[Federal Register: January 22, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 14)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 3301-3306]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AE54

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Rule To 
List the Plant Lesquerella Thamnophila (Zapata Bladderpod) as 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposes to list the 
plant Lesquerella thamnophila (Zapata bladderpod) as an endangered 
species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
Lesquerella thamnophila is known from four locations in Zapata and 
Starr Counties, Texas. This species is threatened by increased urban 
development, highway construction, increased oil and gas

[[Page 3302]]

activities, alteration and conversion of native plant communities to 
improved pastures, overgrazing, and vulnerability from low population 
numbers. This proposal, if made final, will extend the Act's protection 
to Lesquerella thamnophila. Designation of critical habitat is not 
being proposed because the Service has determined such designation is 
not prudent.

DATES: Comments from all interested parties must be received by March 
23, 1998. Public hearing requests must be received by March 9, 1998.

ADDRESSES: Comments and materials concerning this proposal should be 
sent to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Ecological Services Field Office, c/o Texas A&M University-Corpus 
Christi, Campus Box 338, 6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, Texas 78412. 
Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Field Supervisor of the Corpus Christi 
Ecological Services Field Office in Corpus Christi, Texas. (Telephone 
512-994-9005; Facsimile 512-994-8262).



    Lesquerella thamnophila, a member of the mustard family, was first 
collected in Zapata County, Texas by R.C. Rollins in 1959. The species 
was named Lesquerella thamnophila in 1973 by R.C. Rollins and E.A. Shaw 
in their work on the genus Lesquerella (Rollins and Shaw 1973). The few 
collected specimens of Lesquerella thamnophila have all come from 
Zapata and Starr Counties in southern Texas.
    Lesquerella thamnophila is a pubescent, somewhat silvery-green 
herbaceous perennial plant with sprawling stems 43-85 centimeters (cm) 
(16-32 inches (in)) long. It has narrow basal leaves 4-12 cm (1.5-4.7 
in) long and 7-15 millimeters (mm) (0.3-0.6 in) wide, with entire to 
wavy or slightly toothed margins. The stem leaves are 3-4 cm (1-1.5 in) 
long and 2-8 mm (0.1-0.3 in) wide, with margins similar to the basal 
leaves. The inflorescences, usually appearing in April but dependent 
upon the timing of spring rains, are loose racemes of yellow-petaled 
flowers. Fruits are round and 4.5-6.5 mm (0.2-0.8 in) in diameter on 
short downward curving pedicels (Poole 1989).
    Lesquerella thamnophila occurs on level to sloping terrain in 
gravelly to sandy-loam upland terrace or Rio Grande floodplain soils. 
Known locations are associated with three Eocene-age geologic 
formations--the Jackson, Laredo, and Yegua--which have yielded 
fossiliferous and calcareous sandstones and clays. The Starr County 
sites for Lesquerella thamnophila occur within the Jimenez-Quemado soil 
association and on Catarina series soils. Jimenez-Quemado soils are 
well-drained, shallow, gravelly to sandy loams underlain by caliche. 
Catarina series soils are clayey, saline upland soils developed from 
calcareous, gypsiferous, or saline clays that usually contain many 
drainages and erosional features. The underlying material of these 
soils contains many calcareous concretions, gypsum crystals, and marine 
shell fragments (Thompson, et al. 1972).
    The soils of Zapata County have not been mapped in detail, but the 
bladderpod sites in Zapata County occur within the Zapata-Maverick soil 
association, based upon the general soils map for the county. Zapata 
soils are shallow and well-drained, occurring over caliche. Maverick 
soils are upland clayey soils occurring over caliche with the 
underlying calcareous material also containing shale and gypsum 
crystals (Thompson, et al. 1972).
    Lesquerella thamnophila occurs as a herbaceous component of an open 
Leucophyllum frutescens (cenizo) shrub community that grades into an 
Acacia rigidula (blackbrush) shrub community. Both plant communities 
dominate many upland habitats on shallow soils near the Rio Grande 
(Diamond 1990). Other common plant species in the cenizo and blackbrush 
communities include Acacia berlandieri (guajillo), Prosopis glandulosa 
(mesquite), Celtis pallida (granjeno), Yucca treculeana (Spanish 
dagger), Zizyphus obtusifolia (lotebush), and Porlieria angustifolia 
(guayacan). The aggressively invasive nonnative Cenchrus ciliaris 
(buffelgrass) is also commonly present. These shrublands are sparsely 
vegetated due to the shallow, fast-draining soils and semi-arid climate 
(Poole 1989).
    These open brushland communities are used primarily as rangeland 
and, due to the semi-arid environment, are sensitive to soil erosion 
and vegetation changes brought about by long-term livestock overgrazing 
(Schlesinger, et al. 1990). As a result, root-plowing of shrubs and 
subsequent planting of buffelgrass are common regional practices for 
rangeland improvement. Cattle reportedly graze on Lesquerella 
thamnophila (Poole 1989).
    Lesquerella thamnophila occurred historically in Zapata and Starr 
counties in the United States. It has never been collected in Mexico 
despite its potential occurrence there. Recent surveys of historical 
locations in Starr County failed to relocate those populations. Poole 
(1989) located three populations, two in Zapata County and one in Starr 
County. In April 1994, Bill Carr and Lee Elliott of the Texas Parks and 
Wildlife Department discovered another previously unknown Starr County 
location (Lee Elliott, pers. comm. 1994).
    The number of plants in known populations appears to fluctuate 
dramatically in apparent response to precipitation (Poole 1989). In 
1985, there were approximately 5,000 plants at one 4-hectare (ha) (10-
acre (ac)) Zapata County site (Tigre Chiquita) and approximately 1,000 
plants at the 15-acre type locality in Zapata County (Falcon Lake 
West). The year 1986 was dry; only 28 plants were counted at the Tigre 
Chiquita site, and none at Falcon Lake West. Plants were seen at both 
Zapata County sites again in 1988, but no specific population counts 
were recorded. No plants have been observed at the Falcon Lake West 
site since 1988.
    The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has established a 
management agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation for 
the Tigre Chiquita site. The agreement requires that the transportation 
agency avoid mowing within the highway right-of-way from February to 
May, while the plant is actively growing. The Texas Parks and Wildlife 
Department annually monitors the site for population size and has 
recorded these numbers: 10 reproductive plants and 3 non-reproductive 
ones in 1991; no plants in 1992; 7 non-reproductive plants in 1993; one 
reproductive plant in 1994; 3 non-reproductive plants in 1995; and no 
plants in 1996 (probably due to drought).
    In 1986, Poole (1989) found 20 plants at a 2-ha (5-ac) site in 
Starr County (Santa Margarita Ranch). Plants were again observed at 
this site in 1994, but the number of individuals was not recorded that 
year (Gena Janssen, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas, 
pers. comm. 1994). Approximately 70 plants were seen in 1997. In 1994, 
the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recorded about 50 plants at a 
new Starr County site (Cuellar Tract) located on a tract of the Lower 
Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge. In 1996, a monitoring plot was 
established and a total of 131 plants were located, 84 of them non-
reproductives. In 1997, an extremely wet year, the estimated number of 
individuals increased to several thousand, all within a 2-3 acre 
section of the tract.
    Lesquerella thamnophila is a cryptic annual species and blooms 
within a set

[[Page 3303]]

period of time following spring rainfall, creating a short period in 
which to survey. These factors may contribute to the occasional 
inability to locate these plants at known sites. Additional surveys 
carried out at the most favorable times to find specimens, and focusing 
on associated soil types, are warranted during the review of this 
species for listing as endangered.

Previous Federal Action

    Federal action involving this species began with section 12 of the 
Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.), which directed the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution to 
prepare a report on those plants considered to be endangered, 
threatened, or extinct. This report, designated as House Document No. 
94-51, was presented to Congress on January 9, 1975. On July 1, 1975, 
the Service published a notice in the Federal Register (40 FR 27823) 
accepting the Smithsonian report as a petition within the context of 
section 4(c)(2) of the Act, now section 4(b)(3)(A), and announcing that 
it would initiate a review of the status of those plants. Lesquerella 
thamnophila was included as threatened in the Smithsonian report and in 
the Service notice.
    On June 16, 1976 (41 FR 24523), the Service published a proposed 
rule to determine approximately 1,700 vascular plants as endangered. 
Lesquerella thamnophila was included in this proposal. However, the 
1978 amendments to the Act required the withdrawal of all proposals 
over 2 years old (although a 1 year grace period was allowed for those 
proposals already over 2 years old). On December 10, 1979 (44 FR 
70796), the Service published a notice withdrawing that portion of the 
June 16, 1976, proposal that had not been made final.
    On December 15, 1980 (45 FR 82823), the Service published a list of 
plants under review for listing as threatened or endangered, in which 
Lesquerella thamnophila was included as a category 2 candidate. 
Category 2 candidates were those species for which available 
information indicated listing as threatened or endangered may have been 
appropriate, but for which substantial data were not available to 
support preparation of a proposed rule.
    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act requires that findings be made by the 
Secretary on pending petitions within 12 months of their receipt. 
Section 2(b)(1) of the 1982 amendments to the Act required that all 
petitions pending as of October 13, 1982, be treated as having been 
submitted on that date. The 1975 Smithsonian report was accepted as a 
petition; therefore, all the plants noted within the report, including 
Lesquerella thamnophila, were treated as being newly petitioned on 
October 13, 1982. In each subsequent year, from 1983 to 1993, the 
Service determined that the petition to list Lesquerella thamnophila 
was warranted, but precluded by other listing actions of higher 
priority, and that additional data on vulnerability and threats were 
still being compiled.
    A status report on Lesquerella thamnophila was completed August 8, 
1989 (Poole 1989). That report provided sufficient information on 
biological vulnerability and threats to warrant reassigning the species 
as a category 1 candidate and supporting preparation of a proposed rule 
to list Lesquerella thamnophila as endangered. ``Category 1 
candidates'' were those for which the Service had substantial 
information indicating that listing under the Act was warranted.
    Notices revising the 1980 list of plants under review for listing 
as endangered or threatened were published in the Federal Register on 
September 27, 1985 (50 FR 39626), February 21, 1990 (55 FR 6184), and 
September 30, 1993 (58 FR 51171). Lesquerella thamnophila was included 
in the September 30, 1993 notice as a category 1 candidate.
    The 1996 Notice of Review ( 55 FR 6184) included Lesquerella 
thamnophila as a candidate. Candidates are species for which the 
Service has sufficient information indicating that a listing proposal 
is appropriate. The 1997 Notice of Review (62 FR 49398) also included 
Lesquerella thamnophila as a candidate.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and regulations (50 CFR part 424) promulgated 
to implement the listing provisions of the Act set forth the procedures 
for adding species to the Federal lists. A species may be determined to 
be an endangered or threatened species due to one or more of the five 
factors described in section 4(a)(1). These factors and their 
application to Lesquerella thamnophila are as follows:
    A. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range. Habitat destruction and 
modification are the primary threats to Lesquerella thamnophila. These 
threats include the introduction of non-native pasture grasses such as 
buffelgrass and conversion of native rangeland to improved pasture, 
overgrazing, urban development, construction or improvement of highways 
and utility transmission systems necessary to support urban 
infrastructures, and oil and gas exploration and production. These 
types of activities have destroyed or altered more than 95 percent of 
the native habitat in south Texas (Jahrsdoerfer and Leslie 1988).
    It is a common practice in south Texas to improve rangeland for 
livestock production by removing the native shrubs through root-plowing 
or aerial herbicide application and then reseeding the area with non-
native grasses, usually buffelgrass. This practice potentially destroys 
Lesquerella thamnophila habitat. Buffelgrass has spread beyond the 
improved pastures and is now present throughout south Texas. This 
invasive non-native grass out-competes and displaces native grasses, 
forbs, and small shrubs. Potential sites for native plant seedling 
establishment are lost due to light and moisture competition with 
buffelgrass, and possibly due to allelopathy.
    Much of south Texas was severely overgrazed in the past, and 
overgrazing continues in many areas today. Vegetation of the semi-arid 
south Texas climate is less resilient to the impacts of long-term 
grazing than is the vegetation of wetter climates. This has led to 
severe erosion of the often highly erodible south Texas soils 
(Schlesinger, et al. 1990). It is impossible to calculate how much 
habitat suitable to Lesquerella thamnophila may have been lost in the 
past because of the destructive effects of overgrazing or the 
conversion of native rangeland to improved pasture.
    Lesquerella thamnophila is threatened by potential urban 
development. The type locality for this species has been reduced to a 
small vacant lot in a resort subdivision on Falcon Reservoir in the 
City of Zapata. This area is undergoing rapid retirement home 
development. Another Lesquerella thamnophila population occurs in an 
abandoned trailer park adjacent to a major highway. Recent construction 
of convenience stores in the area could stimulate urbanization that 
might extirpate the population.
    South Texas is undergoing a rapid increase in highway improvements 
and construction to handle increased traffic stimulated by the North 
American Free Trade Agreement. There are Lesquerella thamnophila 
populations adjacent to existing roads that could be proposed for 
widening. Additionally, existing unimproved roads adjacent to 
populations could be proposed for widening and paving.
    There are Lesquerella thamnophila populations adjacent to 
maintained highway rights-of-way where herbicides are used to control 
vegetation around

[[Page 3304]]

bridges, guard rails, signs, and reflector posts. Herbicides may also 
be used to kill woody species encroaching into the rights-of-way and 
along fence lines. Any plants within the rights-of-way are threatened 
by maintenance practices such as blading or disking and reseeding with 
erosion control seed mixtures, which contain primarily non-native 
invasive grasses.
    South Texas is presently undergoing a significant increase in oil 
and gas exploration and production, especially in Zapata and Starr 
counties. All phases of exploration and production have the potential 
to harm Lesquerella thamnophila populations and habitat. The seismic 
vibration method of gas exploration results in extensive temporary 
rights-of-way being cleared to facilitate equipment traffic. The 
construction of well pads, access roads, electric lines, and oil 
gathering lines from wells, if not planned properly, can all destroy 
plants and habitat. The proximity of this species to existing oil and 
gas development poses a threat from an increase in number and capacity 
of gathering lines.
    B. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes. No commercial trade is currently known to exist 
for the species. However, listed plant species can be threatened by 
both collection and vandalism, activities difficult to prevent and only 
regulated on lands under Federal jurisdiction or in knowing violation 
of a State law or regulation. Listing a plant species can precipitate 
commercial and scientific interest in the species. This interest can 
threaten the species through unauthorized and uncontrolled collection. 
Federally listing a species under the Act creates the potential for 
vandalism at known and potential habitat sites. In many areas, private 
landowner concern regarding endangered species is especially high and 
may result in the intentional destruction of endangered species 
    C. Disease or predation. The populations of Lesquerella thamnophila 
have shown no evidence of disease. However, Poole (1989) reports that 
cattle graze the species to the extent that numbers of plants in 
populations subjected to grazing are severely reduced compared to those 
in adjacent, ungrazed lands. Grazing and browsing are greater threats 
during drought conditions when range quality is reduced and other 
forage species have been reduced or removed. This portion of south 
Texas is sensitive to overgrazing during drought conditions due to the 
semi-arid environment and the large area needed per grazing animal, 
even under ideal range conditions.
    D. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. The species is 
not currently protected by any Federal or State laws or regulations.
    E. Other natural or man-made factors affecting its continued 
existence. There are only four known small Lesquerella thamnophila 
populations with widely fluctuating numbers of plants from year to 
year. Low plant numbers during drought years could cause genetic drift. 
This has the effect of lowering genetic variability and may reduce the 
species' ability to cope with environmental perturbations. The reduced 
number of plants during drought years, with populations in some areas 
actually being reduced to zero above-ground vegetative individuals, 
also makes the species vulnerable to extinction from a prolonged 
drought. Lesquerella thamnophila occurs along the Rio Grande and the 
effect of past flooding on creating or maintaining habitat for the 
species is unknown. The extreme rarity of this species makes 
populations vulnerable to extirpation and the species vulnerable to 
extinction from a variety of random environmental events.
    The Service has carefully assessed the best scientific and 
commercial information available regarding the past, present, and 
future threats faced by the species in determining to propose this 
rule. Based on this evaluation, the preferred action is to list 
Lesquerella thamnophila as endangered. The endangered status is 
appropriate because of the species' limited distribution, low 
population numbers, and imminent threats of habitat destruction. 
Threatened status would not accurately reflect the current status of 
this species.

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as--(I) the 
specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a species, at 
the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found 
those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation 
of the species and (II) that may require special management 
considerations or protection and; (ii) specific areas outside the 
geographic area occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon a 
determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the 
species. ``Conservation'' means the use of all methods and procedures 
needed to bring the species to the point at which listing under the Act 
is no longer necessary.
    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and implementing 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12) require that, to the maximum extent prudent 
and determinable, the Secretary designate critical habitat at the time 
the species is determined to be endangered or threatened. Service 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)), state that designation of critical 
habitat is not prudent when one or both of the following situations 
exist--(1) the species is threatened by taking or other human activity, 
and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the 
degree of threat to the species, or (2) such designation of critical 
habitat would not be beneficial to the species.
    As discussed under Factor B in the ``Summary of Factors Affecting 
the Species'' section of this rule, Lesquerella thamnophila is 
threatened by vandalism, an activity difficult to prevent and only 
regulated by the Act with respect to endangered plants in cases of (1) 
removal and reduction to possession from lands under Federal 
jurisdiction, or their malicious damage or destruction on such lands; 
and (2) removal, cutting, digging up, or damaging or destroying in 
knowing violation of any State law or regulation, including State 
criminal trespass law.
    The limited protection for plants on private land renders them 
particularly vulnerable to vandalism or collection due to their lack of 
evasive ability. Simply listing a plant species can precipitate 
commercial and scientific interest, legal as well as illegal, which can 
threaten the species through unauthorized and uncontrolled collection 
for both commercial and scientific purposes. The designation of 
critical habitat involves publication of habitat descriptions and 
general mapped locations of the species, greatly increasing the 
likelihood of unwanted notice by potential collectors and of successful 
search and removal operations at specific sites.
    Such information also greatly exacerbates the potential for 
vandalism of endangered or threatened plants at known and potential 
habitat sites. The designation of critical habitat affects only Federal 
projects or activities which they fund, authorize, or carry out. Its 
designation does not affect private land activities conducted by State 
and local government activities if the activity does not involve 
Federal funds or authorization. However, this is not always easily 
understood by private landowners whose property boundaries may be 
included within a general description of critical habitat for a 
specific species. Identification of proposed critical habitat for other 
species has resulted in widespread confusion and heightened concern by

[[Page 3305]]

the general public. More importantly, such action has resulted in the 
unnecessary destruction of endangered species habitat by landowners in 
order to avoid the imagined attention of the Service and perceived 
prohibitions on private land.
    In the case of Lesquerella thamnophila, the Service finds that 
designation of critical habitat is not prudent since it is likely to 
increase the degree of threat of take of the species. Publication of 
critical habitat descriptions and locations would make the species 
especially vulnerable to collection and vandalism.
    The designation of critical habitat for Lesquerella thamnophila is 
also not prudent since it will provide no additional conservation 
benefit to the species. The most severe threats to the species include 
the overgrazing of native range, and conversion of native rangeland to 
improved pasture with nonnative grasses. Designation of critical 
habitat will not affect these threats, since impacts stem from private 
land activities. Further protection of habitat on private or State land 
will be addressed through the recovery process and will involve 
identifying measures that can mutually benefit both the species and 
    Section 7 of the Act requires Federal agencies to ensure that 
activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or cause the 
destruction or adverse modification of its critical habitat. 
Lesquerella thamnophila is currently restricted to four sites ranging 
from 5 acres to 45 acres in size. Any adverse impact to sites that 
would result in destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat 
would likely also jeopardize the continued existence of Lesquerella 
thamnophila. Thus, in the case of this species, critical habitat would 
provide no additional benefit beyond that provided through listing as 
    In summary, the Service finds that Lesquerella thamnophila is 
vulnerable to collection and vandalism, and that identification of 
critical habitat would increase its vulnerability. Further, adequate 
protection from adverse Federal actions is provided through listing the 
species as endangered under the Act, and designation of critical 
habitat would provide little additional protection. Therefore, the 
Service finds that designation of critical habitat would, on balance, 
be detrimental to the species. Critical habitat designation is thus not 

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing results in public awareness and 
conservation actions by Federal, State, and local agencies, private 
organizations, and individuals. The Act provides for possible land 
acquisition and cooperation with the States and requires that recovery 
actions be carried out for all listed species. The protection required 
of Federal agencies and the prohibitions against certain activities 
involving listed plants are discussed, in part, below.
    Section 7(a) of the Act, as amended, requires Federal agencies to 
evaluate their actions with respect to any species that is proposed or 
listed as endangered or threatened and with respect to its critical 
habitat, if any is being designated. Regulations implementing this 
interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR 
part 402. Section 7(a)(4) requires Federal agencies to confer 
informally with the Service on any action that is likely to jeopardize 
the continued existence of a species proposed for listing or result in 
destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. For 
listed species, section 7(a)(2) requires Federal agencies to ensure 
that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of the species or destroy or 
adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action may affect a 
listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency 
must enter into consultation with the Service.
    Federal agency actions that may require conference and/or 
consultation as described in the preceding paragraph include brush 
clearing for flood control in arroyos within the jurisdiction of the 
International Boundary and Water Commission; technical assistance to 
landowners by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil 
Conservation Service) for activities funded by the Consolidated Farm 
Service Agency (formerly Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation 
Service); and rangeland herbicide registration by the Environmental 
Protection Agency. The Federal Highway Administration will need to 
consider the occurrence of the species in activities such as widening 
existing roadways or constructing new highways. The U.S. Department of 
Housing and Urban Development will need to consider these species when 
water, sewer, and power services are authorized following the 
development of unauthorized human settlements.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered 
plants. All prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act, implemented by 
50 CFR 17.61, apply. These prohibitions, in part, make it illegal for 
any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to import 
or export, transport in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of 
a commercial activity, sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign 
commerce any such plant species; or to remove and reduce the species to 
possession from areas under Federal jurisdiction. In addition, for 
plants listed as endangered, the Act prohibits the removal and 
malicious damage or destruction of such plants on areas under Federal 
jurisdiction; and the removal, cutting, digging up, or damaging or 
destroying of such plants in any other area, including non-Federal 
lands, in knowing violation of any State law or regulation, including 
State criminal trespass law. Certain exceptions to the prohibitions 
apply to agents of the Service and State conservation agencies.
    The Act and 50 CFR 17.62 and 17.63 also provide for the issuance of 
permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities involving 
endangered plants under certain circumstances. Such permits are 
available for scientific purposes and to enhance the propagation or 
survival of the species. It is anticipated that few trade permits would 
ever be sought or issued because this species is not in cultivation nor 
common in the wild.
    It is the policy of the Service (59 FR 34272) to identify to the 
maximum extent practicable at the time a species is listed those 
activities that would or would not constitute a violation of section 9 
of the Act. The intent of this policy is to increase public awareness 
of the effect of the listing on proposed and ongoing activities within 
a species' range.
    One population of the Lesquerella thamnophila occurs on public land 
under the jurisdiction of the Service. Collection, damage or 
destruction of this species on Federal lands is prohibited, although in 
appropriate cases a Federal endangered species permit may be issued to 
allow collection. As noted above, such activities on non-Federal lands 
would constitute a violation of section 9 if conducted in knowing 
violation of State law or regulation, including State criminal trespass 

[[Page 3306]]

Normal residential lawn care and maintenance and the clearing of small 
areas surrounding a residence, which may be used as a fire break are 
not violations of section 9 and will not constitute take. The Service 
is not aware of any otherwise lawful activities being conducted or 
proposed by the public that will be affected by this listing and result 
in a violation of section 9.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities will constitute a 
violation of section 9 should be directed to the Field Supervisor of 
the Service's Corpus Christi Office (see ADDRESSES section). Requests 
for copies of the regulations regarding listed plants and inquiries 
about prohibitions and permits may be addressed to U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Branch of Endangered Species/Permits, P.O. Box 1306, 
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103 (telephone 505/248-6920; facsimile 505/

Public Comments Solicited

    The Service intends that any final action resulting from this 
proposal will be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, 
comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning this proposed rule are hereby solicited. Comments 
particularly are sought concerning:
    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any threat (or lack thereof) to this species;
    (2) Reasons why any habitat should or should not be determined to 
be critical habitat as provided by section 4 of the Act;
    (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, and 
population size of this species;
    (4) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on this species.
    Final promulgation of the regulations on this species will take 
into consideration the comments and any additional information received 
by the Service, and such communications may lead to a final regulation 
that differs from this proposal.
    The Endangered Species Act provides for a public hearing on this 
proposal, if requested. Requests must be received within 45 days of the 
date of publication of the proposal. Such requests must be made in 
writing and addressed to the Field Supervisor (see ADDRESSES section).

Required Determinations

    This rule does not contain collections of information that require 
approval by the Office of Management and Budget under 44 U.S.C. 3501 et 

National Environmental Policy Act

    The Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that Environmental 
Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements, as defined under the 
authority of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be 
prepared in connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 
4(a) of the Act. A notice outlining the Service's reasons for this 
determination was published in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 
(48 FR 49244).

References Cited

Diamond, D. 1990. Plant Communities of Texas (series level). Texas 
Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas.
Jahrsdoerfer, S.E. and D.M. Leslie, Jr. 1988. Tamaulipan Brushland 
of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas: Description, Human 
Impacts, and Management Options. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Biological Report 88(36). 63 pp.
Poole, J. 1989. Status Report on Lesquerella thamnophila. U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Rollins, R.C. and E.A. Shaw. 1973. The Genus Lesquerella. Harvard 
University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Schlesinger, W.H., J.F. Reynolds, G.L. Cunningham, L.F. Huenneke, 
W.M. Jarrell, R.A. Virginia and W.G. Whitford. 1990. Biological 
Feedbacks in Global Desertification. Science 247:1043-1047.
Thompson, C.M., R.R. Sanders, and D. Williams. 1972. Soil Survey of 
Starr County, Texas. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil 
Conservation Service, Temple, Texas.


    The primary authors of this document are Angela Brooks and Kathy 
Nemec (see ADDRESSES section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, the Service hereby proposes to amend part 17, 
subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, 
as set forth below:


    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500, unless otherwise noted.

    2. Amend Sec. 17.12(h) by adding the following, in alphabetical 
order under FLOWERING PLANTS, to the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Plants to read as follows:

Sec. 17.12  Endangered and threatened plants.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------    Historic range           Family            Status      When listed    Critical     Special  
         Scientific name                Common name                                                                               habitat       rules   
         Flowering Plants                                                                                                                               
                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  
Lesquerella thamnophila..........  Zapata bladderpod...  U.S.A. (TX)........  Brassicaceae.......  E               ...........           NA           NA
                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  

    Dated: December 30, 1997.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 98-1518 Filed 1-21-98; 8:45 am]