[Federal Register: April 24, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 79)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 21711-21713]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF79

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Notice of Proposed 
Critical Habitat Determination for the Plant Silene spaldingii 
(Spalding's Catchfly) and Reopening of Comment Period

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of critical habitat determination and 
reopening of comment period.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, propose a critical 
habitat determination for Silene spaldingii (Spalding's catchfly) 
pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) and 
reopen the comment period on the proposed rule to list this species. On 
December 3, 1999, we proposed to list S. spaldingii as a threatened 
species. The proposed rule stated that we would publish a critical 
habitat determination for S. spaldingii in the Federal Register 
subsequent to the proposed rule. We now propose that designation of 
critical habitat is prudent for S. spaldingii. We request comments on 
this proposed prudency determination and reopen the comment period for 
the proposed listing. We will make the final prudency determination 
with the final listing determination for S. spaldingii. If this final 
determination is that a critical habitat designation is prudent, we 
will develop a proposal to designate critical habitat for S. spaldingii 
as soon as feasible, considering our workload priorities and budgetary 

DATES: Comments from all interested parties must be received by June 
23, 2000. Public hearing requests must be received by June 8, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Comments and materials concerning this proposal should be 
sent to the Supervisor, Snake River Basin Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service,

[[Page 21712]]

1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, Boise, Idaho 83709. Comments and 
materials received will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Ruesink, Supervisor, at the 
above address (telephone 208/378-5243; facsimile 208/378-5262).



    Silene spaldingii is a long-lived perennial herb currently known 
from a total of 52 populations that are primarily restricted to mesic 
(neither extremely wet nor extremely dry) grasslands (prairie or steppe 
vegetation) that make up the Palouse region (a Pacific Northwest 
bunchgrass habitat type). Seven populations occur in west-central 
Idaho; 7, in northeastern Oregon; 9, in western Montana; 28, in eastern 
Washington; and 1, in adjacent British Columbia, Canada. This taxon is 
threatened by a variety of factors including habitat destruction and 
fragmentation from agricultural and urban development, grazing and 
trampling by domestic livestock and native herbivores, herbicide 
treatment, and competition from nonnative plant species.
    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as: (i) 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 (I) essential to the conservation 
of the species and (II) that may require special management 
considerations or protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the 
geographic area occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon a 
determination 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.
    In the December 3, 1999, proposed rule, we did not propose a 
critical habitat determination for Silene spaldingii. We stated that we 
would publish a critical habitat determination for S. spaldingii in the 
Federal Register subsequent to the proposed rule. The Final Listing 
Priority Guidance for FY 1999/2000 (64 FR 57114) states that the 
processing of critical habitat determinations (prudency and 
determinability decisions) and proposed or final designations of 
critical habitat ``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 2000 as conservation efforts demand and in 
light of resource constraints.'' 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 now propose that designation of critical habitat is prudent for 
Silene spaldingii. 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 would be prudent for S. spaldingii.
    Due to the small number of populations, Silene spaldingii 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 S. spaldingii 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 believe that the identification of critical habitat 
is unlikely to increase the degree of threat to this species of taking 
or other human activity.
    In the absence of a finding that identification of critical habitat 
would increase threats to a species, if any benefits would result from 
a critical habitat designation, then a prudent finding is warranted. In 
the case of this species, designation of critical habitat may provide 
some benefits. 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, in certain instances, section 7 consultation might be 
triggered only if critical habitat is designated. Examples could 
include unoccupied habitat or occupied habitat that may become 
unoccupied in the future. Designating critical habitat may also provide 
some educational or informational benefits. Therefore, we propose that 
designation of critical habitat is prudent for Silene spaldingii. 
However, deferral of a critical habitat designation for S. spaldingii 
would allow us to concentrate our limited resources on higher priority 
critical habitat and other listing actions, without delaying the final 
listing decision. 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 Silene spaldingii. If this final critical habitat 
determination is that designation of

[[Page 21713]]

critical habitat is prudent, we will develop a proposal to designate 
critical habitat for S. spaldingii as soon as feasible, considering our 
workload priorities and budgetary capabilities. 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.

Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we are 
soliciting comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned 
governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other 
interested party concerning this proposed prudency determination and 
the proposed listing of Silene spaldingii as threatened. We are 
particularly seeking comments concerning:
    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any threat (or lack thereof) to this species;
    (2) The location of any additional populations of this species and 
the reasons why any habitat should or should not be determined to be 
critical habitat pursuant to section 4 of the Act;
    (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, and 
population size of this species; and
    (4) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on this species.
    We will take into consideration for any decision on this proposal 
the comments and additional information we receive, and such 
communications may lead to a final regulation that differs from this 

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an environmental assessment and 
environmental impact statement, 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. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination 
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. An 
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 threatened plants, see 50 CFR 17.72.


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: April 5, 2000.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-10049 Filed 4-21-00; 8:45 am]