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

CourtFish And Wildlife Service
Record Number2022-05331
Published date14 March 2022
Federal Register, Volume 87 Issue 49 (Monday, March 14, 2022)
[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]
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                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
                

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