[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 60 (Friday, March 27, 2020)]
[Pages 17347-17349]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [http://www.gpo.gov/]
[FR Doc No: 2020-06421]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2019-0066; FXES11130200000-190-FF02ENEH00]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Revised 
Recovery Plan for Kearney's Blue Star

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the 
availability of our draft revised recovery plan for Kearney's blue 
star, listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Kearney's 
blue star is a perennial flowering plant, a narrow endemic known from a 
single mountain range in Pima County, Arizona. We provide this notice 
to seek comments

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from the public and Federal, Tribal, State, and local governments.

DATES: We must receive written comments on or before May 26, 2020.

    Reviewing documents: You may obtain a copy of the draft revised 
recovery plan and recovery implementation strategy in Docket No. FWS-
R2-ES-2019-0066 at http://www.regulations.gov/.
    Submitting Comments: You may submit comments by one of the 
following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov/. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R2-
     U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing; 
Attn: Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2019-0066; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
Headquarters, MS: JAO/1N; 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-
    For additional information about submitting comments, see Request 
for Public Comments and Public Availability of Comments under 

Supervisor, by phone at 520-670-6150, by email at 
[email protected], or via the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-
8339 for TTY service.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), announce the availability of our draft revised recovery plan 
for Kearney's blue star (Amsonia kearneyana), listed as endangered 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.). Kearney's blue star is a perennial flowering plant, a 
narrow endemic known from a single mountain range in Pima County, 
Arizona. The draft revised recovery plan includes specific recovery 
objectives and criteria that, when achieved, will enable us to remove 
Kearney's blue star from the list of endangered and threatened 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 Kearney's blue star throughout its range 
to assist us in finalizing the recovery plan.


    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 
ESA. 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 ESA. The ESA requires the development of 
recovery plans for listed species, unless such a plan would not promote 
the conservation of a particular species. The Service approved a 
recovery plan for Kearney's blue star in 1993; however, the original 
plan did not establish criteria for removing Kearney's blue star from 
the list of endangered and threatened plants (delisting).
    This recovery plan revision is part of a larger effort underway to 
revise up to 182 recovery plans covering up to 305 species, in order to 
achieve the following Department of the Interior Agency Priority 
Performance Goal (APG) outlined in the Department's Strategic Plan for 
Fiscal Years 2018-2022: ``By September 30, 2019, 100 percent of all 
Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plans will have quantitative 
criteria for what constitutes a recovered species.'' In addition to 
satisfying the Department of the Interior's APG, new information has 
been gathered over the last 25 years on the species' biology, 
distribution, and threats, leading us to develop new downlisting 
criteria (reclassifying Kearney's blue star from an endangered to 
threatened status). Therefore, this plan will serve as a revision to 
the 1993 recovery plan for Kearney's blue star.
    We utilized a streamlined approach to recovery planning and 
implementation for Kearney's blue star by preparing a separate recovery 
plan document and recovery implementation strategy. The information in 
the draft recovery plan provides the biological background, a threats 
assessment, a strategy for recovery of Kearney's blue star, 
quantitative downlisting and delisting criteria, an abbreviated list of 
prioritized recovery actions, and the estimated time and cost to 
recovery. The separate recovery implementation strategy document 
further describes in detail the specific near-term activities needed to 
implement the prioritized recovery actions (Service 2019).

Summary of Species Information

    Kearney's blue star is a long-lived perennial flowering plant 
endemic to Pima County in southern Arizona. We listed it as an 
endangered species on January 19, 1989, at which time it was only known 
from a single location in the riparian area of South Canyon in the 
Baboquivari Mountains on lands administered by the Tohono O'odham 
Nation (54 FR 2131). Since then, the discovery of new plants on lands 
administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the Arizona State 
Land Department, along with the establishment of a new location on 
private land (now owned and administered by the Buenos Aires National 
Wildlife Refuge), has increased the known spatial distribution of the 
species to include ridges in Brown Canyon, Jaguar Canyon, and Thomas 
Canyon in southern Arizona. Recently uncovered herbarium records also 
indicate there are multiple locations of Kearney's blue star in 
Sycamore and Baboquivari Canyons on Tohono O'odham Nation lands.
    Kearney's blue star produces large white flowers tinged with blue 
at the base in late April and May. The species is capable of 
reproducing both vegetatively (asexually, through roots) and through 
seed (sexually). Sexual reproduction of this species requires 
pollinators, and a wide variety have been documented visiting Kearney's 
blue star plants and flowers. Specifically, the pollinators noted 
visiting plants include: Skipper butterfly (Hesperidae); pipevine 
swallowtail (Papilionidae); gossamer-winged butterfly (Lycaenidae); 
sphinx moth (Sphingidae); tiger moth (Arctiidae); snout moth 
(Lasiocampidae); thrips (Thysanoptera); long-winged black Coleoptera; 
mordellid and various other beetles; broad-tailed hummingbird 
(Selasphorus platycercus); bee flies (Bombyliidae); and Arizona 
metalmarks (Riodinidae) (Service 2012, p. 5).
    The habitat of Kearney's blue star lies at the lower elevation 
transition of the Madrean pine-oak woodland and the semi-desert 
grassland. Within this habitat, Kearney's blue star occurs in both open 
woodland on unconsolidated slopes of over 20 degrees, and canyon 
bottoms in full sun to partial shade. We estimate that the known 
habitat for Kearney's blue star is 2,064 hectares (5,101 acres). It is 
not fully understood what constitutes a population of Kearney's blue 
star; therefore, we use the terms ``site'' (areas supporting Kearney's 
blue star individuals that are surrounded by a 1,000-meter radius of 
suitable habitat for the species and its pollinators) and ``sub-site'' 
(areas within sites that support Kearney's blue star individuals that 
likely share pollinators) to describe the current distribution of the 
    Despite the discovery of plants at new locations, the overall 
abundance of Kearney's blue star individuals has decreased, and 
documentation of reproduction is limited to one incident in 1982. A 
comparison of recent and historical survey results from accessible sub-
sites indicates that the number of individuals has declined by about 48 
percent. Although the overall

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abundance of Kearney's blue star individuals has decreased since the 
time of listing, the quantity of the species' habitat does not appear 
to have declined. It is therefore believed that habitat quality for the 
species is changing due to a combination of factors, likely including 
poorly managed livestock grazing, nonnative plant presence and spread 
and the resulting altered wildfire regime, border activities, and 
drought and climate change. As a result, woodland habitats, such as 
those that support Kearney's blue star, are becoming more desertified, 
with fewer trees and more grassland species associates (Service 2012, 
p. 1).

Recovery Plan Goals

    The objective of a recovery plan is to provide a framework for the 
recovery of a species so that protection under the ESA 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 
lists of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. 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.
    The original Kearney's blue star recovery plan includes downlisting 
criteria; however, no delisting criteria were established due to the 
unknown nature of the species' life history and habitat requirements at 
that time (Service 1993). The downlisting criteria in the original plan 
focus on the maintenance of self-sustaining natural populations and 
establishing procedures to ensure continued protection of these 
populations from human and natural threats (Service 1993). Once these 
downlisting criteria were met, the intention was to revise the original 
recovery plan to establish specific delisting objectives. In this 
revised recovery plan, our core strategy is to ensure the viability of 
Kearney's blue star across its range, and to conserve and manage 
habitat for the species and its pollinators. Our population-based 
recovery objective is to conserve existing, newly discovered, and 
introduced plants and their seedbanks throughout the species' range to 
ensure the long-term survival of the taxon. Our habitat and threat-
based recovery objective is to conserve, restore, and manage the 
quantity and quality of Kearney's blue star habitat and pollinator 
habitat. This may be accomplished by minimizing significant threats to 
the species, such as habitat degradation, the spread of nonnative plant 
species, an altered fire regime, and other stressors such as climate 
change-induced drought and border activities.
    The revised recovery plan establishes both population-based and 
habitat-based downlisting and delisting criteria. These criteria focus 
on maintaining a viable level of Kearney's blue star individuals, and 
conserving habitat of sufficient quantity and quality for the species 
and its pollinators. To achieve these recovery criteria, various 
actions are needed, such as monitoring and augmentation of existing 
sub-sites; surveying for and establishing new sub-sites; monitoring and 
minimizing threats; and conducting research, education, and outreach. 
When the recovery criteria established in this plan are met, we will 
review the species' status and consider downlisting and, ultimately, 
removal from the list of endangered and threatened plants.

Request for Public Comments

    Section 4(f) of the ESA 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, ongoing beneficial management efforts, 
and the costs associated with implementing the recommended recovery 

Public Availability of Comments

    All comments received, including names and addresses, will become 
part of the administrative record and will be available to the public. 
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--will be publicly available. If you submit a hardcopy 
comment 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 


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

Jeffrey Fleming,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2020-06421 Filed 3-26-20; 8:45 am]