[Federal Register: February 17, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 33)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 8556-8557]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AU12

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Notice of Six-
Month Extension and Reopening of Comment Period for the Proposed 
Delisting of the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse (Zapus hudsonius 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed Rule; reopening of comment period.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), extend for 
not more than six months, the time to make a decision on the proposal 
to delist the Preble's meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) 
and announce the reopening of the comment period. Since the close of 
the public comment period, we have received additional information 
which may be influential in our final decision. The extension is sought 
pursuant to section 4(b)(6)(B)(i) of the ESA because a recently 
completed and unpublished study substantially disagrees with the 
determination contained in the proposed rule that Preble's is not a 
distinct subspecies. Some of this new information conflicts with 
information given significant weight in the proposed rule. In order to 
ensure the public has full access to and an opportunity to comment on 
all available information, we are reopening the public comment period 
for 60 days. The Service will make a final decision based on the best 
scientific and commercial information available. Comments previously 
submitted need not be resubmitted as they have already been 
incorporated into the public record and will be fully considered in the 
final decision and rule.

DATES: The public comment period is reopened until April 18, 2006. Any 
comments that are received after the closing date may not be considered 
in the final decision on the proposal.

ADDRESSES: Documents relative to this proposed rule are available at 
http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/preble/. If you wish to comment, you 

may submit your comments and materials concerning the proposal by one 
of several methods:
    1. You may submit written comments to Field Supervisor, Colorado 
Field Office, Ecological Services, P.O. Box 25486, Denver Federal 
Center, Denver, CO 80225.
    2. You may hand deliver comments to our Colorado Field Office at 
134 Union Blvd., Suite 670, Lake Plaza North, Lakewood, CO 80228 or 
send via facsimile (fax 303-236-0027).
    3. You may send comments via electronic mail (e-mail) to 
FW6_PMJM@fws.gov. See the Public Comments Solicited section below for file 

format and other information about electronic filing.
    The complete file for the finding and proposed rule is available 
for inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at the 
above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Linner, Field Supervisor, at the 
Colorado Field Office (see ADDRESSES section) or telephone (303) 236-
7400. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) 
may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-
8339, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from the proposed rule 
will be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we solicit 
comments or suggestions from the public, concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning the proposed rule in light of the additional 
information. Generally, we seek information, data, and comments 
    (1) The taxonomic status of Z. h. preblei, Z. h. campestris, Z. h. 
intermedius, and other Z. hudsonius subspecies with a particular focus 
on Ramey et al. (2003, 2004a, 2004b, 2005), King et al. (2006) and 
associated peer reviews;
    (2) The taxonomy, biology, ecology, distribution, status, and 
factors affecting Z. h. preblei, Z. h. campestris, Z. h. intermedius, 
and other Z. hudsonius subspecies;
    (3) Data from any systematic surveys for Z. h. preblei, Z. h. 
campestris, Z. h. intermedius, and other Z. hudsonius subspecies, as 
well as any studies that may show population size or trends;
    (4) Quantitative information regarding the life history, ecology, 
and habitat use of Z. h. preblei, Z. h. campestris, Z. h. intermedius, 
and other Z. hudsonius subspecies, as well as information regarding the 
applicability of information relevant to other subspecies;
    (5) Information on the threats faced by the Z. h. preblei, Z. h. 
campestris, Z. h. intermedius, and other Z. hudsonius subspecies (or 
any potential DPS thereof) in relation to the five listing factors (as 
defined in section 4(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as 
amended [16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.]);
    (6) Information regarding the effects of current land management on 
population distribution and abundance of Z. h. preblei, Z. h. 
campestris, Z. h. intermedius, and other Z. hudsonius subspecies; and
    (7) Information regarding the possibility of contact and 
interaction within or between Z. h. preblei, Z. h. campestris, and 
adjacent subspecies of meadow jumping mouse (i.e., Zapus hudsonius 
intermedius and Z. h. pallidus) or other information relevant to a 
Distinct Population Segment analysis.
    You may submit comments as indicated under ADDRESSES. If you wish 
to submit comments by e-mail, please avoid the use of special 
characters and any form of encryption. Please also include your name 
and return address in your e-mail message.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Due to the high level of interest in this rulemaking 
process, we also may post comments on our website. Individual 
respondents may request that we

[[Page 8557]]

withhold their home address from the rulemaking record, which we will 
honor to the extent allowable by law. There also may be circumstances 
in which we would withhold from the rulemaking record a respondent's 
identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name or 
address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your 
comment. However, we will not consider anonymous comments. We will make 
all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals 
identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations 
or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety. 
Comments and other information received, as well as supporting 
information used to write the proposed rule, will be available for 
public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the 
Colorado Field Office (see ADDRESSES section). In making a final 
decision on the proposal, we will take into consideration the comments 
and any additional information we receive. Such communications may lead 
to a final regulation that differs from the proposal.


    The Preble's meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) was 
listed as a threatened species on May 13, 1998 (63 FR 26517). At that 
time, Z. h. preblei was classified as a subspecies of the meadow 
jumping mouse based on a study by Krutzsch (1954). On February 2, 2005, 
the Service proposed to delist or remove Z. h. preblei from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Animals (70 FR 5404). This proposal was based 
on an unpublished report (Ramey et al. 2004a) that suggested Z. h. 
preblei should be considered the same subspecies as the Bear Lodge 
meadow jumping mouse (Z. h. campestris). In the spring of 2005, we 
sought and received three expert peer reviews of this proposal in 
accordance with our 1994 Interagency Policy for Peer Review in 
Endangered Species Act Activities (59 FR 34270, July 1, 1994). As noted 
in our February 2, 2005, Federal Register notice proposing delisting of 
the Preble's meadow jumping mouse (70 FR 5404), we were expecting 
additional genetics information (including nuclear DNA results) within 
the next year that would provide additional information on meadow 
jumping mouse taxonomy.
    In December 2004, Ramey et al. (2004b) released a revised version 
of their report that suggested further synonymization. Specifically, 
the authors suggested synonymizing Z. h. preblei, Z. h. campestris, and 
Z. h. intermedius. This unpublished report was not considered in the 
February 2, 2005, proposal to delist Z. h. preblei from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Animals because it had not been peer-reviewed 
at that time. In the spring of 2005, the Service sought and obtained 
peer review of this report.
    In August 2005, a manuscript, authored by Rob Roy Ramey II, Hsiu-
Ping Liu, Clinton W. Epps, Lance M. Carpenter, and John D. Wehausen, 
titled ``Genetic relatedness of the Preble's meadow jumping mouse (Z. 
h. preblei) to nearby subspecies of Z. hudsonius as inferred from 
variation in cranial morphology, mitochondrial DNA, and microsatellite 
DNA: implications for taxonomy and conservation'' was published in the 
journal Animal Conservation (Ramey et al. 2005). As indicated in the 
title, this version of Ramey et al. included microsatellite 
    In January 2006, we received a final report analyzing the 
mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite DNA of five Z. hudsonius 
subspecies including--Z. h. preblei, Z. h. campestris, Z. h. 
intermedius, Z. h. pallidus, and Z. h. luteus (King et al. 2006). The 
King et al. (2006) report, which constitutes further testing of the 
conclusions of Ramey et al. (2003, 2004a, 2004b, 2005), has been peer-
reviewed in accordance with U.S. Geological Survey methods as described 
in the Leetown Science Center Research Documentation Manual (U.S. 
Geological Survey 2003) but is unpublished.
    All of the documents described above are available on-line at 
http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/preble/. We are reopening the public 

comment period on the delisting proposal to allow the public to 
consider and comment on the above documents.
    The two studies differ in sampling regime, sources of tissues 
chosen for analysis, number of molecular characters sequenced and 
microsatellite fragments surveyed, statistical tests applied, method 
used to portray genealogical relationships, and the criteria used to 
determine uniqueness. The different conclusions in the two studies 
suggest there is scientific disagreement regarding the application of 
the available data relevant to the proposed action (70 FR 5404, 
February 2, 2005) and, thus, we extend for not more than six months 
this rulemaking process as allowed by Section 4(b)(6)(B)(i) of the ESA. 
We will use the 6-month extension to assemble a panel of experts to 
carefully review and assess the two studies which represent the best 
available information on the genetics, morphology, and ecology of the 
species. The Service will make a final decision based on the best 
scientific and commercial information available, including but not 
limited to the expert panelists' judgments.


    The primary authors of this notice are the Colorado Field Office 
staff (see ADDRESSES section).

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

    Dated: February 5, 2006.
H. Dale Hall,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
 [FR Doc. E6-2286 Filed 2-16-06; 8:45 am]