population declines also have been 
observed in the stretch of the Pearl River downstream of the Ross 
Barnett Reservoir (north of Lakeland Drive), but the exact reason for 
the decline is unknown (Selman 2020b, p. 194). Additionally, plans for 
new reservoirs on the Pearl River both upstream and downstream of 
Jackson have been or are being considered (Lindeman 2013, pp. 202-203). 
Up to 170 individual Pearl River map turtles could be impacted by the 
construction of the One Lake Project, one of several proposed 
impoundments (Selman 2020b, entire).
Agriculture
    Agriculture is generally high across the Pearl River basin, where 
levels of agriculture within the units ranged from 12-23 percent, with 
the Bogue Chitto Unit having the highest levels of agriculture (Service 
2021b, pp. 53-56). Some of the major crops in the area include soybeans 
and cotton, and much of the livestock farming includes chickens and 
cattle. Agricultural practices such as traditional farming, feedlot 
operations, and associated land use practices can contribute pollutants 
to rivers and may affect the Pearl River map turtle's aquatic habitat. 
These practices degrade habitat by eroding stream banks, which results 
in alterations to stream hydrology and geomorphology. Nutrients, 
bacteria, pesticides, and other organic compounds are generally found 
in higher concentrations in areas affected by agriculture than in 
forested areas. Contaminants associated with agriculture (e.g., 
fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and animal waste) can cause 
degradation of water quality and habitats through instream oxygen 
deficiencies, excess nutrification, and excessive algal growths. These, 
in turn, alter the aquatic community composition, shifting food webs 
and stream productivity, forcing altered behaviors, and even having 
sublethal effects or outright killing individual aquatic organisms 
(Petersen et al. 1999, p. 6). These alterations likely have direct 
(e.g., decreased survival and/or reproduction) and indirect (e.g., 
loss, degradation, and fragmentation of habitat) effects on the Pearl 
River map turtle or its habitat.
    Agricultural development may also reduce the amount of adjacent 
riparian forest available to produce deadwood through land conversion; 
in another megacephalic map turtle species (Barbour's map turtle), 
turtle abundance decreased in areas where adjacent riparian corridors 
had been disturbed by agriculture, while the abundance of the red-eared 
slider (Trachemys scripta), a cosmopolitan species, increased (Sterrett 
et al. 2011, entire).
    Pesticide application and use of animal waste for soil amendment 
are becoming common in many regions and pose a threat to biotic 
diversity in freshwater systems. Over the past two decades, these 
practices have corresponded with marked declines in populations of fish 
and mussel species in the Upper Conasauga River watershed in Georgia/
Tennessee (Freeman et al. 2017, p. 419). Nutrient enrichment of streams 
was widespread with nitrate and phosphorus exceeding levels associated 
with eutrophication, and hormone concentrations in sediments were often 
above those shown to cause endocrine disruption in fish, possibly 
reflecting widespread application of poultry litter and manure (Lasier 
et al. 2016, entire). Researchers postulate that species declines 
observed in the Conasauga watershed may be at least partially due to 
hormones, as well as excess nutrients and herbicide surfactants 
(Freeman et al. 2017, p. 429).
Development
    The Pearl River map turtle range includes areas of the Pearl River 
that are adjacent to several urban areas, including the Jackson, 
Mississippi, metropolitan area where urbanization is expected to 
increase; other areas within the Pearl River basin that are expected to 
grow in the future include the cities of Monticello and Columbia, 
Mississippi. Urbanization is a significant source of water quality 
degradation that can reduce the survival of aquatic organisms. Urban 
development can stress aquatic systems in a variety of ways, which 
could affect the diet and habitat needs of aquatic turtles. This 
includes increasing the frequency and magnitude of high flows in 
streams, increasing sedimentation and nutrient loads, increasing

[[Page 66634]]

contamination and toxicity, decreasing the diversity of fish, aquatic 
insects, plants, and amphibians, and changing stream morphology and 
water chemistry (Coles et al. 2012, entire; CWP 2003, entire). 
Activities related to development can also reduce the amount of 
adjacent riparian forest available to produce deadwood; in another 
megacephalic map turtle species (Barbour's map turtle), abundance 
decreased in areas where adjacent riparian corridors had been disturbed 
(Service 2021b, p. 10). In addition, sources and risks of an acute or 
catastrophic contamination event, such as a leak from an underground 
storage tank or a hazardous materials spill on a highway or by train, 
increase as urbanization increases.
Mining
    The rapid rise in urbanization and construction of 
large[hyphen]scale infrastructure projects are driving increasing 
demands for construction materials such as sand and gravel. Rivers are 
a major source of sand and gravel because transport costs are low; 
river energy produces the gravel and sand, thus eliminating the cost of 
mining, grinding, and sorting rocks; and the material produced by 
rivers tends to consist of resilient minerals of angular shape that are 
preferred for construction (Koehnken et al. 2020, p. 363). Impacts of 
sand and gravel mining can be direct or indirect. Direct impacts 
include physical changes to the river system and the removal of gravel 
and floodplain habitats from the system. Indirect impacts include 
shifting of habitat types due to channel and sedimentation changes; 
changes in water quality, which changes the chemical and physical 
conditions of the system; and hydraulic changes that can impact 
movement of species and habitat availability, which is vital for 
supporting turtle nesting and basking activities.
    Gravel mining is a major industry in southeastern Louisiana, 
particularly along the Bogue Chitto River, within the range of the 
Pearl River map turtle (Selman 2020a, p. 20). In-stream and unpermitted 
point-bar mining was observed in the late 1990s and was the biggest 
concern for Graptemys species in the Bogue Chitto River (Shively 1999, 
pp. 10-11). Gravel mining is perhaps still the greatest threat to the 
Pearl River system in southeastern Louisiana, particularly in the Bogue 
Chitto floodplain where run-off and effluents would affect the 
downstream of these point sources (Selman 2020a, p. 20). Gravel mining 
can degrade water quality, increase erosion, and ultimately impact 
movement and habitat quality for aquatic species such as the Pearl 
River map turtle (Koehnken et al. 2020, p. 363). A recent comparison of 
aerial imagery from the mid-1980s and late 1990s with images from 2019 
reveal increases in distribution and magnitude of gravel mines in the 
Bogue Chitto River system, and recent surveys have reported several 
areas where mining appears to have degraded water quality significantly 
(Selman 2020a, pp. 20-21, and p. 40). Mining in the floodplain 
continues to be a threat to the species; however, permit requirements 
in Louisiana and Mississippi have reduced the threat of instream gravel 
mining.

Collection

    Due to the intricacy of the shell morphology, map turtles are 
popular in the pet trade (Service 2006, p. 2), both domestically and 
internationally. An analysis of online marketplace offerings in Hong 
Kong revealed that interest in turtles as pets is increasing, that many 
of the species offered for sale are from North America, and that there 
is a higher interest in rare species (Sung and Fong 2018, p. 221). The 
common map turtle (Graptemys geographica) is one of three most-traded 
species in the international wildlife trade market, with individuals 
being sold both as pets and incorporated into Chinese aquaculture for 
consumption (Luiselli et al. 2016, p. 170). Exploitation of Pearl River 
map turtles for the pet trade domestically and in Asian markets has 
been documented, but the degree of impact is unclear, as it is unknown 
whether captive individuals were Pascagoula map turtles or Pearl River 
map turtles (Lindeman 1998, p. 137; Cheung and Dudgeon 2006, p. 756; 
Service 2006, p. 2; Selman and Qualls 2007, pp. 32-34; Ennen et al. 
2016, p. 094.6).
    According to a species expert, collection of wild turtles in the 
Pearl River system is probably occurring, and similar to what has been 
observed in other States, these turtles are likely destined for the 
high-end turtle pet trade in China and possibly other Southeast Asian 
countries (Selman 2020a, p. 23). Information has been documented from 
three different local individuals, at three different locations, 
concerning turtle bycatch or harvesting in local Louisiana waterways 
occupied by Pearl River map turtles (Selman 2020a, pp. 22-23). These 
locations included the Pearl River south of Bogalusa, Louisiana 
(possible mortality resulting from bycatch in hoop nets), the West 
Pearl River Navigation Canal (turtles captured and sold, possibly for 
shipment to China), and the Bogue Chitto River (local comment that baby 
turtles were being captured and shipped to China) (Selman 2020a, pp. 
22-23). The specific species captured were not documented; however, it 
is likely that at least some of these turtles were Pearl River map 
turtles.
    The Service manages information related to species exports in the 
Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS). According to a 
LEMIS report from 2005 to 2019, more than 300,000 turtles identified as 
Graptemys spp. or their parts were exported from the United States to 
29 countries (Service 2021b, Appendix B). The number of turtles 
recorded in each shipment ranged widely. Due to their similarity in 
appearance, species of Graptemys are difficult to differentiate. 
Records from 2005, when the highest number of Graptemys were exported, 
show more than 35,000 turtles (Graptemys spp.) in a single shipment to 
Spain and a total of 172,645 individual Graptemys exported to 24 
different countries. However, there is some uncertainty in the sources 
of the exported turtles as they could have originated from captive 
stock.
    Collection is allowed in Mississippi with an appropriate license 
through the State; a person may possess and harvest from the wild no 
more than 10 non-game turtles per license year. No more than four can 
be of the same species or subspecies. It is illegal to harvest turtles 
between April 1 to June 30 (40 MISS Admin Code Part 5 Rule 2.3 on Non-
game Species in Need of Management).

Climate Change

    In the Southeastern United States, climate change is expected to 
result in a high degree of variability in climate conditions with more 
frequent drought, more extreme heat (resulting in increases in air and 
water temperatures), increased heavy precipitation events (e.g., 
flooding), more intense storms (e.g., increased frequency of major 
hurricanes), and rising sea level and accompanying storm surge 
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2013, entire). 
Warming in the Southeast is expected to be greatest in the summer, 
which is predicted to increase drought frequency, while annual mean 
precipitation is expected to increase slightly, leading to increased 
flooding events (IPCC 2013, entire; Alder and Hostetler 2013, 
unpaginated). This variability in climate may affect ecosystem 
processes and communities by altering the abiotic conditions 
experienced by biotic assemblages resulting in potential effects on 
community composition and individual species interactions (DeWan et al. 
2010, p. 7). These changes have the potential to impact Pearl River map 
turtles and/

[[Page 66635]]

or their habitat, are ongoing, and will likely become more evident in 
the future.
    The dual stressors of climate change and direct human impact have 
the potential to impact aquatic ecosystems by altering stream flows and 
nutrient cycles, eliminating habitats, and changing community structure 
(Moore et al. 1997, p. 942). Increased water temperatures and 
alterations in stream flow are the climate change effects that are most 
likely to affect stream communities (Poff 1992, entire), and each of 
these variables is strongly influenced by land use patterns. For 
example, in agricultural areas, lower precipitation may trigger 
increased irrigation resulting in reduced stream flow (Backlund et al. 
2008, pp. 42-43). Alternatively, increased urbanization may lead to 
more impervious surfaces, increasing runoff and flashiness of stream 
flows (Nelson et al. 2009, pp. 156-159).
Increasing Temperatures
    Another area where climate change may affect the viability of the 
Pearl River map turtle is through temperature-dependent sex 
determination (TDSD) during embryo development within buried nests. In 
turtle species that exhibit TDSD, increasing seasonal temperatures may 
result in unnatural sex ratios among hatchlings. This could be an 
important factor as climate change drives increasing temperatures. 
Since male map turtles with TDSD develop at lower temperatures than 
females, rising temperatures during developmental periods may result in 
sex ratios that are increasingly female-biased.
Drought
    Climate change may increase the frequency of drought events, such 
as the one that occurred in the Southeastern United States in 2007. 
Based on down-scaled climate models for the Southeastern United States, 
the frequency, duration, and intensity of droughts are likely to 
increase in this region in the future (Keellings and Engstrom 2019, pp. 
4-6). Stream flow is strongly correlated with important physical and 
chemical parameters that limit the distribution and abundance of 
riverine species (Power et al. 1995, entire; Resh et al. 1988, pp. 438-
439). The Pearl River map turtle is aquatic and requires adequate flow 
for all life stages.
Sea Level Rise
    As a result of climate change, the world's oceanic surface-waters 
and land are warming. The density of water decreases as temperature 
increases causing it to expand. This process of ``thermal expansion,'' 
exacerbated by an influx of melt water from glaciers and polar ice 
fields, is causing sea levels to rise. During the 20th century, global 
sea level rose by 0.56 feet (ft) (0.17 meters (m)) at an average annual 
rate of 0.079 in (2.01 millimeter (mm) per year, which was 10 times 
faster than the average during the previous 3,000 years (IPCC 2007, pp. 
30-31). The rate of SLR continues to accelerate and is currently 
believed to be about 0.12 in (3 mm) per year (Church and White 2006, 
pp. 2-4). It is estimated that sea level will rise by a further 0.59 ft 
(0.18 m) to 1.94 ft (0.59 m) by the century's end (IPCC 2007, p. 46). 
However, some research suggests the magnitude may be far greater than 
previously predicted due to recent rapid ice loss from Greenland and 
Antarctica (Rignot and Kanagaratnam 2006, pp. 989-990). Accounting for 
this accelerated melting, sea level could rise by between 1.64 ft (0.5 
m) and 4.6 ft (1.4 m) by 2100 (Rahmstorf et al. 2007, p. 709). SLR is 
likely to impact downstream Pearl River map turtle populations directly 
by reducing the quality and quantity of available habitat through 
increased salinity of the freshwater system upstream from the Gulf of 
Mexico (Service 2021b, p. 86). Local scenarios based on downscaled 
climate models predict between 2-10 ft (0.6-3.0 m) of SLR in the 
northern Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Pearl River and could 
inundate up to 23.73 rmi (38.18 rkm) of the Pearl River under an 
extreme scenario (NOAA 2020, unpaginated).
    SLR may also affect the salt marsh wetlands at the mouth of the 
Pearl River deteriorating the protective effect of the marsh in 
reducing saltwater intrusion. Barrier islands off the coast may also be 
submerged, resulting in loss of the protections from the small land 
masses that buffer the effects of hurricanes and storms. Although some 
species of Graptemys appear to handle some salinity increases, there is 
evidence that the group is largely intolerant of brackish and saltwater 
environments (Selman and Qualls 2008, pp. 228-229; Selman et al. 2013, 
p. 1201; Lindeman 2013, pp. 396-397).
Hurricane Regime Changes--Increased Intensity and Frequency
    Since 1996, the frequency of hurricane landfalls in the 
Southeastern United States has increased, and that trend is predicted 
to continue for some years into the future (Goldenberg et al. 2001, p. 
475; Emanuel 2005, entire; Webster et al. 2005, p. 1845). Individual 
storm characteristics play a large role in the types and temporal 
extent of impacts (Greening et al. 2006, p. 878). For example, 
direction and speed of approach, point of landfall, and intensity all 
influence the magnitude of storm surge and resultant flooding (Weisberg 
and Zheng 2006, p. 164) and consequent environmental damage. The storm 
surge from storms of increased intensity, when compounded with SLR, 
will force salt water higher upstream with storm surges. Conditions 
that result from storm surge that correspond with high tides are 
amplified and change the salinity of waters ever farther upstream, 
negatively affecting freshwater species, such as map turtles, that are 
not tolerant of saline environments.
Increased Precipitation--Flooding
    While river flooding under natural hydrologic conditions may be 
important for sandbar construction and deposition of nesting sand on 
riverine beaches (Dieter et al. 2014, pp. 112-117), an increase in 
hurricane frequency and stochastic catastrophic floods could cause an 
increase in nest mortality. Nest mortality from flooding has not been 
studied in the Pearl River map turtle but has been documented in 
several other riverine turtle species. A study on the sympatric yellow-
blotched map turtle (Graptemys flavimaculata) revealed that nest 
mortality from flooding can be as high as 86.3 percent in some years 
(Horne et al. 2003, p. 732). In a study on nests of the Ouachita map 
turtle (Graptemys ouachitensis), two 10-day floods (in 2008 and 2010) 
were believed to have caused the complete mortality of all nests 
existing before the floods, as hatchlings were found dead inside eggs 
after the flood. However, a shorter flooding event in 2011 
(approximately 4 days of inundation) caused no known nest mortalities 
(Geller 2012, pp. 210-211). A study on freshwater turtles in South 
America indicated that as flooding incidents have increased since the 
1970s, the number of days that nesting sandbars remain above the 
inundation threshold has been steadily and significantly decreasing, 
causing steep declines in the number of hatchlings produced per year 
(Eisemberg et al. 2016, p. 6).
    The effects of climate change will continue affecting the species 
into the future with chronic and acute exposure to the changes that 
will occur in its aquatic and terrestrial habitats over time.

Additional Stressors

    Additional stressors that affect the Pearl River map turtle that 
are not well studied or considered major threats to the species' 
viability include disease,

[[Page 66636]]

contaminants, and persecution by humans. Some of the contaminants 
include pesticides (herbicides and insecticides) and heavy metals. The 
culmination of stress due to disease and chronic exposure to 
contaminants may exacerbate the effects of the other threats on 
individuals. Wanton shooting of turtles has been documented for 
Graptemys species and may impact populations (Lindeman 1998, p. 137; 
Service 2006, p. 2). However, this practice often goes unreported and 
is thus difficult to study and/or quantify.

Cumulative/Synergistic Effects

    The Pearl River map turtle uses both aquatic and terrestrial 
habitats that may be affected by activities along the Pearl River 
basin. Ongoing and future stressors that may contribute to cumulative 
effects include habitat fragmentation, genetic isolation, invasive 
species, disease, climate change, and impacts from increased human 
interactions due to human population increases. When considering the 
compounding and synergistic effects acting on the species, the 
resiliency of the analysis units will be further reduced in the future. 
However, these effects would not change the overall current and future 
conditions of the species.
    We note that, by using the SSA framework to guide our analysis of 
the scientific information documented in the SSA report, we have not 
only analyzed individual effects on the species, but we have also 
analyzed their potential cumulative effects. We incorporate the 
cumulative effects into our SSA analysis when we characterize the 
current and future condition of the species. To assess the current and 
future conditions of the species, we undertake an iterative analysis 
that encompasses and incorporates the threats individually and then 
accumulates and evaluates the effects of all the factors that may be 
influencing the species, including threats and conservation efforts. 
Because the SSA framework considers not just the presence of the 
factors, but to what degree they collectively influence risk to the 
entire species, our assessment integrates the cumulative effects of the 
factors and replaces a standalone cumulative effects analysis.

Current Condition

    The current condition of the Pearl River map turtle is described in 
terms of population resiliency, redundancy, and representation across 
the species. The analysis of these conservation principles to 
understand the species' current viability is described in more detail 
in the Pearl River map turtle SSA report (Service 2021b, pp. 52-75).
Resiliency
    In order to analyze the species' resiliency, we delineated the 
species into resiliency units that represent groups of interbreeding 
individuals. Historically, the majority of the range of the species was 
likely a single, connected biological population prior to the 
fragmentation from the Ross Barrett Reservoir; however, we delineated 
five different resilience units to more accurately describe trends in 
resiliency, forecast future resiliency, and capture differences in 
stressors between the units. We considered population and habitat 
factors to describe the overall resiliency of each unit. The resilience 
units are: Upper Pearl, Middle Pearl--Silver, Middle Pearl--Strong, 
Bogue Chitto, and Lower Pearl (figure 1).
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P

[[Page 66637]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP23NO21.000

BILLING CODE 4333-15-C
    The factors used to assess current resiliency of Pearl River map 
turtle resilience units include two population factors: (1) Occupied 
tributaries as a proxy for presence and (2) density and abundance of 
four habitat factors: (a) Water quality, (b) forested riparian cover, 
(c) protected land, and (d) presence of channelization/reservoirs/
gravel mining. These population and habitat factors are collectively 
described as resiliency factors.
    Forty-nine percent of the total range occupied by the Pearl River 
map turtle is in the mainstem Pearl and West Pearl Rivers, with the 
remaining 51 percent of the occupied range found in various tributary 
systems (Lindeman 2019, p.

[[Page 66638]]

19). Tributary populations have been shown to be less densely populated 
compared to mainstem populations, although some tributaries (e.g., 
Bogue Chitto River) contain relatively large populations of Pearl River 
map turtles, including some that have only recently been discovered.
    To assess the occupancy of tributaries, we used survey data 
collected from 2005-2020. These data were collected by several 
different observers through a variety of survey types, including bridge 
surveys, basking surveys, and live trapping. We used 2005 as the cutoff 
based on the species' biology and expert input. Females typically reach 
sexual maturity after 8 years, so 15 years approximates two 
generations. Species experts also noted that most surveys conducted for 
the species have occurred after 2005. When assessing the occupancy of 
tributaries within the range, we considered all surveyed tributaries 
including those where Pearl River map turtles were not detected. We 
established thresholds to describe the occupancy of the surveyed 
tributaries within each resilience unit by applying the following rule 
set:
     Very Low: No currently occupied tributaries;
     Low: Between 1-25 percent of surveyed tributaries are 
currently occupied;
     Moderate: Between 25-50 percent of surveyed tributaries 
are currently occupied;
     High: 50 Percent or more of surveyed tributaries are 
currently occupied.
    Using this threshold rule set, we found that one unit was 
determined to be ranked very low (Middle Pearl--Silver); three ranked 
moderate (Upper Pearl, Bogue Chitto, and Lower Pearl); and one ranked 
high (Middle Pearl--Strong). The Middle Pearl--Silver unit has four 
surveyed tributaries, with zero detections in any of those tributaries, 
leading to the very low rank. In the Lower Pearl, although only 43 
percent of surveyed tributaries were found to be occupied, this unit 
had by far, the most occupied tributaries (7), thus the moderate rank 
is likely more a function of survey effort. Half of the tributaries 
surveyed within the Middle Pearl--Strong unit were found to be 
occupied, giving it a high rank.
    Data from point counts, basking density surveys, and results from 
trapping efforts in 2006-2018 were combined to estimate density and 
abundance for stream segments throughout the range of the Pearl River 
map turtle (Lindeman 2019, pp. 11-12). The entire species' population 
estimate is 21,841 individuals, with 61 percent occurring on mainstem 
reaches, 34 percent occurring in 4 large tributaries, and the remaining 
5 percent spread amongst other smaller tributaries (Lindeman 2019, p. 
21). Generally, abundance of the species declined with the size of the 
river reach surveyed, where smaller tributaries generally had lower 
numbers of turtles compared to larger, mainstem reaches (Lindeman 2019, 
p. 13). For example, basking density was found to be 2.2 times higher 
on mainstem reaches than on tributary reaches, and 2.1 times higher on 
large tributaries than on small tributaries (Lindeman 2019, p. 15).
    When applying the population factors of density and abundance to 
determine resiliency, each river drainage was divided into river 
reaches that were categorized as high, moderate, low, and very low 
density based on basking density surveys and point count results. All 
mainstem reaches of the Pearl River were classified as moderate with 
the exception of the Lower Pearl, which was low. The tributaries and 
sections of the mainstems of each resilience unit were classified 
resulting in all moderate to low scores, with only the Pearl River 
mainstem within the Upper Pearl resiliency unit scoring moderate/high 
for its density classification.
    To determine a composite (combined) score for population factors 
within individual units, we combined the results of the assessment of 
the occupancy of tributaries and density classes of mainstream reaches 
and large tributaries. The resulting population factor composite 
scoring for each resiliency unit describes three units (Bogue Chitto, 
Middle Pearl--Strong, and Upper Pearl) as moderate and two units (Lower 
Pearl and Middle Pearl--Strong) as low (table 1). Additional 
information regarding the methodology is described in detail in the SSA 
report (Service, 2021b, pp. 47-50).

              Table 1--Population Factors and the Compiled Composite Score for Each Resiliency Unit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Resiliency unit              Tributary occupancy          Density                Composite score
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bogue Chitto.......................  Moderate..............  Moderate.............  Moderate.
Lower Pearl........................  Moderate..............  Low..................  Low.
Middle Pearl--Silver...............  Very Low..............  Moderate.............  Low.
Middle Pearl--Strong...............  High..................  Moderate.............  Moderate.
Upper Pearl........................  Moderate..............  Moderate.............  Moderate.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The habitat factors used to describe resiliency include water 
quality; hydrological and structural changes from channelization, 
reservoirs, and gravel mining; amount of protected land adjacent to the 
rivers and streams; and forested riparian cover (a proxy for deadwood 
abundance). All four of the habitat factors were then compiled into a 
composite score (table 2) that is analyzed together with the population 
factors composite score for an overall assessment of the current 
resiliency of the Pearl River map turtle (table 3).

   Table 2--Habitat Factor Composite Scores for all Pearl River Map Turtle Units as a Function of Four Habitat Factors (Water Quality, Channelization/
                                                   Reservoirs, Protected Land, and Deadwood Abundance)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              Channelization/
          Resiliency unit               Water quality           reservoirs          Protected land           Deadwood              Composite score
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bogue Chitto......................  Moderate.............  Low.................  Low.................  Moderate............  Low.
Lower Pearl.......................  Moderate.............  Low.................  Low.................  High................  Low.
Middle Pearl--Silver..............  Moderate.............  High................  Low.................  Moderate............  Moderate.
Middle Pearl--Strong..............  Moderate.............  Low.................  Moderate............  High................  Moderate.
Upper Pearl.......................  Moderate.............  Moderate............  Low.................  High................  Moderate.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 66639]]

    Water quality is an important habitat component of Pearl River map 
turtle resiliency because it affects how well all life stages can 
survive and, for the adults, reproductive success. To characterize 
water quality, we considered the watershed health, riparian health, and 
land use. Water quality is monitored by Mississippi and Louisiana 
Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ); however, the surveyed sites 
do not cover all of the tributaries or provide information for the 
entire range. Instead of using water quality monitoring data to 
describe the species' habitat conditions, we used land use as a proxy 
as it can be an indicator of overall watershed health and provide 
insight into water quality. Agricultural land use within riparian zones 
has been shown to directly impact biotic integrity when assessed within 
intermediate-sized zones (i.e., 200-ft (61-m) buffer) surrounding 
streams in the region (Diamond et al. 2002, p. 1150). Urbanization has 
also been shown to impair stream quality by impacting riparian health 
(Diamond et al. 2002, p. 1150). We assessed watershed health by 
combining several metrics within each resiliency unit: Percent urban 
and agricultural land use at the watershed level, as well as riparian 
effects, which included urban and agricultural land use in close 
proximity to the stream (within a 200-ft (61-m) buffer from the center 
of the waterbody).
    The resulting water quality composite scores based on land use for 
all five units were moderate (table 2). The only stream that was 
assessed as having a relatively high degree of threat based on land use 
was the Lower Pearl, driven primarily by a high degree of development 
within the riparian buffer (33 percent). In general, development is low 
throughout the Pearl River basin, although there is continual 
development across the Middle Pearl--Strong Unit (12 percent 
development) associated with the area near the city of Jackson, 
Mississippi. Agriculture is generally high across the Pearl River 
basin, where levels of agriculture within the units ranged from 12 to 
23 percent, with the Bogue Chitto Unit having the highest levels of 
agriculture.
    The next habitat factor evaluated for resiliency is the presence 
and abundance of channelization, reservoirs, and gravel mining. We 
assume that substantial channelization, the presence of a major 
reservoir, or evidence of gravel mining operations has a negative 
impact on resiliency and include these as a resiliency factor.
    Considerably low densities of Pearl River map turtles were observed 
in the Lower Pearl unit, where much channelization and flow diversion 
has occurred (Lindeman 2019, pp. 23-29). Low densities of Pearl River 
map turtles in the West and East Pearl Rivers have been attributed to 
flow alteration due to the construction of the Pearl River Navigation 
Canal, which also has very low densities of turtles, suggesting that 
substantial loss of population in the lower reaches of the Pearl River 
drainage has occurred historically due to river engineering (Lindeman 
2019, p. 27). Significantly lower basking densities of Pearl River map 
turtles have been reported in the West Pearl (0.16/rmi (0.1/rkm)) 
compared to the Upper Pearl (2.9/rmi (1.8/rkm)) (Dickerson and Reine 
1996, Table 4, unpaginated; Selman 2020a, pp. 17-18). Because of these 
stream alterations, we assessed the Lower Pearl unit as low (i.e., high 
degree of threats) for this factor.
    Within the Middle Pearl--Strong unit, 20.9 rmi (33.6 rkm) of the 
middle Pearl River is inundated by the Ross Barnett Reservoir, which is 
a suspected contributing factor to the overall decline in Pearl River 
map turtle population densities upstream and downstream. Near Jackson, 
Mississippi, river channelization has also impacted the species' 
habitat negatively (Selman 2020b, entire), and Pearl River map turtles 
are almost nonexistent in a highly channelized stretch of the Pearl 
River. However, upstream and downstream of this section, the species 
occurs in low numbers (Selman 2020b, entire). Due to the presence of 
the Ross Barnett Reservoir, and the river channelization that has 
occurred in and around Jackson, we assessed the Middle Pearl--Strong 
unit as low habitat quality due to the effects of channelization and 
reservoirs.
    In the Upper Pearl unit, channelization has occurred along 
Tuscolameta Creek and the upper Yockanookany River. In 1924, the 
Tuscolameta Creek received a 24-mile (mi) (39-kilometer (km)) 
channelization, and Yockanookany River received a 36-mi (58-km) canal, 
which was completed in 1928 (Dunbar and Coulters 1988, p. 51). In the 
Yockanookany, low water stages in 1960 were 6 feet higher than those of 
1939, as the channel silted significantly during that period (Speer et 
al. 1964, pp. 26-27). In some areas of the Yockanookany, water 
continues to flow in the river's old natural channel (Speer et al. 
1964, pp. 26-27). Although stream alteration has occurred within these 
streams, there has yet to be any reported evidence of Pearl River map 
turtle decline, thus we assessed this habitat factor as moderate for 
the Upper Pearl unit.
    In-stream and unpermitted point-bar mining in the Bogue Chitto unit 
was a concern in the late 1990s (Shively 1999, entire), and although 
these activities no longer occur, gravel mining operations within 
floodplains do occur (Selman 2020a, pp. 20-21). Recent surveys have 
reported several areas where mining appears to have degraded water 
quality significantly (Selman 2020a, pp. 20-21). There is also a 
concern that historical in-stream and point-bar mining can have 
deleterious legacy effects that could be negatively impacting the 
species (Selman 2020a, p. 21). For these reasons, we assessed this 
habitat factor as low for the Bogue Chitto unit.
    The next habitat factor considered protected lands adjacent to or 
including the terrestrial and aquatic habitat of the species. For the 
purposes of this analysis, we apply the definition of protected area as 
a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated, and 
managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-
term conservation of nature (IUCN 2008, pp. 8-9). Protected areas are a 
generally accepted, although not always uncontroversial, mechanism for 
halting the global decline of biodiversity. Some examples of the 
positive effects that protected areas can have on freshwater 
biodiversity have been reported, such as increased local abundance or 
size classes of some fish species (Suski and Cooke, 2007, entire).
    From an indirect standpoint, the presence of protected lands will 
function to minimize human disturbance in an area, which may benefit 
freshwater environments at multiple levels. First, enforcement of 
restrictions in protected areas can serve to minimize boat traffic that 
has been shown to have deleterious impacts to other Graptemys species 
(Selman 2013 et al., entire). The presence of protected areas may help 
ameliorate some of these conflicts by segregating user groups into 
defined areas (Suski and Cooke 2007, p. 2024). Finally, the more land 
within a unit that is under some sort of protection (e.g., easement, 
State and Federal ownership), the less likely land will be developed. 
Because development can have negative impacts to aquatic fauna, as 
discussed previously, the more protected land that exists in a unit, 
the more resilient that unit is assumed to be.
    Conservation areas have been established along the Pearl River that 
have positively influenced riparian forest along the river or forest 
land cover in the basin. Riparian conservation areas include Nanih 
Waiya Wildlife Management Area (WMA) (Neshoba County), Mississippi Band 
of Choctaw

[[Page 66640]]

Indian Reservation (Neshoba County), Pearl River WMA (Madison County), 
Fannye Cook Natural Area (Rankin County), Old River WMA (Pearl River 
County), Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge (St. Tammany and 
Washington Parishes), and Pearl River WMA (St. Tammany Parish). 
Bienville National Forest contributes positively to increased forest 
cover in headwater streams that drain into the Pearl River, especially 
the Strong River. The most extensive habitat preservation on the Pearl 
River is the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge along the upper West 
and East Pearl and lower Bogue Chitto Rivers, which is contiguous with 
the Pearl River WMA, which protects the area between the West and East 
Pearl Rivers downstream to the Gulf of Mexico.
    To assess the contribution of protected areas to the resilience of 
Pearl River map turtle resilience units, we calculated the percentage 
of the HUC 8 that is in protected status. We used the Protected Areas 
Database of the U.S. version 2.0 (PAD--US 2.0), released in 2019 (USGS 
2019, unpaginated). The results of the analysis of protected lands show 
that the Pearl River basin in general has relatively small amounts of 
land in protected status. Four of the units have a low condition (i.e., 
<10 percent of land protected), and one unit has a moderate condition 
(10-20 percent of land protected). The Middle Pearl--Strong unit has by 
far the greatest amount of land in protection with 147,597 ac (59,730 
ha) in protection (11.67 percent), with all other units having less 
than 6 percent of land in protected status.
    The final habitat factor used to determine current resiliency is 
the amount of forested riparian cover, which we used as a proxy for 
available deadwood. Correlations of Pearl River map turtle density is 
positively associated with deadwood density (Lindeman 1999, pp. 35-38). 
Abundance of basking substrates has shown to be an important habitat 
component driving Graptemys abundance in Kansas and Pennsylvania (Pluto 
and Bellis 1986, pp. 26-30; Fuselier and Edds 1994, entire), and 
radiotelemetry work with yellow-blotched map turtles (G. flavimaculata) 
has indicated the importance of deadwood to habitat selection on the 
lower Pascagoula River (Jones 1996, pp. 376, 379-380, 383). 
Anthropogenic deadwood removal, mainly through dredging, has been noted 
as a reason for decline in the sympatric microcephalic species, the 
ringed map turtle (G. oculifera) (Lindeman 1998, p. 137). Experiments 
with manual deposition of deadwood in stretches with less riparian 
forest have been recommended as potential habitat restoration measures 
(Lindeman 2019, p. 33).
    An intact riparian habitat provides numerous benefits to map 
turtles, including the stabilization of stream banks and the reduction 
of erosional processes and channel sedimentation. Under normal 
erosional processes, riparian forests also provide material for in-
stream deposition of deadwood, and deadwood is known to provide 
important basking sites for thermoregulation and also foraging sites 
for prey items (Lindeman 1999, entire). To assess the contribution of 
riparian forests to the resilience of Pearl River map turtle units, we 
calculated the percentage of forest within a 200-ft (61-m) riparian 
buffer using the 2016 National Land Cover Database land use land cover 
data. We considered forests to include four land use classes: deciduous 
forest, evergreen forest, mixed forest, and woody wetlands.
    An assessment of forested cover resulted in three units in high 
condition (Lower Pearl, Middle Pearl--Strong, and Upper Pearl) and two 
units in moderate condition (Bogue Chitto and Middle Pearl--Silver). 
Forested cover within riparian buffers ranged from 60-98 percent across 
the 5 resilience units. Forested cover was highest in the Upper Pearl, 
where cover ranged from 90-96 percent across the occupied streams 
within the unit, and lowest in the Middle Pearl--Silver, where forested 
cover was 60 percent across the single occupied river segment. The 
Bogue Chitto unit was assessed as moderate for forested cover, 
primarily due to the Bogue Chitto and Topisaw having relatively low 
cover compared to other streams across the range.
    The habitat factors were combined into a single composite score 
determined by combining the results of the water quality, 
channelization/reservoirs, protected lands, and deadwood abundance 
assessments (table 2). The final habitat composite score for each 
resiliency unit resulted in low condition for two units (Bogue Chitto 
and Lower Pearl) and moderate condition for three units (Middle Pearl--
Silver, Middle Pearl--Strong, and Upper Pearl). Additional details and 
methodologies for determining each habitat condition score are 
described in the SSA report (Service 2021b, pp. 74-80).
    After evaluating the population and habitat factors together, we 
describe the overall current resiliency of each unit. Current 
resiliency results are as follows: Two units have low resiliency (Bogue 
Chitto and Lower Pearl), and three units have moderate resiliency 
(Middle Pearl--Silver, Middle Pearl--Strong, and Upper Pearl) (table 
3). The Lower Pearl seems particularly vulnerable, as both the 
population and habitat composite scores were low. The Lower Pearl has 
significant channelization issues, low amounts of protected land, and a 
low density of individual turtles, all of which are driving the low 
resilience of this unit. Although the Middle Pearl--Silver unit scored 
moderate for composite habitat score, the low composite population 
score (mainly a function of there being no occupied tributaries) is 
what is driving the low resilience of this unit. When looking at the 
three units with moderate resiliency, the Middle Pearl--Strong and 
Bogue Chitto units appear to be vulnerable to further decreases in 
resiliency. For the Bogue Chitto unit, low amounts of protected land 
and substantial mining activity make this unit vulnerable. For the 
Middle Pearl--Strong, development in the Jackson area and the presence 
of the Ross Barnett Reservoir make this unit vulnerable. If development 
increases substantially in this unit, or if proposed reservoir projects 
move forward, it is likely there would be population-level impacts that 
would drop the resiliency to low in the future conditions.

  Table 3--Current Resiliency of Pearl River Map Turtle Units Based on Composite Habitat and Population Factors
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Composite habitat     Composite population
          Resiliency unit                     score                  score               Current resilience
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bogue Chitto.......................  Low...................  Moderate.............  Moderate.
Lower Pearl........................  Low...................  Low..................  Low.
Middle Pearl--Silver...............  Moderate..............  Low..................  Low.
Middle Pearl--Strong...............  Moderate..............  Moderate.............  Moderate.

[[Page 66641]]

 
Upper Pearl........................  Moderate..............  Moderate.............  Moderate.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Redundancy
    Redundancy refers to the ability of a species to withstand 
catastrophic events and is measured by the amount and distribution of 
sufficiently resilient populations across the species' range. 
Catastrophic events that could severely impact or extirpate entire 
Pearl River map turtle units include chemical spills, changes in 
upstream land use that alter stream characteristics and water quality 
downstream, dam construction with a reservoir drowning lotic river 
habitat, and potential effects of climate change such as rising 
temperatures and SLR. The Middle Pearl--Silver unit is the most 
vulnerable to a catastrophic land-based spill due to transportation via 
train or automobile, and there are no known occupied tributaries at 
this time. However, extant units of the species are distributed 
relatively widely, and several of those units have moderate resilience, 
thus it is highly unlikely that a catastrophic event would impact the 
entire species' range. Consequently, the Pearl River map turtle 
exhibits a moderate-high degree of redundancy.
Representation
    Representation refers to the breadth of genetic and environmental 
diversity within and among populations, which influences the ability of 
a species to adapt to changing environmental conditions over time. 
Differences in life-history traits, habitat features, and/or genetics 
across a species' range often aid in the delineation of representative 
units, which are used to assess species representation.
    Between 2005 and 2018, researchers genotyped 124 Pearl River map 
turtles from 15 sites across the Pearl River basin (Pearson et al. 
2020, pp. 6-7). No distinct genetic variation was found across the 
Pearl River system. A single genetic population has been described, and 
there was no evidence of isolation by distance (Pearson et al. 2020, 
pp. 11-12). For this reason, we consider the entire range of the Pearl 
River map turtle to be a single representative unit; however, the 
Strong River, located in the Pearl River--Strong unit, may have some 
unique habitat features that could facilitate adaptative capacity 
(Lindeman 2020, pers. comm.). Perhaps most notably, the Strong River 
has some very rocky stretches that are unlike anything else in the 
drainage and could conceivably have a population with unique diet, 
behaviors, or other life-history parameters, though no studies to date 
have addressed this question (Lindeman 2020, pers. comm.). The Strong 
River is a large tributary and occupies an estimated 54.3 rmi (87.4 
rkm), with an estimated 1,749 individuals, accounting for 8 percent of 
the species' total population (Lindeman 2019, p. 47). Although we do 
not consider the Strong River to be a separate representative unit, we 
consider the Strong River to be a potentially significant stream for 
the species from a habitat diversity perspective. The species is 
described as consisting of a single representative unit due to the lack 
of genetic structuring across the range; the limited genetic diversity 
may reduce the ability of the species to adapt to changing conditions 
(Pearson et al. 2020, entire). However, we acknowledge the habitat 
differences for the Strong River and the potential importance of that 
system to the adaptive capacity of the species.
    In summary, the current condition of the Pearl River map turtle is 
described using resiliency, redundancy, and representation. We assessed 
current resiliency as a function of two population factors (occupied 
tributaries and density) and four habitat factors (water quality, 
protected areas, deadwood abundance, and reservoirs/channelization) for 
each resiliency unit. Based on these factors, there are two units with 
low resiliency (Lower Pearl and Middle Pearl--Silver) and three units 
with moderate resiliency (Upper Pearl, Middle Pearl--Strong, and Bogue 
Chitto); no units were assessed as highly resilient. Because three of 
the five units are classified as moderate resilience, and those units 
are distributed relatively widely, the Pearl River map turtle exhibits 
a moderate-high degree of redundancy (i.e., it is unlikely that a 
catastrophic event would impact the entire range of the species). Even 
with the unique habitat in the Strong River, we only recognize a single 
representative unit based on low genetic variation, however, the wide 
distribution within the five resilience units across the range provides 
sufficient adaptive capacity to remain viable.
Future Condition
    As described in the ``Summary of Biological Status and Threats'' 
section above, we describe what the Pearl River map turtle needs to 
maintain viability. We describe the future conditions of the species by 
forecasting the species' response applying plausible future scenarios 
of varying environmental conditions and conservation efforts. The 
future scenarios project the threats into the future and consider the 
impacts those threats could have on the viability of the Pearl River 
map turtle. The scenarios described in the SSA report represent six 
plausible future conditions for the species. The scenarios include land 
use changes and SLR in a matrix to determine the effects of both 
factors to each unit. We then considered future water engineering 
projects for each matrix and found the resiliency of each unit based on 
whether the project is installed or not. All six scenarios were 
projected out to two different time steps: 2040 (~20 years) and 2070 
(~50 years). These timeframes are based on input from species experts, 
generation time for the species, and the confidence in predicting 
patterns of urbanization and agriculture. Confidence in how these land 
uses will interact with the species and its habitat diminishes beyond 
50 years.
    We continue to apply the concepts of resiliency, redundancy, and 
representation to the future scenarios to describe possible future 
conditions of the Pearl River map turtle and understand the overall 
future viability of the species. When assessing the future, viability 
is not a specific state, but rather a continuous measure of the 
likelihood that the species will sustain populations over time.
    Using the best available information regarding the factors 
influencing the species' viability in the future, we applied the 
following factors to inform the future resiliency of the five units: 
Changes in land use/water quality, SLR, and future water engineering 
projects. We considered projected land-use changes regarding 
agricultural and developed land in assessing future resiliency of each 
unit for the Pearl River map turtle. We also considered

[[Page 66642]]

these land-use classes as surrogates for potential changes in water 
quality, a primary risk factor for the species. We used data available 
at the resiliency unit scale from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 
Forecasting Scenarios of Land-use Change (FORE-SCE) modelling framework 
(USGS 2017, unpaginated) to characterize nonpoint source pollution 
(i.e., development and agriculture). The FORE--SCE model provides 
spatially explicit historical, current, and future projections of land 
use and land cover. Projecting future land cover requires modelers to 
account for driving forces of land-cover change operating at scales 
from local (``bottom-up'') to global (``top-down'') and how those 
driving forces interact over space and time. As a result of the high 
level of uncertainty associated with predicting future developments in 
complex socio-environmental systems, a scenario framework is needed to 
represent a wide range of plausible future conditions.
    As previously mentioned, SLR impacts the future resiliency of Pearl 
River map turtles directly through loss/degradation of habitat. To 
estimate loss/degradation of habitat due to inundation from SLR, we 
used National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shapefiles 
available at their online SLR viewer (NOAA 2020, unpaginated). 
Projected SLR scenarios from NOAA provide a range of inundation levels 
from low to extreme. We used NOAA's SLR projections corresponding to 
the representative concentration pathways (RCP) of RCP6 and RCP8.5 
emission scenarios to provide realistic future possible trajectories. 
The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through the different 
emission scenarios are influenced by human behavior. With uncertainty 
in future emissions, we included two plausible trajectories of SLR by 
considering RCP6 (intermediate-high) and RCP8.5 (extreme).
    Local scenarios were available from a monitoring station located 
near Mobile Bay, Alabama, providing estimates of SLR at decadal time 
steps out to the year 2100. We found the average SLR estimate for the 
intermediate-high and extreme NOAA scenarios from this station and used 
the estimate (rounded to the nearest foot, because shapefiles of 
topography were available at only 1-ft (0.30-m) increments) to project 
estimated habitat loss at years 2040 and 2070. If SLR estimates overlap 
with known occupied portions of the river system, we assume that area 
is no longer suitable or occupiable; thus, resiliency would decrease.
    SLR is occurring, but the rate at which it continues is dependent 
on the different atmospheric emissions scenarios. The range is 1 ft 
(0.30 m) to 2 ft (0.61 m) in the next 20 years. By 2070, 3 ft (0.91 m) 
to 5 ft (1.52 m) are projected for the lower and higher emissions 
scenarios. The effects of the SLR and saltwater intrusion are 
exacerbated with storm surge and high tides. Pulses of saltwater from 
increased storm frequency and intensity on top of slower SLR can have 
direct effects on freshwater habitats and species that are not salt-
tolerant.
    Stream channelization, point-bar mining, and impoundment have been 
listed as potential threats in a report written before the Pascagoula 
map turtle and Pearl River map turtle were taxonomically separated 
(Service 2006, p. 2). As noted above, in the Threats Analysis section, 
the proposed One Lake project proposes a new dam and commercial 
development area 9 mi (14.5 km) south of the current Ross Barnett 
Reservoir Dam near Interstate 20. However, the One Lake project is 
still being debated, and there is uncertainty as to whether the project 
will proceed. Because of this uncertainty, we have created two 
scenarios based around the proposed One Lake project: One in which the 
project occurs, and one in which it does not, within the next 50 years. 
Because of the potential for negative impacts on Pearl River map 
turtles from the proposed One Lake project, we assume a decrease in 
resiliency of the Middle Pearl--Strong unit if the project moves 
forward.
    We do not assess population factors (occupancy of tributaries and 
density) in our future conditions analysis because the data are not 
comparable through time or space; the baseline data come from recent 
surveys and no historical data are available to allow for analyses of 
trends or comparisons over time. Additionally, we assume the amount of 
protected land within each unit stays the same within our projection 
timeframes, although it is possible that additional land could be 
converted to a protected status or lands could degrade over time. 
Rather than attempting to categorize future resiliency as was done in 
the current condition analysis, we indicate a magnitude and direction 
of anticipated change in resiliency of Pearl River map turtle units.
Scenario Descriptions
    Scenarios were built around three factors: Land use, SLR, and water 
engineering projects. To present plausible future conditions for the 
species and to assess the viability for the Pearl River map turtle in 
response to those conditions, we projected two land use and two SLR 
scenarios out to the years 2040 (20 years) and 2070 (50 years).
    The two land use scenarios are based on scenarios from the IPCC 
Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES). The SRES presents a set 
of scenarios developed to represent the range of driving forces and 
emissions in the scenario literature so as to reflect current 
understanding and knowledge about underlying uncertainties. Four 
different narrative storylines were developed to describe consistently 
the relationships between emission driving forces and their evolution 
and add context for the scenario quantification. Each storyline 
represents different demographic, social, economic, technological, and 
environmental developments. The four qualitative storylines yield four 
sets of scenarios called ``families'': A1, A2, B1, and B2.
    The two land use scenarios we examined are embedded within the 
FORE-SCE model (A2 and B1). The two SLR projections are based on NOAA's 
intermediate-high (RCP6) and extreme (RCP8.5) scenarios. We also 
considered whether a proposed water engineering project (i.e., One 
Lake) would be constructed within the species' range. This results in 
six plausible scenarios for each of two time increments (2040 and 
2070), with the A2-Extreme--One Lake project scenarios representing the 
highest threat scenario for 2040 and 2070, the B1-Intermediate High--No 
One Lake project scenario the lowest threat scenario for 2040 and 2070, 
and the other four scenarios representing moderate threat scenarios 
(table 4).

[[Page 66643]]



                  Table 4--Scenarios Used To Model Future Condition for Pearl River Map Turtle
    [Scenarios were built around three factors: Land use (SRES emission scenarios A2 and B1), sea level rise
 (emission scenarios Intermediate High (IH) and Extreme (EX)), and water engineering projects (One Lake Project:
                    Yes or No). Scenarios were projected under two timeframes: 2040 and 2070]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                 Sea level rise
                               ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                2040                                     2070
                               ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       Intermediate
                                Intermediate high       Extreme            high                 Extreme
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             One Lake Project (Yes)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Land Use:
    A2........................  A2-IH--OneLake...  A2-EX--OneLake..  A2-IH--OneLake..  A2-EX--OneLake.
    B1........................  B1-IH--OneLake...                    B1-IH--OneLake..
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                              One Lake Project (No)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Land Use:
    A2........................  A2-IH--NoProject.  A2-EX--NoProject  A2--IH--NoProjec  A2-EX--NoProject.
                                                                      t.
    B1........................  B1-IH--NoProject.                    B1-IH--NoProject
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Future Resiliency
    Bogue Chitto--Under all scenarios, development remains low across 
the Bogue Chitto unit. Agriculture is high across the entire unit in 
all scenarios, except for the B1 scenario in the year 2070, where 
agriculture is moderate. Forested cover is relatively high across the 
unit under all scenarios; thus, deadwood does not appear to be a 
limiting factor. There are no predicted SLR or water engineering 
project impacts directly affecting this unit. It is likely that the 
condition of the unit will decline into the future, though there is 
uncertainty regarding future impacts related to mining activity, which 
has the potential to further reduce resiliency. Even with declines in 
condition of the Bogue Chitto unit, there will be no change in the 
resiliency category over the next 50 years according to the future 
scenarios.
    Lower Pearl--SLR impacts this unit under all scenarios, although 
the impacts of inundation are localized to the southern portion of the 
unit, mainly in the East Pearl River. Under the A2 scenarios, a few 
streams are impacted by high levels of development, although most of 
the unit has low levels of development; under the B1 scenario, 
development is low across the entire unit. Agriculture is predicted to 
be high across the unit under the A2 scenarios, and moderate across the 
unit under the B1 scenario. There are no predicted water engineering 
projects, and forested cover is anticipated to be relatively high. 
Current resiliency for this unit is low, and resiliency is anticipated 
to decrease across all scenarios, with the A2 scenarios with extreme 
SLR associated with the most substantial decreases.
    Middle Pearl--Silver--Development remains low across the unit under 
all scenarios at both time steps. Agriculture increases to high under 
the A2 scenarios and stays moderate under the B1 scenario. There are no 
predicted SLR effects or water engineering project impacts on this 
unit. Forested cover is relatively high across the unit under all 
scenarios and is predicted to increase under the B1 scenario; thus, 
deadwood does not appear to be a limiting factor. Current resiliency 
for this unit is low, and although declines in condition of the Middle 
Pearl-Silver unit are predicted, there will be no change in the 
resiliency category in the future based on the factors assessed.
    Middle Pearl--Strong--Development is substantial in a few areas 
within this unit, particularly around Jackson, Mississippi. The current 
resiliency for this unit is moderate and the future resiliency is 
likely to decline due to increased agriculture and decreased forest 
cover within the unit (without One Lake). Agriculture is predicted to 
be high across the unit under all scenarios. If the One Lake project 
moves forward, there is a substantial decrease in resiliency predicted 
within and adjacent to the project area. A few streams are predicted to 
lose a substantial amount of forested cover. No SLR impacts are 
predicted in this unit. The Middle Pearl--Strong unit is perhaps the 
most vulnerable unit, as development, agriculture, and water 
engineering projects are all potential stressors in this unit.
    Upper Pearl--The habitat associated with this unit provides 
conditions to potentially support a stronghold for the species because 
it has the highest amount of protected lands compared to the other four 
units (Service 2021a, p. 92). Development remains low across the entire 
unit under all scenarios. Agriculture is high across the entire unit in 
all scenarios, except for the B1 scenario in the year 2070, where 
agriculture is moderate. Forested cover is relatively high across the 
unit under all scenarios; thus, deadwood does not appear to be a 
limiting factor. There are no predicted SLR or water engineering 
project impacts in this unit; however, this population may experience 
genetic drift over time due to isolation caused by habitat 
fragmentation from the existing (Ross Barnett) and planned (One Lake) 
reservoirs in the adjacent unit. Even though the threats are projected 
to be low, the overall condition of the Upper Pearl unit is likely to 
decline as a result of the loss of connectivity with the rest of the 
turtle's range. Even with declines in condition of the Upper Pearl 
unit, it will remain in the moderate category over the next 50 years 
according to the future scenarios.
Future Redundancy
    Although we do not project any of the units to be extirpated in any 
scenarios, we do anticipate resiliency to decline in two units. For 
example, the Middle Pearl--Strong unit will potentially lose a 
substantial amount of habitat and individuals under all scenarios in 
which the One Lake project is built. Also, the Lower Pearl unit will be 
impacted by SLR under all scenarios, and this is compounded by 
projected increases in both development and agriculture. All other 
units are anticipated to remain relatively stable. Because extant units 
of the species are predicted to be distributed relatively widely, it is 
highly unlikely that a catastrophic event would impact the entire 
species' range, thus

[[Page 66644]]

the Pearl River map turtle is predicted to exhibit a moderate degree of 
redundancy in the future under all scenarios.
Future Representation
    As described under the current conditions, the species is a single 
representative unit regarding genetic variation. Relatively unique 
habitat conditions in the Strong River may influence the species' 
adaptive capacity and its overall representation. When looking at 
projections of threats within the Strong River, a few general trends 
can be seen. First, for land use, development is projected to remain 
low. In the A2 climate scenarios, agriculture increases from moderate 
to high; in the B1 climate scenario, agriculture stays moderate. Also, 
forested cover within the riparian zone of the Strong River remains 
relatively high (68-83 percent), although it does drop across all 
climate scenarios from the current condition (92 percent). SLR does not 
impact this river in any of our scenarios, as the Strong River is far 
enough inland to avoid the effects of inundation. Finally, the One Lake 
project is not anticipated to directly impact the Strong River due to 
the location of the project (i.e., mainstem Pearl River). Given all of 
this information, although the resiliency of the Strong River might 
decrease slightly due to land use projections, it is likely the Strong 
River will support a moderate density of individual turtles, and thus 
contribute to representation through maintenance of potential genetic 
diversity based on unique habitat features.
    It is noteworthy that a recent genetics study has revealed that 
genetic diversity is lower in Pearl River map turtles compared to the 
closely related congener, Pascagoula map turtles (Pearson et al. 2020, 
pp. 11-12). Declining populations generally have reduced genetic 
diversity, which can potentially elevate the risk of extinction by 
reducing a species' ability and potential to adapt to environmental 
changes (Spielman et al. 2004, entire). Future studies could help to 
elucidate whether levels of genetic diversity seen in Pearl River map 
turtles are low enough to suggest potential genetic bottlenecks, thus 
clarifying the species' level of representation. Genetic bottleneck and 
low overall genetic diversity are more of a concern for populations 
that become geographically isolated by physical barriers that inhibit 
connectivity.

Conservation Efforts and Regulatory Mechanisms

Federal

    The Clean Water Act of 1972 (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) regulates 
dredge and fill activities that would adversely affect wetlands. Such 
activities are commonly associated with dry land projects for 
development, flood control, and land clearing, as well as for water-
dependent projects such as docks/marinas and maintenance of 
navigational channels. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) share the responsibility for 
implementing the permitting program under section 404 of the Clean 
Water Act. Permit review and issuance follows a process that encourages 
avoidance, minimizing and requiring mitigation for unavoidable impacts 
to the aquatic environment and habitats. This includes protecting the 
riverine habitat occupied by the Pearl River map turtle. This law has 
resulted in some enhancement of water quality and habitat for aquatic 
life, particularly by reducing point-source pollutants.
    The regulatory mechanisms have improved water quality within the 
Pearl River drainage, as evidenced by a resurgence of intolerant fishes 
(Wagner et al. 2018, p. 13). Because the Pearl River map turtle has a 
greater tolerance for variances in water quality compared to intolerant 
fishes, these regulatory mechanisms provide some protection for the 
species and its habitat from the threat of water quality degradation; 
however, there may be some instances where sources and occurrences may 
exceed EPA thresholds and degrade water quality.
    Additionally, Federal agencies are required to evaluate the effects 
of their discretionary actions on federally listed species and must 
consult with the Service if a project is likely to affect a species 
listed under the Endangered Species Act. Such discretionary Federal 
actions within the Pearl River map turtle's habitat that may affect 
other listed species include: Maintenance dredging for navigation in 
the lower Pearl River by the Corps and their issuance of section 404 
Clean Water Act permits; construction and maintenance of gas and oil 
pipelines and power line rights-of-way by the Federal Energy Regulatory 
Commission; EPA pesticide registration; construction and maintenance of 
roads or highways by the Federal Highway Administration; and funding of 
various projects administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 
Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Federal Emergency 
Management Agency. Section 7 consultations on other federally listed 
aquatic species are known to frequently require and recommend Federal 
agencies implement conservation measures, best management practices, 
and other actions that may also minimize or eliminate potential harmful 
effects on Pearl River map turtle and encourage best management 
practice for all aquatic species. Accordingly, requirements under 
section 7 of the Act may provide some protections indirectly to the 
Pearl River map turtle and its habitat.
National Wildlife Refuges
    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act (NWRAA) 
represents organic legislation that set up the administration of a 
national network of lands and water for the conservation, management, 
and restoration of fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their 
habitats for the benefit of the American people and is managed by the 
Service. Conservation-minded management of public lands allows for: (1) 
Natural processes to operate freely and thus changes to habitat occur 
due to current and future environmental conditions; (2) managing the 
use of resources and activities, which minimizes impacts; (3) 
preservation and restoration to maintain habitats; and (4) reduction of 
the adverse physical impacts from human use. Amendment of the NWRAA in 
1997 required the refuge system to ensure that the biological 
integrity, diversity, and environmental health of refuges be 
maintained.
    The Pearl River map turtle occurs on the Bogue Chitto National 
Wildlife Refuge within Pearl River County, Mississippi, and St. Tammany 
and Washington Parishes, Louisiana. A Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
(CCP) has been developed to provide the framework of fish and wildlife 
management on the refuge (Service 2011, entire). Within the CCP, 
specific actions are described to protect the ringed map turtle that 
will also benefit the Pearl River map turtle. Actions include ongoing 
habitat management to provide downed woody debris for basking turtles 
and to maintain 330-ft (100.6-m) buffers along all named streams during 
forest habitat improvement and harvest to protect water quality in 
streams (Service 2011, pp. 21, 73, 89, 179).
National Forests
    The National Forest Management Act (1976) provides standards for 
National Forest management and planning to protect the designated 
forest lands while maintaining viable populations of existing native 
and desired non-native

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vertebrate species. The Planning Rule (2012) requires that the U.S. 
Forest Service develop land management plans for all units within the 
National Forest system. The National Forests in Mississippi have 
adopted, and in most cases exceeded, the best management practices 
(BMPs) (see discussion below of State BMPs) established by the State of 
Mississippi (U.S. Forest Service 2014, p. 66). These include practices 
such as establishing streamside buffer zones, restricting vegetation 
management in riparian zones, and employing erosion control measures. 
The Bienville National Forest has no known records for the Pearl River 
map turtle but contains tributaries that flow into the Pearl and Strong 
Rivers; thus, these practices may provide some protective measures for 
habitat occupied by the species downstream. The regulations and 
practices applied across the national forests upstream from the Pearl 
River map turtle habitat provide protections for the species' aquatic 
habitat and contribute to the conservation of the species.
Department of Defense Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans
    The Sikes Act Improvement Act (1997) led to Department of Defense 
guidance regarding development of Integrated Natural Resources 
Management Plans (INRMPs) for promoting environmental conservation on 
military installations. The U.S. Navy operates the Stennis Western 
Maneuver Area located along the western edge of the NASA Stennis Space 
Center and incorporated into the Stennis Space Center Buffer Zone. The 
Stennis Western Maneuver Area encompasses a 4-mile reach of the East 
Pearl River and a smaller eastern tributary named Mikes River (Buhlman 
2014, p. 4) in Hancock and Pearl River Counties, Mississippi. These 
river reaches are used by the Navy's Construction Battalion Center for 
riverboat warfare training. The western bank of the East Pearl River 
denotes the boundary of the Navy property and is managed as the Pearl 
River Wildlife Management Area by the State of Louisiana (see below 
under State/Louisiana). There are records of the Pearl River map turtle 
from Stennis Western Maneuver Area (Buhlman 2014, pp. 11-12, 31-32). 
The U.S. Navy has developed an INRMP for the Stennis Western Maneuver 
Area (U.S. Navy 2011, entire). Measures within the INRMP are expected 
to protect listed species, and also provide a level of protection for 
the Pearl River map turtle, include erosion and storm water control, 
floodplain management, invasive plant species management, and the use 
of an ecosystem approach to general fish and wildlife management (U.S. 
Navy 2011, pp. 4-4-4-20).

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna 
and Flora, Appendix III

    All species of Graptemys are included on the Convention on 
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora's 
(CITES) Appendix III (CITES 2019, p. 43). The Pearl River map turtle 
was added to the CITES Appendix III list in 2006 (70 FR 74700; December 
16, 2005). Appendix III is a list of species included at the request of 
a Party to the Convention that already regulates trade in the species 
and that needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent 
unsustainable, illegal exploitation. International trade in specimens 
of species listed in Appendix III is allowed only on presentation of 
the appropriate permits or certificates. The information that is 
provided in export reports for the Pearl River map turtle does not 
provide sufficient information to support identification of the source 
of the turtles. According to a LEMIS report from 2005 to 2019, more 
than 300,000 turtles identified as Graptemys spp. or their parts were 
exported from the United States to 29 countries (Service 2021b, 
Appendix B). Due to their similarity in appearance, species of 
Graptemys are difficult to differentiate. Records from 2005, when the 
highest number of Graptemys were exported, show more than 35,000 
turtles (Graptemys spp.) in a single shipment to Spain and a total of 
172,645 individual Graptemys exported to 24 different countries. 
However, there is some uncertainty regarding the sources of the 
exported turtles as they could have originated from captive stock. The 
CITES Appendix III reporting does not provide sufficient protections 
for the Pearl River map turtle because only the genus name, Graptemys, 
is used to describe the turtles, resulting in no mechanism to 
understand the number or source of Pearl River map turtles that are 
exported.

State Protections--Louisiana

    In Louisiana, the species has no State status under Louisiana 
regulations or law (LDWF 2021, entire). Protections under State law for 
collecting the Pearl River map turtle are limited to licensing 
restrictions for turtles. In Louisiana, a recreational basic fishing 
license is required but allows unlimited take of most species of 
turtles, including the Pearl River map turtle; exceptions are that no 
turtle eggs or nesting turtles may be taken (LDWF 2020, pp. 50-51). A 
recreational gear license is also required for operating specified trap 
types (see Louisiana's regulations for details on trap types), for 
instance, five or fewer hoop nets; greater than five hoop nets requires 
a Commercial Fisherman License.
    The Louisiana Scenic Rivers Act (1988) was established as a 
regulatory program administered by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife 
and Fisheries (LDWF) through a system of regulations and permits. 
Certain actions that may negatively affect the Pearl River map turtle 
are either prohibited or require a permit on rivers included on the 
natural and scenic river list. Prohibited actions include 
channelization, channel realignment, clearing and snagging, 
impoundments, and commercial clearcutting within 100 ft (30.5 m) of the 
river low water mark (Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry 
(LDAF) undated, p. 45). Permits are required for river crossing 
structures, bulkheads, land development adjacent to the river, and 
water withdrawals (LDAF undated, p. 45). Rivers with the natural and 
scenic river designation that are occupied by the Pearl River map 
turtle include the Bogue Chitto River, Holmes Bayou, and West Pearl 
River in St. Tammany Parish and Pushepatapa Creek in Washington Parish 
(LDAF undated, p. 48).
    Additional protected areas of Pearl River map turtle habitat in 
Louisiana include the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area located in 
St. Tammany Parish and Bogue Chitto State Park located on the Bogue 
Chitto River in Washington Parish. A master plan for management of 
Wildlife Management Areas and State Refuges has been developed for 
Louisiana, which describes the role of these lands in improving 
wildlife populations and their habitat including identifying and 
prioritizing issues threatening wildlife resources (LDWF and The 
Conservation Fund 2014, entire). Bogue Chitto State Park is managed by 
the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism for public 
use.
    The Louisiana State Comprehensive Wildlife Action Plan (Holcomb et 
al. 2015, entire) was developed as a roadmap for nongame conservation 
in Louisiana. The primary focus of the plan is the recovery of Species 
of Greatest Conservation Need, those wildlife species in need of 
conservation action within Louisiana, which includes the Pearl River 
map turtle. Specific actions identified for the Pearl River map turtle 
include conducting ecological studies of the turtle's reproduction, 
nest success, and recruitment as well as developing general population 
estimates via mark

[[Page 66646]]

and recapture studies (Holcomb et al. 2015, p. 69). Recent Pearl River 
map turtle survey work in Louisiana was conducted using funding from 
the SWG program (Selman 2020a, entire).
    Gravel mining activities that occur within Louisiana require review 
and permits by Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. 
Additional permits are required by LDWF for any mining activities that 
occur within designated Scenic Streams in Louisiana. The permit 
requirements ensure all projects are reviewed and approved by the 
State, thus ensuring oversight by the State and application of State 
laws.

State Protections--Mississippi

    The Pearl River map turtle is S2 (imperiled because of rarity or 
because of some factor making it very vulnerable to extinction) in 
Mississippi (Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (MMNS) 2015, p. 38) 
but is not listed on the Mississippi State list of protected species 
(Mississippi Natural Heritage Program 2015, entire). Protections under 
State law are limited to licensing restrictions for take for personal 
use of nongame species in need of management (which includes native 
species of turtles). A Mississippi resident is required to obtain one 
of three licenses for capture and possession of Pearl River map turtles 
(Mississippi Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, Mississippi 
Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks 2016, pp. 3-5). The three 
licenses available for this purpose are a Sportsman License, an All 
Game Hunting/Freshwater Fishing License, and a Small Game Hunting/
Freshwater Fishing License. A nonresident would require a Nonresident 
All Game Hunting License. Restrictions on take for personal use include 
no more than four turtles of any species or subspecies may be possessed 
or taken within a single year and that no turtles may be taken between 
April 1st and June 30th except by permit from the Mississippi 
Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (Mississippi Commission on 
Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, MDWFP 2016, pp. 3-5). Additional 
restrictions apply to this species if removed from the wild; non-game 
wildlife or their parts taken from wild Mississippi populations may not 
be bought, possessed, transported, exported, sold, offered for sale, 
shipped, bartered, or exhibited for commercial purposes.
    The Mississippi Comprehensive Wildlife Action Plan (MMNS 2015, 
entire) was developed to provide a guide for effective and efficient 
long-term conservation of biodiversity in Mississippi. As in Louisiana, 
the primary focus of the plan is on the recovery of species designated 
as SGCN, which includes the Pearl River map turtle. Specific actions 
identified for the Pearl River map turtle in Mississippi include 
planning and conducting status surveys for the species (MMNS 2015, p. 
686).
    Lands managed for wildlife by the State of Mississippi, which may 
provide habitat protections for the Pearl River map turtle, include the 
Old River Wildlife Management Area, Pearl River County and Pearl River 
Wildlife Management Area, Madison County. In addition, a ringed map 
turtle sanctuary was designated in 1990 by the Pearl River Valley Water 
Supply District (District), north of the Ross Barnett Reservoir, 
Madison County, which also provides habitat for the Pearl River map 
turtle. One of the goals of management on Wildlife Management Areas in 
Mississippi is to improve wildlife populations and their habitat (MDWFP 
2020, entire). The District sanctuary is approximately 12 rmi (19.3 
rkm) north from Ratliff Ferry to Lowhead Dam on the Pearl River 
(Service 2010, p. 4). Within the sanctuary, the District maintains 
informational signs to facilitate public awareness of the sanctuary and 
of the importance of the area to the species and conducts channel 
maintenance by methods that do not hinder the propagation of the 
species. The District has recorded a notation on the deed of the 
property comprising the sanctuary area that will in perpetuity notify 
transferees that the sanctuary must be maintained in accordance with 
the stated provisions (Service 2010, p. 4).
    Additionally, gravel mining activities that occur within 
Mississippi require review and permits by Mississippi Department of 
Environmental Quality. The permit requirements ensure all projects are 
reviewed and approved by the State, thus ensuring oversight by the 
State and application of State laws.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife State Wildlife Grants

    In 2000, the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) Program was created 
through the Fiscal Year 2001 Interior Appropriations Act and provided 
funding to States ``for the development and implementation of programs 
for the benefit of wildlife and their habitat, including species that 
are not hunted or fished.'' The SWG Program is administered by the 
Service and allocates Federal funding for proactive nongame 
conservation measures nationwide. Congress stipulated that each State 
fish and wildlife agency that wished to participate in the SWG program 
develop a Wildlife Action Plan to guide the use of SWG funds (see 
discussion below regarding the plans developed by the Louisiana 
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and Mississippi Department 
of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP)). This program funds studies 
that assist conservation by providing needed information regarding the 
species or its habitat and has contributed to the conservation of the 
species by assessing the current status and range of the Pearl River 
map turtle.

Additional Conservation Measures--Best Management Practices

    Most of the land adjacent to the Pearl and Bogue Chitto Rivers in 
Louisiana and Mississippi is privately owned and much of it is managed 
for timber. Both States have developed voluntary BMPs for forestry 
activities conducted in their respective States with the intent to 
protect water quality and minimize the impacts to plants and wildlife. 
In addition, the forest industry has a number of forest certification 
programs, such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which require 
participating landowners to meet or exceed State forestry BMPs. 
Silvicultural practices implemented with State-approved BMPs can reduce 
negative impacts to aquatic species, such as turtles, through 
reductions in nonpoint source pollution, such as sedimentation. 
Although nonpoint source pollution is a localized threat to the Pearl 
River map turtle, it is less prevalent in areas where State-approved 
BMPs are used (Service 2021b, p. 41).
    In Louisiana, BMPs include streamside management zones (SMZ) of 50 
ft (15.24 m), measured from the top of the streambank, for streams of 
less than 20 ft (6.1 m) under estimated normal flow, to a width of 100 
ft (30.5 m) for streams more than 20 ft (6.1 m) wide (LDAF undated, p. 
15). Guidance includes maintaining adequate forest canopy cover for 
normal water and shade conditions as well as an appropriate amount of 
residual cover to minimize soil erosion (LDAF undated, p. 14). An 
overall rate of 97.4 percent of 204 forestry operations surveyed by the 
LDAF in 2018 complied with the State's voluntary guidelines; compliance 
with guidelines in SMZs was 98.6 percent (LDAF 2018, entire).
    The State of Mississippi has voluntary BMPs developed by the 
Mississippi Forestry Commission (MFC) (MFC 2008, entire). These BMPs 
include SMZs with the purpose of maintaining bank stability and 
enhancing wildlife habitat by leaving 50 percent crown cover during 
timber cuts (MFC 2008, p. 6). The width of SMZs is based on slope,

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with a minimum SMZ width of 30 ft (9.14 m) extending to 60 ft (18.3 m) 
at sites with over 40 percent slope (MFC 2008, p. 6). The most recent 
monitoring survey of 174 Mississippi forestry sites indicated that 95 
percent of applicable sites were implemented in accordance with the 
2008 guidelines (MFC 2019, p. 6).
    Overall, voluntary BMPs related to forest management activities 
conducted on private lands throughout the riparian corridor of the 
Pearl River System have provided a significant foothold for Pearl River 
map turtle conservation. As a result of high BMP compliance in these 
specific areas, non-point source pollution associated with 
silvicultural operations is not a major contributor to impacts on the 
species.

Determination of Pearl River Map Turtle 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 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. The Act requires 
that we determine whether a species meets the definition of endangered 
species or threatened species because of any of the following factors: 
(A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment 
of its habitat or range; (B) Overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) Disease or 
predation; (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) 
Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.
    In conducting our status assessment of the Pearl River map turtle, 
we evaluated all identified threats under the Act's section 4(a)(1) 
factors and assessed how the cumulative impact of all threats acts on 
the current and future viability of the species based on resiliency, 
redundancy, and representation. In assessing future viability, all the 
anticipated effects from both habitat-based and direct threats to the 
species are examined in total and then evaluated in the context of what 
those combined negative effects will mean to the future condition of 
the Pearl River map turtle. We use the best available information to 
determine the magnitude of each individual threat on the species, and 
then assess how those effects combined (and as may be ameliorated by 
any existing regulatory mechanisms or conservation efforts) will impact 
the Pearl River map turtle's future viability.

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 
determined that the species currently has sufficient resiliency, 
redundancy, and representation contributing to its overall viability 
across its range. Even though the species is described as a single 
population, the current condition of the units are all below optimal or 
high resiliency, three units have moderate resiliency, and the 
remaining two units have low resiliency. There are no units within the 
range that demonstrate high resiliency. Despite the moderate and low 
conditions of all units, the species is widely distributed across much 
of its range. Current threats to the species include habitat 
degradation and loss due to alterations in the aquatic and terrestrial 
environments that affect water quality through sedimentation, 
impoundment, and gravel mining; and collection for the pet trade is 
also an ongoing threat to the species.
    The Ross Barnett Reservoir was completed in 1963 and has reduced 
the amount of available habitat for the species and fragmented 
contiguous suitable habitat. Pearl River map turtles prefer flowing 
water in rivers and creeks. Indirect effects from the reservoir are 
associated with recreational use from boat traffic and foot traffic 
from day visitors and campers. Declines in Pearl River map turtles have 
been documented both upstream (lower density) and downstream 
(population declines) from the reservoir (Selman and Jones 2017, pp. 
32-34). A total of 20.9 rmi (33.6 rkm) of the Pearl River is submerged 
beneath the Ross Barnett Reservoir and no longer suitable for the Pearl 
River map turtle. This reservoir is currently affecting the Middle 
Pearl-Strong unit and the Upper Pearl unit, reducing the suitable 
habitat of five percent of the mainstem Pearl River by altering the 
lotic (flowing water) habitat preferred by Pearl River map turtles to 
lentic (lake) habitat. The reservoir reduces the resiliency and overall 
condition of these affected units.
    Despite the effects of the existing reservoir on the Upper Pearl 
and Middle Pearl-Strong resilience units, sufficient habitat remains to 
provide adequate resiliency of these units to contribute to the 
viability of the species. The effects from the reservoir may continue 
affecting the species in the future as the turtles in the Upper Pearl 
unit (above the reservoir) become more isolated over time; however, 
there is currently adequate resiliency.
    In terms of redundancy and the ability of the species to respond to 
catastrophic events, the species currently has enough redundancy across 
the five resilience units to protect it from a catastrophe such as a 
large hurricane or oil spill. The Middle Pearl-Silver and Middle Pearl-
Strong units are particularly vulnerable to a potential spill from 
railways and transportation corridors that are near or adjacent to 
habitat occupied by Pearl River map turtles. The Lower Pearl unit is 
vulnerable to the effects from hurricanes as it is in close proximity 
to the Gulf of Mexico. However, because the species is a single 
population distributed across five resilience units encompassing 
1,279.6 rkm (795.1 rm), it is buffered against catastrophic events such 
as these.
    While the overall current condition of the species exhibits low 
redundancy, the species is still widespread across its range in all 
resilience units across the single representative unit. Although we do 
not project any of the units to be extirpated in any scenarios, we do 
anticipate resilience to drop significantly in several units across 
many scenarios. Thus, after assessing the best available information, 
we conclude that the Pearl River map turtle is not currently in danger 
of extinction throughout all of its range.
    A threatened species, as defined by the Act, is any species which 
is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Because the 
species is not currently in danger of extinction (endangered) 
throughout its entire range, we evaluated the viability of the species 
over the foreseeable future considering the condition of the species in 
relation to its resiliency, redundancy, and representation. We analyzed 
future conditions based on input from species experts, generation time 
for the species, and the confidence in predicting patterns of 
urbanization and agriculture, enabling us to reliably predict threats 
and conservation actions and the species' response over time. Details 
regarding the future condition analyses are available in the SSA report 
(Service 2021b, pp. 81-118).
    The threats included in the future scenarios are projected to 
negatively affect the Pearl River map turtle and result in a decline of 
resiliency throughout four (Bogue Chitto, Lower Pearl, Middle Pearl-
Strong, and Upper Pearl) of the five resilience units (table

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2). While the Middle Pearl-Silver unit is not expected to see major 
declines in resiliency, its current resiliency is low and it is 
anticipated to remain low in the future projections. None of the 
resilience units will improve from current conditions to provide high 
resiliency; three units are moderate, but the conditions decline in the 
future scenarios. Three resilience units may have additional stressors 
including isolation for the Upper Pearl, compounded by the addition of 
another planned reservoir for the Middle Pearl-Strong unit, and gravel 
mining for the Bogue Chitto unit. These threats will likely cause a 
decline in the amount of available suitable habitat, thereby affecting 
the future resiliency; however, the development of the reservoir and 
future sand and gravel mining activities are uncertain. Two of the 
resilience units are low (Lower Pearl and Middle Pearl), with the most 
southern unit (Lower Pearl) facing threats from SLR. The single 
population that consists of five resilience units has low genetic 
variability resulting in low adaptive capacity or the potential to 
adapt to environmental or habitat changes within the units. Most of the 
population primarily uses the main stem river, which is subject to more 
catastrophic events (e.g., an oil spill) as any point source pollutants 
would flow downstream throughout the range of the turtle below the 
point of contamination. The species has limited occurrence in 
tributaries in its range, resulting in limited refugia from future 
catastrophic effects.
    In terms of resiliency, the future condition is expected to decline 
for all resilience units. The future scenarios project out to the year 
2070 to capture the species' response to threats and changing landscape 
conditions. The impacts from the existing Ross Barnett Reservoir will 
continue affecting the species, and resilience of the units will 
decline as the turtles in the most northern unit (Upper Pearl) will 
become even more spatially isolated. An additional planned development 
project adjacent to the existing reservoir could affect up to 170 
turtles directly and 360 turtles indirectly in the Upper Pearl and 
Middle Pearl-Strong units (Selman 2020b, pp. 192-193). If this 
impoundment project moves forward, the species' viability will continue 
to decline in the foreseeable future as resiliency declines through 
loss of suitable habitat and further isolation of turtles above the 
reservoirs. The turtles in the Upper Pearl unit are subject to genetic 
isolation and potentially the effects of small population size as the 
species here will not be connected to the rest of the contiguous 
habitat south of the reservoir.
    Another future threat to the species is SLR, which will cause a 
contraction in the most southern unit (Lower Pearl) as saline waters 
encroach farther north from the Gulf of Mexico in rising seas, and the 
effects will be magnified with hurricane-related storm surge pulsing 
saline water upstream into the freshwater system. The amount of habitat 
affected over time depends on the rate of SLR and other factors that 
influence surge such as increased hurricane or storm frequency and 
severity.
    An additional threat that is expected to impact the species in the 
foreseeable future includes the continued collection from wild 
populations for the domestic and international pet trade. Map turtles 
are desired by collectors for their intricate shell patterns. Despite 
the less distinctive shell patterns and markings of adult Pearl River 
map turtles, the species remains a target for some herptile enthusiasts 
and personal collections. The demand for turtles globally is 
increasing, which results in more intense pressures on wild 
populations. The threat of illegal collection is expected to continue 
into the foreseeable future.
    The overall future condition of the species is expected to continue 
a declining trajectory resulting in compromised viability as described 
in the future scenarios out to year 2070. Therefore, the species is 
likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future 
throughout all of its range.

Status Throughout a Significant Portion of Its Range

    Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a species may 
warrant listing if it is in danger of extinction or likely to become so 
in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of 
its range. The court in Center for Biological Diversity v. Everson, 
2020 WL 437289 (D.D.C. Jan. 28, 2020) (Center for Biological 
Diversity), vacated the aspect of the Final Policy on Interpretation of 
the Phrase ``Significant Portion of Its Range'' in the Endangered 
Species Act's Definitions of ``Endangered Species'' and ``Threatened 
Species'' (79 FR 37578; July 1, 2014) that provided that the Service 
does not undertake an analysis of significant portions of a species' 
range if the species warrants listing as threatened throughout all of 
its range. Therefore, we proceed to evaluating whether the species is 
endangered in a significant portion of its range--that is, whether 
there is any portion of the species' range for which both (1) the 
portion is significant; and (2) the species is in danger of extinction 
in that portion. Depending on the case, it might be more efficient for 
us to address the ``significance'' question or the ``status'' question 
first. We can choose to address either question first. Regardless of 
which question we address first, if we reach a negative answer with 
respect to the first question that we address, we do not need to 
evaluate the other question for that portion of the species' range.
    Following the court's holding in Center for Biological Diversity, 
we now consider whether there are any significant portions of the 
species' range where the species is in danger of extinction now (i.e., 
endangered). In undertaking this analysis for the Pearl River map 
turtle, we choose to address the status question first--we consider 
information pertaining to the geographic distribution of both the 
species and the threats that the species faces to identify any portions 
of the range where the species is endangered. 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: Effects of climate change (including SLR), habitat loss and 
degradation, and illegal collection. We also considered whether 
cumulative effects contributed to a concentration of threats across the 
species' range.
    Overall, we found that the threat of SLR and habitat loss are 
likely acting disproportionately to particular areas within the 
species' range. The threat of SLR is concentrated in the Lower Pearl, 
which is the most southern resilience unit that connects to the Gulf of 
Mexico. However, the salinity influx into the species' habitat due to 
SLR is not currently affecting this area but will affect the species' 
habitat within the foreseeable future; thus, we excluded SLR from the 
significant portion of its range analysis as we have already determined 
the species is threatened across all of its range.
    The threat of habitat loss and degradation is concentrated on the 
Middle Pearl-Strong and Upper Pearl units due to an existing reservoir 
and a planned project that disjoins the connectivity of turtles above 
and below the reservoir. The impacts due to habitat degradation and 
loss are acting on the species' current condition and possibly future 
condition if the One Lake project is constructed as planned. Future 
reduction in habitat in the Middle Pearl-Strong and Upper Pearl units 
will occur, and increased isolation of the Upper Pearl unit will 
further reduce

[[Page 66649]]

connectivity if the additional One Lake project is completed. 
Researchers have estimated that up to 170 individual Pearl River map 
turtles could be directly impacted by the One Lake Project (Selman 
2020b, pp. 192-193). The impacts from this project are in the future 
and are not currently affecting the species; therefore, we will only 
consider the existing reservoir for the analysis to determine if the 
species is endangered in a significant portion of its range.
    After identifying areas where the concentration of threats of 
habitat degradation and loss affects the species or its habitat and the 
time horizon of these threats, we considered the status to determine if 
the species is endangered in the affected portion of the range. The 
area that currently contains a concentration of threats includes a 
portion of the Middle Pearl-Strong and Upper Pearl units. Habitat loss 
and degradation from an existing reservoir has reduced the amount and 
quality of existing habitat for the species in these units. The Ross 
Barnett Reservoir constructed between 1960 and 1963 near Jackson, 
Mississippi, changed the natural hydrology of the Pearl River and 
resulted in 20.9 rmi (33.6 rkm) of river submerged and made unsuitable 
for the Pearl River map turtle (Lindeman 2019, p. 19). Low population 
densities of turtles have been observed upstream from the reservoir 
(Selman and Jones 2017, pp. 32-34). Notable population declines also 
have been observed in the stretch of the Pearl River downstream of the 
Ross Barnett Reservoir (north of Lakeland Drive), but the exact reason 
for the decline is unknown (Selman 2020b, p. 194). However, despite 
these declines, the species currently exhibits adequate resiliency in 
these portions.
    As a result, the Pearl River map turtle is not in danger of 
extinction in the portion of the range affected by the Barnett Ross 
Reservoir. In other words, we found no concentration of threats in any 
portion of the Pearl River map turtle's range at a biologically 
meaningful scale. Thus, there are no portions of the species' range 
where the species has a different status from its rangewide status. 
Therefore, no portion of the species' range provides a basis for 
determining that the species is in danger of extinction in a 
significant portion of its range, and we determine that the Pearl River 
map turtle is likely to become in danger of extinction within the 
foreseeable future throughout all of its range. This is consistent with 
the courts' holdings in 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 Pearl River Map Turtle Status

    Our review of the best available scientific and commercial 
information indicates that the Pearl River map turtle meets the 
definition of a threatened species. Therefore, we propose to list the 
Pearl River map turtle as a threatened species in accordance with 
sections 3(20) and 4(a)(1) of the Act.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened species under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing results in public awareness, and 
conservation by Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies, private 
organizations, and individuals. The Act encourages cooperation with the 
States and other countries and calls for recovery actions to be carried 
out for listed species. The protection required by Federal agencies and 
the prohibitions against certain activities are discussed, in part, 
below.
    The primary purpose of the Act is the conservation of endangered 
and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The 
ultimate goal of such conservation efforts is the recovery of listed 
species, so that they no longer need the protective measures of the 
Act. Section 4(f) of the Act calls for the Service to develop and 
implement recovery plans for the conservation of endangered and 
threatened species. The recovery planning process involves the 
identification of actions that are necessary to halt or reverse the 
species' decline by addressing the threats to its survival and 
recovery. The goal of this process is to restore listed species to a 
point where they are secure, self-sustaining, and functioning 
components of their ecosystems.
    Recovery planning consists of preparing draft and final recovery 
plans, beginning with the development of a recovery outline and making 
it available to the public within 30 days of a final listing 
determination. The recovery outline guides the immediate implementation 
of urgent recovery actions and describes the process to be used to 
develop a recovery plan. Revisions of the plan may be done to address 
continuing or new threats to the species, as new substantive 
information becomes available. The recovery plan also identifies 
recovery criteria for review of when a species may be ready for 
reclassification from endangered to threatened (``downlisting'') or 
removal from protected status (``delisting''), and methods for 
monitoring recovery progress. Recovery plans also establish a framework 
for agencies to coordinate their recovery efforts and provide estimates 
of the cost of implementing recovery tasks. Recovery teams (composed of 
species experts, Federal and State agencies, nongovernmental 
organizations, and stakeholders) are often established to develop 
recovery plans. When completed, the recovery outline, draft recovery 
plan, and the final recovery plan will be available on our website 
(http://www.fws.gov/endangered) or from our Mississippi Ecological 
Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
    Implementation of recovery actions generally requires the 
participation of a broad range of partners, including other Federal 
agencies, States, Tribes, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, 
and private landowners. Examples of recovery actions include habitat 
restoration (e.g., restoration of native vegetation), research, captive 
propagation and reintroduction, and outreach and education. The 
recovery of many listed species cannot be accomplished solely on 
Federal lands because their range may occur primarily or solely on non-
Federal lands. To achieve recovery of these species requires 
cooperative conservation efforts on private, State, and Tribal lands.
    If the Pearl River map turtle is listed, funding for recovery 
actions will be available from a variety of sources, including Federal 
budgets, State programs, and cost-share grants for non-Federal 
landowners, the academic community, and nongovernmental organizations. 
In addition, pursuant to section 6 of the Act, the States of Louisiana 
and Mississippi would be eligible for Federal funds to implement 
management actions that promote the protection or recovery of the Pearl 
River map turtle. Information on our grant programs that are available 
to aid species recovery can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/grants.
    Although the Pearl River map turtle is only proposed for listing 
under the Act at this time, please let us know if you are interested in 
participating in recovery efforts for this species. Additionally, we 
invite you to submit any new information on this species whenever it 
becomes available and any information you may have for recovery 
planning purposes (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
    Section 7(a) of the Act requires Federal agencies to evaluate their 
actions with respect to any species that

[[Page 66650]]

is proposed or listed as an endangered or threatened species and with 
respect to its critical habitat, if any is designated. Regulations 
implementing this interagency cooperation provision of the Act are 
codified at 50 CFR part 402. Section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires 
Federal agencies to confer with the Service on any action that is 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a species proposed for 
listing or result in destruction or adverse modification of proposed 
critical habitat. If a species is listed subsequently, section 7(a)(2) 
of the Act requires Federal agencies to ensure that activities they 
authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the 
continued existence of the species or destroy or adversely modify its 
critical habitat. If a Federal action may affect a listed species or 
its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency must enter into 
consultation with the Service.
    Federal agency actions within the species' range that may require 
conference or consultation or both as described in the preceding 
paragraph include actions that fund, authorize, or carry out management 
and any other landscape-altering activities include, but are not 
limited to:
    (1) Actions that would increase sediment deposition within the 
stream channel. Such activities could include, but are not limited to, 
channelization, channel alteration, dredging, impoundment, flood-
control structures, road and bridge construction, de-snagging 
(submerged dead-wood removal), timber harvests, destruction of riparian 
vegetation, oil or natural gas development, pipeline construction, off-
road vehicle use, and other land-disturbing activities in the watershed 
and floodplain. Sedimentation from these activities could lead to 
stream bottom embeddedness that eliminates or reduces the quality of 
aquatic habitat necessary for the conservation of the Pearl River map 
turtle.
    (2) Actions that would alter river or tributary morphology or 
geometry. Such activities could include, but are not limited to, 
channelization, dredging, impoundment, road and bridge construction, 
pipeline construction, and destruction of riparian vegetation. These 
activities may cause changes in water flows or channel stability and 
lead to increased sedimentation that eliminates or reduces the 
sheltering habitat necessary for the conservation of the Pearl River 
map turtle.
    (3) Actions that would alter water chemistry or quality. Such 
activities could include, but are not limited to, the release of 
chemicals, fill, biological pollutants, or off-label pesticide use. 
These activities could alter water conditions to levels that are beyond 
the tolerances of the Pearl River map turtle and result in direct or 
cumulative adverse effects to individual turtles.
    It is our policy, as published in the Federal Register on July 1, 
1994 (59 FR 34272), to identify to the maximum extent practicable at 
the time a species is listed, those activities that would or would not 
constitute a violation of section 9 of the Act. The intent of this 
policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of a proposed 
listing on proposed and ongoing activities within the range of the 
species proposed for listing. The discussion below (section III. 
Proposed Rule Issued Under Section 4(d) of the Act for the Pearl River 
Map Turtle) regarding protective regulations under section 4(d) of the 
Act complies with our policy.

III. Proposed Rule Issued Under Section 4(d) of the Act for the Pearl 
River Map Turtle

Background

    Section 4(d) of the Act contains two sentences. The first sentence 
states that the Secretary shall issue such regulations as she deems 
necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of species 
listed as threatened. The U.S. Supreme Court has noted that statutory 
language like ``necessary and advisable'' demonstrates a large degree 
of deference to the agency (see Webster v. Doe, 486 U.S. 592 (1988)). 
Conservation is defined in the Act to mean the use of all methods and 
procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or 
threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant 
to the Act are no longer necessary. Additionally, the second sentence 
of section 4(d) of the Act states that the Secretary may by regulation 
prohibit with respect to any threatened species any act prohibited 
under section 9(a)(1), in the case of fish or wildlife, or section 
9(a)(2), in the case of plants. Thus, the combination of the two 
sentences of section 4(d) provides the Secretary with wide latitude of 
discretion to select and promulgate appropriate regulations tailored to 
the specific conservation needs of threatened species. The second 
sentence grants particularly broad discretion to the Service when 
adopting the prohibitions under section 9.
    The courts have recognized the extent of the Secretary's discretion 
under this standard to develop rules that are appropriate for the 
conservation of a species. For example, courts have upheld rules 
developed under section 4(d) as a valid exercise of agency authority 
where they prohibited take of threatened wildlife or include a limited 
taking prohibition (see Alsea Valley Alliance v. Lautenbacher, 2007 
U.S. Dist. Lexis 60203 (D. Or. 2007); Washington Environmental Council 
v. National Marine Fisheries Service, 2002 U.S. Dist. Lexis 5432 (W.D. 
Wash. 2002)). Courts have also upheld 4(d) rules that do not address 
all of the threats a species faces (see State of Louisiana v. Verity, 
853 F.2d 322 (5th Cir. 1988)). As noted in the legislative history when 
the Act was initially enacted, ``once an animal is on the threatened 
list, the Secretary has an almost infinite number of options available 
to him/[her] with regard to the permitted activities for those species. 
[S]he may, for example, permit taking, but not importation of such 
species, or [s]he may choose to forbid both taking and importation but 
allow the transportation of such species'' (H.R. Rep. No. 412, 93rd 
Cong., 1st Sess. 1973).
    Exercising our authority under section 4(d), we have developed a 
proposed rule that is designed to address the Pearl River map turtle's 
conservation needs. Although the statute does not require us to make a 
``necessary and advisable'' finding with respect to the adoption of 
specific prohibitions under section 9, we find that this proposed rule 
as a whole satisfies the requirement in section 4(d) of the Act to 
issue regulations deemed necessary and advisable to provide for the 
conservation of the Pearl River map turtle. As discussed under Summary 
of Biological Status and Threats, we have concluded that the Pearl 
River map turtle is likely to become in danger of extinction within the 
foreseeable future primarily due to habitat degradation and loss due to 
impoundments, dams, agricultural runoff, development, mining, loss of 
riparian habitat and deadwood abundance, collection, and climate 
change. Additional stressors acting on the species include disease and 
contaminants (pesticides and heavy metals). Drowning and/or capture due 
to bycatch associated with recreational and commercial fishing of some 
species of freshwater fish also may affect the species but are of 
unknown frequency or severity.
    The provisions of this proposed 4(d) rule would promote 
conservation of the Pearl River map turtle by encouraging responsible 
land management activities and implementing use of best management 
practices for activities near and in rivers, streams, and riparian 
areas to minimize habitat alteration to the maximum extent practicable. 
The rule will also address the threat of

[[Page 66651]]

collection by prohibiting take of individuals from the wild. The 
provisions of this proposed rule include some of the many tools that we 
would use to promote the conservation of Pearl River map turtle. This 
proposed 4(d) rule would apply only if and when we make final the 
listing of Pearl River map turtle as a threatened species.
    Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies, including the 
Service, to ensure that any action they fund, authorize, or carry out 
is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered 
species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of designated critical habitat of such species. In 
addition, section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
confer with the Service on any agency action which is likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any species proposed to be listed 
under the Act or result in the destruction or adverse modification of 
proposed critical habitat.
    If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical 
habitat, the responsible Federal agency (action agency) must enter into 
consultation with us. Examples of actions that are subject to the 
section 7 consultation process are actions on State, Tribal, local, or 
private lands that require a Federal permit (such as a permit from the 
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under section 404 of the Clean Water Act 
(33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) or a permit from the Service under section 10 
of the Act) or that involve some other Federal action (such as funding 
from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation 
Administration, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Federal 
actions not affecting listed species or critical habitat--and actions 
on State, Tribal, local, or private lands that are not federally 
funded, authorized, or carried out by a Federal agency--do not require 
section 7 consultation.
    This obligation does not change in any way for a threatened species 
with a species-specific 4(d) rule. Actions that result in a 
determination by a Federal agency of ``not likely to adversely affect'' 
continue to require the Service's written concurrence and actions that 
are ``likely to adversely affect'' a species require formal 
consultation and the formulation of a biological opinion.

Provisions of the Proposed 4(d) Rule for the Pearl River Map Turtle

    This proposed 4(d) rule would provide for the conservation of the 
Pearl River map turtle by prohibiting the following activities, except 
as otherwise authorized or permitted: Importing or exporting; take; 
possession and other acts with unlawfully taken specimens; delivering, 
receiving, transporting, or shipping in interstate or foreign commerce 
in the course of commercial activity; or selling or offering for sale 
in interstate or foreign commerce. We also include several exceptions 
to these prohibitions, which along with the prohibitions, are set forth 
under Proposed Regulation Promulgation, below.
    As discussed above under Summary of Biological Status and Threats, 
habitat degradation and loss (aquatic and terrestrial nesting) and 
collection are affecting the status of the Pearl River map turtle. A 
range of activities has the potential to affect the Pearl River map 
turtle, including: Dredging, de-snagging, removal of riparian cover, 
channelization, in-stream activities that result in stream bank erosion 
and siltation (e.g., stream crossings, bridge replacements, flood 
control structures, impoundments, etc.), improper pesticide use, and 
changes in land use within the riparian zone of waterbodies (e.g., 
clearing land for agriculture). Regulating take associated with these 
activities would provide for the conservation of the species by better 
preserving the condition of the species' resilience units, slowing its 
rate of decline, and decreasing synergistic, negative effects from 
other ongoing or future threats.
    Under the Act, ``take'' means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any 
such conduct. Some of these provisions have been further defined in 
regulation at 50 CFR 17.3. Take can result knowingly or otherwise, by 
direct and indirect impacts, intentionally or incidentally. This 
proposed 4(d) rule would provide for the conservation of Pearl River 
map turtle by prohibiting intentional and incidental take, except as 
otherwise authorized or permitted. Prohibiting take of the species 
resulting from activities, including but not limited to habitat 
alteration and collection, will provide for the conservation of the 
species. Regulating take from these activities under a 4(d) rule would 
prevent continued declines in population abundance and decrease 
synergistic, negative effects from other threats; this regulatory 
approach will provide for the conservation of the species by improving 
resiliency of the species across all units within its range and prevent 
future projected declines in its viability.

Prohibitions

    Aquatic and terrestrial nesting habitat alteration is a threat to 
the Pearl River map turtle, as the species is endemic to the Pearl 
River basin and its river ecosystems, including tributary waterbodies, 
where structure (e.g., tree root masses, stumps, submerged trees, etc.) 
provides habitat for the species and its prey. Pearl River map turtles 
spend the majority of their time in aquatic habitat; overland movements 
are generally restricted to nesting females and juveniles moving from 
the nest to water (Jones 2006, pp. 207-208; Lindeman 2013, pp. 211-
212). The primary causes for aquatic habitat alteration include actions 
that change hydrologic conditions to the extent that dispersal and 
genetic interchange are impeded.
    The activities that alter Pearl River map turtle aquatic and 
terrestrial nesting habitats may directly or indirectly affect the 
species. As well as providing basking sites for all age classes of 
Pearl River map turtles, fallen riparian woody debris provides 
important feeding areas for juvenile and male turtles. The species' 
habitat needs include flowing water with limited sedimentation, 
sufficient water quality to support the invertebrate and mussel food 
source of the species, and sandbars for nesting sites. We recommend the 
implementation of industry and/or State-approved best management 
practices for activities that may change the hydrology or water quality 
or reduce available basking structures such as deadwood. Additionally, 
pesticides should be applied according to label guidelines complying 
with State and Federal regulations.
    State regulatory programs for Pearl River map turtle include 
regulations in Louisiana and Mississippi that limit or prohibit 
possession, purchase, sale, transport, or export. Additionally, 
collection of turtles for the pet trade and aquaculture is a practice 
that continues to threaten many turtle species globally and also within 
the Southeastern United States. Based on the provisions of this 
proposed 4(d) rule, the following actions would be prohibited across 
the range of the species: Importing or exporting individuals; take (as 
set forth at 50 CFR 17.21(c)(1) with exceptions as discussed below); 
possession, sale, delivery, carrying, transporting, or shipping of 
specimens from any source; delivering, receiving, transporting, or 
shipping individuals in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of 
commercial activity; and selling or offering for sale individuals in 
interstate or foreign commerce.

[[Page 66652]]

Exceptions to the Prohibitions

    We are proposing several exceptions to the prohibitions: Take 
incidental to any otherwise lawful activity caused by pesticide and 
herbicide use; construction, operation, and maintenance activities that 
implement industry and/or State-approved best management practices 
accordingly; silviculture practices and forestry activities that 
implement industry and/or State-approved best management practices 
accordingly; and maintenance dredging that affects previously disturbed 
portions of the maintained channel.
    Best Management Practices for Implementing Actions That Occur Near- 
or In-Stream--Implementing best management practices to avoid and/or 
minimize the effects of habitat alterations in areas that support Pearl 
River map turtles would provide additional measures for conserving the 
species by reducing direct and indirect effects to the species. We 
consider that certain construction, forestry, and pesticide/herbicide 
management activities that occur near- and in-stream may remove 
riparian cover or forested habitat, change land use within the riparian 
zone, or increase stream bank erosion and/or siltation. These actions 
and activities, if implemented using appropriate best management 
practices, may have some minimal level of incidental take of the Pearl 
River map turtle, but any such take is expected to be rare and 
insignificant and is not expected to negatively impact the species' 
conservation and recovery efforts.
    Construction, operation, and maintenance activities such as 
installation of stream crossings, replacement of existing in-stream 
structures (e.g., bridges, culverts, water control structures, boat 
launches, etc.), operation and maintenance of existing flood control 
features (or other existing structures), and directional boring, when 
implemented with industry and State-approved standard best management 
practices, will have minimal impacts to Pearl River map turtles and 
their habitat. In addition, silviculture practices and forestry 
management activities that follow State-approved best management 
practices to protect water and sediment quality and stream and riparian 
habitat will not impair the species' conservation. Lastly, invasive 
species removal activities, particularly through pesticide (insecticide 
and herbicide) application, are considered beneficial to the native 
ecosystem and are likely to improve habitat conditions for the species; 
all excepted pesticide applications must be conducted in a manner 
consistent with Federal and applicable State laws, including 
Environmental Protection Agency label restrictions and pesticide 
application guidelines as prescribed by pesticide manufacturers that 
would not impair the species' conservation. These activities should 
have minimal impacts to Pearl River map turtles if industry and/or 
State-approved best management practices are implemented. These 
activities and management practices should be carried out in accordance 
with any existing regulations, permit and label requirements, and best 
management practices to avoid or minimize impacts to the species and 
its habitat.
    Thus, under this proposed 4(d) rule, incidental take associated 
with the following activities are excepted:
    (1) Construction, operation, and maintenance activities that occur 
near- and in-stream, such as installation of stream crossings, 
replacement of existing in-stream structures (e.g., bridges, culverts, 
water control structures, boat launches, etc.), operation and 
maintenance of existing flood control features (or other existing 
structures), and directional boring, when implemented with industry 
and/or State-approved best management practices for construction;
    (2) Pesticide and herbicide applications that follow the chemical 
label and appropriate application rates; and
    (3) Silviculture practices and forest management activities that 
use State-approved best management practices to protect water and 
sediment quality and stream and riparian habitat.
    Maintenance Dredging of Navigable Waterways--We considered that 
maintenance dredging activities generally disturb the same area of the 
waterbody in each cycle; thus, there is less likelihood that suitable 
turtle habitat (e.g., submerged logs, cover, etc.) occurs in the 
maintained portion of the channel. Accordingly, incidental take 
associated with maintenance dredging activities that occur within the 
previously disturbed portion of the navigable waterway is excepted from 
the prohibitions as long as these activities do not encroach upon 
suitable turtle habitat outside the maintained portion of the channel 
and provide for the conservation of the species.
    We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities, 
including those described above, involving threatened wildlife under 
certain circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 
CFR 17.32. With regard to threatened wildlife, a permit may be issued 
for the following purposes: For scientific purposes, to enhance 
propagation or survival, for economic hardship, for zoological 
exhibition, for educational purposes, for incidental taking, or for 
special purposes consistent with the purposes of the Act. The statute 
also contains certain exemptions from the prohibitions, which are found 
in sections 9 and 10 of the Act.
    We recognize the special and unique relationship with State natural 
resource agency partners in contributing to conservation of listed 
species. State agencies often possess scientific data and valuable 
expertise on the status and distribution of endangered, threatened, and 
candidate species of wildlife and plants. State agencies, because of 
their authorities and their close working relationships with local 
governments and landowners, are in a unique position to assist the 
Service in implementing all aspects of the Act. In this regard, section 
6 of the Act provides that the Service shall cooperate to the maximum 
extent practicable with the States in carrying out programs authorized 
by the Act. Therefore, any qualified employee or agent of a State 
conservation agency that is a party to a cooperative agreement with the 
Service in accordance with section 6(c) of the Act, who is designated 
by his or her agency for such purposes, would be able to conduct 
activities designed to conserve Pearl River map turtle that may result 
in otherwise prohibited take without additional authorization.
    The proposed 4(d) rule would also allow any employee or agent of 
the Service, or other Federal land management agency, the National 
Marine Fisheries Service, a State conservation agency, or a State-
licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility staff member designated by 
his/her agency for such purposes, when acting in the course of official 
duties, to take endangered wildlife without a permit in accordance with 
50 CFR 17.21(c)(3).
    Nothing in this proposed 4(d) rule would change in any way the 
recovery planning provisions of section 4(f) of the Act, the 
consultation requirements under section 7 of the Act, or the ability of 
the Service to enter into partnerships for the management and 
protection of the Pearl River map turtle. However, interagency 
cooperation may be further streamlined through planned programmatic 
consultations for the species between Federal agencies and the Service, 
where appropriate. We ask the public, particularly State agencies and 
other interested stakeholders that may be affected by the proposed 4(d) 
rule, to provide comments and

[[Page 66653]]

suggestions regarding additional guidance and methods that the Service 
could provide or use, respectively, to streamline the implementation of 
this proposed 4(d) rule (see Information Requested, above).

IV. Critical Habitat for the Pearl River Map Turtle

Background

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as:
    (1) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the 
species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which 
are found those physical or biological features
    (a) Essential to the conservation of the species, and
    (b) Which may require special management considerations or 
protection; and
    (2) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the 
species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas 
are essential for the conservation of the species.
    Our regulations at 50 CFR 424.02 define the geographical area 
occupied by the species as an area that may generally be delineated 
around species' occurrences, as determined by the Secretary (i.e., 
range). Such areas may include those areas used throughout all or part 
of the species' life cycle, even if not used on a regular basis (e.g., 
migratory corridors, seasonal habitats, and habitats used periodically, 
but not solely by vagrant individuals).
    Conservation, as defined under section 3 of the Act, means to use 
and the use of all methods and procedures that are necessary to bring 
an endangered or threatened species to the point at which the measures 
provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary. Such methods and 
procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated 
with scientific resources management such as research, census, law 
enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, habitat restoration, 
propagation, live trapping, and transplantation, and, in the 
extraordinary case where population pressures within a given ecosystem 
cannot be otherwise relieved, may include regulated taking.
    Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the Act 
through the requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation 
with the Service, that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is 
not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of 
critical habitat. The designation of critical habitat does not affect 
land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or 
other conservation area. Designation also does not allow the government 
or public to access private lands. Designation does not require 
implementation of restoration, recovery, or enhancement measures by 
non-Federal landowners. Where a landowner requests Federal agency 
funding or authorization for an action that may affect a listed species 
or critical habitat, the Federal agency would be required to consult 
with the Service under section 7(a)(2) of the Act. However, even if the 
Service were to conclude that the proposed activity would result in 
destruction or adverse modification of the critical habitat, the 
Federal action agency and the landowner are not required to abandon the 
proposed activity, or to restore or recover the species; instead, they 
must implement ``reasonable and prudent alternatives'' to avoid 
destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.
    Under the first prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
it was listed are included in a critical habitat designation if they 
contain physical or biological features (1) which are essential to the 
conservation of the species and (2) which may require special 
management considerations or protection. For these areas, critical 
habitat designations identify, to the extent known using the best 
scientific and commercial data available, those physical or biological 
features that are essential to the conservation of the species (such as 
space, food, cover, and protected habitat). In identifying those 
physical or biological features that occur in specific occupied areas, 
we focus on the specific features that are essential to support the 
life-history needs of the species, including, but not limited to, water 
characteristics, soil type, geological features, prey, vegetation, 
symbiotic species, or other features. A feature may be a single habitat 
characteristic or a more complex combination of habitat 
characteristics. Features may include habitat characteristics that 
support ephemeral or dynamic habitat conditions. Features may also be 
expressed in terms relating to principles of conservation biology, such 
as patch size, distribution distances, and connectivity.
    Under the second prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
we can designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographical 
area occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a 
determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the 
species. The implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(b)(2) further 
delineate unoccupied critical habitat by setting out three specific 
parameters: (1) When designating critical habitat, the Secretary will 
first evaluate areas occupied by the species; (2) the Secretary will 
consider unoccupied areas to be essential only where a critical habitat 
designation limited to geographical areas occupied by the species would 
be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species; and (3) for an 
unoccupied area to be considered essential, the Secretary must 
determine that there is a reasonable certainty both that the area will 
contribute to the conservation of the species and that the area 
contains one or more of those physical or biological features essential 
to the conservation of the species.
    Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat on 
the basis of the best scientific data available. Further, our Policy on 
Information Standards Under the Endangered Species Act (published in 
the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271)), the Information 
Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and General Government 
Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 106-554; H.R. 5658)), 
and our associated Information Quality Guidelines provide criteria, 
establish procedures, and provide guidance to ensure that our decisions 
are based on the best scientific data available. They require our 
biologists, to the extent consistent with the Act and with the use of 
the best scientific data available, to use primary and original sources 
of information as the basis for recommendations to designate critical 
habitat.
    When we are determining which areas should be designated as 
critical habitat, our primary source of information is generally the 
information from the SSA report and information developed during the 
listing process for the species. Additional information sources may 
include any generalized conservation strategy, criteria, or outline 
that may have been developed for the species; the recovery plan for the 
species; articles in peer-reviewed journals; conservation plans 
developed by States and counties; scientific status surveys and 
studies; biological assessments; other unpublished materials; or 
experts' opinions or personal knowledge.
    Habitat is dynamic, and species may move from one area to another 
over time. We recognize that critical habitat designated at a 
particular point in time may not include all of the habitat areas that 
we may later determine are necessary for the recovery of the

[[Page 66654]]

species. For these reasons, a critical habitat designation does not 
signal that habitat outside the designated area is unimportant or may 
not be needed for recovery of the species. Areas that are important to 
the conservation of the species, both inside and outside the critical 
habitat designation, will continue to be subject to: (1) Conservation 
actions implemented under section 7(a)(1) of the Act; (2) regulatory 
protections afforded by the requirement in section 7(a)(2) of the Act 
for Federal agencies to ensure their actions are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened 
species; and (3) the prohibitions found in section 9 of the Act. 
Federally funded or permitted projects affecting listed species outside 
their designated critical habitat areas may still result in jeopardy 
findings in some cases. These protections and conservation tools will 
continue to contribute to recovery of the species. Similarly, critical 
habitat designations made on the basis of the best available 
information at the time of designation will not control the direction 
and substance of future recovery plans, habitat conservation plans, or 
other species conservation planning efforts if new information 
available at the time of those planning efforts calls for a different 
outcome.

Prudency Determination

    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and implementing 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12) require that, to the maximum extent prudent 
and determinable, the Secretary shall designate critical habitat at the 
time the species is determined to be an endangered or threatened 
species. Our regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)) state that the Secretary 
may, but is not required to, determine that a designation would not be 
prudent in the following circumstances:
    (i) The species is threatened by taking or other human activity and 
identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the 
degree of such threat to the species;
    (ii) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of a species' habitat or range is not a threat to the 
species, or threats to the species' habitat stem solely from causes 
that cannot be addressed through management actions resulting from 
consultations under section 7(a)(2) of the Act;
    (iii) Areas within the jurisdiction of the United States provide no 
more than negligible conservation value, if any, for a species 
occurring primarily outside the jurisdiction of the United States;
    (iv) No areas meet the definition of critical habitat; or
    (v) The Secretary otherwise determines that designation of critical 
habitat would not be prudent based on the best scientific data 
available.

Increased Degree of Threat to the Pearl River Map Turtle

    After evaluating the status of the species and considering the 
threats acting on the species, we find the designation of critical 
habitat would not be prudent for Pearl River map turtle because the 
species is threatened by taking or other human activity, and 
identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the 
degree of such threat to the species. As discussed earlier in the 
proposed listing determination for Pearl River map turtle, there is 
currently an imminent threat of collection identified under Factor B 
for the Pearl River map turtle. Identification and mapping of critical 
habitat is expected to facilitate any such threat.
    Collection of wild turtles in the Pearl River system is probably 
occurring, and similar to what has been observed in other States, these 
turtles are likely destined for the high-end turtle pet trade in China 
and possibly other Southeast Asian countries (Selman 2020a, p. 23). 
Information has been documented from three different local individuals, 
at three different locations, concerning turtle bycatch or harvesting 
in local Louisiana waterways occupied by Pearl River map turtles 
(Selman 2020a, pp. 22-23). These locations included the Pearl River 
south of Bogalusa, Louisiana (possible mortality resulting from bycatch 
in hoop nets), the West Pearl River Navigation Canal (turtles captured 
and sold, possibly for shipment to China), and the Bogue Chitto River 
(local comment that baby turtles were being captured and shipped to 
China) (Selman 2020a, pp. 22-23). The specific species captured were 
not documented; however, it is likely that at least some of these 
turtles were Pearl River map turtles.
    The Service manages information related to species exports in the 
Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS). According to a 
LEMIS report from 2005 to 2019, more than 300,000 turtles identified as 
Graptemys spp. or their parts were exported from the United States to 
29 countries (Service 2021b, Appendix B). The number of turtles 
recorded in each shipment ranged widely. Due to their similarity in 
appearance, species of Graptemys are difficult to differentiate (Selman 
2021, pers comm.). Records from 2005, when the highest number of 
Graptemys were exported, show more than 35,000 turtles (Graptemys spp.) 
in a single shipment to Spain and a total of 172,645 individual 
Graptemys exported to 24 different countries (Service 2021b, Appendix 
B). However, there is some uncertainty regarding the sources of the 
exported turtles as they could have originated from captive stock.
    The Pearl River map turtle is declining throughout its range as a 
consequence of factors including collection of live adult turtles from 
the wild for the pet trade. All life stages of aquatic turtles are at 
risk of collection for both domestic and international distribution 
(Stanford et al. 2020, p. R722). All species of map turtles are prized 
by collectors because of their intricate shell patterns. While the 
Pearl River map turtle lacks many of the distinct intricacies, there is 
still a demand for all map turtles and this species is collected and 
trafficked domestically and internationally (Service 2021b, Appendix 
B).
    The unauthorized collection of Pearl River map turtles for the pet 
trade is a factor contributing to the species' decline and remains a 
threat today. Pearl River map turtles can be found near basking 
structures because many turtles may use the same logs and semi-
submerged features (Selman and Lindeman 2015, pp. 794-795). Therefore, 
publishing specific location information would provide a high level of 
assurance that any person going to a specific location would be able to 
successfully locate and collect multiple individuals given the species' 
concentrated use of limited basking sites.
    Designation of critical habitat requires the publication of maps 
and a narrative description of specific critical habitat areas in the 
Federal Register. We are concerned that designation of critical habitat 
would more widely announce the exact locations of Pearl River map 
turtles and their suitable habitat that may facilitate unauthorized 
collection/poaching and contribute to further declines of the species' 
viability. Moreover, as species become rarer and more difficult to 
obtain, the monetary value increases, thus driving increased collection 
pressure on remaining wild individuals. We anticipate that listing the 
Pearl River map turtle under the Act may promote further interest in 
black market sales of the turtles and increase the likelihood that the 
species will be sought out for the pet trade as demand rises. The 
removal of the species by taking is expected to increase if we identify 
critical habitat; thus, we find that designation of critical habitat 
for

[[Page 66655]]

the Pearl River map turtle is not prudent. Therefore, because the 
species is threatened by taking or other human activity and 
identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the 
degree of such threat to the species, the criterion as provided in 
regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(a)(1) has been met. Accordingly, we have 
determined that the designation of critical habitat is not prudent for 
the Pearl River map turtle.

Critical Habitat Determinability

    Having determined that designation is not prudent, under section 
4(a)(3) of the Act we do not evaluate the extent to which critical 
habitat for the Pearl River map turtle is determinable.

V. Similarity of Appearance for the Alabama Map Turtle, Barbour's Map 
Turtle, Escambia Map Turtle, and Pascagoula Map Turtle

    Whenever a species which is not endangered or threatened closely 
resembles an endangered or threatened species, such species may be 
treated as either endangered or threatened if the Secretary makes such 
determination in accordance with section 4(e) of the Act for similarity 
of appearance. Section 4(e) authorizes the treatment of a species, 
subspecies, or population segment as an endangered or threatened 
species if: ``(a) Such species so closely resembles in appearance, at 
the point in question, a species which has been listed pursuant to such 
section that enforcement personnel would have substantial difficulty in 
attempting to differentiate between the listed and unlisted species; 
(b) the effect of this substantial difficulty is an additional threat 
to an endangered or threatened species; and (c) such treatment of an 
unlisted species will substantially facilitate the enforcement and 
further the policy of this Act.''
    A designation of an endangered or threatened species due to 
similarity of appearance under section 4(e) of the Act, however, does 
not extend other protections of the Act, such as consultation 
requirements for Federal agencies under section 7 and the recovery 
planning provisions under section 4(f), that apply to species that are 
listed as an endangered or threatened species under section 4(a). All 
applicable prohibitions and exceptions for species listed under section 
4(e) of the Act due to similarity of appearance to a threatened or 
endangered species will be set forth in a species-specific rule issued 
under section 4(d) of the Act. The Service implements this Section 4(e) 
authority in accordance with the Act and our regulations at 50 CFR 
17.50. Our analysis of the criteria for the 4(e) rule is described 
below for the similarity of appearance of the Alabama map turtle, 
Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle in 
relation to the proposed threatened Pearl River map turtle.

Do the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, 
and Pascagoula map turtle so closely resemble in appearance, at the 
point in question, the Pearl River map turtle such that enforcement 
personnel would have substantial difficulty in attempting to 
differentiate between the listed and unlisted species?

    Map turtles (genus Graptemys) are named for the intricate pattern 
on the carapace that often resembles a topographical map. In addition 
to the intricate markings, the shape of the carapace (top half of 
shell) in map turtles is very distinctive. The carapace is keeled, and 
many species show some type of knobby projections or spikes down the 
vertebral scutes (located down the midline of the carapace). All five 
of these map turtle species are in the megacephalic (large-headed) 
clade where the females have large, broad heads and all occur in the 
Southeastern United States. There are only slight morphological 
differences between the Pearl River map turtle and four other map 
turtle species in the megacephalic clade from the Southeastern United 
States: Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, 
and Pascagoula map turtle. The ranges of these species do not 
geographically overlap, with the exception of Barbour's and Escambia 
map turtle ranges in some areas of the Choctawhatchee River drainage in 
Alabama and Florida (figure 2). Additional information regarding 
characteristics and identification of megacephalic map turtles is 
described in the SSA report (Service 2021b, pp. 17-24). The lack of 
distinctive physical features makes it difficult to differentiate among 
these species, even for law enforcement officers, especially 
considering their similar body form, shell markings, and head markings 
(Selman 2021, pers. comm). The Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map 
turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle all closely 
resemble in appearance, at the point in question, the Pearl River map 
turtle such that enforcement personnel would have substantial 
difficulty in attempting to differentiate between the listed and 
unlisted species.

Is the effect of this substantial difficulty an additional threat to 
Pearl River map turtle?

    As provided in 50 CFR 17.50(b)(2), we considered the additional 
threat posed to the proposed threatened Pearl River map turtle because 
of its similarity of appearance to the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's 
map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle. 
Specifically, we considered the possibility that an additional threat 
is posed to the Pearl River map turtle by unauthorized trade or 
commerce by persons who misrepresent Pearl River map turtle specimens 
as Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, or 
Pascagoula map turtle specimens, because this might result in the Pearl 
River map turtle (if listed) entering the global black market via the 
United States or contributing to market demand for the Pearl River map 
turtle.
    Due to the lack of distinct physical characteristics and difficulty 
in distinguishing individual species of megacephalic map turtles, the 
similarity of these species poses a problem for Federal and State law 
enforcement agents trying to stem unauthorized collection of the Pearl 
River map turtle. Collection is a real threat to many turtle species in 
the United States and also affects species globally (Stanford et al. 
2020, entire). Turtles are collected in the wild and sold into the pet 
trade both domestically and internationally. The proposed listing of 
the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and 
Pascagoula map turtle as threatened due to similarity of appearance 
minimizes the possibility that private and commercial collectors will 
be able to misrepresent Pearl River map turtles as Alabama map turtles, 
Barbour's map turtles, Escambia map turtles, or Pascagoula map turtles 
for private or commercial purposes.
    We find that the difficulty enforcement personnel have in 
attempting to differentiate between the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's 
map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle species 
would pose an additional threat to the Pearl River map turtle.

Would treatment of the four unlisted map turtles as threatened or 
endangered due to similarity of appearance substantially further the 
enforcement and policy of the Act?

    The listing of the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, 
Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle due to similarity of 
appearance will facilitate Federal, State, and local law enforcement 
agents' efforts to curtail

[[Page 66656]]

unauthorized possession, collection, and trade in the Pearl River map 
turtle. Listing the four similar map turtle species due to similarity 
of appearance under section 4(e) of the Act and providing applicable 
prohibitions and exceptions under section 4(d) of the Act will 
substantially facilitate the enforcement and further the policy of the 
Act for the Pearl River map turtle. For these reasons, we propose to 
list Alabama map turtle (occurring in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, 
and Tennessee), Barbour's map turtle (occurring in Alabama, Florida, 
and Georgia), Escambia map turtle (occurring in Alabama and Florida), 
and Pascagoula map turtle (occurring in Mississippi) as threatened due 
to similarity of appearance to the Pearl River map turtle pursuant to 
section 4(e) of the Act (see figure 2).
    With this proposed rule, we do not consider the Alabama map turtle, 
Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, or Pascagoula map turtle to 
be biologically threatened or endangered but we have determined that 
listing the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map 
turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle as threatened species under the 
similarity of appearance provision of the Act, coupled with a proposed 
4(d) rule as discussed below, minimizes misidentification and 
enforcement-related issues. This proposed listing would promote and 
enhance the conservation of the Pearl River map turtle.
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP23NO21.001

BILLING CODE 4333-15-C

[[Page 66657]]

VI. Proposed Rule Issued Under Section 4(d) of the Act for the Alabama 
Map Turtle, Barbour's Map Turtle, Escambia Map Turtle, and Pascagoula 
Map Turtle Background

    Whenever a species is listed as a threatened species under the Act, 
the Secretary may specify regulations that she deems necessary and 
advisable to provide for the conservation of that species under the 
authorization of section 4(d) of the Act. Because we are proposing to 
list the Alabama map turtle (Graptemys pulchra), Barbour's map turtle 
(Graptemys barbouri), Escambia map turtle (Graptemys ernsti), and 
Pascagoula map turtle (Graptemys gibbonsi) as threatened species due to 
similarity of appearance to the Pearl River map turtle (see V. 
Similarity of Appearance for the Alabama Map Turtle, Barbour's Map 
Turtle, Escambia Map Turtle, and Pascagoula Map Turtle section), we are 
proposing a 4(d) rule to minimize misidentification and enforcement-
related issues. This proposed 4(d) rule would promote and enhance the 
conservation of the Pearl River map turtle.
    This proposed 4(d) rule, to be promulgated for addition to 50 CFR 
17.42, will establish prohibitions on collection of these four similar-
in-appearance species of map turtle in order to protect the Pearl River 
map turtle from unlawful collection, unlawful possession, and unlawful 
trade. In this context, collection is defined as any activity where 
Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and 
Pascagoula map turtle are, or are attempted to be, collected from wild 
populations. Capture of the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, 
Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle is not prohibited if it 
is not intentional, such as during research or fishing activities, 
provided live animals are released immediately upon discovery at the 
point of capture and dead animals are reported to the Service. 
Incidental take associated with all otherwise legal activities 
involving the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map 
turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle that are conducted in accordance with 
applicable State, Federal, Tribal, and local laws and regulations is 
not considered prohibited under this proposed rule.

Provisions of the Proposed 4(d) Rule for the Alabama Map Turtle, 
Barbour's Map Turtle, Escambia Map Turtle, and Pascagoula Map Turtle

    This proposed 4(d) rule would provide for the conservation of the 
Pearl River map turtle by prohibiting the following activities for 
Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and 
Pascagoula map turtle, except as otherwise authorized or permitted: 
Take in the form of collection (other than for scientific purposes); 
importing or exporting individuals; possession and other acts with 
unlawfully taken specimens; delivering, receiving, transporting, or 
shipping of unlawfully taken specimens from any source; delivering, 
receiving, transporting, or shipping individuals in interstate or 
foreign commerce in the course of commercial activity; and selling or 
offering for sale individuals in interstate or foreign commerce.
    The proposed 4(d) rule does not prohibit incidental take of the 
Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and 
Pascagoula map turtle through permitted and other excepted activities 
as described below. Incidental take is take that results from, but is 
not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. For 
example, construction activities, application of pesticides and 
fertilizers according to label, silviculture and forest management 
practices, maintenance dredging activities that remain in the 
previously disturbed portion of a maintained channel, and any other 
legally undertaken actions that result in the accidental take of an 
Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and 
Pascagoula map turtle will not be considered a violation of section 9 
of the Act in the southern States of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, 
Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Effect of the Proposed Rule

    Listing the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map 
turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle as threatened species under the 
``similarity of appearance'' provisions of the Act, and the 
promulgation of a rule under section 4(d) of the Act, to extend take 
prohibitions regarding collection, import, export, and commerce to 
these species will provide a conservation benefit to the Pearl River 
map turtle. Capture of these species is not prohibited if it is 
accidental, such as during research, provided the animal is released 
immediately upon discovery at the point of capture.
    As Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, 
and Pascagoula map turtle can be confused with the Pearl River map 
turtle, we strongly recommend maintaining the appropriate documentation 
and declarations with legal specimens at all times, especially when 
importing them into the United States, and permit holders should also 
comply with the import/export transfer regulations under 50 CFR part 
14, where applicable. All otherwise legal activities that may involve 
what we would normally define as incidental take (take that results 
from, but is not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful 
activity) of these similar turtles, and which are conducted in 
accordance with applicable State, Federal, Tribal, and local laws and 
regulations, are not prohibited under this proposed regulation.
    This proposed 4(d) rule will not consider instances of incidental 
take as violations of section 9 of the Act if they result in incidental 
take of any of the similarity of appearance turtles. We do not find it 
necessary to apply incidental take prohibitions for those otherwise 
legal activities to these four similar turtles (Alabama map turtle, 
Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map turtle), 
as these activities will not pose a threat to the Pearl River map 
turtle because: (1) Activities that affect the waters where Alabama map 
turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and Pascagoula map 
turtle reside will not affect Pearl River map turtle and (2) the 
primary threat to the Pearl River map turtle comes from collection and 
commercial trade as it relates to the similar turtles. Listing the 
Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and 
Pascagoula map turtle under the similarity of appearance provision of 
the Act, coupled with this 4(d) rule, will help minimize enforcement 
problems related to collection and enhance conservation of the Pearl 
River map turtle.

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

[[Page 66658]]

us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs that are unclearly 
written, which sections or sentences are too long, the sections where 
you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc.

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

    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 (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 readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), 
we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
Tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge 
that Tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal 
public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make 
information available to Tribes. We coordinated with Tribes within the 
Pearl River map turtle's range when we initiated the SSA process. We 
also requested review and addressed comments accordingly. We also 
coordinated with Tribes within the Alabama, Barbour's, and Escambia map 
turtles' ranges, requesting information regarding threats and 
conservation actions for those species. There are no Tribes within the 
range of the Pascagoula map turtle. We will continue to work with 
Tribal entities during the development of a final rule.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited in the petition finding for the 
Pascagoula map turtle and this proposed rulemaking for the Pearl River 
map turtle is available on the internet at https://www.regulations.gov 
and upon request from the Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Authors

    The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the 
Fish and Wildlife Service's Species Assessment Team and the Service's 
Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office.

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.

0
2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by adding entries for ``Turtle, Alabama map'', 
``Turtle, Barbour's map'', ``Turtle, Escambia map'', ``Turtle, 
Pascagoula map'' and ``Turtle, Pearl River map'' to the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in alphabetical order under Reptiles 
to read as set forth below:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                          Listing citations and
           Common name              Scientific name        Where listed        Status        applicable rules
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
            Reptiles
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
Turtle, Alabama map.............  Graptemys pulchra..  Wherever found.....      T (S/A)  [Federal Register
                                                                                          citation when
                                                                                          published as a final
                                                                                          rule]; 50 CFR
                                                                                          17.42(n).\4d\
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
Turtle, Barbour's map...........  Graptemys barbouri.  Wherever found.....      T (S/A)  [Federal Register
                                                                                          citation when
                                                                                          published as a final
                                                                                          rule]; 50 CFR
                                                                                          17.42(n).\4d\
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
Turtle, Escambia map............  Graptemys ernsti...  Wherever found.....      T (S/A)  [Federal Register
                                                                                          citation when
                                                                                          published as a final
                                                                                          rule]; 50 CFR
                                                                                          17.42(n).\4d\
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
Turtle, Pascagoula map..........  Graptemys gibbonsi.  Wherever found.....      T (S/A)  [Federal Register
                                                                                          citation when
                                                                                          published as a final
                                                                                          rule]; 50 CFR
                                                                                          17.42(n).\4d\
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
Turtle, Pearl River map.........  Graptemys            Wherever found.....            T  [Federal Register
                                   pearlensis.                                            citation when
                                                                                          published as a final
                                                                                          rule]; 50 CFR
                                                                                          17.42(m).\4d\
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 66659]]

0
3. As proposed to be amended at 85 FR 61700 (September 30, 2020), 86 FR 
18014 (April 7, 2021), and 86 FR 62122 (November 9, 2021), Sec.  17.42 
is further amended by adding paragraphs (m) and (n) to read as follows:


Sec.  17.42   Special rules--reptiles.

* * * * *
    (m) Pearl River map turtle (Graptemys pearlensis)--(1) 
Prohibitions. The following prohibitions that apply to endangered 
wildlife also apply to the Pearl River map turtle. Except as provided 
under paragraph (m)(2) of this section and Sec. Sec.  17.4 and 17.5, it 
is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United 
States to commit, to attempt to commit, to solicit another to commit, 
or cause to be committed, any of the following acts in regard to this 
species:
    (i) Import or export as set forth at Sec.  17.21(b) for endangered 
wildlife.
    (ii) Take, as set forth at Sec.  17.21(c)(1) for endangered 
wildlife.
    (iii) Possession and other acts with unlawfully taken specimens, as 
set forth at Sec.  17.21(d)(1) for endangered wildlife.
    (iv) Interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a commercial 
activity, as set forth at Sec.  17.21(e) for endangered wildlife.
    (v) Sale or offer for sale, as set forth at Sec.  17.21(f) for 
endangered wildlife.
    (2) Exceptions from prohibitions. In regard to this species, you 
may:
    (i) Conduct activities as authorized by a permit under Sec.  17.32.
    (ii) Take, as set forth at Sec.  17.21(c)(2) through (4) for 
endangered wildlife.
    (iii) Possess and engage in other acts with unlawfully taken 
wildlife, as set forth at Sec.  17.21(d)(2) for endangered wildlife.
    (iv) Take as set forth at Sec.  17.31(b).
    (v) Take incidental to an otherwise lawful activity caused by:
    (A) Construction, operation, and maintenance activities that occur 
near- and in-stream, such as installation of stream crossings, 
replacement of existing in-stream structures (e.g., bridges, culverts, 
water control structures, boat launches, etc.), operation and 
maintenance of existing flood control features (or other existing 
structures), and directional boring, when implemented with industry 
and/or State-approved best management practices for construction.
    (B) Pesticide (insecticide or herbicide) application that follows 
approved chemical label instructions and appropriate application rates.
    (C) Silviculture practices and forest management activities that 
use State-approved best management practices to protect water and 
sediment quality and stream and riparian habitat.
    (D) Maintenance dredging activities that remain in the previously 
disturbed portion of the maintained channel.
    (n) Alabama map turtle (Graptemys pulchra), Barbour's map turtle 
(Graptemys barbouri), Escambia map turtle (Graptemys ernsti), and 
Pascagoula map turtle (Graptemys gibbonsi)--(1) Prohibitions. The 
following prohibitions that apply to endangered wildlife also apply to 
the Alabama map turtle, Barbour's map turtle, Escambia map turtle, and 
Pascagoula map turtle. Except as provided under paragraph (n)(2) of 
this section and Sec. Sec.  17.4 and 17.5, it is unlawful for any 
person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to commit, to 
attempt to commit, to solicit another to commit, or cause to be 
committed, any of the following acts in regard to these species:
    (i) Take in the form of collection (other than for scientific 
purposes).
    (ii) Import or export, as set forth at Sec.  17.21(b) for 
endangered wildlife.
    (iii) Possession and other acts with unlawfully taken specimens, as 
set forth at Sec.  17.21(d)(1) for endangered wildlife.
    (v) Interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a commercial 
activity, as set forth at Sec.  17.21(e) for endangered wildlife.
    (vi) Sale or offer for sale, as set forth at Sec.  17.21(f) for 
endangered wildlife.
    (2) Exceptions from prohibitions. In regard to these species, you 
may:
    (i) Conduct activities as authorized by a permit under Sec.  17.32.
    (ii) Take as set forth at Sec.  17.31(b).

Martha Williams,
Principal Deputy Director, Exercising the Delegated Authority of the 
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2021-23992 Filed 11-22-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P