[Federal Register: February 13, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 29)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 6699-6703]
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 Jollyville Plateau Salamander as Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding and initiation of status 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to list the Jollyville Plateau salamander 
(Eurycea tonkawae) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act). We find that the petition presents substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the 
Jollyville Plateau salamander may be warranted. Therefore, with the 
publication of this notice, we are initiating a status review to 
determine if listing the species is warranted. To ensure that the 
status review of the Jollyville Plateau salamander is comprehensive, we 
are soliciting information and data regarding this species.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on February 13, 
2007. To be considered in the 12-month finding for this petition, 
comments and information should be submitted to us by April 16, 2007.

ADDRESSES: The complete supporting file for this finding is available 
for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at 
the Austin Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758 or via 
electronic mail at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Library/ The petition is available at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Library/. 
Submit new information, materials, comments, or questions concerning 
this petition and our finding to the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Pine, Field Supervisor, Austin 
Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES section) (telephone 
512/490-0057; facsimile 512/490-0974). Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.


Public Information Solicited

    When we make a finding that substantial information is presented to 
indicate that listing a species may be warranted, we are required to 
promptly commence a review of the status of the species. To ensure that 
the status review is complete and based on the best available 
scientific and commercial information, we are soliciting information on 
the Jollyville Plateau salamander. We request any additional 
information, comments, and suggestions from the public, other concerned 
governmental agencies, Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or 
any other interested parties concerning the status of the Jollyville 
Plateau salamander. We are seeking information regarding the species' 
historical and current status and distribution, its biology and 
ecology, ongoing conservation measures for the species and its habitat, 
and threats to the species and its habitat.
    We will base our 12-month finding on a review of the best 
scientific and commercial information available, including all 
information received during the public comment period. If you wish to 
comment or provide information, you may submit your comments and 
materials concerning this finding to the Field Supervisor, Austin 
Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES section). Please note 
that comments merely stating support or opposition to the actions under 
consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, 
will not be considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) 
of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any species is a 
threatened or endangered species shall be made ``solely on the basis of 
the best scientific and commercial data available.'' At the conclusion 
of the status review, we will issue the 12-month finding on the 
petition, as provided in section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during normal 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their names and home addresses, etc., but if you wish us to consider 
withholding this information, you must state this prominently at the 
beginning of your comments. In addition, you must present rationale for 
withholding this information. This rationale must demonstrate that 
disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy. 
Unsupported assertions will not meet this burden. In the absence of 
exceptional, documentable circumstances, this information will be 
released. We will always make submissions from organizations or 
businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as 
representatives of or officials of organizations or businesses, 
available for public inspection in their entirety.


    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (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 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 make 
this finding within 90 days of receipt of the petition, and publish our 
notice of this finding promptly in the Federal Register.

[[Page 6700]]

    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 that we determined reliable after reviewing sources 
referenced in the petition and information otherwise available in our 
files at the time of petition review. We evaluated that information in 
accordance with 50 CFR 424.14(b). Our process in making this 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.


    On June 13, 2005, we received a formal petition, dated June 10, 
2005, from Save Our Springs Alliance (SOSA) requesting that the 
Jollyville Plateau salamander (Eurycea tonkawae) be listed as an 
endangered species in accordance with section 4 of the Act.
    Action on this petition was precluded by court orders and 
settlement agreements for other listing actions that required all of 
our listing funds for fiscal year 2005 and a substantial portion of our 
listing funds for fiscal year 2006. On September 29, 2005, we received 
a 60-day notice of intent to sue from SOSA for failing to make a timely 
90-day finding. On December 1, 2005, we sent a letter to SOSA informing 
them that we would not likely make a petition finding during the fiscal 
year of 2006 due to funding limitations. Subsequently, funding became 
available to act on the petition. On August 10, 2006, SOSA filed a 
complaint against the Service for failure to issue a 90-day petition 
finding under section 4 of the Act for the finding on the Jollyville 
Plateau salamander. In our December 11, 2006, motion for summary 
judgment, we informed the court that based on current funding and 
workload projections, we believed that we could complete a 90-day 
finding by February 6, 2007, and if we determined that the petition 
provided substantial scientific and commercial data, we could make a 
12-month warranted or not warranted finding by February 6, 2008. This 
notice constitutes our 90-day finding for the petition to list the 
Jollyville Plateau salamander.

Species Information

    The petitioners presented sufficient, reliable information related 
to the taxonomic status of the Jollyville Plateau salamander. This 
species was first described as Eurycea tonkawae in the scientific 
journal Herpetological Monographs by Chippendale et al. (2000, pp. 1-
48) based on morphological characteristics and genetic analysis. We 
found no information in our files to refute the taxonomic status of the 
Jollyville Plateau salamander as a species or a listable entity under 
the Act. The Jollyville Plateau salamander is a neotenic member of the 
family Plethodontidae. Neotenic salamanders do not metamorphose into a 
terrestrial form. They retain external gills and are aquatic throughout 
their lives (City of Austin 2001, p. 3). Jollyville Plateau salamanders 
are approximately 1.5 to 2 inches (38 to 51 millimeters) at maturity 
(City of Austin 2001, p. 5).
    Jollyville Plateau salamanders are distributed within springs, 
spring-runs, and water-bearing karst formations in the Jollyville 
Plateau area of the Edwards Aquifer in Travis and Williamson counties, 
Texas (City of Austin 2001, p. 3). Karst is defined as ``a type of 
terrain that is formed by the slow dissolution of calcium carbonate 
from limestone bedrock by mildly acidic groundwater. This process 
creates numerous cave openings, cracks, fissures, fractures, and 
sinkholes, and the bedrock resembles a honeycomb'' (Veni and Associates 
2002, p. 70). The salamander's surface habitat is characterized by a 
typical depth of less than one foot (0.31 meters) of cool, well 
oxygenated water containing clean, loose substrates of boulder, cobble, 
and gravel (City of Austin 2001, p. 128). Eurycea species in Texas have 
been found to eat a variety of benthic macroinvertebrates (insects in 
their larval stage that are found at the bottom of a body of water), 
such as amphipods and chironomid larvae (midges) (City of Austin 2001, 
pp. 5-6).

Threats Analysis

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 424) 
set forth the procedures for adding species to the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. A species may be 
determined to be an endangered or threatened species due to one or more 
of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act: (A) The 
present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its 
habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or 
manmade factors affecting its continued existence. The Act identifies 
the five factors to be considered, either singly or in combination, to 
determine whether a species may be threatened or endangered. In making 
this finding, we evaluated whether threats to the Jollyville Plateau 
salamander presented in the petition and other information available in 
our files at the time of the petition review may pose a concern with 
respect to its survival. The following evaluation of these threats was 
based on information provided or cited in the petition and found to be 
reliable. Unless otherwise indicated in this threats analysis section, 
the references cited were cited in the petition. The petition cited the 
draft Barton Springs Salamander Recovery Plan that was not finalized at 
the time we received the petition. However, we verified the information 
using the finalized, signed version (Service 2005), and we reference 
the page numbers from the finalized version in this finding. The 
petition also cites the Service's draft 2002 Candidate Listing and 
Priority Assessment Form for the Jollyville Plateau Salamander, which 
was never finalized, and our 1997 Final Rule to list the Barton Springs 
salamander (62 FR 23377) as endangered.

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

    The petition states that Jollyville Plateau salamanders are found 
only within the rapidly developing counties of Travis and Williamson, 
Texas, where they are dependent upon a constant supply of clean water 
from the northern segment of the Edwards Aquifer (City of Austin 2001, 
p. 3). Flows may also originate from the Trinity Aquifer during 
droughts (Cole 1995, pp. 23-33). As of 2006, City of Austin data 
reflect that central Texas watersheds occupied by Jollyville Plateau 
salamanders include Brushy Creek, Bull Creek, Buttercup Creek, Lake 
Creek, Lake Travis, Shoal Creek, South Brushy Creek, Walnut Creek, and 
West Bull Creek. The petitioner notes that the Edwards and Trinity 
aquifers are localized, small, and highly susceptible to pollution, 
drying, or draining (Chippendale et al. 2000, p. 36).
    Information, including a map, provided with the petition depict 
that the majority of Jollyville Plateau salamander habitat is found in

[[Page 6701]]

urbanized areas or areas scheduled for development (City of Austin 
2005a, map; O'Donnell 2005, slide 12; Cole 1995, p. 28). The petition 
states that once natural vegetation in a watershed is replaced with 
impervious cover, rainfall is converted to surface runoff instead of 
filtering through the ground (Schueler 1991, p. 114). Impervious cover 
is any surface material, such as roads, rooftops, sidewalks, patios, 
paved surfaces, or compacted soil, that prevents water from filtering 
into the soil (Arnold and Gibbons 1996, p. 244). The petition cites an 
assessment by The Center for Watershed Protection that impervious cover 
exceeding 10 percent causes a loss of sensitive aquatic organisms, 
reduction in stream biodiversity, water quality degradation, stream 
warming, and channel instability within a watershed (Schueler 1994, pp. 
    The City of Austin 2001 report (pp. 16-39), which was cited in the 
petition, indicates that six of the nine tributaries included in a 
Jollyville Plateau salamander monitoring study conducted by the City of 
Austin from 1996 to the present have impervious cover estimates greater 
than 15 percent. The petition states that more than half of the 
salamander's known localities are located within the Bull Creek 
watershed. The Bull Creek watershed contains varying degrees of urban 
development (City of Austin 2001, pp. 21-33): As a whole, it is more 
than 50 percent developed and has an average impervious cover estimate 
of 21-24 percent (City of Austin 1999, p. ii). However, where the main 
stem of Bull Creek flows through the Balcones Canyonland Preserve 
(BCP), some of the best quality habitat remaining for the Jollyville 
Plateau salamander exists (O'Donnell 2005, slide 4; O'Donnell 2006).
    The petition states that developed tributaries occupied by the 
Jollyville Plateau salamander had higher levels of chloride, nitrate-
nitrogen, specific conductance, magnesium, potassium, sodium, sulfate, 
and fecal coliform compared to undeveloped tributaries (p <  0.05) over 
the course of the City of Austin's monitoring study (City of Austin 
2001, p. 59). Developed tributaries also experienced lower mean adult 
and juvenile Jollyville Plateau salamander abundances per square meter 
of wetted surface over the course of the study when compared to 
undeveloped tributaries (p <  0.05) (City of Austin 2001, p. 99). 
Information provided by the petitioner citing lower salamander 
abundances and decreased water quality in developed tributaries is 
corroborated by information in our files.
    The petition presents information about the negative effects of 
sedimentation on urban stream ecosystems and aquatic organisms. 
Sediments are mixtures of silt, sand, clay, and organic debris that are 
washed into tributaries during storm events (White and White 1968, p. 
116; Ford and Williams 1989, p. 537; Mahler and Lynch 1999, p. 13). Due 
to high organic carbon content, sediments can act as a sink and/or 
transport mechanism for contaminants. Contaminant compounds such as 
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), petroleum hydrocarbons, and 
pesticides can be absorbed into sediment particles in concentrations 
that are orders of magnitude greater than found in the water column 
(Mahler and Lynch 1999, p. 12). The petition adds that PAH exposure can 
cause impaired reproduction, reduced growth and development, and tumors 
or cancer in species of amphibians and reptiles. PAH exposure can also 
cause reduced survival, altered physiological function, and changes in 
species populations and community composition of freshwater 
invertebrates (Albers 2003, p. 352). The petition does not present 
evidence that these contaminant compounds are affecting the Jollyville 
Plateau salamanders specifically. However, information on the effects 
of sedimentation and contaminant compounds on amphibians, reptiles, and 
other aquatic organisms provided by the petitioner is corroborated by 
information in our files. Contamination from sedimentation has been 
documented to negatively affect reproduction, growth, and development 
in amphibians and reptiles, and has been shown to reduce survival for 
aquatic invertebrates, the salamander's food source.
    The petition also states that sediments suspended in water can clog 
gill structures of aquatic organisms and impair their ability to avoid 
predators or locate food sources and potential mates (Garton 1977, p. 
443; Schueler 1987, p. 1.5). Excessive deposition of sediment can 
physically reduce the amount of available habitat and protective cover 
for aquatic organisms by clogging spaces under or between the pebbles 
and rocks that are used for protective cover (Welsh and Ollivier 1998, 
p. 1128). Sedimentation from construction events that began in 2000 has 
affected one of the two City of Austin reference sites used in the 
aforementioned salamander monitoring study. The site, used as a control 
for the study due to its undeveloped status at the beginning of the 
study in 1996, can no longer be used as an undeveloped control due to 
the impacts corresponding to an increase in active construction 
upstream, including loss of salamander, benthic macroinvertebrate, and 
aquatic plant habitat (O'Donnell 2005, slide 14). We verified the 
petitioner's claim with information in our files indicating that, 
following construction, the City observed a decline in Jollyville 
Plateau salamander sightings in this tributary from more than 70 
individuals per survey before the construction to rarely more than 1 
after the construction began (O'Donnell 2006). The City of Austin 
monitoring study provides evidence that, as sediment deposition 
increases, salamander abundances significantly decrease (p <  0.01) 
(City of Austin 2001, pp. 101, 126). In addition, the petition cites 
observations by City of Austin biologists involved in the study that 
indicated that once a sediment layer is established, Jollyville Plateau 
salamander habitat is lost (O'Donnell 2005, slide 23). Information 
provided by the petitioner on the effects of sedimentation is 
corroborated by information in our files.
    The petition suggests that frequent human visitation and gas line 
or sewage spills associated with developed tributaries may negatively 
affect Jollyville Plateau salamanders and their habitat. The petition 
cites documentation from the City of Austin of disturbed vegetation, 
vandalism, and the destruction of travertine deposits by foot traffic 
at one of their salamander monitoring sites in the Bull Creek 
watershed. The drainage area was also impacted by a construction 
sediment spill in 1994 (City of Austin 2001, p. 21). Several sewage 
spills occurred in another drainage area within the Bull Creek 
watershed during the mid-1990s, and the area still contains a 
subsurface sanitary sewer line that, if a leak occurs, could affect the 
salamanders living downstream (City of Austin 2001, pp. 21, 74). The 
petition also provides information regarding several spills affecting a 
tributary supporting Jollyville Plateau salamanders located in the 
Shoal Creek watershed, including a 50-gallon gas spill that occurred in 
1987, a several gallon hydraulic fluid spill in 1995, followed by a 50-
gallon diesel spill in 1996. There is at least one leaking underground 
storage tank located in this tributary (City of Austin 2001, p. 16). 
Information provided by the petitioner regarding gas, sediment, and 
sewage spills in the range of the Jollyville Plateau salamander is 
corroborated by information in our files.
    The petition states that Jollyville Plateau salamander deformities, 
mainly in the form of curvature of the spine,

[[Page 6702]]

have been found at two of the City's Bull Creek watershed monitoring 
sites (City of Austin 2001, p. 120). The petition states that the City 
of Austin documented elevated levels of nutrients, particularly 
nitrates, at these sites and suggested that this was the cause of the 
deformities (O'Donnell et al. 2005, p. 11). The petition discusses 
these deformities as part of listing factor C, ``Disease or 
Predation.'' But, because the petition suggests that elevated nitrates 
are the likely cause of the spinal curvatures, we are including this 
information under Factor A, as a form of habitat modification. 
Information in our files states that possible sources of spinal 
curvature in amphibians include pathogens, inadequate nutrition, and 
contamination. After several labs conducted necropsies on some of the 
affected Jollyville Plateau salamanders, no obvious pathogens emerged 
as the cause (O'Donnell et al. 2005, p. 11). Information in the City's 
report indicates that nitrate levels at both of these sites have 
averaged six times greater than undeveloped Edwards Aquifer springs 
(City of Austin 2001, p. 120; O'Donnell et al. 2005, p. 11). Other 
studies cited in the City's report include documentation of salamander 
larvae and tadpoles developing bent tails, body swelling, and other 
deformities when continuously exposed to similar nitrate levels for 
more than five days (City of Austin 2001, p. 123; O'Donnell et al. 
2005, pp. 11-12). Thus, environmental toxins are suspected by City 
biologists as a leading cause of the spinal curvature (O'Donnell et 
al., 2005, p. 11). Information in our files demonstrates that 
deformities continue to be observed, include missing eyes, limbs, and 
digits (O'Donnell et al. 2005, pp. 11-12). Information provided by the 
petitioner regarding the documented elevated nitrates and Jollyville 
Plateau salamander deformities is corroborated by information in our 
    The petition states that the City of Austin has plans to build a 
Water Treatment Plant in the Balcones Canyonland Preserve (BCP) above 
the main stem of Bull Creek, which is considered one of the best 
undeveloped habitats remaining for the Jollyville Plateau salamander 
(O'Donnell 2005, slide 4, slide 12; O'Donnell 2006). Although most of 
the creek's watershed is developed or slated for development, the main 
stem of the creek runs through the BCP, which has been providing water 
quality protection for the salamander by preventing development along 
that part of the creek (O'Donnell 2005, slide 4; O'Donnell 2006). The 
petition states the new plant will likely degrade the water quality of 
the creek as well as increase sediment loads within the salamander's 
habitat (O'Donnell 2006). Information provided by the petitioner on a 
new water treatment plant slated for development above the main stem of 
Bull Creek is corroborated by information in our files. We consider the 
petition to present substantial information that the Jollyville Plateau 
salamander may be threatened by habitat-based threats such as water 
quality degradation.
    The petition also reports that increasing demand on the northern 
segment of the Edwards Aquifer for local human water consumption and 
diversion of surface runoff that would otherwise recharge the aquifer 
could result in lower spring surface discharge. Hundreds of springs 
have dried up in Texas due to human impacts on the aquifers, such as 
over-pumping, increases in impervious cover, and surface run-off 
diversion (Schram 1995, p. 90). To exacerbate this issue, the portion 
of the Edwards Aquifer underlying the Jollyville Plateau is relatively 
shallow, with a high elevation, thus being likely to dry out at the 
surface during periods of drought (Cole 1995, pp. 26-27). Information 
provided by the petitioner regarding increasing demand for water from 
the segment of the aquifer containing the Jollyville Plateau 
salamander, the susceptibility of that portion of the aquifer to dry 
out at the surface, and the documented effects of human impacts and 
over-pumping on aquifer systems in Texas is corroborated by information 
in our files. Previous Service documents have discussed reduced spring 
flow as a potential threat to similar Eurycea salamanders occurring in 
the Edwards Aquifer (Service 2005, pp. 1.6-22, 1.6-23). We are not 
making a finding on whether the petitioners have presented substantial 
information that the Jollyville Plateau salamander may be threatened by 
habitat-based threats associated with aquifer depletion. We will 
consider information related to this issue during the status review.

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

    According to the petition, overutilization is not considered a 
threat to the Jollyville Plateau salamander at this time.

C. Disease or Predation

    The petition contends that City of Austin biologists found 
Jollyville Plateau salamander abundances were negatively correlated 
with the abundance of predatory centrarchid fish (carnivorous 
freshwater fish belonging to the sunfish family), such as black bass 
(Micropterus spp.) or sunfish (Lepomis spp.) (City of Austin 2001, p. 
102). Information provided by the petitioner on the negative 
correlation documented between salamander abundances and the abundance 
of predatory fish is corroborated by information in our files. There 
have been no direct observations of negative interactions between 
Jollyville Plateau salamanders and centrachid fish. Predation could 
have an additive effect to other threats occurring and may be 
significant in combination with those threats.

D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The petitioner states that there is currently no protection for the 
Jollyville Plateau salamander provided by Texas State Law. The species 
is not listed on the Texas State List of Threatened or Endangered 
Species. There were no sources cited in the petition regarding this 
statement, but this was verified by reviewing the State's list of 
threatened and endangered species (TPWD 2006, pp. 2-3).
    The Balcones Canyonland Preserve (BCP) offers some water quality 
benefits to portions of the Bull Creek, West Bull Creek, Buttercup 
Creek, and Lake Travis watersheds through preservation of open space 
over their recharge zones (Service 1996a, pp. 2-28-2-29). However, some 
of the sites known to be occupied by the Jollyville Plateau salamander 
within the BCP can be affected by changes in land use and subsequent 
water quality degradation occurring in portions of contributing 
watersheds outside of the preserved tracts. Specifically, the preserved 
tracts within the BCP do not appear to be effective at reducing 
nutrient levels at some salamander sites (City of Austin 1999, p. 6-
11). In addition, Jollyville Plateau salamanders are not a covered 
species under the section 10(a)(1)(B) permit under which the preserves 
were established (Service 1996b, pp. 1-10).
    The petition states that the City of Austin's water quality 
ordinances provide some water quality regulatory protection to the 
salamander's habitat, but do not appear to be effective at reducing 
nutrient levels. The petition also notes that less than 20 percent of 
all development in the Bull Creek watershed is subject to the most 
stringent regulations, while the other 80 percent was developed prior 
to the passage of these regulations in 1993 (City of Austin 1999, p. 6-
11). Additionally, regulations aimed at limiting impervious cover over 

[[Page 6703]]

Edwards Aquifer have been exempted by numerous grandfathering laws 
(Chapter 245 of the Texas Local Government Code as discussed in Service 
2005, p. 1.6-17).
    There are several State regulations, such as the Texas Commission 
on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) Edwards Rules, along with some 
municipal ordinances, that are designed to minimize water quality 
degradation from new development. The Edwards Rules regulate activities 
that may pollute the Edwards Aquifer. The Edwards Rules do not address 
land use, impervious cover limitations, nonpoint source pollution, or 
application of fertilizers and pesticides over the recharge zone (The 
Edwards Aquifer Rules as discussed in 62 FR 23389; The Edwards Aquifer 
Rules as discussed in Service 2005, p. 1.6-16). Based on trend data 
that shows degradation of water quality at Barton Springs over the 
years, existing regulations for maintaining water quality in the 
Edwards Aquifer may not adequately protect the salamander (City of 
Austin 2005b, p. 20 as cited in Service 2005, p. 1.6-16). Information 
provided by the petitioner on the inadequacies of existing regulatory 
mechanisms is corroborated by information in our files. Data indicate 
that water quality degradation in streams occupied by the Jollyville 
Plateau salamander and other areas in the Edwards Aquifer such as 
Barton Springs continue to occur despite the existence of current 
regulatory mechanisms. Therefore, we consider the petition to present 
substantial information that inadequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms poses a substantial threat to the Jollyville Plateau 

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting the Species' Continued 

    The petition states that natural factors negatively affecting the 
Jollyville Plateau salamander include its limited distribution and 
amphibians' sensitivity to water quality degradation. Amphibians, 
especially their eggs and larvae, are sensitive to many pollutants 
including heavy metals, insecticides, nitrates, salts, and petroleum 
hydrocarbons (Harfenist et al. 1989, pp. 4-57). In addition, 
crustaceans on which the Jollyville Plateau salamander feeds are 
especially sensitive to water pollution (Phipps et al. 1995, p. 282). 
Information provided by the petitioner on the Jollyville Plateau 
salamander's limited distribution and amphibian sensitivity to 
pollutants is corroborated by information in our files. As discussed 
under Factor A, the present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of the species' habitat or range, Jollyville Plateau 
salamanders exhibit potential sensitivities to certain aspects of water 
quality degradation such as increased sedimentation from construction 
events (O'Donnell 2006) and/or abnormal development in areas with high 
nitrate levels (O'Donnell et al. 2005, pp. 11-12). Thus, we find that 
the petition presents substantial information that natural factors may 
increase susceptibility to other threats.


    We have reviewed the petition and literature cited in the petition, 
and evaluated that information we deemed reliable to make this finding. 
We used other reliable information that was readily available in our 
files or readily available to us at the time of the petition review to 
evaluate the reliability of information in the petition. The petition 
presents evidence of water quality degradation resulting in lower 
salamander abundances, a loss in salamander habitat, and possible 
salamander deformities within urbanized areas of their habitat. The 
petition also presents evidence of expanding urbanization throughout 
their range, including areas that are currently considered protected. 
The information in our files supports the petition's statements 
regarding these threats to the salamander. Thus, we believe that the 
petition presents substantial information indicating water quality 
degradation combined with the species' limited distribution may 
increase extinction risk. In addition, existing available regulatory 
mechanisms appear potentially insufficient to control water quality 
levels in salamander habitat and prevent the progressive decline of the 
habitat upon which the Jollyville Plateau salamander depends. On the 
basis of this review and evaluation, we find that the petition presents 
substantial information indicating that listing the Jollyville Plateau 
salamander may be warranted. As such, we are initiating a further 
status review of the Jollyville Plateau salamander to determine whether 
listing the species under the Act is warranted.
    We have also reviewed the available information to determine if the 
existing and foreseeable threats pose an emergency to this species. The 
immediacy of the threats described in the petition do not appear to be 
so great to a significant portion of the total population that the 
routine listing process would not be sufficient to prevent large losses 
that could otherwise result in extinction. Furthermore, we do not 
believe that expected losses of the salamander during the normal 
listing process would risk the continued existence of the entire listed 
species. For these reasons, we have determined that an emergency 
listing is not warranted at this time. However, if at any time we 
determine that emergency listing of the Jollyville Plateau salamander 
is warranted, we will seek to initiate an emergency listing process.

References Cited

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


    The primary author of this notice is the Austin Ecological Services 
Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).


    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 6, 2007.
Kenneth Stansell,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
 [FR Doc. E7-2289 Filed 2-12-07; 8:45 am]