[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 241 (Tuesday, December 15, 2020)]
[Pages 81216-81218]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-27542]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2020-N079; FXES11130200000-201-FF02ENEH00]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Recovery 
Plan for Texas Hornshell

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 Texas hornshell, a medium 
sized freshwater mussel that is listed as endangered under the 
Endangered Species Act. This species is native to the Rio Grande 
drainage in Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. We provide this notice to 
seek comments from the public and Federal, Tribal, State, and local 

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive written comments on or 
before February 16, 2021. However, we will accept information about any 
species at any time.

    Reviewing document: You may obtain a copy of the draft recovery 
plan, the recovery implementation strategy, and the species status 
assessment by any one of the following methods:
     Internet: Download a copy at https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/speciesProfile?sId=919 or https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/TexasCoastal/.
     U.S. mail: Send a request to U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Texas Coastal Ecological Services Field Office, 17629 El 
Camino Real, #211, Houston, TX 77058.
     Telephone: 281-286-8282.
    Submitting comments: Submit your comments on the draft recovery 
plan in writing by any one of the following methods:
     U.S. mail: Project Leader, at the above U.S. mail address;
     Email: houstonesfo@fws.gov.
    For additional information about submitting comments, see Request 
for Public Comments and Public Availability of Comments under 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chuck Ardizzone, Field Supervisor, at 
the above address and phone number, or by email at houstonesfo@fws.gov. 
Individuals who are hearing or speech impaired may call the Federal 
Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339 for TTY assistance.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
announce the availability of our draft recovery plan for Texas 
hornshell (Popenaias popeii), a freshwater mussel 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 Texas hornshell throughout 
the species' range to assist in finalizing the recovery plan.
    Texas hornshell is a medium-sized freshwater mussel species native 
to the Rio Grande drainage in Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. Currently, 
five known populations of Texas hornshell remain in the United States: 
Black River (Eddy County, New Mexico), Pecos River (Val Verde County, 
Texas), Devils River (Val Verde County, Texas), Lower Canyons of the 
Rio Grande (Brewster and Terrell Counties, Texas), and Lower Rio Grande 
near Laredo (Webb County, Texas). After the species was listed, a small 
population was discovered in the confluence of Rio San Diego in Mexico. 
The draft recovery plan includes specific recovery objectives and 
criteria that, when achieved, will enable us to consider removing the 
Texas hornshell from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife (List).


    Recovery of endangered or threatened animals and plants to the 
point at which they are again secure, self-sustaining members of their 
ecosystems is a primary goal of the ESA and our endangered species 
program. 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 used a streamlined approach to recovery planning and 
implementation by first conducting a species status assessment (SSA) of 
Texas hornshell (Service 2018). An SSA is a

[[Page 81217]]

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 Texas hornshell. We then used this information to 
prepare an abbreviated draft recovery plan for Texas hornshell 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 the final rule to list the Texas hornshell as 
endangered (83 FR 5720) under the ESA on February 9, 2018. The Texas 
hornshell historically ranged throughout the Rio Grande drainage in the 
United States (New Mexico and Texas) and Mexico. Overall distribution 
has declined significantly, with the species currently occupying 
approximately 15 percent of its historical range in the United States. 
The resulting remnant stream populations occupy relatively shorter 
reaches compared to presumed historical stream populations, and they 
are isolated from one another primarily by reservoirs and unsuitable 
water quality (i.e., saline waters). There are five known populations 
within the species' historical range in the United States (Black River, 
Lower Pecos River, Rio Grande--Lower Canyons, Rio Grande--Laredo, and 
Devils River), and one in Mexico (Rio San Diego).
    Texas hornshell need seams of fine sediment in crevices, undercut 
riverbanks, travertine shelves, and large boulders in riverine 
ecosystems with flowing water and periodic cleansing flows to keep the 
substrate free of excess fine sediment accumulation. They need water 
quality parameters to be within a suitable range (Randklev et al. 2017, 
p. 5) (i.e., dissolved oxygen above 3 milligrams/liter (mg/L), salinity 
below 0.9 parts per thousand, and ammonia below 0.7 mg/L (Sparks and 
Strayer 1998, p. 132; Augspurger et al. 2003, p. 2574; Augspurger et 
al. 2007, p. 2025; Carman 2007, p. 6)), and phytoplankton and bacteria 
as food. Finally, Texas hornshell need host fishes to be present during 
times of spawning.
    The factors influencing the current and future health of 
populations include increased fine sediment, changes in water quality, 
loss of flowing water, and barriers to fish movement. These influences 
pose the largest risks to the future viability of this species and are 
primarily related to habitat changes such as the accretion of fine 
sediments, low water flows, and poor water quality. Furthermore, each 
of these factors is exacerbated by changing climatic conditions.

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 Texas hornshell involves stemming any 
further range contraction in extant stream populations, restoring and 
managing watersheds and stream habitat to support additional resilient 
stream populations, and increasing redundancy and representation within 
those stream populations. The recovery strategy primarily focuses on 
habitat restoration and preservation, and is based on an increased 
understanding of the relationship of Texas hornshell life history 
requirements within the physical, chemical, and ecological conditions 
of their environments. Information on this species and its habitats 
(e.g. population dynamics, alterations in stream flow, and/or responses 
to identified threats) is important for providing for 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.
    Texas hornshell recovery will involve cooperation among Federal, 
State, and local agencies, private landowners, academia, and other 
stakeholders. Therefore, the success of the recovery strategy presented 
below will rely heavily on the implementation of recovery actions 
conducted by, and through coordination with, our conservation partners 
in Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico.
    The recovery objectives of this plan are to ensure long-term 
viability of the Texas hornshell by stabilizing and protecting existing 
and new Texas hornshell stream populations, host fish populations, and 
stream population and habitat connectivity, and restoring and enhancing 
the habitats and watersheds necessary to support resilient Texas 
hornshell stream populations.
    The criteria for removing the species from the List are based on 
the following:
     Protect and expand existing populations and establish at 
least one additional population so that there are at least seven stream 
populations (four with high resiliency and three with moderate to high 
     Each of these populations should exhibit evidence of 
recruitment, persistence, and positive or stable population trends over 
six generations (90 years).
     Ensure there are adequate stream flows and habitat 
features supporting both the Texas hornshell and its host fishes, 
within each of the populations.
     Ensure surface and ground water quality through compliance 
with water quality standards and implementation of water quality 
controls within each of the populations.
     Increase connectivity by incorporating fish passages and 
removal of anthropogenic barriers within each population to allow for 
the free movement of all life stages of Texas hornshell host fishes.
    Recovery of these species through implementation of recovery 
actions is estimated to occur in 2110; total costs for all partners are 
estimated at approximately $783 million over the next 90 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 implementation of 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 final 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 
actions. The species status assessment and recovery implementation 
strategy are accessible

[[Page 81218]]

as supporting documents for the draft recovery plan, but we are not 
seeking comments on those documents.

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

Amy L. Lueders,
Regional Director, Southwest Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-27542 Filed 12-14-20; 8:45 am]