[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 3 (Monday, January 6, 2020)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 487-492]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-28352]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2019-0055; FXES11130900000C6-123-FF09E30000]
RIN 1018-BD49

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Kanab 
Ambersnail From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to 
remove the Kanab ambersnail (Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis) from the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. This determination 
is based on a thorough review of the best available scientific 
information. Our review indicates that Kanab ambersnail is not a valid 
subspecies and therefore cannot be listed as an endangered entity under 
the Act. We are seeking information and comments from the public 
regarding this proposed rule.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
March 6, 2020. Please note that if you are using the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES), the deadline for submitting an 
electronic comment is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We 
must receive requests for a public hearing, in writing, at the address 
shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by February 20, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Comment submission: You may submit comments by one of the 
following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R6-ES-2019-0055, 
which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the 
Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel on the left 
side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the 
Proposed Rule box to locate this document. You may submit a comment by 
clicking on ``Comment Now!'' If your comments will fit in the provided 
comment box, please use this feature of http://www.regulations.gov, as 
it is most compatible with our comment review procedures. If you attach 
your comments as a separate document, our preferred file format is 
Microsoft Word. If you attach multiple comments (such as form letters), 
our preferred formation is a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2019-0055, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described 
above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide 
us (see Information Requested, below, for more information).
    Document availability: This proposed rule and supporting documents, 
including a copy of the recovery plan and the 5-year review referenced 
throughout this document, are available on http://www.regulations.gov 
at Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2019-0055. In addition, the supporting file for 
this proposed rule will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the Utah Ecological 
Services Field Office, 2369 West Orton Circle, Suite 50, West Valley 
City, UT 84119; telephone 801-975-3330. Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay 
Service at 800-877-8339.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Larry Crist, Field Supervisor, 
telephone 801-975-3330, ext. 61912. Direct all questions or requests 
for additional information to: KANAB AMBERSNAIL QUESTIONS, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Utah Ecological Services Field Office, 2369 West 
Orton Circle, Suite 50, West Valley City, UT 84119. Persons who use a 
TDD may call the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

[[Page 488]]


Information Requested

Public Comments

    We want any final rule resulting from this proposal to be as 
accurate as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information 
from other concerned governmental agencies, Native American tribes, the 
scientific community, industry, and other interested parties concerning 
this proposed rule. Comments should be as specific as possible. We 
particularly seek comments concerning:
    (1) Reasons why we should or should not remove the Kanab ambersnail 
from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (``delist'' the 
Kanab ambersnail);
    (2) Additional taxonomic or other relevant data concerning the 
Kanab ambersnail; and
    (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, and 
population size of the Oxyloma genus, Oxyloma haydeni, or any 
subspecies of Oxyloma haydeni.
    (4) Comments regarding our decision to move forward with removing 
Kanab ambersnail from the List of Threatened and Endangered Species 
without resolution on what larger taxonomic entity it belongs to.
    Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as 
scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to 
verify any scientific or commercial information you include. Please 
note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the 
action under consideration without providing supporting information, 
although noted, may not meet the standard of information required by 
section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), which directs 
that determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or 
threatened species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best 
scientific and commercial data available.''
    Prior to issuing a final determination on this proposed action, we 
will take into consideration all comments and any additional 
information we receive. Such communications may lead to a final rule 
that differs from this proposal. All comments and information we 
collect, including commenters' names and addresses, if provided to us, 
will become part of the supporting record.
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning the proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. If you submit your 
comments electronically, you must submit your comments on http://www.regulations.gov before 11:59 p.m. (Eastern Time) on the date 
specified in DATES. We will not consider hand-delivered comments that 
we do not receive, or mailed comments that are not postmarked, by the 
date specified in DATES.
    If you submit information via http://www.regulations.gov, your 
entire submission--including any personal identifying information--will 
be posted on the website. Please note that comments posted to this 
website are not immediately viewable. When you submit a comment, the 
system receives it immediately. However, the comment will not be 
publicly viewable until we post it, which might not occur until several 
days after submission.
    If you mail or hand-deliver hardcopy comments that include 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. To ensure that the 
electronic docket for this rulemaking is complete and all comments we 
receive are publicly available, we will post all hardcopy submissions 
on http://www.regulations.gov.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Utah Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR 

Public Hearing

    Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for a public hearing on this 
proposal, if requested. We must receive requests for a public hearing, 
in writing, by the date specified above in DATES. You must send your 
request to the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. We 
will schedule a public hearing on this proposal, if requested, and 
announce the date, time, and place of the hearing, as well as how to 
obtain reasonable accommodation, in the Federal Register and local 
newspapers at least 15 days before the hearing.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy, ``Notice of Interagency Cooperative 
Policy for Peer Review in Endangered Species Act Activities,'' which 
was published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270) and our August 22, 2016, 
Memorandum ``Peer Review Process,'' we will seek the expert opinion of 
at least three appropriate and independent specialists regarding 
scientific data and interpretations contained in this proposed rule. 
The purpose of peer review is to ensure that our delisting decision is 
based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We will 
send copies of this proposed rule to the peer reviewers immediately 
following publication in the Federal Register. We will invite these 
peer reviewers to comment, during the public comment period, on the 
specific assumptions and conclusions in this proposed delisting of the 
Kanab ambersnail. We will summarize the opinions of these reviewers in 
the final decision document, and we will consider their input and any 
additional information we received as part of our process of making a 
final decision on this proposal. Such communication may lead to a final 
decision that differs from this proposal.

Previous Federal Actions

    On May 22, 1984, we published a notice of review in the Federal 
Register (49 FR 21664) issuing a list of invertebrate wildlife being 
considered for listing as endangered or threatened species, which 
included the Kanab ambersnail as a category 2 species. Category 2 
species were taxa for which the Service had information indicating the 
appropriateness of a proposal to list the species as endangered or 
threatened but for which more substantial data were needed on 
biological vulnerability and threats. On January 6, 1989, we published 
an updated notice of review, which maintained the Kanab ambersnail as a 
category 2 species (54 FR 554). At the time, only two populations of 
the Kanab ambersnail were known to occur, in Utah. A third population 
was discovered in Arizona in 1991 (57 FR 13657; April 17, 1992).
    A survey conducted in 1990 discovered that one Utah population of 
the Kanab ambersnail was nearly extirpated, while the other Utah 
population was subjected to major habitat alteration and destruction 
(Clarke 1991, p. 31). We considered this information as sufficient to 
elevate the Kanab ambersnail from a category 2 to a category 1 species, 
and on August 8, 1991, we published an emergency rule to list the Kanab 
ambersnail as endangered (56 FR 37668). This emergency protection 
expired on April 3, 1992 (56 FR 37668; August 8, 1991).
    On November 15, 1991, we proposed to list the Kanab ambersnail as 
an endangered species (56 FR 58020). On April 17, 1992, we published a 
final rule listing the Kanab ambersnail as an endangered species (57 FR 
13657). We did not designate critical habitat for the

[[Page 489]]

Kanab ambersnail as explained in our April 17, 1992, final rule (57 FR 
13657), due to a danger of over-collection or molestation. On October 
12, 1995, we finalized the Kanab ambersnail recovery plan (Service 
1995, entire).
    We completed a 5-year review of the species' status in July 2011 
(Service 2011, entire). In the 5-year review, we analyzed existing data 
and threats to the species, and concluded the Kanab ambersnail should 
remain an endangered species (Service 2011, p. 21). This decision was 
based on the fact that the threats to the Kanab ambersnail and its 
distribution have changed minimally since it was first listed (Service 
2011, p. 21). As of the 5-year review, several genetic studies 
indicated that at least one of the three populations identified as 
Kanab ambersnail was potentially part of a different species or 
subspecies, but we did not consider those studies certain enough to 
recommend delisting due to error at that time (Miller et al. 2000, p. 
8; Stevens et al. 2000, p. 7; Culver et al. 2007, p. 3; Service 2011, 
pp. 8-9). The subsequent publication of a larger, more comprehensive 
study on the genetics of Kanab ambersnail and the Oxyloma genus (Culver 
et al. 2013, entire), coupled with the previous genetic research, is 
considered in this proposed rule determination.

Species Description and Habitat Information

    It is our intent to discuss only those topics directly related to 
delisting Kanab ambersnail in this proposed rule. For more information 
on the description, biology, ecology, and habitat of Kanab ambersnail, 
please refer to the final listing rule published in the Federal 
Register on April 17, 1992 (57 FR 13657); the most recent 5-year review 
for Kanab ambersnail completed in July 2011 (Service 2011); and the 
Kanab ambersnail recovery plan (Service 1995). These documents are 
available as supporting materials on http://www.regulations.gov under 
Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2019-0055.
    The Kanab ambersnail (Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis), as currently 
taxonomically identified, is a terrestrial snail in the family 
Succineidae. Succineids are usually referred to as ambersnails due to 
their mottled grayish-amber to yellowish-amber colored shells (Sorensen 
and Nelson 2002, p. 5).
    The Kanab ambersnail typically inhabits marshes and other wetlands 
watered by springs and seeps at the base of sandstone or limestone 
cliffs (Clarke 1991, pp. 28-29; Spamer and Bogan 1993, p. 296; Meretsky 
et al. 2002, p. 309). Habitat vegetation can consist of cattail (Typha 
domingensis), sedge (Juncus spp.), native crimson monkeyflower (Mimulus 
cardinalis), watercress (Nasturtium officinale), native water sedge 
(Carex aquatilis), and maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) (57 
FR 13657, April 17, 1992; Stevens et al. 1997, p. 6; Sorensen 2005, p. 
3). The Kanab ambersnail often inhabits dead and decaying litter and 
live stems of plants (Service 2011, p. 11).
    When Kanab ambersnail was listed, we knew of two populations in 
Utah (Three Lakes and Kanab Creek Canyon) and one population in Arizona 
(Vasey's Paradise) (57 FR 13657, April 17, 1992). The Kanab Creek 
Canyon population in Utah was extirpated by 1991, after dewatering of 
the seep for livestock use severely reduced the available habitat. 
Kanab ambersnail was last found there in 1990, when three individuals 
were identified (Service 2011, p. 12). Currently, there are two 
naturally occurring populations of Kanab ambersnail (Vasey's Paradise 
in Arizona, and Three Lakes in Utah) and one introduced population 
(Upper Elves Canyon in Arizona) (Service 2011, p. 6).
    The Vasey's Paradise population was discovered in 1991 (Spamer and 
Bogan 1993, p. 47). Vasey's Paradise is a riverside spring located 
approximately 33 miles (mi) (53 kilometers (km)) downstream of Lee's 
Ferry on the Colorado River, in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona 
(Spamer and Bogan 1993, p. 37). Occupied and potential habitat at 
Vasey's Paradise is 9,041 square feet (ft\2\) (840 square meters 
(m\2\)) (Service 1995, p. ii). Available habitat has increased since 
the time of listing due to water management practices in the Grand 
Canyon. The population is protected by National Park Service 
regulations and the presence of poison ivy, which deters visitors 
(Stevens et al. 1997, p. 12; Sorensen 2016, pers. comm.). A survey in 
2016 found only one snail, but search conditions were difficult and 
time was limited (Sorensen 2016, pers. comm.). Fourteen individuals 
were collected in 2008, for genetic analysis (Culver et al. 2013, p. 
7). The most recent population estimate is from 2002, which estimated 
3,124 individuals and noted that population numbers could be highly 
variable from year to year (Gloss et al. 2005, p. 3).
    The Three Lakes population is a series of small ponds on private 
land approximately 6 mi (10 km) northwest of Kanab, Utah (Clarke 1991, 
p. 28; Service 1995, p. 3). Occupied and potential habitat is 
approximately 4.94 acres (ac) (2 hectares (ha)) (Service 1995, p. 3). 
Available habitat is wet meadow and marsh. The habitat was greatly 
reduced in size and population beginning in 1991, due to preparations 
for anticipated development, which resulted in the original emergency 
listing (Service 2011, p. 11). The development anticipated at the time 
of listing has not occurred, and snails were found there in 2008 
(Culver et al. 2013, p. 6) and in 2016 (Sorensen 2016, pers. comm.). In 
2016, the land was sold to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which has 
expressed a willingness to preserve the habitat (Sorensen 2016, pers. 
comm.). No recent population estimate is available.
    Upper Elves Canyon is located approximately 83 mi (134 km) 
downstream of Vasey's Paradise on the Colorado River, in Grand Canyon 
National Park, Arizona (Sorensen 2016, p. 1). Occupied and potential 
habitat is adjacent to a perennial seep and is 1,068 ft\2\ (99.2 m\2\) 
(Sorensen 2005, p. 3). This population is protected by National Park 
Service regulations, as well as by its inaccessibility (Service 2011, 
p. 7). This population was established by the Arizona Fish and Game 
Department between 1998 and 2002, and as of 2005 was considered self-
sustaining with an estimated population of approximately 700 
individuals (Sorensen 2005, p. 9).


    Kanab ambersnail was first collected in 1909, by James Ferriss from 
an area called ``The Greens,'' a vegetated seep approximately 6 mi (10 
km) north of Kanab in Kanab Creek Canyon, Utah (57 FR 13657, April 17, 
1992; Service 1995, p. 2). However, the Kanab ambersnail has not been 
found at its type locality since 1991 (Meretsky et al. 2002, p. 314; 
Culver et al. 2013, p. 6).
    The snails collected by James Ferriss in 1909 were initially placed 
in the species Succinea hawkinisi, but Pilsbry (1948, p. 797) placed 
them in Oxyloma and created the subspecies kanabensis under the species 
haydeni (57 FR 13657, April 17, 1992). The subspecies kanabensis 
classification was considered to be temporary at the time, and the 
author recommended that the taxonomic status be reconsidered in the 
future (Pilsbry 1948, p. 798; Clarke 1991, p. 23; 57 FR 13657, April 
17, 1992).
    We have assessed all available genetic information for Kanab 
ambersnail (Miller et al. 2000, entire; Stevens et al. 2000, entire; 
Culver et al. 2013, entire). Since the listing of Kanab ambersnail in 
1992 (57 FR 13657; April 17, 1992) and the publication of the Kanab 
ambersnail recovery plan in 1995 (Service 1995, entire), several 
studies on subspecies

[[Page 490]]

distribution, morphological characteristics, and genetic relationships 
to other Oxyloma species have been completed. We briefly describe these 
studies below. At this time, these studies represent the best 
scientific information available in order for us to analyze the Kanab 
ambersnail's distribution and taxonomic changes.
    There are various types of analyses that can be done to determine 
genetic structure of a species: (1) Mitochondrial DNA, which is rapidly 
evolving and useful to determine recent populations; (2) nuclear 
microsatellite DNA, which has high amounts of polymorphism and can be 
used to look at populations within a species; (3) nuclear DNA, which is 
inherited paternally (unlike mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited 
maternally); and (4) amplified fragment length polymorphisms (ALFP), 
which are used to sample multiple loci across the genome.
    Miller et al. (2000) used ALFP to determine intra- and inter-
population genetic information for four Oxyloma species in Utah and 
Arizona. Among these, two Niobrara ambersnail (Oxyloma haydeni haydeni) 
locations were studied at Indian Gardens (Arizona) and Minus Nine Mile 
Spring (Arizona), and two Kanab ambersnail populations were studied at 
Three Lakes (Utah) and Vasey's Paradise (Arizona) (Miller et al. 2000, 
pp. 1845-1946). From this study, the Kanab ambersnail population at 
Three Lakes appears more closely related to the Niobrara ambersnail 
population at Indian Garden than to the Kanab ambersnail population at 
Vasey's Paradise (Miller et al. 2000, p. 1852).
    Stevens et al. (2000) used mitochondrial DNA and morphological 
analysis to distinguish Succineidae (Oxyloma, Catinella, and Succinea) 
populations in the United States and Canada. The authors collected over 
450 samples from seven U.S. States and Canadian provinces, including 
from 63 different populations or locations of snails (Stevens et al. 
2000, p. 4). Determining Oxyloma species based on morphology was shown 
to be inaccurate (Stevens et al. 2000, pp. 4-5, 42). Vasey's Paradise 
did not cluster with another Kanab ambersnail population or the two 
sampled Niobrara ambersnail populations, leading the authors to suggest 
Vasey's Paradise might represent a unique species (Stevens et al. 2000, 
p. 41). However, a later, more comprehensive study found that Vasey's 
Paradise clustered closely enough with samples from other surrounding 
Oxyloma populations for them all to be considered the same Oxyloma 
species (Culver et al. 2013, p. 57).
    In the most recent and detailed peer-reviewed study, ambersnails 
were collected from 12 locations in Arizona and Utah, with each 
location providing at least 14 ambersnail specimens (Culver et al. 
2013, p. 5). Samples consisted of Kanab ambersnail, Niobrara 
ambersnail, blunt ambersnail (Oxyloma retusum), undescribed species of 
Oxyloma, and Catinella (used to provide an outgroup comparison) (Culver 
et al. 2013, p. 6). Between the Oxyloma populations, shell morphology 
did not have the variation usually associated with different species, 
leading the authors to suggest that none of the populations sampled was 
reproductively isolated (Culver et al. 2013, p. 52). Genetic results 
suggested that there was gene flow among all the populations sampled, 
most likely due to short- or long-term dispersals from other 
populations (Culver et al. 2013, p. 57). Additionally, Kanab ambersnail 
samples from Vasey's Paradise did not cluster with the other two Kanab 
ambersnail populations (Culver et al. 2013, pp. 51, 55). The authors 
concluded that the three populations of Kanab ambersnail are not a 
valid subspecies of Oxyloma haydeni and should instead be considered 
part of the same taxa as ambersnails from the eight other populations 
of Oxyloma in Utah and Arizona that were sampled for comparison (Culver 
et al. 2013, entire). This study declined to positively identify a 
species-level taxon for these 11 populations of ambersnail, due to lack 
of genetic information on the genus (Culver et al. 2013). The primary 
author stated later that her expert opinion was they should all, 
including those previously identified as Kanab ambersnail, be 
considered Niobrara ambersnail (Oxyloma hadenyi) (Culver 2016, pers. 
comm.). The authors suggested that specimens from the type locality of 
the Niobrara ambersnail in Nebraska could be examined for comparison to 
verify this conclusion (Franzen 1964, p. 73; Culver et al. 2013, p. 57; 
Culver 2016, pers. comm.).
    For the Kanab ambersnail to be considered a distinct subspecies, 
nuclear and mitochondrial DNA tests should show that the three 
populations cluster together when compared to other populations of 
ambersnails (Culver et al. 2013, p. 55). However, the Vasey's Paradise 
population does not cluster with the other two Kanab ambersnail 
populations, but the degree of variation shown in Vasey's Paradise from 
the other populations was not unique enough to constitute a subspecies 
on its own, as it shares markers with several nearby populations of 
non-listed Oxyloma snails (Stevens et al. 2000, p. 41; Culver et al. 
2013, p. 55-57).
    The genetic uniqueness in Vasey's Paradise may be attributable to 
flooding, which can erode away ideal vegetation or habitat, leaving 
only a few individuals able to survive and re-establish the population 
at that site, creating a genetic bottleneck. Genetic diversity at these 
types of sites will be lower than at sites that have experienced short- 
or long-distance dispersals (Culver et al. 2013, p. 55). Furthermore, 
ambersnails have the ability to self-reproduce, allowing for 
colonization of new areas by only one individual, which may explain how 
many genetically distinct populations developed in a short time period 
(Culver et al. 2013, p. 56). At least one bottleneck event in the past, 
possibly flooding, caused unusual population genetic events (Culver et 
al. 2013, p. 55).
    Overall, these studies show that shell morphology and anatomical 
characteristics that were once considered diagnostic do not reliably 
correspond with the results from genetic analyses of Succineidae snails 
(Hoagland and Davis 1987, p. 519; Pigati et al. 2010, p. 523). Samples 
originally identified as different species or subspecies based on 
physical differences are consistently found to be related closely 
enough to qualify as members of the same species based on genetic 
studies (Culver et al. 2013, entire; Miller et al. 2000, entire; 
Stevens et al. 2000, entire). Traditionally, shell morphology of Kanab 
ambersnail, such as its slender and drawn out spire and short shell 
aperture, was used to distinguish Kanab ambersnail from other members 
of Oxyloma (Pilsbry 1948, pp. 797-798). However, shell shape can vary 
as much within a population as within a species (Hoagland and Davis 
1987, p. 519). Therefore, it is important to consider other factors 
such as genetics, anatomy, and habitat to determine a species within 
Oxyloma (Hoagland and Davis 1987, p. 519; Sorensen and Nelson 2002, p. 
    In addition to shell morphology, reproductive anatomy (phallus 
shape) was previously a main determining factor of the Oxyloma genus 
(Miller et al. 2000, p. 1853). However, anatomical descriptions used to 
classify the Kanab ambersnail had no quantifying factors, such a 
prostate gland length, and soft tissues were difficult to measure 
objectively (Pilsbry 1948, p. 798; Culver et al. 2013, pp. 52-53). The 
reproductive system is the most susceptible among organ systems to 
selection pressure (Franzen 1963, p. 84). Overall, anatomical 
characteristics have

[[Page 491]]

been found to vary greatly within Oxyloma (Culver et al. 2013, p. 52).
    There have been at least two instances when a species of snail was 
placed in the wrong genus due to relying solely on the reproductive 
anatomy (Johnson et al. 1986, p. 105; Miller et al. 2000, p. 1853). In 
another case, variation in anatomical structure was found in blunt 
ambersnail, leading the authors to conclude that the species was not 
restricted geographically as initially believed (Franzen 1963, p. 94). 
Previous Oxyloma studies have used only one or two specimens to 
determine the species' taxonomic status, which makes it difficult to 
properly assess the true status (Hoagland and Davis 1987, p. 515).
    Standards for quantifying anatomy are minimal and not descriptive 
enough, with words such as small, medium, and large being used, which 
are vague and not measurable (Hoagland and Davis 1987, p. 478). 
Anatomical characteristics should not be the only factor to determine a 
species within Oxyloma, even with an understanding of the individual 
and geographical variation (Franzen 1963, p. 83). Variation between 
populations, anatomical differences among individuals, overlapping 
habitat, and minimal consistency with the anatomical features make it 
difficult to rely on anatomical descriptions to determine species 
classification (Franzen 1964, p. 80; Sorensen and Nelson 2002, pp. 4-
5). Overall, reproductive anatomy is likely not a good species 
indicator in snails; instead, genetic relationships provide the most 
reliable method of classifying taxa.
    In summary, these analyses present multiple interpretations of the 
taxonomy of Kanab ambersnail, none of which correlates to that of our 
original listing. Although the exact taxonomy of the genus Oxyloma and 
its constituent species remains uncertain, it is clear that that the 
populations designated as Kanab ambersnail do not make up, together or 
separately, a valid subspecies. The 1992 final listing rule for the 
Kanab ambersnail (57 FR 13657; April 17, 1992) relied on the best 
available information at the time, and only included snails found in 
Vasey's Paradise in Arizona, and Three Lakes and Kanab Creek in Utah. 
This has changed with the addition of the 2013 genetic study of the 
Oxyloma genus in Utah and Arizona (Culver et al. 2013, entire).
    The various published and unpublished genetics reports described 
above offer different conclusions about how Succineid snails should be 
classified, particularly within the genus Oxyloma. However, none of the 
genetic studies provides support for Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis as a 
valid subspecies. Additionally, available genetic evidence suggests 
that at least one population identified as Kanab ambersnail is more 
closely related to other nearby Oxyloma populations than it is to the 
other two Kanab ambersnail populations.
    Therefore, we are proposing to delist Kanab ambersnail based on the 
best available science. The currently listed entity for the Kanab 
ambersnail, restricted to Vasey's Paradise and Upper Elves Canyon, 
Arizona, and Three Lakes, Utah, is not a valid taxonomic subspecies. We 
are unable to evaluate the populations identified as Kanab ambersnail 
relative to the larger entity because the larger entity has not yet 
been defined. If we had conclusive information available about the 
taxonomy of this genus, we would conduct a status assessment of the 
larger entity, but in this case we do not have enough information to 
conduct that analysis. We do not consider the absence of information on 
the larger taxonomy of a group to be sufficient reason to keep an 
invalid subspecies listed as Threatened.

Delisting Proposal

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations, 50 CFR part 
424, set forth the procedures for listing, reclassifying, or removing 
species from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
and Plants. ``Species'' is defined by the Act as including any species 
or subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct 
population segment of vertebrate fish or wildlife that interbreeds when 
mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). We may delist a species according to 50 
CFR 424.11(d) if the best available scientific and commercial data 
indicate that the species is neither endangered nor threatened for one 
or more of the following reasons: (1) The species is extinct; (2) the 
species has recovered and is no longer endangered or threatened; or (3) 
the original scientific data used at the time the species was 
classified were in error.
    For the Kanab ambersnail, we conclude that the existing scientific 
information demonstrates that Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis does not 
represent a valid taxonomic entity and, therefore, does not meet the 
definition of ``species'' as defined in section 3(16) of the Act. 
Therefore, Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis no longer warrants listing under 
the Act. The Kanab ambersnail does not require a post-delisting 
monitoring (PDM) plan because the monitoring plan does not apply to 
delisting species due to taxonomic error.

Effects of This Proposed Rule

    This proposal, if made final, would revise 50 CFR 17.11(h) to 
remove the Kanab ambersnail from the Federal List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife. Because no critical habitat was ever designated 
for this subspecies, this rule would not affect 50 CFR 17.95.
    The prohibitions and conservation measures provided by the Act 
would no longer apply to the Kanab ambersnail. Interstate commerce, 
import, and export of the Kanab ambersnail would not be prohibited 
under the Act. In addition, Federal agencies are no longer required to 
consult under section 7 of the Act on actions that may affect the Kanab 

Required Determinations

Clarity of the Rule

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the 
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain 
language. This means that each rule we publish must:
    (1) Be logically organized;
    (2) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (3) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (4) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (5) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. To better help us 
revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For 
example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs 
that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long, 
the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that environmental assessments and environmental 
impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), need not be 
prepared in connection with regulations pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination 
in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994,

[[Page 492]]

Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments (59 FR 22951), E.O. 13175, and the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), 
we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
Tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge 
that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal 
public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make 
information available to Tribes.
    The populations listed as Kanab ambersnail do not occur on Tribal 
land. We have determined that while no Tribes would be directly 
affected by this proposed action, any delisting that may occur, may 
result in changes to the flow regime for the Colorado River in and 
adjacent to the Grand Canyon. Several Tribes have an historic 
affiliation with the Grand Canyon and could be affected by flow 
changes, should they occur. The potentially impacted Tribes are the 
Chemehuevi, the Colorado River Indian Tribes, the Hualapai, the Hopi, 
the Kaibab Band of Paiute, the San Carlos Apache, the San Juan Southern 
Paiute, the Navajo, and the Zuni. These Tribes have been informed of 
the proposed delisting.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is 
available at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2019-
0055, or upon request from the Utah Ecological Services Field Office 


    The primary authors of this proposed rule are staff members of the 
Service's Utah Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we hereby propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:


1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; and 4201-4245, 
unless otherwise noted.

Sec.  17.11   [Amended]

2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by removing the entry for ``Ambersnail, Kanab'' 
under SNAILS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.

    Dated: December 10, 2019.
 Margaret Everson,
Principal Deputy Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Exercising 
the Authority of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-28352 Filed 1-3-20; 8:45 am]