[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 125 (Wednesday, June 29, 2011)]
[Pages 38203-38204]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-16379]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-ES-2011-N092; 10120-1113-0000-C2]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Amendment to the 
Draft Recovery Plan for the Columbia Basin Distinct Population Segment 
of the Pygmy Rabbit

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of an amendment to the Draft Recovery Plan for the 
Columbia Basin Distinct Population Segment of the Pygmy Rabbit 
(Brachylagus idahoensis) for public review and comment. This amendment 
updates the recovery strategies and objectives that were developed in 
the 2007 Draft Recovery Plan, based on new information about genetics, 
disease risk, and habitat associations of the species.

DATES: We must receive any comments on the amendment to the draft 
recovery plan on or before August 29, 2011.

ADDRESSES: An electronic copy of the draft recovery plan amendment is 
available at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/species/recovery-plans.html 
and http://www.fws.gov/pacific/ecoservices/endangered/recovery/plans.html. Copies of the draft recovery

[[Page 38204]]

plan amendment are also available by request from the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Eastern Washington Field Office, 11103 E. Montgomery 
Drive, Spokane Valley, WA 99206 (telephone: 509-891-6839). Written 
comments and materials regarding this draft recovery plan amendment 
should be addressed to the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Warren, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, by writing to the above address, by calling 509-893-8020, or 
by electronic mail at: chris_warren@fws.gov.



    Recovery of endangered or threatened animals and plants is a 
primary goal of our endangered species program and the Endangered 
Species Act (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Recovery means improvement 
of the status of listed species to the point at which listing is no 
longer appropriate under the criteria set out in section 4(a)(1) of the 
    The Act requires the development of recovery plans for listed 
species unless such a plan would not promote the conservation of a 
particular species. Recovery plans help guide conservation efforts by 
describing actions considered necessary for the recovery of the 
species, establishing criteria for downlisting or delisting listed 
species, and estimating time and cost for implementing the measures 
needed for recovery. Section 4(f) of the Act requires that public 
notice and an opportunity for public review and comment be provided 
during recovery plan development. A draft recovery plan for the 
Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit was made available for public comment from 
September 7 to November 6, 2007 (72 FR 51461). The recovery plan has 
not yet been finalized; because new scientific information has 
substantially changed our recommended recovery strategy, we are now 
publishing this amendment to the draft recovery plan for additional 
public comment before we prepare a final recovery plan.
    We will consider all comments we receive during the public comment 
period. Substantive comments may or may not result in changes to the 
recovery plan; comments regarding recovery plan implementation will be 
forwarded to appropriate Federal or other entities so that they can 
take them into account during the course of implementing recovery 
actions. Responses to individual commenters will not be provided, but 
we will provide a summary of how we addressed substantive comments in 
an appendix to the final recovery plan.
    Pygmy rabbits are typically found in habitat types that include 
tall, dense stands of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), on which they are 
highly dependent for both food and shelter throughout the year. 
Historically, pygmy rabbits were found throughout the semi-arid 
sagebrush steppe biome of the Great Basin and adjacent intermountain 
regions of the western United States, including portions of Oregon, 
California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Washington. The 
population within the Columbia Basin of central Washington is disjunct 
from the remainder of the species' range. Museum specimens and sighting 
records indicate that during the first half of the 20th century, the 
Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit likely occurred in portions of six 
Washington counties: Douglas, Grant, Lincoln, Adams, Franklin, and 
Benton. This range declined due to large-scale loss and fragmentation 
of native shrub-steppe habitats, primarily for agricultural 
development, and by the late 1980s it was known only from southern 
Douglas County. We listed the Columbia Basin distinct population 
segment of the pygmy rabbit under emergency provisions of the Act on 
November 30, 2001 (66 FR 59734), and fully listed it as endangered on 
March 5, 2003 (68 FR 10388).
    The last known wild population of the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit 
was extirpated in 2004, and an experimental release of 20 captive 
individuals in 2007 failed. The remaining captive population is derived 
from controlled intercross breeding between Columbia Basin individuals 
and pygmy rabbits of the same taxonomic classification from Idaho, and 
currently comprises 92 individuals averaging 65 percent Columbia Basin 
ancestry. The condition of the captive population has deteriorated in 
recent years due to poor reproductive success, soil-borne diseases, 
habituation to captive conditions, and genetic bottlenecks. The 
prospects for long-term viability of the population in captivity are 
considered poor. The recovery plan amendment recommends that, to 
effectively reintroduce captive rabbits to the wild, 100 to 200 rabbits 
should be released annually for up to 3 years; this program will 
include supplementation of the captive pygmy rabbits with wild pygmy 
rabbits translocated from outside of the Columbia Basin. The amendment 
also recommends surveys of suitable habitat within the Columbia Basin 
to locate undiscovered populations of wild Columbia Basin pygmy 

Public Comments Solicited

    We solicit written comments on the amendment to the draft recovery 
plan described in this notice. All comments received by the date 
specified above will be considered in development of a final recovery 
plan for the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit.

    Authority: The authority for this action is section 4(f) of the 
Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533(f).

    Dated: June 8, 2011.
Theresa E. Rabot,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2011-16379 Filed 6-28-11; 8:45 am]