[Federal Register: October 15, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 199)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 59337-59345]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AH59

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reclassification 
of Lesquerella filiformis (Missouri Bladderpod) From Endangered to 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are 
reclassifying Lesquerella filiformis (Missouri bladderpod) from 
endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act), because the endangered designation no longer correctly 
reflects the current status of this plant. This reclassification is 
based on the plant's significant progress toward recovery. Since the 
time of listing, the number of known populations of the plant has 
substantially increased and the threats to some of the larger 
populations have decreased because of land acquisition, landowner 
contact programs, and beneficial management initiatives. Federal 
protection and recovery provisions provided by the Act for threatened 
plants are hereby extended to the Missouri bladderpod.

DATES: This final rule is effective on November 14, 2003.

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this rule is available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the 
Columbia Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 608 E. Cherry 
Street, Room 200, Columbia, MO 65201-7712.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul McKenzie, Ph.D., Columbia Field 
Office (see ADDRESSES section) (telephone: 573/876-1911, ext. 107; e-mail: paul_mckenzie@fws.gov; facsimile: 573/876-1914). Individuals who 
are hearing impaired or speech impaired may call the Federal Relay 
Service at 800/877-8337 for TTY assistance.



    Lesquerella filiformis (Missouri bladderpod) is an annual plant 
with erect, hairy stems approximately 20 centimeters (cm) (8 inches 
(in)) in height that branch from the plant's base. Basal leaves are 
hairy on both surfaces, 1.0-2.25 cm (0.4-0.9 in) long, 0.3-1.0 cm (0.1-
0.4 in) wide, broadly rounded, and tapering to a narrow petiole. Stem 
leaves are densely hairy with stellate hairs on both surfaces, 1.0-3.2 
cm (0.4-1.3 in) long and 1.6-16 millimeters (mm) (0.06-0.6 in) wide, 
and have a silvery appearance. Bright yellow flowers with four petals 
occur at the top of the stems in late April or early May (Morgan 1980). 
Missouri bladderpod is restricted to shallow soils of limestone glades 
in southwestern Missouri (Hickey 1988; Thomas 1996) and northwestern 
Arkansas and, occasionally, dolomite glades in north-central Arkansas 
(John Logan, Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), pers. 
comm. 2000).
    Lesquerella filiformis Rollins, a member of the mustard family 
(Brassicaceae), was first collected in 1887 in southwestern Missouri. 
Payson (1921), however, misapplied the name Lesquerella angustifolia 
(Nutt.) S. Wats. to these early collections. Rollins (1956) formally 
described Lesquerella filiformis as a distinct species, and its 
taxonomic validity was further supported in a subsequent monograph on 
the genus Lesquerella in North America by Rollins and Shaw (1973).
    Historically, Missouri bladderpod was believed to be a State 
endemic plant known solely from a few sites in two counties in 
southwestern Missouri (Morgan 1980; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
1988). In 1980, a total of 550 individual plants were estimated at 4 
sites, and at the time of listing as endangered in 1987, an estimated 
5,000 plants were determined to occur at 9 sites (Morgan 1980; 52 FR 
679, January 8, 1987). At the time of the completion of the Missouri 
Bladderpod Recovery Plan in 1988, the species was known from 11 sites 
in Christian, Dade, and Greene Counties, MO (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 1988). During that same year, the Service funded a 4-county 
survey for the species in Missouri, and an additional 45 sites were 
located (Hickey 1988). A followup survey in 1989 yielded an additional 
13 sites (Thurman and Hickey 1989). Further botanical explorations led 
to the discovery of 16 additional sites, including locations in an 
additional county in Missouri (Lawrence County) and one site each in 
Izard and Washington Counties, AR (Theo Witsell, Arkansas Natural 
Heritage Commission, in litt. 2002). In the spring of 1997, Missouri 
Department of Conservation (MDC) botanist Bill Summers (while working 
on the Flora of Missouri project) discovered the species at a 
limestone/dolomite quarry in Izard County, northcentral Arkansas (Theo 
Witsell, in litt. 2002). Subsequent investigations following this find 
led to documentation of an additional site in Washington County, 
northwestern Arkansas, discovered in 1992 (Theo Witsell, in litt. 
2002). In the spring of 1998, surveys were expanded in Arkansas, and, 
although no new sites were discovered in the State, a more extensive 
population of Missouri bladderpod was found at the Izard County site 
than had been originally discovered in 1997 (John Logan, Arkansas 
Natural Heritage Commission, pers. comm. 1998). The population at the 
Washington County site had not been observed since 1992 until it was 
rediscovered on May 1, 2002, when approximately 500 flowering and 
fruiting plants were discovered on a small glade opening at the 
original 1992 site (Theo Witsell, in litt. 2002). Currently, Missouri 
bladderpod is known to occur at a total of 61 sites in 4 counties in 
Missouri and 2 sites in 2 counties in Arkansas.
    Population levels of Missouri bladderpod fluctuate widely as is 
typical of winter annuals, depending on edaphic (soil) and climatic 
conditions, and factors such as seed crop from the preceding season, 
seed survival in the seed bank, recruitment from the seed bank, and the 
survival of growing plants (Thomas 1998). Annual monitoring data have 
been collected for a minimum of 11 consecutive years at two Missouri

[[Page 59338]]

sites, and irregular monitoring has occurred at numerous other sites. 
Thomas (1998) and Boetsch (in litt. 2002) reported changes in 
population status of Lesquerella filiformis between 1988 and 2003 on 
National Park Service (NPS) property at Bloody Hill Glade, Wilson's 
Creek National Battlefield, and observed that the population varied 
from 0 to 303,446 plants, with an average annual population of 58,862 
plants (Table 1). The MDC monitored 21 permanent plots within 1 
population at the Rocky Barrens Conservation Area between 1992 and 2003 
and noted that the number of individual plants varied from 2 to 3,584 
(Tim Smith, MDC, in litt. 2003, Table 1). Monitoring of a population at 
Cave Springs Outcrop Glade in Dade County in 1980, 1984, 1988, 1990, 
and 1993 yielded 500, 545, 50, 0, and 0 plants, respectively (MDC 
2002a). To date, the maximum population estimate at the Izard County, 
AR site has been ``tens of thousands of plants,'' in 1997, while in 
1999 only a few plants were found at the same site (Theo Witsell, in 
litt. 2002). Irregular monitoring (a minimum of 4 years of data between 
1993 and 1999) at seven Nature Conservancy registry sites yielded 
similar fluctuations in population numbers as described elsewhere, with 
estimates ranging from 0 to 47 plants at the smallest population and 3 
to 3,448 plants at the largest (Susanne Greenlee, TNC, in litt. 1999; 
MDC 2002a).

  Table 1. Annual Population Estimates of Missouri Bladderpod on Bloody
   Hill Glade (Wilson's Creek National Battlefield) and in 21 Plots at
   Rocky Barrens Conservation Area, Greene County, MO, 1988-2003 (From
Thomas 1998; Tim Smith, in litt. 2003; John Boetsch, in litt. 2002; Mike
                        DeBacker, in litt. 2003).
                                               Estimated Population Size
                                                   (number of plants)
                     Year                                      Barrens
                                               Bloody Hill  Conservation
                                                  Glade       Area (21
1988.........................................       58,351  ............
1989.........................................       31,911  ............
1990.........................................       10,154  ............
1991.........................................      303,446  ............
1992.........................................       24,611           110
1993.........................................            0         1,211
1994.........................................            0           200
1995.........................................       18,514         2,295
1996.........................................       88,166           224
1997.........................................       33,873         3,584
1998.........................................       30,475         1,283
1999.........................................       66,650           320
2000.........................................       72,623           143
2001.........................................      145,604             2
2002.........................................        2,401           713
2003.........................................       50,701         2,438
 Average.....................................       58,593   \1\ 1,0441
\1\ Average within 21 permanent plots--total population size at this
  site is much larger.

    An examination of the status of most extant sites following the 
procedures established by Hickey (1988) was conducted in the spring of 
2000. Hickey visited 52 extant sites between April and May and noted 
that: (1) Populations of the species were found in the same terrace or 
rock shelf as they were in 1988-1990, and (2) some sites exhibited 
lower numbers than in 1988-1990, apparently attributable to the drought 
conditions, an increase in cedar density or encroachment of other woody 
vegetation, or competition from exotic species of brome grasses (Bromus 
spp.). Population density at some locations increased apparently 
because of tree removal and maintained grazing (Hickey 2000). Continued 
long-term monitoring of some larger sites in Missouri and the site in 
Izard County, AR, is also planned.
    In years when germination, overwinter survival, seedling 
establishment, and plant growth are ideal, Lesquerella filiformis 
populations can be so large as to make rangewide population estimates 
extremely difficult. Despite the difficulty, estimates made by Hickey 
(1988) at 55 sites in Missouri yielded approximately 400,000 plants. 
Had rangewide estimates been taken in 1991 when 303,446 plants were 
estimated at Bloody Hill Glade, Wilson's Creek National Battlefield 
(Table 1, Thomas 1998), the population that year likely would have 
exceeded 500,000 plants. However, given the extreme annual fluctuations 
in population size, only long-term monitoring efforts patterned 
similarly to the protocol developed for the Wilson's Creek National 
Battlefield (Kelrick 2001a, 2001b) can accurately reflect the true 
population status and trend of this species and effectively evaluate 
the efficacy of management regimes on bladderpod habitat (Thomas 1998).
    The current 63 extant sites have the following Nature Conservancy 
Natural Community rankings: (1) 11 (10 in Missouri and 1 in Arkansas) 
are graded A (i.e., are relatively stable and undisturbed natural 
communities with a high diversity of conservative species); (2) 18 (all 
in Missouri) are graded B (i.e., late successional or lightly disturbed 
communities, or recently lightly disturbed or moderately disturbed in 
the past but now recovered, and the biological diversity has not been 
greatly reduced); (3) 1 in Arkansas is graded AB (i.e., intermediate 
between A and B); (4) 17 in Missouri are graded C (i.e., 
midsuccessional, moderately to heavily disturbed communities, or 
moderate recent disturbance or heavy past disturbance with decreased 
recent disturbance); and (5) 16 in Missouri are graded D (i.e., early 
successional or severely disturbed communities where the structure and 
composition of the community has been severely altered with few 
characteristic native species present) (MDC 2002a; Theo Witsell, in 
litt. 2002).
    Threats identified by the Service at the time of listing (52 FR 
679, January 8, 1987) were: (1) Vulnerability of small populations to 
overcollecting and human disturbance, (2) lack of research on proper 
management techniques necessary to maintain and promote populations of 
the species, (3) potential impacts of annual maintenance activities to 
populations located on highway rights-of-way, (4) seed destruction by 
insects and fungal infections, and (5) inadequate protection or 
management on public and private property necessary for the species' 
continued existence. Subsequently, the Service (1988) documented the 
presence of exotic plant species, such as Bromus tectorum (a cheat 
grass), in bladderpod habitat as a significant threat, and this was 
further supported by observations by Hickey (1988, 2000) and Thomas 
(1996, 1998). Additionally, Hickey (1988, 2000) and Thomas (1996) 
identified development, especially land-use changes resulting from 
urban expansion, as a major threat to the species, and Hickey (1988) 
noted an increase in grazing pressure at some of the sites discovered 
during a four-county survey.

[[Page 59339]]

    Although no specific reclassification (endangered to threatened) 
criteria were provided in the Recovery Plan, the following recovery 
(delisting) criteria were given: 30 self-sustaining populations, 15 of 
which are in secure ownership, must be at least one-half acre in size 
each and show self-sustaining populations for at least 7 years (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1988). We indicated that these recovery goals 
could be accomplished through the following actions: (1) An inventory 
of suitable habitat for new populations, (2) the protection and 
management of existing populations, (3) the continued monitoring of 
populations and initiation of research on the species, (4) the 
development and initiation of management programs on protected sites, 
(5) the establishment of new populations on public land, and (6) the 
development of public awareness and support to further the conservation 
of the species.
    Although some information gaps concerning the life history 
requirements of Lesquerella filiformis remain, research conducted since 
the species was listed in 1987 has significantly improved our 
understanding of the ecological needs of this species. Dr. Michael 
Kelrick (Truman State University, MO) has conducted and supervised 
graduate student work on demographics; seed bank ecology; matrix 
population dynamics used in the development of a population model and 
protocol for long-term monitoring; analyses of the effectiveness of 
various management prescriptions utilized to restore and enhance 
bladderpod habitat; reproductive success; fecundity; and factors 
influencing germination, seedling establishment and vegetative growth, 
metapopulation dynamics, and genetic diversity within and between 
populations (e.g., Harms 1992; Graham 1994). Lisa Potter Thomas of the 
NPS at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield has also conducted extensive 
research on the species involving life history ecology (e.g., factors 
influencing survivorship, plant vigor, and reproduction); the potential 
impacts of human foot trampling on the species; techniques useful in 
controlling exotic plants in bladderpod habitat; an examination of 
microhabitat parameters; and demographic studies that centered on 
germination, density of flowering stems, survivorship, and fecundity 
(Thomas and Jackson 1990; Thomas and Willson 1992; Thomas 1996, 1998).
    Other recommended research and recovery activities include: (1) 
Investigating the pollination ecology of the species; (2) revising the 
Recovery Plan objective established in 1988 to reflect the current 
knowledge of the species; (3) securing funding to provide necessary 
information essential to complete recovery and to facilitate the 
removal of the species from the list of federally protected species; 
(4) evaluating the efficacy of different management techniques; and (5) 
assuring that threats such as urban development and competition from 
exotic plants, both of which result from rapid population growth and 
urbanization, do not increase (The Nature Conservancy 2002; Hickey 
1988; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1988; Thomas and Jackson 1990; 
Thomas 1996).

Previous Federal Actions

    Section 12 of the Act directed the Secretary of the Smithsonian 
Institution to prepare a report, within 1 year after passage of the 
Act, on those plants considered to be endangered, threatened, or 
extinct. This report, designated as House Document No. 94-51, was 
presented to Congress on January 9, 1975. On July 1, 1975, the Director 
of the Service published a notice in the Federal Register (40 FR 27823) 
of his acceptance of the report of the Smithsonian Institution as a 
petition within the context of section 4(c)(2) of the Act (petition 
acceptance is now governed by section 4(b)(3) of the Act, as amended), 
and of his intention thereby to review the status of the plant taxa 
named within. Lesquerella filiformis was named in the Smithsonian 
report as endangered and was included in the Service's 1975 notice of 
review. A subsequent notice of review published in the December 15, 
1980, Federal Register (45 FR 82480) included L. filiformis as a 
Category 1 species, indicating that we believed there was sufficient 
biological information to support a proposal to list the species as 
endangered or threatened.
    The Endangered Species Act Amendments of 1982 required that all 
petitions, including the report of the Smithsonian Institution, still 
pending as of October 13, 1982, be treated as received on that date. 
Section 4(b)(3) of the Act, as amended, requires that, within 12 months 
of the receipt of such a petition, a finding be made as to whether the 
requested action is warranted, not warranted, or warranted but 
precluded by other higher priority activities involving additions to or 
removals from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
and Plants. Therefore, on October 13, 1983; October 12, 1984; and again 
on October 11, 1985, the Service made the finding that listing of 
Lesquerella filiformis was warranted but precluded by other pending 
listing activities. The proposed rule to list L. filiformis as 
endangered was published on April 7, 1986 (51 FR 11874), and the final 
rule was published on January 8, 1987 (52 FR 679). The Recovery Plan 
was approved on April 7, 1988 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1988).
    In letters dated January 26 and February 17, 1998, the Service 
received a petition from the MDC to reclassify Lesquerella filiformis 
from endangered to threatened. On March 18, 1998, we responded and 
indicated that, based on our Listing Priority Guidance issued on 
October 23, 1997, we could not address the petition until we completed 
other higher priority listing actions. The Act requires us to make 
certain findings on petitions to add species to the List of Endangered 
and Threatened Plants, remove species from the List, or change their 
designation on the List. A proposed rule to reclassify the Missouri 
bladderpod from endangered to threatened was published on June 10, 2003 
(68 FR 34569), constituted both our 90-day finding that the petitioned 
action may be warranted and our 12-month finding that the action is 
warranted, and opened a 60-day public comment period that ended on 
August 11, 2003.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    In the June 10, 2003, proposed rule (68 FR 34569), we requested all 
interested parties to submit comments or information concerning the 
proposed reclassification of the Missouri bladderpod from endangered to 
threatened. We published legal notices in the Arkansas Democrat-
Gazette, Lowell, Arkansas, the Kansas City Star, Kansas City, Missouri, 
and The News-Leader, Springfield, Missouri, on June 15, 2003, 
announcing the proposal and inviting public comment. In addition, we 
contacted interested parties (including elected officials, Federal and 
State agencies, local governments, scientific organizations, and 
interest groups) through a press release and related fact sheets, 
faxes, mailed announcements, telephone calls, and e-mails. The public 
comment period closed on August 11, 2003. We received four responses 
during the public comment period (one from a State agency and three 
from peer reviewers).

State Comments

    We received comments from the MDC that did not provide specific 
comments on the proposed rule, but rather expressed support for the 
reclassification of the Missouri bladderpod from endangered to

[[Page 59340]]

threatened based on the decline of threats, efforts taken to protect 
and conserve the species, and the discovery of new populations.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy published in the Federal Register on 
July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we sought the expert opinions of three 
appropriate and independent specialists regarding this proposed rule. 
The purpose of such review is to ensure that our decisions are based on 
scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We invited these 
peer reviewers to comment, during the public comment period, on the 
specific assumptions and conclusions regarding the proposed 
reclassification of Lesquerella filiformis. All of the three peer 
reviewers submitted comments that support the reclassification. We 
considered and incorporated, as appropriate, into this final rule all 
biological and commercial information obtained through the open comment 
period. Key issues raised in the comments are presented below.
    Issue 1: Two reviewers commented that long-term monitoring is 
needed to assess population stability and viability across the range of 
the species.
    Our response: As discussed above, we agree that long-term 
monitoring is essential to evaluate the rangewide status of the 
species. Although regular monitoring of Missouri bladderpod populations 
occurs on public lands, similar evaluations are needed on private land 
to assess the status of the species throughout its range. As recovery 
efforts for this species continue, we will continue to expand and 
refine the monitoring program, likely with a prioritized subset of 
    Issue 2: Two reviewers expressed concern that the invasion of 
exotic brome grasses (Bromus spp.) and other non-native species 
threaten the long-term viability of Missouri bladderpod and suggested 
that research on this issue be conducted.
    Our response: We acknowledge that the invasion of exotic species is 
a potential threat to Lesquerella filiformis and that additional 
research is needed to assess the extent of this threat. As discussed 
under the Factor A, The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of its Habitat or Range section below, 
although non-native species are now common on many areas where 
Lesquerella filiformis occurs, there is no solid evidence that these 
exotic grasses have eliminated populations of Lesquerella filiformis, 
especially in areas that are regularly managed by techniques such as 
prescribed fire. We do agree that the control of exotics should be 
further evaluated using different control methods and that sites should 
be monitored to assess the spread of non-native species onto glade 
habitat. Such research and monitoring will continue as outlined in the 
Recovery Plan for the species (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1988).
    Issue 3: One reviewer was concerned that lack of management 
contributed to the degraded condition of many glades where the species 
is found, particularly on non-public lands.
    Our response: As discussed under the Factor A, The Present or 
Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of its Habitat or 
Range section below, we believe that Missouri bladderpod responds 
favorably to various management activities (see Table 2). Missouri 
bladderpod responds positively to low to moderate disturbance, and has 
thus adapted to glades that may not be classified as high-quality 
habitats. Prescribed fire has been an effective tool in controlling the 
invasion of exotics and the encroachment onto glade habitat by native, 
woody vegetation. We do, believe, however, that the response of 
Missouri bladderpod to different management techniques should be 
further evaluated on both public and private land, and will continue 
this effort in implementing the recovery plan for this species.
    Issue 4: One reviewer expressed concern that an effective 
management tool, prescribed burns, are often difficult to implement at 
the Nathan Boone State Historic Site in Green County, MO.
    Our Response: Although prescribed burns may be difficult to 
implement at that particular Missouri bladderpod site, this is not an 
issue at the sites with other significant populations. As recovery 
efforts for the species continue, we will explore other management 
methods that may work better at Nathan Boone State Historic Site.

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 determining whether to add, reclassify, or remove a species from 
the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants using five factors 
described in section 4(a)(1). These factors and their application to 
Lesquerella filiformis Rollins (Missouri bladderpod) are as follows:

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    At the time of listing, Lesquerella filiformis was known to occur 
at only nine locations in Dade, Greene, and Christian Counties, MO. As 
described in the BACKGROUND section, surveys and research since that 
time have documented 63 extant sites. Currently, this species is known 
to occur at a total of 61 sites in 4 counties in Missouri and 2 sites 
in 2 counties in Arkansas. Of these, 30 have a TNC Nature Community 
Rank of A, B, or AB.
    Taking into consideration annual fluctuations in population, the 
estimated total number of plants known in Missouri has increased from 
approximately 550 plants in 1980 (Morgan 1980) to a potential maximum 
of 400,000-500,000 plants when climatic and edaphic conditions are 
ideal for germination, overwinter survival, seedling establishment, 
growth, and seed production. Additionally, a maximum of ``tens of 
thousands'' of plants have been reported at the Izard County, AR, site 
(Theo Witsell, in litt. 2002). Given that the two sites in Arkansas are 
separated by approximately 150 miles and are about 85-100 miles from 
the nearest location in southwestern Missouri, the possibility exists 
that additional populations of Lesquerella filiformis are yet to be 
discovered in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, especially 
because the Izard County, AR, site is partially dolomitic, a geological 
feature previously not targeted for surveys in Missouri.
    In addition, the threat of habitat loss has been reduced by the 
acquisition and management of occupied sites by public land management 
agencies and TNC (Table 2). The MDC and TNC successfully protected one 
of the largest known sites, Rocky Barrens in Greene County, MO, by 
purchasing a total of 281 acres of occupied habitat during the period 
of 1988 to 1993. Another five sites in Missouri are under public 
ownership or a long-term conservation agreement, including 
approximately 29 acres at the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield in 
Christian and Greene Counties; 3 acres at the Nathan Boone State 
Historic Site in Greene County; and approximately 40 acres at the Bois 
D'Arc Conservation Area in Greene County, an MDC property. 
Additionally, TNC has secured a 100-year lease to manage 47 acres of 
bladderpod habitat at South Greenfield Glade in Dade County, MO (Beth 
Churchwell, TNC, pers. comm. 2000).

[[Page 59341]]

   Table 2.--Beneficial Activities To Enhance Missouri Bladderpod Sites Under Public Ownership or a Long-Term
                                               Easement Agreement
                                                                              Management      Other conservation
              Site                  Managing agency         Acreage           activities          activities
Wilson' s Creek National          National Park       4 sites, 29 acres.  Control of woody    Ongoing monitoring
 Battlefield.                      Service.                                vegetation,         and demographics;
                                                                           exotic grasses,     life history and
                                                                           and sericea         micro-habitat
                                                                           lespedeza using a   studies; public
                                                                           variety of          outreach and
                                                                           methods,            education.
                                                                           removal, and
                                                                           reducing foot
                                                                           traffic impacts.
Rocky Barrens Conservation Area.  Missouri            191 acres.........  Control of woody    Ongoing
                                   Department of                           vegetation and      monitoring;
                                   Conservation.                           exotic grasses      public outreach
                                                                           using prescribed    and education;
                                                                           burning and         support of
                                                                           mechanical          various research
                                                                           removal.            projects.
Rocky Barrens...................  The Nature          90 acres..........  Control of woody    Ongoing
                                   Conservancy.                            vegetation and      monitoring;
                                                                           exotic grasses      public outreach
                                                                           using prescribed    and education;
                                                                           burning and         support of
                                                                           mechanical          various research
                                                                           removal.            projects.
Bois D'Arc Conservation Area....  Missouri            40 acres..........  Control of woody    Ongoing
                                   Department of                           vegetation and      monitoring;
                                   Conservation.                           exotic grasses      public outreach
                                                                           using prescribed    and education.
                                                                           burning and
Nathan Boone State Historic Site  Missouri            3 acres...........  Control of woody    Ongoing
                                   Department of                           vegetation and      monitoring;
                                   Natural Resources.                      exotic grasses      planned
                                                                           using prescribed    development of
                                                                           burning; fencing    interpretative
                                                                           to eliminate        program.
                                                                           cattle from
                                                                           occupied habitat.
South Greenfield................  The Nature          47 acres..........  Control of woody    Ongoing monitoring
                                   Conservancy.                            vegetation and      and floristic
                                                                           exotic grasses      inventories of
                                                                           using prescribed    associated
                                                                           burning and         species.

    The MDNR, MDC, TNC, and Wilson's Creek National Battlefield have 
undertaken various management activities to further the conservation of 
the species (Table 2). Management techniques that have been effective 
in enhancing bladderpod habitat include prescribed burning, 
chainsawing, and bulldozing to control the encroachment of woody 
vegetation such as red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and exotic plants 
such as annual brome grasses (Bromus spp.) and sericea lespedeza 
(Lespedeza cuneata), rerouting hiking trails to reduce potential impact 
from foot traffic, and installing fencing to exclude cattle from 
occupied habitat (Table 2).
    In particular, prescribed burning is a highly beneficial technique 
to improve bladderpod habitat. In 1988, an estimated 1,500 plants were 
counted at Rocky Barrens Conservation Area (Hickey 1988), and 2,000 
plants were determined to occur on the same site in 1992 (MDC 2002a). 
In August 1993, MDC conducted a controlled burn on the area (Figg and 
Priddy 1994), and over 50,000 plants were estimated in May 1994 (MDC 
2002a). The species responded similarly at the same site in the spring 
of 1997 and 1998, following controlled burns in August 1996 (Figg and 
Davit 1997) and 1997. MDC botanist Tim Smith estimated that the 
population at the site in May 1998 contained ``tens of thousands'' of 
plants (MDC 2002a).
    Additional protection and management of bladderpod habitat has 
occurred through TNC's Registry Program. From 1986 to 1996, nine sites 
in Christian, Dade, and Greene Counties were added to the 
organization's Registry Program. Under this program, private landowners 
have an agreement with TNC to protect Missouri bladderpod sites to the 
best of their ability and to notify TNC regarding any new threats to 
the species or its habitat or if the landowner plans to sell the 
property. Additionally, TNC personnel assist private landowners by 
providing management suggestions, including the development of site-
specific plans, and by notifying them of various landowner incentive 
programs that promote Best Management Practices. Best Management 
Practices developed by MDC (2000) include surveys for bladderpod and 
bladderpod habitat, controlling the encroachment of eastern red cedars 
and exotic species onto glade habitat through mechanical cutting and 
prescribed fire, avoiding the use of nonspecific herbicides between 
October and July in occupied bladderpod habitat, and avoiding heavy 
grazing or grazing during flowering and fruiting periods (March-July) 
(Susanne Greenlee, TNC, pers. comm. 1998).
    In 1998, the Service provided funding to TNC to enhance 90 acres of 
degraded bladderpod habitat on Rocky Barrens Conservation Area in 
Greene County. Missouri bladderpod habitat was improved by prescribed 
fire and cutting of invasive eastern red cedar trees. Although a 
thorough estimate of Missouri bladderpod plants has not yet been 
possible on the managed area since these restoration efforts were 
conducted in 1998, flowering plants were observed at the location in 
1999 (Doug Ladd, TNC, pers. comm. 2000).
    Potential impacts to populations of Lesquerella filiformis on 
rights-of-way maintained by the Missouri Department of Transportation 
(MODOT) was another threat identified at the time of listing (52 FR 
679, January 8, 1987) and also when the Recovery Plan was completed for 
the species (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1988). Education programs 
within the MODOT have significantly reduced the potential impact of 
mowing or chemical treatment of highway rights-of-way. Maintenance 
supervisors who work within the range of Missouri bladderpod in 
Missouri have been alerted to the location of extant populations and 
have been trained in the identification and habitat needs of the 
species. Consequently, most maintenance activities that may impact the 
species are avoided. In situations where potential impacts are

[[Page 59342]]

unavoidable, MODOT, as a designated representative for the Federal 
Highway Administration, initiates consultation with the Service and 
further discusses such activities with the MDC to minimize these 
impacts (Gene Gardner, MODOT, pers. comm. 2000).
    The expansion of the exotic brome grasses Bromus tectorum L. and B. 
sterilis L. has been identified by some as a potential threat to the 
Missouri bladderpod (The Nature Conservancy 2002; Hickey 1988; U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1988; Thomas and Jackson 1990; Thomas 1996; 
Hickey 2000). Thomas and Jackson (1990), however, indicated that exotic 
species of Bromus spp. can be controlled with a combination of 
management techniques. While such management is undoubtedly labor-
intensive, and continued monitoring of this threat is warranted, there 
is no solid evidence to date that these exotic grasses have eliminated 
populations of Lesquerella filiformis, especially in areas that are 
regularly managed by techniques such as prescribed fire. Nonetheless, 
further research on the potential adverse impacts of brome grasses to 
Missouri bladderpod is clearly warranted.
    The glade and other rocky habitats where Lesquerella filiformis is 
found were probably maintained historically by fires. The cessation or 
significant reduction in the number of fires occurring on glades in the 
last few centuries has enabled woody vegetation, such as red cedar, to 
encroach onto bladderpod habitat. The encroachment of such woody 
vegetation onto glades occupied by Lesquerella filiformis has been 
frequently listed as a threat to this species' continued existence 
(Hickey 1988; Thomas and Jackson 1990; Thomas 1996; The Nature 
Conservancy 2002). Recent research by MDC and TNC at the Rocky Barrens 
Conservation Area and Preserve in Greene County, MO, has provided 
strong evidence that this species responds well on glades that have 
been cleared of woody vegetation by the combination of cedar tree 
removal and the use of controlled fires (Figg and Davit 1997). 
Prescribed burns have been conducted on six sites under public 
ownership with positive results (Table 2). This management tool may be 
used at additional bladderpod sites.
    Grazing and haying are potential threats to Missouri bladderpod 
populations under private ownership (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
1988). Overgrazing may impact small populations of the plant, but minor 
grazing actually enhances these populations (MDC 1997). Presently, 
there are no known incidents where haying has been a threat to existing 
Missouri bladderpod populations.
    The poor, rocky, thin soils over bedrock make bladderpod habitat 
nonconducive to increases in agricultural development within the 
species' range in Missouri. Hickey (2000) reported that one population 
was destroyed by construction of a putting green on a golf course and 
another was destroyed as a result of residential construction. Thus, as 
discussed by Hickey (1988, 2000) and Thomas (1996), the species' 
habitat is threatened most by urban/suburban expansion and development.
    The Service, TNC, and all public land management agencies with 
extant sites on lands under their jurisdiction have been actively 
involved in various aspects of public outreach and education associated 
with Missouri bladderpod. These include developing landowner contact 
programs, producing educational brochures, and holding identification 
and ecology workshops on the species. In 1995, MDC published a new 
brochure for the Rocky Barrens Conservation Area that highlighted 
Missouri bladderpod. In the same year, MDC conducted an identification 
workshop for employees of the Natural Resources Conservation Service 
(NRCS) and the Williams Pipeline Company in Springfield, MO. This 
workshop was extremely productive as it led to the discovery of a 
previously unknown site of Missouri bladderpods along a powerline 
right-of-way in Greene County. In February 1997, MDC published an 
Endangered Species Guide Sheet for the Missouri bladderpod and 
distributed it to private individuals and public agency employees 
through MDC, TNC, NRCS, and the University of Missouri Extension 
Service. The brochure provided information on identification, life 
history requirements, habitat, distribution, causes of historic 
decline, current threats to the species, and management guidelines that 
would contribute to bladderpod recovery.
    Public outreach materials developed for the Missouri bladderpod 
include a Best Management Practice Guide Sheet distributed by MDC 
(2000) that outlines suggested management practices for projects that 
could potentially impact the species identified by MDC during 
environmental reviews. A public information endangered species card was 
published by the Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri 
(1999). The species was also highlighted in two separate issues of 
MDC's Missouri Conservationist (June 1995 and February 1999) involving 
endangered species.
    In 1992, MDC and the Service cooperated in a landowner contact 
program involving 25 private landowners with extant populations of 
Lesquerella filiformis in an approximately 5-square-mile area in Greene 
County, MO. The purpose of the program was to educate the landowners on 
the habitat needs of Missouri bladderpod and to suggest compatible land 
management techniques that would benefit the species. Over 80 percent 
of the people contacted responded favorably to the protection and 
management of the bladderpod and its habitat (Amy Salveter, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, pers. comm. 2000).
    Although great progress has been made toward the recovery of 
Lesquerella filiformis, the species is still threatened by urban/
suburban expansion and development and encroachment of invasive woody 
plants and exotic pasture grasses. The recent discoveries in 
northwestern Arkansas indicate that additional surveys in southern 
Missouri and northern Arkansas are warranted. Additionally, population 
estimates at all extant sites in Missouri in one year have not been 
undertaken since observations made by Hickey (1988). Extended 
demographic analyses conducted by Thomas (1996), Kelrick (2001a, 
2001b), and Smith (in litt. 2002) strongly suggest that a well-
established long-term monitoring program is necessary to accurately 
detect population trends.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    At the time of listing, overcollecting by botanists and flower 
garden enthusiasts was considered a threat to the species' continued 
existence (52 FR 679, January 8, 1987). Although Steyermark (1963) 
indicated that the Missouri bladderpod is a desirable addition to rock 
gardens, and the Service postulated that the species may be vulnerable 
to overcollection at the time of listing (52 FR 679, January 8, 1987), 
there is no evidence to date that such activities have taken place. 
Additionally, given the large number of currently known extant sites 
(61 in Missouri and 2 in Arkansas), adverse impacts from overcollecting 
by wildflower enthusiasts or botanical collectors is extremely 
unlikely, even during years when the number of flowering individuals is 
low. Overutilization is no longer believed to pose a threat to this 

C. Disease or Predation

    Morgan (1983) studied one population of Lesquerella filiformis at 
Wilson's Creek National Battlefield in Greene

[[Page 59343]]

County, MO, and determined that insect predation and fungal infection 
damaged seed set. Although there may be a concern for such impacts 
during low population levels, it is likely that Missouri bladderpod has 
adapted to such natural influences and the species is probably well 
buffered against these natural occurrences at more robust population 
levels. To date, there is no evidence that these agents are exotic to 
the species' habitat, or that naturally occurring incidents of disease 
or predation have contributed to a recent decline in any of the known 
extant populations.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The MDC recently adopted the conservation status ranking system 
developed by NatureServe, TNC, and the Natural Heritage Network for 
global (G ranks) and State (S ranks) rankings for all State and 
federally listed species in Missouri (Missouri Natural Heritage Program 
2003). Lesquerella filiformis is officially listed in Missouri as rare 
and uncommon, with a ranking of S3 (rare and uncommon in the State; 21 
to 100 occurrences), and G2 (imperiled globally because of extreme 
rarity or because of some factor(s) making it especially vulnerable to 
extinction; typically 5 or fewer occurrences or very few remaining 
individuals or acres). This species is also listed in the Wildlife Code 
of Missouri (MDC 2002b). Species listed in the Wildlife Code of 
Missouri under 3CSR10-4.111 are protected by State Endangered Species 
Law 252.240. Missouri regulations prohibit the exportation, 
transportation, or sale of plants on the State or Federal lists. A 
small percentage of Missouri's populations of Missouri bladderpod occur 
on lands either administered by MDC, MDNR, NPS, or TNC. These agencies 
prohibit the removal of this plant from their properties without a 
collector's permit.
    Currently, Lesquerella filiformis is State-listed in Arkansas as S1 
(critically imperiled in the State because of extreme rarity or because 
of some factor(s) making it especially vulnerable to extirpation from 
the State; typically five or fewer occurrences or very few remaining 
individuals; Theo Witsell, in litt. 2002) but receives no additional 
protection other than those specified under the Act (John Logan, pers. 
comm. 1998).

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Various human disturbances were considered as threats to the 
species at the time Lesquerella filiformis was listed in 1987 (52 FR 
679, January 8, 1987). Thomas and Willson (1992) examined the potential 
impact of trampling on a population at Wilson's Creek National 
Battlefield and noted that the species' survival decreased by 42 
percent when subjected to the highest level of trampling intensity. 
Although populations of L. filiformis on public areas that receive high 
levels of trampling are few in number, precautions will need to be 
taken in the future to protect Missouri bladderpod habitat at such 
locations. Other studies and observations, however, suggest that this 
species actually benefits from low to moderate levels of human-induced 
disturbance that reduce woody encroachment and stimulate seed bank 
germination through soil disturbance (MDC 1997; Jerry Conley, MDC, in 
litt. 1998). Excessive disturbance from trampling, overgrazing by 
livestock, and significant alterations of glade habitat through the use 
of ground-moving equipment could become increased threats to the 
species in the future and should be closely monitored.

Summary of Status

    Under the Act, an endangered species is defined as one that is in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range. A threatened species is defined as one that is likely to become 
an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. Given that (1) Lesquerella filiformis 
now occurs at 61 sites in Missouri and 2 sites in Arkansas (an increase 
of 54 sites since listing); (2) 6 sites in Missouri are under public 
ownership or under a long-term conservation agreement and are managed 
to benefit the species; (3) 9 additional sites in Missouri receive some 
degree of protection as part of TNC's Registry Program; (4) the species 
responds well to the proper management of its habitat, especially cedar 
tree removal and controlled burning; (5) minor levels of disturbance 
may actually benefit rather than hinder the species; and (6) 
significant knowledge has been gained regarding the life history 
requirements and population dynamics of the species, we no longer 
believe that this species meets the definition of an endangered 
    Although there has been a considerable increase in the number of 
known populations, an expansion of the known range of the species, and 
a sizeable increase in the number of known individual plants, the 
Missouri bladderpod has not recovered to the point that it can be 
removed (delisted) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Plants (50 CFR 17.12). These numerical increases are encouraging, and 
they provide evidence suggesting the species has exceeded the first 
delisting criterion, which requires 30 self-sustaining populations. 
However, the delisting criteria also require that 15 of the populations 
must be in secure ownership, be at least one-half acre in size, and 
show self-sustaining populations for at least 7 years. At this time, 
fewer than 10 populations can be considered to be in secure ownership, 
and only 3 of these populations have been monitored for at least 7 
years. Although acreage of these secured populations is large, because 
of the year-to-year population fluctuations demonstrated by this 
species, at this time we can document that only one of these three 
populations is viable and self-sustaining for at least 7 years. 
Therefore, we believe delisting this species would be premature.
    Consequently, on the basis of our review of the best available 
scientific and commercial data, we are reclassifying the Missouri 
bladderpod from endangered to threatened under the Act.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
activities. Recognition through listing results in public awareness and 
conservation actions by Federal, State, tribal, and local agencies, 
private organizations, and individuals. The Act provides for possible 
land acquisition and cooperation with the States and requires that 
recovery plans be developed for all listed species. The protection 
required of Federal agencies and the prohibitions against certain 
activities involving listed plants are discussed below.
    Section 7(a) of the Act, as amended, requires Federal agencies to 
evaluate their actions with respect to any species that is proposed or 
listed as endangered or threatened, and with respect to its critical 
habitat if any is being designated. Regulations implementing this 
interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR 
part 402. Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or destroy 
or adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action may 
affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible 
Federal agency must enter into consultation with us.

[[Page 59344]]

    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all threatened 
plants. With respect to Lesquerella filiformis, certain prohibitions of 
section 9(a)(2) of the Act, implemented by 50 CFR 17.71 for threatened 
plants, apply. These prohibitions, in part, make it illegal for any 
person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to import or 
export, transport in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a 
commercial activity, sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign 
commerce, or remove and reduce the species to possession from areas 
under Federal jurisdiction. Seeds from cultivated specimens of 
threatened plants are exempt from these prohibitions provided that 
their containers are marked ``Of Cultivated Origin.'' Certain 
exceptions to the prohibitions apply to our agents and State 
conservation agencies. We are not aware of any otherwise lawful 
activities being conducted or proposed by the public that will be 
affected by application of section 9 to this listing.
    The Act and 50 CFR 17.72 also provide for the issuance of permits 
to carry out otherwise prohibited activities involving threatened 
plants under certain circumstances. Such permits are available for 
scientific purposes and to enhance the propagation or survival of the 
species. For threatened plants, permits also are available for 
botanical or horticultural exhibition, educational purposes, or special 
purposes consistent with the purpose of the Act. We anticipate that few 
trade permits would ever be sought or issued for Lesquerella filiformis 
because the plant is not in cultivation or common in the wild.
    This rule changes the status of Lesquerella filiformis at 50 CFR 
17.12 from endangered to threatened. This rule is not an irreversible 
action on the part of the Service. Reclassifying Lesquerella filiformis 
to endangered may be considered if changes occur in management, 
habitat, or other factors that negatively alter the species' status or 
increase threats to its survival.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities will constitute a 
violation of section 9 should be directed to the Field Supervisor of 
the Service's Columbia Field Office (see the ADDRESSES section). 
Requests for copies of the regulations concerning listed plants and 
general inquiries regarding prohibitions and issuance of permits under 
the Act may be addressed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, BHW 
Federal Building, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111 (phone 612/
713-5350, facsimile 612/713-5292).

Required Determinations

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR 1320, 
which implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 
3501 et seq.) require that Federal agencies obtain approval from OMB 
before collecting information from the public. An agency may not 
conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a 
collection of information, unless it displays a currently valid control 
number. This regulation does not contain any new collections of 
information other than those permit application forms already approved 
and assigned OMB clearance number 1018-0094. For additional information 
concerning permits and associated requirements for threatened species, 
see 50 CFR 17.72.

Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 13211 on 
regulations that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and 
use. Executive Order 13211 requires Federal agencies to prepare 
Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. This 
rule is not expected to significantly affect energy supplies, 
distribution, or use. Therefore, this action is not a significant 
energy action, and no Statement of Energy Effects is required.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have analyzed this rulemaking in accordance with the criteria of 
the National Environmental Policy Act and 318 DM 2.2(g) and 6.3(D). 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. A notice 
outlining our reasons for this determination was published in the 
Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein, as well as others, 
is available upon request from the Service's Columbia, MO, Field Office 
(see ADDRESSES section).


    The primary author of this proposed rule is Paul M. McKenzie, Ph.D. 
(see ADDRESSES section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Regulation Promulgation

Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of Chapter I, title 50 of 
the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:


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. Section 17.12(h) is amended by revising the entry for ``Lesquerella 
filiformis'' under FLOWERING PLANTS to read as follows:

Sec.  17.12  Endangered and threatened plants.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

-----------------------------------------------------   Historic range          Family          Status       When      Critical     Special
         Scientific name              Common name                                                           listed      habitat      rules
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Lesquerella filiformis..........  Missouri            U.S.A. (AR, MO)...  Brassicaceae......          T    253, 739          NA          NA
                                                                      * * * * * * *

[[Page 59345]]

    Dated: September 29, 2003.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 03-25884 Filed 10-14-03; 8:45 am]