[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 63 (Monday, April 2, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 19597-19605]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-7879]



[[Page 19597]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 223 and 224

[Docket No. 110328226-2189-02]
RIN 0648-XA272


Listing Endangered and Threatened Species; 12-Month Finding on a 
Petition To List Chinook Salmon in the Upper Klamath and Trinity Rivers 
Basin as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Status review; notice of finding.

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SUMMARY: We, NMFS, announce a 12-month finding on a petition to list 
the Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the Upper Klamath and 
Trinity Rivers Basin (UKTR) as threatened or endangered and designate 
critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We have 
reviewed the status of the UKTR Chinook salmon Evolutionarily 
Significant Unit (ESU) and considered the best scientific and 
commercial data available, and conclude that the petitioned action is 
not warranted. In reaching this conclusion, we conclude that spring-run 
and fall-run Chinook salmon in the UKTR Basin constitute a single ESU. 
Based on a comprehensive review of the best scientific and commercial 
data currently available, and consistent with the 1998 status review 
and listing determination for the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU, the overall 
extinction risk of the ESU is considered to be low over the next 100 
years. Based on these considerations and others described in this 
notice, we conclude this ESU is not in danger of extinction throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range, nor is it likely to become 
so in the foreseeable future.

DATES: The finding announced in this notice was made on April 2, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Information used to make this finding is available for 
public inspection by appointment during normal business hours at the 
office of NMFS Southwest Region, Protected Resources Division, 501 West 
Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802. This file includes the 
status review report, information provided by the public, and 
scientific and commercial information gathered for the status review. 
The petition and the status review report can also be found at: http://swr.nmfs.noaa.gov/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rosalie del Rosario at (562) 980-4085 
or Ann Garrett at (707) 825-5175, NMFS, Southwest Region Office; or 
Lisa Manning at (301) 713-1401, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    On January 28, 2011, the Secretary of Commerce received a petition 
from the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Environmental 
Protection Information Center, and The Larch Company (hereafter, the 
petitioners), to list Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the 
Upper Klamath Basin under the ESA. Because their request is generally 
made in reference to the UKTR ESU of Chinook salmon, we use the 
description of that ESU (Myers et al., 1998 and 63 FR 11482; March 9, 
1998) as the area in which they are requesting that we list Chinook 
salmon, and hereafter refer to that area as the Upper Klamath and 
Trinity Rivers basin. The petitioners identified three alternatives for 
listing Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU: (1) Listing spring-run Chinook 
salmon in the UKTR ESU as a separate ESU; (2) listing spring-run 
Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU as a distinct population segment within 
the currently defined UKTR Chinook salmon ESU; or (3) listing the 
currently defined UKTR Chinook salmon ESU, which includes both spring-
run and fall-run populations. The petitioners also requested that we 
designate critical habitat for any Chinook salmon populations found to 
warrant listing.
    After reviewing the petition, the literature cited in the petition, 
and other literature and information available in our files, we found 
that the petition met the criteria in our implementing regulations at 
50 CFR 424.14(b)(2) that are applicable to our 90-day review and 
determined that the petition presented substantial information 
indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted (76 FR 20302; 
April 12, 2011). In that 90-day finding, we explained why we would not 
further consider Petitioners' second alternative for listing Chinook 
salmon in the UKTR ESU. We described NMFS' Policy on Applying the 
Definition of Species Under the Endangered Species Act to Pacific 
Salmon (ESU Policy; 56 FR 68612; November 20, 1991), which explains 
that a Pacific salmon stock will be considered a distinct population 
segment, and hence a ``species'' under the ESA, if it represents an ESU 
of the biological species. We also explained the two criteria for 
delineating an ESU. Under its second alternative, Petitioners suggest 
that, even if we determine that spring-run Chinook salmon in the UKTR 
ESU do not meet the criteria to be delineated as a separate ESU under 
the ESU Policy, we should apply the two criteria under the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and NMFS Policy Regarding the Recognition 
of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments under the Endangered Species 
Act (DPS Policy; 61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996) to determine that 
spring-run Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU are a separate distinct 
population segment within the UKTR ESU. As we described in the 90-day 
finding, NMFS will continue to apply the criteria in the ESU Policy to 
Pacific salmon, which includes Chinook salmon, rather than the criteria 
in the DPS Policy. Because the ESU Policy explains under what criteria 
Pacific salmon populations will be considered a distinct population 
segment, and hence a ``species'' under the ESA, if we evaluate spring-
run Chinook salmon in the UKTR according to the criteria of the ESU 
Policy, we will be determining whether spring-run Chinook salmon are 
considered a distinct population segment. In the 90-day finding, we 
also solicited information pertaining to the species and the issues 
raised in the petition. Following publication of our 90-day finding, we 
commenced a status review of Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU. In 
response to the 90-day finding we received over 50 written comments 
from the public, which we considered in making this 12-month finding.
    In support of the status review, NMFS' Southwest Fisheries Science 
Center (SWFSC) convened a Biological Review Team (BRT) charged with 
compiling and reviewing the best available scientific and commercial 
information on Chinook salmon necessary to: (1) Evaluate whether this 
information supports the current UKTR Chinook salmon ESU configuration 
or the separation of spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon into 
separate ESUs; and (2) assess the biological status of Chinook salmon 
populations comprising whichever ESU configuration was best supported 
by the available information using NMFS' viable salmonid population 
(VSP) framework for the analysis. The BRT was composed of scientists 
from the SWFSC and Northwest Fisheries Science Center, USFWS, and U.S. 
Forest Service with expertise in the biology, genetics, and ecology of 
UKTR ESU Chinook salmon. The BRT compiled, reviewed, and evaluated the 
best available scientific and commercial

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information concerning the ESU configuration and biological status of 
spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon populations in the UKTR basin, 
including information provided by the petitioners, peer-reviewed 
literature, information provided by other parties interested in this 
issue, and other information deemed pertinent by the BRT. Following its 
review, the BRT prepared a report summarizing the information they 
reviewed, their analysis, and conclusions regarding ESU configuration 
and biological status (Williams et al., 2011). This report was peer 
reviewed by two independent scientific experts who have expertise with 
salmon and steelhead issues in the Klamath Basin. One reviewer has 
specific expertise on UKTR Chinook salmon genetics, and the other 
reviewer has expertise in the ecology of UKTR Chinook salmon. The 
reviewers' comments were incorporated into the final report.
    If a petition is found to present substantial scientific 
information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted, ESA 
section 4(b)(3)(B) (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(3)(B)) requires the Secretary of 
Commerce to make a finding within 12 months of receipt of the petition 
(commonly referred to as a 12-month finding) as to whether a petitioned 
action is warranted. The Secretary has delegated the authority to make 
this finding to the NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries. This 
Federal Register notice documents our 12-month finding on this 
petition.

Species Background

    Information on the biology and life history of UKTR Chinook salmon 
is summarized in Myers et al. (1998) and a listing determination for 
west coast Chinook salmon (63 FR 11482; March 9, 1998). In 1998, NMFS 
completed a status review of the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU and found that 
it is comprised of both spring-run and fall-run populations (Myers et 
al., 1998), as will be further described in the following section. 
Historically, spring-run Chinook salmon were likely the predominant run 
type in the Klamath-Trinity River Basin (Myers et al., 1998). Most 
spring-run spawning and rearing habitat was blocked by the construction 
of dams in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the Klamath River and in 
the 1960s in the Trinity River Basin (Myers et al., 1998). As a result 
of these and other factors, spring-run populations were considered to 
be at less than 10 percent of their historical levels (Myers et al., 
1998). Fall-run populations now comprise the majority of UKTR Chinook 
salmon. Most of the spring-run populations are currently distributed 
throughout the New, South Fork Trinity, Upper Trinity, and Salmon 
rivers. The more widely distributed fall-run Chinook salmon inhabit 
most accessible streams in the ESU, though their distribution generally 
does not extend as far into the tributary drainages as spring-run 
Chinook salmon. As with all Chinook salmon populations south of the 
Columbia River, the majority of Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU exhibit 
an ``ocean-type'' life history with juveniles migrating to the ocean 
within one year of hatching (Myers et al., 1998). Anadromous salmonids 
in California, like UKTR Chinook salmon, exist at the southern edge of 
their range along the west coast of North America.
    Two hatcheries are operated in the UKTR basin, Iron Gate Hatchery 
on the Klamath River and Trinity River Hatchery on the Trinity River, 
that annually release large numbers of spring-run and fall-run Chinook 
salmon fingerlings and yearlings into the basin. Marine recoveries of 
coded-wire tags indicate that hatchery-origin fall- and spring-run 
Chinook salmon from these hatcheries have a similar coastal 
distribution offshore of California and Oregon (Myers et al., 1998).

Species Delineation

    ESA Section 3(16) (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)) defines a ``species'' to 
include any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plant, and any distinct 
population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which 
interbreeds when mature. In 1991, we published the ESU Policy (56 FR 
58612; November 20, 1991), which describes how we apply the definition 
of ``species'' in evaluating Pacific salmon populations for listing 
under the ESA. Under this policy, a group of Pacific salmon populations 
is considered an ESU if it is (1) reproductively isolated from other 
con-specific population units, and (2) represents an important 
component in the evolutionary legacy of the species. Under this policy, 
an ESU is considered to be a ``distinct population segment'' and thus a 
``species'' under the ESA.

ESU Configuration

    Based on biological, genetic, and ecological information compiled 
and reviewed as part of a previous west coast status review for Chinook 
salmon (Myers et al., 1998), we included all spring-run and fall-run 
Chinook salmon populations in the Klamath River Basin upstream from the 
confluence of the Klamath and Trinity rivers in the UKTR Chinook salmon 
ESU (Myers et al., 1998 and 63 FR 11482, 11487; March 9, 1998). The 
petitioners contend new information demonstrates that spring-run and 
fall-run Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU qualify as separate ESUs based 
on significant and persistent genetic and reproductive isolation 
resulting from their different run timing. They further argue that the 
genetic differences between spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon in 
the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU are comparable to genetic differences 
between spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon in California's Central 
Valley, which are recognized as separate ESUs by NMFS (Myers et al., 
1998 and 70 FR 37160; June 28, 2005). The BRT carefully reviewed the 
petition and all other available and relevant information regarding the 
ESU configuration of Chinook salmon populations in the UKTR basin and 
prepared a report detailing their review and conclusions (Williams et 
al., 2011).
    Under our ESU policy, Williams et al. (2011) indicate that for 
spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon populations in the UKTR ESU to 
be considered separate ESUs, they would need to be substantially 
reproductively isolated from each other, and they each must represent 
an important component in the evolutionary legacy of the species. Under 
the ESU Policy framework, they indicate that the concept of 
evolutionary legacy implies there would need to be a monophyletic 
pattern in the evolutionary history of each of the two run types within 
the UKTR basin, and that spring-run Chinook salmon individuals and 
populations would need to be more similar genetically to each other 
than to fall-run Chinook salmon individuals and populations.
    As discussed in Williams et al. (2011), NMFS has delineated 
populations of spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon in the same basin 
as separate ESUs in only two areas: California's Central Valley and in 
the interior Columbia River Basin. Chinook salmon populations in the 
Central Valley are monophyletic in origin, meaning they descended from 
a common ancestor and are more closely related to each other than to 
Chinook salmon populations in any other basin on the west coast. 
However, there is significant genetic divergence between most naturally 
spawning populations of fall-run and spring-run Chinook salmon that 
occur in the same rivers in the Central Valley and both run types are 
monophyletic rather than polyphyletic. For these and other reasons, 
NMFS separated spring-run and fall-run Chinook populations in the 
Central Valley into separate ESUs. In the interior Columbia Basin, 
spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon are not

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closely related genetically and represent two very divergent 
evolutionary lineages (Myers et al., 1998; Waples et al., 2004), and 
therefore were placed into separate ESUs.
    In contrast, spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon populations 
found in the coastal basins in California, Oregon, and Washington or 
the lower Columbia River basin have not been separated into separate 
ESUs despite differences in adult run-timing, life-history strategies, 
and other phenotypic characteristics that sometimes accompany genetic 
differences (Williams et al., 2011). The primary reason for not 
separating fall-run and spring-run Chinook salmon into separate ESUs in 
these coastal basins is that their genetic population structure 
strongly suggests a polyphyletic pattern of run timing evolution (Myers 
et al., 1998; Waples et al., 2004), with spring and fall-run life 
histories having evolved on multiple occasions in different watersheds. 
Williams et al. (2011) indicate this polyphyletic pattern of run timing 
is observed in watersheds adjacent to the Klamath basin and across a 
range of watershed sizes in California (Mad River, Redwood Creek and 
Eel River) and Oregon (Rogue and Umpqua rivers).
    Williams et al. (2011) reviewed new genetic information for Chinook 
salmon populations in the UKTR ESU (Banks et al., 2000a; Kinziger et 
al., 2008a; Kinziger et al., 2008b; Kinziger et al., In Preparation,), 
as well as other studies (Lindley et al., 2004; Waples et al., 2004; 
Garza et al., 2007), to assess patterns of genetic population structure 
and population differentiation within the UKTR ESU and to compare those 
patterns with what has been observed in other basins (e.g., Central 
Valley and other coastal watersheds). Kinziger et al. (2008a) found 
that there are four genetically differentiated and geographically 
separated groups of Chinook salmon populations in the UKTR basin and 
that spring-run and fall-run Chinook life histories have evolved 
independently and in parallel within both the Salmon and Trinity 
rivers. Kinziger et al. (In Preparation) documented the same geographic 
population structure reported by Kinziger et al. (2008a) and indicated 
the genetic difference between populations was related to geographic 
distance and was independent of run timing (i.e., spring-run versus 
fall-run). In addition, they found that spring-run and fall-run 
populations in the Salmon River were nearly indistinguishable 
genetically and that spring and fall-run populations in the South Fork 
Trinity were extremely similar to each other and to the Trinity River 
hatchery stocks. Banks et al. (2000a) reported they found greater 
genetic distances between some fall-run populations than among fall-run 
and spring-run populations in the Klamath Basin and concluded that 
populations diverged according to geographic location first and life 
history second. Banks et al. (2000a) emphasized that this pattern of 
geographic differentiation is in strong contrast to that found for 
Chinook salmon populations in the Central Valley.
    The petition contends that genetic differentiation of Chinook 
salmon populations in the UKTR ESU and the Central Valley is of a 
similar scale, and that our separation of spring and fall-run Chinook 
into separate ESUs in the Central Valley means that spring-run and 
fall-run Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU should also be separated. The 
structure of Central Valley spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon 
populations was recently reviewed by Lindley et al. (2004), Good et al. 
(2005), and Garza et al. (2007), all of whom supported the general 
conclusions that: (1) Central Valley Chinook salmon of all run-types 
represent a separate lineage from Chinook salmon populations found in 
coastal watersheds; and (2) Central Valley spring-run populations are 
monophyletic, with spring-run Chinook salmon from different basins more 
closely related to each other than to fall-run Chinook salmon from the 
same basin. Lindley et al. (2004), Good et al. (2005), and Garza et al. 
(2007) also support the conclusion of Banks et al. (2000a, 2000b) that 
the genetic population structure and genetic variation observed in 
Chinook salmon populations in the Central Valley is organized by life 
history (run-type) rather than geographic location, unlike that which 
is observed with the UKTR Chinook salmon populations where Chinook 
salmon populations are organized by geographic location rather than 
life history type (see Banks et al., 2000a).
    Based on a review and evaluation of this information, Williams et 
al. (2011) concluded that spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon 
populations in the UKTR ESU constitute a single ESU as originally 
defined by Myers et al. (1998), and that the expression of the spring-
run life-history variant is polyphyletic in origin in all of the 
populations in the ESU for which data are available.
    UKTR spring-run Chinook salmon do not warrant being separated into 
a separate ESU because they fail to meet the reproductive isolation and 
evolutionary legacy criteria in our ESU Policy for Pacific Salmon. The 
available genetic evidence considered by Williams et al. (2011) clearly 
demonstrates that spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon populations in 
the UKTR basin are genetically very similar and are not substantially 
reproductively isolated from each other. The degree of genetic 
differentiation between spring and fall-run Chinook salmon in the UKTR 
basin is comparable to that observed in other coastal basins that 
support the two run types (Waples et al., 2004) and is much less than 
that which has been observed in the Interior Columbia Basin and the 
Central Valley where the two run types have been separated into 
different ESUs. The available evidence indicating that spring-run and 
fall-run Chinook salmon in the UKTR basin are polyphyletic in origin 
and have evolved on multiple occasions, together with the ocean type 
life-history characteristics exhibited by both run types, suggests that 
spring-run Chinook salmon do not represent an important component in 
the evolutionary legacy of the species.

Hatchery Stocks

    In 2005, NMFS published a policy on how it would consider hatchery-
origin fish when making ESA listing determinations for Pacific salmon 
and steelhead (Hatchery Listing Policy; 70 FR 37204; June 28, 2005). 
Under this policy, hatchery stocks are considered part of an ESU in 
making ESA listing determinations if their level of genetic divergence 
relative to local natural populations is no more than what occurs 
between natural populations in the ESU. NMFS used this policy and a 
previous assessment of all west coast hatchery programs (NMFS 2003) to 
determine which hatchery stocks would be considered part of west coast 
salmon and steelhead ESUs in a series of listing determinations 
published in 2005 and 2006, respectively (70 FR 37160; June 28, 2005 
and 71 FR 834; January 5, 2006). The assessment of hatchery stocks 
(NMFS 2003) used to support these listing determinations evaluated each 
hatchery stock associated with individual salmon and steelhead ESUs to 
determine its level of genetic divergence relative to natural 
populations. Based on this assessment and application of our Hatchery 
Listing Policy (70 FR 37204; June 28, 2005), we determined that 
hatchery stocks that were no more than moderately divergent from 
natural populations would be considered part of an ESU in making 
listing determinations under the ESA.
    Iron Gate Hatchery (IGH) produces fall-run Chinook salmon and 
releases approximately 6 million fish (fingerlings and yearlings 
combined) annually in the upper Klamath River. Trinity River

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Hatchery (TRH) produces both fall-run and spring-run Chinook salmon and 
releases approximately 3 million fall-run fish (fingerlings and 
yearlings combined) and 1.3 million spring-run fish (fingerlings and 
yearlings combined), respectively, annually in the Trinity River. The 
SWFSC reviewed and evaluated the available information on broodstock 
origin, history, and genetics for these three Chinook salmon hatchery 
stocks and concluded that each stock was founded from a local, native 
population in the watershed where fish are released and that each stock 
is no more than moderately divergent from other local, natural 
populations. Moderate divergence in this case means that the hatchery 
stocks and local natural populations are no more genetically divergent 
than what is observed between closely related natural populations. 
Based on this assessment and the criteria in our Hatchery Listing 
Policy, we conclude that these three hatchery stocks are part of the 
UKTR Chinook salmon ESU.

UKTR Chinook Salmon Biological Status

    Williams et al. (2011) assessed the biological status of the UKTR 
Chinook salmon ESU using methods similar to those described in Good et 
al. (2005). In conducting their review, Williams et al. (2011) 
considered the best available information on the species' current 
distribution, historical abundance, recent abundance, trends in 
abundance, population growth rates, the distribution of hatchery-origin 
spawners in natural areas, and fishery exploitation rates. To the 
extent possible, Williams et al. (2011) evaluated the available data on 
the basis of putative population units that are currently recognized by 
management agencies in the Klamath Basin such as sub-basin units (e.g., 
Scott River) or specific geographic areas (e.g., upper Klamath River 
mainstem). Wherever possible, spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon 
populations were assessed separately within specific population units. 
The following discussion summarizes the biological status assessment of 
UKTR Chinook salmon from Williams et al. (2011).

Current Distribution and Historical Abundance

    Williams et al. (2011) concluded there have been no changes to the 
distribution of UKTR Chinook salmon since the review of Myers et al. 
(1998). Williams et al. (2011) summarized information from Myers et al. 
(1998) and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG 1965) that 
indicates the historical abundance of Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU 
was estimated to be approximately 130,000 adults in 1912 (based on peak 
cannery pack of 18,000 cases) and 168,000 adults in 1963, with the 1963 
abundance estimate from CDFG split evenly between Klamath and Trinity 
rivers.

Recent Abundance, Trends in Abundance, and Population Growth Rate

    As reported in Williams et al. (2011), the numbers of adults 
returning to spawning grounds (e.g., Upper Klamath, Trinity, Scott, 
Salmon, and Shasta rivers and smaller tributaries) and returns to Iron 
Gate and Trinity River hatcheries are monitored using a variety of 
methods by a combination of State, Federal, and Tribal agencies. 
Williams et al. (2011) characterized the recent spawner abundance in a 
manner that was consistent with the previous coast-wide salmon and 
steelhead status reviews (Good et al., 2005). Based on this analysis, 
recent spawner abundance estimates of both fall-run and spring-run 
Chinook salmon returning to spawn in natural areas are generally low 
compared to historical estimates of abundance; however, the majority of 
populations have not declined in spawner abundance over the past 30 
years (i.e., from the late 1970s and early 1980s to 2010) except for 
the Scott and Shasta rivers where there have been modest declines. 
While the BRT considered and presented both short- and long-term 
population growth rate, to be consistent with Good et al. (2005), the 
BRT stated that they viewed population growth rates based on just 13 
years of data with caution given the highly variable population 
dynamics typical of salmon populations and influences of shifting 
environmental conditions. Of most interest to the BRT were the long-
term population growth rates of the populations individually and the 
ESU as a whole.
    Williams et al., (2011) reported that short-term trends in spawner 
abundance declined slightly for about half of the population components 
over the past 13 years, and that fall-run Chinook salmon returns to 
Trinity River hatchery have been more variable than returns of fall-run 
Chinook salmon to Iron Gate hatchery. Williams et al. (2011) found that 
hatchery returns did not mirror (or did not track) escapement to 
natural spawning areas. Overall, Williams et al. (2011) concluded that 
there has been little change in the abundance levels, trends in 
abundance, or population growth rates since the review by Myers et al. 
(1998). They noted, however, as did Myers et al. (1998), that the 
recent abundance levels of some populations are low, especially in the 
context of historical abundance estimates. This was most evident with 
respect to two of the three spring-run population units that were 
evaluated (Salmon River and South Fork Trinity River).

Hatchery-origin Spawners in Natural Areas

    Williams et al. (2011) evaluated the occurrence of hatchery-origin 
Chinook salmon spawners in several natural spawning areas (i.e., Bogus 
Creek and the Upper Klamath, Shasta, Scott, Salmon, Trinity, and South 
Fork Trinity rivers) over the past decade and concluded that the 
majority of hatchery-origin Chinook salmon that stray to natural areas 
do so in areas adjacent to the hatcheries. This is not unexpected since 
both hatcheries release fingerlings and yearlings ``on-site,'' as 
opposed to other locations further downstream in the basin. This 
finding was supported by recent genetic analyses from Kinziger et al. 
(In Preparation) that found strong evidence for genetic isolation-by-
distance that is inconsistent with hatchery-origin fish straying in 
large numbers throughout the basin.

Extinction Risk Assessment

    Williams et al. (2011) used a risk matrix approach to assess the 
viable salmonid population (VSP) criteria (i.e., abundance, 
productivity, spatial structure, and diversity) for the UKTR Chinook 
salmon ESU. This approach was used in the most recent west coast salmon 
and steelhead status reviews (Good et al., 2005) and the details of the 
methodology are described in both Williams et al. (2011) and Good et 
al. (2005). Based on this risk matrix approach, Williams et al. (2011) 
concluded that the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU was at a relatively low risk 
of extinction based on abundance, growth rate and productivity, and 
spatial structure and connectivity; and the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU was 
at a moderate risk of extinction based on diversity. The following 
sections briefly summarize the conclusions of Williams et al. (2011) 
regarding each of the four VSP criteria.

Abundance

    Abundance of spawning populations in the ESU appear to have been 
fairly stable for the past 30 years and since the review by Myers et 
al. (1998). Although current levels of abundance are generally low 
compared with historical estimates of abundance, the current abundance 
levels do not constitute a major risk in terms of ESU extinction. Long-
term population growth rates are positive for most population

[[Page 19601]]

components that were analyzed, indicating they are not currently in 
decline and, in general, most populations are large enough to avoid 
genetic problems.

Growth Rate and Productivity

    There is no indication that growth rates or productivity of 
populations have changed since the review of Myers et al. (1998); 
however, the impact of hatchery-origin fish in some locations and in 
some years is uncertain and is a concern. Based on the available 
information, hatchery influence appeared to be most concentrated in 
areas adjacent to the two hatcheries, and spawning survey information 
(i.e., estimates of adipose fin-clipped fish) and genetic analyses 
suggest there is a low hatchery fish influence elsewhere in the ESU.

Spatial Structure and Connectivity

    There is a broad geographic distribution of fall-run Chinook salmon 
throughout the UKTR ESU, with genetic data (i.e., isolation-by-distance 
information) indicating that there is connectivity among populations. 
There are no cases where fall-run Chinook were found to be locally 
extirpated and the spatial distribution of fall-run Chinook salmon in 
the UKTR ESU indicates that it currently occupies all accessible 
available habitat. Conversely, spring-run Chinook population numbers 
are low, with few if any spring-run fish recently observed in the Scott 
and Shasta rivers. The geographic distribution of spring-run Chinook 
salmon is of some concern, with possible extirpations perhaps 
reflecting the effects of low water years and habitat accessibility.

Diversity

    Although there are extant spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon 
populations in the basin, the low spawner abundance in spring-run 
populations continues to be a concern, as it was in the previous review 
(Myers et al., 1998). In addition to the continued presence of both the 
spring-run and fall-run life-history types in the basin, the presence 
of large sub-yearlings in the Shasta River was considered evidence of 
continuing life history diversity in the ESU. Hatchery influence in 
natural spawning areas near the two hatcheries is a concern because of 
its possible impacts on the productivity and diversity of natural 
spawning Chinook salmon populations in those areas, but hatchery-origin 
fish appear to be most concentrated in relatively small areas located 
near the two hatcheries rather than elsewhere throughout the geographic 
area occupied by the ESU.
    To assess the overall extinction risk of the UKTR Chinook salmon 
ESU, Williams et al. (2011) employed a methodology (the Forest 
Ecosystem Management Assessment Team, (FEMAT) approach) that has been 
used in previous west coast salmon status reviews (see Good et al., 
2005). Under this approach, the members of the BRT made informed 
professional judgments about whether the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU was 
presently in one of three extinction risk categories: ``high risk,'' 
``moderate risk,'' and ``neither at high risk or moderate risk'' (low 
risk) based on the results of the VSP criteria assessment and other 
relevant information on the status of the ESU as discussed previously. 
In its assessment, the BRT members interpreted the high risk category 
as ``a greater than 5% risk of extinction within 100 years'', and the 
moderate risk category as ``more likely than not risk of moving into 
the high risk category within 30-80 years.'' Beyond these time 
horizons, the BRT members concluded it was difficult with any degree of 
confidence to project ESU extinction risk. Based on this assessment 
process, Williams et al. (2011) concluded that the UKTR Chinook salmon 
ESU was at a low risk of extinction in the next 100 years, although the 
BRT did express some uncertainty as to whether the ESU was at low risk 
or moderate risk of extinction (Table 5, Williams et al., 2011).
    Under NMFS' Hatchery Listing Policy, any hatchery stocks that are 
part of an ESU must be considered in status assessments for the ESU if 
it is being considered for possible listing (70 FR 37204; June 28, 
2005). As discussed in the policy, any status assessment of an ESU 
which includes hatchery stocks should evaluate the manner in which the 
hatchery stocks contribute to conserving natural populations by 
considering their impact on the VSP criteria for natural populations 
comprising the ESU. As noted previously, the SWFSC determined that the 
fall-run Chinook salmon stock from IGH and the spring-run and fall-run 
Chinook salmon stocks from TRH are no more than moderately diverged 
from the local, natural populations, and as a result NMFS has concluded 
that these three hatchery stocks are part of the UKTR Chinook salmon 
ESU. Based on the hatchery operations and releases, as well as the 
assessment of hatchery-origin fish spawning in natural areas presented 
by Williams et al. (2011), we conclude that these three hatchery 
stocks: (1) Slightly reduce ESU extinction risk by increasing abundance 
of Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU; (2) have a neutral or uncertain 
effect on ESU extinction risk associated with productivity and spatial 
structure because hatchery origin fish spawn in natural areas primarily 
near the hatcheries and naturally produced Chinook salmon populations 
are widely distributed throughout the basin; and (3) have a slightly 
increased effect on ESU extinction risk associated with diversity 
because of the potential impacts of hatchery fish on naturally spawning 
populations near the hatcheries. Overall, we conclude that including 
these three hatchery stocks in the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU does not 
appreciably alter the Williams et al. (2011) assessment of the VSP 
status of the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU or its extinction risk.
    As part of their status review, Williams et al. (2011) assessed 
whether there are portions of the UKTR Chinook Salmon ESU that would 
constitute a significant portion of its range. In making this 
assessment they considered a portion of the range to be significant if 
its contribution to the overall viability of the ESU was so important 
that, without it, the ESU would be in danger of extinction. The 
geographical range of the ESU they considered in their assessment was 
the current geographical distribution of Chinook salmon in the UKTR 
ESU, and thus they did not consider inaccessible portions of the 
historical range of Chinook salmon upstream of dams. These 
considerations are consistent with interpretations and principles in 
the NMFS and USFWS Draft Policy on Interpretation of the Phrase 
``Significant Portion of Its Range'' in the Endangered Species Act's 
Definitions of ``Endangered Species'' and ``Threatened Species,'' which 
we consider as nonbinding guidance in making listing determinations 
until a final policy is published (76 FR 76987; December 9, 2011). 
Lastly, they assumed that a significant portion of the ESU's range 
could be a geographic sub-unit of the current ESU (e.g., the Salmon 
River) or a life-history variant (spring-run or fall-run life-history 
type), but based on the petition, focused their assessment on whether 
the spring-run Chinook salmon component of the UKTR ESU constituted a 
significant portion of the ESU's range.
    Williams et al. (2011) concluded that Chinook salmon are 
distributed broadly throughout the UKTR ESU and that there is 
connectivity among the component populations in the basin based on the 
available genetic information. Within the current geographic range of 
the ESU, they did

[[Page 19602]]

not find any situations where there was substantial unused habitat 
(i.e., extirpations) and concluded the spatial distribution of Chinook 
salmon in the ESU appeared to be appropriate given the current 
condition of the habitat. Williams et al. (2011) expressed concern 
about the overall status of spring-run Chinook salmon populations in 
the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU, but they did not conclude that these 
populations were at immediate risk of extinction (i.e., within the 
timeframe of generations as opposed to tens of generations) or that 
their demographic status posed an immediate risk of extinction to the 
ESU. The complete loss of spring-run Chinook salmon is unlikely in the 
foreseeable future, but if that occurred Williams et al. (2011) 
indicated it would reduce the viability of the ESU by reducing its 
overall diversity. Despite such a reduction in the viability of the 
ESU, the BRT concluded that the complete loss of spring-run would not 
result in an immediate risk of extinction to the UKTR Chinook Salmon 
ESU. Based on these considerations, we conclude that spring-run Chinook 
salmon do not constitute a significant portion of the range of the UKTR 
Chinook salmon ESU.

Summary of Factors Affecting the UKTR Chinook Salmon ESU

    Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(1)) and NMFS' 
implementing regulations (50 CFR Part 424) set forth factors and 
procedures for listing species. NMFS must determine if a species is 
endangered or threatened based upon any one or a combination of the 
following factors: (1) The present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (2) its 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (3) disease or predation; (4) inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (5) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence. NMFS has previously reviewed and 
evaluated these listing factors for west coast Chinook salmon, 
including those populations that comprise the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU 
(63 FR 11482, March 9, 1998; and NMFS 1998). These reviews have 
identified a wide range of factors that have adversely impacted Chinook 
salmon and their habitat on the west coast as well as in the UKTR ESU. 
The following discussion is based on those reviews and other more 
recent sources of information.

Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of the 
Species' Habitat or Range

    Previous reviews as cited above have identified a range of 
historical and ongoing land management activities and practices that 
adversely impact freshwater habitat used by Chinook salmon in the UKTR 
ESU, including construction of dams and other barriers that block 
access to historical habitat, water diversions, agriculture, timber 
harvest, road construction, grazing, and mining. The impacts associated 
with these activities have altered or in some cases eliminated habitat 
for Chinook salmon. A more detailed discussion of the impacts 
associated with these activities can be found in Nehlsen et al. (1991), 
Moyle (2002), and NRC (2004).
    Within the freshwater range of the UKTR ESU there are two important 
migration barriers that block access to historical spawning and rearing 
habitat: Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River (DOI and CDFG 2011) and 
Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River (DOI 2000). Many of the streams 
blocked by these dams were high quality snowmelt-driven tributaries or 
groundwater dominated streams that supported adult spring-run and fall-
run Chinook salmon (Moyle 2002). The presence of these dams has 
impacted the production of both spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon 
in the UKTR ESU, but they have had a greater impact on the distribution 
and abundance of spring-run Chinook salmon (63 FR 11482; March 9, 
1998).
    Water diversion and agricultural activities in the Klamath River 
and Trinity River basins have altered the timing and volume of flows in 
streams, reduced habitat availability, reduced water quality, and 
contributed to the reduced productivity of natural-origin Chinook 
salmon (NMFS 2010; DOI 2000). Stream water is diverted for consumptive 
use in the Upper Klamath Basin, in the Shasta and Scott River valleys, 
and from the Trinity River into other river basins (e.g., Rogue River, 
Sacramento River). Substantial water diversions, particularly during 
dry water years, can nearly dewater sections of rivers, creating 
barriers to Chinook salmon migration (e.g., Scott River), reducing the 
amount of available juvenile rearing habitat, and contributing to poor 
water quality. The Klamath River is impaired by a variety of water 
quality problems, including temperature, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, 
organic matter, and microcystin (NCRWQCB 2010), all of which can 
adversely impact Chinook salmon.
    Historical and ongoing timber harvest activities in the UKTR ESU 
have reduced habitat quality for Chinook salmon (Moyle 2002). Timber 
harvest can result in the loss of riparian vegetation, increased stream 
sedimentation, warmer water temperatures, reduced availability of large 
woody debris, increased peak runoff events, and simplified stream 
habitat, including filling of pools (Chamberlain et al., 1991). Road 
systems used to access timber areas cause high rates of erosion, 
landslides and in some cases block access to habitat when poorly 
designed culverts are used in road-stream crossings (Chamberlain et 
al., 1991). While mining in the UKTR ESU has been significantly 
curtailed in the past several decades, some lingering effects from 
tailings piles and other disturbances remain. Currently, there is a 
moratorium on suction dredge gold mining in California, which limits 
the impact of this activity on UKTR Chinook salmon habitat. The impacts 
to UKTR Chinook salmon from land management activities that were 
identified in Myers et al. (1998) and NMFS' 1998 listing determination 
for this ESU (63 FR 11482; March 9, 1998) continue today, with a few 
exceptions as noted above. Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU have 
persisted for several decades at relatively stable levels of abundance, 
despite the existence of these threats to freshwater habitat, and, 
therefore, it is unlikely that destruction or modification of habitat 
or curtailment of the species' range will threaten its continued 
existence now or in the foreseeable future.

Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    UKTR Chinook salmon are harvested in commercial and recreational 
fisheries in the ocean as well as Tribal and recreational fisheries in 
the Klamath Basin. Ocean harvest of Klamath Basin fall-run Chinook 
salmon is coordinated by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), 
Tribal harvest is managed by the individual tribes in the Klamath 
Basin, and in-river recreational fisheries are managed by the 
California Fish and Game Commission. From the mid-1980s through 2011, 
the PFMC managed the Klamath Basin fall-run Chinook salmon fishery with 
twin conservation objectives aimed at not surpassing a maximum total 
exploitation rate of 67 percent of projected returning natural adult 
spawners and achieving a minimum of at least 35,000 natural area adult 
spawners, with occasional allowances for smaller harvests when 
projected

[[Page 19603]]

returns were less than 35,000 adults (i.e., de minimis fisheries; PFMC 
2011). The PFMC Salmon Fishery Management Plan was amended in 2011 and, 
beginning in 2012, the maximum allowable exploitation rate will be 68 
percent of projected natural area adult spawners, subject to a minimum 
escapement of 40,700 natural area adult spawners, with allowances for 
de minimis fisheries when the stock is at low abundance (PFMC and NMFS 
2011). The minimum natural area spawner escapement of 40,700 adults is 
the best estimate of an escapement level that will produce maximum 
sustainable yield (Salmon Technical Team 2005). Fisheries have very 
rarely resulted in exploitation rates meeting or exceeding the maximum 
allowable level of 67 percent and the observed total exploitation rate 
on Klamath Basin fall-run Chinook salmon has varied between 
approximately 20 and 65 percent since the late 1990s (Williams et al., 
2011).
    Ocean exploitation rates for Klamath Basin spring-run Chinook 
salmon are not available (Williams et al., 2011). However, restrictions 
on ocean fisheries that have been implemented as a result of the status 
of Klamath Basin fall-run Chinook salmon, Sacramento River fall-run 
Chinook salmon, and ESA listed salmon stocks also protect UKTR spring-
run Chinook salmon, given the general overlap in the ocean distribution 
of these other stocks and UKTR spring-run Chinook salmon (Williams et 
al., 2011). In their final year of life, fall-run Chinook salmon leave 
the ocean and return to the river for spawning later in the year than 
do spring-run Chinook salmon. As a consequence, fall-run fish are 
exposed to the summer ocean fishery in their final year of life, 
whereas spring-run are not. Thus, the ocean exploitation rate on 
Klamath Basin spring-run Chinook salmon is considered to be lower than 
on Klamath Basin fall-run Chinook salmon, because of their lack of 
exposure to the summer ocean fishery in their final year of life.
    In-river recreational fishery exploitation rates in the Klamath 
Basin for spring-run Chinook salmon are unknown. Williams et al. (2011) 
indicated that in-river Tribal exploitation rates in recent years have 
generally been comparable to or slightly greater than those reported by 
Myers et al. (1998), particularly for spring-run Chinook salmon. To 
reduce impacts on spring-run adult escapement, the Yurok Tribe has 
enacted voluntary conservation measures since the early 1990s. The most 
recent example is the closure of the gillnet fishery three days per 
week and the prohibition of commercial fishing during the 2011 spring-
run Chinook salmon migration period. Overall, impacts from commercial, 
recreational, and Tribal harvest do not appear to have changed 
significantly since they were last reviewed in 1998 (Myers et al., 
1998).
    Because of the relatively robust regulatory controls on the harvest 
and other uses of Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU and the reductions in 
overall harvest from historic levels, overutilization of Chinook salmon 
in this ESU for commercial, recreational or scientific purposes is 
unlikely to threaten the ESU's continued existence now or in the 
foreseeable future.

Disease or Predation

    Diseases that cause mortality to UKTR Chinook salmon adults and 
juveniles are prevalent in the Klamath Basin, particularly in the 
mainstem Klamath River. In the fall of 2002, over 30,000 fall-run 
Chinook salmon died in the Klamath River as a result of low water 
discharge, large run size, high water temperatures, and an epizootic 
outbreak of the bacterium Flavobacterium columnare (columnaris) and the 
parasite Ichthyopthirius multifilis (ich) (CDFG 2004). Since that 
event, there have been substantial efforts to reduce the likelihood 
that such events will occur in the future or to minimize the impacts of 
any future event (CDFG 2011). An interagency task force has been 
organized to provide early warning and response to a potential fish 
kill that would entail requesting water releases from either Iron Gate 
or Lewiston dams if Klamath River flows fall below a specified minimum 
threshold during the adult fall-run Chinook salmon migration period.
    An area of high parasite infections exists in the upper Klamath 
River from its confluence with the Shasta River downstream to the Seiad 
Valley (Foote et al., 2011). Infection by Ceratomyxa shasta can be a 
significant mortality factor for juvenile Chinook salmon; the average 
infection rate for fish in the Klamath River upstream from its 
confluence with the Trinity River was 30 percent from 2004-2008, and 54 
percent in 2009 (True et al., 2011). Because high water temperature is 
one of the primary drivers for disease infection rates (Foote et al., 
2011), increased water temperatures associated with drought, climate 
change, and human activities (e.g., water diversions) are predicted to 
increase disease rates in the future (Woodson et al., 2011).
    Naturally-produced Chinook salmon fry are preyed upon by hatchery 
steelhead in the upper Trinity River (Naman and Sharpe 2011). There is 
limited information on pinniped predation of Chinook salmon in the UKTR 
ESU, but one study from the Klamath River estuary in 1997 estimated 
that over 8 percent of the fall-run Chinook salmon escapement was 
consumed by pinnipeds (Hillemeier 1999).
    Diseases are unlikely to threaten the ESU's continued existence now 
or in the foreseeable future, unless climate change in the basin causes 
a substantial increase in disease related mortality. However, the 
magnitude of any such effects is difficult to predict with any degree 
of certainty. Predation is unlikely to threaten the ESU's continued 
existence now or in the foreseeable future.

Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Forest practices, managed by the State and the Federal Government, 
have generally improved since 1998, although some practices do not 
adequately protect Chinook salmon or other salmonids. About 68 percent 
of the land within the UKTR ESU is managed by the U.S. Forest Service 
(USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Northwest 
Forest Plan (NWFP). The NWFP and its associated Aquatic Conservation 
Strategy (ACS), which was designed to protect salmon and steelhead 
habitat by maintaining and restoring ecosystem health at watershed and 
landscape scales, has improved the landscape through changes in timber 
harvesting and road maintenance and construction. A recent report 
assessing the overall effectiveness of the NWFP indicates that there 
have been positive changes in watershed condition scores throughout the 
range of the NWFP, with trends indicating small increases in vegetation 
scores (Lanigan et al., 2011). While overall road density changed only 
slightly across the area of the NWFP, road densities remain high in 
some portions of the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU (e.g., South Fork Trinity 
River).
    Since 1998, NMFS has actively engaged with the State Board of 
Forestry to facilitate improvements in California's state forest 
practice rules to improve aquatic habitat protection. The Board of 
Forestry has made some improvements to the rules. However, the current 
forest practice rules will continue to be considered inadequate for 
anadromous salmonids until the full suite of needed protections 
outlined by NMFS in public hearings and the Northern California 
steelhead listing (65 FR 36074; June 7, 2000) are adopted.
    Enforcement of State fishery regulations and Tribal trust fishing 
rights is a challenge within the UKTR

[[Page 19604]]

ESU. The Yurok Tribe and Hoopa Valley Tribe have Federally reserved 
fishing rights, but the Federally reserved salmon and steelhead fishing 
rights of other Tribes have not been established. Under their Federally 
reserved rights, the Yurok Tribe and Hoopa Valley Tribe are entitled to 
a moderate living standard or 50 percent of the harvest of Klamath-
Trinity Basin salmon. However, members of the Karuk Tribe are 
authorized to fish with traditional hand-held dip nets at their 
indigenous fishing site at Ishi Pishi Falls under State fishing 
regulations. Thus, the management of in-river harvest of salmonids is 
shared between Federal, Tribal, and State agencies and depends upon 
whether the Tribe has a Federally reserved fishing right or is 
harvesting salmon under State fishing regulations. Monitoring and 
enforcement of in-river harvest is hampered by the complexity of the 
regulations governing the in-river fishery. Although the extent to 
which illegal harvest is a problem is unclear, illegal harvest of UKTR 
Chinook salmon has been documented. For example, State law enforcement 
officers have confiscated gill nets and fishing rods in the New River 
watershed, even during periods when the river is closed to fishing 
(Leach 2012).
    While some water diversions in the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU are well 
monitored, consumptive water use is often poorly or, in some cases, 
entirely undocumented. Groundwater withdrawals are not monitored or 
quantified and water master service is lacking in much of the UKTR 
Chinook salmon ESU. The effects of water utilization on UKTR Chinook 
salmon are not well understood, and few studies have been developed to 
quantify the effects.
    Current regulatory mechanisms are not quantifying or addressing 
consumptive water use, land clearing, chemical spills, and fertilizer 
and pesticide use associated with outdoor cannabis cultivation in the 
UKTR ESU.
    There is no comprehensive drought plan for the Klamath Basin 
(including the Trinity River) or coordinated strategy that directs 
actions of resource management agencies to reduce the effects of 
drought or climate change on Chinook salmon. However, parties to the 
Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement have drafted a Drought Plan which, 
if finalized and implemented, is expected to reduce the effects of 
drought on UKTR Chinook salmon in the mainstem Klamath River. Without 
appropriate mechanisms in place to reduce the effects of drought or 
climate change throughout the UKTR ESU, both remain threats to the ESU.
    Though there are examples of existing regulatory mechanisms not 
adequately protecting Chinook salmon in the UKTR ESU, Chinook salmon 
populations in the ESU have persisted at current levels for several 
decades despite these limitations. Overall, we conclude that it is 
unlikely that inadequacies in these regulatory mechanisms threaten the 
continued existence of the ESU.

Other Natural or Man-made Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Natural events like prolonged drought or catastrophic flooding 
could pose significant threats to UKTR Chinook salmon. Prolonged 
drought (more than two years) would magnify already challenging water 
quality, disease, and freshwater habitat conditions for UKTR Chinook 
salmon. A decadal scale drought, such as the one that lasted from the 
late 1920s until the late 1930s (McCabe et al., 2004), would adversely 
affect several generations of Chinook salmon and increase the 
population's extinction risk. Although many shorter term droughts (two 
to three years) have occurred in the recent past, a decadal scale 
drought has occurred once in approximately the past 100 years.
    Catastrophic flooding events like those in 1955, 1964 and 1997 in 
the Klamath Basin destroyed a large area of salmonid habitat, the 
effects of which are still presently evident (Cover et al., 2010). In 
addition to adverse impacts to the spawning and rearing of Chinook 
salmon during flood events, such events also degrade habitat conditions 
by filling in holding pools, changing channel hydraulics, reducing the 
amount of large woody debris, and increasing summer stream temperatures 
through loss of riparian vegetation (Lisle 1982). While improvements to 
watershed conditions have been made which could help reduce the 
intensity of debris flows and sedimentation, catastrophic flooding 
poses a risk to UKTR Chinook salmon, though the timing and frequency of 
such events are difficult to predict.
    Climate change projections for the Klamath Basin predict greater 
relative warming in the summer than in other seasons, drier summers, 
less snowpack, lower stream flow, and changes in predominant vegetation 
types such that wildfires are projected to increase in frequency and 
area (Woodson et al., 2011). These predicted changes would impact UKTR 
Chinook salmon by altering fish migration and timing, decreasing the 
availability of side channel and floodplain habitats, the loss of cool-
water refuge areas, higher rates of disease incidence, lower dissolved 
oxygen levels, and potentially earlier, longer, and more intense algae 
blooms (Woodson et al., 2011). Climate change will likely exacerbate 
existing stressors as well as create new stressors for salmonids in the 
Klamath River (Qui[ntilde]ones 2011). A transition to a warmer climate 
state and sea surface warming may be accompanied by reductions in ocean 
productivity, which affects Chinook salmon survival (Behrenfeld et al., 
2006).
    Iron Gate Hatchery and Trinity River Hatchery release roughly 14.2 
million hatchery salmonids into the UKTR basin annually, of which 10.3 
million are Chinook salmon that we have determined are part of this 
ESU. Releases of hatchery fish can create a host of ecological (Kostow 
2009) and genetic (Reisenbichler and Rubin, 1999; Araki et al., 2009) 
problems that can result in lower productivity of natural-origin 
salmonids (Buhle et al., 2009; Chilcote et al., 2011). Genetic 
information and escapement estimates indicate straying of hatchery 
Chinook salmon adults into tributaries is more acute for those streams 
or areas located closest to the two hatcheries in the Klamath Basin 
(Williams et al., 2011). The extent to which hatchery-origin fish 
affect the productivity of UKTR Chinook salmon is unknown, but given 
research on the effect of hatchery fish on the productivity of natural-
origin fish in other systems (Buhle et al., 2009; Chilcote et al., 
2011), it is likely that productivity of UKTR Chinook salmon is 
impacted at least in those areas near hatcheries where hatchery-origin 
fish are most abundant.
    Floods and droughts are natural phenomena that have affected UKTR 
Chinook salmon for millennia. Although these natural phenomena 
temporarily reduce the ability of freshwater habitat to support UKTR 
Chinook salmon, they are unlikely to threaten the continued existence 
of the species. Climate change has the potential to threaten the ESU's 
continued existence, particularly if precipitation and snowpack 
markedly decrease and temperatures substantially increase. However, the 
magnitude of climate driven changes in precipitation and snowpack in 
the foreseeable future and the response of Chinook salmon populations 
in the ESU to any such changes is unknown. Efforts to reform hatchery 
practices at Trinity River and Iron Gate hatcheries are increasing, in 
part driven by the recent scientific review of hatchery operations by 
the California Hatchery Scientific Review Group. If changes in hatchery 
operations resulting from this process are implemented in the future, 
they are expected to reduce the potential adverse effects of hatchery 
releases on the

[[Page 19605]]

productivity of naturally spawning Chinook salmon in this ESU.

Conservation Efforts

    When considering the listing of a species, section 4(b)(1)(A) of 
the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(1)(A)) requires consideration of efforts by 
any State, foreign nation, or political subdivision of a State or 
foreign nation to protect the species. On March 28, 2003, NMFS and the 
USFWS published the final Policy for Evaluating Conservation Efforts 
When Making Listing Decisions (68 FR 15100), that provides guidance on 
evaluating current protective efforts identified in conservation 
agreements, conservation plans, management plans, or similar documents 
(developed by Federal agencies, State and local governments, Tribal 
governments, businesses, organizations, and individuals) that have not 
yet been implemented, or that have been implemented but have not yet 
demonstrated effectiveness.
    There is a wide range of conservation efforts focused on salmonids, 
including Chinook salmon, in the UKTR ESU. One important effort is the 
Trinity River Restoration Program. This ongoing program established 
restoration goals for spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon, 
identified actions that must be taken to restore Trinity River Chinook 
salmon populations, established quantifiable performance measures, and 
incorporated the principles of adaptive management (TRRP 2012). 
Removing Iron Gate Dam and three other dams upstream of Iron Gate Dam 
on the Klamath River (if the Secretary of the Interior makes an 
affirmative determination under the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement 
Agreement) or adding fish passage facilities around these and other 
upper basin dams on the Klamath River (if the Secretary of the Interior 
does not make an affirmative determination under the Klamath 
Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement) and associated restoration efforts 
will likely improve the viability of UKTR Chinook salmon (CDFG and DOI 
2011), but there are uncertainties regarding which of these efforts 
will be implemented. Several other efforts are ongoing in the Klamath 
Basin; in particular, improved forest practices, land management, and 
purchase of private land for conservation. Ongoing research on diseases 
that afflict UKTR Chinook salmon is expected to provide greater 
understanding of the factors that contribute to disease infection and 
management efforts that can ameliorate disease impacts in the UKTR ESU.

12-Month Finding

    We have reviewed the status of the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU and 
considered the best scientific and commercial data available, and we 
conclude that the petitioned action is not warranted. In reaching this 
conclusion, we conclude that spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon in 
the UKTR Basin constitute a single ESU. We have considered the 
conservation efforts for the ESU. In addition, we have considered the 
ESA section 4(a)(1) (16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(1)) factors in the context of 
the biological status of the species, the assessment of the risks posed 
by those threats, the possible cumulative impacts, and the associated 
uncertainties. Despite the issues discussed under those factors, 
consistent with the 1998 status review and listing determination for 
the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU, and based on a comprehensive review of the 
best scientific and commercial data currently available, NMFS concludes 
the overall extinction risk of the ESU is considered to be low over the 
next 100 years.
    Based on these considerations and others described in this notice, 
we conclude that the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU is not in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, nor is 
it likely to become so in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the UKTR 
Chinook salmon ESU does not meet the ESA definition of an endangered or 
threatened species, and listing the UKTR Chinook salmon ESU under the 
ESA is not warranted at this time.

References

    A complete list of references cited herein is available upon 
request (see ADDRESSES section).

Authority

    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: March 27, 2012.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-7879 Filed 3-30-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P