[Federal Register: January 26, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 16)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 3913-3915]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding for 
a Petition To List the Vermilion Darter as Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding and initiation of status 


SUMMARY: We (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) are announcing a 90-day 
finding for a petition to list the vermilion darter (Etheostoma 
chermocki) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. We 
find that the petition presents substantial information indicating that 
listing this species may be warranted. A status review is initiated.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on January 7, 
1999. Send your comments and materials to reach us on or before March 
29, 1999. We may not consider comments received after the above date in 
making our decision for the 12-month finding.

ADDRESSES: You may submit data, information, comments, or questions 
concerning this petition to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Jackson Field Office, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, 
Suite A, Jackson, Mississippi 39213. The petition finding, supporting 
data, and comments are available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the above address.

[[Page 3914]]

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Daniel J. Drennen, Biologist, at the 
above address (telephone 601-965-4900, extension 27).



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information demonstrating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted. We base the finding on all the 
information available to us at the time the finding is made. To the 
maximum extent practicable, we make the finding within 90 days of 
receipt of the petition, and promptly publish the finding in the 
Federal Register. If we find that substantial information was 
presented, we must promptly commence a status review of the species.
    The processing of this petition conforms with our current listing 
priority guidance for fiscal years 1998 and 1999, published in the 
Federal Register on May 8, 1998 (63 FR 25502). The guidance gives 
highest priority (Tier 1) to processing emergency rules to add species 
to the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants (Lists); 
second priority (Tier 2) to processing final determinations on 
proposals to add species to the Lists, processing new proposals to add 
species to the Lists, processing administrative findings on petitions 
(to add species to the Lists, delist species, or reclassify listed 
species), and processing a limited number of proposed or final rules to 
delist or reclassify species; and third priority (Tier 3) to processing 
proposed or final rules designating critical habitat. Processing of 
this petition is a Tier 2 action.
    We have made a 90-day finding on a petition to list the vermilion 
darter (Etheostoma chermocki) as endangered. Mr. Robert R. Reid, Jr. of 
Birmingham, Alabama, submitted the petition, dated July 22, 1998, which 
we received July 23, 1998. On August 18, 1998, we received supplemental 
information (dated August 12, 1998) on the species and a request from 
Dr. Paul D, Blanchard, of Samford University, in Birmingham, to be co-
petitioner with Mr. Reid, at Mr. Reid's request.
    The petition requested that we emergency list the vermilion darter 
as endangered. The petitioners stated that the vermilion darter merits 
listing because of its restricted range and threats to water quality, 
especially siltation. The petitioners requested emergency listing due 
to the perceived immediate threats to the species' continued existence 
from the proposed construction of the Jefferson County jail, and 
expansion of the county land fill and sewage treatment plant near this 
species' habitat.
    We have reviewed the petition, the literature cited in the 
petition, other literature, and information available in our files. 
Based on the best scientific information available, we find the 
petition presents substantial information that listing this species may 
be warranted. Emergency listing is allowed under the Act whenever 
immediate protection is needed to address a significant risk to the 
species' well being. Based on currently available information, 
emergency listing is not needed for the vermilion darter. The proposed 
jail, and expansion of the county land fill and sewage treatment plant 
are localized activities near the downstream extent of the species' 
range. We have determined that they do not pose an imminent threat of 
extinction to a significant portion of the total population.
    The vermilion darter is found only in the Turkey Creek drainage, a 
tributary of the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River, Jefferson 
County, Alabama (Boschung et al. 1992, Blanco et al. 1995, Mettee et 
al. 1996). Blanco et al. (1995) documented the vermilion darter's known 
range to 7.2 miles of the mainstem of Turkey Creek and the lowermost 
reaches of one tributary, Dry Creek. The historic population size of 
the vermilion darter is unknown and current population data is limited. 
There are localities with favorable concentrations of darters and 
others with few or none. In the 1960s and 70s, the vermilion darter was 
common at the Highway 79 bridge site but, by 1992, it had become very 
rare there (Boschung et al. 1992).
    Habitat for the vermilion darter is similar to that for other snub-
nosed darters typically found in small-sized clear streams with gravel 
riffles and moderate currents (Kuehne and Barbour 1983, Etinier and 
Starnes 1993). Boschung et al. (1992) described the streams as 3 to 20 
meters (9.84 to 65.6 feet) wide, 0.01 to >0.5 meter (0.034 to >1.64 
feet) in depth, with pools of moderate current alternating with riffles 
of moderately swift current. The riffles are of coarse gravel, cobble 
and small rubble, and the bottoms of the pools are rock, sand, and 
silt. The darter is absent from bedrock, but it does occur in bedrock-
dominated areas with sand and gravel.
    Impacts of point and non-point source pollution are the primary 
threats to the survival of this species. The vermilion darter, being 
isolated and localized, is vulnerable to human-induced impacts to its 
habitat. Excessive sediments are believed to impact the habitat of 
darters and associated fish species by making it unsuitable for feeding 
and reproduction. Urbanization of the Turkey Creek watershed has likely 
contributed significantly to its sedimentation. The approximately 35 
square mile Turkey Creek watershed drains 54,731 acres of Jefferson 
County, the most populous county in the state. A State highway divides 
the watershed and there is significant development (such as commercial, 
residential, and industrial) throughout the area. The creek has been 
noted to be brown-orange after heavy rains and completely muddy 
(Blanchard pers. comm. 1998). Implementation of the recently proposed 
Jefferson County jail would likely lead to increased sediment loading 
of the creek within the lower 2 miles of the known vermilion darter 
range (Boschung et al. 1992 and Blanco et al. 1995). Increased nutrient 
loading by sewage effluent has likely contributed to the eutrophication 
of the creek. Violations reported by Alabama Department of 
Environmental Management for the Turkey Creek Waste Water Plant (TCWWP) 
(Blanchard in litt. 1998) have shown elevated maximum values for fecal 
coliforms, while below the TCWWP, the creek has been altered by strip-
mining and land fill.
    We solicit information regarding occurrence and distribution of the 
species, threats to its continued existence, and any additional 
comments and suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
parties concerning the status of the vermilion darter. Of particular 
interest is information regarding:
    (1) Additional historic and current population data which may 
assist in determining range and long term population trends;
    (2) Pertinent information on biology and life history;
    (3) Additional information about habitat requirements and stream 
water quality; and,
    (4) Information on immediate and distant ecological threats to the 
vermilion darter, other fish species of the creek, and the watershed in 
    After consideration of additional information, submitted during the 
indicated time period (see DATES section), we will prepare a 12-month 
finding as to whether listing of the species is warranted.

[[Page 3915]]

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein, as well as others, 
is available upon request from the Jackson Field Office. See ADDRESSES 
    The primary author of this document is Daniel J. Drennen (see 
ADDRESSES section).


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

    Dated: January 7, 1999.

Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 99-1639 Filed 1-25-99; 8:45 am]