[Federal Register: February 28, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 39)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 9988-9999]
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 List the Black Hills Mountainsnail as Threatened or 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to list the Black Hills mountainsnail 
(Oreohelix cooperi) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). We find the petition does not 
provide substantial scientific information indicating that listing the 
Black Hills mountainsnail may be warranted. Therefore, we will not be 
initiating a further status review in response to this petition. We ask 
the public to submit to us any new information that becomes available 
concerning the status of the species or threats to it.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made February 21, 
2006. You may submit new information concerning this species for our 
consideration at any time.

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this finding is available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the South 
Dakota Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 420 South Garfield Avenue, Suite 400, Pierre, South Dakota 
57501. Submit new information, materials, comments, or questions 
concerning this species to us at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Field Supervisor, South Dakota 
Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES) (telephone 605-224-
8693; facsimile 605-224-9974).



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires 
that we make a finding on whether a petition to list, delist, or 
reclassify a species presents substantial scientific or commercial 
information to indicate that the petitioned action may be warranted. We 
are to base this finding on scientific information provided in the 
petition and information readily available in our files. To the maximum 
extent practicable, we are to make this finding within 90 days of our 
receipt of the petition, and publish our notice of this finding 
promptly in the Federal Register.
    Our standard for substantial scientific information within the Code 
of Federal Regulations (CFR) with regard to a 90-day petition finding 
is ``that amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to 
believe that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted'' 
(50 CFR 424.14(b)). If we find that substantial scientific information 
was presented, we are required to promptly commence a review of the 
status of the species.
    In making this finding, we relied on information provided by the 
petitioners and readily available in our files, and evaluated that 
information in accordance with 50 CFR 424.14(b). Our process of coming 
to a 90-day finding under section 4(b)(3)(A) of the ESA and section 
424.14(b) of our regulations is limited to a determination of whether 
the information in the petition meets the ``substantial scientific 
information'' threshold.

[[Page 9989]]

    As explained in further detail below, the petitioners and Frest and 
Johannes (2002) refer to the cooperi taxon as Oreohelix cooperi (Black 
Hills mountainsnail), however the accepted name for this entity in the 
published literature is O. strigosa cooperi (Cooper's Rocky 
mountainsnail) (Pilsbry 1934, 1939). We added O. s. cooperi (Cooper's 
Rocky mountainsnail) to our list of candidate species on November 21, 
1991, as a Category 2 candidate species (56 FR 58804). A Category 2 
candidate species was a species for which we had information indicating 
that a proposal to list it as threatened or endangered under the ESA 
may be appropriate, but for which additional information was needed to 
support the preparation of a proposed rule. This snail was listed as a 
Category 2 species again in the November 15, 1994, list of candidate 
species (59 FR 58982). In the February 28, 1996, Notice of Review (61 
FR 7595), we discontinued the use of multiple candidate categories and 
considered the former Category 1 candidates as simply ``candidates'' 
for listing purposes. O. s. cooperi was removed from the candidate list 
at that time. The species currently has no Federal regulatory status.
    On September 27, 2003, we received a formal petition dated 
September 24, 2003, from the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Center 
for Native Ecosystems, Native Ecosystems Council, Prairie Hills Audubon 
Society, The Xerces Society, and Mr. Jeremy Nichols requesting that the 
Black Hills mountainsnail found in the Black Hills of South Dakota and 
Wyoming be listed as threatened or endangered and that critical habitat 
be designated for the species in accordance with section 4 of the ESA. 
The petition lists the scientific name of the Black Hills mountainsnail 
as Oreohelix cooperi. This taxonomic classification has not been 
subject to peer review or publication, and is not currently widely 
used. However, rather than make a determination on the validity of this 
new taxonomic classification, a decision that would more properly be 
made at the 12-month finding stage, we simply accept the petitioners' 
characterization of this taxon and evaluate the petitioners claims 
regarding this entity. Thus, for the purposes of this 90-day finding, 
we refer to the petitioned entity as the Black Hills mountainsnail 
(Oreohelix cooperi). Again, we emphasize that this taxonomy has not yet 
been fully evaluated or accepted by the scientific community. The 
uncertainty regarding the taxonomic classification is described in more 
detail below.
    It is unclear whether the petitioned entity is its own species as 
described by Frest and Johannes (2002) or a portion of the slightly 
more widespread O. strigosa cooperi described by Pilsbry (1934, 1939). 
The Petitioners identify this land snail as the Black Hills 
mountainsnail, Oreohelix cooperi, submitting that the entity be 
returned to full species status. The petitioners relied extensively on 
reports following land snail surveys conducted in 1991, 1992, and 1999 
in the Black Hills by Frest and Johannes (1991, 1993, 2002) with 1995 
survey contributions by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) (Frest and 
Johannes 2002). The argument for elevation of the cooperi taxon to full 
species status by the petitioners and Frest and Johannes (2002) 
includes morphological distinction of the cooperi taxon from other 
similar species (Pilsbry 1934, 1939; Frest and Johannes 2002), and 
uncertainty regarding the original collection site of the nominate type 
species (O. strigosa strigosa) on which the taxonomy of cooperi is 
based (Pilsbry 1916, 1934, 1939; Smith 1937; Frest and Johannes 2002).
    While only the cooperi entity has been petitioned for listing, the 
petitioners and Frest and Johannes (2002) also propose two new species 
of Oreohelix in the Black Hills called Oreohelix new species 1 and 
Oreohelix new species 2. To our knowledge, neither the proposed 
elevation of the cooperi taxon to full species status nor the submittal 
of Oreohelix new species 1 and 2 as a separate species has undergone 
the peer review and publication process; therefore, these proposals are 
not formally recognized in scientific literature.
    Action on this petition was precluded by court orders and 
settlement agreements for other listing actions that required nearly 
all of our listing funds for Fiscal Year 2004. On January 14, 2004, we 
received a 60-day notice of intent to sue, and on December 7, 2004, an 
amended complaint was filed regarding our failure to carry out the 90-
day and 12-month findings on the status of the Black Hills 
mountainsnail and other species. On October 4, 2005, we reached an 
agreement with the plaintiffs to submit to the Federal Register a 
completed 90-day finding by February 21, 2006, and to complete, if 
applicable, a 12-month finding by November 21, 2006 (Biodiversity 
Conservation Alliance et al. v. Gale Norton and Steven Williams (Civ. 
No. 04-02026(GK)).
    A pertinent result of our taxonomic interpretation, as we examine 
only the status of the larger sized O. s. cooperi, submitted as O. 
cooperi by the Petitioners, is that the number of extant colonies 
available for our threats evaluation is decreased from 108 extant sites 
to 41 since our evaluation of the Frest and Johannes (2002) report 
indicates that the smaller form of O. s. cooperi occupies 69 surveyed 
sites (not addressed herein), and 2 sites contain both size morphs.

Species Biology

    Anderson (2005) summarized descriptions of the Black Hills 
mountainsnail (previously provided by Binney 1859; Pilsbry 1939; and 
Frest and Johannes 2002). Detailed studies on the biology of the Black 
Hills mountainsnail appear to be lacking. Frest and Johannes (2002) 
state that ``life history of most Rocky Mountain land snail genera is 
imperfectly understood, but recent observations in Idaho on the genus 
Oreohelix may be taken as representative.'' It appears that further 
study of this species is warranted to determine the accuracy of current 
submissions and extrapolations, and to unveil additional details 
regarding this species' biology and ecology (Anderson 2005).
    The Black Hills mountainsnail is a litter-dwelling mollusk, known 
to occupy calcareous soils in the Black Hills; calcium is required for 
the formation and growth of their shells (Solem 1974; Frest and 
Johannes 2002; Anderson 2005). Snails also are generally subject to 
desiccation mortality (Frest and Johannes 2002); thus the species is 
not equally distributed within the Black Hills, as colonies are 
restricted to specific soil types and moisture regimes. In the Black 
Hills, areas underlain by limestone appear to be particularly favorable 
for relative diversity of snail fauna, while regions underlain by 
granite or with ``exposed gypsum-bearing units'' (Frest and Johannes 
2002) tended to be relatively lacking in land snails (Frest and 
Johannes 2002). Occupied habitat types documented by Frest and Johannes 
(1991, 1993, 2002), generally confirmed by Anderson (2005), include 
lowland wooded areas and talus slopes, often with a northern and/or 
eastern exposure. The majority of extant sites are in forests 
consisting of the Pinus ponderosa community series which dominates much 
of the Black Hills. Typical habitats include partially closed canopy 
forests with a deciduous tree and shrub component (Alnus [or Corylus, 
see Anderson 2005], Acer, and Betula) sometimes with locally common 
Picea glauca. Riparian woodlands also are occupied, often in areas with 
adjacent steep rocky slope bases. The species is able to withstand a 

[[Page 9990]]

high proportion of spruce or pine needles in the duff, does not prefer 
the ``most moist'' (Frest and Johannes 2002) areas and may occur at 
sites with relatively less vegetative cover and thin litter than other 
Black Hills land snail species (Frest and Johannes 2002; Anderson 
    The Black Hills mountainsnail is thought to be herbivorous, feeding 
on partially decayed deciduous leaves and other degraded herbaceous 
vegetation and/or associated bacteria or fungi (Brandauer 1988; Frest 
and Johannes 2002; Anderson 2005). Preferences for leaves of any 
particular plant species are unknown and feeding habits of juveniles as 
compared to adults is not available (Anderson 2005). The species 
potentially matures in 1 to 3 years (Frest and Johannes 2002; Anderson 
2005), perhaps surviving in the wild 2 to 6 years, with average life 
span believed to be less than 2 years (Frest and Johannes 2002). Snails 
may be active in the winter when conditions allow, as they are 
apparently resistant to freezing (Frest and Johannes 2002); however, 
the snails typically aestivate during unfavorable environmental 
conditions, retreating into their shells behind a mucus seal 
(epiphragm), where they can apparently survive for relatively long 
periods of time (Solem 1974; Rees and Hand 1990).
    Breeding biology of Oreohelix cooperi is not well known and that of 
Oreohelix in general is not well documented (Anderson 2005). Frest and 
Johannes (2002) state that activity is likely seasonal--April-June and 
September-November, with breeding occurring in October-November or 
April-May, and young shed (after hatching internally) in May-June or 
September-October. Frest and Johannes (2002) also report that 
reproduction is dependent on environmental conditions, stating that 
breeding may only occur during spring if fall conditions are dry.
    Frest and Johannes (1991, 1993, 2002) have provided the most 
comprehensive information available to date on the status of Oreohelix 
cooperi in the Black Hills. They surveyed 357 sites in the Black Hills, 
and found 41 sites occupied by O. cooperi. They reported that 15 of the 
sites where live specimens were found were ``significantly large'' 
although this is not further defined (Frest and Johannes 2002). Hand 
collection was the survey method utilized; litter sampling (a more 
thorough measure of populations) also was done at some locales. Frest 
and Johannes (2002) categorized each population as rare, uncommon, 
common, abundant or very abundant; although the researchers mentioned 
caveats that relegated the population estimates they obtained to the 
status of ``tentative'' or ``crude'' (Frest and Johannes 2002).

Threats Analysis Presented in the Petition

    Pursuant to section (4) of the ESA, we may list a species, 
subspecies, or distinct population segment of vertebrate taxa on the 
basis of any of the following five factors: (A) Present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of habitat or range; (B) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence. In making this 90-day finding, the 
standard is to determine whether the petition and our files contain 
substantial scientific information indicating that one or more of these 
five factors, considered singly or in combination, pose a threat to the 
Black Hills mountainsnail such that listing under the Act may be 
warranted. Our evaluation of these threats, based on scientific 
information provided in the petition and available in our files, is 
presented below.

A. Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of 
the Species' Habitat or Range

Information on Population Status Provided in the Petition
    The petitioners assert that the Black Hills mountainsnail is now 
rare, but was once more widespread and abundant. They observed that 7 
of 39 [note the apparent discrepancy between petitioners' assertions of 
39 documented sites versus 41 identified in Frest and Johannes (2002)] 
currently known sites occupied by the Black Hills mountainsnail were 
found to have only empty (dead) shells. Presuming snails have been 
extirpated at these sites, the petitioners state that this equates to a 
20 percent reduction in overall population, which they claim is a 
conservative figure as many now-extirpated sites may never have been 
documented. Additionally, species population estimates at 18 colonies 
(56 percent of currently documented sites) are described as rare or 
uncommon, while 9 colonies (28 percent) are described as common or 
abundant. Surveys were conducted in 1991, 1992, 1995, and 1999, and 
while the petitioners acknowledge 8 new colonies were discovered after 
1993, they assert that 2 colonies were extirpated during that time.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Population Status
    Our analysis of Frest and Johannes (2002) indicates that dead 
shells only (no live specimens) were recorded at 7 (17 percent) of the 
41 occupied Black Hills mountainsnail sites. In some cases, live 
specimens were reported on an initial survey, then only dead shells 
found upon site revisitation, and the reverse also is true for some 
locales. Thus, while it is possible that the Black Hills mountainsnail 
may be extirpated at some of these sites, additional surveys are 
necessary to determine occupation status with accuracy (Anderson 2005). 
Our analysis indicated that 28 (68 percent) of Oreohelix cooperi sites 
had population estimates of rare or uncommon (n=15, 37 percent) and 
common or abundant (n=13, 32 percent) according to Frest and Johannes' 
(2002) defined categories. A single site (n=1, 2 percent) was 
documented as having very abundant population estimates, and population 
estimates were undeterminable at several (n=5, 12 percent) of the sites 
due to discrepancies or lack of information provided within the 2002 
Frest and Johannes report. At an additional 7 sites (17 percent) only 
empty shells were found. Although only 10 sites were revisited during 
subsequent surveys, fluctuations in population estimates appeared to 
occur at those sites that were surveyed a second time.
Information on Habitat Threats Provided in the Petition
    The petitioners cite the sensitivity of the Black Hills 
mountainsnail to habitat alterations and the snail's limited motility 
and specialized habitat requirements as factors contributing to its 
current status, which they say is imperiled. Petitioners assert: (1) 
That the taxon has declined in range, habitat, and population size; (2) 
that there have been declines in riparian habitat and mature, dense, 
mesic forested habitat and understory in the Black Hills; and (3) that 
these habitat changes and subsequent declines in Black Hills 
mountainsnail populations and range reductions are caused by domestic 
livestock grazing, logging, road construction, edge effects, herbicide 
and pesticide application, mining, spring development, groundwater 
extraction, and recreation which are described in further detail below.
Domestic Livestock Grazing
    Petitioners state that domestic livestock grazing is generally 
destructive to the Black Hills mountainsnail, and that grazing impacts 
are both direct (e.g.,

[[Page 9991]]

trampling), and indirect (e.g., increased exposure due to vegetation 
alterations). Petitioners implicate more than a century of grazing in 
their assertions regarding extirpations of the Black Hills 
mountainsnail from upland areas and most of the areas within the Rapid 
Creek watershed and Grand Canyon. They maintain that grazing pressure 
has not abated and note that 9 currently-documented sites are impacted 
by grazing; population estimates at 8 of these are reported to be rare 
or extirpated. Grazing also is implicated in the presumed loss of the 
northwesternmost known colony, thereby reducing the known range of the 
species. The petition cites a single instance of a grazed site, 
subsequently protected, that showed an increase in snail abundance when 
revisited. Lack of snails in areas that are heavily grazed, including 
springs which are often troughed for cattle watering, is provided as an 
indication of the negative impacts of grazing. Many snail colonies 
occur within the boundaries of USFS grazing allotments where, the 
petitioners claim, the Black Hills mountainsnail is not adequately 
protected from livestock. Fortuitous circumstances, rather than 
adequate protections, are named as the reason for snail survival in 
currently grazed areas.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Livestock Grazing
    The Service recognizes that grazing generally has negative effects 
on land snail individuals and colonies (Frest and Johannes 2002). 
Alterations of upland habitat and the tendency of cattle to congregate 
in, and significantly degrade, riparian areas (sites often occupied by 
land snails) are documented (Armour et al. 1991; Fleischner 1994; 
Belsky and Blumenthal 1997; Belsky et al. 1999). It follows that such 
impacts would have negative effects on resident land snails. Oliver and 
Bosworth (1999, 2000) and Ports (1996) also observed that grazing has, 
or potentially has, negatively impacted several Oreohelix species in 
other States. In addition, the petitioners' assertions of extensive, 
and at times intensive, grazing pressure within the known range of the 
Black Hills mountainsnail are correct.
    While the petitioners indicate that 9 of 41 known colonies are 
subjected to grazing, another 32 sites (78 percent) are not subjected 
to grazing pressures (Frest and Johannes 2002). Of the 9 grazed sites, 
the petitioners indicate that the species was recorded as rare or 
extirpated at 8 of them. While it appears population estimates at these 
sites are relatively low, we cannot conclude that the Black Hills 
mountainsnail has been extirpated from any of these sites without 
additional survey information (Anderson 2005; Bishop 1977). As noted by 
Frest and Johannes (2002) rarely, if ever, are all individuals of a 
colony found at the surface; the most rigorous sampling method was not 
applied to most sites, as explained above; and several grazed sites 
were surveyed only once. While a lack of Black Hills mountainsnails was 
noted in grazed areas, as well as at some springs developed for 
livestock watering, the petitioners did not provide evidence that these 
sites had been previously occupied by the Black Hills mountainsnail.
    Most historic records of the snail in the Black Hills are primarily 
from the Spearfish Creek vicinity. While the snail has recently been 
documented in areas outside the Spearfish Creek watershed, there is 
little evidence to suggest the species was widespread either within 
these areas or other watersheds where they have not yet been located. 
Habitat requirements (calcareous, moist soils) generally preclude 
widespread distribution of the species in the Black Hills (Frest and 
Johannes 2002). While the petitioners pointed out that many colonies 
occur within USFS grazing allotments, they did not provide substantial 
scientific information to indicate that those colonies are in areas 
actually subjected to grazing. Based on our analysis of Frest and 
Johannes (2002), of 41 extant colonies, 25 (61 percent) are located in 
the Spearfish Creek and Little Spearfish Creek watersheds, areas that 
are included, according to petitioners, within USFS grazing allotments. 
However, the majority of these colonies are in areas not subjected to 
grazing due to their location within the boundaries of the Spearfish 
Canyon Scenic Byway (USFS 1996; Cara Staab, USFS, pers. comm. 2005). 
Livestock grazing is prohibited in the Byway except for occasional use 
as a management tool (USFS 1996). Other extant colonies outside these 
areas may include refugia, sites inaccessible or not preferred by 
cattle where snail colonies can (and do) survive (Baur 1986). 
Futhermore, USFS management direction prohibits heavy grazing in 
occupied snail habitat.
    On the basis of the above discussion, we conclude that the 
petitioners have not provided substantial scientific information 
indicating that listing the Black Hills mountainsnail due to the 
described effects of livestock grazing may be warranted.
    The petitioners state that logging negatively affects the Black 
Hills mountainsnail. Potential logging effects generally include direct 
mortality of individuals (e.g., beneath heavy machinery or burned slash 
piles) and indirect impacts (e.g., increased exposure) as a result of 
habitat alterations. Various forms of logging are asserted to have 
negative, although variable, degrees of effects on the snail; 
clearcutting is asserted to be more problematic than precommercial 
thinning. Tree removal also is noted as a factor limiting expansion of 
colonies and/or dispersal of individuals. Petitioners claim that post-
logging alterations in hydrology may limit available Black Hills 
mountainsnail habitat via increased runoff, decreased groundwater input 
and reduced output from springs and seeps. They also note the lack of 
Black Hills mountainsnail colonies in areas that were completely or in 
some cases only selectively logged to demonstrate logging effects. The 
petitioners assert that the continuation of logging practices within 
the known range of the snail is an ongoing threat to extant colonies. 
Fortuitous circumstances, rather than adequate protections, are cited 
as the reason for snail survival in logged areas.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Logging
    As with grazing activities, logging activities carried out in 
occupied Black Hills mountainsnail habitat may have negative effects on 
resident snail individuals and colonies (Frest and Johannes 2002). 
Black Hills mountainsnails are small, slow, litter-dwelling, relatively 
sessile (do not move much), sensitive to environmental change, and 
subject to desiccation mortality. Thus it follows that activities such 
as logging undertaken at extant locations have the potential to crush 
land snails, compact the soil, and remove litter and existing 
vegetative cover, thereby negatively impacting the Black Hills 
mountainsnail (Frest and Johannes 2002; Anderson 2005). Additional 
potential effects such as altered hydrology and fragmentation of 
habitat are described in literature (Aber et al. 2000).
    The petition noted that different types of logging practices may 
have different levels of effect on the snails, with clearcutting noted 
as more harmful than other methods. Large clearcuts are not currently 
implemented on the Black Hills National Forest, although small patch 
clearcuts of 10 acres (ac) (4 hectares (ha)) or less have been recently

[[Page 9992]]

conducted on fractions of the Black Hills National Forest (0.2 percent 
of the 1.2 million ac [485,623 ha] between 2002 and 2004) to achieve 
specific management objectives (C. Staab, pers. comm. 2005). As per 
USFS directives, no small patch clearcuts were implemented in known 
occupied Black Hills mountainsnail habitats since the Forest revised 
its Land and Resource Management plan in 1997 (USFS 1997).
    The assertion made by the petitioners regarding altered hydrology 
due to logging activities is not supported by instances of reduced 
water availability and subsequent impacts to Black Hills mountainsnail 
colonies. While Black Hills mountainsnail colonies have not been 
located in some surveyed areas that had been recently logged (Frest and 
Johannes 2002), no evidence was provided indicating that these areas 
ever harbored Black Hills mountainsnail colonies. Logging continues in 
Black Hills mountainsnail range, but the petition provides no evidence 
to indicate that areas with extant colonies are targeted for logging. 
The USFS management direction regarding the Black Hills mountainsnail 
(Standard 3103) includes protection of all identified colonies, 
including, but not limited to, those located by Frest and Johannes 
(2002). This is typically implemented by avoidance of these sites by 
ground-disturbing activities such as logging (C. Staab, pers. comm. 
2005). Some areas occupied by the Black Hills mountainsnail are not 
accessible to logging equipment. In addition, in some cases the species 
exists in areas where timber extraction is limited by the USFS (e.g., 
Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway) and/or in habitats lacking timber 
species preferred by logging contractors (C. Staab, pers. comm. 2005). 
Evidence of past logging has been noted at three extant colonies (Frest 
and Johannes 2002); thus, the species can (and does) exist despite 
logging activities within its range.
    We conclude that the petitioners have not provided substantial 
scientific information indicating that listing the Black Hills 
mountainsnail due to the described effects of logging may be warranted.
Roads and Road Construction
    Petitioners assert that roads and road construction have generally 
adverse effects on the Black Hills mountainsnail. Claimed impacts 
include extirpation within the roadway, potential fragmentation of 
colonies, and indirect adverse effects associated with road 
establishment such as increased human access, vegetation alterations, 
and spraying of herbicides (addressed under discussion of herbicides 
and pesticides). The Black Hills has an extensive system of roads, both 
public and user-created, that the petitioners assert have most likely 
led to the extirpation and/or fragmentation of colonies, and 
destruction and/or degradation of habitat. Petitioners note that many 
extant colonies occur near roads, suggesting that this is indicative of 
past and ongoing impacts. U.S. Highway 14A through Spearfish Canyon is 
singled out because the taxon occurs most commonly in the Spearfish 
Creek watershed. The petition claims that effects such as accelerated 
soil erosion and nutrient loss, dewatering of wetlands, and reduction 
of organic production and forage yields have affected, and continue to 
affect, 14 (over 40 percent) extant colonies that are located along or 
very near Highway 14A. Petitioners also indicate that the USFS is 
proposing to establish many miles of new roads via timber sales within 
Black Hills mountainsnail range, although these plans are not 
finalized; they suggest that these roads would threaten to destroy, 
modify, and/or curtail extant Black Hills mountainsnail colonies and 
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Roads and Road 
    Roads and road construction could generally cause negative effects 
on land snail individuals and colonies via direct mortality of 
individuals within roadways and associated loss of habitat (Frest and 
Johannes 2002; Anderson 2005). Fragmentation of colonies is possible if 
those colonies are divided by a new road (Baur and Baur 1990; Meadows 
2002). Other secondary impacts of roads (e.g., dewatering of wetlands) 
asserted by the petitioners may or may not occur depending on site-
specific conditions.
    The petition's claim that ``many'' colonies exist near roads is 
true; in fact, nearly all of the areas sampled in the 1990s were next 
to roads (Frest and Johannes 2002). Consequently, there may be a 
sampling bias that clouds the issue of potential impacts of roads to 
extant Black Hills mountainsnail colonies. Frest and Johannes (2002) 
acknowledge that they were unable to survey all potential habitats. It 
is unknown how many occupied sites may have been located by searching 
available habitats located away from roadsides. The petitioners 
maintain that the colonies along U.S. Highway 14A are currently 
impacted by roadway effects. However, U.S. Highway 14A is not a new 
roadway and Black Hills mountainsnail colonies continue to exist 
adjacent to it; at many sites, active live snails occur within only a 
few feet of the road shoulder (Frest and Johannes 2002). Initial 
construction of this roadway may have negatively impacted the snail 
(Frest and Johannes 2002; Anderson 2005), but no evidence was provided 
by the petitioner to indicate that colonies currently adjacent to it 
are threatened by ongoing secondary impacts.
    As mentioned by the petitioners, the Black Hills already has an 
extensive road system. The need for significant additional road 
construction is not apparent. The numerous planned logging operations 
mentioned by the petitioners will require new roadways; however, plans 
for these projects are not final and there is no evidence suggesting 
these actions will occur within occupied Black Hills mountainsnail 
habitats. The USFS administers logging practices that may require roads 
on the Black Hills National Forest where the majority of Black Hills 
mountainsnail colonies occur (Frest and Johannes 2002). Current USFS 
policy requires protection of all sensitive snail colonies, including 
extant Black Hills mountainsnail colonies documented by Frest and 
Johannes (1991, 1993, 2002) (C. Staab, pers. comm. 2005).
    Based on the above discussion, we conclude that the petitioners 
have not provided substantial scientific information indicating that 
listing the Black Hills mountainsnail due to the described effects of 
roads and road construction may be warranted.
Edge Effects of Logging and Road Construction
    The petitioners state that Black Hills mountainsnail colonies not 
directly impacted by logging or roads may be indirectly affected by 
edge effects resulting from these activities. The petition asserts that 
the edge between cut and uncut forest results in an altered 
microenvironment 197 to 328 feet (ft) (60 to 100 meters [m]) within the 
uncut area. Increased light, exposure, air and soil temperatures, and 
lower soil moisture, with decreased diversity compared to interior/
undisturbed forest were cited as factors potentially affecting the 
Black Hills mountainsnail, particularly since many extant colonies are 
located within 328 ft (100 m) of roads.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Edge Effects of 
Logging and Road Construction
    The petitioners did not describe any specific impacts to the 
species, either negative or positive. No instances of declines in 
extant Black Hills mountainsnail colonies have been

[[Page 9993]]

linked to edge effects. It is not apparent, based on the current 
existence of colonies adjacent to open roadways for example, that edge 
effects are significantly detrimental to this species. The depth-to-
edge influence indicated by the petitioners includes a variety of 
abiotic and biotic factors (Baker and Dillon 2000) that may or may not 
affect resident mountainsnails. In addition, this depth-to-edge 
influence also can be reduced over time as the edge ``seals'' with 
vegetation (Baker and Dillon 2000). While the Petitioners assert that 
the Black Hills mountainsnail would be adversely impacted by edge 
effects, they do not demonstrate a causative relationship. Therefore, 
we conclude that the petitioners did not provide substantial scientific 
information indicating that listing the Black Hills mountainsnail due 
to the described effects of edge effects resulting from logging and 
road construction may be warranted.
Herbicides and Pesticides
    Petitioners note that herbicide and pesticides presently used in 
the Black Hills can negatively affect the Black Hills mountainsnail, as 
these chemicals are generally toxic to mollusks upon contact or 
ingestion, and herbicides serve to remove vegetative cover, thereby 
increasing exposure to any snails beneath. The petitioners cite 
spraying in the late 1940s through the 1960s and a single extant Black 
Hills snail colony reported to be impacted by recent herbicide 
application as evidence of past and present impacts. Additionally, the 
petitioners note the USFS's recent initiation of a Noxious Weed 
Management Plan which involves the use of herbicides. According to 
petitioners, this plan includes a determination by the USFS that the 
applications may adversely impact individual Black Hills 
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Herbicides and 
    Spraying of herbicides and pesticides at sites with extant Black 
Hills mountainsnail colonies could result in negative impacts to land 
snail individuals via impacts due to direct contact, ingestion and/or 
vegetation removal resulting from spraying actions (Frest and Johannes 
2002; Anderson 2005). Spraying herbicides to control nonnative plants, 
a potential secondary impact of roads, also has the potential to result 
in snail mortality if individuals are present within sprayed areas 
(Schuytema et al. 1994). However, research on pesticide ingestion by 
snails of various chemicals used on National Forest lands indicates 
that not all chemicals are necessarily lethal to snails (Schuytema et 
al. 1994). Additionally, different species of snails may respond 
differently to toxic chemicals (Schuytema et al. 1994). The Petitioners 
did not cite any research regarding impacts of herbicide or pesticides 
on the Black Hills mountainsnail. They cite past, present, and future 
spraying programs as general evidence of threats to the continued 
existence of the snail; however, they do not present evidence 
clarifying whether these activities are known to occur at extant Black 
Hills mountainsnail colonies. The single incidence of spraying noted 
during 1990s surveys (Frest and Johannes 2002), is not a clear case of 
spraying-caused extirpation of snails, as the species had not been 
previously reported from the sprayed site and it appears the site was 
surveyed only once. Information regarding frequency, locations, or 
limits of spraying associated with roadsides or noxious weed/pest sites 
in relation to Black Hills mountainsnail colonies is not provided in 
the petition, nor are documented responses of Black Hills 
mountainsnails to spraying activities. USFS management direction 
(Standard 3103) allows for control of invasive weeds in snail habitat, 
but only when snails are not on the surface, and weeds must be treated 
individually rather than by broadcast application. This standard 
protects Black Hills mountainsnail colonies from adverse impacts of 
herbicide application. We conclude that the petitioners did not provide 
substantial scientific information indicating that listing the Black 
Hills mountainsnail due to the described effects of herbicides and 
pesticides may be warranted.
    Adverse impacts to the Black Hills mountainsnail from mining 
asserted by the petition include direct extirpation of snails at mined 
sites, exposure of snails to toxic mine wastes and effluvia, long-term 
sterilization of sites mined due to acidic wastes, and increased 
exposure of snails from vegetation removal. Mining in the Black Hills 
is reported to have curtailed the range and habitat of the Black Hills 
mountainsnail, as no snails have been recently reported from mined 
sites and a single historic colony near Deadwood (a region subject to 
past mining) has not been rediscovered. The petitioners state that 
mining has affected habitats within the Spearfish Creek drainage where 
the Black Hills mountainsnail is most common, and other riparian areas 
in the Black Hills also have been impacted. They cite the USFS 
regarding current mining activity occurring within a 10-mile (mi) (16-
kilometer [km]) radius of the city of Lead, and anticipated expansions 
or new mines generally within that area in the next 10 years as 
evidence of future mining impacts to 2 extant colonies of the Black 
Hills mountainsnail.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Mining
    Mining could cause direct impacts to Black Hills mountainsnails 
should they occur onsite, and the potential exists for secondary 
effects to snails resulting from toxic effluents and vegetation removal 
(Frest and Johannes 2002; Anderson 2005). However, the petitioners did 
not provide sufficient evidence indicating that mining activities 
threaten extant colonies of the Black Hills mountainsnail. Although 
they note that no Black Hills mountainsnails were located in mined 
areas, they provide no evidence indicating that the snails existed 
onsite prior to mining. A single historic record of the snail in the 
vicinity of the City of Deadwood (Pilsbry 1939) and inability of 
current researchers to relocate that colony is cited as evidence of 
range reduction due to mining. However, the researchers themselves 
(Frest and Johannes 2002) indicate that despite lack of rediscovery of 
the historic colony, the species may still occur in the area. Although 
negative impacts may have occurred to mountainsnail habitat within the 
Spearfish Creek watershed, the Black Hills mountainsnail is currently 
most common in this drainage (Frest and Johannes 2002). Although the 
petitioners indicate that other riparian areas also have been impacted, 
evidence of past or present existence of the Black Hills mountainsnail 
within them and/or impacts to any extant colonies is not provided. The 
existence of 2 extant colonies within a relatively-large mining focus 
area near the City of Lead is not sufficient evidence that these 
colonies will be impacted by future mining activities. The remaining 39 
colonies are not located within the mining focus area, thus mining does 
not appear to be a substantial threat to the majority of extant 
colonies. Limestone areas in the Black Hills have not been targeted by 
mining companies seeking gold, silver, and lead. Highly mineralized 
rock formations containing these elements are generally not found in 
association with limestone habitats favored by the Black Hills 
mountainsnail. We conclude that the petition did not provide 
substantial scientific information indicating that listing the Black 
Hills mountainsnail due to the described effects of mining may be 

[[Page 9994]]

Spring/Water Developments
    The petitioners state that spring development (troughing and 
fencing of natural springs for livestock use) has occurred extensively 
in the Black Hills, and has extirpated resident mollusks. Factors 
include drying of the original spring site, disruption of substrates 
and vegetation, livestock access and trampling, and the deposition of 
acidic livestock wastes. They state that many extant Black Hills 
mountainsnail colonies are associated with springs and development of 
springs has caused extirpation of some colonies with no live 
individuals noted at developed sites.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Spring/Water 
    Deleterious effects to colonies of Black Hills mountainsnails 
located onsite could occur upon troughing of springs or by otherwise 
allowing cattle access to springs (Frest and Johannes 2002). Spring 
development for livestock watering appears to be common in the Black 
Hills within the known range of the Black Hills mountainsnail (C. 
Staab, pers. comm. 2005).
    The lack of historic data regarding Black Hills mountainsnail 
occupation of these sites makes it difficult to determine whether 
spring development has substantially detrimentally affected the 
species. While the petitioners state that many Black Hills 
mountainsnail colonies are associated with springs, our analysis of 
Frest and Johannes (2002) revealed a report of only 1 extant Black 
Hills mountainsnail colony at a spring. The site had been developed 
(troughed and fenced) and negative impacts to the snails resulting from 
inadequate cattle exclosure were observed (Frest and Johannes 2002). 
Lack of Black Hills mountainsnail colonies at other developed springs 
is cited as evidence of the impacts of this activity; however, it is 
not apparent that these springs were ever occupied by this species, or 
that the continued persistence of the snail relies on colonies located 
at springs. In addition, USFS policy (Standard 3104) specifically 
states that springs or seeps where sensitive species or species of 
local concern exist will not be developed as water facilities unless 
development mitigates an existing risk (C. Staab, pers. comm. 2005). We 
conclude that the petitioners did not provide substantial scientific 
information indicating that listing the Black Hills mountainsnail due 
to the described effects of spring/water development may be warranted.
Groundwater Extraction
    Groundwater extraction for municipal use occurs in the Black Hills 
and is asserted by the petitioners to reduce water available for 
springs and seeps that may support the Black Hills mountainsnail, and 
by possibly affecting streams by reducing current flow regimes. The 
petitioners indicate this activity has potentially already affected the 
snails, and continued human developments in the Black Hills will 
continue to negatively affect this species in the future.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Groundwater 
    The petitioners did not provide substantial scientific information 
that groundwater extraction has reached a level resulting in reduction 
of available moisture at Black Hills mountainsnail colonies. No 
information on the current rate of groundwater extraction or rise in 
human consumption and/or human populations within the Black Hills was 
provided to indicate aquifer water levels may be significantly 
impacted. No evidence was provided indicating drying of occupied snail 
habitats at any of the 41 sites and subsequent loss or declines of 
extant colonies. We conclude that the petitioners did not provide 
substantial scientific information indicating that listing the Black 
Hills mountainsnail due to the described effects of groundwater 
extraction may be warranted.
Recreational Activities and Developments
    Picnic areas, hiking trails, and campgrounds are factors cited by 
the petitioners as recreational activities and developments that could 
fragment, extirpate, or generally negatively impact Black Hills 
mountainsnail colonies by such factors as increased exposure and 
importation of nonnative plants.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Recreational 
Activities and Developments
    Local impacts to occupied Black Hills mountainsnail sites, as 
described in the petition, could potentially negatively affect 
individual snails and/or colonies as a result of trampling and/or 
vegetation removal (Weaver and Dale 1978; Anderson 2005) as well as 
physical placement of recreation facilities. Development of such sites 
(e.g., new or expanded picnic areas, campgrounds, or trails) could 
result in mortality and potential fragmentation of existing colonies if 
these actions occur in areas occupied by the Black Hills mountainsnail. 
However, the petitioners did not provide evidence indicating that the 
presence of recreational facilities and/or activities has resulted in 
substantial decline or extirpation of any known Black Hills 
mountainsnail colonies. Our analysis of the Frest and Johannes (2002) 
report indicates that 5 (12 percent) of 41 known Black Hills 
mountainsnail sites occur either within campgrounds, picnic areas, or 
along hiking trails. Of these, population estimates are reported as 
``very abundant'' at 1 site, ``common'' or ``abundant'' at 3 sites, and 
``rare'' at 1 site. As noted earlier, these population estimates are 
thought to be conservative (Frest and Johannes 2002). It is not 
apparent that these sites have experienced severe impacts as a result 
of these facilities and activities. In addition, no recreational 
impacts at the remaining 36 sites were noted by Frest and Johannes 
(2002). Thus, we conclude that the petition does not provide 
substantial scientific information indicating that listing the Black 
Hills mountainsnail due to the described effects of recreational 
activities and developments may be warranted.
Summary of Factor A
    While a variety of anthropogenic activities that likely affect the 
Black Hills mountainsnail and/or its habitat are occurring across the 
range of the snail, with few exceptions, the petition fails to provide 
scientific documentation to demonstrate that the areas where habitat 
loss and degradation are occurring also are areas where Black Hills 
mountainsnail populations occur. Information provided by the 
petitioners and the conclusions drawn from it are compromised by the 
lack of historic data and inherent limitations of the methodologies 
used for current population estimates (Frest and Johannes 2002), 
resulting in the inability to determine trends with accuracy. Based on 
the preceding discussion, we have concluded the petition and other 
available information do not constitute substantial scientific 
information indicating that listing the Black Hills mountainsnail may 
be warranted due to any threat in factor A.

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

Information Provided in the Petition
    The petition states that the Black Hills mountainsnail has been 
collected for scientific and educational purposes, but the petition 
does not provide any indication that collecting poses any threat to the 
survival of the species.

[[Page 9995]]

Evaluation of Information in the Petition
    The Service concurs with the petitioners that overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes does not 
appear to threaten the continued existence of the Black Hills 

C. Disease or Predation

Information Provided in the Petition
    The Petitioners assert that predation by rodents, other small 
mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and insects, as well as 
parasitism by insect larvae may cause mortality of the Black Hills 
mountainsnail. No mention of disease affecting the Black Hills 
mountainsnail is made in the petition.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition
    The Service recognizes that the potential sources of natural 
mortality to the snail described by the petitioners are likely to 
occur. However, no scientific information is provided indicating that 
this mortality results in declines of extant mountainsnail colonies. We 
conclude that the petitioners did not provide substantial scientific 
information indicating that listing the Black Hills mountainsnail due 
to the described effects of effects of predation may be warranted.

D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

Information Provided in the Petition
    The petitioners assert that existing regulatory mechanisms do not 
adequately protect the Black Hills mountainsnail or its habitat; many 
colonies lack any protection. They note the USFS, the Service, the 
States of South Dakota and Wyoming, and the City of Spearfish fail to 
protect this species as explained further below.
U.S. Forest Service
    Petitioners cite failure of the 1997 Revised Land and Resource 
Management Plan (1997 RLRMP), a USFS document which serves to guide 
management activities on the Black Hills National Forest, to ensure 
viability of the Black Hills mountainsnail. An amendment to the 1997 
Plan (Phase I Amendment) included a USFS directive (Standard 3103) 
stating that colonies identified by Frest and Johannes (1991, 1993, 
2002) be protected from adverse management activities. However, the 
petitioners maintain that Standard 3103 is inadequate because it: (a) 
Serves only to maintain (not recover) populations that the Petitioners 
assert are ``most likely not viable;'' (b) fails to protect colonies 
that may be located in the future; (c) does not provide well-defined 
and substantive management direction; and (d) fails to protect the 
species' habitat. Although the USFS has applied 100- to 200-ft (30- to 
60-m) buffers from management actions around extant Black Hills 
mountainsnail colonies, the adequacy of these buffers is questioned by 
the petitioners. They note that some colonies have been fenced to 
exclude livestock, but assert that it is not well maintained and many 
colonies are still not fenced. The application of Standard 3103 is 
observed to be inconsistent. An additional USFS directive under the 
Phase I Amendment, Standard 3104, is intended for the protection of 
wildlife and plants associated with moist soil conditions by stating 
that no springs or seeps with sensitive species shall be developed. 
However, the petitioners claim Standard 3104 also is inadequate for 
many of the same reasons listed as failures of Standard 3103.
    The Black Hills mountainsnail is listed as a Sensitive Species by 
the USFS under the name Oreohelix strigosa cooperi, Cooper's rocky 
mountainsnail. Lack of any additional USFS protective regulations for 
the Black Hills mountainsnail, despite its Sensitive Species 
designation, is asserted by the petitioners. They claim that USFS has 
not fulfilled Sensitive Species objectives by failing to ensure that 
agency actions do not cause the snail to become threatened or 
endangered, and that viable, well distributed populations exist. The 
petitioners also claim the USFS has proposed to remove the snail from 
their Sensitive Species list.
    The USFS has proposed to monitor identified colonies, but the 
petitioners believe that the monitoring plan is inadequate and 
potentially ineffective. Only colonies potentially affected by 
management activities are to be monitored on a 4-year rotating basis. 
Details regarding which activities may impact snails and timing and 
method of impact disclosure by the USFS are called into question and 
the 4-year rotation is suggested as inadequate to detect potential 
impacts or extirpation of colonies. Analysis of impacts to the snail 
via the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is not considered by 
the petitioners to be adequate protection since the USFS may choose 
alternatives that may impact the snail.
    Finally, the Petitioners maintain that additional revisions of the 
1997 RLRMP (Phase II Amendments) which were to include management of 
the Black Hills mountainsnail as a ``species of local concern,'' are 
inadequate to ensure persistence of the species.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding the Inadequacy of 
Existing USFS Regulatory Mechanisms
    We recognize that the petitioners' evaluations of USFS Standards 
3103 and 3104 within the Phase I Amendment to the 1997 RLRMP have some 
merit. The lack of specificity, direction, and consistency of 
application of these Standards might have allowed broad discretion for 
management actions which may result in negative impacts to the Black 
Hills mountainsnail depending on USFS management decisions. However, 
USFS has recently amended its LRMP for the Black Hills National Forest 
to afford increased protection of the Black Hills mountainsnail. The 
amended LRMP (Phase II Amendment) was signed in late 2005 and will go 
into effect in early 2006. In the amended LRMP, Standard 3103 has been 
revised to protect all snail colonies of species of local concern 
rather than just protection of extant sites identified by Frest and 
Johannes (1991, 1993, 2002). The new Standard also provides management 
direction that will retain sufficient overstory, moisture regimes, 
ground temperatures, humidity, and ground litter in snail colonies. In 
addition, the standard calls for avoidance of activities (burning, 
heavy grazing, off-highway vehicles, heavy equipment use) that would 
compact soils or alter vegetation composition and ground cover. Revised 
standard 3103 also provides for protective criteria for prescribed 
burning and control of invasive weeds if necessary in occupied snail 
    The petitioners' assertions that the Black Hills mountainsnail 
populations are ``most likely not viable'' on USFS lands appears 
unsubstantiated, with no evidence provided to support this claim. The 
USFS protects all snail colonies, typically by applying 100- to 200-ft 
(30- to 60-m) buffer zones around sites occupied by the Black Hills 
mountainsnail. Current modifications to the 1997 RLRMP include more 
specific information regarding protection of snail colonies (C. Staab, 
pers. comm. 2005). The petitioners' assertion that the USFS proposed to 
remove the snail from their Sensitive Species list appears 
unsubstantiated, and the snail remains on the list as Oreohelix 
strigosa cooperi (C. Staab, pers. comm. 2005; USFS 2005). By listing 
this Sensitive Species as O. s. cooperi, USFS protections are extended 
to sites occupied by the smaller form of the cooperi entity as well. 
Thus the USFS recognizes at least 108 colonies (the large and small 
morphs of O. s. cooperi), rather than just

[[Page 9996]]

the 41 sites occupied by the large morph (Frest and Johannes 2002) 
(USFS 2005).
    The petitioners did not provide substantial scientific information 
indicating that listing the Black Hills mountainsnail may be warranted 
due to inadequate USFS regulatory mechanisms. The Black Hills 
mountainsnail does not appear to be threatened on USFS lands, thus we 
cannot find that inadequate regulatory mechanisms of the USFS 
contribute to the species' asserted declines. The information in the 
petition concerning protection on USFS lands is now outdated. The 
management direction contained in the revised LRMP appears protective 
of the Black Hills mountainsnail and its habitat; the Petitioners did 
not provide substantial scientific information that additional 
protection on USFS land is necessary.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    The petitioners cite removal of the Black Hills mountainsnail from 
the Category 2 Candidate list (61 FR 64481-64485; December 5, 1996) by 
the Service and our failure to provide funding for surveys for the 
species in 1999, despite providing funds for surveys in 1991 and 1992, 
as evidence of lack of ``special attention'' for this species. In 
addition, 2 extant colonies occur on Service property and the 
petitioners claim that we are not using our authority to protect those 
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding the Inadequacy of 
Existing USFWS Regulatory Mechanisms
    We did remove the Cooper's Rocky mountainsnail, Oreohelix strigosa 
cooperi from the Category 2 Candidate Species list. However, removal 
from Category 2 Candidate Species list did not alter the level of 
protection afforded this species because Category 2 candidate status 
did not confer a regulatory benefit. Formerly recognized Category 2 
species lacked sufficient information to justify issuance of a proposed 
rule to list as federally threatened or endangered (Service 1996b). The 
Service discontinued using the Category 2 designation to reduce 
confusion and clarify that the Service did not regard those species as 
candidates for listing (Service 1996b). Only former Category 1 
Candidate Species, now known simply as Candidate Species, had 
sufficient evidence to warrant publication of a proposed rule.
    Lack of Service funding for Black Hills mountainsnail surveys was 
indicative of budget constraints rather than lack of Service interest. 
Extant colonies on Service property at D.C. Booth Historic Fish 
Hatchery have been avoided since identification (Steve Brimm, Service, 
pers. comm. 2005).
    The Petitioners did not provide substantial scientific information 
indicating that listing the Black Hills mountainsnail due to the 
inadequacy of USFWS regulatory mechanisms of the Service may be 
warranted We cannot find that inadequate regulatory mechanisms of the 
Service contribute to the species' asserted decline on Service lands 
because the mountainsnail is being protected on our lands without ESA 
States of South Dakota and Wyoming
    The petitioners indicate that all extant colonies of the Black 
Hills mountainsnail occur in the State of South Dakota, and no 
protection of these sites is offered by South Dakota law, which has no 
mechanism for protecting and recovering invertebrates.
    The petitioners claim that no extant Black Hills mountainsnail 
colonies occur in Wyoming, but that the species historically and 
recently resided there. They indicate the State of Wyoming has no 
mechanism for recovering or protecting any imperiled species at all, 
and the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database does not track 
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding the Inadequacy of 
Existing State Regulatory Mechanisms
    Contrary to information in the petition, based on our evaluation of 
Frest and Johannes (2002) it does not appear that all Black Hills 
mountainsnail colonies are located in South Dakota; four are found in 
Wyoming. The remaining 37 sites are found in South Dakota.
    The State of South Dakota does not currently provide legal 
protections for the Black Hills mountainsnail. However, it is not 
apparent that South Dakota Threatened and Endangered Species Statutes, 
based on definitions within those statutes, exclude invertebrates from 
the State list of imperiled species (South Dakota statutes, Endangered 
and Threatened Species) as the Petitioners state. Thus the Black Hills 
mountainsnail apparently is not precluded from the State list of 
threatened or endangered species, although it currently is not on the 
list. The species is tracked via the State's Natural Heritage Database 
(South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks [SDGFP] 2005a). 
Furthermore, the State has recently developed a list of ``Species of 
Greatest Conservation Need'' as part of their Comprehensive Wildlife 
Conservation Strategy that includes Cooper's Rocky mountainsnail, 
Oreoehelix strigosa cooperi (SDGFP 2005b). Species of Greatest 
Conservation Need include State and/or federally listed species for 
which the State has a mandate for recovery, species for which South 
Dakota represents a significant portion of the species' overall range, 
and/or species that are indicative of, or depend upon, a declining or 
unique habitat in South Dakota (SDGFP 2005b). The Comprehensive 
Wildlife Conservation Strategy is designed to maintain and conserve the 
State's biodiversity (SDGFP 2005b). For South Dakota, designation as a 
Species of Greatest Conservation Need means that the Department is 
committed to conservation of the species and will use its available 
resources, including State Wildlife Grants, for necessary research, 
monitoring, and habitat conservation (Doug Backlund, pers. comm. 2005). 
Thus, the State currently recognizes the unique value of the snail. We 
cannot find that inadequate regulatory mechanisms of the State of South 
Dakota contribute to the species' asserted demise because the species 
appears to be sustained without special status from the State of South 
    The petitioners did not provide substantial scientific information 
indicating that listing the Black Hills mountainsnail due to the 
inadequacy of State regulatory mechanisms of the State of South Dakota 
may be warranted.
    Our analysis of the Frest and Johannes (2002) report indicates that 
four Black Hills mountainsnail sites were located in Wyoming and the 
Black Hills mountainsnail is not necessarily extinct from these areas; 
it appears live specimens were documented there as recently as 1999.
    The State of Wyoming has recently developed a list of ``Species of 
Greatest Conservation Need'' as part of their Comprehensive Wildlife 
Conservation Strategy that includes Cooper's Rocky mountainsnail, 
Oreoehelix strigosa cooperi. Wyoming's list of Species of Greatest 
Conservation Need is ``intended to provide a foundation for conserving 
these species in Wyoming'' (Wyoming Game and Fish Department 2005). 
Paucity of data on this species is noted by the State (Wyoming Game and 
Fish Department 2005), and current information indicates that the Black 
Hills mountainsnail is not widely distributed in Wyoming (Frest and 
Johannes 2002). Although the species is not afforded regulatory 
protection by the State of Wyoming, the species does not appear to 
require regulatory mechanisms by the State to sustain it.
    The petitioners did not provide substantial scientific information 
indicating that listing the Black Hills

[[Page 9997]]

mountainsnail due to the inadequacy of State regulatory mechanisms of 
the State of Wyoming may be warranted.
City of Spearfish, South Dakota
    A single extant Black Hills mountainsnail colony exists in the City 
of Spearfish Campground. The Petitioners assert that the City has no 
regulations in place to protect or recover the mountainsnail or any 
other species from ongoing activities or further development.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding the Inadequacy of 
Existing Regulatory Mechanisms of the City of Spearfish
    The City of Spearfish has not taken steps to protect extant 
colonies of the Black Hills mountainsnail (City of Spearfish Campground 
2005). However, regardless of any potential protections that could be 
provided by the City, jurisdiction would be limited to the single 
colony currently located within the City of Spearfish Campground.
    The petitioners did not provide substantial scientific information 
indicating that listing the Black Hills mountainsnail due to the 
inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms of the City of Spearfish may be 
Summary for Factor D
    The petitioners indicated that existing regulatory mechanisms of 
the USFS, USFWS, the States of South Dakota and Wyoming, and the City 
of Spearfish are currently inadequate, are not protective of the Black 
Hills mountainsnail, and contribute to a decline of the species. 
However, the Service does not find that other potentially regulated 
activities pose a threat such that listing the Black Hills 
mountainsnail may be warranted due to any threat in factor D. Thus 
regulatory mechanisms, where existent and applicable, are not deemed 
inadequate. The petitioners did not provide evidence that the Black 
Hills mountainsnail requires additional regulatory mechanisms to be 

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting the Continued Existence 
of the Black Hills Mountainsnail

Vulnerability of Small, Isolated Populations
    The petitioners submit that Black Hills mountainsnail populations 
have been reduced and fragmented from historic levels making the 
species more vulnerable to stochastic events and extinction. They 
indicated that population estimates at surveyed sites were ``rare'' or 
``uncommon'' at 18 (56 percent) of known colonies, and that large areas 
of unsuitable habitat exists between colonies. The petitioners cited 
the snail's small size, vulnerability to desiccation and predation, and 
limited motility as factors that limit the taxon's ability to rapidly 
colonize areas, making them unable to respond quickly to environmental 
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Vulnerability of 
Small, Isolated Populations
    The life history of the Black Hills mountainsnail makes the taxon 
inherently susceptible to mortality and/or environmental change, and 
gives it a limited ability to colonize new areas (Frest and Johannes 
2002). We also recognize that some degree of population reduction and 
fragmentation of colonies may have occurred based on recent survey 
information and observations (Frest and Johannes 2002).
    However, the petitioners' claim regarding reduction and 
fragmentation of populations of the Black Hills mountainsnail from 
historic levels is not substantiated due primarily to lack of 
documentation of any historic levels and/or historic distribution of 
this species. The petitioners appear to base their claim on the 
presumption that Black Hills habitat alterations in the past century 
have caused significant range reduction and a corresponding decline in 
populations of the snail. However, without additional evidence of 
historically occupied areas, valid trend data resulting from comparison 
with currently identified occupied sites is not obtainable. The Black 
Hills mountainsnail has seldom been reported outside the Spearfish 
Creek watershed of South Dakota as indicated by published reports (Over 
1915, 1942; Pilsbry 1934, 1939; Henderson 1937; Roscoe 1954) and museum 
collections (Frest and Johannes 2002). Currently, the species' known 
distribution appears to be broader than what was known historically. 
Our analysis of current survey data (Frest and Johannes 2002) indicates 
that 15 (37 percent) of 41 extant colonies were reported as ``rare'' or 
``uncommon'' rather than 18 (56 percent) as reported by Petitioners. 
Additionally, 13 (31 percent) of extant colony population estimates 
were reported as ``common'' or ``abundant,'' a single site (2 percent) 
fell under the ``very abundant'' category, while population estimates 
at 5 sites (12 percent) could not be determined due to discrepancies or 
missing data (Frest and Johannes 2002). As stated earlier, these values 
should be viewed as tentative; they potentially underestimate extant 
    The Petitioners did not provide substantial scientific information 
indicating that listing the Black Hills mountainsnail due to the 
described effects of vulnerability of small, isolated populations may 
be warranted. The life history of the snail is such that it is subject 
to natural mortality and limited mobility; however, it has adapted with 
these constraints and does not appear to have reduced in range due to 
this threat.
Habitat Fragmentation
    The Petitioners assert that habitat fragmentation threatens the 
continued survival of the Black Hills mountainsnail. Lack of 
connectivity between colonies, slow rates of migration, and large areas 
of unsuitable habitat between colonies are cited as evidence that the 
snails may not recover from fragmentation.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Habitat 
    Some habitat fragmentation may have resulted from past human 
activities in the Black Hills (Frest and Johannes 2002). However, the 
petitioners' claim regarding fragmentation of Black Hills mountainsnail 
habitats from historic levels is not substantiated, due primarily to 
lack of documentation of historic distribution of this species outside 
of the Spearfish Creek watershed. Spearfish Canyon harbors the majority 
of extant colonies (Frest and Johannes 2002). Close proximity among 
these colonies does not support the argument that fragmentation is a 
threat. Relatively few colonies exist in areas outside Spearfish Creek 
watershed; however, some degree of fragmentation may be normal for a 
slow-moving, generally sessile animal that owes long-distance 
dispersals primarily to passive means such as avalanche, flood, or 
being carried by birds (Baker 1958; Karlin 1961; Baur 1986). Any 
resulting new colonies could be naturally separated from the parent 
colony by unsuitable habitat; this does not necessarily indicate that 
fragmentation threatens the species. We conclude that the petitioners 
did not provide substantial scientific information indicating that 
listing the Black Hills mountainsnail due to the described effects of 
habitat fragmentation may be warranted.
Forest Fires
    Forest fires are submitted by the petitioners as a threat to the 
Black Hills mountainsnail due mainly to the observed lack of the snails 
in areas with recent severe forest fires. While the snails may survive 
low-intensity fires, the petitioners emphasize severe (large-scale, 
stand-replacing fires) fires in their assertions regarding current and 

[[Page 9998]]

declines of the species. The petitioners report that such severe fires 
occur more frequently in today's managed forest than they had 
historically. Increases in human-caused ignitions may be a factor.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Forest Fires
    Forest management practices have likely contributed to alterations 
of the historic fire regime in the Black Hills, potentially reducing 
the frequency of burns from historic times (Brown and Sieg 1999), and 
recent management activities such as fire suppression also may 
contribute to more severe fires today than in the past (Baker and Ehle 
2001). However, historic fire frequencies in some cases may be longer 
than previously reported (Baker and Ehle 2001) and it appears that 
large-scale, stand-replacing fires did occur in the Black Hills 
historically (Shinneman 1996; Shinneman and Baker 1997). The effects of 
fire on the Black Hills mountainsnail specifically are unknown, 
although the species apparently evolved with fire (Frest and Johannes 
2002; Anderson 2005). In general, snails may be better able to survive 
low-intensity fires while high-intensity fires that burn the litter and 
downed woody debris where snails reside would be detrimental (Frest and 
Johannes 2002; Anderson 2005).
    Evidence of past fires has been noted at two extant Black Hills 
mountainsnail colonies (Frest and Johannes 2002) although information 
regarding timing or severity of the burns is not provided. Frest and 
Johannes (2002) note that no land snails were located at five sites 
within an area that burned in 2000, but Anderson (2005) points out that 
the unnamed species of Oreohelix identified by Frest and Johannes 
(2002) do occur ``* * * within areas that have been burned in wildfires 
over the last few years'' (Anderson 2005). Management efforts in the 
Black Hills to reduce fuels and preclude large-scale, severe fires are 
ongoing (C. Staab, pers. comm. 2005). The typically low-lying, moist 
and/or rocky areas the snails prefer may be less susceptible to fire 
due to higher moisture levels and/or relative lack of fuels. Spearfish 
Creek watershed, the area most commonly occupied by the snails, 
contains numerous residences and businesses and is recognized for its 
scenic value (USFS 1996). While it may be possible for severe wildfires 
to occur in this area, control and suppression of wildfire occurring 
within the canyon would likely be aggressive in order to protect lives, 
property, and scenic values. While not widely distributed throughout 
the Black Hills, the species does occur in several different drainages 
(Frest and Johannes 2002). It does not appear likely that fire has or 
is likely to threaten the Black Hills mountainsnail population. We 
conclude that the petitioners did not provide substantial scientific 
information indicating that listing the Black Hills mountainsnail due 
to the described effects of forest fires may be warranted.
    The petitioners assert that a single Black Hills mountainsnail 
colony appeared to have been recently extirpated by a flood event and 
they describe an historic example of a catastrophic flood event in the 
Black Hills as evidence that flooding threatens the species.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Flooding
    Large precipitation events may cause localized flooding, 
potentially affecting extant Black Hills mountainsnails. However, the 
petitioners did not provide evidence to suggest this factor would occur 
frequently, impact a significant number of extant colonies, nor result 
in catastrophic declines of the species. The petitioners' claims that a 
single flood event extirpated a colony documented by Frest and Johannes 
(1993) are complicated by the possibility that, while some snails may 
have suffered mortality as a result of scouring flows and bedload 
deposition on the documented site, individuals also may have been 
transported by the flows and deposited in new areas downstream, 
potentially resulting in formation of one or more new colonies (Baker 
1958; Karlin 1961; Baur 1986). Additionally, Frest and Johannes (2002) 
indicate that documented snail colonies ``* * * occurred in areas very 
rarely subject to flooding, such as slope bases or other areas 
naturally protected from even 20-year floods.'' It is not likely that 
flooding would threaten the Black Hills mountainsnail population 
because the sites where Black Hills mountainsnails are found are rarely 
subject to flooding. We conclude that the petitioners did not provide 
substantial scientific information indicating that listing the Black 
Hills mountainsnail due to the described effects of flooding may be 
Environmental Stochasticity
    The petitioners claim that environmental stochasticity (the 
occurrence of random environmental events) poses a threat to the Black 
Hills mountainsnail as a result of its small, isolated, and fragmented 
population, reduced habitat and range, and inability to respond quickly 
to environmental change. They cite several references (e.g., Duthrie 
1930; Shinneman and Baker 1997) documenting catastrophic events in the 
Black Hills.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Environmental 
    Random environmental events can affect local populations if the 
result is high mortality of the species, habitat loss, or little or no 
possibility of recolonization. Isolation can be a contributing factor 
(Pettersson 1985) to local extinctions, although it is not apparent 
that isolation among Black Hills mountainsnail colonies is a threat to 
the species. Small populations may exhibit shorter lifetimes with a 
higher probability of becoming extinct than large populations (Hanski 
et al. 1996), and it appears that the population growth rates and 
carrying capacity are key contributing factors in the length of time to 
potential extinction (Lande 1993).
    While the petition submits generalities that might occur to Black 
Hills mountainsnail populations, the type of specific data necessary to 
determine that environmental stochasticity is posing a threat to the 
species does not appear to be available. The only demographic 
information existing for this species is in the form of population 
estimates at documented sites, and these are described to be inexact 
due to difficulties in surveying the species (Frest and Johannes 2002). 
Information related to population growth rates, carrying capacities, 
and accurate population sizes of Black Hills mountainsnail populations, 
subpopulations, and metapopulations does not exist, and evidence that 
environmental stochasticity poses a threat to this species is not 
supported. We conclude that the petitioners did not provide substantial 
scientific information indicating that listing the Black Hills 
mountainsnail due to the described effects of environmental 
stochasticity may be warranted.
Climate Change
    The petitioners assert that human-caused changes in the earth's 
climate such as increased temperature and lower precipitation, will 
stress ecosystems and wildlife. Climate change could lead to increases 
in frequency and intensity of wildfires, decreased range and density of 
Ponderosa pines in the Black Hills, grasslands and savannah replacement 
of forests and riparian woodlands, and upward movement of ecological 
zones, all of which would increase insolation and risk of dessication 
of the Black Hills

[[Page 9999]]

mountainsnail and reduce available habitat.
Evaluation of Information in the Petition Regarding Climate Change
    Climate change has been linked to a number of conservation issues 
and observed changes in animal populations, behavioral phenologies, 
habitats, and ranges. However, direct evidence that climate change is 
the cause of these alterations is often lacking (McCarty 2001). To our 
knowledge, specific analysis regarding potential effects of climate 
change on the Black Hills mountainsnail has not been conducted. The 
information provided by the petition is speculative in nature and does 
not provide concrete evidence of threats to the petitioned entity. We 
conclude that the petitioners did not provide substantial scientific 
information indicating that listing the Black Hills mountainsnail due 
to the described effects of climate change may be warranted.
Summary for Factor E
    The petitioners submit that extant Black Hills mountainsnail 
colonies are isolated making them more vulnerable to extinction; their 
habitat is fragmented, they are susceptible to fires and floods and 
random environmental changes as well as long-term climate changes 
threaten to reduce or eliminate extant colonies and their habitats. 
While some or all of these factors may affect the Black Hills 
mountainsnail, the petitioners failed to provide substantial scientific 
information to indicate that these factors pose a threat such that 
listing the Black Hills mountainsnail may be warranted due to any 
threat in factor E. Lack of historic data to demonstrate that the 
former range and population estimates for this species were 
substantially greater than the species' current range and population 
size, lack of demonstration of a population decline, as well as lack of 
direct causative links of the asserted factors to alleged species 
decline, preclude determination of these factors as threats to the 
    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. After this review 
and evaluation, we find the petition does not present substantial 
scientific information to indicate that listing the Black Hills 
mountainsnail may be warranted at this time. Although we will not be 
commencing a status review in response to this petition, we will 
continue to monitor the species' population status and trends, 
potential threats, and ongoing management actions that might be 
important with regard to the conservation of the Black Hills 
mountainsnail across its range. We encourage interested parties to 
continue to gather data that will assist with the conservation of the 
species. If you wish to provide information regarding the Black Hills 
mountainsnail, you may submit your information or materials to the 
Field Supervisor, Ecological Services, South Dakota Field Office (see 
References Cited
    A complete list of all references cited herein is available, upon 
request, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 
South Dakota Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).
    The primary author of this finding is the staff of the South Dakota 
Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES).
    The authority for this action is section 4 of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: February 21, 2006.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 06-1770 Filed 2-27-06; 8:45 am]