[Federal Register: August 18, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 160)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 47765-47771]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 47765]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition To List 16 Insect Species From the Algodones Sand Dunes, 
Imperial County, CA, as Threatened or Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to list 16 insect species from the 
Algodones Sand Dunes, Imperial County, California, as threatened or 
endangered, under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. We 
find that the petition does not present substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that listing these species may be 
warranted. Therefore, we are not initiating a status review in response 
to this petition. We ask the public to submit to us any new information 
that becomes available concerning the status of these species or 
threats to them or their habitat at any time.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on August 18, 

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this finding is available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the 
Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6010 
Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, California 92011. Submit new information, 
materials, comments, or questions concerning these species to us at the 
address above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, Carlsbad 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES); or 760-431-9440 (voice) or 
760-431-9624 (fax).



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that the Service make 
a finding on whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a 
species presents substantial scientific or commercial information 
indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. This finding is 
based on information contained in the petition and information 
otherwise available in our files at the time we make the determination. 
To the maximum extent practicable, we are to make this finding within 
90 days of our receipt of the petition, and publish our notice of the 
finding promptly in the Federal Register.
    In making this finding, we relied on information provided by the 
petitioners and otherwise available in our files at the time of the 
petition review. We also had access to California Department of Fish 
and Game's California Natural Diversity Database that we queried for 
all known records of each of the species that were identified in the 
petition for listing. We evaluated this information in accordance with 
our regulations at Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), 
Sec.  424.14(b). The process of making a 90-day finding under section 
4(b)(3)(A) of the Act and Sec.  424.14(b) of our regulations is based 
on a determination of whether the information in the petition meets the 
``substantial scientific information'' threshold.
    Our standard for substantial scientific or commercial information 
within the CFR with regard to a 90-day petition finding is ``that 
amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe 
that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted'' (50 CFR 
424.14(b)). If we find that the petition presents substantial 
scientific or commercial information, we are required to promptly 
commence a status review of the species.
    On July 19, 2004, we received a formal petition dated July 19, 
2004, from the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for 
Environmental Responsibility, and the Sierra Club (the petitioners) to 
list two sand wasps (Microbembix elegans) and (Stictiella villegasi); 
two bees (Perdita algodones and Perdita glamis); one vespid (Euparagia 
n. sp.); two velvet ants (Dasymutilla nocturna and Dasymutilla 
imperialis); Algodones sand jewel beetle (Lepismadora algodones); 
Algodones white wax jewel beetle (Prasinalia imperialis); Algodones 
croton jewel beetle (Agrilus harenus); Hardy's dune beetle (Anomala 
hardyorum); a scarab beetle (Cyclocephala wandae); and four subspecies 
of Roth's dune weevil (Trigonoscuta rothi rothi, Trigonoscuta rothi 
algodones, Trigonoscuta rothi imperialis, and Trigonoscuta rothi 
punctata), hereafter referred to as the 16 insect species, as 
threatened or endangered species in accordance with section 4 of the 
Act. On September 24, 2004, we received a letter and additional 
supporting documentation for the petition to list 16 insect species 
associated with the Algodones Dunes from the Center for Biological 
    The petitioners requested listing of 16 insect species they believe 
to be endemic to the Algodones Dunes. This same area is alternately 
referred to as the Imperial Sand Dunes or the Glamis Dunes, and other 
geographic names are used to refer to portions of it. The Algodones 
Dunes is a desert located in eastern Imperial County in southern 
California. It is the largest mass of sand dunes in California, 
covering more than 40 miles (mi) (64 kilometers (km)) long and 
averaging 5 mi (8 km) wide (BLM 2003, p. 5). Most of this area is 
public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (about 92 
percent), and the rest is either private, U.S. Military, or State of 
California land (BLM 2003, p. 20). Most of the Algodones Dunes is in 
California, but a small portion extends southward into Mexico.
    The petitioners also requested designation of critical habitat for 
the 16 insect species concurrent with their listing. The petition 
clearly identified itself as a petition and included the requisite 
identification information for the petitioners, as required in 50 CFR 
424.14(a). In an October 5, 2004, letter to the petitioners, we 
responded that we reviewed the petition for the 16 insect species and 
determined that an emergency listing was not warranted, and that due to 
court orders and settlement agreements for other listing actions that 
required nearly all of our listing funds for fiscal year 2005, we would 
not be able to otherwise address the petition to list the 16 insect 
species at that time.
    On December 1, 2005, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a 
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief in United States 
District Court for the Southern District of California (Center for 
Biological Diversity v. Norton et al., No. 05 CV 1988 BEN (BLM)) 
challenging our failure to issue a 90-day finding on the petition to 
list the 16 insect species. On January 12, 2006, we reached an 
agreement with the plaintiffs to submit to the Federal Register a 
completed 90-day finding by August 7, 2006, and if substantial, to 
complete the 12-month finding by June 15, 2007. This notice constitutes 
the 90-day finding for the July 19, 2004 petition.
    Regarding the petitioners' request to list the vespid wasp 
(Euparagia n. sp.), we note that this does not represent a listable 
taxonomic entity under our regulations. The petitioners only identified 
a genus, and to make a listing decision, a taxon must be described to 
at least the species level. With regard to the four petitioned 
subspecies of Roth's dune weevil (Trigonoscuta rothi rothi,

[[Page 47766]]

Trigonoscuta rothi algodones, Trigonoscuta rothi imperialis, and 
Trigonoscuta rothi punctata), we did find a published manuscript naming 
these subspecies (Pierce 1975, pp. 57, 73, and 74). However, Anderson 
(2002, p. 777) states that most of the taxa in the genus Trigonoscuta 
are of questionable validity and need reassessment. Because the 
petition did not provide any further substantiating evidence related to 
the taxonomy of these insects, we have determined that the petition 
does not provide substantial scientific information that the vespid 
wasp (Euparagia n. sp.) and the four subspecies of weevils 
(Trigonoscuta rothi rothi, Trigonoscuta rothi algodones, Trigonoscuta 
rothi imperialis, and Trigonoscuta rothi punctata) are scientifically 
accepted taxons. Under the Act, we can only list recognized 
invertebrate species and subspecies. Hence, the request to list 
Euparagia n. sp. and the four Trigonoscuta subspecies will not be 
further considered in this finding. Therefore, the remainder of this 
finding addresses the remaining 11 insect species identified in the 

Species Information

    The following section is based on information in the petition and 
available to us at the time of petition review. Microbembix elegans, a 
sand wasp, was first described as a species by Griswold (1996) and is 
in the family Sphecidae. Species in the genus Microbembix are all found 
in North and South America and are recognized by their relatively small 
size and other features as described by Bohart and Horning (1971, p. 
24). The male M. elegans is unique among Microbembix in the 
modifications to the middle and hind legs (Griswold 1996, p. 142). 
Males average 0.47 inches (in) (12 millimeters (mm)) long and females 
range from 0.35 to 0.39 in (9 to 10 mm) long (Griswold 1996, p 143). 
Habitat information is limited to the description of active slip faces 
within sand dune systems; all specimens have been found at the base of 
shrubs where detritus collects (Griswold 1996, p. 142). Abundance and 
population trend information is not available. Distribution knowledge 
is limited to two ``populations'' identified in the Algodones Dunes 
system in Imperial County, California (Griswold 1996, p. 142).
    The other sand wasp, Stictiella villegasi, was first described by 
Bohart (1982, pp. 596-597) and is also in the family Sphecidae. Bohart 
(1982, p. 597) states the species can be recognized by its almost 
entirely yellow appearance and a combination of other specific physical 
characteristics. Males and females are approximately 0.47 in (12 mm) 
long (Bohart 1982, p. 596). Information on habitat use, abundance, and 
population trends is not available. All known collections of the 
species are from the Algodones Dunes system in Imperial County, 
California (Bohart 1982, p. 597).
    Perdita algodones, a bee, was first described by Timberlake (1980, 
p. 26) and is in the family Andrenidae. The species ranges in length 
from 0.17 to 0.18 in (4.3 to 4.5 mm) and in width from 0.05 to 0.06 in 
(1.2 to 1.5 mm) (Timberlake 1980, p. 26). This species has a dark blue-
green head and thorax, black abdomen, and ``whitish'' wings (Timberlake 
1980, p. 26). Timberlake (1980, p. 26) provides a detailed description 
of distinguishing physical characteristics of this species and states 
that it was found in the vicinity of Glamis, in Imperial County, 
California. Information on habitat, abundance, and population trends is 
lacking. All known collections are from the vicinity of Glamis, in 
Imperial County, California (Timberlake 1980, p. 26).
    The other bee, Perdita glamis, is also in the family Andrenidae and 
was described from the only two known specimens by Timberlake (1980, 
pp. 16 and 17). The physical dimensions as provided by Timberlake 
(1980, p. 17) are a length of 0.20 in (5 mm) and an abdomen width of 
0.06 in (1.5 mm). The head and thorax are dark blue and the abdomen is 
``dusky'' (Timberlake 1980, p. 17). Timberlake (1980, p. 17) provides a 
detailed description of distinguishing physical characteristics of this 
species and indicates it was discovered in the sand dunes area of 
Imperial County, California. Information on habitat, abundance, and 
population trends is lacking. All known collections of this species are 
from the vicinity of Glamis in Imperial County, California (Timberlake 
1980; p. 17).
    Dasymutilla nocturna, a velvet ant, is a wasp in the family 
Mutillidae. Female mutillids are hairy and wingless, resembling ants, 
while males have wings and fewer hairs (Foltz 2001, pp. 1-2). All 
mutillid wasp larvae are parasitic on other insects (Earthlife 2005, p. 
1). Mickel (1928, pp. 279-281) first described Dasymutilla nocturna 
based on two female specimens and provided a detailed description of 
distinguishing physical characteristics. Females are dark mahogany red, 
and males are black. Body length given by Mickel (1928, p. 279 and 281) 
was 0.5 in (13 mm) for females, and 0.4 in (10 mm) for males. Manley 
(1999), who also collected this species, examined Mickel's (1928, pp. 
279-281) specimens and compared them to specimens from other California 
desert region Dasymutilla species. Manley (1999, p. 21) synonymized the 
species D. subhyalina and some specimens of D. paranocturna with D. 
nocturna on the basis that: (1) All are nocturnal; (2) all share the 
same geographic range, the Colorado Desert; (3) numerous individuals 
have been collected at the same place and time; and (4) males were 
attracted to and tried to mate with caged females. Specific information 
on habitat use, abundance, and population trends is not available.
    Although most D. nocturna specimens have been collected from the 
Algodones Dunes or nearby (Manley 1999, p. 20), current available 
scientific information does not support the hypothesis that this 
species is restricted to the Algodones Dunes. Manley (1999, p. 18) 
states that the specimen from which the synonymous taxon D. 
paranocturna was described (the holotype) was collected from Blythe, 
Riverside County, California (approximately 50 mi (80 km) north of the 
Algodones Dunes) and further states the holotype is ``undoubtedly a 
specimen of D. nocturna.'' Manley (1999, p. 20) also mentioned a D. 
nocturna specimen he said was correctly identified, but it was labeled 
Preston, Nevada. Manley states that this was likely mislabeled because 
``* * * no other specimen of the species had been found within [683.5 
mi] 1100 km of Preston, Nevada.'' However, expert wasp taxonomist Roy 
Snelling (2006) confirmed a wider species distribution, citing 
personally identified D. nocturna specimens collected from the town of 
Roll, in Pima County, Arizona; the town of Westmorland near the Salton 
Sea in Imperial County, California; and the village of Paredones, Baja 
California, Mexico, southwest of the Algodones Dunes. The towns of Roll 
in Arizona and Westmorland in California, and the village of Paredones 
in Baja California, Mexico, are approximately 75 mi (121 km), 19 mi (31 
km), and 35 mi (56 km) from the Algodones Dunes, respectively. Based on 
this information, we do not believe that D. nocturna is endemic to the 
Algodones Dunes.
    The other velvet ant, Dasymutilla imperialis, is also a wasp in the 
family Mutillidae. It was first described by Manley and Pitts (2004, 
pp. 646-648), who provide a detailed description of the species' 
distinguishing physical characteristics based on male specimens; no 
female specimens have been collected. The male is entirely black and 
the length is approximately 0.39 to 0.47 in (10 to 12 mm) (Manley and 
Pitts 2004, p. 646). Specific

[[Page 47767]]

information on habitat, abundance, and population trends is not 
available. All known collections are from the Algodones Dunes (Manley 
and Pitts 2004, p. 648) and extensive collecting in this area over many 
years has not yielded any additional specimens of this species (Manley 
and Pitts 2004, p. 649). Manley and Pitts (2004, pp. 646-649) do not 
discuss any searches of other sand dunes for this species.
    The Algodones sand jewel beetle Lepismadora algodones is in the 
family Buprestidae. It was first described by Velten and Bellamy (1987, 
pp. 186, 188, and 190), who provide a detailed description of 
distinguishing physical characteristics of the species: it varies in 
length from 0.16 to 0.25 in (4.0 to 6.5 mm) and in width from 0.06 to 
0.08 in (1.4 to 2.1 mm), with females generally larger than males. 
Color varies from cupreus (copper) to brassy green (Velten and Bellamy 
1987, p. 190). Most specimens in association with the plant Tiquilia 
plicata, the species was observed feeding on flowers and foliage of 
Tiquilia plicata, or at rest on foliage or dead twigs on the soil 
surface (Velten and Bellamy 1987, p. 190). The petition provides 
information on habitat use, activity patterns, reproduction, and 
mortality that we were unable to confirm in any cited information 
sources or information in our files. Specific information on habitat 
use, abundance, and population trends of this species was not 
available. All known collections of the species are from the Algodones 
Dunes in Imperial County, California (Velten and Bellamy 1987, p. 190).
    The Algodones white wax jewel beetle Prasinalia imperialis is also 
in the family Buprestidae. It was first described by Barr (1969, pp. 
326-328), who provides the most detailed description of this species' 
distinguishing physical characteristics. It is most readily recognized 
by its coppery coloration. Male dimensions vary from 0.63 to 0.87 in 
(16.0 to 22.0 mm) in length, while females vary from 0.57 to 0.89 in 
(14.5 to 25.0 mm) in length (Nelson and Bellamy 1996, p. 899). Habitat 
information is limited to a host plant association and collection 
locations. Barr (1969, p. 328) and Nelson and Bellamy (1996, p. 899) 
note an association with the plant Eriogonum deserticola. Larvae 
develop in the roots and crown of Eriogonum deserticola, and adults 
have been observed feeding on the bark of live twigs of this plant 
(Nelson and Bellamy 1996, p. 899). Information on abundance and 
population trends is not available. All collections for this species 
are from sand dunes and nearby areas on the eastern slope of Imperial 
Valley in California (Barr 1969, p. 328; Nelson and Bellamy 1996, p. 
    The Algodones Croton jewel beetle Agrilus harenus is another member 
of the family Buprestidae. This species was first described by Nelson 
(1994, pp. 261-262), who provides a detailed description of the 
physical characteristics of the species. Males are 0.18 to 0.27 in (4.5 
to 6.9 mm) long, while females range from 0.19 to 0.27 in (4.8 to 6.9 
mm) long (Nelson 1994, p. 263). The species has been collected in 
association with sand dune habitat, and all the adults were associated 
with Wiggin's croton (Croton wigginsii), the likely host plant (Nelson 
1994, p. 263). Adults have been collected from mid-April to late 
September (Nelson 1994, p. 263). There is no information on abundance 
or population trends. All collections for this species were from the 
Algodones Dunes in Imperial County, California (Nelson 1994, p. 263).
    Hardy's dune beetle Anomala hardyorum is a member of the family 
Scarabaeidae. This species was first described by Potts (1976, pp. 221-
222), who provides a detailed description of the species' 
distinguishing physical characteristics. Members of this species have a 
light tan coloration with males ranging from 0.28 to 0.39 in (7 to 10 
mm) in length, and females from 0.28 to 0.35 in (7 to 9 mm) (Potts 
1976, pp. 223 and 224). The species has most often been found on north- 
or east-facing dune slip faces. There is no known association between 
adults and any plant species (Hardy and Andrews 1980, p. 14). Adults 
are known to be active at dusk (Hardy and Andrews 1980, p. 14). There 
are no quantified estimates of abundance or population trends and 
information on distribution is limited. Hardy and Andrews (1980, p. 38-
39) provided a map of collection locations in the Algodones Dunes, and 
concluded that the Hardy's June beetle was widespread in the dune 
system (Hardy and Andrews 1980, p. 17). All known collections are from 
the Algodones Dunes in Imperial County, California (Potts 1976, p. 222; 
Hardy and Andrews 1980, p. 14).
    The scarab beetle Cyclocephala wandae is also a member of the 
family Scarabaeidae. This scarab beetle was first described by Hardy 
(pp. 160-161), who provides a detailed description of the species' 
distinguishing physical characteristics. The beetle is light brown, 
similar to Pseudocatalpa andrewsii, and ranges in length from 0.26 to 
0.30 in. (6.6 to 7.5 mm) (Hardy 1974, p. 160). We were not able to 
locate information on abundance, distribution, or population trends. 
Other than the fact that the species inhabits sand dunes (Hardy 1974, 
pp. 160-161; Andrews et al. 1979, p. 40) habitat use information is 
lacking, and distribution information is limited to known collections 
from the Algodones Dunes in Imperial County, California (Hardy 1974, p. 
161; Andrews et al. 1979, p. 40).

Threats Analysis

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 424) 
set forth the procedures for adding species to the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. 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) of the Act: (A) 
Present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of 
habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or 
manmade factors affecting its continued existence. In making this 90-
day finding, we evaluated whether threats to the 11 scientifically 
accepted taxons presented in the petition may pose a concern with 
respect to their survival, such that listing under the Act may be 
warranted. Our evaluation of these threats is presented below.

 A. Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of 
the Species' Habitat or Range

    The petitioners state that the 11 insect species are endemic to the 
Algodones Dunes system and are habitat specialists with restricted 
geographic ranges, making them more prone to extinction than more 
widespread species. The petitioners also cite statements by Hardy and 
Andrews (1976, p. 21) that Coleoptera species endemic to several 
California dune systems face possible extinction or population decline 
if habitat destruction by human activity continues or escalates. The 
petitioners further assert that the 11 petitioned insect species have 
no colonization source should their known populations be eliminated.
    The petitioners state that several published studies have 
documented deleterious effects of Off-Road-Vehicles (ORVs) on desert 
arthropods, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and vegetation 
(Busack and Bury 1974; Hardy and Andrews 1976; Bury et al. 1977; Berry 
1980; Bury and Luckenbach 1983; Luckenbach and Bury 1983; Schultz 1988; 
Brooks 1995; Stebbins 1995; Brooks 1999). The petitioners

[[Page 47768]]

indicate that Hardy and Andrews (1976) reported ORVs could damage sand 
dune surfaces and destroy pockets of accumulated vegetative material or 
crusted deposits, which may be larval nurseries for endemic insects. 
The petitioners cite Carpelan (1995) as stating that ORVs can eliminate 
``entire generations'' by obliterating accumulated vegetable matter in 
which larvae develop; as well as the findings of Luckenbach and Bury 
(1983) that arthropod tracks (mostly beetle) were 24 times more 
abundant in control areas than they were in ORV-impacted areas. The 
petitioners also cite Luckenbach and Bury's (1983) overall study 
conclusion that ORV activities in the Algodones Dunes are highly 
detrimental to dune biota. The petitioners cite several studies that 
discuss loss of vegetative cover due to ORV activity (Bury et al. 1977; 
Berry 1980; Lathrop 1983; Luckenbach and Bury 1983) and assert any 
activities resulting in the decline of general plant cover and host 
plants would threaten survival of rare endemic insect species with 
highly restricted geographical ranges and highly specific habitat 
    The petitioners discuss concerns for Andrews' dune scarab beetle 
(Pseudocotalpa andrewsi), including lack of proposed monitoring of this 
species and impacts from ORVs in areas where it was known to be most 
abundant. Please refer to the Federal Register notice at 71 FR 2644 for 
our 90-day finding on the petition to list the Andrews' dune scarab 
beetle species. The petitioners conclude that current and projected ORV 
use and lack of adequate management by the Bureau of Land Management 
(BLM) threaten the continued existence of this and other endemic 
Algodones Dunes species. The petitioners also mention the temporary ORV 
closures for portions of the Algodones Dunes to protect the Peirson's 
milk-vetch (Astragalus magdalenae) in effect since November 2000, which 
encompass about 49,000 acres (ac) (19,838 hectares (ha)) (65 FR 69324, 
November 16, 2000). The petitioners also describe proposed management 
for the Algodones Dunes under the BLM Draft 2002 Recreation Area 
Management Plan (RAMP), and how the RAMP would greatly increase the 
area open to ORVs compared to the current situation. The petitioners 
assert that if currently protected areas in the Algodones Dunes are re-
opened to ORV traffic, and other areas supporting rare endemic insects 
are not also protected, then habitat for the petitioned insect species 
will be modified or destroyed and their ranges curtailed.
    The petitioners do not provide any scientific or commercial 
information on the distribution, habitat use, abundance, or population 
status of any of the 11 insect species in the part of the dune system 
that includes the Yuma Dunes in southwestern Arizona and dunes within 
the Gran Desierto Altar in Sonora, Mexico.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition
    Based on the distribution information previously presented for D. 
nocturna, we believe this species is not endemic to the Algodones 
Dunes. However, we acknowledge it is possible the other 10 insect 
species could be endemic to the Algodones Dunes. Information provided 
in the petition and in our files on distribution of the 10 insect 
species is very limited. This information indicates these insects have 
only been found in the Algodones Dunes, but no information provided 
with the petition or in our files indicates whether other potential 
dune habitats, such as the Yuma Dunes or dune systems within the 5,000 
square mi (12,950 square km) area of the Gran Desierto de Altar, have 
been surveyed for the 10 insect species. Only two studies cited by the 
petitioners, Hardy and Andrews (1976) and Andrews et al. (1979), 
sampled more than one dune area in southern California, and they only 
surveyed for beetles. Andrews et al. (1979) does provide some evidence 
that the two petitioned scarab beetles (Cyclocephala wandae and Anomala 
hardyorum) are endemic to Algodones Dunes; out of the five dune systems 
sampled, they found these two species only at the Algodones Dunes. But 
their conclusions are limited to the five dune systems and do not 
include all dune systems in the southwestern United States and Mexico, 
where these two species could potentially occur. Hence, it is unclear 
how widely scientists have searched for these two insect species. 
Without comprehensive surveys throughout sand dunes areas of southern 
California, Arizona, and northern Mexico, our understanding of these 
species' distributions and ranges is incomplete. An apparent host-plant 
relationship has been documented for the three jewel beetle species 
(Barr 1969, page 328; Velten and Bellamy 1987, page 190; Nelson 1994, 
page 263), but beyond this and the association of all the petitioned 
species with sand dunes, habitat requirements for the three jewel 
beetle species are inconclusive. The host plants for the three jewel 
beetles species are not endemic to the Algodones dunes. Tiquila plicata 
ranges into Arizona and Nevada (Hickman 1996, p. 392), E. deserticola 
is also found in Arizona and northwest Sonora, Mexico (Hickman 1996, p. 
870), and C. wigginsii is also found in Arizona and northwestern Mexico 
(Hickman 1996, p. 572). Also, the petition does not provide significant 
information on the abundance of the 11 insect species, nor does it 
provide any population trend information. Given the extreme paucity of 
information on distribution (for example, D. nocturna; Snelling 2006), 
habitat requirements, abundance, and population trends, it cannot be 
determined how rare these 11 species are, how restricted they are 
geographically, how specialized they are in their habitat requirements, 
or if they lack colonization sources if known populations are 
    The petitioners cite Busack and Bury (1974), Hardy and Andrews 
(1976), Bury et al. (1977), Berry (1980), Bury and Luckenbach (1983), 
Luckenbach and Bury (1983), Schultz (1988), Brooks (1995), Stebbins 
(1995), and Brooks (1999) as reporting negative effects of ORVs on 
desert species. However, most of these studies reported effects of ORV 
activity on vegetative cover and vertebrates, not insects. Schultz 
(1988) reported some negative effects of ORV activity on riparian tiger 
beetle (Cicindelidae) habitat, but this work was not in a sand dune 
system, and it did not involve any of the 11 insect species. Only Bury 
and Luckenbach (1983) and Luchenbach and Bury (1983) provided Algodones 
Dunes arthropod information, and both discuss the same data. Luckenbach 
and Bury (1983, p. 275) reported ``arthropod (mostly beetle) tracks 
were twenty-four times more abundant in control plots [not impacted by 
ORV use] than in ORV-impacted plots.'' However, this work was focused 
mostly on vegetation and vertebrates, and arthropod (invertebrate) data 
was not species-specific. Furthermore, the observed tracks may not have 
represented any of the petitioned insects and were only identified as 
``mostly beetles.''
    Although Griswold (1996, p. 142) states that the sand wasp 
Microbembix elegans may be threatened by ORV activity, he did not 
provide data to substantiate this claim. Griswold (1996, p. 142) also 
stated that, while areas where this species was found were open to ORV 
activity, they were not currently receiving a high level of 
disturbance. Similarly, Evans and Bellamy (2000, p. 184) provided a 
list of threats to beetle populations that includes ORV traffic but do 
not provide data to document beetle impacts. Despite the petitioners' 
claim that Hardy and Andrews (1976) concluded that ORVs could destroy 
areas in the Algodones Dunes with

[[Page 47769]]

pockets of accumulated vegetative material or crusted deposits, Hardy 
and Andrews (1976, p. 2) did not have any study sites in the Algodones 
Dunes. Hardy and Andrews (1976, p. 19) summarized ways in which ORV 
activity may adversely affect dune restricted or adapted insects, but 
they did not provide data to support these hypotheses. Andrews et al. 
(1979, pp. 4-9) provided inventories of five dune areas in California, 
including the Algodones Dunes. However, only beetle species were 
inventoried, only the two petitioned scarab beetles and Roth's dune 
weevil were collected, and no information was provided on the effects 
of ORVs on insect species. Carpelan (1995, pp. 275-283) provided 
information on sand dune ecosystems focused on dune stabilization and 
dune insect adaptation and speciation. However, Carpelan's (1995, pp. 
276-277) work was largely derived from Hardy and Andrews (1976) beetle 
study, and expressed general concern about adverse effects of ORVs on 
    Because Andrews' dune scarab beetle was evaluated separately under 
another listing petition, discussion of this species in this petition 
finding has limited relevancy. However, the Andrews' dune scarab beetle 
does face similar possible threats in the same geographic area, and the 
petition for Andrews' dune scarab beetle lacked similar substantial 
information, for example, a lack of distribution information from dune 
systems in Mexico (71 FR 26444; May 5, 2006). We acknowledge that BLM 
management of the Algodones Dunes could potentially affect the 11 
insect species, because BLM does permit ORV use in parts of this dune 
system. However, about 49,000 ac (19,838 ha) of BLM managed lands are 
under temporary ORV closure to protect the Peirson's milk-vetch (65 FR 
69324; November 16, 2000). In addition, the North Algodones Dunes 
Wilderness Area, of which BLM manages about 26,000 ac (10,526 ha), is 
permanently closed to ORV activity (BLM 2003; p. 71). BLM manages 
159,000 acres (64,372 hectares) of the Algodones Dunes (BLM 2003; p. 5) 
so about 47 percent of the BLM-managed lands in the Algodones Dunes are 
currently closed to ORV activity. These interim closures are still in 
effect. Current management of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area 
(ISDRA) is discussed under Factor D below.
    We compared a map of the interim ORV closures with the map of 
Hardy's dune beetle distribution in the Algodones Dunes from Hardy and 
Andrews (1980; appendix map). This was the only one of the petitioned 
insect species for which we had a collection location map. Fifteen of 
the 20 locations where Hardy's dune beetle was found (Hardy and Andrews 
1980; appendix map) occurred outside of interim closure areas. One 
interim closure area, which BLM designated as the Adaptive Management 
Area in the 2003 RAMP (BLM 2003), had multiple Hardy's dune beetle 
collection locations. With regard to ORV use this area is designated as 
``Limited'' in the 2003 RAMP (BLM 2003; page 84). The Adaptive 
Management Area would be open to motor vehicle entry only from October 
15 to March 31 of each year, and only by permit (BLM 2003). Biological 
resources and public use would be monitored, and BLM would adjust 
public use to conserve habitats and species of concern (BLM 2003; pp. 
84-86). Also BLM (2003; page 84) indicates current visitor use of the 
Adaptive Management Area is low compared to the remainder of the ISDRA. 
In addition, more location records (Hardy and Andrews 1980; appendix 
map) fall within the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area permanently 
closed to ORVs, than within the Adaptive Management Area. Regardless of 
the potential for negative ORV impacts, there is no information in the 
petition documenting what the magnitude of ORV impacts would be to 
Hardy's dune beetle or any of the other petitioned insect species.
    Information in the petition regarding impacts to the 11 insect 
species in the Algodones Dunes from ORV use is inadequate, incomplete, 
or nonexistent. Therefore, we find the petition does not provide 
substantial scientific or commercial information to document that ORV 
use may be a factor threatening the 11 insect species.

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

    The petition does not provide any information pertaining to Factor 
B. We acknowledge that scientific collection of insect species will 
continue in the Algodones Dunes area, but we do not have any 
information indicating current levels of collecting activity will harm 

C. Disease or Predation

    The petitioners state that natural predation and disease, including 
fungal pathogens, affects populations; however, specific data are not 
available. Since the petition does not provide any data on natural 
predation or disease for the 11 insect species, we find that the 
petition does not contain substantial scientific or commercial 
information to document disease or predation may be a factor that 
threaten the petitioned insect species.

D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The petitioners assert that inadequate existing regulatory 
mechanisms endanger the continued existence of the petitioned insect 
species of the Algodones Dunes. The petitioners claim administrative 
plans and legal requirements to monitor and conserve endemic insects 
have not been implemented by BLM, while ORV use in the Algodones Dunes 
has increased by an order of magnitude in the last 30 years, resulting 
in direct mortality of endemic insect species and loss of host plants. 
The petitioners state that current management plans allow ORV use in 
the majority of habitat supporting the rare endemic insects (94 percent 
of creosote scrub, 84 percent of psammophytic scrub, and 88 percent of 
microphyll woodland). They also claim that pending plans to open 
currently protected areas of the dune system to ORVs are one of the 
most immediate threats to the existence of these insects. The 
petitioners further assert that BLM has been aware of concerns 
regarding the adverse impacts of ORVs on endemic insect species on the 
dunes for at least 30 years. They cite work by Hardy and Andrews (1976) 
describing deleterious effects of ORV activity on sand dune insects and 
claim ORV impacts discussed in that report are relevant to the 
Algodones Dunes, while acknowledging that Hardy and Andrews (1976) 
study did not focus on this area. The petitioners additionally claim 
that published peer-reviewed scientific literature is replete with 
studies documenting serious negative impacts of ORVs on desert systems 
(see discussion under Factor A). They also assert ORV use throughout 
the Algodones Dunes continued unabated in sensitive habitat until BLM 
was sued and forced to implement interim closures to protect the 
threatened Peirson's milk-vetch and desert tortoise.
    The petition notes three planning documents for the Algodones Dunes 
Wildlife Habitat Area addressed management of biological resources 
prior to BLM's 2002 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for 
managing the ISDRA. These include the 1972 Recreation Management Plan, 
the 1980 California Desert Conservation Area Plan, and the 1987 RAMP 
(BLM and CDFG 1987). According to the petitioners, the 1987 RAMP called 
for reduction in the proposed level of recreation development and 
dispersal of

[[Page 47770]]

intensive recreational use within Class I areas (an intensive-use 
category where the management objective is to enhance opportunities for 
ORV recreation). The 1987 RAMP also included the Algodones Dunes 
Wildlife Habitat Management Plan (HMP), implemented under the authority 
of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a-670o). The petitioners state that the 
HMP mandated biennial surveys for Andrew's dune scarab beetle and 
action that should be taken to determine distribution and status of 
other endemic invertebrates. They further assert that permanent 
monitoring of endemic dune insects was mandated in the HMP, but surveys 
have not been conducted.
    The petitioners quote statements in the DEIS (BLM 2002) about 
biology, distribution, and threats to Andrews' dune scarab beetle, 
Hardy's dune beetle, and Carlson's dune beetle (Anomala carlsoni). They 
also claim BLM's assessment (BLM 2002) of these three beetle species is 
inadequate and inaccurate given the information presented in their 
petition. The petitioners state the DEIS lists only five insect species 
as ``known to occur or having the potential to occur'' at Algodones 
Dunes, and BLM ignored nearly two dozen other endemic insects in this 
area for which scientific information is available. The petition notes 
the HMP mandated collection of demographic and distributional 
information would have provided data regarding population growth rates, 
survival, reproduction, and habitat use that would have been useful in 
developing the BLM management plan. The petitioners also state that no 
data were presented in the DEIS (BLM 2002) regarding distribution of 
endemic insect species in the Algodones Dunes, although such data are 
required before land-use decisions are made to ensure species are not 
jeopardized by Federal actions.
    The petitioners state that, in light of known ORV impacts on 
endemic desert insects, regulatory mechanisms to protect these species 
should include permanent protection of habitats throughout the 
Algodones Dunes, including stringent enforcement closures. The 
petitioners also state all four 2002 DEIS alternatives would result in 
relaxed conservation measures compared to current levels of protection, 
including reopening thousands of acres currently protected from ORV 
use, and the DEIS specifically rejected an alternative that would have 
maintained the interim closures. According to the petitioners, three of 
the four alternatives in the DEIS (BLM 2002) would permit ORVs on 
198,220 ac (80,251 ha), and only protect 27,695 ac (11,213 ha) which is 
already protected as designated wilderness. The petitioners included a 
table with the petition summarizing four 2002 DEIS allowed ORV activity 
level alternatives for three desert habitat types (creosote bush scrub, 
psammophytic scrub, and microphyll woodland). The information suggests 
that even the most protective alternative (Alternative 3) would allow 
ORV use in more than half the psammophytic scrub, one-third the 
creosote bush scrub, and one-fourth the microphyll woodland. The 
information also suggests that visitation rates by 2012 to 2013 are 
projected to increase 82 percent above the 1999 to 2000 levels, and 
sensitive dune habitats will be increasingly impacted.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition
    We acknowledge that the 1980 California Desert Conservation Area 
Plan called for monitoring effects of vehicle use on wildlife habitats 
and populations, and identifying and protecting sensitive species in 
management decisions (BLM 1980, pp. 20 and 28). Also, the Algodones 
Dunes Wildlife HMP (BLM and CDFG 1987, pp. 16 and 18) had action items 
for determining distribution and status of endemic invertebrates, and 
biological resource trends of special management concern in relation to 
implementing resource allocation decisions. BLM has funded some 
inventory and status work on insects at the Algodones Dunes (Andrews et 
al. 1979; Hardy and Andrews 1980; Scarabaeus Associates 1991), but 
whether all the monitoring work outlined in historic management plans 
has been completed is unknown. Information on insect species in the 
Algodones Dunes is lacking, as previously discussed. We acknowledge 
that, if this information was available, it would better inform BLM 
management decisions.
    The petitioners did not substantiate their claim that published 
peer-reviewed scientific literature is ``replete'' with studies 
documenting serious negative impacts of ORVs in desert systems. The 
petition cites primarily Busack and Bury (1974), Hardy and Andrews 
(1976), Bury et al. (1977), Berry (1980), Bury and Luckenbach (1983), 
Luckenbach and Bury (1983), Schultz (1988), Brooks (1995 and 1999), and 
Stebbins (1995), regarding this threat. We find these works to be 
credible sources, but only four investigated desert systems and were 
published as peer-reviewed scientific literature (Busack and Bury 1974; 
Luckenbach and Bury 1983; Brooks 1995 and 1999). The other references 
are either book chapters summarizing studies done by others, or agency 
reports. From our evaluation of the petition it appears that the 
petition overstated the amount of peer-reviewed scientific information 
regarding the effects of ORVs on desert systems.
    Of the scientific peer-reviewed literature cited, only Luckenbach 
and Bury (1983) reported impacts to invertebrates. Luckenbach and Bury 
(1983) did study the Algodones Dunes, and reported ``arthropod (mostly 
beetle) tracks were twenty-four times more abundant in control plots 
than in ORV impacted plots.'' However, Luckenbach and Bury's (1983) 
data was limited to the central dunes (near State Highway 78), and was 
not species-specific (observed tracks may not have included any of the 
petitioned species or reflect species abundance). Scarabeaus 
Associates' (1991) study was intended to investigate impacts of ORV use 
on Andrews' dune scarab beetle. However, results were inconclusive 
(Scarabeaus Associates 1991), partly because ORV use levels were not 
documented at sample sites for correlation with beetle abundance.
    Regarding concerns expressed by petitioners, the final 2003 RAMP 
(BLM 2003) for the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area does not address 
specific conservation, research, or monitoring of the insects 
identified in the petition. The only mention in the BLM 2003 RAMP of 
any of the insect species was for Hardy's dune beetle, recognizing this 
beetle is a ``poorly known'' BLM sensitive species (Issues, Concerns, 
and Opportunities section). The final 2003 RAMP utilizes the preferred 
alternative in the DEIS (Alternative 2, BLM 2002) referenced by 
petitioners. Under the final 2003 RAMP all-terrain vehicle, motorcycle, 
truck, and dune buggy ORV use will be prohibited in the 26,202-ac 
(10,608-ha) North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Management Area (BLM 2003; 
p. 71). This represents about 16 percent of the area of the ISDRA 
managed by BLM. It is true that interim vehicle use closure areas 
designated for the threatened Peirson's milk-vetch plant and desert 
tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) through legal stipulation (BLM 2002) 
would not be maintained (would be opened to ORV use) under the final 
2003 RAMP (BLM 2003). However, these interim ORV closures are still in 
effect, and, as a result of a March 13, 2006 U.S. District Court ruling 
(Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. Bureau of Land Management et 
al. and American Sand Association et al., No. C 03-02509 SI), BLM is 
not currently able to fully implement the 2003 RAMP. Therefore,

[[Page 47771]]

the petitioners' contention that implementation of the 2003 RAMP, which 
would then open currently closed areas to ORV use, poses an immediate 
threat to the 11 insect species is not accurate.
    Regardless of the specific management and monitoring actions 
implemented by BLM at the Algodones Dunes, the central issue here is 
whether such management is inadequate because the associated ORV 
activity has or will adversely affect the 11 insect species such that 
listing may be warranted. Though the petitioners claim they ``were 
unable to find a single study documenting positive or even neutral 
effects of ORVs,'' the petition does not contain substantial 
information that ORV activity adversely affects any of the 11 insect 
species. The final 2003 RAMP also specifies some positive management 
actions that would help conserve dune habitat and species, such as 
monitoring of ORV use and species and habitats of concern (BLM 2003; 
Appendix 1).
    Because there is a lack of information on ORV effects on the 11 
insect species and species-specific threats, there is no basis for 
finding existing regulatory protections are inadequate. Therefore, we 
find that the petition does not present substantial scientific or 
commercial information that lack of regulatory mechanisms may present a 
threat to any of the 11 insect species.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting the Species' Continued 

    The petitioners state that pesticide use in agricultural areas of 
Imperial Valley may be having negative impacts on these species through 
pesticide drift into the Algodones Dunes. The petitioners also state 
that spraying programs for the curly top leafhopper virus are likely to 
directly impact the species. However, the petitioners do not provide 
data or cite published studies to support these claims. Additionally, 
no information provided in the petition or in our files indicates that 
direct mortality from ORV use currently threatens any of the petitioned 
insect species. Therefore, we find the petition does not contain 
substantial scientific or commercial information that other natural or 
manmade factors may be a factor threatening the continued existence of 
the petitioned insect species.


    We evaluated each of the five listing factors individually, and 
because the threats to the 11 insect species are not mutually 
exclusive, we also evaluated the collective effect of these threats. 
The petition focused primarily on two listing factors: Factor A (the 
Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of the 
Species' Habitat or Range) and Factor D (Inadequacy of Existing 
Regulatory Mechanisms). More specifically, information in the petition 
suggests that ORV activity within the Algodones dunes has disturbed 
dune surfaces and underlying accumulated organic debris that could act 
as larval nurseries for endemic insects. Additionally, the petitioners 
assert any activities resulting in the decline of general plant cover 
and host plants would threaten survival of rare endemic insect species 
with highly restricted geographical ranges and highly specific habitat 
needs. However, the petition does not present specific information 
regarding impacts to any of the 11 insect species and we are not aware 
of specific information regarding the impacts of ORV activities on the 
11 insect species.
    Furthermore, the petition cites the inadequacy of mechanisms, 
specifically BLM management, as threatening the continued existence of 
the 16 insect species. Additionally, interim court-ordered closures are 
currently in effect in over 16 percent of the ISDRA; therefore, the 
petitioners' contention that implementation of the 2003 RAMP, which 
would open the currently closed areas to ORV use, poses an immediate 
threat to the 11 insect species is not accurate. However, the central 
issue is whether ORV activity will adversely affect the 11 insect 
species. As stated above, the petition did not present substantial 
information, nor are we aware of any information regarding the adverse 
effects of ORV on any of the 11 insect species.
    We reviewed the petition and supporting information provided by the 
petitioners and evaluated that information in relation to other 
pertinent literature and information available at the time of the 
petition review. After this review and evaluation, we find (1) The 
vespid wasp (Euparagia n. sp.) is not a listable entity as defined by 
the Act since it is only identified by the petitioners to the genus 
level; (2) the petition does not provide substantial scientific 
information that the four subspecies of weevils (Trigonoscuta rothi 
rothi, Trigonoscuta rothi algodones, Trigonoscuta rothi imperialis, and 
Trigonoscuta rothi punctata) are scientifically accepted taxons; and 
(3) the petition does not present substantial scientific or commercial 
information to demonstrate listing the remaining 11 petitioned 16 
insect species of the Algodones Dunes area as threatened or endangered 
may be warranted at this time. We encourage interested parties to 
continue gathering data that will assist with conservation of these 
species. Information regarding the 16 insect species may be submitted 
to the Field Supervisor, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see 
ADDRESSES section) at any time.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available, upon 
request, from the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).


    The authors of this document are the staff of the Carlsbad Fish and 
Wildlife Office.


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

    Dated: August 1, 2006.
H. Dale Hall,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
 [FR Doc. E6-13109 Filed 8-17-06; 8:45 am]