[Federal Register: May 7, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 87)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 21301-21310]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 21301]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[FWS-R6-ES-2009-0021; MO 92210530083-B2]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition To List the American Pika as Threatened or Endangered with 
Critical Habitat

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 the American pika (Ochotona 
princeps) 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 of the American pika 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 the 
petitioned action is warranted. To ensure that the status review is 
comprehensive, we are soliciting scientific and commercial data 
regarding this species. We will make a determination on critical 
habitat for this species if, and when, we initiate a listing action.

DATES: We made the finding announced in this document on May 7, 2009. 
To allow us adequate time to conduct the 12-month status review, we 
request that we receive information on or before July 6, 2009.

ADDRESSES: You may submit information by one of the following methods:
     Federal rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
     U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, 
Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2009-0021; Division of Policy and Directives 
Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, 
Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will post all comments on 
http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any 
personal information you provide us (see the Information Solicited 
section below for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Larry Crist, Field Supervisor, Utah 
Ecological Services Field Office, 2369 West Orton Circle, Suite 50, 
West Valley City, UT 84119; telephone 801-975-3330, extension 126. If 
you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the 
Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.


Information Solicited

    When we make a finding that a petition presents substantial 
information 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 our status review is complete and based on the best 
available scientific and commercial information, we are soliciting 
information on the American pika or any subspecies of the American 
pika. We request data and information from the public, other 
governmental agencies, tribes, the scientific community, industry, or 
any other interested parties concerning the status of the American pika 
or any subspecies of the American pika. We are seeking information 
regarding the species' or subspecies': (1) Historical and current 
status and distribution; (2) population size and trend; (3) biology and 
ecology; (4) taxonomy (especially the genetics of the species and 
subspecies); and (5) ongoing conservation measures for the animals or 
their habitat.
    We also are seeking information on the following five threat 
factors used to determine if a species, as defined under the Act, is 
threatened or endangered under section 4(a)(1) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.):
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of the species' habitat or range;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence and threats to the species or its habitat.
    If we determine that listing the American pika or any subspecies of 
the American pika under the Act is warranted, we intend to propose 
critical habitat to the maximum extent prudent and determinable at the 
time we propose to list the species. Therefore, with regard to areas 
within the geographical range currently occupied by the species, we 
also request data and information on what may constitute physical or 
biological features essential to the conservation of the species, where 
these features are currently found, and whether any of these features 
may require special management considerations or protection. In 
addition, we request data and information regarding whether there are 
areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species that are 
essential to the conservation of the species. Please provide specific 
comments and information as to what, if any, critical habitat you think 
we should propose for designation if the species is proposed for 
listing, and why such habitat meets the requirements of the Act.
    We will base our 12-month finding on a review of the best 
scientific and commercial information available, including all 
information we receive during this public comment period. Please note 
that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action 
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 we make determinations as to whether 
any species is a threatened or endangered species ``solely on the basis 
of the best scientific and commercial data available.'' At the 
conclusion of the status review, we will issue a 12-month finding on 
the petition, as provided in section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act.
    You may submit your information concerning this status review by 
one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section.
    If you submit information via http://www.regulations.gov, your 
entire submission--including any personal identifying information--will 
be posted on the website. If your submission is made via a hardcopy 
that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the 
top of your document that we withhold this personal identifying 
information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we 
will be able to do so. We will post all hardcopy submissions on http://
www.regulations.gov . Please include sufficient information with your 
comments to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial information 
you include.
    Information and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this 90-day finding, will be 
available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Utah Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR 

[[Page 21302]]


    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted. We are to base this finding on 
information contained in the petition and supporting information 
readily available in our files at the time of the petition review. 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 information within the Code of Federal 
Regulations (CFR) regarding 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 presented substantial information, we are 
required to promptly commence a review of the status of the species.
    We received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity 
(Center), dated October 1, 2007, requesting that we list the American 
pika (Ochotona princeps) as threatened or endangered under the Act. 
Additionally, the Center formally requested that we conduct a status 
review of each of the 36 recognized subspecies of American pikas to 
determine if separately listing any subspecies as threatened or 
endangered may be warranted. Specifically, the Center requested that 
seven American pika subspecies be listed as endangered: The Ruby 
Mountains pika (O. p. nevadensis), O. p. tutelata (no common name), the 
White Mountains pika (O. p. sheltoni), the gray-headed pika (O. p. 
schisticeps), the Taylor pika (O. p. taylori), the lava-bed pika (O. p. 
goldmani), and the Bighorn Mountain pika (O. p. obscura). The Center 
requested that the remaining subspecies be listed as threatened.
    We acknowledged receipt of the petition in a letter dated October 
18, 2007. In that letter we advised the petitioner that we could not 
address its petition then because existing court orders and settlement 
agreements for other listing actions required nearly all of our listing 
funding. We also concluded that emergency listing of the American pika 
was not warranted.
    We received a 60-day notice of intent to sue from the Center dated 
January 3, 2008. We received a complaint from the Center on August 19, 
2008. We submitted a settlement agreement to the Court on February 12, 
2009, agreeing to submit a 90-day finding to the Federal Register by 
May 1, 2009, and, if appropriate, to submit a 12-month finding to the 
Federal Register by February 1, 2010.
    We received a letter, dated November 3, 2008, from the Center that 
discussed and transmitted supplemental information found in recent 
scientific studies that had not been included in the original petition. 
We considered this additional information when making this finding.
    In making this finding, we relied on information provided by the 
petitioner, as well as information readily available in our files at 
the time of the petition review. We evaluated the 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 section 424.14(b) of 
our regulations is limited to a determination of whether the 
information in the petition contains ``substantial scientific and 
commercial information.''

Species Information

    The American pika is a small montane mammal in the order Lagomorpha 
(rabbits, hares, and pikas) distributed discontinuously throughout the 
western United States and Canada (Hall 1981, p. 288; Smith and Weston 
1990, p. 2). The species inhabits talus fields fringed by suitable 
vegetation in alpine or subalpine areas extending south from central 
British Columbia and Alberta into the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico and 
the Sierra Nevada of California (Hall 1981, p. 288; Smith and Weston 
1990, pp. 2-3). A generalist herbivore that does not hibernate, the 
species relies on harvested stockpiles of summer vegetation stored 
within talus openings to persist throughout the winter months (Smith 
and Weston 1990, p. 3). Alpine meadows that provide forage are 
important to pika survival.
    Like other pika species, the American pika has an egg-shaped body 
with short legs, moderately large ears, and no visible tail (Smith and 
Weston 1990, p. 2). Fur color varies among subspecies and across 
seasons, typically with shorter, brownish fur in summer and longer, 
grayish fur in winter (Smith and Weston 1990, p. 3). The species is an 
intermediately sized pika, with adult body lengths ranging from 162 to 
216 millimeters (6.3 to 8.5 inches) and mean body mass ranging from 121 
to 176 grams (4.3 to 6.2 ounces) (Hall 1981, p. 287; Smith and Weston 
1990, p. 2).
    American pikas forage by feeding and haying (Huntly et al. 1986, p. 
139; Smith and Weston 1990, p. 4; Dearing 1997b, p. 775). Feeding (the 
immediate consumption of vegetation) occurs year-round; haying (the 
storage of vegetation for later consumption) occurs only in summer 
months after the breeding season (Smith and Weston 1990, p. 4). The 
primary purpose of haypiles is overwintering sustenance, and 
individuals harvest more vegetation than necessary for these haypiles 
(Dearing 1997a, p. 1156). The species takes advantage of plant 
chemistry by selecting low-phenolic (containing phenol, an organic 
compound that in high amounts is toxic to pika) vegetation for feeding, 
while at the same time selecting high-phenolic, but slow-decaying, 
vegetation for haying (Dearing 1997b, pp. 774, 776, 779). By the time 
pikas consume the stored vegetation, plant toxins have decayed to 
palatable levels (Dearing 1997b, pp. 774, 779).
    Thermoregulation is an important aspect of American pika 
physiology, because individuals have a high normal body temperature of 
approximately 40 [deg]Celsius (C) (104 [deg]Fahrenheit (F)) (MacArthur 
and Wang 1973, p. 11; Smith and Weston 1990, p. 3), and a relatively 
low lethal maximum body temperature threshold of approximately 43 
[deg]C (109.4 [deg]F) (Smith and Weston 1990, p. 3). Most 
thermoregulation of individuals is behavioral, not physiological (Smith 
1974b, p. 1372; Smith and Weston 1990, p. 3). In warmer environments, 
such as during midday sun and at lower elevation limits, pikas 
typically become inactive and withdraw into cooler talus openings 
(Smith 1974b, p. 1372; Smith and Weston 1990, p. 3).
    Temperature restrictions influence the species' distribution 
because hyperthermia (heat stroke) or death can occur after brief 
exposures to ambient temperatures greater than 25.5 [deg]C (77.9 
[deg]F) (Smith 1974b, p. 1372). Therefore, population range of the 
American pika progressively increases in elevation in the southern 
extents of the distribution (Smith and Weston 1990, p. 2). In the 
northern part of its distribution (southwestern Canada), populations 
occur from sea level to 3,000 meters (m) (9,842 feet (ft)), but in the 
southern extent (New Mexico, Nevada, and southern California) 
populations rarely exist below 2,500 m (8,202 ft) (Smith and Weston 
1990, p. 2). Fossil records indicate that the species inhabited sites 
farther south and at lower elevations during the late Wisconsinan and 
early Holocene periods (approximately 40,000 to 7,500 years ago), but 
warming and drying climatic trends in the middle Holocene period 
(approximately 7,500 to 4,500 years ago) forced populations into the 
current distribution of montane

[[Page 21303]]

refugia (Smith and Weston 1990, p. 2; Grayson 2005, p. 2103).
    Within this geographic distribution, the American pika has an 
obligate association with talus habitat because it uses rock piles for 
den sites, food storage, and nesting (Smith and Weston 1990, p. 4; 
Beever et al. 2003, p. 39). Talus habitats also provide microclimate 
conditions suitable for pika survival by creating cooler, moist refugia 
in summer months (Beever 2002, p. 27) and insulating individuals in the 
colder winter months (Smith 1978, p. 137). Hafner (1994, p. 380) 
suggested that neither heat nor aridity directly caused local 
population extirpations during historical warming periods, but rather 
it was the upward retreat of alpine permafrost that allowed soil and 
vegetation to fill talus habitat openings.
    Within these habitats, individual pikas are territorial, 
maintaining a defended territory of 410 to 709 square meters (m2) 
(4,413 to 7,631 square feet (ft2)), but fully utilizing overlapping 
home ranges of 861 to 2,182 m2 (9,268 to 23,486 ft2) (various studies 
cited in Smith and Weston 1990, p. 5). Individuals mark their 
territories with scent and defend the territories through aggressive 
fights and chases (Smith and Weston 1990, p. 5). Adults with adjacent 
territories form facultatively monogamous mating pairs (males are 
sexually monogamous but make little investment in rearing offspring) 
(Smith and Weston 1990, pp. 5-6). Females give birth to average litter 
sizes of 2.34 to 3.68 twice a year (Smith and Weston 1990, p. 4). 
However, fewer than 10 percent of weaned juveniles are from the second 
litter, because mothers only wean the second litter if the first litter 
is lost (various studies cited in Smith and Weston 1990, p. 4).
    Adult pikas can be territorially aggressive to juveniles, and 
parents can become aggressive to their own offspring within 3 to 4 
weeks after birth (Smith and Weston 1990, p. 4). Therefore, juveniles 
need to establish their own territories and create haypiles before the 
winter snowpack if they are to survive (Smith and Weston 1990, p. 6; 
Peacock 1997, p. 348). However, establishing a territory and building a 
haypile does not ensure survival. Among all residents (adults and 
overwintering juveniles), yearly average mortality in pika populations 
is between 37 and 53 percent; few pikas live to be 4 years of age 
(Peacock 1997, p. 346).
    Historically, researchers hypothesized that American pika juveniles 
are philopatric, dispersing only if no territory is available in their 
natal local population site (various studies cited in Smith and Weston 
1990, p. 6). However, using indirect genetic methods, Peacock (1997, 
pp. 346-348) demonstrated that juvenile emigration to other population 
sites occurred over both long (2 kilometers (km); (1.24 miles (mi))) 
and short distances, and acted to support population stability by 
replacing deceased adults. Peacock (1997, pp. 347-348) also concluded 
that territory availability is a key factor for dispersal patterns, and 
that local pika populations lacked clusters of highly related 
    Dispersal by American pikas is governed by physical limitations. 
Smith (1974a, p. 1116) suggested that it was difficult for juveniles to 
disperse over distances greater than 300 m (10 ft) in low-elevation 
(2,500-m (8,200-ft)) populations. Lower elevations are warmer in summer 
and represent the lower edge of the elevational range of the species 
(Smith 1974a, p. 1112). Research at other locations has documented 
dispersal distances of 3 km (1.9 mi) (Hafner and Sullivan 1995, p. 
312). The maximum individual dispersal distance is probably between 10 
and 20 km (6.2 and 12.4 mi) (Hafner and Sullivan 1995, p. 312). This 
conclusion is based on genetic (Hafner and Sullivan 1995, pp. 302-321) 
and biogeographical (Hafner 1994, pp. 375-382) analysis. Genetic 
analysis revealed that pika metapopulations are separated by somewhere 
between 10 and 100 km (6.2 to 62 mi) (Hafner and Sullivan 1995, p. 
312). Biogeographical analysis demonstrated that, during the warmer 
altithermal period of the mid-Holocene (about 6,500 years ago), the 
species retreated to sites offering thermal refugia, and that the 
species subsequently expanded its range somewhat as climatic conditions 
cooled (Hafner 1994, p. 381). However, the species has been unable to 
recolonize vacant habitat patches greater than 20 km (12.4 mi) from 
refugia sites and has recolonized less than 7.8 percent of available 
patches within 20 km (12.4 mi) of those same refugia sites (Hafner 
1994, p. 381). Evidence indicates that the lack of recolonization is 
due to vegetation filling in talus areas (removing pika habitat) or 
habitat becoming too dry due to environmental changes resulting from 
historical changes in climate (Hafner 1994, p. 381).
    Climatic conditions have shaped the current distribution of the 
America pika over the course of history, creating geographically 
isolated populations on montane refugia (Hafner 1994, p. 375; Hafner 
and Sullivan 1995, p. 302; Grayson 2005, p. 2103). Information 
presented in the petition indicates that this geographic isolation has 
resulted in 36 recognized subspecies of the American pika (Hall 1981, 
p. 287-292). Of these, 31 subspecies occur in the United States over a 
10-State region: New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho, 
Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington (Hall 1981, p. 288). The 
other five subspecies occur in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. 
Recent genetic work has shown that four major genetic units of the 
American pika exist in the northern Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada, 
southern Rocky Mountains, and Cascade Range (Hafner and Sullivan 1995, 
p. 308). We will address American pika subspecies designations in the 
United States and Canada more thoroughly in our status review.
    The petitioner requested that 7 of the 36 petitioned American pika 
subspecies be listed as endangered and that the other 29 subspecies be 
listed as threatened. Subspecies are listable entities under the Act. 
We will verify taxonomic classification of pika subspecies and assess 
whether any or all subspecies are warranted for listing under the Act. 
If any subspecies are found to be warranted, we will determine whether 
they are individually warranted for listing as threatened or endangered 
when we prepare a proposed listing rule.

Threat Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 424) 
set forth the 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) The 
present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its 
habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or 
manmade factors affecting its continued existence. Listing actions may 
be warranted based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in 
    Under the Act, a threatened species is defined as a species that is 
likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range. An endangered 
species is defined as a species that is in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range. We evaluated each 
of the five listing factors to determine whether the level of threat 
identified by information in the petition or in our files was

[[Page 21304]]

substantial and indicated that listing the American pika as threatened 
or endangered may be warranted. Our evaluation is presented below.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of its Habitat or Range

    The petitioner states that threats causing the present or 
threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of American pika 
habitat or range include global climate change, livestock grazing, 
invasive plant species, and fire suppression.

Global Climate Change

    The petitioner states that global climate change is the gravest 
threat to the long-term survival of the American pika. They assert that 
predicted global climate change, both thermal and precipitation regime 
modifications, can directly cause thermal stress and mortality to 
individuals, contribute to the loss of montane habitat, and 
synergistically enhance negative ecological and anthropogenic effects. 
The petitioner provides an overview of global climate change research, 
including past, present, and predicted future climatic conditions. 
After presenting an overview of the scientific basis of global climate 
change, the petitioner discusses observed impacts to the American pika 
from historic and recent global climate change. Lastly, the petitioner 
introduces future projected climatic conditions in the American pika's 
range and hypothesizes how these conditions may affect the species.
    The petitioner asserts that the publications of the 
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), specifically the 
four-volume IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007, are the 
best available science on global climate change, and we concur. The 
IPCC is a scientific intergovernmental body established by the World 
Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment 
Programme (UNEP) ``to assess scientific information related to climate 
change, to evaluate the environmental and socio-economic consequences 
of climate change, and to formulate realistic response strategies'' 
(IPCC 2007, p. iii). The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 
2007 included the findings of three working groups composed of more 
than 500 lead authors and 2,000 expert reviewers and provided objective 
scientific guidance to policymakers on the topic of climate change 
(IPCC 2007, p. iii). We concur that the IPCC information on global 
climate change is reliable.
    The IPCC concluded that global climate change is occurring and is 
caused by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and 
clearing of forests (Forster et al. 2007, pp. 135-136). Historical 
records analyzed by the IPCC demonstrated that global surface 
temperatures have risen (with regional variations) during the past 157 
years, most strongly after the 1970s (Trenberth et al. 2007, p. 252). 
Globally, average surface temperatures have risen by 0.074 [deg]C plus 
or minus 0.018 [deg]C (0.13 [deg]F plus or minus 0.03 [deg]F) per 
decade during the past century (1906 through 2005) and by 0.177 [deg]C 
plus or minus 0.052 [deg]C (0.32 [deg]F plus or minus 0.09 [deg]F) per 
decade during the past quarter-century (1981 through 2005) (Trenberth 
et al. 2007, p. 253).
    Changes in the amount, intensity, frequency, and type of 
precipitation also have been summarized by the IPCC (Trenberth et al. 
2007, p. 262). The warming of global temperatures has increased the 
probability of precipitation falling as rain rather than snow, 
especially in near-freezing situations, such as the beginning and end 
of the snow season (Trenberth et al. 2007, p. 263). In many Northern 
Hemisphere regions, this has caused a reduced snowpack, which can 
greatly alter water resources throughout the year (Trenberth et al. 
2007, p. 263). As a result of thermal and precipitation regime changes, 
the IPCC expects the snowline (the lower elevation of year-round snow) 
in mountainous regions to rise 150 m (492 ft) for every 1 [deg]C (1.8 
[deg]F) increase in temperature (Christenson et al. 2007, p. 886). 
These predictions are consistent with regional predictions for the 
Sierra Nevada in California that calculate that year-round snow will be 
virtually absent below 1,000 m (3,280 ft) under a higher emissions 
scenario (Cayan et al. 2006, p. 32).
    The petitioner presents research demonstrating that climate change 
has occurred within the range of the American pika. In the 20th 
century, regions in which pikas occur (the Pacific Northwest and 
western United States) have seen annual average temperature increases 
of 0.6 to 1.7 [deg]C (1.1 to 3.1 [deg]F) and 1.1 to 2.8 [deg]C (2.0 to 
5.0 [deg]F), respectively (Parson et al. 2000, p. 248; Smith et al. 
2000, p. 220). This warming corresponds with a reduced mountain 
snowpack (Mote et al. 2005 and Regonda et al. 2005 cited in Vicuna and 
Dracup 2007, p. 330; Trenberth et al. 2007, p. 310) and a trend toward 
earlier snowmelt in western North America (Stewart et al. 2004, pp. 
217, 219, 223).
    The petitioner presents research forecasting future climatic 
conditions both globally and for the range of the American pika. 
Predicted global average surface warming during the 21st century is 
between 1.1 and 6.4 [deg]C (2.0 and 11.5 [deg]F), depending on the 
emissions scenario analyzed (Solomon et al. 2007, p. 70, Table TS. 6). 
On a regional scale, North America is likely to exceed the global mean 
warming in most areas (Christenson et al. 2007, p. 850). Specifically, 
warming is likely to be largest in winter in northern regions of North 
America, with minimum winter temperatures likely rising more than the 
global average (Christenson et al. 2007, p. 850). Across 21 global 
temperature models using a mid-level emissions scenario, the IPCC 
predicted that the average annual temperature in western North America 
(covering the entire range of the American pika) will increase between 
2.1 and 5.7 [deg]C (median 3.4 [deg]C) (3.8 and 10.3 [deg]F (median 6.1 
[deg]F)) during the 21st century (Christenson et al. 2007, p. 856). 
Similarly, Smith et al. (2000, p. 220) reported a projected warming of 
4.4 to 6.1 [deg]C (7.9 to 11[deg]F) in the western United States by 
    Literature presented by the petitioner demonstrates that 
temperature increases also are expected to affect precipitation, 
snowpack, and snowmelt in the range of the American pika. The IPCC 
concluded that snow-season length and depth of snowpack are very likely 
to decrease in most of North America (Christenson et al. 2007, p. 850). 
Leung et al. (2004, p. 75) concluded that future warming increases in 
the western United States will cause increased rainfall and decreased 
snowfall, resulting in reduced snow accumulation or earlier snowmelt. 
Similarly, Rauscher et al. (2008, p. 4) concluded that increased 
temperatures in the late 21st century could cause early-season 
snowmelt-driven runoff to occur as much as 2 months earlier than 
presently in the western United States.
    The petitioner asserts that climate variables are of immediate 
concern to the American pika because past and present trends in climate 
have important physiological, ecological, and demographic consequences. 
They state that temperature is a variable of primary importance to the 
species because it inhibits local population persistence at warmer 
sites, consequently determining the species' distribution. They also 
discuss the ecological and physiological roles of precipitation, 
particularly snow, to the American pika and its habitat. Lastly, they 
discuss how climate regulates the factors maintaining the American 
pika's alpine meadow and talus habitat.
    The petitioner presents research concluding that the distribution 
of American pikas from prehistoric times

[[Page 21305]]

to the present is a result of changing climatic conditions. Hafner 
(1994, p. 375) concluded that, in the southern Rocky Mountains, 
occurrence of pika populations is closely tied to past and present 
distribution of alpine permafrost conditions, with altithermal warming 
accounting for 66.7 percent of all post-Wisconsinan period population 
extirpations. Similar biogeographic analysis demonstrated that climate 
change and subsequent impacts on vegetation determined the distribution 
of the American pika in the Great Basin (Grayson 2005, p. 2103). 
Grayson (2005, p. 2107) describes the history of American pikas in the 
Great Basin as ``a relentless loss of lower elevation populations, 
creating the extremely patchy, and generally high elevation, 
distribution seen today.'' The present distribution of the American 
pika in the Great Basin is approximately 783 m (2,568 ft) higher in 
elevation than the distribution during the late Wisconsinan and early 
Holocene periods (Grayson 2005, p. 2103), demonstrating an elevational 
retreat tracking colder microclimates. While these trends, acting over 
long timescales, demonstrate the role of historical climate conditions 
in shaping pika distribution, the petitioner emphasizes the current 
threat to the American pika by citing more recent, rapid-range 
    To demonstrate the immediate vulnerability of pika populations to 
human-induced climate change, the petitioner presents research 
documenting 20th century range contractions in both the Great Basin and 
the Sierra Nevada. By conducting extensive surveys between 1994 and 
1999 at historic sites known to have harbored pikas, a study of Great 
Basin pika populations found that 7 of 25 populations appeared to have 
experienced recent extirpations (Beever et al. 2003, p. 37). Elevation 
was an important parameter in models predicting the persistence of pika 
populations, suggesting that thermal effects have influenced recent 
persistence trajectories of Great Basin populations of pikas (Beever et 
al. 2003, pp. 43, 46, 47). However, additional factors affect 
persistence, such as proximity to roads, habitat size, and livestock 
grazing, which indicate that anthropogenic effects may be working in 
concert with environmental conditions to produce the apparent 
extirpations (Beever et al. 2003, p. 46). In 2004, the number of 
apparent population extirpations in the study area had increased to 
nine (Krajick 2004, p. 1602).
    Moritz et al. (2008, pp. 261-264) examined long-term responses of 
small mammal communities to recent climate change in the Sierra Nevada. 
Because the study area has been protected since 1890, responses to 
climate change were not confounded by land-use effects (Moritz et al. 
2008, p. 261). They documented range contractions in high-elevation 
species and upward range expansion in low-elevation species (Moritz et 
al. 2008, p. 262). Specifically, the lower range limit of the American 
pika shifted 153 m (502 ft) upslope (Moritz et al. 2008, p. 263). Based 
on the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada studies, the petitioner states 
that temperatures provide the most likely explanation for observed 
range shifts in American pika populations.
    The petitioner acknowledges the work of Beever (2002, pp. 23-29) to 
provide further insights into pika population persistence and climate 
conditions in lower elevation regions. American pikas were detected at 
historical and new locations at Craters of the Moon and Lava Beds 
National Monuments (Idaho and California, respectively), a notable 
finding because the climate at these sites is an estimated 18 to 24 
percent drier and 5 to 11 percent warmer during the hottest months of 
the year than experienced at the interior Great Basin locations where 
pikas have been extirpated (Beever 2002, pp. 26-27). Three habitat 
characteristics seemed important to these populations: large, 
contiguous areas of rocky, volcanic habitat; average or greater than 
average amounts of accessible vegetation; and microtopography with 
rocks large enough for subsurface movement and tunneling by pikas 
(Beever 2002, p. 28). Beever concluded that volcanic sites offered 
thermal refugia from heat stress but noted that this did not completely 
explain pika persistence (Beever 2002, p. 27). He proposed that the 
lack of human land-use impacts also may be important (Beever 2002, p. 
    The petitioner cites a study of the congeneric collared pika 
(Ochotona collaris), located in northwest Canada and eastern Alaska, to 
demonstrate that precipitation also may affect population persistence. 
During this study, Morrison and Hik (2008, pp. 104-105, 110) documented 
a population collapse of 90 percent from 1998 through 2000. They 
hypothesized that the high mortality was related to warmer winters that 
resulted in low snow accumulation (and, therefore, poor insulation 
value), increased frequency of freeze-thaw events, icing following 
winter rains, and late winter snowfalls that delay the start of the 
growing season (Morrison and Hik 2008, p. 110). The petitioner stresses 
Morrison and Hik's (2008, p. 110) warning that this species will 
experience future declines as a result of similar adverse weather 
conditions if predicted future climatic conditions are realized.
    In addition to studies documenting past impacts to the American 
pika, the petitioner presents investigations into future species' 
trends. McDonald and Brown (1992, pp. 409-415) applied the theory of 
island biogeography to isolated mountaintop ranges in the Great Basin 
of western North America and modeled potential extinctions brought on 
by changing climatic conditions. They predicted that the American pika 
would be locally extirpated from five of six mountain ranges that it 
inhabited in the Great Basin in 1992, assuming a less than 3 [deg]C 
(5.4 [deg]F) increase in temperature (McDonald and Brown 1992, p.411 
Table 1). Broader ecological results of the model indicate that 
mountain ranges would lose 35 to 96 percent of their boreal habitat and 
9 to 62 percent of their current boreal mammal species, depending on 
the mountain range in question (McDonald and Brown 1992, p. 413). 
Because a 3 [deg]C (5.4 [deg]F) increase is within the IPCC's predicted 
temperature increases (see above), the petitioner states that these 
results indicate the potential for catastrophic declines in the range 
of the American pika in the foreseeable future.
    Loarie (2008, pp. 1-3) predicted impacts of climate change on the 
distribution of the American pika. Under a relatively low emissions 
scenario, habitat suitability for the pika would be significantly 
reduced throughout its range by the year 2100, with suitable habitat 
occurring only in the southern Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone National 
Park region, Cascade Mountains, Olympic Mountains, Canadian Rockies, 
and a small portion of the Sierra Nevada (Loarie 2008, Figure B). The 
petitioner cites these modeling efforts to demonstrate that the range 
of American pika habitat is likely to diminish greatly in the future.
    Based on these range contractions, the petitioner concludes that 
projected changes in climate conditions will affect the species because 
of direct effects from thermal stress and indirect effects from changes 
in habitat and alpine ecology.
    The petitioner contends that temperature increases in the western 
United States are already exceeding the thermal limits of the American 
pika in lower elevation populations and that future temperature 
increases will commit pika populations to an increased rate of 
extinction. They propose four ways by which thermal

[[Page 21306]]

stress will impact the American pika. First, increasing summer 
temperatures may make talus habitat too hot for species' survival. 
Because American pikas have an upper lethal body temperature that is 
just 3 [deg]C (5.4 [deg]F) above normal body temperature, habitat 
refugia play an important role in their individual thermoregulation 
(Smith and Weston 1990, p. 3). The petitioner reasons that increasing 
temperatures will eliminate cool, moist refugia in talus habitat, 
causing individuals to be unable to thermoregulate in summer months. 
They state that predictions for higher average summer temperatures 
combined with more frequent and longer heat waves will place pikas 
under increased stress during the summer months, potentially causing 
mortality (Christensen et al. 2007, pp. 850, 891). Secondly, they state 
that, even if the talus refugia remain cool, ambient external 
temperatures may reduce an individual's ability to forage during 
midday. They assert that if pika individuals cannot adequately forage 
in the summer months, they may not have the required body mass or 
haypile volume needed for winter survival.
    The petitioner argues that warmer summer temperatures also will 
affect the ability of juvenile pikas to successfully disperse and 
colonize new areas; two previous studies have concluded that warmer 
temperatures restricted juvenile dispersal (Smith 1974a, p. 1112; 1978, 
p. 137). They conclude that more adverse climatic conditions may 
decrease the distance juveniles are able to travel in search of new 
habitat patches. They claim the species' range is likely to decline if 
juveniles are unable to colonize new patches or immigrate to other 
populations. They also conclude that juvenile pikas may not be able to 
collect adequate haypiles because higher temperatures lead to earlier 
desiccation of vegetation. Therefore, even if juveniles create new home 
territories, they may not be able to survive the winter months.
    Lastly, the petitioner asserts that the American pika may be 
sensitive to changing winter conditions. The petitioner cites studies 
indicating that earlier snowmelt (Smith 1978, p. 133) and loss of snow 
cover, which provides insulation during cold weather (Morrison and Hik 
2008, p. 110), may be associated with high mortality and subsequent 
population declines. Because the decline in snowpack and earlier 
montane snowmelt are predicted to occur within the next century (see 
above), winter survival of the American pika may consequently decrease.
    The petitioner contends that indirect effects of climate change, 
such as vegetative community change and habitat alteration, will affect 
the American pika. Hotter and potentially drier conditions projected in 
montane regions could alter the plant communities to species less 
favorable for pika. One of the most important traits of the local plant 
community is forage quality and quantity. The petitioner argues that 
community characteristics less favorable to pika foraging conditions 
include an abundance of plant species less suitable to pika nutritional 
needs; an earlier onset of plant desiccation; and less water content, 
biomass, or compatible phenology in surrounding vegetation. The 
petitioner states that global climate change has the potential to cause 
any or all of these community changes.
    The petitioner states that a second possible community change is 
the loss of alpine meadow habitat caused by forest encroachment. They 
cite studies demonstrating the invasion of forests into alpine meadow 
habitat across various mountain ranges during the 20th century (Dyer 
and Moffett 1999, p. 444; Fagre et al. 2003, p. 263), and studies 
indicating that rising temperatures are correlated with this trend 
(Grabherr et al. 1994, p. 448; Walther et al. 2005, p. 541). The 
petitioner concludes that a shift from alpine meadow habitat to forest 
communities would cause pika forage plants to decline, eventually 
eliminating suitable pika habitat. Additionally, as alpine meadow 
habitat is replaced by forest stands, pika habitat will become 
increasingly smaller and more isolated. Demonstrating the consequences 
of shrinking alpine habitat, McDonald and Brown (1992, pp. 409-415) 
predicted that small-mammal extirpations, including the American pika, 
will be common across mountain ranges in the Great Basin as alpine 
habitats retreat to higher elevations or disappear in response to 
global climate change.
    In addition to alpine meadows, the petitioner states that global 
climate change may affect the formation and maintenance of talus 
habitat. Alpine permafrost conditions provide the necessary freeze-thaw 
events to form talus habitat while also preventing vegetation 
encroachment in talus through extremely cold climatic events (Hafner 
1994, p. 376). The petitioner asserts that increasing winter 
temperatures will cause the decline of these conditions and the 
corresponding decrease in talus habitat. Increasing temperatures will 
no longer prevent vegetation encroachment, thus filling talus vacancies 
and making habitat unsuitable for pikas (Hafner 1994, p. 380).
Summary of Global Climate Change
    Based on the results of these empirical studies, along with 
predictions of declining climatic habitat suitability (Loarie 2008, pp. 
1-4), we find that the range of the American pika and the habitat 
within the range are likely to decrease as surface temperatures 
increase. Furthermore, the results of studies in the 20th century 
correspond with results of biogeographic research into historical range 
shifts by the American pika in response to historical climate change 
(Hafner 1994, p. 381; Grayson 2005, pp. 2108-2109). Therefore, we find 
that the petitioner presents substantial information to indicate that 
listing the American pika may be warranted as a threatened or 
endangered species due to the present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of its range due to impacts attributed to 
climate change.

Livestock Grazing

    The petitioner states that livestock grazing may negatively affect 
the American pika by altering the native vegetation community 
surrounding talus fields. Specifically, the petitioner suggests that 
livestock promote the invasion of exotic plants and that livestock 
browsing or trampling of native food sources may limit the food 
available to American pika. To demonstrate this relationship, they cite 
research investigating apparent extirpations of the American pika in 
the Great Basin (Beever et al. 2003, pp. 37-54) and the Ili pika 
(Ochotona iliensis) in the Tian Shan Mountains of China (Wei-Dong and 
Smith 2005, pp. 30-34). However, the information cited in the petition 
provided little to support the claim that livestock promote invasion of 
exotic plants.
    Recent research of American pika local populations in the Great 
Basin demonstrated a negative correlation between livestock-grazed 
areas and population persistence (Beever et al. 2003, pp. 41-45). In 
this study, six apparent extirpations (out of seven) occurred on grazed 
lands (out of 14 grazed sites) (Beever et al. 2003, p. 54). These six 
extirpations represent 24 percent of the 25 populations reported 
earlier in the 20th century for this area (Beever et al. 2003, p. 37).
    Similar results were presented from a census of sites known to 
harbor the Ili pika in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China 
(Wei-Dong and Smith 2005, p. 30). The authors reported being unable to 
find any Ili pika individuals

[[Page 21307]]

at 14 sites and finding fresh signs of Ili pika at only 6 sites, 
despite investigating areas where Ili pika were observed 10 years 
earlier (Wei-Dong and Smith 2005, p. 32). The authors hypothesized that 
livestock grazing, which had just recently begun occurring above 3,000 
m (9,843 ft), could have a negative effect on these populations (Wei-
Dong and Smith 2005, p. 33).
    The petitioner cites the California Wildlife Action Plan (Bunn et 
al. 2006, p. 4) and the New Mexico Wildlife Conservation Strategy (New 
Mexico Department of Game and Fish 2006, p. 183) to demonstrate that 
excessive grazing is a recognized threat to alpine meadows across the 
range of the American pika. Pika habitat evolved free of intense 
grazing pressure, but this habitat has now become attractive grazing 
sites for livestock, resulting in losses of native vegetation and 
meadow degradation (Bunn et al. 2006, p. 296).
    The petitioner presents general information demonstrating the 
threat of excessive grazing to American pika habitat, and presents the 
possibility that grazing activities led to localized population 
extirpations or declines in both the American pika and China's Ili 
pika. However, the results from the American pika (Beever et al. 2003, 
pp. 37-54) and Ili pika (Wei-Dong and Smith 2005, pp. 30-34) research 
presented grazing as only one of many possible causes of extirpations.
    Beever et al. (2003, p. 45) acknowledged that results describing 
the effects of grazing are mixed and should be cautiously interpreted, 
because other variables also show strong negative correlation to 
American pika persistence. The results indicate the possibility that 
grazing effects to pikas are correlated with other variables, such as 
elevation or talus habitat area (Beever et al. 2003, pp. 45, 49).
    The results of observational surveys for Ili pikas (Wei-Dong and 
Smith 2005, pp. 30-34) do not provide any direct linkage between 
livestock grazing and pika extirpations, because no quantitative data 
were collected to describe grazing pressure. The conclusion that 
grazing may have a negative influence on Ili pika populations was one 
of three hypotheses presented in the discussion. While this hypothesis 
is valid, it should not be confused with direct scientific evidence.
Summary of Livestock Grazing
    It is possible that livestock grazing could reduce vegetation close 
to talus habitat and subsequently cause pikas to forage farther from 
the protective cover of talus, thus increasing energy demands and risk 
of predation on pikas (Beever et al. 2003, p. 49). However, it also is 
possible that livestock do not affect the generalist diet of pikas, 
because livestock avoid rocky talus slopes, create minimal grazing 
pressure on pika-foraged areas, or prefer specific forage (graminoids) 
(Beever et al. 2003, p. 50). Similarly, while it is possible that 
excessive livestock grazing leads to local pika population extirpations 
through increased individual mortality from the above stresses, it also 
is possible that other factors are actually causing the extirpations, 
such as disease, climate, or stochastic events. We will further 
investigate whether livestock grazing is a potential threat when we 
address the threats to the American pika in our 12-month status review.

Invasive Plants and Fire Suppression

    The petitioner states that the invasion of exotic plant species may 
alter alpine meadow foraging habitat to a community less favorable for 
the American pika. They state that this threat is increasing and list 
many possible vectors for invasive species. Additionally, they propose 
that fire suppression may contribute to the encroachment of trees into 
alpine and subalpine meadows, also altering vegetation communities to a 
less favorable state.
    While the petitioner cites literature demonstrating that invasive 
plants are infiltrating alpine areas, these studies do not demonstrate 
a threat to habitat of the American pika. McDougall et al. (2005, p. 
159) revealed that invasive plant species are colonizing treeless 
areas, but do so in the Australian Alps, far from American pika 
habitat. While these results can be interpreted as a harbinger of 
possible threats to pikas in North America, research has determined 
that alpine and wilderness areas are still relatively unaffected by 
invasive plants in the Northwest mountain ecoregions of the United 
States (Parks et al. 2005, p. 137).
    When we reviewed the State Wildlife Action Plans (WAPs) in the 
range of the American pika we found that invasive plants are listed as 
threats in some pika habitat, but not in its primary alpine habitat. 
New Mexico's WAP acknowledged that wet meadow habitat can be 
manipulated to replace native vegetation with pasture species (New 
Mexico Department of Game and Fish 2006, p. 183). California's WAP 
(Bunn et al. 2006, p. 272) listed invasive plants as a threat to the 
Modoc plateau (for example, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and pepper 
weed (Lepidium virginicum)), but stated that subalpine and alpine plant 
communities in the Sierra Nevada and Cascades are relatively intact, 
with few invasive plants (Schwartz et al. 1996 cited in Bunn et al. 
2006, p. 299). Similarly, Nevada's WAP (Nevada Department of Wildlife 
2005, p. 159) did not list invasive plants as a threat to alpine and 
tundra habitats. Utah's WAP (Sutter et al. 2005, pp. 5-7, 8-7) listed 
invasive plants (cheatgrass and noxious weeds) as a threat to the 
American pika's secondary habitat of mountain shrub. Alpine habitats 
that are the primary habitat for the American pika are not identified 
as a key habitat by the State of Utah and, therefore, threats to this 
habitat are not listed in the Utah WAP (Sutter et al. 2005, pp. 5-8).
    Human fire suppression is identified by the petitioner as a 
potential cause of forest encroachment up elevational gradients and 
into mountain meadows, resulting in reduced foraging areas for the 
pika. However, much of the available scientific literature indicates 
that climate change is a more likely cause of this forest encroachment 
(Dyer and Moffett 1999, pp. 444, 452). Similarly, Fagre et al. (2003, 
p. 263) concluded that precipitation (snow depth) is a critical 
variable regulating conifer expansion.
Summary of Invasive Plants and Fire Suppression
    Invasions of nonnative plants could change the composition of 
meadows used for foraging by the American pika. However, invasions by 
exotic plant species have not been shown to constitute a major threat 
to alpine systems, and the petitioner provided no evidence 
demonstrating that the American pika would be harmed by a change in 
diet to these nonnative plants. Forest encroachment is a credible 
threat to alpine meadow habitat. However, climate change has been 
indicated as a more likely rangewide cause of forest encroachment than 
fire suppression (Dyer and Moffett 1999, p. 452). We will further 
investigate whether invasive plants and fire suppression are potential 
threats to the present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of pika habitat or range when we address the threats to the 
American pika in our 12-month status review.

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

    The petitioner did not present information, nor do we have 
information in our files, suggesting that overexploitation is affecting 
American pika populations. However, we will

[[Page 21308]]

further investigate whether overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes is a potential threat 
when we address the threats to the American pika in our 12-month status 

C. Disease or Predation

    The petitioner states that changing climatic conditions may make 
the American pika more vulnerable to both predators and disease, 
because evolutionary adaptations and constraints will no longer 
safeguard individuals. They state that American pika individuals may be 
more susceptible to winter and spring predation from weasels (Mustela 
spp.) in talus habitat by increasing their accessibility if there is 
decreased snowpack and earlier snowmelt. They additionally present the 
view that forest encroachment into meadow foraging habitat may decrease 
the pika's ability to visibly detect predators. Finally, they assert 
that disease prevalence in pikas and their forage base may increase as 
temperature and humidity constraints allow disease pathogens to expand 
spatially and temporally.
    The American pika is known to be a prey species in the alpine 
ecosystem. Potential predators of the pika include coyotes (Canis 
latrans), longtail weasels (Mustela frenata), shorttail weasels (M. 
erminea), and pine martens (Martes americana) (Smith and Weston 1990, 
p. 5). Weasels have been identified as the most effective pika 
predators because of their ability to hunt within talus interstices 
(Ivins and Smith 1983, p. 279).
    Changes to climate and habitat could possibly alter predator-prey 
interactions and increase the success of predators. For example, the 
petitioner asserts that decreased snowpack and earlier snowmelt could 
increase accessibility of talus slopes by weasels, thus increasing pika 
mortality. However, this assertion is speculative and no information 
was presented to indicate that changes in predation rates may adversely 
affect pika population persistence.
    Changes to climate also may increase disease occurrence, 
prevalence, and severity to both the American pika and its forage base. 
Changing climatic conditions could affect host-pathogen relationships 
by increasing pathogen vital rates (development, transmission, or 
reproduction), decreasing life cycle limitations typically occurring in 
winter, and altering host susceptibility (Harvell et al. 2002, p. 
2158). For plants, decreases in pathogen winter mortality would likely 
increase disease severity because pathogens usually die in winter 
(Harvell et al. 2002, p. 2159). For wildlife, climate change is most 
likely to allow disease vectors to alter ranges and life history, 
possibly increasing the occurrence and severity of vector-borne 
diseases (Harvell et al. 2002, p. 2160). Elevational and latitudinal 
changes for wildlife and plant diseases may introduce more severe or 
new diseases to pikas and their forage base. However, the American pika 
is not known to be at risk from any specific disease threats at this 
Summary of Disease and Predation
    Little empirical data exists to demonstrate that increased 
predation would greatly alter population persistence, and the species 
is not known to be at risk from any specific disease or pathogen. 
However, we will further investigate whether disease and predation are 
potential threats when we address the threats to the American pika in 
our 12-month status review.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The petitioner states that existing regulatory mechanisms are 
inadequate to prevent the decline of the American pika because global 
and national regulations are failing to reduce carbon emissions to 
levels that will slow global surface warming. They further state that 
no legal mechanisms currently exist to regulate greenhouse gases on a 
national level in the United States. They argue that stabilizing 
current climatic conditions through reductions in greenhouse gas 
emissions is necessary to preserve remaining American pika habitat.
    According to the IPCC, anthropogenic emissions of long-lived 
greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, are currently contributing 
the largest positive radiative forcings (leading to warming of climate) 
of any climatic factor (Forster et al. 2007, pp. 136-137). Furthermore, 
the IPCC determined that the cumulative radiative forcings from human 
activities are influencing present and future climatic conditions much 
more than natural processes (Forster et al. 2007, pp. 136-137). The 
petitioner argues that changes in climate caused by human activities 
must be mitigated through stronger regulatory mechanisms because 
existing mechanisms are inadequate.
    To demonstrate that past attempts at regulating global emissions 
have failed, the petitioner summarizes major global climate 
initiatives. The petitioner claims that the United Nations Framework 
Convention on Climate Change has not effectively controlled global 
greenhouse emissions, because the year 2000 emission goals established 
under this convention were not met. Furthermore, the petitioner states 
that the Kyoto Protocol also is inadequate to prevent significant 
climate change because emissions reduction targets for the first 
commitment period are unlikely to be met, the goals are too modest to 
sufficiently reduce global warming, and negotiations have not begun in 
earnest for emission reductions after 2012. They claim that a major 
reason why the Kyoto Protocol's goals will not be met is because the 
United States has not ratified the protocol.
    To demonstrate the need for United States regulation, the 
petitioner presents data indicating that United States emissions are 
expected to increase by 43.5 percent between 2001 and 2025 (GAO 2003, 
p. 2), a substantial contrast to the reduction goals laid forth in the 
Kyoto Protocol. The petitioner asserts that the lack of action by the 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas 
emissions under the Clean Air Act illustrates the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms. Specifically, the petitioner describes 
the 2007 decision by the Supreme Court overturning EPA's rejection of a 
petition to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles under 
the Clean Air Act, and asserts that EPA has not yet taken action in 
response to the matter being remanded to it by the Supreme Court for 
further consideration. [Note: EPA recently responded to the Supreme 
Court by publishing a finding on April 17, 2009, on six greenhouse 
gases that contribute to air pollution; the EPA finding does not affect 
this 90-day petition finding.] The petitioner also asserts that the 
Federal government's Global Climate Change Initiative, which relies on 
voluntary measures and focuses on reducing the amount of greenhouse gas 
emissions per unit of energy produced, not the overall level of 
emissions, is inadequate and that under the plan U.S. cumulative 
greenhouse gas emissions would continue to increase between 2002 and 
2012, based on information from the U.S. Government Accounting Office 
(GAO 2003a). Lastly, while they acknowledge that some examples of 
legislation, such as the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 
2006, are steps in the right direction, they believe that State and 
local regulations are insufficient on their own to slow global warming.
    The petitioner stresses that immediate legislative action is 
necessary to save the American pika because scientists warn that we are 
approaching emission levels that would cause dangerous climate change 
(Hansen et al. 2008, pp. 217-218). Hansen et al. (2008, p. 218)

[[Page 21309]]

concluded that present global mean carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration 
of 385 parts per million (ppm) is already in the dangerous zone. Hansen 
et al. (2008, p. 217) further concluded that a 350-ppm CO2 target is 
necessary if ``humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on 
which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted.''
    The petition concludes that existing regulatory mechanisms relating 
to global warming are inadequate to ensure the continued survival of 
the American pika and that regulatory measures related to other threats 
to the pika are also inadequate to ensure its survival in the face of 
advancing climate change. It asserts that ensuring the American pika's 
survival requires immediate action, particularly in the United States, 
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Summary of Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The petitioner provides information relative to regulations that 
address a change of global or national carbon dioxide emissions to 
levels that would affect global surface warming trends. We will further 
investigate whether the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms is 
a potential threat when we address the threats to the American pika in 
our 12-month status review.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued Existence

    The petitioner states that the American pika is threatened by human 
activities, including roadways and recreational activities. They 
present the results of Beever et al. (2003, pp. 37-54) that show a 
negative correlation between population persistence and distance to 
roads, and a positive correlation between population persistence and 
lands managed under wilderness protection. They also state that the 
alpine and subalpine forging habitats on which the America pika is 
dependent are sensitive to disturbance and difficult to restore and 
that, therefore, any major human disturbances, such as roads or off-
highway vehicle (OHV) use, have an enduring effect on the landscape. 
The petitioner cites the New Mexico and Nevada WAPs, which acknowledge 
roadways and recreational usage as threats to alpine communities 
(Nevada Department of Wildlife 2005, p. 159; New Mexico Department of 
Game and Fish 2006, p. 183).
    Human activities could alter the ecology or life history of the 
American pika in many ways, including direct take (recreational 
shooting), harassment (proximity of cars, pets, or people), and 
vegetation community change (trampling or removal of plants). The 
petitioner focuses on two specific types of disturbance, roads and 
recreational OHV usage, as threats most likely to alter pika 
    Research in the Great Basin demonstrates that American pika 
population persistence is negatively correlated with proximity to 
roads, and even more so when analyzing distance to primary roads 
(Beever et al. 2003, p. 45). In analyses, the ``distance to roads'' 
parameter appeared in four of the top five models, including the most 
plausible model (Beever et al. 2003, p. 46). Although this signals an 
important relationship between road proximity and pika population 
persistence, the authors acknowledged that other variables (such as 
elevation and habitat size) may be confounding these results (Beever et 
al. 2003, p. 49), and reveal that direct human influence was only seen 
at three of seven extirpated sites (Beever et al. 2003, p. 45). Roads 
pose a possible risk to a subset of American pika populations. However, 
we found no evidence that roads constitute a rangewide threat; the 
majority of pika populations are currently in areas unlikely to have 
roads, such as steep, high-elevation sites.
    The petitioner asserts that human activities also may alter the 
ecology of the American pika habitat and have long-term consequences, 
because alpine environments provide little opportunity for ecosystem 
recovery (Butler 1995 and Chambers 1997 cited in Beever et al. 2003, p. 
49). A possible safeguard to these effects is the fact that protected 
wilderness areas are concentrated at these high-elevation sites (Norton 
1999 cited in Beever et al. 2003, p. 50). However, wilderness areas 
encompass only a fraction of alpine habitat in the western United 
States. Although alpine areas have historically been free of dense 
human activity, human-induced threats are increasing.
    The petitioner asserts that a newly emerging threat is recreational 
OHV usage on non-snow-covered terrain. Recreational OHV usage has the 
potential to greatly alter alpine systems through vegetation 
disturbance, trail creation, and increased erosion. Additionally, OHVs 
provide easier access to alpine areas, increasing human presence in 
areas previously considered remote. When OHV usage is combined with 
communication towers and ski activities, human presence and impacts on 
alpine areas are at unprecedented levels. However, we found minimal 
evidence to support the hypothesis that human influence in alpine 
communities constitutes a rangewide threat to the American pika, 
because the probability of direct human disturbance to population 
locations remains quite low.
Summary of Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Continued Existence
    Although direct human disturbance can negatively affect American 
pika population sites, the probability of humans interacting with the 
American pika remains low across the species' range because the species 
inhabits remote alpine locations. Lower elevation population locations 
are more susceptible to human disturbances because they are more likely 
to have roads and more accessible to human activity. We will further 
investigate whether natural or manmade factors affecting the continued 
existence of the American pika are potential threats when we address 
the threats to the species in our 12-month status review.


    We reviewed the petition, petition supplement, supporting 
information provided by the petitioner, and information in our files, 
and evaluated that information to determine whether the sources cited 
support the claims made in the petition. We find that the petitioner 
presented substantial information under Factor A, indicating that 
listing the American pika as threatened or endangered under the Act may 
be warranted because of the present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range as a result of 
effects related to global climate change. Continued surface warming may 
alter alpine ecosystems to conditions that do not support the American 
pika, possibly resulting in individual mortality, population 
extirpations, and range contraction. We will address any other 
potential threats during our 12-month status review.
    Therefore, we are initiating a status review to determine if 
listing the American pika under the Act is warranted. As part of our 
status review of the American pika, we will examine available 
information on threats to the species and make a final determination on 
whether the species is warranted for listing as threatened or 
endangered under the Act.
    We encourage interested parties to continue gathering data that 
will assist with the conservation and monitoring of the American pika. 
You may submit information regarding the American pika by one of the 
methods listed in the ADDRESSES section at any time. The petitioner 
requested that critical habitat be designated for this species. If we 
determine in our 12-month finding that listing the American pika is 

[[Page 21310]]

we will address the designation of critical habitat at the time of the 
proposed listing rulemaking.
    The ``substantial information'' standard for a 90-day finding is 
not the same as the Act's ``best scientific and commercial data'' 
standard that applies to a 12-month finding to determine whether a 
petitioned action is warranted. A 90-day finding is not a status 
assessment of the species and does not constitute a status review under 
the Act. Our final determination of whether a petitioned action is 
warranted is not made until we have completed a thorough status review 
of the species as part of the 12-month finding on a petition, which is 
conducted following a positive 90-day finding. Because the Act's 
standards for 90-day and 12-month findings are different, as described 
above, a positive 90-day finding does not mean that the 12-month 
finding also will be positive.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Utah Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER 


    The primary authors of this document are staff from the Utah 
Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT 


    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: April 29, 2009
Signed: Bernard Mazer
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
[FR Doc. E9-10551 Filed 5-6- 09; 8:45 am]