[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 50 (Wednesday, March 14, 2018)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 11162-11164]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-05146]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2016-0110; FXES11130900000 178 FF09E42000]
RIN 1018-BB79

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the 
Black-Capped Vireo From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife; Availability of Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; availability of supplemental information.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the

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availability of our draft post-delisting monitoring (PDM) plan for the 
black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla). The draft PDM plan describes 
the methods we propose to monitor the status of the vireo and its 
habitat, in cooperation with the States of Texas and Oklahoma and other 
conservation partners, for a 12-year period if we remove this species 
from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The draft 
PDM plan also provides a strategy for identifying and responding to any 
future population declines or habitat loss. We are accepting comments 
on the draft PDM plan.

DATES: We will accept comments on the draft PDM plan for black-capped 
vireo until April 13, 2018.

ADDRESSES: Document availability: The draft PDM plan is available for 
review on the internet at www.regulations.gov in Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-
2016-0110 and at http://endangered.fws.gov and https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ArlingtonTexas/. To request a copy of the draft PDM plan, 
contact us at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arlington Ecological 
Services Field Office, 2005 NE Green Oaks Blvd., Suite 140, Arlington, 
TX 76006; telephone 817-277-1100; facsimile 817-277-1129; 
ARLES@fws.gov. Supporting documentation we used in preparing the draft 
PDM plan is available for public inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business hours, at the above office.
    Comment submission: You may submit comments on the draft PDM plan 
by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R2-ES-2016-0110, 
which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the 
Search button. You may submit a comment by clicking on ``Comment Now!''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2016-0110, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described 
above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide 
us (see Request for Public Comments, below, for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Debra Bills, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Arlington Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES). If 
you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the 
Federal Relay Service at 800/877-8339.



    The black-capped vireo is an insectivorous songbird that breeds in 
Oklahoma, Texas, and northern Mexico, and winters along the western 
coastal states of Mexico. The vireo was listed as endangered under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.), in 1987, due primarily to nest parasitism by brown-headed 
cowbirds (Molothrus ater) and loss of habitat from urbanization, 
grazing, removal of vegetation for range improvement, and succession 
(52 FR 37420, October 6, 1987).
    On December 15, 2016, we published a proposed rule to remove the 
black-capped vireo from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife (List) (81 FR 90762). Our proposed rule was based largely on 
the Species Status Assessment (SSA) Report, which characterized the 
overall species' viability in the future. In the SSA Report, the impact 
of brown-headed cowbird parasitism on certain locations was expressed 
in terms of sustainability and expansion of populations. Additionally, 
the black-capped vireo was identified as ``conservation-reliant'' due 
to successful recovery actions being implemented, largely cowbird 
management. In this document, we provide clarification to the 
information regarding cowbird management.
    The Service believes cowbird management was a major factor leading 
to the recovery of the species, and the importance of cowbird 
management was discussed in the SSA Report. Particularly, the black-
capped vireo population in Oklahoma and localities in the eastern 
portion of the Texas range may be reliant on cowbird management 
periodically, or perpetually, to ensure minimal losses of current 
population numbers. In this regard, we assume the species may be 
``conservation reliant,'' due to efforts necessary to retain healthy 
shrublands and reduce brown-headed cowbird parasitism under certain 
conditions in portions of the range. Based on the comprehensive 
information collected for the SSA Report, there is inherent uncertainty 
in forecasting future threats and population status scenarios over a 
50-year timeframe. To address this uncertainty and ensure that the 
black-capped vireo continues to prosper, the SSA Report noted the 
importance of continued management of known populations of the species. 
To further this recommendation, the Service has obtained mutual 
commitments with many of our partners in the form of cooperative 
management agreements or other strategies to continue to manage known 
populations of the black-capped vireo and implement the PDM plan. These 
cooperative management agreements are included in the PDM plan, and 
provide assurances that PDM will detect trends in the black-capped 
vireo status and threats and the species' biological status will 
continue to improve.
    In addition, we have corrected errors in Table 14 of the SSA Report 
(page 105). This table presented the results of forecast scenarios 
under short- and long-term managed and unmanaged conditions from Table 
13, which is correct. Among the corrections to Table 14 was the 
shifting of one ``likely resilient locality'' in the short-term worst-
case scenario between recovery units, and identifying one less 
``manageable locality'' in the long-term worst-case scenario. These 
corrections do not change the results of the SSA analysis. The SSA with 
the corrected table is included in the docket (FWS-R2-ES-2016-0110) for 
the proposed rule on www.regulations.gov and can also be accessed at 
    For more background information on the black-capped vireo, refer to 
our Black-capped Vireo Species Status Assessment (SSA) Report available 
in the docket (FWS-R2-ES-2016-0110) for the proposed rule on 
www.regulations.gov and also at https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ArlingtonTexas/.
    The Act, section 4(g)(1), requires us to implement a system, in 
cooperation with the States, to effectively monitor the status of each 
species we remove from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants due to recovery. The monitoring must occur for at 
least 5 years. The PDM's purpose is to verify that a species we delist 
due to recovery remains secure from risk of extinction after we remove 
the Act's protections.
    To fulfill the PDM requirement, we drafted a black-capped vireo 
monitoring plan in cooperation with the Texas Parks and Wildlife 
Department, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Fort Hood and 
Fort Sill Military Installations, and The Nature Conservancy of Texas. 
Over a 12-year period, we propose to monitor abundance trends at 
managed localities with known populations of greater than 30 adult male 
vireos, estimate population trends at 4 major localities, and monitor 
the residual threats of brown-headed cowbird parasitism, land

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use changes, and densities of livestock and deer.
    Abundance monitoring would focus on known black-capped vireo 
localities under some form of management and for which the SSA Report 
forecasted future persistence. Through monitoring these localities, we 
can track abundance trends and compare those to the SSA Report 
forecasts. Additionally, four major localities with several years of 
population trend data will continue to be monitored to detect changes 
in trends over the 12-year period. In conjunction with abundance 
monitoring, a subset of vireo nests will be monitored to determine 
brown-headed cowbird parasitism rates at these localities. The PDM plan 
defines monitoring thresholds which, if reached, may result in 
additional actions. The monitoring thresholds are based on maintaining 
resiliency, redundancy, and representation, as described in the black-
capped vireo SSA Report. Land use trends, livestock, and deer within 
the vireo's range will also be monitored to ensure we detect changes 
that may affect the species.
    The draft PDM plan includes both interim and final reporting 
requirements. If PDM results in a concern regarding the vireo's status 
or increasing threats, possible responses may include an extended or 
intensified monitoring effort, additional research, or an increased 
effort to improve habitat and reduce the threat. If future information 
collected from the PDM, or any other reliable source, indicates an 
increased likelihood that the species may become in danger of 
extinction, we will initiate a black-capped vireo status review and 
determine if re-listing the species is warranted.
    In addition to public review of the draft PDM plan, we are 
requesting independent expert peer review from knowledgeable 
individuals with scientific expertise that includes knowledge of song 
bird ecology and conservation biology principles. Draft PDM plan peer 
review is in accordance with our policy ``Notice of Interagency 
Cooperative Policy for Peer Review in Endangered Species Act 
Activities,'' published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270).

Viewing Documents

    Comments and materials we receive from the public and peer 
reviewers, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing the 
draft PDM plan, will be available for public inspection by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the Arlington Ecological Services Field 
Office (see ADDRESSES) and on the internet at www.regulations.gov in 
Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2016-0110. Once approved, the final black-capped 
vireo PDM plan and any future PDM plan revisions will be available at 
www.regulations.gov and on our web page (http://endangered.fws.gov) and 
the Arlington Ecological Services Field Office web page (https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ArlingtonTexas/).

Request for Public Comments

    We intend for our final PDM plan to be as accurate and as effective 
as possible. Therefore, we request comments or suggestions on this 
black-capped vireo draft PDM plan from the public, concerned 
governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other 
interested party. We will take into consideration substantive comments 
we receive by the comment due date (see DATES). These comments, and any 
additional information we receive, may lead us to develop a final PDM 
plan that differs from this draft PDM plan. If you have already 
submitted a comment in response to the proposed rule, the comment has 
been incorporated into the record for the rulemaking, is being 
considered, and does not need to be submitted again.
    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire document--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you may 
request at the top of your document that we withhold this information 
from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.


    The primary authors of this document are staff at the Arlington 
Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES).


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

    Dated: February 7, 2018.
James W. Kurth.
Deputy Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Exercising the 
Authority of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-05146 Filed 3-13-18; 8:45 am]