[Federal Register: August 9, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 152)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 43132-43137]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AE89

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Withdrawal of 
Proposed Rule To List the Plant Rumex orthoneurus (Chiricahua Dock) as 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; withdrawal.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), withdraw the 
proposed rule to list the plant Rumex orthoneurus (Chiricahua dock or 
Blumer's dock) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act 

[[Page 43133]]

1973, as amended (Act). We find that the available information does not 
support the listing of this species as threatened. Although threats to 
some populations of this plant may persist, these threats are not 
sufficiently widespread to pose a significant risk to R. orthoneurus 
within the foreseeable future. Recent genetic research and survey 
efforts indicate that R. orthoneurus has a much larger distribution 
than previously thought. We, therefore, find that R. orthoneurus does 
not meet the definition of a threatened or endangered species.

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this rule is available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the Arizona 
Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 
W. Royal Palm Rd., Suite 103, Phoenix, Arizona 85021.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Harlow, Field Supervisor, Arizona 
Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES section) (telephone 
602-640-2720, ext. 244; facsimile 602-640-2730).



    On April 1, 1998, we published in the Federal Register a proposed 
rule to list Chiricahua dock Rumex orthoneurus as threatened (63 FR 
15813). An herbaceous, robust perennial within the Polygonaceae family, 
R. orthoneurus is known from the mountains of Arizona, New Mexico, and 
Mexico. Plants grow to 1 meter (m) (3.3 feet (ft)) in height with 
inflorescence stalks up to 2 m (6.6 ft) in height on more vigorous 
specimens. The large oblong to oblong-lanceolate basal leaves are up to 
50 centimeters (cm) (19.7 inches (in)) long, and 18 cm (7.1 in) wide. 
Characteristics differentiating this plant from other members in its 
genus include woody rhizomes (a rootlike horizontal stem, as opposed to 
taproots) on mature plants which appear banded, the color of which can 
vary (Robert Bellsey, University of Arizona, pers. comm. 1999); lateral 
leaf veins almost perpendicular to the middle vein of the leaf (but 
that are often at less than right angles); and a lack of callosities or 
swellings on the valves or midribs of fruiting capsules (Dawson 1979, 
Phillips et al. 1980, Coronado National Forest 1993).
    Rumex orthoneurus occurs in moist, loamy soils within riparian and 
wetland habitats, and in cienegas (desert wetlands), springs, and 
streams. It is also known to occur in the drier headwaters of some 
areas (Robert Bellsey, University of Arizona, pers. comm. 1999). R. 
orthoneurus is found at elevations primarily between 2,000 and 3,500 m 
(approximately 6.500-11,500 ft). While many sites are in open meadows 
or along streams with open canopies, R. orthoneurus frequently occurs 
in shaded forests. Surrounding habitats are generally mixed conifer 
forest. The dominant species associated with R. orthoneurus include 
sneeze weed (Helenium hoopesii), larkspur (Delphinium andesicola), 
monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.) and various sedges (Carex spp.) (Phillips 
et al. 1980).
    Rumex orthoneurus is distributed in areas scattered throughout 
Arizona and New Mexico, and is known to occur at two locations in the 
State of Sonora, Mexico. In Arizona, the plant is present on the 
Coronado, Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, and Tonto National Forests. On 
the Coronado National Forest, R. orthoneurus occurs in the Chiricahua 
and Huachuca mountains in Cochise County, and the Pinaleno Mountains in 
Graham County. On the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, R. 
orthoneurus is located in the White Mountains in Apache County and 
along the north side of the Mogollon Rim in Coconino County. On the 
Coconino National Forest, R. orthoneurus was recently found in the San 
Francisco Peaks and Barbershop Canyon in Coconino County. On the Tonto 
National Forest, R. orthoneurus occurs in the Sierra Ancha Mountains in 
Gila County, and was introduced in the south drainage of the Mogollon 
Rim (also in Gila County).
    In New Mexico, Rumex orthoneurus is distributed on the Santa Fe, 
Lincoln, Gila, and Carson National Forests. On the Santa Fe National 
Forest, R. orthoneurus was recorded in Mora County, including the Pecos 
Wilderness. R. orthoneurus was found in Catron and Grant counties on 
the Gila National Forest, including the Gila Wilderness Area. Plants 
are documented in numerous locations on the Carson National Forest, and 
specimens were recently collected from the Lincoln National Forest.
    Recent genetic work has clarified the distinction between Rumex 
orthoneurus and the closely related species, R. occidentalis. Bellsey 
(1998, in prep.) compared DNA among R. orthoneurus, R. occidentalis, 
and R. obtusifolius (a species known to be distantly related to R. 
orthoneurus) using the Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD) 
technique. Bellsey discovered that the presumed R. orthoneurus from 
Arizona were significantly different from R. occidentalis, and that all 
three species shared less than 15% of the RAPD markers. The genetic 
analyses resulted in classification of the White and Gila mountains 
populations as R. orthoneurus and not R. occidentalis, which they 
resemble morphologically. Morphological characteristics of specimens 
from the Carson and Lincoln National Forests now indicate that they are 
R. orthoneurus and not R. occidentalis, (Robert Bellsey, University of 
Arizona, pers. comm. 1999). However, genetic analysis has yet to be 
performed on these plants.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    In the proposed rule we requested all interested parties to submit 
factual reports or information that might contribute to development of 
a final rule. We also contacted all appropriate Federal agencies, State 
agencies, county and city governments, scientific organizations, and 
other interested parties and requested comments.
    In accordance with our peer review policy published in the Federal 
Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinions of 
three appropriate and independent specialists regarding the proposed 
rule. We invited these peer reviewers to comment during the public 
comment period upon the specific assumptions and conclusions regarding 
the proposed listing. In response to our solicitation one reviewer 
provided comments that we considered in the preparation of this notice.
    We published newspaper notices inviting public comment in the 
Silver City Daily Press (Silver City, NM) on April 7, 1998; the Arizona 
Republic (Phoenix, AZ), Tucson Citizen (Tucson, AZ), and Arizona Daily 
Star (Tucson, AZ) on April 9, 1998; and the White Mountain Independent 
(Pinetop, AZ), Sierra Vista Herald (Sierra Vista, AZ), Albuquerque 
Journal (Albuquerque, NM), Albuquerque Tribune (Albuquerque, NM), and 
Santa Fe New Mexican (Sante Fe, NM), on April 10, 1998. The comment 
period closed on July 30, 1998.
    To provide for a requested public hearing, encourage participation 
from the public in the species listing process, and to await the 
submission of current species status information, we reopened and 
extended the comment period from July 30, 1998 until October 1, 1998 
(63 FR 40389; July 29, 1998). We also held informational meetings with 
interested parties about the proposed rule in Silver City, NM on August 
18, 1998.
    We received 37 comments (e.g., letters, phone calls, facsimiles, 
and oral testimony) from individuals or agency or group representatives 
concerning the proposed rule to list Rumex

[[Page 43134]]

orthoneurus. Seven people provided comments supporting the proposed 
listing of the species, 13 people opposed the proposed listing, and 17 
people provided informational comments. Several commenters provided 
additional information that we incorporated into this withdrawal, along 
with other clarifications. We organized all opposing and technical 
comments into five specific issues, and these along with our response 
are summarized below.

Issue 1--Known Distribution of Rumex orthoneurus

    Comment: Several commenters stated that listing is not warranted 
because the plant has a much wider distribution than previously 
    Service Response: Our knowledge of Rumex orthoneurus distribution 
has increased considerably since the proposed rule. At the time of the 
proposed rule, although R. orthoneurus was thought to occur in New 
Mexico and east-central Arizona, data from only 10 sites in 
southeastern Arizona were available to evaluate the status of the 
plant. We have since become aware of approximately 134 additional R. 
orthoneurus locations (non-introduced), many of which contain high 
numbers of plants with low levels of threats. See Factor A of ``Summary 
of Factors Affecting the Species'' section for additional information.
    Comment: Several commenters stated that Rumex orthoneurus inhabits 
areas inaccessible to cattle, and thus is not exposed to threats from 
    Service Response: Although it is true that Rumex orthoneurus is 
located in some areas that are inaccessible to cattle, the plant is 
also located in many areas where cattle roam freely. In those areas, 
cattle grazing is documented to have substantial detrimental effects on 
smaller populations of the plant. Despite this, the range of R. 
orthoneurus is much larger than previously thought, and many 
populations have low levels of threats.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that listing is warranted because 
the previous known range at the time of the proposed rule constitutes a 
significant portion of the species' range.
    Service Response: At the time of the proposed rule, site-specific 
information was available for 10 Rumex orthoneurus locations. Although 
we were aware that the species occurred in other areas, data were not 
available for those sites. We have current information from 
approximately 134 additional sites containing natural populations of R. 
orthoneurus. The size of populations within these sites ranges from 
just a few individuals to tens of thousands.
    Site-specific information is available for four National Forests in 
Arizona and three National Forests in New Mexico (excluding the Lincoln 
National Forest). The plant is also known to occur in Mexico. Impacts 
to the plant in southeast Arizona (the previously known sites) 
continue, and these populations are important to the genetic variation 
of the species. However, conservation strategies for most southeast 
Arizona populations are already established and in place (See Factors A 
and D of the ``Summary of Factors Affecting the Species'' section) and 
threats within the balance of its range are not severe enough to 
threaten the continued existence of the species. Changes in our 
assessment of the level of threats to the plant are the result of new 
information indicating a larger known distribution of the plant, higher 
densities of populations, and diminished levels of overall threats 
stemming from the discovery of new populations.

Issue 2--Adaptability and Resiliency of Rumex orthoneurus

    Comment: Several commenters stated that physiological adaptations 
such as asexual reproduction and dormancy during drought allow the 
plant to survive disturbance and stochastic (randomly occurring 
natural) events. Other commenters suggested that perceived declines in 
plant abundance may not be real because plants that are not visible one 
year may sometimes reappear in subsequent years.
    Service Response: We recognize that Rumex orthoneurus may be 
tolerant of certain disturbance events because of its physiological 
adaptations. We are also aware that the plant has regenerated in areas 
where it appeared to have been destroyed. However, threats such as 
grazing, wildfire, water diversion, and recreation are known to cause 
irreparable damage to R. orthoneurus and the riparian areas it 
inhabits. These threats can cause stream-bank erosion, head-cutting 
(streambed erosion that migrates upstream resulting in channel 
destabilization and accelerated streambank erosion), and soil 
compaction, all from which the plant has difficulty recovering despite 
its physiological characteristics.
    Water is a primary vector of seed dispersal for Rumex orthoneurus. 
Thus, if the plant is extirpated from upstream reaches, there is a 
lower probability that it can re-colonize those areas. Furthermore, 
unabated grazing can reduce plants to 1-2 cm (less than 1 in.) in 
height, when they are otherwise able to grow up to 1 m (3.3 ft) tall. 
This prevents the plant from producing flowering stalks, which are 
necessary for sexual reproduction and the mixing of genetic material 
from unique individuals. The reduction of plant size also hampers the 
plant's ability to generate vital nutrients from photosynthesis, as the 
surface area of the plant is diminished by approximately two orders of 
magnitude. If the plant is forced to remain in this retarded growth 
form continuously, it may be destroyed. However, these threats, 
although they are in certain locations significant, are not manifested 
to a significant degree throughout the range of R. orthoneurus. 
Consequently, we find that listing is not warranted at this time (see 
Factor A of the ``Summary of Factors Affecting the Species'' section).

Issue 3--Fire as a Threat

    Comments: Numerous commenters stated that fire is not a threat to 
the plant, because fire can thin vegetation and allow Rumex orthoneurus 
to colonize and grow in riparian areas where other woody plant species 
are encroaching.
    Service Response: Wildfires are detrimental to R. orthoneurus, 
especially when they result in increased stream sedimentation and the 
scouring of drainages. The resultant soil loss can translate into long 
term, if not permanent, loss of habitat for R. orthoneurus. In the 
Tonto National Forest, wildfire has caused the extirpation of two 
introduced populations, and the potential for wildfire on National 
Forest lands remains a threat to R. orthoneurus. Despite this, wildfire 
is largely an isolated event, and for the vast majority of known R. 
orthoneurus populations, there is no indication of it being a 
significant threat.

Issue 4--Genetic Diversity of Populations

    Comment: One commenter indicated that because Rumex orthoneurus 
populations from each mountain range are unique genetically, that 
maintaining these populations and their genetic diversity is important 
to the overall health of the species.
    Service Response: Because R. orthoneurus can reproduce asexually, a 
population with many plants may actually be just a few individuals that 
developed from rhizomes. Asexual reproduction in R. orthoneurus may 
limit the level of diverse genetic information in some populations. 
Thus, preserving populations from each mountain range is important in

[[Page 43135]]

maximizing the genetic variation available to the overall gene pool of 
the species.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    We must consider five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the 
Act when determining whether to list a species. These factors, and 
their application to our decision to withdraw the proposal to list 
Chiricahua dock (Rumex orthoneurus Rech F.), are as follows:

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

    The proposed rule (63 FR 15813) identified livestock grazing, 
recreation, water development and diversion, road construction and 
maintenance, logging, mining and associated activities, and wildfire as 
causing the loss and degradation of riparian and cienega habitat for 
Rumex orthoneurus. In the proposed rule, we identified some populations 
as extirpated because of these activities. It was believed that the 
extirpation of some natural populations in the Chiricahua and Huachuca 
mountains were possibly caused by water development and diversion, 
grazing, and mining activities. Frequent road maintenance in the 
Pinaleno Mountains was found to regularly impact one population. The 
Tonto National Forest (1993) noted evidence of soil compaction and 
unstable banks at the Workman Creek sites in the Sierra Ancha Mountains 
caused by recreational activities. In the Coronado National Forest 
(1993) Conservation Strategy for the Chiricahua Dock, the Forest 
Service addressed the possible extirpation of the type locality (the 
location where the plant was originally described) as a result of water 
diversions. Hodges attributed impacts to R. orthoneurus at Hospital 
Flat (Pinaleno Mountains) to trampling by recreationists and damming of 
the creek (David Hodges, Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, 
pers. comm. 1995).
    At the time of the proposed rule, grazing was thought to impact 
Rumex orthoneurus at the system, population, and individual plant 
levels, as grazed populations often do not produce seeds. Also at the 
time of the proposed rule, it was thought that continued grazing could 
eventually preclude the plant's continued existence due to a lack of 
seed production, compacted soils discouraging seedling establishment, 
severe trampling of plants and underground rhizomes, and 
destabilization of streambanks resulting in habitat loss. At the time 
we prepared the proposed rule, the population at Ramsey Canyon in the 
Huachuca Mountains was thought to be extirpated by grazing, which took 
place in the early 1900s (Van Devender 1980). The species is now known 
to occur in three different areas in upper Ramsey Canyon. The available 
information at the time of the proposed rule, indicated that virtually 
all reported occurrences of R. orthoneurus on the Apache-Sitgreaves 
National Forests were adversely affected by grazing activities. 
However, many newly discovered occurrences of R. orthoneurus on the 
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests are not being adversely affected by 
livestock grazing, and because we have found many plant locations to be 
free of grazing, we cannot conclude that impacts to R. orthoneurus are 
occurring range-wide by this threat.
    The proposed rule also cited Phillips et al. (1980), who reported a 
proposed uranium mining and milling operation as a threat to the 
Workman Creek population of Rumex orthoneurus in the Sierra Ancha 
Mountains. Plans called for the construction of a campsite, and the 
development of the bowl area of Carr Mountain (the watershed for the 
site) into a uranium mill. Although the Workman Creek drainage remains 
available for mineral entry, and mining continues to be a potential 
threat in that area, logging and mining operations are not widely 
documented as having adverse effects on R. orthoneurus populations. 
Finally the proposed rule identified that wildfire in the Tonto 
National Forest caused the extirpation of two introduced populations, 
and the decline of a third. Although wildfire continues to be a threat 
to some populations of the Chiricahua dock, its effects are localized.
    While grazing, recreation, wildfire, and water diversions can 
adversely affect the plant in some areas, recent genetic research (see 

``Background'' section) and survey efforts indicate that Rumex 
orthoneurus has a much larger distribution than previously thought, and 
not all populations are imperiled by the above threats.
    Our decision to propose Rumex orthoneurus as a threatened species 
was based on the best scientific information available to us at the 
time of the proposed rule, and consisted of information from only 10 
sites in southeastern Arizona (most with only a few individuals). Rumex 
orthoneurus is now known from approximately 144 sites in Arizona and 
New Mexico, and at least two sites in the State of Sonora, Mexico, 
within the forest reserve ``Sierra de los Ajos.'' Numbers of plants at 
sites containing R. orthoneurus range from just a few to tens of 
thousands of individuals. In Arizona, on the Coronado National Forest, 
R. orthoneurus occurs at 12 sites as natural populations in the 
Chiricahua, Pinaleno, and Huachuca mountains. There are four introduced 
sites in the Chiricahua mountains, most of which are either stable or 
increasing in number. Originally, plants from the White (AZ), Mogollon 
(NM), and San Francisco (NM) mountains were thought to be R. 
occidentalis. However, recent research indicates that plants in these 
mountains are, in fact, R. orthoneurus (see ``Background'' section; 
Mount and Logan 1993, Friar et al. 1994, Bellsey and Mount 1995, 
Bellsey 1998, in prep.).
    On the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, Rumex orthoneurus is 
located in the White Mountains and along the north side of the Mogollon 
Rim. A total of 67 sites, many with thousands of plants, are documented 
thus far, and many areas have yet to be surveyed. Current genetic 
information, has revealed that four sites in the San Francisco Peaks on 
the Coconino National Forest currently support R. orthoneurus. A fifth 
site was discovered in Barbershop Canyon (Coconino National Forest), a 
site previously surveyed without R. orthoneurus detections (Barbara 
Phillips, Coconino National Forest, pers. comm. 1999). Additional 
locations are suspected to contain R. orthoneurus, but lack surveys. 
Four sites containing natural populations of R. orthoneurus were found 
on the Tonto National Forest in the Sierra Ancha Mountains and receive 
some protection, and many other sites contain introduced populations in 
the south drainage of the Mogollon Rim.
    In New Mexico, the presence of Rumex orthoneurus is documented from 
recent survey efforts (Bellsey, pers. comm. 1999) on the Carson, Santa 
Fe, Lincoln, and Gila National Forests. On the Carson National Forest, 
2 days of cursory surveys conducted from a vehicle found seven 
locations containing R. orthoneurus. On the Santa Fe National Forest, 
R. orthoneurus presence was recorded during approximately 4 days of 
surveys for Arizona willow (Salix arizonica). This effort resulted in 
the detection of 14 locations, many of which contain tens of thousands 
of plants. At the time of the proposed rule, R. orthoneurus was thought 
to be extinct on the Lincoln National Forest, but specimens were 
recently collected whose morphological characteristics indicate the 
plants are R. orthoneurus (Bellsey, pers. comm. 1999). The vast 
majority of habitat on these forests still remain unsurveyed.

[[Page 43136]]

Surveys and genetic analysis of R. orthoneurus specimens indicate that 
there are 34 sites containing natural populations on the Gila National 
    In contrast to the proposed rule, we are now aware of so many sites 
(many with low levels of threats), that despite the threats stated in 
the proposed rule, we cannot conclude that Rumex orthoneurus is 
threatened throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Overutilization is not known to be a significant threat at the 
present time.

C. Disease or Predation

    The primary predation threat to Rumex orthoneurus is from livestock 
or wild ungulate grazing due to its high palatability and occurrence in 
wetland habitats attractive to herbivores. Permitted grazing occurs at 
R. orthoneurus sites in the White Mountains on the Apache-Sitgreaves 
National Forests and at sites on the Tonto National Forest. The Gila 
Wilderness has not permitted grazing since 1952 (Paul Boucher, Gila 
National Forest, pers. comm. 1997), and grazing by cattle has not 
occurred since 1947 on R. orthoneurus sites in the Pinaleno Mountains 
(Coronado National Forest 1993). Sites on the Coconino and the Apache-
Sitgreaves National Forests are affected by wild ungulates. There is 
documentation of both cattle and elk grazing at R. orthoneurus sites in 
the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests.
    Despite the documented grazing on most of the forests where Rumex 
orthoneurus is found, the plant is protected in many areas by 
exclosures (barriers to exclude animals), by management efforts, or by 
virtue of its location. At the time of the proposed rule, there was 
reason to believe that grazing was a much more serious threat to R. 
orthoneurus because known sites were fairly small, and the proportion 
of sites affected was thought to be high. New information indicates 
that there are numerous secure sites with hundreds, thousands, or tens 
of thousands of plants. In some cases, sites are considered secure 
because population sizes are large, and in others grazing is absent or 
of little consequence (i.e., grazing periods are brief or there are few 
ungulates). In addition to the information that many sites appear 
secure, the proportion of affected sites decreased as we became aware 
of more non-threatened sites. These positive developments for the 
status of R. orthoneurus lead us to conclude that listing is no longer 

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Many Federal and State laws and regulations can protect Rumex 
orthoneurus and its habitat. However, Federal and state agency 
discretion allowed under these laws still permits adverse effects on 
listed and rare species. Rumex orthoneurus is not included in either of 
the three Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in 
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and it is unlikely 
to require the trade protections of CITES.
    The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701 
et seq.) and National Forest Management Act of 1976 (16 U.S.C. 1600 et 
seq.) direct Federal agencies to prepare programmatic-level management 
plans to guide long-term resource management decisions. Forest plans 
generally include a commitment to maintain viable populations of all 
native wildlife, fish and plant species within the Forest's 
jurisdiction. However, such general commitments do not, in themselves, 
preclude adverse effects to rare species by any National Forest.
    The Coronado and Tonto National Forests developed assessments with 
management strategies for Rumex orthoneurus in 1993. To date, cattle 
grazing is somewhat limited on R. orthoneurus sites in both forests. 
The Tonto National Forest has taken extensive measures to keep cattle 
and recreation out of riparian areas inhabited by R. orthoneurus. The 
Forest has closed roads where vehicles and hikers could impact the 
plant, and they have moved gates to redirect traffic to areas not 
occupied by R. orthoneurus. Although the Coronado National Forest has a 
conservation strategy which has limited livestock grazing, some sites 
are grazed by horses, and recreation is still a problem at many sites. 
The Apache-Sitgreaves Forests are implementing a monitoring program in 
1999 (John Bedell, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, in litt. 1999), 
and the Carson National Forest has designated funds for additional 
surveys in 1999 (Dick Braun, Carson National Forest, pers. comm. 1999). 
Management strategies were not developed for sites at other National 
Forests or the Ft. Huachuca Army Post.
    The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 
Sec. 4321-4370a) requires Federal agencies to consider the 
environmental impacts of their actions. The NEPA requires Federal 
agencies to describe a proposed action, consider alternatives, identify 
and disclose potential environmental impacts of each alternative, and 
involve the public in the decision-making process. It does not require 
Federal agencies to select the alternative having the least significant 
environmental impact. The NEPA does not prohibit a Federal action 
agency from choosing an action that will adversely affect listed or 
candidate species provided these effects were known and identified in a 
NEPA document.
    The wetland habitats supporting Rumex orthoneurus have a degree of 
protection under section 404 of the Clean Water Act and under Federal 
Executive Orders 11988 (Floodplain Management) and 11990 (Protection of 
Wetlands). These authorities can only protect R. orthoneurus indirectly 
and have not curtailed population decline, extirpation, or habitat 
losses for R. orthoneurus in some locations.
    Under the Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. 3371 et seq.), as amended in 1982, 
it is unlawful for any person to import, export, sell, receive, 
acquire, purchase, or engage in interstate or foreign commerce in any 
species taken, possessed, or sold in violation of any law, treaty, or 
regulation of the United States, any Tribal law, or any law or 
regulation of any state. The Lacey Act can provide a degree of 
protection to Rumex orthoneurus to the extent that the species is 
protected by Arizona State law (described below).
    The Arizona Native Plant Law (A.R.S. Chapter 7, Article 1) protects 
Rumex orthoneurus as ``highly safeguarded.'' A permit from the Arizona 
Department of Agriculture (ADA) must be obtained to legally collect 
this species from public or private lands in Arizona. Permits may be 
issued for scientific and educational purposes only. It is unlawful to 
destroy, dig up, mutilate, collect, cut, harvest, or take any living 
``highly safeguarded'' native plant from private, State, or Federal 
land without a permit. However, private landowners and Federal and 
State agencies may clear land and destroy habitat after giving the ADA 
sufficient notice to allow plant salvage. Damage to plants and habitat 
occur under the Arizona Native Plant Law.
    Despite the potential inadequacies in existing regulatory 
mechanisms, we find insufficient evidence that the existing levels of 
threats to Rumex orthoneurus warrant its listing as a threatened or 
endangered species under the Act. In light of the expanded numbers and 
distribution of R. orthoneurus, the potential inadequacies of these 
regulatory mechanisms is no longer a significant factor.

[[Page 43137]]

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    At the time of the proposed rule, a high proportion of known Rumex 
orthoneurus populations occurred as small sites in isolated mountain 
ranges. Rumex orthoneurus was thought to be vulnerable to chance 
extirpations because of the perceived low numbers of individuals in 
mostly scattered, isolated populations.
    Any loss of such sites would have resulted in a significant 
curtailment of the species' range, and may have affected the species' 
ability to sustain itself over time. Wildfire was also thought to pose 
a significant threat, as it could be catastrophic to smaller, confined 
    We now know that Rumex orthoneurus is well distributed in areas of 
Arizona and New Mexico. Many sites where R. orthoneurus is found 
contain thousands of plants. The present distribution and abundance of 
R. orthoneurus precludes a finding that listing the plant is warranted 
because chance, localized extirpations would not necessarily result in 
a significant curtailment of the species' range. Additionally, although 
wildfire can be detrimental to localized populations, wildfire is 
largely an isolated event. For the vast majority of known R. 
orthoneurus populations, there is no indication that wildfire is a 
significant threat. We find no indication of any other natural or 
manmade factors affecting the continued existence of R. orthoneurus.

Finding and Withdrawal

    Based on our review and consideration of the best scientific and 
commercial information available, we find that Rumex orthoneurus does 
not meet the definition of a threatened or endangered species and that 
its listing as a threatened species is not warranted. Recent genetic 
research (see Background section) and survey efforts indicate that R. 
orthoneurus has a much larger distribution than previously thought (see 
Factor A of the ``Summary of Factors Affecting the Species'' section), 
and not all populations are imperiled. Although mining and logging 
activities are suspected of affecting R. orthoneurus, the impacts of 
such activities are not widely documented, and wildfire is localized in 
its impacts on the plant. We can no longer conclude that R. orthoneurus 
is impacted throughout its range by the remaining threats of livestock 
and wildlife grazing in a manner that would threaten its continued 
    Recognizing the need to ensure the continued existence of Rumex 
orthoneurus, the Forest Service established numerous monitoring and 
survey programs. Conservation strategies for the Tonto and Coronado 
National Forests were in place in 1993. In 1999, the Apache-Sitgreaves 
National Forests initiated a monitoring program (John Bedell, Apache-
Sitgreaves National Forests, in litt. 1999), and the Carson National 
Forest has budgeted for additional survey efforts (Dick Braun, Carson 
National Forest, pers. comm. 1999). Due to the current distribution and 
associated level of threats to R. orthoneurus, we find that there is 
not substantial evidence to indicate that R. orthoneurus is threatened 
under the Act (likely to become endangered within the foreseeable 
future throughout all or a significant portion of its range).

References Cited

Bellsey, R. A. 1998. Summary of genetic work performed on Rumex 
orthoneurus, the Chiricahua dock. Unpublished report to the National 
Forest Service. 16 pp.
Bellsey, R. and D. Mount. 1995. Analysis of Rumex orthoneurus, a 
rare species in Arizona, using RAPD markers and polymorphisms in 
``rbcL''. In: Maschinski, J., D. H. Hammond, and L. Holter, tech. 
Eds. Southwestern rare and endangered plants: proceedings of the 
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16 pp.
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University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. 15 pp.
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    Author: The primary author of this withdrawal notice is Darrin 
Thome, Arizona Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES 

    Authority: The authority for this action is section 
4(b)(6)(B)(ii) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: July 28, 1999.
John G. Rogers,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 99-20404 Filed 8-6-99; 8:45 am]