Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Three Species Not Warranted for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species, 14227-14232 [2022-05331]

Download as PDF jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with PROPOSALS1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 49 / Monday, March 14, 2022 / Proposed Rules requirements for all appropriate inquiries if such parties comply with the procedures provided in the ASTM E1527–21, ‘‘Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process.’’ EPA determined that it is reasonable to promulgate this clarification as a direct final rule that is effective immediately, rather than delay promulgation of the clarification until after receipt and consideration of public comments. EPA made this determination based upon the Agency’s finding that the ASTM E1527–21 standard is compliant with the All Appropriate Inquiries Rule, and the Agency sees no reason to delay allowing for its use in conducting all appropriate inquiries. The Agency notes that this action will not require any party to use the ASTM E1527–21 standard. Any party conducting all appropriate inquiries to comply with CERCLA’s bona fide prospective purchaser, contiguous property owner, and innocent landowner liability protections may continue to follow the provisions of the All Appropriate Inquiries Rule at 40 CFR part 312, or continue to use either the ASTM E1527–13 standard or use the ASTM E2247–16 standard. This proposed action merely will allow for the use of the ASTM E1527– 21 ‘‘Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process’’ for those parties purchasing potentially contaminated properties who want to use the ASTM E1527–21 standard in lieu of the following specific requirements of the All Appropriate Inquiries Rule. The Agency notes that there are no legally significant differences between the regulatory requirements and the ASTM E1527 standards. To facilitate an understanding of the slight differences between the All Appropriate Inquiries Rule, the ASTM E1527–13 ‘‘Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Standard,’’ and the revised ASTM E1527–21 ‘‘Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process,’’ as well as the applicability of the E1527–21 standard for certain types of properties, EPA developed, and placed in the docket for this proposed action, the document ‘‘Comparison of All Appropriate Inquiries Regulation, the ASTM E1527–13 Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process, and ASTM E1527–21 Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process.’’ The document provides a comparison of the two ASTM E1527 standards. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:46 Mar 11, 2022 Jkt 256001 EPA’s proposed action includes no changes to the All Appropriate Inquiries Rule other than to add an additional reference to the new ASTM E1527–21 standard. EPA is not seeking comments on the standards and practices included in the All Appropriate Inquiries Rule published at 40 CFR part 312. Also, EPA is not seeking comments on the ASTM E1527–21 standard. EPA’s only action with this proposed rule is recognition of the ASTM E1527–21 standard as compliant with the All Appropriate Inquiries Rule and, therefore, it is only this action on which the Agency is seeking comment. EPA is proposing this action because the Agency wants to provide additional flexibility for brownfields grant recipients or other entities that may benefit from the use of the ASTM E1527–21 standard. We believe that this proposed action will allow for the use of a tailored standard that was developed by a recognized standards developing organization, reviewed by EPA, and determined to be equivalent to the Agency’s All Appropriate Inquiries Rule. This action does not disallow the use of the previously recognized standards (ASTM E1527–13 or ASTM E2247–16), and it will not alter the requirements of the previously promulgated All Appropriate Inquiries Rule. In addition, this proposal potentially will increase flexibility for some parties who may make use of the new standard, without placing any additional burden on those parties who prefer to use either the ASTM E1527–13 standard or the ASTM E2247–16 or to follow the requirements of the All Appropriate Inquiries Rule when conducting all appropriate inquiries. By proposing this action, EPA is fulfilling the intent and requirements of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA), Public Law 104–113. VII. Statutory and Executive Order Reviews For a complete discussion of all of the administrative requirements applicable to this action, see the discussion in the ‘‘Statutory and Executive Order Reviews’’ section to the preamble for the direct final rule that is published in the ‘‘Rules and Regulations’’ section in this issue of the Federal Register. Under Executive Order 12866 (58 FR 51735, October 4, 1993) and Executive Order 13563 (76 FR 3821, January 21, 2011), this proposed action is not a ‘‘significant regulatory action’’ and is therefore not subject to OMB review. This action merely amends the All Appropriate Inquiries Rule to reference ASTM International’s E1527–21 PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 14227 ‘‘Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process’’ and allow for its use to satisfy the requirements for conducting all appropriate inquiries under CERCLA. This action does not impose any requirements on any entity, including small entities. Therefore, pursuant to the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), after considering the economic impacts of this action on small entities, I certify that this action will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. List of Subjects in 40 CFR Part 312 Administrative practice and procedure, Hazardous substances. Barry N. Breen, Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Land and Emergency Management. [FR Doc. 2022–05260 Filed 3–11–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [FF09E21000 FXES1111090FEDR 223] Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Three Species Not Warranted for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notification of findings. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce findings that three species are not warranted for listing as endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). After a thorough review of the best available scientific and commercial information, we find that it is not warranted at this time to list Blanco blind salamander (Eurycea robusta), Georgia bully (Sideroxylon thornei), and Rio Grande cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi). However, we ask the public to submit to us at any time any new information relevant to the status of any of the species mentioned above or their habitats. DATES: The findings in this document were made on March 14, 2022. ADDRESSES: Detailed descriptions of the bases for these findings are available on the internet at https:// www.regulations.gov under the following docket numbers: SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\14MRP1.SGM 14MRP1 14228 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 49 / Monday, March 14, 2022 / Proposed Rules Species Docket No. Blanco blind salamander ................................................................................................................................................ Georgia bully ................................................................................................................................................................... Rio Grande cooter .......................................................................................................................................................... Those descriptions are also available by contacting the appropriate person as specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Please submit any new information, materials, comments, or questions concerning this finding to the appropriate person, as specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Species Contact information Blanco blind salamander and Rio Grande cooter .................................... Adam Zerrenner, Field Supervisor, Austin Ecological Services Field Office, adam_zerrenner@fws.gov, 512–490–0057 x248. Peter Maholland, Deputy Field Supervisor, Georgia Ecological Services Field Office, peter_maholland@fws.gov, 706–208–7512. Georgia bully ............................................................................................ jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with PROPOSALS1 FWS–R2–ES–2021–0128 FWS–R4–ES–2021–0129 FWS–R2–ES–2021–0132 Individuals in the United States who are deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability may dial 711 (TTY, TDD, or TeleBraille) to access telecommunications relay services. Individuals outside the United States should use the relay services offered within their country to make international calls to the point-ofcontact in the United States. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: throughout all or a significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 1532(6)), and ‘‘threatened species’’ as any species that is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 1532(20)). Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, a species may be determined to be an endangered species or a threatened species because of any of the following five factors: Background Under section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), we are required to make a finding whether or not a petitioned action is warranted within 12 months after receiving any petition for which we have determined 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 by other listing activity. We must publish a notification of these 12-month findings in the Federal Register. (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. Summary of Information Pertaining to the Five Factors Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and the implementing regulations at part 424 of title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR part 424) set forth procedures for adding species to, removing species from, or reclassifying species on the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants (Lists). The Act defines ‘‘species’’ as including any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). The Act defines ‘‘endangered species’’ as any species that is in danger of extinction VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:46 Mar 11, 2022 Jkt 256001 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 PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 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 Act’s 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 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 E:\FR\FM\14MRP1.SGM 14MRP1 jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with PROPOSALS1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 49 / Monday, March 14, 2022 / Proposed Rules 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. In conducting our evaluation of the five factors provided in section 4(a)(1) of the Act to determine whether Georgia bully and Rio Grande cooter meet the Act’s definition of ‘‘endangered species’’ or ‘‘threatened species,’’ we considered and thoroughly evaluated the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, present, and future stressors and threats. In conducting our evaluation of the Blanco blind salamander, we determined that it either: (1) Does not meet the definition of a ‘‘species’’ under the Act, and, as a result, we conclude that it is not a listable entity; or (2) is extinct. We reviewed the petitions, information available in our files, and other available published and unpublished information for all of these species. Our evaluation may include information from recognized experts; Federal, State, and Tribal governments; academic institutions; foreign governments; private entities; and other members of the public. The species assessment forms for these species contain more detailed biological information, a thorough analysis of the listing factors, a list of literature cited, and an explanation of why we determined that these species do not meet the Act’s definition of an ‘‘endangered species’’ or a ‘‘threatened species.’’ A thorough review of the taxonomy, life history, and ecology of the Georgia bully and Rio Grande cooter is presented in each species’ species status assessment (SSA) report. The species assessment form and the review report for the Blanco blind salamander contain more detailed taxonomic information, a list of literature cited, and an explanation of why we determined that the Blanco blind salamander either does not meet the Act’s definition of a ‘‘species’’ or is extinct. This supporting information can be found on the internet at https:// www.regulations.gov under the appropriate docket number (see ADDRESSES, above). The following are informational summaries for the findings in this document. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:46 Mar 11, 2022 Jkt 256001 Georgia Bully Previous Federal Actions On April 20, 2010, the Service received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, Alabama Rivers Alliance, Clinch Coalition, Dogwood Alliance, Gulf Restoration Network, Tennessee Forests Council, and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy to list 404 aquatic, riparian, and wetland species, including Georgia bully (Sideroxylon thornei), as endangered or threatened species under the Act. On September 27, 2011, we published in the Federal Register (76 FR 59836) a partial 90-day finding that the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing may be warranted for 374 of the species, including Georgia bully. The finding stated that the petition presented substantial information indicating that listing Georgia bully may be warranted due to disease or predation. This document constitutes the 12-month finding on the April 20, 2010, petition to list Georgia bully under the Act. Summary of Finding A member of the Sapotaceae family, Georgia bully is a shrub or small tree that grows up to 6 meters (20 feet) in height, and is sometimes multi-stemmed but not extensively clonal. Georgia bully is known to occur in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The species has been found in at least 29 counties and five watersheds (Altamaha, Apalachicola, Choctawhatchee-Escambia, Mobile BayTombigbee, and Ogeechee) in 3 southeastern States: Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The stronghold of the distribution is in the Apalachicola watershed in Georgia. Georgia bully is restricted to riparian forests and forested wetlands (i.e., swamps, bottomland forests, and depressional wetlands), where the species occurs most often in habitats developed over limestone (i.e., calcareous substrates), particularly in Georgia. Georgia bully requires shaded to partly shaded habitat conditions within a mostly intact forest overstory. The species requires wet soils and periodic inundation from flooding to provide a competitive advantage to Georgia bully since many other plant species do not tolerate flooding disturbance (e.g., decrease in oxygen, carbon dioxide, and light). Georgia bully reproduces sexually through pollination and fruit set, and asexually through vegetative means (e.g., shoots, fragments, or clones). We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial information PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 14229 available regarding the past, present, and future threats to Georgia bully, and we evaluated all relevant factors under the five listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation measures addressing these stressors. The primary threats affecting Georgia bully’s biological status include habitat destruction and modification (including urbanization and land use change), and impacts to hydrology from climate change. We examined a number of other factors, including inherent factors (small population size), nonnative and invasive species, disease (insect damage), and predation (deer herbivory), and found that these factors may exacerbate the effects of the primary factors, but do not rise to such a level that affected the species as a whole. Causes of habitat destruction and modification are urbanization and conversion to agricultural and silvicultural uses, including forest structure alteration due to timber harvest. Georgia bully is expected to be influenced by changes to the hydrologic regime, including periods of drought and flooding. Extended periods of drought may allow other species that outcompete Georgia bully to become established. Increased flooding events may reduce the ability for Georgia bully seedlings to become established if habitat is saturated during the germination period. Despite impacts from the primary stressors, the species has maintained the majority of its historical occurrences throughout its range. Georgia bully currently has 16 moderately or highly resilient populations across its range in 45 populations in 3 States. Each of the five watersheds where Georgia bully occurs contains at least two moderate or highly resilient populations. Moderate and highly resilient Georgia bully populations are able to recover from stochastic events and are characterized by larger populations with recruitment and/or reproduction in habitats with intact mature overstory, wide riparian vegetated buffers, and minimal hydrological alteration. Existing protections for the species are in place with approximately 46 percent of populations on protected lands, including the two largest populations. Threats continue to impact Georgia bully and its habitat, and effects from these impacts may result in a decrease in habitat quality and quantity across the species’ range; however, ongoing conservation actions offer some protection to the species. Our future scenarios assessment included four elements of change (e.g., urbanization, land use, climate- E:\FR\FM\14MRP1.SGM 14MRP1 jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with PROPOSALS1 14230 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 49 / Monday, March 14, 2022 / Proposed Rules influenced hydrology, and site-specific habitat factors) to assess the viability of Georgia bully at 30- and 60-year time steps. Upon examining the current trends and future forecast scenarios, we expect that the primary threats (habitat destruction and modification due to urbanization and land use change, and hydrology impacts associated with climate change) will continue to impact Georgia bully. Impacts to Georgia bully’s population resiliency generally increase over time and with increased threats, including the threat of climate change effects. The species’ representation has not declined between historical and most recent surveys, and the species’ representation is expected to decline slightly under each future scenario. As moderate or highly resilient populations will persist across all watersheds, a broad level of representation is likely to be maintained over time. However, the adaptive capacity of the species will be reduced in the future as the projected population extirpations reduce the number of viable populations on the landscape, thus reducing the species potential ability to adjust to changing conditions. Georgia bully has retained redundancy based on multiple moderate and highly resilient populations being spread across its historical range in five watersheds; however, into the future, we expect the species’ redundancy to decline as population resiliency is reduced, thereby impairing the species’ ability to withstand and recover from catastrophic events such as storms and droughts. Although we predict some continued impacts from stressors in the future, we anticipate the species will be represented by moderate and highly resilient populations into the foreseeable future throughout its range, supported by the occurrence of 21 of the 45 known populations on protected lands and the species’ ability to reproduce vegetatively (e.g., shoots, fragments, or clonal) and through pollination and fruit set giving populations additional opportunities to maintain and expand. Given projections for quality and quantity of habitat and the number of healthy (moderate to high resiliency) populations, we conclude that the species is likely to maintain the ability to withstand stochasticity, catastrophic events, and novel changes in its environment for the foreseeable future. Based on these conditions, Georgia bully’s current risk of extinction is very low. Furthermore, we did not find any evidence of a concentration of threats at any biologically meaningful scale in any portion of the species’ range. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:46 Mar 11, 2022 Jkt 256001 Therefore, we find that listing Georgia bully as an endangered species or threatened species under the Act is not warranted. A detailed discussion of the basis for this finding can be found in the Georgia bully species assessment and other supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above). Rio Grande Cooter Previous Federal Actions On July 11, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) received a petition to list 53 amphibians and reptiles, including the Rio Grande cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi), as endangered or threatened under the Act and to designate critical habitat. On July 1, 2015, we published a 90-day finding that the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing may be warranted for 21 species, including the Rio Grande cooter (80 FR 37568). The finding stated that the petition presented substantial information indicating that listing the Rio Grande cooter may be warranted due to the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; and regulatory mechanisms inadequate to address these threats. This document constitutes the 12-month finding on the July 11, 2012, petition to list the Rio Grande cooter under the Act. Summary of Finding The Rio Grande cooter is a mediumto-large freshwater turtle (100–370 millimeters (3.9–14.6 inches)) that lives in the spring pools, streams, and rivers found within portions of the Rio Grande/Rı´o Bravo watershed of the United States and Mexico. The species’ range includes the Pecos River basin of New Mexico and Texas; the Devils River basin of Texas; the Rio Grande basin of Texas (below the Big Bend region) and Coahuila, Nuevo Leo´n, and Tamaulipas, Mexico; the Rı´o Salado basin of Coahuila, Nuevo Leo´n, and Tamaulipas, Mexico; and the Rı´o San Juan basin of Coahuila, Nuevo Leo´n, and Tamaulipas, Mexico. Within these five major river basins, Rio Grande cooter habitat includes the freshwater systems and the riparian habitat adjacent to them. The current distribution of the species is similar to its historical distribution. As a mostly aquatic species, adequate water quality and water quantity are central to the Rio Grande cooter’s ability to forage, survive, and reproduce. Water must be of adequate depth to provide protection from predation and within temperature ranges that allow for PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 thermoregulation. Further, contaminants and other harmful constituents in water must be absent or below thresholds that would cause acute or chronic toxicity to Rio Grande cooter or the resources upon which they rely for survival, growth and reproduction. The Rio Grande cooter also requires water flows that allow for individual movements for breeding, nesting, and retreating from areas of unsuitable habitat. Additionally, the Rio Grande cooter requires upland nesting habitat with loose soils near water where eggs will be adequately thermoregulated and safe from inundation, predation, and other disturbances during incubation. We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the Rio Grande cooter, and we evaluated all relevant factors under the five listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation measures addressing these stressors. The primary stressors affecting the Rio Grande cooter’s biological status include hydrological alteration, pollution, climate change (increasing demands on the surface and ground water resources that provide or support habitat for the species due to effects on climate and weather associated with rising temperatures), and direct mortality. Rio Grande cooter has limited abundance information available across its range, with a few exceptions. Therefore, we assessed species viability based on presence-only data and the condition of the species’ habitat. Despite existing within an altered system in the Rio Grande watershed and the associated impacts from the primary stressors, the Rio Grande cooter currently has multiple resilient population analysis units (10 of 16 units characterized as Low or Moderate Risk) distributed throughout its known historical range. Because Rio Grande cooter has maintained multiple resilient population analysis units across a diversity of habitat types and within all five river basins in which it historically occurred—except for the Devils River basin, which contains a single unit categorized as low risk—the species has retained redundancy and representation at the species level. Based on these conditions, the current risk of extinction for the Rio Grande cooter is low. Although we project some continued impacts from the identified stressors into the foreseeable future under two future scenarios, our analysis indicates that the Rio Grande cooter will maintain multiple, resilient population analysis units distributed throughout its E:\FR\FM\14MRP1.SGM 14MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 49 / Monday, March 14, 2022 / Proposed Rules historical range within each of the five major river basins. Overall, the Rio Grande cooter is projected to either maintain current levels of resiliency, representation, and redundancy or have a slight decrease in resiliency (nine of 16 population analysis units being categorized as Low or Moderate Risk) while maintaining current levels of redundancy and representation into the foreseeable future. Thus, the best available information does not indicate that the magnitude and scope of individual stressors would cause the species to be in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, we did not find any evidence of a concentration of threats at any biologically meaningful scale in any portion of the species’ range. Therefore, we find that listing the Rio Grande cooter as an endangered species or threatened species under the Act is not warranted. A detailed discussion of the basis for this finding can be found in the Rio Grande cooter’s species assessment and other supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above). Blanco Blind Salamander Previous Federal Actions jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with PROPOSALS1 On June 25, 2007, the Service received a petition from Forest Guardians (now WildEarth Guardians) requesting that the Service list 475 species in the Southwest Region as endangered or threatened under the Act with critical habitat. The Blanco blind salamander (Eurycea robusta) was included among the list of petitioned species. On December 16, 2009, we published in the Federal Register (74 FR 66866) a partial 90-day finding that the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing may be warranted for 67 of the species, including the Blanco blind salamander. The finding stated that the petition presented substantial information indicating that listing the Blanco blind salamander may be warranted due to the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range resulting from water pollutants and water withdrawal. This document constitutes the 12-month finding on the June 25, 2007, petition to list the Blanco blind salamander under the Act. Summary of Finding We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the Blanco blind salamander and evaluated the petition’s claims that the species warrants listing under the Act. We determined the type specimen on which the species’ VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:46 Mar 11, 2022 Jkt 256001 description was based either represents a historical occurrence of the federally endangered Texas blind salamander (Typhlomolge rathbuni) or it represents a unique species that is no longer extant. To be considered an endangered or threatened species under the Act, a species’ taxonomy must be valid. In our evaluation of the species’ status, we found evidence that the Blanco blind salamander does not exist as a current taxonomic entity. Several morphological characters of the Blanco blind salamander overlap or are identical to the Texas blind salamander; the Blanco blind salamander specimen’s size may have been influenced by chemical fixation and preservation, and may not reflect the original size of the living individual; and hydrogeological connectivity would likely facilitate movement between the Blanco River site and locations the Texas blind salamander inhabits. Given this, we find that the Blanco blind salamander type specimen is likely a Texas blind salamander individual. If it is a Texas blind salamander, then the Blanco blind salamander is not a valid taxonomic entity and, therefore, is not a listable entity under the Act. While the best available science does indicate that the specimen collected in 1951 is a Texas blind salamander, due to the inability to conduct conclusive genetic testing, we considered the status of the Blanco blind salamander out of an abundance of caution. Based on the best available information, if the Blanco blind salamander was in fact a valid entity, we conclude that it is now extinct. When evaluating the possibility of extinction, we attempted to minimize the possibility of either (1) prematurely determining that the species is extinct where individuals exist but remain undetected, or (2) assuming the species is extant when extinction has already occurred. Our determinations of whether the best available information indicates that a species is extinct include an analysis of the following criteria: Detectability of the species, adequacy of survey efforts, and time since last detection. All three criteria require taking into account applicable aspects of a species’ life history. Other lines of evidence may also support the determination and be included in our analysis. In conducting our analysis of whether the Blanco blind salamander is extinct, we considered and thoroughly evaluated the best scientific and commercial data available. We reviewed the information available in our files, and other available published and unpublished information. These PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 14231 evaluations include information from recognized experts, Federal and State governments, academic institutions, and private entities. The Edwards Aquifer, in the area of southeastern Hays County, Texas, has been and continues to be intensively sampled for its diverse and unique groundwater fauna. Beginning in the late 19th century, caves, springs, and wells in the area have yielded many new species, including the Texas blind salamander and a contingent of endemic groundwater invertebrates. Like species with similar characteristics, the Blanco blind salamander is likely to have a low detectability. However, despite being mostly subterranean, stygobitic (i.e., living exclusively in groundwater, such as aquifers or caves) Eurycea salamanders are often surveyed at springs and caves. Surveys were conducted in 2006 to re-detect the Blanco blind salamander at the Blanco River site and several groundwater wells north of that site in Hays and Travis Counties, Texas. Additionally, researchers excavated three surface fissures in the dry bed of the Blanco River, but none of the excavations extended to subterranean voids, and no salamanders were observed. Groundwater wells were surveyed north of the Blanco River 8 to 25 kilometers (5 to 15 miles) away from the locality of the Blanco specimen and did not yield stygobitic Eurycea salamanders, although they did extend into subterranean habitats. Recent survey efforts of wells and springs in Hays County in 2020 and 2021 have also not resulted in discovery of Blanco blind salamanders or other stygobitic Eurycea salamanders to date. Conversely, Texas blind salamanders are regularly observed and collected during surveys of caves, spring openings, and groundwater wells by permitted researchers from several localities in the City of San Marcos, Texas. Since 1951, no stygobitic Eurycea salamanders have been collected from the Blanco River or areas to the north of the river in Hays County. Despite its low detectability, given the combination of surveys at the original locality and repeated surveys from surface and subterranean habitats nearby, we conclude that these efforts were adequate to detect the Blanco blind salamander should individuals exist. If the Blanco blind salamander was a valid taxon, we have no evidence that the species has remained extant for the past 70 years; thus, we conclude it is extinct. In conclusion, based on the best available information, we have determined that the Blanco blind E:\FR\FM\14MRP1.SGM 14MRP1 14232 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 49 / Monday, March 14, 2022 / Proposed Rules salamander is not a valid taxonomic entity and, accordingly, does not meet the statutory definition of a listable entity under the Act. Additionally, even if our conclusion is incorrect and the Blanco blind salamander was a valid taxonomic entity, it has not been collected in over 70 years despite survey efforts; thus, we have no evidence it has remained extant. Because the Blanco blind salamander either does not meet the definition of a listable entity or is extinct, it does not warrant listing under the Act. A detailed discussion of the basis for this finding can be found in the Blanco blind salamander species assessment form and other supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above). New Information We request that you submit any new information concerning the taxonomy of, biology of, ecology of, status of, or stressors to Blanco blind salamander, Georgia bully, or Rio Grande cooter to the appropriate person, as specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, whenever it becomes available. New information will help us monitor these species and make appropriate decisions about their conservation and status. We encourage local agencies and stakeholders to continue cooperative monitoring and conservation efforts. References Cited A list of the references cited in this petition finding is available in the relevant species assessment form, which is available on the internet at https:// www.regulations.gov in the appropriate docket (see ADDRESSES, above) and upon request from the appropriate person (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, above). Authors The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the Species Assessment Team, Ecological Services Program. jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with PROPOSALS1 Authority The authority for this action is section 4 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Martha Williams, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2022–05331 Filed 3–11–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:46 Mar 11, 2022 Jkt 256001 DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 92 [Docket No. FWS–R7–MB–2021–0172; FXMB12610700000–201–FF07M01000] RIN 1018 BF65 Migratory Bird Subsistence Harvest in Alaska; Harvest Regulations for Migratory Birds in Alaska During the 2022 Season Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or USFWS), are proposing changes to the migratory bird subsistence harvest regulations in Alaska. These regulations allow for the continuation of customary and traditional subsistence uses of migratory birds in Alaska and prescribe regional information on when and where the harvesting of birds may occur. These regulations were developed under a comanagement process involving the Service, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Alaska Native representatives. The proposed changes would update the regulations to incorporate revisions requested by these partners. DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before April 13, 2022. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS–R7–MB–2021–0172. • U.S. Mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R7–MB–2021– 0172, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: JAO/3W, 5275 Leesburg Place, Falls Church, VA 22041 3803. We will post all comments on https:// www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public Comment Procedures section, below, for more information). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Eric J. Taylor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 E Tudor Road, Mail Stop 201, Anchorage, AK 99503; (907) 903 7210. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Public Comment Procedures To ensure that any action resulting from this proposed rule will be as accurate and as effective as possible, we request that you send relevant information for our consideration. The PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 comments that will be most useful and likely to influence our decisions are those that you support by quantitative information or studies and those that include citations to, and analyses of, the applicable laws and regulations. Please make your comments as specific as possible and explain the basis for them. In addition, please include sufficient information with your comments to allow us to authenticate any scientific or commercial data you include. You must submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed rule by one of the methods listed above in ADDRESSES. We will not accept comments sent by email or fax or to an address not listed in ADDRESSES. If you submit a comment via https:// www.regulations.gov, your entire comment—including any personal identifying information, such as your address, telephone number, or email address—will be posted on the website. When you submit a comment, the system receives it immediately. However, the comment will not be publicly viewable until we post it, which might not occur until several days after submission. If you mail a hardcopy comment directly to us that includes personal 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. All comments and materials we receive will be available for public inspection via https:// www.regulations.gov. Search for FWS– R7–MB–2021–0172, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Background The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA, 16 U.S.C. 703 et seq.) was enacted to conserve certain species of migratory birds and gives the Secretary of the Interior the authority to regulate the harvest of these birds. The law further authorizes the Secretary to issue regulations to ensure that the indigenous inhabitants of the State of Alaska may take migratory birds and collect their eggs for nutritional and other essential needs during seasons established by the Secretary so as to provide for the preservation and maintenance of stocks of migratory birds (16 U.S.C. 712(1)). The take of migratory birds for subsistence uses in Alaska occurs during the spring and summer, during which timeframe when the annual fall/ winter harvest of migratory birds is not allowed. Regulations governing the subsistence harvest of migratory birds in Alaska are located in title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in part 92. E:\FR\FM\14MRP1.SGM 14MRP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 87, Number 49 (Monday, March 14, 2022)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 14227-14232]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2022-05331]


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

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[FF09E21000 FXES1111090FEDR 223]


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

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notification of findings.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce 
findings that three species are not warranted for listing as endangered 
or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act). After a thorough review of the best available scientific 
and commercial information, we find that it is not warranted at this 
time to list Blanco blind salamander (Eurycea robusta), Georgia bully 
(Sideroxylon thornei), and Rio Grande cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi). 
However, we ask the public to submit to us at any time any new 
information relevant to the status of any of the species mentioned 
above or their habitats.

DATES: The findings in this document were made on March 14, 2022.

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

[[Page 14228]]



------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Species                             Docket No.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Blanco blind salamander..........  FWS-R2-ES-2021-0128
Georgia bully....................  FWS-R4-ES-2021-0129
Rio Grande cooter................  FWS-R2-ES-2021-0132
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Those descriptions are also available by contacting the appropriate 
person as specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Please 
submit any new information, materials, comments, or questions 
concerning this finding to the appropriate person, as specified under 
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: 

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Species                        Contact information
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Blanco blind salamander and Rio Grande   Adam Zerrenner, Field
 cooter.                                  Supervisor, Austin Ecological
                                          Services Field Office,
                                          [email protected], 512-
                                          490-0057 x248.
Georgia bully..........................  Peter Maholland, Deputy Field
                                          Supervisor, Georgia Ecological
                                          Services Field Office,
                                          [email protected], 706-
                                          208-7512.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Individuals in the United States who are deaf, deafblind, hard of 
hearing, or have a speech disability may dial 711 (TTY, TDD, or 
TeleBraille) to access telecommunications relay services. Individuals 
outside the United States should use the relay services offered within 
their country to make international calls to the point-of-contact in 
the United States.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Under section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), we 
are required to make a finding whether or not a petitioned action is 
warranted within 12 months after receiving any petition for which we 
have determined 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 by other listing activity. We must publish a notification of 
these 12-month findings in the Federal Register.

Summary of Information Pertaining to the Five Factors

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and the implementing 
regulations at part 424 of title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations 
(50 CFR part 424) set forth procedures for adding species to, removing 
species from, or reclassifying species on the Lists of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and Plants (Lists). The Act defines ``species'' as 
including any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any 
distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or 
wildlife which interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). The Act 
defines ``endangered species'' as any species that is in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range (16 
U.S.C. 1532(6)), and ``threatened species'' as any species that is 
likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 
1532(20)). Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, a species may be 
determined to be an endangered species or a threatened species because 
of any of the following five factors:

    (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (C) Disease or predation;
    (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.

    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 Act's 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 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

[[Page 14229]]

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.
    In conducting our evaluation of the five factors provided in 
section 4(a)(1) of the Act to determine whether Georgia bully and Rio 
Grande cooter meet the Act's definition of ``endangered species'' or 
``threatened species,'' we considered and thoroughly evaluated the best 
scientific and commercial information available regarding the past, 
present, and future stressors and threats. In conducting our evaluation 
of the Blanco blind salamander, we determined that it either: (1) Does 
not meet the definition of a ``species'' under the Act, and, as a 
result, we conclude that it is not a listable entity; or (2) is 
extinct. We reviewed the petitions, information available in our files, 
and other available published and unpublished information for all of 
these species. Our evaluation may include information from recognized 
experts; Federal, State, and Tribal governments; academic institutions; 
foreign governments; private entities; and other members of the public.
    The species assessment forms for these species contain more 
detailed biological information, a thorough analysis of the listing 
factors, a list of literature cited, and an explanation of why we 
determined that these species do not meet the Act's definition of an 
``endangered species'' or a ``threatened species.'' A thorough review 
of the taxonomy, life history, and ecology of the Georgia bully and Rio 
Grande cooter is presented in each species' species status assessment 
(SSA) report. The species assessment form and the review report for the 
Blanco blind salamander contain more detailed taxonomic information, a 
list of literature cited, and an explanation of why we determined that 
the Blanco blind salamander either does not meet the Act's definition 
of a ``species'' or is extinct. This supporting information can be 
found on the internet at https://www.regulations.gov under the 
appropriate docket number (see ADDRESSES, above). The following are 
informational summaries for the findings in this document.

Georgia Bully

Previous Federal Actions
    On April 20, 2010, the Service received a petition from the Center 
for Biological Diversity, Alabama Rivers Alliance, Clinch Coalition, 
Dogwood Alliance, Gulf Restoration Network, Tennessee Forests Council, 
and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy to list 404 aquatic, riparian, 
and wetland species, including Georgia bully (Sideroxylon thornei), as 
endangered or threatened species under the Act. On September 27, 2011, 
we published in the Federal Register (76 FR 59836) a partial 90-day 
finding that the petition presented substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that listing may be warranted for 374 
of the species, including Georgia bully. The finding stated that the 
petition presented substantial information indicating that listing 
Georgia bully may be warranted due to disease or predation. This 
document constitutes the 12-month finding on the April 20, 2010, 
petition to list Georgia bully under the Act.
Summary of Finding
    A member of the Sapotaceae family, Georgia bully is a shrub or 
small tree that grows up to 6 meters (20 feet) in height, and is 
sometimes multi-stemmed but not extensively clonal. Georgia bully is 
known to occur in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The species has been 
found in at least 29 counties and five watersheds (Altamaha, 
Apalachicola, Choctawhatchee-Escambia, Mobile Bay-Tombigbee, and 
Ogeechee) in 3 southeastern States: Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The 
stronghold of the distribution is in the Apalachicola watershed in 
Georgia.
    Georgia bully is restricted to riparian forests and forested 
wetlands (i.e., swamps, bottomland forests, and depressional wetlands), 
where the species occurs most often in habitats developed over 
limestone (i.e., calcareous substrates), particularly in Georgia. 
Georgia bully requires shaded to partly shaded habitat conditions 
within a mostly intact forest overstory. The species requires wet soils 
and periodic inundation from flooding to provide a competitive 
advantage to Georgia bully since many other plant species do not 
tolerate flooding disturbance (e.g., decrease in oxygen, carbon 
dioxide, and light). Georgia bully reproduces sexually through 
pollination and fruit set, and asexually through vegetative means 
(e.g., shoots, fragments, or clones).
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
to Georgia bully, and we evaluated all relevant factors under the five 
listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and conservation 
measures addressing these stressors. The primary threats affecting 
Georgia bully's biological status include habitat destruction and 
modification (including urbanization and land use change), and impacts 
to hydrology from climate change. We examined a number of other 
factors, including inherent factors (small population size), nonnative 
and invasive species, disease (insect damage), and predation (deer 
herbivory), and found that these factors may exacerbate the effects of 
the primary factors, but do not rise to such a level that affected the 
species as a whole.
    Causes of habitat destruction and modification are urbanization and 
conversion to agricultural and silvicultural uses, including forest 
structure alteration due to timber harvest. Georgia bully is expected 
to be influenced by changes to the hydrologic regime, including periods 
of drought and flooding. Extended periods of drought may allow other 
species that outcompete Georgia bully to become established. Increased 
flooding events may reduce the ability for Georgia bully seedlings to 
become established if habitat is saturated during the germination 
period.
    Despite impacts from the primary stressors, the species has 
maintained the majority of its historical occurrences throughout its 
range. Georgia bully currently has 16 moderately or highly resilient 
populations across its range in 45 populations in 3 States. Each of the 
five watersheds where Georgia bully occurs contains at least two 
moderate or highly resilient populations. Moderate and highly resilient 
Georgia bully populations are able to recover from stochastic events 
and are characterized by larger populations with recruitment and/or 
reproduction in habitats with intact mature overstory, wide riparian 
vegetated buffers, and minimal hydrological alteration. Existing 
protections for the species are in place with approximately 46 percent 
of populations on protected lands, including the two largest 
populations. Threats continue to impact Georgia bully and its habitat, 
and effects from these impacts may result in a decrease in habitat 
quality and quantity across the species' range; however, ongoing 
conservation actions offer some protection to the species.
    Our future scenarios assessment included four elements of change 
(e.g., urbanization, land use, climate-

[[Page 14230]]

influenced hydrology, and site-specific habitat factors) to assess the 
viability of Georgia bully at 30- and 60-year time steps. Upon 
examining the current trends and future forecast scenarios, we expect 
that the primary threats (habitat destruction and modification due to 
urbanization and land use change, and hydrology impacts associated with 
climate change) will continue to impact Georgia bully. Impacts to 
Georgia bully's population resiliency generally increase over time and 
with increased threats, including the threat of climate change effects. 
The species' representation has not declined between historical and 
most recent surveys, and the species' representation is expected to 
decline slightly under each future scenario. As moderate or highly 
resilient populations will persist across all watersheds, a broad level 
of representation is likely to be maintained over time. However, the 
adaptive capacity of the species will be reduced in the future as the 
projected population extirpations reduce the number of viable 
populations on the landscape, thus reducing the species potential 
ability to adjust to changing conditions. Georgia bully has retained 
redundancy based on multiple moderate and highly resilient populations 
being spread across its historical range in five watersheds; however, 
into the future, we expect the species' redundancy to decline as 
population resiliency is reduced, thereby impairing the species' 
ability to withstand and recover from catastrophic events such as 
storms and droughts. Although we predict some continued impacts from 
stressors in the future, we anticipate the species will be represented 
by moderate and highly resilient populations into the foreseeable 
future throughout its range, supported by the occurrence of 21 of the 
45 known populations on protected lands and the species' ability to 
reproduce vegetatively (e.g., shoots, fragments, or clonal) and through 
pollination and fruit set giving populations additional opportunities 
to maintain and expand. Given projections for quality and quantity of 
habitat and the number of healthy (moderate to high resiliency) 
populations, we conclude that the species is likely to maintain the 
ability to withstand stochasticity, catastrophic events, and novel 
changes in its environment for the foreseeable future. Based on these 
conditions, Georgia bully's current risk of extinction is very low. 
Furthermore, we did not find any evidence of a concentration of threats 
at any biologically meaningful scale in any portion of the species' 
range.
    Therefore, we find that listing Georgia bully as an endangered 
species or threatened species under the Act is not warranted. A 
detailed discussion of the basis for this finding can be found in the 
Georgia bully species assessment and other supporting documents (see 
ADDRESSES, above).

Rio Grande Cooter

Previous Federal Actions
    On July 11, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) 
received a petition to list 53 amphibians and reptiles, including the 
Rio Grande cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi), as endangered or threatened 
under the Act and to designate critical habitat. On July 1, 2015, we 
published a 90-day finding that the petition presented substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that listing may be 
warranted for 21 species, including the Rio Grande cooter (80 FR 
37568). The finding stated that the petition presented substantial 
information indicating that listing the Rio Grande cooter may be 
warranted due to the present or threatened destruction, modification, 
or curtailment of its habitat or range; overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; and regulatory 
mechanisms inadequate to address these threats. This document 
constitutes the 12-month finding on the July 11, 2012, petition to list 
the Rio Grande cooter under the Act.
Summary of Finding
    The Rio Grande cooter is a medium-to-large freshwater turtle (100-
370 millimeters (3.9-14.6 inches)) that lives in the spring pools, 
streams, and rivers found within portions of the Rio Grande/R[iacute]o 
Bravo watershed of the United States and Mexico. The species' range 
includes the Pecos River basin of New Mexico and Texas; the Devils 
River basin of Texas; the Rio Grande basin of Texas (below the Big Bend 
region) and Coahuila, Nuevo Le[oacute]n, and Tamaulipas, Mexico; the 
R[iacute]o Salado basin of Coahuila, Nuevo Le[oacute]n, and Tamaulipas, 
Mexico; and the R[iacute]o San Juan basin of Coahuila, Nuevo 
Le[oacute]n, and Tamaulipas, Mexico. Within these five major river 
basins, Rio Grande cooter habitat includes the freshwater systems and 
the riparian habitat adjacent to them. The current distribution of the 
species is similar to its historical distribution.
    As a mostly aquatic species, adequate water quality and water 
quantity are central to the Rio Grande cooter's ability to forage, 
survive, and reproduce. Water must be of adequate depth to provide 
protection from predation and within temperature ranges that allow for 
thermoregulation. Further, contaminants and other harmful constituents 
in water must be absent or below thresholds that would cause acute or 
chronic toxicity to Rio Grande cooter or the resources upon which they 
rely for survival, growth and reproduction. The Rio Grande cooter also 
requires water flows that allow for individual movements for breeding, 
nesting, and retreating from areas of unsuitable habitat. Additionally, 
the Rio Grande cooter requires upland nesting habitat with loose soils 
near water where eggs will be adequately thermoregulated and safe from 
inundation, predation, and other disturbances during incubation.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
to the Rio Grande cooter, and we evaluated all relevant factors under 
the five listing factors, including any regulatory mechanisms and 
conservation measures addressing these stressors. The primary stressors 
affecting the Rio Grande cooter's biological status include 
hydrological alteration, pollution, climate change (increasing demands 
on the surface and ground water resources that provide or support 
habitat for the species due to effects on climate and weather 
associated with rising temperatures), and direct mortality. Rio Grande 
cooter has limited abundance information available across its range, 
with a few exceptions. Therefore, we assessed species viability based 
on presence-only data and the condition of the species' habitat.
    Despite existing within an altered system in the Rio Grande 
watershed and the associated impacts from the primary stressors, the 
Rio Grande cooter currently has multiple resilient population analysis 
units (10 of 16 units characterized as Low or Moderate Risk) 
distributed throughout its known historical range. Because Rio Grande 
cooter has maintained multiple resilient population analysis units 
across a diversity of habitat types and within all five river basins in 
which it historically occurred--except for the Devils River basin, 
which contains a single unit categorized as low risk--the species has 
retained redundancy and representation at the species level. Based on 
these conditions, the current risk of extinction for the Rio Grande 
cooter is low. Although we project some continued impacts from the 
identified stressors into the foreseeable future under two future 
scenarios, our analysis indicates that the Rio Grande cooter will 
maintain multiple, resilient population analysis units distributed 
throughout its

[[Page 14231]]

historical range within each of the five major river basins. Overall, 
the Rio Grande cooter is projected to either maintain current levels of 
resiliency, representation, and redundancy or have a slight decrease in 
resiliency (nine of 16 population analysis units being categorized as 
Low or Moderate Risk) while maintaining current levels of redundancy 
and representation into the foreseeable future. Thus, the best 
available information does not indicate that the magnitude and scope of 
individual stressors would cause the species to be in danger of 
extinction in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, we did not find any 
evidence of a concentration of threats at any biologically meaningful 
scale in any portion of the species' range.
    Therefore, we find that listing the Rio Grande cooter as an 
endangered species or threatened species under the Act is not 
warranted. A detailed discussion of the basis for this finding can be 
found in the Rio Grande cooter's species assessment and other 
supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above).

Blanco Blind Salamander

Previous Federal Actions
    On June 25, 2007, the Service received a petition from Forest 
Guardians (now WildEarth Guardians) requesting that the Service list 
475 species in the Southwest Region as endangered or threatened under 
the Act with critical habitat. The Blanco blind salamander (Eurycea 
robusta) was included among the list of petitioned species. On December 
16, 2009, we published in the Federal Register (74 FR 66866) a partial 
90-day finding that the petition presented substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that listing may be warranted for 67 
of the species, including the Blanco blind salamander. The finding 
stated that the petition presented substantial information indicating 
that listing the Blanco blind salamander may be warranted due to the 
present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its 
habitat or range resulting from water pollutants and water withdrawal. 
This document constitutes the 12-month finding on the June 25, 2007, 
petition to list the Blanco blind salamander under the Act.
Summary of Finding
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the Blanco blind salamander and 
evaluated the petition's claims that the species warrants listing under 
the Act. We determined the type specimen on which the species' 
description was based either represents a historical occurrence of the 
federally endangered Texas blind salamander (Typhlomolge rathbuni) or 
it represents a unique species that is no longer extant.
    To be considered an endangered or threatened species under the Act, 
a species' taxonomy must be valid. In our evaluation of the species' 
status, we found evidence that the Blanco blind salamander does not 
exist as a current taxonomic entity. Several morphological characters 
of the Blanco blind salamander overlap or are identical to the Texas 
blind salamander; the Blanco blind salamander specimen's size may have 
been influenced by chemical fixation and preservation, and may not 
reflect the original size of the living individual; and hydrogeological 
connectivity would likely facilitate movement between the Blanco River 
site and locations the Texas blind salamander inhabits. Given this, we 
find that the Blanco blind salamander type specimen is likely a Texas 
blind salamander individual. If it is a Texas blind salamander, then 
the Blanco blind salamander is not a valid taxonomic entity and, 
therefore, is not a listable entity under the Act.
    While the best available science does indicate that the specimen 
collected in 1951 is a Texas blind salamander, due to the inability to 
conduct conclusive genetic testing, we considered the status of the 
Blanco blind salamander out of an abundance of caution.
    Based on the best available information, if the Blanco blind 
salamander was in fact a valid entity, we conclude that it is now 
extinct. When evaluating the possibility of extinction, we attempted to 
minimize the possibility of either (1) prematurely determining that the 
species is extinct where individuals exist but remain undetected, or 
(2) assuming the species is extant when extinction has already 
occurred. Our determinations of whether the best available information 
indicates that a species is extinct include an analysis of the 
following criteria: Detectability of the species, adequacy of survey 
efforts, and time since last detection. All three criteria require 
taking into account applicable aspects of a species' life history. 
Other lines of evidence may also support the determination and be 
included in our analysis. In conducting our analysis of whether the 
Blanco blind salamander is extinct, we considered and thoroughly 
evaluated the best scientific and commercial data available. We 
reviewed the information available in our files, and other available 
published and unpublished information. These evaluations include 
information from recognized experts, Federal and State governments, 
academic institutions, and private entities.
    The Edwards Aquifer, in the area of southeastern Hays County, 
Texas, has been and continues to be intensively sampled for its diverse 
and unique groundwater fauna. Beginning in the late 19th century, 
caves, springs, and wells in the area have yielded many new species, 
including the Texas blind salamander and a contingent of endemic 
groundwater invertebrates.
    Like species with similar characteristics, the Blanco blind 
salamander is likely to have a low detectability. However, despite 
being mostly subterranean, stygobitic (i.e., living exclusively in 
groundwater, such as aquifers or caves) Eurycea salamanders are often 
surveyed at springs and caves. Surveys were conducted in 2006 to re-
detect the Blanco blind salamander at the Blanco River site and several 
groundwater wells north of that site in Hays and Travis Counties, 
Texas. Additionally, researchers excavated three surface fissures in 
the dry bed of the Blanco River, but none of the excavations extended 
to subterranean voids, and no salamanders were observed. Groundwater 
wells were surveyed north of the Blanco River 8 to 25 kilometers (5 to 
15 miles) away from the locality of the Blanco specimen and did not 
yield stygobitic Eurycea salamanders, although they did extend into 
subterranean habitats. Recent survey efforts of wells and springs in 
Hays County in 2020 and 2021 have also not resulted in discovery of 
Blanco blind salamanders or other stygobitic Eurycea salamanders to 
date. Conversely, Texas blind salamanders are regularly observed and 
collected during surveys of caves, spring openings, and groundwater 
wells by permitted researchers from several localities in the City of 
San Marcos, Texas.
    Since 1951, no stygobitic Eurycea salamanders have been collected 
from the Blanco River or areas to the north of the river in Hays 
County. Despite its low detectability, given the combination of surveys 
at the original locality and repeated surveys from surface and 
subterranean habitats nearby, we conclude that these efforts were 
adequate to detect the Blanco blind salamander should individuals 
exist. If the Blanco blind salamander was a valid taxon, we have no 
evidence that the species has remained extant for the past 70 years; 
thus, we conclude it is extinct.
    In conclusion, based on the best available information, we have 
determined that the Blanco blind

[[Page 14232]]

salamander is not a valid taxonomic entity and, accordingly, does not 
meet the statutory definition of a listable entity under the Act. 
Additionally, even if our conclusion is incorrect and the Blanco blind 
salamander was a valid taxonomic entity, it has not been collected in 
over 70 years despite survey efforts; thus, we have no evidence it has 
remained extant. Because the Blanco blind salamander either does not 
meet the definition of a listable entity or is extinct, it does not 
warrant listing under the Act. A detailed discussion of the basis for 
this finding can be found in the Blanco blind salamander species 
assessment form and other supporting documents (see ADDRESSES, above).

New Information

    We request that you submit any new information concerning the 
taxonomy of, biology of, ecology of, status of, or stressors to Blanco 
blind salamander, Georgia bully, or Rio Grande cooter to the 
appropriate person, as specified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, 
whenever it becomes available. New information will help us monitor 
these species and make appropriate decisions about their conservation 
and status. We encourage local agencies and stakeholders to continue 
cooperative monitoring and conservation efforts.

References Cited

    A list of the references cited in this petition finding is 
available in the relevant species assessment form, which is available 
on the internet at https://www.regulations.gov in the appropriate 
docket (see ADDRESSES, above) and upon request from the appropriate 
person (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, above).

Authors

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

Authority

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

Martha Williams,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2022-05331 Filed 3-11-22; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P