[Federal Register: December 27, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 247)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 72300-72302]
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 and 
Commencement of Status Review for a Petition to List the Sacramento 
Mountains Checkerspot Butterfly as Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding for a petition to list the Sacramento Mountains 
checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti) as an endangered 
species and designate critical habitat pursuant to the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We find the petition provides 
substantial scientific and commercial information to indicate that 
listing of this animal may be warranted. Therefore, we are initiating a 
status review to determine if the petitioned action is warranted. To 
ensure that the review is comprehensive, we are soliciting information 
and data regarding this action.

DATES: The finding in this document was made on December 7, 1999. To be 
considered in the status review and subsequent 12-month finding for the 
petition, your information and comments must be received by February 
25, 2000.

ADDRESSES: You may submit data, information, comments, or questions 
relevant to this finding to the Field Supervisor, U. S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 2105 Osuna Road NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113. 
The petition finding, supporting data, and comments are available for 
public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the 
above address.

Biologist (see ADDRESSESS section) (telephone 505/346-2525, extension 



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act (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 
notice of 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 Listing Priority 
Guidance published in the Federal Register on October 22, 1999 (64 
FR57114). 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 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. 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 Listing Priority Guidance. The processing of this 
90-day petition finding is a Priority 4 action and is being completed 
in accordance with the current Listing Priority Guidance.

[[Page 72301]]

    We made a 90-day finding on a petition to list the Sacramento 
Mountains checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas anicia [=chalcedona] 
cloudcrofti) as endangered with critical habitat. Mr. Kieran Suckling 
of the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Arizona, 
submitted the petition, dated November 1998, which we received on 
January 28, 1999.
    The petitioner requested that we emergency list the Sacramento 
Mountains checkerspot butterfly as endangered. The petitioner stated 
that the animal merits listing because of its restricted range, adverse 
impacts resulting from a proposed U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) 
land transfer, improvements to a Forest Service campground, 
construction of homes and other structures, aggressive non-native weeds 
that may be affecting the larval foodplants and adult nectar sources, 
global climate change, and livestock overgrazing. The petitioner 
requested emergency listing due to the perceived immediate threats to 
the species' continued existence from a proposed land transfer between 
the Forest Service and the Village of Cloudcroft in the Sacramento 
Mountains in Otero County, New Mexico.
    Emergency listing is not a petitionable action under the Act. 
However, our above-mentioned listing priority guidance requires that 
petitions to list species be screened for the need to emergency list 
them. 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, we determined that 
emergency listing is not needed for the Sacramento Mountains 
checkerspot butterfly. The Forest Service modified its proposed land 
transfer to the Village of Cloudcroft so that the parcels containing 
the highest number of known butterflies are no longer under 
consideration. In addition, overcollection of butterflies, a threat not 
cited by the petitioner, but an activity of which we have extensive 
knowledge, has been prohibited in portions of the Lincoln National 
Forest, except under permit, for a period of one year. Therefore, we 
have determined that the species is not in imminent risk of extinction.
    The Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly is a small member of 
the brush-footed butterfly family (Nymphalidae). The adults have a 
wingspan of approximately 3 centimeters (1 inch) and they are checkered 
with dark brown, red, orange, white, and black spots and lines. The 
taxon was described in 1980 based on 162 adult specimens collected in 
the vicinity of the Village of Cloudcroft in Otero County, New Mexico 
(Ferris and Holland 1980); it is only know from this area. The 
Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly inhabits non-forested 
openings within the mixed-conifer forest (Lower Canadian Zone) at an 
elevation between 2,450 and 2,750 meters (8,000 and 9,000 feet) in the 
vicinity of Cloudcroft. The adult butterfly is often found in 
association with the larval foodplant, New Mexico penstemon (Penstemon 
neomexicanus), and adult nectar sources such as sneezeweed (Helium 
    The Forest Service is evaluating a request from the Village of 
Cloudcroft for a transfer of land pursuant to the Townsite Act. The 
proposed land transfer originally included three parcels in which a 
number of Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterflies have been 
observed by biologists. The Village of Cloudcroft and the Forest 
Service agreed to eliminate these three parcels from the current land 
transfer request (Jose Martinez, Lincoln National Forest Supervisor, in 
litt., 1999). A decision on the other five parcels is being withheld by 
the Forest Service until we have made the 90-day finding on the 
petition for this species (Jose Martinez, pers. comm., 1999). 
Sacramento Mountain checkerspot butterflies have been observed on three 
of the five parcels that are currently being considered for the land 
transfer (Forest Service 1999a, 1999b). However, the Forest Service 
provided information that the vast majority of the habitat in the 
parcels being considered for exchange is forested and not suitable for 
the butterfly. We will attempt to gather more information on the amount 
of actual habitat proposed for exchange, and its importance to the 
butterfly, during the status review.
    The New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department (NMSHTD) 
is proposing to improve portions of an approximately 3.38-kilometer (2-
mile)-long stretch of State Highway 130 between the Village of 
Cloudcroft and the intersection of SH 130 and Sunspot Road (Metric 
Corporation 1996; Steve Reed, NMSHTD, pers. comm., 1999). The project 
consists of widening the road and shoulders, constructing retaining 
walls, adding drainage ditches and culverts, and reconstructing a 
curve. The curve is located adjacent to a campground, where larvae and 
adult Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterflies were located in 1998 
(Forest Service 1999a, 1999b). This site would be eliminated by the 
proposed reconstruction of SH 130. However, since this species occupies 
open, non-forested areas, it is unknown whether this project will 
ultimately reduce or increase the amount of butterfly habitat.
    A campground located near Cloudcroft contains one of the greatest 
known concentrations of the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly. 
Reconstruction activities in the campground are proposed for the year 
2003, including replacement of existing bathroom facilities, traffic 
control barriers, picnic tables, and campfire pits (Jose Martinez in 
litt., 1999). The potential adverse impacts to the Sacramento Mountains 
checkerspot butterfly are not known as the proposal remains in a 
preliminary stage. The Forest Service has stated that it intends to 
work closely with us in addressing public safety and health issues at 
the campground in a manner that protects and improves management of the 
Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly (Mark Crites, Biologist, 
Sacramento Ranger District, pers comm., 1999; Don DeLorenzo, Wildlife, 
Fish, Rare Plants, and Forestry Staff Officer, Lincoln National Forest, 
pers. comm., 1999).
    Roadside maintenance was cited by the petitioner as a threat to the 
Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly. The NMSHTD uses mowing, 
rather than chemical agents, to control vegetation in the right-of-way 
(Steve Reed, pers. comm., 1999). The effect on the animal from mowing 
is unclear at this time.
    The petitioner stated that overgrazing by livestock is causing 
adverse impacts that are affecting the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot 
butterfly. This activity could result in trampling of the early stages, 
reduction or elimination of the larval foodplant or adult nectar 
sources, and degradation of natural habitat. Grazing currently occurs 
in an allotment (Forest Service 1999a), where butterflies have been 
observed. The effect of grazing by both wildlife and domestic livestock 
is not well documented. We are aware of instances where livestock 
grazing appeared to significantly degrade habitat used by other 
checkerspot butterflies. Conversely, some areas currently used by the 
Sacramento Mountains checkerspot have been grazed by wildlife and 
domestic livestock for a number of years. We intend to further assess 
this subject during the status review.
    The construction of homes and associated infrastructure in the 
habitat of the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly could 
directly affect the species or result in indirect effects, such as the 
introduction of nonnative plants and animals, loss of

[[Page 72302]]

movement corridors, or habitat fragmentation. There are a number of 
private inholdings within areas containing apparently suitable habitat 
for the species (Don DeLorenzo, pers. comm., 1999). We are unaware of 
any surveys conducted on private lands in the area, and available 
information on the amount of existing habitat and potential for 
development is insufficient to confidently predict the extent of this 
    There likely is high interest by some collectors in the Sacramento 
Mountains checkerspot butterfly due to its extremely restricted 
distribution and apparent low numbers. High prices for prized species 
can provide an incentive for illegal take and trade. Listing in itself 
increases the publicity and interest in a species' rarity, and thus may 
directly increase the value and demand for specimens. Specimens of 
other subspecies of the anicia checkerspot butterfly have been offered 
for sale (Capps 1991; Entomological Clearing House 1986; Kral 1987, 
    Collecting from small colonies or repeated handling and marking, 
particularly of females and in years of low abundance, could seriously 
damage the populations through loss of individuals and genetic 
variability (Gall 1984b; Murphy 1988; Singer and Wedlake 1981). Since 
the known populations of the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly 
occur in a public campground, along public roadways, or in other areas 
readily accessible to the public, the species is easily collected, and 
the limited numbers and distribution of this species make it attractive 
to collectors and vulnerable to overcollection.
    The Forest Service issued a one-year closure order for the 
collection of any butterflies without a permit on the Smokey Bear and 
Sacramento Districts of the Lincoln National Forest due to the threat 
of overcollection (Jose Martinez, in litt., 1999). This closure order 
may offer protection from butterfly collecting; however, some butterfly 
collectors are known to have intentionally violated a similar closure 
order in the Uncomphagre National Forest in Colorado in order to 
collect the endangered Uncomphagre fritillary butterfly (Boloria 
acrocnema) (U. S. Department of Justice 1993).
    A significant long-term threat to the Sacramento Mountains 
checkerspot butterfly may be the change in community structure due to 
invasive exotic plants, and attempts to control them. According to the 
Forest Service (1999a), a 1993 survey found that approximately 737 
hectares (1,822 acres) in the vicinity of Cloudcroft had infestations 
of noxious weeds. Infestations occurring in non-forested openings and 
on road rights-of-way expanded and the densities of weeds increased 
where they have not been treated. These invasive foreign species may 
out-compete and reduce or eliminate the larvae food plant and adult 
nectar plants, resulting in adverse effects on the animal. Efforts to 
control the exotic plants with herbicides may pose a threat to the 
Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly.
    Periodic droughts, such as those that occurred in recent years in 
New Mexico, may adversely affect the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot 
butterfly. Drought is known to cause a decrease in the size of the 
populations of some butterfly species (C. Nagano, pers. obs., 1999). In 
addition to killing larvae by dessication, drought conditions may--(1) 
cause the early senescence or death of the larvae food plant prior to 
the completion of larval development; or (2) lower the nutritional 
quality of the host plant (e.g., water content). Drought also may 
reduce the quantity and quality of adult nectar sources. Conversely, 
the species has evolved in an environment subject to extended droughts. 
It is unknown whether human-caused habitat changes have increased the 
species' susceptibility to droughts.
    We reviewed the petition, the literature cited in the petition, 
other literature, and information in our files. Based on the best 
scientific information available, we find the petition presents 
substantial information that listing this species may be warranted. 
Therefore, with the completion of this 90-day finding, we will conduct 
a status review of the species and subsequently make a finding as to 
whether the petitioned action is warranted pursuant to section 
4(b)(3)(B) of the Act.
    We solicit information regarding occurrence and distribution of the 
species, threats to its continued existence, and any additional data or 
scientific information from the public, scientific community, Tribal, 
local, State, and Federal governments, and other interested parties 
concerning the status of the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot 
butterfly. Of particular interest is information regarding:
    (1) Additional historical 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,
    (4) Information on immediate and future threats to the Sacramento 
Mountains checkerspot butterfly, and the areas inhabited by the 
    After consideration of additional information received during the 
comment period (see DATES section of this notice), we will prepare a 
12-month finding as to whether listing of the species is warranted.

References Cited

    You may request a complete list of all references we cited, as well 
as others, from the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office (see 
ADDRESSES section).
    Author: Chris Nagano (see ADDRESSES section).

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

    Dated: December 7, 1999.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 99-33481 Filed 12-23-99; 8:45 am]