[Federal Register: November 9, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 216)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 64884-64889]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
for a Petition to List Cymopterus deserticola (desert cymopterus) as 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
12-month finding for a petition to list Cymopterus deserticola (desert 
cymopterus) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act). After reviewing the available scientific and commercial 
information, we find that listing the species as threatened or 
endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range is not 
warranted at this time. We ask the public to submit to us any new 
information that becomes available concerning the status of, or threats 
to the species. This information will help us monitor the status of 
this species.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on November 9, 
2004. Although no further action will result from this finding, we 
request that you submit new information concerning the status of, or 
threats to, this species, whenever it becomes available.

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this finding is available for 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at the 
Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2493 
Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003. Please submit any new 
information, materials, comments, or questions concerning this species 
to the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Diane Noda, Field Supervisor, Ventura 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section above) (telephone at 
805/644-1766; facsimile 805/644-3958).



    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that, for any petition 
to revise the List of Threatened and Endangered Species that contains 
substantial scientific and commercial information indicating that 
listing may be warranted, we make a finding within 12 months of the 
date of the receipt of the petition. We may find that the petitioned 
action is: (a) Not warranted, or (b) warranted, or (c) warranted but 
precluded by other pending proposals. Such 12-month findings are to be 
published promptly in the Federal Register.
    On April 15, 2002, we received a petition, dated March 29, 2002, 
from the California Native Plant Society and the Center for Biological 
Diversity, requesting us to list Cymopterus deserticola (desert 
cymopterus) as an endangered species and designate critical habitat. On 
June 12, 2002, we sent a letter to the petitioners explaining that we 
would not be able to address their petition in the current fiscal year 
because court orders and settlement agreements required nearly all of 
our listing funding. On April 25, 2003, the California Native Plant 
Society and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a complaint 
against the Service for failure to make the mandatory 90-day and 12-
month petition findings (California Native Plant Society and the Center 
for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, C-03-1881-
JCS). Settlement due dates were agreed to of February 1, 2004, for the 
90-day finding, and, if the 90-day finding was found to be substantial, 
November 1, 2004, for the 12-month finding. The Director signed the 90-
day finding on January 29, 2004. On February 10, 2004, we published a 
notice in the Federal Register announcing our initial petition finding 
that the petitioned action may be warranted (69 FR 6240) and initiated 
a status review at that time. We have now completed our status review 
of the best available scientific and commercial information on 
Cymopterus deserticola, and have reached a determination regarding the 
petitioned action.

Species Information

    Cymopterus deserticola, an herbaceous perennial plant, is a member 
of the carrot family (Apiaceae). Individual plants generally reach 6 
inches (in) (15 centimeters (cm)) in height when in flower. Cymopterus 
deserticola is unusual in having herbaceous above-ground leaves and 
inflorescences (flowering parts of plant) that die back at the end of 
the growing season, leaving only the perennial taproot to overwinter. 
The plant may only produce the leaves and inflorescences in years when 
favorable climatic conditions, including sufficient rainfall, are 
present. In some years, individuals may produce leaves but not 
inflorescences. In years when flowering does occur, the inflorescences 
emerge in early spring. During unfavorable climatic conditions, such as 
severe drought, the plant may persist solely as a dormant taproot; the 
length of time the perennial taproot of C. deserticola can survive is 
    Cymopterus deserticola grows on loose, sandy soils in Joshua tree 
woodland, saltbush scrub, and Mojavean desert scrub communities in the 
western Mojave Desert, at elevations between 2,000 and 3,000 feet (610 
and 915 meters) (Bagley 1998). The sandy soils that C. deserticola 
requires can be found on alluvial fans and basins, stabilized sand 
fields, and occasionally sandy slopes of desert dry lake basins. This 
species typically grows in the cool, moist conditions of winter and 
early spring, and goes dormant as the warmer weather progresses in 
April and May (Bagley 1998). Very little is known

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about the reproduction and recruitment of C. deserticola.

Range and Distribution

    In 1915, Thomas Brandegee first described Cymopterus deserticola 
from material collected near Kramer Junction, San Bernardino County, 
California. The historic distribution of C. deserticola ranges from 
Apple Valley, San Bernardino County, northward approximately 55 miles 
(mi) (89 kilometers (km)) to the Cuddeback Lake basin in San Bernardino 
County, and westward approximately 45 mi (73 km) to the Rogers and 
Buckhorn Dry Lake basins on Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) in Kern and 
Los Angeles Counties, California (Mitchell et al. 1995; California 
Department of Fish and Game's California Natural Diversity Database 
(CNDDB) 2003).
    The Apple Valley sites are known only from historic collections 
made in 1915, 1920, and 1941. Recent attempts to locate Cymopterus 
deserticola in areas of the historic Apple Valley collections have been 
unsuccessful, and it appears that these sites have been lost as a 
result of urban development and off-highway vehicle (OHV) use (Moe 
1988). The Apple Valley sites are also disjunct by at least 28 mi (45 
km) from the nearest known extant populations (i.e., group of 
individuals of the same species living and interacting in the same 
geographic area). The known extant range of the species is confined 
mostly to the Rogers Dry Lake, Harper Dry Lake, Cuddeback Dry Lake, and 
Superior Dry Lake basins. The Rogers Dry Lake basin, where most of the 
plants are known to occur, is located mainly on EAFB in the 
southwestern portion of the species' range. The Harper Dry Lake basin 
located in the central portion of the species' range is under the 
jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and private land 
owners. The Cuddeback Dry Lake basin located in the northern portion of 
the species' range is under the jurisdiction of BLM. The Superior Dry 
Lake basin located in the eastern portion of the species range is 
mainly on Ft. Irwin, including the Ft. Irwin expansion area. This 
extant range extends approximately 50 mi (80 km) from east to west and 
35 mi (56 km) from north to south.
    Since we published our 90-day finding on the petition to list the 
species on February 10, 2004 (69 FR 6240), the CNDDB received one new 
record of occurrence of Cymopterus deserticola in San Bernardino 
County. This brings the total number of known records in the CNDDB to 
71 populations as of May 2004. We also received additional records of 
occurrence for Kern and San Bernardino Counties in 2003 and 2004 
(Service files) which have not been entered into CNDDB. Currently there 
are a total of 105 known populations of C. deserticola.
    The greatest number of known populations and individuals is located 
within the Rogers Dry Lake basin. The vast majority of the populations 
(approximately 87 percent) in this basin are located on EAFB, with a 
few of the known plants on BLM and private land to the north of the 
base. Intensive surveys for Cymopterus deserticola were conducted on 
EAFB in 1995 (Mitchell et al. 1995), during which 56 new populations 
were discovered. In all, 85 C. deserticola populations were observed 
within this basin in 1995, with 14,362 plants counted.
    In 2003, EAFB developed a habitat model for Cymopterus deserticola 
and two other plant species of concern, Calochortus striatus (alkali 
mariposa lily) and Eriophyllum mohavense (Barstow woolly sunflower). 
The model used the habitat attributes of the known occurrences of these 
species. The purpose of the model was to identify other potential sites 
where these species might occur. EAFB then conducted field surveys to 
validate the model. Six new populations of C. deserticola were found on 
EAFB and just to the north of the base during these field surveys (Wood 
2003). These new populations increased the known distribution and 
abundance of this species within the Rogers Dry Lake basin. Therefore, 
at least 91 (not 92 as incorrectly reported in the 90-day finding (69 
FR 6240)) populations of C. deserticola are currently known to occur 
within the basin. According to the CNDDB (2004), the number of 
individuals reported ranges from a single individual on less than 10.7 
square feet (1 square meter) to a population of 5,377 individuals on 
376.3 acres (ac) (152.3 hectares (ha)).
    The Cuddeback Dry Lake basin is under the jurisdiction of BLM, and 
the grazing privileges to this area have been acquired by non-profit 
environmental groups. Although extensive surveys for Cymopterus 
deserticola have not been conducted within the Cuddeback Dry Lake 
basin, four populations are currently known to occur within the basin. 
The number of individual plants in these populations varies from a few 
to more than 40 (CNDDB 2004), and additional data collected by BLM and 
the Department of Defense (DOD) in 2003 and 2004 (Service files) 
regarding these populations are being submitted to the CNDDB. Dr. 
Michael Conner of the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee has observed 
individuals of C. deserticola within the Cuddeback Dry Lake basin and 
believes that the number of individuals would be found to be higher 
than is currently known if focused surveys for C. deserticola were 
conducted in the Cuddeback Dry Lake basin (M. Conner, pers. comm. 
2004). Glenn Harris of the BLM has also found C. deserticola to be more 
prevalent and widespread within this basin than reported in the 
petition and the CNDDB. He has found that the reported distribution and 
abundance of this species within this basin increases as suitable 
habitat is surveyed (G. Harris, pers. comm. 2004). He also believes the 
distribution of individuals within this basin would potentially 
increase if surveys focusing on C. deserticola and its habitat were 
conducted, and the actual number of individuals within this basin 
probably ranges from several hundred to a few thousand.
    Six known populations of Cymopterus deserticola occur in the Harper 
Dry Lake basin, totaling approximately 200 individual plants (BLM 
2001). However, extensive surveys focusing on C. deserticola have not 
been performed within this basin.
    Within the Superior Dry Lake basin, Silverman and Cione (BLM 2001) 
reported a previously unknown population of 40 individuals of 
Cymopterus deserticola in 2001. The U.S. Army's Ft. Irwin conducted 
surveys in 2004 and found that the species occurred in greater 
abundance and over a wider area than previously known (Mickey Quillman, 
Natural Resources Manager, Ft. Irwin, pers. comm. 2004). These surveys 
did not include lands within the China Lake Naval Weapons Center 
(CLNWC) or NASA's Goldstone facility that borders Ft. Irwin and the 
western expansion area of the Army's National Training Center. However, 
C. deserticola was observed at the boundary between Ft. Irwin and 
CLNWC, and Ft. Irwin and Goldstone, indicating that there is high 
probability that C. deserticola is also present on CLNWC and Goldstone.
    The extent that a species is threatened depends on numerous 
factors, including the species' range and distribution. Currently, the 
known range of Cymopterus deserticola is primarily based on occurrence 
data submitted to the CNDDB, but such data does not rule out the 
existence of additional occupied areas. C. deserticola is cryptic in 
nature, and often requires several years of surveying to identify 
occupied and unoccupied habitat due to this species' short period of 
above-ground foliage and inflorescence. Also, survey information for C. 
deserticola is more complete for some areas than others, and large 

[[Page 64886]]

within the plant's range have not been surveyed. With the exception of 
EAFB and the recent April and May 2004 surveys performed on Ft. Irwin's 
western expansion area in the Superior Dry Lake basin, the range and 
distribution of C. deserticola has been poorly documented, especially 
for non-DOD lands. In addition, survey results are not always 
comparable because of the variation in how individual plants and 
populations (group of individuals of the same species living and 
interacting in the same geographic area) are tallied across the 
landscape. Moreover, surveys only count the individuals visible above 
ground; consequently, survey numbers may represent only a subset of the 
total number of individuals within a population. Because there are no 
survey data for many areas, the range and distribution of C. 
deserticola are not well established and may be more extensive than 
indicated by currently available information. For example, many new 
populations of C. deserticola were found during recent focused surveys 
in Superior Dry Lake basin. From discussions with biologists from DOD 
(M. Quillman, pers. comm. 2004), BLM (G. Harris, pers. comm. 2004), and 
the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee (M. Conner, pers. comm. 2004), 
C. deserticola is thought to be more abundant and have a wider 
distribution than currently documented. Nevertheless, based on the 
currently known numerous extant populations and the status of these 
populations, discussed below, we have determined that listing is not 
warranted at this time.

Discussion of Listing Factors

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and implementing regulations 
at 50 CFR part 424 set forth procedures for adding species to the 
Federal endangered and threatened species list. A species may be 
determined to be an endangered or threatened species due to one or more 
of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1). These factors and 
their application to Cymopterus deserticola are as follows:
    A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of its Habitat or Range. According to the petition, 
Cymopterus deserticola is potentially vulnerable to habitat alteration 
and destruction due to military activities on EAFB, the expansion of 
Ft. Irwin, utility construction, OHV use, oil and gas development, and 
Land Tenure Adjustment (LTA) (a process whereby public and private 
lands are exchanged and consolidated). Of the 71 C. deserticola 
population occurrences reported in the CNDDB (2004), 55 (roughly 77 
percent) are on land managed by EAFB, 9 are on BLM lands, 3 are on 
private lands, and 4 are located on lands with unknown ownership. 
Additional occurrences not yet reported to the CNDDB are located on 
land managed by the BLM and private land owners.
    One of the threats to known Cymopterus deserticola habitat 
mentioned by the petitioners is from the cleanup of the Propulsion 
Directorate Plume of groundwater contamination in the Rogers Dry Lake 
basin area on EAFB (EAFB 1998). The petitioners claim that the 
associated effects from extracting contaminated groundwater would be 
surface disturbance and a massive change in hydrology, and that these 
effects may imperil the persistence of this large population. However, 
EAFB is not conducting, and is not planning to conduct, groundwater 
extraction (EAFB in litt. 2004). The only activity that may affect C. 
deserticola is groundwater monitoring, which includes installation of 
wells and access to wells via foot traffic to sample groundwater at the 
well sites. According to EAFB, from 1999 to 2003, cleanup activities 
associated with this plume, which underlies this large population, have 
disturbed less than 0.01 ac (0.004 ha) of the 86 ac (35 ha) associated 
with this known population. Therefore, the number of individual plants 
affected by this action is expected to be minimal due to the extremely 
small area of disturbance at this site.
    Other military activities within the boundaries of EAFB include 
occasional foot traffic to conduct wildlife and plant inventories. 
These activities should have little or no impact on Cymopterus 
deserticola. Activities in the eastern portion of the base are 
generally limited to foot traffic and routine range operations that 
have a minimal impact on C. deserticola, and ground training using 
troops and vehicles in this area is rare, typically limited to existing 
roads and cleared areas (EAFB, in litt. 2004). No other activities are 
currently being conducted on EAFB that would affect the habitat of C. 
deserticola (Shannon Collis, pers. comm. 2004).
    At the time the petitioners submitted their petition, only a single 
population of approximately 40 individual plants was known from the 
Superior Dry Lake basin. The petitioners claimed that this population 
would be threatened with extirpation from large-scale tank maneuvers 
that would result from the expansion of Ft. Irwin. Although this may 
have been the eventual outcome for the single known population, three 
additional populations have been found in this basin since the petition 
was submitted. These four populations vary by area and number of 
individuals. One population is located on 33 acres and contained 12 
individuals, a second population located on 61 acres contained 60 
individuals, a third population located on 298 acres contained 366 
individuals, and a fourth population located on 371 acres contained 484 
individuals (Ft. Irwin 2004). Although military training exercises are 
likely to adversely affect three of the four populations, Ft. Irwin has 
installed a permanent fence around the 298 acres containing the 366-
plant population, thereby protecting this population from all military 
operations as well as from OHV use and grazing (M. Quillman, pers. 
comm. 2004). Permanent fencing has been effectively used by Ft. Irwin 
to protect the threatened plant, Astragalus jaegerianus (Lane Mountain 
milk-vetch) from military operations (M. Quillman, pers. comm. 2004). 
Fencing for Cymopterus deserticola and A. jaegerianus is maintained by 
Ft. Irwin on a monthly basis, and Ft. Irwin strictly enforces area 
closures. Electronic monitoring devices warn tracked vehicles on 
approach of closed areas, and breaches are rare (M. Quillman, pers. 
comm. 2004).
    Although focused surveys for Cymopterus deserticola have not been 
conducted on CLNWC, which is located adjacent and to the north and west 
of Ft. Irwin, plants are known to occur there (M. Quillman, pers. comm. 
2004). Ground-based military training operations do not occur on CLNWC, 
and threats to the plants on CLNWC are minimal. Focused surveys have 
also not been conducted on BLM lands adjacent to Ft. Irwin in the 
Superior Dry Lake basin. However, based on the presence of suitable 
habitat for C. deserticola on BLM land, it is highly likely that plants 
also occur there. As mentioned above, Ft. Irwin has conducted focused 
surveys of the base. To locate new populations and further delineate 
the range of the plant in the Superior Dry Lake basin, Ft. Irwin will 
expand their surveys for C. deserticola to include areas outside of Ft. 
Irwin's boundaries next year contingent upon adequate rains. CLNWC will 
also conduct surveys for C. deserticola next year, contingent upon 
adequate rains (Steve Penix, CLNWC, pers. comm. 2004). Therefore, 
because of the large number of plants (366) and their habitat (298 
acres) that Ft. Irwin is protecting and the presence of plants on CLNWC 
where threats are minimal, we believe that C. deserticola is not likely 
to be in danger of extirpation in this area within the foreseeable 
    The petitioners claim that utility construction has impacted 
Cymopterus deserticola and its habitat in the

[[Page 64887]]

southern portion of Harper Dry Lake basin and the northern portion of 
Rogers Dry Lake basin. According to the petitioners, the known 
locations of C. deserticola within this utility corridor are the result 
of surveys performed for a linear energy project. Less than 1 percent 
of known C. deserticola individuals are located within designated 
utility corridors, and no new utility corridors are proposed in the 
West Mojave Plan (WMP) (BLM 2003). Utility corridors are used for both 
electrical transmission lines and oil and gas pipelines. Although past 
utility construction has likely resulted in the loss of some habitat 
and individual plants, we do not consider utility construction to be a 
major current threat to this species because very few plants are known 
to occur within existing corridors.
    Heavy recreational OHV activity has been cited as seriously 
impacting potential Cymopterus deserticola habitat and may have been at 
least partly responsible for the extirpation of the population in Apple 
Valley (Moe 1988). The petitioners claim that OHV activity has impacted 
C. deserticola habitat in the Superior Valley, and BLM has assessed the 
habitat at the single previously known Superior Valley population as 
being in ``poor condition'' due to adverse effects from OHV recreation. 
However, with the expansion of Ft. Irwin, recreational OHV activity is 
now precluded from much of the area, and Ft. Irwin has now permanently 
fenced a large, 366-plant Superior Dry Lake population, thereby 
protecting it from OHV activity.
    We have been unable to find any documentation indicating OHV 
activity as a threat to Cymopterus deserticola and its habitat within 
the Harper, Rogers, and Cuddeback Dry Lake basins. According to the WMP 
(BLM 2003), the Harper Dry Lake basin area is used for environmental 
education, nature study, and wildlife viewing, and OHV use is 
restricted to the open routes of travel. Within the Rogers Dry Lake 
basin located on EAFB, OHV activity is not allowed. Within the 
Cuddeback Dry Lake basin area, where there may be as many as a few 
thousand plants (G. Harris, pers. comm. 2004), OHV activity is 
designated by the BLM as a ``limited'' use area; in limited use areas, 
``motorized-vehicle access is allowed only on certain existing routes 
of travel, which include roads, ways, trails, and washes'' (BLM 1980). 
In designated ``open'' use areas, ``vehicle travel is permitted 
anywhere in the area if the vehicle is operated responsibly in 
accordance with regulations and subject to permission of private land 
owners if applicable'' (BLM 1980). Open use areas are the preferred 
destination for OHV enthusiasts, and receive much more activity than 
limited or moderate use areas. This does not mean, however, that OHV 
activity is nonexistent in limited or moderate use areas, but rather 
the threat of OHV activity in these areas is minimal due to the 
majority of OHV activity taking place in open areas. Because OHV 
activity is either not permitted, or only permitted to the limited 
passage of vehicles across the area and allowed only on designated 
existing roads, and that the areas described above do not receive the 
level of OHV activity as open areas, we do not consider OHV use as a 
major threat to C. deserticola populations within the Harper, Rogers, 
and Cuddeback Dry Lake basin areas.
    Presently, and in the foreseeable future, the existence of 
Cymopterus deserticola does not appear to be threatened by oil and gas 
development. We are not aware of any oil and gas development projects 
within the area occupied by C. deserticola, nor is BLM aware of any 
such projects (Larry Lapre, BLM, pers. comm. 2004).
    The petitioners expressed concern regarding one population located 
north of EAFB in the Peerless Valley that is available for LTA. They 
state that this action would potentially remove another site from 
public domain. However, according to the Record of Decision for the 
Western Mojave Land Tenure Adjustment Project, ``Should a listed or 
sensitive species, other than those previously covered by consultation 
and conference, be found on a parcel proposed for disposal during site 
specific analysis, consultation will be initiated with Federal and 
State fish and wildlife agencies to determine if mitigation should be 
applied prior to or after disposal or if the disposal should not 
occur'' (BLM 1991). Since Cymopterus deserticola is considered by BLM 
to be a sensitive species, either the loss of this site would not occur 
or would be mitigated.
    B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes. The listing petition acknowledges, and we agree, 
that current data do not indicate that this factor constitutes a threat 
to Cymopterus deserticola.
    C. Disease or Predation. The listing petition acknowledges, and we 
agree, that current data do not indicate that disease constitutes a 
threat to Cymopterus deserticola. The listing petition also 
acknowledges that there is currently nothing in the scientific 
literature about the effects of livestock grazing on this species. 
However, grazing has been documented as a threat on EAFB in the Rogers 
Dry Lake basin area (EAFB, in litt. 2004), and as noted by the 
petitioners, grazing continues to occur in several areas within the 
range of C. deserticola.
    Even though livestock grazing on EAFB is prohibited, a research 
study site for Cymopterus deserticola on EAFB was directly affected 
when the aboveground portion of all plants were eaten by trespass sheep 
in 1994. By 2001, EAFB installed a fence along the boundary of the base 
preventing access by livestock and eliminating the threat of grazing on 
C. deserticola in the Rogers Dry Lake basin area of EAFB (EAFB, in 
litt. 2004).
    Cymopterus deserticola occurs within the 26,314-ac (10,649-ha) 
Harper Lake cattle grazing allotment, which is within the Harper Dry 
Lake basin and is managed by BLM. In the past, trespass grazing (cattle 
and sheep) from this allotment has been chronic on adjacent lands where 
a population of C. deserticola is located (BLM 1998). BLM has installed 
a fence to reduce the possibility of trespass grazing on the adjacent 
land and to confine the grazing to the allotment itself where, for the 
time being, grazing still occurs (Charles Sullivan, BLM, pers. comm. 
2004). Therefore, currently, grazing by livestock on C. deserticola and 
potential impacts (e.g., trampling, soil compaction) to the habitat 
have been minimized in the Harper Dry Lake basin, and we believe that 
C. deserticola is not likely to be in danger of extirpation in this 
area within the foreseeable future. In addition to the fencing 
installed by BLM, as mitigation for the Ft. Irwin expansion area, the 
Army has purchased lands within the Harper Lake cattle grazing 
allotment (Anthony Chavez, BLM, pers. comm. 2004). As a condition for 
this purchase, the owner has relinquished all grazing privileges to the 
allotment. Therefore, cattle grazing will no longer occur in this 
allotment, and the potential threat to C. deserticola from grazing will 
be eliminated from this large area.
    Cymopterus deserticola occurs within the 49,000-ac (19,830-ha) 
Pilot Knob cattle grazing allotment, which is located within the 
Cuddeback Dry Lake basin. To benefit the desert tortoise, the Desert 
Tortoise Preserve Committee (Preserve Committee) and the Wildlands 
Conservancy purchased 1,360 ac (550 ha) of desert tortoise critical 
habitat within the allotment and thereby gained control of all grazing 
privileges, water rights, structures, and range improvements for the 
entire allotment (Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee 1996). The 
Preserve Committee does not

[[Page 64888]]

allow any livestock grazing to occur within the Pilot Knob allotment. 
Although the elimination of grazing in this 49,000-ac area is to 
protect the desert tortoise, the potential threat of grazing to C. 
deserticola has also been eliminated.
    Grazing has occurred within the Superior Dry Lake basin in the 
past. However, with the expansion of Ft. Irwin, grazing is now 
precluded from much of the area, and Ft. Irwin has now permanently 
fenced a large, 366-plant Superior Dry Lake population, thereby 
protecting it from grazing.
    At the Rogers Dry Lake basin, high levels of ``leaf predation'' on 
Cymopterus deserticola were observed in two studies on EAFB in areas 
not grazed by livestock (Mitchell et al. 1995; Charleton 1993). Such 
grazing was likely due to a variety of native animals such as black-
tailed jackrabbits (Lepus californicus), brush rabbits (Family 
Leporidae), ground squirrels (Family Sciuridae), kangaroo rats (Family 
Heteromyidae), mice (Families Cricetidae), desert tortoise, 
caterpillars (Order Lepidoptera), and beetles (Order Coleoptera) 
(Bagley 1998). Although the effects of grazing on C. deserticola by 
native wildlife are unknown, this type of grazing is a natural 
component of the Mojave Desert ecosystem, and we do not believe that 
native wildlife is a threat to C. deserticola.
    D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms. We have not 
used the WMP in our finding regarding Cymopterus deserticola because it 
is presently still in draft form, and is therefore, not an existing 
regulatory mechanism. However, the petitioners expressed concern about 
the draft WMP, which will function as a multiple species habitat 
management plan for the desert tortoise and other listed and sensitive 
species within the planning area. They claim that Cymopterus 
deserticola has been dropped from the planning process because the 
species cannot have a viable conservation strategy without military 
participation (BLM 2002). However, according to the draft Environmental 
Impact Report and Statement (EIR/EIS) for the WMP (BLM 2003), C. 
deserticola has not been dropped from the plan. The EIR/EIS states that 
C. deserticola that occurs in the northern Rogers, Cuddeback, and 
Harper Dry Lake basin areas is a species targeted for conservation 
measures. Conservation of this species is addressed on the portion of 
its known range that is outside of EAFB. The draft WMP (BLM 2003) 
requires botanical surveys for projects proposed within suitable 
habitat for C. deserticola (the North Edwards Conservation Area, and 
the Fremont-Kramer and Superior-Cronese Desert Wildlife Management 
Areas (DWMAs)). If the plant is located, prescriptions call for 
avoiding all individuals to the maximum extent practicable and 
reporting the loss of any plants. In Kern County, the draft WMP 
proposes the following measures: establishing the North Edwards 
Conservation Area (NECA) to protect C. deserticola populations that 
extend off of EAFB, requiring botanical surveys, limiting new ground 
disturbance to 1 percent of a DWMA, applying a 5:1 mitigation ratio 
within the Conservation Area, and adjusting the boundary of the NECA 
over time to reflect survey results. BLM intends to issue a final WMP 
within the next few months, and to begin implementing these 
conservation measures shortly thereafter.
    The petitioners state that the lack of management or conservation 
strategies by EAFB and the ongoing projects on EAFB that adversely 
affect this species leave the future survival of Cymopterus deserticola 
populations in most of the Rogers Dry Lake basin uncertain. They also 
state that, since the core populations of this species are located on 
EAFB, without assured conservation measures in place, the long-term 
survival of C. deserticola remains in question.
    As discussed above under Factor A, threats to Cymopterus 
deserticola on EAFB are minimal. In April 2004, EAFB revised the 
October 2001 Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP) to 
include C. deserticola, thereby providing further assurance that the 
threats will remain minimal. The 2004 INRMP contains conservation 
measures (e.g., develop and implement an education awareness program, 
project review, project alternatives designed to minimize impacts, 
construction monitoring, habitat modeling) to manage for C. deserticola 
and funding for research (e.g., population status, additional habitat 
modeling, reproductive biology, growth experiments) on this species. In 
addition, one of the objectives of EAFB is to use existing inventory, 
monitoring, and research data to develop a management and long term 
monitoring plan. Thus, the 2004 INRMP for EAFB has a management 
strategy for the conservation of C. deserticola.
    Based on the overall status of Cymopterus deserticola and the 
inclusion of C. deserticola in the INRMP for EAFB where the vast 
majority of the plants occur, the existing regulatory mechanisms are 
adequate. In the future, the inclusion of C. deserticola in the WMP 
will provide further protective measures to other populations outside 
of EAFB.
    E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence. The petitioners claim that the extremely limited 
distribution and relatively small numbers of individuals of Cymopterus 
deserticola make populations vulnerable to stochastic extinction. 
Although it is possible that a few populations with very small numbers 
of individuals could be lost, we believe that the species is not at 
risk of extinction from stochastic events. The number of populations 
and individuals is now known to be greater than reported in the 
petition, and the species is distributed over a relatively broad area 
(approximately 50 mi (80 km) from east to west and 35 mi (56 km) from 
north to south). Because most of the one-hundred plus populations are 
secure, or have very minimal threats, we believe that listing is not 
needed at this time. Also, we are not aware of any other factors that 
may be considered a threat to C. deserticola at this time.

Petition Finding

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
faced by this species. We reviewed the petition, information available 
in our files, other published and unpublished information, and comments 
submitted to us during the public comment period following our 90-day 
petition finding, and we consulted with recognized botanists and 
experts from other resource agencies. On the basis of the best 
scientific and commercial information available, we find that the 
proposal to list Cymopterus deserticola as threatened or endangered 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range is not warranted 
at this time. A summary of threats to the 105 total known populations 
of C. deserticola is provided in Table 1; we have evaluated the threat 
level using a scale of none, minimal, low, moderate, and high. Some of 
the threats described by the petitioners have now been minimized or 
reduced (e.g., grazing) in some areas. Some potential threats described 
by the petitioners are not expected to occur (e.g., change in hydrology 
on EAFB as a result of groundwater extraction or oil and gas 
development). Although some C. deserticola habitat will be lost to 
military training in the Ft. Irwin expansion area, Ft. Irwin has 
protected a large population in this basin, which in fact contains a 
larger number of individuals (366 rather than 40 individuals) within 
the expansion area than was mentioned in the petition. Overall, we 
believe the remaining

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threats to the species are minimal to low. Public agencies and 
organizations have also implemented actions that have eliminated or 
reduced the threats to various populations of C. deserticola (e.g., 
elimination of grazing from the Pilot Knob grazing allotment and the 
Harper Lake grazing allotment). Of particular importance, EAFB, where 
the vast majority of populations (approximately 87 percent) are known 
to occur, has included and implemented conservation measures for C. 
deserticola in the most recent revision to its INRMP. Overall, threats 
to C. deserticola on EAFB are minimal (Table 1).

                Table 1.--General Summary of the Status of the 105 Total Known Populations of Desert Cymopterus (Cymopterus deserticola)
                                                                Number of
               Basin                 General land ownership       known        Identified threats       Status of threats            Threat level
Rogers Dry Lake....................  Edwards Air Force Base              91  Cleanup...............  Not occurring.........  None.
                                                             ..............  Military activities...  Limited activities....  Minimal.
                                                             ..............  Grazing...............  Fencing installed on    Minimal.
                                                             ..............  Utilities.............  No new corridors......  Minimal.
                                                             ..............  Inadequacy of           INRMP modified........  Minimal.
Cuddeback Dry Lake.................  BLM...................               4  Grazing...............  None in 49,000 acre     None to Minimal.
                                                                                                      Pilot Knob allotment.
                                                             ..............  Off Highway Vehicle     Limited use...........  Minimal to low.
                                                                              (OHV) use.
                                                             ..............  Energy................  Not expected..........  None.
Harper Dry Lake....................  BLM/private...........               6  Grazing...............  Eliminated as           None to Minimal.
                                                                                                      mitigation for Ft.
                                                                                                      Irwin expansion.
                                                             ..............  OHV use...............  Moderate use..........  Low.
                                                             ..............  Energy................  Not expected..........  None.
                                                             ..............  Utilities.............  No new corridors......  Minimal.
Superior Dry Lake..................  Ft. Irwin.............               4  Military activities...  Protection of large     \1\ None to high.
\1\ Ft. Irwin has eliminated the threats to one large, 366-plant population. Threats from military training to the other three populations are moderate
  to high.

    We will continue to monitor the status of this species and will 
accept additional information and comments from all concerned 
governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other 
interested party concerning this finding. This information will help us 
monitor and encourage beneficial measures for this species.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available on 
request from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 


    The primary author of this document is Robert McMorran, Ventura 
Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see ADDRESSES 


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

    Dated: October 29, 2004.
Marshall P. Jones Jr.,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 04-24700 Filed 11-8-04; 8:45 am]