[Federal Register: April 1, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 62)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 15808-15813]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AE

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed 
Threatened Status for the Plant ``Helianthus paradoxus'' (Pecos 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposes to list 
Helianthus paradoxus (Pecos or puzzle sunflower) as a threatened 
species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). This species is dependent on desert wetlands for its survival. 
It is known from 22 sites in Cibola, Valencia, Guadalupe, and Chaves 
Counties, New Mexico, and from two sites in Pecos County, Texas. 
Threats to this species include drying of wetlands from groundwater 
depletion, alteration of wetlands (e.g. wetland fills, draining, 
impoundment construction), competition from non-native plant species, 
excessive livestock grazing, mowing, and highway maintenance. This 
proposal, if made final, would implement the Federal protection and 
recovery programs of the Act for this plant.

DATES: Comments from all interested parties must be received by June 1, 
1998. Public hearing requests must be received by May 18, 1998.

ADDRESSES: Comments and materials concerning this proposal should be 
sent to the Field Supervisor, New Mexico Ecological Services Field 
Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2105 Osuna Road, NE, 
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113. Comments and materials received will be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Charlie McDonald, Botanist, at the 
above address, or telephone 505/761-4525 ext. 112; facsimile 505/761-



    Pecos sunflower was first collected on August 26, 1851, by Dr. S.W. 
Woodhouse on the Sitgreaves expedition to explore the Zuni and Lower 
Colorado Rivers. The location was given as ``Nay Camp, Rio Laguna'' 
(Sitgreaves 1853). The Rio Laguna is now called the Rio San Jose and 
the collection site would have been somewhere between Laguna Pueblo and 
Bluewater in Cibola County, New Mexico. This specimen was identified as 
Helianthus petiolaris (prairie sunflower) by Dr. John Torrey, a 
botanical expert at the New York Botanical Garden (Sitgreaves 1853). It 
was not until 1958 that Dr. Charles Heiser named Helianthus paradoxus 
as a new species citing two known specimens--the type specimen 
collected September 11, 1947, by H.R. Reed west of Fort Stockton in 
Pecos County, Texas; and the Woodhouse specimen collected in New Mexico 
(Heiser 1958).
    Heiser (1965) did hybridization studies to help resolve doubts 
about the validity of Pecos sunflower as a true species. There was 
speculation that the plant Heiser named as a new species was in fact 
only a hybrid between Helianthus annuus (common sunflower) and prairie 
sunflower. Heiser's studies showed that Pecos sunflower is a fertile 
plant that breeds true with itself. He was able to produce hybrids 
between Pecos sunflower and both common sunflower and prairie 
sunflower, but these hybrids were of low fertility. These results 
support the validity of Pecos sunflower as a true species. Rieseberg et 
al. (1990) published results of molecular tests of the hypothesized 
hybrid origin of Pecos sunflower. They used electrophoresis to test 
enzymes and restriction-fragment analysis to test ribosomal and 
chloroplast DNA. Their work showed Pecos sunflower is a true species of 
ancient hybrid origin with the most likely hybrid parents being common 
sunflower and prairie sunflower.
    Pecos sunflower is an annual member of the sunflower family 
(Asteraceae). It grows 1.3-2.0 meters (m) (4.25-6.5 feet (ft)) tall and 
is branched at the top. The leaves are opposite on the lower part of 
the stem and alternate at the top, lance-shaped with three prominent 
veins, and up to 17.5 centimeters (cm) (6.9 inches (in)) long by 8.5 cm 
(3.3 in) wide. The stem and leaf surfaces have a few short stiff hairs. 
The flower heads are 5.0-7.0 cm (2.0-2.8 in) in diameter with bright 
yellow rays. Flowering is from September to November. Pecos sunflower 
looks much like the common sunflower seen along roadsides throughout 
the west, but differs from common sunflower in having narrower leaves, 
fewer hairs on the stems and leaves, slightly smaller flower heads, and 
later flowering.
    Pecos sunflowers grow in soils that are permanently saturated. 
Areas that maintain these conditions are most commonly desert wetlands 
(cienegas) associated with springs, but they may also include stream 
margins and the margins of impoundments. When plants are associated 
with impoundments, the impoundments typically have replaced natural 
cienega habitats. Plants commonly associated with Pecos sunflower 
include Limonium limbatum (Transpecos sealavender), Samolus cuneatus 
(limewater brookweed), Flaveria chloraefolia, Scirpus olneyi (Olney 
bulrush), Phragmites australis (common reed), Distichlis sp. 
(saltgrass), Sporobolus airoides (alkali sacaton), Muhlenbergia 
asperifolia (alkali muhly), Juncus mexicanus (Mexican rush), Suaeda 
calceoliformis (Pursh seepweed), and Tamarix spp. (saltcedar) (Poole 
1992, Sivinski 1995). All of these species are good indicators of 
saline soils. Studies by Van Auken and Bush (1995) indicate Pecos 
sunflower grows in saline soils, but seeds germinate and establish best 
when high water tables reduce salinities near the soil's surface.
    Until 1990, Pecos sunflower was known only from three extant sites. 
Two sites were in Pecos County, Texas, and one site was in Chaves 
County, New Mexico (Seiler et al. 1981). Searches of suitable habitats 
in Pecos, Reeves, and Culbertson counties, Texas, during 1991 failed to 
result in the discovery of any new Texas sites or in the rediscovery of 
any sites believed to have been extirpated (Poole 1992). Searches in 
New Mexico from 1991 through 1994, however, led to discovery of a 
significant number of new sites in that State (Sivinski 1995). Pecos 
sunflower is presently known from 24 sites that occur in 5 general 
areas. These areas are Pecos County, Texas, in the vicinity of Fort 
Stockton; Chaves County, New Mexico, from Dexter to just north of 
Roswell; Guadalupe County, New Mexico, in the vicinity of Santa Rosa; 
Valencia County, New Mexico, along the lower part of the Rio San Jose; 
and, Cibola County, New Mexico, in the vicinity of Grants. There are 2 
sites in the Fort Stockton area, 11 in the Dexter to Roswell area, 8 in 
the Santa Rosa area, 1 along the lower Rio San Jose, and 2 in the 
Grants area.
    Most of the Pecos sunflower sites are limited to less than 2.0 
hectares (ha) (5.0 acres (ac)) of wetland habitat with some being only 
a fraction of a hectare. Two sites, one near Fort Stockton and one near 
Roswell, are considerably more

[[Page 15809]]

extensive. The number of plants at a site varies from less than 100 to 
several hundred thousand for the 2 extensive sites. Because Pecos 
sunflower is an annual, the number of plants at a site can fluctuate 
drastically from year to year with changes in water conditions. Pecos 
sunflower is totally dependent on the persistence of its wetland 
habitat. Even large populations will disappear if the wetland dries.
    The sites where Pecos sunflower occurs are owned and managed by a 
variety of Federal, State, Tribal, municipal, and private interests. 
Federal agencies that manage sites are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service), Bureau of Land Management, and National Park 
Service. There are plants in one State park. The cities of Roswell and 
Santa Rosa both have sites on municipal property. One site is owned and 
managed by the Laguna Indian Tribe. There are seven different private 
individuals or organizations that own sites or parts of sites. Some 
plants grow on State or Federal highway rights-of-way.
    Four of the sites are on property managed principally for wildlife 
and the conservation of endangered species. Two of these are major 
sites on Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Roswell, New Mexico. 
The refuge has a series of six spring-fed impoundments totaling about 
300 ha (750 ac). These impoundments are managed with high water levels 
in winter followed by a spring and summer drawdown that mimics a 
natural water cycle. This regime provides abundant habitat for Pecos 
sunflowers that thrive in almost solid stands at the edges of many of 
the impoundments. A small site with less than 100 plants occurs on 
Dexter National Fish Hatchery near Dexter, New Mexico. Plants first 
appeared here several years ago after saltcedar was removed to restore 
a wetland. One site near Fort Stockton, Texas, is owned and managed by 
The Nature Conservancy of Texas. The principal feature at this preserve 
is a large desert spring that harbors two species of endangered fish 
and three species of endemic snails, and supports an extensive stand of 
Pecos sunflowers that grow for about 1.2 kilometers (km) (0.75 miles 
(mi)) along the spring run.
    Loss or alteration of wetland habitats is the main threat to Pecos 
sunflower. The lowering of water tables through aquifer withdrawals 
mostly for irrigated agriculture; the diversion of water from wetlands 
for irrigation, livestock, or other uses; wetland filling; and the 
invasion of wetlands by saltcedar and other non-native species have all 
destroyed or degraded desert wetlands in the past. These activities 
still continue. Mowing of rights-of-way and some municipal properties 
regularly destroys some plants. Livestock will eat Pecos sunflowers, 
particularly if other green forage is scarce. There has been some 
unregulated commercial sale of this plant in the past and some plant 
collection for breeding programs to improve commercial sunflowers. 
Pecos sunflower will naturally hybridize with common sunflower. The 
extent to which back crosses might be affecting the genetic integrity 
of small Pecos sunflower populations is presently unknown, but worthy 
of concern.

Previous Federal Action

    Federal government actions on Pecos sunflower began as a result of 
section 12 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), which directed the Secretary of the Smithsonian 
Institution to prepare a report on plants considered to be endangered, 
threatened, or extinct in the United States. That 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 report as a petition within the context of 
section 4(c)(2) (now section 4(b)(3)(A)) of the Act. The notice further 
indicated the Service's intention to review the status of the plants 
named therein. As a result of this review, the Service published a 
proposed rule in the Federal Register on June 16, 1976 (41 FR 24523), 
to determine approximately 1,700 vascular plants to be endangered 
species pursuant to section 4 of the Act. This list, which included 
Helianthus paradoxus, was assembled on the basis of comments and data 
received by the Smithsonian Institution and the Service in response to 
House Document No. 94-51 and the July 1, 1975, Federal Register 
publication. In 1978, amendments to the Act required that all proposals 
over 2 years old be withdrawn. A 1-year grace period was given to 
proposals already over 2 years old. On December 10, 1979, the Service 
published a notice in the Federal Register (44 FR 70796) withdrawing 
that portion of the June 16, 1976, proposal that had not been made 
final, along with four other proposals that had expired.
    The Service published an updated notice of review for plants on 
December 15, 1980 (45 FR 82480), which included Helianthus paradoxus as 
a category 1 candidate species. Category 1 species were those for which 
the Service had on file substantial information on biological 
vulnerability and threats to support preparation of listing proposals. 
Revised lists of plants under review for listing were published in the 
Federal Register on September 27, 1985 (50 FR 39526), February 21, 1990 
(55 FR 6184), and September 30, 1993 (58 FR 51144). These notices 
retained Helianthus paradoxus as a category 1 candidate. In the Federal 
Register notices of review on February 28, 1996, and September 19, 1997 
(61 FR 7596, 62 FR 49398), the Service ceased using multiple category 
designations and included Helianthus paradoxus as a candidate species. 
Candidate species are those for which the Service has on file 
sufficient information on biological vulnerability and threats to 
support proposals to list the species as threatened or endangered.
    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act requires the Secretary to make 
findings on pending petitions within 12 months of their receipt. 
Section 2(b)(1) of the 1982 amendments further requires that all 
petitions pending on October 13, 1982, be treated as having been newly 
submitted on that date. This was the case for Helianthus paradoxus 
because of the acceptance of the 1975 Smithsonian report as a petition. 
On October 13, 1983, the Service found that the petitioned listing of 
this species was warranted, but precluded by other pending listing 
actions, in accordance with section 4(b)(3)(B)(iii) of the Act; notice 
of this finding was published on January 20, 1984 (49 FR 2485). Such a 
finding requires the petition to be recycled pursuant to section 
4(b)(3)(C)(i) of the Act. The finding was reviewed annually from 1984 
through 1997. Publication of this proposal constitutes the final 1-year 
finding for the petitioned action.
    The processing of this proposed rule conforms with the Service's 
final listing priority guidance issued on December 6, 1996 (61 FR 
64475), and extended on October 23, 1997 (62 FR 55268). The guidance 
clarifies the order in which the Service will process rulemakings. The 
guidance calls for giving highest priority (Tier 1) to handling 
emergency situations, second highest priority (Tier 2) to resolving the 
listing status of outstanding proposed listings, and third priority 
(Tier 3) to new proposals to add species to the list of threatened and 
endangered plants and animals. This proposed rule constitutes a Tier 3 
action. Additionally, the Service stated in the guidance that, 
``Effective April 1, 1997, the Service will concurrently undertake all 
of the activities presently included in Tiers 1, 2, and 3'' (61 FR 
64480). The Service has begun implementing a more balanced listing 
program, including processing Tier 3 actions. The processing of this 
Tier 3 action follows those guidelines.

[[Page 15810]]

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) 
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 Helianthus 
paradoxus Heiser (Pecos sunflower) are as follows:

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    Wetland habitats in the desert Southwest are both ecologically 
important and economically valuable. Wetlands cover only about 195,000 
ha (482,000 ac)(0.6 percent) of New Mexico (Fretwell et al. 1996). This 
is a reduction of about 33 percent from the wetland acreage that 
existed 200 years ago (Dahl 1990). Wetlands in Texas cover about 
3,077,000 ha (7,600,000 ac), a decline of about 52 percent from the 
State's original wetland acreage (Dahl 1990). The loss of springs in 
western Texas may be a better indicator of wetland losses that affect 
Pecos sunflower than figures for the State as a whole. Within the 
historical range of Pecos sunflower in Pecos and Reeves counties, only 
13 of 61 (21 percent) springs remain flowing (Brune 1981).
    The lowering of water tables due to groundwater withdrawals for 
irrigated agriculture has reduced available habitat for Pecos 
sunflower, particularly in Texas. Beginning around 1946, groundwater 
levels fell as much as 120 m (400 ft) in Pecos County and 150 m (500 
ft) in Reeves County due to heavy pumping for irrigation. As a result, 
most of the springs in these counties went dry. Groundwater pumping has 
lessened in recent decades due to the higher cost of pumping water from 
greater depths, but rising water tables or resumption of spring flows 
are not expected (Brune 1981). Texas water law provides no protection 
for remaining springs. The law is based on the right of first capture 
that lets any water user pump as much groundwater as can be put to a 
beneficial use without regard to overall effects on the aquifer.
    Habitats for Pecos sunflower in Chaves County, New Mexico, have 
been affected by groundwater pumping in the past, but water tables are 
now rising due to State-directed efforts at monitoring and 
conservation. These efforts are the result of a court ruling that 
requires New Mexico to deliver larger volumes of Pecos River water to 
Texas than in the past. There are presently no major groundwater 
withdrawals taking place in the vicinity of the other Pecos sunflower 
sites in New Mexico.
    The introduction of non-native species, particularly saltcedar, is 
a major factor in the loss and degradation of southwestern wetlands. 
Several species of saltcedar were introduced into the United States for 
ornament, windbreaks, and stream bank stabilization in the 1800s. They 
invaded many western riverine systems from the 1890s to the 1930s and 
increased rapidly from the 1930s to the 1950s, by which time they 
occupied most of the available and suitable habitat in their main area 
of North American distribution in Arizona, New Mexico, and western 
Texas (Christensen 1962, Horton 1977). Saltcedar will out-compete and 
displace native wetland vegetation, including Pecos sunflower. At 
Dexter National Fish Hatchery, Pecos sunflower was recorded for the 
first time in the summer of 1996 after salt cedar was removed to 
rehabilitate a wetland (Radke 1997).
    A total of 24,124 ha (59,586 ac) of saltcedar infest 35 of the 
national wildlife refuges in 12 western states. In southern California, 
Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, 27 of the 41 refuges (66 
percent) are infested. Saltcedar affects 2,000 ha (5,000 ac) at Bitter 
Lake National Wildlife Refuge where the most extensive Pecos sunflower 
population occurs (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996). There have 
been many projects on refuges to remove saltcedar. These projects are 
labor intensive and reinvasion of saltcedar is a continuing problem.
    Some wetlands where Pecos sunflower occurs have been either filled 
or impounded. Part of a wetland near Grants, New Mexico, was filled for 
real estate development along a major highway. The development predated 
knowledge that Pecos sunflower grows there, so it is unknown if any 
plants were actually destroyed. Wetlands in Santa Rosa were impounded 
many years ago for a fish hatchery that is now abandoned. Pecos 
sunflowers grow on the dams of some of the impoundments. The extent of 
the former wetland is unknown, so it is uncertain whether the 
impoundments have increased or decreased sunflower habitat.
    Habitat is being altered through mowing on some highway rights-of-
way and some municipal properties where Pecos sunflower occurs. In 
Santa Rosa, vegetation including some Pecos sunflowers is often mowed 
around some of the old fish hatchery ponds that are now used for 
recreational fishing. In another part of town an open boggy area is 
mowed when dry enough. In years when it is too wet to mow, a stand of 
Pecos sunflowers develops. Mowing of highway rights-of-way in Santa 
Rosa and near Grants may be destroying some plants. In Texas, the only 
population in a highway right-of-way was fenced several years ago to 
protect it from mowing and other activities.

B. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes

    There has been some commercial trade in Pecos sunflower (Poole, 
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, in litt. 1991). The trade 
was undertaken by an organization interested in preserving rare species 
of indigenous crop plants through their dissemination and cultivation. 
There has also been some collecting for crop breeding research (Seiler 
et al. 1981). With its tolerance for high salinity, Pecos sunflower was 
considered a good candidate for the introduction of salt tolerance into 
cultivated sunflowers. Some Pecos sunflower sites are both small and 
easily accessible. These sites could be harmed by repeated uncontrolled 

C. Disease or Predation

    Livestock will eat Pecos sunflowers, particularly when other green 
forage is scarce. Livestock tend to pull off the flower heads. If an 
area is grazed for several years in succession when the plants are 
flowering, the soil seed bank will be diminished and the population 
will eventually decline. There are several examples of Pecos sunflowers 
being absent from habitat that is heavily grazed, but growing in 
similar nearby habitat that is protected from grazing. In these 
instances, grazing is the most likely cause of the plant's absence from 
otherwise suitable habitat.

D. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms

    Pecos sunflower is a New Mexico State endangered plant species 
listed in NMNRD Rule 85-3 of the State Endangered Plant Species Act (9-
10-10 NMSA). This act primarily regulates scientific collecting, 
commercial transport, and sale of Pecos sunflower. It does not protect 
plants on private lands or require collecting permits for Federal 
employees working on lands within their jurisdictions (Sivinski and 
Lightfoot 1995). The State act lacks the interagency coordination and 
conservation requirements found in section 7 of the Federal Endangered 
Species Act. Further, State listing fails

[[Page 15811]]

to generate the level of recognition or promote the opportunities for 
conservation that result through Federal listing. Pecos sunflower is 
not listed as an endangered, threatened, or protected plant under the 
Texas Endangered Plant Species Act.

E. Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence

    Natural hybrids between Pecos sunflower and common sunflower have 
been seen at Pecos sunflower sites in both Texas and New Mexico. Human 
activities have substantially increased the habitat for common 
sunflower and it may now have more contact with Pecos sunflower than in 
the past. The hybrid plants have low fertility, but they are not 
completely sterile (Heiser 1965).
    Backcrosses of these hybrids to Pecos sunflower could detrimentally 
affect the genetic integrity of Pecos sunflower populations. Study is 
needed to determine if such backcrosses could occur to the degree that 
common sunflower might genetically swamp small Pecos sunflower 
    The Service has carefully assessed the best scientific and 
commercial information available regarding the past, present, and 
future threats faced by this species in determining to propose this 
rule. Based on this evaluation, the preferred action is to list Pecos 
sunflower as threatened. The drying of springs due to ground water 
pumping, the diversion of water for agriculture and other uses, the 
degradation of wetlands from intensive livestock grazing, and the 
invasion of saltcedar and other non-native plants into many wetlands 
has significantly reduced the habitat of this species. Most remaining 
populations are vulnerable because these activities continue to destroy 
habitat or keep it in a degraded condition. While not in immediate 
danger of extinction, the Pecos sunflower is likely to become an 
endangered species in the foreseeable future if present trends 

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 
consideration or protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon 
a determination that such areas are essential for 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. The Service 
finds that designation of critical habitat is not prudent for Pecos 
sunflower. 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.
    Critical habitat designation for Pecos sunflower is not prudent 
because both of the above situations exist. There has been some 
commercial trade in Pecos sunflower, which was due largely to its 
rarity. There are several documented instances of other species of 
commercially valuable rare plants being collected when their localities 
became known. In 1995, at least 48 plants of the endangered Pediocactus 
knowltonii (Knowlton cactus) were taken from a monitoring plot at the 
species' only known locality (Sivinski, New Mexico Forestry and 
Resources Conservation Division, Santa Fe, in litt. 1996). In the early 
1990s, the rediscovery of Salvia penstemonoides (big red sage) in Texas 
led to the collection of thousands of seeds at the single rediscovery 
site (Poole, in litt. 1991).
    Listing contributes to the risk of over-collecting because the 
rarity of a plant is made known to far more people than were aware of 
it previously. Designating critical habitat, including the required 
disclosure of precise maps and descriptions of critical habitat, would 
further advertise the rarity of Pecos sunflower and provide locations 
of occupied sites causing even greater threat to this plant from 
vandalism or unauthorized collection. Many of the Pecos sunflower sites 
are small, have few individuals, and are easily accessible. The plants 
at these sites would be particularly susceptible to indiscriminate 
collection if publication of critical habitat maps made their exact 
locations known.
    Critical habitat designation, by definition, directly affects only 
Federal agency actions. Private interests own 12 of the 24 Pecos 
sunflower sites. For the most part, activities constituting threats to 
the species on these lands, including alterations of wetland hydrology, 
competition from non-native vegetation, grazing, and agricultural and 
urban development, are not subject to the Federal review process under 
section 7. Designation of critical habitat on private lands provides no 
benefit to the species when only non-Federal actions are involved.
    Activities on Federal lands and some activities on private lands 
require Federal agencies to consult with the Service under section 7. 
There are few known sites for Pecos sunflower and habitat for the 
species is limited. Given these circumstances, any activity that would 
adversely modify designated critical habitat would likely also 
jeopardize the species' continued existence. Thus, in this case, the 
Federal agency prohibition against adverse modification of critical 
habitat would provide no additional benefit beyond the prohibition 
against jeopardizing the species.
    Occupied habitat for Pecos sunflower occurs on a national wildlife 
refuge and national fish hatchery administered by the Fish and Wildlife 
Service, a national monument administered by the National Park Service, 
and Federal lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. 
Because these occupied habitats are well known to the managers of these 
Federal lands, no adverse modification of this habitat is likely to 
occur without consultation under section 7 of the Act. Because of the 
small size of the species' habitat, any adverse modification of the 
species' critical habitat would also likely jeopardize the species' 
continued existence. Designation of critical habitat for Pecos 
sunflower on Federal lands, therefore, is not prudent because it would 
provide no additional benefit to the species beyond that conferred by 

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 
activities. Recognition through listing encourages and results in 
conservation actions by Federal, State, and private agencies, groups, 
and individuals. The elevated profile that Federal listing affords 
enhances the likelihood that conservation activities will be 
undertaken. The Act provides for possible land acquisition and 
cooperation with the States. The protection required of Federal 

[[Page 15812]]

and the prohibitions against certain activities involving listed plants 
are discussed, in part, below.
    Section 7(a) of the Act 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) of the Act requires Federal agencies to confer with the 
Service on any action that is likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of a proposed species or result in destruction or adverse 
modification of proposed critical habitat. If a species is listed 
subsequently, 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 such a species or to destroy or 
adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action may 
adversely affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the 
responsible Federal agency must enter into formal consultation with the 
    The Federal agencies that manage occupied habitat for Pecos 
sunflower are the ones most likely to be involved in section 7 
activities. These agencies are the Service, Bureau of Land Management, 
and National Park Service. Other agencies with potential section 7 
involvement include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through its permit 
authority under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the Natural 
Resources Conservation Service that provides private landowner planning 
and assistance for various soil and water conservation projects, the 
Federal Highway Administration for highway construction and maintenance 
projects that receive funding from the Department of Transportation, 
the Bureau of Indian Affairs that has trust responsibilities for 
certain activities on Indian lands, and various agencies of the 
Department of Housing and Urban Development that undertake homeowner 
mortgage insurance and community development programs.
    Listing the Pecos sunflower would provide for development of a 
recovery plan for the plant. A recovery plan would bring together 
private, State, and Federal efforts for conservation of this species. 
The plan would establish a framework for agencies to coordinate 
activities and cooperate with each other in conservation efforts. The 
plan would set recovery priorities and estimate costs of various tasks 
necessary to accomplish them. The plan would also describe site-
specific management actions necessary to achieve conservation and 
survival of the species. Additionally, pursuant to section 6 of the 
Act, the Service would be able to grant funds to the states of New 
Mexico and Texas for management actions promoting the protection and 
recovery of Pecos sunflower.
    Because many of the known sites for Pecos sunflower are on private 
land, the Service will pursue conservation easements and conservation 
agreements with willing private landowners to help maintain and/or 
enhance habitat for the plant. Under a cooperative program between the 
State of New Mexico and the Service, all private landowners have been 
contacted. The importance of Pecos sunflower and the consequences for 
the private landowner of having it listed under the Act have been 
explained. No agreements have been established to date, but several 
landowners have indicated a willingness to continue discussing the 
    The Act and its implementing regulations found at 50 CFR 17.71 and 
17.72 set forth a series of general prohibitions and exceptions that 
apply to all threatened plants. All trade prohibitions of section 
9(a)(2) of the Act, implemented by 50 CFR 17.71, 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 this species in interstate or foreign commerce, 
or to remove and reduce to possession the species from areas under 
Federal jurisdiction. In addition, for plants listed as endangered, the 
Act prohibits the malicious damage or destruction on areas under 
Federal jurisdiction and the removal, cutting, digging up, or damaging 
or destroying of such plants in knowing violation of any State law or 
regulation, including State criminal trespass law. Section 4(d) allows 
for the provision of such protection to threatened species through 
regulation. This protection may apply to this species in the future if 
regulations are promulgated. Seeds from cultivated specimens of 
threatened plants are exempt from these prohibitions provided that a 
statement of ``cultivated origin'' appears on their containers. Certain 
exceptions to the prohibitions apply to agents of the Service and State 
conservation agencies.
    The Act and 50 CFR 17.72 also provide for the issuance of permits 
to carry out otherwise prohibited activities involving threatened plant 
species under certain circumstances. Such permits are available for 
scientific purposes and to enhance the propagation or survival of the 
species. For threatened plants, permits also are available for 
botanical or horticultural exhibition, educational purposes, or special 
purposes consistent with the purposes of the Act. Pecos sunflower is 
not common in cultivation or in the wild, and there has been only 
limited commercial trade in the species. Therefore, it is anticipated 
that few trade permits will ever be sought or issued. Requests for 
copies of the regulations on listed plants and inquiries regarding 
prohibitions and permits may be addressed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103 (telephone 505/
248-6649, facsimile 505/248-6922). Information collections associated 
with these permits are approved under the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq., and assigned Office of Management and Budget 
clearance number 1018-0094. For additional information concerning these 
permits and associated requirements, see 50 CFR 17.72.
    It is the policy of the Service, published in the Federal Register 
on July 1, 1994 (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 (prohibited 
acts) of the Act. The intent of this policy is to increase public 
awareness of the effects of the listing on proposed and ongoing 
activities within the species' range. Collection of this species from 
Federal lands would violate section 9, although in appropriate cases 
permits could be issued to allow collection for scientific or recovery 
    Generally, activities of landowners on private lands or of others 
on lands not under Federal jurisdiction will not violate section 9 of 
the Act even if the activities result in destruction of Pecos 
sunflowers. These activities might include filling of wetlands, 
construction or maintenance of drainage ditches, construction of 
impoundments or other livestock watering facilities, mowing or 
clearing, and livestock grazing. However, some of these activities may 
require Federal, State, and/or local approval under other laws or 
regulations; filling of wetlands, for example, may require Army Corps 
of Engineers authorization under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. 
Questions regarding whether specific activities may constitute a 
violation of section 9 should be directed to the Field Supervisor of 
the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES 

[[Page 15813]]

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 Pecos sunflower;
    (2) The location of any additional populations of this species and 
the 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; and,
    (4) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on this species.
    Any final decision on the proposed regulation for 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 Act provides for one or more public hearings on this proposal, 
if requested. Requests must be received within 45 days of the date of 
publication of the proposal in the Federal Register. Such requests must 
be made in writing and addressed to the Field Supervisor, New Mexico 
Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).

National Environmental Policy Act

    The Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that an Environmental 
Assessment, 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 Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended. A notice outlining the Service's 
reasons for this determination was published in the Federal Register on 
October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

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 

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological 
Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).
    Author: The primary author of this proposed rule is Charlie 
McDonald, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES 

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 

Sec. 17.12  Endangered and threatened plants.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------    Historic range           Family            Status      When listed    Critical     Special  
         Scientific name                Common name                                                                               habitat       rules   
Flowering Plants                                                                                                                                        
                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  
Helianthus paradoxus.............  Pecos sunflower       U.S.A. (NM, TX)....  Asteraceae.........  T                         <INF>X           NA           NA
                                    (=puzzle sunflower,                                                                                                 
                                    paradox sunflower).                                                                                                 
                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  

    Dated: March 20, 1998.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 98-8518 Filed 3-31-98; 8:45 am]