[Federal Register: August 3, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 148)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 44544-44547]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition To Delist Sclerocactus wrightiae (Wright Fishhook Cactus) 
and Initiation of a 5-Year Status Review

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of a 90-day petition finding and initiation of a 5-year 
status review.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), announce a 90-
day finding for a petition to remove Sclerocactus wrightiae (Wright 
fishhook cactus), throughout its range, from the Federal list of 
threatened and endangered species, pursuant to the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We reviewed the petition and supporting 
documentation and find that there is not substantial information 
indicating that delisting of Wright fishhook cactus may be warranted. 
Therefore, we will not be initiating a further 12-month status review 
in response to this petition. However, we are initiating a 5-year 
review of this species under section 4(c)(2)(A) of the ESA that will 
consider new information that has become available since the listing of 
the species. This will provide the States, Tribes, other agencies, 
university researchers, and the public an opportunity to provide 
information on the status of the species. We are requesting any new 
information on the Wright fishhook cactus that has become available 
since its original listing as an endangered species in 1979.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on August 3, 
2005. To be considered in the 5-year review, comments and information 
should be submitted to us by October 3, 2005.

ADDRESSES: Data, information, written comments and materials, or 
questions concerning this petition finding and 5-year review should be 
submitted to the Field Supervisor, Utah Ecological Services Office, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2369 West Orton Circle, Suite 50, West 
Valley City, Utah 84119. The complete file for this finding is 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Heather Barnes, Botanist, (see 
ADDRESSES) (telephone 801-975-3330).



    Sclerocactus wrightiae (Wright fishhook cactus) is a small barrel 
shaped cactus, with short central spines. Mature adults produce vessel-
shaped, cream-colored flowers with magenta filaments. Wright fishhook 
cactus is known to occur across portions of four counties in Utah. It 
has been found on soil formations, such as Emery sandstone, Mancos 
shale, Dakota sandstone, Morrison, Summerville, Curtis, Entrada 
sandstone, Carmel, Moenkopi, and alluvium (Neese 1987; Clark and 
Groebner 2003). Vegetation associations include semi-barren sites 
within desert scrub or open pinyon juniper woodland communities at 
1,300 to 2,300 meters (4,200 to 7,600 feet) in elevation. On October 
11, 1979, we listed Wright fishhook cactus as an endangered species (44 
FR 58866) based on its limited population size and distribution as well 
as known and potential threats from collection, mineral resource 
exploration and extraction activities, and off-road vehicle (ORV) use.
    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted. ``Substantial information'' is 
defined in 50 CFR 424.14(b) as ``that amount of information that would 
lead a reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the 
petition may be warranted.'' Petitioners need not prove that the 
petitioned action is warranted to support a ``substantial'' finding; 
instead, the key consideration in evaluating a petition for 
substantiality involves demonstration of the reliability and adequacy 
of the information supporting the action advocated by the petition. We 
do not conduct additional research at this point, nor do we subject the 
petition to rigorous critical review. If we find substantial 
information exists to support the petitioned action, we are required to 
promptly commence a status review of the species (50 CFR 424.14).
    On February 3, 1997, we received a petition from the National 
Wilderness Institute, to remove Wright fishhook cactus from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants on the

[[Page 44545]]

basis of ``original data error.'' To the maximum extent practicable, we 
are to make the finding within 90 days of our receipt of the petition, 
and must promptly publish the finding in the Federal Register. On June 
29, 1998, we provided a written response to the petitioner explaining 
our inability to act upon the petition due to the low priority assigned 
to delisting petitions in our Listing Priority Guidance Fiscal Year 
1997 (61 FR 64475). That guidance identified delisting activities as 
the lowest priority (Tier 4). Due to the large number of higher 
priority listing actions and a limited listing budget, we did not 
conduct any delisting activities during the Fiscal Year 1997. On May 8, 
1998, we published the 1998 and 1999 Listing Priority Guidance in the 
Federal Register (63 FR 25502) and, again, placed delisting activities 
at the bottom of our priority list. Beginning in 1999, work on 
delisting (including delisting petition findings) was included in the 
line item for the recovery program instead of the listing program (64 
FR 27596). Since 1999, higher priority work has further precluded our 
ability to act upon this petition.

Review of the Petition

    At the time of listing, in 1979, 5 scattered cactus populations, 
which included at least 14 occupied sites, were known to occur in Emery 
and Wayne Counties, Utah, but the plant was not abundant at any 1 
location (44 FR 58866: Neese 1986). The petition cited our 1990 Report 
to Congress: Endangered and Threatened Species Recovery Program (1990 
Report to Congress), which said, ``Population and habitat inventories 
have identified a greater abundance, range distribution, and additional 
populations of this species than originally known (USFWS 1990).'' By 
July 1990, inventories by Neese (1987) and Kass (1990) increased the 
known distribution within Emery and Wayne Counties by documenting 212 
occupied sites, but provided no population estimate. As of April 2005, 
inventories have documented Wright fishhook cactus in portions of 
Utah's Emery County, Sevier County, Wayne County, and Garfield County 
at a total of 264 sites (Neese 1987; Kass 1990; San Juan College 1994; 
Clark 2001, 2002a, 2002b; Intermountain Ecosystems 2002; Clark and 
Groebner 2003; Clark et al. 2004).
    At the time of listing, a population estimate was not available. 
The 1982 Technical Review Draft for the Sclerocactus wrightiae Recovery 
Plan provided a population estimate of 2,000 individuals (USFWS 1982). 
This estimate was not included in the final recovery plan because 
complete inventory and population counts had not been conducted, 
casting doubt on the figure's accuracy (USFWS 1985). Based on recent 
actual counts of individual cacti and recent population estimates, the 
population total may range from 4,500 to 21,000 individuals (Clark 
2001, 2002a, 2002b; Intermountain Ecosystems 2002; Clark and Groebner 
2003; Clark et al. 2004; Clark 2005 unpublished excel data; Kass 1990; 
Neese 1987). The high end of this range is based on estimates of 
questionable reliability. For example, at one site 18 cacti were 
counted, but the estimated population suggested there may be as many as 
500 individuals (Heil 1994). At another site, 384 plants were counted, 
but the population was estimated to potentially include as many as 
10,000 to 15,000 cacti (Heil 1994). Thus, the Service considers the 
high end of this range an overestimate.
    From 1999 to 2002, an interagency rare plant team (Clark 2002a) 
revisited 104 known Wright fishhook cacti sites where at least 10 years 
had passed since the last survey, as documented by Neese (1987) and 
Kass (1990). Sixty-five percent of these sites (68 sites) had fewer or 
no cacti when revisited, while 35 percent (36 sites) had the same or a 
greater number of individuals present (Clark 2001, 2002a, 2002b; 
Intermountain Ecosystems 2002; Clark and Groebner 2003; Clark et al. 
2004; unpublished excel data Clark 2005, Kass 1990, Neese 1987). Based 
on demographic monitoring information collected from 1993 to 2000, Kass 
(2001a; Intermountain Ecosystems 2003) found--(1) No sizable 
populations with adults larger than 9.0 centimeters (3.5 inches) wide, 
which represent the most reproductive size-class; (2) that populations 
showed low recruitment with a mortality-to-recruitment ratio of 2.5 to 
1; and (3) the species was experiencing a slow decline. Overall, the 
species appears to be experiencing a population recession (Kass, pers. 
comm. 1997; Kass, pers. comm. 2004). Documented declines appear to be 
linked to--(1) Changes in reproductive age-class structure (primarily 
influenced by cactus borer beetle (Moneilma semipunctatum) and 
collection activities); (2) direct mortality (the documented causes of 
which include cactus borer beetle predation, cattle trampling, and 
crushing by ORVs); and (3) habitat disturbance (including cattle use, 
ORV activities, hiking and horse trails, dirt bikes, non-designated 
parking, road grading, and group camping) (Clark and Groebner 2003; 
Clark et al. 2004; Kaas 2001a, 2001b).

Conservation Status

    In addition to discussing the distribution, status and trends of 
the species, the petition also asserts that ``other new scientific 
information gathered since the time of listing already in the 
possession of the USFWS'' indicates that the species should be 
delisted. Because the ESA requires an analysis of the threats faced by 
the species before delisting can occur, we consider that the petition 
is referencing information affecting these threats. Therefore, what 
follows below is a preliminary review of the factors affecting this 

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

    The 1979 listing included mineral exploration, ORV use, and 
development for a power generation station as threats to the species' 
habitat and range (44 FR 58866). Additionally, the best scientific and 
commercial information currently available suggests that direct 
mortality has been caused by cattle trampling and crushing by ORVs, and 
that habitat disturbance has been caused by cattle use, ORV activities, 
hiking and horseback riding, dirt bike use, non-designated parking, 
road grading, and group camping when conducted in non-designated areas 
(Clark and Groebner 2003; Clark et al. 2004; Kaas 2001a, 2001b). The 
petition provided no information addressing these factors.

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

    The original listing stated that ``one of the major factors in the 
decline of this species at present is field collection by amateur and 
professional cactus fanciers for commercial and hobby purposes. These 
fanciers could quickly reduce known populations if protective measures 
are not initiated'' (44 FR 58866). Documented illegal collection 
activities continue to be a significant factor negatively affecting 
reproduction and population structure (Clark and Groebner 2003; Clark 
et al. 2004; Kaas 2001a, 2001b). The petition provided no information 
addressing this factor.

C. Disease or Predation

    The original listing suggested disease and predation were not 
factors impacting the extinction probability of Wright fishhook cactus 
(44 FR 58866). The best scientific and commercial information currently 
available suggests predation by the cactus borer beetle, which may 
select for larger adult cacti, is causing direct mortality and 
affecting population age-class structure (Clark

[[Page 44546]]

and Groebner 2003; Clark et al. 2004; Kaas 2001a, 2001b). The petition 
provided no information addressing this factor.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The original listing suggested that Utah State law provided no 
protections for the species (44 FR 58866); the Convention on 
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 
(CITES) provided protection against international trade, but ``[did] 
not help regarding internal trade'' (44 FR 58866); and ``Bureau of Land 
Management (BLM) regulations offer some protection to vegetative 
resources, but do not address Wright fishhook cactus directions'' (44 
FR 58866). The petition did not discuss the adequacy of regulatory 

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    The original listing suggested that the species was ``extremely 
limited in range * * *, extremely vulnerable to any sort of disturbance 
and could be completely extirpated by even the most trivial mishap'' 
(44 FR 58866). The petition cites our 1990 Recovery Report to Congress, 
which suggested ``a greater abundance, range distribution, and 
additional populations of this species than originally known'' (USFWS 
1990). Individual sites remain vulnerable to extirpation through 
disturbance. Many of the known Wright fishhook cactus sites are small 
in number (less than 25 plants) and widely separated in distance (Clark 
2001, 2002a, 2002b; Intermountain Ecosystems 2002; Clark and Groebner 
2003; Clark et al. 2004; Kass 1990; Neese 1987). Across a 10-year 
period, 65 percent of documented populations experienced a decline or 
extirpation (Clark 2001, 2002a, 2002b; Intermountain Ecosystems 2002; 
Clark and Groebner 2003; Clark et al. 2004; Clark 2005 unpublished 
excel data; Kass 1990; Neese 1987). Based on the above discussion, we 
do not believe that the petition has presented substantial scientific 
information to indicate that other natural or manmade factors no longer 
threaten the continued existence of Wright fishhook cactus throughout 
all or a significant portion of the species' range.


    We have reviewed the petition and literature cited in the petition 
and evaluated that information in relation to other pertinent 
literature and information available in our files. Although greater 
population numbers and distribution of Wright fishhook cactus are known 
to occur today compared to available information at the time of the 
1979 listing, recent site-specific population threats and declines also 
have been documented (Kass 2001a; Kass 2001b; Clark and Groebner 2003; 
Clark et al. 2004). The petitioner stated that ``other new scientific 
information gathered since the time of listing which is in possession 
of the Service'' supports delisting; however, the petition did not 
identify this new scientific information. In addition, the petitioner 
did not include any detailed narrative justification for the delisting 
of Wright fishhook cactus or provide information regarding the status 
of the species over a significant portion of its range or include any 
persuasive supporting documentation for the recommended administrative 
measure to delist the species. After this review and evaluation, we 
find the petition does not present substantial information to indicate 
that delisting the Wright fishhook cactus may be warranted at this 

Five-Year Review

    Under the Act, the Service maintains a List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and Plant species at 50 CFR 17.11 (for animals) and 
17.12 (for plants). Section 4(c)(2)(A) of the Act requires that we 
conduct a review of listed species at least once every 5 years. We are 
then, under section 4(c)(2)(B), to determine on the basis of such a 
review, whether or not any species should be removed from the List 
(delisted), or reclassified from endangered to threatened or threatened 
to endangered. Delisting a species must be supported by the best 
scientific and commercial data available and only considered if such 
data substantiate that the species is neither endangered nor threatened 
for one or more of the following reasons: (1) The species is considered 
extinct; (2) the species is considered to be recovered; and/or (3) the 
original data available when the species was listed, or the 
interpretation of such data, were in error. Any change in Federal 
classification would require a separate rulemaking process. Our 
regulations at 50 CFR 424.21 require that we publish a notice in the 
Federal Register announcing those species currently under active 
review. This notice announces our initiation of a 5-year review of 
Wright fishhook cactus.

Information Solicited

    To ensure that the 5-year review is complete, we are soliciting any 
additional information, comments, or suggestions on Wright fishhook 
cactus from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, Tribes, 
the scientific community, industry, environmental entities, or any 
other interested parties. Information sought includes any data 
regarding historical and current distribution, biology and ecology, 
ongoing conservation measures for the species, and threats to the 
species. We also request information regarding the adequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms.
    The 5-year review will consider the best scientific and commercial 
data regarding the Wright fishhook cactus that has become available 
since the current listing determination or most recent status review, 
such as:
    (1) Species biology, including but not limited to population 
trends, distribution, abundance, demographics, genetics, and taxonomy;
    (2) Habitat conditions, including but not limited to amount, 
distribution, and suitability;
    (3) Conservation measures that have been implemented that benefit 
the species;
    (4) Threat status and trends; and
    (5) Other new information or data.
    If you wish to comment on the 5-year review, you may submit 
information to the Field Supervisor, Utah Ecological Services Office 
(see ADDRESSES). Our practice is to make comments, including names and 
home addresses of respondents, available for public review during 
regular business hours. Respondents may request that we withhold a 
respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish to withhold 
your name or address, you must state this request prominently at the 
beginning of your comment. However, we will not consider anonymous 
comments. To the extent consistent with applicable law, we will make 
all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals 
identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations 
or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety. 
Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 

References Cited

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


    The primary author of this document is Heather Barnes, Botanist, 
Utah Ecological Services Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see 
ADDRESSES section).

[[Page 44547]]

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

    Dated: July 19, 2005.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 05-15301 Filed 8-2-05; 8:45 am]