[Federal Register: October 23, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 204)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 59979-59983]
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 Summer-Run Kokanee Population in Issaquah Creek, 
WA, as Threatened or Endangered

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 summer-run Issaquah Creek 
kokanee (Oncorhynchus nerka) as threatened or endangered under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We find that the 
petition does not present substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that the summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee may 
represent a distinct population segment, and therefore a listable 
entity, under section 3(16) of the Act. Therefore, we will not be 
initiating a further status review in response to this petition.

[[Page 59980]]

DATES: This finding announced in this document was made on October 23, 
2007. You may submit new information concerning this species for our 
consideration at any time.

ADDRESSES: The complete supporting file for this finding is available 
for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at 
the Western Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 510 Desmond Drive SE., Suite 102, Lacey, WA 98503. Please 
submit any new information, materials, comments, or questions 
concerning the summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee or this finding to the 
above address (Attention: Issaquah Creek kokanee), or via electronic 
mail (e-mail) at FW1WWO_ICkok@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ken Berg, Manager, Western Washington 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES) by telephone at (360-753-
4327), or by facsimile to (360-753-9405). Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific information to indicate that the petitioned 
action may be warranted. We are to base this finding on information 
provided in the petition, supporting information submitted with the 
petition, and information otherwise available in our files at the time 
we make the determination. 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 
    We base this finding on information provided by the petitioner that 
we determined to be reliable after reviewing sources referenced in the 
petition and information available in our files at the time of the 
petition review. We evaluated that information in accordance with 50 
CFR 424.14(b). Our process for making this 90-day finding under section 
4(b)(3)(A) of the Act and section 424.14(b) of our regulations is 
limited to a determination of whether the information in the petition 
meets the ``substantial information'' threshold.

Petition History

    On February 22, 1999, we responded to a November 2, 1998, letter 
from Mr. Ron Sims, Kings County Executive, regarding the status of 
kokanee in Lake Sammamish. Our response letter questioned whether Mr. 
Sims' letter was in fact a petition. On March 16, 2000, we received a 
petition, dated March 15, 2000, from Save Lake Sammamish, Washington 
Trout, Sierra Club Cascade Chapter, Washington Environmental Council, 
Friends of the Earth, King County Conservation Voters, and Defenders of 
Wildlife. The petitioners requested that we emergency list the 
population of native summer-run (or early-run) kokanee that spawn in 
Issaquah Creek, a tributary of Lake Sammamish in King County, 
Washington, as an endangered distinct population segment (DPS) and 
designate critical habitat under the Act. The petition clearly 
identified itself as such and provided the names and addresses of the 
petitioners. We responded in two letters dated April 17, 2000, and 
November 6, 2000, stating that addressing the petition at that time was 
not practicable due to our workload addressing court orders and court-
approved settlement agreements for other listing actions and that we 
would address the petition as funding became available. This petition 
finding fulfills that commitment.
    On July 10, 2007, we received a petition to list Lake Sammamish 
kokanee as threatened or endangered under the Act. We are in the 
process of analyzing that petition and intend to publish a 90-day 
finding on that petition in the near future.

Species Information

    The kokanee and the sockeye salmon are two forms of the same 
species, Oncorhynchus nerka (Order Salmoniformes, Family Salmonidae), 
that are native to watersheds in the north Pacific from southern 
Kamchatka to Japan in the western Pacific and from Alaska to the 
Columbia River in North America (Page and Burr 1991, p. 52; Taylor et 
al. 1996, pp. 402-403). Adult kokanee look like sockeye salmon, but are 
generally smaller in size at maturity because they are confined to 
freshwater environments, which are less productive than the ocean 
(Gustafson et al. 1997, p. 29). Both sockeye and kokanee turn from 
silver to bright red during maturation, while the head is olive green 
and the fins are blackish red (Craig and Foote 2001, p. 381).
    Sockeye salmon are anadromous, migrating to the Pacific Ocean 
following hatching and rearing in freshwater to spend 2 to 3 years in 
marine waters before returning to freshwater environments to spawn. 
Kokanee are non-anadromous, spending their entire lives in freshwater 
habitats (Meehan and Bjorn 1991, pp. 56-57). Kokanee young are spawned 
in freshwater streams and subsequently migrate to a nursery lake 
(Burgner 1991, pp. 35-37). Kokanee remain in the lake until maturity 
and return to natal freshwater streams to spawn and die.
    Taylor et al. (1996, pp. 411-414) found multiple episodes of 
independent divergence between sockeye and kokanee throughout their 
current range. As ancestral sockeye populations expanded to new river 
systems, those that could not access the marine environment on a 
regular basis evolved into the non-anadromous kokanee form. This rapid 
adaptive evolution happened multiple times such that kokanee 
populations are genetically more similar to their sympatric (occupying 
the same geographic area without interbreeding) sockeye populations 
than kokanee in other river systems (Taylor et al. 1996, pp. 401, 413-
    Kokanee in the Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish watersheds are 
separated into three groups: (1) Summer-run, (2) middle-run, and (3) 
late-run kokanee, based on spawn timing and location (Berge and Higgins 
2003, p. 3; Young et al. 2004, p. 66). Summer-run kokanee spawn during 
late summer (August through September) in Issaquah Creek and are the 
only run of kokanee known to spawn in that creek (sockeye salmon spawn 
there in October). Middle-run kokanee spawn in late September through 
November, primarily in larger Sammamish River tributaries. Late-run 
kokanee spawn from late fall into winter (October through January) in 
tributaries of Lake Sammamish. The petition and this petition finding 
address only the summer-run kokanee in Issaquah Creek.
    Berggren (1974, p. 9) and Pfeifer (1995, pp. 8-9 and 21-22) report 
escapements (the number of fish arriving at a natal stream or river to 
spawn) of summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee numbering in the thousands 
during the 1970s. Since 1980, the escapement of summer-run Issaquah 
Creek kokanee has plummeted (Berge and Higgins 2003, p. 18). Between 
1998 and 2001, only three summer-run kokanee redds (gravel nests of 
fish eggs)

[[Page 59981]]

were observed in Issaquah Creek. In July 2001 and 2002, the Washington 
Department of Fish and Wildlife installed a fish weir across Issaquah 
Creek in an attempt to capture all migrating kokanee and spawn them in 
a hatchery for a supplementation program. However, no kokanee were 
observed or captured in these attempts (WDFW 2002, pp. 5-7).

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments

    The petitioners state that the summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee is 
a DPS based on their August spawning period, fry emergence timing, 
coloration at the time of spawning, and genetic distinctness, and asked 
the Service to emergency list the DPS as endangered. Under the Act, we 
can consider for listing any species, subspecies, or DPS of any species 
of vertebrate fish or wildlife that interbreeds when mature, if 
information is substantial to indicate that such action may be 
warranted. To implement the measures prescribed by the Act and its 
Congressional guidance (see Senate Report 151, 96th Congress, 1st 
Session), we developed a joint policy with the National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration entitled ``Policy Regarding the Recognition 
of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments under the Act'' (61 FR 4725; 
February 7, 1996). According to this policy, the three elements 
considered regarding the potential recognition of a DPS as endangered 
or threatened are: (1) Discreteness of the population segment in 
relation to the remainder of the species to which it belongs; (2) 
significance of the population segment in relation to the remainder of 
the taxon; and (3) conservation status of the population segment in 
relation to the Act's standards for listing (i.e., when treated as if 
it were a species, is the population segment endangered or 
threatened?). Criteria for all three elements must be satisfied to meet 
the definition of a DPS. The petition discusses all three factors, but 
does not explicitly state whether they are evaluating these factors 
based on the standards set forth in the DPS policy. Following is our 
evaluation of these elements in relation to the petitioned entity, the 
summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee.


    Discreteness refers to the separation of a population segment from 
other members of the taxon based on either: (1) Physical, 
physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors; or (2) international 
boundaries that result in significant differences in control of 
exploitation, habitat management, conservation status, or regulatory 
    Data contained in the petition, referenced in the petition, and 
otherwise available to the Service suggests that there is substantial 
information regarding the behavioral discreteness of summer-run 
Issaquah Creek kokanee. Timing of spawning and fry emergence for this 
population is earlier than any other kokanee or sockeye population in 
the Sammamish Basin (Berggren 1974, pp. 9 and 38; Pfeifer 1992, pp. 117 
and 141; Young et al. 2004, p. 65). This difference in spawn timing may 
result in the reproductive isolation of summer-run kokanee. Based on 
the physical and behavioral factors referenced in the petition, we find 
that there is substantial information indicating that summer-run 
Issaquah Creek kokanee may meet the discreteness element of our DPS 


    If a population segment is considered discrete under one or more of 
the conditions listed in the Service's DPS policy, its biological and 
ecological significance will then be considered. In carrying out this 
evaluation, the Service considers available scientific evidence of the 
potential DPS's importance to the taxon to which it belongs. This 
consideration may include, but is not limited to: (1) Persistence of 
the discrete population segment in a unique or unusual ecological 
setting; (2) evidence that loss of the discrete segment would result in 
a significant gap in the range of the taxon; (3) evidence that the 
discrete population segment represents the only surviving natural 
occurrence of the taxon that may be more abundant elsewhere as an 
introduced population outside of its historic range; or (4) evidence 
that the discrete segment differs markedly from other populations in 
its genetic characteristics (61 FR 4721).
    The petition states that the summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee 
population is significant because it is native to the Sammamish Basin 
and probably unique among kokanee and sockeye populations in the 
western United States. The petition points to several studies 
suggesting this population is genetically distinguishable from a number 
of other kokanee and sockeye populations. Our analysis of these 
statements relative to the DPS policy follows.
    1. Persistence of the population segment in an ecological setting 
that is unique for the taxon.
    Neither the petition nor information in our files indicates that 
Issaquah Creek may be a unique or unusual ecological setting for 
    2. Evidence that loss of the population segment would result in a 
significant gap in the range of taxon.
    Neither the petition nor information in our files indicates that 
loss of summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee may result in a significant 
gap in the range of the taxon. According to the petition, Issaquah 
Creek is one of several tributaries to Lake Sammamish that are occupied 
by kokanee. There are also kokanee populations in tributaries to the 
Sammamish River (below Lake Sammamish). Furthermore, the taxon occurs 
throughout the North Pacific, from southern Kamchatka to Japan in the 
western Pacific and from Alaska south to the Columbia River system in 
the eastern Pacific (Page and Burr 1991, p. 52; Taylor et al. 1996, pp. 
    3. Evidence that the population segment represents the only 
surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be more abundant 
elsewhere as an introduced population outside its historical range.
    Neither the petition nor information in our files indicates that 
summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee may represent the only surviving 
natural occurrence of this species. The petitioners note that there are 
at least 78 different kokanee populations from British Columbia, 
Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
    4. Evidence that the discrete population segment differs markedly 
from other populations of the species in its genetic characteristics.
    The petition cites several studies indicating that Issaquah Creek 
kokanee may be genetically differentiated from other kokanee and 
sockeye populations (Seeb and Wishard 1977, Wishard 1980, Hendry 1995, 
Hendry et al. 1996). These citations appear to be credible scientific 
publications and we accept the characterization of these publications 
provided in the petition for the purpose of this 90-day finding. 
However, we note that the definition of the term ``significant,'' as 
applied in these genetics studies is not the same as its usage when 
determining whether or not a population meets the significance 
criterion under the DPS policy. These studies found that there were 
``significant'' differences in allele frequencies (the frequency of one 
member of a pair or series of genes occupying a specific position on a 
specific chromosome) between summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee and the 
11 other populations that they studied. However, these ``significant'' 
differences in allele frequencies must be placed into

[[Page 59982]]

the appropriate spatial context of the species' distribution.
    The studies cited by the petitioners looked at four kokanee 
populations, inclusive of Issaquah Creek kokanee, and eight sockeye 
populations, all from the Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish Basins or 
hatchery strains. Taylor et al. (1996, pp. 409-410) looked at 750 
Oncorhynchus nerka from 24 different populations throughout the range 
of the species and identified two major genetic groupings, the 
``northwestern group'' (Kamchatka, Alaska, and northwest British 
Columbia) and the ``southern group'' (Fraser River and Columbia River 
systems). Given the large range of the species and the broader genetic 
relationships described by Taylor et al. (1996, pp. 409-410), the 
studies referenced by the petitioners looked only at a relatively small 
subset (both geographically and in total number) of O. nerka, and do 
not indicate that Issaquah Creek kokanee may have marked genetic 
differences that may make them significant to the taxon.
    Information in our files also fails to indicate that Issaquah Creek 
kokanee may be markedly genetically divergent or that they may be 
evolutionarily significant to the taxon. Although Coyle et al. (2001, 
p. 17) conclude that summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee have significant 
genetic differences compared with other conspecific populations of 
kokanee and sockeye salmon and are a valid DPS, their analysis does not 
support these findings. The authors acknowledge that genetic 
differences between early-run Issaquah Creek kokanee and late-run Lake 
Sammamish kokanee are unknown (but see our discussion of more recent 
genetic work by Young et al. 2004, below), and the adaptive 
significance of early-run spawning and early fry emergence are unknown. 
Further, the authors acknowledged that while this population possesses 
size and coloration not typical of other kokanee populations in the 
Sammamish Basin, these are unlikely to be defining characteristics of 
the population. Although the authors point to the population's 
adaptation to warmer temperatures and lower stream flows (when compared 
to other kokanee populations in the Sammamish Basin) as evidence of a 
distinct adaptation to its environment, they also state that Kootenai 
Lake kokanee in British Columbia have early-run timing similar to that 
of summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee.
    Coyle et al. (2001, p. 19) cite a study by Bentzen and Spies (2000, 
p. 6) as evidence that early-run Issaquah Creek kokanee are 
significantly different genetically to other conspecific populations of 
kokanee and sockeye salmon. However, Benzen and Spies (2000, p. 1-9) 
only studied kokanee populations from Issaquah Creek and Lake Whatcom, 
did not include other tributaries of Lake Sammamish in their study, and 
only examined three populations of sockeye salmon. Therefore, Bentzen 
and Spies' (2000, p. 6) conclusion that Issaquah Creek kokanee are 
significantly different from other conspecific populations of kokanee 
is applicable only to the small number of conspecific populations they 
examined, and only in the context that there were statistically 
significant differences at microsatellite loci (regions within genes 
where short sequences of DNA are repeated). An important distinction 
must be made between a statistically significant difference in allele 
frequencies using highly variable loci (e.g., microsatellites) and a 
biologically meaningful difference in genetic markers (Hedrick 1999, p. 
316-317). This distinction is important because patterns of adaptive 
loci may not be correlated with highly variable loci, such as 
microsatellite loci. It is this high variability in microsatellite loci 
that enables the detection of very small genetic differences with 
statistical significance (Hedrick 1999, p. 316-317). While Bentzen and 
Spies (2000, p. 6) report statistically significant differences in 
allele frequencies between the two populations of kokanee and three 
populations of sockeye they studied, they provide no argument for how 
these differences may be biologically important or how may constitute 
marked genetic differences that are significant to the taxon.
    The most recent genetic work on kokanee in the Sammamish Basin 
shows that allele frequencies in Issaquah Creek and Lake Sammamish 
tributaries differ from those of other introduced strains within the 
basin and also showed greater genetic distance between middle-run and 
late-run kokanee than the genetic distance between either group and 
summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee (Young et al. 2004, pp. 69-70). 
However, the authors note that the study had a small sample size for 
summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee (n=13 individuals) and that 
inferences regarding the summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee should be 
treated with caution. While this study provides some evidence that 
summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee may be genetically differentiated 
from other kokanee in the Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish basins, it 
did not address whether the summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee may be 
markedly genetically divergent from kokanee outside of the Lake 
Washington and Lake Sammamish basins or how such genetic divergence 
might be important to the taxon as a whole.
    The petition, in combination with information in our files, does 
not indicate how either the genetic makeup, early spawning, or color 
variation of summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee may be significant to 
the taxon. Therefore, we conclude that the petition does not present 
substantial information indicating summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee 
may meet the significance criterion of our DPS policy. Furthermore, 
neither the petition nor information in our files presents substantial 
information that summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee may represent a 
significant portion of the species' range. Consequently we conclude 
that the petition does not present substantial information indicating 
that summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee may be a listable entity under 
the Act.
    The petition presented information for the five listing factors in 
section 4 of the Act in an effort to identify threats that may be 
leading to the decline of the summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee. These 
factors are pertinent only in cases where the organism being proposed 
for listing may be a listable entity as defined by section 3(15) of the 
Act. Because the petition does not present substantial information 
indicating that summer-run Issaquah Creek kokanee may meet the 
significance criterion for a DPS or may represent a significant portion 
of the species' range, the five threat factors are not analyzed here.


    The Service has reviewed the petition to list the summer-run 
Issaquah Creek kokanee, the literature cited in the petition that was 
available to us, and other available scientific literature and 
information in our files. Based on this review, we find the petition 
does not present substantial information indicating that the summer-run 
Issaquah Creek kokanee may meet the criteria for being classified as a 
DPS under the Act. Although statistically significant differences in 
allele frequencies have been reported between summer-run Issaquah Creek 
kokanee and other kokanee and sockeye populations in the Sammamish 
Basin, information provided in the petition and other available 
information do not indicate how these differences may be biologically 
important or how they may constitute marked genetic differences

[[Page 59983]]

that are significant to the taxon. Therefore, we will not commence a 
status review in response to this petition.
    If you wish to provide information regarding summer-run Issaquah 
Creek kokanee, you may submit your information or materials to the 
Manager, Western Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).

References Cited

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


    The primary authors of this document are Western Washington Fish 
and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).


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

    Dated: October 15, 2007.
Kenneth Stansell,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. E7-20748 Filed 10-22-07; 8:45 am]