[Federal Register: September 27, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 186)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 56426-56434]
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; 12-Month Finding 
on a Petition To List the Gentry Indigo Bush as Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
12-month finding on a petition to list the Gentry indigo bush (Dalea 
tentaculoides) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended. After reviewing the best available scientific and 
commercial information, we find that listing the species is not 
warranted at this time. We ask the public to submit to us any new 
information that becomes available concerning the status of, or threats 
to, the species. This information will help us monitor the status of 
the species.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on September 14, 
2005. Although no further listing action will result from this finding, 
we request that you submit new information concerning the status of, or 
threats to, this species whenever it becomes available.

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this finding is available for 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the Arizona 
Ecological Services Office, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, 
Phoenix, AZ 85021-4951. Please submit any new information, materials, 
comments, or questions concerning this species or this finding to the 
above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mima Falk, Plant Ecologist, Arizona 
Ecological Services Tucson Sub-Office, 201 North Bonita Ave., Suite 
141, Tucson, AZ, 85745; 520-670-6150, ext. 225.



    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that, for any petition 
to revise the List of Threatened and Endangered Species that contains 
substantial scientific and commercial information that listing may be 
warranted, we make a finding within 12 months of the date of receipt of 
the petition on whether the petitioned action is (a) not warranted, (b) 
warranted, or (c) warranted but that the immediate proposal of a 
regulation implementing the petitioned action is precluded by other 
pending proposals to determine whether any species is threatened or 
endangered, and expeditious progress is being made to add or remove 
qualified species from the List of Endangered and Threatened Species. 
Section 4(b)(3)(C) of the Act requires that a petition for which the 
requested action is found to be warranted but precluded be treated as 
though resubmitted on the date of such finding, i.e., requiring a 
subsequent finding to be made within 12 months. Such 12-month findings 
must be published in the Federal Register.
    On January 7, 2002, we received a petition dated January 2, 2002, 
requesting that we list the Gentry indigo bush (Dalea tentaculoides) as 
an endangered species, and that critical habitat be designated 
concurrently with the listing. In a Stipulated Settlement Agreement, 
signed June 14, 2004 [Center for Biological Diversity v. Norton, CV 03-
473-TUC-FRZ (D. Az)], we agreed to submit a 90-day finding to the 
Federal Register by January 31, 2005. On January 25, 2005, we made our 
90-day petition finding that the petition provided substantial 
information indicating that listing may be warranted. The finding and 
our initiation of a status review was published in the Federal Register 
on February 2, 2005 (70 FR 5401). We are required, pursuant to the 
court approved Stipulated Settlement Agreement, to make our 12-month 
finding pursuant to the Act [16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(3)(B)] by September 15, 

Biology and Distribution

    Gentry indigo bush is an erect perennial shrub that grows from a 
woody root crown and can be up to 1 meter (m) (3.2 feet (ft)) tall. It 
is a member of the Fabaceae (Pea) Family. The leaves are compound, 3-6 
centimeters (cm) (1.2-2.4 inches (in)) long with 9-17 pairs of 
leaflets. The leaflets are hairless, notched at the tip, and dotted 
with punctuate glands (translucent pitted glands or colored dots) on 
the lower surface. The flowers are sessile (lacking a stalk), 6 
millimeters (mm) (0.24 in) in length, and are presented in oblong 
clusters. The flower petals are rose-purple. Plants flower in the 
spring, from late March to mid-May. They may produce a second set of 
flowers in late summer and fall in response to monsoon precipitation.
    Howard S. Gentry originally described the species in 1950. It is a 
distinctive member of the genus Dalea with no closely related species 
(Gentry 1950; Barneby 1977). The main distinguishing character that 
separates this species from other sympatric species is the presence of 
elongate, brown, tentacle-like glands on the calyx (the outer whorl of 
flowering parts), lobes, floral bracts (the reduced or modified leaf 
subtending a flower), and branches.
    Gentry indigo bush is known historically in the United States from 
only three areas in southern Arizona: The western and northern slopes 
of the Baboquivari Mountains (Tohono O'odham Nation), the Coyote 
Mountains (Mendoza Canyon), and Sycamore Canyon (Coronado National 
Forest) in

[[Page 56427]]

the Atascosa Mountains. Today, plants are only known to occur in 
Sycamore Canyon and on lands within the Tohono O'odham Nation 
(Schmalzel 2005).
    The plant has also been found at three locations in Mexico. The 
first location was found in 1995, northeast of Hu[aacute]sabas in the 
State of Sonora. In 2004, the species was documented to occur in Sierra 
El Humo, south-southwest of Sasabe, Arizona, in northwestern Sonora, 
Mexico (L. Hahn, pers. comm., 2004). Surveys in 2005 documented the 
persistence of those two populations and discovered a third in the 
Sierra de La Madera (Van Devender 2005).

Surveys in Sycamore Canyon, AZ

    Gentry indigo bush grows in scattered patches at elevations of 
1,097 to 1,219 m (3,600 to 4,000 ft) in Sycamore Canyon and several 
side channels. Plants are usually found on floodplain terraces in sandy 
or gravel soils, or, less commonly, on talus slopes (a slope formed by 
an accumulation of rock debris) close to the floodplain. The usual tree 
canopy for Gentry indigo bush consists of Arizona sycamore (Platanus 
wrightii), Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina), Arizona walnut (Juglans 
major), and several oak species. Plants can be found growing under 
these trees or out in the open. Where Gentry indigo bush grows in the 
semi-active floodplain, plants are exposed to periodic flooding and 
scouring events. Observations made by Gori et al. (1992) and Falk 
(1993) support the idea that plants are adapted to periodic, low-
intensity floods. Plants that had been covered with sediment were found 
to be growing up through the deposited material. The plants can 
reproduce vegetatively (asexually), and roots have been found to 
connect young plants to nearby larger clumps. The ability to reproduce 
asexually presents a problem in estimating population numbers in that 
it is impossible to determine if plants are connected, except by 
uprooting them. As a result, the number of stems counted may not equal 
the number of individuals. Thus, the data from field surveys described 
below should be considered only rough estimates of population numbers.
    There have been limited observations of sexual reproduction in the 
field. Gori et al. (1992) documented some reproduction on the 
monitoring plot, although they had difficulty determining if the new 
recruits were ramets (vegetative offshoots) or seedlings. Small plants 
located in May 2005 were pulled up and were identified as seedlings, 
not vegetative offshoots (Baker 2005). It is not known if the seeds had 
lain dormant in the seed bank or were from a recent reproductive event. 
None of the adult plants had seed pods, and no seed pods were found on 
the ground (Falk, pers. obs. 2005). In fact, plants rarely have been 
observed to produce seed (Falk 1993; Gori et al. 1992). This may be the 
result of timing, as plants may not have been producing fruit at the 
time surveys were conducted. Schmalzel (2005) found seeds within dried 
inflorescences (i.e., flowers) during his survey work in July. Staff 
from the Desert Botanical Garden collected approximately 15 seeds from 
plants they assumed to be Gentry indigo bush in 1998 and 1999, but the 
quantities are too small to conduct germination tests (K. Rice, pers. 
comm. 2005).
    Although this species has adaptations to withstand periodic, low-
intensity flooding, the population in Sycamore Canyon has experienced 
population fluctuations, some of those associated with flood events. In 
1982, a status report documented only 100 plants from Sycamore Canyon 
(Toolin 1982). Following severe winter flooding in 1993, a large 
portion of a monitoring plot that had been established on a floodplain 
terrace washed away, and the overall population within Sycamore Canyon 
declined to 15-30 plants (Falk 1993). Gori et al. (1992) estimated that 
there were 1,400 ``individuals'' in Sycamore Canyon before the heavy 
rains of 1993. The population in Sycamore Canyon has been monitored 
sporadically since 1993. Bertelsen (1997) recorded approximately 500 
individuals. Brooks (1999) found 194 plants, including a small group 
(15) in Pe[ntilde]asco Canyon. A U.S. Forest Service biologist reported 
seeing some patches of Gentry indigo bush while surveying for Sonora 
chub in the canyon (2000, 2001). In three separate surveys over 
consecutive years the numbers of plants varied. Baker (2003) found 100 
plants, and Reina and Van Devender found 36 plants in 2004 (Baker 
2005). In 2005, Baker recorded approximately 450 plants, with many 
seedlings and some resprouts from plants thought to be dead (bare 
branches, no leaves). The latter survey was done in May 2005, when the 
biologists (including Service staff) knew the plants would be 
flowering, allowing easy identification of Gentry indigo bush. 
Additional surveys in Sycamore Canyon were conducted in April and May 
(Darling 2005). These surveys were conducted on four separate visits, 
and approximately 922 plants were found. Of note was the location of 
many plants on talus slopes out of the floodplain. Due to variation in 
survey methodologies, the current estimate for Sycamore Canyon is thus 
between 450 and 922 plants. Schmalzel (2005) observed during his 
surveys that plants were associated with grussy colluvium (i.e., a 
loose accumulation of particles from decomposing granite) found on the 
sides of canyons, and he believed that locations in the floodplain may 
not be as important as those on the sides of the canyon. Schmalzel's 
2005 observation is consistent with the results of Darling's 2005 
survey report where Gentry indigo bush was found on talus slopes in 
Sycamore Canyon.
    The distribution of sub-populations in Sycamore Canyon has changed 
over time. The overall population in Sycamore Canyon is best described 
as a metapopulation, that is, a population consisting of many ``local'' 
sub-populations or patches. Sub-populations may undergo extirpation 
(i.e., loss) while others are created, such that distribution within 
the larger population is dynamic in nature and the species persists at 
a larger scale-- in this case, throughout the canyon. This pattern 
follows Levins' dynamic metapopulation model (1969, 1970) describing 
habitat patches, or islands, with some of the patches disappearing but 
then undergoing recolonization from the remaining patches. For 
instance, a flood event could remove some sub-populations from the 
canyon, but the remaining sub-populations would persist and serve as a 
source of recolonization.
    As a result, it is very difficult to track individual patches in 
the canyon over time. Early monitoring efforts documented the location 
of patches, but successive surveyors have found that previously 
documented patches are not always present. This indicates that patch 
location is very dynamic in the canyon. Based on the Baker 2005 survey, 
the densest plant patches are located in the central portion of the 
canyon (centered around where Pe[ntilde]asco Canyon enters into 
Sycamore Canyon) and areas directly to the north and south. The dynamic 
nature of plant distribution is likely influenced by drought and 
flooding, which is not uncommon for plants found in canyons subject to 
episodic climate events.

Additional Survey Work in Arizona and Mexico

    Gori et al.(1992) status report included a review of historic 
localities in the United States and areas of suitable habitat in 
Arizona and Mexico, except areas within the Tohono O'odham Nation. No 
plants were found in the Coyote Mountains, and the authors surmised in 
the status report

[[Page 56428]]

that the population was extirpated, possibly due to past grazing 
    In Mexico, surveys were conducted in areas not previously known to 
support Gentry indigo bush plants, but where the habitat appeared to be 
suitable. No plants were found in the areas surveyed, which included 
canyons in the following mountain ranges in Sonora, Mexico: Sierra 
Cibuta, La Colorada, Sierra el Tigre, Sierra los Ajos, Sierra Azul, 
Arroyo Las Fresnos, Sierra San Diego, La Angostura, and Sierra San Luis 
(Gori et al. 1992).
    Extensive survey work has also been completed in other areas of 
habitat in Arizona that appear to be suitable, but that were not known 
to have ever supported Gentry indigo bush. Specifically, in Arizona in 
1991, 1998, 2003, and 2005, surveys were conducted with negative 
results in all efforts. Areas surveyed include the Atascosa/Pajaritos 
(Upper Peck Canyon, California Gulch, Holden Canyon, and Rock Corral 
Canyon), the Baboquivaris (Thomas and Sabino canyons), and the 
Patagonia Mountains (Harshaw Creek, Finley and Adams canyons, Flux 
Canyon, and upper Mowry Wash) (Gori et al. 1992). Gentry indigo bush 
was not found in Atascosa, Pen~asco, or unnamed canyons in the Atascosa 
Mountains (Baker 2005), or in the upper reaches of Sycamore Canyon 
(Baker 2003). However, in 2005, Gentry indigo bush was located on the 
Tohono O'odham Nation (Schmalzel 2005). The Tribe should be contacted 
for additional information, if needed.
    In 2005, Dr. Tom Van Devender and Ana Lilia Reina conducted 
extensive surveys for Gentry indigo bush in Mexico. From April through 
June, they visited 22 potential sites in 7 mountain ranges in Sonora, 
Mexico. The ranges surveyed west-southwest of Sasabe to southwest of 
Cananea were the Sierra El Humo, Sierra Las Avispas, Sierra Cibuta/
Guacomea, Sierra Jojoba, Sierra de Los Pintos, Sierra de La Madera, and 
Sierra Azul. Sites surveyed were 1,045 to 1,518 m (3,400 to 5,000 ft) 
in elevation and mostly in canyons in desert grassland/oak woodland 
transition or oak woodland (Van Devender 2005). They also revisited the 
2004 location of Gentry indigo bush in the Sierra El Humo, an isolated 
mountain range near the Arizona border in the Municipio of Altar, and a 
total of 126 plants were found in 6 patches in an unnamed canyon. A new 
population was located in the Sierra de La Madera. This mountain range 
is located east of interstate MEX 15 between Imuris and Magdalena. 
Plants were found in Cajon El Chorro, within the Sierra de La Madera. A 
total of 98 individuals were found in 2 patches. Van Devender returned 
to the 1995 Huasabas site and documented 170 Gentry indigo bush plants. 
This site is atypical, as the plants were found under Chihuahua oaks on 
gentle north-facing slopes, not in canyon bottoms (Van Devender 2005). 
Overall, surveys in Mexico in 2005 documented 394 Gentry indigo plants 
at 3 locations. No other populations of Gentry indigo bush were 
located, and no historical records are known from any of the other 19 
sites surveyed (Van Devender 2005).
    In summary, Gentry indigo bush remains a rare, narrow endemic 
(i.e., restricted to a particular region) in terms of its overall 
numbers, number of populations, and geographic distribution. Dedicated, 
extensive surveys conducted over the years have documented few new 
locations, and all known populations are small. No new locations have 
been found in Arizona despite fairly extensive surveys of apparently 
suitable habitat. In Sycamore Canyon, the overall population has 
fluctuated greatly since surveys began, and recovery from flooding in 
1993 has been slow. Currently, the population constitutes only 32 to 67 
percent of the pre-flood numbers. Most of the older plants are gone but 
there are many seedlings, which provides some evidence of the species' 
resiliency and ability to persist. However, it is not known how many of 
these seedlings will survive and contribute to the reproductive 
potential of the population. The limited demographic monitoring data 
show higher mortality in the small age classes (Gori et al. 1992). In 
some locations, larger and older plants were found completely out of 
the floodplain and up against the canyon walls, which provides some 
assurance that not all of the species' habitat is susceptible to 
flooding. The species has persisted at known locations for some time 
(based on herbarium records), and it seems likely that other areas that 
may support the plant were overlooked in previous survey efforts.

Previous Federal Actions

    Gentry indigo bush was determined to be a candidate species as 
published in the 1980 Plant Notice of Review (45 FR 82480). A species 
with candidate status is one for which we have collected and assessed 
information sufficient to propose listing the species. On April 2, 1998 
(63 FR 16217), we removed the Gentry indigo bush from candidate status. 
The reasons supporting removal from the candidate list were (1) the 
taxon was more abundant or widespread than previously believed or not 
subject to any identifiable threats; and (2) the Service had 
insufficient information on biological vulnerability and threats to 
support issuance of a proposed rule to list. Following receipt of the 
2002 petition, and pursuant to a stipulated settlement agreement, we 
published a 90-day finding on February 2, 2005 (70 FR 5401), finding 
that the petitioners had provided sufficient information to indicate 
that listing of the Gentry indigo bush may be warranted. In order to 
use the best scientific and commercial information available to 
determine whether listing of the species was indeed warranted, two 
public comment periods were opened. The initial comment period was 
opened by the February 2, 2005, 90-day petition finding for a period of 
60 days, through April 4, 2005, and the comment period on the 90-day 
finding was reopened on July 25, 2005 (70 FR 42520), for an additional 
10 days.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and implementing regulations 
at 50 CFR 424, set forth procedures for adding species to the Federal 
List of Endangered and Threatened Species. In making this finding, 
information regarding the status and threats to this species in 
relation to the five factors provided in section 4(a)(1) of the Act is 
summarized below.
    In general, we have focused much of the five factor discussion 
below on the Sycamore Canyon population in Arizona because we have 
specific information about it. Where we have information for 
populations in Mexico and on the Tohono O'odham Nation, we have 
specifically addressed that below.

Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of the Species' Habitat or Range

    Modifications and alteration of Gentry indigo bush habitat are 
associated with watershed degradation, roads, recreational activities, 
undocumented immigrant traffic and associated U.S. Border Patrol 
activities to control illegal entry, and the spread of invasive plant 
species. All of these factors have the potential to alter and degrade 
the species' habitat.
Watershed Degradation
    In general, human-related activities can have an adverse impact on 
the arid watersheds of the Southwest (Bahre and Bradbury 1978; Bahre 
1995; Hadley and Sheridan 1995). Such impacts may include erosion of 
stream channels and loss of herbaceous vegetation caused by 
overgrazing, altered fire regimes, mining

[[Page 56429]]

runoff, off-road vehicle use, road construction, and other 
anthropogenic activities, and all have contributed to reduced quality 
and quantity of riparian and wetland habitat (Hendrickson and Minckley 
1984; Bahre 1995; Hadley and Sheridan 1995; Ohmart 1995; Whelan 1995; 
Debano and Neary 1996; Belsky and Blumenthal 1997; Wang et al. 1997).
    Watershed degradation may be a concern in Sycamore Canyon, which is 
a small canyon cutting through rugged hills located within the Coronado 
National Forest, Nogales Ranger District. Special protection for the 
Canyon is provided by inclusion within the Goodding Research Natural 
Area (RNA) and the Pajarita Wilderness. Lefevre (2000) concluded that 
human influence on Sycamore Canyon is mostly related to downcutting of 
the channel system, sediment movement, and sediment yield to the 
stream, and has resulted in erosion rates above that which would be 
expected under unroaded, unmined, and ungrazed conditions. Within the 
Goodding RNA, mining, roads, and grazing are prohibited, as discussed 
below. However, such activities occur in the hills outside of the 
Canyon and may influence conditions within it.
Grazing Effects on Watershed
    The Sycamore Canyon watershed is 6,737 hectares (ha) (16,648 acres 
(ac)) in size (Lefevre 2000). All but 874 ha (2,160 ac) are within 
grazing allotments. The majority of those lands are on the Coronado 
National Forest, where many different types of uses are authorized 
(e.g., livestock grazing, mining, roads, wilderness). Livestock grazing 
is not permitted within the boundaries of the RNA, including Sycamore 
    The Bear Valley grazing allotment, which is located in the hills 
surrounding Sycamore Canyon, is 9,197.5 ha (22,710 ac) in size. Site-
specific soil surveys (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2002) indicate 
that 75 percent of the allotment is in satisfactory condition, 16 
percent is considered impaired, 8 percent is unsatisfactory, and 2 
percent is in unsuitable condition. Where soils were found to be 
impaired, it was attributed to lack of vegetative ground cover. In 
addition, the soils had altered structure, which inhibits water 
infiltration (Lefevre 2000). Lack of ground cover and compaction of the 
soil can lead to increased quantities of sediment and water flowing 
into the canyon. Between 1983 and 1997, the percent of ground cover has 
increased from 29 percent to 33 percent on this allotment, indicating 
that conditions are improving (Lefevre 1999). The majority of this 
allotment is in satisfactory condition and on an upward trend. The 
number of permitted livestock on this allotment has decreased 
dramatically since 1908, when 1,000 cows were allowed. The numbers were 
reduced to 650 in 1917, 520 in 1930, and stocking was reduced to almost 
zero in 1961 due to range deterioration. Due to improvements in range 
condition the allotment is now permitted for 350 cattle. The overall 
reduction in livestock numbers from 1,000 to 350 cows indicates that 
the current management of this allotment is contributing to the overall 
improvement of watershed conditions, and with improved watershed 
conditions, the amount of sediment entering into Sycamore Canyon would 
be reduced, resulting in improved habitat conditions for Gentry indigo 
bush. There will be continued sediment and precipitation run-off 
associated with the impaired soils due to livestock grazing, but the 
amounts are difficult to quantify and may not be significant.
    According to Van Devender (2005), none of the three Mexican 
populations are accessible to cattle, so grazing does not constitute a 
threat there. On the Tohono O'odham Nation, the influence of grazing is 
unknown, but the species is still present (Schmalzel 2005).
    In summary, the watershed condition of the Bear Valley livestock 
grazing allotment has been improving since the early 1900s. There has 
been an overall decrease in the permitted numbers of cattle on the Bear 
Valley allotment and ground cover has improved to the point where 75 
percent of the allotment is in satisfactory watershed condition. The 
continuation of these sound livestock-management practices will likely 
result in improved habitat conditions for Gentry indigo bush. Sediment 
will continue to move off the allotment, due to the 16 percent of 
impaired soils, but the amounts are difficult to quantify and may or 
may not result in significant effects to the ecosystem. The Mexican 
populations are not subjected to grazing, but watershed conditions 
there are unknown. Similarly, there is little information available 
from the Tohono O'odham Nation.
    Many roads are present in the Sycamore Canyon watershed, and they 
have contributed to overall watershed degradation. However, it is not 
known how these roads affect ongoing erosion and, more importantly, how 
much of the eroded material ends up in the Sycamore Canyon drainage. 
The amount of sediment and surface runoff within the Sycamore Canyon 
watershed may affect Gentry indigo bush and its habitat. The plants 
have adaptations for persisting in spite of flood events that have 
caused sediment to enter Sycamore Canyon, but it is unknown whether a 
threshold exists which, if crossed, may eliminate the metapopulation 
from the canyon. However, as noted above, the species does have the 
ability to recolonize after flood events, and plants located out of the 
floodplain and on associated talus slopes may provide the source for 
recolonization of the plants within the floodplain. The U.S. Forest 
Service maintains a road density of 0.58 km/km2 (0.93 mile/
mi2) within the watershed, and considers these roads to be 
``a primary source of erosion and sediment'' (Lefevre 2000). This 
translates to 38.8 km (24.1 mi) of roads within the watershed, 
occupying 22.2 ha (55 ac) (Lefevre 2000).
    The U.S. Forest Service has no immediate plans to address the 
effects of roads in the Sycamore Canyon watershed; thus sediment 
deposition and scouring in and along the stream channel could still 
occur. Again, we do not know if the sediment production associated with 
the roads is resulting in significant effects to the ecosystem and the 
habitat of Gentry indigo bush. However, we do know that the 
metapopulation has persisted in the canyon under the current road 
conditions. We also note that the U.S. Forest Service closed 
unauthorized roads that crossed the stream at several locations near 
the mouth of Sycamore Canyon and built a bridge where Forest Road 39 
crosses Sycamore Creek, thus eliminating some erosion threats 
associated with roads. It is not known whether roads are a threat to 
either the Mexican or Tohono O'odham populations, but we have no 
evidence that roads have adversely affected the species there.
    Sycamore Canyon is close enough to Tucson and Nogales, Arizona, to 
make it a popular destination for hiking and birding. The flora of the 
canyon supports 624 species of vascular plants, and birders come from 
all over the world to see various species considered rare in the United 
States. Because there are no designated trails within the RNA, 
trampling and compaction of soils from the resulting foot traffic can 
negatively affect the Gentry indigo bush in Sycamore Canyon. Gentry 
indigo bush plants grow on the floodplain terraces where hikers often 
create trails to avoid walking in the stream. Due to its narrow width, 
there are limited terraces in the canyon intensifying the use of Gentry 
indigo bush habitat as places to create trails. Many of the remaining 

[[Page 56430]]

locations are near recreational trails, and plants were found that had 
been trampled (Falk, pers. obs. 2005). Even when the plants are 
flowering, they are not particularly showy and are quite fragile. When 
they are not flowering, they do not stand out, and it is fairly easy to 
step on them without noticing. Although no overnight camping is allowed 
in the RNA, there is unauthorized camping occurring, as evidenced by 
fire rings and obviously trampled areas where human activities had 
taken place. These activities degrade habitat and may reduce the areas 
potentially occupiable by Gentry indigo bush. They may also alter and 
reduce the amount of habitat available for plant germination. This in 
turn affects the ability of the plant to reoccupy sites after 
disturbance events.
    We know of no plan to address the effects of recreation in this 
area or the larger watershed. The degree to which recreational 
activities may affect the population in Sycamore Canyon is not known. 
However, recreation has been ongoing in the canyon in the past, and the 
Gentry indigo bush continues to persist and increase in number; 
therefore, we do not believe recreation is affecting the overall 
population in Sycamore Canyon. We have no evidence that recreation is 
adversely affecting the Mexican or Tohono O'odham populations.
Undocumented Immigrant Traffic/U.S. Border Patrol Actions
    The cutting and/or disrepair of the border fence along the U.S.-
Mexican border by undocumented immigrants is an ongoing concern due to 
the potential for cattle trespassing and trampling of habitat. It is 
very difficult to monitor the status of this fence because it is a long 
hike or horse ride of over six miles down the canyon. The U.S. Forest 
Service does not monitor this fence as part of its allotment 
monitoring. It is possible that the fence could be cut or knocked down 
and livestock could enter the canyon without detection; however, the 
fence has apparently excluded trespass cattle since 1998. Given the 
seemingly slow recolonization of the Gentry indigo bush population in 
Sycamore Canyon since the 1993 flood, a single incursion of cattle 
could have a significant effect on individual clusters of plants in the 
canyon bottom. Currently, the majority of the sub-populations are in 
areas that would be accessible by cattle from the southern end of the 
canyon, absent a functional fence. On the other hand, the 
metapopulation has persisted even through times when the fence was 
down. We do not know what the long-term effects to the metapopulation 
would be from livestock grazing, but it seems unlikely that the entire 
metapopulation in Sycamore Canyon would be severely affected by 
occasional use by trespass livestock.
    Undocumented immigrants crossing the border into the United States 
from Mexico cross through Sycamore Canyon. Although we did not detect 
high levels of use during our 2005 survey, we did observe trash and 
many foot trails in canyons and uplands associated with Sycamore Canyon 
(i.e., Pe[ntilde]asco, Atascosa, Hank, and Yank Canyons). Human traffic 
associated with this activity in the canyon bottom may directly trample 
plants and is likely contributing to Gentry indigo bush habitat 
degradation. It follows that areas receiving heavy use will be under 
surveillance by the U.S. Border Patrol. The U.S. Border Patrol's 
activities could also create additional disturbance by using the same 
foot trails, as well as increasing use of existing roads. We do not 
know if these types of activities are likely to increase in the future 
and cause detrimental effects to Gentry indigo bush and its habitat. 
Undocumented immigrants may also set fires. Although these fires are 
usually accidental (e.g., an escaped campfire), they may be the 
ignition source for a future grassland fire in the watershed.
    The border fence in Sycamore Canyon has remained intact since 1998. 
Border activity ebbs and flows, and it is difficult to predict where 
increased activity will take place. Currently, the level of border 
activity is not threatening the continued existence of the plant in 
Sycamore Canyon.
Invasive Plants
    The invasive buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) is used throughout 
Sonora, Mexico, as a pasture grass, and large natural grassland areas 
have been converted to buffelgrass. Buffelgrass lines the major highway 
in Sonora to the U.S. border. Noxious weed seeds can be spread by the 
wind, on the soles of shoes, and in the tire treads of vehicles. 
Riparian areas can also function as dispersal corridors for the 
movement of invasive plant species (Stohlgren et al. 1998; Parendes and 
Jones 2000). With the increase in border activity, it is probably only 
a matter of time before this highly invasive grass species is found in 
Sycamore Canyon. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural 
Research Service has developed and released a cold-tolerant variety of 
buffelgrass, ``Frio'', which is intended to be used at higher 
elevations and in regions where current buffelgrass cultivars 
experience winter damage (Hussey et al. 2005). These cultivars will 
increase the potential area of invasion.
    Buffelgrass grows very quickly and out-competes native grass for 
water and nutrients. Once stabilized, it rapidly becomes the dominant 
plant cover. Should it become the dominant plant species on floodplain 
terraces, it could replace Gentry indigo bush along with other native 
riparian species in Sycamore Canyon, but it is not known to occur there 
at this time. We do not know if buffelgrass is found near the 
populations of Gentry indigo bush in Mexico, but it may be a potential 
threat to these populations in the future since so much planting of the 
grass has taken place in Sonora, Mexico. As of 1997, over one million 
ha (2,471,000 ac) of desert and thorn scrub in central Sonora had been 
cleared to plant bufflegrass (Van Devender and Felger 1997), but we do 
not know how close it is to invading canyons occupied by Gentry indigo 
    Baker (2005) found at least one, and possibly two, species of 
Pyracantha in Atascosa and Sycamore canyons. This nonnative, aggressive 
species, should it become established and spread in Sycamore Canyon, 
could potentially reduce suitable habitat for Gentry indigo bush.
    Many areas of Sonoran desert grasslands in southeast Arizona have 
been colonized by Lehman lovegrass (Eragrostis lehmanniana), an 
invasive species from South Africa. This grass has become so firmly 
established in southern Arizona that there may be no feasible control 
for it. Lehman lovegrass produces more fine fuel than native grass 
species (Cable 1971; Cox et al. 1984), leading to increased fire 
spread. Lehman lovegrass also increases after fire (Ruyle et al. 1988; 
Sumrall et al. 1991). Currently, the Bear Valley allotment does not 
seem to have continuous patches of Lehman lovegrass, so the effects 
from an altered fire regime due to its presence may not pose a threat 
to Gentry indigo bush. If the density and distribution of Lehman 
lovegrass were to increase on the allotment, then more frequent and 
higher intensity fires would be expected. This could potentially result 
in increased erosion and precipitation run-off, possibly leading to 
more frequent flood events in Sycamore Canyon. More frequent and 
greater intensity flooding may not allow for the recolonization of 
habitat and reestablishment of sub-populations in Sycamore Canyon 
during flood-free intervals, resulting in overall habitat and 
population reduction.
    Establishment of these nonnative grasses in Sycamore Canyon or 

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occupied habitat could compromise habitat quality and possibly endanger 
the long-term survival of metapopulations because the change in fire 
frequency and intensity could increase the frequency and intensity of 
flood events, placing sub-populations at increased risk. However, the 
threats from invasive species are considered to be only potential at 
this time, as there are no populations of the grass species present in 
Sycamore Canyon. We do not know if the populations in Mexico or on the 
Tohono O'odham Nation are threatened by invasive species.
    In summary, there are ongoing and potential threats to the habitat 
of Gentry indigo bush in Sycamore Canyon. Many of the threats 
identified have been minimized (e.g., protection from livestock 
grazing, reduction in livestock numbers, overall improvement in 
watershed health) and while other threats are possible in the future, 
there is no evidence that they are currently affecting the population, 
and certainly not at a level that threatens the species (e.g., invasive 
species, recreation impacts, undocumented immigrant traffic, U.S. 
Border Patrol activities, and wildfire). Because they occupy similar 
habitat (i.e., canyon bottom), the populations in Mexico may be 
affected by the threats discussed in this section; however, due to a 
lack of detailed information regarding these sites, there is no direct 
evidence of threats to Mexican populations. The status of the 
populations in Mexico and on the Tohono O'odham Nation are not known, 
but some of the populations have persisted over time.

Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    There are no known threats to Gentry indigo bush from over-
utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational 

Factor C: Disease or Predation

Grazing Effects on Plants
    This section discusses the threat from cows directly eating the 
plant. Gentry indigo bush plants are palatable, as are most Dalea 
species. Gori et al. (1992) concluded, ``Our surveys of Sycamore and 
Mendoza Canyons lead us to believe that grazing constitutes a threat to 
D. tentaculoides. We observed direct evidence of livestock browsing on, 
and even uprooting, the species in lower Sycamore Canyon where trespass 
cows from Mexico enter the canyon up to an impassable narrows.''
    As discussed above, Sycamore Canyon is found within the Goodding 
RNA and the Pajarita Wilderness within the boundaries of the Coronodo 
National Forest, Nogales Ranger District. Livestock grazing is not 
permitted within the boundaries of the RNA, but trespass cattle use has 
been a sporadic problem (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1998). Trespass 
cattle can enter the canyon from the mouth of the canyon at the 
northern end, and also from the southern end on U.S.-Mexico border. The 
sides of the canyon are generally too steep for livestock. Cattle have 
been observed in the northern reaches of the canyon (Brooks 1999), and 
Brooks noted heavy cattle use in the southern end of the canyon (i.e., 
below ``the narrows'') most likely attributable to trespass livestock 
from Mexico. In 1997, the U.S. Forest Service proposed a set of actions 
in Sycamore Canyon to protect the federally threatened Sonora chub 
(Gila ditaenia). One of those actions included building a fence at the 
northern portion of the canyon to restrict livestock access to the 
riparian areas. As long as this fence is maintained and remains 
effective, no direct threat of cattle in the upper reaches of Sycamore 
Canyon exists.
    In the lower reaches of Sycamore Canyon, trespass cattle from 
Mexico may present another problem. Although the U.S.-Mexican border 
fence had been in a state of disrepair,in the fall of 1998, 2.4 km (1.5 
mi) of fence was repaired and information provided to us during our 
status review of the species indicates that the fence is currently 
functional in preventing livestock trespass and has not been recently 
cut (Parker 2005). Thus, while sporadic grazing was historically 
considered a potential threat to Gentry indigo bush, we do not believe 
that trespass cattle from Mexico pose a threat at this time in Sycamore 
Canyon. This determination is based on the protective status of the 
area as an RNA and the measures taken by the U.S. Forest Service to 
construct and maintain a fence preventing cattle from entering the 
canyon from Mexico.
    We know that livestock grazing occurs on Tohono O'odham Nation in 
the general area where the plants were known to be in the southern 
Baboquivari Mountains, but have no recent information on plant numbers. 
We are currently working with the Nation to gather information on this 
population. We anticipate that, if livestock grazing is determined to 
be a concern, we can work cooperatively with the Nation to resolve 
those issues.
    We do not know if the populations in Mexico are affected by 
livestock grazing; nothing was reported on the grazing regime in the 
areas surveyed. Van Devender (2005) noted that the populations he found 
were in areas not accessible to livestock.
    Gentry indigo bush is palatable to other species beside livestock. 
Brooks (1999) provided one observation of a plant being almost totally 
eaten by a rabbit. Schmalzel (2005) also noted one Gentry indigo bush 
that had evidently been clipped at the base by a valley pocket gopher 
(Thomomys bottae), but we do not consider this to be a major threat. We 
acknowledge that rabbits, gophers, and other herbivores may eat plants, 
but we do not think this constitutes a major threat to the species 
because of the size of mature plants and the abundance of other 
herbaceous plants in the canyon available for food.
    We know of no diseases threatening this species.

Factor D: The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The population in Sycamore Canyon is on the Coronado National 
Forest and subject to the general Federal regulations of the National 
Forest System. Gentry indigo bush is on the Coronado National Forest's 
Sensitive Species List. Populations that may be present on the Tohono 
O'odham Nation are not protected by any regulation of which we are 
aware. Mexican populations have no protection because they are on 
private land and are afforded no protection under Mexican laws. The 
Arizona Native Plant Law (State of Arizona) does consider this species 
as highly safeguarded, and thus a permit is required from the Arizona 
Department of Agriculture to salvage the plant; however, no other 
protection is afforded to the species or its habitat.
U.S. Forest Service (Sycamore Canyon, AZ)
    The metapopulation of Gentry indigo bush in Sycamore Canyon is 
within the Goodding RNA and the Pajarita Wilderness. There are no other 
locations on U.S. Forest Service land. The U.S. Forest Service has 
stated that Gentry indigo bush is afforded a high level of protection 
because it shares its habitat with critical habitat of the federally 
listed Sonora chub. The U.S. Forest Service has done much work to 
improve the habitat of Sonora chub, including removal of a road at the 
mouth of Sycamore Canyon, protection of riparian areas at the northern 
end of Sycamore Canyon, and the expansion of the Goodding RNA. These 
actions have contributed to improvement of Sonora chub habitat and are 
likely to improve Gentry indigo bush habitat, as discussed above. Many 
activities are prohibited within the RNA; livestock grazing,

[[Page 56432]]

timber harvest, and overnight camping are examples. A mining withdrawal 
has also been completed for lands within the RNA, for a period of 25 
years. In addition to the Sonora chub, the canyon also supports 
populations of the federally listed Chiricahua leopard frog (Rana 
chiricahuensis) and Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida).
    The surrounding watersheds are also under U.S. Forest Service 
management. A multiple-use policy allows for grazing, recreation, and 
other activities that may be affecting the habitat of Gentry indigo 
bush. These issues were discussed under Factors A and C above.
    In summary, the U.S. Forest Service has completed a number of 
conservation actions in Sycamore Canyon that have improved habitat for 
Gentry indigo bush. Road closures and the protection of riparian areas 
at the canyon mouth have undoubtedly increased the overall health of 
the riparian ecosystem in the canyon. We believe that U.S. Forest 
Service actions and the amount of protection the canyon receives by 
virtue of its wilderness and RNA designation will promote the long-term 
conservation of Gentry indigo bush in Sycamore Canyon.
The Tohono O'odham Nation
    The Tohono O'odham Nation has not drafted specific regulations to 
address sensitive species on their sovereign lands. We have a Statement 
of Relationship with the Nation, and provide technical assistance with 
wildlife and plant issues at their request. The Nation is currently 
working with us on allowing us access to the Baboquivari Mountains so 
that we may assist them in survey and assessment of their Gentry indigo 
bush populations.
    Three locations of Gentry indigo bush have been documented in 
Mexico. We have basic information (e.g., plant community, associated 
plant species, elevation, and substrate) and population estimates for 
these sites. We are not aware of any protection for these areas, but 
Van Devender observed during his 2005 survey work that the sites do not 
have obvious direct threats. Furthermore, all of the sites are in 
remote locations and in canyons with no livestock access (Van Devender 

Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting the Continued 
Existence of the Species

    The known extant Gentry indigo bush populations are small, 
isolated, and threatened by unpredictable variation in demographic and 
environmental characters (i.e. flooding). Genetic factors, such as 
reduced genetic variation due to small population size, may also 
contribute to this species' overall status. Inbreeding depression and 
loss of genetic diversity may occur in small populations of less than a 
few hundred individuals; such loss may reduce the fitness of 
individuals and the ability of the population to adapt to change 
(Frankel and Soule 1981). Both of these genetic considerations result 
in an increased likelihood of extirpation (Lande and Barrowclough 
1987). Climate change may influence precipitation patterns in ways that 
could affect the long-term persistence of the metapopulations.
    The past movement of water and sediment in Sycamore Canyon has 
affected the plants and their habitat. After the 1993 El Ni[ntilde]o 
winter rains, most of the monitoring plot was washed away, and the 
then-known overall plant population declined dramatically, with more 
than 90 percent of the known individuals washed away or covered with 
sediment. Recolonization has slowly occurred; at last count there were 
450 to 922 plants recorded in Sycamore Canyon (Darling 2005), fewer 
than the estimated 1,400 that were documented in 1992.
    Lefevre, a U.S. Forest Service hydrologist (1999), notes that the 
changes observed in Sycamore Canyon after the 1993 flood were, in his 
professional opinion, geologic in nature. Large flood events (e.g., 
greater than the 25-year event) and their effects on channel morphology 
will likely overshadow any management activity of the U.S. Forest 
    In summary, above-average flood events (greater than the 25-year 
event) will likely affect the dynamics of the metapopulation in 
Sycamore Canyon, but U.S. Forest Service actions are not likely to 
influence or minimize the effects from such events. The species does 
have the ability to recolonize after flood events, and plants located 
out of the floodplain and on associated talus slopes (i.e., the sides 
of the canyon) may provide the source for the recolonization of the 
plants in stream habitat.
Population Size and Stochastic Events
    Estimated numbers of the metapopulation in Sycamore Canyon have 
fluctuated dramatically since the early 1990s. The sub-populations had 
seemingly been reduced to very low numbers in 1993, after the canyon 
was subjected to a large flood event. Since that time, overall numbers 
and patches have been increasing. In 2005, we observed many seedlings 
and resprouts, alleviating some of our concern regarding the plant's 
seemingly low reproductive output. We still do not know the 
environmental factors that allow for successful seed germination, and 
do not know how many seedlings will survive. We observed no seedlings 
away from patches, although some patches contained only a few larger 
plants and were dominated by seedlings.
    This species could potentially be negatively affected by 
environmental stochasticity (variations over time in the population's 
operational environment) and natural catastrophes (Menges 1991). The 
minimum viable metapopulation (MVM) size is an important estimate of 
the minimum number of interacting local sub-populations necessary for 
the long-term persistence of a metapopulation (Hanski 1999). In 
general, 15 `` 20 well-connected patches are required for MVM 
(Maschinski, in press). Baker (2005) found 12 patches in Sycamore 
Canyon, but that is only an estimate from one of the five known 
populations. There were likely more patches than he detected. More 
consistent monitoring could help us determine the patch dynamics of 
Gentry indigo bush more accurately. A decrease in the overall number 
and size of patches, and a lack of recolonization of extirpated 
patches, could indicate that the metapopulation is not at equilibrium.
    The most likely adverse scenario in Sycamore Canyon is that of 
catastrophic flooding. Increased rainfall combined with an altered 
hydrograph in Sycamore Canyon may result in many patches being washed 
out. Long-term drought, such as the one the region is experiencing 
currently, may affect the species' ability to recolonize vacant 
patches. In Sycamore Canyon, the combination of small patch size, 
uncertain persistence of the patches, highly variable overall number of 
patches, and a highly dynamic and uncertain environment due to flooding 
and drought could make this population vulnerable to extirpation, 
although it has continued to persist despite such climatic events.
    The species is located in at least five locations, reducing the 
risk of stochastic events affecting all of the known populations 
simultaneously. The population in Sycamore Canyon, despite a severe 
reduction in overall numbers, still persists and is recolonizing the 
canyon. Recent observations of seedling recruitment and resprouting 
indicate that the metapopulation can recover from

[[Page 56433]]

environmental stochastic events. Given the population's persistence in 
Sycamore Canyon, we do not believe that its continued existence is 
threatened now or in the foreseeable future.
Genetic Factors
    Harmful genetic effects, such as genetic bottlenecks and founder 
effects, are often associated with small plant populations (Hedrick and 
Miller 1992). A genetic bottleneck is a significant reduction in the 
genetic diversity of a population resulting from a significant 
reduction of the number of individuals of a species in a specific place 
or time. It is often associated with a stochastic event and can result 
in a loss of genetic diversity. The founder effect (Mayr 1963) refers 
to the establishment of a new population from only a few colonizing 
individuals, which may represent only a small portion of the overall 
genetic variation of the original population. Reductions in genetic 
diversity from these and other causes can have profound effects on both 
short- and long-term population survival, as genetic variation is 
related to a population's ability to survive stochastic events 
(Huenneke 1991; Rogers and Montalvo 2004; Falk et al. in press). In 
Sycamore Canyon, the small number of individuals, small size of the 
metapopulation, and the type and severity of environmental factors to 
which the metapopulation is exposed could influence the genetic 
diversity of the metapopulation.
    The ability of a species to persist over time is related, in part, 
to genetic variation in a population, which provides the basis of 
adaptation to changing environments. The greater the heterozygosity 
(number of different types of alleles) present, the higher the 
probability that at least some plants in a population will be able to 
adapt to changing circumstances (Huenneke 1991; Reed and Frankham 
2003). As populations become depauperate (less variation) in their 
genetic make-up, the ability of the populations to adapt to changing 
environmental factors, like climate change or changes in the local 
environment, may decrease.
    The long-term persistence of a population is also related to the 
fitness of the individuals within the population, where fitness is 
typically measured in terms of survival and reproduction. Inbreeding 
depression is a relative decrease in fitness of offspring resulting 
from either selfing (pollination within the same plant as opposed to 
between two different plants) or mating between closely-related 
individuals compared with outcrossed individuals (Barrett and Kohn 
1991). The reduction in fitness is associated with a higher rate of 
expression of recessive and often lethal alleles (parts of genes that 
control certain characters, i.e., flower color) in a population. This 
condition leads to an overall reduction of fitness in a population 
until the population cannot produce viable offspring. We do not know if 
this is a factor for Gentry indigo bush because we have not identified 
the type of breeding system (e.g., obligate outcrosser, selfing, or 
combination). Thus, we have no information to indicate that genetic 
factors and small population size are a threat to Gentry indigo bush 
now or in the foreseeable future. Further, we have no documentation 
that this species historically persisted in significantly higher 
numbers than it does today, so its rarity is not necessarily an 
indication of excessive vulnerability to extinction.
Climate Change
    Mean annual temperatures rose 1.1-1.7 degrees Celsius (C) (2.0-3.1 
degrees Fahrenheit (F)) in the American Southwest in the 20th century, 
and are predicted to rise 4.5-6.1 degrees C (8.1-11.0 degrees F) in the 
21st century. Predictions of changes in precipitation are less certain; 
however, some models predict as much as a doubling of annual 
precipitation, with the largest increases in winter precipitation 
(Southwest Regional Assessment Group 2000). But these predictions 
contrast with current trends of a warming North Atlantic and cooling 
tropical Pacific, with associated changes from a relatively wet period 
to drought, insect outbreaks in Southwestern forests, and increasing 
wildfires (Patterson 1997; Betancourt 2004). Some models predict 
dramatic changes in Southwestern vegetation communities as a result of 
climate change (Thompson et al. 1997). Climate change can occur 
abruptly, with associated major changes in the environment (National 
Academy of Sciences, Committee on Abrupt Climate Change 2002). Climate 
change could affect metapopulations of Gentry indigo bush in 
unpredictable ways. For example, changes in precipitation may increase 
the frequency and magnitude of flood events, possibly affecting the 
distribution and persistence of patches in occupied habitat. Rainfall 
patterns may shift towards more summer precipitation and less winter 
precipitation. The germination of seeds may be linked to seasonal 
rainfall events, and changes in rainfall patterns may affect the 
population dynamics of this species. We have no information to indicate 
that climate change constitutes a threat to Gentry indigo bush now or 
in the foreseeable future.
    In summary, Gentry indigo bush remains a rare, narrowly distributed 
endemic plant species throughout its range in southern Arizona and in 
Mexico. Extensive survey work in the United States and Mexico has 
increased the documentation of populations by one and reconfirmed the 
existence of two populations in Mexico. In total, there are 
approximately 1,400 individuals, distributed among 5 sites. There are 2 
confirmed populations in the United States, containing over 66 percent 
of the known individuals. At this time, the majority of Gentry indigo 
bush in the United States is located within Sycamore Canyon; we do not 
have an accurate assessment of the numbers of Gentry indigo bush on the 
Tohono O'odham Nation. We have no information indicating that 
populations in Mexico or on the Tohono O'odham Nation are experiencing 
any direct threats. The populations, based on observations of the 
Sycamore Canyon metapopulation, have the ability to recover from floods 
and drought. We have seen seedlings and plants resprout, alleviating 
our concern regarding the plant's ability to reproduce and recover from 
flood events and sediment deposition. Threats to the Sycamore Canyon 
population have been minimized by U.S. Forest Service actions, and 
ongoing activities are not immediately threatening the population.


    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding past, present, and future threats faced 
by the species. We reviewed the petition, available published and 
unpublished scientific and commercial information, and information 
submitted to us during the public comment periods on our 90-day 
finding. This finding reflects and incorporates information we received 
during the public comment periods. We also consulted with recognized 
plant experts, including those most familiar with this species, and 
other Federal resource agencies. On the basis of our review, we find 
that the petitioned action of listing the Gentry indigo bush is not 
    In making this finding, we recognize that one historical population 
in the United States has been extirpated and is presumed lost. We also 
recognize that populations are still present on the Tohono O'odham 
Nation, but that those populations are under the management of a 
sovereign nation and subject to their laws. The same is true for 
populations in Sonora, Mexico. There are ongoing

[[Page 56434]]

activities and natural events that may be affecting the habitat and 
reestablishment of the species. Other threats, like undocumented 
immigrant traffic, are larger than one agency's jurisdiction. However, 
we believe that existing regulatory mechanisms are sufficient to 
protect the species. The overall existing management of the U.S. Forest 
Service is protecting much of the habitat in Sycamore Canyon. We also 
acknowledge that, due to small population size, demographic or genetic 
factors may apply to each of the locations in Arizona and Sonora, 
Mexico, but we have no genetic information to determine whether this is 
indeed the case.
    We conclude that the Gentry indigo bush does not warrant listing at 
this time. In order to make a warranted finding, the species must, at a 
minimum, meet the definition of a threatened species. In accordance 
with section 3(19) of the Act, a threatened species is one which is 
likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range. Based on all the information 
we have gathered and reviewed, we do not conclude this to be the case 
for the following reasons.
    Populations have persisted in all but one of the known locations 
over time. A new population was located in Mexico and offers hope that 
there may be more populations located with additional surveys. Areas 
that were previously overlooked as suitable habitat outside of the 
floodplain appear to support Gentry indigo bush. Thus, populations may 
not be as vulnerable to extirpation from flood events as previously 
thought since the species does have the ability to recolonize after 
flood events, and plants located out of the floodplain and on the sides 
of the canyon could provide a source for the recolonization of plants 
in stream habitat. The largest known population occurs in Sycamore 
Canyon within the Goodding RNA, where mining, roads, and grazing are 
prohibited and where the U.S. Forest Service has completed a number of 
conservation actions that have improved the habitat for Gentry indigo 
bush. Additionally, as noted above, the actions of the U.S. Forest 
Service and the protection that the canyon receives by virtue of its 
wilderness and RNA designations will continue to provide for the long-
term conservation of Gentry indigo bush in Sycamore Canyon. The 
metapopulation in Sycamore Canyon has persisted through some dramatic 
environmental events, and its numbers have increased; thus, we believe 
it will continue to persist into the future. Other factors (e.g., 
watershed degradation, invasive species, undocumented immigrant and 
U.S. Border Patrol activities, recreation, fire, climate change, and 
genetic factors associated with small population size) discussed above 
have not been documented as more than low magnitude or potential 
threats, and therefore it is not reasonably foreseeable that these 
factors pose threats over a significant portion of the species' range. 
We anticipate that we will have the opportunity to work cooperatively 
with the Tohono O'odham Nation, as we have in the past, to census their 
populations and address potential concerns, if necessary. We also plan 
to emphasize the need for and participation in future monitoring 
efforts, surveys, and genetic studies.
    The Service does not believe the Gentry indigo bush is likely to 
become a threatened species throughout either all or a significant 
portion of its range in the foreseeable future. The only population for 
which we have a thorough threats assessment is the one on U.S. Forest 
Service land in Sycamore Canyon. While the Sycamore Canyon population 
is not entirely devoid of potential threats, we believe that U.S. 
Forest Service management (e.g., RNA and Wilderness designations, 
exclusion of both domestic and Mexican cattle from the habitat) 
sufficiently ameliorates human-influenced threats, while its 
persistence over time through droughts and floods, and its discovery 
outside the floodplain, render it unlikely to be extirpated from the 
canyon as a result of natural factors.
    Threats facing the other populations are less well known. Three 
populations are known from Mexico. One population in Mexico has been 
present since its original discovery in 1995, another one was relocated 
in 2005 after it was initially detected in 2004, and the remaining 
population was only detected in 2005. Based on this information, two of 
the populations are known to have persisted. In addition, according to 
information received during the public comment period, the Mexico 
populations are in areas not accessible to cattle. We can verify that 
plants still exist on the Tohono O'odham Nation. The fact that the 
Mexican and Tohono O'odham Nation populations have persisted under 
current management and through various climatic conditions provides 
evidence that whatever threats may exist, if any, are not significant. 
In summary, we have no evidence to indicate that any portion, let alone 
a significant portion, of the species' range is threatened to the 
extent that listing under the Act is warranted.
    We will continue to monitor the status of this species and will 
accept additional information and comments at any time from all 
concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, 
and any other interested party concerning this finding. This 
information will help us monitor and encourage beneficial measures for 
this species.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Field Supervisor at the Arizona Ecological Services 
Office (see ADDRESSES section).


    The primary author of this document is the Arizona Ecological 
Services Office (see ADDRESSES section).

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

    Dated: September 14, 2005.
Marshall Jones,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 05-18881 Filed 9-26-05; 8:45 am]