[Federal Register: October 3, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 192)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 50383-50390]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AI16

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed 
Endangered Status for the Rota Bridled White-Eye (Zosterops rotensis) 
From the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, propose endangered 
status pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, for 
the Rota bridled white-eye (Zosterops rotensis), a bird. The Rota 
bridled white-eye is a recognized species of white-eyes endemic to the 
Mariana archipelago, which comprises the U.S. Territory of Guam and the 
U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Rota bridled 
white-eye is endemic to the island of Rota, and was once widespread, 
possibly occupying forested habitat at all elevations. The total 
population of the Rota bridled white-eye was estimated at 1,167 
individuals in 1996, which is a decline of 89 percent from the 1982 
estimated population. The population estimate of Rota bridled white-
eyes in 1999 was 1,092 (Amidon 2000). The Rota bridled white-eye is 
currently found in four patches of mature wet forests at elevations 
above 200 meters (650 feet) in elevation. The reasons for this species' 
decline is likely due to degradation or loss of habitat due to 
development, agricultural activities, and naturally occurring events; 
avian disease; predation; and pesticides. This proposal, if made final, 
would implement the protection provisions of the Act.

DATES: Comments from all interested parties must be received by 
December 3, 2001. Public hearing requests must be received by November 
19, 2001.

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 to the Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Islands Office, 300 Ala Moana 
Boulevard, Room 3-122, Box 50088, Honolulu, Hawaii 96850.
    (2) You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to: 
rota_bwe_pr@fws.gov. See the Public Comments Solicited section below 
for file format and other information about electronic filing.
    (3) You may hand-deliver comments to our office at 300 Ala Moana 
Boulevard, Room 3-122, Box 50088, Honolulu, Hawaii.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands 
Office, at the above address (telephone 808/541-3441; facsimile 808/



    The Rota bridled white-eye (Zosterops rotensis) is endemic to the 
island of Rota, U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands 
(CNMI). Rota is approximately 86 square kilometers (km\2\) (33 sq miles 
(mi\2\)) and is the fourth largest island in the Mariana Islands 
archipelago. The island of Rota is composed of a series of uplifted 
coral limestone plateaus with a volcanic outcrop. The climate is 
tropical marine with high humidity and uniform temperatures throughout 
the year. Average daytime temperatures are approximately 12 degrees 
Celsius (80

[[Page 50384]]

degrees Fahrenheit), with approximately 200 centimeters (cm) (80 inches 
(in)) of rainfall annually and about 80 percent humidity. Rainfall 
averages 27 cm (10.6 in) per month during the wet season and 9.6 cm 
(3.8 in) per month during the dry season.
    The Rota bridled white-eye is a small, flocking bird in the Family 
Zosteropidae, Order Passeriformes. The name white-eye is derived from 
the ring of white feathers around each eye. The plumage is tinged with 
yellow, and the bill, legs, and feet are yellow-orange (Pratt et al. 
1987). Wing, tail, and tarsal lengths taken from 21 birds captured by 
the Mariana Avian Rescue and Survey (MARS) Project averaged 5.6 cm (2.2 
in), 3.8 cm (1.5 in), and 2.6 cm (1 in), respectively (Scott 
Derrickson, National Zoological Park, in litt. 1998). Average weights 
taken from birds captured for the MARS Project were 9.7 grams (0.3 
ounces) for males and 9.2 grams (0.3 ounces) for females (S. 
Derrickson, in litt. 1998).
    Baker (1951) reports that the Rota bridled white-eye was first 
grouped with a population of birds on Palau as Zosterops semperi. The 
Rota bridled white-eye was later described as a separate subspecies, Z. 
semperi rotensis, by Takatsukasa and Yamashina (1931). All of the 
Micronesian bridled white-eyes were then placed under one species, Z. 
conspicillatus, by Stresemann (1931). Later, the bridled white-eyes in 
the Mariana Islands were recognized as three separate subspecies: Z. c. 
rotensis (Rota); Z. c. saypani (Saipan and Tinian); and Z. c. 
conspicillatus (Guam) (Fancy and Snetsinger 1996). However, the Rota 
bridled white-eye has been considered to be a full species, Z. 
rotensis, on the basis of unpublished differences in plumage, 
vocalizations, and behavior (H. D. Pratt, in litt. 1994, as cited in 
Collar et al. 1994). Recent genetic evidence from mitochondrial DNA 
sequences (Slikas et al. 2000) supported the recognition of the species 
proposed by Pratt et al. (1987), and also showed that two distinct 
lineages occur within the Marianas, one on Guam, Saipan, Tinian, and 
Aguijan, and the other on Rota. Both recent authorities on the taxonomy 
of Micronesian white-eyes thus agree that the Rota population is 
distinct from others in the Marianas and should be recognized as a 
separate species, which therefore is referred to here as the Rota 
bridled white-eye (Z. rotensis).
    The most extensive work on bridled white-eye foraging and social 
behavior was conducted on Saipan. Craig (1989, 1990) found that bridled 
white-eyes on Saipan forage in flocks of 10 to 40 individuals in the 
upper outer layers in the leaves of trees in both limestone forests and 
Leucaena leucocephala (tangantangan) thickets. Bridled white-eyes on 
Saipan and Guam have also been recorded in other habitats, including 
suburban areas, beach strand, wetlands, and grasslands (Craig 1996; 
Jenkins 1983). They forage primarily by gleaning insects from leaves in 
the upper, outer layers of trees, but also feed on seeds, nectar, 
flowers, and fruits (Craig 1996).
    Foraging behaviors recorded by Craig and Taisacan (1994) found that 
the foraging behavior of the Rota bridled white-eye appeared similar to 
that of bridled white-eyes on Saipan. Most foraging took place in the 
upper, outer layer of canopy trees where they gleaned for insects on 
leaves and branches. They are known to forage in trees that are 15 cm 
(6 in) in diameter at breast height (dbh) or smaller (Fred Amidon, 
pers. comm. 1999). The tree species commonly used by white-eyes on 
Saipan for foraging were not recorded by Craig (1989, 1990). However, 
Amidon (2000) commonly observed Rota bridled white-eyes foraging in 
upper leaves and branches of Elaeocarpus joga (yoga), Hernandia 
labyrnthica (oschal), and Merrilliodendron megacarpum (faniok).
    The typical flock of Rota bridled white-eyes consists of five to 
seven birds, which is small compared to those on Saipan; this may be 
due to low numbers of birds on Rota. Craig and Taisacan (1994) believe 
the white-eye flocks on Rota may be composed of related individuals, 
based upon their observations of frequent food begging in the flocks. 
The home ranges of the flocks are estimated to be at least 150 meters 
(m) (495 feet (ft)) in diameter (Craig and Taisacan 1994).
    Very little is known about the breeding biology of the Rota bridled 
white-eye. Twenty-three nests have been recorded (Yamashina 1932; Pratt 
1985; Lusk and Taisacan 1997; Amidon 2000). The smallest nest tree dbh 
recorded was 23 cm (9 in) (Amidon 2000). The discovery dates of these 
nests indicate that the breeding season extends at least from December 
to August. However, a year-round breeding season may be more likely, as 
indicated by breeding records of bridled white-eye species and 
subspecies (Marshall 1949; Jenkins 1983). The recorded clutch sizes 
from four Rota bridled white-eye nests were one to two light blue eggs 
(Yamashina 1932; Amidon et al. unpublished data). Descriptions of eggs 
of other Mariana bridled white-eyes indicates that completed clutches 
consist of two to three light blue-green eggs (Yamashina 1932; Jenkins 
1983). Observations of 7 active nests by Amidon (2000) indicate 
incubation and nestling periods of at least 10 and up to 12 days and an 
observation of one banded nestling indicates a fledgling period of at 
least 8 days. Rota bridled white-eye nests were commonly suspended 
between branchlets and leaf petioles and were composed of rootlets, 
woven grass or Pandanus spp. fibers, moss, spider webs, and a yellow 
cottony material (Lusk and Taisacan 1997; Amidon 2000). Nests were 
found above 320 m (1056 ft) elevation in Hernandia labyrinthica, 
Elaeocarpus joga, Merrilliodendron megacarpum, and Acacia confusa 
(sosugi) trees with dbh between 23 cm (9 in) and 602 cm (237 in) (Pratt 
1985; Lusk and Taisacan 1997; Amidon 2000).
    Very little is known about the past distribution and abundance of 
bridled white-eyes on Rota. Early descriptions by Baker (1948) 
described this species as numerous and found at lower elevations. 
Residents of Rota during the post World War II years also remember 
seeing white-eyes at low elevations in Songsong Village (Engbring et 
al. 1986). However, in 1975, Pratt et al. (1979) found no white-eyes in 
the lowland areas and only observed birds on the central plateau. The 
current distribution of Rota bridled white-eyes indicates that the 
highest densities are found in the high-elevation wet limestone forests 
(Fancy and Snetsinger 1996; Amidon 2000). All Rota bridled white-eye 
nests with recorded locations (22 out of 23 nests) were also recorded 
in high-elevation wet forest (Pratt 1985; Lusk and Taisacan 1997; 
Amidon 2000). Whether this distribution is the result of habitat 
preference or is simply an artifact of the population decline is 
unknown; however, the species appears to have been mostly limited to 
the upper elevation forests since at least the 1960s (Fancy and 
Snetsinger 1996).
    In 1977, a survey was conducted only on the upper plateau and 
densities were estimated white-eye densities to be 22 birds/
km2 (35 birds/mi2) (Ralph and Sakai (1979). The 
first island-wide survey of forest birds was conducted in 1982. During 
this survey, bridled white-eyes were only found in forested areas above 
300 m (984 ft) (Engbring et al. 1986). The average bridled white-eye 
density on Rota was determined to be 183 birds/km2 (292 
birds/mi \2\) (\1/16\ the average density on Tinian) with an island 
population estimate of 10,763 birds. Other surveys following the 1982 
survey showed little change in the white-eye distribution, but did show 
a decline in white-eye numbers (Engbring 1987, 1989; Craig and Taisacan 
1994). In

[[Page 50385]]

a 1994 survey, it was found that densities had decreased by 27 percent 
(155 birds/km2 (248 birds/mi2)) from the 1982 
estimate (Ramsey and Harrod 1995). In the fall of 1996, a survey by 
Fancy and Snetsinger (1996) estimated the population of Rota bridled 
white-eyes to be 1,167 birds. This estimate indicated an 89 percent 
decline from the 1982 estimate. In addition, this survey determined 
that the population was restricted primarily to four patches of forest 
covering an area of about 254 hectares (ha) (628 acres (ac)) above 200 
m (656 ft) elevation. Ninety-four percent of the Rota bridled white-
eyes were found to occur in these patches. The white-eye population was 
estimated to be at 1,092 after a survey conducted in 1999 (Amidon 
    Forests in these four high-density areas can be described as a type 
of cloud forest because of the cloud buildup over the central plateau 
region, which results in flourishing wet forests with growths of 
epiphytic ferns and orchids (Fosberg 1960; Falanruw et al. 1989). 
Amidon (2000) found that the primary overstory component of three of 
the four high-density Rota bridled white-eye areas is Hernandia 
labyrinthica with Elaeocarpus joga. The remaining area is almost 
exclusively made up of Merrilliodendron megacarpum in the overstory.
    Currently, 85 percent of the Rota bridled white-eye population 
occurs on public lands and 15 percent occurs on private lands. There is 
no U.S. government-owned land in the CNMI; all public lands are 
administered by the CNMI government. Approximately 60 percent of the 
land on Rota is publicly owned, although much of it has been leased to 
private individuals.
    The Rota bridled white-eye is listed as a critically endangered 
species in the most recent list of threatened animals of the world by 
the World Conservation Union (IUCN) (1999). The IUCN list provides an 
assessment of the conservation status of species on a global scale in 
order to highlight species threatened with extinction and, therefore, 
promote their conservation. A critically endangered species is one 
facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the 
immediate future. Also, in 1991, the CNMI government listed the Rota 
bridled white-eye as threatened or endangered.

Previous Federal Action

    Federal action on the Rota bridled white-eye began when we 
published a Notice of Review in the Federal Register on December 30, 
1982 (47 FR 58454). The Rota bridled white-eye was included as a 
Category 2 candidate for Federal listing. Category 2 species were those 
for which conclusive data on biological vulnerability and threats were 
not currently available to support proposed rules. Subsequent Notices 
of Review published on September 18, 1985 (50 FR 37958), January 6, 
1989 (54 FR 554), and November 21, 1991 (56 FR 58804) also listed this 
species as a Category 2 species.
    In the November 15, 1994, Notice of Review (59 FR 58982), the Rota 
bridled white-eye was moved from a Category 2 candidate to a Category 1 
candidate for Federal listing. Category 1 species were those for which 
we had on file substantial information on biological vulnerability and 
threats to support preparations of listing proposals, but for which 
listing proposals had not yet been published because they were 
precluded by other listing activities.
    In the February 28, 1996 (61 FR 7596), and September 19, 1997 (62 
FR 49398), Candidate Notices of Review, we discontinued category 
designations and the Rota bridled white-eye was listed as a candidate 
species. We define candidate species as those for which we have 
sufficient information on biological vulnerability and threats to 
support proposals to list the species as threatened or endangered.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and our regulations (50 CFR part 424) issued 
to implement the listing provisions of the Act established the 
procedures for adding species to the Federal Lists. A species may be 
determined to be endangered or threatened due to one or more of the 
five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. These factors and 
their application to the Rota bridled white-eye (Zosterops rotensis) 
are listed below.

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

    The Mariana Islands were believed to have been colonized by humans 
at least 4,000 years ago (Craib 1983). Before European contact, the 
island of Rota was thought to have had a large population of people who 
moved into the area from insular southeast Asia and Melanesia, and who 
modified most of the island's vegetation (Fosberg 1960). During the 
Spanish administration (1521 to 1899), the island was largely 
depopulated, and the vegetation probably recovered on most of the 
island until the Japanese administration from 1914 to 1944 (Fosberg 
1960; Engbring et al. 1986). During the Japanese administration, much 
of the level land was cleared for sugar cane cultivation, and areas on 
the upper terrace were cleared for phosphate mining (Fosberg 1960; 
Engbring et al. 1986). Rota was not invaded during World War II, but 
was bombed (Engbring et al. 1986). In 1946, one-fourth of the total 
area of Rota was covered in well-developed forest, but this was broken 
into small parcels or located along the base of cliffs (Fosberg 1960). 
By the mid-1980s, Engbring et al. (1986) reported that 60 percent of 
Rota was composed of native forest, although a good portion of this was 
in an altered condition. The most mature native forests were found 
along the cliffs of the upper plateau, with the forests on level 
portions of the island being primarily secondary growth. Today, less 
than 58 percent of the native limestone forest remains (Falanruw et al. 
1989), and plans for further projects, such as agricultural homesteads 
and resort development in the As Mundo area, continue to threaten the 
remaining limestone forest, and the available habitat for the Rota 
bridled white-eye.
    Although the habitat in the limestone forest is threatened, the 
majority of the high-elevation forests along the upper plateau have not 
been threatened by development and clearing in the past because of 
their rugged topography. They have, however, received extensive typhoon 
damage in recent years. In 1988, typhoon Roy hit Rota with winds of 
over 241 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) and completely 
defoliated almost all of the forests of Rota (Fancy and Snetsinger 
1996). In some areas, 50 percent of trees were downed, and 100 percent 
suffered limb damage. The wet forests of the upper cliffline were 
drastically altered by this storm and have not recovered well (Fancy 
and Snetsinger 1996). In December 1997, super typhoon Paka hit Rota, 
and much of the upper plateau was defoliated again. These storms have 
limited the available nesting and foraging sites for the Rota bridled 

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

    Valued for their songs, some species and subspecies of white-eyes 
are kept as pets in Asian countries (Moreau and Kikkawa 1985). However, 
there are no reports of Rota bridled white-eyes in the pet trade. 
Unrestricted collecting or hunting is not known to be a factor 
currently affecting this species. Vandalism may be a potential concern 
for this species. For example, on Rota, rare plants have been the 
target of vandals who feared the plant's existence was an impediment to 

[[Page 50386]]

(Raulerson and Rinehart 1997). However, we have no evidence of such 
vandalism directly affecting Rota bridled white-eyes.

C. Disease or Predation

    Black drongos (Dicrurus macrocercus), also known as king crow, are 
thought to have been introduced to Rota from Taiwan by the Japanese 
South Seas Development Company in 1935 to control destructive insects 
(Baker 1948). Black drongos are noted for their aggression toward and 
occasional predation on small passerines (Ali and Ripley 1972; Maben 
1982). On Guam, black drongos have been observed eating an Eurasian 
tree sparrow (Passer montanus) (Maben 1982), rufous fantails (Rhipidura 
rufifrons), a Guam swiftlet (Collocalia bartschi) (Perez 1968), and 
either a bridled white-eye or a Guam flycatcher (Myiagra freycineti) 
(Drahos 1977). A black drongo was observed eating a bridled white-eye 
on Rota (Amidon 2000). Maben (1982) observed black drongos harassing 
birds such as native and introduced doves (Order Columbidae), cardinal 
(Micronesian) honeyeaters (Myzomela rubratra), and Micronesian 
starlings (Aplonis opaca). Harassment by the drongo of potential 
predators like crows and raptors has also been noted (Ali and Ripley 
1972; Maben 1982; Melville 1991).
    Craig and Taisacan (1994) believe that a relationship exists 
between the abundance of black drongos and the decline and range 
restriction of the bridled white-eye on Rota. They believe the 
distributions of black drongos and potential prey, like the Rota 
bridled white-eye and the rufous fantail, show that black drongo 
predation may be a factor in the decline of these species. Engbring et 
al. (1986) found black drongos abundant in lowlands and uncommon in the 
forests of the upper plateau where the Rota bridled white-eye is found. 
In lowland areas, the rufous fantail was also found to be uncommon, 
while birds too large to be prey of black drongos were abundant 
(Engbring et al. 1986).
    On the other hand, Fancy and Snetsinger (1996) believe that black 
drongos could not be responsible for the distributional changes and 
population decline of the white-eye. Studies of black drongos on Guam 
by Maben (1982) found that, although they would harass other birds, 
black drongos did not regularly attempt to prey on them. Birds have 
also been reported to forage within black drongo territories and nest 
near active black drongo nests without harassment (Ali and Ripley 1972; 
Shukkur and Joseph 1980; Maben 1982). Michael Lusk of the Service 
(unpublished data) observed no interactions between black drongos and 
Rota bridled white-eyes during a 1993-1994 study of their interactions 
on Rota (cited in Fancy and Snetsinger 1996). However, it is possible 
that black drongo predation or harassment may be limiting the recovery 
of the bridled white-eye on Rota (Fancy and Snetsinger 1996).
    The brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) was found to be the major 
factor in the decline of native forest birds on Guam (Savidge 1986, 
1987). There have been 43 sightings and 8 captures of brown tree snakes 
on Saipan since 1982 (Grant Beauprez, CNMI Department of Fish and 
Wildlife, in litt. 2000), and a population of this voracious predator 
may now be established on Saipan (Vogt 2000). Presently, no 
observations of live brown tree snakes have been recorded on Rota, 
although two dead, confirmed brown tree snakes have been found on Rota 
(Rodda, pers. comm. 1998). Fancy and Snetsinger (1996) do not believe 
that brown tree snakes are the likely cause of the Rota bridled white-
eye decline. The Rota bridled white-eye decline has been island-wide 
and has not followed the pattern that occurred on Guam in which the 
range expansion of the brown tree snake correlated with the range 
contraction of forest birds (Savidge 1987). Also, the densities of rats 
on Rota appear very high and would have declined if snakes were a 
problem on the island. However, given that the brown tree snake exists 
on Guam and may now exist in Saipan, and that two dead brown tree 
snakes were found on Rota, the accidental introduction of the brown 
tree snake to Rota is a constant potential threat.
    Two species of introduced rat, Asian house rat (Rattus tanezumi) 
and Polynesian rat (R. exulans), have been recorded on Rota (Johnson 
1962; Flannery 1995). Recent work by Service personnel on Rota, and 
opportunistic trapping and observations for the Guam rail release 
program, have indicated that high densities of rats exist on Rota 
(Fancy and Snetsinger 1996). Introduced rats have been found to be 
important predators of native birds in Hawaii, New Zealand, and other 
Pacific Islands (Atkinson 1977, 1985; Robertson et al. 1994). However, 
the role of rats in the population decline and range restriction of the 
Rota bridled white-eye is unknown. Fancy and Snetsinger (1996) 
indicated that other causes may have led to the decline, but did not 
rule out the possibility that rat predation may be an important 
mortality factor for Rota bridled white-eyes.
    Disease has also been implicated as a potential cause for the 
population decline and range restriction of the Rota bridled white-eye. 
In Hawaii, research has indicated that avian disease was a significant 
factor in the decline and distributional change of the native avifauna 
(van Riper et al. 1986, Warner 1968). Observations made by biologists 
and veterinarians who have worked on Rota, however, do not indicate the 
presence of pathogens or of an epidemic occurring there (Fancy and 
Snetsinger 1996, Pratt 1983). Research on Guam has not revealed the 
presence of significant levels of disease (Savidge 1986). The presence 
of the haematozoans Plasmodium spp. (Savidge 1986) and Haemoproteus 
spp. (Marshall 1949; Savidge 1986) in bridled white-eyes on Saipan has 
been reported. However, these parasites were considered to be 
relatively benign based on the good physical condition of the birds 
(Savidge 1986). Since no studies on the presence and effect of disease 
on the native birds of Rota have been conducted, the effects of disease 
on the decline and range restriction of the Rota bridled white-eye 
remains unclear.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    In 1991, the CNMI government listed the Rota bridled white-eye as 
threatened or endangered (the CNMI makes no distinction between the 
threatened and endangered categories) (Public Law 2-51). However, no 
regulations prohibit the taking of CNMI threatened and endangered 
species (Kevin Garlick, Service, in litt. 1997).
    A current activity that may provide some help in stabilization and 
protection for this bird on Rota is designation of the Sabana Protected 
Area (Area). The Area occurs on a plateau of shifting agricultural 
lands within a mosaic of native forest, and was designated as a 
protected area in 1994 through Rota Local Law No. 9-1 (Sabana Protected 
Area Management Committee 1996). A plan was developed to manage the 
Area as part of an effort by the CNMI government to limit development 
in this upper elevation area (Sabana Protected Area Management 
Committee 1996). Zones of activities have been designated for the Area, 
with rules established for each zone. A number of activities can occur 
in the Area in certain zones, such as farming, hunting, forestry, and 
medicinal use of plants. Many of these activities require a permit from 
the CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources. Conservation zones 
within the Area have been established in areas critical to the 
continued survival of bats

[[Page 50387]]

on Rota (Sabana Protected Area Management Committee 1996). These 
conservation zones also correspond to most of the current range of the 
Rota bridled white-eye. However, vegetation that is 15 cm (6 in.) dbh 
or less may be permitted to be removed in certain zones, including the 
bat conservation zone. Removal of this vegetation may have negative 
effects on the bridled white-eye nesting and foraging habitat. While 
preservation of these forested areas is believed to also be essential 
for the long-term stability of the Rota bridled white-eye, not all of 
the species' habitat occurs within the Sabana Protected Area. Since the 
Rota bridled white-eye is not protected from take as a CNMI-listed 
species, and since the Sabana Protected Area affords some, but likely 
inadequate, habitat protection for this species, regulatory mechanisms 
to protect this species are inadequate.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued Existence

    The use of pesticides has been implicated as a potential factor in 
the decline of the Rota bridled white-eye (Fancy and Snetsinger 1996). 
However, little information is available on the use of pesticides in 
the post World War II Mariana Islands. The U.S. military is reported to 
have liberally applied DDT (1, 1-bis (chlorophenyl)-2, 2, 2 
trichloroethane) on the Mariana Islands during and after WWII (Baker 
1946; Grue 1985). Pesticide use on Guam was implicated as a potential 
factor in the decline of Guam's avifauna (Jenkins 1983; Diamond 1984). 
But concentrations of DDT and DDE (1, 1-bis (chlorophenyl)-2, 2-
dichloroethane) in swiftlet carcasses and guano were considered to be 
too low to cause mortality or reproductive failure (Grue 1985; Savidge 
1986). The insecticide malathion was also used to control the 
introduced melon fly (Dacus cucurbitae) in 1988 and 1989 on Rota 
(Engbring 1989). However, a study to monitor the status of birds on 
Rota before and after the insecticide application did not detect any 
adverse effects on populations there (Engbring 1989). Approximately 90 
to 95 percent of crops grown on Rota are root crops, such as sweet 
potato and taro, so pesticide use tends to be minimal. The most 
commonly used insecticides on Rota are diazinon, sevin, and malathion, 
which are used to control insects on vegetables and livestock (John 
Morton, Service, pers. comm. 1998). It is not known what impacts these 
insecticides have on the Rota bridled white-eye.
    The small population size and limited distribution of the Rota 
bridled white-eye places this species at risk from naturally occurring 
events and environmental factors. Typhoons, in particular, pose a 
serious threat, directly and indirectly, to the white-eye and other 
avian populations (Wiley and Wunderle 1993). Direct effects include 
mortality from winds and rains. Indirect effects include the loss of 
food supplies, foraging habitat substrates, nests, nest and roost 
sites, and microclimate changes. For example, in December 1997, super 
typhoon Paka defoliated trees and removed large amounts of epiphytic 
growth and associated organic matter from the limestone forests of Rota 
(John Morton, pers. comm. 1998). This may have resulted in lower 
quality habitat and decreased availability of nesting material for the 
Rota bridled white-eye.
    We have carefully evaluated the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
faced by this species in determining to propose this rule. Based on 
this evaluation, we propose to list the Rota bridled white-eye as 
endangered. The Rota bridled white-eye is endemic to the island of 
Rota, and its population has declined an estimated 89 percent over the 
past 16 years. This species is threatened by one or more of the 
following: Habitat degradation or loss due to development, agricultural 
activities, and naturally occurring events such as typhoons; avian 
disease; predation by black drongos, rats, and potentially the brown 
tree snake; pesticides; and inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms. 
The small population size and limited distribution makes this species 
particularly vulnerable to extinction from random environmental events. 
Because the Rota bridled white-eye is in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range, it fits the 
definition of endangered as defined in the Act.

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as the specific 
areas within the geographical area occupied by a species, at the time 
it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found those 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the 
species and that may require special management considerations or 
protection, and specific areas outside the geographical area occupied 
by a species at the time it is listed, upon a determination by the 
Secretary that such areas are essential for the conservation of the 
species. ``Conservation'' means the use of all methods and procedures 
needed to bring the species to the point at which listing under the Act 
is no longer necessary.
    Critical habitat designation, by definition, directly affects only 
Federal agency actions through consultation under section 7(a)(2) of 
the Act. 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 a listed species or destroy or 
adversely modify its critical habitat.
    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and our implementing 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12) require that, to the maximum extent prudent 
and determinable, we designate critical habitat at the time the species 
is determined to be endangered or threatened. Our regulations (50 CFR 
424.12(a)(1)) state that the designation of critical habitat is not 
prudent when one or both of the following situations exist--(1) the 
species is threatened by taking or other human activity, and 
identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the 
degree of threat to the species, or (2) such designation of critical 
habitat would not be beneficial to the species.
    We find that designating critical habitat is prudent for the Rota 
bridled white-eye. Consistent with applicable regulations (50 CFR 
424.12(a)(1)(i)) and recent case law, we do not expect that the 
identification of critical habitat will increase the degree of threat 
to this species of taking or other human activity. In the absence of a 
finding that critical habitat would increase threats to a species, if 
any benefits would result from critical habitat designation, then a 
prudent finding is warranted. In the case of this species, there may be 
some benefits to designation of critical habitat. The primary 
regulatory effect of critical habitat is the section 7 requirement that 
Federal agencies refrain from taking any action that destroys or 
adversely modifies critical habitat. While a critical habitat 
designation for habitat currently occupied by this species would not be 
likely to change the section 7 consultation outcome because an action 
that destroys or adversely modifies such critical habitat would also be 
likely to result in jeopardy to the species, in some instances section 
7 consultation would be triggered only if critical habitat is 
designated-for example, unoccupied habitat that may become occupied in 
the future. Some educational or informational benefits also may result 
from designation of critical habitat.
    Because of the sharp population decline and currently precariously 
low numbers of Rota bridled white-eye individuals, we are not spending 
resources on the proposal of critical

[[Page 50388]]

habitat with the proposal to list this species. Section 4(b)(6)(C) of 
the Act states that the final critical habitat designation shall be 
published with the final listing determination unless ``* * *  (i) it 
is essential to the conservation of such species that the regulation 
implementing such determination be promptly published; * * *''
    We will develop a proposal to designate critical habitat for the 
Rota bridled white-eye as soon as feasible given our financial 
constraints and in coordination with the priority of other listing 

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to endangered or threatened species 
under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, requirements for 
Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain practices. 
Recognition through listing encourages and results in conservation 
actions by Federal, State, and local agencies, private organizations, 
and individuals. The Act provides for possible land acquisition and 
cooperation with States and requires that recovery plans be developed 
for all listed species. Funding may be available through section 6 of 
the Act for the State to conduct recovery activities. The protection 
required of Federal agencies and the prohibitions against taking and 
harm are discussed, in part, below.
    Section 7(a) of the Act, as amended, 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 proposed or designated. Regulations implementing 
this interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 
CFR Part 402. Section 7(a)(4) requires Federal agencies to confer with 
us on any action that is likely to jeopardize the continued existence 
of a species proposed for listing or result in destruction or adverse 
modification of proposed critical habitat. If a species is 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 the listed species or 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 consultation with us, under section 7(a)(2) of the Act.
    Federal agency actions that may require conference or consultation 
include U.S. Army Corps of Engineers involvement in projects such as 
the construction of roads and bridges; Natural Resource Conservation 
Service projects; Federal Emergency Management Agency activities; and 
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development projects.
    There are no federally owned lands on the island of Rota. Parts of 
Rota have been used as, or are under consideration for use as, training 
areas by U.S. armed forces. In the past, some military training has 
occurred at the Rota airport and on Angyuta, an island near the 
commercial port. Neither area contains native limestone forest. 
Federally supported activities that could affect the Rota bridled 
white-eye or its habitat in the future include, but are not limited to, 
low-level helicopter maneuvers over areas occupied by Rota bridled 
    Listing the Rota bridled white-eye provides for the development and 
implementation of a recovery plan for the species. This plan will bring 
together Federal, State, and regional agency efforts for conservation 
of the species. A recovery plan will establish a framework for agencies 
to coordinate their recovery efforts. The plan will set recovery 
priorities and estimate the costs of the tasks necessary to accomplish 
the priorities. It will also describe the site-specific management 
actions necessary to achieve conservation and survival of the species.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered 
wildlife. The prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act, implemented 
by 50 CFR 17.21 for endangered species, make it illegal for any person 
subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take (includes 
harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, or collect; or 
attempt any of these), import or export, ship in interstate commerce in 
the course of a commercial activity, or sell or offer for sale in 
interstate or foreign commerce any listed species. It is also illegal 
to possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such wildlife 
that has been taken illegally. Further, it is illegal for any person to 
attempt to commit, to solicit another person to commit, or to cause to 
be committed, any of these acts. Certain exceptions apply to our agents 
and State conservation agencies.
    Permits may be issued to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered wildlife under certain circumstances. Regulations 
governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.23. Such permits 
are available for scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation or 
survival of the species, and/or for incidental take in the course of 
otherwise lawful activities. Permits are also available for zoological 
exhibitions, educational purposes, or special purposes consistent with 
the purposes of the Act. Requests for copies of the regulations 
regarding listed wildlife and inquiries about permits and prohibitions 
may be addressed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological 
Services, Endangered Species Permits, 911 N.E. 11th, Avenue, Portland, 
Oregon 97232-4181, (telephone 503/231-2063; facsimile 503/231-6243).
    Our policy, as published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 
(59 FR 34272), is to identify to the maximum extent practicable at the 
time a species is listed those activities that would or would not 
likely be a violation of section 9 of the Act. The intent of this 
policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of this listing on 
proposed and ongoing activities within the range of the species. We 
believe that permitted scientific activities or recreational activities 
within forested areas that support populations of bridled white-eyes 
would not likely result in a violation of section 9.
    Activities that we believe could potentially harm the Rota bridled 
white-eye, and would likely violate section 9, include, but are not 
limited to:
    (1) Unauthorized collecting, handling, possessing, selling, 
delivering, carrying, transporting, or shipping of the species;
    (2) Intentional introduction of exotic species that compete with or 
prey on bird species, such as the introduction of the predatory brown 
tree snake to islands that support bird populations;
    (3) Activities that disturb bridled white-eyes from nesting sites 
and feeding areas, and unauthorized destruction or alteration of 
forested areas required by the bridled white-eye for foraging, 
perching, breeding, or rearing young; and
    (4) Engaging in the unauthorized import or export of this bird or 
interstate and foreign commerce (commerce across State lines and 
international boundaries).
    Questions regarding whether specific activities will constitute a 
violation of section 9 of the Act should be directed to the Field 
Supervisor of our Pacific Islands Office (see ADDRESSES section).

Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, comments or 
suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, industry, or any other interested party 
concerning this proposed rule are hereby solicited.

[[Page 50389]]

Comments particularly are sought 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.
    If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and materials 
concerning this proposal by any one of several methods, as listed above 
in ADDRESSES. If you submit comments by e-mail, please submit comments 
as an ASCII file format and avoid the use of special characters and 
encryption. Please include ``Attn: [RIN 1018-AI16]'' 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 Pacific Islands Office at phone 
number 808/541-3441. Please note that this e-mail address will be 
closed out at the termination of the public comment period.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Commenters may request that we withhold their home 
address, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. In some 
circumstances, we may also withhold a commenter's identity, as 
allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name or address, you 
must state this request prominently at the beginning of your comment. 
However, we will not consider anonymous comments. To the extent 
consistent with applicable law, 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. Comments 
and materials received will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.
    You may request a public hearing on this proposal. Your request for 
a hearing must be made in writing and filed within 45 days of the date 
of publication of the proposal in the Federal Register. Address your 
requests to the Supervisor, Pacific Islands Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (see ADDRESSES section).

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 
34270), we will seek expert opinions of at least three appropriate 
independent specialists regarding this proposed rule. The purpose of 
such review is to ensure listing decisions are based on scientifically 
sound data, assumptions, and analysis. We will send copies of this 
proposed rule immediately following publication in the Federal Register 
to these peer reviewers. We will invite these peer reviewers to 
comment, during the public comment period, on the specific assumptions 
and conclusions regarding the proposed designation of critical habitat.
    We will consider all comments and information received during the 
comment period on this proposed rule during the preparation of a final 
rulemaking. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this 

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an environmental impact statement and 
environmental assessment, 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).

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This rule does not contain any collections of information that 
require Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq. 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 endangered animal species, see 50 CFR 

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this proposal is 
available upon request from the Pacific Islands Office (see ADDRESSES 


    The primary author of this proposed rule is Leila Gibson, Fish and 
Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see ADDRESSES 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
record keeping requirements, and Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

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


    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 17.11(h) is amended by adding the following, in 
alphabetical order under BIRDS, to the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife to read as follows:

Sec. 17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                      Species                                                Vertebrate
----------------------------------------------------                      population where                                   Critical
                                                       Historic  range     endangered or       Status      When  listed       habitat     Special  rules
          Common name              Scientific name                           threatened

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *

[[Page 50390]]

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *
White-eye, Rota bridled........  Zosterops rotensis  Western Pacific     Entire...........  E                                         NA              NA
                                                      (Commonwealth of
                                                      the Northern
                                                      Mariana Islands).

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *

    Dated: September 27, 2001.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 01-24659 Filed 10-2-01; 8:45 am]