[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 174 (Wednesday, September 9, 2015)]
[Pages 54308-54309]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-22733]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-ES-2015-N148; FXES1130400000C2-156-FF04E00000]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Recovery 
Plan for Dusky Gopher Frog

AGENCY:  Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:  Notice of availability.


SUMMARY:  We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of the final recovery plan for the endangered dusky gopher 
frog. The recovery plan includes specific recovery objectives and 
criteria that must be met in order for us to downlist the frog to 
threatened status under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended.

ADDRESSES:  You may obtain a copy of the recovery plan from our Web 
site at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/species/recovery-plans.html. You 
may also request a copy of the recovery plan by contacting Linda 
LaClaire at the Mississippi Field Office, by U.S. mail at U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Mississippi Field Office, 6578 Dogwood View Pkwy, 
Jackson, MS 39213 (telephone 601-321-1126).




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

[[Page 54309]]

improvement of the status of listed species to the point at which 
listing is no longer needed under any criteria specified in section 
4(a)(1) of the Act. To help guide the recovery effort, we prepare 
recovery plans for most listed species. Recovery plans describe actions 
considered necessary for conservation of the species, establish 
criteria for downlisting or delisting, and estimate time and cost for 
implementing recovery measures. The Act requires the development of 
recovery plans for listed species, unless such a plan would not promote 
the conservation of a particular species.
    The Service listed the Mississippi gopher frog (Rana capito sevosa) 
under the Act, as an endangered distinct vertebrate population segment 
(DPS) of the gopher frog (Rana capito) on December 4, 2001 (66 FR 
62993). On June 12, 2012, we published a final rule (77 FR 35118) 
designating critical habitat for this listed entity, changing its 
status to ``species,'' and changing its name to dusky gopher frog (Rana 
sevosa) based on taxonomic changes and the acceptance of these changes 
by the herpetological scientific community. The frog's current 
distribution is restricted to the State of Mississippi. At the time of 
listing, only one population of the species was known. Subsequently, 
two other naturally occurring populations were discovered. One 
additional dusky gopher frog population has been established in 
Mississippi as a result of translocation experiments. Presently, we 
estimate that a minimum of 135 individual adult frogs survive in the 
wild, the vast majority of which occur in the original population known 
at the time of listing.
    Principal threats to the dusky gopher frog include degradation and 
destruction of breeding and nonbreeding habitat, habitat fragmentation, 
and alteration of hydrological patterns due to urbanization and climate 
change. Additional threats include the restricted range of the dusky 
gopher frog, its small number of populations, and disease. All these 
factors act to increase the vulnerability of the species to a single 
catastrophic event and to the deleterious effects of genetic 

Recovery Plan

    Section 4(f) of the Act requires us to provide public notice and an 
opportunity for public review and comment prior to final approval of 
recovery plans. We and other Federal agencies will take these comments 
into account in the course of implementing approved recovery plans.
    The Technical/Agency Draft Recovery Plan for the Dusky Gopher Frog 
was developed by the Dusky Gopher Frog Recovery Team and our 
Mississippi Field Office. This draft plan was published on September 
10, 2014, and made available for public comment through November 10, 
2014 (79 FR 53728).
    We received public comments on our draft recovery plan and 
incorporated them into the final plan, as appropriate. We also 
considered the information we received from peer reviewers in our 
preparation and approval of this final recovery plan.

Recovery Plan Components

    The Service's recovery objectives are to work to reduce threats so 
that the dusky gopher frog may be downlisted to threatened status. 
Defining reasonable delisting criteria is not possible at this time, 
given the current low number of populations and individuals, lack of 
information about the species' biology, and magnitude of threats. 
Therefore, this recovery plan only establishes downlisting criteria for 
the dusky gopher frog.
    Downlisting of the dusky gopher frog will be considered when:
    1. Six viable metapopulations* are documented within blocks of 
recovery focus areas (described in Section II of the recovery plan) and 
are widely distributed across the range of the species. The six 
metapopulations would include a minimum of 12 breeding ponds and would 
be distributed as follows:
    a. One metapopulation in Block #1 (Louisiana: Portions of St. 
Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington Parishes, west to the Tangipahoa 
    b. Two metapopulations each in Block #2 (South-Central Mississippi: 
North of State Hwy. 26, between the Pearl and Pascagoula Rivers; 
Forrest County and portions of Lamar, Pearl River, Perry, and Stone 
Counties) and Block #3 (South Mississippi: South of Hwy. 26, between 
the Pearl and Pascagoula Rivers; Hancock and Harrison Counties, and 
portions of Jackson, George, Pearl River, and Stone Counties); and
    c. One metapopulation in either Block #4 (Eastern Mississippi: East 
of Pascagoula/Leaf Rivers; portions of George, Greene, Jackson, and 
Wayne Counties) or Block #5 (Alabama: West of the Mobile River Delta; 
Mobile and Washington Counties, small portion of Choctaw County).
    2. Long-term monitoring (at least 10 years) of each metapopulation 
is able to document population viability (viability standard to be 
defined through a recovery task). The 10-year timeframe will allow 
monitoring of recruitment events and other population attributes in a 
species that has been characterized by highly variable reproductive and 
survival rates. In each of at least two annual breeding events within a 
3-year period, a total of 30 egg masses per metapopulation must be 
documented and recruitment must be verified.
    3. Breeding and adjacent upland habitats within the six 
metapopulations are protected long term through management agreements, 
public ownership, or other means, in sufficient quantity and quality 
(to be determined by recovery task) to support growing populations.
    4. Studies of the dusky gopher frog's biological and ecological 
requirements are completed, and any required recovery measures 
discovered during these studies are developed and implemented.
    * Information defining what constitutes a viable metapopulation can 
be found in the Service's final recovery plan.


    The authority for this action is section 4(f) of the Endangered 
Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533 (f).

    Dated: July 24, 2015.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Regional Director, Southeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2015-22733 Filed 9-8-15; 8:45 am]