[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 127 (Tuesday, July 2, 2013)]
[Pages 39763-39765]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-15945]



Fish and Wildlife Service

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

Recovery Plan Addendum; Thick-Billed Parrot

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final recovery plan addendum for the Thick-billed 
Parrot, which is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended (Act). We have developed this final 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 but has not been 
detected in the United States (U.S.) since 1938; however, historically 
the northern edge of its range also included southern Arizona and 
possibly southwestern New Mexico. The recovery plan addendum includes 
specific recovery objectives and criteria to be met in order to enable 
us to remove this species from the list of endangered and threatened 
wildlife and plants.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to review the recovery plan addendum, you may 
obtain a copy by any one of the following methods:
    Internet: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/arizona/T-B_Parrot.htm 
or http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ElectronicLibrary_ListDocs.cfm Find 
    U.S. mail: Arizona Ecological Services Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Phoenix, AZ 85021-4951; or
    Telephone: 602-242-0210.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Sferra, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at Arizona Ecological Services Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 201 N Bonita Ave., Suite 141, Tucson AZ 85745; or 
Telephone: (520) 670-6150 ext 230, or by email at Susan_Sferra@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We announce the availability of our final 
recovery plan addendum for the thick-billed parrot (Rhynchopsitta 
pachyrhyncha). The recovery plan addendum was prepared by biologists 
from the United States with participation by experts in Mexico. We made 
the draft recovery plan addendum available via a Federal Register 
notice published on June 19, 2012 (77 FR 36569); this notice opened a 
comment period that ran through August 20, 2012, and requested comments 
from local, State, and Federal agencies; Tribes; and the public. We 
considered information we received from these entities, as well as that 
obtained from fourteen independent peer reviewers, in finalizing this 
revised recovery plan.


    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

[[Page 39764]]

development of recovery plans for listed species, unless such a plan 
would not promote the conservation of a particular species.

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). The last confirmed report of a thick-billed parrot flock in 
United States was from the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona 
in 1938 (Monson and Phillips 1981 in Snyder et al. 1999). Loss of 
thick-billed parrots in the U.S. 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 2, 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 no longer occur in the United States, 
the Service has developed this 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 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 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-
conifer 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). Loss 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.

[[Page 39765]]

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 Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants 
(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 recovery plan addendum identifies the following 
     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 recovery plan addendum contains recovery criteria based on 
maintaining and increasing population numbers and habitat quality and 
quantity. The 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.

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 final 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 20, 2013.
Joy E. Nicholopoulos,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
[FR Doc. 2013-15945 Filed 7-1-13; 8:45 am]