[Federal Register: August 27, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 166)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 54968-54975]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 54968]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AH56

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of 
Potentilla robbinsiana (Robbins' cinquefoil) From the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Plants

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
determined that Potentilla robbinsiana, commonly called Robbins' 
cinquefoil, is no longer an endangered species pursuant to the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended. This determination is 
based on available data indicating that this species has recovered. The 
main population of the species currently has more than 14,000 plants, 
and the 2 transplant populations have reached or surpassed minimum 
viable population size. This action removes Potentilla robbinsiana from 
the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants and removes the 
designation of critical habitat.
    This rule includes a proposed 5-year post-delisting monitoring plan 
as required for species that are delisted due to recovery. The plan 
will include monitoring of population trends of both natural and 
transplant populations.

DATES: This rule is effective September 26, 2002.

ADDRESSES: The administrative file for this rule is available for 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Regional Office, 300 Westgate 
Center Drive, Hadley, Massachusetts 01035 (telephone (413) 253-8628).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Diane Lynch at (413) 253-8628 or the 
above address.



    Although its discovery was not formalized until 1840 (Torrey and 
Gray, 1840), the first recorded collection of Potentilla robbinsiana 
(Robbins' or dwarf cinquefoil) by Thomas Nuttall in 1824 generated a 
strong interest among botanists and others in this diminutive member of 
the rose family (Rosaceae). Initially, there was confusion as to its 
taxonomic status, and it was designated as a variety of various 
European cinquefoils, but it was eventually recognized as a distinct 
species (Rydberg, 1896).
    Potentilla robbinsiana is a long-lived perennial herb. Its hairy 
three-part compound leaves are deeply toothed, and mature plants form a 
dense 2-4 centimeter (cm) (1-1.5 inch (in)) rosette. Individual plants 
develop a deep central taproot, which helps to anchor them and resists 
frost heaving. Potentilla robbinsiana is one of the first plants to 
bloom in the alpine zone where it is found, flowering soon after the 
snows recede, from late May to mid-June. Adult plants produce from 1 to 
30, 5-petalled yellow flowers on individual stems. The achenes (fruits) 
mature by late July, and disperse on dry windy days. These seeds seldom 
disperse more than 20 cm (8 in) from the parent plant, which limits 
natural reestablishment (Kimball and Paul, 1986). The seeds remain 
dormant for at least one winter, and germination begins the following 
year during June and July. Although seed viability is generally high, 
seedling survival is low (Iszard-Crowley and Kimball, 1998).
    Various experiments have shown that Potentilla robbinsiana produces 
seed asexually so that seedlings are genetically identical (Lee and 
Greene, 1986). This species has the chromosome number 49 that allows it 
to maintain itself through asexual reproduction, which partially 
explains the low genetic variability found within the sampled 
population (David O'Malley, personal communication, 2000).
    Potentilla robbinsiana is endemic to the White Mountains of New 
Hampshire and is restricted to two small, distinct areas on lands 
administered by the White Mountain National Forest. Herbaria 
collections suggest that historically there may have been a number of 
small populations in close proximity to these two areas. Currently 
there are only two natural populations. Reports of occurrences outside 
of New Hampshire have been discounted (Cogbill, 1993), and records 
indicate that Potentilla robbinsiana has always had a very narrow 
geographic distribution.
    The largest natural population of Potentilla robbinsiana occurs on 
Monroe Flats located just above treeline on a col (saddle) between Mt. 
Monroe and Mt. Washington in the Presidential Range. Within this small 
area (less than 1 hectare (ha) (2.5 acres (ac))), the population is 
well established with more than 14,000 plants at present. Considering 
its local abundance and density at this one location, we assume that 
some of the unique features of Monroe Flats are important habitat 
requirements for Potentilla robbinsiana. Monroe Flats (elev. 1,550 
meters (m) (5,085 feet (ft.)) consists of an exposed low dome that is 
covered with alternating bands of relatively barren small-stoned 
terraces and thickly vegetated mats. Blowing winds keep the Monroe 
Flats mostly free of snow and ice throughout the winter, leaving the 
vegetation exposed to the abrasive action of blowing snow and ice, and 
desiccating winds. The moist, barren soils are also susceptible to 
frost disturbance from freeze-thaw cycles for much of the year. In this 
extreme environment of moderate solifluction (soil movement downslope) 
and exposed topography, Potentilla robbinsiana occupies a narrow niche: 
It is likely a poor competitor with other species, but is able to 
thrive in a harsh environment where few other species can survive 
(Cogbill, 1987).
    The second extant natural population occurs on Franconia Ridge, 30 
kilometers (km) (18.6 miles (mi)) to the west of the Monroe Flats 
population. Although still within the alpine zone, the habitat here is 
markedly different. A limited number of plants grow at a site on the 
south end of the Franconia Ridge in crevices along the side of a 
vertical cliff just below the ridgeline. Although records indicate that 
the Franconia population was never very large, it is likely that these 
few plants are the remnants of a larger population from more suitable 
habitat that previously existed along the top of the ridge. The habitat 
has long since eroded and the plants have disappeared due to hiking 
activity along a ridgeline trail.
    Potentilla robbinsiana was listed as endangered on September 17, 
1980, and critical habitat encompassing the Monroe Flats population was 
designated at that time. Overzealous specimen collecting and 
unregulated hiker disturbance were the reasons for listing. At the 
time, the extent of the Monroe Flats population was shrinking (Graber 
and Brewer, 1985), and the Franconia Ridge population was thought to be 
    We approved a recovery plan for Potentilla robbinsiana in 1983 and 
revised it in 1991 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1991). We began 
recovery activities in 1979, focusing on the only known population at 
Monroe Flats. Important features of the recovery efforts for this 
species included: construction of a scree wall; signs to alert the 
public to stay on the trail; Educational posters at the Lake-of-the-
Clouds hut; monitoring the use of the Crawford Path; and trail 
relocation to avoid disturbance. We subsequently rediscovered the 
natural Franconia

[[Page 54969]]

Ridge population in June of 1984, which was represented by a single 
known plant.
    Prior to listing, there had been a number of attempts to establish 
transplant populations at approximately 20 locations throughout the 
White Mountains (Graber, 1980). Although some of these efforts showed 
signs of initial success, all but one eventually failed due to 
unsuitable habitat or because patches of suitable habitat were too 
small to support viable populations. The Appalachian Mountain Club's 
Research Department reviewed these efforts, and, using the lessons 
learned, narrowed recovery efforts to four potential sites as outlined 
in the updated 1991 recovery plan: Two used in the previous transplant 
efforts (Camel Patch and the Viewing Garden) and two new ones (Boott's 
Spur and an additional Franconia Ridge population).
    Of the transplant populations created prior to this species' 
listing, one continues to persist. Camel Patch received an unknown 
number of transplants by Raymond E. Gerber from the 1980s to 1991 
(records unavailable). The Appalachian Mountain Club inventoried this 
site starting in 1984 when they located 84 plants. Only one of the 
transplant zones in this habitat showed viable natural reproduction 
occurring. This population was monitored annually from 1984 to 1992 and 
again in 1995, with annual monitoring beginning again in 1998. 
Supplementation of this population began in 1999 with 6 transplants, 
which boosted this population to 23 adults, 60 juveniles, and 6 new 
transplant adults. Since 1999, an additional 31 transplants were done, 
bringing the population to 40 adults and 57 juveniles. The Viewing 
Garden had received 19 known adult transplants from about 1980 through 
1997. Though the adults survived for some time, viable natural 
reproduction was problematic and these individuals died out over time.
    Transplant efforts to new locations began in 1986 with the 
introduction of 160 plants over three years at the Boott's Spur site. 
The site showed some initial promise, but by 1991 mortality was 100%. 
Although the Boott's Spur location was recognized as suboptimal habitat 
and had failed in a previous transplant effort, another 27 plants were 
transplanted in 1995, but none survived after the first year. The new 
Franconia population was established in 1988 with 61 plants 
transplanted over 2 years and an additional 108 plants through 1996, 
the date of the last transplant efforts. Like the natural populations, 
this transplant population has fluctuated over the years, but now 
appears well established with over 337 plants counted in 2001 and good 
natural recruitment occurring.

Summary of Federal Actions

    Section 12 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 directed the 
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution to prepare a report, within 1 
year after passage of the Act, on those plants considered to be 
endangered, threatened, or extinct. This report, designated as House 
Document No. 94-51, was presented to Congress on January 9, 1975. On 
July 1, 1975, the Director of the Service published a notice in the 
Federal Register (40 FR 27823) of his acceptance of the report of the 
Smithsonian Institution as a petition within the context of section 
4(c)(2) of the Act, and of his intention thereby to review the status 
of the plant taxa named within. On June 16, 1976, the Service published 
a proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register (41 FR 24523) to 
determine approximately 1,700 vascular plant species to be endangered 
species pursuant to section 4 of the Act. Comments on this proposal 
were summarized in the April 26, 1978, Federal Register publication of 
a final rule, which also determined 13 plants to be either endangered 
or threatened species (43 FR 17909). Potentilla robbinsiana was 
included in the Smithsonian's report, the July 1, 1975, notice of 
review, and the June 16, 1976, proposal.
    The amendment of the Act in 1978 required that all proposals over 2 
years old be withdrawn. A 1-year grace period was given to proposals 
already over 2 years old. On December 10, 1979, we published a notice 
withdrawing the June 16, 1976, proposal to list Potentilla robbinsiana 
(44 FR 70796).
    Based on sufficient new information, we again proposed Potentilla 
robbinsiana for listing on March 24, 1980, and proposed its critical 
habitat for the first time (45 FR 19004). A public meeting was held on 
this proposal on April 28, 1980, in Concord, New Hampshire. On 
September 17, 1980, we published a final rule in the Federal Register 
(45 FR 61944) listing Potentilla robbinsiana as endangered and 
designating critical habitat.
    On June 8, 2001, we proposed to remove Potentilla robbinsiana from 
the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants because the available data 
indicate that this species has recently met the goals for delisting. In 
our Federal Register notice (66 FR 30860), we requested that all 
interested parties provide information and comments on the status of 
this species.

Summary of Current Status

    As mentioned in the ``Background'' section, Potentilla robbinsiana 
is endemic to alpine areas of the White Mountain National Forest. The 
species is limited in its distribution as it occupies a unique habitat 
within the alpine zone that is very restricted geographically. There 
are currently four populations of the species; three are considered 
viable (over 50 plants), Monroe Flats, Camel Patch transplant site, and 
the Franconia Ridge transplant site. One site, the natural Franconia 
Ridge site has a very limited range of habitat. This population 
continues to sustain itself. However, we believe it will never reach 
the 50 plants needed to be considered viable due to limited suitable 
    Table 1 shows the Monroe Flats census counts of the species. 
Although counts were undertaken in 1973, 1983, and 1992, the 
methodology used to count the plants differed. The most reliable 
comparison between the three prior censuses and the most recent census 
(1999) is the number of plants found that were greater than 14 
millimeters (mm) (0.5 in.) in stem diameter. Comparing the number of 
plants greater than 14 mm in diameter for censuses in 1983, 1992, and 
1999 clearly demonstrates that the Monroe Flats population has 
dramatically increased.

     Table 1.--Monroe Flats census Counts for Potentilla robbinsiana
                                             Number of
                                            plants with
                                           stems greater   Increase from
                  Year                      than 14 mm    previous count
                                           (0.55 in) in      (percent)
1973....................................           1,801
1983....................................           1,547             -14
1992....................................           3,368             118
1999....................................           4,575              36

    Both the Camel Patch and Franconia Ridge transplant populations 
have persisted for more than 10 years. Both have juvenile recruitment 
and successful second generation seedling establishment. Transplant 
and/or monitoring efforts for these populations continue on a near 
annual basis (Kimball, 1998). The high level of soil movement 
throughout Camel Patch makes much of the site unsuitable for transplant 
efforts, nevertheless a population located along the edge of the 
encircling vegetation is well established. The Franconia Ridge 
population has increased dramatically in recent years and is now well 

[[Page 54970]]

    An 11-year demographic study, funded by the Service, the U.S. 
Forest Service, and Appalachian Mountain Club, was conducted along four 
permanent transects within the Monroe Flats population. The purpose of 
this study, in part, was to determine a minimum viable population for 
the transplant populations centered on the survival of each life stage 
of the plant at the Monroe Flats population. The study recommended a 
minimum viable population of 50 plants (Iszard-Crowley and Kimball, 
1998). Both the Camel Patch location with a current population of 97 
plants (Table 2) and the Franconia transplant location with a current 
population of 337 plants (Table 3) meet this criterion.

              Table 2.--Results of the 1999-2001 Censuses of the Camel Patch Transplant Population
                                                  Juvenile <    Juvenile                 
               Year                   Seedling       14mm      [ge] 14mm      Adults    plants [ge]     Total
1999..............................            0           43           23           21           44           87
2000..............................            0           42           30           29           59          101
2001..............................            0           27           30           40           70           97

               Table 3.--Results of the 1999-2001 Censuses of the Franconia Transplant Population
                                                  Juvenile <    Juvenile                 
               Year                   Seedling       14mm      [ge] 14mm      Adults    plants [ge]     Total
1999..............................            1           284\a\                    46       N/A\a\          331
2000..............................            0          172           58           77          135          307
2001..............................            0          179           83           75          158         337
\a\ Size class data unavailable.

Potentilla robbinsiana Recovery

    In accordance with section 4(f)(1) of the Act, the Service is 
responsible for the development and implementation of recovery plans 
for all listed species, to the maximum extent practicable. The first 
Robbins' Cinquefoil Recovery Plan was completed in 1983, and featured 
two main objectives: (1) To protect the existing Monroe Flats colony, 
encouraging its expansion to previously occupied habitat; and (2) to 
establish self-maintaining populations in at least four additional 
potential habitats not occupied at the time.
    To accomplish the first objective, a scree wall surrounding the 
Monroe Flats population was constructed and posted with ``closed to 
entry'' signs, and two hiking trails that had previously traveled 
through the Monroe Flats population were relocated away from the 
population. Plants have since been successfully transplanted back into 
the habitat where the trails had resulted in the localized demise of 
the plants, primarily at the highest elevation in the Monroe Flats 
population. The ability of seed to move downhill from this recolonized 
site should benefit the Monroe Flats population. In addition, personnel 
from the White Mountain National Forest and Appalachian Mountain Club 
continue to provide stewardship, enforcement, and educational resources 
on site.
    Several tasks were necessary to meet the second objective of 
establishing four additional self-maintaining transplant populations: 
(1) Protocols were developed to monitor the Monroe Flats population to 
better understand its demographic trends and natural rates of 
recruitment and mortality, and to collect data to model minimum viable 
population size; (2) the natural Franconia Ridge population 
(rediscovered in 1984) was annually monitored; (3) micro-habitat 
components were identified and used to locate unoccupied, potentially 
suitable habitat; and (4) effective propagation and transplant 
techniques were developed. Transplant techniques varied over the years. 
However, the most successful efforts used 2-year-old plants germinated 
from seed, and transplanted with the soil media intact in mid-June to 
early July. Each year a portion of the seed collected for use in 
transplants is placed in cold storage at the New England Wildflower 
Society to establish a seed bank for this species.
    As mentioned in the ``Background'' section, two of the transplant 
sites failed, Boott's Spur and the Viewing Garden. The other two 
transplant sites, Franconia and Camel Patch, are both considered viable 
populations with 331 plants and 87 plants respectively, in 1999. As of 
2001, these populations increased to 337 plants and 97 plants 
    The Robbins' Cinquefoil Recovery Plan: First Update, published in 
1991, retained recovery criteria for the protection of existing natural 
populations and establishing additional transplant populations, but 
also contained minor changes to incorporate the rediscovered natural 
Franconia population, and acknowledged that suitable additional 
unoccupied habitat may be a limiting factor. In addition to the 
protection of the natural populations, this plan determined that a 
historically occupied zone within the Monroe Flats should be 
recolonized. Transplant efforts began in 1996 to meet this objective, 
and successful juvenile recruitment has since been observed.
    To delist Potentilla robbinsiana, long-term demographic evidence 
must show that the Monroe Flats population is stable or increasing in 
size. As mentioned in the ``Summary of Current Status'' section, 
comparing the number of plants greater than 14 mm in stem diameter for 
censuses in 1983, 1992, and 1999 clearly demonstrates that the Monroe 
Flats population has dramatically increased.
    While the 1991 recovery plan calls for the establishment of four 
transplant populations, it also recognizes that suitable habitat may be 
a limiting factor, and requires only two of the four transplant 
populations to be viable. Introduction of plants to the Boott's Spur 
location has subsequently been dropped due to the unsuccessful 
transplant efforts resulting in 100% mortality. The Viewing Garden 
location also showed 100% mortality in 1998. There are no plans to 
reestablish a population at this location because the suitable habitat 
is very limited and cannot support more than a few individual plants 
that are unlikely to

[[Page 54971]]

persist under natural population fluctuations. Biologists familiar with 
this species are confident that little if any suitable habitat in the 
White Mountains remains to be discovered (K. Kimball, Appalachian 
Mountain Club, pers. comm. 2000). Therefore, given that the discovery 
of additional suitable habitat for the establishment of new transplant 
attempts is unlikely, recent efforts have focused on ensuring viable 
populations at the two remaining transplant locations, Camel Patch and 
Franconia Ridge. As stated in the ``Summary of Current Status'' 
section, research on the species has determined that a minimum viable 
population consists of 50 plants (Iszard-Crowley and Kimball, 1998). 
Both the Franconia transplant location with a current population of 337 
plants and the Camel Patch location with a current population of 97 
plants meet this criterion.

Summary of Issues and Recommendations

    In the June 8, 2001, proposed rule (66 FR 30860) we requested that 
all interested parties provide information and comments on the status 
of Potentilla robbinsiana and the proposal to delist this species. The 
public comment period ended August 7, 2001. Announcements of the 
proposed rule were sent to Federal and State agencies, elected 
officials, interested private organizations and citizens, and local 
area newspapers.
    We received a total of two written comments, one from an individual 
and one from an organization. The organization (Appalachian Mountain 
Club) supports the delisting proposal, while the individual did not 
support it. Comments are discussed below. In addition, we considered 
and incorporated, as appropriate, into the final rule all biological 
and commercial information obtained through the public comment period.
    Issue 1: Both commenters mention that the more appropriate common 
name for the species is dwarf cinquefoil.
    Our response: We agree that the current common name is dwarf 
cinquefoil. Throughout this document we refer to the species by using 
the Latin name Potentilla robbinsiana. The exception being, when 
referencing the recovery plans, where the formal title of the plans 
refers to the species as Robbins' cinquefoil. We continue to use the 
common name of Robbins' cinquefoil for this species since that was the 
common name under which this species was associated at the time of 
    Issue 2: One commenter recommends that all future population counts 
should be for total population, not transect counts as suggested in the 
proposed rule.
    Our response: We agree that a total population census using a grid 
sampling methodology would provide more consistent comparisons over 
time. For the 5-year post-delisting monitoring, a total population 
census will be used. However, as explained in the ``Summary of Current 
Status'' section, the most reliable comparison between the 3 prior 
censuses and the most recent census (1999) is the number of plants 
found that were greater than 14 mm (0.5 in.) in stem diameter.
    Issue 3: One commenter was concerned that the proposed rule does 
not technically satisfy some of the downlisting and delisting criteria 
contained in the updated recovery plan.
    Our response: As mentioned in the proposed rule, the downlisting 
and delisting objectives in the 1991 recovery plan update were based on 
the best information available at that time. The recovery plan states 
``that approved recovery plans are subject to modification as dictated 
by new findings, changes in species status, and the completion of 
recovery tasks.'' Each recovery objective from the 1991 plan is 
addressed in the ``Potentilla robbinsiana Recovery'' section of this 
rule. This section lays out the recovery actions that have led to the 
decision to delist the species, even though not every objective was 
met. In addition, we have determined that none of the five listing 
factors identified in the Act remain a threat to Potentilla 
robbinsiana. The objectives identified during the recovery planning 
process provide a guide for measuring the success of recovery, but are 
not intended to be absolute prerequisites, and should not preclude a 
reclassification or delisting action if such action is otherwise 
    Issue 4: One commenter was concerned that the Service did not seek 
the review and concurrence from the ad hoc recovery group for 
Potentilla robbinsiana.
    Our response: The ad hoc recovery group first met shortly after the 
listing of the species in 1980. At that time and up until the present, 
this group was never a formalized recovery team with members appointed 
by the Regional Director. This group was consulted at one time, but the 
Service never asked for a consensus on any matters. This group has not 
met in over a decade. The Service did seek scientific review and 
comment from all interested stakeholders during our public comment 
period associated with the proposed rule.
    Issue 5: One commenter was concerned that the Service did not 
complete tasks 5.3 and 7 in the original recovery plan of 1983, and 
task 5.1 of the updated plan, prior to publishing the proposed rule.
    Our response: We disagree. Task 5.3 of the original plan, ``Develop 
news releases, articles and maintain contact with interested groups,'' 
was not included in the updated plan of 1991. Task 7 of the original 
plan and task 5.1 of the updated plan are essentially the same: 
``submit an annual report on all conservation activities and research 
findings.'' The Appalachian Mountain Club has submitted annual 
Potentialla robbinsiana progress reports consistently since 1984 to 
both the Service and the White Mountain National Forest. Additional 
reports including several updates on germination and transplanting of 
the species and a demographic analysis of Potentialla robbinsiana were 
also supplied to the Service and the White Mountain National Forest.
    Issue 6: One commenter asked if the proposed rule received approval 
of the recovery team or was peer-reviewed by conservation biologists.
    Our response: There is no recovery team for this species. Instead, 
the Service submitted the proposed rule to three organizations: the 
White Mountain National Forest, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and the 
New England Wild Flower Society, for scientific review. Scientists 
associated with these organizations, who are knowledgeable about 
Potentilla robbinsiana's status and biology, reviewed the proposed 
rule. Only the Research Department of the Appalachian Mountain Club 
chose to provide a written endorsement of the proposed rule. The State 
of New Hampshire's Natural Heritage Program also received a copy of the 
proposed rule, and has been an active participant in the recovery 
planning and efforts for this species.
    Issue 7: One commenter was concerned that the proposed rule did not 
provide indication of active protection efforts from off-trail hikers 
at the Camel Patch population or from rock climbers at the natural 
Franconia Ridge population.
    Our response: Surveys have yielded no evidence of trespass or 
disturbance to these populations. We, together with the Appalachian 
Mountain Club, monitor the transplant populations and the Franconia 
Ridge natural population on a near annual basis. It is recommended by 
the Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Service concurs, that the best 
long-term management for these populations is to

[[Page 54972]]

manage them, but not to draw attention to them. Unlike the Monroe Flats 
population, these three populations are generally unknown and less 
accessible. Attempts to manage trespass using scree walls, signage, or 
other means, may call more attention to these discrete populations than 
the current low-key strategy.
    Issue 8: One commenter noted that transplanted subpopulations at 
the Monroe Flats population are not necessarily viable.
    Our response: We consider the Monroe Flats population to be one 
population and do not identify subpopulations. Task 4.5 of the updated 
recovery plan directs efforts to recolonize extirpated historical sites 
in the essential Monroe Flats habitat. Rather than ensuring additional 
viable subpopulations within Monroe Flats, the purpose of this task was 
to expand the population to its historical spatial extent where 
possible. Transplant efforts on Monroe Flats have focused in areas 
where plants had been extirpated due to trampling. Substrate directly 
along the now discontinued section of the Crawford Path has been 
heavily impacted and is no longer suitable habitat. However, impacts on 
either side of the discontinued trail have been less significant, and 
have been the focus of transplant efforts, including the high-point on 
Monroe Flats known as the ``Dome.'' This location may play an important 
role as seed source for downslope areas since seeds rarely migrate far 
from the parent plant. The past impact from substrate compression makes 
the habitat suitability and future status of this part of the 
transplant area uncertain. However, recent transplant survival has been 
strong, and there is seedling and juvenile recruitment in these areas, 
which meets the stated recovery task. Regardless of the potential for 
long-term reestablishment within the extirpated areas, these plants 
represent less than one percent of the Monroe Flats population and do 
not affect the viability of the Monroe Flats population.
    Issue 9: One commenter was concerned with the statement that there 
is no suitable unoccupied habitat left for the species, and considers 
this as self-fulfilling and thus tautological.
    Our response: As stated in the proposed rule under the 
``Background'' section, prior to listing there had been a number of 
attempts to establish transplant populations at approximately 20 
locations throughout the White Mountains. In 1986, with the experience 
gained from previous efforts, the four most appropriate transplant 
sites were determined, and efforts began. Of these four locations, two 
persist today. Given this species' unique habitat needs, the small 
geographic extent of such habitat, and the fact that transplanting 
efforts occurred at over 20 sites, we feel that locating additional 
suitable habitat for new transplant attempts is unlikely.
    Issue 10: One commenter questioned why, if the Camel Patch 
population is deemed viable, we continue to supplement it.
    Our Response: Seeds are collected annually from the Monroe Flats 
population and shipped to the New England Wild Flower Society for 
future germination and propagation. In the past, plants reared from 
these seeds were transplanted at the Camel Patch and Franconia 
transplant populations to help establish viable populations. They were 
also transplanted at the Monroe Flats population, and continue to be in 
an effort to reestablish adult plants at a topographic high spot so 
that they can act as an additional seed source for the main population 
at this site. Currently, the only plants that are transplanted at the 
Camel Patch population are extra plants intended for the Monroe Flats 
annual transplant effort. These plants are strategically placed to 
allow seed to flow downhill of the habitat in an effort to physically 
expand this population.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and regulations (50 CFR part 424) promulgated 
to implement the listing provisions of the Act, set forth the 
procedures for listing, reclassifying, and delisting species on the 
Federal lists. A species may be listed if one or more of the five 
factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act threatens the continued 
existence of the species. A species may be delisted according to 50 CFR 
424.11(d), if the best scientific and commercial data available 
substantiate that the species is neither endangered nor threatened (1) 
because of extinction, (2) because of recovery, or (3) because the 
original data for classification of the species were in error.
    After a thorough review of all available information, we determined 
that substantial Potentilla robbinsiana recovery has taken place since 
listing in 1980. We have also determined that none of the five factors 
identified in section 4(a)(1) of the Act, and discussed below, are 
currently affecting the species in such a way that the species is 
endangered (in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range) nor threatened (likely to become endangered in 
the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range). These factors and their application to Potentilla robbinsiana 
are as follows:

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

    Potentilla robbinsiana utilizes a substrate described as shallow 
loamy sand topped with a stony, pavement-like surface. This stony 
surface layer protects the soil from being either blown or washed away. 
The 1980 final listing rule determined that the plant and its habitat 
were damaged by trampling from hikers. Hiking through the habitat is 
unimpeded due to the lack of most vegetation. Because the plants are 
small, it is easy for hiker boots to crush adult, juvenile, and 
seedling plants.
    Since listing, the threat from trampling has been reduced by 
rerouting trails and protecting habitat. The section of the Appalachian 
Trail that bisected the Monroe Flats population is referred to locally 
as the Crawford Path, named after Abel Crawford who constructed the 
path in 1819. In 1915, the Appalachian Mountain club constructed Lake 
of the Clouds Hut, 270 m (295 yards (yd)) to the north of the trail. 
The Crawford Path was relocated at this time to bring the trail by the 
Hut, and although the trail was no longer directly bisecting Potentilla 
robbinsiana habitat, it still went through the northwest corner of the 
critical habitat. In 1983, the Crawford Path and Dry River Trails were 
rerouted a second time in response to the Federal listing, to move the 
trails outside of the plant's critical habitat. A low scree wall was 
constructed in conjunction with the trail relocation, around the 
critical habitat, and has been particularly effective in places where 
the trail abuts critical habitat. Signs posted around the Monroe Flats 
population notify hikers that there is a federally listed species 
present and no admittance is allowed without a permit. These signs are 
replaced as needed. Hiker traffic and trespassers into the critical 
habitat were recorded by pressure plates during 1985 to assess the 
effectiveness of hiker management. The plates were operated from June 
through October 1985 and checked several times weekly. Of 4,286 hikers 
counted over 115 days the counters were functional, the trespass rate 
was 2 percent (Kimball and Paul, 1986). The target compliance level 
established by the 1983 recovery plan was 95 percent of the hikers not 
trespassing into the critical habitat, an objective that has been 
maintained or exceeded since 1981. Outreach has also been a strong 
recovery component for ensuring hiker compliance of no trespassing into 
the Potentilla robbinsiana habitat. A naturalist is

[[Page 54973]]

stationed at the Lake of the Clouds Hut throughout the summer. The Hut 
naturalist is available during the day to answer questions and give 
interpretive talks regarding Potentilla robbinsiana. The naturalist and 
other Hut staff are also instrumental in monitoring the Monroe Flats 
population for human disturbance.
    In 1973, prior to listing, the Monroe Flats population contained 
approximately 1,801 individual plants larger than 14 mm (0.55 in). As 
of 1999, this population included approximately 4,575 individuals of 
similar size. This represents a greater than 250% increase in this 
population. Counting plants of all sizes (seedlings to adults) in 1999, 
the established population size was 14,195 individuals.
    The second natural population is near the Appalachian Trail on 
Franconia Ridge. The locations of this population and the two 
transplant populations have been purposefully kept undisclosed and are 
presently out of the way of the average hiking public. Attempts to 
manage trespass using scree walls, signage, or otherwise, may call more 
attention to this population than the current low-key strategy.
    Records indicate that the extant natural Franconia Ridge population 
was never very large. Nevertheless, it is considered to be a 
reproducing population, with 11 individual plants consisting of 3 
adults and 8 juveniles as of 2001, and is being monitored regularly by 
the Appalachian Mountain Club.
    The protection efforts in effect for the Monroe Flats population, 
the existence of two viable transplant populations, and the strategy to 
manage these two populations and the natural Franconia Ridge 
population, demonstrate that there is no longer a threat to the habitat 
of Potentilla robbinsiana.

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

    The 1980 final listing identified that the collecting of specimens 
for herbaria probably contributed to the loss of Potentilla robbinsiana 
and possibly the cause for the extirpation of one of the Franconia 
sites (Steele, 1964). It was noted that over 40 herbarium sheets 
containing nearly 100 plants (6 percent of the known mature population 
at the time of listing) were counted in various New England herbaria 
(Graber, 1980). Cogbill's more recent paper (1993) documents the 
collection of over 850 plants in herbaria collections worldwide, which 
represents one of the most extensive collections known for a single 
species. In the late 1800s some collectors were selling alpine plants, 
specifically including Potentilla robbinsiana, to other collectors for 
10 cents per sheet (Cogbill, 1993). However, commercial trade in the 
species has not occurred since the early 1900s and is not expected to 
occur in the future; import or export of this species also is not 
anticipated. Collection of material for herbaria has declined 
significantly due to scientists becoming more aware of the impacts of 
collecting on rare species. Monitoring of these sites does not indicate 
a problem with overcollection. Therefore, taking of Potentilla 
robbinsiana for these purposes is not considered to be a threat.

C. Disease and Predation

    This species is not known to be threatened by disease or predation.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Potentilla robbinsiana is currently afforded limited protection by 
the Endangered Species Act. Section 9 of the Act prohibits the removal 
and possession of endangered plants from lands under Federal 
jurisdiction and the malicious damage and destruction of endangered 
plants in such areas, and the damage or destruction of endangered 
plants from any other area in knowing violation of any State law or 
regulation, or in the course of a violation of State criminal trespass 
law. Section 7 of the Act requires Federal agencies to ensure that 
their actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of listed 
species or destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat.
    Section 7(a)(1) of the Act requires Federal agencies to carry out 
programs for the conservation of threatened and endangered species. The 
entire range of Potentilla robbinsiana occurs on Forest Service lands. 
Forest Service regulations prohibit removing, destroying, or damaging 
any plant that is classified as a threatened, endangered, rare or 
unique species (36 CFR 261.9). Currently the species is classified as a 
G1 species (critically imperiled because of extreme rarity) by the 
State of New Hampshire's Natural Heritage Program, and appears on the 
Forest Service's Region 9 (Northeast) list of ``species of concern.'' 
These rankings will not change once the species is delisted, thus the 
Forest Service regulations will remain in effect. On December 2, 1994, 
we and the Forest Service's White Mountain National Forest signed a 
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the conservation of Potentilla 
robbinsiana. The MOU states that the Forest Service agrees to carry out 
specific management measures, with our assistance, both through the 
recovery period, and if and when Potentilla robbinsiana is removed from 
the list of endangered and threatened plants.
    Potentilla robbinsiana does appear on the New Hampshire State list 
of endangered and threatened species, although State legislation 
currently offers it no protection. However, since this species is 
endemic to Federal lands administered by the White Mountain National 
Forest, which has committed to continuing its ongoing program to 
provide for the long-term conservation of this species, we have 
determined that there is adequate existing protection in place for this 

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Recovery efforts have been directed toward protection and 
environmental education. A number of approaches have been used to 
educate the hiking community, the scientific community, and the public 
about Potentilla robbinsiana. Providing information to the public 
regarding the species' biology and management satisfies their curiosity 
and increases their willingness to participate in protection of this 
species. These efforts include a permanent display and presentations 
about Potentilla robbinsiana by the seasonal Appalachian Mountain Club 
naturalist at Lake of the Clouds Hut.
    The 1980 final listing rule mentioned that Potentilla robbinsiana 
is vulnerable to the harsh climate in which it lives. The weather 
regime experienced by the species is highly variable from year to year. 
During demographic studies over the past 16 years, it has been observed 
that late frosts in June have the potential to damage flowers and 
greatly reduce the seed crop for that year. By virtue of a deep 
taproot, the species appears to be adapted to a moderate level of 
frost-heaving, a stress that may limit competing species. At the same 
time, it cannot tolerate frost-induced movement of more than 18 mm/yr 
(.71 in/yr), or frost action sufficient to produce stone stripes or 
other patterned ground (Cogbill, 1987). Overall, however, this species 
is now thriving in a very localized part of the alpine zone of the 
White Mountains, and adapts to the harsh climate conditions, where few 
other species survive.
    In summary, we have carefully reviewed all available scientific and 
commercial data and conclude that the threats that caused the 
population of Potentilla robbinsiana to decline no longer pose a risk 
to the continued survival of the species. This determination is based 
on the best

[[Page 54974]]

available data indicating that Potentilla robbinsiana has recovered, 
primarily as a result of the following: (1) The two natural existing 
populations are protected from human disturbance, and the Monroe Flats 
population is considered viable and increasing; (2) the two transplant 
populations are considered viable; and (3) the Forest Service's 
commitment to continue ongoing programs to provide for the long-term 
conservation of this species regardless of its standing under the 
Endangered Species Act. This recovery indicates that the species is no 
longer endangered or likely to become endangered in the foreseeable 
future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Therefore, 
the species no longer meets the Act's definitions of endangered or 
threatened. Under these circumstances, removal from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Plants is appropriate.

Effects of This Rule

    This final rule will remove the protections afforded to Potentilla 
robbinsiana under the Act. Furthermore, the critical habitat for this 
plant, one location in the White Mountain National Forest, New 
Hampshire (50 CFR 17.96(a)), will be removed. The prohibitions and 
conservation measures provided by the Act will no longer apply to this 
species. Therefore, taking, interstate commerce, import, and export of 
Potentilla robbinsiana will no longer be prohibited under the Act. In 
addition, Federal agencies will no longer be required to consult with 
us under section 7 of the Act to insure that any action they authorize, 
fund, or carry out, is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence 
of Potentilla robbinsiana or destroy or adversely modify designated 
critical habitat.
    The take and use of Potentilla robbinsiana must comply with 
appropriate Forest Service regulations, since the entire population 
lies within the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.

Future Conservation Measures

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires that the Secretary of the 
Interior, through the Service, implement a monitoring program in 
cooperation with the States for not less than 5 years for all species 
that have been recovered and delisted. The purpose of this requirement 
is to develop a program that detects the failure of any delisted 
species to sustain itself without the protective measures provided by 
the Act. If at any time during the 5-year monitoring program, data 
indicate that protective status under the Act should be reinstated, we 
can initiate listing procedures, including, if appropriate, emergency 


    Our Northeast Region will coordinate with the Forest Service, the 
Appalachian Mountain Club, and State resource agencies to implement an 
effective 5-year monitoring program to track the population status of 
Potentilla robbinsiana. We will annually evaluate the effectiveness of 
ongoing conservation programs, including education, monitoring, and 
enforcement efforts, in order to detect and assess any new threats to 
the populations. To detect any changes in the status of Potentilla 
robbinsiana, we will use, to the fullest extent possible, information 
routinely collected by the Appalachian Mountain Club's Research 
Department and the Forest Service. During the fifth year of the 5-year 
monitoring period, a total population census of the Monroe Flats 
population will be conducted using a grid to further evaluate the 
stability and health of this population.
    We believe that the two transplanted sites have reached viable 
population status. However, during the required 5-year monitoring 
period, transplanting at the Camel Patch site will continue when excess 
plants are available from the New England Wild Flower Society. The 
transplants will be used to fill sparse areas and expand the 
    If we determine at the end of the mandatory 5-year monitoring 
period, which shall include data from the fifth year population census 
of Monroe Flats, that recovery is complete, and factors that led to the 
listing of Potentilla robbinsiana, or any new factors, remain 
sufficiently reduced or eliminated, monitoring may be reduced or 
terminated. If data show that the species is declining or if one or 
more factors that have the potential to cause a decline are identified, 
we will continue monitoring beyond the 5-year period and may modify the 
monitoring program based on an evaluation of the results of the initial 
5-year monitoring program, or reinitiate listing if necessary.

Executive Order 12866

    This rule was not reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget 
(OMB) under Executive Order 12866.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The OMB regulations at 5 CFR part 1320, which implement provisions 
of the Paperwork Reduction Act, require Federal agencies to obtain 
approval from OMB before collecting information from the public. The 
OMB regulations at 5 CFR 1320.3(c) define a collection of information 
as the obtaining of information by or for an agency by means of 
identical questions proposed to, or identical reporting, record 
keeping, or disclosure requirements imposed on, 10 or more persons. 
Furthermore, 5 CFR 1320.3(c)(4) specifies that ``ten or more persons'' 
refers to the persons to whom a collection of information is addressed 
by the agency within any 12-month period. For purposes of this 
definition, employees of the Federal Government are not included.
    This rule does not include any collection of information that 
requires approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. Potentilla 
robbinsiana occurs entirely on lands administered by the Forest Service 
and only in one State, New Hampshire. The information needed to monitor 
the status of Potentilla robbinsiana following delisting will be 
collected primarily by a limited number of personnel from the Forest 
Service and the Appalachian Mountain Club. We do not anticipate a need 
to request data or other information from 10 or more persons during any 
12-month period to satisfy monitoring information needs. If it becomes 
necessary to collect information from 10 or more non-Federal 
individuals, groups, or organizations per year, we will first obtain 
information collection approval from OMB.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that we do not need to prepare an Environmental 
Assessment, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, in connection with regulations 
adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Endangered Species Act as 
amended. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this 
determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from our Northeast Regional Office (see ADDRESSES section).


    The primary author of this rule is Diane Lynch, Endangered Species 
Biologist (see ADDRESSES section). Doug Weihrauch, staff scientist for 
the Appalachian Mountain Club Research Department, provided assistance 
with the summary of the biological record for this species.

[[Page 54975]]

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Regulations Promulgation

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, we hereby amend part 17, 
subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, 
as set forth below:


    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.

Sec. 17.12  [Amended]

    2. Section 17.12(h) is amended by removing the entry for 
``Potentilla robbinsiana, Robbins' cinquefoil'' under ``FLOWERING 
PLANTS'' from the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants.

Sec. 17.96  [Amended]

    3. Section 17.96(a) is amended by removing the critical habitat 
entry for ``Potentilla robbinsiana, Robbins' cinquefoil,'' which is 
under Family Rosaceae.

    Dated: June 26, 2002.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 02-21704 Filed 8-26-02; 8:45 am]