[Federal Register: August 16, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 158)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 46023-46030]
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 Astragalus anserinus (Goose Creek milk-vetch) as 
Threatened or Endangered

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 list Astragalus anserinus (Goose Creek 
milk-vetch) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We find that the petition presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that 
listing A. anserinus may be warranted. Therefore, with the publication 
of this notice, we are initiating a status review of the species, and 
we will issue a 12-month finding to determine if listing the species is 
warranted. To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, we are 
soliciting information and data regarding this species.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on August 16, 
2007. To be considered in the 12-month finding for this petition, data, 
information, and comments must be submitted to us by October 15, 2007.

ADDRESSES: The complete supporting file for this finding is available 
for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at 
the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, Boise, ID 83709. Please submit 
any new information, materials, comments, or questions concerning this 
species or this finding to the above address, or via electronic mail 
(e-mail) at fw1srbocomment@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Foss, Field Supervisor, Snake 
River Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES); by telephone at 208-
378-5243; or by facsimile at 208-378-5262. Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339. Please include 
``Astragalus anserinus scientific information'' in the subject line for 
faxes and e-mails.


Public Information Solicited

    When we make a finding that substantial information is presented to 
indicate that listing 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 
Astragalus anserinus. We request any additional information, comments, 
and suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, 
Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, 
agricultural, or any other interested parties concerning the status of 
A. anserinus. We are seeking information regarding the species' 
historical and current status and distribution, its biology and 
ecology, ongoing conservation measures for the species and its habitat, 
and threats to the species and its habitat.
    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, Snake River Fish and Wildlife 
Office (see ADDRESSES). 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.
    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.


    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 indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted. We are to base this finding on 
information provided in the petition, supporting information submitted 
with 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 
    Our standard for ``substantial information'' within the Code of 

[[Page 46024]]

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 
    We base this finding on information provided by the petitioner that 
we determined to be reliable after reviewing sources referenced in the 
petition and information available in our files at the time of the 
petition review. We evaluated that information in accordance with 50 
CFR 424.14(b). Our process for making this 90-day finding under section 
4(b)(3)(A) of the Act and 50 CFR 424.14(b) of our regulations is 
limited to a determination of whether the information in the petition 
meets the ``substantial information'' threshold.
    On February 3, 2004, we received a petition dated January 30, 2004, 
from Red Willow Research, Inc., and 25 other concerned parties 
requesting that we emergency list Astragalus anserinus as threatened or 
endangered, and designate critical habitat concurrently with the 
listing. The other 25 concerned parties include the Prairie Falcon 
Audubon Society Chapter Board, Western Watersheds Project, Utah 
Environmental Congress, Sawtooth Group of the Sierra Club, and 21 
private citizens; hereafter, we refer to them collectively as the 
petitioners. The petition clearly identified itself as a petition and 
included the requisite identification information as required in 50 CFR 
424.14(a). The petition contains information on the natural history of 
A. anserinus, its population status, and potential threats to the 
species. Potential threats discussed in the petition include 
destruction and modification of habitat, disease and predation, 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, and other natural and 
manmade factors such as exotic and noxious weed invasions and road 
construction and maintenance.
    In a February 19, 2004, letter to the petitioners, we responded 
that our initial review of the petition for Astragalus anserinus 
determined that an emergency listing was not warranted, and that due to 
court orders and judicially approved settlement agreements for other 
listing actions, we would not be able to further address the petition 
to list the species at that time. However, funding has since become 
available to address this petition. As such, this finding addresses the 

Species Information

    Astragalus anserinus was first collected in 1982 by Duane Atwood 
from a location in Box Elder County, Utah. The species was subsequently 
described in 1984 by Atwood and Welsh (Baird and Tuhy 1991, p. 1). A. 
anserinus is a low-growing, matted, perennial forb in the pea or legume 
family (Fabaceae), with grey hairy leaves, pink-purple flowers, and 
brownish-red curved seed pods (Mancuso and Moseley 1991, p. 4). The 
petitioners state that at least eight other Astragalus species may be 
found sympatric (i.e., coincident or in overlapping ranges of 
geographic distribution) with A. anserinus, although five of the eight 
species are not mat-forming. This species is distinguished from the 
three other mat-forming Astragalus species primarily by its smaller 
leaflets and flowers, as well as the color and shape of the seed pods. 
Flowering typically occurs from late May to early June, and the species 
is assumed to be insect-pollinated, but the specific pollinator(s) is 
unknown (Baird and Tuhy 1991, p. 3). Mechanisms of seed dispersal are 
unknown (Baird and Tuhy 1991, p. 3).
    Astragalus anserinus is endemic to the Goose Creek drainage in 
Cassia County, Idaho; Elko County, Nevada; and Box Elder County, Utah. 
Most sites are in an area encompassing approximately 10 square miles 
(mi) (26 square kilometers (km)). An additional disjunct site is known 
outside the Goose Creek drainage, approximately 22 mi (35 km) to the 
southwest in Nevada (USFWS 2006, p. 1). Rainfall in the Goose Creek 
area averages less than 12 inches (30 centimeters) annually. The plant 
is generally confined to dry, ashy (sometimes sandy), tuffaceous 
(volcanic ash and particulates) soils from the Salt Lake Formation 
(Mancuso and Moseley 1991, p. 12). Element Occurrences (EOs) (areas 
where a species is, or was, present (NatureServe 2002)) of A. anserinus 
have been documented at elevations ranging between 4,900 to 5,480 feet 
(1,494 and 1,670 meters) (Mancuso and Moseley 1991, p. 10). A. 
anserinus is frequently associated with other species that show a 
preference for ashy sites (Baird and Tuhy 1991, pp. 2-3).

Population Status

    The petition states that there were 19 known EOs of Astragalus 
anserinus as of 2003, including 7 in Idaho, 8 in Utah, and 4 in Nevada. 
The petition states that surveys conducted between the species' 
discovery in 1982 and 2003 did not document new range extensions, nor 
any widely separated EOs or individuals. The petition also states that 
the EOs in Idaho experienced a 94.8 percent decline in numbers between 
1985 and 2001. This rate of decline was based on survey results from 
seven EOs in Idaho that were sporadically monitored between 1985 and 
2001 by Mancuso (2001a). The petition extrapolates this rate of decline 
across the range of the species to estimate only 542 A. anserinus 
individuals remaining as of 2001. Further extrapolation by the 
petitioners suggests that there would likely be approximately 28 plants 
remaining in 2011, for the 19 EOs identified in the petition.
    The petition states that The Nature Conservancy ranked Astragalus 
anserinus as a G2 species, indicating it is ``imperiled throughout its 
range because of rarity or because of other factors making it 
vulnerable to extinction,'' and is considered critically imperiled in 
Idaho, Nevada, and Utah (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) 
1998, p. 32; Nevada Natural Heritage Program (NNHP) 2001, p. 1; Idaho 
Conservation Data Center (ID CDC) 2006, p. 2).
    Based on information in our files, Astragalus anserinus was known 
prior to 2004 from 20 EO records (7 in Idaho, 4 in Nevada, and 9 in 
Utah). Most known sites were on Federal land managed by the U.S. Bureau 
of Land Management (BLM) (USFWS 2006, Table 1). In 2004 and 2005, we 
led a multiagency census and survey effort for A. anserinus in 
cooperation with BLM, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the State 
natural resource agencies of Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. Surveys typically 
entailed scouting an area and estimating numbers of individuals. Census 
efforts, which involved counting every individual, documented 3 
additional A. anserinus sites in Idaho and 1 in Utah, for a total of 20 
known EOs and 4 new sites pending confirmation as EOs (USFWS 2006, 
Table 1). The census efforts in 2004 and 2005 resulted in detections of 
5,052 plants in Idaho, 33,476 plants in Utah, and 4,930 plants in 
Nevada, totaling 43,458 plants rangewide. State-specific information on 
the population status of A. anserinus is described below.


    According to the petition, seven Astragalus anserinus EOs were 
identified in Idaho in 2003, occurring primarily on BLM lands, with 
partial EOs occurring on private land. The petition states that one of 
the EOs in Idaho declined between 1985 and 2001, from an estimated 
2,635 plants to an estimated 136 plants. The petition

[[Page 46025]]

indicates that some discrepancy exists regarding the actual EO numbers 
in Idaho due to the survey techniques that were employed. Estimates 
were not obtained by actual counts, but by surveying representative 
areas and projecting numbers of plants observed across what appeared to 
be potential habitat. As such, the estimates may not be reliable.
    Information in our records indicate that, prior to the 2004 and 
2005 census efforts, there were seven EOs tracked by the Idaho 
Conservation Data Center, and numbers of Astragalus anserinus at most 
sites were estimates. The first EO was documented in 1985, but 
systematic or comprehensive surveys were not performed in Idaho until 
1991 (Mancuso and Moseley 1991, p. iii). In 1991, A. anserinus counts 
were estimated at over 914 individuals in Idaho (Mancuso and Moseley 
1991, pp. 2, 13-14).
    During the 2004 census and survey effort, the seven known Idaho EOs 
were revisited, and three new sites were located. In total, 5,052 
Astragalus anserinus individual plants were counted during the census 
effort, 2,460 of which occurred on the original 7 Idaho EOs (USFWS 
2006, Table 1). Census data indicate stable counts at four EOs, an 
increase in count numbers at one EO (from 2003 surveys), and an unknown 
change at two EOs (complete censuses were not possible at these sites 
because part of the EOs are on private land and access is restricted). 
Due to different census and survey methodologies between those used 
prior to 2004, and those used for the 2004 and 2005 efforts, we are 
unable to estimate trends for the species in Idaho (USFWS 2006, Table 


    According to the petition, eight Astragalus anserinus EO locations 
were identified in Utah prior to 2003. These EOs were located partially 
on BLM lands and partially on State or private lands, and most were 
estimated to be less than 1 acre (ac) (0.4 hectare (ha)) in size. The 
petition provides an estimate of 7,000 plants from a 1990 survey (Baird 
and Tuhy 1991), and indicates that a discrepancy exists regarding the 
actual numbers of individuals in Utah due to the survey techniques that 
were employed. Estimates were not obtained by actual counts, but by 
surveying representative areas and projecting numbers of plants 
observed across what appeared to be potential habitat. Thus, they may 
not be reliable. The petition also states that the 1991 population 
counts may have been significantly overestimated because more recent 
information has confirmed that A. anserinus is not present in all areas 
determined to be potential habitat during the 1991 surveys.
    Information in our records indicates that prior to the 2004 and 
2005 census and survey efforts, there were nine known Astragalus 
anserinus EOs in Utah. Eight of these EOs were documented by the Utah 
Natural Heritage Program (UNHP), and the other was documented by the 
NNHP database, but was not included in the UNHP database (Mancuso and 
Moseley 1991, p. 2). In addition, at least one site that had not been 
submitted to the UNHP was known by the staff of BLM's Salt Lake City, 
Utah, Field Office. All 9 EOs in Utah were surveyed either in 1990 or 
1991, documenting an estimated 7,617 individuals in Utah (Baird and 
Tuhy 1991, p. 2; NNHP 2001, p. 1).
    During the 2004 and 2005 census efforts, six previously known 
Astragalus anserinus EOs (although only partial counts were conducted 
at three of the six sites) and one new site were visited. We counted 
33,476 individuals at these 7 sites (EOs). Two other EOs, previously 
documented in Utah with the greatest numbers of individuals, were not 
visited during the 2004 and 2005 census efforts, due to difficulty of 
access and time limitations of surveyors (USFWS 2006, Table 1). Census 
data indicate higher count numbers of A. anserinus than previous 
estimates at five previously known EOs. Due to different census and 
survey methodologies used prior to 2004, and in the 2004 and 2005 
efforts, we are unable to estimate trends for the species in Utah 
(USFWS 2006, Table 1).


    According to the petition, one area with four loosely connected 
Astragalus anserinus EOs had been identified in Nevada by 2003. The 
petition states that approximately 800 plants were observed during 
surveys conducted in 1993, and that no further surveys were conducted 
between 1993 and the time that the petition was submitted in 2004.
    Reference information from NNHP (2001, p. 1) includes documentation 
of surveys in Nevada in 1991 and 1992, during which 4 EOs were located 
and numbers were estimated at 827 individuals. The 2004 and 2005 census 
efforts did not locate any new sites in Nevada. There are currently 
four EOs in Nevada, documented by the NNHP. During the 2004 and 2005 
census efforts, all 4 EOs were visited, and 4,930 Astragalus anserinus 
individuals were counted. Although census data indicate increasing 
numbers at all EOs in Nevada, different census and survey methodologies 
used prior to 2004, and for the 2004 and 2005 efforts, prevent us from 
estimating trends for the species in Nevada (USFWS 2006, Table 1).

Threats Analysis

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and implementing regulations 
at 50 CFR part 424, set forth procedures for adding species to the 
Federal Lists 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 finding, we evaluated whether threats to Astragalus 
anserinus presented in the petition and other information available in 
our files at the time of the petition review reasonably indicate that 
listing the species 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 petition states that Astragalus anserinus is endemic to the 
Goose Creek watershed in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada, and that based on 
survey information available in 2003, the plant occurred at a total of 
19 sites in Cassia County, Idaho; Box Elder County, Utah; and Elko 
County, Nevada. The petition also states that, based on the decline in 
estimated plant numbers at one site in Idaho (a 94.8 percent decrease 
between 1985 and 2001), the species was in danger of extinction 
throughout its range.
    There is little information available regarding the EO size, 
viability, or distribution of Astragalus anserinus prior to 1989. 
Records prior to 2004 may not accurately reflect the species' 
historical distribution because they were limited in scope, although 
they were collected in a systematic, comprehensive manner with the goal 
of determining species distribution and abundance (Mancuso and Moseley 
1991, p. 2).
    Our survey records from 2004 and 2005 indicate that Astragalus 
anserinus exists in 24 known EOs. Ten of the EOs are in Idaho, nine in 
Utah, and five in Nevada (USFWS 2006, Table 1). Most of these sites 
occur on BLM lands. The Service, BLM, USFS, Idaho Conservation Data 
Center, NNHP, and Utah Conservation Data Center (UCDC)

[[Page 46026]]

conducted survey and census activities for the species in 2004 and 
2005, and four new sites were identified (three in Idaho and one in 
Utah). Censuses included counts of individual plants, unlike the 
previous population surveys cited in the petition. As a result, counts 
of individuals at known EOs were higher than previously documented for 
one EO in Idaho, five EOs in Utah, and three EOs in Nevada. No counts 
of individuals at any known EOs demonstrated a decline, and the number 
of EOs has not decreased since 2003. Overall, it appears that the 
petitioners' claim of a decline in the number of individuals in Idaho 
has not occurred, and population declines have also not occurred at 
most of the EOs in Utah or Nevada.
Livestock Grazing and Water Developments
    The petition cites ground-disturbing water developments, such as 
pipelines and placement of water sources within EOs for the purposes of 
livestock management, as threats to Astragalus anserinus. The petition 
states that road and water pipeline construction occurred within extant 
A. anserinus EOs in Idaho in 2001 and 2002. The petition also states 
that additional livestock-related water construction projects were 
planned in known EOs in both Utah and Idaho in 2004, and that these 
activities would likely result in loss of individual plants, reduction 
or loss of seed bank, permanent alteration of habitat, and increased 
potential for additional noxious and exotic weed introductions.
    The petition does not provide specific information on the effects 
of the water pipeline that was constructed in Idaho during 2001 and 
2002. A water tank on BLM lands fed by this pipeline is located at 
least 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) from Astragalus anserinus EOs and has 
been in place for 12 years (USFWS 2005b, p. 3). The pipeline to this 
tank (and an opening valve) is located above ground within an A. 
anserinus EO. Plans are being made to remove the water pipeline from 
the EO and bury it under the existing unimproved road at the site. An 
environmental assessment will be completed prior to implementation of 
this activity (USFWS 2005b, p.3), to identify and develop appropriate 
measures to avoid or minimize adverse effects of this activity, 
including potential effects to A. anserinus.
    Based on information contained in our files, the first water 
pipeline in Goose Creek (Goose Creek Pipeline Number 1) was constructed 
in 1987 (Hardy 2005, p. 3), and supplies two water tanks within 
Astragalus anserinus habitat in Utah. The 2004 census report indicates 
that vegetation was trampled and consumed more heavily closer to the 
water tanks, and that areas within approximately 150 feet (50 meters) 
of the tanks were completely denuded of vegetation due to livestock 
use. The denuded area around one water tank extended for 300 feet (100 
meters). Thirteen plants were located at that location, but no data is 
available on whether the species was present in the area prior to 
construction (USFWS 2006, p. 2). This was a newly discovered A. 
anserinus site at an existing EO. We are unable to determine if plant 
numbers changed as a result of the water tank installation, because we 
do not have pre-construction data. Approximately 450 feet (140 meters) 
away from this same tank, another A. anserinus site (within the same 
EO) occurs and is occupied by more than 850 plants. This site is 
partially protected from livestock use due to its location on a steep 
bluff. A second water tank was constructed in 2005 on a large flat 
area. Based on limited survey efforts, we estimate the nearest A. 
anserinus plants to be approximately 1,600 feet (500 meters) from this 
tank (USFWS 2006, p. 3). The pipeline servicing this tank and another 
tank impacted the upper portion of this A. anserinus site. Areas 
disturbed by construction were seeded with nonnative forage species, 
and monitoring to detect the effects from this new water tank and 
pipeline is underway. Currently, there are four exclosure cages, and 
plant monitoring will occur inside and outside the cages (Hardy 2005, 
p. 6; USFWS 2005a, p. 3). In addition, BLM plans to construct a 
livestock exclosure around 1 acre (0.4 ha) of occupied habitat at this 
site, and undertake a census of A. anserinus within and adjacent to the 
exclosure (Hardy 2005, p. 6).
    Information in our records indicates that a pipeline was 
constructed in Utah through two Astragalus anserinus EOs in 2004. BLM 
staff conducted site clearances in 2000, 2002, and in conjunction with 
the Service in 2004, prior to pipeline construction. No A. anserinus 
plants were found during the initial 2000 survey, but plants were 
documented during the 2002 survey. However, no plants were lost during 
construction of the pipeline (USFWS 2005a, p. 3).
    The petition indicates that livestock cause impacts to Astragalus 
anserinus through trampling, increased levels of disturbance, and 
consumption of ash soils in attempts to alleviate mineral deficiencies 
resulting from their diet of low quality rangeland forage. The petition 
cites a report by Mancuso (2001b) on Idaho EOs to support portions of 
this claim. The report stated that concerns for A. anserinus are 
focused on the sharp decline in the number of plants over the past 
decade and possible habitat degradation problems related to recent 
wildfires and ongoing livestock use impacts.
    One report on Utah and Idaho occurrences of Astragalus anserinus 
(Mancuso and Moseley 1991, p. 22) identified indirect impacts from 
cattle grazing, such as trampling and trailing (moving cattle to, or 
between, allotments repeatedly on the same path), as primary existing 
threats to the species. However, neither this report nor the petition 
provides specific information on the magnitude or severity of livestock 
trampling and disturbance threats in Idaho, Nevada, or Utah.
    Multi-agency surveys conducted in 2004 and 2005 failed to detect 
any evidence of livestock impacts to Astragalus anserinus due to soil 
consumption (USFWS 2006, p. 1). Neither the petition nor the 
information available in our files indicate that livestock soil 
consumption presents a threat to the species.
Public Land Management
    The petition indicates that changes in land management in Cassia 
County, Idaho, would pose a threat to Astragalus anserinus EOs in that 
county. The petition provides general information about management 
proposals submitted to the Idaho Federal Lands Task Force Working Group 
(Task Force) by the Twin Falls/Cassia Resource Enhancement Trust 
(Enhancement Trust). The Task Force proposed that public lands 
management be turned over to State and private groups. The petition 
states that the Enhancement Trust proposes significant alteration of 
habitat in Cassia County, Idaho, including habitats that currently 
support the species. It also states that the Enhancement Trust may 
recommend increasing the length of the grazing season on Federal lands, 
which would be detrimental to A. anserinus EOs. However, the petition 
does not provide a citation or reference material for the Task Force 
    The alterations in land management identified in the petition have 
not occurred to date, and any change of management is speculative at 
this point. In addition, prior to occurring, Federal agencies must 
follow a specific process to relinquish ownership and management of 
public land, including compliance with the National Environmental 
Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and other laws. The

[[Page 46027]]

coordination with the Service that would take place during that process 
would provide an opportunity for us to recommend conservation measures 
for Astragalus anserinus and other species of concern at that time. The 
petition does not provide evidence, nor is there any information in our 
files, that such a land transfer is imminent, or that the potential 
management change may be a significant threat to A. anserinus.
Summary of Factor A
    The petition identifies potential factors, including livestock 
grazing and water development, and public land management, as threats 
to Astragalus anserinus habitat that are causing a decline in estimated 
plant numbers. We find that the petition does not present substantial 
scientific or commercial information to indicate that livestock 
trampling or water development exist at levels that may threaten A. 
anserinus, that livestock soil consumption or public land management 
revisions may threaten the species, or that population declines exist 
in any of the EOs.

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

    The petition indicates that any collection of Astragalus anserinus 
could pose additional and substantial risk to the species due to 
estimated low numbers of individuals (542 plants in all 3 States as of 
2001). However, no collection efforts were documented, and we are 
unaware of any efforts in the planning stages. The petition states that 
past attempts to germinate seeds in the lab were not successful, and 
that this makes the species additionally vulnerable to any collection 
efforts. The petition cites a personal communication from Cheney (2000) 
on failed germination attempts, but does not provide a full citation or 
supporting information. We are, therefore, unable to determine whether 
collection may be a risk factor for A. anserinus, based on information 
contained in the petition. Further, we are not aware of any information 
indicating that the overutilization of A. anserinus for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes may represent a 
significant threat to the species.
Summary of Factor B
    The petition identifies collection as a threat to Astragalus 
anserinus. However, we find that the petition does not present 
substantial scientific or commercial information to indicate that 
overutilization (collection) may threaten this species.

C. Disease or Predation

    The petition states that disease and herbivory are potential 
threats to Astragalus anserinus. Information cited in the petition to 
support the claim that disease is a potential threat to the species is 
limited to an excerpt from Baird and Tuhy (1991): ``It is possible that 
natural predation and disease have greater impacts on A. anserinus than 
those caused by livestock.''
    The petition provides general information about leguminous plants 
and possible herbivory of foliage and seeds, and indicates that natural 
herbivory of Astragalus anserinus exists. The petition states that 
regional fires have reduced the amount of habitat adjacent to A. 
anserinus EOs, increasing the likelihood of herbivory by invertebrates 
and wildlife. Herbivory by livestock is discussed as a potential threat 
to the species, with the magnitude of threat depending in part on 
whether water developments occur within EOs. Water developments are 
present within some EOs; however, no information presented in the 
petition, or available in our files, documents a relationship to 
herbivory by livestock. Livestock exclosure fencing is in place or 
planned for installation around A. anserinus occupied habitat in these 
EOs, reducing potential livestock impacts.
    The petition also states that herbivory by introduced gallinaceous 
species (e.g., quail, partridge, and turkey) is a potential threat, and 
discusses general distribution and diet information for these species. 
However, the petition provides no information on the magnitude or 
extent of potential impacts of herbivory on Astralagus anserinus.
    Information in our files indicates that fungal infection and insect 
or rabbit herbivory occur in some of the known Astragalus anserinus EOs 
(Glenne 2006). However, the documented fungus and herbivory conditions 
were not prevalent throughout an entire EO, nor throughout the range of 
A. anserinus. Accordingly, the magnitude of the threat from these 
factors appears to be low. We are not aware of any data indicating 
herbivory by livestock or introduced wildlife may be a factor 
threatening this species.
Summary of Factor C
    The petition identifies disease and herbivory as threats to 
Astragalus anserinus. However, we find that the petition does not 
present substantial scientific or commercial information to indicate 
that either of these factors may threaten this species.

D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The petition states that State and Federal agencies have failed to 
conduct regular monitoring for Astragalus anserinus throughout its 
range, and have failed to protect it from numerous direct and indirect 
impacts associated with livestock (i.e., water developments, trampling, 
and grazing) and invasive, non-native plants (see Factors A and E). The 
petition also states that mechanisms to regulate and control these 
various activities have failed to prevent harm to A. anserinus habitat.
    The petition also asserts that BLM has failed to enforce the Idaho 
Standards and Guidelines (State-specific policies under which lands are 
to be managed to maintain rangeland health and resources), and that the 
Nevada Standards and Guidelines are inadequate for the conservation of 
Astragalus anserinus. It further states that BLM in Utah has not 
adequately implemented the Utah Standards and Guidelines. The petition 
explains that BLM has indicated its intent to approve and construct 
water developments in Utah without conducting site-specific clearances, 
and refers to a project that would take place in a known occurrence of 
A. anserinus. Finally, the petition states that while the petitioners 
were under contract to the USFS, none of their recommended management 
or conservation actions for this species were ever implemented by the 
USFS or the Idaho Conservation Data Center.
    Information in our records confirms that regular monitoring of 
Astragalus anserinus or its known EOs has not historically been 
conducted. The Goose Creek drainage is in a remote area not easily 
accessed for monitoring; however, coordinated, multi-agency efforts 
were conducted in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and additional surveys and 
censuses are planned in the future (USFWS 2005a, pp. 1 and 2; 2005b, 
pp. 1 and 2; 2006, pp. 7-9). The petition's assertion that BLM is 
likely to approve and construct water developments without conducting 
site-specific clearances is not supported by the information in our 
    Our records indicate that BLM conducted site-specific clearances in 
2000 and 2002, prior to constructing the Goose Creek Pipeline number 2 
in Utah (Hardy 2005, p. 5; USFWS 2005a, p. 3). Our records also 
indicate that, as a result of the clearance procedure and 
implementation of recommendations from the Service, there was no loss 
of Astragalus anserinus plants (Hardy 2005, p. 5; USFWS 2005a, p. 3). 
Finally, our records indicate that coordination among agencies on 
future development

[[Page 46028]]

projects, weed control efforts, and other conservation efforts is 
underway (USFWS 2005b, p. 3; USFWS 2006, p. 6).
Summary of Factor D
    The petition states that State and Federal agencies have failed to 
monitor and protect Astragalus anserinus. However, we find that the 
petition does not present substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that a lack of agency monitoring and protection 
efforts may threaten the species.

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

    The petition presents a number of other factors as having negative 
effects on the continued existence of Astragalus anserinus, including 
natural soil characteristics, failure of seeds to germinate, loss or 
lack of native pollinators, loss of genetic variability, fires and 
firefighting tactics, exotic and noxious weeds, road construction and 
maintenance, range improvements, off-road vehicle use, mining, and 
illegal trash dumping.
Germination Failure and Natural Soil Characteristics
    The petition states that an attempt to germinate seeds collected 
from Astragalus anserinus was unsuccessful. The petition cites a 
personal communication from Cheney (2000) for the information on 
germination and translocation of the species, but does not provide us 
with a full citation or supporting documentation. It further states 
that future seed collection, laboratory germination, and transplanting 
individuals back into suitable habitat in the Goose Creek watershed do 
not represent a viable option for the species' recovery and 
enhancement. Based on the failure to germinate seeds in a laboratory 
setting, petitioners conducted soil tests at occupied and potentially 
suitable but unoccupied sites. Soil test results indicated that all 
occupied sites contained low nutrient levels. The petition states that 
poor nutrient levels at occupied sites make it unlikely that A. 
anserinus EOs will expand within known habitats, or colonize or 
recolonize unoccupied habitat.
    The petition does not provide information on the techniques used 
during the attempted germination of Astragalus anserinus, and we are 
unable to assess whether appropriate dormancy breaking techniques were 
employed. Although the petition states that poor nutrient levels at 
occupied sites make it unlikely that occurrences of A. anserinus will 
expand, we are unaware of any studies relating A. anserinus 
colonization potential to soil nutrients. The species may be more 
tolerant of low nutrient soils, which could be a factor in its current 
distribution. Mancuso and Moseley (1991, p. 12) state that A. anserinus 
occurs in very low densities in many locations, and is commonly missing 
from similar-looking habitats near sites where it occurs. On balance, 
the data do not appear to indicate that low germination success or low 
nutrient levels in soils may be threats to this species.
Native Pollinators
    The petition states that the potential loss or lack of native plant 
pollinators has been noted as a threat to the persistence of Astragalus 
anserinus. It indicates that pollinators are adversely impacted by 
livestock through habitat degradation, loss of food sources, and 
trampling of ground nests, and that A. anserinus reproduction is then 
reduced by lack of pollination. Mancuso and Mosely (1991, p. 24) cited 
a study by Sugden (1985, p. 309) on the trampling effects of sheep 
grazing on a rare milk-vetch in California with a life history similar 
to that of A. anserinus. This study was compared to discussion by 
Mancuso and Mosely on livestock effects to A. anserinus. However, the 
petition does not present documentation of loss or decline of native 
pollinators within A. anserinus habitat.
Loss of Genetic Variability
    The petition states that loss of genetic variability was likely 
occurring because Astragalus anserinus plants are few in number and the 
remaining individuals are widely scattered. No supporting data or 
information on whether genetic variability of A. anserinus is being 
lost is provided in the petition or its supporting materials. In 
addition, interagency census efforts conducted in 2004 and 2005 
resulted in detections of 43,458 A. anserinus plants rangewide (USFWS 
2006, Table 1).
Fires and Firefighting
    The petition cites Mancuso (2001b) as stating that fires have had 
an apparent impact on Idaho EOs of Astragalus anserinus. It states that 
fires can result in additional herbivory of native plants and 
accelerated weed invasions, and that wildfires in 2000 resulted in 
blading of fire lines and roads (for firefighting) through occupied A. 
anserinus habitat (Petition, p. 56). The petitioners also provide one 
example of blading at a potential A. anserinus site (Petition, p. 21). 
However, interagency surveys conducted in 2004 and 2005 did not 
document the blading of fire lines or roads through A. anserinus EOs 
(USFWS 2006, pp. 4-5 and Table 1). The petition does not provide 
information regarding the threat posed by fires and firefighting 
tactics to A. anserinus EOs in Utah and Nevada, and our files indicate 
that surveyors were unable to demonstrate a link between fires and 
increased herbivory in 2004 and 2005 (USFWS 2006, pp. 4-5, and Table 
Nonnative and Noxious Plants
    The petition states that nonnative and noxious plants are currently 
impacting or threatening Astragalus anserinus EOs. It cites Mancuso and 
Moseley (1991) as having observed Euphorbia esula (leafy spurge) in the 
region in 1991, but not in any A. anserinus EOs, and that E. esula was 
documented in four EOs and near two EOs in 2001 (Mancuso 2001a).
    Information in our files corroborates the petition's claim that 
nonnative and noxious plants may be impacting Astragalus anserinus EOs. 
Our records indicate that during the 2004 and 2005 surveys and census 
efforts, Euphorbia esula was detected at or near 7 of the 10 sites in 
Idaho and 2 of the 10 sites in Utah (USFWS 2006, p. 4), in spite of the 
fact that efforts to control E. esula within the Goose Creek drainage 
have been underway for several years. Control efforts for E. esula are 
increasing, but past efforts to control this species in the Goose Creek 
drainage have not halted its spread, and it has been found directly 
competing with Astragalus anserinus at three sites (USFWS 2006, p. 4). 
Based on the information provided in the petition and other information 
available in our files, we have determined that Euphorbia esula 
competition may present a threat to A. anserinus, because it often 
creates monocultures where little or no other native vegetation 
persists. Euphorbia esula displaces other vegetation by shading, 
reducing water and nutrients available to other plants, and produceing 
plant toxins that prevent the growth of other plants beneath it. In 
addition, because of its persistent nature and ability to regenerate 
from small pieces of root, E. esula is extremely difficult to 
    The petition also states that Halogeton glomeratus (halogeton) was 
present within one EO, and Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass) was present in 
four Idaho EOs in 2001, although these species were not documented at 
these locations in 2000. Information from our 2004 and 2005 surveys 
confirmed H. glomeratus near one Astragalus anserinus EO

[[Page 46029]]

(USFWS 2006, p. 4). It is presently undetermined whether the presence 
of B. tectorum or H. glomeratus may present a threat to A. anserinus.
Road Construction and Maintenance
    The petition identifies loss of habitat and loss of individual 
Astragalus anserinus plants resulting from road construction and 
maintenance as a concern, and cites the widening of the Coal Banks road 
through an extant Idaho occurrence in 2001 as an example. However, it 
does not provide specific information on the threat of road 
construction and maintenance in other portions of A. anserinus's range.
    Information from our files, specifically Mancuso and Moseley (1991, 
p. 22), indicates that some habitat was likely destroyed during 
construction of a network of secondary roads that cross much of the 
Goose Creek Basin. During the 2004 and 2005 surveys, Astragalus 
anserinus was observed as generally occurring in loose soils, although 
a few plants were found in areas with compacted soils (USFWS 2006, p. 
1). However, field observations suggest that A. anserinus is capable of 
withstanding, and is possibly adapted to, some level of natural 
disturbance, because plants were found in washes and on steep slopes 
where downward soil movement occurs (USFWS 2006, p. 1). Astragalus 
anserinus was found on unimproved roads and livestock trail margins, 
but not in tire tracks or livestock trails, presumably because 
compaction is too great (USFWS 2006, p. 1). Roads were observed in 
three A. anserinus EOs in Idaho, two EOs in Nevada, and one EO in Utah 
(USFWS 2006, Table 1). It is likely that road construction and 
maintenance have an adverse effect on A. anserinus through temporary 
loss of habitat or individuals, and that some habitat is lost through 
road development; however it is unclear whether such adverse effects 
may threaten the species.
Range Management
    The petition identifies habitat loss from range management as a 
negative impact to Astragalus anserinus. Petitioners state that 
Agropyron cristatum (crested wheatgrass), which is seeded to establish 
forage for livestock and for erosion control, was growing within 
occupied A. anserinus habitat, resulting in habitat modifications that 
may preclude A. anserinus's occupation. The petition also indicates 
that fencing and vegetation treatments, such as chaining or controlled 
burns, may contribute to adverse habitat modification. The petition 
does not provide specific information on the magnitude, extent, or 
severity of these threats.
    Our records indicate that range management in the Goose Creek area 
consists primarily of water development projects (see Pipeline and 
Water Development and Livestock under Factor A above) and Agropyron 
cristatum seedings. A. cristatum was documented at two Astragalus 
anserinus EOs in Idaho, one EO in Nevada, and three EOs and a new site 
in Utah, during the 2004 and 2005 census efforts (USFWS 2006, p. 5). A. 
cristatum seedings are extensive within A. anserinus habitat, 
especially in Utah. The two species are typically spatially separated, 
with A. cristatum growing on flatter areas and A. anserinus occurring 
on sloping areas (USFWS 2006, p. 5). Maps obtained from BLM's Salt Lake 
City Office indicate that A. cristatum was seeded directly on top of 
numerous A. anserinus EOs; however, this could not be confirmed during 
field observations. Since A. cristatum was seldom observed on steeper 
slopes where A. anserinus is established, the steep slopes may have 
been too difficult to plant and were avoided for this reason (USFWS 
2006, p. 5).
Off-road Vehicle (ORV) Use, Mining, and Illegal Trash Dumping
    The petition discusses ORV use as a potential threat to Astragalus 
anserinus, and cites DeBolt (1989) and Mancuso (2001b) as first 
describing ORV use as a threat to the species, because of rapidly 
increasing ORV use in Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. Neither a complete 
citation for the DeBolt reference nor supporting documentation is 
provided in the petition. The petition refers to illegal trash dumping 
as a potential threat to A. anserinus, and states that although dumping 
is limited in scope, the potential impact is important to consider. It 
also discusses mining that historically occurred in and near occupied 
habitat, and states that if mining efforts were to increase, they could 
present substantial threats to the species. The petition does not 
provide information on the number of A. anserinus occurrences impacted 
or the magnitude, extent, or severity of impacts from ORV use, trash 
dumping, or mining.
    Our records indicate that one ORV track was observed in the 2004 
surveys near an Astragalus anserinus EO, but not within the EO itself 
(USFWS 2006, Table 1). One trash dump was observed on private land near 
an A. anserinus EO in Utah during the 2004 surveys (USFWS 2006, p. 5). 
While ORV use and illegal trash dumping occur in the range of the 
species and may impact some individuals, the magnitude and extent of 
these threats appear to be low at this time. We lack information on 
potential or actual threats that mining activities may present to A. 
Summary of Factor E
    The petition identifies numerous potential factors, including seed 
germination failure and native soil characteristics, loss of native 
pollinators, loss of genetic variability, fires and firefighting 
tactics, nonnative and noxious plants, road construction and 
maintenance, range management, ORV use, mining, and illegal trash 
dumping, as threats to Astragalus anserinus. We find that the petition 
along with information available in our files presents substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that competition with 
Euphorbia esula may present a threat to A. anserinus from shading, 
reducing available water and nutrients, and producing plant toxins that 
prevent the growth of other plants beneath it. Because of its 
persistent nature and ability to regenerate from small pieces of root, 
E. esula is extremely difficult to eradicate. However, based on the 
available information, it is unclear whether the potential factors of 
seed germination failure and native soil characteristics, loss of 
native pollinators, loss of genetic variability, fires and firefighting 
tactics, road construction and maintenance, range management, ORV use, 
mining, and illegal trash dumping identified by the petition may 
threaten this species. We will consider information related to these 
factors during the status review.
    We have reviewed the petition and literature cited in the petition, 
and evaluated the information determined to be reliable to make this 
finding. We also reviewed reliable information that was readily 
available in our files to evaluate the reliability of information in 
the petition. The petition presents information that degradation of 
habitat from invasive exotic species and noxious plant species may have 
contributed to habitat loss and population declines. The information in 
our files supports the petition's statements regarding this threat to 
Astragalus anserinus. Survey information available in our files 
corroborates that Euphorbia esula has been documented at several EOs, 
and may represent a threat to A. anserinus, based on A. anserinus' 
difficulty in competing with this nonnative, invasive species (USFWS 
2006 p. 4). Therefore, based on our review, we find that the petition 
presents substantial

[[Page 46030]]

information indicating that listing A. anserinus may be warranted. As 
such, we are initiating a status review to determine whether listing A. 
anserinus under the Act is warranted.
    We have also reviewed the available information to determine if the 
existing and foreseeable threats pose an emergency to Astragalus 
anserinus. We have determined that an emergency listing is not 
warranted at this time, based on the information provided in the 
petition and otherwise available in our files. This determination is 
based on the fact that none of the threats, aside from a catastrophic 
fire, are capable of eliminating a substantial portion of the species 
over the course of the next 2 or 3 years. Catastrophic and other 
natural wildfires are normally beyond management control and difficult 
to predict, but the open ash, sparsely vegetated habitat sites where A. 
anserinus occurs rarely burn. All known sites of the population are 
assumed extant, and a paucity of information makes it difficult to 
establish population trends. Based on the information contained in the 
petition and information provided through discussions with 
knowledgeable individuals, we do not believe that an emergency listing 
of this species is warranted because while the plant's current status 
range-wide is unclear or unknown, there are no known range-wide 
imminent threat(s). However, if at any time we determine that emergency 
listing of this species is warranted, we will seek to initiate an 
emergency listing.

References Cited

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


    The primary authors of this notice are staff members of the Snake 
River Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).


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

    Dated: August 9, 2007.
H. Dale Hall,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
 [FR Doc. E7-16145 Filed 8-15-07; 8:45 am]