[Federal Register: September 2, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 169)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 52169-52173]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AI04

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Removal 
of the Scarlet-chested Parakeet and Turquoise Parakeet from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to 
remove the scarlet-chested parakeet (Neophema splendida) and the 
turquoise parakeet (Neophema pulchella) from the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife established under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act), because the endangered designation no longer 
correctly reflects the current conservation status of these birds. Our 
review of the status of these species shows that the wild populations 
of these species are stable or increasing, trade in wild-caught 
specimens is strictly limited, and the species are protected through 
domestic regulation within the range country (Australia) and through 
additional national and international treaties and laws. This 
determination is based on available data indicating that these species 
have recovered.

DATES: We must receive your written comments on this proposed rule by 
December 1, 2003 in order to consider them. We must receive your 
written request for a public hearing by October 17, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Submit comments, information, questions, and hearing 
requests to the Chief, Division of Scientific Authority; U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 750; Arlington, VA 
22203; fax, 703-358-2276; E-mail, ScientificAuthority@fws.gov. Comments 
and materials received will be available for public inspection by 
appointment, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the 
Arlington, VA, address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Michael D. Kreger, Division of 
Scientific Authority (See ADDRESSES section; phone, 703-358-1708; fax, 
703-358-2276; E-mail, ScientificAuthority@fws.gov.


Scarlet-Chested Parakeet

    The splendid or scarlet-chested parakeet (Neophema splendida) is 
found from the interior southwest to southeast Australia in arid mixed 
mallee eucalypt (Eucalyptus salubris)--mulga (Acacia spp.) woodlands 
with an understory of Triodia spp. hummock grassland (Higgins 1999). 
Its habitat preference is burnt areas. It is frequently found in open 
areas (Garnett and Crowley 2000). The species breeds between August and 
January and lays four to six eggs. It may be nomadic in response to 
environmental conditions (e.g., rainfall; Collar 1997). Collar (1997) 
notes that the birds are generally rare, but large numbers have 
occurred in certain years, which suggests that the populations may 
increase relatively quickly and the species may not be as rare as 
thought in the more remote parts of its range. The size of the species' 
range is stable, but the distribution of the population within the 
range fluctuates according to environmental conditions such as grazing 
and fire regimes (Garnett and Crowley 2000).

Turquoise Parakeet

    The turquoise parakeet (Neophema pulchella) is found in 
southeastern Australia from southeast Queensland to northern Victoria. 
It is found in open forest, woodland, and native grasslands, where it 
is patchily distributed (Collar 1997). It feeds on seeds, fruits, and 
flowers; breeds from August to

[[Page 52170]]

December and lays four to five eggs; and is mostly sedentary, with 
local dispersals resulting from rainfall which stimulates production of 
food such as seeds (Collar 1997). The species declined to near 
extinction from 1880 through the 1920s, possibly because of habitat 
clearance, drought, or an epidemic, but recovered rapidly after 1930 
(Collar 1997; Garnett and Crowley 2000). Numbers appear to be greatest 
in protected reserves, indicating that surrounding agricultural land 
may reduce foraging opportunities (Collar 1997). The size of the 
species' range is stable, and the area of population distribution 
within the range is increasing (Garnett and Crowley 2000).

Previous Federal Actions

    The scarlet-chested parakeet and the turquoise parakeet of the 
genus Neophema are listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 
(Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) as endangered throughout their entire 
ranges. The scarlet-chested parakeet was listed on December 2, 1970 (35 
FR 18320). The turquoise parakeet was listed on June 2, 1970 (35 FR 
8495). Both species were originally listed under the Endangered Species 
Conservation Act of 1969 (Pub. L. 91-135, 83 Stat. 275 (1969)) as part 
of a list of species classified as endangered. This list was absorbed 
into the current Act. The endangered listing under the Act prohibits 
imports, exports, and re-exports of the species into or out of the 
United States as well as interstate and foreign commerce. On July 1, 
1975, the scarlet-chested parakeet was placed in Appendix II of the 
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna 
and Flora (CITES; 42 FR 10465; February 22, 1977). On June 6, 1981, the 
turquoise parakeet was also added to CITES Appendix II. Listing in 
CITES Appendix II allows for regulated commercial trade based on 
certain findings. Furthermore, because no wild-caught specimens of 
these two species are in international trade, and they only occur in 
trade as captive-bred specimens, they were included in the approved 
list of captive-bred species under the regulations of the Wild Bird 
Conservation Act of 1992 (WBCA; 16 U.S.C. 4901-4916). Inclusion in this 
list allows for imports of these species without requiring a WBCA 
    On September 22, 2000, we announced a review of all endangered and 
threatened foreign species in the Order Psittaciformes (parrots, 
parakeets, macaws, cockatoos, and others; also known as psittacine 
birds) listed under the Act (65 FR 57363). Section 4(c)(2) of the Act 
requires such a review at least once every 5 years. The purpose of the 
review is to ensure that the Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife (50 CFR 17.11) accurately reflect the most current status 
information for each listed species. We requested comments and the most 
current scientific or commercial information available on these 
species, as well as information on other species that may warrant 
future consideration for listing. If the present classification of 
species is not consistent with the best scientific and commercial 
information available at the conclusion of this review, we may propose 
changes to the list accordingly. One commenter suggested that we review 
the listing of these species and provided enough scientific 
information, including information and correspondence with Australian 
Government officials, to merit review of these species by the Service.
    The Australian Government classifies the conservation status of the 
scarlet-chested parakeet as ``Least Concern'' and the turquoise 
parakeet as ``Near Threatened.'' ``Least Concern'' indicates that the 
habitat in which the species occurs or the species' population density 
within the habitat has not declined by more than half of the size that 
it was a century ago. This is the lowest level of species risk. ``Near 
Threatened'' indicates that the habitat within the range and/or the 
size of the population within the available habitat is probably less 
than half of what it was a century ago. The Action Plan for Australian 
Birds 2000 (Garnett and Crowley 2000), a strategic document produced by 
Environment Australia to recommend actions to government and non-
government organizations in establishing national conservation 
priorities, includes recommendations for these species. The plan, 
however, is not a regulatory document, and the conservation priority 
for least concerned and near threatened birds is low (P. Blackwell, 
Environment Australia, pers. comm. with M. Kreger, DSA, 2002).
    Commercial exports of these species from Australia have been 
prohibited since 1962. The prohibition is covered under Australia's 
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999. Although there are 
recommended actions for protection of both species under The Action 
Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett and Crowley 2000), Australian 
has no recovery plan for either. Both species are, however, protected 
by State legislation and may not be trapped from the wild for 
commercial purposes (G. Maynes, Environment Australia, pers. comm. with 
M. Kreger, DSA, 2002). The 2000 IUCN (International Union for 
Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List of Threatened 
Species downlisted the scarlet-chested parakeet from vulnerable (facing 
high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future, but not 
very high or extremely high) to lower risk/near threatened (taxa that 
do not qualify as Conservation Dependent, but which are close to 
qualifying as vulnerable). This status was maintained in the 2002 IUCN 
Red List of Threatened Species. The turquoise parakeet is not included 
in the 2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Scarlet-Chested Parakeet Neophema 
splendida and the Turquoise Parakeet Neophema pulchella

    Section 4(a)(1) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and regulations 
promulgated to implement the listing provisions of the Act (50 CFR part 
424) set forth five factors to be used in determining whether to add, 
reclassify, or remove a species from the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and Plants. These factors and their applicability 
to populations of the scarlet-chested parakeet and the turquoise 
parakeet of Australia are as follows:
A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of its Habitat or Range

Scarlet-Chested Parakeet

    The scarlet-chested parakeet population has increased rapidly in 
favorable conditions such as increased rainfall (Collar 1997; Garnett 
and Crowley 2000), but habitat clearance has fragmented roosting and 
foraging habitat in southern South Australia and northwest Victoria. 
This species is frequently found in open agricultural areas during 
years of unusually high nest production likely due to competition among 
birds for optimal nest sites and foraging areas in forests. Thus, 
livestock grazing and burn management to clear land for agriculture may 
reduce habitat availability (Garnett and Crowley 2000). However, most 
of the species' foraging, roosting, and nesting habitat is outside 
agricultural areas, and the area over which the species flies is so 
vast (range exceeds 2,000 km\2\) that fires would not likely adversely 
affect a significant portion of the population (Snyder et al. 2000). 
The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett and Crowley 2000) 
recommends maintaining low fire frequency and grazing rates throughout 
the range of the species, particularly in protected reserves in Murray 
Mallee. It

[[Page 52171]]

also recommends determining environmental correlates of patterns of 
abundance in the Great Victoria Desert. However, these recommendations 
are voluntary, and because the species is categorized as least concern, 
it is not a high conservation priority for the Australian Government. 
Because of the area of occupancy and observed flock sizes, researchers 
think as many as 10,000 breeding-age birds may exist. This estimate is 
not reliable because of the lack of research on patterns of abundance 
and movement of this species; however, even if the population is 
smaller, there is no reason to suspect a decline (Snyder et al., 2000). 
According to C. Mobbs, Deputy Director, Wildlife Protection, 
Environment Australia (faxed letter to aviculturist M. Runnals, 1999), 
this species is considered common with a stable population in the wild.

Turquoise Parakeet

    Much of the turquoise parakeet's habitat available before the 1890s 
has been cleared for agriculture, preventing the species' recovery in 
more than half of its former range. However, the population is rapidly 
increasing, with as many as 20,000 breeding-age birds (Garnett and 
Crowley 2000). An additional habitat threat is the loss of hollow trees 
necessary for nesting in forests managed for timber, but the species 
can be prolific when nestboxes are substituted. Poorly managed burn 
regimens tend to encourage shrubby vegetation that outcompetes the 
grassy understory required by parrots for foraging (Garnett and Crowley 
2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett and Crowley 
2000) recommends conserving native pasture and promoting its use, 
maintaining a buffer zone around known nesting areas, and improving 
fire management to encourage forage diversity. However, these 
recommendations are voluntary, and because the turquoise parakeet is 
categorized as near threatened, it is not a high conservation priority 
for the Australian Government.
    Therefore, we find that the populations of these species are stable 
or increasing despite some habitat loss.
B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes
    The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 does not indicate 
overutilization as a threat to these species (Garnett and Crowley 
2000). Both species are strictly protected by Australian State 
legislation and may not be trapped from the wild for commercial 
purposes (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999). Since 
1990, there has been no trade in wild-caught specimens of these 
species, according to the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) 
and the Service's Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS) 
databases, probably because these species breed readily in aviculture 
(Brown et al. 1994; Dingle 2000; Vriends 2000). The WCMC database 
indicates that the only specimens of these species traded 
internationally between 1990 and 1999 were captive-bred (9,980 scarlet-
chested parakeets; 12,001 turquoise parakeets). Therefore, we find that 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes is not a threat to wild turquoise parakeets or 
scarlet-chested parakeets.
C. Disease or Predation
    No threats from disease or predation have been reported for 
scarlet-chested parakeets (Garnett and Crowley 2000; Snyder et al. 
2000). The turquoise parakeet was driven to near extinction in the 
early 1900s due to introduced herbivores, drought, and possibly an 
epidemic. However, the numbers are recovering rapidly, and the species 
is locally common (Collar 1997). The birds are vulnerable to predation 
by foxes because they nest close to the ground in hollow eucalyptus 
trees and stumps, but fox predation is not considered a threat to the 
survival of this species.
    Therefore, we have no evidence, at this time, that disease and 
predation are significant factors affecting scarlet-chested parakeets 
or turquoise parakeets.
D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    As noted under Previous Federal Actions above, the Australian 
Government prohibits the commercial export of these species. Domestic 
use of these species is regulated by Australian State laws. 
Internationally, both species are listed in CITES Appendix II, which 
regulates their international commerce. Appendix-II specimens cannot be 
traded without a permit from the Management Authority of the exporting 
country. One consideration for approving or denying an export permit is 
whether or not the proposed export may be detrimental to the survival 
of the species in the wild.
    The United States has additional domestic measures that regulate 
the trade of these species. The Lacey Act prohibits the import, export, 
transport, possession, sale, or purchase of birds or their products in 
violation of State, Federal, or foreign laws or regulations. If these 
species are removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife, Endangered Species Act protection would no longer apply. In 
addition, the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 requires a WBCA import 
permit for wild-caught specimens of these species.
    Because the only international trade in these species is limited to 
captive-bred specimens and specimens not of Australian origin, because 
the species are prohibited from commercial export in Australia, and 
because stricter domestic measures govern the importation of these 
species in the United States, the existing regulatory mechanisms appear 
to be sufficient.
E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued Existence
    The scarlet-chested parakeet may be affected by competition with 
Bourke's parakeet (Neopsephotus bourkii) where permanent water has been 
provided by humans in semi-arid rangelands (Landsberg et al. 1997). 
Such competition, however, does not appear to be detrimental at a 
specieswide level. There is no information to indicate any other 
natural or manmade factors that affect the continued existence of these 

Summary of Findings

    We have carefully assessed the best available biological and 
conservation status information regarding the past, present, and future 
threats faced by the scarlet-chested and turquoise parakeets. We find 
few threats to the species in the wild. Enforcement of existing 
national and international laws and treaties has minimized the 
potential impact of trade, and wild populations are stable or 
increasing, with more than 20,000 breeding-age turquoise parakeets and 
10,000 breeding-age scarlet-chested parakeets. In the 2002 IUCN Red 
List of Threatened Species, the turquoise parakeet is not listed and 
the scarlet-chested parakeet is included only as lower risk/near 
threatened. On the basis of this evaluation, we propose to remove 
Neophema pulchella and Neophema splendida from the List of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife under the Act.

Effects of This Rule

    This rule, if made final, would revise 50 CFR 17.11(h) to remove 
the scarlet-chested parakeet and the turquoise parakeet from among the 
species included in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. 
Because no critical habitat was ever designated for these species, this 
rule would not affect 50 CFR 17.95.
    If these species are removed from the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife, Endangered Species Act

[[Page 52172]]

protection would no longer apply. The Endangered Species Act currently 
prohibits the export, import, and interstate commerce of specimens 
unless certain biological and legal criteria are met, including a 
demonstrable benefit to the wild population. However, the protections 
under the Lacey Act and the Wild Bird Conservation Act (for wild-caught 
specimens only) would remain unchanged. These species are prohibited 
from commercial export by the Government of Australia and receive 
additional domestic protection through the Australian States. Removing 
these species from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife does 
not alter or supersede their designations as near threatened (turquoise 
parakeet) and least concern (scarlet-chested parakeet) by the 
Government of Australia. In addition, removing them from the List will 
not increase the level of trade in wild-caught specimens or decrease 
the level of protection provided by CITES.

Public Comments Solicited

    We will accept written comments and information during this comment 
period from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, industry, or any other interested party. In 
particular, we are seeking comments concerning:
    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any threat (or lack thereof) to the scarlet-chested parakeet and the 
turquoise parakeet;
    (2) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, and 
population size of the scarlet-chested parakeet and the turquoise 
    (3) Current planned activities in the habitat and their possible 
impacts on the scarlet-chested parakeet and the turquoise parakeet; and
    (4) Impacts on the species caused by removing them from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Any persons commenting may request that we withhold 
their home addresses, and we will honor these requests to the extent 
allowable by law. In some circumstances, we may also withhold a 
commenter's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold 
your name or address, you must state this request prominently at the 
beginning of your comment. However, we will not consider anonymous 
comments. To the extent consistent with applicable law, 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. 
Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Division of 
Scientific Authority (see ADDRESSES section).
    You may also request a public hearing on this proposal. Your 
request for a hearing must be made in writing and filed within 45 days 
of the date of publication of this proposal in the Federal Register. 
Address your request to the Division of Scientific Authority (see 
ADDRESSES section).

Peer Review

    Under our peer review policy (59 FR 34270; July 1, 1994), we will 
solicit the expert opinions of three appropriate and independent 
specialists regarding pertinent scientific or commercial data and 
assumptions relating to the taxonomy, population models, and supportive 
biological and ecological information on this proposed rule. The 
purpose of such review is to ensure that we base listing decisions on 
scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analysis. To that end, we 
will send copies of this proposed rule to these peer reviewers 
immediately following publication in the Federal Register.

Clarity of This Regulation

    Executive Order 12866 requires each agency to write regulations 
that are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make 
this rule easier to understand, including answers to the following: (1) 
Are the requirements of the rule clear? (2) Is the discussion of the 
rule in the Supplementary Information section of the preamble helpful 
to understanding the rule? (3) What else could we do to make the rule 
easier to understand?

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 of 1973, 
as amended. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this 
determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 

References Cited

    Brown, P.B., M.C. Holdsworth, and D.E. Rounsevell. 1994. Captive 
breeding and release as a means of increasing the orange-bellied parrot 
population in the wild, pages 135-141, in Reintroduction Biology of 
Australian and New Zealand Fauna. M. Serena, ed. Surrey Beatty & Sons: 
New South Wales. Pp. 135-141.
    Collar, N.J. 1997. Scarlet-chested parakeet (Neophema splendida), 
pages 383-384, in Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 4. 
Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal, eds. 
Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
    Collar, N.J. 1997. Turquoise parakeet (Neophema pulchella), page 
383, in Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 4. Sandgrouse to 
Cuckoos. J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal, eds. Lynx Edicions, 
Barcelona. P. 383.
    Dingle, S. 2000. Turquoisine parakeet: Neophema pulchella. The AFA 
Watchbird 27(2):12.
    Garnett, S.T., and G.M. Crowley 2000. The Action Plan for 
Australian Birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra.
    Higgins, P.J. (Ed.) 1999. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and 
Antarctic Birds. Vol. 4. Parrots to Dollarbird. Oxford University 
Press, Melbourne.
    International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural 
Resources. 2002. 2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN, Gland, 
    Juniper, T., and M. Parr. 1998. Pages 365-366 in Parrots: A Guide 
to Parrots of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 
pages 365-366.
    Landsberg, J., C.D. James, S.R. Morton, T.J. Hobbs, J. Stol, A. 
Drew, and H. Tongway. 1997. The effects of artificial sources of water 
on rangeland biodiversity. Report to Environment Australia, Canberra.
    Snyder, N., P. McGowan, J. Gilardi, and A. Grajal (eds.). 2000. 
Page 56 in Parrots: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000-
2004. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K., 180p.
    Vriends, M.M. 2000. The five popular Australian grass parakeets. 
The AFA Watchbird 27(2):45-48.


    The primary author of this rule is Dr. Michael D. Kreger, Division 
of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC 
20240 (703-358-1708).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Regulations Promulgation

    We propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of 
the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:

[[Page 52173]]


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

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

    2. We propose to amend Sec.  17.11(h) by removing the entries for 
``Parakeet, scarlet-chested (Neophema splendida)'' and ``Parakeet, 
turquoise (Neophema pulchella),'' under ``BIRDS'' from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.

    Dated: August 19, 2003.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Deputy Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 03-22225 Filed 8-29-03; 8:45 am]