[Federal Register: December 29, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 249)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 72993-73003]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF86

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed 
Endangered Status for Ambrosia pumila (San Diego Ambrosia) from 
Southern California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, propose to list 
Ambrosia pumila (San Diego ambrosia) as endangered under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). This plant is restricted to San 
Diego and Riverside Counties, California and Baja California, Mexico, 
from Colonet to Lake Chapala. Ambrosia pumila is primarily restricted 
to flat or sloping grasslands, often along valley bottoms or areas 
adjacent to vernal pools. This species is threatened by the following; 
destruction, fragmentation, and degradation of habitat by recreational 
and commercial development; highway construction and maintenance; 
construction and maintenance activities associated with a utility 
easement; competition from non-native plants; trampling by horses and 
humans; off-road vehicle (ORV) use; and inadequate regulatory 
mechanisms. This proposed rule, if made final, would extend protection 
under the Act to Ambrosia pumila.

DATES: Comments from all interested parties must be received by 
February 28, 2000. Requests for public hearings must be received by 
February 14, 2000.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and

[[Page 72994]]

materials concerning this proposal by any one of several methods.
    You may submit written comments to the Deputy Field Supervisor, 
Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2730 
Loker Avenue West, Carlsbad, California 92008.
    You may send comments by e-mail to ambrosia__pr@fws.gov. Please 
submit these comments as an ASCII file and avoid the use of special 
characters and any form of encryption. Please also include ``Attn: [RIN 
number]'' and your name and return address in your e-mail message. If 
you do not receive a confirmation from the system that we have received 
your e-mail message, contact us directly by calling our Carlsbad Fish 
and Wildlife Office at phone number 760-431-9440.
    You may hand-deliver comments to our Carlsbad office at 2730 Loker 
Avenue West, Carlsbad, California.
    Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in the preparation of this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary D. Wallace, Botanist, at the 
above address (telephone 760/431-9440; facsimile 760/918-0638).



    Ambrosia is a genus of 35 to 50 wind-pollinated species of annuals 
and perennials in the Asteraceae (sunflower) family. The perennial taxa 
range from woody shrubs to herbaceous rhizomatous (possessing 
underground stems) taxa. Payne (1976) notes that self-pollination and 
self-fertility contribute strong inbreeding, as does seed longevity. 
Members of the genus occur predominantly in the Western Hemisphere, 
especially North America. Species are generally found in arid or 
semiarid areas.
    Ambrosia pumila (San Diego ambrosia), was originally described as 
Franseria pumila by Thomas Nuttall (Nuttall 1840) based on a specimen 
he collected near San Diego in 1836. Delpino (1871) transferred the 
species to another genus he erected based on a character of the fruit 
and published the combination Hemiambrosia pumila (Nutt.) Delpino. Asa 
Gray (1882), after seeing specimens of the plant with fruits, decided 
it was closely related to members of the genus Ambrosia and published 
the currently accepted combination, Ambrosia pumila (Nutt.) A. Gray. 
This has been recognized by current systematic and floristic treatments 
(Payne 1963; Munz 1935, 1974; Munz and Keck 1959; Ferris 1960; 
Beauchamp 1986; Payne 1993).
    Ambrosia pumila is an herbaceous perennial arising from a branched 
system of rhizome-like roots. This rhizomatous perennial habit results 
in groupings of aerial stems, often termed clones, that are, or at 
least were at one time, all attached to one another. References to 
clones derive from the presence of currently separated specimens whose 
interconnections have degenerated leaving genetically identical but 
organically separate individuals. The aerial stems sprout in early 
spring after the winter rains and deteriorate in late summer. 
Therefore, the plant may not be evident from late summer to early 
spring. The aerial stems are 0.5 to 3 decimeter (dm) (2 to 12 inches 
(in)) rarely to 5 dm (20 in) tall and densely covered with short hairs. 
The leaves are 3 to 4 times pinnately divided into many small segments 
and are covered with short soft, gray-white, appressed hairs. This 
species is monoecious, with separate male and female flowers on the 
same plant, and is wind-pollinated. The male flower clusters (heads) 
are borne on terminal racemes, and the female flower clusters (heads) 
are in the axils of the leaves below the male inflorescences. The 
fruiting heads are enclosed by cup-like structures that have no spines, 
although some reports note a few vestigial spines. Ambrosia pumila may 
be distinguished from other species of Ambrosia in the area by its 
leaves which are twice divided, involucres (cup-like structures) 
lacking hooked spines, and lack of longer stiff hairs on the stems and 
leaves. This species flowers from May through October.
    Several factors make it difficult to determine the extent of an 
individual plant. The species is rhizomatous, plants produce a few to 
many aerial stems each year, the rhizomatous connections among the 
aerial stems may deteriorate over time resulting in physically separate 
but genetically identical individuals, and plants may have 
intermingling rhizomes resulting in intermixed aerial stems that appear 
identical. Because this species is a clonal plant, the numbers of 
genetically different individuals in an occurrence, especially small 
occurrences, could be very low. It is possible that an occurrence that 
supports even 1,000 aerial stems may consist of very few plants. This 
suggests that the low genetic diversity within the smaller occurrences 
may relegate these occurrences to extinction (Barrett & Kohn 1991). 
Seven of the 13 extant occurrences fall into this category of 
reportedly supporting 1,000 or fewer aerial stems. It is also possible 
that even the largest reported number of aerial stems (10,000) may 
represent fewer than 100 plants. Some surveys have reported numbers of 
plants, when in fact, only numbers of aerial stems have been counted, 
and the actual number of separate plants is not determinable (CNDDB 
    Ambrosia pumila is found on upper terraces of rivers and drainages 
as well as in open grasslands, openings in coastal sage scrub habitat, 
and dry lake beds. The species may also be found in disturbed sites 
such as fuel breaks and roadways. Associated native plant taxa include 
Distichlis spicata (saltgrass), Orcuttia californica (California Orcutt 
grass), Baccharis salicifolia (Mule-fat), and Eremocarpus setigerus 
(Turkey-mullein). Populations of Ambrosia pumila occur on Federal, 
State, local government, and private lands in western San Diego County, 
western Riverside County, and in the northern state of Baja California, 
Estado de Baja California, Mexico.
    This species has been reported from 49 occurrences in the United 
States (CNDDB 1999). Four were combined with other occurrences, six 
were based on misidentified specimens, and two that were based on old 
collections have not been documented since 1936 (CNDDB 1999). Three 
occurrences consist of transplanted plants from other occurrences that 
were subsequently partially or totally eliminated (CNDDB 1999). There 
are, therefore, 34 verifiable native reported occurrences of this 
species. Twenty of these have been extirpated since the 1930's, nearly 
all by commercial development and activities associated with highway 
construction. One occurrence, with a single stem in 1996, is considered 
non-viable due to the small size of the occurrence and the high level 
of disturbance of the site (CNDDB 1999). Subtracting this non-viable 
occurrence, there are currently 13 extant native occurrences of this 
species. Two recent occurrences (CNDDB 1999; T. Stewart, CDFG in 
litt.1999) are incorporated here into previously known occurrences. 
Eleven occurrences are in San Diego County, and two are in western 
Riverside County.

San Diego County

    In San Diego County, two occurrences are protected on the 
Sweetwater River watershed in the recently established San Diego 
National Wildlife Refuge (SDNWR). One of these was reported to be 0.6 
hectares (ha) (0.25 acres(ac)) in size in 1996, and 0.15 ha (0.06 ac) 
in 1998 (Julie Vanderwier, USFWS in litt.1998). Numbers of aerial stems 

[[Page 72995]]

not been reported in the various surveys of this site. The 1998 survey 
indicated an unknown number of stems at this site and additionally a 
few plants nearby to the northeast. These few plants are included here 
in the earlier known occurrence. The second occurrence on the San Diego 
National Wildlife Refuge was reported to support 50 plants in 1996. It 
must be pointed out that throughout this discussion reports that 
include numbers of ``plants'' are, in fact, indicating only the numbers 
of aerial stems. It is not possible to determine the extent of a single 
genetically distinct plant from the numbers of aerial stems because a 
plant may consist of numerous aerial stems produced by interconnected 
underground rhizomes. These rhizomes may deteriorate over time, 
resulting in physically separate but genetically identical plants. A 
survey in 1998 (Vanderwier in litt.1998) reported that this site 
covered 0.07 ha (0.03 ac). This same survey discovered a large number 
of individuals just to the northeast in a 0.7-ha (1.75-ac) site, 
considered here as an extension of the second occurrence. Another 
occurrence on the Sweetwater River watershed is in El Cajon on a 0.02-
ha (0.06-ac) vacant lot owned by California Department of 
Transportation (Caltrans) which supported 10,000 stems in 1997 
(Vanderwier in litt.1997). In 1998 an additional occurrence was found 
in El Cajon on a group of vacant lots of 1.9 ha (4.8 ac) supporting 
6,500 plants (aerial stems) (CNDDB 1999).
    Three occurrences occur on the San Diego River watershed. The 
largest one is in Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP) managed by the 
City of San Diego, and on adjacent private land. That portion of the 
occurrence on MTRP land managed by the City of San Diego occupies 13.6 
ha (34 ac) and supported 1,500 stems in 1994. The adjacent private 
lands portion of this occurrence is afforded protections under the City 
of San Diego's Subarea Plan of the Multiple Species Conservation 
Program (MSCP) (City of San Diego 1997). The second occurrence on the 
San Diego River watershed and also in MTRP supports an unknown number 
of individuals (CNDDB 1999). Both occurrences in MTRP are afforded 
protected under provisions of City of San Diego's Subarea Plan (City of 
San Diego 1997). The third occurrence on the San Diego River watershed 
occurs at Gillespie Field, where there are small remnants of native 
populations scattered near the south side of the airfield. The current 
status of these remnants is unknown.
    The four remaining occurrences in San Diego County may eventually 
be protected under provisions of the Multiple Habitats Conservation 
Program (MHCP) or the City of San Diego's north segment MSCP Subarea 
Plan. Three are small occurrences on the San Luis Rey River watershed 
near Bonsall--1) Some plants are presumed extant in a fenced area on 
Caltrans lands, and some are on private land. However, the current 
number of aerial stems or the area of this occurrence is not known; (2) 
Another occurrence in the area is 2.6 ha (6.6 ac) in size and supported 
about 700 plants (aerial stems) in 1996; and (3) the third occurrence 
on the San Luis Rey River watershed is on jointly private and Caltrans-
owned lands near Bonsall and reportedly supported 2,000 to 3,000 plants 
(aerial stems) in 1997 (CNDDB 1999). The remaining extant occurrence in 
San Diego County is on the San Dieguito River watershed. The privately 
owned site is 31.7 ha (79.2 ac) in size and reportedly supported 2,000 
stems in 1997 (CNDDB 1999). Recent site visits found fewer than 100 
stems in an area less than 0.4 ha (1 ac) (Wallace in litt. 1999). The 
area is degraded and immediately adjacent to a bulldozed area of a 
development (Wallace in litt. 1999).

Riverside County

    Two occurrences are known from Riverside County on privately owned 
lands. One occurrence along Nichols Road, Lake Elsinore supported an 
estimated 3,400 stems in 1997, and another occurrence at a fenced 
mitigation bank area at Skunk Hollow supported about 100-300 stems in 
1998 (Brenda McMillan USFWS in litt.1999).

Baja California, Mexico

    The current documented range of Ambrosia pumila in Baja California, 
Mexico extends from Colonet south to Lake Chapala. Two of the three 
documented sites were confirmed by Hogan and Burrascano (1996). 
Although additional occurrences may exist in Baja California, the 
species is not considered to be widespread because of lack of 
appropriate habitat and impacts from agriculture and urban development, 
especially near the coast.

Previous Federal Action

    Federal Government action on this species began as a result of 
section 12 of the Act, which directed the Secretary of the Smithsonian 
Institution to prepare a report on those plants considered to be 
threatened, endangered, or extinct in the United States. This report, 
designated House Document No. 94-51 was presented to Congress on 
January 9, 1975. (Ambrosia pumila was not included in this document). A 
revision of the Smithsonian report (Ayensu and DeFilipps 1978) provided 
new lists based on additional data on taxonomy, geographic range, and 
endangered status of taxa, as well as suggestions of taxa to be 
included or deleted from the earlier listing. Ambrosia pumila, not 
included in the first Smithsonian report, was recommended for 
threatened status in the Ayensu and DeFilipps (1978) report. We 
published an updated Notice of Review of plants on December 15, 1980 
(45 FR 82479). This notice included Ambrosia pumila as a category 1 
candidate. Category 1 candidates were taxa for which we had sufficient 
information on biological vulnerability and threats to support 
preparation of listing proposals.
    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act requires the Secretary to make 
findings on petitions within 12 months of their receipt. Section 
2(b)(1) of the 1982 amendments further requires that all petitions 
pending on October 13, 1982, be treated as having been newly submitted 
on that date. This was the case for Ambrosia pumila because the 1978 
Smithsonian report (Ayensu and DeFilipps 1978) had been accepted as a 
petition. On October 13, 1983, we found that the petitioned listing of 
this species was warranted but precluded by other pending listing 
actions, in accordance with section 4(b)(3)(B)(iii) of the Act. 
Notification of this finding was published in the Federal Register on 
January 20, 1984 (49 FR 2485). Such a finding requires the petition to 
be recycled annually, pursuant to section 4(b)(3)(C)(i) of the Act. On 
November 28, 1983, we published a supplement (48 FR 53639) to the 
December 15, 1980, Notice of Review of plant taxa for listing. The 
status of Ambrosia pumila was changed to category 2. Category 2 
candidates were taxa for which information then in our possession 
indicated that proposing to list the taxa as endangered or threatened 
was possibly appropriate, but for which substantial data on biological 
vulnerability and threats were not currently known or on file to 
support proposed rules. The status of Ambrosia pumila remained 
unchanged through, and including, the Notice of Review we published in 
the Federal Register on September 30, 1993 (58 FR 51143). On February 
28, 1996, we published in the Federal Register (61 FR 7595) a Notice of 
Review of plant and animal taxa that are candidates for listing as 
endangered or threatened. In that notice we announced changes to the 
way that we identify species that are candidates for listing under the 
Act, and we

[[Page 72996]]

discontinued maintenance of a list of species that were previously 
identified as ``category 2 candidates.'' Thus, as a category 2 
candidate, Ambrosia pumila was not included in the February 28, 1996, 
Notice of Review.
    On January 9, 1997, we received a petition dated November 12, 1996, 
from Mr. David Hogan of the Southwest Center for Biodiversity and Ms. 
Cindy Burrascano of the California Native Plant Society, San Diego 
Chapter, requesting that Ambrosia pumila (San Diego ambrosia) be listed 
as endangered pursuant to section 4 of the Act. Additionally, the 
petition appealed for emergency listing pursuant to section 4(b)(7) of 
the Act. The petitioners further requested that critical habitat be 
designated for Ambrosia pumila concurrent with the listing pursuant to 
50 CFR 424.12 and the Administrative Procedures Act 50 U.S.C. 5.53. On 
January 23, 1997, we notified the petitioners that we received their 
petition and that their petition would be processed based on the 
listing priority guidance then in effect.
    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition presents substantial information indicating that the 
action may be warranted. To the maximum extent practicable, this 
finding should be made within 90 days of the receipt of the petition 
and it should be published promptly in the Federal Register. If we 
determine that listing the species may be warranted, section 4(b)(3)(B) 
of the Act requires us to make a finding within 12 months of the date 
of the receipt of the petition on whether the petitioned action is (a) 
not warranted, (b) warranted, or (c) warranted but precluded from 
immediate proposal by other pending proposals of higher priority. 
However, because of budgetary restraints, we processed petitions in 
accordance with the 1997 listing priority guidance published in the 
Federal Register on December 5, 1996 (61 FR 64475). This guidance 
identified four tiers of listing activities to be conducted by us with 
appropriate funds. Tier 1, the highest priority, covered emergency 
listings of species facing an imminent risk of extinction as defined 
under the emergency listing provisions of section (4)(b)(7) of the Act. 
Tier 2, the second priority, included processing of final 
determinations for species currently proposed for listing. Tier 3, the 
third priority, addressed efforts under the Act to resolve the 
conservation status of candidate species and process administrative 
findings on petitions to add species to the lists or reclassify 
threatened species to endangered status. Tier 4, the lowest priority, 
covered the processing of critical habitat determinations, delisting 
actions, and reclassification of endangered species to threatened 
status. Under the priority system and because of the backlog of species 
proposed for listing and awaiting final listing determinations at that 
time, we deferred action on listing petitions except where an emergency 
existed and where the immediacy of the threat was so great to a 
significant portion of the population that the routine listing process 
would not be sufficient to prevent large losses that might result in 
    We reviewed the petition and supporting documentation to determine 
whether Ambrosia pumila faced a significant risk to its well-being 
under the emergency listing provisions of section 4(b)(7) of the Act 
(61 FR 64479). On July 15, 1997, we concluded that emergency listing 
and the designation of critical habitat were not warranted, and that 
the petition should be processed as a Tier 3 priority task pursuant to 
the listing priority guidance for fiscal year 1997. A notice published 
in the Federal Register (62 FR 55268) on October 23, 1997, announced 
the extension of the fiscal year 1997 listing priority guidance until 
such time as the fiscal year 1998 appropriation bill for the Department 
of the Interior became law and new final guidance was published in the 
Federal Register. In this notice there were no changes made in the tier 
    On October 1, 1997, Southwest Center for Biodiversity and the 
California Native Plant Society filed a lawsuit in the United States 
District Court for the Southern District of California challenging our 
failure to produce timely administrative 90-day and 12-month findings 
for Ambrosia pumila.
    On May 8, 1998, new listing priority guidance for Fiscal Years 1998 
and 1999 was published in the Federal Register (63 FR 10931). This new 
guidance changed the four tier priority system to a three tier priority 
system. Highest priority, Tier 1, was processing emergency listing 
rules for any species determined to face a significant and imminent 
risk to its well being. Second priority, Tier 2, was processing final 
determinations on pending proposed listings; the processing of new 
proposals to add species to the lists; the processing of administrative 
petition findings to add species to the lists, and petitions to delist 
species, or reclassify listed species (petitions filed under section 4 
of the Act); and a limited number of delisting and reclassifying 
actions. Lowest priority, Tier 3, was the processing of proposed or 
final critical habitat designations. Under that guidance, the 
administrative review process for this petition fell under Tier 2. We 
published a 90-day finding on the petition to list Ambrosia pumila as 
endangered in the Federal Register (64 FR 19108) on April 19, 1999. We 
found that substantial information existed indicating listing may be 
warranted and solicited comments and information regarding the finding. 
However, we did not receive any comments by May 19, 1999, the close of 
the comment period. On October 28, 1999, the District Court ordered us 
to complete a 12-month finding for Ambrosia pumila on or before 
December 10, 1999. This proposed rule constitutes the 12-month finding 
on the petition.
    The processing of this final rule conforms with our current Listing 
Priority Guidance published in the Federal Register on October 22, 1999 
(64 FR 57114). The guidance clarifies the order in which we will 
process rulemakings. Highest priority is processing emergency listing 
rules for any species determined to face a significant and imminent 
risk to its well-being (Priority 1). Second priority (Priority 2) is 
processing final determinations on proposed additions to the lists of 
endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. Third priority is 
processing new proposals to add species to the lists. The processing of 
administrative petition findings (petitions filed under section 4 of 
the Act) is the fourth priority. The processing of critical habitat 
determinations (prudency and determinability decisions) and proposed or 
final designations of critical habitat will be funded separately from 
other section 4 listing actions and will no longer be subject to 
prioritization under the Listing Priority Guidance. This final rule is 
a Priority 2 action and is being completed in accordance with the 
current Listing Priority Guidance.

Peer Review

    In accordance with interagency policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 
FR 34270), upon publication of this proposed rule in the Federal 
Register we will solicit expert reviews by at least three specialists 
regarding pertinent scientific or commercial data and assumptions 
relating to the taxonomic, biological, and ecological information for 
Ambrosia pumila. The purpose of such a review is to ensure that listing 
decisions are based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and 
analyses, including the input of appropriate experts.

[[Page 72997]]

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and regulations (50 CFR Part 424) issued to 
implement the listing provisions of the Act, set forth the procedures 
for adding species to the Federal list. We may determine that a species 
is endangered or threatened due to one or more of the five factors 
described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. These factors and their 
application to Ambrosia pumila (Nutt.) A. Gray are as follows.
    A. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range. Twenty of the 34 reported native 
occurrences of this species have been eliminated by urbanization, 
recreational development and highway construction and alteration (CNDDB 
1999). Of the remaining 14, one occurrence in a sidewalk crack in 
National City, is considered non-viable (CNDDB 1999). Six of the 13 
other extant occurrences, including three of the larger (reportedly 
supporting more that 1,000 aerial stems) occurrences, are threatened 
with habitat destruction associated with highway expansion or 
maintenance activities or by maintenance of utility rights of way, 
including mowing (CNDDB 1999). One of these is west of the Bonsall 
Bridge and reportedly supported 2,000 to 3,000 stems in 1997 (CNDDB). 
The two other smaller occurrences near Bonsall are also threatened by 
Caltrans highway maintenance and expansion (CNDDB 1999). These are the 
only three extant occurrences known within the San Luis Rey watershed. 
Two occurrences near El Cajon within the San Diego River watershed, 
both reportedly supporting more that 1,000 stems, are likewise 
threatened by highway maintenance and highway widening (CNDDB 1999). 
The last occurrence threatened by highway expansion or maintenance 
activities or utility rights of way maintenance activities is a large 
(500 to 1,000 stems reported in 1998) occurrence along Nicols Road in 
Riverside County (CNDDB 1999). Two occurrences, both reportedly 
supporting more that 1,000 aerial stems have been affected by 
recreational development (CNDDB 1999). One of these is within a golf 
course under construction near Del Dios. During a recent visit, this 
site appeared to be significantly degraded by grading in the immediate 
vicinity and less than 100 aerial stems were found on the site which 
was less than 0.4 ha (1 ac) in size (Wallace in litt. 1999). The second 
occurrence is located within and adjacent to Mission Trails Regional 
Park, managed by the City of San Diego, which is required by the 
Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) to conserve and manage 90 
percent of the large population on their lands. A 10 percent loss (0.2 
ha or 0.05 ac) of this major population of Ambrosia pumila occurred in 
1997 for development of a campground facility (CNDDB 1999) and was 
allowed under the provisions of the City of San Diego's Subarea Plan 
(City of San Diego 1997). If more than a 10 percent loss occurs, the 
species will no longer be covered under the provisions of the MSCP 
(City of San Diego 1997). It will be possible to verify future losses 
and assess indirect effects of these losses when the biological 
monitoring and management aspect of the MSCP Subarea Plans are in full 
effect. An additional habitat loss for this species was an occurrence 
on the San Luis Rey watershed that supported over 1,600 ``plants'' 
(aerial stems). This loss occurred in spite of an existing agreement 
prohibiting impacts to this species (see discussion below regarding San 
Diego Gas and Electric under factor D). The site was graded and the 
plants extirpated in late 1996. Two other occurrences are threatened by 
residential or commercial development. The larger of the two reportedly 
supported 6,500 stems in 1998 (CNDDB 1999). This occurrence is on 
vacant lots and back yards in a residential area of El Cajon (CNDDB 
1999). In Riverside County, one occurrence, near Lake Elsinore, is 
threatened by highway expansion activities, the other occurrence at 
Skunk Hollow is threatened by indirect impacts associated with 
urbanization surrounding the occurrence (CNDDB 1999).
    B. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes. Overutilization is not known to be a factor 
affecting Ambrosia pumila at this time. However, rare taxa are favored 
by some professional and amateur botanists for their collections or for 
trade with other individuals. The potential threat to this species from 
overcollection may increase upon publication of this proposed rule.
    C. Disease or predation. Disease and predation are not known to be 
factors affecting this plant species.
    D. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. Existing 
regulatory mechanisms that could provide some protection for this 
species include--(1) Federal laws and regulations including the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act in 
those cases where this species occurs in habitat occupied by other 
listed species, and section 404 of the Federal Clean Water Act; (2) 
State laws, including the Native Plant Protection Act (NPPA), the 
California Endangered Species Act (CESA), the California Environmental 
Quality Act (CEQA), and section 1603 of the California Fish and Game 
Code; (3) regional planning efforts pursuant to the California Natural 
Community Conservation Planning Program (NCCP); (4) land acquisition 
and management by Federal, State, or local agencies, or by private 
groups and organizations; (5) local land use processes and ordinances; 
and (6) enforcement of Mexican laws.

Federal Laws and Regulations

    The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 to 
4347) requires disclosure of the environmental effects of projects 
within Federal jurisdiction. NEPA requires that each of the project 
alternatives recommend ways to protect, restore and enhance the 
environment and avoid and minimize any possible adverse effects when 
implementation poses significant adverse impacts. NEPA does not, 
however, require that the lead agency select an alternative with the 
least significant impact to the environment, nor does it prohibit 
implementing a proposed action in an environmentally sensitive area (40 
CFR 1500 et seq.). Only two of the extant occurrences of Ambrosia 
pumila are on Federal lands.
    The Federal Endangered Species Act (Act), as amended, may afford 
protection to sensitive species if they coexist with species already 
listed as threatened or endangered under the Act. A number of federally 
listed species occur within the range of Ambrosia pumila and are known 
or likely to co-occur with the species. Protection afforded by these 
species, however, is minimal due to the lack of significantly 
overlapping habitat requirements. These species include Riverside fairy 
shrimp (Streptocephalus woottonii), Orcuttia californica (California 
Orcutt grass), and Least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus), listed 
as endangered, and the coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila 
californica californica), and Navarretia fossalis (spreading 
navarretia), listed as threatened. These species are not known to 
consistently co-occur in the same vegetation communities although they 
may occur in nearby associated communities.
    Conservation provisions under the Clean Water Act could afford some 
protection to Ambrosia pumila. Ambrosia pumila could potentially be 
affected by projects requiring a permit from the Army Corps of 
Engineers (Corps) under section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Under 

section 404, the Corps regulates the discharge of fill material into 
waters of the United States, which

[[Page 72998]]

includes navigable and isolated waters, headwaters, and adjacent 
wetlands. Section 404 regulations require that applicants obtain an 
individual permit for projects to place fill material affecting greater 
than 1.2 ha (3 ac) of waters of the United States. Nationwide Permit 26 
(33 CFR part 330, revised on December 20, 1996 (61 FR 65916) was 
established by the Department of the Army to facilitate authorization 
of discharges of fill into isolated waters (including wetlands and 
vernal pools) that cause the loss of less than 1.2 ha (3 ac) of waters 
of the United States, and that cause minimal individual and cumulative 
environmental impacts. Projects affecting less than 0.1 ha (0.33 ac) of 

isolated waters require no prior approval by the Corps. In addition, 
other nationwide permits authorize activities that may affect Ambrosia 
pumila without prior notification to the corps. Because the 
distribution of this species occurs in non-wetland habitat and in 
habitats associated with drainages and dry lakebeds, the instances and 
extent of protection for this species under section 404 is unclear. 
However, there are no specific provisions that adequately conserve rare 
or candidate plant species.
    Minimal impacts to the occurrences of Ambrosia pumila were incurred 
on the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge as a consequence of efforts 
to relocate burrowing owls onto the refuge. Throughout the relocation 
process, the Ambrosia pumila were considered, and minimal impacts were 
limited to an area of approximately eight square meters (9.6 square 
yards). Similar relocation efforts will be coordinated to avoid direct 
or indirect impacts to Ambrosia pumila. The San Diego National Wildlife 
Refuge currently has no specific protections in place to prevent 
trampling of the plant by horses and people who traverse one of the 
occurrences, nor is there a weed abatement plan for the Ambrosia pumila 
sites. However, future management includes abandonment of some trails 
and installation of trail signs to direct horses and people away from 
the Ambrosia pumila sites (Tom Roster, San Diego National Wildlife 
Refuge pers. comm 1999.).

State Laws and Regulation

    Although State laws, including CEQA, CESA, and NPPA at times may 
provide a measure of protection to the species, these laws are not 
adequate to protect the species in all cases. For example, under CEQA 
where overriding social and economic considerations can be 
demonstrated, a project may go forward even if adverse impacts to a 
species are significant.
    Ambrosia pumila is included on List 1B of the California Native 
Plant Society Inventory (Skinner and Pavlik 1994), which, in accordance 
with section 1901, chapter 10 of the California Department of Fish and 
Game Code, makes it eligible for State listing. This species is not, as 
yet, listed under the California Endangered Species Act.
    The California Environmental Quality Act (Public Resources Code, 
section 21000 et seq.) pertains to projects on non-Federal lands and 
requires that a project proponent publicly disclose the potential 
environmental impacts of proposed projects. The public agency with 
primary authority or jurisdiction over the project is designated as the 
lead agency. The lead agency is responsible for conducting a review of 
the project and consulting with other agencies concerned with the 
resources affected by the project. Section 15065 of the CEQA Guidelines 
requires a finding of significance if a project has the potential to 
``reduce the number or restrict the range of a rare or endangered plant 
or animal'' including those that are eligible for listing under the 
NPPA or CESA. However, as noted above, under CEQA where overriding 
social and economic considerations can be demonstrated, a project may 
go forward even where adverse impacts to a species are significant.

Regional Planning Efforts

    In 1991, the State of California established the NCCP program to 
address conservation needs of natural ecosystems throughout the State. 
The focus of the current planning program is the coastal sage scrub 
community in Southern California, although other vegetative communities 
are being addressed in an ecosystem approach. Ambrosia pumila is a 
covered species under the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) 
in southwestern San Diego County. Based on the MSCP, we issued a 
Federal incidental take permit to the City of Poway in July 1996, City 
of San Diego in July 1997, and to the County of San Diego in March 
1998. The MSCP establishes a 68,800-ha (172,000-ac) preserve and 
provides for monitoring and management for the 85 covered species 
addressed in the permit, including Ambrosia pumila. Additionally, 
Ambrosia pumila is defined by the MSCP as a narrow endemic. This 
requires that unavoidable impacts associated with reasonable use or 
essential public facilities must be minimized and mitigated within the 
MSCP planning area both inside and outside the Multiple Habitat Plan 
Area (MHPA).
    Eight of the 11 extant occurrences in San Diego County are in the 
MSCP planning area. Five of the eight known occurrences in the MSCP 
planning area are currently afforded some level of protection within 
approved permitted Subarea Plans. Two of the occurrences, both at 
Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP), are addressed under the approved 
City of San Diego's Subarea Plan (City of San Diego 1997). Under this 
plan, coverage for this species is dependent upon conservation of 90 
percent of the only large population in the MSCP, located in and 
adjacent to MTRP (CNDDB 1999). Provisions of the City of San Diego's 
Subarea Plan require conservation of 100 percent of the portion of the 
occurrence on private lands adjacent to MTRP near a radio tower. The 
other occurrence at MTRP is also protected under provisions of the 
approved City of San Diego's Subarea Plan (City of San Diego 1997). The 
occurrence near Del Dios in the San Dieguito River watershed, is within 
the approved County of San Diego's Subarea Plan (County of San Diego 
1997). An additional three occurrences are located within the City of 
El Cajon, which is in the process of preparing a subarea plan 
consistent with the MSCP.
    Within approved Subarea Plans, four of the six occurrences are 
impacted due to trampling, (CNDDB 1999), and competition from non-
native species affects all the occurrences. There are likely other 
indirect impacts from altered fire and hydrological regimes. The threat 
from trampling, increased competition from non-native plants and 
altered fire and hydrological regimes will likely be significantly 
reduced or eliminated when the monitoring and management program 
required by the MSCP and Subarea Plans is in place.
    The San Diego Association of Governments Multiple Habitat 
Conservation Plan (MHCP) in northwestern San Diego County is still in 
the planning phase. It has been proposed that the only known occurrence 
of this species within the planning area be conserved and that the 
species be treated as a narrow endemic requiring surveys of suitable 
habitat and in situ conservation of 80-100 percent of each occurrence 
discovered in the area. One of the two occurrences in Riverside County 
is at Skunk Hollow in a fenced mitigation bank. However, this site 
suffered from sheep intrusion and grazing in March 1999 (Christine 
Moen, USFWS in litt.1999).
    San Diego Gas and Electric owns powerline easements for some of the 
land at one of the occurrences on the

[[Page 72999]]

San Diego National Wildlife Refuge and for all of an occurrence in 
Oceanside. The Service, CDFG, and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) 
signed an implementation agreement and memorandum of understanding in 
December 1995 under the Natural Community Conservation Program called 
the San Diego Gas and Electric Subregion Plan (SDG&E Plan). Under the 
provisions of this plan, Ambrosia pumila is a covered species and a 
narrow endemic. The plan prohibits impacts to occupied habitat except 
in emergency situations. Contrary to the SDG&E Plan, a 1996 SDG&E 
project resulted in the extirpation of a relatively large occurrence at 
Oceanside that reportedly supported 1,600 plants (aerial stems).
    The County of Riverside is preparing the Western Riverside Multiple 
Species Habitat Conservation Plan. Ambrosia pumila has been proposed 
for coverage under this plan but analysis of the data have not yet been 

Mexican Laws

    We are not aware of any existing regulatory mechanisms in Mexico 
that would protect Ambrosia pumila or its habitat. Although Mexico has 
laws that could provide protection for rare plants, there are no 
specific protections for this species or vernal pools with which it is 
often associated. If specific protections were available and 
enforceable in Mexico, the portion of the range in Mexico alone, in 
isolation, would not be adequate to ensure long-term conservation of 
this species.
    E. Other natural or manmade factors affecting their continued 
existence. Non-native plants threaten virtually all of the extant 
occurrences of Ambrosia pumila (CNDDB 1999, Vanderwier in litt. 1998). 
Non-native species of grasses and forbs have invaded many of Southern 
California's plant communities. Their presence and abundance are often 
an indirect result of persistent and repeated habitat disturbance from 
development, discing, mowing, alteration of local hydrology and the 
presence and maintenance of highways and trails. This species is 
subject to displacement by non-native species, which also likely affect 
the reproductive potential of this low growing wind-pollinated species 
(CNDDB 1999). Non-native species found with Ambrosia pumila include 
Brassica spp. (mustard), Vulpia spp. (annual fescue), Erodium spp. 
(Crane's-bill), Bromus spp. (brome grass), and Foeniculum vulgare 
(sweet fennel). The presence of these and other non-native plants is 
likely to affect (1) pollen and fruit dispersal by increasing the 
aerial density of plant material, (2) fire patterns by increasing the 
fuel volume due to the influx of larger plants, and (3) hydrological 
conditions by decreasing the amount of water available for Ambrosia 
pumila. The cumulative and collective effects of non-native plants pose 
a threat to this species which apparently has a low output of seeds. 
Few preserved museum specimens have fertile fruits and field 
collections have not provided evidence of production of significant 
numbers of viable seeds. This species is also threatened by altered 
hydrological regimes at several occurrences associated with roads, 
rights of way, or locations mowed for fire breaks (CNDDB 1999). A 1998 
survey (Vanderwier in litt. 1998) reported that non-native species are 
common on the two occurrences in the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge 
and a portion of one of these occurrences is in a fuel modification 
zone where the plants are mowed. Several occurrences are threatened by 
periodic mowing which, if done in late summer or early fall, is likely 
to remove the flowering portions of the aerial stems and greatly reduce 
or eliminate the reproductive output for the year. The effects on the 
rhizomes by soil compaction from vehicle traffic is undocumented.
    In at least one documented instance in 1999, an occurrence of 
Ambrosia pumila at Skunk Hollow, Riverside County, was grazed by sheep 
(Christine Moen, USFWS in litt. 1999). Grazing would likely eliminate 
or severely reduce the annual reproductive output of Ambrosia pumila 
and could also reduce the vegetative portions of the plants to a degree 
that would threaten their capacity to persist.
    Six of the 13 extant occurrences of Ambrosia pumila, including four 
of the larger occurrences, are threatened due to the impacts of 
trampling by horses and people as well as ORV traffic. Two of these 
occurrences are on the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge (Vanderwier 
in litt. 1998, Tom Roster SDNWR pers. comm.1999). Trampling likely is a 
threat to any of the other accessible occurrences such as those with 
utility easements for maintenance purposes or access roads. The two 
occurrences near trails in Mission Trails Regional Park are threatened 
by trampling by people (City of San Diego 1999). Additional discussion 
of trampling may be found under Regional Planning Efforts, under factor 
D of this rule. The two occurrences in El Cajon are threatened by 
trampling by people and vehicles (CNDDB 1999).
    Because Ambrosia pumila is a rhizomatous clonal species, a single 
plant may be represented by many aerial stems. An occurrence, 
especially some of the smaller ones, could be composed of one or only a 
few plants. For example, an occurrence where 500 stems had been counted 
could represent only 50 plants. This would likely reflect low genetic 
variability, which is detrimental to the long-term persistence of the 
species (Barrett and Kohn 1991). This condition exacerbates the other 
threats to all other occurrences of this species.
    Transplantation of Ambrosia pumila, previously employed in an 
effort to salvage plants from native occurrences identified for 
extirpation, has proven to be of limited success. Transplantation 
protocols were generally lacking and likely did not include--meaningful 
guidelines for site selection, sampling methods to ensure that as many 
individual plants as possible are represented in the transplantation, 
measures of success for survival and recruitment of new seedling 
generations, and recourse for failure or limited success of any of 
these aspects of transplantation. There does not appear to be a well 
documented transplantation that meet the above measures. Maintenance of 
a few of the aerial stems for a period of time does not demonstrate 
that transplantation of this rhizomatous clonal perennial is an 
effective means for perpetuating the genetic lineages that constitute 
one or more of the occurrences of this species.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
faced by this taxon in determining to propose this rule. Based on this 
evaluation, the preferred action is to list Ambrosia pumila (San Diego 
ambrosia) as endangered. The species is threatened with extinction due 
to habitat alteration and destruction resulting primarily from highway 
and right-of-way widening and maintenance, urban development, 
trampling, competition from non-native plants, and vulnerability to 
naturally occurring events due to low numbers of individuals. Any of 
the threats noted above is compounded by the fact that this species is 
a rhizomatous, clonal, perennial that has wind-pollinated flowers and 
apparently rarely sets seed. The number of genetically different plants 
at a given site is unknown, but there may be more than 100 aerial stems 
per plant. This means that some of the smaller occurrences could 
represent a single plant. Seven of the 13 occurrences are on private 
lands, some of these with rights-of-way access. Although conservation 
measures are in place for 5 of the 13 occurrences, full protection 
afforded by a monitoring and

[[Page 73000]]

management program is not yet in place. Even with full protection, this 
would be less than half of the known occurrences and will likely not 
protect sufficient numbers of genetically different plants. Also, as 
yet there are no known examples of transplanted or reintroduced 
occurrences of this species in which sexual reproduction has occurred 
to sustain either a viable population or exhibit the genetic diversity 
found in a naturally occurring population.

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3, paragraph (5)(A) of the 
Act as the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a 
species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which 
are found those physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the species and which may require special management 
considerations or protection; and specific areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed in 
accordance with the provisions of section 4 of the Act, upon a 
determination by the Secretary that such areas are essential for the 
conservation of the species. ``Conservation'' means the use of all 
methods and procedures needed to bring the species to the point at 
which listing under the Act is no longer necessary.
    Critical habitat designation, by definition, directly affects only 
Federal agency actions through consultation under section 7(a)(2) of 
the Act. Section 7(a)(2) requires Federal agencies to ensure that 
activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or destroy or 
adversely modify its critical habitat.
    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.
    The Final Listing Priority Guidance for FY 1999/2000 (64 FR 57114) 
states, ``The processing of critical habitat determinations (prudency 
and determinability decisions) and proposed or final designations of 
critical habitat will be funded separately from other section 4 listing 
actions and will no longer be subject to prioritization under the 
Listing Priority Guidance. Critical habitat determinations, which were 
previously included in final listing rules published in the Federal 
Register, may now be processed separately, in which case stand-alone 
critical habitat determinations will be published as notices in the 
Federal Register. We will undertake critical habitat determinations and 
designations during FY 1999 and FY 2000 as allowed by our funding 
allocation for that year.'' As explained in detail in the Listing 
Priority Guidance, our listing budget is currently insufficient to 
allow us to immediately complete all of the listing actions required by 
the Act.
    We propose that critical habitat is prudent for Ambrosia pumila. In 
the last few years, a series of court decisions have overturned Service 
determinations regarding a variety of species that designation of 
critical habitat would not be prudent (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 believe that designation of critical habitat for would be 
prudent for Ambrosia pumila.
    Due to the small number of populations, Ambrosia pumila is 
vulnerable to unrestricted collection, vandalism, or other disturbance. 
We are concerned that these threats might be exacerbated by the 
publication of critical habitat maps and further dissemination of 
locational information. However, at this time we do not have specific 
evidence for Ambrosia pumila of taking, vandalism, collection, or trade 
of this species or any similarly situated species. Consequently, 
consistent with applicable regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)(i)) and 
recent case law, we do not expect that the identification of critical 
habitat will increase the degree of threat to this species of taking or 
other human activity.
    In the absence of a finding that critical habitat would increase 
threats to a species, if there are any benefits to critical habitat 
designation, then a prudent finding is warranted. In the case of this 
species, there may be some benefits to designation of critical habitat. 
The primary regulatory effect of critical habitat is the section 7 
requirement that Federal agencies refrain from taking any action that 
destroys or adversely modifies critical habitat. While a critical 
habitat designation for habitat currently occupied by this species 
would not be likely to change the section 7 consultation outcome 
because an action that destroys or adversely modifies such critical 
habitat would also be likely to result in jeopardy to the species, 
there may be instances where section 7 consultation would be triggered 
only if critical habitat is designated. Examples could include 
unoccupied habitat or occupied habitat that may become unoccupied in 
the future. There may also be some educational or informational 
benefits to designating critical habitat. Therefore, we propose that 
critical habitat is prudent for Ambrosia pumila. However, the deferral 
of the critical habitat designation for Ambrosia pumila will allow us 
to concentrate our limited resources on higher priority critical 
habitat and other listing actions, while allowing us to put in place 
protections needed for the conservation of Ambrosia pumila without 
further delay. We anticipate in FY 2000 and beyond giving higher 
priority to critical habitat designation, including designations 
deferred pursuant to the Listing Priority Guidance, such as the 
designation for this species, than we have in recent fiscal years.
    We plan to employ a priority system for deciding which outstanding 
critical habitat designations should be addressed first. We will focus 
our efforts on those designations that will provide the most 
conservation benefit, taking into consideration the efficacy of 
critical habitat designation in addressing the threats to the species, 
and the magnitude and immediacy of those threats. We will make the 
final critical habitat determination with the final listing 
determination for Ambrosia pumila. If this final critical habitat 
determination is that critical habitat is prudent, we will develop a 
proposal to designate critical habitat for Ambrosia pumila as soon as 
feasible, considering our workload priorities. Unfortunately, for the 
immediate future, most of Region 1's listing budget must be directed to 
complying with numerous court orders and settlement agreements, as well 
as due and overdue final listing determinations.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
activities. Recognition through listing encourages and results in 
conservation actions by

[[Page 73001]]

Federal, State, and private agencies, groups and individuals. The Act 
provides for possible land acquisition and cooperation with the States 
and requires that recovery actions be carried out for all listed 
species. We discuss the protection required of Federal agencies and the 
prohibitions against taking and harm, in part, below.
    Section 7(a) of the Act, as amended, requires Federal agencies to 
evaluate their actions with respect to any species that is proposed or 
listed as endangered or threatened, and with respect to its critical 
habitat, if any is being designated. Regulations implementing this 
interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR 
Part 402. Section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
confer informally with us on any action that is likely to jeopardize 
the continued existence of a proposed species or result in destruction 
or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a species is 
subsequently listed, section 7(a)(2) requires Federal agencies to 
ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of such a species or to 
destroy or adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal agency 
action may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the 
responsible Federal agency must enter into consultation with us. The 
association of Ambrosia pumila with dry waterways and lakebeds may 
result in the Corps becoming involved through its permitting authority 
under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and the issuance of permits 
necessary to build flood control structures associated with highway 
    The two occurrences of Ambrosia pumila on the San Diego National 
Wildlife Refuge receive the general protection afforded biotic 
resources on the refuge. However, there is currently no specific 
management plan for this plant. The City of San Diego (1999) has 
prepared a draft management plan for the occurrences of Ambrosia pumila 
in Mission Trail Regional Park. This management plan has not yet been 
    As noted above under factor D of the ``Summary of Factors Affecting 
the Species'' section, eight of the occurrences in San Diego County are 
in the MSCP planning area, five of which are within approved Subarea 
Plans. According to the City of San Diego's Subarea Plan (City of San 
Diego 1998), 90 percent of the only major population will be conserved 
and 100 percent of the adjacent portion of the occurrence will be 
preserved. The monitoring method is to include a site-specific 
monitoring plan with management plans and directives to protect against 
detrimental edge effects (City of San Diego 1998). This Subarea Plan 
also treats this species as a narrow endemic requiring jurisdictions 
and other participants to specify measures in their subarea plans to 
ensure that impacts to these resources are avoided to the maximum 
extent possible. Under the County of San Diego's Subarea Plan, Ambrosia 
pumila is a narrow endemic requiring avoidance to the maximum extent 
possible. Where avoidance is infeasible, a maximum encroachment may be 
authorized of up to 20 percent of the population on site. Where impacts 
are allowed, in-kind preservation shall be required at a 1:1 to 3:1 
ratio depending upon the sensitivity of the species and population 
size, as determined in a biological analysis approved by the Director 
of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
    Listing Ambrosia pumila provides for the development and 
implementation of a recovery plan for the species. This plan will bring 
together Federal, State, and regional agency efforts for conservation 
of the species. A recovery plan will establish a framework for agencies 
to coordinate their recovery efforts. The plan will set recovery 
priorities and estimate the costs of the tasks necessary to accomplish 
the priorities. It will also describe the site specific management 
actions necessary to achieve conservation and survival of the species.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered 
plants. All prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act, implemented by 
50 CFR 17.61 for endangered plants, apply. These prohibitions, in part, 
make it illegal for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the 
United States to import or export, transport in interstate or foreign 
commerce in the course of a commercial activity, sell or offer for sale 
in interstate or foreign commerce, or remove and reduce to possession 
from areas under Federal jurisdiction. In addition, for plants listed 
as endangered, the Act prohibits malicious damage or destruction on 
areas under Federal jurisdiction, and the removal, cutting, digging up, 
or damaging or destroying of such plants in knowing violation of any 
State law or regulation or in the course of any violation of a State 
criminal trespass law. Certain exceptions to the prohibitions apply to 
agents of the Service and State conservation agencies.
    The Act and 50 CFR 17.62 and 17.63 also provide for the issuance of 
permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities involving 
endangered plant species under certain circumstances. Such permits are 
available for scientific purposes and to enhance the propagation or 
survival of the species. It is anticipated that few trade permits would 
ever be sought or issued because this species is not common in 
cultivation or common in the wild. Information collections associated 
with these permits are approved under the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq., and assigned Office of Management and Budget 
clearance number 1018-0094. For additional information concerning these 
permits and associated requirements, see 50 CFR 17.62. Requests for 
copies of the regulations concerning listed plants and general 
inquiries regarding prohibitions and permits may be addressed to the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Permits, 911 N.E. 
11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232-4181 (telephone 503/231-2063; 
facsimile 503/231-6243).
    It is our policy, published in the Federal Register (59 FR 34272) 
on July 1, 1994, to identify to the maximum extent practicable those 
activities that would or would not be likely to constitute a violation 
of section 9 of the Act if a species is listed. The intent of this 
policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of the species' 
listing on proposed and ongoing activities within its range. Collection 
of listed plants or activities that would damage or destroy listed 
plants on Federal lands are prohibited without a Federal endangered 
species permit. Such activities on non-Federal lands would constitute a 
violation of section 9 of the Act if they were conducted in knowing 
violation of California State law or regulation, or in the course of 
violation of California State criminal trespass law. Otherwise such 
activities would not constitute a violation of the Act on non-Federal 
    Questions on whether specific activities would likely constitute a 
violation of section 9, should be directed to the Field Supervisor of 
the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).

Public Comments Solicited

    It is our intent that any final action resulting from this proposal 
will be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we solicit 
comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning this proposed rule. Our practice is to make comments, 
including names and home addresses of respondents, available for

[[Page 73002]]

public review during regular business hours. Individual respondents may 
request that we withhold their home address from the rulemaking record, 
which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. There also may be 
circumstances in which we would withhold from the rulemaking record a 
respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold 
your name and/or address, you must state this prominently at the 
beginning of your comment. However, we will not consider anonymous 
comments. We will make all submissions from organizations or 
businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as 
representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, available 
for public inspection in their entirety. All comments, including 
written and e-mail, must be received in our Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife 
Office by February 28, 2000. We particularly seek comments concerning:
    (1) Biological, commercial, trade, or other relevant data 
concerning threat (or lack thereof) to Ambrosia pumila.
    (2) The location of any additional populations of Ambrosia pumila 
and the reasons why any habitat should or should not be determined to 
be critical habitat for this species pursuant to section 4 of the Act.
    (3) Additional information concerning the essential habitat 
features (biotic and abiotic), range, distribution, population size of 
this taxon, and information relating to the distributions of 
genetically distinct individuals within the population.
    (4) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on this taxon.
    Final promulgation of the regulations on Ambrosia pumila will take 
into consideration any comments and any additional information we 
receive during the comment period, and such communications may lead to 
a final regulation that differs from this proposal.
    The Act provides for a public hearing 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 of the 
Service's Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).

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, need not be prepared in connection 
with regulations adopted pursuant to Section 4(a) of the Act. A notice 
outlining our reasons for this determination was published in the 
Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Required Determinations

    This rule does not contain any information collection requirements 
for which Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq., is required. Any 
information collection related to the rule pertaining to permits for 
endangered and threatened species has OMB approval and is assigned 
clearance number 1018-0094. This rule does not alter that information 
collection requirement. For additional information concerning permits 
and associated requirements for endangered plants, see 50 CFR 17.62 and 

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available, upon 
request, from the Field Supervisor, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office 
(see ADDRESSES section).
    Author: The primary author of this proposed rule is Gary D. 
Wallace, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife 
Office (see ADDRESSES section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    For the reasons given in the preamble, we propose to amend part 17 
as set forth below:


    1. The authority for citation of part 17 continues to read as 

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4205; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500, unless otherwise noted.

    2. Section 17.12(h) is amended by adding the following in 
alphabetical order under FLOWERING PLANTS to the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Plants:

Sec. 17.12  Endangered and threatened plants.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------    Historic range           Family            Status      When listed    Critical     Special
         Scientific name                Common name                                                                               habitat       rules
         Flowering Plants

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *
Ambrosia pumila..................  San Diego ambrosia..  U.S.A. (CA) Mexico.  Asteraceae.........  E                                     NA           NA

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *

[[Page 73003]]

    Dated: December 9, 1999.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 99-33781 Filed 12-28-99; 8:45 am]