[Federal Register: May 10, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 91)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 30048-30050]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding for 
a Petition To Add Botrychium lineare (Slender Moonwort) to the List of 
Threatened and Endangered Species

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

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


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding for a petition to amend the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and Plants. We find that the petitioner has 
presented substantial information indicating that listing Botrychium 
lineare (slender moonwort) may be warranted. With the publication of 
this notice, we are initiating a status review and will prepare a 12-
month finding.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on April 12, 
2000. To be considered in the 12-month finding for this petition, 
comments and information should be submitted to us by July 10, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Data, comments, information, or questions concerning this 
petition should be submitted to the Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Snake River Basin Office, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, 
Boise, Idaho 83709. The petition finding, supporting data, and comments 
are available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal 
business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Ruesink, Supervisor (see 
ADDRESSES section) (telephone 208/378-5243; facsimile 208/378-5262).



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information to demonstrate that 
the petitioned action may be warranted. To the maximum extent 
practicable, this finding is to be made within 90 days of the receipt 
of the petition, and we are to publish the finding promptly in the 
Federal Register. If the finding is that substantial information was 
presented, we are also required to promptly commence a review of the 
status of the involved species and to disclose its findings within 12 
months (12-month finding).
    The processing of this petition 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 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 this 90-day petition finding is a 
Priority 4 action and is being completed in accordance with the current 
Listing Priority Guidance.
    On July 28, 1999, we received a petition dated July 26, 1999, from 
the Biodiversity Legal Foundation. The petitioner requested that we 
list Botrychium lineare (slender moonwort) as endangered or threatened 
and designate critical habitat within a reasonable period of time 
following the listing. The petitioner submitted biological, 
distributional, historical, and other information and scientific 
references in support of the petition.
    Botrychium lineare is a small perennial fern with a pale green leaf 
(trophophore) from 6 to 18 centimeters (2 to 7 inches) long. Leaf 
segments are typically linear and divided or forked at the ends. The 
sporophore (spore-bearing structure) is 1 to 2 times the length of the 
trophophore with a single main axis. Spores mature primarily in late 
June and July. This species was initially described in 1994 and is 
considered to be one of the more distinctive moonworts (Wagner and 
Wagner 1994). The habitat for B. lineare has been described as ``deep 
grass and forbs of meadows, under trees in woods, and on shelves on 
limestone cliffs, mainly at higher elevations'' (Wagner and Wagner 
1994). However, a specific habitat description for the species is 
problematic because of its formerly widespread distribution ranging 
from sea level in Quebec to nearly 3,000 meters (m) (9,840 feet (ft)) 
in Boulder County, Colorado. The habitat at currently occupied sites in 
Oregon and Colorado consists of montane meadows with associated species 
including snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.), huckleberry (Vaccinium 
spp.), reedgrass (Calamagrostis spp.) and other grasses, Engelmann 
spruce (Picea engelmannii), lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), aspen 
(Populus tremuloides), and aspen dairy (Erigeron spp.) (Wagner and 
Wagner 1994; Peter Root, private contractor, pers. comm. 1999).
    In the United States, Botrychium lineare has been documented from 
Idaho (Boundary County), Oregon (Wallowa County), Montana (Lake 
County), Colorado (Boulder and El Paso Counties), and California (Inyo 
County, although this report may be incorrect; the species may actually 
occur in Fresno County (Tim Thomas, Service, pers. comm. 1999)). In 
Canada, B. lineare was previously documented from two provinces, Quebec 
and New Brunswick (Wagner and Wagner 1994).
    The petitioner stated that only three populations of Botrychium 
lineare are currently known to exist (two in Oregon and one in 
Colorado) and that the populations previously known from Idaho, 
Montana, California, Colorado (Boulder County), and Canada are thought 
to be extirpated. Plants at some of these sites have not been seen 
since the early 1900s (Wagner and Wagner 1994). Further investigation 
has identified two additional sites (one in Colorado (Root 1999) and 
one in Montana (Zika, pers. comm. 1999)) that support B. lineare. Of 
the two existing sites in northeastern Oregon, one occurs in the 
Hurricane Creek drainage in the Eagle Cap Wilderness (Wallowa-Whitman 
National Forest) and the other is found on a private inholding known as 
Lapover Ranch in the Lostine River drainage (Oregon Natural Heritage 
Program 1999; Zika et al. 1995). Elevation for the Oregon sites is 
approximately 1,600 meters (m) (5,300 feet (ft)). Two other sites are 
located along the Pikes Peak toll road at 2,700 m (9,000 ft) and 2,650 
m (8,700 ft) in El Paso County, Colorado. The fifth site is located in 
Glacier National Park in

[[Page 30049]]

Montana at an elevation of about 1,500 m (4,800 ft).
    The remaining populations of Botrychium lineare are extremely 
small, ranging in size from 2 to 53 individuals (Oregon Natural 
Heritage Program 1999; Carpenter 1996b). When last observed in 1993, 
the Lapover Ranch site had 14 individuals, and the Hurricane Creek site 
had 4 plants (Oregon Natural Heritage Program 1999). The higher 
elevation Pikes Peak site is the largest with 53 plants (Carpenter 
1996b); the lower elevation Pikes Peak site (the newly discovered site) 
has only 2 plants (Root 1999). The recently discovered Glacier National 
Park site consists of about 10 plants, but more plants may be found in 
nearby meadows (Peter Zika, pers. comm. 1999).
    Threats to this species include habitat succession as a result of 
fire suppression, livestock grazing, exotic species, development, 
timber harvest, roads, and recreation (Paula Brooks, pers. comm. 2000; 
Peter Zika, pers. comm. 1999; Oregon Natural Heritage Program 1999; 
Zika et al. 1995; Wagner and Wagner 1994). The petition also stated 
that mining is a threat to Botrychium lineare, but currently no mining 
activities appear to be threatening this species (Paula Brooks, pers. 
comm. 2000). The petitioner contends that habitat succession and fire 
suppression threaten B. lineare habitat on the Wallowa-Whitman National 
Forest. However, our understanding of the relationship of habitat 
succession and fire suppression to the persistence of B. lineare is 
unclear. For example, in a biological assessment for sensitive plants 
in the Lostine River canyon, a U.S. Forest Service botanist notes that 
``Botrychium species seem to be found in areas that receive natural 
disturbances such as fire and landslides, but we are not yet able to 
predict what disturbance interval or successional stage best suits 
them'' (Hustafa 1999). Although the petitioner states that the lack of 
implementation of a controlled burning program in Lostine Canyon is a 
threat to B. lineare, this program (if implemented) would affect only 
Federal lands (Paula Brooks, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, in litt., 
1999), and the species does not occur on Federal lands in this canyon.
    Although the current threats to the species may not be fully 
understood, habitat occupied by Botrychium lineare in Oregon is 
extremely restricted. The Lostine site occupies an area of 
approximately 10 by 10 m (30 by 30 ft) (Wagner and Wagner 1994), and 
the Hurricane Creek site is found in an area up to 1 hectare (2.5 
acres) in size (Oregon Natural Heritage Program 1999). Since the 
Hurricane Creek B. lineare site is adjacent to a popular hiking and 
pack trail, the site may be affected by recreational impacts such as 
trampling or campfires (Oregon Natural Heritage Program 1999). The 
population that is found on the Lapover Ranch is threatened by grazing, 
trampling, and possible development (Zika pers. comm. 1999).
    The largest known Botrychium lineare site (based on number of 
individuals) at Pikes Peak is approximately 35 by 10 m (115 by 30 ft) 
in size and is located 100 m (330 ft) from the Pikes Peak toll road 
(Carpenter 1996a, 1996b). The petitioner contends that the site is 
threatened by recreational impacts. Although the toll road itself is 
heavily used, the B. lineare site is located along the lower half of 
the road and receives little recreational use (Steve Tapia, Pike and 
San Isabel National Forest, pers. comm. 1999). A possible threat to 
this species could result from maintenance of an adjacent power line, 
although permission from the Forest Service would have to be obtained 
prior to commencing any maintenance work (S. Tapia, pers. comm. 1999). 
This site is not affected by erosion or livestock grazing (S. Tapia, 
pers. comm. 1999; Carpenter 1996a). Threats to the lower elevation B. 
lineare site at Pikes Peak, containing far fewer plants, are unknown. 
However, this site may be subject to disturbance due to its proximity 
to the Pikes Peak toll road. Although habitat for B. lineare at Pikes 
Peak does not appear to be imminently threatened, the limited amount of 
occupied habitat makes this species potentially vulnerable to naturally 
occurring events or human activities.
    The Glacier National Park site is located along the Babb-Many 
Glacier road (P. Zika, pers. comm. 1999). This site is vulnerable to 
road maintenance activities and to naturally occurring events.
    We have reviewed the petition, literature cited in the petition, 
other available literature and data, and consulted with biologists 
familiar with Botrychium lineare. After reviewing the best scientific 
and commercial information available, the Service finds that the 
petition presents substantial information that listing B. lineare may 
be warranted. This species is currently known from only 5 sites, with a 
total of fewer than 100 individuals. The small population size, small 
amount of occupied habitat, and proximity of all the known sites to 
human disturbance suggest that this species may be threatened by a 
variety of factors.
    When we make a positive 90-day finding, we are required to promptly 
commence a review of the status of the species. In the case of 
Botrychium lineare, we are requesting information on the status of the 
species throughout its range in the United States and Canada. We are 
soliciting information primarily on distribution, population status and 
trends, and documented threats. Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act requires 
that we make a finding within 1 year from the date the petition was 
received as to whether listing B. lineare as threatened or endangered 
is warranted (12-month finding).
    The petitioner also requested that critical habitat be designated 
for Botrychium lineare. If the 12-month finding indicates that the 
petitioned action to list B. lineare as endangered or threatened is 
warranted, we would address the designation of critical habitat in a 
proposed rule to list the species.

[[Page 30050]]

References Cited

Carpenter, A. 1996a. Monitoring plan for the rare fern, Botrychium 
lineare, on the Pikes Peak Ranger District, Pike-San Isabel National 
Forest, El Paso County, Colorado. The Nature Conservancy, Boulder, 
Colorado, dated May 14, 1996. 6 pages.
Carpenter, A. 1996b. Annual report of monitoring of the rare fern, 
Botrychium lineare, on the Pikes Peak Ranger District, Pike-San 
Isabel National Forest, El Paso County, Colorado. The Nature 
Conservancy, Boulder, Colorado, dated August 27, 1996. 3 pages + 
Hustafa, J. 1999. Biological assessment for sensitive plants, 
Lostine Recreation Facilities Project, Eagle Cap Ranger District, 
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
Oregon Natural Heritage Program. 1999. Element occurrence records 
for Botrychium lineare.
Root, P. 1999. A survey of possible additional populations of the 
narrow leaf moonwort on Pikes Peak (order number 43-82BH-8-0096). 
Prepared for the Pikes Peak Ranger District, U.S. Forest Service. 3 
pages + figures.
Wagner, W.H. and F.S. Wagner. 1994. Another widely disjunct, rare 
and local North American moonwort (Ophioglossaceae: Botrychium subg. 
Botrychium). American Fern Journal 84(1):5-10.
Zika, P.F., R. Brainerd and B. Newhouse. 1995. Grapeferns and 
moonworts (Botrychium, Ophioglossaceae) in the Columbia Basin. A 
report submitted to the Eastside Ecosystem Management Project, U.S. 
Forest Service, Walla Walla, Washington. Pages 1, 20, and 26.


    The author of this document is Edna Rey-Vizgirdas, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Snake River Basin Office (see ADDRESSES section).

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

    Dated: April 12, 2000.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-11684 Filed 5-9-00; 8:45 am]