[Federal Register Volume 69, Number 206 (Tuesday, October 26, 2004)]
[Notices]
[Pages 62432-62433]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E4-2856]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

[Docket No. 04-105-1]


Melaleuca; Availability of an Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of availability and request for comments.

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SUMMARY: We are advising the public that the Animal and Plant Health 
Inspection Service has prepared an environmental assessment relative to 
an application for a permit for the environmental release of the 
nonindigenous fly Fergusonina turneri and its obligate nematode, 
Fergusobia quinquenerviae, potential biological control agents for 
Melaleuca quinquenervia. The environmental assessment documents our 
review and analysis of environmental impacts associated with, and 
alternatives to, issuing a permit for the environmental release of the 
fly and nematode in the continental United States. We are making this 
environmental assessment available to the public for review and 
comment.

DATES: We will consider all comments that we receive on or before 
November 26, 2004.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods:
     Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send four copies 
of your comment (an original and three copies) to Docket No. 04-105-1, 
Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71, 4700 
River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your 
comment refers to Docket No. 04-105-1.
     E-mail: Address your comment to 
regulations@aphis.usda.gov. Your comment must be contained in the body 
of your message; do not send attached files. Please include your name 
and address in your message and ``Docket No. 04-105-1'' on the subject 
line.
     Agency Web Site: Go to http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/
cominst.html for a form you can use to submit an e-mail comment through 
the APHIS Web site.
    Reading Room: You may read any comments that we receive on the 
environmental assessment in our reading room. The reading room is 
located in room 1141 of the USDA South Building, 14th Street and 
Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC. Normal reading room hours are 
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. To be sure 
someone is there to help you, please call (202) 690-2817 before coming.
    Other Information: You may view APHIS documents published in the 
Federal Register and related information, including the names of groups 
and individuals who have commented on APHIS dockets, on the Internet at 
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/webrepor.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Wayne Wehling, Biological and 
Technical Services, Pest Permit Evaluations, PPQ, APHIS, 4700 River 
Road Unit 133, Riverdale, MD 20737-1236; (301) 734-8757.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Australian broad-leaved paperbark tree, Melaleuca 
quinquenervia, commonly called melaleuca, has become a successful 
invasive weed in southern Florida because of its ability to produce 
large quantities of seed. Individual trees bear up to 100 million 
seeds. Massive, simultaneous seed release occurs after fire or when 
some other event causes drying of the seed capsules, but a steady seed 
rain occurs even without such an event. Densities of seedlings may be 
as high as 10 million seedlings/hectare (ha), and growth and 
development of the trees, along with simultaneous self-thinning 
produces mature stands of 10-15,000 trees/ha. Individual trees can grow 
into localized stands. These stands merge with other stands to form 
expansive monocultures often covering hundreds of acres. Melaleuca has 
invaded more than a half-million acres in southern Florida and over $25 
million has been spent over the past decade to manage it, yet it 
continues to spread.
    Melaleuca was first imported to southern Florida as an ornamental 
tree

[[Page 62433]]

around 1900. Later, it was widely planted in wetlands as an inexpensive 
production method for the nursery trade in an attempt to produce a 
harvestable commodity. By the late 1970's, melaleuca became recognized 
as an invasive weed due to its ability to produce large quantities of 
seed. It was added to the Florida Prohibited Plant List in 1990, and to 
the Federal Noxious Weed List in 1992.
    Melaleuca has been difficult to control. Herbicide treatments or 
controlled burns cause the release of billions of seeds and result in 
thickets of saplings where only a few trees existed prior to treatment. 
These infestations are often in sensitive habitats that are difficult 
to access and hazardous in which to work. Moreover, multiple followup 
visits are necessary to hand remove seedlings that continue to reappear 
from the remaining seed bank. Although melaleuca trees can be killed 
using traditional methods, the inability to control reinvasion or to 
limit continued spread remains a problem. Biological control has also 
been pursued as an option, with the Australian weevil Oxyops vitiosa 
and the melaleuca psyllid Boreioglycaspis melaleucae having been 
released to control melaleuca in 1997 and 2002, respectively. More 
recently, the nonindigenous fly Fergusonina turneri Taylor (Diptera: 
Fergusoninidae) and its obligate nematode, Fergusobia quinquenerviae 
Davies and Giblin-Davis (Tylenchida: Sphaerulariidae), have been 
identified as potential biological control agents of melaleuca.
    The fly F. turneri and the nematode F. quinquenerviae have a 
mutualistic biology that causes galls on plant buds and young leaves of 
melaleuca. Female flies are infected with parasitic female nematodes, 
nematode eggs, and nematode juveniles that persist through the life of 
the female fly. The female fly deposits multiple eggs along with the 
juvenile nematodes into developing melaleuca buds. These nematodes 
induce the formation of galls in the bud. Fly larvae then feed on the 
gall tissue and complete development within the gall. The adult fly 
will later emerge from a ``window'' in the gall wall, starting the 
cycle all over again. This process hampers the ability of melaleuca to 
regenerate by decreasing seed production and reducing survival of 
melaleuca seedlings and saplings.
    The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is 
considering an application for a permit for the release of F. turneri 
and F. quinquenerviae into the continental United States to reduce the 
severity and extent of melaleuca infestation. APHIS' review and 
analysis of the proposed action and its alternatives are documented in 
detail in an environmental assessment (EA) entitled, ``Field Release of 
the Biological Control Agent Fergusonina turneri Taylor (Diptera: 
Fergusoninidae) and its Obligate Nematode, Fergusobia quinquenerviae 
Davies and Giblin-Davis (Tylenchida: Sphaerulariidae) for the Control 
of Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) S.T. Blake (Myrtales: Myrtaceae) in 
the Continental United States'' (September 2004). We are making this 
environmental assessment available to the public for review and 
comment. We will consider all comments that we receive on or before the 
date listed under the heading DATES at the beginning of this notice.
    The EA may be viewed on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/
ppq/. In the middle of that page, click on ``Document/Forms Retrieval 
System.'' At the next screen, click on the triangle beside ``Permits--
Environmental Assessments.'' A list of documents will appear; the EA 
for melaleuca is document number 0039. You may request paper copies of 
the EA by calling or writing to the person listed under FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT. Please refer to the title of the EA when 
requesting copies. The EA is also available for review in our reading 
room (information on the location and hours of the reading room is 
listed under the heading ADDRESSES at the beginning of this notice).
    The environmental assessment has been prepared in accordance with: 
(1) The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended 
(42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), (2) regulations of the Council on 
Environmental Quality for implementing the procedural provisions of 
NEPA (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), (3) USDA regulations implementing NEPA 
(7 CFR part 1), and (4) APHIS' NEPA Implementing Procedures (7 CFR part 
372).

    Done in Washington, DC, this 21st day of October 2004.
Elizabeth E. Gaston,
Acting Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
 [FR Doc. E4-2856 Filed 10-25-04; 8:45 am]
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