[Federal Register: October 3, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 191)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 58363-58364]
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; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition to Delist the Plymouth Redbelly Turtle (Pseudemys 
rubriventris bangsi)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding and initiation of status 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to remove the Plymouth redbelly turtle 
(Pseudemys rubriventris bangsi), now referred to as the Plymouth (or 
northern) red-bellied cooter (P. rubriventris), from the Federal List 
of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended (Act). We find that the petition and additional 
information in our files presents substantial information indicating 
that delisting the Plymouth red-bellied cooter may be warranted, and we 
are therefore initiating a status review. To assist us in ensuring that 
the review is comprehensive, we are soliciting information and data 
regarding this species.

DATES: The administrative finding announced in this document was made 
on October 3, 2006. To be considered in the 12-month finding for this 
petition, comments and information should be submitted to us by 
December 4, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Data, information, comments, or questions concerning this 
petition and our finding should be submitted to the Field Supervisor 
(Attention: Endangered Species), New England Field Office, 70 
Commercial Street, Suite 300, Concord, New Hampshire 03301. The 
petition, administrative record, supporting data, and comments will be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael J. Amaral, Sr. Endangered 
Species Specialist, at the New England Field Office (see ADDRESSES 
above), or at 603-223-2541.


Public Information Solicited

    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. We 
intend that any final action resulting from this status review will be 
as accurate and effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments 
or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, 
Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any 
other interested parties. We would be particularly interested in any 
data indicating that the Plymouth red-bellied cooter may qualify for 
protection under the Act as a distinct population segment per standards 
as described in the Policy Regarding the Recognition of Distinct 
Vertebrate Population Segments Under the Endangered Species Act 
(February 7, 1996; 61 FR pages 4722) or as part of some larger 
taxonomic entity that is threatened or endangered. We are opening a 60-
day public comment period (see DATES) to allow all interested parties 
an opportunity to provide information on the status of the Plymouth 
red-bellied cooter throughout its range, including information on the 
species' biology and ecology; its genetics and taxonomic 
classification; the historic and current abundance and distribution of 
the Plymouth, Massachusetts population; ongoing conservation measures 
for the species and its habitat; and the threats facing the Plymouth 
red-bellied cooter in relation to the five listing factors (as defined 
in section 4(a)(1) of the Act).
    We will base our 12-month finding on a review of the best 
scientific and commercial information available, including all 
information received during the public comment period. If you wish to 
provide comments you may submit your comments and materials concerning 
this finding to the Field Supervisor, New England Field Office (see 
ADDRESSES section). Please note that comments merely stating support or 
opposition to the actions under consideration without providing 
supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in 
making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that 
determinations as to whether any species is a threatened or endangered 
species shall be made ``solely on the basis of the best scientific and 
commercial data available.'' At the conclusion of the status review, we 
will issue the 12-month finding on the petition, as provided in section 
4(b)(3)(B) of the Act.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home addresses from the record, which we will honor to the extent 
allowable by law. There also may be circumstances in which we would 
withhold from the record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. 
If you wish us to withhold your name and/or address, you must state 
this prominently at the beginning of your comment, but you should be 
aware that the Service may be required to disclose your name and 
address pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. However, we will 
not consider anonymous comments. 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.
    All comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at our New 
England Field Office (see ADDRESSES).


    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that we make a finding 
on whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information to demonstrate that 
the petitioned action may be warranted. To the maximum extent 
practicable, we are to make this finding within 90 days of the receipt 
of the petition and publish a notice of the finding promptly in the 
Federal Register.
    Our standard for substantial scientific information within the Code 
of Federal Regulations (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 substantial information was 
presented, we are required to promptly commence a review of the status 
of the involved species. After completing the status review, we will 
issue a 12-month finding determining whether delisting or an 
alternative action is warranted.
    The factors for listing, delisting, or reclassifying species are 
described at 50 CFR 424.11. We may delist a species

[[Page 58364]]

only if the best scientific and commercial data available substantiate 
that it is neither endangered nor threatened. Delisting may be 
warranted as a result of: (1) Extinction; (2) recovery; or (3) a 
determination that the original data used for classification of the 
species as endangered or threatened were in error.


    On February 8, 1997, we received a petition from the National 
Wilderness Institute dated February 3, 1997, requesting that we remove 
the ``Redbelly turtle (P. r. bangsi)'' from the List of Threatened and 
Endangered Wildlife on the basis of data error. The petition was 
clearly identified as such. We acknowledged receipt of the petition in 
a June 29, 1998, letter that further explained our inability to 
undertake prompt action because of the low priority assigned to 
delisting petitions in the Listing Priority Guidance for Fiscal Years 
1998 and 1999, which was published in the Federal Register on May 8, 
1998 (63 FR 25502). Since 1999, higher priority work has precluded us 
from acting on the petition to delist the Plymouth red-bellied cooter.
    The petition focuses solely on the question of validity of the 
subspecies bangsi and cites only unpublished data and an alleged 
excerpt from the 1981 Plymouth Red Bellied Turtle Recovery Plan 
(recovery plan). The petitioner provided no new data on the taxonomy 
of, status of, or threats to the Plymouth red-bellied cooter, and 
provided no bibliography of published literature on the species. Other 
available information, including published data (e.g., Iverson and 
Graham 1990, pp. 1-13) and two subsequent recovery plan revisions 
(USFWS 1985, pp. 1-28; USFWS 1994, pp. 1-39), was not included or cited 
in the petition.
    A review of the 1981 recovery plan found that the plan does not 
contain the quote cited by the petitioner as the basis for the cooter 
being listed due to data error. However, the 1985 first recovery plan 
revision does contain the cited information (USFWS 1985, p. 2). 
Information in Service files confirms that herpetologists generally 
concur that the Plymouth, Massachusetts, population is a disjunct 
occurrence of Pseudemys rubriventris, a species that is more widely 
distributed in the mid-Atlantic States, and not a distinct subspecies 
as described by Babcock (1937, p. 293).


    We have reviewed the petition, the literature cited in the 
petition, and information in our files. On the basis of our review, we 
find that there is substantial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted, and we are initiating a status 
review of the species. At the conclusion of the 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.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Field Supervisor, New England Field Office (see 
ADDRESSES section).


    The primary author of this document is Michael J. Amaral, New 
England Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).


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

    Dated: September 21, 2006.
Marshall Jones,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. E6-16057 Filed 10-2-06; 8:45 am]