[Federal Register: December 28, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 249)]
[Page 67289-67290]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Status of the Rio 
Grande Cutthroat Trout

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to initiate a status review.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announce our 
intent to initiate a candidate status review for the Rio Grande 
cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis) to determine if 
candidate status is warranted. The Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) (Act), requires that we identify 
species of wildlife and plants that are endangered or threatened, based 
on the best available scientific and commercial information. Through 
the Federal rulemaking process, we add these species to the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife at 50 CFR 17.11 or the List of 
Endangered or Threatened Plants at 50 CFR 17.12. As part of this 
program, we maintain a list of species that we regard as candidates for 
listing. A candidate is one for which we have on file sufficient 
information on biological vulnerability and threats to support a 
proposal to list as endangered or threatened but for which preparation 
and publication of a proposal is precluded by higher-priority listing 
actions. On or before June 4, 2002, we will make a determination 
concerning the results of this review for the Rio Grande cutthroat 
trout and, shortly thereafter, we will publish this determination in 
the Federal Register.

DATES: Comments and information from all interested parties for our use 
in the status review and preparing a revised finding will be accepted 
until February 26, 2002.

ADDRESSES: Questions and comments concerning this status review should 
be sent to Joy Nicholopoulos, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 2105 Osuna Rd. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113. Comments can be 
provided via e-mail to R2FWE_AL@fws.gov. Comments and materials 
received will be available on request for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Anna Maria Munoz, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist (see ADDRESSES section), telephone (505) 346-2525.



    On February 25, 1998, we received a petition from Kieran Suckling, 
of the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity requesting that the 
Service add the Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Onchorynchus clarki 
virginalis) to the list of threatened and endangered species. The 
petition addressed the range-wide distribution of the Rio Grande 
cutthroat trout that included populations in Colorado and New Mexico.
    The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is the southernmost of 14 subspecies 
of cutthroat trout (Behnke 1967, 1972, 1992; Sublette et al. 1990). 
There are two phenotypic forms of the subspecies, one in the Rio Grande 
and one in the Pecos River (Behnke 1992). The species derives its name 
from the distinctive red or orange slashes beneath the lower jaw. The 
general body coloration is yellowish green to grayish brown; the 
abdomen is creamy white. Variably-sized black spots cover the upper 
body and are more numerous posteriorly; dorsal, adipose, and caudal 
fins carry black spots (Koster 1957, Behnke 1992, Sublette et al. 
1990). Although the historical distribution of the Rio Grande cutthroat 
trout is not known with certainty, it is likely that the subspecies 
occurred not only in all waters in the upper Rio Grande, Pecos, and 
Canadian River Basins that are currently capable of supporting trout, 
but also in other stream reaches within these watersheds that formerly 
provided the habitat requisites of coldwater species.
    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the 
petitioned action is--(a) not warranted; (b) warranted; or (c) 
warranted but precluded from immediate proposal by other pending 
listing proposals of higher priority. We subsequently published a 
notice of a 90-day finding in the Federal Register (63 FR 49062) on 
September 14, 1998. In the 90-day finding we concluded that the 
petition did not present substantial information indicating that 
listing of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout may be warranted.
    Our finding recognized that livestock grazing, road construction, 
and logging were primary factors in the constriction of the Rio Grande 
cutthroat trout's historical range, and continue to impact streams and 
riparian habitats where measures to limit those impacts are lacking. 
The Service concluded that the management objectives of both States, 
set forth in respective management plans formulated for the Rio Grande 
cutthroat, would provide for the continued management, conservation, 
and stability of this subspecies and its habitats.
    On June 9, 1999, a complaint was filed by the Southwest Center for 
Biological Diversity challenging the September 14, 1998, 90-day 
petition finding as violating the Act and the Administrative Procedures 
Act. Recently, while the litigation was pending, we received some 
information (particularly related to the presence of whirling disease 
in hatchery fish in the wild) that led us to believe that further 
review of the status of the species was warranted.
    On November 8, 2001, a settlement agreement executed by both 
parties (the Service and the Center for Biological Diversity) was filed 
with the court. The settlement stipulates that we will initiate a 
candidate status review for the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The 
settlement also stipulates that on or before June 4, 2002, we will make 
a determination concerning the results of this review and, shortly 
thereafter, we will publish our determination in the Federal Register. 
The agreement also states that we will not vacate our previous 
determination in the interim.

[[Page 67290]]

Request for Information

    Our determination of candidate status for the Rio Grande cutthroat 
trout shall be based upon the best available scientific and commercial 
data, as required under section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act. We request you 
submit any further information on the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. We 
are particularly interested in any information concerning the 
    (1) Current population numbers and trends for each of the 
populations of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout;
    (2) Whether there are documented increases in those populations or 
their habitat;
    (3) The status of remaining habitat areas;
    (4) The current threats and future threats to those populations and 
remaining habitat areas; and
    (5) Other regulatory mechanisms that address those threats; and the 
success of those mechanisms to date.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited is available upon request 
from the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES 


    The primary author of this document is New Mexico Ecological 
Services Field Office staff (see ADDRESSES section).

    Authority: The authority for this action is section 4(b)(1)(A) 
of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533.

    Dated: November 23, 2001.
Nancy Kaufman,
Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 01-31911 Filed 12-27-01; 8:45 am]