[Federal Register: December 3, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 232)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 67814-67821]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF79

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed 
Threatened Status for the Plant Silene spaldingii (Spalding's Catchfly)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule and notice of petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to 
list Silene spaldingii (Spalding's catchfly) as threatened pursuant to 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Silene spaldingii 
is currently known from a total of 52 populations. Seven populations 
occur in west-central Idaho, 7 in northeastern Oregon, 9 in western 
Montana, 28 in eastern Washington, and 1 in adjacent British Columbia, 
Canada. This taxon is threatened by a variety of factors including 
habitat destruction and fragmentation from agricultural and urban 
development, grazing and trampling by domestic livestock and native 
herbivores, herbicide treatment, and competition from non-native plant 
species. This proposal, if made final, would implement the Federal 
protection and recovery provisions afforded by the Act for the plant.

DATES: Comments from all interested parties must be received by 
February 1, 2000. Public hearing requests must be received by January 
18, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Comments and materials concerning this proposal should be 
sent to the Supervisor, Snake River Basin Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, Boise, Idaho 83709. 
Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Ruesink, Supervisor, at the 
above address (telephone 208/378-5243; facsimile 208/378-5262).



    A member of the pink or carnation family (Caryophyllaceae), Silene 
spaldingii Watson is a long-lived perennial herb with four to seven 
pairs of lance-shaped leaves and a spirally arranged inflorescence 
(group of flowers) consisting of small greenish-white flowers. The 
foliage is lightly to densely covered with sticky hairs. Reproduction 
is by seed only; S. spaldingii does not possess rhizomes or other means 
of vegetative reproduction (Lesica 1992). Plants range from 
approximately 2 to 6 decimeters (dm) (8 to 24 inches (in)) in height 
(Lichthardt 1997).
    First collected in the vicinity of the Clearwater River, Idaho, 
between 1836 and 1847, Silene spaldingii was originally described by 
Watson (Watson 1875). This taxon was retained as a full species in a 
recent, comprehensive regional flora (Hitchcock and Cronquist 1973). 
Silene spaldingii differs from the related, common species S. scouleri 
by having petal blades 2 millimeters (mm) (0.08 in) in length; Silene 
scouleri has deeply lobed petal blades that are 6 to 7 mm (0.24 to 0.28 
in) long. Silene douglasii also occurs with S. spaldingii in some areas 
but typically has multiple, slender stems, narrower leaves, and is 
rarely sticky-pubescent (Lichthardt 1997).

[[Page 67815]]

    The distribution and habitat of Silene spaldingii are limited. The 
total number of sites discussed in the 90-day finding for S. spaldingii 
(63 FR 63661) was 94, which is larger than the number of populations 
identified in this proposed rule. The number of sites stated in the 90-
day finding was based primarily on information (generally known as 
element occurrence records) available in State natural heritage data 
bases. During the preparation of this proposed rule, we felt it was 
appropriate to group certain element occurrence records for S. 
spaldingii together when the sites were located approximately 1.6 
kilometer (km) (1 mile (mi)) or less apart. Thus, the difference in the 
number of S. spaldingii locations described in this proposed rule and 
the 90-day finding does not reflect the actual loss or extirpation of 
    This species is currently known from a total of 52 populations in 
the United States and British Columbia, Canada. Of the 51 Silene 
spaldingii populations in the United States, 7 occur in Idaho (Idaho, 
Lewis, and Nez Perce Counties), 7 in Oregon (Wallowa County), 9 in 
Montana (Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, and Sanders Counties), and 28 in 
Washington (Asotin, Lincoln, Spokane, and Whitman Counties). A 
population consists of one to several sites that are generally located 
less than 1.6 km (1 mi) apart. The number of S. spaldingii individuals 
within each population ranges from one to several thousand. Eighteen 
populations contain more than 50 individuals; only 6 of these 
populations are moderately large (i.e., contain more than 500 plants). 
Of the six largest populations, two are found in Oregon (Wallowa 
County), one in Idaho (Nez Perce County), one in Montana (Lincoln 
County), and two in Washington (Asotin and Lincoln Counties). The 6 
moderately large populations contain approximately 84 percent (i.e., 
13,800 individuals) of the total number of S. spaldingii. The total 
number of S. spaldingii individuals for all 52 populations is about 
16,500 (Edna Rey-Vizgirdas, Service, in litt. 1999).
    Much of the remaining habitat occupied by Silene spaldingii is 
fragmented. For example, S. spaldingii sites in Oregon are located at 
least 64 km (40 mi) from the nearest known sites in eastern Washington. 
Silene spaldingii sites in Montana are approximately 190 km (120 mi) 
from occupied habitat in Idaho and Washington. Approximately 52 percent 
of extant S. spaldingii populations occur on private land, 10 percent 
on State land, 33 percent on Federal land, and 5 percent on Tribal land 
(E. Rey-Vizgirdas, in litt. 1999).
    This species is primarily restricted to mesic (not extremely wet 
nor extremely dry) grasslands (prairie or steppe vegetation) that make 
up the Palouse region in southeastern Washington, northwestern Montana, 
and adjacent portions of Idaho and Oregon. In addition, approximately 
100 plants were located in British Columbia (Geraldine Allen, 
University of Victoria, in litt. 1996). Palouse habitat is considered 
to be a subset of the Pacific Northwest bunchgrass habitat type 
(Tisdale 1986). In Idaho, Palouse habitat is confined to a narrow band 
along the western edge of central and north-central Idaho, centering on 
Latah County (Tisdale 1986; Ertter and Moseley 1992). Large-scale 
ecological changes in the Palouse region over the past several decades, 
including agricultural conversion, changes in fire frequency, and 
alterations of hydrology, have resulted in the decline of numerous 
sensitive plant species including Silene spaldingii (Tisdale 1961). 
More than 98 percent of the original Palouse prairie habitat has been 
lost or modified by agricultural conversion, grazing, invasion of non-
native species, altered fire regimes, and urbanization (Noss et al. 
    Silene spaldingii is typically associated with grasslands dominated 
by native perennial grasses such as Festuca idahoensis (Idaho fescue) 
or F. scabrella (rough fescue). Other associated species include 
bluebunch wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum), snowberry (Symphoricarpos 
albus), Nootka rose (Rosa nutkana), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), 
prairie smoke avens (Geum triflorum), sticky purple geranium (Geranium 
viscosissimum), and arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) 
(Lichthardt 1997; Montana Natural Heritage Program (MNHP) 1998). 
Scattered individuals of Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) may also be 
found in or adjacent to S. spaldingii habitat. S. spaldingii sites 
range from approximately 530 m (1,750 feet (ft)) to 1,600 m (5,100 ft) 
elevation (Oregon Natural Heritage Program (ONHP) 1998; Washington 
Natural Heritage Program (WNHP) 1998).

Previous Federal Action

    Federal government actions for the plant began as a result of 
section 12 of the Act (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 in the 
United States. This report, designated as House Document No. 94-51, was 
presented to Congress on January 9, 1975, and included Silene 
spaldingii as an endangered species. We published a notice on July 1, 
1975, in the Federal Register (40 FR 27823) of our acceptance of the 
report of the Smithsonian Institution as a petition within the context 
of section 4(c)(2) (petition provisions are now found in section 
4(b)(3) of the Act) and our intention to review the status of the plant 
taxa named in the report. The July 1, 1975, notice included the above 
taxon. On June 16, 1976, we published a proposal (41 FR 24523) to 
determine approximately 1,700 vascular plant species to be endangered 
species pursuant to section 4 of the Act. The list of 1,700 plant taxa 
was assembled on the basis of comments and data received by the 
Smithsonian Institution and us in response to House Document No. 94-51 
and the July 1, 1975, Federal Register publication. Silene spaldingii 
was included in the June 16, 1976, proposal.
    In 1978, amendments to the Act required that all proposals over two 
years old be withdrawn. On December 10, 1979, we published a notice 
withdrawing that portion of the June 16, 1976, proposal that had not 
been made final, including the proposal to list Silene spaldingii (45 
FR 82480). We published an updated Notice of Review for plants on 
December 15, 1980 (45 FR 82480). This notice included S. spaldingii as 
a category 1 candidate. Category 1 candidates were those for which we 
had sufficient information on biological vulnerability and threats to 
support proposals to list them as endangered or threatened species. 
Silene spaldingii was included as a category 2 candidate in the 
November 28, 1983, supplement to the Notice of Review (48 FR 53640), as 
well as subsequent revisions on September 27, 1985 (50 FR 39526), 
February 21, 1990 (55 FR 6184), and September 30, 1993 (58 FR 51143). 
Category 2 candidates were those for which information in our 
possession indicated that proposing to list as endangered or threatened 
was possibly appropriate, but sufficient data to support proposed rules 
was not currently available. Upon publication of the February 28, 1996, 
Notice of Review (61 FR 7596), we ceased using category designations. 
Silene spaldingii was not included as a candidate species in this 
    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act requires the Secretary to make 
findings as to whether the petitioned action is warranted on petitions 
that present substantial information indicating the petitioned action 
may be warranted. Section 2(b)(1) of the 1982 amendments further 
required that all petitions pending on October 13, 1982, be treated as 
having been newly submitted on that

[[Page 67816]]

date. This provision applied to Silene spaldingii because the 1975 
Smithsonian report had been accepted as a petition. On October 13, 
1983, we found that the listing of the species was warranted but 
precluded by other pending listing actions, in accordance with section 
4(b)(3)(B)(iii) of the Act. We published notification of this finding 
on January 20, 1984 (49 FR 2485). Our warranted but precluded finding 
required us to consider the petition as having been resubmitted 
annually, pursuant to section 4(b)(3)(C)(i) of the Act.
    On February 27, 1995, we received a petition dated February 23, 
1995, from the Biodiversity Legal Foundation of Boulder, Colorado; the 
Montana and Washington Native Plant Societies; and Mr. Peter Lesica of 
Missoula, Montana, to list S. spaldingii within the conterminous United 
States as threatened or endangered under the Act. The petition 
submitted information stating that this species is threatened by 
competition with non-native and woody vegetation, improper livestock 
grazing practices, improper herbicide application, inbreeding 
depression, and fire suppression.
    In April 1995, the enactment of Public Law 104-6 placed a 
moratorium on final listing determinations and critical habitat 
designations. It also rescinded $1.5 million from our budget for 
carrying out listing activities for the remainder of Fiscal Year 1995. 
In order to maintain at least minimal listing programs in all our 
regions, Region 1's FY 1995 listing allocation was reduced by $1.2 
million. Region 1 has lead responsibility for the Silene spaldingii 
petition. Subsequently, from October 1, 1995, until April 26, 1996, the 
Department of the Interior operated without a regularly enacted full-
year appropriations bill. Instead, funding for most Interior programs, 
including the endangered species listing program, was governed by the 
terms of a series of 13 ``continuing resolutions.'' Their net effect 
was essentially to shut down the listing program. On April 26, 1996, 
President Clinton approved the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 
1996 and lifted the moratorium. At that time, we had accrued a backlog 
of proposed listings for 243 species, of which Region 1 had the lead on 
199, or 82 percent. Due to this backlog, reduced budgets for the 
listing program, and litigation demands, completion of the processing 
of this petition was not practicable until November 16, 1998. On that 
date, we published a finding that the petition presented substantial 
information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted (63 
FR 63661) and commenced a status review for Silene spaldingii.
    The processing of this proposed rule conforms with our Listing 
Priority Guidance published in the Federal Register on October 22, 1999 
(64 FR 57114). The guidance clarifies the order in which we will 
process rulemakings. Highest priority is processing emergency listing 
rules for any species determined to face a significant and imminent 
risk to its well-being (Priority 1). Second priority (Priority 2) is 
processing final determinations on proposed additions to the lists of 
endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. Third priority (Priority 
3) is processing new proposals to add species to the lists. The 
processing of administrative petition findings (petitions filed under 
section 4 of the Act) is the fourth priority (Priority 4). The 
processing of critical habitat determinations (prudency and 
determinability decisions) and proposed or final designations of 
critical habitat will no longer be subject to prioritization under the 
Listing Priority Guidance. This proposed rule is a Priority 3 action 
and is being completed in accordance with the current Listing Priority 

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) of the Act. These factors and 
their application to Silene spaldingii are as follows.

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

    As discussed in the ``Background'' section above, the distribution 
and habitat of Silene spaldingii are limited. This species is primarily 
restricted to slopes, flats, or swales (marshy lands) in mesic 
grasslands or steppe vegetation of the Palouse region in southeastern 
Washington, northwestern Montana, and adjacent portions of Idaho and 
Oregon. One site is located in British Columbia, Canada, directly 
adjoining a Montana population. In Idaho, Palouse habitat is confined 
to a narrow band along the western edge of central and north-central 
Idaho, centering on Latah County (Tisdale 1986; Ertter and Moseley 
1992). The Palouse prairie is extensively cultivated, with few remnants 
of native habitat (Tisdale 1986). Large-scale ecological changes have 
occurred in the Palouse region over the past several decades. More than 
98 percent of the original Palouse prairie habitat has been lost or 
modified by agricultural conversion, grazing, invasion of non-native 
species, altered fire regimes, and urbanization (Noss et al. 1995). 
This loss of habitat has resulted in the decline of numerous sensitive 
plant species including S. spaldingii (Tisdale 1961).
    Although historical data on Silene spaldingii distribution and 
population size are incomplete, this species was likely much more 
widespread in the past, based on the former distribution on suitable 
Palouse habitat. According to Ertter and Moseley (1992), ``because of 
the exceptionally rich soil, a deep layer of loess, most of the 
grasslands have been converted to agriculture. Most of the Palouse 
prairie vegetation has, therefore, disappeared, and endemic species 
such as Aster jessicae Piper and Haplopappus liatriformis (Greene) St. 
John are threatened with extinction.'' Both A. jessicae and H. 
liatriformis may be found within or near habitat occupied by S. 
spaldingii (Lichthardt 1997).
    Invasion by non-native plant species, herbicide application, and/or 
grazing (including trampling and consumption of plants) threaten 
virtually all of the remaining populations of this species, including 
those present in areas administered by the Bureau of Land Management 
(BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) (Biodiversity Legal 
Foundation et al. 1995; Lichthardt 1997; MNHP 1998; ONHP 1998; WNHP 
    Non-native plant species are considered to be a major threat at 
nearly all sites supporting Silene spaldingii. Threats to S. spaldingii 
posed by non-native plant species include competition for water, 
nutrients, and light, in addition to competition for pollinators 
(Lesica and Heidel 1996). Non-native plant species such as St. John's-
wort (Hypericum perforatum), yellow star-thistle (Centaurea 
solstitialis), leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), teasel (Dipsacus 
sylvestris), Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense), sulfur cinquefoil 
(Potentilla recta), Russian knapweed (Acroptilon repens), Scotch 
thistle (Onopordium acanthium), and cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) 
threaten S. spaldingii in Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Washington 
(Lesica and Heidel 1996; Lichthardt 1997; MNHP 1998; ONHP 1998; WNHP 
1998; Janice Hill, The Nature Conservancy, in litt. 1999).
    Some of these non-native species can invade and displace native 
plant communities in a relatively short period

[[Page 67817]]

of time. For example, at The Nature Conservancy's Garden Creek 
Preserve, which contains the largest Silene spaldingii population in 
Idaho (Idaho Conservation Data Center 1998), yellow star-thistle spread 
from approximately 60 hectares (ha) (150 acres (ac)) in 1987 to 1,200 
ha (3,000 ac) in 1998 (J. Hill, in litt. 1999). Another site containing 
S. spaldingii in Idaho (Lawyer's Creek) was apparently extirpated by 
highway construction in 1990 and the invasion of yellow star-thistle.
    Yellow star-thistle is found in the vicinity of all Silene 
spaldingii populations in Idaho (Lichthardt 1997). This aggressive 
exotic can form almost complete monocultures, invading and outcompeting 
native species. Even small areas that experience soil disturbance are 
almost immediately colonized by yellow star-thistle or other non-native 
winter annuals (Lichthardt 1997). Seeds of yellow star-thistle can 
remain dormant in the soil for 10 years (Callihan and Miller 1997), 
making effective control of this aggressive weed extremely difficult.
    Russian knapweed spreads readily by reproducing vegetatively, as 
well as by seed. Once established, knapweed forms single-species stands 
by producing chemicals that inhibit the survival of competing plant 
species, known as allelopathy (U.S. Geological Survey 1999). Knapweed 
has been noted to displace Silene spaldingii plants in Montana. At this 
site, the number of S. spaldingii plants declined from 30 in 1983 to 11 
in 1990, due to the invasion of knapweed (MNHP 1998). Noxious weeds 
also threaten the largest S. spaldingii populations in Montana 
(Biodiversity Legal Foundation et al. 1995; Brian Martin, The Nature 
Conservancy, in litt. 1998), Oregon (Jimmy Kagan, Oregon Natural 
Heritage Program, pers. comm. 1998), and Washington (Scott Riley, 
Umatilla National Forest, pers. comm. 1999). Silene spaldingii and 
other native plants are generally unable to grow or successfully 
reproduce in areas dominated by yellow star-thistle and knapweed.
    Silene spaldingii habitat is threatened by herbicide drift. Most 
remaining S. spaldingii populations are adjacent to agricultural 
fields, which are often treated with herbicides to control weeds. Even 
S. spaldingii sites that are not located immediately adjacent to 
agricultural areas may be vulnerable to herbicide use due to the 
presence of weeds (Jerry Hustafa, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, 
pers. comm. 1999). Herbicide overspray threatens populations in Idaho 
(Lichthardt 1997; J. Hill, in litt. 1999), Oregon (J. Hustafa, pers. 
comm. 1998; J. Kagan, pers. comm. 1998), and Washington (WNHP 1998). 
The population of S. spaldingii at one site in Idaho (Lewis County) 
decreased by more than 80 percent in the past 11 years, apparently due 
to weed invasion, herbicide spraying, and development (Lichthardt 
1997). One of the two largest S. spaldingii sites in Washington (on the 
Umatilla National Forest, Pomeroy Ranger District) is threatened by 
herbicide spraying to control weeds (S. Riley, pers. comm. 1999). A 
recent aerial herbicide spraying incident in Idaho County, Idaho, 
impacted the threatened plant species, MacFarlane's four-o'clock 
(Mirabilis macfarlanei). Approximately 2,000 M. macfarlanei plants on 
Federal and private land were accidentally sprayed during treatment for 
nearby target weed species (Craig Johnson, BLM, in litt. 1997). This 
species occurs in similar habitats as S. spaldingii. At least two S. 
spaldingii sites in Idaho (Nez Perce County) are particularly 
vulnerable to herbicide drift because of their close proximity to 
cropland (Lichthardt 1997).
    In addition to direct consumption of plants (as discussed under 
Factor C of this section), grazing animals can also affect Silene 
spaldingii by trampling and changing the community composition by 
fostering the invasion of non-native species. Impacts from trampling by 
native ungulates and domestic livestock have been observed at S. 
spaldingii sites in Washington (Gamon 1991; WNHP 1998). Grazing can 
indirectly affect S. spaldingii habitat by altering the species 
composition (Gamon 1991; Lichthardt 1997; Bonnie Heidel, Montana 
Natural Heritage Program, in litt. 1999). If grazing is heavy enough to 
adversely affect native species or allow weed invasion, S. spaldingii 
will likely disappear from sites (Barbara Benner, BLM, in litt. 1993). 
Biennial and non-native annual plants, adapted to disturbance, have a 
competitive advantage over S. spaldingii because of the soil 
disturbance associated with grazing (B. Benner, in litt. 1995).
    Most populations (52 percent) of Silene spaldingii occur on 
privately owned property and are, therefore, threatened by changes in 
land use practices, including certain livestock grazing practices, 
agricultural developments, and urbanization. For example, active 
housing development threatens to eliminate S. spaldingii habitat near 
Redbird Ridge in Idaho (Lichthardt 1997). Over the past 3 years, 
residential development immediately adjoining land owned by The Nature 
Conservancy (TNC), which has the largest S. spaldingii population in 
Montana, has destroyed potential habitat, increased the likelihood of 
uncontrolled, competing noxious weeds, and reduced management options 
such as controlled burning on the preserve (B. Martin, in litt. 1998). 
Continued development in this area is expected (B. Martin, in litt. 
1998). Habitat for S. spaldingii on private land near Wallowa Lake in 
eastern Oregon, which supports the largest site in Oregon, may be 
threatened by development because of its proximity to existing 
recreational facilities and residences (E. Rey-Vizgirdas, pers. obs. 
1998). Other S. spaldingii sites on private land in Idaho, Montana, and 
Washington may also be threatened by development.

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

    The plant is not a source for human food, nor is it currently of 
commercial horticulture interest. Therefore, overutilization is not 
considered to be a threat to this species at the present time. However, 
simply listing a species can precipitate commercial or scientific 
interest, both legal and illegal, which can threaten the species 
through unauthorized and uncontrolled collection for scientific and/or 
commercial purposes. The listing of species as threatened or endangered 
publicizes their rarity and may make them more susceptible to 
collection by researchers or curiosity seekers. Some of the populations 
of Silene spaldingii are small enough that even limited collection 
pressure could have adverse impacts on their reproductive or genetic 

C. Disease or Predation

    Grazing or browsing of Silene spaldingii inflorescences by 
livestock and native herbivores has been observed and is considered a 
significant threat to the species (Kagan 1989; Lesica 1993; Heidel 
1995; B. Benner, in litt. 1999). While grazing or browsing of S. 
spaldingii by native herbivores likely occurred historically, the 
effects of grazing or browsing becomes even more important as 
population sizes decrease. Rodent activity is also considered a 
significant factor affecting the persistence of S. spaldingii at 
several sites in eastern Washington (B. Benner, in litt. 1999). For 
example, numerous S. spaldingii plants were marked with stakes and 
metal tags as part of a monitoring study on land managed by the BLM in 
Washington. On a site visit, the BLM botanist discovered that many of 
these plants were either broken off or missing completely and likely 
consumed by rodents, as evidenced by

[[Page 67818]]

rodent burrowing activity in the area (B. Benner, in litt. 1999). Since 
S. spaldingii reproduces only by seed (Lesica 1992), grazing, browsing, 
or trampling directly affects reproduction of this species when flowers 
or seeds are removed or damaged.
    Insect predation on flowers and fruits is also a threat for this 
species (Kagan 1989; Gamon 1991; B. Benner, in litt. 1999). Such 
predation likely results in reduced reproductive success for Silene 
spaldingii (Heidel 1995). For example, at one of the two largest S. 
spaldingii populations in Washington on land managed by the Forest 
Service, insect consumption of seeds has been consistently observed by 
biologists monitoring the plants. This consumption results in empty 
capsules with no seeds, thereby limiting sexual reproduction of 
affected S. spaldingii plants (S. Riley, pers. comm. 1999). Similarly, 
in Oregon, a high percentage of S. spaldingii seed heads were destroyed 
by a seed weevil (Kagan 1989). Insect damage to foliage of S. 
spaldingii plants has also been noted (Lichthardt 1997).

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    silene spaldingii is listed as endangered by the State of Oregon 
(Oregon Department of Agriculture). However, the State Endangered 
Species Act does not provide protection for species on private land. 
Therefore, under State law, any plant protection is at the discretion 
of the landowner. Silene spaldingii is on the Washington Natural 
Heritage Program's list of threatened species (Gamon 1991), but this 
designation offers no statutory protection (Ted Thomas, Service, in 
litt. 1998). In addition, although State natural heritage programs in 
Idaho and Montana consider Spaldingii to be rare and imperiled these 
States have no endangered species legislation that protect threatened 
or endangered plants. The majority of S. spaldingii habitat occurs on 
private land, which is not adequately protected by existing regulatory 
    In Canada, Silene spaldingii is listed on the British Columbia, 
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Park's Red List. The Red List 
includes indigenous species or subspecies (taxa) that are either 
extirpated, endangered, threatened, or candidates for such status. 
Endangered taxa are facing imminent extirpation or extinction. 
Threatened taxa are likely to become endangered if limiting factors are 
not reversed. Silene spaldingii is a candidate for legal designation as 
an endangered or threatened species (British Columbia Conservation Data 
Center 1999). The Red List designation does not provide any statutory 
protection to this population, which occurs on private pasture land 
(Mike Miller, University of Victoria, in litt. 1999).
    Silene spaldingii is considered a sensitive species by the BLM and 
the Forest Service. Both of these agencies have laws and regulations 
that address the need to protect sensitive, candidate, and federally 
listed species (e.g., the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and 
the National Forest Management Act). Monitoring of some (but not all) 
S. spaldingii populations on Federal lands has already been initiated. 
Also, the BLM in eastern Washington has acquired several private land 
parcels that contain S. spaldingii habitat. However, these actions have 
not eliminated all of the threats to this species. For example, the 
effects of activities such as livestock grazing have not been evaluated 
for all S. spaldingii sites managed by the Forest Service and BLM. In 
addition, numerous sites on Federal lands are threatened by exotic 
weeds, herbicide spraying, and habitat succession through fire 
suppression (see factors A and E of this section).
    One Silene spaldingii population in eastern Washington occurs on 
the U.S. Department of Defense Fairchild Air Force Base (Base), and the 
Base asked the WNHP to visit the area in 1999 to assess its habitat and 
ground-disturbing activities that would affect this species (John 
Gamon, WNHP, pers. comm. 1999). This population contains fewer than 15 
plants in an isolated fragment of native habitat, and the area has been 
used for military training (WNHP 1998).
    Two populations occur on lands owned by TNC. This organization 
protects the habitat and natural communities on lands that it owns. TNC 
will protect Silene spaldingii on its lands and actively manage the 
habitat to improve conditions for this species, such as controlling 
livestock grazing (TNC 1999).

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Competition with other species for a limited number of pollinators 
(e.g., bumblebees (Bombus fervidus)) has the potential to adversely 
affect both fecundity and individual fitness in Silene spaldingii 
(Lesica and Heidel 1996). Competition for pollinators occurs primarily 
at S. spaldingii sites with large populations of other flowering 
plants, and the competition can adversely affect the survival of these 
small populations of S. spaldingii. For example, the non-native 
flowering plant St. John's-wort competes for pollinators where this 
plant occurs with S. spaldingii in Idaho (Lesica and Heidel 1996; 
Janice Hill, TNC, in litt. 1999; Karen Gray, botanist, in litt. 1999).
    Reduced pollinator activity is associated with poor reproductive 
success of Silene spaldingii, particularly in small populations (Lesica 
1993; Lesica and Heidel 1996). Agricultural fields do not provide 
suitable habitat for pollinators of S. spaldingii, which requires 
pollination by insects for maximum seed set and population viability 
(Lesica and Heidel 1996). Populations of S. spaldingii that occupy 
small areas surrounded by land that does not support bumblebee colonies 
(e.g., crop lands) are not likely to persist over the long term, and 
the presence of pollinators is considered to be critical for the 
persistence of S. spaldingii (Lesica 1993; Lesica and Heidel 1996). In 
addition to agricultural conversion and pesticides, pollinators are 
vulnerable to herbicide application, domestic livestock grazing, and 
fire (Gamon 1991; Lesica 1993).
    Climatic fluctuations can adversely affect this species and may 
contribute to the extirpation of small populations. For example, a 
population of Silene spaldingii at Wild Horse Island (Montana) declined 
from approximately 250 to 10 plants, due primarily to drought 
conditions in the late 1980's (Lesica 1988; Heidel 1995). Such 
reductions in population size are often exacerbated by other factors 
including pollinator competition and poor reproductive success.
    Habitat changes associated with fire suppression threaten this 
species, even at sites on public lands and those with some protective 
status (e.g., managed by TNC). Fire suppression can result in an 
overall decline in suitable habitat conditions for Silene spaldingii by 
facilitating encroachment by woody vegetation and other plant species 
and contributing to a build-up in the litter or duff layer. Competition 
from woody plants is frequently considered to reduce fecundity or 
recruitment of native prairie species (Menges 1995). In areas where 
fire regimes have been altered or excluded, shrubs and trees can 
encroach on grassland habitats that support S. spaldingii and inhibit 
seed germination. For example, S. spaldingii in the Kramer Palouse 
Biological Study Area in Washington declined from 147 to 10 individuals 
during the period from 1981 to 1994, apparently due to encroachment by 
the non-native yellow star-thistle and woody vegetation (Heidel 1995). 
Prescribed fire may have a positive effect on S. spaldingii by removing 
litter and creating suitable

[[Page 67819]]

sites for recruitment (Lesica, in press). Recruitment of S. spaldingii 
at study sites in Montana was enhanced following prescribed fire 
(Lesica 1992; in press). However, the effects of fire will vary at 
different sites within the range of this species due to factors such as 
fuel moisture content, species composition, and season and intensity of 
burning (Lesica 1997).
    Most populations of Silene spaldingii are restricted to small, 
remnant patches of native habitat (Gamon 1991; Lichthardt 1997; B. 
Heidel, in litt. 1999; S. Riley, pers. comm. 1999). When the number of 
populations of a species or the population size is reduced, the remnant 
populations (or portions of populations) have a higher probability of 
extinction from random events. Small populations are vulnerable to even 
relatively minor disturbances such as fire, herbicide drift, and weed 
invasions, which could result in the loss of S. spaldingii populations 
(Gamon 1991). Small populations of Silene regia, a rare prairie species 
native to the Midwest, have low seed germination presumably due to 
reduced pollinator visitation and other factors (Menges 1995). Small 
fragments of habitat that contain S. spaldingii may not be large enough 
to support viable populations of pollinators (Lesica 1993). Small 
populations are vulnerable to natural and manmade disturbances and may 
lose a large amount of genetic variability because of genetic drift 
(loss of genetic variability that takes place as a result of chance), 
reducing their long-term viability. Many S. spaldingii populations are 
isolated from other populations by large distances, and the majority of 
the populations occur at scattered localities separated by habitat that 
is not suitable for this species, such as agricultural fields. 
Extinction appears to be imminent for at least two S. spaldingii 
populations in Idaho due to their small size and habitat degradation 
(Lichthardt 1997). One of these populations consists of four 
individuals, and the other population has only one S. spaldingii plant. 
With these very small population sizes, even if the habitat was 
completely undisturbed, these populations would not be considered 
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
faced by the species in determining to issue this proposed rule. Most 
of the remaining sites that support Silene spaldingii are small and 
fragmented, and existing sites are vulnerable to impacts from factors 
including grazing, trampling, herbicide use, and non-native vegetation, 
in addition to urban and agricultural development. The majority of this 
species (52 percent) occurs on private land with little or no 
protection. Only one-third (33 percent) of S. spaldingii populations 
occur on Federal land (managed primarily by the BLM and Forest Service) 
and may, therefore, be afforded some level of protection. As previously 
described, only 6 S. spaldingii populations (12 percent) contain more 
than 500 plants, and even these relatively large populations (which 
occur on private and Federal land) are variously threatened by the 
above factors.

Critical Habitat

    We are not at this time making a critical habitat determination for 
Silene spaldingii. The Final Listing Priority Guidance for FY 1999/2000 
(64 FR 57114) states, that the processing of critical habitat 
determinations (prudency and determinability decisions) and proposed or 
final designations of critical habitat ``will no longer be subject to 
prioritization under the Listing Priority Guidance. Critical habitat 
determinations, which were previously included in final listing rules 
published in the Federal Register, may now be processed separately, in 
which case stand-alone critical habitat determinations will be 
published as notices in the Federal Register. We will undertake 
critical habitat determinations and designations during FY 1999 and FY 
2000 as allowed by our funding allocation for that year.'' As explained 
in detail in the Listing Priority Guidance, our listing budget is 
currently insufficient to allow us to immediately complete all of the 
listing actions required by the Act. Deferral of the critical habitat 
determination for S. spaldingii will allow us to concentrate our 
limited resources on higher priority critical habitat and other listing 
actions, while allowing us to pursue protections needed for the 
conservation of S. spaldingii without further delay. We will publish a 
critical habitat determination for S. spaldingii in the Federal 
Register subsequent to this rule.

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 public awareness and 
results in conservation actions by Federal, State, and private 
agencies, groups, and individuals. The Act provides for possible land 
acquisition and cooperation with the State and requires that recovery 
plans be developed 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 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 us 
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 subsequently listed, 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 affect a listed species 
or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency must enter into 
formal consultation with us, unless we concur that the action is not 
likely to adversely affect the species.
    Federal agencies that may have involvement with Silene spaldingii 
include the Federal Housing Administration and the Farm Services 
Agency, which may be subject to section 7 consultation through 
potential funding of housing and farm loans where this species or its 
habitat occurs. Highway construction and maintenance projects that 
receive funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation for Federal 
highways will also be subject to review under section 7 of the Act. In 
addition, activities that may affect populations of S. spaldingii that 
occur on Federal lands (e.g., managed by the BLM, Department of 
Defense, or Forest Service) will be subject to section 7 review.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all threatened 
plants. Pursuant to 50 CFR 17.71, generally all prohibitions of 50 CFR 
17.61 apply to threatened plants. These prohibitions, in part, make it 
illegal for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States 
to import or export, transport or ship any endangered or threatened 
plant species in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a 
commercial activity, sell or offer for sale such species in interstate 
or foreign commerce, or remove and reduce such species to possession 

[[Page 67820]]

areas under Federal jurisdiction. Certain exceptions apply to our 
agents 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. We anticipate few 
trade permits would ever be sought or issued for this species because 
the plant is not common in cultivation or in the wild.
    Our policy is as 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 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.
    We believe that, based upon the best available information, the 
following actions will not result in a violation of section 9, provided 
these activities are carried out in accordance with existing 
regulations and permit requirements:
    (1) Activities authorized, funded, or carried out by Federal 
agencies (e.g., grazing management, agricultural conversions, wetland 
and riparian habitat modification, flood and erosion control, 
residential development, recreational trail development, road 
construction, hazardous material containment and cleanup activities, 
prescribed burns, pesticide/herbicide application, and pipeline or 
utility line construction crossing suitable habitat), when such 
activity is conducted in accordance with any reasonable and prudent 
measures given by us in a consultation conducted under section 7 of the 
    (2) Casual, dispersed human activities on foot or horseback (e.g., 
bird watching, sightseeing, photography, camping, hiking);
    (3) Activities on private lands that do not require Federal 
authorization and do not involve Federal funding, such as grazing 
management, agricultural conversions, flood and erosion control, 
residential development, road construction, and pesticide/herbicide 
application; and
    (4) Residential landscape maintenance, including the clearing of 
vegetation around one's personal residence as a fire break.
    We believe that the following might potentially result in a 
violation of section 9; however, possible violations are not limited to 
these actions alone:
    (1) Unauthorized collecting of the species on Federal lands; and
    (2) Interstate or foreign commerce and import/export without 
previously obtaining an appropriate permit.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities risk violating 
section 9 should be directed to the Field Supervisor of the Snake River 
Basin Office (see ADDRESSES section). Requests for copies of the 
regulations on listed plants and animals, and general inquiries 
regarding prohibitions and permits, may be addressed to the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, Endangered Species Permits, 
911 N.E. 11th Ave., Portland, Oregon 97232-4181 (telephone 503/231-
2063; facsimile 503/231-6243).

Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we are 
soliciting comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned 
governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other 
interested party concerning this proposed rule. We are particularly 
seeking comments concerning:
    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any threat (or lack thereof) to this species;
    (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 pursuant to 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.
    We will take into consideration for any decision on this proposal 
the comments and additional information we receive, and such 
communications may lead to a final regulation that differs from this 

Executive Order 12866

    Executive Order 12866 requires agencies to write regulations that 
are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make this 
proposal easier to understand including answers to questions such as 
the following:
    (1) Is the discussion in the ``Supplementary Information'' section 
of the preamble helpful in understanding the proposal?
    (2) Does the proposal contain technical language or jargon that 
interferes with its clarity?
    (3) Does the format of the proposal (grouping and order of 
sections, use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) aid or reduce its 
clarity? What else could we do to make the proposal easier to 
    Send a copy of any comments that concern how we could make this 
rule easier to understand to the office identified in the ADDRESSES 
section at the beginning of this document.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an environmental assessment and 
environmental impact statement, 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. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination 
in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Required Determinations

    This rule does not contain any information collection requirements 
for which Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq., is required. An 
information collection related to the rule pertaining to permits for 
endangered and threatened species has OMB approval and is assigned 
clearance number 1018-0094. This rule does not alter that information 
collection requirement. For additional information concerning permits 
and associated requirements for threatened plants, see 50 CFR 17.72.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein, as well as others, 
is available upon request from our Snake River Basin Office (see 
ADDRESSES section).
    The primary author of this proposed rule is Edna Rey-Vizgirdas, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Snake River Basin Office (see ADDRESSES 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Regulations Promulgation

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

[[Page 67821]]


    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. Section 17.12(h) is amended by adding the following, in 
alphabetical order under FLOWERING PLANTS, to the List of Endangered 
and Threatened Plants:

Sec. 17.12  Endangered and threatened plants.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

-----------------------------------------------------------     Historic range             Family           Status       When      Critical     Special
          Scientific name                 Common name                                                                   listed      habitat      rules
                                              *         *         *         *         *         *         *
                                              *         *         *         *         *         *         *
Silene spaldingii..................  Spalding's catchfly..  U.S.A. (OR, ID, MT,    Caryophyllaceae......          T                      NA          NA
                                                             WA), Canada (B.C.).
                                              *         *         *         *         *         *         *

    Dated: October 29, 1999.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 99-31387 Filed 12-2-99; 8:45 am]