Endangered and threatened species: Findings on petitions, etc.— cress; withdrawn,

 
CONTENT

[Federal Register: September 14, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 177)]

[Proposed Rules]

[Page 49063-49065]

From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[DOCID:fr14se98-24]

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AD34

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Withdrawal of Proposed Rule to List Johnston's Rock-Cress (Arabis johnstonii) as Threatened

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; withdrawal.

SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) withdraws the proposal to list Johnston's rock-cress (Arabis johnstonii) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The Service finds that insufficient information is available to substantiate the threats previously identified to the species. Although this species has a restricted range and threats can be identified to a portion of one of its two major population centers, the Service believes these threats are being minimized by the actions of the San Bernardino National Forest in managing grazing activities. Also, the lack of progress on proposed development in the Pine Meadow area diminishes threats to that population. If future development and grazing threats re-occur, the Service may revisit the need to list this species and repropose Arabis johnstonii, if necessary. Based on the lack of such evidence the Service concludes that listing of this species is not warranted.

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this rule is available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2730 Loker Avenue West, Carlsbad, California, 92008.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary D. Wallace, Ph.D., Botanist, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at the above address (760/431-9440).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

On August 2, 1995, the Service published in the Federal Register (60 FR 39337) a proposal to list seven plant species from the mountains of southern California as endangered or threatened. Included among these seven taxa was Arabis johnstonii (Johnston's rock-cress), the subject taxon of this withdrawal. Arabis johnstonii was proposed as a threatened species in the 1995 proposal. Arabis johnstonii is a member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) and was described by Philip A. Munz (1932) based on a collection made in May 1922 by Munz and Ivan M. Johnston at Kenworthy, San Jacinto Mountains, Riverside County, California. This plant is a herbaceous perennial with a basal rosette of linear-oblanceolate, entire, densely pubescent leaves from which the flower stalk arises. The petals are purple and 8 to 10 millimeters (mm) (0.32 to 0.4 inches (in)) long. The elongate fruits (siliques) are erect to spreading, 3 to 5 centimeters (cm) (1 to 2 in) long. This species

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flowers f rom February to June. Arabis johnstonii is distinguished from other members of the genus in the area by its long, narrow fruits, and narrow, linear-oblanceolate, densely gray-hairy leaves (Rollins 1993).

Arabis johnstonii is found in chaparral and pine forest habitats from 1,400 to 2,150 meters (m) (4,500 to 7,050 feet (ft)) in the southern San Jacinto Mountains. Two distinct population centers are known, one in the vicinity of Garner Valley and the other approximately 6.5 kilometers (km) (4 miles (mi)) to the east along the Desert Divide. This species occurs on private lands and lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service (FS).

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

In the August 2, 1995, proposed rule (60 FR 39337) and associated notifications, all interested parties were requested to submit factual reports or information to be considered in making a final listing determination. The comment period closed on October 9, 1995. Appropriate Federal and State agencies, county and city governments, scientific organizations, and other interested parties were contacted and requested to comment. Individual newspaper notices of the proposed rule were published in the San Diego Union-Tribune and The Press- Enterprise on August 10, 1995. No request for a public hearing was received.

During the comment period, the Service received two written comments, both of which opposed the proposed listing. Both comments related only to the taxa that occur in the Big Bear Valley region of the San Bernardino Mountains, California. No comments specific to the Arabis johnstonii were submitted. Specific comments on the other species proposed with Arabis johnstonii and general comments relevant to the proposed rule are discussed in a separate Federal Register final rule, which is published concurrently with this withdrawal. The Service solicited peer review of the proposed rule from three independent reviewers, however, no responses were received.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

The Service must consider five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act when determining whether to list a species. These factors, and their application to the Service's decision to withdraw the proposal to list Arabis johnstonii (Munz) (Johnston's rock-cress), are as follows:

  1. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range. The proposed rule (60 FR 39337) identified residential and recreational development, and destruction and degradation of its habitat by livestock in the Lake Hemet and Garner Valley areas as threats to Arabis johnstonii. The Service is aware, however, of only two reports to substantiate these claims. One of these reports (Cole 1979) identifies development as a threat at only one of four localities, the other three of which are in, or adjacent to, the San Bernardino National Forest. Furthermore, this report identifies a need for more field work to determine the present range and endangerment of Arabis johnstonii (Cole 1979).

    Berg and Krantz (1982) conducted surveys a few years later on the San Bernardino National Forest and lumped the four localities of Cole (1979) into two, one in Garner Valley and the second along the ridgeline known as Desert Divide several kilometers to the east. At the time, it was noted that residential development in Pine Meadow was likely to extirpate that portion of the Garner Valley population. However, the proposed development in Pine Meadow has not occurred and the Service (B. McMillan, USFWS, pers. comm. 1997) is not aware of any progress toward development in this area. Berg and Krantz (1982) also noted that intensive grazing by cattle would have an adverse impact on this species due to increased competition from weedy species as a result of trampling of its clay substrate, which is particularly vulnerable when it is saturated. This is apparently the only available documentation on the significance of cattle grazing as a potential threat to Arabis johnstonii. Berg and Krantz (1982) also reported, however, that both populations were relatively stable at the time. Based on their reported mean population densities and total area, a population of over 500,000 plants were in existence. Moreover, in a response to a request for information, one of the authors indicated that he had not visited the area since 1982, and stated only that ``an endangerment status of threatened may be supported by this [1982] evidence'' (Tim Krantz, in litt., 1993). Based on further evaluation and clarification of the information, the threats are not as significant as previously believed. For example, the intensive grazing, noted by Berg and Krantz (1982) as a potential threat, has not taken place; the development in Pine Meadow, which was anticipated in the proposed rule, has not materialized; and finally, the lack of corroborative evidence of these threats over the last 15 years has led the Service to determine that the threats do not warrant listing. The threat of trampling individual plants, as stated in the proposed rule, is not widespread. Cattle are generally present in meadow areas, whereas this species tends to occur at dryer sites outside of the meadow proper.

  2. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes. Not applicable.

  3. Disease or predation. Not applicable.

  4. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. Efforts by the San Bernardino National Forest to manage the grazing allotments are minimizing the threats to Arabis johnstonii. The Service anticipates the cooperation of the FS if adjustments to their management practices prove necessary.

  5. Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. Not applicable.

    Finding and Withdrawal

    After a thorough review and consideration of all information available the Service has determined that listing of Arabis johnstonii as threatened is not warranted at this time. The Service has carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial information available in the development of this withdrawal notice. Residential and recreational development appear limited to one portion of the Garner Valley and, therefore, unlikely to have a significant impact on the species. All other populations, when last visited, were described as stable. While excessive trampling by cattle may pose a potential threat in some areas, there is no evidence that this threat has been realized, or that it is likely to have a significant impact. The threat from livestock trampling stated in the proposed rule is not widespread. Cattle generally graze in meadow sites, whereas Arabis tends to occur at dryer sites out of the meadow proper. The FS has proposed reducing grazing impacts when they are in evidence by altering management practices. In addition, the threat of proposed development noted in the proposed rule has not occurred. The current level of threats to this species do not warrant listing. The Service finds, therefore, that there is no substantial evidence available to indicate that Arabis johnstonii is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The

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    other six plant taxa included in the proposed rule with A. johnstonii are discussed in a separate Federal Register final rule published concurrently with this withdrawal.

    References Cited

    A list of all references cited herein is available upon request from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).

    Author: The primary author of this withdrawal notice is Gary Wallace, Carlsbad Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).

    Authority

    The authority for this action is section 4(b)(6)(B)(ii) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: September 1, 1998. Jamie Rappaport Clark, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    [FR Doc. 98-24503Filed9-11-98; 8:45 am]

    BILLING CODE 4310-55-P