[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 207 (Tuesday, October 27, 2015)]
[Pages 65793-65795]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-27259]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2015-N200; FXES11130200000C2-112-FF02ENEH00]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Gila Chub 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 Gila chub, which is 
listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act). This fish species is currently found in Arizona and New 
Mexico in the United States, 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 information on the status of the 
Gila chub throughout its range to assist in finalizing the recovery 

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive written comments on or 
before December 28, 2015. 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: Access the file at www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Documents/R2ES/GilaChub_DraftRecoveryPlan_Final_October2014.pdf;
    U.S. mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 West Royal Palm 
Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021-4951; or
    Telephone: (602) 242-0210.
    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;

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     Hand-delivery: Arizona Ecological Services Field Office, 
at the above address;
     Fax: (602) 242-2513; or
     Email: Steve_Spangle@fws.gov.
    For additional information about submitting comments, see the 
``Request for Public Comments'' section below.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, 
Arizona Ecological Services Field Office, at the above address and 
phone number, or by email at Steve_Spangle@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

    Gila chub was listed as endangered throughout its range with 
critical habitat on November 2, 2005 (effective date December 2, 2005). 
The species has a recovery priority number of 2C, which is based on a 
high degree of threat, high potential for recovery, taxonomic 
classification as a species, and potential for conflict over resources 
(primarily water) and economic development. Gila chub is included on 
the Arizona Game and Fish Departments' draft species of concern (1996), 
and possession of Gila chub in Arizona is prohibited except where such 
collection is authorized by special permit. The species was listed by 
the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish as endangered in 1988. Gila 
chub is listed as endangered by The Republic of Mexico; a recovery 
plan, or Program de Acci[oacute]n para la Conservaci[oacute]n de las 
Especies (PACE), has not been developed for this species in Mexico.
    Gila chub is a member of the roundtail chub (Gila robusta) complex 
in the Gila River basin, which also includes headwater chub (G. nigra). 
Gila chub is a thick-bodied species, chunky in aspect, with females 
reaching 250 millimeters (mm) (10 inches [in]) in total length, and 
males rarely exceeding 150 mm (6 in). Body coloration is typically dark 
overall, with a lighter belly speckled with gray; fins are small. 
Breeding males, and to a lesser extent females, develop red or orange 
on lower parts of the head and body and on bases of the pectoral, 
pelvic, and anal fins.
    Gila chub is considered a habitat generalist (Schultz and Bonar 
2006), and commonly inhabits pools in smaller (higher order) streams 
and cienegas throughout its range in the Gila River basin, at 
elevations between 609 and 1,676 meters (m) (2,000-5,500 feet [ft]) 
(Miller 1946, Minckley 1973, Rinne 1976, Weedman et al. 1996). Gila 
chub is a highly secretive species, remaining near cover, including 
undercut banks, terrestrial vegetation, boulders, root wads, fallen 
logs, and thick overhanging or aquatic vegetation in deeper waters, 
especially pools (Minckley and Rinne 1991, Nelson 1993, Weedman et al. 
    Historically, Gila chub was recorded from nearly 50 higher order 
streams throughout the Gila River basin in southwestern New Mexico, 
central and southeastern Arizona, and northern Sonora, Mexico (Miller 
and Lowe 1967, Rinne and Minckley 1970, Minckley 1973, Rinne 1976, 
DeMarais 1986, Sublette et al. 1990, Weedman et al. 1996). Recent 
literature indicates that approximately 25 of these localities are 
considered occupied, and most are small and isolated, and face one or 
more threats (Weedman et al. 1996, USFWS 2005, Clarkson et al. 2012).
    It was also estimated that 90 percent of the currently occupied 
habitat is degraded, due to the presence of nonnative fishes and land 
management actions. The few remaining small, isolated populations are 
vulnerable to environmental conditions such as drought, flood events, 
and wildfire. Primary threats to Gila chub, such as nonnative fish 
predation and competition, and secondary threats identified as habitat 
alteration, destruction, and fragmentation, are all factors identified 
in the final rule that contribute to the consideration that Gila chub 
is likely to become extinct throughout all or a significant portion of 
its range (USFWS 2005).
    The recovery strategy for Gila chub is to ensure that existing 
habitat integrity and genetic diversity of the species are adequately 
protected, represented, and replicated within each of the major 
subbasins in the greater Gila River watershed, in which the species 
still resides. This involves protection of remnant populations, through 
management and regulatory agreements with agencies and partners; 
captive rearing with appropriate genetic, demographic, and health 
management for population establishment and supplementation; control of 
threats of nonnative fish predation and competition, as well as 
potential hybridization with other chub species; establishment of 
replicated populations in refuges and selected streams; monitoring of 
populations under a scientifically based, standardized protocol; and 
cooperation and education with agencies, partners, Tribes, and Mexico 
to ensure habitat quantity and quality are maintained and adaptively 
managed into the future.
    The draft recovery plan proposes the delineation of five recovery 
units (RUs) that represent the major subbasins of the Gila River basin. 
These RUs cover much of the historical and current habitat for the 
species in Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico, and provide a diversity of 
habitats and represent groupings of Gila chub populations, within which 
gene flow may have been common historically. Designation of RUs is 
intended to ensure that the species remains distributed across its 
historical range in representative ecological settings, and will 
sustain the remaining genetic, demographic, morphological, behavioral, 
and other life history elements of the species necessary for the long-
term conservation of the entire listed taxon. The strategy to recover 
Gila chub further relies upon identifying, preserving, and replicating 
17 genetic Management Units (MUs) that are distributed among the RUs.

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 
    1. Maintain and protect all remnant populations in the wild.
    2. Ensure representation, resiliency, and redundancy by maintaining 
genetic diversity and expanding the size and number of populations 
within Gila chub historical range via replication of remnant 
populations within each RU.
    3. Manage or eliminate nonnative fish predation and competition and 
associated habitat-related modifications or loss.
    4. Improve or develop new State regulations or firm agreements that

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conserve or improve quality Gila chub habitat.
    5. Work with stakeholders to improve and conserve existing and 
newly established Gila chub populations and their habitats and ensure 
that appropriate management plans and agreements are in place post-
    6. Promote conservation of Gila chub in Mexico and on Tribal lands 
by forming partnerships and supporting research, outreach, and 
conservation management.
    7. Monitor remnant, repatriated, and refuge populations to inform 
adaptive management strategies.
    The draft recovery plan contains recovery criteria based on 
protecting all available remnant populations and replicating each MU in 
at least two streams. To achieve recovery criteria, threats of 
nonnative fish predation and competition, habitat alteration and 
fragmentation, and decreasing water availability should be controlled 
to manageable levels in streams occupied by Gila chub such that these 
threats do not pose imminent or chronic downward pressures on 
population sizes. When the status of Gila chub meets these criteria, 
the species will no longer meet the conditions of being endangered 
throughout a significant portion of its range and will no longer 
warrant listing.

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). We will summarize and respond to the 
issues raised by the public and peer reviewers and post our responses 
on our Web site. 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. Suggestions of how to 
craft recovery criteria addressing threats that are objective and 
measureable are welcome.
    Before we approve our final recovery plan, we will consider all 
comments we receive by the date specified in DATES. Methods of 
submitting comments are in the ADDRESSES section.

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 Arizona Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR 


    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: October 15, 2015.
Benjamin N. Tuggle,
Regional Director, Southwest Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-27259 Filed 10-26-15; 8:45 am]