[Federal Register: January 26, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 17)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 4337-4341]
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 List the Mussentuchit Gilia 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 the Mussentuchit gilia (Gilia 
[=Aliciella] tenuis) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended. We find the petition does not provide 
substantial information indicating that listing Gilia [=Aliciella] 
tenuis may be warranted. Therefore, we will not be initiating a further 
status review in response to this petition. The public may submit to us 
any new information that becomes available concerning the status of the 
species or threats to it.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on January 19, 
2006. You may submit new information concerning this species for our 
consideration at any time.

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this finding is available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the Utah 
Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2369 West 
Orton Circle, Suite 50, West Valley City, Utah 84119. Submit new 
information, materials, comments, or questions concerning this species 
to us at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Henry Maddux, Field Supervisor, Utah 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES) (telephone 801-975-3330, 
extension 124; facsimile 801-975-3331).



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, as 
amended (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 indicate that the 
petitioned action may be warranted. We are to base this finding on 
information provided in the petition and other information that is 
readily available to us (e.g., in our files). 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 this 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 scientific information 
was presented, we are required to commence a review of the status of 
the species.
    In making this finding, we relied on information provided by the 
petitioners, and readily available in our files, and evaluated that 
information in accordance with 50 CFR 424.14(b). Our process of coming 
to a 90-day finding under section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act and section 
424.14(b) of our regulations is limited to a determination of whether 
the information in the petition meets the ``substantial scientific 
information'' threshold.
    We added Aliciella tenuis to our list of candidate species on 
September 30, 1993, as a category 2 candidate species

[[Page 4338]]

(58 FR 51144). In the February 28, 1996, Notice of Review (61 FR 7595), 
we discontinued the use of multiple candidate categories and considered 
the former category 1 candidates as simply ``candidates'' for listing 
purposes. The A. tenuis was removed from the candidate list at that 
time. This species currently has no Federal regulatory status.
    On March 10, 2004, we received a formal petition, dated March 9, 
2004, from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Center for Native 
Ecosystems, and Utah Native Plant Society, requesting that the 
Mussentuchit gilia (Gilia [=Aliciella] tenuis) found in Utah be listed 
as threatened or endangered pursuant to section 4 of the Act. This 
petition was identical to a petition submitted on May 19, 2003, to 
which, due to funding limitations, we were unable to respond during 
Fiscal Year (FY) 2003. In addition, all FY 2004 listing funds were 
allocated to activities in response to court-approved settlements.
    When we first receive a petition, we evaluate it in order to 
determine if an emergency exists such that an emergency listing may be 
warranted. In a response letter to the petitioners, dated March 16, 
2004, we stated that ``the petitioned plant lives primarily on Federal 
lands, including Capitol Reef National Park, and we know of no clear 
imminent threat to the species. Therefore, we see no evidence that 
would lead us to conclude that emergency reclassification of this 
species is appropriate.''
    On May 19, 2005, the petitioners filed a complaint in Utah Federal 
District Court alleging our failure to complete 90-day or 12-month 
findings on their petition. On August 26, 2005, the court approved a 
stipulated settlement agreement and dismissed the case, based on our 
agreement to submit to the Federal Register by January 19, 2006, a 
completed 90-day finding.

Species Information

    Aliciella tenuis is an herbaceous perennial vascular plant in the 
family Polemoniaceae. The plant grows from a multi-branched woody base, 
2-14 inches (in) (5-35 centimeters (cm)) in height. Stems have fine 
hairs with sticky glands, to which sand usually adheres. The 
inflorescence is paniculately cymose (a loose arrangement of flowers 
where the central or terminal flowers generally flower first). Flowers 
are usually solitary, growing from branched ends. Blooming begins in 
May and often continues through July (Porter 1998).
    The species was first collected as a botanical specimen in 1932 but 
remained obscure until the 1980s. The species was described in the 
scientific literature in 1989 (Smith and Neese 1989) as Gilia tenuis 
and subsequently included in the resurrected genus Aliciella in 1998 
(Porter 1998). We accept the name Aliciella tenuis as the valid name 
for Mussentuchit gilia.
    Aliciella tenuis is a rare, edaphically restricted plant in 
southwestern Emery, southeastern Sevier, and northern Wayne Counties, 
Utah. The species' range spans about 45 miles (mi) (72 kilometers (km)) 
from its South Desert population in Waterpocket Fold within Capitol 
Reef National Park to its Secret Mesa population in the San Rafael 
Swell. The species has been delineated into 7 populations, with 1 to 8 
separate sites in each population, for a total of 39 sites (Clark 
2005). Based on Dr. Johnson (2005, memo to Clark), DNA studies between 
these populations indicate four genetic groups. The species' known 
population is estimated at 15,400 individuals (9,774 counted) on 
approximately 353 acres (ac) (143 hectares (ha)) (Clark 2005).
    The largest concentrations of Aliciella tenuis are restricted to 
sandstone (including mudstone and siltstone) ledges and cracks with 
interbedded gypsum deposits, and on talus slopes derived from those 
sandstone formations. The species is found on several named geologic 
formations including the Curtis, Carmel, Dakota, Entrada, Navajo 
(contact with Carmel), and Summerville (contact with Curtis) 
formations. Most population sites are difficult to access due to steep 
treacherous terrain.

Threats Analysis

    Pursuant to section (4) of the Act, a species may be determined to 
be an endangered and threatened species on the basis of any of the 
following five factors: (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 finding, we evaluated whether the petition 
presented substantial scientific or commercial information to determine 
that listing Aliciella tenuis as threatened or endangered may be 
warranted. The Act identifies the five factors to be considered, either 
singly or in combination, to determine whether a species may be 
threatened or endangered. Our evaluation of these threats, based on 
information provided in the petition and readily available in our 
files, is presented below.

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

    The petition claims that there are 17 populations of Aliciella 
tenuis, and that the species is threatened mainly by activities 
surrounding oil, gas, and mineral extraction; livestock trampling; off-
road vehicle (ORV) use; recreational activities; and weed invasions.
Oil, Gas, and Mineral Extraction
    The petition cites general information on oil, gas, and mineral 
extraction. The petition asserts that 3 of 17 populations are in areas 
under lease for oil and gas development. Petitioners claim that oil, 
gas, and mineral exploration involve construction of well pads, roads, 
pipelines, and other associated facilities, which permanently reduce 
and fragment habitat. They assert that: (1) Infrastructure activities 
may lead to removing rock outcrops; (2) mineral development increases 
recreation activities, such as ORV use; (3) ground disturbance also may 
introduce noxious weeds and destroy biological soil crusts; and (4) 
seismic exploration also has long-lasting effects that provide similar 
ground-disturbing impacts. Additionally, the petitioners state that an 
increasing number of leases and permits for oil and gas will threaten 
known and unknown populations.
    The petition contends that mining and associated facilities 
threaten Aliciella tenuis habitats. The petition states that the 
potential range of the plant corresponds to areas that have a high 
potential for gypsum occurrences. Additionally, it is stated that an 
active bentonite and zeolite mine owned by Western Clay Company is 
immediately adjacent to areas known to contain the species.

Evaluation of Information in the Petition

    The petition asserts that there are 17 populations of Aliciella 
tenuis. More recent information readily available in our files 
indicates that there are 7 Aliciella tenuis populations with 39 sites; 
these are the figures we use throughout this finding.
    The petition provides some information regarding oil and gas 
production in the San Rafael Swell generally, but it does not present 
substantial information that this development has resulted in losses or 
threatens to result in actual losses of Aliciella tenuis. The species 
is not distributed uniformly across its range. The petition asserts 
that 3 of 17

[[Page 4339]]

populations are in areas under lease for oil and gas development. 
Currently, known sites of A. tenuis are not located in areas targeted 
for oil, gas, and seismic exploration (Debra Clark, Interagency 
Botanist, pers. comm. 2003; Fish and Wildlife Service 2006). The mine 
owned by Western Clay Company referred to in the petition is near 3 of 
the 17 A. tenuis populations in the petition, but these sites are not 
in the vicinity of the mine and are not being disturbed by mining 
activities (D. Clark, pers. comm. 2003). Much of the information in the 
petition identifies potential impacts rather than actual impacts, and 
there is no evidence presented in the petition or in our files to 
indicate that known populations are impacted by oil, gas, and mineral 
extraction. A. tenuis generally occurs on steep slopes, in rock cracks, 
or on ridges away from trail or road use. Most sites are very difficult 
to access, and therefore there is a low likelihood of disturbance from 
these activities.
    The petitioners provide general characterizations of oil, gas, and 
mineral extraction impacts. They do not provide substantial information 
that documents that these activities occur in the areas where Aliciella 
tenuis is found. Also, the petition does not present substantial 
information on the magnitude and the extent of degradation and loss of 
habitat to oil, gas, and mineral extraction such that we can conclude 
that these activities threaten the continued existence of the A. 
Livestock Grazing/Trampling
    The petition identifies livestock grazing as an important factor in 
habitat destruction and alteration in Aliciella tenuis habitat. The 
petition asserts that livestock grazing affects vegetation communities 
by altering species composition through direct loss of vegetation, and 
also by habitat degradation due to associated factors that may affect 
plant succession, wildlife use, time and length of plant flowering (and 
its effects on pollinators), native plant species presence, and the 
presence of invasive exotic plant species (especially annual weeds and 
grasses). Trampling of plants and soil may cause damage to soil crusts, 
reduce mycorrhizal fungi, increase erosion, and contribute to nonnative 
plant introductions. In addition, the petition claims that grazing 
management is of concern due to overgrazing or untimely grazing.

Evaluation of Information in the Petition

    The petition describes various impacts associated with livestock 
and grazing management that could affect Aliciella tenuis, and cites 
general information where impacts to vegetative communities similar to 
those in southern Utah have resulted from these practices. The petition 
alleges that 5 of 17 A. tenuis populations are on Bureau of Land 
Management (BLM) grazing allotments. The petition does not provide 
evidence of actual damage to A. tenuis by grazing. Cattle cannot access 
the majority of occupied sites (approximately 85 percent) and trampling 
has not been recorded at known sites (D. Clark, pers. comm. 2003; Clark 
2005; Lenhart and Clark 2005).
    The petitioners did not provide substantial information that 
documents that areas impacted by grazing management practices are also 
those in which Aliciella tenuis is found. Also, the petition does not 
present substantial information on the magnitude and the extent of 
degradation and loss of habitat to livestock grazing such that we could 
conclude that grazing practices threaten the continued existence of the 
A. tenuis.
Recreational Activities
    The petition contends that recreation, especially ORV use, 
threatens to destroy Aliciella tenuis habitats.

Evaluation of Information in the Petition

    The information provided by the petitioners does not provide 
substantial information demonstrating that recreational activities 
present a threat to Aliciella tenuis. Aliciella tenuis plants are 
mostly located on steep side-slopes, in rock cracks, or on ridges away 
from trail or road use. Most sites are very difficult to access, and 
the petition acknowledges that the BLM's Resource Management Plan (RMP) 
limits ORV use to designated roads and trails. Human disturbance, such 
as human footprints and all-terrain vehicle tracks, are recorded only 
at 4 of 39 sites; however, these sites are still occupied by A. tenuis 
(Lenhart and Clark 2005). Furthermore, only six of the known sites are 
in areas accessible by the general public, due to terrain (Lenhart and 
Clark 2005). In light of the information above, we conclude that the 
petition does not provide substantial information to indicate that 
recreational activities threaten the continued existence of A. tenuis.
Invasive Plants
    The petition maintains that the spread of weeds by several factors 
(grazing, ORV use, and mining/drilling operations) across the arid West 
will result in the degradation of Aliciella tenuis habitat, thereby 
increasing endangerment of the relatively slow-reproducing A. tenuis.

Evaluation of Information in the Petition

    Information presented in the petition is speculative. The 
petitioners provide information about weed invasions within western 
arid ecosystems. The petitioners did not provide substantial 
information that documents that areas impacted by invasive species are 
the areas where Aliciella tenuis is found. Native plants are the 
dominant species found at A. tenuis sites, and highly associated plant 
species are not exotic weeds or grasses (Lenhart and Clark 2005). 
Furthermore, the petitioners do not provide substantial information on 
the magnitude and the extent of habitat impacts by invasive weeds such 
that we might conclude that they may threaten the continued existence 
of A. tenuis.

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

    The petition claims that other gilia species are ornamental 
cultivars and sought after by rock-garden enthusiasts. The petition 
also claims that many of the threats identified under Factor A also 
represent overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or 
educational purposes. Since Factor B refers to ``overutilization'' of 
the species, and because we have already addressed these threats under 
Factor A, we will not reevaluate those claims here.

Evaluation of Information in the Petition

    The petitioners provide information indicating that gilias are 
ornamental and collectable. Petitioners refer to the collection of a 
different, rare gilia species and conclude that Mussentuchit gilia 
(Aliciella tenuis) will likely be sought after when it is more widely 
known. However, no documentation of A. tenuis collection is provided, 
nor do we or the Interagency Botanist (D. Clark, pers. comm. 2005) know 
of any evidence of such collection. Furthermore, the majority of sites 
are in remote, difficult to access locations, with only 6 of 39 known 
sites considered readily accessible by the general public (Lenhart and 
Clark 2005). The petition provides only speculative information 
regarding threats presented by collection. Therefore, we cannot 
conclude that there is substantial information that this practice 
threatens the continued existence of A. tenuis.

C. Disease or Predation

    The petition does not identify disease or predation as threats to 

[[Page 4340]]

tenuis. Additionally, the information in our files provides no 
instances where disease or predation has been documented to occur to A. 
tenuis plants (Porter and Heil 1994; Clark 2000; Clark 2001; Clark 
2002; Grobner et al 2004; Clark 2004; Clark 2005; Lenhart and Clark 

D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The petition contends that existing land use designations and 
regulatory mechanisms are insufficient to protect populations of 
Aliciella tenuis, and also alleges that State and Federal agencies have 
failed to conduct monitoring for the species in most of its range and 
to protect it from impacts associated with energy exploration and 
development, livestock grazing, recreation, and exotic weeds (see 
Factor A).
Federal Agencies
    The petitioners claim that nearly all known populations of 
Aliciella tenuis occur on BLM lands. They acknowledge that BLM has 
designated A. tenuis as a special status species and that 9 of 17 
populations of the species occur within Areas of Critical Environmental 
Concern (ACEC) and within BLM Wilderness Study Areas (WSA). The 
petition also acknowledges the existence of certain in-place management 
restrictions which serve to protect A. tenuis sites. However, the 
petition questions whether these designations and other mechanisms to 
regulate and control various activities, such as grazing and mining 
(see factor A), are sufficient to prevent harm to the A. tenuis in a 
significant portion of its range. They claim that 3 populations are not 
covered by a BLM RMP. Additionally, they claim that Federal agencies 
have failed to conduct comprehensive monitoring of the species.

Evaluation of Information in the Petition

    The primary concern expressed by the petitioners is that the 
existing BLM special status designation and occurrence within BLM WSAs 
and ACECs is insufficient to provide adequate conservation for 
Aliciella tenuis. However, BLM special status designation does include 
BLM policy direction. The BLM ``special status plants'' include all of 
the following: (1) Federally-listed and proposed species; (2) Federal 
candidate species; (3) State-listed species; and (4) BLM sensitive 
species. BLM sensitive plants are those species that do not occur on 
Federal or State lists, but which are designated by the BLM State 
Director for special management consideration.
    BLM Manual 6840 provides policy direction that BLM sensitive plant 
species are to be managed as if they were candidate species for Federal 
listing so that they do not become listed, while also fulfilling other 
Federal law mandates. The BLM has a policy of entering into 
conservation agreements and other conservation measures to protect both 
State- and BLM-listed species. Capitol Reef National Park (NP) 
similarly lists A. tenuis as a sensitive species.
    Sensitive species designation by both BLM and Capitol Reef NP is 
important because the majority of the Aliciella tenuis population 
occurs on agency-managed lands. Seven Aliciella tenuis populations (39 
sites) are known (Clark 2005). One population (7 sites) occurs in 
Capitol Reef National Park and is fully protected by applicable 
National Park System laws and regulations (Clark 2005). Twenty-six of 
32 sites in the other 6 populations are on BLM-managed lands. Of the 
remaining 6 sites, 1 is on State lands, while ownership of the other 5 
is documented as shared between BLM and the State of Utah (Clark 2005). 
Concerning the 3 populations that the petitioners claim are not covered 
by an RMP, only a very small number of A. tenuis sites are potentially 
affected by this, and the mere absence of explicit coverage under an 
RMP does not leave the populations wholly unprotected.
    Despite the fact that few if any threats to the species are 
documented, both the BLM and NPS have continued to develop and 
implement conservation efforts for the species to ensure continued 
long-term protection and population monitoring. The Interagency Rare 
Plant Team was established in 1999 to direct conservation measures for 
listed and sensitive plant species endemic to central Utah sandstone 
habitats, including Aliciella tenuis. The team has conducted surveys 
for listed and sensitive plants on lands managed by Richfield and Price 
Field Offices of the BLM, Capitol Reef National Park, Fishlake National 
Forest, and the Teasdale District of Dixie National Forest. From 2000 
to 2005, approximately 10,500 ac (4,249 ha) have been surveyed for A. 
tenuis on Capitol Reef National Park, BLM, and State lands (Lenhart and 
Clark 2005). During this period, approximately 2,650 person-hours were 
allocated by the Interagency Rare Plant Team for A. tenuis surveys 
(Lenhart and Clark 2005).
    In addition, the species is included in conservation planning 
documents such as the 1996 Gilia caespitosa [A. tenuis] Conservation 
Agreement and Strategy and the soon to be completed Central Utah Navajo 
Sandstone Endemics Conservation Strategy and Agreement (CAS), a multi-
year joint project by BLM, NPS, U.S. Forest Service, and the Service 
(Clark, pers. comm. 2005).
    Thus, we conclude that the petition does not present substantial 
information to indicate that Aliciella tenuis may be threatened by the 
inadequacy of existing Federal regulatory mechanisms across all or a 
significant portion of its range. Interagency cooperation for this 
species is high and all Federal agencies across the species' range will 
be signatory parties to the CAS.
State Agencies
    The petition claims that lack of State policies leaves the species 
inadequately protected.

Evaluation of Information in the Petition

    The petition states that 3 of 17 populations are on State lands, 
and acknowledges that 2 of these overlap populations on BLM lands. The 
petition also acknowledges that the species is currently monitored by 
the Utah Natural Heritage Program. The information in our files 
indicates that there are 7 populations with 39 sites; 1 site is on 
State lands, while 5 sites are documented as shared between BLM and the 
State of Utah (Clark 2005). No documentation indicates that habitat 
reduction is occurring on State or private lands. There is no evidence 
that existing regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to prevent harm to 
Aliciella tenuis populations on State lands. Therefore, the information 
presented in the petition regarding threats to A. tenuis populations on 
State lands is speculative and does not present substantial information 
to indicate that listing these populations may be warranted due to 
inadequate State regulatory mechanisms.

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

    The petition contends that several other factors negatively impact 
Aliciella tenuis populations. They state that the small size of A. 
tenuis populations (many populations with fewer than 25 individuals) 
makes them vulnerable to extirpation because of a variety of 
environmental factors, such as stochastic events, drought, climate 
change, and potential disruption of plant-pollinator interactions.

Evaluation of Information in the Petition

    While the petition provides information on the effects of these

[[Page 4341]]

environmental factors on plant species in general, no substantial 
scientific or commercial information regarding Aliciella tenuis was 
provided. Drought, flood, climate change, and plant-pollinator 
interactions may have the potential to affect small populations. 
However, we find no indication of long-term species decline for A. 
tenuis due to these or any other factors. Most A. tenuis sites have 
greater than 100 individuals and, as more recent studies indicate, most 
populations have several hundred to several thousand documented 
individuals (Clark 2005). Such populations possess greater resiliency 
to the threats identified in the petition.
    A few sites are in active floodplains where plants are periodically 
washed away (Clark 2005); however, seed source for recolonization of 
these sites is provided by larger sites found at higher elevations in 
the landscape (D. Clark, pers. comm. 2005).
    The information presented in the petition regarding climate change 
and its potential impact on Aliciella tenuis is speculative.


    We have reviewed the information as it is cited in the petition, 
along with other pertinent literature and information readily available 
in our files. After this review and evaluation, we find the petition 
does not present substantial scientific information to indicate that 
listing Aliciella tenuis may be warranted at this time. Most of the 
threats described in the petition are speculative in nature, and 
petitioners admit that only a few populations are susceptible to the 
threats raised.
    We will not be commencing a status review in response to this 
petition. We encourage interested parties to continue to gather data 
that will assist with the conservation of the species. If you wish to 
provide information regarding Aliciella tenuis, you may submit your 
information or materials to the Field Supervisor, Utah Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).

References Cited

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


    The primary author of this notice is Heather Barnes, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Utah Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).


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

    Dated: January 19, 2006.
Thomas O. Melius,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
 [FR Doc. E6-947 Filed 1-25-06; 8:45 am]