[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 122 (Wednesday, June 25, 2014)]
[Pages 36087-36089]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-14812]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2013-N278; FXES11130200000C2-112-FF02ENEH00]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Texas Ayenia Draft 
Recovery Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our draft recovery plan for the Texas ayenia (also 
referred to as the Tamaulipan kidneypetal), which is listed as 
endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
This plant species is currently found in southern Texas and in northern 
Mexico. The draft recovery plan includes specific recovery objectives 
and criteria to be met in order to enable us to remove this species 
from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. We 
request review and comment on this plan from local, State, and Federal 
agencies; Tribes; and the public. We will also accept any new

[[Page 36088]]

information on the status of the Texas ayenia throughout its range to 
assist in finalizing the recovery plan.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive written comments on or 
before August 25, 2014. However, we will accept information about any 
species at any time.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to review the draft recovery plan, you may 
obtain a copy by any one of the following methods:
    Internet: Go to http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ElectronicLibrary_ListDocs.cfm and download the following file: Texas Ayenia--Draft--
Recovery--Plan --Dec--2013.pdf;
    U.S. mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6300 Ocean Drive, USFWS 
Unit 5837, Corpus Christi, TX 78412-5837; or
    Telephone: (361) 994-9005.

If you wish to comment on the draft recovery plan, you may submit your 
comments in writing by any one of the following methods:
     U.S. mail: Field Supervisor, at the above address;
     Hand-delivery: Texas Coastal Ecological Services Office, 
at the above address;
     Fax: (361) 994-8262; or
     Email: chris_best@fws.gov.
    For additional information about submitting comments, see the 
``Request for Public Comments'' section below.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Best, State Botanist, at the 
above address and phone number, or by email at chris_best@fws.gov.



    Recovery of endangered or threatened animals and plants to the 
point where they are again secure, self-sustaining members of their 
ecosystems is a primary goal of our endangered species program and the 
Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Recovery means improvement of the status 
of listed species to the point at which listing is no longer 
appropriate under the criteria set out in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. 
The Act requires the development of recovery plans for listed species, 
unless such a plan would not promote the conservation of a particular 

Species History

    Texas ayenia (Ayenia limitaris), found in semi-arid, subtropical 
Tamaulipan shrublands of south Texas and northeast Mexico, was 
federally listed as endangered on August 24, 1994 (effective date 
September 23, 1994). The plant was listed throughout its range, 
including southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. However, Texas ayenia 
is not listed under Mexican protected species regulations by the 
Secretar[iacute]a de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT; the 
Mexican government equivalent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). 
The United States Federal listing established a Recovery Priority 
Number (RPN) of 5, and did not designate critical habitat. The USFWS's 
2010 5-year review for this plant revised the RPN to 8C and recommended 
adopting ``Tamaulipan kidneypetal'' as a more appropriate common name.
    Texas ayenia is a spineless sub-shrub that ranges from 0.3 meters 
(1 foot) to 2 meters (6.6 feet) tall. Flowers are cream-colored with 5 
petals; alternate leaves are soft and heart-shaped, with minute hairs 
and toothed margins; and older, woody stems are reddish-brown, up to 2 
centimeters (0.8 inches) thick, and dotted with small, cream-colored 
bumps, or lenticels. Flowering follows a bimodal pattern (spring to 
early summer and fall), which coincides with regional rainfall 
patterns. Although the reproduction biology is unknown, Texas ayenia 
probably requires outcrossing through insect pollination. The species 
responds well to propagation, and a few pilot reintroductions have 
become successfully established. Propagated plants that are isolated 
from natural populations reproduce successfully, indicating that 
pollination vectors are present.
    Occupied habitats are isolated fragments of woodlands and 
shrublands in the watersheds and deltas of rivers draining into the 
Gulf of Mexico. Wild populations of Texas ayenia have been documented 
in a wide range of alluvial soil types, from fine sandy loam to heavy 
clay. The species grows under varying amounts of shade, in association 
with other shrub species, but are most vigorous and reproduce more 
successfully in sites that receive at least several hours of direct 
sunlight daily. The species' range appears to be restricted by 
increasing aridity further inland and by the prevalence of freezing 
weather further north and at higher elevations in the mountain ranges 
of northeast Mexico. However, the vegetation of the Tamaulipan region 
in Texas and northeast Mexico has been altered by poor rangeland 
management since the onset of European colonization in 1750. The 
distribution and abundance of Texas ayenia may have been impacted by 
increased woody plant cover and lack of wildfire, and its extant relict 
habitats might not be optimal. Introduced invasive grasses, 
particularly guineagrass, are abundant and highly competitive in the 
remaining occupied habitats.
    Within the United States, Texas ayenia has been documented only 
within the three southernmost counties of Texas: Cameron, Hidalgo, and 
Willacy. Between 1888 and 1963, Texas ayenia was observed at seven 
sites in Cameron and Hidalgo Counties, Texas; however, the species has 
not been observed in these locations for more than 40 years and is 
presumed extirpated from these sites. Between 1992 and 2001, five 
extant populations were discovered in Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy 
Counties, Texas, and have been monitored periodically. Two of these 
sites are located on well-managed private land, one site is on a 
National Wildlife Refuge, one site is in a city park, and one site is 
on a State Park managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Four of 
these populations range from 100 to 200 individuals each, and the fifth 
site has at least 1,000 individuals.
    In 2005, 9 extant populations, totaling at least 4,000 individuals, 
were documented and mapped in the municipio (similar to a county) of 
Soto la Marina, Tamaulipas, Mexico. An additional unconfirmed 
population of unknown size has been reported from the municipio of 
Gonz[aacute]lez, Tamaulipas. One population reported from Coahuila, 
Mexico, has apparently been extirpated. The species was also reported 
from Topia, Durango, in 1985, but it has not been observed there since 
then; its status is unknown, and it is also possible that the 
identification or site location may be in error. Given that about 99 
percent of the potential range of Texas ayenia occurs in Mexico, with 
many of the known populations occurring on privately owned lands and 
ejido (community-owned) lands, successful recovery of the species will 
depend on significant voluntary involvement and collaboration of 
private landowners and ejidos in Mexico.
    The single greatest threat to Texas ayenia is the loss of habitat 
to agricultural and urban development. In the Rio Grande delta of Texas 
and Tamaulipas, as little as 1 percent of the original habitat remains 
intact (USFWS 2010; Jarsdoerfer and Leslie, Jr. 1988). Fragmentation 
and isolation of remaining suitable areas may prevent gene flow among 
populations and lead to a depletion of genetic diversity. Introduced 
invasive grasses, particularly guineagrass, compete directly with Texas 
ayenia, severely limiting its growth and reproduction, and may 
contribute to the extirpation of populations. Oil and gas exploration

[[Page 36089]]

and extraction continues at a rapid pace throughout much of south Texas 
and northeast Mexico, and an ever-increasing proportion of the land has 
or will be cleared for drilling platforms, pipelines, access roads, and 
related infrastructure. In addition to the direct loss of populations 
and habitat through land clearing, these operations will increase the 
fragmentation of habitat and will create new colonization pathways for 
invasive grasses. Texas ayenia populations on private lands are 
particularly vulnerable, since the Act does not protect endangered 
plants on private lands unless there is another form of prevailing 
Federal nexus, such as a federally funded program or regulated action. 
Texas ayenia is restricted to warm regions of higher rainfall within 
its range along the Gulf of Mexico, indicating that it is susceptible 
to sub-zero temperatures and drought. At this time, we do not know how 
past climate changes have affected Texas ayenia populations and 
distribution, nor can we predict how future climate changes, forecast 
by a range of models, will affect the ecology of the species and its 
habitat. For example, a reduced amount or frequency of rainfall could 
reduce the species' range, while a decreased incidence of freezing 
could expand its range. However, it is possible that threats induced by 
climate changes may arise in the future.
    The strategy for recovery of Texas ayenia consists of: Protection, 
conservation, monitoring, and improved management of extant populations 
in the United States and Mexico; coordination and collaboration with 
government agencies, academic institutions, and nongovernmental 
conservation organizations in both the United States and Mexico; 
outreach, collaboration, and support for conservation-minded private 
landowners and ejidos in the United States and in Mexico; and habitat 
restoration and population augmentation and reintroduction to attain 
the number and size of populations necessary to assure the continued 
survival of the species, and to establish ecological corridors 
necessary for gene flow between and among populations.

Recovery Plan Goals

    The objective of an agency recovery plan is to provide a framework 
for the recovery of a species so that protection under the Act is no 
longer necessary. A recovery plan includes scientific information about 
the species and provides criteria and actions necessary for us to be 
able to reclassify the species to threatened status or remove it from 
the List. Recovery plans help guide our recovery efforts by describing 
actions we consider necessary for the species' conservation, and by 
estimating time and costs for implementing needed recovery measures. To 
achieve its goals, this draft recovery plan identifies the following 
     Mitigate habitat loss and degradation, invasive species 
competition, poor rangeland management, and other threats to the 
continued survival of Texas ayenia, based on partnerships, outreach, 
and application of scientific investigations and adaptive management.
     Conserve, restore, and manage appropriately the quantity 
and quality of habitat needed for the continued survival of Texas 
ayenia, including native vegetation restoration and creation of 
functioning ecological corridors.
     Conserve, protect, and restore populations of Texas ayenia 
needed for its continued survival. Monitored populations must be self-
sustaining, of sufficient size to endure climatic variation and 
stochastic events, and of sufficient number to endure catastrophic 
losses, and must represent the full range of the species' geographic 
and genetic variability.
    The draft recovery plan contains recovery criteria based on 
maintaining and increasing population numbers and habitat quality and 
quantity and mitigating significant threats to the species. The draft 
recovery plan focuses on protecting populations, managing threats, 
maintaining habitat, monitoring progress, and building partnerships to 
facilitate recovery. When the recovery of Texas ayenia approaches these 
criteria, we will review the species' status and consider downlisting, 
and, ultimately, removal from the list of federally threatened and 
endangered species.

Request for Public Comments

    Section 4(f) of the Act requires us to provide public notice and an 
opportunity for public review and comment during recovery plan 
development. It is also our policy to request peer review of recovery 
plans (July 1, 1994; 59 FR 34270). In an appendix to the approved 
recovery plan, we will summarize and respond to the issues raised by 
the public and peer reviewers. Substantive comments may or may not 
result in changes to the recovery plan; comments regarding recovery 
plan implementation will be forwarded as appropriate to Federal or 
other entities so that they can be taken into account during the course 
of implementing recovery actions. Responses to individual commenters 
will not be provided, but we will provide a summary of how we addressed 
substantive comments in an appendix to the approved recovery plan.
    We invite written comments on the draft recovery plan. In 
particular, we are interested in additional information regarding the 
current threats to the species and the costs associated with 
implementing the recommended recovery actions.
    Before we approve our final recovery plan, we will consider all 
comments we receive by the date specified in DATES above. Methods of 
submitting comments are in the ADDRESSES section above.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.
    Comments and materials we receive will be available, by 
appointment, for public inspection during normal business hours at our 
office (see ADDRESSES).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Branch of Recovery 


    We developed our draft recovery plan under the authority of section 
4(f) of the Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533(f). We publish this notice under 
section 4(f) Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.).

    Dated: June 13, 2014.
Joy E. Nicholopoulos,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-14812 Filed 6-24-14; 8:45 am]