[Federal Register: March 8, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 45)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 10477-10480]
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 Monongahela River Basin Population of the 
Longnose Sucker as 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 Monongahela River Basin 
population of Catostomus catostomus (longnose sucker) as 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 listing C. catostomus may be warranted. 
This finding is based on our determination that there is insufficient 
evidence to indicate that the Monongahela River Basin population of C. 
catostomus represents a distinct population segment (DPS) and, 
therefore, it cannot be considered a listable entity under section 
3(15) of the Act. Accordingly, we will not initiate a status review in 
response to this petition. However, the public may at any time submit 
to us information concerning whether the Monongahela River Basin 
population of Catostomus catostomus meets the DPS criteria for this 
otherwise widespread species.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on March 8, 

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this finding is available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the 
Pennsylvania Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 315 South 
Allen Street, Suite 322, State College, PA 16801. Submit new 
information, materials, comments, or questions concerning the status of 
or threats to this taxon to us at the above address.

Pennsylvania Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see 
ADDRESSES) (telephone 814-234-4090; facsimile 814-234-0748).



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of 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, 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 
    In making this finding, we relied on information provided by the 
petitioners and otherwise available in our files at the time of the 
petition review and evaluated this information in accordance with 50 
CFR 424.14(b). Our process of making a 90-day finding

[[Page 10478]]

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. Unless 
otherwise noted, the following summary regarding the species, its 
distribution, and taxonomy was provided in the petition.


    On December 27, 2002, we received a formal petition from the 
Fisheries Technical Committee of the Pennsylvania Biological Survey to 
list a population of longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus), that is 
restricted to the Monongahela River Basin, as an endangered species 
under section 4 of the Act. The petition also requested that subsequent 
to listing, the Service make a definitive determination of the 
population's taxonomic status, address direct and potential threats, 
investigate life history, and reintroduce the species within its 
historic range in the Monongahela River Basin.
    Action on the petition was precluded by court orders and settlement 
agreements for other listing actions that required nearly all of our 
listing funds for fiscal year 2003. A letter was sent to the 
petitioners on January 17, 2003, acknowledging receipt of the petition 
and explaining the reasons for the delay in processing.

Species Information

    Catostomus catostomus, or longnose sucker, is a member of the 
family Catostomidae, a group of freshwater, principally substrate 
foraging fishes. This species was described by Forster in 1773, based 
on specimens collected from tributaries to the Hudson Bay. The subject 
of the petition is a disjunct population that occurs in the Monongahela 
River drainage in West Virginia, western Maryland, and southwestern 
Pennsylvania. This southern population is geographically separated from 
the larger range of the fish. According to the petition, no other 
populations are known from the Ohio River drainage, or any other 
Mississippi River basin tributaries, excepting the Missouri River 
(Gilbert & Lee, 1980; Page and Burr, 1991).
    The petition utilizes several references regarding longnose sucker 
life history and habitat (e.g., Harris 1962; Becker 1983; Cooper 1983; 
Geen et al., 1966; Smith 1985). None are specific to longnose suckers 
in the Monongahela River system, but present general information 
concerning longnose sucker habitats and life history. Longnose suckers 
occur in clear, cold waters throughout much of northern North America 
and parts of eastern Asia. Those in the Monongahela River Basin 
generally occur in small to medium-sized streams, most often in deeper 
pools with either boulder-rubble substrate or a significant amount of 
coarse, woody debris. These pools and runs (streams) are usually 
immediately below faster-flowing riffle areas. On the basis of 
available information, the Monongahela River population occurs 
primarily in clear, cool streams, which appear to be consistent with 
habitats utilized elsewhere throughout its range.
    The petitioners do not reference specific studies regarding 
reproductive behavior of the longnose sucker population in the 
Monongahela River Basin, but the species has been documented to spawn 
in water temperatures ranging from 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50 to 59 
degrees Fahrenheit), with schools of the fish gathering over gravel 
substrates in stream riffles and lake shoals. Longnose suckers exhibit 
high fecundity, with egg counts ranging from 17,000 to more than 60,000 
per female. Annual survival of eggs and fry is low, leading to low 
annual recruitment into juvenile age classes. The species has been 
documented to begin to reach maturity at 4 years of age for males and 5 
years of age for females in western Lake Superior. Longnose suckers 
exhibit some variation in mature size across their range; the largest 
individual recorded was a 642 millimeter (mm) (25.3 inches) female 
estimated to be 19 years old from Great Slave Lake, Northwest 
Territories, Canada. Populations of apparently ``stunted'' individuals 
have also been reported in parts of the species' range. Whether 
environmentally influenced or genetic, the largest specimen recorded 
from the Monongahela River drainage is less than 250 mm.


    The longnose sucker is among the most widely distributed of North 
American freshwater fishes, ranging, in the east from western Labrador 
and Quebec; south to West Virginia; west to Nebraska, Colorado, and 
Washington; and north throughout most of Alaska and Canada, including 
the Arctic and extending into eastern Siberia. The Monongahela River 
drainage in West Virginia, western Maryland, and southwestern 
Pennsylvania supports the disjunct population that is the subject of 
the petition.
    The petition reports 39 collection records for the longnose sucker 
from the Monongahela River Basin (with references including Jordon 
1878, Goldsborough and Clark 1908, and Hendricks 1980). With the 
exception of a collection record from the Tygart Valley River, West 
Virginia, and the Youghiogheny River (a Monongahela River tributary), 
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, longnose sucker collection records are 
restricted to a Youghiogheny River tributary drainage, the Casselman 
River Basin in Garrett County, Maryland and Somerset County, 
Pennsylvania. The most recent reported collection from Maryland was in 
1978, and the species is considered to be extirpated from the State 
(Maryland Department of Natural Resources 2004). The petition concludes 
that since 2000, longnose suckers have only been collected in the 
Monongahela River Basin in Pennsylvania within reaches of four 
Casselman River tributary streams: Elklick Creek, Flaugherty Creek, 
Piney Creek, and Whites Creek.


    The petition references McPhail and Taylor (1990) in asserting that 
across the species' range, longnose suckers are morphologically 
variable, with some evidence of eastern and western divergence across 
North America. However, no such variation is described for the 
population in the Monongahela River Basin. The Monongahela River Basin 
is geographically separated from other waters supporting this species 
by a watershed divide; the closest population is the one that occurs in 
the Lake Erie Basin, more than 257 kilometers (km) (160 miles (mi)) to 
the north. The petitioners present information that theorizes that 
longnose suckers in the Monongahela River Basin became isolated from 
the main populations to the north through stream capture and changing 
flow patterns that occurred during the Wisconsin glacial retreat, and 
that this subpopulation may have persisted in the Monongahela River 
Basin for 15,000 years or more. The petitioners suggest that this 
period of isolation may have resulted in genetic differences from other 
longnose sucker populations. They indicate that the Salish sucker, a 
longnose sucker population native to the Frazier River and Puget Sound, 
Canada, appears to be genetically distinct from other northwestern 
longnose suckers. The petition uses this example to suggest that the 
Monongahela River population of the longnose sucker may also be 
genetically distinct from other longnose sucker populations. However, 
the petition does not present any genetic data or other specific 
information to support this hypothesis. Rather, the petition 
specifically requests that the

[[Page 10479]]

Service make a ``definitive determination of its taxonomic status.''

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments

    The petitioners have asked us to consider listing the longnose 
sucker in the Monongahela River Basin in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and 
West Virginia as endangered. Under the Act, we can consider for listing 
any species, subspecies, or distinct population segment (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 the Service's policy on distinct 
vertebrate population segments, the three elements considered regarding 
the potential recognition of a DPS as endangered or threatened are: (1) 
The discreteness of the population segment in relation to the remainder 
of the species to which it belongs; (2) the significance of the 
population segment to the species to which it belongs; and (3) the 
population segment's conservation status 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?). Following is our 
evaluation of these elements in relation to the petitioned entity, the 
longnose sucker in the Monongahela River Basin.
    Discreteness: A population segment of a vertebrate species may be 
considered discrete if it is markedly separated from other populations 
of the same taxon as a consequence of physical, physiological, 
ecological, or behavioral factors, or if it is delimited by 
international governmental boundaries within which differences in 
control of exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or 
regulatory mechanisms exist that are significant in light of section 
4(a)(1)(D) of the Act.
    The petition states that the longnose sucker population in the 
Monongahela River Basin is the only population of this species recorded 
from the Ohio River Basin, and is markedly separated from the rest of 
the species' range, with the nearest population occurring across a 
major watershed boundary in the Lake Erie Basin at least 265 km (160 
mi) to the north (Gilbert and Lee 1980; Page and Burr 1991). The 
petition further hypothesizes that the population in the Monongahela 
River Basin appears to be a glacial relic and may have been separated 
from the larger range of the species as much as 15,000 years ago 
(Hendricks et al. 1983). On the basis of a review of the information 
centered within the petition, we find that the petition presents 
substantial evidence to indicate that the species is markedly separated 
from other populations of the same taxon by physical factors. 
Therefore, we conclude that the longnose sucker population in the 
Monongahela River Basin meets the ``discreteness'' criterion.
    Significance: 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 light 
of Congressional guidance that the authority to list DPS's be used 
``sparingly'' while encouraging the conservation of genetic diversity. 
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 DPS in an ecological setting unusual or 
unique for the taxon; (2) evidence that loss of the DPS would result in 
a significant gap in the range of a taxon; (3) evidence that the DPS 
represents the only surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be 
more abundant elsewhere as an introduced population outside its 
historic range; or (4) evidence that the DPS differs markedly from 
other populations of the species in its genetic characteristics. Each 
of these factors is discussed below, based on the information presented 
in the petition.
    Persistence of the population segment in an ecological setting that 
is unique for the taxon. Longnose suckers in the Monongahela River 
Basin appear to use habitat that is similar to stream habitats used by 
the species throughout its range. Although situated geographically to 
the south, the ecological setting is consistent with habitats described 
elsewhere in the species' range (i.e., cool, clear streams with gravel 
and cobble substrates). Therefore, on the basis of information provided 
in the petition, it is our determination that the Monongahela River 
population does not appear to exist in either an unusual or unique 
setting for the species.
    Loss of the population segment would result in a significant gap in 
the range of taxon. Both the historic, and current, range of longnose 
suckers in the Monongahela River Basin represents a very small 
percentage (less than one percent) of the species' overall global 
range. While the loss of this population would eliminate the species 
from the Monongahela River drainage, the species would continue to 
exist in over 99 percent of its range. As a result, we do not believe 
that a significant gap in the species' range would result. Furthermore, 
neither the petition nor information in our files indicates that loss 
of this population would result in a significant gap at the edge of the 
species range.
    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. The Monongahela 
River population of the longnose sucker does not represent the only 
surviving natural occurrence of this species. According to the 
petition, the longnose sucker survives naturally throughout much of 
northern North America. Therefore, we have determined that this 
criterion is not relevant to this evaluation.
    The discrete population segment differs markedly from other 
populations of the species in its genetic characteristics. The 
petitioners speculate that longnose suckers from the Monongahela River 
Basin may be genetically distinct from longnose sucker populations to 
the north and west, and suggest that this population may be 
``stunted.'' The petitioners suggest that because the Salish sucker 
(Catostomus catostomus), appears to be genetically distinct from 
longnose sucker populations elsewhere in the Frazier River and Puget 
Sound, Canada, that genetic differences may also exist between the 
Monongahela River Basin population of the longnose sucker and longnose 
suckers elsewhere. However, no data regarding quantitative or 
morphological analysis or literature citations were presented to 
support the genetic distinctiveness of the Monongahela River population 
of the longnose sucker, and the petition recommends that such studies 
be initiated. Therefore, on the basis of a review of the information 
provided in the petition, we have determined that there is insufficient 
evidence to suggest that the Monongahela River population of the 
longnose sucker differs markedly from other populations of the longnose 
    Based on an evaluation of each of the criteria identified in the 
Service's DPS policy under significance relative to the information 
provided in the petition, we have determined that the Monongahela River 
Basin population of the longnose sucker does not meet the 
``significance'' criterion under the Service's DPS policy. Because the 
Monongahela River Basin population of the longnose sucker

[[Page 10480]]

fails to meet one of the first two criteria for a distinct vertebrate 
population segment per our policy (i.e., the significance criterion), 
we have determined that it is not a listable entity under the Act. We 
note that the petition also fails to present substantial information 
that the range of the longnose sucker within the Monongahela River 
Basin may be a significant portion of the range of the species. 
Therefore, we are not proceeding with an evaluation of its conservation 
status relative to the Act's standards for listing as endangered or 
    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 Monongahela River population of the 
longnose sucker. These factors are pertinent only in cases where the 
organism being proposed for listing is a listable entity as defined by 
section 3(15) of the Act. Because the Monongahela River basin 
population does not meet the significance criterion for a DPS, and 
therefore not a listable entity, the five threat factors are not 
analyzed for that population here.


    We have reviewed the information presented in the petition, and 
evaluated that information in relation to information readily available 
in our files. Based on this review, we find the petition does not 
present substantial information indicating that listing the Monongahela 
River population of C. catostomus may be warranted. This finding is 
based on the lack of evidence to indicate that the Monongahela River 
population of C. catostomus meets the criteria for being classified as 
a DPS. Although it is geographically and reproductively isolated, 
scientific evidence was not provided to document this population's 
biological or ecological significance under the Service's DPS policy. 
Therefore, we have concluded that the Monongahela River population of 
the longnose sucker is not a listable entity under section 3(15) of the 
Act. We will not commence a status review in response to this petition. 
We encourage interested parties to monitor the Monongahela River 
population's status and trends, and potential threats, and to implement 
actions that will contribute to this species' conservation. We also 
encourage interested parties to continue to gather data that will 
assist with these conservation efforts. New information regarding this 
population's potential consideration as a DPS should be submitted to 
the Field Supervisor, Pennsylvania Field Office (see ADDRESSES).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available, upon 
request, from the Pennsylvania Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (see ADDRESSES).


    The primary author of this notice is Robert M. Anderson, 
Pennsylvania 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 23, 2007.
Kenneth Stansell,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
 [FR Doc. E7-4081 Filed 3-7-07; 8:45 am]