[Federal Register: June 10, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 111)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 34569-34576]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 34569]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AH59

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reclassification 
of Lesquerella filiformis (Missouri Bladderpod) from Endangered to 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to 
reclassify Lesquerella filiformis (Missouri bladderpod) from endangered 
to threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). We are proposing this reclassification because the endangered 
designation no longer correctly reflects the current status of this 
plant based on the plant's significant progress toward recovery, and in 
response to a petition from the Missouri Department of Conservation 
(MDC) to reclassify this species. Since the time of listing, the number 
of known populations of the plant has substantially increased and the 
threats to some of the larger populations have decreased because of 
land acquisition, landowner contact programs, and beneficial management 
initiatives. This proposal, if made final, would extend the Federal 
protection and recovery provisions for threatened plants provided by 
the Act to the Missouri bladderpod.

DATES: Comments from all interested parties must be received by August 
11, 2003 so they can be considered in our final decision. Public 
hearing requests must be received by July 25, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Comments and materials concerning this proposal should be 
sent to: Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 608 E. 
Cherry Street, Room 200, Columbia, MO 65201-7712. Comments may also be 
submitted by electronic mail to bladderpod@fws.gov or by facsimile to 
573/876-1914. The subject line should be ``Bladderpod Comments.'' 
Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 
address following the close of the comment period.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul McKenzie, Ph.D., Columbia Field 
Office (see ADDRESSES section) (telephone: 573/876-1911, ext. 107; 
facsimile: 573/876-1914). Individuals who are hearing impaired or 
speech impaired may call the Federal Relay Service at 800/877-8337 for 
TTY assistance.



    Lesquerella filiformis (Missouri bladderpod) is an annual plant 
with erect, hairy stems approximately 20 centimeters (cm) (8 inches 
(in)) in height that branch from the plant's base. Basal leaves are 
hairy on both surfaces, 1.0-2.25 cm (0.4-0.9 in) long, 0.3-1.0 cm (0.1-
0.4 in) wide, broadly rounded, and tapering to a narrow petiole. Stem 
leaves are densely hairy with stellate hairs on both surfaces, 1.0-3.2 
cm (0.4-1.3 in) long and 1.6-16 millimeters (mm) (0.06-0.6 in) wide, 
and have a silvery appearance. Bright yellow flowers with 4 petals 
occur at the top of the stems in late April or early May (Morgan 1980). 
Missouri bladderpod is restricted to shallow soils of limestone glades 
in southwestern Missouri (Hickey 1988; Thomas 1996) and northwestern 
Arkansas and, occasionally, dolomite glades in north-central Arkansas 
(John Logan, Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), pers. 
comm. 2000).
    Lesquerella filiformis Rollins, a member of the mustard family 
(Brassicaceae), was first collected in 1887 in southwestern Missouri. 
Payson (1921), however, misapplied the name Lesquerella angustifolia 
(Nutt.) S. Wats. to these early collections. Rollins (1956) formally 
described Lesquerella filiformis as a distinct species, and its 
taxonomic validity was further supported in a subsequent monograph on 
the genus Lesquerella in North America by Rollins and Shaw (1973).
    Historically, Missouri bladderpod was believed to be a State 
endemic plant known solely from a few sites in two counties in 
southwestern Missouri (Morgan 1980; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
1988). In 1980, a total of 550 individual plants were estimated at 4 
sites, and at the time of listing as endangered in 1987, an estimated 
5,000 plants were determined to occur at 9 sites (Morgan 1980; 52 FR 
679, January 8, 1987). At the time of the completion of the Missouri 
Bladderpod Recovery Plan in 1988, the species was known from 11 sites 
in Christian, Dade, and Greene Counties, MO (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 1988). During that same year, the Service funded a four-county 
survey for the species in Missouri, and an additional 45 sites were 
located (Hickey 1988). A followup survey in 1989 yielded an additional 
13 sites (Thurman and Hickey 1989). Further botanical explorations led 
to the discovery of 16 additional sites, including locations in an 
additional county in Missouri (Lawrence County) and one site each in 
Izard and Washington Counties, AR (Theo Witsell, Arkansas Natural 
Heritage Commission, in litt. 2002). In the spring of 1997, MDC 
botanist Bill Summers (while working on the Flora of Missouri project) 
discovered the species at a limestone/dolomite quarry in Izard County, 
northcentral Arkansas (Theo Witsell in litt. 2002). Subsequent 
investigations following this find led to documentation of an 
additional site in Washington County, northwestern Arkansas, discovered 
in 1992 (Theo Witsell in litt. 2002). In the spring of 1998, surveys 
were expanded in Arkansas, and, although no new sites were discovered 
in the State, a more extensive population of Missouri bladderpod was 
found at the Izard County site than had been originally discovered in 
1997 (John Logan, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, pers. comm. 
1998). The population at the Washington County site had not been 
observed since 1992 until it was rediscovered on May 1, 2002, when 
approximately 500 flowering and fruiting plants were discovered on a 
small glade opening at the original 1992 site (Theo Witsell, in litt. 
2002). Currently, Missouri bladderpod is known to occur at a total of 
61 sites in 4 counties in Missouri and 2 sites in 2 counties in 
    Population levels of Missouri bladderpod fluctuate widely as is 
typical of winter annuals, depending on edaphic (soil components) and 
climatic conditions, and factors such as seed crop from the preceding 
season, seed survival in the seed bank, recruitment from the seed bank, 
and the survival of growing plants (Thomas 1998). Annual monitoring 
data have been collected for a minimum of 11 consecutive years at two 
Missouri sites, and irregular monitoring has occurred at numerous other 
sites. Thomas (1998) and Boetsch (in litt. 2002) reported changes in 
population status of Lesquerella filiformis between 1988 and 2001 on 
National Park Service (NPS) property at Bloody Hill Glade, Wilson's 
Creek National Battlefield, and observed that the population ranged 
between 0 and 303,446 plants, with an average annual population of 
63,170 plants (Table 1). The MDC monitored 21 permanent plots within 
one population at the Rocky Barrens Conservation Area between 1992 and 
2001 and noted that the number of individual plants varied between 2 
and 3,584 (Tim Smith, MDC, in litt. 2002, Table 1). Monitoring of a 
population at Cave Springs Outcrop Glade in Dade County in 1980, 1984,

[[Page 34570]]

1988, 1990, and 1993 yielded 500, 545, 50, 0, and 0 plants, 
respectively (MDC 2002a). To date, the maximum population estimate at 
the Izard County, AR, site has been ``tens of thousands of plants,'' in 
1997, while in 1999 only a few plants were found at the same site (Theo 
Witsell, in litt. 2002). Irregular monitoring (a minimum of 4 years of 
data between 1993 and 1999) at seven Nature Conservancy registry sites 
yielded similar fluctuations in population numbers as described 
elsewhere, with estimates ranging from 0 to 47 plants at the smallest 
population and 3 to 3,448 plants at the largest (Susanne Greenlee, TNC, 
in litt. 1999, MDC 2002a).

 Table 1.--Annual Population Estimates of Missouri Bladderpod on Bloody
   Hill Glade (Wilson's Creek National Battlefield) and in 21 Plots at
      Rocky Barrens Conservation Area, Greene County, MO, 1988-2001
   [From Thomas 1998; Tim Smith, in litt. 2002; John Boetsch, in litt.
                                               Estimated population size
                                                   (number of plants)
                     Year                                      Barrens
                                               Bloody Hill  Conservation
                                                  Glade       Area  (21
1988.........................................       58,351            --
1989.........................................       31,911            --
1990.........................................       10,154            --
1991.........................................      303,446            --
1992.........................................       24,611           110
1993.........................................            0         1,211
1994.........................................            0           200
1995.........................................       18,514         2,295
1996.........................................       88,166           224
1997.........................................       33,873         3,584
1998.........................................       30,475         1,283
1999.........................................       66,650           320
2000.........................................       72,623           143
2001.........................................      145,604             2
    Average..................................       63,170      \1\ 937
\1\ Average within 21 permanent plots--total population size at this
  site is much larger.

    An examination of the status of most extant sites following the 
procedures established by Hickey (1988) was conducted in the spring of 
2000. Hickey visited 52 extant sites between April and May and noted 
that: (1) Populations of the species were found in the same terrace or 
rock shelf as they were in 1988-1990, and (2) some sites exhibited 
lower numbers than in 1988-1990, apparently attributable to the drought 
conditions, increase in cedar density or encroachment of other woody 
vegetation, or competition from exotic species of brome grasses (Bromus 
spp.). Increases in population density at some locations apparently 
resulted from tree removal and maintained grazing (Hickey 2000). 
Continued long-term monitoring of some larger sites in Missouri and the 
site in Izard County, AR, is also planned.
    In years when germination, overwinter survival, seedling 
establishment, and plant growth are ideal, Lesquerella filiformis 
populations can be so large as to make rangewide population estimates 
extremely difficult. Despite the difficulty, estimates made by Hickey 
(1988) at 55 sites in Missouri yielded approximately 400,000 plants. 
Had rangewide estimates been taken in 1991 when 303,446 plants were 
estimated at Bloody Hill Glade, Wilson's Creek National Battlefield 
(Table 1, Thomas 1998), the population that year likely would have 
exceeded 500,000 plants. However, given the extreme annual fluctuations 
in population size, only long-term monitoring efforts patterned 
similarly to the protocol developed for the Wilson's Creek National 
Battlefield (Kelrick 2001a, 2001b) can accurately reflect the true 
population status and trend of this species and effectively evaluate 
the efficacy of management regimes on bladderpod habitat (Thomas 1998).
    The current 63 extant sites have the following Natural Community 
rankings by The Nature Conservancy (TNC): (1) 11 (10 in Missouri and 1 
in Arkansas) are graded A (i.e., are relatively stable and undisturbed 
natural communities with a high diversity of conservative species); (2) 
18 (all in Missouri) are graded B (i.e., late successional or lightly 
disturbed communities, or recently lightly disturbed or moderately 
disturbed in the past but now recovered, and the biological diversity 
has not been greatly reduced); (3) 1 in Arkansas is graded AB (i.e., 
intermediate between A and B); (4) 17 in Missouri are graded C (i.e., 
midsuccessional, moderately to heavily disturbed communities, or 
moderate recent disturbance or heavy past disturbance with decreased 
recent disturbance); and (5) 16 in Missouri are graded D (i.e., early 
successional or severely disturbed communities where the structure and 
composition of the community has been severely altered with few 
characteristic native species present) (MDC 2002a, Theo Witsell, in 
litt. 2002).
    Threats identified by the Service at the time of listing (52 FR 
679, January 8, 1987) were: (1) Vulnerability of small populations to 
overcollecting and human disturbance, (2) lack of research on proper 
management techniques necessary to maintain and promote populations of 
the species, (3) potential impacts of annual maintenance activities to 
populations located on highway rights-of-way, (4) seed destruction by 
insects and fungal infections, and (5) inadequate protection or 
management on public and private property necessary for the species' 
continued existence. Subsequently, the Service (1988) documented the 
presence of exotic plant species, such as Bromus tectorum (a cheat 
grass), in bladderpod habitat as a significant threat, and this was 
further supported by observations by Hickey (1988, 2000) and Thomas 
(1996, 1998). Additionally, Hickey (1988, 2000) and Thomas (1996) 
identified development, especially land-use changes resulting from 
urban expansion, as a major threat to the species, and Hickey (1988) 
noted an increase in grazing pressure at some of the sites discovered 
during a four-county survey.
    Although no specific reclassification (endangered to threatened) 
criteria were provided in the Recovery Plan, the following recovery 
(delisting) criteria were given: 30 self-sustaining populations, 15 of 
which are in secure ownership, must be at least one-half acre in size 
each and show self-sustaining populations for at least 7 years (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1988). We indicated that these recovery goals 
could be accomplished through the following actions: (1) An inventory 
of suitable habitat for new populations, (2) the protection and 
management of existing populations, (3) the continued monitoring of 
populations and initiation of research on the species, (4) the 
development and initiation of management programs on protected sites, 
(5) the establishment of new populations on public land, and (6) the 
development of public awareness and support to further the conservation 
of the species.
    Although some information gaps concerning the life history 
requirements of Lesquerella filiformis remain, research conducted since 
the species was listed in 1987 has significantly improved our 
understanding of the ecological needs of this species. Dr. Michael 
Kelrick (Truman State University, MO) has conducted and supervised 
graduate student work on demographics, seed bank ecology, matrix 
population dynamics used in the development of a population model and 
protocol for long-term monitoring, analyses of the effectiveness of 
various management prescriptions utilized to restore and enhance 
bladderpod habitat, reproductive success, fecundity, and factors 
influencing germination, seedling establishment and vegetative

[[Page 34571]]

growth, metapopulation dynamics, and genetic diversity within and 
between populations (e.g., Harms 1992; Graham 1994). Lisa Potter Thomas 
of the NPS at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield has also conducted 
extensive research on the species involving life history ecology (e.g., 
factors influencing survivorship, plant vigor, and reproduction); the 
potential impacts of human foot trampling on the species; techniques 
useful in controlling exotic plants in bladderpod habitat; an 
examination of microhabitat parameters; and demographic studies that 
centered on germination, density of flowering stems, survivorship, and 
fecundity (Thomas and Jackson 1990; Thomas and Willson 1992; Thomas 
1996, 1998).
    Other recommended research and recovery activities include: (1) 
Investigating the pollination ecology of the species; (2) revising the 
Recovery Plan objective established in 1988 to reflect the current 
knowledge of the species; (3) securing funding to provide necessary 
information essential to complete recovery and to facilitate the 
removal of the species from the list of federally protected species; 
(4) evaluating the efficacy of different management techniques; and (5) 
assuring that threats such as urban development and competition from 
exotic plants, both of which result from rapid population growth and 
urbanization, do not increase (The Nature Conservancy 2002; Hickey 
1988; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1988; Thomas and Jackson 1990; 
Thomas 1996).

Previous Federal Actions

    Section 12 of the Act 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 (petition 
acceptance is now governed by section 4(b)(3) of the Act, as amended), 
and of his intention thereby to review the status of the plant taxa 
named within. Lesquerella filiformis was named in the Smithsonian 
report as endangered and was included in the Service's 1975 notice of 
review. A subsequent notice of review published in the December 15, 
1980, Federal Register (45 FR 82480) included L. filiformis as a 
Category 1 species, indicating that we believed there was sufficient 
biological information to support a proposal to list the species as 
endangered or threatened.
    The Endangered Species Act Amendments of 1982 required that all 
petitions, including the report of the Smithsonian Institution, still 
pending as of October 13, 1982, be treated as received on that date. 
Section 4(b)(3) of the Act, as amended, requires that, within 12 months 
of the receipt of such a petition, a finding be made as to whether the 
requested action is warranted, not warranted, or warranted but 
precluded by other higher priority activities involving additions to or 
removals from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
and Plants. Therefore, on October 13, 1983; October 12, 1984; and again 
on October 11, 1985, the Service made the finding that listing of 
Lesquerella filiformis was warranted but precluded by other pending 
listing activities. The proposed rule to list L. filiformis as 
endangered was published on April 7, 1986 (51 FR 11874), and the final 
rule was published on January 8, 1987 (52 FR 679). The Recovery Plan 
was approved on April 7, 1988 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1988).
    In letters dated January 26 and February 17, 1998, the Service 
received a petition from the MDC to reclassify Lesquerella filiformis 
from endangered to threatened. On March 18, 1998, we responded and 
indicated that, based on our Listing Priority Guidance issued on 
October 23, 1997, we could not address the petition until we completed 
other higher priority listing actions. The Act requires us to make 
certain findings on petitions to add species to the List of Endangered 
and Threatened Plants, remove species from the List, or change their 
designation on the List. This proposed rule constitutes both our 90-day 
finding that the petitioned action may be warranted and our 12-month 
finding that the action is warranted.

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 determining whether to add, reclassify, or remove a species from 
the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants using five factors 
described in section 4(a)(1). These factors and their application to 
Lesquerella filiformis Rollins (Missouri bladderpod) are as follows:

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

    At the time of listing, Lesquerella filiformis was known to occur 
at only nine locations in Dade, Greene, and Christian Counties, MO. As 
described in the BACKGROUND section, surveys and research since that 
time have documented 63 extant sites. Currently, this species is known 
to occur at a total of 61 sites in 4 counties in Missouri and 2 sites 
in 2 counties in Arkansas. Of these, 30 have a TNC Nature Community 
Rank of A, B, or AB.
    Taking into consideration annual fluctuations in population, the 
estimated total number of plants known in Missouri has increased from 
approximately 550 plants in 1980 (Morgan 1980) to a potential maximum 
of 400,000-500,000 plants when climatic and edaphic conditions are 
ideal for germination, overwinter survival, seedling establishment, 
growth, and seed production. Additionally, a maximum of ``tens of 
thousands'' of plants have been reported at the Izard County, AR, site 
(Theo Witsell, in litt. 2002). Given that the 2 sites in Arkansas are 
separated by approximately 150 miles and are about 85-100 miles from 
the nearest location in southwestern Missouri, the possibility exists 
that additional populations of Lesquerella filiformis are yet to be 
discovered in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, especially 
because the Izard County, AR, site is partially dolomitic, a geological 
feature previously not targeted for surveys in Missouri.
    In addition, the threat of habitat loss has been reduced by the 
acquisition and management of occupied sites by public land management 
agencies and TNC (Table 2). The MDC and TNC successfully protected one 
of the largest known sites, Rocky Barrens in Greene County, MO, by 
purchasing a total of 281 acres of occupied habitat between 1988 and 
1993. Another five sites in Missouri are under public ownership or a 
long-term conservation agreement, including approximately 29 acres at 
the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield in Christian and Greene 
Counties; 3 acres at the Nathan Boone State Historic Site in Greene 
County; and approximately 40 acres at the Bois D'Arc Conservation Area 
in Greene County, an MDC property. Additionally, TNC has secured a 100-
year lease to manage 47 acres of bladderpod habitat at South Greenfield 
Glade in Dade County, MO (Beth Churchwell, TNC, pers. comm. 2000).

[[Page 34572]]

   Table 2.--Beneficial Activities To Enhance Missouri Bladderpod Sites Under Public Ownership Or A Long-Term
                                               Easement Agreement
                                                                           Management        Other conservation
             Site                 Managing  agency        Acreage          activities            activities
Wilson's Creek National        National Park Service  4 sites,        Control of woody      Ongoing monitoring
 Battlefield.                                          [sim]29 acres.  vegetation, exotic    and demographics;
                                                                       grasses, and          life history and
                                                                       sericea lespedeza     micro-habitat
                                                                       using a variety of    studies; public
                                                                       methods, including    outreach and
                                                                       prescribed burning,   education.
                                                                       mechanical removal,
                                                                       and reducing foot
                                                                       traffic impacts.
Rocky Barrens Conservation     Missouri Department    191 acres.....  Control of woody      Ongoing monitoring;
 Area.                          of Conservation.                       vegetation and        public outreach and
                                                                       exotic grasses        education; support
                                                                       using prescribed      of various research
                                                                       burning and           projects.
                                                                       mechanical removal.
Rocky Barrens................  The Nature             90 acres......  Control of woody      Ongoing monitoring;
                                Conservancy.                           vegetation and        public outreach and
                                                                       exotic grasses        education; support
                                                                       using prescribed      of various research
                                                                       burning and           projects.
                                                                       mechanical removal.
Bois D'Arc Conservation Area.  Missouri Department    40 acres......  Control of woody      Ongoing monitoring;
                                of Conservation.                       vegetation and        public outreach and
                                                                       exotic grasses        education.
                                                                       using prescribed
                                                                       burning and
                                                                       mechanical removal.
Nathan Boone State Historic    Missouri Department    3 acres.......  Control of woody      Ongoing monitoring;
 Site.                          of Natural Resources.                  vegetation and        planned development
                                                                       exotic grasses        of interpretative
                                                                       using prescribed      program.
                                                                       burning; fencing to
                                                                       eliminate cattle
                                                                       from occupied
South Greenfield.............  The Nature             47 acres......  Control of woody      Ongoing monitoring
                                Conservancy.                           vegetation and        and floristic
                                                                       exotic grasses        inventories of
                                                                       using prescribed      associated species.
                                                                       burning and
                                                                       mechanical removal.

    The MDNR, MDC, TNC, and Wilson's Creek National Battlefield have 
undertaken various management activities to further the conservation of 
the species (Table 2). Management techniques that have been effective 
in enhancing bladderpod habitat include prescribed burning, 
chainsawing, and bulldozing to control the encroachment of woody 
vegetation such as red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and exotic plants 
such as annual brome grasses (Bromus spp.) and sericea lespedeza 
(Lespedeza cuneata), rerouting hiking trails to reduce potential impact 
from foot traffic, and installing fencing to exclude cattle from 
occupied habitat (Table 2).
    In particular, prescribed burning is a highly beneficial technique 
to improve bladderpod habitat. In 1988, an estimated 1,500 plants were 
counted at Rocky Barrens Conservation Area (Hickey 1988), and 2,000 
plants were determined to occur on the same site in 1992 (MDC 2002a). 
In August 1993, MDC conducted a controlled burn on the area (Figg and 
Priddy 1994), and over 50,000 plants were estimated in May 1994 (MDC 
2002a). The species responded similarly at the same site in the spring 
of 1997 and 1998, following controlled burns in August 1996 (Figg and 
Davit 1997) and 1997. MDC botanist Tim Smith estimated that the 
population at the site in May 1998 contained ``tens of thousands'' of 
plants (MDC 2002a).
    Additional protection and management of bladderpod habitat has 
occurred through TNC's Registry Program. Between 1986 and 1996, nine 
sites in Christian, Dade, and Greene Counties were added to the 
organization's Registry Program. Under this program, private landowners 
have an agreement with TNC to protect Missouri bladderpod sites to the 
best of their ability and to notify TNC regarding any new threats to 
the species or its habitat or if the landowner plans to sell the 
property. Additionally, TNC personnel assist private landowners by 
providing management suggestions, including the development of site-
specific plans, and by notifying them of various landowner incentive 
programs that promote Best Management Practices. Best Management 
Practices developed by MDC (2000) include surveys for bladderpod and 
bladderpod habitat, controlling the encroachment of eastern red cedars 
and exotic species onto glade habitat through mechanical cutting and 
prescribed fire, avoiding the use of nonspecific herbicides between 
October and July in occupied bladderpod habitat, and avoiding heavy 
grazing or grazing during flowering and fruiting periods (March-July) 
(Susanne Greenlee, TNC, pers. comm. 1998).
    In 1998, the Service provided funding to TNC to enhance 90 acres of 
degraded bladderpod habitat on Rocky Barrens Conservation Area in 
Greene County. Missouri bladderpod habitat was improved by prescribed 
fire and cutting of invasive eastern red cedar trees. Although a 
thorough estimate of Missouri bladderpod plants has not yet been 
possible on the managed area since these restoration efforts were 
conducted in 1998, flowering plants were observed at the location in 
1999 (Doug Ladd, TNC, pers. comm. 2000).
    Potential impacts to populations of Lesquerella filiformis on 
rights-of-way maintained by the Missouri Department of Transportation 
(MODOT) was another threat identified at the time of listing (52 FR 
679, January 8, 1987) and also when the Recovery Plan was completed for 
the species (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1988). Education programs 
within the MODOT have significantly reduced the potential impact of 
mowing or chemical treatment of highway rights-of-way. Maintenance 
supervisors who work within the range of Missouri bladderpod in 
Missouri have been alerted to the location of extant populations and 
have been trained in the identification and habitat needs of the 
species. Consequently, most maintenance activities that may impact the 
species are avoided. In situations where potential impacts are 
unavoidable, MODOT, as a designated representative for the Federal 
Highway Administration, initiates consultation with the Service and 
further discusses such activities with the MDC to minimize these 
impacts (Gene Gardner, MODOT, pers. comm. 2000).
    The expansion of the exotic brome grasses Bromus tectorum L. and B. 
sterilis L. has been identified by some as a potential threat to the 
Missouri bladderpod (The Nature Conservancy 2002; Hickey 1988; U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1988; Thomas and

[[Page 34573]]

Jackson 1990; Thomas 1996; Hickey 2000). Thomas and Jackson (1990), 
however, indicated that exotic species of Bromus spp. can be controlled 
with a combination of management techniques. While such management is 
undoubtedly labor-intensive, and continued monitoring of this threat is 
warranted, there is no solid evidence to date that these exotic grasses 
have eliminated populations of Lesquerella filiformis, especially in 
areas that are regularly managed by techniques such as prescribed fire. 
Nonetheless, further research on the potential adverse impacts of brome 
grasses to Missouri bladderpod is clearly warranted.
    The glade and other rocky habitats where Lesquerella filiformis is 
found were probably maintained historically by fires. The cessation or 
significant reduction in the number of fires occurring on glades in the 
last few centuries has enabled woody vegetation, such as red cedar, to 
encroach onto bladderpod habitat. The encroachment of such woody 
vegetation onto glades occupied by Lesquerella filiformis has been 
frequently listed as a threat to this species' continued existence 
(Hickey 1988; Thomas and Jackson 1990; Thomas 1996; The Nature 
Conservancy 2002). Recent research by MDC and TNC at the Rocky Barrens 
Conservation Area and Preserve in Greene County, MO, has provided 
strong evidence that this species responds well on glades that have 
been cleared of woody vegetation by the combination of cedar tree 
removal and the use of controlled fires (Figg and Davit 1997). 
Prescribed burns have been conducted on six sites under public 
ownership with positive results (Table 2). This management tool may be 
used at additional bladderpod sites.
    Grazing and haying are potential threats to Missouri bladderpod 
populations under private ownership (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
1988). Overgrazing may impact small populations of the plant, but minor 
grazing actually enhances these populations (MDC 1997). Presently, 
there are no known incidents where haying has been a threat to existing 
Missouri bladderpod populations.
    The poor, rocky, thin soils over bedrock make bladderpod habitat 
nonconducive to increases in agricultural development within the 
species' range in Missouri. Hickey (2000) reported that one population 
was destroyed by construction of a putting green on a golf course and 
another was destroyed as a result of residential construction. Thus, as 
discussed by Hickey (1988, 2000) and Thomas (1996), the species' 
habitat is threatened most by urban/suburban expansion and development.
    The Service, TNC, and all public land management agencies with 
extant sites on lands under their jurisdiction have been actively 
involved in various aspects of public outreach and education associated 
with Missouri bladderpod. These include developing landowner contact 
programs, producing educational brochures, and holding identification 
and ecology workshops on the species. In 1995, MDC published a new 
brochure for the Rocky Barrens Conservation Area that highlighted 
Missouri bladderpod. In the same year, MDC conducted an identification 
workshop for employees of the National Resources Conservation Service 
(NRCS) and the Williams Pipeline Company in Springfield, MO. This 
workshop was extremely productive as it led to the discovery of a 
previously unknown site of Missouri bladderpods along a powerline 
right-of-way in Greene County. In February 1997, MDC published an 
Endangered Species Guide Sheet for Missouri bladderpod and distributed 
it to private individuals and public agency employees through MDC, TNC, 
NRCS, and the University of Missouri Extension Service. The brochure 
provided information on identification, life history requirements, 
habitat, distribution, causes of historic decline, current threats to 
the species, and management guidelines that would contribute to 
bladderpod recovery.
    Public outreach materials developed for Missouri bladderpod include 
a Best Management Practice Guide Sheet distributed by MDC (2000) that 
outlines suggested management practices for projects that could 
potentially impact the species identified by MDC during environmental 
reviews. A public information endangered species card was published by 
the Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri (1999). The 
species was also highlighted in two separate issues of MDC's Missouri 
Conservationist (June 1995 and February 1999) involving endangered 
    In 1992, MDC and the Service cooperated in a landowner contact 
program involving 25 private landowners with extant populations of 
Lesquerella filiformis in an approximately 5-square-mile area in Greene 
County, MO. The purpose of the program was to educate the landowners on 
the habitat needs of Missouri bladderpod and to suggest compatible land 
management techniques that would benefit the species. Over 80 percent 
of the people contacted responded favorably to the protection and 
management of the bladderpod and its habitat (Amy Salveter, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, pers. comm. 2000).
    Although great progress has been made toward the recovery of 
Lesquerella filiformis, the species is still threatened by urban/
suburban expansion and development and encroachment of invasive woody 
plants and exotic pasture grasses. The recent discoveries in 
northeastern Arkansas indicate that additional surveys in southern 
Missouri and northern Arkansas are warranted. Additionally, population 
estimates at all extant sites in Missouri in one year have not been 
undertaken since observations made by Hickey (1988). Extended 
demographic analyses conducted by Thomas (1996), Kelrick (2001a, 
2001b), and Smith (in litt. 2002) strongly suggest that a well-
established long-term monitoring program is necessary to accurately 
detect population trends.

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

    At the time of listing, overcollecting by botanists and flower 
garden enthusiasts was considered a threat to the species' continued 
existence. Although Steyermark (1963) indicated that Missouri 
bladderpod is a desirable addition to rock gardens, and the Service 
postulated that the species may be vulnerable to overcollection at the 
time of listing (52 FR 679, January 8, 1987), there is no evidence to 
date that such activities have taken place. Additionally, given the 
large number of currently known extant sites (61 in Missouri and 2 in 
Arkansas), adverse impacts from overcollecting by wildflower 
enthusiasts or botanical collectors is extremely unlikely, even during 
years when the number of flowering individuals is low. Overutilization 
is no longer believed to pose a distinct threat to this species.

C. Disease or Predation

    Morgan (1983) studied one population of Lesquerella filiformis at 
Wilson's Creek National Battlefield in Greene County, MO, and 
determined that insect predation and fungal infection damaged seed set. 
Although there may be a concern for such impacts during low population 
levels, it is likely that Missouri bladderpod has adapted to such 
natural influences and the species is probably well buffered against 
these natural occurrences at more robust population levels. To date, 
there is no evidence that these agents are exotic to the species' 
habitat, or that naturally occurring incidents of disease or predation 
have contributed to a recent decline in any of the known extant 

[[Page 34574]]

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The MDC recently adopted the conservation status ranking system 
developed by NatureServe, TNC, and the Natural Heritage Network for 
global (G ranks) and State (S ranks) rankings for all State- and 
federally-listed species in Missouri (Missouri Natural Heritage Program 
2001). Lesquerella filiformis is officially listed in Missouri as rare 
and uncommon, with a ranking of S3 (rare and uncommon in the State; 21 
to 100 occurrences), and G2 (imperiled globally because of extreme 
rarity or because of some factor(s) making it especially vulnerable to 
extinction; typically 5 or fewer occurrences or very few remaining 
individuals or acres). This species is also listed in the Wildlife Code 
of Missouri (MDC 2002b). Species listed in the Wildlife Code of 
Missouri under 3CSR10-4.111 are protected by State Endangered Species 
Law 252.240. Missouri regulations prohibit the exportation, 
transportation, or sale of plants on the State or Federal lists. A 
small percentage of Missouri's populations of Missouri bladderpod occur 
on lands either administered by MDC, MDNR, NPS, or TNC. These agencies 
prohibit the removal of this plant from their properties without a 
collector's permit.
    Currently, Lesquerella filiformis is State-listed in Arkansas as S1 
(critically imperiled in the State because of extreme rarity or because 
of some factor(s) making it especially vulnerable to extirpation from 
the State; typically 5 or fewer occurrences or very few remaining 
individuals; Theo Witsell, in litt. 2002) but receives no additional 
protection other than those specified under the Act (John Logan, pers. 
comm. 1998).

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued Existence

    Various human disturbances were considered as threats to the 
species at the time Lesquerella filiformis was listed in 1987 (52 FR 
679, January 8, 1987). Thomas and Willson (1992) examined the potential 
impact of trampling on a population at Wilson's Creek National 
Battlefield and noted that the species' survival decreased by 42 
percent when subjected to the highest level of trampling intensity. 
Although the number of populations of L. filiformis on public areas 
that receive high levels of trampling are few in number, precautions 
will need to be taken in the future to protect Missouri bladderpod 
habitat at such locations. Other studies and observations, however, 
suggest that this species actually benefits from low to moderate levels 
of human-induced disturbance that reduce woody encroachment and 
stimulate seed bank germination through soil disturbance (MDC 1997; 
Jerry Conley, MDC, in litt. 1998). Excessive disturbance from 
trampling, overgrazing by livestock, and significant alterations of 
glade habitat through the use of ground-moving equipment could become 
increased threats to the species in the future and should be closely 

Summary of Status

    Under the Act, an endangered species is defined as one that is in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range. A threatened species is defined as one that is likely to become 
an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. Given that (1) Lesquerella filiformis 
now occurs at 61 sites in Missouri and 2 sites in Arkansas (an increase 
of 54 sites since listing); (2) 6 sites in Missouri are under public 
ownership or under a long-term conservation agreement and are managed 

to benefit the species; (3) 9 additional sites in Missouri receive some 
degree of protection as part of TNC's Registry Program; (4) the species 
responds well to the proper management of its habitat, especially cedar 
tree removal and controlled burning; (5) minor levels of disturbance 
may actually benefit rather than hinder the species; and (6) 
significant knowledge has been gained regarding the life history 
requirements and population dynamics of the species, we no longer 
believe that this species meets the definition of an endangered 
    Although there has been a considerable increase in the number of 
known populations, an expansion of the known range of the species, and 
a sizeable increase in the number of known individual plants, the 
Missouri bladderpod has not recovered to the point that it can be 
removed (delisted) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Plants. These numerical increases are encouraging, and they provide 
evidence suggesting the species has exceeded the first delisting 
criterion, which requires 30 self-sustaining populations. However, the 
delisting criteria also require that 15 of the populations must be in 
secure ownership, be at least one-half acre in size, and show self-
sustaining populations for at least 7 years. At this time, fewer than 
10 populations can be considered to be in secure ownership, and only 3 
of these populations have been monitored for at least 7 years. Although 
acreage of these secured populations is large, because of the year-to-
year population fluctuations demonstrated by this species, at this time 
we can document that only one of these three populations is viable and 
self-sustaining for at least 7 years. Therefore, we believe delisting 
this species would be premature.
    Consequently, on the basis of our review of the best available 
scientific and commercial data, we propose to reclassify the Missouri 
bladderpod from endangered to threatened under the Act.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
activities. Recognition through listing results in public awareness and 
conservation actions by Federal, State, tribal, and local agencies, 
private organizations, and individuals. The Act provides for possible 
land acquisition and cooperation with the States and requires that 
recovery plans be developed for all listed species. The protection 
required of Federal agencies and the prohibitions against certain 
activities involving listed plants are discussed 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 being designated. Regulations implementing this 
interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR 
part 402. Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the 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.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all threatened 
plants. With respect to Lesquerella filiformis, all prohibitions of 
section 9(a)(2) of the Act, implemented by 50 CFR 17.71 for threatened 
plants, apply. These prohibitions, in part, make it illegal for any 
person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to import or 
export, transport in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a 
commercial activity, sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign 
commerce, or remove and reduce the species to possession from areas 
under Federal jurisdiction. In addition, for plants listed as 
endangered, the Act prohibits

[[Page 34575]]

malicious damage or destruction on areas under Federal jurisdiction and 
the removal, cutting, digging up, or damaging or destroying of such 
plants in knowing violation of any State law or regulation, or in the 
course of violating State criminal trespass law. Seeds from cultivated 
specimens of threatened plants are exempt from these prohibitions 
provided that their containers are marked ``Of Cultivated Origin.'' 
Certain exceptions to the prohibitions apply to our agents and State 
conservation agencies.
    The Act and 50 CFR 17.72 also provide for the issuance of permits 
to carry out otherwise prohibited activities involving threatened 
plants under certain circumstances. Such permits are available for 
scientific purposes and to enhance the propagation or survival of the 
species. For threatened plants, permits also are available for 
botanical or horticultural exhibition, educational purposes, or special 
purposes consistent with the purpose of the Act. We anticipate that few 
trade permits would ever be sought or issued for Lesquerella filiformis 
because the plant is not in cultivation or common in the wild.
    This rule proposes to change the status of Lesquerella filiformis 
at 50 CFR 17.12 from endangered to threatened. If made final, this rule 
would formally recognize that this species is no longer in imminent 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range. Collection, damage, or destruction of threatened plants on 
Federal lands is prohibited, although in appropriate cases a Federal 
endangered species permit may be issued to allow collection. Such 
activities on non-Federal lands would constitute a violation of section 
9, if conducted in knowing violation of State law or regulations or in 
violation of State criminal trespass law. Section 7 of the Act would 
still continue to protect this species from Federal actions that would 
jeopardize its continued existence. We are not aware of any otherwise 
lawful activities being conducted or proposed by the public that will 
be affected by application of section 9 to this listing.
    Finalization of this rule will not be an irreversible action on the 
part of the Service. Reclassifying Lesquerella filiformis to endangered 
may be considered if changes occur in management, habitat, or other 
factors that negatively alter the species' status or increase threats 
to its survival.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities will constitute a 
violation of section 9 should be directed to the Field Supervisor of 
the Service's Columbia Field Office (see the ADDRESSES section). 
Requests for copies of the regulations concerning listed plants and 
general inquiries regarding prohibitions and issuance of permits under 
the Act may be addressed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, BHW 
Federal Building, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111 (phone 612/
713-5350, facsimile 612/713-5292).

Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we solicit 
comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning this proposed rule. Our practice is to make comments, 
including names and home addresses of respondents, available for public 
review during regular business hours. In some circumstances, we will 
withhold a respondent's identity from the rulemaking record, as 
allowable by law. If you wish for us to withhold your name or address, 
you must state this request prominently at the beginning of your 
comment. We will not consider anonymous comments. We will make all 
submissions from organizations or businesses available for public 
inspection in their entirety (see ADDRESSES section). Comments are 
particularly 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;
    (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, and 
population size of this species; and
    (4) Current or planned activities in the subject range and their 
possible impacts on the species.
    In promulgating a final regulation on this species, we will take 
into consideration the comments and additional information we receive. 
Such communications may lead to a final regulation that differs from 
this proposal.

Public Hearing

    The Act provides for a public hearing on this proposal, if 
requested. Requests must be filed by the date specified in the DATES 
section above. Such requests must be made in writing and addressed to 
the Field Supervisor (see ADDRESSES section).

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy published in the Federal Register on 
July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert opinions of at 
least three appropriate and independent specialists regarding this 
proposed rule. The purpose of such review is to ensure that our 
decisions are based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and 
analyses. We will invite these peer reviewers to comment, during the 
public comment period, on the specific assumptions and conclusions 
regarding the proposed reclassification of Lesquerella filiformis.

Required Determinations

Executive Order 12866

    Executive Order 12866 requires each Federal agency to write 
regulations that are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how 
to make this proposal easier to understand including answers to 
questions such as the following: (1) Is the discussion in the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of the preamble helpful in 
understanding the proposal? (2) Does the proposal contain technical 
language or jargon that interferes with its clarity? (3) Does the 
format of the proposal (e.g., grouping and order of sections, use of 
headings, paragraphing) aid or reduce its clarity? What else could we 
do to make the proposal easier to understand?
    Send a copy of any comments that concern how we could make this 
proposal easier to understand to Office of Regulatory Affairs, 
Department of the Interior, Room 7229, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, 
DC 20240. You may also send the comments by e-mail to 
Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR 1320, 
which implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 
3501 et seq.) require that Federal agencies obtain approval from OMB 
before collecting information from the public. An agency may not 
conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a 
collection of information, unless it displays a currently valid control 
number. Implementation of this rule does not include any collections of 
information that require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction 
Act. For additional information concerning permit and associated 
requirements for threatened species, see 50 CFR 17.72.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an Environmental Assessment and 
Environmental Impact Statement, 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 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as

[[Page 34576]]

amended. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this 
determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 

Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 13211 on 
regulations that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and 
use. Executive Order 13211 requires Federal agencies to prepare 
Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. This 
rule is not expected to significantly affect energy supplies, 
distribution, or use. Therefore, this action is not a significant 
action, and no Statement of Energy Effects is required.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein, as well as others, 
is available upon request from the Service's Columbia, MO, Field Office 
(see ADDRESSES section).


    The primary author of this proposed rule is Paul M. McKenzie, Ph.D. 
(see ADDRESSES section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, 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 17.12(h) is amended by revising the entry for 
``Lesquerella filiformis'' under FLOWERING PLANTS to read as follows:

Sec.  17.12  Endangered and threatened plants.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------    Historic range           Family            Status      When listed    Critical     Special
         Scientific name                Common name                                                                               habitat       rules

                                                                      * * * * * * *
         Flowering Plants

                                                                      * * * * * * *
Lesquerella filiformis...........  Missouri bladderpod.  U.S.A. (AR, MO)....  Brassicaceae.......  T                    253,--           NA           NA

                                                                      * * * * * * *

    Dated: April 16, 2003.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 03-14355 Filed 6-9-03; 8:45 am]