[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 227 (Tuesday, November 24, 2020)]
[Pages 75027-75029]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-25918]

[[Page 75027]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2020-N040; FXES11130200000-201-FF02ENEH00]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Recovery 
Plan for Sharpnose Shiner and Smalleye Shiner

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 recovery plan for sharpnose shiner and 
smalleye shiner, two fish species listed as endangered under the 
Endangered Species Act. The two species are broadcast-spawning minnows 
currently restricted to the upper Brazos River Basin in north-central 
Texas. We provide this notice to seek comments from the public and 
Federal, Tribal, State, and local governments.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive written comments on or 
before January 25, 2021. However, we will accept information about any 
species at any time.

    Reviewing document: You may obtain a copy of the draft recovery 
plan by any one of the following methods:
     Internet: Download a copy at https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/arlingtontexas/.
     U.S. mail: Send a request to U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Arlington Ecological Services Field Office, 2005 NE Green Oaks 
Blvd., Suite 140, Arlington, TX 76006-6247.
     Telephone: 817-277-1100.
     U.S. mail: Project Leader, at the above U.S. mail address;
    Submitting comments: Submit your comments on the draft document in 
writing by any one of the following methods:
     U.S. mail: Project Leader, at the above U.S. mail address; 
     Email: ARLES@fws.gov.
    For additional information about submitting comments, see Request 
for Public Comments and Public Availability of Comments under 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Debra Bills, Field Supervisor, at the 
above address, via phone at 817-277-1100, or by email at ARLES@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
announce the availability of our draft recovery plan for sharpnose 
shiner (Notropis oxyrhynchus) and smalleye shiner (Notropis buccula), 
two fish species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, 
as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). 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 
sharpnose shiner and smalleye shiner throughout their range to assist 
in finalizing the recovery plan.
    Sharpnose shiner and smalleye shiner are broadcast-spawning minnows 
currently restricted to the upper Brazos River Basin in north-central 
Texas and its major tributaries that occur within following counties in 
north-central Texas: Archer, Baylor, Crosby, Dickens, Fisher, Garza, 
Haskell, Jones, Kent, King, Knox, Lubbock, Lynn, Palo Pinto, Scurry, 
Stephens, Stonewall, Throckmorton, and Young. The draft recovery plan 
includes specific recovery objectives and criteria that, when achieved, 
will enable us to consider removing the sharpnose shiner and smalleye 
shiner from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 


    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.
    We utilized a streamlined approach to recovery planning and 
implementation by first conducting a species status assessment (SSA) of 
sharpnose shiner and smalleye shiner (Service 2018). An SSA is a 
comprehensive analysis of the species' needs, current condition, 
threats, and future viability. The information in the SSA provides the 
biological background, a threats assessment, and a basis for a strategy 
for recovery of sharpnose shiner and smalleye shiner. We then used this 
information to prepare an abbreviated draft recovery plan for sharpnose 
shiner and smalleye shiner that includes prioritized recovery actions, 
criteria for reclassifying the species from endangered to threatened, 
criteria for removing the species from the List, and the estimated time 
and cost to recovery.

Summary of Species Information

    We published final rules to list the sharpnose shiner and smalleye 
shiner as endangered (79 FR 45273) with critical habitat under the ESA 
(79 FR 45241) on August 4, 2014. The sharpnose shiner historically 
occurred in the Brazos River, Red River, and Colorado River Basins 
within Texas, where headwaters for these basins lie within the semi-
arid High Plains ecoregion. The smalleye shiner historically occurred 
only in the Brazos River Basin. These species are currently restricted 
to the upper Brazos River and its major tributaries, which represents a 
greater than 70 percent reduction in range for the sharpnose shiner and 
a greater than 50 percent range reduction for the smalleye shiner 
(Service 2018).
    Sharpnose and smalleye shiners spawn asynchronously from April 
through September during periods of no and low streamflow. Large, 
synchronized spawning events occur during high streamflow events 
(Durham 2007, p. 24; Durham and Wilde 2008, entire; Durham and Wilde 
2009, p. 26). Field observations of sharpnose shiner and smalleye 
shiner in the upper Brazos River Basin indicate that successful 
survival to the juvenile fish stage does not occur during periods 
completely lacking streamflow (Durham and Wilde 2009, p. 24). The best 
available science suggests that the primary needs of sharpnose and 
smalleye populations include a minimum, unobstructed, wide, flowing 
river segment length of greater than 275 kilometers (171 miles) to 
support development of their early life history stages. However, this 
information comes from a study (Perkin and Gido 2011) that focused on 
similar species, rather than specifically on the sharpnose and smalleye 
shiners. We do not have information about specific stream length 
requirements for sharpnose and smalleye shiners. As we implement the 
recovery plan actions, we expect to gain valuable new information from 
the monitoring of reintroduced populations and continued research. This 
new information will be specific to these species and will modify 
estimates of the minimum stream length necessary to sustain resilient 
populations of these two species. Based on current life history 
information, population dynamics modeling estimates that a mean summer 
water discharge of approximately 92 cubic feet per second (cfs) is 
necessary to sustain sharpnose shiner populations (Durham 2007, p. 
110), while a higher mean discharge of approximately 227 cfs is 
necessary for smalleye shiners (Durham and Wilde 2009, p. 670). The 

[[Page 75028]]

life span of both species is less than 3 years (Marks 1999, p. 69). 
Given both species' short lifespans and restricted range, stressors 
that persist for two or more reproductive seasons (such as a severe 
drought), severely limit these species' viability, placing them at a 
high risk of extinction (Service 2018).
    The decline of sharpnose and smalleye shiner throughout much of 
their historical range is attributed primarily to habitat loss and 
modification due to fragmentation and decreased river flow resulting 
from major water impoundments, drought, and groundwater withdrawals. 
Water quality degradation, invasive salt cedar, and other factors may 
have also contributed to their decline. As a result, sharpnose and 
smalleye shiners' redundancy, or the ability to withstand catastrophic 
events, is limited to a single population within the historical range. 
With a single population of the sharpnose shiner and smalleye shiner 
reduced to a fragment of their former range, these species lack 
redundancy as well as the genetic and ecological representation to 
adapt to new or ongoing threats.

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 
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.
    The recovery strategy for the sharpnose and smalleye shiners 
involves stemming any further range contraction in the upper Brazos 
River Basin, improving resiliency of these species in the upper Brazos 
River Basin, and increasing redundancy and representation of both 
shiners. Much of the strategy focuses on habitat restoration and 
preservation, predicated on an increased understanding of the 
relationship of the sharpnose and smalleye shiners' life history 
requirements within the physical, chemical, and ecological conditions 
of their environments. Information on these species and their habitats 
(for example, population dynamics, predation, river fragmentation, 
alterations in stream flow, and responses to identified threats) is 
needed to provide for better future science-based management decisions 
and conservation actions. Implementation of the recovery plan will 
necessitate adaptive management strategies to use the most up-to-date 
information as it becomes available.
    The recovery of the sharpnose and smalleye shiner will involve 
continued cooperation among Federal, State, and local agencies; private 
entities; and other stakeholders. Therefore, the success of the 
recovery strategy will rely heavily on the implementation of recovery 
actions conducted by and through coordination with our conservation 
    Recovery objectives for reclassifying the species from endangered 
to threatened consist of:
     A viable, self-sustaining population of sharpnose and 
smalleye shiner dispersed throughout the upper Brazos River Basin,
     A captive population sufficient to protect against a 
catastrophic loss and facilitate population augmentation,
     Adequate stream flows to accommodate all life stages,
     Water quality sufficient to accommodate all life stages, 
     Restoration and preservation of natural river morphology.
    Recovery objectives for removing the species from the List include 
the objectives for reclassifying the species to threatened status, in 
addition to:
     A second viable population of both the sharpnose and 
smalleye shiner within their historical ranges, as defined by criteria 
related to population size, distribution, and extinction risk, and
     The availability of habitat sufficient to support two 
populations of both the sharpnose and smalleye shiner, as defined by 
criteria related to adequate stream flows for all life stages, adequate 
water quality for all life stages, and adequate river morphology.
    It is anticipated that implementation of these objectives would 
allow populations to become self-sustaining with minimal human 
    The criteria for removing the species from the List and the 
criteria for reclassification to threatened status provided in the 
recovery plan are based on the following:
     Improving habitat conditions and maintaining a viable 
population of both species in the upper Brazos River Basin, and
     The reintroduction of a second viable population of both 
species within their historical range with habitat sufficient to 
accommodate all of the species' life stages.
    The above must be sustainable with minimal human intervention.
    Recovery of these species through implementation of recovery 
actions is estimated to occur in 2050; total costs for all partners are 
estimated at approximately $71 million over the next 30 years.

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 final recovery 
plan, we will summarize and respond to the issues raised by the public 
and peer reviewers. 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 this 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 
so. Comments and materials we receive will be available, by 
appointment, for public inspection during normal business hours at our 
office (see ADDRESSES).


    We developed our draft recovery plan and publish this notice under 
the authority of section 4(f) of the

[[Page 75029]]

Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

Amy Lueders,
Regional Director, Southwest Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-25918 Filed 11-23-20; 8:45 am]