[Federal Register: October 7, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 194)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 57829-57837]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AG41

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing Eriastrum 
hooveri (Hoover's woolly-star) from the Federal List of Endangered and 
Threatened Species

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
determined that Eriastrum hooveri (Hoover's woolly-star) is no longer a 
threatened species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 
(Act), as amended. This determination is based on the discovery of new 
populations and implementation of recovery actions that contributed 
substantially towards meeting delisting criteria outlined in the 
``Recovery Plan For Upland Species of the San Joaquin Valley, 
California'' (Recovery Plan) (USFWS 1998).
    Beginning in 1990, recovery efforts for this species succeeded in 
locating additional populations, discovering through research that 
Eriastrum hooveri is more resilient and less vulnerable to disturbance 
activities than previously known, and achieving protection through 
cooperation with Federal, State, and private entities on more than 
114,400 hectares (286,000 acres) of E. hooveri habitat. The management 
practices of, and commitments by, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management 
(BLM), on whose land a substantial number of the new populations have 
been found, will afford adequate protection to the species upon 
delisting. Following delisting, BLM will designate E. hooveri as a 
``sensitive species'' pursuant to BLM Manual 6840 and California State 
Manual Supplement H-6840.06, to provide for continued protection and 
monitoring of the species on BLM lands. The post-delisting monitoring, 
required under section 4 of the Act, will be facilitated by BLM's 
implementation of their Caliente Resource Management Plan (RMP) (BLM 
1996). Under the RMP and separate agreements, BLM will monitor the 
species and monitor residual threats at representative sites within 
four E. hooveri metapopulations.

DATES: This rule is effective October 7, 2003.

ADDRESSES: The administrative record for this rule is available for 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825-1864, 
(telephone 916/414-6600).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Graciela Hinshaw, Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office, at the above address or telephone 916/414-6600.



    Eriastrum hooveri (Hoover's woolly-star) was first collected in 
1935 by Gregory Lyons near Little Panoche Creek, western Fresno County, 
in the San Joaquin Valley of California. In 1943, Willis Jepson 
described the plant as Hugelia hooveri, citing a 1937 collection by 
Robert Hoover (the namesake for the scientific and common names). 
Later, Herbert Mason (1945) transferred the species along with the rest 
of the woolly-stars to the genus Eriastrum.
    Eriastrum hooveri, an annual herb of the phlox family 
(Polemoniaceae), produces many wire-like stems and tiny white to pale 
blue flowers that are less than 5 millimeters (mm) (0.2 inch (in)) 
across. The flowers are nearly hidden in tufts of woolly hair. The 
leaves are thread-like and may have two narrow lobes near the base. 
Standing 1 to 20 centimeters (cm) (0.4 to 8 in) tall, the species has 
grayish, fuzzy stems, which are often branched (Munz and Keck 1959; 
USFWS 1998). The most important characteristics for distinguishing this 
species from other Eriastrum species are the flower size and the ratio 
between the length of the corolla and the length of the lobes on the 
petals (petals are highly colored portions of the flower and 
collectively are called the corolla). Characteristics of the stamen 
(male reproductive organ)

[[Page 57830]]

can also help identify this species (Taylor and Davilla 1986).
    The seed of Eriastrum hooveri is small and dust-like, and dispersed 
by the wind. The stems of dead plants often break at the soil surface 
and the plants are conical-shaped, characteristic of a seed that 
disperses via the ``tumbleweed'' strategy. Laboratory germination of 
seeds was achieved by wetting seed on filter paper, and there was rapid 
and complete germination of new seed (Taylor and Davilla 1986). The 
small flowers of E. hooveri might suggest self-pollination (Taylor and 
Davilla 1986).
    Eriastrum hooveri was originally thought to have a range that was 
mostly east of the Coastal Range in San Joaquin Valley, California, and 
distributed in a discontinuous fashion within valley saltbush scrub and 
valley sink scrub from Fresno County in the north, south to the Temblor 
Range (Kern and San Luis Obispo Counties), with very limited 
distribution south of the Temblor Range, in the Cuyama Valley (San Luis 
Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties) (Taylor and Davilla 1986). The San 
Joaquin Valley lies between the Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada, and 
on the southern end is bordered by the Transverse Ranges. The climate 
of the San Joaquin Valley is a product of these surrounding mountain 
ranges. Precipitation in the San Joaquin Valley is low; it averages 
less than 25 cm (10 in) per year, with localized areas averaging far 
less. As a result, the San Joaquin Valley climate can be classified as 
arid or desertic. The San Joaquin Valley floor is composed of thousands 
of feet of sediments deposited by runoff from the surrounding 
mountains. Below these sediments lie important petroleum and natural 
gas deposits (Schoenherr 1992). The extraction of these resources 
accounts for some of the native habitat loss and degradation in the San 
Joaquin Valley and adjacent foothills. Conversion of this arid land to 
pastures and agricultural farmland also has replaced native habitat and 
introduced nonnative grasses and shrubs.
    Prior to 1986, Eriastrum hooveri was known from 19 sites (sites are 
clusters of plants that may be part of a larger population as 
documented by BLM) in San Luis Obispo, Kern, Fresno, and Santa Barbara 
Counties in California. Most of these sites occurred on private 
property on the San Joaquin and Cuyama valley floors or on public land 
located in the foothills of the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley 
(the Naval Petroleum Reserve (NPR-1 and NPR-2) administered by the U.S. 
Department of Energy, later turned over to a private interest, 
Occidental Petroleum Corporation).
    A status survey of Eriastrum hooveri conducted in 1986 identified 
10 historical populations as extirpated, 2 others as presumed 
extirpated, and approximately 40 percent of the historically reported 
populations as remaining (Taylor and Davilla 1986). At the time of the 
status survey, the majority of the E. hooveri known populations were 
from alluvial valleys. Hilly terrain was only documented in three 
instances, from the Temblor Range, and the authors were unable to gain 
access to this area during the status survey. Taylor and Davilla (1986) 
reported that most remaining populations were situated on ``islands'' 
of native habitat in an otherwise ``sea'' of intensively managed 
agricultural lands, thereby leaving the remaining populations 
vulnerable to destruction. Our subsequent listing of E. hooveri as a 
threatened species in 1990 relied heavily on the data and the threats 
assessment presented in the Taylor and Davilla 1986 status report, as 
well as on additional surveys conducted between 1986 and 1990 (55 FR 
29361). The listing noted that 118 populations existed, only 9 of which 
occurred on public lands or in undeveloped foothills. The remaining 109 
populations (92 percent) were considered to be threatened by conversion 
of valley floor native habitat to agricultural land, oil and gas 
development, urbanization, reservoir construction, uncontrolled heavy 
sheep grazing, disposal of nutrient-laden agricultural effluent, and 
nonnative invasive plants (55 FR 29361). Based on these threats, we 
listed E. hooveri as a threatened species under the Act on July 19, 
1990 (55 FR 29361).
    In 1990, we initiated recovery planning for 11 listed species, 
including Eriastrum hooveri, and 23 candidates or species of concern 
that share the same ecosystem (USFWS 1998). While the development of 
the final Recovery Plan was being accomplished, the recovery needs of 
listed species were simultaneously being addressed. During the 8 years 
of planning, Federal and State agencies conducted extensive surveys and 
research and learned new information about E. hooveri biology, 
including its abundance and distribution and its response to 
disturbance. The recovery strategy in the final Recovery Plan reflects 
pre-plan recovery efforts.
    The recovery strategy, put forth in the 1998 Recovery Plan, stated 
that recovery for Eriastrum hooveri could be accomplished within four 
metapopulations (defined as a larger population clusters by BLM), by 
using existing public lands and other areas already dedicated to 
conservation. The four metapopulations from largest to smallest are: 
(1) The Kettleman Hills area in Fresno and Kings Counties; (2) the 
Carrizo Plain-Elkhorn Plain-Temblor Range-Caliente Mountains-Cuyama 
Valley-Sierra Madre Mountains area in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, 
and extreme western Kern Counties; (3) the Lokern-Elk Hills-Buena Vista 
Hills-Coles Levee-Maricopa-Taft area in Kern County; and (4) the 
Antelope Plain-Lost Hills-Semitropic area in Kern County. Recovery 
goals included protecting populations throughout the species' 
geographic range (at the time thought to be from San Benito and Fresno 
Counties in the north, south to the Cuyama Valley), representing a 
variety of topographic positions (valley floor, slopes) and community 
types (chenopod scrub and grasslands), at elevations ranging from 50 to 
915 meters (m) (165 to 3,000 feet (ft)). Because public lands have 
varying multi-use mandates, and therefore may or may not afford 
``protection'' to plants under threat, specific commitments were needed 
to protect the populations from incompatible uses such as heavy 
oilfield development, commercial development, flooding or rising 
groundwater levels, and dense vegetation due to proliferation of 
nonnative plants or suppression of fires. Low and moderate oilfield 
development and grazing were not considered incompatible uses. The 
Recovery Plan recommended a minimum acreage and plant density for E. 
hooveri and continuation of the monitoring of trends at representative 
sites within each of the four recognized metapopulations. As 33 other 
species were also covered in this multispecies Recovery Plan, the 
ecosystem-level strategy recommended a network of large-scale preserves 
and conservation areas that represented all natural communities in the 
San Joaquin Valley upland ecosystems. The Recovery Plan stated that, 
within this network, habitat management would be compatible with 
traditional and ongoing land uses such as grazing and oil exploration. 
Prior to the completion of the Recovery Plan, it was discovered that E. 
hooveri could tolerate a certain amount of natural and man-made 
    The listing and subsequent recovery planning efforts resulted in 
increased inventory activities for Eriastrum hooveri throughout its 
range. Surveys in the Mojave Desert area resulted in the discovery of 
E. hooveri more than 140 kilometers (km) (87 miles mi) southeast of the 
previously known range. Surveys

[[Page 57831]]

into remote areas by the BLM and the Los Padres National Forest, as 
well as routine surveys at the NPR-1 and NPR-2, resulted in the 
discovery of many new occurrences (an occurrence is analogous to a 
population and is defined here as a cluster of plants separated from 
the nearest cluster by at least 0.25 mile) of E. hooveri. Through a 
section 7 consultation with the Service, the U.S. Department of Energy 
conducted periodic monitoring of six representative E. hooveri sites 
from the early to mid 1990s (EG&G 1994, 1996). Responses to 
precipitation patterns on north and south slopes and ridgetops were 
documented (EG&G 1996), and increased attention was focused on 
observations of and research into the plants' response to various 
levels of habitat disturbance. The pertinent recovery planning and 
implementation efforts, along with their results, are summarized below.


    Abundance: The results of the 1986 status survey, which led to the 
Eriastrum hooveri listing, reflected its known distribution at the 
time, but did not reflect the species' larger distribution documented 
after 1990, probably as a consequence of the drought period and the 
resulting poor growing E. hooveri conditions during the two years 
preceding the survey (EG&G 1995a). Surveys by Federal agencies 
following the listing of the species in 1990 coincided with a change in 
precipitation, particularly in 1993, when abundant spring rainfall 
created favorable growing conditions for annual plants (EG&G 1994, 
1995b). The favorable growing conditions along with the surveys 
resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of E. hooveri known 
populations, the size of its topographical and elevational range 
distribution, and a clearer understanding of its habitat associations.
    Distribution: In 1992 and 1994, BLM staff surveyed private and 
public lands and estimated that about 1,000 Eriastrum hooveri sites 
occupied approximately 970 ha (2,426 ac) (BLM 1992, 1994). By 1998, the 
U.S. Department of Energy had comprehensively surveyed over 60 percent 
of NPR-1 for E. hooveri, and over 400 locations were documented; in 
addition, the species was also discovered on NPR-2 (Brian Cypher, 
Enterprise Advisory Services, Inc., pers. comm. 1998; Russ Lewis, BLM, 
pers. comm. 2002; Jay Hinshaw, Bureau of Indian Affairs, pers. comm. 
    Range: Surveys for another plant species at 820 to 910 m (2,700 to 
3,000 ft) elevation in the Los Padres National Forest in 1993 led to 
the discovery of three populations of Eriastrum hooveri in Tennison 
Canyon, Goode Canyon, and Castro Canyon (Danielsen et al. 1994). These 
populations were 800 m (500 ft) higher in elevation than all other 
known populations, and the first to be located in habitat dominated by 
juniper. In 1998, Boyd and Porter (1999) found E. hooveri in two 
locations southeast of the Tehachapi Mountains within Antelope Valley, 
Los Angeles County. These occurrences in the Mojave Desert represent an 
extension of the range of the species by approximately 140 km (87 mi) 
to the southeast from the nearest population in the San Joaquin Valley. 
Additional surveys in the Antelope Valley, conducted through 2002, 
documented numerous occurrences of E. hooveri from near Rosamond, in 
Kern County, and south to Lancaster, in Los Angeles County. In 2003, 7 
to 12 million plants, roughly distributed over a 100-square-mi area, 
were also found near Edwards Air Force Base (Ray Bransfield, USFWS, 
pers. comm. 2003; Patrick Buorsier, H.T. Harvey and Associates, pers. 
comm. 2003).
    In summary, surveys have resulted in the discovery of many more 
valley floor sites as well as foothill sites, and have shown that 
Eriastrum hooveri populations discontinuously range in the north from 
the Ciervo/Panoche area of the San Joaquin Valley in Fresno and San 
Benito Counties, southward to Antelope Valley in Los Angeles County, a 
distance of approximately 314 km (196 mi). A total of 1,128 new sites 
have been found on BLM land. Along with the increase in the number of 
sites, the distribution and range of E. hooveri has increased. E. 
hooveri has been confirmed at elevations of 3,000 ft and has been found 
to occur in two additional habitat types: Juniper woodland and Mojave 
Desert. The species has a greater abundance, distribution, and range 
than previously thought.


    At the time of listing, Eriastrum hooveri was identified as 
preferring areas with lower annual plant densities and stable, silty to 
sandy soils that often exhibit cryptogamic crusting (a thin microbiotic 
layer at the soil surface generally composed of a complex of mosses, 
algae, bacteria, fungi, and lichens, or a combination of these) (55 FR 
29361). Since listing, E. hooveri has also been found on stable soils 
that do not exhibit crusting (BLM 1994), and on sandy loam and loamy 
soils (EG&G 1995a). Research results in 1994 documented that vascular 
plant cover at sites with E. hooveri ranged from a low of 5% to a high 
of 93%; the amount of bare ground varied between 5% and 90%, and the 
amount of cryptogamic crusting varied between 0% and 80% (EGG 1995b). 
The wide-ranging values in plant cover and bare ground for sites with 
E. hooveri indicate that, although this species does better in sparsely 
vegetated areas, it is found in areas of dense vegetation (E. Cypher, 
pers. comm. 2003). A 1995 report by EG&G documented E. hooveri 
responses to varying rainfall and found that this species, like most 
annual species, appears to be sensitive to changes in precipitation 
compared to the shrub and grass components of the community (EG&G 
1996). Soils with cryptogamic crusts are naturally open surface areas 
where nonnative grasses do not seem to encroach (Lewis pers. comm. 
1995). The association that E. hooveri has with cryptogamic crusting 
may be more related to lower annual plant densities (especially lower 
numbers of nonnative grasses) than to an affinity with some aspect of 
the crusting. Areas of crusting are found throughout the species' range 
(R. Lewis pers. comm. 1995), and although ground disturbance will 
eliminate the crusting, the complex of mosses, algae, and other 
cryptogamic organisms that compose the crust have been observed to come 
back two years after ground disturbance (Holmstead and Anderson 1998) 
in areas where E. hooveri is found.
    During above-average annual rainfall periods, Eriastrum hooveri 
responds quickly and well (successful seed germination, larger plants, 
and a higher probability of being detected during surveys), whereas 
during years of below-average annual rainfall, plants that germinate 
reach a height of only 1 in and are less likely to be detected during 
surveys (Ellen Cypher, Endangered Species Recovery Program, pers. comm. 
2003; Jay Hinshaw, Bureau of Indian Affairs, pers. comm. 2003).
    In 1995, EG&G reported that ground disturbance did not 
significantly affect Eriastrum hooveri and that the species was found 
as abundantly on disturbed sites as on undisturbed sites (EG&G 1995a). 
The average E. hooveri density was higher on sites where mechanical 
ground disturbance (typical of oilfield development) was observed, and 
lower on sites where other types of disturbance (by grazing, alluvial 
deposit, fire, unknown) were observed (EG&G 1995a). Furthermore, a 
study on the effects of simulated oilfield disturbance and top soil 
salvage showed that, although surface disturbance negatively affected 
E. hooveri density for at least two years, this species

[[Page 57832]]

recolonized disturbed plots within two growing seasons from seed 
naturally dispersed from adjacent habitat (Hinshaw et al. 1998).
    In summary, research efforts, as part of the recovery process, have 
shown that Eriastrum hooveri is more resilient and less vulnerable than 
previously thought.


    The Recovery Plan was developed for arid-land species in a part of 
California that receives 10 in (25 cm) or less of annual precipitation. 
Both below-average (drought) and above-average precipitation can cause 
severe population variations for Eriastrum hooveri, and other species 
covered in the Recovery Plan, if such extreme conditions extend for 
more than 1 year (USFWS 1998). The status survey that preceded listing 
of E. hooveri followed a 2-year drought, and during the early 1990s the 
southern San Joaquin valley experienced above-average rainfalls (E. 
Cypher pers. comm. 2003b). This above-average rainfall period coincided 
with initial research into disturbance responses, and it was observed 
by Holmstead and Anderson (1998) that E. hooveri responded extremely 
well to the increased rainfall levels. Timing of precipitation may have 
also played a significant role in the response of E. hooveri to above-
average rainfall, since heavy rainfall in the study area occurred 
during January and March, later than during normal precipitation years 
(Holmstead and Anderson 1998).
    Eriastrum hooveri's adaptability to disturbance was evident based 
on observations of the reestablishment of E. hooveri following two 
disturbances on NPR-1 during 1990, and on NPR-1 fire breaks that had 
been tilled the previous year (Holmstead and Anderson 1998). Eriastrum 
hooveri is more resilient and less vulnerable to certain activities 
than previously thought.

Recovery Plan Criteria

    Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop recovery plans for 
listed species. Recovery plans are written to guide recovery efforts 
and establish criteria for measuring recovery progress. The criteria 
are not intended to be absolute prerequisites for delisting and should 
not preclude a delisting action if such action is otherwise warranted. 
This section discusses the four delisting criteria identified for 
Eriastrum hooveri in the Recovery Plan (USFWS 1998).

(1) 75% of Occupied Habitat (as of 1998) on Public Lands in Each of the 
Four Metapopulations Should Be Secured and Protected From Incompatible 

    Although difficult to quantify due to annual variability in size of 
populations, we believe that the intent of this criterion has been met 
because a substantial amount of land, approximately 114,400 ha (286,000 
ac), containing substantial portions of the four metapopulations or 
potential habitat is in a ``protected status'' (as defined in the 
Recovery Plan) (G. Warrick, Center for Natural Lands Management, pers. 
comm., 2002; Mary Ann McCrary, California Department of Fish and Game 
(CDFG), in litt. 2002; USFWS 1998, Ann Knox, BLM, in litt. 1997). Two 
BLM Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), a National 
Monument, four CDFG Ecological Reserves, four privately owned 
mitigation sites, and NPR-2 (soon to be managed by BLM) are the 
protected areas that contain portions of the four metapopulations; 
these areas, listed by metapopulation are:
    (a.) The Kettleman Hills area in Fresno and Kings Counties 
(includes the BLM ownership with ACEC designation of 2,692 ha (6,730 
    (b.) The Carrizo Plain-Elkhorn Plain-Temblor Range-Caliente 
Mountains-Cuyama Valley-Sierra Madre Mountains area in San Luis Obispo, 
Santa Barbara, and extreme western Kern Counties (includes the BLM 
Carrizo Plain National Monument and the CDFG Elkhorn Ecological 
Reserve, 101,170 ha (250,000 ac));
    (c.) The Lokern-Elk Hills-Buena Vista Hills-Coles Levee-Maricopa-
Taft area in Kern County (includes the BLM's Lokern ACEC, 1,244 ha 
(3,110 ac); the CDFG's Lokern Ecological Reserve, 330 ha (825 ac), and 
Buttonwillow Ecological Reserve, 540 ha (1,350 ac); and private 
conservation areas such as the Center for Natural Lands Management's 
Lokern Preserve, 1,200 ha (3000 ac), the Elk Hills Conservation Area, 
2,830 ha (7,075 ac), and the Coles Levee Ecosystem Preserve, 2,424 ha 
(6,060 ac)); and
    (d.) The Antelope Plain-Lost Hills-Semitropic area in Kern County 
(includes the CDFG's Semitropic Ecological Reserve, 1,912 ha (4,780 
ac); and private conservation areas, such as the Center for Natural 
Lands Management's Semitropic Ridge Preserve, 1,200 ha (3,000 ac)).

(2) 260 Hectares (640 Acres) or More of Occupied Habitat on the San 
Joaquin Valley Floor Is Secured and Protected (This Need Not Be in 
Addition to the Above, But May Be Within the Above)

    The second delisting criterion has been met. Because patches of 
Eriastrum hooveri may vary in size annually due to rainfall, we 
considered all E. hooveri habitat in protected areas where the species 
is known to occur as occupied habitat. There are protected occurrences 
of E. hooveri found within the southern San Joaquin Valley floor, in 
BLM's Lokern ACEC, 1,244 ha (3,110 ac), and the Elk Hills Conservation 
Area, 1,408 ha (3,520 ac). Other protected areas on the San Joaquin 
Valley floor containing E. hooveri occurrences are the CDFG's Alkali 
Sink Ecological Reserve, 372 ha (930 ac), Lokern Ecological Reserve, 
330 ha (825 ac) (USFWS 1998), and the private conservation area of 
Coles Levee Ecosystem Reserve, 2,424 ha (6,060 ac). The total acreage 
for these five protected valley floor areas that contain E. hooveri is 
approximately 5,778 ha (14,445 ac).

(3) Management Plans Approved and Implemented for Recovery Areas That 
Include Survival of Species as an Objective. Range-wide Population 
Monitoring Should Be Provided for in All Management Plans

    The third recovery criterion, approve and implement management 
plans for the recovery areas that include survival of Eriastrum hooveri 
as an objective, has also been met. A significant number of new sites 
(1,128) are found on BLM land, and BLM has holdings in all 4 
metapopulations of this species, including the San Joaquin Valley floor 
metapopulation. The wider range in combination with the commitment of 
BLM to designate E. hooveri as a sensitive species is sufficient to 
meet the recovery criterion (E. Cypher, pers. comm. 2003a and 2003c). 
The BLM will ensure that actions they authorize, fund, or carry out do 
not contribute to the need to re-list the species. As a sensitive 
species, E. hooveri will be addressed in the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA) documents for BLM actions requiring NEPA review. In 
addition, BLM will conduct on-the-ground monitoring of E. hooveri for a 
minimum of 5 years from the date of the publication of this final rule 
to delist the species. This monitoring will be conducted in all four 
metapopulations (Burke, in litt. 2002), including the San Joaquin 
Valley floor. We believe that BLM's Resource Management Plan (RMP) 
meets the criteria for specific commitments to protect E. hooveri from 
incompatible uses and that the BLM

[[Page 57833]]

sensitive species designation will directly enhance the survival of 
this species. Other existing management plans (including six HCPs and 
private conservation areas such as the Occidental Management Plan for 
the Elk Hills Conservation Area and the Center for Natural Lands 
Management-Management Plan) will either directly cover E. hooveri even 
after delisting, or will indirectly protect this species through 
actions directed coexisting protected species. In addition, a provision 
of the West Mojave Plan, being developed by several local, State, and 
Federal agencies in the Mojave Desert area, would direct the 
establishment of a reserve for sensitive plant species in areas that 
may support E. hooveri; if established, the reserve would include 
prescriptions for management and monitoring of the area (Ray 
Bransfield, USFWS, pers. comm. 2003).
    Because BLM manages land in four metapopulations, including the San 
Joaquin Valley floor metapopulation, they are in the best position to 
take on the responsibility of post-delisting monitoring Eriastrum 
hooveri after delisting. The determination that the Recovery Plan's 
monitoring criterion had been met was made before the disjunct Mojave 
population was described. The Service and the BLM will jointly produce 
a post-delisting monitoring (PDM) plan for E. hooveri over the four 
metapopulations. It is assumed that any population trends and 
information gained through the PDM period will be representative of the 
species range-wide including the Mojave population (see the Post-
Delisting Monitoring section of this rule for specifics on BLM's 
proposed monitoring).

(4) Stable or Increasing in the Four Metapopulations, Including the San 
Joaquin Valley Floor Metapopulation, Through One Precipitation Cycle

    The fourth recovery criterion requires demonstration of stable or 
increasing trends in four metapopulations, including the San Joaquin 
Valley floor metapopulation, through one precipitation cycle. This 
criterion has been met since Eriastrum hooveri has persisted through 
both drought and above-average rainfall in 5 years of monitoring. The 
purpose of this criterion was to show progress in achieving population 
goals through the most critical time for arid upland plants (either 
above or below average precipitation). Stability means the 
statistically same population size during a precipitation cycle that 
includes both drought and wet phases (a cycle was anticipated to be 
about 20 years in the Recovery Plan) (USFWS 1998). Although the 
monitoring has not been completed for 20 years (the anticipated 
precipitation cycle), baseline data exists on BLM lands and NPR-1 that, 
along with precipitation data, can be used to assess this species' 
stability. The Recovery Plan offers some flexibility in this regard; it 
states that if a species' population is monitored through 1 or more 
years through a drought cycle this data will suffice for necessary 
precipitation cycle data (USFWS 1998).
    At the start of monitoring (in 1997) an above-average rainfall was 
recorded and later (2000 to 2002) monitoring data indicated below-
normal rainfall. Through both extremes Eriastrum hooveri remained 
robust (E. Cypher, pers. comm. 2003a and 2003c).
    In summary, this recovery criteria for Eriastrum hooveri is 
satisfied because the species is protected on approximately 114,400 ha 
(286,000 ac) of habitat and remains stable through a precipitation 

Previous Federal Action

    On September 27, 1985, we published a revised notice of review for 
native plants in the Federal Register (50 FR 39526). This revised 
notice added Eriastrum hooveri as a category 2 candidate species. 
Category 2 species were those species for which information in our 
possession indicated that listing was possibly appropriate, but for 
which additional information on biological vulnerability and threats 
was needed to support a proposed rule. On July 27, 1989, we published a 
proposal to list E. hooveri as threatened (54 FR 31201). The final rule 
listing E. hooveri as a threatened species was published July 19, 1990 
(55 FR 29361). On March 6, 2001, we published a proposed rule to remove 
E. hooveri from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
based on information indicating this species was more widespread and 
abundant than was documented at the time of listing, was more resilient 
and less vulnerable to certain activities than previously thought, and 
was sufficiently protected on Federal, State, and private land (66 FR 

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    In the March 6, 2001, proposed delisting rule (66 FR 13474) and 
associated notifications, we invited all interested parties to submit 
comments or information that might contribute to the final delisting 
determination for this species. The public comment period ended May 7, 
2001. We contacted and sent announcements of the proposed rule to 
appropriate Federal and State agencies, county governments, scientific 
organizations, recovery team members, and other interested parties. We 
established an Internet web site for electronic submittal of comments 
and hearing requests by any party. In addition, we solicited formal 
scientific peer review of the proposal in accordance with our July 1, 
1994, Interagency Cooperative Policy for Peer Review in Endangered 
Species Act Activities (59 FR 34270). We requested four individuals, 
who possess expertise in Eriastrum hooveri biology, to review the 
proposed rule by the close of the comment period. We received one 
response to our request for peer review, and her comments are discussed 
below. We also received one response from the public supporting the 
delisting. No responses were received opposing the delisting. No 
requests for a public hearing were received.
    Comment 1: Recovery of Eriastrum hooveri should have been the 
rationale for delisting, rather than the wider distribution of the 
species and tolerance of disturbance. The threatened status of E. 
hooveri prompted the surveys and research projects that now provide 
partial justification for delisting. More importantly, the listing led 
to actions by Federal agencies to protect the species and its habitat. 
Delisting E. hooveri is appropriate because of (1) the proportion of E. 
hooveri on public lands and in conserved areas, (2) the additional 
lands likely to be protected during recovery efforts for other listed 
species, (3) the BLM's willingness to consider treating it as a 
sensitive species, and (4) its tolerance of disturbance.
    Our Response: We agree and have clarified that the delisting is due 
in large part to recovery.
    Comment 2: The only recovery element that has not yet been met is 
to demonstrate that the populations are stable.
    Our Response: We acknowledge that this recovery criterion has not 
been completed, however, the Recovery Plan states that for those 
species with existing data on population status spanning one or more 
years, these data can be included in measuring population recovery 
goals if it is deemed scientifically valid and representative. 
According to the flexible approach recommended in the Recovery Plan 
(USFWS 1998), Eriastrum hooveri data from the early 1990s was used to 
justify that the population goal for this species was not numerical, 
but rather ``stability'' shown through monitoring during above and 
below-average rainfall

[[Page 57834]]

years. See the ``Recovery Plan Criteria'' section in this rule for 
additional information.
    Comment 3: The peer reviewer disagreed with the use of number of 
plants and number of ``sites'' in the proposed delisting rule since a 
very small patch can contain a large number of plants, and the number 
of Eriastrum hooveri individuals in a specified area can vary by 
several orders of magnitude from one year to the next. ``Sites'' is an 
arbitrary term used to describe clusters of plants that does not 
indicate separate populations and does not have any relationship to the 
ecology or reproductive biology of the species.
    Our Response: We agree and have based this delisting action on the 
amount of occupied and suitable habitat that has been protected for 
Eriastrum hooveri, along with its distribution, abundance, and 
resilience, rather than the number of plants and sites.
    Comment 4: Protection for Eriastrum hooveri will result from 
efforts for other listed species. Nine of the core areas identified for 
recovery of multiple species support E. hooveri. Portions of each of 
the core areas are already conserved by Federal and State agencies and 
nongovernmental conservation organizations, and additional lands are 
likely to be protected through ongoing recovery efforts for other 
listed species.
    Our Response: We agree that Eriastrum hooveri has benefited from 
conservation efforts for other listed species, and is likely to 
continue to do so. We have included specific information about 
collateral benefits in this final rule (see ``Background'' and ``The 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms'' under ``Summary of 
Factors Affecting the Species'').
    Comment 5: Residual mulch restrictions cited in the proposed rule 
are incorrect.
    Our Response: We have made these corrections (see ``The inadequacy 
of existing regulatory mechanisms'' under ``Summary of Factors 
Affecting the Species''). The BLM grazing restrictions include 
requirements for residual mulch (dry plant material) of 568 kilograms 
(kg) per ha (500 pounds (lb) per ac), and 5 cm (2 in) of green growth, 
or 795 kg per ha (700 lb per ac). The proposed rule to delist Eriastrum 
hooveri incorrectly stated that the required amount of residual dry 
mulch was 50 kg per ha (49 lb per ac) and required green growth was 318 
kg per ha (238 lb per ac).
    In addition, we considered and incorporated, as appropriate, into 
this final rule all biological information provided by the peer 

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and our regulations (50 CFR part 424) 
implementing the listing provisions of the Act set forth the procedures 
for listing, reclassifying, and delisting species. 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 because of (1) extinction, (2) recovery, and/
or (3) error in the original data for classification of the species.
    After a thorough review of all available information, it is evident 
that substantial recovery of Eriastrum hooveri has occurred. We have 
determined that none of the five factors addressed in section 4(a)(1) 
of the Act, and discussed below, is currently affecting the species to 
the extent that E. hooveri remains threatened with endangerment in the 
foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range. The five listing factors, their application to the recovery of 
E. hooveri, and the identification of which threats are considered to 
be residual and will be the subject of monitoring after delisting are 
discussed below.

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

Oil and Gas Leasing
    One of the predominant threats facing Eriastrum hooveri at the time 
it was listed as a threatened species was oil and gas development, 
especially in the Elk Hills area (55 FR 29361). Russ Lewis of the BLM 
has conducted several surveys for E. hooveri on public and private 
lands since the time of listing (BLM 1992, 1994). Of the approximately 
1,000 new sites found by Lewis during 1992 and 1994, oil and gas 
development threats were present for only about 21 percent of the 
sites. Threats at many of these sites are no longer significant because 
several oil fields are at or near their peak of development, new 
drilling occurs on existing wellpads, or they have already been 
abandoned (R. Lewis, pers. comm. 2003). Additionally, there are other 
listed species in these areas; HCPs and section 7 consultations 
coordinated for the listed species will also protect E. hooveri. For 
these reasons and the reasons discussed below, we believe that the 
likelihood of additional habitat loss from new activity is low.
    In the Elk Hills area, oil production areas are established on the 
upper elevation of the hills on the former NPR-1. Exploration 
activities generally have failed to establish oil production in the 
lower elevations (BLM 1994). The majority (73 percent) of the Eriastrum 
hooveri sites occur at lower elevations (EG&G 1995a); therefore, the 
majority of E. hooveri populations in NPR-1 are in areas not likely to 
be developed for petroleum production (B. Cypher, pers. comm. 1998).
    Mobil Oil Corporation enacted measures to protect Eriastrum hooveri 
by placing protective exclosures around all known sites on a Lost Hills 
leased property (BLM 1994). Lewis also noted that above-surface 
pipeline corridors appear to be unintentionally restricting access of 
off-highway vehicles to remaining undisturbed habitat and, 
consequently, are protecting many other sites in the area (BLM 1994). 
The Eriastrum hooveri Field Inventory Report (BLM 1994) documents the 
presence of E. hooveri in large numbers throughout fully developed 
oilfields, such as Lost Hills, that have been in existence for several 
    Because Eriastrum hooveri establishes on disturbed substrates such 
as well pads and pipeline rights-of-way after a period of non-use, the 
species likely will continue to exist both on federally and privately 
owned, fully developed oilfields (BLM 1994). EG&G Energy Measurements 
(under sponsorship by the Department of Energy and Chevron) monitored 
the reestablishment of E. hooveri following two disturbances that 
occurred on NPR-1 in 1990. At both study sites, E. hooveri occupied all 
disturbed plots after one growing season and the plants increased in 
density from the first to second growing season (Holmstead and Anderson 
1998). Holmstead and Anderson also noted that E. hooveri populations 
were observed in fire breaks on NPR-1 that had been tilled the previous 
year. Further, a study on the effects of simulated oilfield disturbance 
and top soil salvage showed that, although surface disturbance 
negatively affected E. hooveri density for at least two years, E. 
hooveri recolonized disturbed plots within two growing seasons from 
seed naturally dispersed from adjacent habitat (Hinshaw et al. 1998).
Agricultural and Urban Development
    Agricultural and urban development was also cited as a threat at 
the time of listing. Much of the San Joaquin Valley floor has been 
agriculturally developed, virtually to its fullest extent. Future 
agricultural development is uncertain and would require encroachment 

[[Page 57835]]

hilly and agriculturally less desirable geographic areas. Limited water 
availability for additional agricultural and urban development is a 
severely limiting factor in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Although 
sites that occur within the San Joaquin Valley are experiencing threats 
from development, particularly urban or industrial development along 
the Interstate 5 corridor (R. Lewis, pers. comm. March 7, 1995), the 
majority of the plants are found along the hilly margins of the San 
Joaquin Valley, usually between 90 and 910 m (300 to 3,000 ft) in 
elevation (BLM 1994).
    One of the largest populations of Eriastrum hooveri occurs along 
the western edge of the Interstate 5 corridor near Kettleman City. This 
population is within the ACEC managed by BLM, where urban or industrial 
development is unlikely to occur (BLM 1996a; R. Lewis, pers. comm. 
2003). In addition, conservation efforts for other listed species found 
along the Interstate 5 corridor are likely to provide continued 
collateral benefits for E. hooveri.
    Other potential threats identified for Eriastrum hooveri at the 
time it was listed as a threatened species were impacts from 
groundwater recharge basins, a proposed reservoir (the Arroyo Pasajero 
Project), and disposal of nutrient-laden agricultural effluent (55 FR 
29361). The only groundwater recharge basin developed in the range of 
E. hooveri is the Kern Water Bank, which helps to conserve E. hooveri 
through HCP measures that protect habitat in perpetuity. We are not 
aware of impacts to E. hooveri from disposal of nutrient-laden 
agricultural effluent. Land application of manure or dairy waste 
seepage is typically not conducted on natural habitat and is not likely 
to impact E. hooveri (Gary Burton, Service, pers. comm. 2002). The 
Arroyo Pasajero Project remains a potential location for water storage 
for the environmental water account. However, it is anticipated that 
the Arroyo Pasajero Project, if it goes forward, will have an 
insignificant effect on E. hooveri.
Off-Highway Vehicles
    Off-highway vehicles were identified as a threat for Eriastrum 
hooveri at the time it was listed. In 1994 the Eriastrum hooveri Field 
Inventory Report (BLM 1994) considered 15 percent of sites evaluated to 
have potential threats from off-highway vehicles. However, observations 
of the plants subsequent to listing suggest that the species appears to 
persist in the absence of renewed disturbance. The low number of 
documented impacts and the recolonizing ability of E. hooveri indicate 
that off-highway vehicles are no longer considered a threat to the 
long-term survival of the species (BLM 1994).
    Off-highway vehicle impacts are rare occurrences and typically 
consist of tire tracks across occupied habitat, in many cases as a one-
time occurrence by a single vehicle. On some roads located in the 
Caliente Mountains and Cuyama Valley, the species was found growing in 
tire tracks. The species has been found growing on several inactive 
motorcycle paths located in the Kettleman Hills, some of which were 
approximately 46 cm (18 in) deep. Plants also grow on the margins of 
dirt roads and in the strip of vegetation between tire tracks on 
unimproved roads in the Lokern, Elk Hills, and Lost Hills areas (E. 
Cypher, in litt. 2001).
    The majority of the six Eriastrum hooveri populations in Los Padres 
National Forest are located on lightly used or abandoned roads that 
receive an estimated one to ten vehicle passes per year. This light 
road use appears to help maintain the presence of the species, although 
the plants do not grow in the actual tire tracks. The populations do 
not extend into areas, which apparently have suitable habitat, that 
surround the roads (Mike Foster, Forest Service, pers. comm. 1998).
    Habitat disturbance will still occur in areas of potential 
Eriastrum hooveri habitat, and may occasionally occur on occupied 
habitat. However, the Service has determined that the level of 
disturbance will be such that pressures from present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of E. hooveri habitat or 
range, even when taken collectively with other residual threats, are 
sufficiently reduced and contained that the species is no longer 
threatened or endangered. The Service will monitor, as part of the 
required post-delisting monitoring, the management commitments by BLM 
to limit habitat disturbance.

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

    Overutilization is not a factor known to affect Eriastrum hooveri.

C. Disease or Predation

    Eriastrum hooveri tends to occupy soil surface that does not 
support a large amount of vegetation. Grazing by wild herbivores is not 
known to occur. Although cattle may trail through areas occupied by E. 
hooveri en route to areas of desirable forage, they do not appear to be 
grazing within the sparsely vegetated E. hooveri occupied habitat (BLM 
1994). Furthermore, observations subsequent to the listing have shown 
that the wiry and low-growing E. hooveri plants are not desirable 
forage for livestock, and that monitored areas in both grazed and 
ungrazed areas showed no significant differences in survival, size, or 
reproduction (BLM 1994). Survival was higher in grazed areas possibly 
due to the reduced vegetation cover, and E. hooveri plants were taller 
in ungrazed areas. Therefore, predation through grazing, including 
trespass grazing, is no longer considered a serious threat to E. 
hooveri (with regards to management of grazing refer to Factor E 
``Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
    No known diseases affect Eriastrum hooveri.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Eriastrum hooveri will continue to benefit from the many recovery 
and conservation activities that are being undertaken for the 33 other 
species in the Recovery Plan (collateral species benefits). Nine of the 
core areas identified for recovery of these collateral species support 
E. hooveri populations, and portions of these core areas are already 
protected (E. Cypher, in litt. 2001). Efforts to maintain linkages 
around the San Joaquin Valley edge (from the Ciervo/Panoche area in 
Fresno County, south to Maricopa in Kern County) focus on protection of 
both valley floor and hilly topography areas for San Joaquin kit fox, 
an endangered species present in E. hooveri areas, and include 
grassland and chenopod scrub habitat types (USFWS 1998). Protection is 
also afforded through habitat conservation plans for the collateral, 
federally listed species, including the wide-ranging San Joaquin kit 
fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, the California jewelflower, and kern 
mallow. All these species are protected under the Act and share the 
same habitat types and climatic requirements with E. hooveri (Taylor 
and Davilla 1986).
    The principal mechanism that will continue to afford Eriastrum 
hooveri protection will be designation by BLM of E. hooveri as a 
sensitive species after the species is delisted (E. Hastey, BLM, in 
litt. 1995, T. Burke, BLM, in litt. 2002). BLM policy will minimize 
impacts to the species at all known sites that are under their 
jurisdiction. Coordination and annual reviews by the Service will 
ensure that appropriate minimization actions will occur. To aid in this 
review, E. hooveri population locations have been, and will continue to 
be, placed onto BLM's geographic information system (GIS) to help in 

[[Page 57836]]

management of future activities that may arise within the range of the 
species (S. Carter, pers. comm. 2002). Part of BLM's commitment to the 
delisting of E. hooveri will be the establishment of key monitoring 
locations on public land in the four metapopulations (see 
``Background'' under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION). Additionally, BLM will 
evaluate the effects of any proposed management changes on E. hooveri 
and will periodically evaluate whether the objective of maintaining 
sufficient numbers and distribution to preclude listing is being met. 
Management strategies will be adapted to meet this objective if 
necessary (Tim Burke, Acting BLM State Director, in litt. 2002).
    Eriastrum hooveri is not a State-listed species under the 
California Endangered Species Act.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Although Eriastrum hooveri is not a desirable forage plant for 
livestock, damage can occur by trampling as animals travel across the 
plants getting to areas they desire. Only five percent of the sites 
recorded by Lewis on BLM lands were affected by cattle and sheep 
grazing activities (BLM 1994). Occasionally sheep trespass in E. 
hooveri habitat, but sheep usually remain in one area for only a few 
days. Livestock trampling does not appear to constitute a serious 
threat to E. hooveri.
    At the time of listing, competition with nonnative grasses was 
cited as a threat. Recent research and surveys have shown that 
Eriastrum hooveri prefers low densities of competing plants, whether 
nonnative or native. Although E. hooveri may initially colonize areas 
having low plant cover because of disturbance, it subsequently may be 
out-competed by nonnative plants in areas with sufficient moisture (E. 
Cypher, pers. comm. 1995). Taking into consideration the discovery of 
the wide distribution of this species and the abundance and extent of 
preferred (sparse) habitat areas, competition with nonnative grasses is 
no longer considered a threat to the long-term survival of E. hooveri.
    The Service has determined that grazing and competition from 
nonnative plants is currently not a threat to the species at a level 
for which protection of the Act is necessary, but acknowledges that the 
potential for poorly managed grazing and the pervasive problem of 
nonnative invasive plants remains to some degree. We believe, however, 
that management commitments by BLM will protect Eriastrum hooveri from 
these situations far into the future. These residual threats, even when 
taken collectively with other residual threats, are sufficiently 
reduced and contained so that the species is no longer threatened or 
endangered. Because this delisting is based partly on commitments by 
BLM for best management practices to be utilized by all grazing lessees 
and other such practices that will limit encroachment by nonnative 
plants, the Service will monitor, as part of the required post-
delisting monitoring, the commitments by BLM.
    In summary, Eriastrum hooveri is more widespread and abundant than 
was documented at the time of listing and is more resilient and less 
vulnerable to certain activities, particularly impacts from grazing and 
oil and gas development, than previously thought. Consequently, E. 
hooveri is no longer likely to become in danger of extinction within 
the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range. This action removes E. hooveri from the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Species.

Effective Dates

    In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(d), we have determined that this 
rule relieves an existing restriction and good cause exists to make the 
effective date of this rule immediate. Delay in implementation of this 
delisting would cost government agencies staff time and monies 
conducting formal section 7 consultation on actions that may affect 
species no longer in need of the protections under the Act. Relieving 
the existing restrictions associated with this listed species will 
enable Federal agencies to focus their attention on other species in 
need of protection.

Effects of the Rule

    This action removes Eriastrum hooveri from the List of Endangered 
and Threatened Plants and removes the protections afforded E. hooveri 
under the Act. However, protection provided to E. hooveri through 
incidental take permits for co-occurring listed animal species 
associated with HCPs issued under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act will 
continue by virtue of E. hooveri remaining as a covered species in HCPs 
developed for multiple species that remain listed under the Act. 
Currently, E. hooveri is a covered species in at least six HCPs in the 
San Joaquin Valley for which incidental take permits have been issued 
for various listed animal species. After delisting, E. hooveri will no 
longer be a covered listed species under these existing multi-species 
HCPs; instead E. hooveri becomes a covered non-listed species under the 
same HCP as of the effective date of this final rule. In order to 
receive No Surprises assurances, the permit holder must continue to 
abide by the original conditions of the permit (50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 
17.32(b)(95)). If the permittee's actions violate the terms of the 
permit, then the permittee is outside the safety net of No Surprises 
should the species be relisted under the Act in the future.
    After the effective date of this rule, Federal agencies will no 
longer be required to consult with us under section 7 of the Act to 
ensure that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely 
to jeopardize the continued existence of Eriastrum hooveri. However, 
BLM intends to designate E. hooveri as a sensitive species and will 
continue to minimize impacts to the species at all known sites that are 
under its jurisdiction. The use of E. hooveri must comply with State 
regulations. There is no designated critical habitat for this species. 
There are no specific preservation or management programs for the 
species that are terminated.

Post-Delisting Monitoring

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires that the Secretary of the 
Interior, through the Service, implement a monitoring program for not 
less than five years for all species that have been recovered and 
delisted. Post-delisting monitoring (PDM) refers to activities 
undertaken to verify that a species delisted due to recovery remains 
secure from risk of extinction after it has been removed from the 
protections of the Act. The primary goal of PDM is to confirm that the 
species does not require relisting as threatened or endangered during 
the period following removal of the Act's protection. Therefore, we 
anticipate that data collection for PDM will be but a subset of that 
which was collected in support of the delisting rule. In general, PDM 
plans will monitor demographic data over a set period of time, and may 
monitor residual threats (see ``Definitions'') or the effect on the 
species of the removal of the protections afforded by the Act, or be 
designed to detect new threats. If at any time during the PDM data 
indicate that protective status under the Act should be reinstated, we 
can initiate listing procedures, including, if appropriate, emergency 
listing. A PDM plan is being drafted in a cooperative effort between 
the Service and BLM to guide the collection and evaluation of pertinent 
information over the monitoring period.

Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan Overview

    The management practices of, and commitments by, the BLM, on whose

[[Page 57837]]

land a substantial number of the new populations have been found, will 
afford adequate protection to the species upon delisting, when 
Eriastrum hooveri will be designated by BLM as a sensitive species 
pursuant to BLM Manual 6840 and California State Manual Supplement H-
6840.06. The post-delisting monitoring, required under section 4 of the 
Act, will be facilitated by BLM's implementation of their Caliente 
Resource Management Plan (RMP) (BLM 1996). Under the RMP and separate 
agreements, BLM will conduct species-specific monitoring as well as 
monitoring of residual threats at representative sites within the 4 
metapopulations. Threats considered ``residual'' for E. hooveri are 
habitat disturbance, removal of protections afforded by the Act, and 
poorly managed grazing and encroachment by nonnative plants.
    The Service will monitor the implementation of these commitments 
for the first 5 years following delisting. During this time the RMP and 
other BLM commitments will be reviewed annually by the Service. The 
Service will monitor BLM's commitment to declare Eriastrum hooveri a 
sensitive species, and BLM's implementation of the RMP with regard to 
residual threats. The Service will monitor the management commitments 
by BLM to limit habitat disturbance; the collective commitments by BLM, 
particularly the sensitive species designation, which provide 
protections similar to those afforded by the Act; and the use of best 
management practices by all grazing lessees and BLM's implementation of 
other such practices to limit encroachment by nonnative plants. 
Additionally, we will review the data on residual threats and E. 
hooveri collected by BLM under their monitoring plan. At the close of 5 
years we will evaluate whether BLM's RMP affords the conditions 
necessary to maintain the species in sufficient numbers and 
distribution such that the status of E. hooveri is secure.
    The BLM monitoring plan is being designed to detect changes in the 
status of Eriastrum hooveri primarily by monitoring residual threats 
and habitat conditions. The BLM will monitor residual threats coupled 
with species-specific monitoring, in a representative fashion within 
all four metapopulations, including the San Joaquin Valley floor 
metapopulation. The BLM's monitoring plan will be agreed upon by the 
    Thresholds that would trigger an extension of monitoring or a 
status review will be presented in the Service's draft post-delisting 
monitoring plan. At the end of the 5-year period, we may end post-
delisting monitoring if information indicates that the overall status 
of Eriastrum hooveri is secure (i.e., BLM's RMP affords the conditions 
necessary to maintain the species in sufficient numbers and 
distribution such that the status of E. hooveri is secure).

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR 1320, 
which implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act, 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 OMB control number. Implementation of this 
rule does not include any collections of information that require 
approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

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 Act. We published a notice 
outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on 
October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (see ADDRESSES section).


    The primary author of this final rule is Graciela Hinshaw, 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(see ADDRESSES section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Regulation 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 `` Eriastrum 
hooveri, Hoover's woolly star'' under ``Flowering Plants'' from the 
List of Endangered and Threatened Plants.

    Dated: September 29, 2003.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 03-25364 Filed 10-6-03; 8:45 am]