[Federal Register: January 14, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 9)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 1712-1713]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF84

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reopening of 
Comment Period on the Proposed Endangered Status of Two Plants, 
Lomatium Cookii (Cook's Lomatium) and Limnanthes Floccosa ssp. 
Grandiflora (Large-Flowered Wooly Meadowfoam)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; reopening of comment period.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
re-opening of the comment period on the proposed listing of Lomatium 
cookii (Cook's lomatium) and Limnanthes floccosa ssp. grandiflora 
(large-flowered wooly meadowfoam) as endangered species under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We are re-opening the 
comment period to provide the public an opportunity to review 
additional information on the status, abundance, and distribution of 
these plants, and to request additional information and comments from 
the public regarding the proposed rule. Comments previously submitted 
need not be resubmitted as they will be incorporated into the public 
record as part of this extended comment period; all comments will be 
fully considered in the final rule.

DATES: We will accept public comments until March 15, 2002.

ADDRESSES: Comments and materials concerning this proposal should be 
sent to the State Supervisor, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 2600 Southeast 98th Avenue, Portland, 
Oregon, 97266. Comments and materials received will be available for 
public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the 
above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Judy Jacobs or Rollie White at the 
above address, phone: 503/231-6179, facsimile: 503/231-6195.



    Lomatium cookii (Cook's lomatium) and Limnanthes floccosa ssp. 
grandiflora (large-flowered wooly meadowfoam) are two plants that 
inhabit seasonally wet habitats known as vernal pools in the Agate 
Desert, an area of approximately 83 square kilometers (32 square miles) 
north of Medford, Jackson County, Oregon. Cook's lomatium also occurs 
on seasonally wet soils in the adjacent county to the west, Josephine 
County, Oregon. The continued existence of Lomatium cookii and 
Limnanthes floccosa ssp. grandiflora is endangered primarily by 
destruction of their specialized vernal pool habitat by competition 
with non-native plants and industrial and residential development, 
including road and powerline construction and maintenance. Agricultural 
conversion and off-road vehicle (ORV) use also contribute to 
destruction of the habitat required by these plants. Lomatium cookii 
sites in Josephine County are additionally threatened by habitat 
alteration associated with gold mining, certain proposed timber 
projects, and woody species encroachment resulting from fire 
    On May 15, 2000, the Service published a proposed rule to list 
Lomatium cookii and Limnanthes floccosa ssp. grandiflora as endangered 
species and requested public comment for 60 days (65 FR 30941). On 
August 28, 2001, Siskiyou Regional Educational Project filed a citizen 
suit alleging that the Service had failed to make a timely final 
determination on the listing and critical habitat designation of these 
two plants, consistent with the time frames set forth in section 4 of 
the Act (Siskiyou Regional Educational Project v. Norton, Civil No. 01-
1208-KI (D. Ore). We entered into a settlement agreement with the 
plaintiff and agreed to submit a final listing decision for publication 
in the Federal Register on or before October 31, 2002. By this notice, 
the Service is seeking updated information regarding the status, 
abundance, and distribution of these plants, as well as providing 
updated information now in the possession of the Service regarding the 
status of these two plants.

Current Status

    The proposed rule published in May of 2000 did not contain data 
from surveys for these plants that had been conducted one month prior 
to publication of the proposed rule, during April of 2000 (David Evans 
and Associates 2000). Additional survey work was also conducted for 
both species in April of 2001. These data are provided below.
    Each year, plant populations exhibit some natural variation in 
numbers, related primarily to temperature and rainfall conditions for 
that year. In general, numbers of annual plants, such as Limnanthes 
floccosa ssp. grandiflora may fluctuate more widely than those of 
perennial plants, such as Lomatium cookii. The year 2000 was a banner 
year for Limnanthes floccosa ssp. grandiflora populations due to the 
wet conditions that prevailed that year, but in 2001, a dry year, 
population numbers of this plant plummeted in many areas. For example, 
on a protected site owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), one 
Limnanthes floccosa ssp. grandiflora occurrence declined from 68,000 in 
2000 to 39,000 in 2001. A site owned by the City of Medford, contained 
some 10,000 Limnanthes floccosa ssp. grandiflora individuals in the 
year 2000, while only 112 individuals were noted at this site in 2001 
(D. Borgias, TNC, pers. comm. 2001). Year-to-year changes of this 
magnitude may be within the normal range of variation for this annual 
plant. However, it is possible that a number of consecutive drought 
years could eliminate some populations of Limnanthes floccosa ssp. 
grandiflora. In contrast, numbers of Lomatium cookii in the Agate 
Desert were generally stable or slightly increased from the year 2000 
to 2001 (D. Borgias, TNC, pers. comm. 2001).
    The Service now possesses information on three status changes that

[[Page 1713]]

would be considered outside the natural range of year-to-year variation 
for these plants and that was not available to us during development of 
the proposed rule for these plants. Two of these involve increased 
population sizes at historical Lomatium cookii sites. One of these 
sites, on private land, was believed to contain some 6,000 plants 
historically. Surveys in 2000 and 2001 revealed an estimated 500,000 
flowering individuals. Another population, located on Medford airport 
property, that was previously estimated at some 1,000 plants, was found 
in 1999 to contain over 5,000 flowering Lomatium cookii plants. 
However, this larger population was cut in two last year by development 
of a new taxiway at this airport (K. O'Hara, David Evans & Associates, 
pers. comm. 2001). The third status change is that in the year 2000, 
Limnanthes floccosa ssp. grandiflora was discovered at a new location. 
This occurrence, on private land, comprised approximately 1,000 
flowering individuals.
    The 2000-2001 observations of these two vernal pool plant species 
must be considered within the context of the status and trends of their 
habitat overall. Recent studies of the Agate Desert vernal pool 
hydrology and vegetation indicate that no intact vernal pool habitat 
remains (ONHP 1997, 1999). The latter study (ORNP 1999) indicates that 
the highest quality remaining Agate Desert vernal pool habitat, that 
with intact hydrology and altered vegetation, is now present on an 
approximately 17.6 percent of the area. This is a decrease from the 
earlier study (ONHP 1997), cited in the May, 2000, Federal Register 
proposal, which estimated that this highest quality remaining habitat 
occurred on 23.1 percent of the area. This reported decrease in the 
amount of best available habitat is partially due to better-refined 
mapping techniques, but there is evidence that additional land leveling 
also occurred between the two studies (ONHP 1999). Both reported and 
unreported fills of Agate Desert vernal pool wetlands are occurring 
continually (C. Tuss USFWS biologist, pers. comm. 2001). ONHP (1999) 
reports that over 19 percent of Agate Desert vernal pool habitat has 
been leveled, and development (structures, roads, and other impermeable 
surfaces) has occurred on an additional 41 percent of this area (ONHP 
1999). Thus, over 60 percent of the habitat of these plants in the 
Agate Desert has been destroyed, and none of the remaining habitat has 
escaped the invasion of weedy competitors. This compares with just 
under 60 percent habitat destruction reported in ONHP 1997 and in the 
proposed rule (65 FR 30941).
    Recent evidence also indicates that non-native annual grasses are a 
greater problem than previously believed for Lomatium cookii, 
particularly in the Agate Desert. Unlike native perennial bunchgrasses 
that originally occupied the area, annual grasses die back each year, 
creating a buildup of thatch from the dead leaves that interferes with 
germination of Lomatium cookii seeds. Current observations indicate 
that without control of annual grasses through mowing, grazing or 
prescribed burns, Lomatium cookii populations tend to decrease over 
time, and could be extirpated within a relatively short time frame, due 
to this competition with non-native grasses (D. Borgias, TNC, pers. 
comm. 2001). In many cases, non-native plants have been purposefully 
planted, for livestock and other reasons, in the Agate Desert. For 
example, the Ken Denman Wildlife Reserve, encompassing some 720 
hectares (1,780 acres) of Agate Desert land, is managed by the State 
primarily for waterfowl production. Much of this Reserve has been 
covered with log deck debris, plowed in strips and planted with non-
native wildlife food plants (Brock 1987; J. Jacobs, pers. obs. 2000).
    Populations of Lomatium cookii in Josephine County are becoming 
even more highly threatened by ORV use than they were at the time of 
the proposal. Over the past 2 years, gates erected by the Bureau of 
Land Management (BLM) to direct ORV traffic away from Lomatium cookii 
habitat have been repeatedly vandalized, and the intrusion into these 
areas continues. Particularly in the springtime, when the ground is wet 
and muddy (and Lomatium cookii plants are flowering), ORVs cause major 
rutting and disruption of Lomatium cookii habitat (L. Mazzu, BLM 
botanist, pers. comm. 2001).
    Considering the above-noted population changes of Lomatium cookii 
and Limnanthes floccosa ssp. grandiflora in the Agate Desert over the 
past 2 years in light of historic loss of habitat (65 FR 30941) and 
ongoing threats to these plants and their habitat, we conclude that the 
best available information still indicates both are in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range, 
fitting the definition of endangered under the Act.

Public Comments Solicited

    We will accept written comments and information during this re-
opened comment period. If you wish to comment, you may submit your 
comments and materials concerning this proposal by any of several 
methods: (1) You may submit written comments and information to the 
State Supervisor, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 2600 Southeast 98th Avenue, Portland, Oregon, 97266. 
(2) You may hand-deliver comments to our Oregon Fish and Wildlife 
Office at the address given above. Comments and materials received, as 
well as supporting documentation used in preparation of the proposal to 
designate critical habitat, will be available for inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the address under (1) 
above. Copies of the proposed rule is available on the Internet at our 
Web site www.fws.gov or by writing to the State Supervisor at the 
address under (1) above.

References Cited

David Evans and Associates. 2001. Agate Desert vernal pool surveys. 
(prepared for: Rogue Valley Council of Governments, Jackson County, 
Oregon), 16+ pp.
Oregon Natural Heritage Program. 1997. Agate Desert vernal pool 
habitat: Preliminary mapping and Assessment. Report to Oregon Division 
of State Lands, Contract No. 10738-369, 23+pp.
Oregon Natural Heritage Program. 1999. Assessment and map of the Agate 
Desert vernal pool ecosystem in Jackson County, Oregon: March 1998 
imagery revision. Report to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, December 6, 
1999, 15+pp.


    The primary author of this notice is Judy Jacobs, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (see ADDRESSES section).

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

    Dated: December 6, 2001.
Rowan W. Gould,
Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 02-812 Filed 1-11-02; 8:45 am]