[Federal Register Volume 68, Number 26 (Friday, February 7, 2003)]
[Notices]
[Pages 6498-6500]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 03-3019]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Notice of 12-month 
Finding on a Petition to List Mount Ashland Lupine (Lupinus lepidus 
var. ashlandensis) and Henderson's Horkelia (Horkelia hendersonii)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.

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SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 12-
month finding for a petition to list Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis 
(Mount Ashland lupine), and Horkelia hendersonii (Henderson's 
horkelia), in accordance with the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended. After reviewing the best available scientific and commercial 
information available, we find that the petitioned action is not 
warranted. We ask the public to submit to us any new information that 
becomes available concerning the status of or threats to these species. 
This information will help us monitor and encourage the conservation of 
these species.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on January 26, 
2003. Comments and information may be submitted to us until further 
notice. You may submit new information concerning these species for our 
consideration at any time.

ADDRESSES: You may send data, information, or questions concerning the 
finding to the Field Supervisor, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, 2600 
SE. 98th Avenue, Suite 100, Portland, Oregon 97266. You may inspect the 
petition, administrative finding, supporting information, and comments 
received, by appointment, during normal business hours, at the above 
address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kathy L. Pendergrass, at the above 
address (telephone 503/231-6179; facsimile 503/231-6195).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that, for any petition 
to revise the List of Threatened and Endangered Species containing 
substantial scientific or commercial information that listing may be 
warranted, we make a finding within 12 months of the date of receipt of 
the petition on whether the petition action is: (a) Not warranted, (b) 
warranted, or (c) warranted but precluded by other pending proposals. 
Such 12-month findings are to be published promptly in the Federal 
Register.
    We received two separate petitions, both dated September 9, 1999, 
from the Rogue Group Sierra Club to list Lupinus aridus spp. 
ashlandensis (Mount Ashland lupine) and Horkelia hendersonii 
(Henderson's horkelia) as endangered or threatened throughout their 
range, and to designate critical habitat. On June 13, 2000, we 
published a 90-day finding for these two species in the Federal 
Register (65 FR 37108). We found that the petitions presented 
substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted. At 
that time, we initiated a review of the species' status within their 
historical range. This 12-month finding has been made in accordance 
with the judicially approved settlement agreement requiring us to 
submit a final listing decision on these species to the Federal 
Register by February 1, 2003 (Sierra Club v. Norton et al. (Civ. No. 
01-1804-BR)).
    Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis is an erect, perennial herb 
within the Fabaceae family. It forms clumps 15 to 20 centimeters (cm) 
(5.9 to 7.9 inches (in)) in diameter. Plants are 7 to 12 cm (2.8 to 4.7 
in) tall with leaves palmately compound with 5 to 7 leaflets that are 
up to 3 cm (1.2 in) long. Leaves are numerous and crowded from the 
basal crown, with pubescent (hairy) undersurfaces and glabrous 
(hairless) upper sides. Flowers are blue with petals about 11 
millimeters (mm) (0.43 in) long. The banner (upper petal) is glabrous 
and the keel (lower petal) ciliate (with sparse hairs) on the margin 
(Meinke 1982).
    Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis occurs as a single population of 
approximately 35,000 plants on the summit and western ridge of Mount 
Ashland within Oregon. The entire population is located in an area of 
about 30 hectares (ha) (74 acres (ac)), with two thirds of the known 
population on the ridge-line within 0.4 kilometers (0.25 miles) of the 
summit of Mount Ashland (Rolle 1993). The plants occur in four 
discontinuous patches within this 30 ha (74 ac) area. Much of the 
habitat that Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis occurs in are brush 
fields or clumps of brush, and is not suitable habitat. It is estimated 
that less than 60 percent or approximately 17 ha (42 ac) is actually 
occupied by Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis.
    Horkelia hendersonii, a member of the rose family (Family 
Rosaceae), is a perennial herb with several stems arising from a 
branching, woody crown, approximately 1 to 1.5 decimeters (3.9 to 5.9 
in) high (Abrams 1941; Keck 1938). Leaves are silky and 4 to 6 cm (1.6 
to 3.3 in) long with 11 to 19 leaflets arranged pinnately (Meinke 
1982). Flowers are white to pink with petals 4 mm (0.16 in) long in a 
somewhat clustered terminal (grouped at the tip of the stems) 
inflorescence (Peck 1961). This plant is one of approximately eight 
Oregon species of the genus Horkelia. Horkelia hendersonii is 
distinguished

[[Page 6499]]

from similar species by entire or simple cleft leaf stipules (leaflet 
structure at the base of the leaf stem) and densely long-silky hairs on 
the leaves and stems. It is the only alpine horkelia in Oregon having 
dense silky, non-glandular (non-sticky) hairs.
    Horkelia hendersonii is estimated to be approximately 32,307 
individuals, occupying a total of 86.6 ha (214 ac), with four main 
population centers in Oregon and one small population in California. 
The two species co-occur on the top of Mount Ashland.
    According to the petitions, the Mount Ashland populations of both 
species are threatened by the existing use and potential expansion of 
ski area facilities, roads, mountaintop facilities, and summer 
recreation. Additional threats identified in the Horkelia hendersonii 
petition included grazing, mining, firebreak construction, off-road 
vehicles, and logging.
    Current recreational ski activities occur over about 3.4 ha (8.5 
ac) or approximately 12 percent of the area where these species occur 
at Mount Ashland. These operations have occurred over this occupied 
habitat for about four decades with no observable changes in population 
distribution or numbers. A ski expansion proposed at Mount Ashland is 
expected to increase the number of skiers in occupied habitat. On the 
basis of information provided in the U.S. Forest Service's (Forest 
Service) (2000) draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), we believe 
that additional skier use as a result of the expansion of the ski area 
on Mount Ashland would not significantly destroy, modify, or curtail 
either species' habitat or range. We base this on the fact that the 
plants are dormant and insulated by a layer of snow during the winter 
period of use. Also, mitigation measures contained in a recently signed 
conservation agreement (CA) are expected to ameliorate impacts from the 
ski expansion.
    The petitioners expressed concern that activities associated with 
the proposed ski expansion may increase the pressure of the snowpack on 
dormant Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis and Horkelia hendersonii root 
crowns, change the longevity of the snow pack, or otherwise affect the 
environment and habitat that currently support these two species in 
this area of impact. There have been no studies to date that we are 
aware of to determine if skiing activities affect Lupinus lepidus var. 
ashlandensis and Horkelia hendersonii or their habitat underneath the 
snowpack. Also, the petitioners did not present any information on 
scientific studies that detailed effects to alpine vegetation by ski 
activities. Thus, these impacts are unknown. If changes in 
environmental conditions occurred in the past as a result of these 
activities, it is unknown whether the effects were detrimental, 
beneficial, or neutral to Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis and 
Horkelia hendersonii individuals (Forest Service 2000).
    Although initial road developments constructed years ago resulted 
in some habitat and individual plant loss, no current proposals call 
for expansion of existing roads or new road construction. Cutbanks and 
new drainage patterns created by the summit road on Mount Ashland have 
started gullies, which may reduce soil moisture retention, thereby 
reducing habitat for both species (Kagan and Zika 1987a, b; Zika 1987). 
During October 2002, the Forest Service started actions to improve 
drainage patterns of the existing road on Mount Ashland to ameliorate 
these potential gully impacts (W. Rolle, Forest Service, in litt., 
2002). The threat of gully formation associated with roads is much less 
at the Dutchman Peak/Jackson Gap, and is unknown for the Dry Lake 
Lookout site. Forest Service personnel are to evaluate sites that 
contain or are adjacent to roads for this potential impact on an annual 
basis, with the intent to implementing actions to reduce road impacts 
(Service and Forest Service 2002). Since no new road construction or 
widening are presently planned in areas where Lupinus lepidus var. 
ashlandensis and Horkelia hendersonii occur, and because the Forest 
Service is currently working to ameliorate habitat threats as a result 
of the current road at Mount Ashland, we do not consider road 
construction and maintenance to be a significant current threat to 
these species.
    An existing off-road vehicle track leading west from the Mount 
Ashland summit access road at the first switchback has been reported to 
be a potential avenue for the introduction of roadside weeds into the 
meadow and flat area that supports a sizeable population of Horkelia 
hendersonii and a small population of Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis 
(Kagan and Zika 1987a; Zika 1987). However, this potential impact is 
not yet evident. Though a few non-natives are present, they are either 
not expanding or are fairly ephemeral (transient) components of the 
plant communities. Unlike many other plant communities, non-native 
species are generally not increasing in areas inhabited by Lupinus 
lepidus var. ashlandensis or Horkelia hendersonii. The lack of 
establishment by these non-natives is likely due to the harsh alpine 
conditions of these sites, and that non-native plants adapted for these 
conditions have not been introduced.
    Although mountaintop developments constructed years ago resulted in 
some habitat and individual plant loss, there have been few other such 
developments since. Only one new mountaintop development is currently 
proposed, to replace an outdated underground power cable that supplies 
electricity to weather and telecommunications facilities at the summit 
of Mount Ashland (Forest Service 2002). The Forest Service proposes 
that, in order to reduce impacts to the populations, the cable 
installation should occur within the existing compacted roadbed, 
instead of where it presently occurs. With this alternative, the 
project would intersect only a small portion of habitat and result in 
the loss of just a few plants of both Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis 
and Horkelia hendersonii. No additional mountaintop developments are 
planned in the foreseeable future. Threats associated with the 
maintenance of these facilities are generally low in magnitude and are 
not thought to comprise a threat to either species or their habitat.
    Relatively small areas (3 to 4 percent) of the total population 
areas are currently being impacted as a result of trampling and soil 
compaction from summer recreational activities. Actions currently being 
implemented by the Forest Service to reduce these impacts include the 
placement of barriers to delineate parking areas, enforcement of off-
road vehicle restrictions, signing and environmental education, camping 
closures, and limitations on special use permits (limits on size and 
number of gatherings) (Service and Forest Service 2002). These efforts 
are expected to contain summer recreational impacts to these small 
areas occupied by Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis and Horkelia 
hendersonii (W. Rolle, in litt., 2002). Since summer recreation threats 
are currently very limited in extent and overall magnitude, and the 
Forest Service is actively managing to reduce these threats, summer 
recreation is not currently thought to be a significant threat to the 
species or their habitat.
    Cattle grazing is not permitted in the Ashland Watershed or on any 
part of Mount Ashland; thus, no legal grazing is affecting Lupinus 
lepidus var. ashlandensis or the Mount Ashland population of Horkelia 
hendersonii. There are no proposals to permit grazing in this area in 
the future. Although cattle occasionally wander into these species' 
population areas, their presence is transitory and does not appear to 
affect Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis

[[Page 6500]]

or Horkelia hendersonii individuals or alter habitat. A few Horkelia 
hendersonii plants have been observed with herbivore damage (Kagan and 
Zika 1987b), but there is no direct evidence that either species is 
utilized as a forage plant for cattle or wildlife, nor does either 
species grow with livestock-preferred forage plants. All of the 
Horkelia hendersonii occurrences outside of the Mount Ashland area are 
in active range allotments. The dry Horkelia hendersonii habitat does 
not produce much forage and is not near water. Hence, livestock use is 
currently light on most of these areas and does not appear to affect 
Horkelia hendersonii plants.
    There are no proposals to conduct mining in any of the areas where 
either species occurs, and the potential of firebreak construction is 
considered to be low. Logging is not thought to threaten either species 
as both are alpine plants found in non-forested habitats.
    Neither Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis or Horkelia hendersonii 
has any known commercial, sporting, or scientific uses at this time. 
There are no identified pests or pathogens that appear to be serious 
threats to either species. No other natural or manmade mechanisms are 
known to effect either Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis or Horkelia 
hendersonii or their habitat.
    Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis is a candidate for listing as an 
endangered species under the Oregon Endangered Species Act (OESA), 
while Horkelia hendersonii has no State status in either Oregon or 
California. Neither species receives protection under the OESA.
    Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis is considered a sensitive species 
in Region 6 of the Forest Service, and Horkelia hendersonii is a 
considered a sensitive species in both Regions 5 and 6 of the Forest 
Service. Forest Service policies for sensitive species discourage or 
prohibit activities that would increase the need for Federal listing 
under the Act. The Oregon Natural Heritage Program prepared management 
guidelines for Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis and Horkelia 
hendersonii under contract for the Forest Service in 1987. The Forest 
Service began the monitoring of both these species per this guidance, 
and the populations at Mount Ashland appear to be stable. The primary 
objective of the management guidance was to maintain or increase 
population numbers of these species and protect habitat. Since few new 
disturbances have occurred in occupied habitats, and the monitored 
populations appear to be stable, Forest Service management has been at 
least minimally successful in achieving this objective.
    The Forest Service and the Service have developed a CA for both 
species across their ranges. This effort was initiated in 1995 as a 
cooperative agreement with the Oregon Natural Heritage Program to 
develop conservation agreements for selected high priority candidate 
species. The management goal of the CA is to maintain stable or 
increasing populations of Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis and 
Horkelia hendersonii across their known ranges. This CA is to remain in 
effect in perpetuity. Development of the CA was based on our draft 
Policy for Evaluation of Conservation Efforts (PECE policy) (65 FR 
37102). The conservation efforts that the parties have agreed to are 
identified in the CA, along with details indicating anticipated 
staffing, funding levels and source, and other resources necessary to 
implement projects to protect and monitor the species.
    Overall, threats to these species and their habitat are generally 
low in magnitude. The trampling of habitat and individual plants, and 
soil compaction, both associated with summer activities, are occurring 
in only small areas of occupied habitat. Under the CA, the Forest 
Service is implementing actions to reduce or remove any remaining 
impacts to these species and their habitat.

Finding

    We have reviewed the petition, the literature cited in the 
petition, other available literature and information, and consulted 
with biologists and researchers familiar with Lupinus aridus spp. 
ashlandensis and Horkelia hendersonii. On the basis of the best 
scientific and commercial information available, we find the petitioned 
action is not warranted. We find that the overall imminence and 
magnitude of threats to Lupinus lepidus var. ashlandensis and Horkelia 
hendersonii is relatively low. Both species occur exclusively on lands 
managed by the Forest Service, and their distribution has historically 
been limited. The population distributions and numbers are thought to 
relate closely to their original extents.
    We will continue to monitor the status of these species. Should an 
emergency situation develop with one or both of these species, we will 
act to provide immediate protection, if warranted. We ask the public to 
submit to us any new information that becomes available concerning the 
status of or threats to these species. This information will help us 
monitor and encourage the conservation of these species.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the State Supervisor, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (see 
ADDRESSES section).

Author(s)

    The authors of this document are Andy Robinson, Brendan White, and 
Kathy Pendergrass, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).

Authority

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

    Dated: January 26, 2003.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 03-3019 Filed 2-6-03; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P