Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Kanab Ambersnail From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

Federal Register, Volume 85 Issue 3 (Monday, January 6, 2020)
[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 3 (Monday, January 6, 2020)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 487-492]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-28352]
Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17
[Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2019-0055; FXES11130900000C6-123-FF09E30000]
RIN 1018-BD49
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Kanab
Ambersnail From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Proposed rule.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to
remove the Kanab ambersnail (Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis) from the
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. This determination
is based on a thorough review of the best available scientific
information. Our review indicates that Kanab ambersnail is not a valid
subspecies and therefore cannot be listed as an endangered entity under
the Act. We are seeking information and comments from the public
regarding this proposed rule.
DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before
March 6, 2020. Please note that if you are using the Federal
eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES), the deadline for submitting an
electronic comment is 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 February 20, 2020.
ADDRESSES: Comment submission: You may submit comments by one of the
following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R6-ES-2019-0055,
which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the
Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel on the left
side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the
Proposed Rule box to locate this document. You may submit a comment by
clicking on ``Comment Now!'' If your comments will fit in the provided
comment box, please use this feature of http://www.regulations.gov, as
it is most compatible with our comment review procedures. If you attach
your comments as a separate document, our preferred file format is
Microsoft Word. If you attach multiple comments (such as form letters),
our preferred formation is a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2019-0055, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described
above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide
us (see Information Requested, below, for more information).
    Document availability: This proposed rule and supporting documents,
including a copy of the recovery plan and the 5-year review referenced
throughout this document, are available on http://www.regulations.gov
at Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2019-0055. In addition, the supporting file for
this proposed rule will be available for public inspection, by
appointment, during normal business hours, at the Utah Ecological
Services Field Office, 2369 West Orton Circle, Suite 50, West Valley
City, UT 84119; telephone 801-975-3330. Persons who use a
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay
Service at 800-877-8339.
telephone 801-975-3330, ext. 61912. Direct all questions or requests
for additional information to: KANAB AMBERSNAIL QUESTIONS, U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, Utah Ecological Services Field Office, 2369 West
Orton Circle, Suite 50, West Valley City, UT 84119. Persons who use a
TDD may call the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.
[[Page 488]]
Information Requested
Public Comments
    We want any final rule resulting from this proposal to be as
accurate as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information
from other concerned governmental agencies, Native American tribes, the
scientific community, industry, and other interested parties concerning
this proposed rule. Comments should be as specific as possible. We
particularly seek comments concerning:
    (1) Reasons why we should or should not remove the Kanab ambersnail
from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (``delist'' the
Kanab ambersnail);
    (2) Additional taxonomic or other relevant data concerning the
Kanab ambersnail; and
    (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, and
population size of the Oxyloma genus, Oxyloma haydeni, or any
subspecies of Oxyloma haydeni.
    (4) Comments regarding our decision to move forward with removing
Kanab ambersnail from the List of Threatened and Endangered Species
without resolution on what larger taxonomic entity it belongs to.
    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, may not meet the standard of information required by
section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), which directs
that determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or
threatened species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best
scientific and commercial data available.''
    Prior to issuing a final determination on this proposed action, we
will take into consideration all comments and any additional
information we receive. Such communications may lead to a final rule
that differs from this proposal. All comments and information we
collect, including commenters' names and addresses, if provided to us,
will become part of the supporting record.
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning the proposed
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. If you submit your
comments electronically, you must submit your comments on http://www.regulations.gov before 11:59 p.m. (Eastern Time) on the date
specified in DATES. We will not consider hand-delivered comments that
we do not receive, or mailed comments that are not postmarked, by the
date specified in DATES.
    If you submit information via http://www.regulations.gov, your
entire submission--including any personal identifying information--will
be posted on the website. Please note that comments posted to this
website are not immediately viewable. 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 or hand-deliver hardcopy comments that include 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. To ensure that the
electronic docket for this rulemaking is complete and all comments we
receive are publicly available, we will post all hardcopy submissions
on http://www.regulations.gov.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting
documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be
available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by
appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, Utah Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR
Public Hearing
    Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for a public hearing on this
proposal, if requested. We must receive requests for a public hearing,
in writing, by the date specified above in DATES. You must send your
request 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 accommodation, in the Federal Register and local
newspapers at least 15 days before the hearing.
Peer Review
    In accordance with our policy, ``Notice of Interagency Cooperative
Policy for Peer Review in Endangered Species Act Activities,'' which
was published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270) and our August 22, 2016,
Memorandum ``Peer Review Process,'' we will seek the expert opinion of
at least three appropriate and independent specialists regarding
scientific data and interpretations contained in this proposed rule.
The purpose of peer review is to ensure that our delisting decision is
based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We will
send copies of this proposed rule to the peer reviewers immediately
following publication in the Federal Register. We will invite these
peer reviewers to comment, during the public comment period, on the
specific assumptions and conclusions in this proposed delisting of the
Kanab ambersnail. We will summarize the opinions of these reviewers in
the final decision document, and we will consider their input and any
additional information we received as part of our process of making a
final decision on this proposal. Such communication may lead to a final
decision that differs from this proposal.
Previous Federal Actions
    On May 22, 1984, we published a notice of review in the Federal
Register (49 FR 21664) issuing a list of invertebrate wildlife being
considered for listing as endangered or threatened species, which
included the Kanab ambersnail as a category 2 species. Category 2
species were taxa for which the Service had information indicating the
appropriateness of a proposal to list the species as endangered or
threatened but for which more substantial data were needed on
biological vulnerability and threats. On January 6, 1989, we published
an updated notice of review, which maintained the Kanab ambersnail as a
category 2 species (54 FR 554). At the time, only two populations of
the Kanab ambersnail were known to occur, in Utah. A third population
was discovered in Arizona in 1991 (57 FR 13657; April 17, 1992).
    A survey conducted in 1990 discovered that one Utah population of
the Kanab ambersnail was nearly extirpated, while the other Utah
population was subjected to major habitat alteration and destruction
(Clarke 1991, p. 31). We considered this information as sufficient to
elevate the Kanab ambersnail from a category 2 to a category 1 species,
and on August 8, 1991, we published an emergency rule to list the Kanab
ambersnail as endangered (56 FR 37668). This emergency protection
expired on April 3, 1992 (56 FR 37668; August 8, 1991).
    On November 15, 1991, we proposed to list the Kanab ambersnail as
an endangered species (56 FR 58020). On April 17, 1992, we published a
final rule listing the Kanab ambersnail as an endangered species (57 FR
13657). We did not designate critical habitat for the
[[Page 489]]
Kanab ambersnail as explained in our April 17, 1992, final rule (57 FR
13657), due to a danger of over-collection or molestation. On October
12, 1995, we finalized the Kanab ambersnail recovery plan (Service
1995, entire).
    We completed a 5-year review of the species' status in July 2011
(Service 2011, entire). In the 5-year review, we analyzed existing data
and threats to the species, and concluded the Kanab ambersnail should
remain an endangered species (Service 2011, p. 21). This decision was
based on the fact that the threats to the Kanab ambersnail and its
distribution have changed minimally since it was first listed (Service
2011, p. 21). As of the 5-year review, several genetic studies
indicated that at least one of the three populations identified as
Kanab ambersnail was potentially part of a different species or
subspecies, but we did not consider those studies certain enough to
recommend delisting due to error at that time (Miller et al. 2000, p.
8; Stevens et al. 2000, p. 7; Culver et al. 2007, p. 3; Service 2011,
pp. 8-9). The subsequent publication of a larger, more comprehensive
study on the genetics of Kanab ambersnail and the Oxyloma genus (Culver
et al. 2013, entire), coupled with the previous genetic research, is
considered in this proposed rule determination.
Species Description and Habitat Information
    It is our intent to discuss only those topics directly related to
delisting Kanab ambersnail in this proposed rule. For more information
on the description, biology, ecology, and habitat of Kanab ambersnail,
please refer to the final listing rule published in the Federal
Register on April 17, 1992 (57 FR 13657); the most recent 5-year review
for Kanab ambersnail completed in July 2011 (Service 2011); and the
Kanab ambersnail recovery plan (Service 1995). These documents are
available as supporting materials on http://www.regulations.gov under
Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2019-0055.
    The Kanab ambersnail (Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis), as currently
taxonomically identified, is a terrestrial snail in the family
Succineidae. Succineids are usually referred to as ambersnails due to
their mottled grayish-amber to yellowish-amber colored shells (Sorensen
and Nelson 2002, p. 5).
    The Kanab ambersnail typically inhabits marshes and other wetlands
watered by springs and seeps at the base of sandstone or limestone
cliffs (Clarke 1991, pp. 28-29; Spamer and Bogan 1993, p. 296; Meretsky
et al. 2002, p. 309). Habitat vegetation can consist of cattail (Typha
domingensis), sedge (Juncus spp.), native crimson monkeyflower (Mimulus
cardinalis), watercress (Nasturtium officinale), native water sedge
(Carex aquatilis), and maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) (57
FR 13657, April 17, 1992; Stevens et al. 1997, p. 6; Sorensen 2005, p.
3). The Kanab ambersnail often inhabits dead and decaying litter and
live stems of plants (Service 2011, p. 11).
    When Kanab ambersnail was listed, we knew of two populations in
Utah (Three Lakes and Kanab Creek Canyon) and one population in Arizona
(Vasey's Paradise) (57 FR 13657, April 17, 1992). The Kanab Creek
Canyon population in Utah was extirpated by 1991, after dewatering of
the seep for livestock use severely reduced the available habitat.
Kanab ambersnail was last found there in 1990, when three individuals
were identified (Service 2011, p. 12). Currently, there are two
naturally occurring populations of Kanab ambersnail (Vasey's Paradise
in Arizona, and Three Lakes in Utah) and one introduced population
(Upper Elves Canyon in Arizona) (Service 2011, p. 6).
    The Vasey's Paradise population was discovered in 1991 (Spamer and
Bogan 1993, p. 47). Vasey's Paradise is a riverside spring located
approximately 33 miles (mi) (53 kilometers (km)) downstream of Lee's
Ferry on the Colorado River, in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
(Spamer and Bogan 1993, p. 37). Occupied and potential habitat at
Vasey's Paradise is 9,041 square feet (ft\2\) (840 square meters
(m\2\)) (Service 1995, p. ii). Available habitat has increased since
the time of listing due to water management practices in the Grand
Canyon. The population is protected by National Park Service
regulations and the presence of poison ivy, which deters visitors
(Stevens et al. 1997, p. 12; Sorensen 2016, pers. comm.). A survey in
2016 found only one snail, but search conditions were difficult and
time was limited (Sorensen 2016, pers. comm.). Fourteen individuals
were collected in 2008, for genetic analysis (Culver et al. 2013, p.
7). The most recent population estimate is from 2002, which estimated
3,124 individuals and noted that population numbers could be highly
variable from year to year (Gloss et al. 2005, p. 3).
    The Three Lakes population is a series of small ponds on private
land approximately 6 mi (10 km) northwest of Kanab, Utah (Clarke 1991,
p. 28; Service 1995, p. 3). Occupied and potential habitat is
approximately 4.94 acres (ac) (2 hectares (ha)) (Service 1995, p. 3).
Available habitat is wet meadow and marsh. The habitat was greatly
reduced in size and population beginning in 1991, due to preparations
for anticipated development, which resulted in the original emergency
listing (Service 2011, p. 11). The development anticipated at the time
of listing has not occurred, and snails were found there in 2008
(Culver et al. 2013, p. 6) and in 2016 (Sorensen 2016, pers. comm.). In
2016, the land was sold to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which has
expressed a willingness to preserve the habitat (Sorensen 2016, pers.
comm.). No recent population estimate is available.
    Upper Elves Canyon is located approximately 83 mi (134 km)
downstream of Vasey's Paradise on the Colorado River, in Grand Canyon
National Park, Arizona (Sorensen 2016, p. 1). Occupied and potential
habitat is adjacent to a perennial seep and is 1,068 ft\2\ (99.2 m\2\)
(Sorensen 2005, p. 3). This population is protected by National Park
Service regulations, as well as by its inaccessibility (Service 2011,
p. 7). This population was established by the Arizona Fish and Game
Department between 1998 and 2002, and as of 2005 was considered self-
sustaining with an estimated population of approximately 700
individuals (Sorensen 2005, p. 9).
    Kanab ambersnail was first collected in 1909, by James Ferriss from
an area called ``The Greens,'' a vegetated seep approximately 6 mi (10
km) north of Kanab in Kanab Creek Canyon, Utah (57 FR 13657, April 17,
1992; Service 1995, p. 2). However, the Kanab ambersnail has not been
found at its type locality since 1991 (Meretsky et al. 2002, p. 314;
Culver et al. 2013, p. 6).
    The snails collected by James Ferriss in 1909 were initially placed
in the species Succinea hawkinisi, but Pilsbry (1948, p. 797) placed
them in Oxyloma and created the subspecies kanabensis under the species
haydeni (57 FR 13657, April 17, 1992). The subspecies kanabensis
classification was considered to be temporary at the time, and the
author recommended that the taxonomic status be reconsidered in the
future (Pilsbry 1948, p. 798; Clarke 1991, p. 23; 57 FR 13657, April
17, 1992).
    We have assessed all available genetic information for Kanab
ambersnail (Miller et al. 2000, entire; Stevens et al. 2000, entire;
Culver et al. 2013, entire). Since the listing of Kanab ambersnail in
1992 (57 FR 13657; April 17, 1992) and the publication of the Kanab
ambersnail recovery plan in 1995 (Service 1995, entire), several
studies on subspecies
[[Page 490]]
distribution, morphological characteristics, and genetic relationships
to other Oxyloma species have been completed. We briefly describe these
studies below. At this time, these studies represent the best
scientific information available in order for us to analyze the Kanab
ambersnail's distribution and taxonomic changes.
    There are various types of analyses that can be done to determine
genetic structure of a species: (1) Mitochondrial DNA, which is rapidly
evolving and useful to determine recent populations; (2) nuclear
microsatellite DNA, which has high amounts of polymorphism and can be
used to look at populations within a species; (3) nuclear DNA, which is
inherited paternally (unlike mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited
maternally); and (4) amplified fragment length polymorphisms (ALFP),
which are used to sample multiple loci across the genome.
    Miller et al. (2000) used ALFP to determine intra- and inter-
population genetic information for four Oxyloma species in Utah and
Arizona. Among these, two Niobrara ambersnail (Oxyloma haydeni haydeni)
locations were studied at Indian Gardens (Arizona) and Minus Nine Mile
Spring (Arizona), and two Kanab ambersnail populations were studied at
Three Lakes (Utah) and Vasey's Paradise (Arizona) (Miller et al. 2000,
pp. 1845-1946). From this study, the Kanab ambersnail population at
Three Lakes appears more closely related to the Niobrara ambersnail
population at Indian Garden than to the Kanab ambersnail population at
Vasey's Paradise (Miller et al. 2000, p. 1852).
    Stevens et al. (2000) used mitochondrial DNA and morphological
analysis to distinguish Succineidae (Oxyloma, Catinella, and Succinea)
populations in the United States and Canada. The authors collected over
450 samples from seven U.S. States and Canadian provinces, including
from 63 different populations or locations of snails (Stevens et al.
2000, p. 4). Determining Oxyloma species based on morphology was shown
to be inaccurate (Stevens et al. 2000, pp. 4-5, 42). Vasey's Paradise
did not cluster with another Kanab ambersnail population or the two
sampled Niobrara ambersnail populations, leading the authors to suggest
Vasey's Paradise might represent a unique species (Stevens et al. 2000,
p. 41). However, a later, more comprehensive study found that Vasey's
Paradise clustered closely enough with samples from other surrounding
Oxyloma populations for them all to be considered the same Oxyloma
species (Culver et al. 2013, p. 57).
    In the most recent and detailed peer-reviewed study, ambersnails
were collected from 12 locations in Arizona and Utah, with each
location providing at least 14 ambersnail specimens (Culver et al.
2013, p. 5). Samples consisted of Kanab ambersnail, Niobrara
ambersnail, blunt ambersnail (Oxyloma retusum), undescribed species of
Oxyloma, and Catinella (used to provide an outgroup comparison) (Culver
et al. 2013, p. 6). Between the Oxyloma populations, shell morphology
did not have the variation usually associated with different species,
leading the authors to suggest that none of the populations sampled was
reproductively isolated (Culver et al. 2013, p. 52). Genetic results
suggested that there was gene flow among all the populations sampled,
most likely due to short- or long-term dispersals from other
populations (Culver et al. 2013, p. 57). Additionally, Kanab ambersnail
samples from Vasey's Paradise did not cluster with the other two Kanab
ambersnail populations (Culver et al. 2013, pp. 51, 55). The authors
concluded that the three populations of Kanab ambersnail are not a
valid subspecies of Oxyloma haydeni and should instead be considered
part of the same taxa as ambersnails from the eight other populations
of Oxyloma in Utah and Arizona that were sampled for comparison (Culver
et al. 2013, entire). This study declined to positively identify a
species-level taxon for these 11 populations of ambersnail, due to lack
of genetic information on the genus (Culver et al. 2013). The primary
author stated later that her expert opinion was they should all,
including those previously identified as Kanab ambersnail, be
considered Niobrara ambersnail (Oxyloma hadenyi) (Culver 2016, pers.
comm.). The authors suggested that specimens from the type locality of
the Niobrara ambersnail in Nebraska could be examined for comparison to
verify this conclusion (Franzen 1964, p. 73; Culver et al. 2013, p. 57;
Culver 2016, pers. comm.).
    For the Kanab ambersnail to be considered a distinct subspecies,
nuclear and mitochondrial DNA tests should show that the three
populations cluster together when compared to other populations of
ambersnails (Culver et al. 2013, p. 55). However, the Vasey's Paradise
population does not cluster with the other two Kanab ambersnail
populations, but the degree of variation shown in Vasey's Paradise from
the other populations was not unique enough to constitute a subspecies
on its own, as it shares markers with several nearby populations of
non-listed Oxyloma snails (Stevens et al. 2000, p. 41; Culver et al.
2013, p. 55-57).
    The genetic uniqueness in Vasey's Paradise may be attributable to
flooding, which can erode away ideal vegetation or habitat, leaving
only a few individuals able to survive and re-establish the population
at that site, creating a genetic bottleneck. Genetic diversity at these
types of sites will be lower than at sites that have experienced short-
or long-distance dispersals (Culver et al. 2013, p. 55). Furthermore,
ambersnails have the ability to self-reproduce, allowing for
colonization of new areas by only one individual, which may explain how
many genetically distinct populations developed in a short time period
(Culver et al. 2013, p. 56). At least one bottleneck event in the past,
possibly flooding, caused unusual population genetic events (Culver et
al. 2013, p. 55).
    Overall, these studies show that shell morphology and anatomical
characteristics that were once considered diagnostic do not reliably
correspond with the results from genetic analyses of Succineidae snails
(Hoagland and Davis 1987, p. 519; Pigati et al. 2010, p. 523). Samples
originally identified as different species or subspecies based on
physical differences are consistently found to be related closely
enough to qualify as members of the same species based on genetic
studies (Culver et al. 2013, entire; Miller et al. 2000, entire;
Stevens et al. 2000, entire). Traditionally, shell morphology of Kanab
ambersnail, such as its slender and drawn out spire and short shell
aperture, was used to distinguish Kanab ambersnail from other members
of Oxyloma (Pilsbry 1948, pp. 797-798). However, shell shape can vary
as much within a population as within a species (Hoagland and Davis
1987, p. 519). Therefore, it is important to consider other factors
such as genetics, anatomy, and habitat to determine a species within
Oxyloma (Hoagland and Davis 1987, p. 519; Sorensen and Nelson 2002, p.
    In addition to shell morphology, reproductive anatomy (phallus
shape) was previously a main determining factor of the Oxyloma genus
(Miller et al. 2000, p. 1853). However, anatomical descriptions used to
classify the Kanab ambersnail had no quantifying factors, such a
prostate gland length, and soft tissues were difficult to measure
objectively (Pilsbry 1948, p. 798; Culver et al. 2013, pp. 52-53). The
reproductive system is the most susceptible among organ systems to
selection pressure (Franzen 1963, p. 84). Overall, anatomical
characteristics have
[[Page 491]]
been found to vary greatly within Oxyloma (Culver et al. 2013, p. 52).
    There have been at least two instances when a species of snail was
placed in the wrong genus due to relying solely on the reproductive
anatomy (Johnson et al. 1986, p. 105; Miller et al. 2000, p. 1853). In
another case, variation in anatomical structure was found in blunt
ambersnail, leading the authors to conclude that the species was not
restricted geographically as initially believed (Franzen 1963, p. 94).
Previous Oxyloma studies have used only one or two specimens to
determine the species' taxonomic status, which makes it difficult to
properly assess the true status (Hoagland and Davis 1987, p. 515).
    Standards for quantifying anatomy are minimal and not descriptive
enough, with words such as small, medium, and large being used, which
are vague and not measurable (Hoagland and Davis 1987, p. 478).
Anatomical characteristics should not be the only factor to determine a
species within Oxyloma, even with an understanding of the individual
and geographical variation (Franzen 1963, p. 83). Variation between
populations, anatomical differences among individuals, overlapping
habitat, and minimal consistency with the anatomical features make it
difficult to rely on anatomical descriptions to determine species
classification (Franzen 1964, p. 80; Sorensen and Nelson 2002, pp. 4-
5). Overall, reproductive anatomy is likely not a good species
indicator in snails; instead, genetic relationships provide the most
reliable method of classifying taxa.
    In summary, these analyses present multiple interpretations of the
taxonomy of Kanab ambersnail, none of which correlates to that of our
original listing. Although the exact taxonomy of the genus Oxyloma and
its constituent species remains uncertain, it is clear that that the
populations designated as Kanab ambersnail do not make up, together or
separately, a valid subspecies. The 1992 final listing rule for the
Kanab ambersnail (57 FR 13657; April 17, 1992) relied on the best
available information at the time, and only included snails found in
Vasey's Paradise in Arizona, and Three Lakes and Kanab Creek in Utah.
This has changed with the addition of the 2013 genetic study of the
Oxyloma genus in Utah and Arizona (Culver et al. 2013, entire).
    The various published and unpublished genetics reports described
above offer different conclusions about how Succineid snails should be
classified, particularly within the genus Oxyloma. However, none of the
genetic studies provides support for Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis as a
valid subspecies. Additionally, available genetic evidence suggests
that at least one population identified as Kanab ambersnail is more
closely related to other nearby Oxyloma populations than it is to the
other two Kanab ambersnail populations.
    Therefore, we are proposing to delist Kanab ambersnail based on the
best available science. The currently listed entity for the Kanab
ambersnail, restricted to Vasey's Paradise and Upper Elves Canyon,
Arizona, and Three Lakes, Utah, is not a valid taxonomic subspecies. We
are unable to evaluate the populations identified as Kanab ambersnail
relative to the larger entity because the larger entity has not yet
been defined. If we had conclusive information available about the
taxonomy of this genus, we would conduct a status assessment of the
larger entity, but in this case we do not have enough information to
conduct that analysis. We do not consider the absence of information on
the larger taxonomy of a group to be sufficient reason to keep an
invalid subspecies listed as Threatened.
Delisting Proposal
    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations, 50 CFR part
424, set forth the procedures for listing, reclassifying, or removing
species from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
and Plants. ``Species'' is defined by the Act as including any species
or subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct
population segment of vertebrate fish or wildlife that interbreeds when
mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). We may delist a species according to 50
CFR 424.11(d) if the best available scientific and commercial data
indicate that the species is neither endangered nor threatened for one
or more of the following reasons: (1) The species is extinct; (2) the
species has recovered and is no longer endangered or threatened; or (3)
the original scientific data used at the time the species was
classified were in error.
    For the Kanab ambersnail, we conclude that the existing scientific
information demonstrates that Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis does not
represent a valid taxonomic entity and, therefore, does not meet the
definition of ``species'' as defined in section 3(16) of the Act.
Therefore, Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis no longer warrants listing under
the Act. The Kanab ambersnail does not require a post-delisting
monitoring (PDM) plan because the monitoring plan does not apply to
delisting species due to taxonomic error.
Effects of This Proposed Rule
    This proposal, if made final, would revise 50 CFR 17.11(h) to
remove the Kanab ambersnail from the Federal List of Endangered and
Threatened Wildlife. Because no critical habitat was ever designated
for this subspecies, this rule would not affect 50 CFR 17.95.
    The prohibitions and conservation measures provided by the Act
would no longer apply to the Kanab ambersnail. Interstate commerce,
import, and export of the Kanab ambersnail would not be prohibited
under the Act. In addition, Federal agencies are no longer required to
consult under section 7 of the Act on actions that may affect the Kanab
Required Determinations
Clarity of the Rule
    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain
language. This means that each rule we publish must:
    (1) Be logically organized;
    (2) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (3) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (4) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (5) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us
comments by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. To better help us
revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For
example, you should tell us the 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
    We have determined that environmental assessments and environmental
impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), need not be
prepared in connection with regulations 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).
Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes
    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994,
[[Page 492]]
Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal
Governments (59 FR 22951), E.O. 13175, 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.
    The populations listed as Kanab ambersnail do not occur on Tribal
land. We have determined that while no Tribes would be directly
affected by this proposed action, any delisting that may occur, may
result in changes to the flow regime for the Colorado River in and
adjacent to the Grand Canyon. Several Tribes have an historic
affiliation with the Grand Canyon and could be affected by flow
changes, should they occur. The potentially impacted Tribes are the
Chemehuevi, the Colorado River Indian Tribes, the Hualapai, the Hopi,
the Kaibab Band of Paiute, the San Carlos Apache, the San Juan Southern
Paiute, the Navajo, and the Zuni. These Tribes have been informed of
the proposed delisting.
References Cited
    A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is
available at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2019-
0055, or upon request from the Utah Ecological Services Field Office
    The primary authors of this proposed rule are staff members of the
Service's Utah Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER
List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17
    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.
Proposed Regulation Promulgation
    Accordingly, we hereby propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:
    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; and 4201-4245,
unless otherwise noted.
Sec.  17.11   [Amended]
2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by removing the entry for ``Ambersnail, Kanab''
under SNAILS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
    Dated: December 10, 2019.
 Margaret Everson,
Principal Deputy Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Exercising
the Authority of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-28352 Filed 1-3-20; 8:45 am]