[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 120 (Monday, June 23, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 35509-35511]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-14513]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2014-0023; 4500030113]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
on a Petition To List the Humboldt Marten as Endangered or Threatened

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of initiation of scoping and request for information.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are 
gathering information to prepare a 12-month finding under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), on a petition to list 
the current classification of Humboldt marten (Martes caurina 
humboldtensis) as an endangered or threatened species. We provide this 
notice to summarize the uncertainty regarding the subspecies taxonomic 
classification (based on current genetics information) and, therefore, 
our intent to conduct an evaluation of a potential distinct population 
segment (DPS) of martens in coastal northern California and coastal 
Oregon relative to the full species classification level. We will 
submit a 12-month finding on the petition to the Federal Register by 
April 1, 2015.

DATES: We request that we receive information on or before August 7, 
2014. Information submitted electronically using the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) must be received by 
11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date.

ADDRESSES: You may submit information by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R8-ES-2014-0023. You 
may submit information by clicking on ``Comment Now!''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2014-0023; Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We request that you send information only by the methods described 
above. We will post all information we receive on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any 
personal information you provide us (see the Information Requested 
section below for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bruce Bingham, Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, 1655 
Heindon Road, Arcata, CA 95521; telephone 707-822-7201; or facsimile 
707-822-8411. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf 
(TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-



    In a petition dated September 28, 2010 (Center for Biological 
Diversity (CBD) and Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) 
2010), the petitioners requested that we consider for listing the 
(then-classified) subspecies Humboldt marten (Martes americana 
humboldtensis), or the (now-recognized) subspecies Humboldt marten (M. 
caurina humboldtensis), or the Humboldt marten Distinct Population 
Segment (DPS) of the Pacific marten (M. caurina). The petitioners 
further stipulated that, based on recent genetic analyses indicating 
that populations of marten from coastal Oregon are more closely related 
to M. a. humboldtensis than to M. a. caurina in the Cascades of Oregon 
(citing Dawson 2008, Slauson et al. 2009), the range of the subspecies 
or DPS of the Humboldt marten should be expanded to include coastal 
Oregon populations. On January 12, 2012, we published a substantial 90-
day finding on the petition to list the Humboldt marten as an 
endangered or threatened species under the Act (77 FR 1900). For 
purposes of the 90-day finding, the common name Humboldt marten 
referred to the then-classified American marten (M. americana) 
populations in coastal northern California and coastal Oregon.
    The American marten (Martes americana) was originally described as 
a single species by Turton (1806; entire), based on specimens from 
eastern North America. In 1890, Merriam (1890; entire) considered a new 
species, M. caurina, as those martens found west of the Rocky 
Mountains. In 1926, the Humboldt [Pine] marten (M. c. humboldtensis) 
was described as a subspecies of M. caurina (Grinnel and Dixon 1926, 
entire); historically, this subspecies was distributed throughout the 
coastal, fog-influenced coniferous forests of northern California from 
northwestern Sonoma County north to the Oregon border (Grinnel and 
Dixon 1926, entire). In 1953, Wright (1953; entire) described one 
species, the American marten (M. americana), which included as 
subspecies both the Humboldt [Pine] marten subspecies (M. a. 
humboldtensis), and the former western marten species (M. caurina), 
classified as M. a. caurina.
    As noted above, at the time of our 90-day finding (77 FR 1900; 
January 12, 2012), the Humboldt marten was classified as Martes 
americana humboldtensis. Subsequently, Dawson and Cook (2012, entire) 
split the American marten, recognizing the Pacific marten (M. caurina) 
for all martens occurring west of the Rocky Mountain crest, based on 
genetic and morphological differences. While this split changed the 
species-level name of all martens occurring west of the Rocky Mountain 
crest from M. americana to M. caurina, subspecies epithets were not 
changed. Therefore, the current classification of the Humboldt marten 
in coastal northern California is M. c. humboldtensis, and the marten 
populations occurring in adjacent coastal Oregon are M. c. caurina. In 
addition, as currently recognized, populations of martens in the Oregon 
Cascades northward through the State of Washington and into British 
Columbia, Canada, are also M. c. caurina.
    Ongoing genetic research indicates uncertainty in the Pacific 
marten subspecies delineations in California and Oregon. Specifically, 
the best available data indicate that the Martes caurina humboldtensis 
population in coastal northern California (Humboldt, Siskiyou, and Del 
Norte Counties) and the two M. c. caurina populations in coastal Oregon 
(Curry, Coos, coastal portion of Douglas, coastal portion of Lane, 
Lincoln, and Tillamook Counties) may be a single evolutionary unit 
(clade) (Slauson et al. 2009, p. 1,340; Schwartz et al., in prep) 
(available for review at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket No. FWS-R8-
ES-2014-0023). Although questions regarding the taxonomy of marten 
subspecies in northern California and Oregon are not new (i.e., both 
the petition we received (CBD and EPIC 2010) and our 90-day finding 
(January 12, 2012; 77 FR 1900) identified ongoing genetic research and 
taxonomic uncertainty), the best available information indicates that 
the original designation of two separate marten subspecies occurring in 

[[Page 35510]]

northern California and coastal Oregon may be invalid. However, there 
is currently insufficient information to conclude with reasonable 
certainty that coastal Oregon populations of Pacific marten should be 
classified as M. c. humboldtensis. Such a conclusion is confounded by 
small sample sizes and lack of corroborating information (e.g., similar 
morphological or physiological traits among the two clades) that would 
lend further support to a conclusion that these two groups should be 
considered the same subspecies.
    According to section 3(16) of the Act, we may consider for listing 
any of three categories of vertebrate animals: A species, subspecies, 
or distinct population segment (DPS; see the Service's 1996 Policy 
Regarding the Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments 
under the Endangered Species Act at 61 FR 4722). We refer to each of 
these categories as a potential ``listable entity.'' We have been 
petitioned to list collectively two groups of the Pacific marten (two 
populations in Oregon and one in California) that are currently 
recognized as belonging to two separate subspecies (as described 
above). To ensure we are evaluating the most accurate listable entity 
based on the best scientific and commercial data currently available 
(including unpublished genetics information), and to ensure we are 
being fully responsive to the petition (CBD and EPIC 2010), we consider 
it reasonable that a coastal distinct population segment (DPS) of the 
Pacific marten constitute the listable entity for our 12-month status 
review. As such, we consider this DPS to include the currently 
recognized Martes caurina humboldtensis (i.e., Humboldt marten) and the 
coastal populations of M. caurina caurina in Oregon (i.e., Oregon Coast 
Range group). We believe this entity is reasonable for consideration at 
this time given:
    (1) The best available data (e.g., new genetics information, 
similar habitat usage) suggest that the coastal northern California 
marten population and the coastal Oregon marten populations may be a 
single evolutionary entity as opposed to two separate entities.
    (2) Existing genetics information suggests that subspecies-level 
taxonomy of M. c. humboldtensis, M. c. caurina, and possibly other 
subspecies of the Pacific marten as currently classified may be 
    (3) The DPS policy states that the population segment under 
consideration must be evaluated for discreteness and significance in 
relation to the remainder of the taxon to which it belongs. Ordinarily, 
in the present case we would evaluate the marten populations relative 
to the subspecies to which they belong, but the populations in question 
currently represent two separate subspecies and there is uncertainty as 
to the legitimacy of those subspecies classifications, rendering such 
an evaluation invalid.
    (4) Uncertainty in the subspecies-level taxonomy of Pacific marten 
logically necessitates that we elevate our evaluation of the DPS 
relative to the Pacific marten at the full species-level. In other 
words, we would apply the criteria for evaluating a coastal DPS of the 
Pacific marten relative to the full species Pacific marten (Martes 
caurina) as a whole.
    (5) The DPS policy states that ``In all cases, the organisms in a 
population are members of a single species or lesser taxon.'' 
Therefore, given (1) through (4) above, we think that an evaluation at 
the species level is appropriate.
    Under the DPS policy, two basic elements are considered in the 
decision regarding the establishment of a population of a vertebrate 
species as a possible DPS. The question as to whether a population or 
group of populations qualifies as a DPS requires a finding that the 
population is both: (1) Discrete in relation to the remainder of the 
taxon to which it belongs, and (2) biologically and ecologically 
significant to the taxon to which it belongs. If the population meets 
the first two criteria under the DPS policy, we then proceed to the 
third element in the process, which is to evaluate the population 
segment's conservation status in relation to the Act's standards for 
listing as an endangered or threatened species.
    Under the DPS policy, a population segment of a vertebrate taxon 
may be considered discrete if it satisfies either one of the following 
    (1) It is markedly separated from other populations of the same 
taxon as a consequence of physical, physiological, ecological, or 
behavioral factors. Quantitative measures of genetic or morphological 
discontinuity may provide evidence of this separation.
    (2) 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. As the marten 
populations in question here do not transcend an international 
boundary, this criterion does not apply.
    If we determine that a vertebrate population segment is discrete 
under one or more of the conditions described in our DPS policy, then 
we consider its biological and ecological significance to the larger 
taxon to which it belongs. Because precise circumstances are likely to 
vary considerably from case to case, the DPS policy does not describe 
all the classes of information that might be used in determining the 
biological and ecological importance of a discrete population. However, 
the DPS policy describes four possible classes of information that 
provide evidence of a population segment's biological and ecological 
importance to the taxon to which it belongs. This consideration of the 
population segment's significance may include, but is not limited to, 
the following:
    (1) Persistence of the discrete population segment in an ecological 
setting unusual or unique to the taxon;
    (2) Evidence that loss of the discrete population segment would 
result in a significant gap in the range of a taxon;
    (3) Evidence that the discrete 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; or
    (4) Evidence that the discrete population segment differs markedly 
from other populations of the species in its genetic characteristics.
    A population segment needs to satisfy only one of these conditions 
to be considered significant. Furthermore, other information may be 
used as appropriate to provide evidence for significance.
    As indicated above, we anticipate concluding an evaluation of the 
coastal DPS of Pacific marten and submitting a 12-month finding to the 
Federal Register by April 1, 2015. We appreciate any information 
regarding our consideration of the coastal northern California and 
coastal Oregon populations of Pacific marten as a single listable 
entity (see Information Requested).

Information Requested

    We will accept written information during this 45-day scoping 
period on our future 12-month finding evaluation of the putative 
coastal DPS of Pacific marten. We will consider information from all 
interested parties. We intend that any final action resulting from our 
evaluation be as accurate as possible and based on the best available 
scientific and commercial data.
    We are interested in the following information for Pacific martens, 
specifically Humboldt martens in coastal northern California and 
coastal Oregon populations of Pacific marten:
    (1) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering.

[[Page 35511]]

    (2) Genetics and taxonomy, especially:
    (a) Information (e.g., morphological, genetic, physiological, 
ecological, behavioral) supporting or contesting current subspecies 
taxonomy of Martes caurina in coastal northern California and Oregon.
    (b) Information supporting or contesting the validity of the 
historical geographic boundaries of the Pacific marten subspecies, 
Martes caurina caurina.
    (3) Information to inform a DPS designation, especially:
    (a) Information supporting or contesting the combining of the 
population of Pacific martens in northwest California with the coastal 
Oregon populations as a single listable entity under our DPS policy.
    (b) Information to inform our evaluation as to whether martens in 
coastal northern California and coastal Oregon do or do not meet the 
criteria for discreteness and significance under our DPS policy.
    (4) The factors that are the basis for making a listing 
determination for a species, subspecies, or DPS under section 4(a) of 
the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), which are:
    (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 
    (5) Exposure to toxicants, including anticoagulant rodenticides, 
including information related to:
    (a) Scope of exposure within coastal northern California and 
coastal Oregon;
    (b) Severity of exposure to individuals; and
    (c) Potential impacts of exposure to populations.
    (6) Historical and current range of the Pacific marten in coastal 
northern California and coastal Oregon, including distribution 
    (7) Historical and current population levels of the Pacific marten 
in coastal northern California and coastal Oregon, and current and 
projected trends.
    (8) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the Pacific marten 
in coastal northern California and coastal Oregon, or its habitat.
    (9) Effects of climate change on habitat of the Pacific marten, 
including changes in fire frequency and intensity.
    (10) Whether our suggested approach to evaluating the presently 
recognized subspecies Humboldt marten (M. c. humboldtensis) 
collectively with the Oregon coastal populations of the Pacific marten 
(a subset of M. c. caurina) as a potential single DPS of the full 
species Martes caurina is supported by the best available scientific 
and commercial data.
    If you submitted comments or information on the 90-day finding (77 
FR 1900) during the initial comment period from January 12, 2012, to 
March 12, 2013, please do not resubmit them. We will incorporate them 
into the public record and we will fully consider them in the 
preparation of our 12-month finding. Our 12-month finding will take 
into consideration all written comments and any additional information 
we receive during the previous comment period and this scoping period. 
If you submit information during this scoping period, please include 
sufficient information with your submission (such as scientific journal 
articles or other publications) to allow us to verify any scientific or 
commercial information you include. You may submit your information by 
one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you send 
information only by the methods described in ADDRESSES.
    If you submit information via http://www.regulations.gov, your 
entire submission--including any personal identifying information--will 
be posted on the Web site. We will post all hardcopy information 
received on http://www.regulations.gov as well. If you submit hardcopy 
information that includes personal identifying information, you may 
request at the top of your document that we withhold this information 
from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able 
to do so.
    Information we receive, as well as supporting documentation we use 
in preparing our 12-month finding, will be available via Docket No. 
FWS-R8-ES-2014-0023 upon publication of our 12-month finding in the 
Federal Register.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available on the Internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Arcata Fish and 


    The primary authors of this notice are the staff members of the 
Pacific Southwest Regional Office and Arcata Fish and Wildlife Field 


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

    Dated: June 12, 2014
Stephen Guertin,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-14513 Filed 6-20-14; 8:45 am]