[Federal Register: June 6, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 109)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 30368-30372]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
for a Petition To List the Plant Botrychium lineare (Slender Moonwort) 
as Threatened

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
12-month finding for a petition to list Botrychium lineare (slender 
moonwort) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act). After reviewing all available scientific and commercial 
information, we have determined that listing this species is warranted 
but precluded by other higher priority actions.
    This decision is based on the number, variety, and significance of 
threats affecting the species. Botrychium lineare is currently known 
from a total of nine populations in Colorado, Montana, Oregon, and 
Washington. Various populations of this taxon are threatened by a 
variety of factors including: habitat destruction and fragmentation 
from road construction and maintenance, including herbicide spraying, 
recreational activities, grazing and trampling by wildlife and 
livestock, development, timber harvest, and competition from non-native 
plant species. Upon publication of this notice of 12-month petition 
finding, Botrychium lineare will be added to our candidate species 

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on March 9, 
2001. Comments and information may be submitted until further notice.

ADDRESSES: You may submit data, information, comments, or questions 
concerning this finding to the Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Snake River Basin Office, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, 
Boise, Idaho 83709. You may inspect the petition finding, supporting 
data, and comments by appointment during normal business hours at the 
Snake River Basin Office.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Ruesink, Supervisor (see 
ADDRESSES section) (telephone 208/378-5243; facsimile 208/378-5262).



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that, for any petition 
to revise the List of Threatened and Endangered Species containing 
substantial scientific and commercial information that listing may be 
warranted, we make a finding within 12 months of the date of the 
receipt of the petition on whether the petitioned actions is--(i) not 
warranted, (ii) warranted, or (iii) warranted but precluded from 
immediate proposal by other higher priority efforts to revise the

[[Page 30369]]

List of Threatened and Endangered Species. Section 4(b)(3)(C) requires 
that petitions for which requested action is found to be warranted but 
precluded should be treated as though resubmitted on the date of such 
finding, i.e., requiring a subsequent finding to be made within 12 
months. Such 12-month findings are to be published promptly in the 
Federal Register.
    On July 28, 1999, we received a petition dated July 26, 1999, from 
the Biodiversity Legal Foundation. The petitioner requested us to list 
Botrychium lineare as endangered or threatened and to designate 
critical habitat within a reasonable period of time following the 
listing. The petitioner submitted biological, distributional, 
historical, and other information and scientific references in support 
of the petition.
    On May 10, 2000 (65 FR 30048), we published a 90-day petition 
finding concluding that the petition presented substantial information 
indicating that the requested action may be warranted. Accordingly, we 
initiated a status review pursuant to section 4(b)(3)(B) on the 
petitioned action.
    We have reviewed the petition, and based on the best scientific and 
commercial information available, we believe that sufficient 
information is currently available to support a finding that listing 
Botrychium lineare as threatened is warranted, but that a proposed rule 
at this time is precluded by work on other higher priority listing 
    Section 4(b) of the Act states that we may make warranted but 
precluded findings only if we find that (1) an immediate proposed rule 
is precluded by other pending actions, and (2) expeditious progress is 
being made on other listing actions. Due to the large amount of 
litigation we face, primarily over critical habitat, we are working on 
numerous listing actions mandated by court orders and settlement 
agreements. Complying with these orders and settlement agreements will 
consume nearly all or all of our listing budget for FY 2001. Any 
funding we may have available for discretionary listing actions will 
likely be allocated for emergency listings only. However, we can 
continue to place species on the candidate species list (Jamie Clark, 
Service, in litt. 2000).

Biology and Ecology

    A member of the adder's-tongue family (Ophioglossaceae), Botrychium 
lineare is a small perennial fern with a pale green leaf (trophophore) 
from 6 to 18 centimeters (2 to 7 inches) long. Leaf segments are 
typically linear and divided or forked at the ends. The sporophore 
(spore-bearing structure) is 1 to 2 times the length of the trophophore 
with a single main axis. Both the sporophore and the trophophore arise 
from an erect subterranean stem. Spores mature primarily in late June 
and July. Similar to other Botrychium species, the tiny, lightweight 
spores may be disseminated by wind, water, or possibly by animal 
vectors (Zika et al. 1995).
    Surveys and field identification of moonworts are complicated by 
their biology. The plants are small, difficult to find, and are usually 
scarce. They cannot be positively identified in their immature states. 
Fronds may appear above ground during some growing seasons, or may not 
appear at all during unfavorable seasons (Vanderhorst 1997). Botrychium 
lineare was initially described in 1994 and is considered to be one of 
the more distinctive of the moonworts (Wagner and Wagner 1994). The 
nearest relative of B. lineare is thought to be B. campestre, a 
widespread species that is typically found at lower elevations (Wagner 
and Wagner 1994). Recent genetic studies have shown that although B. 
lineare is closely related to B. campestre, it is a distinct taxon 
(Farrar 2000). The B. lineare populations in Colorado, Oregon, Montana, 
and Washington are all genetically distinct from one another, which 
suggests a long period of isolation that is consistent with truly rare 
species (Donald Farrar, Iowa State University, in litt. 2000).
    In the United States, Botrychium lineare is currently known from a 
total of nine populations: three in Colorado (El Paso and Lake 
counties), two in Oregon (Wallowa County), three in Montana (Glacier 
County), and one in Washington (Ferry County). In addition to the nine 
currently known B. lineare populations, there are four historic B. 
lineare population sites in the United States and two in Canada. 
Populations previously known from Idaho (Boundary County), Montana 
(Lake County), California (Fresno County), Colorado (Boulder County), 
and Canada (Quebec and New Brunswick), have not been seen for at least 
20 years and may be extirpated (Wagner and Wagner 1994). The 90-day 
petition finding for this species (65 FR 30048) mentions a population 
previously known from Inyo County, California. However, we believe that 
the information regarding the location of this population (as published 
in Wagner and Wagner 1994) is incorrect, and that this site is probably 
in Fresno, not Inyo, County (Tim Thomas, Service, pers. comm. 1999).
    The total number of individuals for all 9 occupied sites is about 
190 (Edna Rey-Vizgirdas, Service, in litt. 2000). However, this number 
should be viewed as an estimate since Botrychium species do not always 
come up every year and exist below ground for most of their life cycle. 
Populations range in size from 2 to 100 individuals (E. Rey-Vizgirdas, 
in litt. 2000). Only 3 populations contain more than 15 individuals. Of 
the three largest populations, two are found in Montana (Glacier 
National Park and Blackfeet Indian Reservation) and one occurs in 
Colorado (Pikes-San Isabel National Forest). Of the remaining six B. 
lineare populations, four occur on Federal land, including the Pike-San 
Isabel National Forest (Colorado), Glacier National Park (Montana), 
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (Oregon), and Colville National Forest 
(Washington). One population occurs on private land in Lostine Canyon, 
Oregon, which is a private inholding within the Wallowa-Whitman 
National Forest. The B. lineare site in Lake County, Colorado, is 
currently only known from a herbarium specimen consisting of two B. 
lineare plants collected in 1992 at approximately 3,243 meters (m) 
(10,640 feet (ft)) near Leadville, Colorado. This specimen was 
previously misidentified as B. minganense (Toby Spribille, Kootenai 
National Forest, in litt. 2000). No B. lineare plants were found at 
this site when it was surveyed in August 2000 (T. Spribille, in litt. 
    All Botrychium species are believed to be obligately dependent on 
mycorrhizal fungi (the symbiotic association of a fungus with the roots 
of a vascular plant) throughout their life cycle. A fungal associate is 
present within the plant at the earliest stages of development, and 
there are no reports of successful completion of the Botrychium's life 
cycle without mycorrhizal fungi. Very little information exists 
regarding the specificity or habitat requirements of the mycorrhizal 
fungi that are associated with moonworts (Vanderhorst 1997). Similar to 
orchids, Botrychium species can remain dormant for 1 or more years, and 
cannot be identified with certainty in their immature stages. The 
ecology of moonworts and their vulnerability to management activities 
such as prescribed fire are not well understood (Zika et al. 1995; 
Vanderhorst 1997).
    The habitat for Botrychium lineare has been described as ``deep 
grass and forbs of meadows, under trees in woods, and on shelves on 
limestone cliffs, mainly at higher elevations' (Wagner and Wagner 
1994), but they also state that to describe a typical habitat for this 
species would be problematic since the

[[Page 30370]]

known sites are so different. A specific habitat description for the 
species is difficult because of its current and historically disjunct 
distribution ranging from sea level in Quebec to nearly 3,000 m (9,840 
ft) in Boulder County, Colorado. Botrychium spores are small and 
lightweight enough to be carried by air currents. This dispersal 
mechanism may explain the broad and often disjunct distribution 
patterns exhibited by moonworts (Vanderhorst 1997).
    This species is found in a variety of montane forest or meadow 
habitats. Three of the known Montana Botrychium lineare populations 
occur on roadsides in early seral habitat (i.e., open habitat dominated 
by low-growing forbs (herbs) rather than shrubs or trees) (T. 
Spribille, in litt. 2000). Other B. lineare sites occur in grass-to 
forb-dominated openings in forests characterized by cone-bearing trees 
such as pine, spruce, and fir species (Paula Brooks, Wallowa-Whitman 
National Forest, in litt. 2000). At these occupied sites, B. lineare 
occurs with numerous associated species including Fragaria virginiana 
(strawberry), Antennaria spp. (pussy-toes), Galium boreale (northern 
bedstraw), Potentilla spp. (cinquefoil), Symphoricarpos albus 
(snowberry), Vaccinium spp. (huckleberry), Calamagrostis spp. 
(reedgrass), Festuca spp. (fescue), Picea engelmannii (Engelmann 
spruce), Thuja plicata (western red cedar), Pseudotsuga menziesii 
(Douglas-fir), Pinus ponderosa (ponderosa pine), Pinus contorta 
(lodgepole pine), and Populus tremuloides (aspen) (Steve Tapia, Pike-
San Isabel National Forest, in litt. 2000; Kathleen Ahlenslager, 
Colville National Forest, in litt. 2000; E. Rey-Vizgirdas, pers. obs., 
2000). Other Botrychium species, including B. ascendens (upward-lobed 
moonwort), B. crenulatum (wavy moonwort), B. minganense (Mingan Island 
moonwort), B. lunaria (common moonwort), and B. montanum (mountain 
moonwort), may also occur within or near habitat occupied by B. 
lineare. It is common for several Botrychium species to occur together 
in what has been called ``genus communities'' by researchers, a 
sympatric pattern of distribution which is unexplained (Vanderhorst 

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and regulations (50 CFR part 424) promulgated 
to implement the listing provisions of the Act set forth the procedures 
for adding species to the Federal lists. A species may be determined to 
be an endangered or threatened species due to one or more of the five 
factors described in section 4(a)(1). These factors and their 
application to Botrychium lineare are as follows:
    A. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range. Botrychium lineare is threatened 
by impacts associated with recreational activities. For example, since 
the Hurricane Creek B. lineare site (Wallowa-Whitman National Forest) 
is adjacent to a popular hiking and pack trail, it may be affected by 
recreational impacts such as trampling or campfires. This site has been 
used for camping since it is relatively flat and close to the 
trailhead, and campfire rings were observed in the area (P. Brooks, 
pers. comm. 2000). The Hurricane Creek B. lineare population may also 
be threatened by livestock trampling (i.e., by pack animals), erosion, 
and exotic weeds (Oregon Natural Heritage Program 1999). The Lostine 
Canyon site, which occurs on a private inholding within the Wallowa-
Whitman National Forest, is potentially threatened by development, 
timber harvest, and recreational activities (P. Brooks, pers. comm. 
    Two Botrychium lineare sites, one in Glacier National Park and one 
on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana, are located on 
roadsides where they may be affected by road maintenance activities, 
herbicide spraying, mowing, or by vehicles that pull off the road to 
look at wildlife (T. Spribille, in litt. 2000; Tara Williams, Glacier 
National Park, in litt. 2000). Although such activities are ongoing and 
have likely affected these sites in the past, the degree of disturbance 
and the timing of these activities may affect the survival and 
reproduction of this species. For example, road maintenance activities 
that occur prior to spore maturation and dispersal could adversely 
affect the reproduction of B. lineare. Herbicide spraying recently 
conducted along the road where B. lineare occurs on the Blackfeet 
Indian Reservation killed much of the roadside vegetation (Mary 
Weatherwax, Blackfeet Environmental Office, pers. comm. 2000). This 
site is the largest known B. lineare population and contains 100 plants 
(T. Spribille, in litt. 2000). The effects of this spraying on B. 
lineare are currently unknown. Future surveys should provide more 
information on the status of this population. The residual effect of 
herbicide spraying on B. lineare is unknown. Some herbicides are known 
to be resident in the soil for long periods of time, affecting the 
plants that persist there (65 FR 7339).
    The Botrychium lineare site in Lake County, Colorado (near 
Leadville) is apparently located within a Superfund site (T. Spribille, 
in litt. 2000). This site is currently threatened by activities and 
associated disturbance related to the construction of a concrete 
conduit. An asphalt bike path through the upper portion of the site was 
completed in July 2000, and major construction and excavation to 
install the concrete conduit was observed in August 2000. Although 
other Botrychium species, including B. lunaria and B. minganense, were 
found at this site, no B. lineare plants were observed despite 
intensive surveys conducted in August 2000 (T. Spribille, in litt. 
    Of the two Botrychium lineare populations on the Pike-San Isabel 
National Forest (Colorado), the larger population (based on number of 
individuals) occurs in a meadow with a utility pole (power line) 
approximately 30 m (100 ft) from the Pikes Peak toll road. Maintenance 
of this power line could potentially threaten the B. lineare 
population, but such maintenance would have to be coordinated with 
Forest staff (S. Tapia, in litt. 2000). Although the toll road itself 
is heavily used, the B. lineare site is located along the lower half of 
the road and receives little recreational use (S. Tapia, pers. comm. 
    Habitat succession and fire suppression may threaten Botrychium 
lineare. However, the relationship of habitat succession and fire 
suppression to the persistence of B. lineare is unclear. For example, 
in a biological assessment for sensitive plants in the Lostine River 
canyon, a U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) botanist notes that 
``Botrychium species seem to be found in areas that receive natural 
disturbances such as fire and landslides but we are not yet able to 
predict what disturbance interval or successional stage best suits 
them'' (Hustafa 1999). Controlled (prescribed) fires or wildfires could 
also affect habitat for B. lineare, but the response of this species to 
fire is not currently known. In some cases, wildfires or controlled 
fires create high ground temperatures which may sterilize the soil and 
eliminate fungal species that are necessary for the survival of 
moonworts (Zika 1992). We are not aware of any plans to implement 
controlled burning programs in B. lineare habitat at this time.
    B. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes. The plant is not a source for human food, nor is 
it currently of commercial horticulture interest. Therefore, 
overutilization is not considered to be a threat to this species at the 
present time.

[[Page 30371]]

    C. Disease or predation. While disease is not currently known to be 
a threat to Botrychium lineare, populations may be affected by grazing 
by livestock or wildlife. The specific effects of grazing on the 
species are unknown, although if grazing by livestock or wildlife 
species occurs prior to the maturation and release of spores, the 
capacity for sexual reproduction of affected plants may be compromised. 
For example, the proximity of both B. lineare populations in Oregon to 
trails and developed recreation sites could result in grazing by horses 
or other domestic animals. One B. lineare site (on the Colville 
National Forest) occurs within a grazing allotment but is fenced to 
exclude livestock (K. Ahlenslager, in litt. 2000). Although open range 
grazing is common on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, the B. lineare 
population on the Reservation appeared to be ungrazed when it was 
discovered in July 2000 by a Forest Service botanist (T. Spribille, in 
litt. 2000). Botrychium lineare has not been observed in areas with 
obvious disturbance by livestock (K. Ahlenslager, in litt. 2000; T. 
Spribille, in litt. 2000).
    D. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. Botrychium 
lineare is considered a sensitive species in Regions 2, 5, and 6 of the 
Forest Service, which include extant and historical B. lineare sites 
found in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and California (Forest Service 
1999, 2000; Joanna Clines, Sierra National Forest, in litt. 2000). The 
Forest Service has regulations that address the need to protect these 
sensitive species, as well as candidate, and federally listed species 
(e.g., the National Forest Management Act). Forest Service Regions 1 
and 4, which include extant and historical sites found in Montana and 
Idaho, do not have B. lineare on their regional sensitive species lists 
(Teresa Prendusi, Forest Service, in litt. 2000; Steve Shelly, Forest 
Service, in litt. 2000); the species in these regions, therefore, is 
not given any special consideration. However, the Forest Service does 
prohibit the collection of any native plants without a permit on Forest 
Service lands. Botrychium lineare is not on Canada's list of threatened 
or vulnerable species, so there is no special protection for this 
species in Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service 2000).
    Monitoring of some (but not all) Botrychium lineare populations on 
Federal lands has been initiated. Monitoring helps to identify threats 
and management actions that may be necessary to control habitat 
degradation and protect the species. Only one site, which occurs on the 
Colville National Forest, has been fenced to protect the species from 
livestock grazing. However, some of the B. lineare sites on Federal 
lands are threatened by exotic weeds, herbicide spraying, trampling, 
and road construction and maintenance (see Factors A and E for 
additional information).
    The National Park Service (Park Service) has policies to promote 
the conservation of federally listed or candidate species and other 
rare or sensitive species within park boundaries (T. Williams, in litt. 
2000). However, as discussed previously, the two Botrychium lineare 
sites in Glacier National Park are located on roadsides where they may 
be subject to road maintenance activities or potential damage from 
vehicles. Therefore, long-term protection of these sites may be 
difficult due to their location (i.e., adjacent to roads, which are 
potentially a source of recurring disturbance).
    Although Botrychium lineare is considered to be rare and imperiled 
by the State natural heritage programs in Colorado, Montana, Oregon, 
and Washington, the State heritage program rankings are not legal 
designations and do not confer State regulatory protection to this 
    E. Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence. Non-native plant species may threaten habitat occupied by 
Botrychium lineare. Exotic species have been observed in the vicinity 
of B. lineare populations in Colorado (S. Tapia, in litt. 2000), 
Montana (T. Spribille, in litt. 2000), Oregon (Oregon Natural Heritage 
Program 1999), and Washington (K. Ahlenslager, in litt. 2000). Non-
native plant species can compete with native plant species for 
resources such as space, nutrients, and water, and can replace them. As 
a result, the effects of non-native species may be especially serious 
for native taxa that have extremely small population sizes, such as B. 
    The amount of habitat occupied by Botrychium lineare is extremely 
small. Total habitat size for all extant sites, except for the 
Leadville and one Pikes Peak, Colorado, site, is approximately 1.15 
hectares (ha) (2.85 acres (ac)), and nearly all of the sites are 
smaller than 465 square meters (5000 square feet). The B. lineare 
plants at the smaller Pikes Peak site have not been located in the last 
few years, and only two plants were previously known, so the actual 
amount of occupied habitat is likely to be extremely small. No B. 
lineare plants were found at the Leadville site in 2000, so it is not 
possible to estimate the amount of occupied habitat. Of the two B. 
lineare sites in Oregon, the Lostine Canyon site occupies an area of 
approximately 10  x  10 m (30  x  30 ft) (Wagner and Wagner 1994), and 
the Hurricane Creek site is found in an area up to 1 ha (2.5 ac) in 
size (Oregon Natural Heritage Program 1999). The site in Washington (on 
the Colville National Forest) occupies an area of approximately 15  x  
30 m (50  x  100 ft) (K. Ahlenslager, in litt. 2000). The larger of the 
two B. lineare populations on the Pike-San Isabel National Forest 
occupies an area of approximately 35  x  10 m (115  x  30 ft) 
(Carpenter 1996a, 1996b; Colorado Natural Heritage Program 1999). 
Botrychium lineare populations range in size from 2 to 100 plants, with 
only 3 populations supporting more than 15 individuals.
    The small size of existing Botrychium lineare populations makes 
this species vulnerable to extirpation due to random naturally 
occurring events. A single random event could extirpate a substantial 
portion or all of the individuals at a given site. Also, changes in 
gene frequencies within small, isolated populations can lead to a loss 
of genetic variability and a reduced likelihood of long-term viability 
(Franklin 1980; Soule 1980; Lande and Barrowclough 1987).
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
faced by the species. Only nine populations of Botrychium lineare are 
known to exist, and the small amount of occupied habitat and few 
individuals, combined with ongoing threats, make this species 
vulnerable to extinction. All of the remaining sites that support B. 
lineare are small and fragmented, and the various sites are vulnerable 
to impacts from factors including herbicide use, recreational 
activities, competition from non-native vegetation, road construction 
and maintenance, development, timber harvest, and incidental loss from 
trampling or grazing by wildlife or livestock. Also, all of these 
populations are particularly susceptible to extinction from random 
events because of their extremely small size. Existing regulatory 
mechanisms are inadequate to protect this taxon.
    We conclude that the overall magnitude of threats to Botrychium 
lineare throughout its range is moderate and the overall immediacy of 
these threats is non-imminent. Botrychium lineare is considered a 
species without subspecies classification. Pursuant to our Listing 
Priority Guidance (48 FR 43098), a species for which threats are 
moderate and non-imminent is assigned a Listing Priority Number of 11. 
While we conclude that listing of Botrychium

[[Page 30372]]

lineare is warranted, an immediate proposal to list is precluded by 
other higher priority listing actions. During fiscal year 2001, we must 
spend nearly all of our Listing Program funding to comply with court 
orders and judicially approved settlement agreements, which are now our 
highest priority actions. Botrychium lineare will be added to the list 
of candidate species upon publication of this notice of 12-month 
finding. We will continue to monitor the status of the slender moonwort 
and other candidate species. Should an emergency situation develop with 
one or more of these species, we will act to provide immediate 
protection, if warranted.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein, as well as others, 
is available upon request from the Snake River Basin Office (see 
ADDRESSES section).


    The primary authors of this document are Edna Rey-Vizgirdas, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Snake River Basin Office (see ADDRESSES 
section), and Barbara Behan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Regional 
Office, 911 N.E. 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232.


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

    Dated: March 9, 2001.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 01-14170 Filed 6-5-01; 8:45 am]