[PCA] Public Comments: Proposed Threatened Status for Penstemon grahamii (Graham's beardtongue) With Critical Habitat

Patricia_DeAngelis@fws.gov Patricia_DeAngelis at fws.gov
Thu Jan 19 12:49:01 CST 2006


Public comments are welcome until March 20, 2006.  Read below for details
on submitting comments.

For more information on Penstemon grahamii (Graham's beardtongue), search:
>NatureServe: http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/
>PLANTS database: http://plants.usda.gov/

http://epa.gov/EPA-SPECIES/2006/January/Day-19/
=======================================================================


[Federal Register: January 19, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 12)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Page 3157-3196]
>From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr19ja06-25]
[[Page 3158]]

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

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17
RIN 1018-AU49

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Threatened Status
for Penstemon grahamii (Graham's beardtongue) With Critical Habitat

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Proposed rule.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to
determine threatened status for Penstemon grahamii (Graham's
beardtongue), a plant species from Colorado and Utah, under the
authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). P.
grahamii exists in a series of small populations that extend in a
narrow band from Raven Ridge west of the town of Rangely in Rio Blanco
County, Colorado, westward to the vicinity of Sand Wash near the point
where Carbon, Duchesne, and Uintah Counties meet in Utah's Uinta Basin.
Threats to the species include degradation of the species' habitat by
oil and gas exploration, drilling and field development, and tar sand
and oil shale mining. Off-road vehicle (ORV) use, overutilization by
domestic and wild grazers, and overutilization for horticultural use
may also affect some populations. These threats, in combination with
small population sizes and limited distribution, result in species
vulnerability to natural and human-caused stochastic events. This
proposal, if made final, would implement Federal protection provided by
the Act. In addition, we propose to designate 3,503.68 acres (2,102
hectares) as critical habitat for P. grahamii in five units in Rio
Blanco County, Colorado, and Duchesne and Uintah Counties, Utah.

DATES: Comments from all interested parties must be received by March
20, 2006. Public hearing requests must be received by March 6, 2006.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and
materials concerning this proposal by any one of several methods:
    1. You may submit written comments and information to Henry Maddux,
Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah Field Office,
2369 West Orton Circle, West Valley, Utah 84119.
    2. You may hand-deliver written comments to our Office, at the
above address.
    3. You may send comments by e-mail to <A HREF="
mailto:fw6_penstemongrahamii at fws.gov

 and Wildlife Service 2005;
Shultz and Mutz 1979; Neese and Smith 1982). The BLM designated the
East Tavaputs Plateau and the Southeast Uinta Basin as Oil Shale Lease
Areas in the 1970s. These lease areas cover 60 of 109 P. grahamii
occurrences (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2005). In addition, BLM
designated the ``PR'' Springs Tar Sand Area to identify shallow
bituminous sand deposits within P. grahamii habitat. The PR Springs tar
sand area covers 54 of 109 P. grahamii occurrences (49 percent) (U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service 2005). In total, 96 of 109 (90 percent) P.
grahamii occurrences are located in high-value oil shale or bituminous
(tar sand) areas, comprising approximately 5,700 of the species 6,200
individuals (92 percent of the total known population) (U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service 2005).
    The entire range of P. grahamii is also underlain with deposits of
traditional hydrocarbon resources, primarily natural gas. However, as
previously described, active wells are only located at five P. grahamii
occurrence locations. Thirty-nine active wells are within 1 mile (1.6
km) of P. grahamii occupied habitat. Future oil and gas development
within P. grahamii habitat is likely. Oil and gas development,
especially within the PR Springs tar sand area, will likely increase
particularly due to the new Energy Policy Act of 2005 stipulations that
will allow oil and gas development separate from tar sands extraction.
The combined oil and gas and tar sand leasing provisions in place
before the Energy Policy Act of 2005 had effectively removed
traditional oil and gas leasing from significant portions of Federal
lands in P. grahamii's largest population in the Seep Ridge population
unit and in the southern portion of the species Evacuation Creek
population unit. Those restrictions are now removed. Of the 109
occurrences of P. grahamii, 69 (63 percent) are currently leased for


de their designated critical habitat
areas may still result in jeopardy findings in some cases. Similarly,
critical habitat designations made on the basis of the best available
information at the time of designation will not control the direction
and substance of future recovery plans, habitat conservation plans, or
other species conservation planning efforts if new information
available to these planning efforts calls for a different outcome.

Methods

    As required by section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we use the best
scientific data available in determining areas that contain the
features that are essential to the conservation of Penstemon grahamii
(Shultz and Mutz 1979, Neese and Smith 1982, Borland 1987, Franklin
1992, 1995, Colorado Natural Heritage Program 2005, Utah Natural
Heritage Program 2005). We do not propose any areas outside the
geographical area presently occupied by the species.
    We have also reviewed available information that pertains to the
habitat requirements of this species (Shultz and Mutz 1979, Neese and
Smith 1982, Lewinsohn et al. 2005).

Prudency Determination

    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and implementing
regulations (50 CFR 424.12) require that, to the maximum extent prudent
and determinable, we designate critical habitat at the time the species
is determined to be endangered or threatened. Our regulations (50 CFR
424.12(a)(1)) state that the designation of critical habitat is not
prudent when one or both of the following situations exist: (1) The
species is threatened by taking or other human activity, and
identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the
degree of threat to the species, or (2) such designation of critical
habitat would not be beneficial to the species.
    In the last few years, a series of court decisions have overturned
our determinations that designation of critical habitat would not be
prudent for a variety of species (e.g., Natural Resources Defense
Council v. U.S. Department of the Interior, 113 F.3d 1121 (9th Cir.
1997); Conservation Council for Hawaii v. Babbitt, 2 F. Supp. 2d 1280
(D. Hawaii 1998)). Based on the standards applied in those judicial
opinions, we have examined the question of whether critical habitat for
P. grahamii would be prudent.
    There is documentation of commercial and private collection to this
species and that activity is identified as a potential threat to the
species (see factor ``B. Overutilization for Commercial Recreational,
Scientific, or Educational Purposes'' in the ``Summary of Factors
Affecting the Species'' above). However, we believe the significance of
this collection to the viability of the species population is not
known. Therefore this threat, if any, to P. grahamii is outweighed by
the conservation benefits derived from the designation of critical
habitat for this species. Additionally, much of the habitat where P.
grahamii occurs is under Federal land management where the threat of
collection should be reduced by enforcement of section 9 of the Act.
Consistent with recent case law, we must weigh the benefits in
proposing to designate critical habitat for P. grahamii against the
harm which could be caused by disclosure of their location. We find
that these benefits outweigh the risk of increased collection because
the locations are already known and available to the public.
    Although we make a detailed determination of the habitat needs of a
listed species during the recovery planning process, the Act has no
provision to delay designation of critical habitat until such time as a
recovery plan is prepared. We reviewed the available information
pertaining to habitat characteristics where this species is located.
This and other information represent the best scientific and commercial
data available, and led us to conclude that the designation of critical
habitat is both prudent and determinable for Penstemon grahamii.

Primary Constituent Elements

    In accordance with section 3(5)(A)(i) of the Act and regulations at
50 CFR 424.12(b), in determining which areas to designate as critical
habitat, we must consider those physical and biological features
(primary constituent elements) essential to the conservation of the
species. These primary constituent elements include, but are not
limited to, space for individual and population growth and for normal
behavior; food, water, or other nutritional or physiological
requirements; cover or shelter; sites for breeding, reproduction, or
rearing of offspring; and habitats that are protected from disturbance
or are representative of the historical geographical and ecological
distributions of a species. The areas we are proposing to designate as
critical habitat for Penstemon grahamii provide the primary constituent
elements noted below.
    We determined the specific primary constituent element for
Penstemon grahamii based on data and studies on its general habitat and
life history requirements as described in Shultz and Mutz 1979; Neese
and Smith 1982; Borland 1987; and Franklin 1993, 1995, Colorado Natural
Heritage Program 2005, Utah Natural Heritage Program 2005, and current
research in progress by Lewinsohn and Tepedino (pers. comm. 2005).
    Penstemon grahamii is narrowly endemic to highly basic soils
derived from the Green River formation. These soils provide the root
microhabitat essential for the species growth and reproduction. These


agement,
protection, or enhancement actions will continue into the foreseeable
future. Each review is particular to the species and the plan, and some
plans may be adequate for some species and inadequate for others.
    The Raven Ridge ACEC sets out goals for a management plan for the
area, but to date BLM has not completed formal management plans for
these areas. If a plan is finalized prior to our final determination,
we will consider whether it provides special management and we may
exclude these areas if we determine that no additional special
management is required.
    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that critical habitat shall be
designated, and revised, on the basis of the best available scientific
data after taking into consideration the economic impact, national
security impact, and any other relevant impact, of specifying any
particular area as critical habitat. The Secretary may exclude an area
from critical habitat if [s]he determines that the benefits of such
exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such area as part of the
critical habitat, unless [s]he determines, based on the best scientific
data available, that the failure to designate such area as critical
habitat will result in the extinction of the species. In making that
determination, the Secretary is afforded broad discretion and the
Congressional record is clear that in making a determination under the
section the Secretary has discretion as to which factors and how much
weight will be given to any factor.
    Under section 4(b)(2), in considering whether to exclude a
particular area from the designation, we must identify the benefits of
including the area in the designation, identify the benefits of
excluding the area from the designation, and determine whether the
benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion. If an
exclusion is contemplated, then we must determine whether excluding the
area would result in the extinction of the species. We are not
proposing or considering any exclusions under section 4(b)(2).
    The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Pub.
L. No. 108-136) amended the ESA to limit areas eligible for designation
as critical habitat. Specifically, section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the ESA (16
U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(B)(i)) now provides: ``The Secretary shall not
designate as critical habitat any lands or other geographical areas
owned or controlled by the Department of Defense, or designated for its
use, that are subject to an integrated natural resources management
plan prepared under section 101 of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a), if
the Secretary determines in writing that such plan provides a benefit
to the species for which critical habitat is proposed for
designation.'' We consult with the military on the development and
implementation of INRMPs for installations with listed species. No
military lands are included within the areas proposed for designation
as critical habitat, therefore no lands will be subject to non-
inclusion under the authority of 4(a)(3) of the Act.

Economic Analysis

    An analysis of the economic impacts of proposing critical habitat
for the Penstemon grahamii is being prepared. We will announce the
availability of the draft economic analysis as soon as it is completed,
at which time we will seek public review and comment. At that time,
copies of the draft economic analysis will be by contacting the Utah
Field Office directly (see ADDRESSES section).

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy published in the Federal
Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert
opinions of at least three appropriate and independent specialists
regarding this proposed rule. The purpose of such review is to ensure
that our critical habitat designation is based on scientifically sound
data, assumptions, and analyses. We will send these peer reviewers
copies of this proposed rule 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 regarding the proposed designation of critical habitat.
    We will consider all comments and information received during the
comment period on this proposed rule during preparation of a final
rulemaking. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this proposal.

Public Hearings

    The Act provides for one or more public hearings on this proposal,
if requested. Requests must be received within 45 days of the date of
publication of the proposal in the Federal Register. Such requests must
be made in writing and be addressed to the Field Supervisor at the
address in the ADDRESSES section above.

Clarity of the Rule

    Executive Order 12866 requires each agency to write regulations
that are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make
this rule easier to understand including answers to questions such as
the following: (1) Are the requirements in the rule clearly stated? (2)
Does the rule contain technical language or jargon that interferes with
its clarity? (3) Does the format of the rule (grouping and order of
sections, use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) aid or reduce its
clarity? (4) Would the rule be easier to understand if it were divided
into more (but shorter) sections? (5) Is the description of the rule in
the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of the preamble helpful in
understanding the proposed rule? What else could we do to make the rule
easier to understand?
    Send a copy of any comments that concern how we could make this
rule easier to understand to Office of Regulatory Affairs, Department
of the Interior, Room 7229, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20240.
You also may e-mail the comments to this address: <A HREF="
mailto:Exsec at ios.doi.gov

398421; 631848, 4397357; 631925, 4397073;
631886, 4397422; 631864, 4396706; 631889, 4397548; 631906, 4397561;
631765, 4397618; 631768, 4397723; 631904, 4397401; 632047, 4396473;
632617, 4396178; 632598, 4396272; 632614, 4396327; 632421, 4396412;
632400, 4396421; 632372, 4396501; 632343, 4396456; 632296, 4396464;
632233, 4396525; 632233, 4396526; 632213, 4396565; 631918, 4396857;
632152, 4396499; 631907, 4397118; 632017, 4396501; 632017, 4396522;
631995, 4396521; 631915, 4396594; 631927, 4396637; 631664, 4398167;
631890, 4396793; 631770, 4397766; 631881, 4396890; 631874, 4396921;
631832, 4397112; 631868, 4397135; 632175, 4396525; 632241, 4398307;
631700, 4398124; 632117, 4398215; 632142, 4398136; 632190, 4397985;
632189, 4397914; 632232, 4397872; 632223, 4398045; 632248, 4398089;
632283, 4398085; 632227, 4398138; 632194, 4398169; 632083, 4398381;
632155, 4398324; 632058, 4398427; 632256, 4398380; 632244, 4398408;
632210, 4398383; 632203, 4398444; 632250, 4398498; 632378, 4398543;
632390, 4398524; 632401, 4398506; 632390, 4398492; 632870, 4397292;
632702, 4396177; 632155, 4398229; 631882, 4398073; 631756, 4397879;
631795, 4397912; 631831, 4397905; 631825, 4397927; 631748, 4398028;
631695, 4398129; 631684, 4398282; 631720, 4398284; 631727, 4398231;
631767, 4398276; 631805, 4398273; 632076, 4398275; 631903, 4398133;
631739, 4397804; 631920, 4397970; 631984, 4397996; 631977, 4398109;
631964, 4398134; 631936, 4398191; 631865, 4398258; 631925, 4398313;
631896, 4398460; 631988, 4398512; 632018, 4398530; 632046, 4398473;
631921, 4398183; 632982, 4397886; 632759, 4397194; 632635, 4398292;
632682, 4398313; 632715, 4398307; 632747, 4398293; 632797, 4398237;
632839, 4398189; 632821, 4398170; 632839, 4398148; 632893, 4398080;
632647, 4398448; 632926, 4397885; 632615, 4398513; 632989, 4397745;
632991, 4397706; 632959, 4397654; 632971, 4397540; 632958, 4397492;
632895, 4397429; 632948, 4397398; 632887, 4397342; 632828, 4397287;
632811, 4397268; 632769, 4397221; 632952, 4397958; 632410, 4398141;


 4401900; 652668, 4401869;
652654, 4401848; 652659, 4401822; 652712, 4401809; 652648, 4401796;
652609, 4401815; 652968, 4401900; 652742, 4401878.
    (vi) Sub-Unit C06: Uintah County, Utah; within T12S R24E Sec 22
NE\1/4\SW\1/4\, S\1/2\SW\1/4\, SW\1/4\SE\1/4\, Sec 27 NE\1/4\NW\1/4\.
Land bounded by the following UTM Zone 12 NAD 83 coordinates (meters E,
meters N): 652611, 4402301; 652626, 4402294; 652627, 4402294; 652528,
4402327; 652645, 4402149; 652416, 4402328; 652674, 4402197; 652452,
4402311; 652416, 4402328; 652350, 4402288; 652377, 4402303; 652393,
4401942; 652594, 4402156; 652355, 4402306; 652370, 4402133; 652443,
4401828; 652400, 4401838; 652561, 4402237; 652424, 4401951; 652399,
4401887; 652339, 4401997; 652337, 4402020; 652335, 4402058; 652337,
4402059; 652359, 4402083; 652462, 4401835; 652384, 4402119; 652389,
4401863; 652335, 4402131; 652288, 4402127; 652279, 4402150; 652292,
4402183; 652326, 4402187; 652333, 4402217; 652338, 4402235; 652388,
4402239; 652345, 4402274; 652391, 4402250; 652363, 4402098; 652909,
4402141; 652537, 4402244; 652568, 4402182; 652554, 4402114; 652612,
4402083; 652661, 4402119; 652721, 4402106; 652738, 4402092; 652855,
4402156; 652466, 4401861; 652812, 4401986; 652740, 4401972; 652705,
4401965; 652578, 4401883; 652757, 4402075; 652554, 4401855; 652698,
4401940; 652577, 4401891; 652574, 4401914; 652605, 4401923; 652601,
4401949; 652624, 4401953; 652618, 4401909; 652641, 4401898; 652534,
4401867.
    (vii) Sub-Unit C07: Uintah County, Utah; within T12S R24E Sec 21
NE\1/4\SE\1/4\, SE\1/4\NE\1/4\, Sec 22 N\1/2\SW\1/4\, NW\1/4\SE\1/4\,
S\1/2\NW\1/4\, SW\1/4\NE\1/4\. Land bounded by the following UTM Zone
12 NAD 83 coordinates (meters E, meters N): 652245, 4402444; 651891,
4402949; 651976, 4402952; 651934, 4402988; 651918, 4403028; 651914,
4403029; 651858, 4403043; 651834, 4403031; 651831, 4402989; 651863,
4402945; 652741, 4402774; 652577, 4402688; 652728, 4402540; 652774,
4402569; 652801, 4402634; 652800, 4402700; 652697, 4402500; 652764,
4402800; 652656, 4402477; 652722, 4402782; 652716, 4402784; 652680,
4402767; 652657, 4402792; 652628, 4402780; 652451, 4402371; 652797,
4402790; 652504, 4402499; 652192, 4402388; 652474, 4402404; 652499,
4402434; 652478, 4402464; 652478, 4402555; 652699, 4402522; 652486,
4402504; 652560, 4402694; 652515, 4402524; 652524, 4402515; 652515,
4402448; 652533, 4402416; 652617, 4402484; 652636, 4402488; 652493,
4402558; 652054, 4402683; 652581, 4402695; 652177, 4402673; 652089,
4402552; 652052, 4402541; 652065, 4402586; 652211, 4402644; 652058,
4402676; 652188, 4402615; 652046, 4402699; 652070, 4402738; 652097,
4402749; 652109, 4402806; 652025, 4402853; 651976, 4402952; 652046,
4402637; 652326, 4402689; 652548, 4402700; 652484, 4402693; 652483,
4402693; 652483, 4402693; 652481, 4402720; 652203, 4402677; 652340,
4402706; 652411, 4402385; 652323, 4402685; 652288, 4402643; 652232,
4402533; 652198, 4402529; 652189, 4402567; 652202, 4402609; 652461,
4402736; 652478, 4402387; 652043, 4402443; 651970, 4402511; 651936,
4402516; 651925, 4402526; 651895, 4402552; 651879, 4402597; 651837,
4402593; 651829, 4402617; 652082, 4402451; 651879, 4402654; 651849,
4402646; 651898, 4402682; 651846, 4402715; 651850, 4402738; 651885,
4402755; 651860, 4402771; 651859, 4402795; 651898, 4402820; 651879,
4402826;

[[Page 3187]]

651877, 4402863; 651902, 4402877; 652411, 4402418; 651897, 4402680;
652157, 4402346; 652078, 4402428; 652185, 4402327; 652242, 4402347;
652278, 4402328; 652322, 4402348; 652330, 4402348; 652383, 4402417;
652162, 4402361; 652273, 4402494; 652099, 4402403; 652150, 4402411;
652157, 4402393; 652364, 4402345; 652274, 4402448; 652239, 4402393;
652287, 4402503; 652286, 4402463; 652304, 4402435; 652271, 4402431;
652235, 4402408.
    (viii) Sub-Unit C08: Uintah County, Utah; within T12S R24E Sec 22
NE\1/4\SW\1/4\, NW\1/4\SE\1/4\. Land bounded by the following UTM Zone
12 NAD 83 coordinates (meters E, meters N): 652916, 4402452; 652705,
4402459; 652980, 4402586; 652978, 4402510; 652956, 4402446; 652710,
4402507; 652980, 4402586; 652963, 4402598; 652843, 4402560; 652800,
4402569; 652730, 4402408; 652728, 4402516; 652916, 4402475; 652692,
4402473; 652709, 4402419; 652753, 4402397; 652778, 4402412; 652803,
4402485; 652881, 4402488; 652788, 4402545.
    (ix) Sub-Unit C09: Uintah County, Utah; within T12S R24E Sec 22
E\1/2\SW\1/4\, W\1/2\SE\1/4\. Land bounded by the following UTM Zone 12
NAD 83 coordinates (meters E, meters N): 652492, 4402342; 652855,
4402299; 652486, 4402357; 653001, 4402366; 652579, 4402326; 652658,
4402295; 652733, 4402295; 652755, 4402297; 652780, 4402300; 653001,
4402366; 652815, 4402287; 652618, 4402309; 652878, 4402307; 652907,
4402301; 652914, 4402299; 652914, 4402301; 652929, 4402353; 652975,
4402344; 652510, 4402389; 652786, 4402298; 652808, 4402461; 652997,
4402393; 652974, 4402422; 652930, 4402427; 652678, 4402288; 652829,
4402477; 652538, 4402380; 652818, 4402442; 652786, 4402422; 652779,
4402370; 652745, 4402365; 652569, 4402396; 652728, 4402402; 652688,
4402411; 652685, 4402440; 652637, 4402438; 652626, 4402423; 652574,
4402430; 652731, 4402396; 652868, 4402472.
    (x) Sub-Unit C10: Uintah County, Utah; within T12S R24E Sec 23
NW\1/4\. Land bounded by the following UTM Zone 12 NAD 83 coordinates
(meters E, meters N): 653923, 4403405; 653984, 4403405; 654000,
4403346; 653973, 4403240; 653963, 4403152; 653982, 4403128; 653987,
4403121; 653967, 4403087; 653985, 4403064; 653834, 4403272; 653914,
4403387; 653987, 4403082; 653845, 4403125; 653858, 4403317; 653902,
4403365; 653911, 4403046; 653952, 4403043; 653841, 4403130; 653825,
4403206; 653880, 4403284; 653985, 4403064; 653868, 4403352; 653921,
4403045.
    (xi) Sub-Unit C11: Uintah County, Utah; within T12S R24E Sec 23
E\1/2\NW\1/4\. Land bounded by the following UTM Zone 12 NAD 83
coordinates (meters E, meters N): 653994, 4403223; 654013, 4403376;
654041, 4403276; 654017, 4403287; 654006, 4403319; 654051, 4403380;
654094, 4403424; 654122, 4403484; 654223, 4403407; 654083, 4403079;


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