[Federal Register: August 15, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 158)]
[Page 48933-48934]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of the Higgins' Eye Pearlymussel 
(Lampsilis higginsii) Draft Revised Recovery Plan for Review and 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces 
availability for public review of the draft revised recovery plan for 
the Higgins' eye pearlymussel (Lampsilis higginsii), a species that is 
federally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 
(Act). The purpose of this plan is to recover this species so that it 
can be removed from the list of Threatened and Endangered Species. This 
species occurs in the Mississippi River and tributaries to the 
Mississippi River in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and 
Wisconsin. The Service solicits review and comment from the public on 
this draft plan.

DATES: Comments on the draft recovery plan must be received on or 
before October 14, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the draft recovery plan may obtain 
a copy by contacting the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Ecological Services Field Office, 4101 E. 80th St., 
Bloomington, MN 55425 (telephone (612) 725-3548) or by accessing the 
following Web site: http://midwest.fws.gov/Endangered.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Phil Delphey at the above address, 
or telephone at (612) 725-3548 ext. 206. TTY users may contact Mr. 
Delphey through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.



    Restoring an endangered or threatened animal or plant to the point 
where it is again a secure self-sustaining member of its ecosystem is a 
primary goal of the Service's endangered species program. To help guide 
the recovery effort, the Service is working to prepare recovery plans 
for most of the federally listed threatened and endangered species 
native to the United States. Recovery plans describe actions considered 
necessary for conservation of the species, establish criteria for 
reclassification and delisting, and provide estimates of the time and 
costs for implementing the recovery measures needed.
    The Act requires the development of recovery plans for listed 
species unless such a plan would not promote the conservation of a 
particular species. Section 4(f) of the Act, as amended in 1988, 
requires public notice and opportunity for public review and comment be 
provided during recovery plan development. The Service will consider 
all information presented during a public comment period before 
approval of each new or revised recovery plan. The Service and other 
Federal agencies will also take these comments into consideration in 
the course of implementing approved recovery plans.
    Higgins' eye pearlymussel is currently listed as endangered. 
Studies before 1993 indicated healthy populations of Higgins' eye in 
the Upper Mississippi River drainage, with no apparent significant 
declines in its distribution or abundance. In fact, new information 
since completion of the first recovery plan in 1983 extended its known 
range by 180 river-miles. There was concern, however, that a major 
flood in 1993 and the infestation of the Mississippi River by the non-
native zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) may have posed serious 
threats to the continued existence of Higgins' eye. In response to 
these threats and information, the Service convened a recovery team to 
review the status of the species and to revise the initial recovery 
plan, if necessary. The team commissioned a review of all research 
conducted on the species since 1980 and a survey of all sites 
designated as Essential Habitat Areas in the 1983 recovery plan. During 
the development of this revised recovery plan, new information came 
forward that suggested a significant impact of zebra mussels on 
Higgins' eye, and the team believes there is now a significant risk 
that the distribution and abundance of this species will be severely 
    The initial Higgins' Eye Pearlymussel Recovery Plan listed seven 
locations as primary habitats (called Essential Habitat Areas in this 
document) and nine locations as potential secondary habitats. This 
revised plan includes 10 Essential Habitat Areas--6 in the Mississippi 
River between river-miles 489 and 656, 1 in the Wisconsin River, and 3 
in the St. Croix River, which empties into the Mississippi River at 
river-mile 811. Higgins' eye also occurs elsewhere in the Mississippi 
River. This revised plan recommends that surveys be conducted in 
several specific areas to better describe other potentially important 
habitats and also outlines specific criteria for evaluating additional 
areas as essential habitat. The plan recommends the development of a 
uniform protocol for collecting information on populations of Higgins' 
eye. Use of this protocol will allow for ongoing evaluation of the list 
of Essential Habitat Areas and progress towards recovery.
    The removal of zebra mussels in a manner and scale necessary to 
benefit Higgins' eye is not currently feasible. Therefore, the plan 
focuses on developing methods to prevent new infestations, monitoring 
zebra mussels at Essential Habitat Areas, and developing and 
implementing contingency plans to alleviate impacts to infested 
populations. Based on recent activities, the latter may consist largely 
of removing Higgins' eye from areas where zebra mussels pose an 
imminent threat and releasing them into suitable habitats within their 
historical range where zebra mussels are not an imminent threat. 
Cleaning fouled adults in situ and artificial propagation and release 
are also currently being implemented in an attempt to alleviate the 
effects of zebra mussels on the conservation of Higgins' eye.
    Although zebra mussels are currently the most important threat to 
Higgins' eye, construction activities and environmental contaminants 
may also pose significant threats. Therefore, the U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers and other agencies must continue to assess and limit the 
potential impacts of their actions on Higgins' eye. The plan also 
outlines tasks needed to improve our understanding of the potential 
importance that contaminants play in the conservation of Higgins' eye 
and calls on the U.S. Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, and 
other agencies to take actions to minimize the potential impacts of 
toxic spills.
    The goal of this plan is to provide a framework for the recovery of 
the Higgins' eye pearlymussel so that protection by the Act is no 
longer necessary and the species can be considered for removal from the 
list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants (50 CFR part 17). 
Higgins' eye may be considered for reclassification from endangered to 
threatened when at least five identified Essential Habitat Areas 
contain reproducing, self-sustaining populations of Higgins' eye that 
are not threatened by zebra mussels. Delisting Higgins' eye

[[Page 48934]]

requires that populations of Higgins' eye in at least five Essential 
Habitat Areas are reproducing, self-sustaining, not threatened by zebra 
mussels, and are sufficiently secure to assure long-term viability of 
the species.

Public Comments Solicited

    The Service solicits written comments on the recovery plan 
described. All comments received by the date specified will be 
considered prior to approval of the plan. Written comments and 
materials regarding the plan should be sent to the Field Supervisor, 
Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES section). Comments 
received will be available for public inspection by appointment during 
normal business hours.

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

    Dated: July 31, 2003.
Charles M. Wooley,
Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Region 3.
[FR Doc. 03-20830 Filed 8-14-03; 8:45 am]