[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 175 (Wednesday, September 10, 2014)]
[Pages 53728-53729]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-21549]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-ES-2014-N134; FXES11130400000C2-145-FF04E00000]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Notice of 
Availability of a Technical/Agency Draft Recovery Plan for the Dusky 
Gopher Frog

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and request for public comment.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the availability 
of the technical/agency draft recovery plan for the endangered dusky 
gopher frog. We request review and comment on this draft recovery plan 
from local, State, and Federal agencies, and the public.

DATES: In order to be considered, comments on the draft recovery plan 
must be received on or before November 10, 2014.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to review this technical/agency draft recovery 
plan, you may obtain a copy by visiting the Service's Mississippi Field 
Office Web site at http://www.fws.gov/mississippiES/ or by contacting 
Linda LaClaire, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi Ecological 
Services Field Office, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, Jackson, MS 39213; 
tel. (601) 321-1126. If you wish to comment, you may submit your 
comments by one of the following methods:
    1. You may submit written comments and materials to Linda LaClaire, 
at the above address.
    2. You may hand-deliver written comments to our Mississippi Field 
Office, at the above address, or fax them to (601) 965-4340.
    3. You may send comments by email to 
lindalaclaire@fws.gov. Please include ``Dusky Gopher Frog 
Recovery Plan Comments'' on the subject line.
    For additional information about submitting comments, see the 
``Request for Public Comments'' section below.


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), 
announce the availability of the technical/agency draft recovery plan 
for the endangered dusky gopher frog (Rana sevosa). The draft recovery 
plan includes specific recovery objectives and criteria the dusky 
gopher frog would have to meet in order for us to downlist it to 
threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.; Act). We request review and comment on this draft 
recovery plan from local, State, and Federal agencies, and the public.


    The dusky gopher frog was listed as an endangered species under the 
Act on December 4, 2001 (66 FR 62993). At the time of the original 
listing, the species was identified as the Mississippi gopher frog, a 
distinct population segment of what was then considered the dusky 
gopher frog (Rana capito sevosa). Subsequent to the listing, taxonomic 
research was completed that indicated the Mississippi gopher frog was 
different from other gopher frogs and warranted acceptance as its own 
species. In 2012, the Service officially recognized the listed entity 
as the dusky gopher frog, Rana sevosa, based on this research and the 
original description of the species given this name.
    Dusky gopher frogs are terrestrial amphibians endemic to the 
longleaf pine ecosystem of southeastern Louisiana, coastal Mississippi, 
and coastal Alabama to the Mobile River drainage. Currently, it is only 
found at four localities in two Mississippi counties and has not been 
recently observed in either Alabama or Louisiana.
    Approximately 625 hectares (1,544 acres) have been designated as 
critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog in St. Tammany Parish, 
Louisiana, and 1,996 hectares (4,933 acres) are designated in Forrest, 
Harrison, Jackson, and Perry Counties, Mississippi (77 FR 35118).
    The dusky gopher frog has a Federal recovery priority number of 5, 
which indicates the species faces a high degree of threat and also has 
a low recovery potential.
    Restoring an endangered or threatened animal or plant to the point 
where it is again a secure, self-sustaining member of its ecosystem is 
a primary goal of our endangered species program. To help guide the 
recovery effort, we prepare recovery plans for most listed species. 
Recovery plans describe actions considered necessary for conservation 
of the species; establish criteria for downlisting or delisting; and 
estimate time and cost for implementing recovery measures.
    The Act requires the development of recovery plans for listed 
species, unless such a plan would not promote the conservation of a 
particular species. Section 4(f) of the Act requires us to provide 
public notice and an opportunity for public review and comment during 
recovery plan development. We will consider all information presented 
during a public comment period prior to approval of each new or revised 
recovery plan. We and other Federal agencies will take these comments 
into account in the course of implementing approved recovery plans.

Recovery Plan Components

    The Service's recovery objectives are to work to reduce threats so 
that the dusky gopher frog may be downlisted to threatened status. 
Defining reasonable delisting criteria is not possible at this time, 
given the current low number of populations and individuals, lack of 
information about the species' biology, and magnitude of threats. 
Therefore, this recovery plan only establishes downlisting criteria for 
the dusky gopher frog.
    Downlisting of the dusky gopher frog will be considered when:
    1. Six viable metapopulations * are documented within blocks of 
recovery focus areas (described in Section II of the recovery plan) and 
are widely distributed across the range of the species. The six 
metapopulations would include a minimum of 12 breeding ponds and would 
be distributed as follows:
    a. One metapopulation in Block 1 (Louisiana. Portions of 
St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington Parishes, west to the 
Tangipahoa River);
    b. Two metapopulations each in Block 2 (South-Central 
Mississippi. North of State Hwy. 26, between the Pearl and Pascagoula 
Rivers; Forrest County and portions of Lamar, Pearl River, Perry, and 
Stone Counties) and Block 3 (South Mississippi. South of Hwy. 
26, between the Pearl and Pascagoula Rivers; Hancock and Harrison 
Counties, and portions of Jackson, George, Pearl River, and Stone 
Counties); and
    c. One metapopulation in either Block 4 (Eastern 
Mississippi. East of Pascagoula/Leaf Rivers; portions of George, 
Greene, Jackson, and Wayne Counties) or Block 5 (Alabama. West 
of the Mobile River Delta; Mobile and Washington Counties, small 
portion of Choctaw County).
    2. Long-term monitoring (10+ years) of each metapopulation 
documents population viability (viability standard to be defined 
through a recovery task). The 10-year timeframe will allow

[[Page 53729]]

monitoring recruitment events and other population attributes in a 
species that has been characterized by highly variable reproductive and 
survival rates. In each of at least two annual breeding events within a 
3-year period, a total of 30 egg masses per metapopulation must be 
documented and recruitment must be verified.
    3. Breeding and adjacent upland habitats within the six 
metapopulations are protected long term through management agreements, 
public ownership, or other means, in sufficient quantity and quality 
(to be determined by recovery task) to support growing populations.
    4. Studies of the dusky gopher frog's biological and ecological 
requirements have been completed, and any required recovery measures 
discovered during these studies are developed and implemented.

* Information defining what constitutes a viable metapopulation can 
be found in the Service's Technical/Agency draft recovery plan.

Request for Public Comments

    We request written comments on the draft recovery plan. We will 
consider all comments we receive by the date specified in DATES prior 
to final approval of the plan.

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.


    The authority for this action is section 4(f) of the Endangered 
Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533 (f).

    Dated: September 3, 2014.
Mike Oetker,
Acting Regional Director, Southeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
[FR Doc. 2014-21549 Filed 9-9-14; 8:45 am]