[Federal Register: September 8, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 175)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 54472-54474]
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; Reopening of 
Comment Period on the Proposed Threatened Status and Critical Habitat 
Determination for Silene spaldingii (Spalding's Catchfly)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of reopening of comment period.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), pursuant to 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), reopen the 
comment period on the proposal to list Silene spaldingii (Spalding's 
catchfly) as a threatened species, and our critical habitat 
determination for the species. The comment period is extended to 
accommodate the public notice requirement of the Act. In addition, 
reopening of the comment period will allow further opportunity for all 
interested parties to submit comments on the proposal, which is 
available (see ADDRESSES section). We are seeking comments or 
suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties 
concerning the proposed rule and critical habitat determination. 
Comments already submitted on the proposed rule and critical habitat 
determination need not be resubmitted as they will be fully considered 
in the final determination.

DATES: Comments from all interested parties must be received by 
September 22, 2000.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and 
materials concerning this proposal by any one of several methods.
    1. You may submit written comments and information to the 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Snake River Basin Office, 
1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, Boise, Idaho 83709.
    2. You may hand-deliver written comments to our Snake River Basin 
Office, at the address given above.

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    3. You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to 
FW1SRBOComment@fws.gov. Please submit comments as an ASCII file format 
and avoid the use of special characters and encryption. Please also 
include ``Attn: [RIN number]'' and your name and return address in your 
e-mail message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the system 
that we have received your e-mail message, contact us directly by 
calling our Snake River Basin Office at phone number 208/378-5243.

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).
    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 final rule. The number of sites stated in the 
petition finding was based primarily on information (generally known as 
element occurrence records) available in State natural heritage data 
bases. In the 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 the 90-day finding does not reflect the actual 
loss or extirpation of sites.
    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 Silene 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 6 largest populations, 2 are found in Oregon (Wallowa County), 1 
in Idaho (Nez Perce County), 1 in Montana (Lincoln County), and 2 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 Silene 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 Silene 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 prairie is considered 
to be a subset of the Pacific Northwest bunchgrass habitat type 
(Tisdale 1986). In Idaho, Palouse prairie 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 century, 
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 plant species, altered fire regimes, and urbanization (Noss et 
al. 1995). Some suitable habitat for Silene spaldingii remains on the 
fringes of the Palouse region and in the forested portion of the 
channeled scablands in central Washington (John Gamon, Washington 
Natural Heritage Program, in litt. 2000). Low density subdivision and 
development and increased use of lands in and around the forested 
portion of the channeled scablands in central Washington likely poses a 
significant threat to Silene spaldingii populations remaining in this 
area (J. Gamon, in litt. 2000).
    Silene spaldingii is also found in canyon grassland habitat, 
another division of the Pacific Northwest bunchgrass habitat type 
(Tisdale 1986). Canyon grasslands are dominated by the same bunchgrass 
species as Palouse prairie, but the two habitat types differ somewhat 
in their overall plant species composition (Janice Hill, The Nature 
Conservancy, in litt. 2000; Greg Yuncevich, Bureau of Land Management, 
in litt. 2000). In addition, canyon grasslands occur in steep, highly 
dissected canyon systems whereas Palouse grasslands generally occur on 
gently rolling plateaus. The steep contours in canyon grasslands result 
in pronounced habitat diversity (G. Yuncevich, in litt. 2000). This 
steepness has also prevented conversion of canyon grasslands to other 
uses, such as agriculture. Nevertheless, other disturbances (e.g., 
livestock grazing and the invasion of exotic plant species) have caused 
significant alterations of the native vegetation of canyon grasslands, 
although portions of this habitat type have not received heavy use by 
domestic livestock (G. Yuncevich, in litt. 2000). The largest 
population of Silene spaldingii in Idaho occurs in canyon grassland 
habitat where it is seriously threatened by invasive weeds (J. Hill, in 
litt. 2000).
    Due to the small number of populations, Silene spaldingii is 
vulnerable to unrestricted collection, vandalism, or other disturbance. 
In the absence of a finding that identification of critical habitat 
would increase threats to a species, if any benefits would result from 
a critical habitat designation, then a prudent finding is warranted. We 
do not have specific evidence of collection, vandalism, or trade of 
this species or any similarly situated species. In the case of Silene 
spaldingii, designation of critical habitat may provide some regulatory 
benefit through the section 7

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requirement that Federal agencies refrain from taking any action that 
destroys or adversely modifies critical habitat. Designating critical 
habitat may also provide some educational or informational benefits.
    On December 3, 1999 (64 FR 67814), we published a proposal, with 
additional background information, to list Silene spaldingii as a 
threatened species. In the proposed rule, we did not propose a critical 
habitat determination for Silene spaldingii, but stated that we would 
publish such a determination for this species in the Federal Register 
subsequent to the proposed rule. The original comment period closed on 
February 1, 2000. On April 24, 2000 (65 FR 21711), we published a 
notice of proposed critical habitat determination for Silene 
spaldingii. In that notice, we proposed that designation of critical 
habitat is prudent for Silene spaldingii, and the comment period closed 
on June 23, 2000.

Public Comments Solicited

    It is our intent that any final action resulting from the proposal 
will be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we solicit 
comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning the proposed rule. Our practice is to make comments 
including names and home addresses of respondents, available for public 
review during regular business hours. Individual respondents may 
request that we withhold their home address from the rulemaking record, 
which we will honor to the extend allowable by law. If you wish us to 
withhold your name and/or address, you must state this prominently at 
the beginning of your comment. However, we will not consider anonymous 
comments. We will make all submissions from organizations or 
businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as 
representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, available 
for public inspection in their entirety. All comments, including 
written and e-mail, must be received in our Snake River Basin Office by 
September 22, 2000. We particularly seek 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 occurrences of this species and 
the reasons why critical habitat should or should not be considered 
prudent for this species;
    (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, and 
population size of this species;
    (4) Current or planned activities in the range of this species and 
their possible impacts on Silene spaldingii or its habitat;
    The final decision on the proposal to list Silene spaldingii, and 
make a critical habitat determination, will take into consideration the 
comments and any additional information we receive, and such 
communications may lead to a final regulation that differs from the 

References Cited

Ertter, B. and R. Moseley. 1992. Floristic regions of Idaho. Journal 
of the Idaho Academy of Science 28(2):57-65.
Hitchcock, C.L. and A. Cronquist. 1973. Flora of the Pacific 
Northwest. University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington.
Lesica, P. 1992. The effects of fire on Silene spaldingii at Dancing 
Prairie Preserve: 1992 progress report. The Nature Conservancy, 
Helena, Montana.
Lichthardt, J. 1997. Revised report on the conservation status of 
Silene spaldingii in Idaho. Idaho Department of Fish and Game, 
Conservation Data Center, Boise, Idaho.
Noss, R.F., E.T. LaRoe III, and J.M. Scott. 1995. Endangered 
ecosystems of the United States: a preliminary assessment of loss 
and degradation. U.S. Department of the Interior, National 
Biological Service, Washington, D.C.
Tisdale, E.W. 1961. Ecological changes in the Palouse. Northwest 
Science 35(4):134-138.
Tisdale, E.W. 1986. Native vegetation of Idaho. Rangelands 8(5):202-
Watson, S. 1875. Revision of the genus Ceanothus, and descriptions 
of new plants, with a synopsis of the western species of Silene. 
Proc. Am. Acad. 10:333-350.


    The primary author of this notice is Barb Behan, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 911 N.E. 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon.


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

    Dated: August 31, 2000.
Don Weathers,
Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 00-23037 Filed 9-7-00; 8:45 am]