[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 118 (Tuesday, June 19, 2012)]
[Pages 36569-36571]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-14853]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2012-N128; FXES11130200000C2-112-FF02ENEH00]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Thick-Billed 
Parrot Draft Recovery Plan Addendum

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our Draft Recovery Plan Addendum for the Thick-billed 
Parrot under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We 
have developed this draft recovery plan addendum to comply with a 
December 14, 2010, Stipulated Settlement Agreement between WildEarth 
Guardians and the Secretary of the Interior. This species is currently 
found in Mexico and is believed to be extirpated from the United 
States; however, historically its range also included southern Arizona 
and possibly southwestern New Mexico. We request review and comment on 
this addendum from local, State, and Federal agencies; Tribes; and the 
public. We will also accept any new information on the status of the 
thick-billed parrot throughout its range to assist in finalizing the 
addendum to the recovery plan.

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DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive written comments on or 
before August 20, 2012. However, we will accept information about any 
species at any time.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to review the draft addendum, you may obtain a 
copy by visiting our Web site at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/arizona (type ``thick-billed parrot'' in the document title search 
field) or http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Documents/R2ES/Thick-billed_Parrot_Draft_Recovery_Plan_Addendum_June_2012.pdf.
    Alternatively, you may contact the Arizona Ecological Services 
Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, 
Phoenix, AZ 85021-4951 (602-242-0210, phone). If you wish to comment on 
the draft addendum, you may submit your comments in writing by any one 
of the following methods:
     U.S. mail: Field Supervisor, at the above address;
     Hand-delivery: Arizona Ecological Services Office at the 
above address;
     Fax: (602) 242-2513; or
     Email: Steve_Spangle@fws.gov.
    For additional information about submitting comments, see the 
``Request for Public Comments'' section below.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Sferra, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at the above address and phone number, or email at Susan_Sferra@fws.gov.



    Recovery of endangered or threatened animals and plants to the 
point where they are again secure, self-sustaining members of their 
ecosystems is a primary goal of our endangered species program and the 
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 Act. 
The Act requires the development of recovery plans for listed species, 
unless such a plan would not promote the conservation of a particular 

Species' History

    Historically the thick-billed parrot's range extended from Mexico 
into southern Arizona and possibly southwestern New Mexico in the 
United States. There are no formal historical nesting records for the 
United States; however, thick-billed parrots visited southeastern 
Arizona, and in some years large flocks were observed (Snyder et al. 
1999). At present, this species is believed to be extirpated from the 
United States, with the last confirmed report of a thick-billed parrot 
flock in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona in 1938 
(Monson and Phillips 1981 in Snyder et al. 1999). Extirpation of the 
U.S. population was likely caused by excessive, unregulated shooting 
(Snyder et al. 1999). In Mexico, this species occurs in the States of 
Chihuahua, Sonora, Durango, Jalisco, Colima, and Michoac[aacute]n, 
spanning the Sierra Madre Occidental.
    The thick-billed parrot (Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha) was listed as 
an endangered species on June 3, 1970 (35 FR 8491), pursuant to the 
Endangered Species Conservation Act (ESCA), the precursor of the 
Endangered Species Act. Based on the different listing procedures for 
foreign and domestic species under the ESCA, the thick-billed parrot 
was listed as a ``foreign'' species. When the Endangered Species Act 
replaced the ESCA, the thick-billed parrot was not carried forward onto 
the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants 
(List) for the United States due to an oversight, although the thick-
billed parrot remained listed in Mexico. Subsequently, the parrot was 
proposed to be listed in the United States on July 25, 1980, wherein 
the proposed listing rule acknowledged that it was always the intention 
of the Service to list the thick-billed parrot as endangered in the 
United States (see 45 FR 49844, page 49845). In 2009, the U.S. 
Department of the Interior's Assistant Solicitor for Fish and Wildlife 
provided an explanation stating that the species has always been listed 
as endangered throughout its entire range (see 74 FR 33957). Today, the 
thick-billed parrot is listed throughout its range, including Mexico 
and the United States. Critical habitat has not been proposed for the 
thick-billed parrot.
    Although thick-billed parrots are currently extirpated from the 
United States, the Service has developed this draft recovery plan 
addendum to comply with the December 14, 2010, Stipulated Settlement 
Agreement between WildEarth Guardians and the Secretary of the 
Interior. The Thick-billed Parrot Draft Recovery Plan Addendum was 
created by adopting the 2009 thick-billed parrot recovery plan for 
Mexico, ``Programa de Acci[oacute]n para la Conservaci[oacute]n de las 
Especies: Cotorras Serranas (PACE),'' and adding contents required by 
the Act (such as Recovery Criteria, Management Actions in the United 
States, and an Implementation Table) as an Addendum. In addition to 
statutory requirements of the Act, this draft addendum to the PACE 
addresses the species' historical occurrence in the United States, 
summarizes information from scientific literature and U.S. and Mexican 
biologists regarding the status and threats to the thick-billed parrot, 
and presents additional information required by U.S. recovery planning 
policy. We support the strategy for recovering the thick-billed parrot 
set forth in the PACE (2009) and note that this is the first time the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is adopting a Mexican recovery 
plan for a species to serve as the best available science to inform a 
U.S. recovery plan.
    The PACE was initiated by the Mexican National Commission of 
Protected Natural Areas (Comisi[oacute]n Nacional de [Aacute]reas 
Protegidas, CONANP) under the 2007 Federal ``Commitment to 
Conservation'' programs in Mexico. Experts and public officials were 
brought together to prevent the deterioration of Mexican ecosystems and 
biodiversity. Thirty-five priority and endangered species were 
selected, including the thick-billed parrot, with the objective of 
creating the framework for, coordinating, and promoting the Federal 
government's efforts to recover these species within the Conservation 
Program for Species at Risk (PROCER). The focus of the PACE (2009) is 
on extant populations of the thick-billed parrot; it does not address 
extirpated thick-billed parrots or their historical range in the United 
States. As a result, our recovery actions are focused primarily on 
conservation within the current range of this species in Mexico and, to 
a lesser degree, on the potential for expansion into the historical 
range in the United States. Recommended actions for addressing current 
threats to the species and evaluating recovery may be applied or 
refined in the future.
    The parrot's current range is limited to high elevations of the 
Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico, extending from northwestern 
Chihuahua and northeastern Sonora into Durango and continuing in a 
southeasterly direction to Jalisco, Colima, and Michoac[aacute]n. 
Thick-billed parrots migrate seasonally from their primary breeding 
(summering) grounds in Chihuahua to wintering areas farther south, 
possibly migrating 1,000 kilometers (km) (621 miles (mi)) or more 
between their summering and wintering areas (Snyder et al. 1999, PACE 
2009). The northernmost breeding area is Mesa de Guacamayas, located 
within 80 km (50 mi) of the U.S.-Mexico border (Snyder et al. 1999).
    Thick-billed parrots live in gregarious flocks in old-growth mixed-

[[Page 36571]]

forests and require a diversity of food resources and the availability 
of size-specific cavities for nesting. The thick-billed parrot 
primarily feeds on seeds of several pine species, and to a lesser 
extent on acorns and terminal buds of pine trees (Snyder et al. 1999). 
As an obligate cavity nester, the thick-billed parrot needs cavities 
typically found in large-diameter pines and snags. Because of their 
specialized habitat needs, thick-billed parrot populations have 
experienced significant historical declines, corresponding to a drastic 
loss of high-elevation mixed-conifer forests, mainly from a legacy of 
logging. Only 1 percent of the old-growth forests is estimated to 
remain, supporting small populations of thick-billed parrots 
concentrated in a handful of sites.
    Threats to the thick-billed parrot include loss of habitat, 
primarily driven by extensive logging of large mature pines, removal of 
nesting snags (Snyder et al. 1999), and, to a lesser degree, 
catastrophic forest fires (PACE 2009); low numbers of individuals and 
small remaining populations, leaving them vulnerable to stochastic 
events; removal of birds from the wild in Mexico for the illegal pet 
trade; and climate change, based on projections for the Southwestern 
United States and northern Mexico predicting warmer, drier, and more 
drought-like conditions (Hoerling and Eischeid 2007; Seager et al. 
2007). Extirpation of the thick-billed parrot in the United States was 
likely caused by excessive, unregulated shooting (Snyder et al. 1999). 
The recovery plan addendum recommends protection of currently occupied 
habitat; additional research to understand relationships between 
habitat, migration patterns, and population dynamics; development of a 
standardized monitoring protocol; development of replacement nesting 
habitat; verification of occupied wintering habitat; development of 
forest management plans; and the enforcement of existing environmental 
and species collection laws. The plan recognizes the need to manage 
these forest landscapes in both the United States and Mexico to 
maximize resources for the species.

Recovery Plan Goals

    The objective of an agency recovery plan is to provide a framework 
for the recovery of a species so that protection under the Act is no 
longer necessary. A recovery plan includes scientific information about 
the species and provides criteria and actions necessary for us to be 
able to reclassify the species to threatened status or remove it from 
the List. Recovery plans help guide our recovery efforts by describing 
actions we consider necessary for the species' conservation, and by 
estimating time and costs for implementing needed recovery measures. To 
achieve its goals, this draft recovery plan addendum identifies the 
following objectives:
     Support the thick-billed parrot throughout its range in 
     Maintain habitat conditions necessary to provide feeding, 
nesting, and wintering habitat for the thick-billed parrot through 
     Assess the potential for the United States to support 
naturally dispersing or actively relocated thick-billed parrots, 
including a review of U.S. historical habitat, current habitat 
management, and habitat connectivity with Mexico.
    The draft recovery plan addendum contains recovery criteria based 
on maintaining and increasing population numbers and habitat quality 
and quantity. The draft recovery plan addendum focuses on protecting 
populations, managing threats, maintaining habitat, monitoring 
progress, and building partnerships to facilitate recovery.
    As the thick-billed parrot meets recovery criteria, we will review 
the subspecies' status and consider downlisting, and, ultimately, 
removal from the List.

Request for Public Comments

    Section 4(f) of the Act requires us to provide public notice and an 
opportunity for public review and comment during recovery plan 
development. It is also our policy to request peer review of recovery 
plans (July 1, 1994; 59 FR 34270). In an appendix to the approved 
recovery plan, we will summarize and respond to the issues raised by 
the public and peer reviewers. Substantive comments may or may not 
result in changes to the recovery plan; comments regarding recovery 
plan implementation will be forwarded as appropriate to Federal or 
other entities so that they can be taken 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 approved recovery plan.
    We invite written comments on the draft recovery plan addendum. In 
particular, we are interested in additional information regarding the 
current threats to the species and the costs associated with 
implementing the recommended recovery actions. We provide an English 
translation of the PACE in Appendix B of the addendum; however, we will 
not address comments specific to the content of the PACE, as this 
document was finalized by CONANP in 2009.
    Before we approve our draft addendum, we will consider all comments 
we receive by the date specified in DATES above. Methods of submitting 
comments are in the ADDRESSES section above.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.
    Comments and materials we receive will be available, by 
appointment, for public inspection during normal business hours at our 
office (see ADDRESSES).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Branch of Recovery 


    We developed our draft recovery plan addendum under the authority 
of section 4(f) of the Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533(f). We publish this notice 
under section 4(f) Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: June 6, 2012.
Benjamin Tuggle,
Regional Director, Southwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2012-14853 Filed 6-18-12; 8:45 am]