[Federal Register: March 31, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 62)]
[Page 16944-16946]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding for 
a Petition to Delist the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse in Colorado and 
Wyoming and Initiation of a 5-Year Review

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding and initiation of status 
review for the 12-month finding and 5-year review.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to remove the Preble's Meadow Jumping 
Mouse (Preble's) (Zapus hudsonius preblei) from the Federal List of 
Threatened and Endangered Wildlife and Plants pursuant to the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.). We find that the petition and additional information in our 
files presents substantial information that delisting Preble's may be 
warranted and are initiating a status review. We are requesting 
submission of any new information on the Preble's since its original 
listing as an endangered species in 1998. Following this status review, 
we will issue a 12-month finding on the petition to delist. Because a 
status review is also required for the 5-year review of listed species 
under section 4(c)(2)(A) of the Act, we are electing to prepare these 
reviews simultaneously. At the conclusion of these simultaneous 
reviews, we will issue the 12-month finding on the petition, as 
provided in section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act, and make the requisite 
finding under section 4(c)(2)(B) of the Act based on the results of the 
5-year review.

DATES: The 90-day finding announced in this document was made on March 
18, 2004. To be considered in the 12-month finding on this petition, 
comments and information must be submitted to us by June 1, 2004.

ADDRESSES: Questions or information concerning this petition should be 
sent to the Field Supervisor, Colorado Fish and Wildlife Office, 
Ecological Services, 755 Parfet Street, Suite 361, Lakewood, Colorado 
80215. The separate petition finding, supporting data, and comments are 
available for public review, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Susan Linner at 303-275-2370 (see 
ADDRESSES section).



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial information to indicate that the petitioned action may be 
warranted. To the maximum extent practicable, this finding is to be 
made within 90 days of receipt of the petition, and the finding is to 
be published promptly in the Federal Register. If we find substantial 
information exists to support the petitioned action, we are required to 
promptly commence a review of the status of the species (50 CFR 
424.14). ``Substantial information'' is defined in 50 CFR 424.14(b) as 
``that amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to 
believe that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted.'' 
Petitioners need not prove that the petitioned action is warranted to 
support a ``substantial'' finding; instead, the key consideration in 
evaluating a petition for substantiality involves demonstration of the 
reliability and adequacy of the information supporting the action 
advocated by the petition.
    When considering an action for listing, delisting, or reclassifying 
a species, we are required to determine whether a species is endangered 
or threatened based on one or more of the five listing factors as 
described at 50 CFR 424.11. Delisting may be warranted as a result of 
(1) extinction; (2) recovery; and/or (3) a determination that the 
original data used for classification of the species as endangered or 
threatened, were in error.
    On May 13, 1998, we listed the Preble's meadow jumping mouse 
(Preble's) (Zapus hudsonius preblei) was listed as threatened under the 
Act (63 FR 26517). On June 23, 2003, we published the Final Rule to 
Designate Critical Habitat for the Preble's (68 FR 37275). We recently 
responded to a petition on December 18, 2003, in which we found that 
there was not substantial information to indicate that delisting may be 
warranted (68 FR 70523). Some of the most pertinent information 
available to the current petitioners, as discussed below in Review of 
Petitions, was not available to the Service at the time of the December 
18, 2003, finding.

Biology and Distribution

    The Preble's is a small rodent in the family Zapodidae and is 1 of 
12 recognized subspecies of the species Zapus hudsonius, the meadow 
jumping mouse. This largely nocturnal mouse is 20 to 23 centimeters (8 
to 9 inches) long (its tail accounts for 60 percent of its length), 
with hind feet adapted for jumping. The large hind feet can be one-
third again as large as those of other mice of similar size. The 
Preble's is found in both the North and South Platte River basins, 
generally, from the eastern flank of the Laramie Mountains in 
southeastern Wyoming, southward along the eastern flank of the Front 
Range of Colorado and into the Arkansas River basin (Long 1965; Hall 
1981; Clark and Stromberg 1987; Fitzgerald et al. 1994; Clippinger 
2002). Elevation appears to mark the western boundary of the Preble's 
distribution. The Preble's is generally found between approximately 
1,400 meters (4,600 feet) and 2,300 meters (7,600 feet). Typical 
habitat for the Preble's comprises well-developed plains riparian 
vegetation with adjacent, undisturbed grassland communities and a 
nearby water source. Well-developed plains riparian vegetation 
typically includes a dense combination of grasses, forbs, and shrubs; a 
taller shrub and tree canopy may be present (Bakeman 1997). The species 
hibernates near these riparian zones, usually, from September or 
October to May (Shenk and Sivert 1999; Schorr 2001).
    The Preble's is closely associated with riparian ecosystems that 
are relatively narrow and represent a small percentage of the 
landscape. The decline in the extent and quality of Preble's habitat is 
considered the main factor threatening the subspecies (63 FR 26517; 
Hafner et al. 1998, Shenk 1998). Habitat alteration, degradation, loss, 
and fragmentation resulting from urban development, flood control, 
water development, agriculture, and other human land uses have 
adversely impacted Preble's populations (68 FR 37275; Ryon 1996). 
Habitat destruction may harm individual Preble's directly or indirectly 
by destroying nest sites, food resources, and hibernation sites, by 
disrupting behavior, or by forming a barrier to movement. Additional 
background information is available in the May 13, 1998, Final Rule to 
List the Preble's as a Threatened Species (63 FR 26517) and the Final 
Rule to Designate Critical Habitat for the Preble's meadow jumping 
mouse (68 FR 37275).

[[Page 16945]]

Review of Petitions

    We received two similar petitions, both dated December 17, 2003, 
requesting us to remove the Preble's meadow jumping mouse from the 
Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife and Plants pursuant 
to the Act. Both the first petition, from Coloradans for Water 
Conservation and Development, and the second, from the State of 
Wyoming's Office of the Governor, maintain that Z. hudsonius preblei 
(Preble's) is not a valid subspecies, and therefore, based on ``data 
error'' (i.e., new information discovered) and ``taxonomic revision,'' 
Preble's should be delisted. As explained in our 1996 Petition 
Management Guidance (Service 1996), subsequent petitions are treated 
separately only when they are greater in scope than or broaden the area 
of review of the first petition. In this case, as both petitions are 
almost identical, the State of Wyoming's petition will therefore be 
treated as a comment on the first petition received.
    The petition provided information on abundance and distribution, 
the five listing factors examined in a threats analysis, recent 
phylogenetic analysis and a review of the genetic and morphmetric 
analysis completed prior to listing, and suggests there may be 
connectivity between Z. hudsonius preblei (Preble's) and Z. h. 
campestris (Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse), which is not threatened.
    While most of the information presented in the petition is 
duplicative of information contained in the Service's files, 
particularly with regard to distribution, abundance, and threats, the 
petition does raise novel taxonomic questions not considered in our 
most recent 90-day finding (68 FR 70523).
    The petition maintains that Z. hudsonius preblei is not a valid 
subspecies. Central to the petition's assertion is a phylogenetic and 
population genetic analysis of mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid 
(mtDNA) sequence data recently completed by the Denver Museum of Nature 
and Science. This study, jointly funded by the State of Wyoming and the 
Service, concluded that ``Z. h. preblei was not a unique relative to Z. 
h. campestris'' (Ramey et al. 2003). Ramey suggested that ``the lack of 
genetic, morphological, or published ecological evidence for 
distinctiveness of Z. h. preblei from Z. h. campestris, means that 
these subspecies should be synonymized (considered the same 
subspecies--Z. h. campestris).'' This study questions the accepted 
taxonomic classifications established by Krutzsch (1954) and should be 
evaluated for significance to the validity of Z. h. preblei.
    The petition also presents information on the appropriateness of a 
Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment (DPS) designation. The petition 
states that, should the Service determine that Preble's is 
taxonomically not a valid subspecies, Preble's should be delisted and 
not considered further as a possible DPS. A DPS is defined in our 
February 7, 1996, Policy Regarding the Recognition of Distinct 
Vertebrate Population Segments (61 FR 4722). For a population to be 
listed under the Act as a distinct vertebrate population segment, three 
elements are considered: (1) The discreteness of the population segment 
in relation to the remainder of the species to which it belongs; (2) 
the significance of the population segment to the species to which it 
belongs; and (3) the population segment's conservation status in 
relation to the Act's standards for listing (i.e., is the population 
segment endangered or threatened?). Distinct population segments of 
vertebrate species, as well as subspecies of all listed species, may be 
proposed for separate reclassification or for removal from the list.
    We will address the appropriate application of the DPS policy 
during the status review of the listed species as it is required by the 
DPS policy.


    We have reviewed the petition and the supporting documents, as well 
as other information in our files. We find that the petitioner and 
other information in our files present substantial information to 
indicate that delisting of the Preble's may be warranted, and are 
initiating a status review. We will issue a 12-month finding in 
accordance with section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act as to whether or not 
delisting is warranted.

Five-Year Review

    Section 4(c)(2)(A) of the Act requires that we conduct a review of 
listed species at least once every five years. We are then, under 
section 4(c)(2)(B), to determine, on the basis of such a review, 
whether or not any species should be removed from the List (delisted), 
or reclassified from endangered to threatened, or threatened to 
endangered. Our regulations at 50 CFR 424.21 require that we publish a 
notice in the Federal Register announcing those species currently under 
active review. This notice announces our active review of the Preble's 
meadow jumping mouse.

Public Information Solicited

    We are requesting information for both the 12-month finding and the 
5-year review, as we are conducting these reviews simultaneously. When 
we make a finding that substantial information exists to indicate that 
listing or delisting a species may be warranted, we are required to 
promptly commence a review of the status of the species. To ensure that 
the status review is complete and based on the best available 
scientific and commercial information, we are soliciting information on 
Preble's. This includes information on genetics and taxonomic 
classification, the abundance and distribution of the subspecies, and 
the threats faced by Preble's in relation to the five listing factors 
(as defined in section 4(a)(1) of the Act). We request any additional 
information, comments, and suggestions from the public, other concerned 
governmental agencies, Tribes, the scientific community, industry or 
environmental entities, or any other interested parties concerning the 
status of Preble's.
    The 5-year review considers all new information available at the 
time of the review. This review will consider the best scientific and 
commercial data that have become available since the current listing 
determination or most recent status review, such as:
    A. Species biology, including, but not limited to, population 
trends, distribution, abundance, demographics, and genetics;
    B. Habitat conditions, including, but not limited to, amount, 
distribution, and suitability;
    C. Conservation measures that have been implemented that benefit 
the species;
    D. Threat status and trends;
    E. Other new information, data, or corrections, including, but not 
limited to, taxonomic or nomenclatural changes, identification of 
erroneous information contained in the List, and improved analytical 
    Because in the 5-year review we will review the appropriateness of 
a DPS designation, we are particularly interested in information about 
the distribution and range of Z. h. preblei and Z. h. campestris, 
including information on the degree to which ranges overlap. 
Additionally, we are seeking information on any ecological, behavioral, 
or other differences that may indicate marked separation or a lack 
thereof between Z. h. preblei and Z. h. campestris.
    If you wish to comment for either the 12-month finding or the 5-
year review, you may submit your comments and

[[Page 16946]]

materials to the Field Supervisor of the Colorado Fish and Wildlife 
Office (see ADDRESSES section). Our practice is to make comments, 
including names and home addresses of respondents, available for public 
review during regular business hours. Respondents may request that we 
withhold a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us 
to withhold your name or address, you must state this request 
prominently at the beginning of your comment. However, we will not 
consider anonymous comments. To the extent consistent with applicable 
law, we will make all submissions from organizations or businesses, and 
from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials 
of organizations or businesses, available for public inspection in 
their entirety. Comments and materials received will be available for 
public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the 
Lakewood address (see ADDRESSES section).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this finding is 
available, upon request, from the Colorado Fish and Wildlife Office 
(see ADDRESSES section).

    Authority: The authority for this action is section 4 of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: March 18, 2004.
Marshall Jones,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 04-7165 Filed 3-30-04; 8:45 am]