[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 131 (Tuesday, July 9, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 41022-41024]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-16111]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2012-0071; 4500030113]
RIN 1018-AY21

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 6-Month Extension 
of Final Determination for the Proposed Listing of the Lesser Prairie-
Chicken as a Threatened Species

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; reopening of comment period.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
6-month extension of the final determination of whether to list the 
lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) as a threatened 
species and reopen the comment period on the proposed rule to list the 
species. We are taking this action based on our finding that there is 
substantial disagreement regarding the sufficiency or accuracy of the 
available data relevant to our determination regarding the proposed 
listing rule, making it necessary to solicit additional information by 
reopening the comment period for 30 days.

DATES: The comment period end date is August 8, 2013. If you comment 
using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES), you must submit 
your comment by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date.

ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments by one of the following 
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R2-ES-2012-0071, 
which is the docket number for the proposed rule to list the lesser 
prairie-chicken as threatened. Then, in the Search panel on the left 
side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, check on the 
Proposed Rules link to located the proposed rule. You may submit a 
comment by clicking on ``Comment Now!''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2012-0071; Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described 
above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide 
us (see the Public Comments section below for more information).

Supervisor, Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office, 9014 East 21st 
Street, Tulsa, OK 74129; by telephone 918-581-7458; or by facsimile 
918-581-7467. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf 
(TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-



    On December 11, 2012, we published in the Federal Register a 
proposed rule (77 FR 73828) to list the lesser prairie-chicken 
(Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), a grassland bird known from southeastern 
Colorado, western Kansas, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, and the 
Texas Panhandle, as a threatened species under the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

[[Page 41023]]

For a description of previous Federal actions concerning the lesser 
prairie-chicken, please refer to the proposed rule. The proposed 
listing rule had a 90-day comment period, ending March 11, 2013. We 
held a public meeting and hearing in Woodward, Oklahoma, on February 5, 
2013; in Garden City, Kansas, on February 7, 2013; in Lubbock, Texas, 
on February 11, 2013; and in Roswell, New Mexico, on February 12, 2013. 
On May 6, 2013, we reopened the comment period on the proposed listing 
rule and proposed a special rule under the authority of section 4(d) of 
the Act that provides measures that are necessary and advisable to 
provide for the conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken (78 FR 
26302). The reopening of the comment period closed June 20, 2013.
    Section 4(b)(6) of the Act and its implementing regulation, 50 
C.F.R. 424.17(a), requires that we take one of three actions within 1 
year of a proposed listing: (1) Finalize the proposed listing; (2) 
withdraw the proposed listing; or (3) extend the final determination by 
not more than 6 months, if there is substantial disagreement among 
scientists knowledgeable about the species regarding the sufficiency or 
accuracy of the available data relevant to the determination, for the 
purposes of soliciting additional data.
    During the public comment periods, we received multiple comments on 
the proposed listing and the sufficiency or accuracy of the available 
data used to support the proposed listing. In particular, commenters 
raised questions regarding:
    (1) The interpretation of scientific literature in the proposed 
rulemaking and scientific literature that we may have overlooked in our 
analysis. Specifically, commenters were concerned with the 
appropriateness of our interpretation of habitat fragmentation, 
grassland conversion, and collision mortality.
    (2) Whether the Service considered the effectiveness of 
conservation practices of the oil and gas industry, and of agricultural 
practices, including grazing management, brush management, and water 
development, in relation to reducing threats. In particular, the U.S. 
Department of Agriculture provided a letter that questioned the 
adequacy of our evaluation of conservation measures associated with 
agricultural practices.
    (3) The accuracy of short-term and long-term population trends of 
the lesser prairie-chicken, particularly as it relates to climate 
change. Specifically, commenters recommended a more thorough analysis 
of the U.S. Geological Survey's Great Plains modeling effort.
    As a result of the public comments we have received, we find that 
there is substantial disagreement regarding the sufficiency or accuracy 
of the available data that is relevant to our determination of the 
proposed listing. Therefore, in consideration of these disagreements, 
we have determined that a 6-month extension of final determination of 
this rulemaking is warranted, and we are hereby extending the final 
determination for up to 6 months in order to solicit information that 
will help to clarify these issues and to fully analyze this 
    As noted in the proposed listing rule (77 FR 73828), we were 
previously required by the terms of judicially approved settlement 
agreement to make a final determination on the lesser prairie-chicken 
proposed listing rule no later than September 30, 2013. Therefore, with 
this 6-month extension, we will make a final determination on the 
proposed rule no later than March 30, 2014.

Public Comments

    We will accept written comments and information during this 
reopened comment period on our proposed listing for the lesser prairie-
chicken that was published in the Federal Register on December 11, 2012 
(77 FR 73828), and on our proposed 4(d) special rule for the species 
that was published in the Federal Register on May 6, 2013 (78 FR 
26302). We will consider information and recommendations from all 
interested parties. We intend that any final action resulting from the 
proposals be as accurate as possible and based on the best available 
scientific and commercial data.
    In consideration of the disagreements surrounding the data used to 
support the proposed rulemaking, we are extending the final 
determination for 6 months in order to solicit information that will 
help to clarify these issues. We are particularly interested in new 
information and comments regarding:
    (1) The historical and current status and distribution of the 
lesser prairie-chicken, its biology and ecology, specific threats (or 
lack thereof) and regulations that may be addressing those threats, and 
ongoing conservation measures for the species and its habitat.
    (2) Information relevant to the factors that are the basis for 
making a listing determination for a species under section 4(a) of the 
Act, which are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of the species' 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 
    (3) Application of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Interstate Working 
Group's draft rangewide conservation plan to our determination of 
status under section 4(a)(1) of the Act; we particularly request 
comments or information to help us assess the certainty that the 
rangewide conservation plan will be effective in conserving the lesser 
prairie-chicken and will be implemented.
    (4) Which areas would be appropriate as critical habitat for the 
species and why areas should or should not be proposed for designation 
as critical habitat, including whether any threats to the species from 
human activity would be expected to increase due to the designation and 
whether that increase in threat would outweigh the benefit of 
designation such that the designation of critical habitat may not be 
    (5) Specific information on:
    (a) The amount and distribution of habitat for the lesser prairie-
    (b) What may constitute ``physical or biological features essential 
to the conservation of the species,'' within the geographical range 
currently occupied by the species;
    (c) Where these features are currently found;
    (d) Whether any of these features may require special management 
considerations or protection;
    (e) What areas, that were occupied at the time of listing (or are 
currently occupied) and that contain features essential to the 
conservation of the species, should be included in the designation and 
why; and
    (f) What areas not occupied at the time of listing are essential 
for the conservation of the species and why.
    (6) Information on the projected and reasonably likely impacts of 
climate change on the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat.
    (7) Whether measures outlined in the proposed 4(d) special rule are 
necessary and advisable for the conservation and management of the 
lesser prairie-chicken.
    (8) Additional provisions the Service may wish to consider for the 
proposed 4(d) special rule in order to conserve, recover, and manage 
the lesser prairie-chicken.

[[Page 41024]]

    If you previously submitted comments or information on the proposed 
listing rule or proposed special 4(d) rule, please do not resubmit 
them. We have incorporated them into the public record, and we will 
fully consider them in the preparation of our final determination. Our 
final determination concerning this proposed listing will take into 
consideration all written comments and any additional information we 
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning the proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you 
send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES.
    If you submit a comment via http://www.regulations.gov, your entire 
comment--including any personal identifying information--will be posted 
on the Web site. We will post all hardcopy comments on http://www.regulations.gov as well. If you submit a hardcopy comment that 
includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top 
of your document that we withhold this information from public review. 
However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing the proposed rule, will be available 
for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-
R2-ES-2012-0071, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oklahoma Ecological Services Field 
Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). You may obtain copies of 
the proposed rule on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at 
Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2012-0071, or by mail from the Oklahoma Ecological 


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

    Dated: June 26, 2013.
Stephen Guertin,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-16111 Filed 7-8-13; 8:45 am]