[Federal Register: September 28, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 188)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 56937-56938]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 56937]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition To List Usnea longissima in California 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 Usnea longissima (a lichen) in 
California as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended (Act). Based on our review and evaluation, we find 
that there is not substantial scientific or commercial information to 
demonstrate that the California populations of U. longissima are a 
discrete and listable entity under the Act. Therefore, we have 
determined that the petition does not provide substantial information 
to indicate that the petitioned action may be warranted, and we will 
not be initiating a further status review of this species in response 
to this petition. We ask the public to submit to us any new information 
that becomes available concerning the status of U. longissima or 
threats to it.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on September 28, 

ADDRESSES: The complete supporting file for this finding is available 
for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at 
the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
1655 Heindon Road, Arcata, CA 95521. New information, data, or 
questions concerning Usnea longissima may be submitted to us at any 
time at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Long, Arcata Fish and Wildlife 
Office (see ADDRESSES), by telephone at 707-822-7201, or by facsimile 
to 707-822-8411. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 
800-877-8339, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act (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 information provided in the petition. 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 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 information was presented, we 
are required to promptly commence a review of the status of the 
    In making this finding, we relied on information provided by the 
petitioner and our evaluation of 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 Act and Sec.  424.14(b) of our regulations is limited 
to a determination of whether the information in the petition meets the 
``substantial information'' threshold. The factors for listing, 
delisting, or reclassifying a species are described in 50 CFR 424.11.
    We do not conduct additional research at this point, nor do we 
subject the petition to rigorous critical review. However, we do check 
the petitioners sources and characterizations of information to 
determine that the sources support the characterizations, and that the 
sources are published and peer-reviewed, based on accepted scientific 
principles, or otherwise constitute scientific data.

Previous Federal Action

    On April 16, 2000, we received a petition, dated March 27, 2000, 
from Rudolf W. Becking (the petitioner) requesting that we list Usnea 
longissima in California.
    On April 27, 2005, we sent a letter to the petitioner stating that 
we had assimilated considerable information on the distribution of 
Usnea longissima and were requesting that the petitioner contact the 
Arcata Fish Wildlife Office to discuss the petition and the need to 
list the species. We received no response to our April 27, 2005, letter 
from the petitioner.

Species Information

    The genus Usnea was first described in 1742 (Dillenius 1742). In 
1824, it was placed in the Usneaceae family, and the species Usnea 
longissima was described (Articus 2004, p. 3). Currently, the genus is 
classified as a member of the Parmeliaceae family. U. longissima is 
easily distinguishable from other members of the genus by its long, 
string-like growth habit and white central cord (Pojar and Makinnon 
1994, p. 502).
    Usnea longissima, commonly called Methuselah's Beard or Oldman's 
Beard, is a lichen that resembles hanging strands of pale yellowish-
green hair. A typical strand of lichen can be from 15 centimeters (6 
inches) to 6 meters (19 feet) long. Each strand consists of a single 
main elastic strand with numerous short branchlets (Pojar and Makinnon 
1994, p. 503).
    Usnea longissima is typically found draped over tree branches and 
shrubs in well-ventilated, semi-open canopy forests. This species is 
not encountered frequently; however, in areas where populations are 
present, they are abundant. The healthiest populations of U. longissima 
are found in old-growth forests (Pojar and Makinnon 1994, p. 503).
    Usnea longissima is an epiphytic (a plant that grows upon or 
attached to another living plant) lichen consisting of a symbiotic 
relationship between fungal and algal organisms. The fungal part of the 
lichen (the mycobiont) forms the structure of the lichen, giving it 
shape and a medium for water absorption. The fungal portion also 
provides the lichen with nutrients. The algal component (the 
photobiont) is responsible for providing carbohydrates to the fungus 
through the process of photosynthesis (Vitt et al. 1988, pp. 156-175, 
    In general, lichens reproduce by producing small propagules (seed-
like parts of the plant) or by dispersal of fragments from the parent 
plant. Most of the reproduction occurs by fragmentation. Small pieces 
of lichen that contain both the fungal and algal components fall off 
the parent lichen and become established somewhere else in the canopy.

Population Distribution and Trends

    Usnea longissima was once a common circumpolar boreal conifer 
forest species (Ahti 1977, pp. 145-181). Currently, U. longissima has 
been extirpated from much of its range in western Europe (Bennett 1995, 
pp. 194-196), with the largest remaining European populations in 
Scandinavia, especially in Norway (Halonen 2000, p 15). The Pacific 
Northwest remains a relative stronghold for the species (Keon 2001, p. 
6). However, U. longissima is also known to occur in parts of eastern 
Canada and

[[Page 56938]]

in the northeastern United States (Halonen 2000, p. 15).
    The information presented in the petition suggests that Usnea 
longissima populations are facing increased pressure in California from 
several factors, including habitat loss and commercial timber 
harvesting. In the Coast Range of the Pacific Northwest, U. longissima 
seems more limited in occurrences by its inability to easily disperse 
than by the possible lack of suitable habitat (Keon 2001, p. 92-94). U. 
longissima disperses mostly from small pieces fragmenting from the main 
plant and being carried off in the wind, by an animal, or by simply 
falling onto another plant (Pojar and Makinnon 1994, p. 503). This 
lichen has a short dispersal distance, usually less than 5 meters (16 
feet) (McCune and Geiser 1997, pp. 301, 307, and 353). Therefore, U. 
longissima recolonization of second growth forests may be more 
dependent upon proximity to existing U. longissima populations than on 
other habitat characteristics, such as tree age (Keon and Muir 2002, 
pp. 233-242).

Review of the Petition

    The petition states that Usnea longissima has been extirpated from 
much of its former range in western Europe primarily due to intensive 
even-aged logging and acid rain, and that it is being extirpated in 
California through habitat disturbance. The petition contends that U. 
longissima is highly dependent on large, mature trees for habitat and 
that logging of old-growth forest is leading to its extirpation. Our 
review of the information present in the petition suggests that air 
quality has also contributed to the extirpation of the Usnea longissima 
in some parts of Europe. The petition requests that the California 
populations of U. longissima be listed under the Act as endangered or 
    However, the petition contains no information about whether western 
Europe or California is a significant portion of the species' range. 
Therefore, the petition does not provide substantial information that 
areas in western Europe or California constitute a significant portion 
of the species' global range. The petition also does not request that 
we list the species across its range. To list the species in California 
alone, as requested by the petitioner, we would have to determine that 
the occurrences in California constitute a Distinct Population Segment. 
The Act restricts the use of Distinct Population Segments to vertebrate 
animal species (16 U.S.C. 1532(16); 61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996). U. 
longissima is not a vertebrate animal, and thus we have no authority to 
list a distinct population segment of this species. Therefore, the 
California populations of U. longissima are not considered to be a 
listable entity pursuant to the Act and as a result are ineligible for 
    Regarding the petitioner's contention that U. longissima is 
dependent on large mature trees, we note that studies addressing Usnea 
longissima distributions in coastal Oregon forests (Keon 2001, pp. 92-
94; Keon and Muir 2002, pp. 233-242) and reviews of U. longissima 
occurrences on Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO) lands in northern coastal 
California (Leppig 2003, pp. 1-3) suggest that U. longissima 
occurrences may be more dependent on the species' ability to disperse 
than on the age of the host trees. Leppig's review (2003, p. 2) of U. 
longissima on PALCO lands determined that it occurs on all tree species 
present in the stands and is relatively abundant in younger, 20- to 30-
year-old forest stands. Keon and Muir (2002, pp. 233-242) found that U. 
longissima transplants in young stands grew hardier than transplants in 
an old growth setting. Additionally, our reviews of PALCO timber 
harvest plans suggest that U. longissima is relatively abundant in 
watersheds that have been previously harvested (Leppig 2003, p. 2), 
suggesting that U. longissima populations are resilient. In summary, 
although Pojar and Makinnon (1994, p. 503) found that the healthiest 
populations of U. longissima are in old-growth forests, this slow-
growing lichen is not restricted to such an age class. In addition, 
contrary to the implications in the petition, where the species has 
been studied in the Pacific Northwest, it occurs with relative 
abundance in younger 20- to 30-year-old forest stands (Leppig 2003, pp. 
1-3) and in watersheds that have undergone forest harvests (Leppig 
2003, p. 2).


    We reviewed the petition to list Usnea longissima in California and 
the literature cited in the petition, and we evaluated that information 
in relation to other pertinent literature and information available to 
us. After this review and evaluation, we find that there is not 
substantial scientific or commercial information to demonstrate that 
the California populations of U. longissima are a listable entity, and 
as a result, we have determined that the petitioned action is not 
warranted. Although we will not be commencing a status review in 
response to this petition, we encourage interested parties to continue 
to gather data that will assist with the conservation of the species.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).


    The primary authors of this notice are the staff of the Arcata Fish 
and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).

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

    Dated: September 20, 2006.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. E6-15876 Filed 9-27-06; 8:45 am]