[Federal Register: September 23, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 183)]
[Page 48595-48596]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2009-N174; 92220-1113-0000-C6]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Post-
Delisting Monitoring Plan for the Concho Water Snake

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of draft post-delisting monitoring plan.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan for the Concho water 
snake (Nerodia paucimaculata). The draft post-delisting monitoring 
(PDM) plan describes the methods we propose to monitor the status of 
the snake and its habitat, in cooperation with the State of Texas and 
other conservation partners, for a 15-year period if we remove this 
species from the Federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife 
under another pending action. The draft PDM plan also provides a 
strategy for identifying and responding to any future population 
declines or habitat alterations.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments on 
the draft PDM plan for Concho water snake by October 23, 2009.

ADDRESSES: The draft PDM plan is available for review on the Internet 
at http://endangered.fws.gov and http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/
AustinTexas/. To request a copy of the draft PDM plan, write to U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Austin Ecological Services Field Office, 
10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758; telephone 512-490-0057; 
facsimile 512-490-0974. Supporting documentation we used in preparing 
the draft PDM plan is available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours, at the above office. You may submit 
comments by mail to the above office address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Adam Zerrenner, Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Austin Ecological Services Field Office (see 
ADDRESSES). If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), 
call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800/877-8339.



    The Concho water snake is a reptile endemic to central Texas. We 
listed this species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), effective September 3, 
1986, because of threats from habitat modification and destruction (51 
FR 31412). On July 8, 2008, we published a proposed rule to remove the 
Concho water snake from the list of threatened species (73 FR 38956). 
We based the proposal on our finding that the best available scientific 
and commercial data, including new information, indicate that the 
Concho water snake has recovered because threats have been eliminated 
or reduced to the point that the species no longer meets the definition 
of threatened or endangered under the Act. We are in the

[[Page 48596]]

process of making a final determination on whether or not to delist the 
Concho water snake.
    For more background information on the Concho water snake, refer to 
our 1986 final listing rule published in the Federal Register (51 FR 
31412), our 2008 proposed delisting rule published in the Federal 
Register (73 FR 38956), Werler and Dixon (2000, pp. 209-216), Campbell 
(2003, pp. 1-4), Forstner et al. (2006, pp. 1-22), Whiting et al. 
(2008, pp. 438-445), and the 1993 Concho Water Snake Recovery Plan 
(Service 1993, available online at http://endangered.fws.gov).
    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us to implement a system, in 
cooperation with the States, to effectively monitor the status of each 
species we remove from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants due to recovery. The monitoring must occur for at 
least 5 years. The purpose of post-delisting monitoring (PDM) is to 
verify that a species we delist due to recovery remains secure from 
risk of extinction after we remove the protections of the Act.
    To fulfill the PDM requirement, we drafted a monitoring plan for 
the Concho water snake in cooperation with the Texas Parks and Wildlife 
Department and the Colorado River Municipal Water District. Over a 15-
year period, we propose to conduct surveys to measure the presence and 
abundance of snakes 2 times a year at 18 sample sites across the range 
of the snake. Biological monitoring frequency will occur in three 
phases, decreasing over time, resulting in 7 years of surveys over the 
15-year PDM period. Evaluation of stream conditions will consist of 
analysis of hydrologic data collected at eight existing stream gages 
from across the snake's range. The PDM plan describes specific 
monitoring triggers where certain outcomes of monitoring will result in 
specific actions. For example, if snakes are not captured from at least 
75 percent of sample sites in any year, sampling effort will be 
intensified the following year beyond the minimum called for in the PDM 
plan. The monitoring triggers (both quantitative and qualitative) are 
based on the snake's distribution, presence, reproduction, and 
abundance, as well as evaluation of instream flow conditions.
    The draft PDM plan includes annual reporting requirements. If PDM 
results in concern regarding the status of the snake or increasing 
threats, possible responses may include an extended or intensified 
monitoring effort, additional research (such as modeling metapopulation 
dynamics or assessing the status of the fish prey base), enhancement of 
riverine or shoreline habitats, or an increased effort to improve 
habitat connectivity by additional translocation of snakes between 
reaches. If future information collected from the PDM, or any other 
reliable source, indicates an increased likelihood that the species may 
become in danger of extinction, we will initiate a status review of the 
Concho water snake and determine if relisting the species is warranted.
    In addition to public review of the draft PDM plan, we concurrently 
are requesting independent expert peer review from knowledgeable 
individuals with scientific expertise that includes ecology of water 
snakes and conservation biology principles. Peer review of the draft 
PDM plan is in accordance with our policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 
FR 34270).

Viewing Documents

    Comments and materials we receive from the public and peer 
reviewers, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing the 
draft PDM Plan, will be available for public inspection by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the Austin Ecological Services Field 
Office (see ADDRESSES). Once approved, the final PDM plan for the 
Concho water snake and any future revisions to the PDM plan will be 
available on our Web page (http://endangered.fws.gov) and the Austin 
Ecological Services Field Office Web page (http://www.fws.gov/
southwest/es/AustinTexas/). We will announce our final decision on 
whether to delist the snake with a final rule in a future Federal 
Register publication, and we will also make this final decision 
available on the above-referenced Web pages.

Request for Public Comments

    We intend for our final PDM plan to be as accurate and as effective 
as possible. Therefore, we request comments or suggestions on the 
Concho water snake draft PDM plan from the public, concerned 
governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other 
interested party. We will take into consideration substantive comments 
we receive by the comment due date (see DATES). These comments, and any 
additional information we receive, may lead us to adopt a final PDM 
plan that differs from this draft PDM plan. Please note that comments 
merely stating support or opposition to the action under consideration 
without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be 
considered in making a determination.
    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire document--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you may 
request at the top of your document that we withhold this information 
from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references we cited in this notice is 
available upon request from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Austin 
Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES).


    The primary authors of this document are staff at the Austin 
Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES).


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

    Dated: August 7, 2009.
Benjamin N. Tuggle,
Regional Director, Region 2, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. E9-22872 Filed 9-22-09; 8:45 am]