[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 47 (Thursday, March 12, 2009)]
[Notices]
[Pages 10707-10708]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-5370]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

[Docket No. APHIS-2009-0008]


Availability of an Environmental Assessment for a Biological 
Control Agent for Russian Knapweed

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 
the control of Russian knapweed, Acroptilon repens. The environmental 
assessment considers the effects of, and alternatives to, the release 
of a gall midge, Jaapiella ivannikovi, into the continental United 
States for use as a biological control agent to reduce the severity of 
Russian knapweed infestations. We are making the environmental 
assessment available to the public for review and comment.

DATES: We will consider all comments that we receive on or before April 
13, 2009.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by either of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://
www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/
main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2009-0008 to submit or view comments and 
to view supporting and related materials available electronically.
     Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send two copies of 
your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2009-0008, Regulatory Analysis and 
Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, 
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to 
Docket No. APHIS-2009-0008.
    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: Additional information about APHIS and its 
programs is available on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. L. Carmen Soileau, Senior Staff 
Entomologist, Permits, Registrations, Imports, and Manuals, PPQ, APHIS, 
4700 River Road Unit 133, Riverdale, MD 20737-1237; (866) 524-5421.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing 
to issue permits for the release of a gall midge, Jaapiella ivannikovi, 
into the continental United States for use as a biological control 
agent to reduce the severity of Russian knapweed (Acroptilon repens) 
infestations.
    Russian knapweed is a long-lived perennial in the plant tribe 
Asteraceae (sunflower, aster, or daisy family). The highly invasive 
weed was first introduced into North America in 1898. By 1998, the weed 
had spread to 313 counties in 45 of the 48 contiguous States in the 
United States with 80 percent of the infestation occurring in the 
States of Colorado, Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming. Russian knapweed 
thrives in a variety of habitats and is found in both irrigated and 
arid environments and in croplands, pastures, rangelands, and 
wastelands. The weed is a strong competitor and produces a chemical 
substance that inhibits the growth of other plant species, and, as a 
result, dense (100-300 plants/square meter) infestations may develop. 
It is generally not used for forage because of its bitter taste and 
because it presents a risk of causing neurological disorders in horses 
if consumed. Additionally, it reduces wildlife habitats, suppresses 
other plants, and has no beneficial qualities.
    Existing Russian knapweed management options are ineffective, 
expensive, and temporary and have negative impacts on other species of 
plants. Therefore, APHIS is proposing to issue permits for the release 
of a gall midge, J. ivannikovi, into the continental United States for 
use as a biological control agent to reduce the severity of Russian 
knapweed infestations.
    The proposed biological control agent, J. ivannikovi, is an insect 
measuring 1.6 to 2.5 mm in length with relatively large wings, long 
legs, and a long ovipositor (egg-laying organ) that can be extended 
from the tip of the abdomen. The female gall midge deposits its eggs on 
the surface of the buds situated on the tips of the main and side 
shoots of the Russian knapweed. Larval feeding causes stunted growth of 
the shoot and fusion of leaves, resulting in a so-called ``rosette 
gall.''
    Host specificity laboratory tests conducted at the CABI Bioscience 
Centre in Dele[eacute]mont, Switzerland, and open-field experiments in 
Uzbekistan indicate that J. ivannikovi is host-specific to Russian 
knapweed. The list of plants tested in the laboratory consisted of the 
target plant, Russian knapweed, collected in the native range 
(Uzbekistan), a population of Russian knapweed collected in North 
America (Wyoming), and 50 non-target plant species or varieties. During 
these tests, several male and female J. ivannikovi gall midges were 
placed into a plastic cylinder that covered each plant. After exposure, 
the plants were inspected for gall formation. In these laboratory 
tests, galls occurred only on the target weed Russian knapweed and on 
the Eurasian knapweed.
    In addition to the laboratory tests, gall formation tests were 
conducted under open-field conditions in an experimental garden at the 
Institute of Zoology, Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Test plant species were 
either grown from seed or collected in the local area and transplanted 
to the experimental sites and were arranged with Russian knapweed in a 
randomized design. J. ivannikovi galls were collected locally over an 
approximate span of 2 years. In these tests, gall formation was 
recorded in large numbers on Russian knapweed but on no other test 
plant species, including the Eurasian knapweed.
    APHIS' review and analysis of the proposed action are documented in 
detail in an environmental assessment (EA) entitled ``Field Release of 
Jaapiella ivannikovi (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae), an Insect for Biological 
Control of Russian Knapweed (Acroptilon repens), in the Continental 
United States'' (December 2008). We are making the EA available to the 
public for review and comment. We will consider all comments that we

[[Page 10708]]

receive on or before the date listed under the heading DATES at the 
beginning of this notice.
    The EA may be viewed on the Regulations.gov Web site or in our 
reading room (see ADDRESSES above for instructions for accessing 
Regulations.gov and information on the location and hours of the 
reading room). 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 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 6th day of March 2009.
Kevin Shea,
Acting Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
 [FR Doc. E9-5370 Filed 3-11-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-34-P