[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 206 (Tuesday, October 25, 2011)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 66018-66021]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-27372]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2011-0084; 92220-1113-0000; ABC Code: C6]
RIN 1018-AH53

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Delisting of the 
Plant Frankenia johnstonii (Johnston's frankenia)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of document availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), notify the 
public that we are reopening the comment period on the May 22, 2003, 
proposed rule to remove the plant Frankenia johnstonii (Johnston's 
frankenia) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants (List) 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Comments 
submitted during the 2003 comment period will be considered and do not 
need to be resubmitted now. However, we invite comments on the new 
information presented in this announcement relevant to our 
consideration of the status of F. johnstonii. We encourage those who 
may have commented previously to submit additional comments, if 
appropriate, in light of this new information. We are also making 
available for public review the Draft Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan 
for F. johnstonii.

DATES: To ensure that we are able to consider your comments and 
information, we request that we receive them no later than December 27, 
2011. Please note that, if you are using the Federal eRulemaking Portal 
(see ADDRESSES, below), the deadline for submitting an electronic 
comment is Eastern Standard Time on this date. We may not be able to 
address or incorporate information that we receive after the above 
requested date. We must receive requests for public hearings, in 
writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by 
December 9, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the 2003 proposed delisting of the 
plant Frankenia johnstonii (Johnston's frankenia), comments received on 
that proposal, and the Draft Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan for 
Frankenia johnstonii can be obtained from the Web sites http://www.regulations.gov or http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Library/. Also, 
you may submit comments and information by one of the following 
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In 
the box that reads ``Enter Keyword or ID,'' enter the Docket number for 
this finding, which is FWS-R2-ES-2011-0084 . Choose the Action that 
reads ``Submit a Comment.'' Please ensure that you have found the 
correct rulemaking before submitting your comment.
     U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, 
Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2011-0084; Division of Policy and Directives 
Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 
2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We will post all comments and information we receive on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any 
personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section 
below for more details).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michelle Shaughnessy, Assistant 
Regional Director, Ecological Services, Southwest Regional Office, P.O. 
Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 87103, by telephone (505-248-6671), or by 
facsimile (505-248-6788). If you use a telecommunications device for 
the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Information Relay Service 
(FIRS) at 800-877-8339.


Previous Federal Actions

    Frankenia johnstonii was listed August 7, 1984 (49 FR 31418), as an 
endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). At the time F. johnstonii was listed, we 
determined that designation of critical habitat was not prudent because 
if localities were published in the Federal Register, the species might 
be additionally threatened by taking and vandalism. A recovery plan was 
completed for F. johnstonii in 1988 (http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/recovery_plan/880524.pdf), but it did not quantify criteria for 
downlisting or delisting due to a lack of knowledge about the species 
(Service 1988, p. 14). Threats identified in the recovery plan were the 
small number of individuals, the restricted distribution, the low 
reproductive potential, and the impacts of heavy grazing and land 
management practices, such as road construction or maintenance and 
bulldozing of woody vegetation (Service 1988, p. 11).
    Since the recovery plan was completed, our knowledge of F. 
johnstonii has greatly increased. Based on what we learned about the 
species' known range, the number of newly discovered populations, the 
life history requirements of this species, clarification of the degrees 
of threats, and the protection offered by several landowners who 
control those populations, we proposed delisting the F. johnstonii on 
May 22, 2003 (68 FR 27961), due to recovery. Please see the May 22, 
2003 (68 FR 27961), proposed delisting rule (also posted on our Web 
sites) for a detailed analysis of factors affecting the species. 
Because of the amount of time that has lapsed since the 2003 delisting 
proposal, we are reopening the public comment period for that proposal, 
and inviting comment on new information presented in this announcement 
as well as on the draft post-delisting monitoring plan for Johnston's 
frankenia (Frankenia johnstonii).


    In this document, we will only discuss new information pertinent to 
the proposed delisting of Frankenia johnstonii. For a more detailed 
description of F. johnstonii, its current status and its threats, 
please refer to the May 23, 2003, proposed rule to delist the species 
(68 FR 27961 and posted on our Web sites with this docket; see 
ADDRESSES above) and the recovery plan (http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/recovery_plan/880524.pdf).
    At the time of listing F. johnstonii, 5 populations were known, 4 
in Texas and 1 in Mexico, and the total number of individual plants was 
estimated to be approximately 1,500. Threats to the species at the time 
of listing were considered to be small number of plants, their 
restricted distribution, the impacts of grazing on them, and low 
reproductive potential (49 FR 31418).
    The May 22, 2003 (68 FR 27961), proposal to remove Frankenia 
johnstonii from the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants was based 
on results of field work conducted between 1993 and 1999 that included 
extensive population surveys, landowner

[[Page 66019]]

outreach, and biological and ecological research. The culmination of 
these efforts showed F. johnstonii to be much more widespread and 
abundant than was known at the time of listing (Janssen 1999, pp. 5-
160). Research results also helped to alleviate concerns about threats 
associated with the species' low reproductive potential and competition 
from nonnative, invasive grasses (Janssen 1999, pp. 161-166, 208-212). 
In addition, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department had already 
negotiated signed, voluntary conservation agreements with private 
landowners that helped to ensure habitat integrity for a number of the 
populations into the future. Since 2003 several other landowners have 
signed agreements as well.
    Frankenia johnstonii is endemic to Webb, Zapata, and Starr Counties 
in southern Texas and an adjacent area in northeastern Mexico. The 
range of F. johnstonii in Texas is currently estimated at approximately 
2,031 square miles (5,260 square kilometers), extending from 
northwestern Webb County on the north, to central Starr County at the 
species' most southern distribution point (Janssen 1999, p. 4; Price et 
al. 2006, pp. 2-3). The results of status surveys have dramatically 
increased the known numbers of individual plants, from approximately 
1,500 at the time of listing in 1984 to greater than 4 million in 1999 
(Janssen 1999, pp. 5-160). Based on earlier reviews of Janssen's 1999 
data, we initially estimated the number of individuals around 9 million 
and stated this in the 2003 proposed rule (68 FR 27961). However, after 
more thorough review of Janssen's 1999 data, we estimate the number of 
individual plants to have been greater than 4 million at that time 
(Janssen 1999, pp. 5-160). In addition, 58 U.S. populations were 
reported in 1999 (Janssen 1999, p. 8). Additional populations have been 
discovered subsequently.
    For a summary of factors affecting the species, please refer to the 
May 23, 2003, proposed rule to delist the species (68 FR 27961). We 
conclude that new data have clarified the significance of threats to 
the species, and several large populations are now covered under signed 
voluntary conservation agreements with Texas Parks and Wildlife 
Department or under conservation management agreements between the 
landowner and the Nature Conservancy of Texas. Taken together this 
information leads to the conclusion that the potential impacts due to 
destruction or modification of habitat are significantly reduced. After 
reviewing the status of the species, we determine that the species is 
not in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of 
its range, nor is it likely to become in danger of extinction within 
the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its 
    During the comment period following the May 23, 2003, proposed rule 
to delist the species (68 FR 27961), we received comments from four 
independent biologists with expertise in the ecology of Frankenia 
johnstonii. The comments from those peer reviewers will be considered 
and incorporated as appropriate into our final determination on the 
status of the species. In addition, we will also request peer review of 
the draft post-delisting monitoring plan.

New Information

    The majority of relevant information that has become available 
since our 2003 proposal to delist Frankenia johnstonii has resulted 
from additional surveys that documented new populations (Price et al. 
2006, pp. 1-3; Janssen 2007, pers. comm.). From 2003 to 2006, Price et 
al. (2006, pp. 1-3) surveyed for several rare south Texas plants, 
including F. johnstonii. Additional F. johnstonii populations were 
located in Webb, Zapata, and Starr Counties, Texas, although 
measurements of these populations, including areal extent and numbers 
of plants, were not collected (Price et al. 2006, p. 10 in Attachment B 
and pp. 2-5 in Attachment C). Subsequently, G. Janssen conducted a 2007 
survey on a ranch in southern Starr County, north of Escobares, where 
new populations of F. johnstonii were documented (Janssen 2007, pers. 
comm.). Also, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) conducted surveys on a Webb 
County ranch (adjacent to the most northern known population) in 2007, 
where new populations of F. johnstonii were also found (Janssen 2010, 
pp. 5-6). Adding these newly documented populations to those described 
in Janssen's 1999 report brings the total number of known populations 
in Texas to approximately 84, depending on whether some occurrences 
constitute separate populations or are instead scattered subpopulations 
of one or more metapopulations.
    Beyond documenting new populations, climate change was not analyzed 
in the 2003 proposal to delist. Although climate change may be a 
concern for many sensitive species, we do not believe it will have much 
of an impact on Frankenia johnstonii either now or into the foreseeable 
future. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 
(IPCC 2007, p. 5), ``Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as 
is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and 
ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising 
global average sea level.'' The average Northern Hemisphere 
temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very 
likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 
years and likely the highest in at least the past 1,300 years (IPCC 
2007, p. 5). It is very likely that over the past 50 years, cold days, 
cold nights, and frosts have become less frequent over most land areas, 
and hot days and hot nights have become more frequent (IPCC 2007, p. 
8). Data suggest that heat waves are occurring more often over most 
land areas, and the frequency of heavy precipitation events has 
increased over most areas (IPCC 2007, pp. 8, 15). The IPCC (2007, pp. 
12, 13) predicts that changes in the global climate system during the 
21st century will very likely be larger than those observed during the 
20th century. For the next 2 decades a warming of about 0.2 [deg]C (0.4 
[deg]F) per decade is projected (IPCC 2007, p. 12).
    In addition, Seager et al. (2007, p. 1181) showed that there is a 
broad consensus among climate models that southwestern North America 
will get drier in the 21st century and that the transition to a more 
arid climate is already under way. Only 1 of 19 models has a trend 
toward a wetter climate in the Southwest (Seager et al. 2007, p. 1181). 
A total of 49 projections were created using the 19 models, and all but 
3 predicted a shift to increasing aridity (dryness) in the Southwest as 
early as 2021 to 2040 (Seager et al. 2007, p. 1181). These research 
results indicate that southwestern North America can be expected to be 
hotter and drier in the future.
    Nevertheless, we believe that increasing global temperatures and 
drought conditions will likely have little impact on Frankenia 
johnstonii because this species is well adapted to the warm, arid 
landscape of south Texas. In fact, it may be reasonable to assume that 
climate change may actually benefit F. johnstonii by making the 
landscape more arid, thus reducing competition with other less 
physiologically adapted plants. However, we lack sufficient certainty 
to know specifically how climate change will affect the species. We 
have not identified, nor are we aware of, any data on an appropriate 
scale to evaluate habitat or population trends for the F. johnstonii 
within its range, or to make predictions on future trends and whether 
the species will actually be impacted. We lack predictive local or 
regional models on how climate change will specifically

[[Page 66020]]

affect the F. johnstonii or its habitat, and we have no certainty 
regarding the timing, magnitude, or effects of impacts. Therefore, 
based on the best available information, we do not consider climate 
change to be a threat to the F. johnstonii now or in the foreseeable 
    In summary, based on our analysis of the new information that has 
become available since our original 2003 proposal to delist Frankenia 
johnstonii, we continue to believe that the data supporting the 
original classification were incomplete and that new data have 
clarified the significance of threats to the species. Moreover, the 
signing of voluntary conservation agreements or conservation management 
agreements for a number of populations indicates landowner interest in 
conservation of the species and their intent to protect the species and 
its habitat has significantly reduced potential impacts due to 
destruction or modification of habitat. After reviewing the status of 
the species, we determine that the species is not in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, nor is 
it likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable 
future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us, in cooperation with the 
States, to implement a monitoring program for not less than 5 years for 
all species that have been recovered and delisted (50 CFR 17.11, 
17.12). The purpose of this post-delisting monitoring (PDM) is to 
verify that the species remains secure from risk of extinction after it 
has been removed from the protections of the Act. The PDM is designed 
to detect the failure of any delisted species to sustain itself without 
the protective measures provided by the Act. If, at any time during the 
monitoring period, data indicate that protective status under the Act 
should be reinstated, we can initiate listing procedures, including, if 
appropriate, emergency listing under section 4(b)(7) of the Act. 
Section 4(g) of the Act explicitly requires cooperation with the States 
in development and implementation of PDM programs, but we remain 
responsible for compliance with section 4(g) and, therefore, must 
remain actively engaged in all phases of PDM. We also seek active 
participation of other entities that are expected to assume 
responsibilities for the species' conservation post-delisting.
    The Service has developed a draft PDM plan for Frankenia johnstonii 
in cooperation with the TPWD, U.S. International Boundary and Water 
Commission, TNC, and the Texas Department of Transportation. The PDM 
plan is designed to verify that F. johnstonii remains secure from risk 
of extinction after removal from the list of endangered species. With 
this notice, we are soliciting public comments and peer review on the 
draft PDM plan. All comments on the draft PDM plan from the public and 
peer reviewers will be considered and incorporated into the final PDM 
plan as appropriate.
    The following is a brief summary of the draft PDM plan. Please see 
the plan, available at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Library/or 
http://www.regulations.gov, for more details. In essence, the PDM plan 
for the Frankenia johnstonii will be implemented for 9 years, and will 
include habitat evaluation using remote sensing of 20 populations and 
on-site monitoring of 10 populations. Habitat assessments with remote 
sensing will occur about every 2 or 3 years, depending on when updated 
aerial photography is available. Onsite assessments will be conducted 
in the fall every 3 years for a total of three visits during the 9-year 
PDM period. Potential impacts to the species are habitat loss from 
vegetation clearing associated with construction of roads and buildings 
for residential and commercial development, and clearing and 
construction associated with oil and gas development (seismic 
exploration and road, pipeline, and well pad construction). A site 
visit will be triggered from remote sensing analysis when a 30 percent 
loss of habitat is detected within any monitored polygon when compared 
to 2008 baseline data. A second way to trigger site visits is if the 
overall area being assessed shows a habitat loss of 30 percent or more 
compared to the 2008 baseline.
    If onsite monitoring reveals any cause for concern, such as reduced 
numbers of plants or decreased extent of a population, a more 
comprehensive ground assessment of the monitored populations, or 
addition of extra monitoring sites, may be necessary. If monitoring 
concerns become sufficiently high, we will conduct a full status review 
of the species to determine if relisting is warranted.

Public Comments

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and will 
be as accurate and effective as possible. To ensure our determination 
is based on the best available scientific and commercial information, 
we request information on the Frankenia johnstonii from governmental 
agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, 
and any other interested parties. We request comments or suggestions on 
our May 22, 2003 (68 FR 27961), proposal to delist the F. johnstonii, 
on the new information presented in this Federal Register notice, on 
the draft post-delisting monitoring plan for F. johnstonii, and on any 
other information. Specifically, we seek information on:
    (1) The species' biology, range, and population trends, including:
    (a) Life history, ecology, and habitat use of the F. johnstonii;
    (b) Range, distribution, population size, and population trends;
    (c) Positive and negative effects of current and foreseeable land 
management practices on F. johnstonii, including conservation efforts.
    (2) The factors, as detailed in the May 22, 2003 (68 FR 27961), 
that are the basis for making a listing/delisting/downlisting 
determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), which 
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
    (3) The draft post-delisting monitoring plan.
    You may submit your information concerning this status review by 
one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. If you submit information via 
http://www.regulations.gov, your entire submission--including any 
personal identifying information--will be posted on the Web site. If 
you submit a hardcopy that includes personal identifying information, 
you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this 
personal identifying information from public review. However, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will post all hardcopy 
submissions on http://www.regulations.gov.
    Information and supporting documentation that we received and used 
in preparing this proposal and other listing determinations for the 
species, will be available for you to review at http://www.regulations.gov, or you may make an appointment during normal 
business hours at the Service's Southwest Regional Office, Ecological 

[[Page 66021]]

    If you submitted comments or information previously on the May 22, 
2003, proposed rule (68 FR 27961), please do not resubmit them. These 
comments have been incorporated into the public record and will be 
fully considered in the preparation of our final determination.
    The Service will finalize a new listing determination after we have 
completed our review of the best available scientific and commercial 
information, including information and comments submitted during this 
comment period.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available on the Internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Service's 
Southwest Regional Office, Ecological Services (see FOR FURTHER 


    The primary author of this notice is staff of the Service's 
Southwest Regional Office, Ecological Services (see FOR FURTHER 


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

    Dated: October 12, 2011.
Gregory E. Siekaniec,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2011-27372 Filed 10-24-11; 8:45 am]