[Federal Register: September 15, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 178)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 56028-56050]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 56028]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2009-0081]
[MO 92210-0-0008]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
on a Petition to List Sprague's Pipit as Endangered or Threatened 
Throughout Its Range

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
12-month finding on a petition to list the Sprague's pipit (Anthus 
spragueii) as endangered or threatened and to designate critical 
habitat under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). 
After review of all available scientific and commercial information, we 
find that listing the Sprague's pipit as endangered or threatened is 
warranted. However, listing the Sprague's pipit is currently precluded 
by higher priority actions to amend the Lists of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Upon publication of this 12-month 
petition finding, we will add the Sprague's pipit to our candidate 
species list. We will develop a proposed rule to list Sprague's pipit 
as our priorities allow. We will make any determination on critical 
habitat during development of the proposed listing rule. In the interim 
period, we will address the status of the candidate taxon through our 
annual Candidate Notice of Review (CNOR).

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on September 15, 

ADDRESSES: This finding is available on the Internet at http://
www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-R6-ES-2009-0081. Supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this finding is available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, North Dakota Field Office, 3425 Miriam 
Avenue, Bismarck, ND 58501. Please submit any new information, 
materials, comments, or questions concerning this finding to the above 
street address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeffrey Towner, Field Supervisor, 
North Dakota Field Office (see ADDRESSES); by telephone at 701-250-
4481; by facsimile at 701-355-8513; or by postal mail to: 3425 Miriam 
Ave. Bismarck, ND 58501. If you use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 



    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires 
that, for any petition to revise the Federal Lists of Threatened and 
Endangered Wildlife and Plants that contains substantial scientific or 
commercial information that listing a species may be warranted, we make 
a finding within 12 months of the date of receipt of the petition. In 
this finding, we determine whether the petitioned action is: (a) Not 
warranted, (b) warranted, or (c) warranted, but immediate proposal of a 
regulation implementing the petitioned action is precluded by other 
pending proposals to determine whether species are endangered or 
threatened, and expeditious progress is being made to add or remove 
qualified species from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants. Section 4(b)(3)(C) of the ESA requires that we 
treat a petition for which the requested action is found to be 
warranted but precluded as though resubmitted on the date of such 
finding, that is, requiring a subsequent finding to be made within 12 
months. We must publish these 12-month findings in the Federal 

Previous Federal Actions

    On October 10, 2008, we received a petition dated October 9, 2008, 
from WildEarth Guardians, requesting that we list the Sprague's pipit 
as endangered or threatened under the ESA and designate critical 
habitat. Included in the petition was supporting information regarding 
the species' taxonomy and ecology, historical and current distribution, 
present status, and actual and potential causes of decline. We 
acknowledged the receipt of the petition in a letter to WildEarth 
Guardians, dated December 5, 2008. In that letter, we also stated that 
an emergency regulation temporarily listing the species under section 
4(b)(7) of the ESA was not necessary. We also stated that we planned to 
complete the 90-day finding for this species in Fiscal Year (Fiscal 
Year) 2009. On January 28, 2009, we received a 60-day notice of intent 
(NOI) to sue from the petitioner stating that the Service was in 
violation of the ESA by failing to take action under section 4(b)(3)(A) 
of the ESA. On August 20, 2009, the petitioner filed a complaint on the 
Service's failure to complete the 90-day finding.
    We published the 90-day finding in the Federal Register on December 
3, 2009 (74 FR 63337). On May 19, 2010, the Service and WildEarth 
Guardians entered into a settlement agreement. According to the 
agreement, the Service will submit a 12-month finding to the Federal 
Register on or before September 10, 2010. This notice constitutes the 
12-month finding on the October 9, 2008, petition to list the Sprague's 
pipit as endangered or threatened.

Species Information

Taxonomy and Species Description
    The Sprague's pipit is a small passerine of the family 
Motacillidae, genus Anthus, endemic to the Northern Great Plains 
(Robbins and Dale 1999, p. 1). It was first described by Audubon (1844, 
pp. 334-336). It is one of the few bird species endemic to the North 
American prairie. The closest living relative is believed to be the 
yellowish pipit (A. lutescens) of South America (Robbins and Dale 1999, 
p. 9).
    The Sprague's pipit is about 10 to 15 centimeters (cm) (3.9 to 5.9 
inches (in.)) in length, and weighs 22 to 26 grams (g) (0.8 to 0.9 of 
an ounce (oz)), with buff and blackish streaking on the crown, nape, 
and underparts. Males and females are similar in appearance. The 
Sprague's pipit has a plain buffy face with a large eye-ring. The bill 
is relatively short, slender, and straight, with a blackish upper 
mandible. The lower mandible is pale with a blackish tip. The wings and 
tail have two indistinct wing-bars, and the outer retrices (tail 
feathers) are mostly white (Robbins and Dale 1999, p. 3-4). Juveniles 
are slightly smaller, but similar to adults, with black spotting rather 
than streaking (Robbins and Dale 1999, p. 3).
Habitat Description and Characteristics
    Sprague's pipits are strongly tied to native prairie (land which 
has never been plowed) throughout their life cycle (Owens and Myres 
1973, pp. 705, 708; Davis 2004, pp. 1138-1139; Dechant et al. 1998, pp. 
1-2; Dieni et al. 2003, p. 31; McMaster et al. 2005, p. 219). They are 
rarely observed in cropland (Koper et al. 2009, p. 1987; Owens and 
Myres 1973, pp. 697, 707; Igl et al. 2008, pp. 280, 284) or land in the 
Conservation Reserve Program (a program whereby marginal farmland is 
planted primarily with grasses) (Higgins et al. 2002, pp. 46-47). 
Sprague's pipits will use nonnative planted grassland (Higgins et al. 
2002, pp. 46-47; Dechant et al. 1998, p. 3; Dohms 2009, pp. 77-78, 88). 
Vegetation structure may be a better predictor of occurrence than 

[[Page 56029]]

composition (Davis 2004, pp. 1135, 1137).
    Native grassland is disturbance dependant. Without disturbance, the 
vegetative species mix changes, and grasslands are ultimately overgrown 
with woody vegetation (Grant et al. 2004, p. 808) unsuitable for 
Sprague's pipits. Historical sources of disturbance were fire or 
grazing by bison. With fires being less prevalent on the prairie, 
current sources of disturbance are generally mowing or grazing by 
cattle. While Sprague's pipits prefer areas that are regularly 
disturbed (Askins et al. 2007, p. 21; Madden 1996, pp. 48-59), their 
preference for vegetation of intermediate height means that they will 
not use a mowed or burned area until the vegetation has had a chance to 
grow, which may be late in the following growing season, or may take 
several seasons (Dechant et al. 1998, pp. 1-2; Kantrud 1981, p. 414). 
The frequency of disturbance required for habitat maintenance depends 
on how quickly the grasses grow following a disturbance event, with 
precipitation rates being a major driver. For example, pre-colonial 
fire return rates are estimated to be approximately 6 years in North 
Dakota, but 10 to 26 years in Montana and other relatively dry portions 
of the range (Askins et al. 2007, pp. 20-21). After bison grazed an 
area, they may not have returned for 1 to 8 years (Askins et al. 2007, 
p. 21).
Breeding Range and Habitat
    The breeding range is described as throughout North Dakota, except 
for the easternmost counties; northern and central Montana east of the 
Rocky Mountains; northern portions of South Dakota; and northwestern 
Minnesota. In Canada, Sprague's pipits breed in southeastern Alberta, 
the southern half of Saskatchewan, and in southwest Manitoba (Robbins 
and Dale 1999, p. 5).
    During the breeding season, Sprague's pipits prefer large patches 
of native grassland with a minimum size requirement thought to be 
approximately 145 ha (358.3 ac) (range 69 to 314 ha (170 to 776 ac)) 
(Davis 2004, p. 1134). They were not observed in areas smaller than 29 
ha (71.6 acres) (Davis 2004, p. 1134). While they have been reported to 
be less abundant in or absent from grassland that has been planted 
(Madden 1996, p. 104), recent research suggests that nesting success in 
planted grassland is similar to nesting success in native habitat 
(Dohms 2009, pp. 41-81). Preferred grass height has varied between 
studies, but is estimated to be between 10 and 30 cm (4 and 12 in.) 
(Dieni and Jones 2003, p. 390; Madden et al. 2000, p. 382; Sutter 1997, 
pp. 464-466). They will use nonnative planted grassland if the 
vegetative structure is suitable, but strongly prefer native prairie 
(Dechant et al. 1998, pp. 1, 4). The species prefers to breed in well-
drained, open grasslands and avoids grasslands with excessive shrubs 
(Desmond et al. 2005, p. 442; Grant et al. 2004, p. 812; Sutter 1997, 
p. 464).
    Sprague's pipits can be found in lightly to moderately grazed areas 
(Dechant et al. 1998, p. 4), but in North Dakota, a greater abundance 
of Sprague's pipits have been reported from moderately to heavily 
grazed areas (Kantrud 1981, p. 414). However, these descriptions are 
relative; vegetation described as lightly grazed in one study may be 
called heavily grazed in another (Madden et al. 2000, p. 388). The 
species is rarely found in cultivated areas (Owens and Myres 1973, p. 
705). They may avoid roads, trails, and habitat edges (Dale et al. 
2009, pp. 194, 200; Koper et al. 2009, pp. 1293-1295; Linnen 2008, p. 
1; Sutter et al. 2000, p. 114).
Migration and Wintering Range and Habitat
    The Sprague's pipit's wintering range includes south-central and 
southeast Arizona, Texas, southern Oklahoma, southern Arkansas, 
northwest Mississippi, southern Louisiana, and northern Mexico. There 
have been migration sightings in Michigan, western Ontario, Ohio, 
Massachusetts, and Gulf and Atlantic States from Mississippi east and 
north to South Carolina. Sprague's pipits also have been sighted in 
California during fall migration (Robbins and Dale 1999, p. 6).
    Migration and wintering ecology are poorly known, but migrating and 
wintering Sprague's pipits are found in both densely and sparsely 
vegetated grassland, and pastures (Desmond et al. 2005, p. 442; Emlen 
1972, p. 324). They are rarely found in fallow cropland (Wells 2007, p. 
297). Sprague's pipits exhibit a strong preference for grassland 
habitat during the winter and an avoidance of areas with too much shrub 
encroachment (Desmond et al. 2005, p. 442). Their use of an area is 
dependent on habitat conditions. On their wintering grounds, after a 
wet year, when grass is denser, Sprague's pipits were dense, compared 
with few individuals in the same areas after dry years when grasses 
were sparse (Dieni et al. 2003, p. 31; Maci[acute]as-Duarte et al. 
2009, p. 869). They are not found in the narrow strips of grassland 
remaining along agricultural field borders (Desmond et al. 2005, p. 
448). In migration, they may be found near or on trails and roads or 
near water (Maher 1973, p. 20), and they have been sighted in sunflower 
fields (Hagy et al. 2007, p. 66).
    It has been estimated that only about 2.5 percent of the entire 
Chihuahuan desert region, an ecosystem extending across the border 
between the United States and Mexico entirely within the wintering 
range of the Sprague's pipit, is protected, mostly on the U.S. side 
(Desmond et al. 2005, p. 449).
Feeding Habits
    Sprague's pipits eat a wide variety of insects during the breeding 
season and a very small percentage of seeds (1 to 2 percent) (Maher 
1974, pp. 5, 32, 58).
Breeding Phenology
    Male Sprague's pipits have a territorial flight display that takes 
place high in the air and that can last up to 3 hours (Robbins 1998, 
pp. 435-436). Sprague's pipits are very secretive around the nest 
itself, sometimes not flushing until a searcher is extremely close 
(Jones and Dieni 2007, p. 123). When returning to the nest, they can 
land several meters away and run to the nest through the grass (Jones 
and Dieni 2007, p. 123).
    Nests are generally constructed in areas of relatively dense cover, 
low forb density, and little bare ground (Sutter 1997, p. 462). The 
nest is usually dome-shaped; is constructed from woven grasses; and is 
generally at the end of a covered, sharply curved runway up to 15 cm 
(5.9 in.) long which may serve as heat-stress protection (Sutter 1997, 
p. 467; Dechant et al. 1998, p. 2). The female lays four to five eggs 
(Allen 1951, p. 379; Maher 1973, p. 25), which she incubates for 11 to 
17 days (Davis 2009, pp. 265, 267). Females may do most or all of the 
incubation (Sutter et al. 1996, p. 695), but both parents may feed the 
young (Dohms and Davis 2009, p. 826). Parental care likely continues 
well past fledging (Harris 1933, p. 92; Sutter et al. 1996, p. 695). 
The female will renest if the first nest fails, and some females have 
been documented successfully nesting two times during one breeding 
season (Sutter et al. 1996, p. 694; Davis 2009, p. 265). Long intervals 
between renesting attempts suggest that the rate of renesting is low 
(Sutter et al. 1996, p. 694). However, breeding pairs may only produce 
an average of 1.5 clutches per year (Sutter et al. 1996, p. 694). Males 
were documented to be polygamous (have two females on two nests at the 
same time), but the rate of polygyny is unknown (Dohms and Davis 2009, 
pp. 826, 828).

[[Page 56030]]

Population Trend Information
    Due to its cryptic coloring and secretive nature, the Sprague's 
pipit has been described as ``one of the least known birds in North 
America'' (Robbins and Dale 1999, p. 1), and range-wide surveys for the 
species have not been conducted. The population from 1990-1999 was 
estimated at approximately 870,000, based on extrapolation of Breeding 
Bird Survey (BBS) data (Blancher et al. 2007, p. 27; Rich et al. 2004, 
p. 18). The population has continued to decline since that time (Sauer 
et al. 2008, p. 13). The species was described as abundant in the late 
1800s in the upper Missouri River basin (Coues 1874, p. 42; Seton 1890, 
p. 626). More recent long-term estimates of Sprague's pipit abundance 
are derived from the BBS, a long-term, large-scale survey of North 
American birds that began in 1966. The BBS is generally conducted by 
observers driving on roads along established routes, with stops every 
half-mile to sample for birds. Because Sprague's pipits avoid roads 
(Sutter et al. 2000, p. 114), roadside surveys may not be the best 
measure of abundance of Sprague's pipits (Sutter et al. 2000, pp. 113-
114). Nonetheless, the methods of the BBS have been consistent through 
time, and are the best available information for the breeding range at 
this time. The trend analysis suggests that the population is in steep 
decline (Peterjohn and Sauer 1999, p. 32), with an estimated 80-percent 
decrease from 1966 through 2007 in the U.S. and Canadian breeding range 
(approximately 3.9 percent annually) (Sauer et al. 2008, p. 8). The 
annual population decline shows some slight variation, but the long-
term trend is consistently negative (95-percent confidence interval -
5.6 to -2.2) (Sauer et al. 2008, pp. 5-6, 8). Assuming that the 
population was approximately 870,000 in 1995 (the mid-point between 
1990 and 1999 (Rich et al. 2004, p. 18)), and the population continues 
to decline at 3.9 percent annually, the population would have declined 
to approximately 479,000 by 2010. By 2060, the population could drop to 
66,000, and in 100 years, by 2110, the population could decline to 
8,970. However, this estimate involves a number of assumptions. The 
original population estimate comes from the BBS data and is 
characterized as ``beige,'' indicating that the 95-percent confidence 
limit around the average is within 20 percent of the average itself 
(Blancher et al. 2007, p. 22). Additionally, this assumes that the 
population will continue to decline in a linear fashion.
    In addition to BBS surveys, the Canadian Wildlife Service conducts 
a Grassland Bird Monitoring program (GBM) using the same methodology as 
the BBS. GBM surveys are conducted along roads in areas within the 
mixed-grass prairie ecosystem where grassland is still common (Dale et 
al. 2005, entire; Environment Canada 2008, pp. 3-4). The GBM survey 
shows an even sharper decline of 10.5 percent annually from 1996-2004 
in the core area of Sprague's pipit's habitat in Canada (Environment 
Canada 2008, pp. iii, 3-4). The GBM program decline compares with a 
1.8-percent decline for the same period from the BBS data (Environment 
Canada 2008, pp. iii, 3-4). Since the GBM survey is conducted in 
habitat that should be optimal for Sprague's pipits in Canada, it 
indicates a serious decline in species abundance (Environment Canada 
2008, p. 4).
    The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) represents the only long-term data 
set that we are aware of that includes wintering information for the 
Sprague's pipit. The CBC is an annual count performed around the end of 
December in which volunteers observe birds in 15-mile-radius ``count 
circles.'' The Sprague's pipit CBC data from the winters of 1966/1967 
through 2005/2006 (a 40-year span) were analyzed following the methods 
described in Link et al. (2006, entire) (Niven 2010, pers. comm.). The 
40-year trend data for Sprague's pipit shows an annual decline for 
Texas (2.54 percent), Louisiana (6.21 percent), Mississippi (10.21 
percent), and Arkansas (9.27 percent). The data from Oklahoma, New 
Mexico, Arizona, Florida, and California indicated an uncertain or 
stable trend (Niven 2010, pers. comm.). California and Florida are 
outside of the described range, and the number of sightings was quite 
low, presumably representing a few birds straying off of their normal 
migration routes or wintering areas. Oklahoma is part of the migration 
route, so sightings there in December may be somewhat varied, depending 
on annual weather conditions. Overall, the 40-year trend showed a 
median declining population of approximately 3.23 percent annually and 
a 73.1-percent decline for the entire time period (Niven 2010, pers. 
comm.). These estimates are fairly consistent with the decline observed 
on the breeding grounds, indicating that the observed decline is real, 
rather than an artifact of the sampling technique.
    Sprague's pipit is included on a number of Federal, State, and 
nongovernmental organization lists as a sensitive species. Sprague's 
pipit is listed in the Birds of Conservation Concern, a list of bird 
species (beyond those already federally listed as threatened or 
endangered) in greatest need of conservation action. The list is 
derived from three bird conservation plans: the Partners in Flight 
North American Landbird Conservation Plan, the United States Shorebird 
Conservation Plan, and the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan 
(Service 2008, pp. iii, 1, 27, 28-34, 35, 37, 41 50- 53, 58, 60, 63, 
67, 76, 85). Sprague's pipits' status is listed as vulnerable on the 
International Union of Conservation Networks Red List (Birdlife 
International 2008, p. 1). It has a NatureServe Global Rank of G4, 
indicating that the population is apparently secure (NatureServe 2009, 
p. 1). The species is ranked as yellow on the Audubon 2007 watch list, 
indicating that it is either declining or rare. Species on the Audubon 
watch list typically are species of national conservation concern 
(Audubon 2007, p. 2). Partners in Flight also has placed Sprague's 
pipit on its watch list, indicating that the species is a species of 
conservation concern at the global scale, a species in need of 
management action, and a high priority candidate for rapid status 
assessment (Rich et al. 2004, p. 18).
    Several states have identified the Sprague's pipit as a sensitive 
species in their State wildlife action plans, including Arizona, 
Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, 
and Texas (Arizona Game and Fish Department 2010, p. 3; Louisiana 
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries 2005, p. 6; Minnesota Department 
of Natural Resources 2010, p. 1; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks 2010, 
p. 2; New Mexico Game and Fish 2010, p. 4; North Dakota Game and Fish 
Department 2010, p. 3; South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks 2010, p. 3; 
Texas Parks and Wildlife 2005, p. 6). The criteria used to determine 
which species are listed as species of greatest conservation concern 
varies by State, but generally include known information about 
population trends on a State, regional, and national level; the 
importance of the State in the species' range; and often rankings on 
national lists (for example Natureserve and the Audubon watch list 
(NatureServe 2009, p. 1; Audubon 2007, p. 2)).

Summary of Information Pertaining to the Five Factors

    Section 4 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1533) and implementing regulations 
(50 CFR 424) set forth procedures for adding species to the Federal 
Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Under section 
4(a)(1) of the ESA, a species may be determined to be

[[Page 56031]]

endangered or threatened based on any of the following five factors:
    (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 
    In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look 
beyond the exposure of the species to the factor to determine whether 
the species responds to the factor in a way that causes actual impacts 
to the species. If there is exposure and the species responds 
negatively, the factor may be a threat and we then attempt to determine 
how significant a threat it is. If the threat is significant, it may 
drive or contribute to the risk of extinction of the species such that 
the species warrants listing as endangered or threatened as those terms 
are defined by the ESA.

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

Habitat Conversion
    Thirty percent of prairie habitat in the Great Plains and Canada 
remains from pre-colonial times (Samson et al. 2004, p. 7), but as 
discussed below, the amount of suitable habitat remaining in the 
Sprague's pipit's range is much lower. Land conversion is accelerating 
in native prairie, with a conversion rate faster than the estimated 
conversion rate of rainforests in the Amazon (Stephens et al. 2008, pp. 
1326-1327). Much of the land conversion is from native prairie to 
agricultural uses.. A Government Accountability Office report on 
agricultural conversion documented the continued conversion of native 
prairie to cropland, particularly in the Northern Plains of Montana, 
North Dakota, and South Dakota (Government Accountability Office 2007, 
pp. 4, 12, 15). A number of factors that encourage farmers to convert 
native prairie were identified, including; higher crop prices, 
especially for corn; farm payment programs that increase expected 
cropland profitability without increasing risk; the advent of 
herbicide-ready crops, and no-till farming methods, which allow farmers 
to plant directly into native prairie. The Northern Plains is 
identified as an area with continued conversion of native grassland 
(Government Accountability Office 2007, p. 4). From 2005 through 2007 
(the most recent year data was available), approximately 94,400 ha 
(233,000 acres) of virgin prairie was broken for the first time, or 
approximately 32,000 ha (78,000 acres) annually (Stephens 2010, pers. 
    To determine the amount of potentially suitable habitat remaining 
within the Sprague's pipit's range, we performed a Geographic 
Information System (GIS) analysis for the U.S. portion of the breeding 
range (Loesch 2010, pers. comm.). We based the breeding range on data 
from the BBS in the U.S. range, and included cover types which were 
classified as grassland, pastureland, prairie, or temporary wetland 
(Loesch 2010, pers. comm.). From these data, we determined that 
approximately 2.1 percent of the total area (10 million ha [25 million 
ac]) in the Sprague's pipit's U.S. breeding range as defined by the BBS 
remains in suitable habitat, with most of the historic range converted 
to other uses. Nonsuitable land cover types within the Sprague's 
pipit's range include urban areas, transportation infrastructure, 
barren areas, cropland, forest, tree rows, shrublands, water, and 
wetland areas. Researchers predict that native grassland will continue 
to be converted, and the rate of conversion may increase (Fargione et 
al. 2009, p. 769; Stephens et al. 2008 p. 1328). Prairie habitat loss 
in the Missouri River Coteau is estimated to be approximately 0.4 
percent annually (Stephens et al. 2008, pp. 1320, 1327). Even in areas 
that remain in native prairie, historic and current land management, 
including increased stocking levels, fencing, augmentation of water 
sources (which concentrate animals, making overgrazing more likely), 
and fire suppression, have all changed the grassland ecology and 
species mix (Knopf 1994, pp. 248-250; Weltzin et al. 1997, pp. 758-
760). The changes in the grassland ecosystem have led to a steep 
decline in many grassland bird species, including the Sprague's pipit 
(Knopf 1994, pp. 251-254; Grant et al. 2004, p. 812; Lueders et al. 
2006, pp. 602-604).
    As in the United States, most of the native grasslands in Canada 
have been converted to other uses, which are largely not suitable for 
nesting of the Sprague's pipit (Environment Canada 2008, p. 6). 
Analysis done with imagery taken around 2000 suggested that 
approximately 94 percent of the species' range has been lost in Canada 
(Dale 2010, pers. comm.). Of the approximately 20 million ha (49.4 
million ac) remaining as grassland in the Sprague's pipit's range in 
Canada, 15 to 20 percent (3 to 4 million ha (7.4 to 9.9 million ac)) 
remains in patches large enough to support breeding territories (Dale 
2010, pers. comm.).
    Prairie conversion is continuing, and is expected to continue 
(Fargione et al. 2009, p. 775; Stephens et al. 2008, pp. 1320, 1325). 
Because of the decreased amount of suitable native prairie remaining 
throughout the United States and Canada, the continued conversion of 
native prairie to other land uses, and the altered management regime in 
the native prairie that remains, we conclude that ongoing habitat loss 
and land conversion is a significant threat (i.e., a threat that, alone 
or in combination with other factors, is causing the species to be in 
danger of extinction, now or in the foreseeable future) to Sprague's 
pipit throughout its range.
    Grazing is a major driver in the prairie ecosystem. An appropriate 
level of grazing can help to maintain the prairie habitat, while too 
much or too little may make the habitat unsuitable for Sprague's 
pipits. Much of the prairie is now grazed more uniformly than it was in 
pre-colonial times and is often overgrazed, leading to a decline in 
species diversity and an increase in woody structure (since cattle do 
not eat woody vegetation, it has a competitive advantage over grass if 
some other mechanism is not used to remove trees and shrubs) (Walker et 
al. 1981, pp. 478-481; Towne et al. 2005, pp. 1550-1558). Additionally, 
cattle have replaced bison as the primary herbivore in Sprague's pipit 
habitat. Substituting cattle for bison does not necessarily lead to a 
change in grassland vegetation. A study comparing native prairie 
stocked with moderate levels of cattle to native prairie stocked with 
moderate levels of bison determined that, while there were some 
differences in the grazing habits of the two species, after 10 years 
the plant diversity and plant density in the two areas were similar 
(Towne et al. 2005, pp. 1552-1558). The authors suggest that the 
vegetation differences that many studies find between native prairie 
grazed by cattle and native prairie grazed by bison are due to 
different herd management practices and grazing intensity, rather than 
an inherent difference in the effect of the two herbivore species on 
vegetation (Towne et al. 2005, p. 1558). Ranchers often allow cattle to 
graze at high densities compared to the historic grazing densities of 
bison, which leads to a greater probability of overgrazing in 
grasslands (Towne et al. 2005, p. 1558). However, one study (Lueders et 
al. 2006, p. 602) noted that Sprague's pipits were more common on areas 
grazed by cattle than areas grazed by bison. The

[[Page 56032]]

management regimes (i.e., fire regimes, grazing densities) and sampling 
intensities of studies conducted on the two areas were quite disparate, 
precluding firm conclusions.
    While improperly timed or overly heavy or light grazing negatively 
impacts Sprague's pipits' ability to use an area, we do not believe 
that grazing is a major threat to Sprague's pipits. While some areas 
are undoubtedly poorly managed, we believe this is a local rather than 
a rangewide problem. There is not enough information at this time to 
determine conclusively how grazing or substituting cattle for bison 
throughout much of the range impacts the Sprague's pipit, but from the 
available information, we do not believe that grazing is a significant 
threat to the species.
    Like grazing, fire is a major driver on the prairie ecosystem. 
While there are still some controlled and wild prairie burns, fire is 
no longer a widespread regular phenomenon as it was in pre-colonial 
times. Fire suppression has allowed suites of plants, especially woody 
species, to flourish (Knopf 1994, p. 251; Samson et al. 1998, p. 11). 
Fire suppression since European settlement throughout the Sprague's 
pipit's range has impacted the composition and structure of native 
prairie, favoring the incursion of trees and shrubs in areas that were 
previously grassland (Knopf 1994, p. 251). This change of structure 
negatively impacts Sprague's pipits, which avoid trees and are 
negatively associated with shrub cover on both their breeding and 
wintering grounds (Desmond et al. 2005, p. 442; Grant et al. 2004; p. 
812; Sutter 1997, p. 464). Eliminating fire from the landscape has 
likely changed the overall composition of the prairie (Towne et al. 
2005, pp. 1557-1558). Trees and shrubs can be controlled to some extent 
through grazing or eliminated by regular mowing, although these 
management practices may result in selection for yet another suite of 
grassland plant species (Owens and Myres 1973, pp. 700-701).
    The lack of widespread fire in current prairie management has 
contributed to land conversion to landcover types not suitable for the 
pipit. Some form of disturbance is necessary to maintain the grassland 
ecosystem, and grazing and mowing are generally used today. While the 
lack of widespread fires as a management technique has led to changes 
in the grassland ecosystem, we believe that other methods of habitat 
maintenance are substituting for the role that fire historically 
played, albeit while selecting for a different suite of grassland 
species. We do not have information to suggest that the change in fire 
regime is a significant threat to the species.
    Like grazing and fire, mowing is a management technique that can be 
used as a source of disturbance to prevent woody species from invading 
into grassland habitat. However, mowing (i.e., haying) in the breeding 
range could negatively impact Sprague's pipits by directly destroying 
nests, eggs, nestlings, and young fledglings, and by reducing the 
amount of nesting habitat available in the short term. Nest success of 
ground-nesting birds is already low, with an estimated 70 percent of 
nests destroyed by predators (Davis 2003, p. 119). While Sprague's 
pipits occasionally will renest if the first nest fails or if nestlings 
from the first clutch fledge early enough in the season, long intervals 
between nesting attempts suggest that renesting is relatively uncommon 
(Sutter et al. 1996, p. 694). Thus, early mowing can negatively impact 
reproductive success for the year. Even mowing done later in the season 
after chicks have fledged may impact the availability of breeding 
habitat the following year because Sprague's pipits will not use areas 
with short grass until later in the season when the grass has grown, 
possibly due to dense revegetation and the lack of litter (Dechant et 
al. 1998, p. 3; Owens and Myres 1973, p. 708; Kantrud 1981, p. 414). On 
the other hand, as noted above, mowing can improve Sprague's pipit 
habitat in the long term by removing trees and shrubs (Owens and Myres 
1973, p. 700).
    There is not sufficient information available about the extent, 
timing, and frequency of mowing throughout the species' range to make 
firm conclusions about how much of a threat mowing poses. Since mowing 
can play both a positive and negative role in the maintenance of 
Sprague's pipit habitat, the impacts of mowing are mixed. In some parts 
of the range where large portions of the remaining grasslands are mowed 
annually or grass growth is slow or both, mowing may be negatively 
impacting the population. However, at this time, we do not have 
information to indicate that mowing is a significant threat to the 
species rangewide.
Habitat Fragmentation on the Breeding Grounds
    Whereas direct conversion of native prairie results in an obvious 
loss of habitat, fragmentation of the remaining native prairie can make 
large portions of otherwise suitable habitat unusable for nesting 
Sprague's pipits. A number of studies have found that Sprague's pipits 
appear to avoid non-grassland features in the landscape, including 
roads, trails, oil wells, croplands, woody vegetation, and wetlands 
(Dale et al. 2009, pp. 194, 200; Koper et al. 2009, pp. 1287, 1293, 
1294, 1296; Greer 2009, p. 65; Linnen 2008, pp. 1, 9-11, 15; Sutter et 
al. 2000, pp. 112-114). The extent to which Sprague's pipits avoids 
roads varies between studies. One study found that of 46 mapped 
Sprague's pipit territories, only 5 (11 percent) crossed a trail or 
pipeline (in Dale et al. 2009, p. 200). However, other studies found 
that Sprague's pipits avoid roads but not trails, presumably because of 
the difference in structure in the road right-of-way (Sutter et al. 
2000, p. 110), and one study did not document avoidance of roads, 
although it did document avoidance of other changes in habitat 
structure (Koper et al. 2009, pp. 1287, 1293). Sprague's pipits may be 
particularly sensitive to habitat fragmentation because their high 
flight display affords them a wide view of the area, and thus they may 
select their territories based on landscape, rather than site-specific 
features (Koper et al. 2009, p. 1298).
    The effect of a non-grassland feature (e.g., shrubs, trees, roads, 
human-made structures) in the landscape can be much larger than its 
actual footprint. Sprague's pipits are sensitive to patch size (i.e., 
the amount of contiguous native grassland available (Davis 2004, pp. 
1134, 1135-1137; Davis et al. 2006, pp. 812-814; Greer 2009, p. 65)), 
and they avoid edges between grassland and other habitat features that 
are structurally different than grassland (Davis 2004, p. 1134; Koper 
et al. 2009, pp. 1287, 1293-1296). Sprague's pipits were not found in 
patches less than 29 ha (71.7 ac), and the minimum size requirement is 
thought to be 145 ha (358.3 ac) (range 69 to 314 ha (170 to 776 ac)) 
(Davis 2004, p. 1134), with even larger patches preferred (Davis 2004, 
pp. 1134-1135, 1138; Greer 2009, p. 65).
    The shape of the patch also is important. Since Sprague's pipits 
have been shown to avoid edges (Linnen 2008, pp. 1, 9-11, 15), 
grassland areas with a low edge-to-area ratio provide optimal habitat 
(Davis 2004, pp. 1139-1140). Thus, a linear patch may not be suitable 
for a Sprague's pipit's territory, even if it is sufficiently large. 
Koper et al. (2009, p. 1295) noted that conversion of one quarter 
section (64 ha (158 ac)) in the middle of a grassland patch reduced the 
utility of an additional 612 ha (1,512 ac) of grassland.
    Because of the Sprague's pipit's selection for relatively large 

[[Page 56033]]

areas and avoidance of edges, habitat fragmentation is a threat 
throughout the population's breeding range. As more roads, oil and gas 
development, wind farms, and other features are constructed in the 
Northern Great Plains, the fragmentation of the native prairie is 
expected to increase, further decreasing the amount of suitable habitat 
in large enough patches to be used by breeding pairs.
    In order to determine the potential cumulative impact of human 
features on Sprague's pipits, we performed a GIS analysis. We used the 
BBS to map the breeding distribution of the species. The BBS uses 
inverse distancing to smooth the data by using route relative abundance 
to estimate presence beyond the end of a survey road (Sauer et al. 
2008, pp. 17-19). We overlaid layers of suitable Sprague's pipit 
habitat, the road system, permitted oil and gas wells, and existing 
wind towers in the U.S. breeding range. Since GIS information regarding 
the location of the roads constructed by the energy companies to access 
their wells or towers was not available, we estimated new road 
construction by having the GIS program measure the shortest distance 
from the nearest road to the energy feature (Loesch 2010, pers. comm.). 
Topography may preclude building a road following the most direct 
route, so this is a conservative estimate of the miles of new roads 
constructed. We buffered the roads, wind towers, and oil and gas well 
pads by 350 m (1148 ft) based on an estimate of Sprague's pipits' 
avoidance of oil pads and associated roads (Linnen 2008, pp. 1, 9-11).
    As noted above, approximately 2 percent of the U.S. breeding range 
remains in a habitat type that is potentially suitable for Sprague's 
pipit nesting. When we overlaid current and approximated roads, oil and 
gas wells, and wind development, the amount of suitable habitat in 
patches larger than 145 ha (358.3 ac), described as the minimum size 
requirement for breeding Sprague's pipits (Davis 2004, p. 1134), 
declined to 1.55 percent of the historic breeding range (Figure 1) 
(Loesch 2010, pers. comm.). If we include habitat patches 29 ha (71.6 
ac) or larger, the smallest patch size where Sprague's pipits were 
observed (Davis 2004, p. 1134), the amount of potentially suitable 
habitat increases marginally to 1.86 percent of the historic breeding 
range in the United States (Loesch 2010, pers. comm.). If energy 
development continues as projected, the amount of suitable habitat will 
decline even further.
    FIGURE 1: Current grassland habitat patches for Sprague's pipits of 
145 ha (358.3 ac) or larger in areas of the north-central United States 
where the species has been encountered by the BBS (Loesch 2010, pers. 

[[Page 56034]]


    A similar GIS analysis of remaining suitable breeding habitat in 
Canada, including oil and gas wells, roads, and trails leading to each 
well, determined that about 5.6 percent of the Canadian range is 
suitable (having a greater than 50 percent probability of occupancy) 
for Sprague's pipits (Dale 2010, pers. comm.). A similar estimate (5 to 
6 percent) was independently reached by another researcher also 
analyzing land cover data for the Canadian range (Davis 2010, pers. 
    Our analysis shows that the remaining suitable habitat continues to 
be converted and fragmented, a trend that we expect to increase. With 
only 1.55 to 1.86 percent of the U.S. historic breeding habitat and 
only approximately 15 to 20 percent of the Canadian breeding habitat 
still suitable for Sprague's pipit nesting, the areas where birds can 
relocate to as more habitat becomes fragmented and unsuitable for 
Sprague's pipit nesting is drastically diminished. As development 
continues, we expect the potential area for Sprague's pipits to nest to 
decline further. The existing and ongoing fragmentation of suitable 
habitat makes the long-term observed decline of Sprague's pipit likely 
to continue into the future.
Energy Development
    Energy development (oil, gas, and wind) and associated roads and 
facilities increase the fragmentation of grassland habitat. Much of the 
Sprague's pipit's breeding range overlaps with major areas of oil and 
gas development, which have been increasing rapidly in some portions of 
the Sprague's pipit's range. In North Dakota, the number of drilling 
permits nearly doubled between 2007 and 2008, from 494 permits issued 
in 2007 to 946 in 2008 (North Dakota Petroleum Council 2009, p. 2). 
This trend is expected to increase; up to 1,850 wells could be drilled 
annually for a total of up to 19,860 additional wells in North Dakota 
over the next 20 years (North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources 
Undated, pp. 7-17). Oil officials anticipate that production will 
continue to expand at record levels (MacPherson 2010; entire). Much of 
the oil activity is occurring in areas of native prairie, a trend that 
we expect to continue (Loesch 2010, pers. comm). The Bakken formation 
that is currently being drilled lies entirely within the U.S. and 
Canadian breeding range (USGS 2008, p. 1; Robbins and Dale 1999, p. 5). 
Sprague's pipits avoid oil wells, staying up to 350 meters (m) (1148 
feet (ft)) away (Linnen 2008, pp. 1, 9-11), magnifying the effect of 
the well feature itself. Oil and gas wells, especially at high 
densities, decrease the amount of habitat available for breeding 
territories. We calculated that each well and associated road has 
impacted approximately 21 ha (51 acres), including the area that 
Sprague's pipits avoid (Loesch 2010, pers. comm.). Thus, an additional 
19,860 wells could impact 400,000 ha (1 million acres) just in the 
Sprague's pipit range in North Dakota.
    Each oil and gas well pad requires some amount of associated new 
road construction. As discussed above, there is evidence that Sprague's 
pipits avoid roads and trails on the breeding grounds (Linnen 2008, pp. 
1, 9-11; Dale et al. 2009, p. 200). Oil and gas development has been 
shown to double the density of roads on range lands (Naugle et al. 
2009, pp. 11, 46). In areas with ranching, tillage agriculture, and oil 
and gas development, 70 percent of the land was within 100 m (109 yards 
(yd)), and 85 percent of the land was within 200 m (218 yd), of a human 
feature (Naugle et al. 2009, p. 11). Researchers estimated that in 
those areas, every square km (0.39 square miles) of land may be both 
bounded by a road and bisected by a powerline (Naugle et al. 2009, p. 
11). With increased oil and gas development in much of the Sprague's 
pipit's range, this level of fragmentation is likely to be occurring 
over a large percentage of the range. As discussed above, habitat

[[Page 56035]]

fragmentation is one of the major threats facing the species.
    Wind energy development has been increasing rapidly in recent 
years, with increases of more than 45 percent in 2007, and more than 50 
percent in 2008 (Manville 2009, p. 1). Like oil development, wind 
projects built in native grassland fragment the habitat with turbines, 
towers, roads, transmission infrastructure, and associated facilities. 
We estimate that each turbine and associated road impacts approximately 
34.5 ha (85.3 acres) of land, including an area around the road that 
Sprague's pipits avoid (Linnen 2008, p. 9-10; Loesch 2010, pers. 
comm.). However, because most turbines are placed close enough together 
for the avoidance areas to overlap, we calculated the impact of each 
individual turbine to be less, approximately 16.4 ha (40.5 acres) per 
turbine on average. To date, we estimate that 12,400 ha (30,522 ac) 
have been impacted by 752 wind turbines and associated roads within the 
Sprague's pipit U.S. range. We anticipate the number of wind farms to 
continue to increase dramatically throughout the species' range. For 
example, in North Dakota alone, we are aware of a plan to construct 
4,194 new turbines within the Sprague's pipit's range (Ellsworth 2010, 
pers. comm.). This proposed development has the potential to make 
69,200 to 145,000 ha (170,000 to 358,000 acres) of land unsuitable for 
pipit nesting, depending on how the turbines are spaced. This likely 
represents a fraction of potential habitat loss from wind energy 
development, because we typically are not informed of wind projects 
until sites are selected.
    North Dakota and South Dakota each have the potential wind-energy 
capacity of at least 4 mega-watts (MW) of wind power per km\2\, while 
Montana has been projected to have the potential for 3 to 4 MW of wind 
power per km\2\ (National Research Council 2007, p. 45). We calculated 
how much of the Sprague's pipit's U.S. range this amount of development 
may impact, using the following assumptions:
    1) Each turbine would provide 2 MW of power. Onshore turbines are 
constructed between 700 kW to 2.5 MW (American Wind Energy Association 
2010, p. 3), with most industrial projects that we are aware of in the 
1.5 MW range. However, wind industry is working toward developing 
larger turbines , so we believe that in the future turbine size is 
likely to be 2 MW or greater.
    2) Future wind projects would be constructed at approximately the 
same density as existing wind farms in these states, with the area of 
habitat that Sprague's pipits avoid from one turbine overlapping the 
avoidance area from another. We also assume that each turbine, road and 
associated area makes approximately 16.4 ha (40.5 acres) of habitat 
unsuitable for nesting.
    3) Turbines would be evenly distributed across the Sprague's pipit 
range in the U.S. This assumption is likely conservative in terms of 
effects to habitat because the areas with the highest wind potential in 
these states are largely within the remaining suitable prairie habitat. 
Major wind development is likely to occur in the remaining suitable 
Sprague's pipit habitat (U.S. Department of Energy 2010a, p. 1; Loesch, 
pers. comm. 2010).
    Using the above assumptions, we estimate that a minimum of 4.8 
million hectares (12 million acres) could become unsuitable for nesting 
within the range in North Dakota and a minimum of 2.1 million ha (5.1 
million acres) could become unsuitable in South Dakota, while in 
Montana from 6.6 to 8.8 million hectares (16.4 to 21.8 million acres) 
could be impacted. While full development of the wind potential in 
Sprague's pipit habitat is not likely, these figures indicate that even 
a fraction of full development could result in significant losses of 
Sprague's pipit habitat. This estimate only includes the impacts from 
the turbines and associated roads. The potential impacts from other 
associated infrastructure (e.g. power lines) is not known, but may 
impact the species (e.g. from power-line strikes). The areas with the 
highest wind potential often overlap with the areas of remaining native 
prairie, making it likely that wind development will focus on the 
remaining suitable Sprague's pipit habitat (U.S. Department of Energy 
2010a, p. 1; Loesch, pers. comm. 2010).
    There is some information suggesting that wind farms adversely 
impact grassland songbirds, a group that is already in decline (Casey 
2005, p. 4; Manville 2009, p. 1). The entire U.S. range of the 
Sprague's pipit is within an area with high potential for wind 
development (American Wind Energy Association 1991, p. 1; U.S. 
Department of Energy 2010a, p. 1). Thousands of acres of Sprague's 
pipit habitat have already been fragmented by wind development (Loesch 
2010, pers. comm.), a trend which is presumably consistent throughout 
the range as the number of wind farms increases (U.S. Department of 
Energy 2010b, entire). Thirty-three States and the District of Columbia 
have requirements or voluntary goals for renewable energy to make up a 
percentage of their energy needs, including North Dakota, South Dakota, 
Minnesota, and Montana (U.S. Department of Energy 2009, entire). 
Mandates for ``green'' energy in States without Sprague's pipits are 
likely to fuel increases in wind development in the Sprague's pipits' 
range because wind power generated in these wind-rich areas are 
generally transmitted out-of-State (e.g. Great River Energy 2010, p. 
1). We anticipate the number of turbines throughout the Sprague's pipit 
range to continue to dramatically increase.
    Oil and gas extraction is ongoing throughout much of the Sprague's 
pipit's range in Canada, and is expected to increase into the future 
(Dale 2010, pers. comm.). Similarly, wind development is increasing 
throughout the Canadian range of the Sprague's pipit (Canadian Wind 
Energy Association 2010, entire; Canadian Environmental Assessment 
Agency - Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry 2010, entire).
    Because of wide-scale energy development across the Sprague's 
pipits' range, we believe that oil, gas, and wind development 
represents a serious threat to the continued existence of the Sprague's 
pipit. Sprague's pipits avoid features in the landscape that are 
structurally different than grassland, so the construction of energy-
related structures negatively impacts the species' use of a wide area. 
The amount and extent of energy development has been increasing rapidly 
and is expected to continue to increase, so energy development will be 
an ongoing and increasing threat into the future.
    In addition to fragmenting the habitat, roads enable the spread of 
exotic species because vegetative propagules (parts that can sprout 
independently) can be inadvertently transported along roads, while the 
ground disturbance associated with road construction provides sites 
where propagules can readily germinate (Trombulak and Frissell 2000, p. 
24; Simmers 2006, p. 7). Furthermore, the dust and chemical runoff from 
roads allow only tolerant plant species to grow nearby, changing the 
plant composition even if the right-of-way were not actually disturbed 
and reseeded (Trombulak and Frissell 2000, p. 23). Even 20 years after 
reclamation, the nonnative seeds used on reclaimed roadbeds can still 
dominate the area (Simmers 2006, p. 24). These nonnative species spread 
into the nearby prairie, indicating that long-term impacts of road 
construction extend beyond the original footprint of the roadway 
(Simmers 2006, p. 24). Even if vehicles are cleaned before entering an 
area, they pick up nonnative seeds when visiting

[[Page 56036]]

infested sites, and carry them to newly disturbed areas, transporting 
nonnative species throughout the landscape (Dale et al. 2009, p. 195). 
In addition, as discussed under Factor C, roads serve as pathways for 
predators (Pitman et al. 2005, p. 1267). Thus, a secondary impact of 
habitat fragmentation may be an increase in predation.
    The increase in roads throughout the Sprague's pipit's range 
represents a serious and ongoing threat to the species. Because every 
new energy feature requires at least some new road construction, the 
impacts of energy development on the species are closely tied to the 
impacts of road development. Both further fragment the remaining 
suitable habitat, leaving remnant patches that may be too small for the 
nesting of Sprague's pipit. Roads negatively affect the structure and 
make-up of the prairie, and also make grassland habitat more accessible 
to predators, likely decreasing Sprague's pipits' reproductive success.
Migration and Wintering Habitat
    Although there have been few studies of non-breeding Sprague's 
pipits, Sprague's pipits appear to be strongly tied to native prairie 
habitat during the winter (Desmond et al. 2005, p. 442; Emlin 1972, p. 
324). They are occasionally observed in other habitat types, especially 
during migration (Maher 1973, p. 20; Robbins and Dale 1999, pp. 13-14). 
Several researchers have noted the rapid conversion rate to cropland 
and extremely limited area protected in the Chihuahuan desert region 
along the border between the United States and Mexico (Desmond et al. 
2005; pp. 448-449; Maci[acute]as-Duarte et al. 2009, p. 902; Manzano-
Fischer et al. 2006, p. 3820). In the Chihuahuan Desert Region (United 
States and Mexico), an estimated 7 percent of grassland habitat 
remained in 2005 (Desmond et al. 2005, pp. 439, 448). Between 2005 and 
2008, an estimated 30,000 ha (74,000 ac) of this grassland was 
converted (Macias-Duarte et al. 2009, p. 902). In many places where 
native grassland remains, a variety of factors have led to shrub 
encroachment, including overgrazing, elimination of prairie dogs, 
changes in stream flow and the water table due to irrigation, and 
changes in climate patterns (Desmond et al. 2005, p. 448; Manzano-
Fischer et al. 2006, p. 3820; Walker et al. 1981, p. 493). Reversing 
the pattern of woody species invasion is very difficult because once 
established, woody species tend to be stable in the landscape (Whitford 
et al. 2001, p. 9).
    Because Sprague's pipit's presence on the wintering grounds in a 
particular area is related to rainfall the previous year (Dieni et al. 
2003, p. 31; Maci[acute]as-Duarte 2009, p. 901), pipits move to 
different parts of the wintering range annually, with densities 
dependent on local conditions. Therefore, it is likely necessary for 
sufficient suitable habitat to be available throughout the wintering 
range so that areas that are too dry one year may be used when 
conditions improve but are poor elsewhere. With conversion of grassland 
habitat on the wintering grounds, the amount of suitable habitat 
available to Sprague's pipits is shrinking (Maci[acute]as-Duarte 2009, 
p. 896; Manzano-Fischer et al. 2006, p. 3820). Even grassland that is 
not actively converted is becoming unsuitable for Sprague's pipits due 
to widespread changes in grassland management and resulting changes in 
grassland structure. These changes are caused by overgrazing, shrub 
encroachment, and an increase in the biomass of annual grasses, among 
other causes (Drilling 2010, pp. 9-10; Manzano-Fischer et al. 2006, pp. 
3819-3821; Walker et al. 1981, pp. 473-474).
    The Sprague's pipit's wintering habitat has undergone widespread 
conversion to farmland and degradation from management changes since 
pre-colonial times. These changes are likely negatively impacting the 
Sprague's pipit population as a whole. As conversion and degradation 
continue, we expect wintering habitat to be more limiting. However, 
there have not been specific studies examining Sprague's pipits' 
habitat use during migration or on the wintering grounds, so it is not 
possible to determine if the changes to the migration and wintering 
grounds already constitute a threat to the species that may be placing 
the species at risk of extinction now or in the future. However, we 
think the magnitude of loss on the breeding grounds is sufficient to 
determine that the species is at risk of extinction now or in the 
future even in the absence of specific information on the wintering 

Summary of Factor A

    The Sprague's pipit is a grassland obligate species that is 
sensitive to fragmentation and that requires relatively large grassland 
patches to form breeding territories. As identified above in our Factor 
A analysis, the native prairie habitat on which Sprague's pipits depend 
has been drastically altered since European settlement, with most of 
the native prairie converted to other uses. Habitat conversion, 
fragmentation, improperly timed mowing, and energy development and 
associated facilities are all contributing, individually and 
collectively, to the present and threatened destruction, modification, 
and curtailment of the habitat and range of the Sprague's pipit. Only 
approximately 1.55 to 1.86 percent of the breeding range remains in 
large enough patches to be used for breeding in the United States and 
only approximately 5 to 6 percent remains suitable in Canada. Land 
conversion and fragmentation of remaining grassland habitat are 
accelerating throughout the species' breeding range. Grassland on the 
wintering range also is rapidly being converted to uses not suitable 
for the species. We anticipate that conversion and fragmentation will 
continue to occur, and are likely to increase, on both the breeding and 
wintering range. As discussed above, the Sprague's pipit population is 
experiencing a long-term decline. As more habitat becomes unsuitable, 
we expect the population decline to continue or to accelerate.
    We have evaluated the best scientific and commercial information 
available regarding the present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of the Sprague's pipit's habitat or range. 
Based on the current and ongoing habitat issues identified here, their 
synergistic effects, and their likely continuation in the future, we 
have determined that this factor poses a significant threat to the 

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

    We are not aware of any commercial, recreational, or educational 
uses of the species. Sprague's pipit has not been extensively studied 
for scientific purposes (e.g., Robbins and Dale 1999, p. 1; Davis 2009, 
p. 265). A limited number of studies have involved close observation or 
handling of Sprague's pipit adults, nests, or young (e.g., Sutter et 
al. 1996, pp. 694-696; Davis 2003, pp. 119-128; Dieni and Jones 2003, 
pp. 388-389; Jones et al. 2007; Dohms and Davis 2009, pp. 826-830). 
Work involving radio-transmitter attachment on Sprague's pipit 
nestlings found no evidence that the devices impacted survival, 
although the transmitter may temporarily impact the birds' balance and 
movement (Davis and Fischer 2009, p. 199; Fischer et al. 2010, pp. 1, 
    Most research that includes the Sprague's pipit relies on passive 
sampling (e.g., point counts) rather than active handling. The studies 
that involve active handling of adults, nestlings, or nests may impact 
the individuals involved, but are small enough in scale that they are 
unlikely to affect the population as a whole. Passive

[[Page 56037]]

sampling techniques are unlikely to have negative impacts on Sprague's 

Summary of Factor B

    We do not have any evidence of risks to Sprague's pipits from 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes, and we have no reason to believe this factor will 
become a threat to the species in the future. Therefore, we find that 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes is not a significant threat to the Sprague's pipit 
now or in the foreseeable future.

Factor C. Disease or Predation.

    We are not aware of any information to indicate that disease poses 
a significant threat to Sprague's pipits at this time. The 
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2007, p. 51) suggests 
that the distribution of some disease vectors may change as a result of 
climate change. However, the Service currently has no information to 
suggest that any specific disease may become problematic to Sprague's 
    Predation is thought to destroy up to 70 percent of grassland bird 
nests (Davis 2003, p. 119). The predation rate on Sprague's pipits may 
be lower due to their well-concealed nests and secretive behavior 
(Davis 2003, pp. 124; Davis and Sealy 2000, p. 223; Jones and Dieni 
2007, pp. 117-122). The species' tendency to choose taller vegetation 
and to build covered nests with a runway presumably is at least in part 
an attempt to avoid being seen by predators (Sutter 1997, p. 467), 
although a covered nest may not reduce predation (Jones and Dieni 2007, 
p. 123). Predation has been documented to be the main cause of 
mortality of nestling and fledgling Sprague's pipits (Davis and Fisher 
2009, entire).
    We do not believe that the natural level of predation presents a 
threat to the species. Rather, the predation risk for the Sprague's 
pipit may be unnaturally increased by the fragmentation of habitat 
discussed above under Factor A. Songbird predators tend to travel along 
habitat edges, avoiding prairie areas where escape is more difficult 
(Johnson and Temple 1990, p. 110). Birds that may nest near a habitat 
edge, such as a road, could experience lower nest success because they 
may be more likely to be parasitized by cowbirds (Davis 1994, p. i) and 
because roads may serve as travel routes for predators (Pitman et al. 
2005, p. 1267). The Sprague's pipit's preference for larger patches of 
unfragmented prairie may reduce their susceptibility to predation. 
However, as fewer large patches of grassland are available, predation 
risk to Sprague's pipits may increase.
Cowbird Parasitism
    Cowbird parasitism also leads to Sprague's pipit nest failures, 
because the cowbirds remove or damage host eggs and cowbird young out-
compete the hosts for resources (Davis 2003, pp. 119, 127). Limited 
evidence suggests that Sprague's pipit nests that are parasitized do 
not produce any pipit young (Davis and Sealy 2000, p. 226). Both nest 
predation and cowbird parasitism generally are higher in small remnant 
grassland plots near habitat edges (Johnson and Temple 1990, pp. 106, 
108; Davis 1994, p. i; Davis and Sealy 2000, p. 226), so the Sprague's 
pipit's preference for larger tracts of grassland, when these are 
available, may make the species less susceptible to cowbird parasitism 
than some other grassland species. As with predation, the continued 
loss and fragmentation of native grassland (see discussion under Factor 
A) means that the remaining habitat is more fragmented, likely leading 
to increased levels of cowbird parasitism and predation.
    We are concerned that continued landscape fragmentation will 
increase the effects of predation on this species, potentially 
resulting in a further reduction in Sprague's pipit productivity and 
abundance in the future. However, there is very limited information on 
the extent to which such effects might be occurring.

Summary of Factor C

    We do not find evidence that disease is currently impacting the 
Sprague's pipit, nor do we have information to indicate that disease 
outbreaks will increase in the future. We find that disease is not a 
threat to the Sprague's pipit now and is not expected to become so in 
the future. While the level of predation for all grassland birds is 
high, we do not have information at this time to suggest that predation 
or cowbird parasitism is impacting Sprague's pipits at a level that 
threatens the species. Because Sprague's pipits select large grassland 
patches for nesting, when larger habitat patches are available 
Sprague's pipits may be less susceptible to cowbird parasitism than 
other grassland species. However, the increased fragmentation of 
habitat, as discussed under Factor A, may lead to increased predation 
and cowbird parasitism, and we believe that predation may become a more 
serious factor affecting the species. However, at this time, based on 
the available information we conclude that disease or predation is a 
not significant threat to the species now and is not likely to become 
so in the future.

Factor D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms.

Federal Mechanisms
    There are numerous Federal laws, acts, and policies in addition to 
the ESA that encourage coordination of activities that may impact 
wildlife and promote conservation of wildlife. Some of the most 
frequently encountered Federal regulatory mechanisms that may influence 
Sprague's pipit management are described below.
    The Sprague's pipit is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty 
Act (MBTA; 16 U.S.C. 703-712), which prohibits the direct take of 
migratory birds native to the United States, their eggs, or their 
active nests. Unlike the ESA, the MBTA does not protect species' 
habitat. Upland habitat for migratory birds can be legally destroyed as 
long as it does not result in the direct take of birds, eggs, or active 
nests. As discussed under Factor A, habitat loss and fragmentation is a 
main reason for the species' decline. Therefore, even if all public and 
private activities are designed and carried out to avoid direct take of 
Sprague's pipits, the magnitude of the loss of breeding (and possibly 
migration and wintering) habitat would still constitute a significant 
threat to the species.
    The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.) requires all Federal agencies to examine the environmental 
impacts of their actions, incorporate environmental information, and 
utilize public participation in the planning and implementation of all 
actions. NEPA requires disclosure of actions, but does not require 
mandatory minimization measures for, or protection of, the species or 
its habitat. NEPA would not protect Sprague's pipit habitat from 
conversion and is insufficient to address the threats to the Sprague's 
    As noted under Factor A, favorable market prices often encourage 
farmers to plow new land for crop production. There are no Federal laws 
or regulations prohibiting conversion of uplands from native habitat to 
cropland, and we are not aware of any State regulatory mechanisms that 
govern conversion of native grassland to cropland when migratory birds 
will be impacted.

[[Page 56038]]

Wind Farms and Federal Mechanisms
    The Service has developed interim guidelines for siting wind farms 
(Service 2003, pp. 1-57) to reduce impacts to wildlife and wildlife 
habitat, but they are voluntary and are not consistently applied (or 
applied at all) on private land where there is not a Federal nexus 
(Manville 2009, p. 1). As previously discussed, the MBTA does not 
protect habitat. Even where a Federal regulatory mechanism exists, 
migratory bird habitat can, and is, being converted to industrial uses. 
Wind turbines can be, and are being, constructed on National Wildlife 
Refuge System easements (Wind Energy Advisory Group 2007, entire).
State Regulatory Mechanisms
    As discussed above, a number of States have identified the 
Sprague's pipit as a species of conservation concern (Arizona Game and 
Fish Department 2010, p. 3; Louisiana Department of Wildlife and 
Fisheries 2005, p. 6; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 2010, 
p. 1; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks 2010, p. 2; New Mexico Game and 
Fish 2010, p. 4; North Dakota Game and Fish Department 2010, p. 3; 
South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks 2010, p. 3; Texas Parks and Wildlife 
2005, p. 6). While the State wildlife agencies work with partners to 
protect the species, there are no State regulations protecting habitat 
(Baker 2010, pers. comm.; Francis 2010, pers. comm.; Gilbert 2010, 
pers. comm.; Glusenkamp 2010, pers. comm.; Johnson 2010, pers. comm.; 
Michon 2010, pers. comm.; Ode 2010, pers. comm.; Wightman 2010, pers. 
comm.). In Montana, much of the prime Sprague's pipit habitat is 
managed as school trust land, and as such may be sold or converted at 
any time to generate income for State schools (McDonald 2010, pers. 
comm.). Thus, the States do not have regulations that would protect 
Sprague's pipit habitat from further conversion or fragmentation.
Wind Energy and State Mechanisms
    Some States have permit requirements for wind farm construction. 
However, as discussed above, except for Minnesota, there are no 
requirements to avoid Sprague's pipit habitat. A State permit is 
required in South Dakota for wind farms larger than 100 megawatts 
(South Dakota Public Utilities Commission 2010, p. 1), and in North 
Dakota for wind farms larger than 60 megawatts (North Dakota Public 
Service Commission 2010, p. 3). No State permit is required in Montana 
(Montana Department of Environmental Quality 2009, p. 1).
Canadian Regulatory Mechanisms
    In Canada, the Sprague's pipit is listed as threatened under the 
Species At Risk Act (SARA), providing it with many similar protections 
as would be afforded by the ESA if the species were listed as an 
endangered or threatened species (SARA: Government of Canada 2010, 
entire). Once a species is listed under SARA, it becomes illegal to 
``kill, harass, capture, or harm it in any way.'' The SARA also 
protects critical habitat from destruction (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 
2009, pp. 1-2). Critical habitat has not yet been designated for the 
Sprague's pipit under SARA (Davis 2010, pers. comm.), so at this time, 
habitat is only protected during the nesting season. If Canada 
designates critical habitat in that country, the emphasis would be 
placed on Canadian Federal lands, and a SARA permit would be required 
to destroy critical habitat. On provincial or private lands, the 
province's laws would apply to critical habitat. If there is a 
potential serious impact to critical habitat and the province is not 
willing to stop the project, the Canadian government can intercede.
    Under SARA, an environmental review is conducted for projects on 
Canadian Federal land, for projects that require a Canadian Federal 
permit or authorizations, and for projects that receive Canadian 
Federal funding. The applicant must demonstrate that they have 
considered reasonable alternatives and have taken all feasible measures 
to minimize potential project impacts, and that the project will not 
jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species. On provincial land, 
provincial legislation protects the species under the province's 
environmental review process. Provinces can invite the Canadian Federal 
government to comment on their projects. Similarly, on private land 
with no Federal involvement, provincial laws would apply.
    The SARA provides significant protection to the species in Canada, 
and is likely sufficient to address many of the threats facing the 
species in Canada. Approximately 75 percent of the population is 
estimated to breed in Canada (Blancher et al. 2007, p. 27). Given the 
lack of protection in the United States as well as the concurrent 
decline in habitat on the wintering grounds in the United States and 
Mexico, we do not think that the protection in Canada alone is 
sufficient to halt or reverse the species' decline.
Wintering Grounds in the United States and Mexico
    The species benefits from protections on U.S. National Wildlife 
Refuge lands, protected lands in Mexico, and lands purchased by 
nonprofit organizations on the wintering grounds, but these lands are a 
relatively small portion of the wintering range and may not be 
sufficient to support the species (Emlen 1972, pp. 302, 304; Wells 
2007, pp. 296-298). Habitat conservation and restoration for the 
federally endangered Attwater's greater prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus 
cupido attwateri) also should benefit the Sprague's pipit along the 
eastern coast of Texas. However, Attwater's greater prairie-chicken's 
habitat is a very small portion of the Sprague's pipit wintering range. 
Furthermore, the recovery plan for the Attwater's greater prairie-
chicken notes that efforts to protect habitat are hampered by rapid 
urbanization (Service 2010, pp. 2, 28-29). As discussed under Factor A, 
Sprague's pipits likely move widely throughout the wintering region in 
response to precipitation patterns and local habitat conditions. 
Therefore, relatively few, scattered, protected areas may not provide 
sufficient habitat over the long term to provide for the species' 
    Other than some limited protected lands in Mexico, we are not aware 
of any regulatory mechanisms protecting the Sprague's pipit in Mexico.

Summary of Factor D

    The MBTA currently provides Federal protection from direct take of 
migratory birds native to the United States, their active nests, and 
their eggs, but it does not provide protection for habitat. As 
discussed under Factor A, remaining habitat in both the breeding and 
wintering range is rapidly being converted and fragmented. While most 
of the States in the Sprague's pipit's range have identified the 
Sprague's pipit as a species of conservation concern, this designation 
does not provide protection of remaining habitat. Because the main 
threat to the species is habitat loss, we find that existing U.S. 
regulatory mechanisms do not protect the species from the threat of 
habitat loss.
    In Canada, the Sprague's pipit is listed as a threatened species 
(Environment Canada 2008, p. 1). While this listing provides 
considerable protection to the species, the population would be 
unlikely to reverse its decline without additional protection on the 
U.S. breeding portion of the range as well as on its wintering grounds.

[[Page 56039]]

    Other than some limited protected areas, we are not aware of any 
regulatory mechanisms protecting Sprague's pipits' habitat in Mexico. A 
large portion of the wintering range is in Mexico, and the literature 
suggests that habitat is rapidly being converted (Desmond et al. 2005, 
pp. 448-449; Maci[acute]as-Duarte et al. 2009, p. 902; Manzano-Fischer 
et al. 2006, p. 3820). While the lack of regulatory mechanisms 
preventing habitat conversion on the wintering range in the United 
States and Mexico is likely contributing to the decline of the species, 
we have limited information at this time regarding whether the lack of 
regulatory mechanisms on the wintering grounds alone is a significant 
threat to the continued existence of the species.
    Based on our review of the best scientific and commercial 
information available, we conclude that existing regulatory mechanisms 
are inadequate to protect the species and its habitat. The inadequacy 
of existing regulatory mechanisms therefore is a significant threat to 
the species, now and in the foreseeable future.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence.

Climate Change
    No information on the direct relationship between climate change 
and Sprague's pipit population trends is available; however, climate 
change could potentially impact the species. According to the IPCC 
(2007, p. 6), ``warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now 
evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean 
temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global 
average sea level.'' Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during 
the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during 
any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely the highest 
in at least the past 1,300 years (IPCC 2007, p. 6). It is very likely 
that over the past 50 years cold days, cold nights, and frosts have 
become less frequent over most land areas, and hot days and hot nights 
have become more frequent (IPCC 2007, p. 6). It is likely that heat 
waves have become more frequent over most land areas, and the frequency 
of heavy precipitation events has increased over most areas (IPCC 2007, 
p. 6).
    Changes in the global climate system during the 21st century are 
likely to be larger than those observed during the 20th century (IPCC 
2007, p. 19). For the next 2 decades, a warming of about 0.2 Celsius 
([deg]C) (0.4 Fahrenheit ([deg]F)) per decade is projected (IPCC 2007, 
p. 19). Afterward, temperature projections increasingly depend on 
specific emission scenarios (IPCC 2007, p. 19). Various emissions 
scenarios suggest that by the end of the 21st century, average global 
temperatures are expected to increase 0.6 to 4.0 [deg]C (1.1 to 7.2 
[deg]F), with the greatest warming expected over land (IPCC 2007, p. 
    The IPCC (2007, pp. 22, 27) report outlines several scenarios that 
are virtually certain or very likely to occur in the 21st century, 
    (1) Over most land, there will be warmer and fewer cold days and 
nights, and warmer and more frequent hot days and nights;
    (2) Areas affected by drought will increase; and
    (3) The frequency of warm spells and heat waves over most land 
areas will likely increase.
    The IPCC predicts that the resiliency of many ecosystems is likely 
to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate 
change-associated disturbances (e.g., flooding, drought, wildfire, and 
insects) and other global drivers. With medium confidence, IPCC 
predicts that approximately 20 to 30 percent of plant and animal 
species assessed so far are likely to be at an increased risk of 
extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5 to 2.5 
[deg]C (3 to 5 [deg]F). Given the large amount of land conversion that 
has already taken place throughout North America, it is not clear that 
the Sprague's pipit's range could shift into new areas in response to 
changes in climate.
    There is some variability between models in projecting the effect 
of future climate change on Sprague's pipit breeding habitat. One model 
projected that the Sprague's pipit's breeding range would experience a 
wetter climate by the end of this century (U.S. Global Change Research 
Program Great Plains 2009, p. 125). In contrast, another model 
suggested that much of the remaining suitable habitat for Sprague's 
pipit nesting would likely become drier due to climate change (Johnson 
et al. 2005, p. 871).
    In a 3-year study looking at a drought and post-drought period in 
western North Dakota, Sprague's pipit numbers declined in periods of 
drought, although they rebounded once the drought ended (George et al. 
1992, pp. 275, 278-279). By contrast, a study comparing numbers from 
the BBS to moisture levels in eastern and northern North Dakota found 
that Sprague's pipit numbers actually increased during dry periods 
(Niemuth et al. 2008, pp. 213-217). However, amount of moisture was a 
relative descriptor and not constant between studies.
    Sprague's pipits prefer areas with grassy cover and a low amount of 
bare ground (Dieni and Jones 2003, p. 392; Sutter 1997, p. 464). 
Extreme drought may lead to poor grass growth and thus less optimal 
habitat (Dieni and Jones 2003, pp. 393-395). While the species can 
increase in abundance after a short-term drought ends, climate change 
may lead to drier conditions in much of the Sprague's pipit's breeding 
range (Johnson et al. 2005, pp. 869-871), which may have more lasting 
impacts on the habitat and thus the Sprague's pipit (George et al. 
1992, pp. 281-283).
    Temperatures in the wintering range also are expected to rise, 
while precipitation is projected to decline (U.S. Global Change 
Research Program Southwest 2009, p. 125). Therefore, substantial 
landscape changes are expected in the wintering range (U.S. Global 
Change Research Program Southwest 2009, p. 131). These changes in 
temperature and precipitation throughout the species' range may have a 
large impact on ecosystems (U.S. Global Change Research Program Great 
Plains 2009, p. 126; U.S. Global Change Research Program Southwest 
2009, p. 131) and thus the Sprague's pipit.
    In the arid areas where Sprague's pipits migrate and winter, the 
amount of grass is driven by precipitation the previous year. The grass 
structure, in turn, influences migratory bird use of an area 
(Maci[acute]as-Duarte et al. 2009, p. 901). As climate patterns change, 
the available suitable habitat in the migration and wintering areas may 
become less suitable for Sprague's pipits.
    If, as predicted, climate change causes shifts in large-scale 
weather patterns, this would likely alter the optimal areas for the 
Sprague's pipit's breeding and wintering grounds. Since there is 
already limited grassland remaining, it is unlikely that there would be 
suitable habitat available elsewhere. However, there is not sufficient 
information at this time to determine the likely effects of climate 
change on the Sprague's pipit.
Chemical Use and Harassment in Agricultural Fields
    The Sprague's pipit is primarily associated with grassland, but it 
is occasionally observed in cropland (Igl et al. 2008, pp. 280, 284). 
Agricultural practices on the wintering grounds may impact Sprague's 
pipits. The pesticide flowable carbofuran (brand name Furidan) was 
reportedly used in Mexico to protect crops against insects (Manzano-
Fischer et al. 2006, p. 3821). This practice not only reduces the prey

[[Page 56040]]

base in the area, but also has been linked with the mortality of 
passerines nearby (Manzano-Fischer et al. 2006, p. 3821). The use of 
carbofuran is prohibited in the United States, and cancellation is 
being considered in Canada (Environmental Protection Agency 2010, p. 1; 
Health Canada 2009, p. 1). The use of carbofuran is currently legal in 
Mexico (Doucoure 2010, pers. comm.). However, since Sprague's pipits 
rarely use cropfields, carbofuran is unlikely to be causing major 
impacts to the species, even in places where it is still used.
    Sprague's pipits primarily feed on arthropods, and have been 
sighted in sunflower fields, although their use of crop fields is rare 
(Igl et al. 2008, pp. 280-284; Hagy et al. 2007, p. 66; Wells 2007, p. 
297). The poisoning of sunflower fields with grain bait used to kill 
blackbirds (Family: Icteridae) may impact Sprague's pipits (Hagy et al. 
2007, p. 66). As discussed above, Sprague's pipits do not generally use 
crop fields, so the impacts of poisoning are limited.
    Some sunflower growers harass birds, primarily several species of 
blackbirds that feed on their crops. Harassment of birds on cropland 
may negatively impact their energy stores during migration, when they 
may already be low on reserves (Hagy et al. 2007, pp. 62, 69). Any 
Sprague's pipits that are present in sunflower fields could be 
incidentally harassed out of those fields along with blackbirds and any 
other species present.
    We acknowledge the potential for negative impacts on Sprague's 
pipit from harassment and poisoning in agricultural fields. Such 
impacts are likely minimal and localized as Sprague's pipits spend 
limited time in agricultural fields. Therefore, we determine the 
potential impacts of harassment and poisoning on Sprague's pipits to be 
low at this time. Thus, we have determined that pesticide use and 
harassment is not a significant threat to the Sprague's pipit.

Summary of Factor E

    Due to the large level of uncertainty, we do not find climate 
change to be a significant threat to the species at this time. However, 
the IPCC states that warming of the climate is unequivocal (2007, p. 
15). Additional information would improve our understanding of its 
effects on the species.
    While chemical use to control insects likely has both direct and 
indirect effects on the Sprague's pipit, we have limited information 
regarding the scope of its use. Therefore, we do not have information 
to determine whether insecticide use is having a substantial impact on 
the species at this time. We do not believe that poisoning and 
harassment in agricultural fields pose a significant threat to 
Sprague's pipit population persistence. We conclude that the best 
scientific and commercial information available indicates that other 
natural or manmade factors are not a significant threat to the 
Sprague's pipit.


    As required by the ESA, we conducted a review of the status of the 
species and considered the five factors in assessing whether the 
Sprague's pipit is endangered or threatened throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. We examined the best scientific and 
commercial information available regarding the past, present, and 
future threats faced by the Sprague's pipit. We reviewed the petition, 
information available in our files, and other available published and 
unpublished information, and we consulted with Sprague's pipit and 
grassland bird experts and other Federal, State, and Canadian resource 
    In this review of the status of the species, we identified a number 
of threats under the five-factor analysis including: habitat 
fragmentation on the breeding grounds, energy development, roads, and 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.
    Native prairie is one of the most imperiled habitats worldwide, 
with loss rates approximating 70 percent in the United States and 
Canada, and prairie loss is accelerating. The remaining prairie is 
being converted to other land uses and is being increasingly 
fragmented, largely due to the development of wind, oil, and gas-
generating facilities and associated roads and infrastructure. Land 
conversion is likely impacting the species throughout its range, but 
the effects of fragmentation most strongly impact the species on the 
breeding grounds. Because Sprague's pipits avoid unsuitable landscape 
features in breeding territories, the effect of a change in the 
landscape is magnified beyond the simple footprint of the disturbance. 
Only approximately 2 percent of the species' historical U.S. range 
remains in potentially suitable habitat. When we included the effects 
of fragmentation and disturbance, the remaining suitable habitat 
declined even further to 1.55 to1.86 percent of the historical breeding 
habitat in the United States and between 5 and 6 percent of the 
historical breeding range in Canada remaining in large enough patches 
to support nesting territories. This loss of suitable habitat will 
likely continue and accelerate for the foreseeable future with the 
increase in energy development throughout much of the species' range. 
We estimate that habitat will likely continue to be converted from 
native prairie at a rate of approximately 32,000 ha (78,000 ac) 
annually, with a total potential conversion of 640,000 ha (1.6 million 
ac) in 20 years within the U.S. breeding range. In addition, wind power 
has the potential to impact a substantial amount of the suitable 
habitat remaining within the range. With limited exceptions, existing 
regulatory mechanisms do not protect the species' habitat from 
    The evidence we have at this time suggests that while grazing, 
mowing, overutilization, predation, cowbird parasitism, harassment and 
chemical use may have some impacts on Sprague's pipits, these effects 
are unlikely to be influencing the population as a whole. Climate 
change may lead to large-scale population level impacts if it causes 
changes in the remaining suitable habitat. The available information 
strongly suggests that changes in the global climate system are likely 
to impact rainfall and temperature throughout the Sprague's pipits' 
range, but the nature and magnitude of these changes on the Sprague's 
pipit population is unknown at this time. While there are some broad 
estimates of how climate change will impact the central region of North 
America, many uncertainties remain. Land conversion, fragmentation of 
habitat, and inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms to halt habitat loss 
are causing a significant decline in the Sprague's pipit population, 
such that listing is warranted.
    Both the BBS and the CBC data show long-term, sustained declines in 
the Sprague's pipit population of 3.23 to 3.9 percent annually and a 73 
to 80 percent decline over the past 40 years. These surveys provide an 
indication of population trends. The evidence for decline is 
particularly strong because these two lines of independent evidence 
both point to the same conclusion. Even though the surveys take place 
in different parts of the species' range (breeding and wintering) and 
use different methodologies, the resulting estimates for population 
trend are remarkably similar. The only available population estimate 
comes from the BBS data, estimating the population at approximately 
870,000 in 1995 (Blancher et al. 2007 p. 27). The population trend 
since that time has continued to decline, suggesting that the 
population is approximately 479,000

[[Page 56041]]

today, assuming a continued population decline of 3.9 percent annually.
    Prairie habitat loss and fragmentation has resulted in only 1.55 
to1.86 percent of the historical breeding habitat in the United States 
and between 5 and 6 percent of the historical breeding range in Canada 
remaining in patches large enough to support nesting. We expect current 
habitat loss and fragmentation to continue into the future. Farm policy 
and practices continue to provide economic incentives for farmers to 
convert native prairie into cropland, while advances in farming 
(herbicide resistant crops and the advent of no-till planting) 
contribute to decisions to convert prairie to cropland. The historic 
primary impact to the Sprague's pipit population has been land 
conversion to cropland. While land conversion to cropland is ongoing 
and remains a chronic threat, the major threat in the future is further 
fragmentation and degradation of native prairie habitat from the rapid 
expansion of oil and gas production and wind farm development. While 
there are approximately 10 million ha (25 million ac) of native prairie 
remaining in the U.S. range, only approximately 7 million ha (17 
million ac) of this habitat remains in large enough patches to be used 
by breeding Sprague's pipits. Similarly, in the Canadian range, only 
approximately 3 to 4 million ha (7.4 to 9.9 million ac) remains in 
patches large enough to be used by breeding Sprague's pipits. Even this 
remaining habitat is becoming increasingly fragmented through continued 
conversion and fragmentation, especially due to energy development. As 
the amount of suitable habitat declines, the quality is also reduced, 
because the remaining habitat is increasingly fragmented, with more 
edge effects and greater impact from predators, cowbirds, and weed 
incursion. We anticipate the current rate of population decline (3.23 
to 3.9 percent annually) to continue, and possibly increase, into the 
future due to the current and future loss of suitable breeding habitat. 
Given the current and anticipated decline in suitable habitat on both 
the breeding and wintering grounds, the inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms to protect remaining habitat, and the long-term, 
ongoing population decline, we find that listing the Sprague's pipit 
throughout its range (United States, Canada, and Mexico) is warranted.
    This status review identified threats to the Sprague's pipit 
attributable to Factors A and D. The primary threat to the species is 
from habitat conversion and fragmentation (Factor A), especially due to 
native prairie conversion to other uses and fragmentation from energy 
(oil, gas, and wind) development.
    On the basis of the best scientific and commercial information 
available, we find that the petitioned action, listing the Sprague's 
pipit as endangered or threatened, is warranted. We will make a 
determination on the status of the species as endangered or threatened 
when we prepare a proposed listing determination. However, as explained 
in more detail below, an immediate proposal of a regulation 
implementing this action is precluded by higher priority listing 
actions, and progress is being made to add or remove qualified species 
from the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.
    We reviewed the available information to determine if the existing 
and foreseeable threats render the species at risk of extinction now 
such that issuing an emergency regulation temporarily listing the 
species under section 4(b)(7) of the ESA is warranted. We determined 
that issuing an emergency regulation temporarily listing the species is 
not warranted for this species at this time, because while the 
population shows a long-term sustained decline, there is sufficient 
habitat remaining to prevent the species' numbers from plummeting 
drastically in the short term. Additionally, while we believe that both 
the U.S. and Canadian portions of the breeding range are necessary for 
the long-term survival of the species, the protections afforded in 
Canada under SARA should somewhat buffer the species' decline. However, 
if at any time we determine that issuing an emergency regulation 
temporarily listing the Sprague's pipit is warranted, we will initiate 
the action at that time.

Listing Priority Number

    The Service adopted guidelines on September 21, 1983 (48 FR 43098), 
to establish a rational system for utilizing available resources for 
the highest priority species when adding species to the Lists of 
Endangered or Threatened Wildlife and Plants or reclassifying species 
listed as threatened to endangered status. These guidelines, titled 
``Endangered and Threatened Species Listing and Recovery Priority 
Guidelines'' address the immediacy and magnitude of threats, and the 
level of taxonomic distinctiveness by assigning priority in descending 
order to monotypic genera (genus with one species), full species, and 
subspecies (or equivalently, distinct population segments of 
vertebrates). We assigned the Sprague's pipit an LPN of 2 based on our 
finding that the species faces threats that are of high magnitude and 
are imminent. These threats include the present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat and the 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. This is the highest 
priority that can be provided to a species under our guidance. Our 
rationale for assigning the Sprague's pipit an LPN 2 is outlined below.
    Under the Service's LPN Guidance, the magnitude of threat is the 
first criterion we look at when establishing a listing priority. The 
guidance indicates that species with the highest magnitude of threat 
are those species facing the greatest threats to their continued 
existence. These species receive the highest listing priority. The 
threats that the Sprague's pipit faces are high in magnitude because 
the major threats (habitat conversion and fragmentation, energy 
development, inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms) occur throughout all 
of the species' range. Based on an evaluation of suitable habitat 
remaining in the species' breeding range, we determined that less than 
2 percent of the U.S. range and only about 6 percent of the Canadian 
range remain in a suitable habitat type for the Sprague's pipit to 
breed. Habitat loss through grassland conversion was historically a 
major threat to the species, with approximately 98 percent of the U.S. 
breeding range lost to habitat conversion. On the remaining 2 percent 
of U.S. breeding range, grassland conversion is still occurring at a 
rate of approximately 32,000 ha (78,000 ac) per year. While conversion 
continues to reduce the amount of habitat available, energy development 
is the current and projected future major threat to the species. The 
amount of oil and gas and wind development has been increasing rapidly 
(Manville 2009, p. 1; Macpherson 2010, p. 1), and is expected to 
continue to do so into the foreseeable future. Wind development alone 
has the potential to impact from 14 to 16 million ha (33 to 39 million 
ac) in the U.S. breeding range. In North Dakota alone, oil and gas 
development could impact approximately 570,000 ha (1.4 million ac) 
within the Sprague's pipit range in 20 years. Both oil and gas and the 
wind development are land intensive, causing wide-scale fragmentation 
and degradation of the remaining grassland making it unsuitable for 
this species. There is less specific information available on the 
wintering grounds, but the data available indicate that large areas of 
the wintering grounds are being converted from grassland habitat. The 
documented, long-term, continuous population decline indicates that 
loss of

[[Page 56042]]

habitat is having a population-level effect.
    Adequate regulations are not in place at the local, State, or 
Federal level to adequately minimize the threat of habitat degradation 
and fragmentation. Regulatory mechanisms do not exist to prevent large-
scale changes to prairie habitat. Energy development (oil, gas, and 
wind) and associated infrastructure is projected to increase throughout 
the Sprague's pipit's range, further precluding the species' use of 
large portions for breeding or wintering activities. There are not 
adequate regulations related to placement and spacing of these energy 
features to avoid impacts to remaining unfragmented grassland habitat. 
We believe the ability of the Sprague's pipit population to stabilize 
or increase over the long term is highly diminished given the 
landscape-level changes that are occurring. Thus, we believe that the 
available information indicates that the magnitude of threats is high.
    Under our LPN Guidance, the second criterion we consider in 
assigning a listing priority is the immediacy of threats. This 
criterion is intended to ensure that the species that face actual, 
identifiable threats are given priority over those for which threats 
are only potential or that are intrinsically vulnerable but are not 
known to be presently facing such threats. The threats are imminent 
because we have factual information that the threats are identifiable 
and that the species is currently facing them throughout all portions 
of its breeding range and in large portions of its wintering range. 
These actual, identifiable threats are covered in detail under the 
discussion of Factors A and D of this finding and currently include 
habitat conversion and fragmentation and inadequate regulatory 
mechanisms. In addition to their current existence, we expect these 
threats to continue and likely intensify in the foreseeable future. 
State agency representatives, energy industry spokesmen, and 
researchers anticipate that the amount of wind and oil and gas 
development will increase in the northern Great Plains for the 
foreseeable future. Since both oil and gas and wind development are 
occurring in areas that remain in native prairie, we believe that the 
impacts of increased development will further reduce the remaining 
suitable Sprague's pipit habitat.
    The third criterion in our LPN guidance is intended to devote 
resources to those species representing highly distinctive or isolated 
gene pools as reflected by taxonomy. The Sprague's pipit is a valid 
taxon at the species level, and therefore receives a higher priority 
than subspecies or DPSs, but a lower priority than species in a 
monotypic genus.
    The Sprague's pipit faces high magnitude, imminent threats, and is 
a valid taxon at the species level. Thus, in accordance with our LPN 
guidance, we have assigned the Sprague's pipit an LPN of 2.
    We will continue to monitor the threats to the Sprague's pipit, and 
the species' status on an annual basis, and should the magnitude or the 
imminence of the threats change, we will revisit our assessment of the 
    Work on a proposed listing determination for the Sprague's pipit is 
precluded by work on higher priority listing actions with absolute 
statutory, court-ordered, or court-approved deadlines and final listing 
determinations for those species that were proposed for listing with 
funds from Fiscal Year 2009. This work includes all the actions listed 
in the tables below under expeditious progress.

Preclusion and Expeditious Progress

    Preclusion is a function of the listing priority of a species in 
relation to the resources that are available and competing demands for 
those resources. Thus, in any given fiscal year (FY), multiple factors 
dictate whether it will be possible to undertake work on a proposed 
listing regulation or whether promulgation of such a proposal is 
warranted but precluded by higher-priority listing actions.
    The resources available for listing actions are determined through 
the annual Congressional appropriations process. The appropriation for 
the Service Listing Program is available to support work involving the 
following listing actions: Proposed and final listing rules; 90-day and 
12-month findings on petitions to add species to the Lists of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants (Lists) or to change the 
status of a species from threatened to endangered; annual 
determinations on prior ``warranted but precluded'' petition findings 
as required under section 4(b)(3)(C)(i) of the Act; critical habitat 
petition findings; proposed and final rules designating critical 
habitat; and litigation-related, administrative, and program-management 
functions (including preparing and allocating budgets, responding to 
Congressional and public inquiries, and conducting public outreach 
regarding listing and critical habitat). The work involved in preparing 
various listing documents can be extensive and may include, but is not 
limited to: Gathering and assessing the best scientific and commercial 
data available and conducting analyses used as the basis for our 
decisions; writing and publishing documents; and obtaining, reviewing, 
and evaluating public comments and peer review comments on proposed 
rules and incorporating relevant information into final rules. The 
number of listing actions that we can undertake in a given year also is 
influenced by the complexity of those listing actions; that is, more 
complex actions generally are more costly. The median cost for 
preparing and publishing a 90-day finding is $39, 276; for a 12-month 
finding, $100,690; for a proposed rule with critical habitat, $345,000; 
and for a final listing rule with critical habitat, the median cost is 
    We cannot spend more than is appropriated for the Listing Program 
without violating the Anti-Deficiency Act (see 31 U.S.C. 
1341(a)(1)(A)). In addition, in FY 1998 and for each fiscal year since 
then, Congress has placed a statutory cap on funds which may be 
expended for the Listing Program, equal to the amount expressly 
appropriated for that purpose in that fiscal year. This cap was 
designed to prevent funds appropriated for other functions under the 
Act (for example, recovery funds for removing species from the Lists), 
or for other Service programs, from being used for Listing Program 
actions (see House Report 105-163, 105\th\ Congress, 1st Session, July 
1, 1997).
    Since FY 2002, the Service's budget has included a critical habitat 
subcap to ensure that some funds are available for other work in the 
Listing Program (``The critical habitat designation subcap will ensure 
that some funding is available to address other listing activities'' 
(House Report No. 107 - 103, 107\th\ Congress, 1st Session, June 19, 
2001)). In FY 2002 and each year until FY 2006, the Service has had to 
use virtually the entire critical habitat subcap to address court-
mandated designations of critical habitat, and consequently none of the 
critical habitat subcap funds have been available for other listing 
activities. In FY 2007, we were able to use some of the critical 
habitat subcap funds to fund proposed listing determinations for high-
priority candidate species. In FY 2009, while we were unable to use any 
of the critical habitat subcap funds to fund proposed listing 
determinations, we did use some of this money to fund the critical 
habitat portion of some proposed listing determinations so that the 
proposed listing determination and proposed critical habitat 
designation could be combined into one rule, thereby being more 
efficient in our work. In FY 2010, we are using some of

[[Page 56043]]

the critical habitat subcap funds to fund actions with statutory 
    Thus, through the listing cap, the critical habitat subcap, and the 
amount of funds needed to address court-mandated critical habitat 
designations, Congress and the courts have in effect determined the 
amount of money available for other listing activities. Therefore, the 
funds in the listing cap, other than those needed to address court-
mandated critical habitat for already listed species, set the limits on 
our determinations of preclusion and expeditious progress.
    Congress also recognized that the availability of resources was the 
key element in deciding, when making a 12-month petition finding, 
whether we would prepare and issue a listing proposal or instead make a 
``warranted but precluded'' finding for a given species. The Conference 
Report accompanying Public Law 97-304, which established the current 
statutory deadlines and the warranted-but-precluded finding, states (in 
a discussion on 90-day petition findings that by its own terms also 
covers 12-month findings) that the deadlines were ``not intended to 
allow the Secretary to delay commencing the rulemaking process for any 
reason other than that the existence of pending or imminent proposals 
to list species subject to a greater degree of threat would make 
allocation of resources to such a petition [that is, for a lower-
ranking species] unwise.''
    In FY 2010, expeditious progress is that amount of work that can be 
achieved with $10,471,000, which is the amount of money that Congress 
appropriated for the Listing Program (that is, the portion of the 
Listing Program funding not related to critical habitat designations 
for species that are already listed). However these funds are not 
enough to fully fund all our court-ordered and statutory listing 
actions in FY 2010, so we are using $1,114,417 of our critical habitat 
subcap funds in order to work on all of our required petition findings 
and listing determinations. This brings the total amount of funds we 
have for listing actions in FY 2010 to $11,585,417. Our process is to 
make our determinations of preclusion on a nationwide basis to ensure 
that the species most in need of listing will be addressed first and 
also because we allocate our listing budget on a nationwide basis. The 
$11,585,417 is being used to fund work in the following categories: 
compliance with court orders and court-approved settlement agreements 
requiring that petition findings or listing determinations be completed 
by a specific date; section 4 (of the Act) listing actions with 
absolute statutory deadlines; essential litigation-related, 
administrative, and listing program-management functions; and high-
priority listing actions for some of our candidate species. In 2009, 
the responsibility for listing foreign species under the Act was 
transferred from the Division of Scientific Authority, International 
Affairs Program, to the Endangered Species Program. Starting in FY 
2010, a portion of our funding is being used to work on the actions 
described above as they apply to listing actions for foreign species. 
This has the potential to further reduce funding available for domestic 
listing actions. Although there are currently no foreign species issues 
included in our high-priority listing actions at this time, many 
actions have statutory or court-approved settlement deadlines, thus 
increasing their priority. The allocations for each specific listing 
action are identified in the Service's FY 2010 Allocation Table (part 
of our administrative record).
    Based on our September 21, 1983, guidance for assigning an LPN for 
each candidate species (48 FR 43098), we have a significant number of 
species with a LPN of 2. Using this guidance, we assign each candidate 
an LPN of 1 to 12, depending on the magnitude of threats (high vs. 
moderate to low), immediacy of threats (imminent or nonimminent), and 
taxonomic status of the species (in order of priority: monotypic genus 
(a species that is the sole member of a genus); species; or part of a 
species (subspecies, distinct population segment, or significant 
portion of the range)). The lower the listing priority number, the 
higher the listing priority (that is, a species with an LPN of 1 would 
have the highest listing priority). Because of the large number of 
high-priority species, we have further ranked the candidate species 
with an LPN of 2 by using the following extinction-risk type criteria: 
International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural 
Resources (IUCN) Red list status/rank, Heritage rank (provided by 
NatureServe), Heritage threat rank (provided by NatureServe), and 
species currently with fewer than 50 individuals, or 4 or fewer 
populations. Those species with the highest IUCN rank (critically 
endangered), the highest Heritage rank (G1), the highest Heritage 
threat rank (substantial, imminent threats), and currently with fewer 
than 50 individuals, or fewer than 4 populations, originally comprised 
a group of approximately 40 candidate species (``Top 40''). These 40 
candidate species have had the highest priority to receive funding to 
work on a proposed listing determination. As we work on proposed and 
final listing rules for those 40 candidates, we apply the ranking 
criteria to the next group of candidates with an LPN of 2 and 3 to 
determine the next set of highest priority candidate species.
    To be more efficient in our listing process, as we work on proposed 
rules for the highest priority species in the next several years, we 
are preparing multi-species proposals when appropriate, and these may 
include species with lower priority if they overlap geographically or 
have the same threats as a species with an LPN of 2. In addition, 
available staff resources are also a factor in determining high-
priority species provided with funding. Finally, proposed rules for 
reclassification of threatened species to endangered are lower 
priority, since as listed species, they are already afforded the 
protection of the Act and implementing regulations.
    We assigned the Sprague's pipit an LPN of 2, based on our finding 
that the species faces immediate and high magnitude threats from the 
present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its 
habitat and from the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. 
Under our 1983 Guidelines, a ``species'' facing imminent high-magnitude 
threats is assigned an LPN of 1, 2, or 3 depending on its taxonomic 
status. Because the Sprague's pipit is a species, we assigned it an LPN 
of 2 (the highest category available for a species). Therefore, work on 
a proposed listing determination for the Sprague's pipit is precluded 
by work on higher priority candidate species; listing actions with 
absolute statutory, court ordered, or court-approved deadlines; and 
final listing determinations for those species that were proposed for 
listing with funds from previous fiscal years. This work includes all 
the actions listed in the tables below under expeditious progress.
    As explained above, a determination that listing is warranted but 
precluded must also demonstrate that expeditious progress is being made 
to add or remove qualified species to and from the Lists of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. (Although we do not discuss it in 
detail here, we are also making expeditious progress in removing 
species from the Lists under the Recovery program, which is funded by a 
separate line item in the budget of the Endangered Species Program. As 
explained above in our description of the statutory cap on Listing 

[[Page 56044]]

funds, the Recovery Program funds and actions supported by them cannot 
be considered in determining expeditious progress made in the Listing 
Program.) As with our ``precluded'' finding, expeditious progress in 
adding qualified species to the Lists is a function of the resources 
available and the competing demands for those funds. Given that 
limitation, we find that we are making progress in FY 2010 in the 
Listing Program. This progress included preparing and publishing the 
following determinations:

                                        FY 2010 Completed Listing Actions
         Publication Date                       Title                     Actions                FR Pages
10/08/2009                          Listing Lepidium papilliferum  Final Listing               74 FR 52013-52064
                                     (Slickspot Peppergrass) as a  Threatened..........
                                     Threatened Species
                                     Throughout Its Range
10/27/2009                          90-day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            74 FR 55177-55180
                                     To List the American Dipper   Petition Finding,...
                                     in the Black Hills of South   Not substantial.....
                                     Dakota as Threatened or
10/28/2009                          Status Review of Arctic        Notice of Intent to         74 FR 55524-55525
                                     Grayling (Thymallus           Conduct Status
                                     arcticus) in the Upper         Review.
                                     Missouri River System
11/03/2009                          Listing the British Columbia   Proposed Listing            74 FR 56757-56770
                                     Distinct Population Segment   Threatened..........
                                     of the Queen Charlotte
                                     Goshawk Under the Endangered
                                     Species Act: Proposed rule.
11/03/2009                          Listing the Salmon-Crested     Proposed Listing            74 FR 56770-56791
                                     Cockatoo as Threatened        Threatened..........
                                     Throughout Its Range with
                                     Special Rule
11/23/2009                          Status Review of Gunnison      Notice of Intent to         74 FR 61100-61102
                                     sage-grouse (Centrocercus     Conduct Status
                                     minimus)                       Review.
12/03/2009                          12-Month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month          74 FR 63343-63366
                                     Petition to List the Black-   petition finding,
                                     tailed Prairie Dog as          Not.
                                     Threatened or Endangered      warranted...........
12/03/2009                          90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            74 FR 63337-63343
                                     to List Sprague's Pipit as    Petition Finding,...
                                     Threatened or Endangered      Substantial.........
12/15/2009                          90-Day Finding on Petitions    Notice of 90-day            74 FR 66260-66271
                                     To List Nine Species of       Petition Finding,...
                                     Mussels From Texas as         Substantial.........
                                     Threatened or Endangered
                                     With Critical Habitat
12/16/2009                          Partial 90-Day Finding on a    Notice of 90-day            74 FR 66865-66905
                                     Petition to List 475 Species  Petition Finding,...
                                     in the Southwestern United    Not substantial and.
                                     States as Threatened or       Substantial.........
                                     Endangered With Critical
12/17/2009                          12-month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month          74 FR 66937-66950
                                     Petition To Change the Final  petition finding,...
                                     Listing of the Distinct       Warranted but.......
                                     Population Segment of the     precluded...........
                                     Canada Lynx To Include New
1/05/2010                           Listing Foreign Bird Species   Proposed Listing                75 FR 605-649
                                     in Peru and Bolivia as        Endangered..........
                                     Endangered Throughout Their
1/05/2010                           Listing Six Foreign Birds as   Proposed Listing                75 FR 286-310
                                     Endangered Throughout Their   Endangered..........
1/05/2010                           Withdrawal of Proposed Rule    Proposed rule,                  75 FR 310-316
                                     to List Cook's Petrel         withdrawal..........
1/05/2010                           Final Rule to List the         Final Listing                   75 FR 235-250
                                     Galapagos Petrel and          Threatened..........
                                     Heinroth's Shearwater as
                                     Threatened Throughout Their
1/20/2010                           Initiation of Status Review    Notice of Intent to           75 FR 3190-3191
                                     for Agave eggersiana and      Conduct Status
                                     Solanum conocarpum             Review.
2/09/2010                           12-month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month            75 FR 6437-6471
                                     Petition to List the          petition finding,
                                     American Pika as Threatened    Not.
                                     or Endangered                 warranted...........
2/25/2010                           12-Month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month            75 FR 8601-8621
                                     Petition To List the Sonoran  petition finding,
                                     Desert Population of the       Not.
                                     Bald Eagle as a Threatened    warranted...........
                                     or Endangered Distinct
                                     Population Segment

[[Page 56045]]

2/25/2010                           Withdrawal of Proposed Rule    Withdrawal of                 75 FR 8621-8644
                                     To List the Southwestern       Proposed Rule to
                                     Washington/ Columbia River     List
                                     Distinct Population Segment
                                     of Coastal Cutthroat Trout
                                     (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki)
                                     as Threatened
3/18/2010                           90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 13068-13071
                                     to List the Berry Cave        Petition Finding,...
                                     salamander as Endangered      Substantial.........
3/23/2010                           90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 13717-13720
                                     to List the Southern          Petition Finding,...
                                     Hickorynut Mussel (Obovaria   Not substantial.....
                                     jacksoniana) as Endangered
                                     or Threatened
3/23/2010                           90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 13720-13726
                                     to List the Striped Newt as   Petition Finding,...
                                     Threatened                    Substantial.........
3/23/2010                           12-Month Findings for          Notice of 12-month          75 FR 13910-14014
                                     Petitions to List the         petition finding,...
                                     Greater Sage-Grouse           Warranted but.......
                                     (Centrocercus urophasianus)   precluded...........
                                     as Threatened or Endangered
3/31/2010                           12-Month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month          75 FR 16050-16065
                                     Petition to List the Tucson   petition finding,...
                                     Shovel-Nosed Snake            Warranted but.......
                                     (Chionactis occipitalis       precluded...........
                                     klauberi) as Threatened or
                                     Endangered with Critical
4/5/2010                            90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 17062-17070
                                     To List Thorne's Hairstreak   Petition Finding,...
                                     Butterfly as or Endangered    Substantial.........
4/6/2010                            12-month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month          75 FR 17352-17363
                                     Petition To List the          petition finding,
                                     Mountain Whitefish in the      Not.
                                     Big Lost River, Idaho, as     warranted...........
                                     Endangered or Threatened
4/6/2010                            90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 17363-17367
                                     to List a Stonefly (Isoperla  Petition Finding,...
                                     jewetti) and a Mayfly         Not substantial.....
                                     (Fallceon eatoni) as
                                     Threatened or Endangered
                                     with Critical Habitat
4/7/2010                            12-Month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month          75 FR 17667-17680
                                     Petition to Reclassify the    petition finding,...
                                     Delta Smelt From Threatened   Warranted but.......
                                     to Endangered Throughout Its  precluded...........
4/13/2010                           Determination of Endangered    Final Listing               75 FR 18959-19165
                                     Status for 48 Species on      Endangered..........
                                     Kauai and Designation of
                                     Critical Habitat
4/15/2010                           Initiation of Status Review    Notice of Initiation        75 FR 19591-19592
                                     of the North American          of Status Review
                                     Wolverine in the Contiguous
                                     United States
4/15/2010                           12-Month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month          75 FR 19592-19607
                                     Petition to List the Wyoming  petition finding,
                                     Pocket Gopher as Endangered    Not.
                                     or Threatened with Critical   warranted...........
4/16/2010                           90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 19925-19935
                                     to List a Distinct            Petition Finding,...
                                     Population Segment of the     Substantial.........
                                     Fisher in Its United States
                                     Northern Rocky Mountain
                                     Range as Endangered or
                                     Threatened with Critical
4/20/2010                           Initiation of Status Review    Notice of Initiation        75 FR 20547-20548
                                     for Sacramento splittail       of Status Review
4/26/2010                           90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 21568-21571
                                     to List the Harlequin         Petition Finding,...
                                     Butterfly as Endangered       Substantial.........
4/27/2010                           12-Month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month          75 FR 22012-22025
                                     Petition to List Susan's      petition finding,
                                     Purse-making Caddisfly         Not.
                                     (Ochrotrichia susanae) as     warranted...........
                                     Threatened or Endangered
4/27/2010                           90-day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 22063-22070
                                     to List the Mohave Ground     Petition Finding,...
                                     Squirrel as Endangered with   Substantial.........
                                     Critical Habitat

[[Page 56046]]

5/4/2010                            90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 23654-23663
                                     to List Hermes Copper         Petition Finding,...
                                     Butterfly as Threatened or    Substantial.........
6/1/2010                            90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 30313-30318
                                     To List Castanea pumila var.  Petition Finding,...
                                     ozarkensis                    Substantial.........
6/1/2010                            12-month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month          75 FR 30338-30363
                                     Petition to List the White-   petition finding,
                                     tailed Prairie Dog as          Not.
                                     Endangered or Threatened      warranted...........
6/9/2010                            90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 32728-32734
                                     To List van Rossem's Gull-    Petition Finding,...
                                     billed Tern as Endangered     Substantial.........
6/16/2010                           90-Day Finding on Five         Notice of 90-day            75 FR 34077-34088
                                     Petitions to List Seven       Petition Finding,...
                                     Species of Hawaiian Yellow-   Substantial.........
                                     faced Bees as Endangered
6/22/2010                           12-Month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month          75 FR 35398-35424
                                     Petition to List the Least    petition finding,...
                                     Chub as Threatened or         Warranted but.......
                                     Endangered                    precluded...........
6/23/2010                           90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 35746-35751
                                     to List the Honduran Emerald  Petition Finding,...
                                     Hummingbird as Endangered     Substantial.........
6/23/2010                           Listing Ipomopsis polyantha    Proposed Listing            75 FR 35721-35746
                                     (Pagosa Skyrocket) as         Endangered..........
                                     Endangered Throughout Its     Proposed Listing....
                                     Range, and Listing Penstemon  Threatened..........
                                     debilis (Parachute
                                     Beardtongue) and Phacelia
                                     submutica (DeBeque Phacelia)
                                     as Threatened Throughout
                                     Their Range
6/24/2010                           Listing the Flying Earwig      Final Listing               75 FR 35990-36012
                                     Hawaiian Damselfly and        Endangered..........
                                     Pacific Hawaiian Damselfly
                                     As Endangered Throughout
                                     Their Ranges
6/24/2010                           Listing the Cumberland         Proposed Listing            75 FR 36035-36057
                                     Darter, Rush Darter,          Endangered..........
                                     Yellowcheek Darter, Chucky
                                     Madtom, and Laurel Dace as
                                     Endangered Throughout Their
6/29/2010                           Listing the Mountain Plover    Reinstatement of            75 FR 37353-37358
                                     as Threatened                 Proposed Listing....
7/20/2010                           90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 42033-42040
                                     to List Pinus albicaulis      Petition Finding,...
                                     (Whitebark Pine) as           Substantial.........
                                     Endangered or Threatened
                                     with Critical Habitat
7/20/2010                           12-Month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month          75 FR 42040-42054
                                     Petition to List the          petition finding,
                                     Amargosa Toad as Threatened    Not.
                                     or Endangered                 warranted...........
7/20/2010                           90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 42059-42066
                                     to List the Giant Palouse     Petition Finding,...
                                     Earthworm (Driloleirus        Substantial.........
                                     americanus) as Threatened or
7/27/2010                           Determination on Listing the   Final Listing               75 FR 43844-43853
                                     Black-Breasted Puffleg as     Endangered..........
                                     Endangered Throughout its
                                     Range; Final Rule
7/27/2010                           Final Rule to List the Medium  Final Listing               75 FR 43853-43864
                                     Tree-Finch (Camarhynchus      Endangered..........
                                     pauper) as Endangered
                                     Throughout Its Range
8/3/2010                            Determination of Threatened    Final Listing               75 FR 45497-45527
                                     Status for Five Penguin       Threatened..........
8/4/2010                            90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 46894-46898
                                     To List the Mexican Gray      Petition Finding,...
                                     Wolf as an Endangered         Substantial.........
                                     Subspecies With Critical

[[Page 56047]]

8/10/2010                           90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 48294-48298
                                     to List Arctostaphylos        Petition Finding,...
                                     franciscana as Endangered     Substantial.........
                                     with Critical Habitat
8/17/2010                           Listing Three Foreign Bird     Final Listing               75 FR 50813-50842
                                     Species from Latin America    Endangered..........
                                     and the Caribbean as
                                     Endangered Throughout Their
8/17/2010                           90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 50739-50742
                                     to List Brian Head            Petition Finding,...
                                     Mountainsnail as              Not substantial.....
                                    Endangered or Threatened with
                                     Critical Habitat.
8/24/2010                           90-Day Finding on a Petition   Notice of 90-day            75 FR 51969-51974
                                     to List the Oklahoma Grass    Petition Finding,...
                                     Pink Orchid as Endangered or  Substantial.........
9/1/2010                            12-Month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month          75 FR 53615-53629
                                     Petition to List the White-   petition finding,
                                     Sided Jackrabbit as            Not.
                                     Threatened or Endangered      warranted...........
9/8/2010                            Proposed Rule To List the      Proposed Listing            75 FR 54561-54579
                                     Ozark Hellbender Salamander   Endangered..........
                                     as Endangered
9/8/2010                            Revised 12-Month Finding to    Notice of 12-month          75 FR 54707-54753
                                     List the Upper Missouri       petition finding,...
                                     River Distinct Population     Warranted but.......
                                     Segment of Arctic Grayling    precluded...........
                                     as Endangered or Threatened
9/9/2010                            12-Month Finding on a          Notice of 12-month          75 FR 54822-54845
                                     Petition to List the Jemez    petition finding,...
                                     Mountains Salamander          Warranted but.......
                                     (Plethodon neomexicanus) as   precluded...........
                                     Endangered or Threatened
                                     with Critical Habitat

    Our expeditious progress also includes work on listing actions that 
we funded in FY 2010 but have not yet been completed to date. These 
actions are listed below. Actions in the top section of the table are 
being conducted under a deadline set by a court. Actions in the middle 
section of the table are being conducted to meet statutory timelines, 
that is, timelines required under the Act. Actions in the bottom 
section of the table are high-priority listing actions. These actions 
include work primarily on species with an LPN of 2, and selection of 
these species is partially based on available staff resources, and when 
appropriate, include species with a lower priority if they overlap 
geographically or have the same threats as the species with the high 
priority. Including these species together in the same proposed rule 
results in considerable savings in time and funding, as compared to 
preparing separate proposed rules for each of them in the future.

             Actions funded in FY 2010 but not yet completed
                  Species                              Action
           Actions Subject to Court Order/Settlement Agreement
6 Birds from Eurasia                        Final listing determination
African penguin                             Final listing determination
Flat-tailed horned lizard                   Final listing determination
Mountain plover\4\                          Final listing determination
6 Birds from Peru                           Proposed listing
Sacramento splittail                        12-month petition finding
Pacific walrus                              12-month petition finding
Gunnison sage-grouse                        12-month petition finding
Wolverine                                   12-month petition finding
Agave eggergsiana                           12-month petition finding

[[Page 56048]]

Solanum conocarpum                          12-month petition finding
Sprague's pipit                             12-month petition finding
Desert tortoise - Sonoran population        12-month petition finding
Pygmy rabbit (rangewide)\1\                 12-month petition finding
Thorne's Hairstreak butterfly\3\            12-month petition finding
Hermes copper butterfly\3\                  12-month petition finding
                    Actions with Statutory Deadlines
Casey's june beetle                         Final listing determination
Georgia pigtoe, interrupted rocksnail, and  Final listing determination
 rough hornsnail
7 Bird species from Brazil                  Final listing determination
Southern rockhopper penguin - Campbell      Final listing determination
 Plateau population
5 Bird species from Colombia and Ecuador    Final listing determination
Queen Charlotte goshawk                     Final listing determination
5 species southeast fish (Cumberland        Final listing determination
 darter, rush darter, yellowcheek darter,
 chucky madtom, and laurel dace)
 Salmon crested cockatoo                    Proposed listing
CA golden trout                             12-month petition finding
Black-footed albatross                      12-month petition finding
Mount Charleston blue butterfly             12-month petition finding
Mojave fringe-toed lizard\1\                12-month petition finding
Kokanee - Lake Sammamish population\1\      12-month petition finding
Cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl\1\             12-month petition finding
Northern leopard frog                       12-month petition finding
Tehachapi slender salamander                12-month petition finding
Coqui Llanero                               12-month petition finding
Dusky tree vole                             12-month petition finding
3 MT invertebrates (mist forestfly(Lednia   12-month petition finding
 tumana), Oreohelix sp.3, Oreohelix sp.
 31) from 206 species petition
5 UT plants (Astragalus hamiltonii,         12-month petition finding
 Eriogonum soredium, Lepidium ostleri,
 Penstemon flowersii, Trifolium friscanum)
 from 206 species petition
2 CO plants (Astragalus microcymbus,        12-month petition finding
 Astragalus schmolliae) from 206 species
5 WY plants (Abronia ammophila, Agrostis    12-month petition finding
 rossiae, Astragalus proimanthus, Boechere
 (Arabis) pusilla, Penstemon gibbensii)
 from 206 species petition
Leatherside chub (from 206 species          12-month petition finding
Frigid ambersnail (from 206 species         12-month petition finding
Gopher tortoise - eastern population        12-month petition finding
Wrights marsh thistle                       12-month petition finding
67 of 475 southwest species                 12-month petition finding
Grand Canyon scorpion (from 475 species     12-month petition finding

[[Page 56049]]

Anacroneuria wipukupa (a stonefly from 475  12-month petition finding
 species petition)
Rattlesnake-master borer moth (from 475     12-month petition finding
 species petition)
3 Texas moths (Ursia furtiva, Sphingicampa  12-month petition finding
 blanchardi, Agapema galbina) (from 475
 species petition)
2 Texas shiners (Cyprinella sp.,            12-month petition finding
 Cyprinella lepida) (from 475 species
3 South Arizona plants (Erigeron            12-month petition finding
 piscaticus, Astragalus hypoxylus,
 Amoreuxia gonzalezii) (from 475 species
5 Central Texas mussel species (3 from 474  12-month petition finding
 species petition)
14 parrots (foreign species)                12-month petition finding
Berry Cave salamander\1\                    12-month petition finding
Striped Newt\1\                             12-month petition finding
Fisher - Northern Rocky Mountain Range\1\   12-month petition finding
Mohave Ground Squirrel\1\                   12-month petition finding
Puerto Rico Harlequin Butterfly             12-month petition finding
Western gull-billed tern                    12-month petition finding
Ozark chinquapin (Castanea pumila var.      12-month petition finding
HI yellow-faced bees                        12-month petition finding
Giant Palouse earthworm                     12-month petition finding
Whitebark pine                              12-month petition finding
OK grass pink (Calopogon oklahomensis)\1\   12-month petition finding
Southeastern pop snowy plover & wintering   90-day petition finding
 pop. of piping plover\1\
Eagle Lake trout\1\                         90-day petition finding
Smooth-billed ani\1\                        90-day petition finding
Bay Springs salamander\1\                   90-day petition finding
32 species of snails and slugs\1\           90-day petition finding
42 snail species (Nevada & Utah)            90-day petition finding
Red knot roselaari subspecies               90-day petition finding
Peary caribou                               90-day petition finding
Plains bison                                90-day petition finding
Spring Mountains checkerspot butterfly      90-day petition finding
Spring pygmy sunfish                        90-day petition finding
Bay skipper                                 90-day petition finding
Unsilvered fritillary                       90-day petition finding
Texas kangaroo rat                          90-day petition finding
Spot-tailed earless lizard                  90-day petition finding
Eastern small-footed bat                    90-day petition finding
Northern long-eared bat                     90-day petition finding
Prairie chub                                90-day petition finding

[[Page 56050]]

10 species of Great Basin butterfly         90-day petition finding
6 sand dune (scarab) beetles                90-day petition finding
Golden-winged warbler                       90-day petition finding
Sand-verbena moth                           90-day petition finding
404 Southeast species                       90-day petition finding
                    High-Priority Listing Actions\3\
19 Oahu candidate species\2\ (16 plants, 3  Proposed listing
 damselflies) (15 with LPN = 2, 3 with LPN
 = 3, 1 with LPN =9)
19 Maui-Nui candidate species\2\ (16        Proposed listing
 plants, 3 tree snails) (14 with LPN = 2,
 2 with LPN = 3, 3 with LPN = 8)
Dune sagebrush lizard (formerly Sand dune   Proposed listing
 lizard)\3\ (LPN = 2)
2 Arizona springsnails\2\ (Pyrgulopsis      Proposed listing
 bernadina (LPN = 2), Pyrgulopsis
 trivialis (LPN = 2))
 New Mexico springsnail\2\ (Pyrgulopsis     Proposed listing
 chupaderae (LPN = 2)
2 mussels\2\ (rayed bean (LPN = 2),         Proposed listing
 snuffbox No LPN)
2 mussels\2\ (sheepnose (LPN = 2),          Proposed listing
 spectaclecase (LPN = 4),)
Altamaha spinymussel\2\ (LPN = 2)           Proposed listing
8 southeast mussels (southern kidneyshell   Proposed listing
 (LPN = 2), round ebonyshell (LPN = 2),
 Alabama pearlshell (LPN = 2), southern
 sandshell (LPN = 5), fuzzy pigtoe (LPN =
 5), Choctaw bean (LPN = 5), narrow pigtoe
 (LPN = 5), and tapered pigtoe (LPN = 11))
\1\ Funds for listing actions for these species were provided in
  previous FYs.
\2\ Although funds for these high-priority listing actions were provided
  in FY 2008 or 2009, due to the complexity of these actions and
  competing priorities, these actions are still being developed.
\3\ Partially funded with FY 2010 funds; also will be funded with FY
  2011 funds.

    We have endeavored to make our listing actions as efficient and 
timely as possible, given the requirements of the relevant law and 
regulations, and constraints relating to workload and personnel. We are 
continually considering ways to streamline processes or achieve 
economies of scale, such as by batching related actions together. Given 
our limited budget for implementing section 4 of the Act, these actions 
described above collectively constitute expeditious progress.
    The Sprague's pipit will be added to the list of candidate species 
upon publication of this 12-month finding. We will continue to monitor 
the status of this species as new information becomes available. This 
review will determine if a change in status is warranted, including the 
need to make prompt use of emergency listing procedures.
    We intend that any proposed listing action for the Sprague's pipit 
will be as accurate as possible. Therefore, we will continue to accept 
additional information and comments from all concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning this finding.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available on the Internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the North Dakota Field 
Office (see ADDRESSES).


    The primary authors of this notice are the staff members of the 
North Dakota Field Office.


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

    Dated: September 2, 2010
Paul R. Schmidt
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service

[FR Doc. 2010-22967 Filed 9-14- 10; 8:45 am]