[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 94 (Tuesday, May 15, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 28703-28740]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-11100]



[[Page 28703]]

Vol. 77

Tuesday,

No. 94

May 15, 2012

Part III





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Status for 
Eriogonum codium (Umtanum Desert Buckwheat) and Physaria douglasii 
subsp. tuplashensis (White Bluffs Bladderpod) and Designation of 
Critical Habitat; Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 77 , No. 94 / Tuesday, May 15, 2012 / 
Proposed Rules

[[Page 28704]]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[FWS-R1-ES-2012-0017: 4500030113]
RIN 1018-AX72


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Status 
for Eriogonum codium (Umtanum Desert Buckwheat) and Physaria douglasii 
subsp. tuplashensis (White Bluffs Bladderpod) and Designation of 
Critical Habitat

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, propose to list 
Umtanum desert buckwheat (Eriogonum codium) and White Bluffs bladderpod 
(Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis) as threatened, under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We are also proposing 
to designate critical habitat for both species under the Act. In total, 
approximately 344 acres (139 hectares) are being proposed for 
designation as critical habitat for Eriogonum codium in Benton County, 
Washington, and approximately 2,861 acres (1,158 hectares) are being 
proposed for designation as critical habitat for Physaria douglasii 
subsp. tuplashensis in Franklin County, Washington. We also announce 
the availability of a draft economic analysis (DEA) of the proposed 
designation and a required determinations section of the proposal.

DATES: We will consider all comments received or postmarked on or 
before July 16, 2012. We must receive requests for public hearings, in 
writing, at the address shown in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT 
section by June 29, 2012. Comments submitted electronically using the 
Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) must be 
received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date.

ADDRESSES: Document availability: The draft economic analysis is 
available at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2012-
0017 or by contacting the office listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT.
    Comment submission: You may submit your comments or data concerning 
this proposal by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov and submit your comment to Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-
2012-0017.
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2012-0017; Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM, Arlington, VA 22203.
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described 
above. We will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any 
personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section 
below for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ken Berg, Manager, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond 
Drive, Suite 102, Lacey, Washington 98503-1263, by telephone (360) 753-
9440, or by facsimile (360) 753-9405. Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Executive Summary

    Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Endangered Species Act 
(Act), a species may warrant protection through listing if it is 
endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range. We are 
proposing to list Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod 
as threatened under the Act because of continued threats, and listing 
can only be done by issuing a rule. Both species occur as single 
populations in narrow, linear bands on bluffs above and on opposite 
sides of the Columbia River along the Hanford Reach in Washington 
State. We are also proposing to designate critical habitat under the 
Act for both species. Critical habitat represents geographical areas 
that are essential to a species' conservation, and is designated on the 
basis of the best scientific information available after taking into 
consideration the economic impact, impact on national security, and any 
other relevant impact of specifying any particular area as critical 
habitat. This proposed rule also announces the availability of a draft 
economic analysis (DEA), which evaluates the potential economic impacts 
that may be attributable to the proposed designation of critical 
habitat for both species.
    The basis for our action. Under the Act, a species may be 
determined to be endangered or threatened based on any of five factors: 
(1) Destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; 
(2) Overuse; (3) Disease or predation; (4) Inadequate existing 
regulations; or (5) Other natural or manmade factors. The Act also 
requires that we designate critical habitat concurrently with listing 
determinations, if designation is prudent and determinable.
    We have made the following finding related to these criteria:
     Umtanum desert buckwheat is threated by wildfire, 
nonnative plants, seed predation, small population size, limited 
geographic range, and low recruitment.
     White Bluffs bladderpod is threatened by wildfire, 
irrigation-induced landslides and slope failure, harm by recreational 
activities and off-road vehicle use, nonnative plants, small population 
size, and limited geographic range.
    This rule proposes to designate critical habitat for both species.
     Critical habitat designation would not be expected to 
increase threats to either species, and we have sufficient scientific 
information on both species to determine the areas essential to their 
conservation. Accordingly, we have determined the designation of 
critical habitat is both prudent and determinable.
     Approximately 2,400 acres of Federal land, 17 acres of 
State land, and 419 acres of private land are being proposed as 
critical habitat for both species.
     Based on the best available scientific and commercial 
data, we have not identified a significant number of small entities 
that may be impacted by the proposed critical habitat designation. 
Small entities are consequently anticipated to bear a relatively low 
cost as a result of the designation of critical habitat.
    Peer Review. We will seek the expert opinions of at least three 
appropriate and independent specialists with scientific expertise to 
ensure our determinations are based on scientifically sound data, 
assumptions, and analyses.

Information Requested

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule 
will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request 
comments or information from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, 
or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. We 
particularly seek comments concerning:

[[Page 28705]]

    (1) Additional information concerning the historical and current 
status, range, distribution, population size, pollinators and the 
foraging distances of these species, including the locations of any 
additional populations of these species.
    (2) Any information on the biological or ecological requirements of 
these species and ongoing conservation measures for these species and 
their habitat.
    (3) The factors that are the basis for making a listing 
determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act, which are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.
    (4) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any threats (or lack thereof) to these species and regulations that may 
be addressing those threats, as discussed in this proposed rule.
    (5) Current or planned activities in the areas occupied by 
Eriogonum codium or Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis and the 
possible impacts of these activities on these species. For purposes of 
this document, we will refer to Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis 
as ``White Bluffs bladderpod'' and Eriogonum codium as ``Umtanum desert 
buckwheat''.
    (6) The reasons why areas should or should not be designated as 
critical habitat as provided by section 4 of the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531, et seq.), including whether 
there are threats to the species from human activity, the degree of 
which the threats can be expected to increase due to the designation, 
and whether that increase in threat outweighs the benefit of 
designation such that the designation of critical habitat may not be 
prudent.
    (7) Specific information on:
    (a) The amount and distribution of habitat for Umtanum desert 
buckwheat or White Bluffs bladderpod;
    (b) What areas occupied at the time of the proposed listing that 
contain features essential to the conservation of the species should be 
included in the designation and why;
    (c) Special management considerations or protections that may be 
needed in critical habitat areas we are proposing, including managing 
for the potential effects of climate change; and
    (d) What areas that are not occupied at the time of the proposed 
listing are essential for the conservation of the species and why.
    (8) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the 
area and their possible impacts on the proposed critical habitat.
    (9) Information on the projected and reasonably likely impacts of 
climate change on Umtanum desert buckwheat or White Bluffs bladderpod 
and the proposed critical habitat areas.
    (10) Any probable economic, national security, or other relevant 
impacts of designating any area that may be included in the final 
designation. We are particularly interested in any impacts on small 
entities or families, and the benefits of including or excluding areas 
that exhibit these impacts.
    (11) Whether any specific areas we are proposing for critical 
habitat designation should be considered for exclusion under section 
4(b)(2) of the Act, and whether the benefits of potentially excluding 
any specific area outweigh the benefits of including that area under 
section 4(b)(2) of the Act and why.
    (12) Information on whether the draft economic analysis (DEA) 
identifies all costs and benefits attributable to the proposed critical 
habitat designation for each of the plants, and information on any 
costs or benefits that we have overlooked.
    (13) Information on whether the DEA makes appropriate assumptions 
regarding current practices and any regulatory changes likely if we 
designate critical habitat.
    (14) Information on whether the DEA identifies all costs reasonably 
likely to occur that could result from the critical habitat designation 
and whether you agree with the analysis.
    (15) Economic data on the incremental costs of designating any 
particular area as critical habitat.
    (16) Whether we could improve or modify our approach to designating 
critical habitat in any way to provide for greater public participation 
and understanding, or to better accommodate public concerns and 
comments.
    Please note that submissions merely stating support for or 
opposition to the action under consideration without providing 
supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in 
making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that 
determinations as to whether any species is a threatened or endangered 
species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best scientific and 
commercial data available,'' and section 4(b)(2) directs that critical 
habitat designations be made based on the best scientific data 
available and after consideration of economic and other relevant 
impacts.
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you 
send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES.
    If you submit information via http://www.regulations.gov, your 
entire submission--including any personal identifying information--will 
be posted on the Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy 
that includes personal identifying information, such as your address, 
phone number, email address, you may request at the top of your 
document that we withhold this information from public review. However, 
we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will post all 
hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov. Please include 
sufficient information with your comments to allow us to verify any 
scientific or commercial information you include.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT).

Previous Federal Actions

    Candidate History: Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs 
bladderpod (formerly Lesquerella tuplashensis) were identified as 
candidates for possible addition to the Lists of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and Plants in our Annual Candidate Notice of 
Review, published in the Federal Register October 25, 1999 (64 FR 
57542). Both species were given a Listing Priority number (LPN) of 5 at 
that time; the LPN is assigned to a species based on the immediacy and 
magnitude of threats and the species' taxonomic status. In 1999, 
threats to both species were considered to be of high magnitude, but 
nonimminent. However, in 2002, the LPN for Umtanum desert buckwheat was 
revised to LPN 2, which is assigned when threats to a species are of 
high magnitude and imminence (67 FR 40663), based on new information 
revealing low reproduction for the

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species. The LPN for White Bluffs bladderpod (formerly Lesquerella 
tuplashensis) was revised to LPN 9 in 2009 (74 FR 57810), to reflect 
new information indicating threats were now moderate to low in 
magnitude and imminence. In 2009, the Service completed a Spotlight 
Species Action Plan for White Bluffs bladderpod to set conservation 
targets and identify actions to achieve those targets for the next 5 
years. This plan can be found on the Service's Web site at: http://www.fws.gov/ecos/ajax/docs/action_plans/doc3090.pdf. The 2011 Notice 
of Review, published October 26, 2011 (76 FR 66370), included Umtanum 
desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod; both species have been 
maintained as candidates since 1999.
    Petition History: A petition requesting that Umtanum desert 
buckwheat, White Bluffs bladderpod, and several other species be listed 
under the Act was received on May 4, 2004 (Center for Biological 
Diversity et al. [CBD] 2004, pp. 49, 100). On July 12, 2011, the 
Service filed a multiyear work plan as part of a proposed settlement 
agreement with Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and others in a 
consolidated case in the U.S. District Court for the District of 
Columbia. The settlement agreement was approved by the court on 
September 9, 2011, and will enable the Service to systematically review 
and address the conservation needs of more than 250 species, over a 
period of 6 years, including Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs 
bladderpod.

Background

    It is our intent to discuss only those topics directly relevant to 
the proposed listing and critical habitat designations for Umtanum 
desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod in this proposed rule. A 
summary of topics relevant to this proposed rule is provided below. 
Additional information on both species may be found in the Candidate 
Notice of Review, which was published October 26, 2011 (76 FR 66370).
Geography, Climate, and Landscape Setting
    Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod are found only 
on the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, the last free-flowing 
stretch of the Columbia River within U.S. borders. The Hanford Reach 
lies within the semi-arid shrub steppe Pasco Basin of the Columbia 
Plateau in south-central Washington State. The region's climate is 
influenced by the Pacific Ocean, the Cascade Mountain Range to the 
west, and other mountain ranges located to the north and east. The 
Pacific Ocean moderates temperatures throughout the Pacific Northwest, 
and the Cascade Range generates a rain shadow that limits rain and 
snowfall in the eastern half of Washington State. The Cascade Range 
also serves as a source of cold air drainage, which has a considerable 
effect on the wind regime on the Hanford Installation. Daily maximum 
temperatures vary from an average of 1.7 [deg]Celsius (C) 
(35[emsp14][deg]Fahrenheit (F)) in late December and early January, to 
36 [deg]C (96[emsp14][deg]F) in late July. The Hanford Reach is 
generally quite arid, with an average annual precipitation of 16 
centimeters (cm) (6.3 inches (in)). The relative humidity at the 
Hanford Reach is highest during the winter months, averaging about 76 
percent, and lowest during the summer, averaging about 36 percent. 
Average snowfall ranges from 0.25 cm (0.1 in) in October to a maximum 
of 13.2 cm (5.2 in) in December, decreasing to 1.3 cm (0.5 in) in 
March. Snowfall accounts for about 38 percent of all precipitation from 
December through February (USFWS 2008, pp. 3.8-3.10).
    The Hanford Reach National Monument/Saddle Mountain National 
Wildlife Refuge (Monument), which includes approximately 78,780 
hectares (ha) (195,000 acres (ac)), contains much of the Hanford Reach 
of the Columbia River. All of the land is owned by the Department of 
Energy (DOE) and was formerly part of the 145,440-ha (360,000-ac) 
Hanford installation. The Hanford installation was established by the 
U.S. Government in 1943 as a national security area for the production 
of weapons grade plutonium and purification facilities. For more than 
40 years, the primary mission at Hanford was associated with the 
production of nuclear materials for national defense. However, large 
tracts of land were used as protective buffer zones for safety and 
security purposes and remained undisturbed.
    The Hanford Reach National Monument was established by Presidential 
Proclamation in June 2000, to connect these tracts of land, protecting 
the river reach and the largest remnant of the shrub steppe ecosystem 
in the Columbia River Basin. The Hanford Reach National Monument 
Proclamation identifies several nationally significant resources, 
including a diversity of native plant and animal species, including 
rare and sensitive plant species such as Umtanum desert buckwheat and 
White Bluffs bladderpod (USFWS 2008, p. 1-4). The Proclamation also 
sets forth specific management actions and mechanisms that are to be 
followed: (1) Federal lands are withdrawn from disposition under public 
land laws, including all interests in these lands, such as future 
mining claims; (2) off-road vehicle use is prohibited; (3) the ability 
to apply for water rights is established; (4) grazing is prohibited; 
(5) the Service and DOE (subject to certain provisions) are established 
as managers of the Monument; (6) a land management transfer mechanism 
from the DOE to the Service is established; (7) cleanup and restoration 
activities are assured; and (8) existing rights, including tribal 
rights, are protected.
    All lands included in the Monument are Federal lands under the 
primary jurisdiction of the DOE. Approximately 66,660 ha (165,000 ac) 
are currently managed as an overlay refuge by the Service through 
agreements with the DOE. Overlay refuges exist where the Service 
manages lands for the benefit of fish and wildlife resources, but is 
not the primary holder in fee title of lands forming the refuge 
(Service 2008, p. 1-7). Because the Monument is administered as a 
component of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the legal mandates 
and policies that apply to any national wildlife refuge apply to the 
Monument. The Proclamation directs the DOE and the Service to protect 
and conserve the area's native plant communities, specifically 
recognizing the area's biologically diverse shrub steppe ecosystem 
(USFWS 2008, pp. 1.21, 3.5). The DOE manages approximately 11,716 ha 
(29,000 ac) of land within the Monument and retains land surface 
ownership or control on all Monument acreage. Thus, the Service and DOE 
have joint management responsibility for the Monument.
    The parcel of land containing Umtanum desert buckwheat is on part 
of what was historically called the McGee Ranch, a historical homestead 
area of more than 364 ha (900 ac) within the greater Hanford 
installation. Management of this parcel has been retained by DOE due to 
unresolved issues with contaminants. This is expected to be resolved 
over time, and management conveyed to the Monument, since this area is 
not essential to the operation of the Hanford facility. Umtanum desert 
buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod both occur in narrow, linear 
bands on bluffs above and on opposite sides of the Columbia River. The 
populations are approximately 15 kilometers (km) (9 miles (mi)) apart, 
and although relatively near to each other, their habitat has a widely 
disparate geologic history and subsequent soil

[[Page 28707]]

development. These conditions create unique habitats and substrates 
that support these and other rare endemic plants (see Species 
Information sections) within the Hanford Reach.

Species Information

Umtanum Desert Buckwheat
    Umtanum desert buckwheat is a long-lived, woody perennial plant 
that forms low mats. Individual plants may exceed 100 years of age, 
based on counts of annual growth rings on cross sections of recently 
dead plants. Growth rates are also extremely slow, with stem diameters 
increasing an average of only 0.17 millimeters (mm) (0.007 in) per year 
(The Nature Conservancy (TNC) 1998, p. 9; Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 
62). A detailed description of the identifying characteristics of 
Umtanum desert buckwheat is found in Reveal et al. (1995, pp. 350-351). 
Umtanum desert buckwheat is State-listed as Endangered, with a G1 
(i.e., critically imperiled world-wide, and particularly vulnerable to 
extinction) global ranking and an S1 (i.e., critically imperiled State-
wide, and particularly vulnerable to extinction) State ranking (WDNR 
2011a, p. 5).
Taxonomy
    In 1995, Florence Caplow and Kathryn Beck resumed large-scale rare 
plant surveys on the Hanford Site that were initiated in 1994 by TNC 
and the DOE, as part of the Hanford Biodiversity Project. Two 
previously undescribed plant taxa were discovered, including Umtanum 
desert buckwheat (Caplow and Beck 1996, p. 5). The species was fully 
described in Reveal et al. (1995) and has retained the current 
nomenclature unchallenged since that time. Umtanum desert buckwheat is 
recognized as a distinct species, and there is no known controversy 
concerning its taxonomy.
Habitat/Life History
    Umtanum desert buckwheat was discovered in 1995 during a botanical 
survey of the Hanford installation (Reveal et al. 1995, p. 353), and is 
found exclusively on soils over exposed basalt from the Lolo Flow of 
the Wanapum Basalt Formation. As the basalt of the Lolo Flow weathers, 
a rocky soil type is formed that is classified as lithosol, a term 
describing the well-drained, shallow, generally stony soils over 
bedrock (Franklin and Dyrness 1973, p. 347), and talus slopes 
associated with eroding outcrops and cliffs. These cliffs (scarps), and 
loose rock at the base of cliffs or on slopes (defined as scree) are 
found along the crests and slopes of local hills and ridges, including 
east Umtanum Ridge, where Umtanum desert buckwheat occurs. This type of 
landform in the Columbia Basin is determined by the underlying basalts, 
which may be exposed above the soil on ridge tops or where wind and 
water erode the fine soils away (Sackschewski and Downs 2001, p. 
2.1.1).
    The Lolo Flow contains higher titanium dioxide and lower iron oxide 
than the neighboring Rosalia Flow, also of the Priest Rapids Member. 
The flow top material commonly has a high porosity and permeability and 
has weathered to pebble and gravel-sized pieces of vesicular basalt 
(Reveal et al. 1995, p. 354). This basalt typically contains small (<5 
mm (0.2 in)) crystals of the mineral olivine and rare clusters of 
plagioclase crystals (Reidel and Fecht 1981, pp. 3-13). It is unknown 
if the close association of Umtanum desert buckwheat with the lithosols 
of the Lolo Flow is related to the chemical composition or physical 
characteristics of the bedrock on which it is found, or a combination 
of factors not currently understood (Reveal et al. 1995, p. 354).
    Preliminary counts indicate that seed set occurs in approximately 
10 percent of flowers observed, potentially limiting reproductive 
capacity. Based on a pollinator exclusion study (Beck 1999, pp. 25-27), 
the species is probably capable of at least limited amounts of self-
pollination, although the percentage of seed set in the absence of 
pollinators appears to be low. A variety of insect pollinators were 
observed on Umtanum desert buckwheat flowers, including ants, beetles, 
flies, spiders, moths and butterflies (TNC 1998, p. 8). Wasps from the 
families Vespidae and Typhiidae and a wasp from the species Criosciolia 
have been observed in the vicinity of Umtanum desert buckwheat, but not 
on the plant itself. A bumble bee, Bombus centralis, has been observed 
utilizing flowers of Umtanum desert buckwheat plants by Washington 
Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) specialists (Arnett 2011b, pers. 
comm.).
    Common perennial plant associates of Umtanum desert buckwheat 
include Artemisia tridentata (big sagebrush), Grayia spinosa (spiny 
hopsage), Krascheninnikovia lanata (winterfat), Eriogonum 
sphaerocephalum (rock buckwheat), Salvia dorrii (purple sage), 
Hesperostipa comata (needle and thread), Pseudoroegneria spicata 
(bluebunch wheatgrass), Poa sandbergii (Sandberg's wheatgrass), 
Sphaeralcea munroana (Munro's Globemallow), Astragalus caricinus 
(buckwheat milkvetch), and Balsamorhiza careyana (Carey's balsamroot). 
Common annual associates include Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass), Phacelia 
linearis (threadleaf phacelia), Gilia leptomeria (sand gilia). G. 
inconspicua var. sinuata (shy gilia), Camissonia minor (small evening 
primrose), and Cryptantha pterocarya (wingnut cryptantha).
Historical Range/Distribution
    The only known population of Umtanum desert buckwheat occurs along 
the top edges of the steep slopes on Umtanum Ridge, a wide mountain 
ridge in Benton County, Washington, where it has a discontinuous 
distribution along a narrow (25-150 m (82-492 ft) wide by 1.6 km (1 mi) 
long) portion of the ridge (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 59). The species 
was discovered in 1995 (Reveal et al. 1995, p. 354), and there are no 
records of any collections prior to that year.
Current Range/Distribution
    It is unknown if the prehistorical distribution of Umtanum desert 
buckwheat was different than the species' current distribution, but it 
is likely the species has been confined to this location during at 
least the last 150 years, as annual growth ring counts from fire-killed 
plants revealed individual ages in excess of 100 years. Individual 
plants with greater stem diameters (and, therefore, presumably older) 
are present, which supports the 150-year minimum locality occupation 
estimate.
Population Estimates/Status
    The only known population of Umtanum desert buckwheat was fully 
censused (an accounting of the number of all individuals in a 
population) in 1995, 1997, 2005, and 2011 (see Table 1). In 1995, 
researchers counted 4,917 living individual plants, and in 1997, 
researchers counted 5,228 individuals (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 61). 
The 1995 census was ``roughly counted'' (Beck 1999, p. 3) (i.e., there 
was a greater degree of estimation), while the 1997 count was more 
precise. In addition, the 1995 count may have overlooked an isolated 
patch with 79 plants to the east that was discovered in 2011. It is not 
uncommon for estimated population counts to be substantially lower than 
precise counts (Arnett 2011a, pers. comm.).

      Table 1--Umtanum Desert Buckwheat Population Counts 1995-2011
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                           Total plants
                       Census year                            counted
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1995....................................................           4,917
1997....................................................           5,228

[[Page 28708]]

 
2005....................................................           4,408
2011....................................................           5,169
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    After a 1997 wildfire burned through a portion of the population, a 
subsequent count found 5,228 living and 813 dead individual plants. A 
minimum of 75 percent of the 813 dead individual plants observed died 
as a direct result of the fire (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 61). No 
survival or resprouting was noted in fire-killed plants in following 
years. Because a more accurate count was used to derive the number of 
dead individual plants (Beck 1999, p. 3), this total represents a 
fairly precise measure of the impact of the 1997 wildfire on Umtanum 
desert buckwheat (Arnett 2011a, pers. comm.), although it is likely 
some plants were totally consumed by the fire and thereby 
unidentifiable.
    In 2005, researchers reported 4,408 living plants (Caplow 2005, p. 
1), which represents a 15 percent decline in the population over an 8-
year period. However, this result likely reflects some variability in 
how the census was performed over the years since the species was 
discovered in 1995. On July 12, 2011, a complete population census was 
conducted, which recorded 5,169 living individuals. This was somewhat 
higher than average, which could be attributable to a more thorough 
census, the identification of plant clusters not previously documented, 
and the recording of larger clumps as containing more than one 
individual plant. These clumps were likely counted as individual plants 
in previous counts (Arnett 2011a, pers. comm.).
    Demographic monitoring of the largest subpopulation within the main 
population, commenced in 1997, and demonstrated an average 2 percent 
annual mortality of adult flowering plants. During the 9 years of 
monitoring, only 4 or 5 seedlings have been observed to survive beyond 
the year of their germination (Kaye 2007, p. 5). Since 2007, the 
demographic monitoring plots continue to reflect population declines 
and minimal recruitment (Arnett 2011b, pers. comm.). Dunwiddie et al. 
(2001, p. 67) documented a lack of plants in the smallest size classes 
and the absence of any seed survival over 1 year. Their data did not 
indicate any spikes or gaps in the size distribution of plants that 
might reflect years of unusually high or low recruitment of plants, 
although evidence of such could have been obscured by the variable 
growth rates of the plants. Populations of long-lived species with low 
adult mortality can survive with relatively low recruitment rates 
(Harper 1977 in Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 67). Further, the survival of 
a few seedlings each year may be sufficient to replace the occasional 
adult that dies, or alternatively, an occasional bumper crop of 
seedlings surviving to maturity during several favorable years may 
ensure the long-term survival of the population (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, 
p. 67). However, no demographic data supported either of these 
scenarios for this species (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 67).
    An unpublished draft population viability analysis (PVA) was 
recently completed by Thomas Kaye (2007, p. 5), based on 9 years of 
demographic data. A PVA is a quantitative analysis of population 
dynamics, with the goal of assessing the risk of extinction of a 
species. The 2007 study, which took into account observed environmental 
variability, determined there was little or no risk of a 90 percent 
population decline within the next 100 years; an approximate 13 percent 
chance of a decline of 50 percent over the next 50 years; and a 72 
percent chance of a 50 percent decline within the next 100 years. The 
PVA concluded the decline is gradual, consistent with the decline noted 
by Caplow (2005, p. 1) between 1997 and 2005, and will likely take 
several decades to impact the population (Kaye 2007, p. 7). Although 
census data indicates more individuals in 2011 compared to the number 
of individuals in 1995 and 2005, this increase likely reflects some 
variability in how the census was performed. The inflorescence for 
Umtanum desert buckwheat consists of a cluster of flowers arranged on a 
main stem or branch. As stated earlier, the fact that the 2011 census 
was somewhat higher than previous plant counts may be attributable to 
the identification of plant clusters not previously documented, or 
individually counting plants present in plant clusters (rather than 
counting the cluster itself as one plant) (Arnett 2011a, pers. comm.). 
Since 1995, numerous surveys have been conducted at other locations 
within the lower Columbia River Basin, within every habitat that 
appears to be suitable for Umtanum desert buckwheat. However no other 
populations or individuals have been found.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and its implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR part 424, set forth the procedures for adding 
species to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and 
Plants (Lists). Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, we may list a species 
based on any of the following five factors: (A) The present or 
threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or 
range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; and (E) other natural or manmade 
factors affecting its continued existence. Listing actions may be 
warranted based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in 
combination. Individual analyses of the above factors have been 
completed for both Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod 
and are discussed below.

Umtanum Desert Buckwheat

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range
    Caplow and Beck (1996, pp. 40-41) and other studies indicate that 
threats to Umtanum desert buckwheat and its habitat are primarily due 
to wildfire and associated firefighting activities (Beck 1999, pp. 27-
29; Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 66). The invasion of nonnative plants 
that increase the availability of wildfire fuel sources is also a 
threat, as discussed below. Livestock trespassing, prospecting, and 
off-road vehicle use represent potential threats, which appear to be 
presently reduced because of improved boundary integrity, access 
controls, fencing, and enforcement. Below is a detailed discussion of 
these threats and their potential effects on survival and recovery of 
the species.
    Wildfire: Fire may be the primary threat to Umtanum desert 
buckwheat, and it is likely to become an even greater threat if the 
frequency or severity of fires increases (TNC 1998 p. 9; Dunwiddie et 
al. 2001, p. 62). Prior to manmade disturbances (livestock grazing, 
introduction of exotic species, and farming), the historic fire regime 
was a 32- to 70-year fire return interval of small, high-intensity 
fires that removed small patches of the fire-intolerant shrub 
overstory. Small, infrequent fires maintained bunchgrass openings 
within the shrub-steppe habitat, providing for both shrub and grassland 
communities. The historic fire regime has been significantly altered by 
sociopolitical and economic factors.

[[Page 28709]]

After the 1900s, human activities interrupted the natural fire interval 
and patterns of burning. Agricultural development and livestock grazing 
reduced the light fuels that would normally carry a fire; livestock 
grazing also had the effect of suppressing native bunchgrasses and 
allowing nonnative invasive species (e.g., Bromus tectorum 
(cheatgrass)) and native sagebrush densities to increase (USFWS 2008, 
p. 3-15). Cheatgrass competes with Umtanum desert buckwheat for space 
and moisture. In turn, the establishment and growth of highly flammable 
cheatgrass increases the likelihood of fire, potentially further 
negatively (or adversely) impacting the Umtanum desert buckwheat 
population.
    In mid-August 1984, approximately 80,800 ha (200,000 ac) both on 
and off the Hanford Site were burned in a fire that expanded westward 
20 miles during a 24-hour period. The 1984 fire was initiated by a 
lightning strike on private land (DOE 2000, p. 3-1). During the summer 
of 1997, a fire escaped from the Yakima Training Center (U.S. 
Department of the Army) and traveled down the ridge occupied by Umtanum 
desert buckwheat. The fire burned on all sides and partially through 
the population, which caused considerable mortality of adult plants 
(Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 60). It was conservatively estimated that at 
least 10-20 percent of the population may have been killed by the fire 
event (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 62). The fire was most severe where 
vegetative cover was dense and less severe on thinner soils supporting 
little or no vegetation. Shrub and grass fuels on parts of the ridge 
are sparse, and the fire was patchy in the area where Umtanum desert 
buckwheat is located (Newsome 2011, pers. comm.). In late July 1998, a 
wildfire triggered by a lightning strike burned approximately 2,828 ha 
(7,000 ac) before it was contained (DOE 2000, p. 3-1). From 2001 to 
2011, there have been 84 wildfire incidents documented, affecting 
approximately 38,164 ha (94, 460 ac) of lands within the Hanford Reach 
National Monument and Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge (see 
Table 2).

    Table 2--Wildfire History, Hanford Monument Lands, Hanford Reach/Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                     Number of                       Hectares
                              Year                                     fires       Acres burned       burned
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2011............................................................               2               1             0.4
2010............................................................               3           3,350           1,353
2009............................................................              10             529             214
2008............................................................               6           1,340             542
2007............................................................               8          77,319          31,237
2006............................................................               5              34              14
2005............................................................               8          10,910           4,408
2004............................................................               8              41              17
2003............................................................              16             512             207
2002............................................................               7             299             121
2001............................................................              11             125              51
                                                                 -----------------------------------------------
    Totals......................................................              84          94,460        38,164.4
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
http://www.fws.gov/fire/program_statistics/ (acres/hectares rounded).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Umtanum desert buckwheat appears to be intolerant of fire, and 
plants were easily killed. Even plants that were singed but not visibly 
charred appeared to be negatively affected, and many died the year 
following the fire. The fire did not stimulate vigorous new growth on 
established plants or sprouting from the plants' root crowns, which is 
sometimes observed with other species. In addition, there was no 
apparent flush of seedlings the following spring. Based on this lack of 
regeneration, or resprouting from burned plants, the species does not 
appear to be fire-tolerant (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 66). Due to the 
intensity of the fire in some areas, many plants were entirely consumed 
and no traces remained that could be definitively identified, which led 
researchers to believe that the total impact of the 1997 fire on the 
population was likely to have been considerably higher than the 813 
plants documented. The long-term impact of the fire to the population 
is unknown, but may be significant given the slow growth rates, minimal 
recruitment, and the increase in cheatgrass on the site following the 
fire. Cheatgrass plants tended to cluster with Umtanum desert buckwheat 
plants, likely increasing their flammability (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, 
pp. 62, 67). Mortality from the fire occurred primarily among plants 
growing where associated vegetation was more abundant, thereby 
providing fuel to carry the fire. After the fire, a reduction in native 
plant diversity and loss of shrub components were also observed in 
areas adjacent to the population. Based on the best available 
information, wildfire represents an ongoing threat to Umtanum desert 
buckwheat.
    Fire Suppression Activities: In addition to wildfire itself, fire 
suppression activities could present a threat to the species if they 
were to occur within the population, since this species appears to be 
highly sensitive to any physical damage (see discussion under off-road 
vehicles below). The Umtanum desert buckwheat population is located on 
a flat natural fire break of rocky soils above steep-slopes, where fire 
lines and firefighting equipment would tend to be concentrated 
(Whitehall 2012, pers. comm.; Newsome 2011, pers. comm.). Although fire 
suppression activities did not take place within the Umtanum desert 
buckwheat population in response to the 1997 fire, the surrounding area 
is at high risk of wildfire from human and natural (lightning) ignition 
sources. The Service's fire program statistics (see Table 2) indicate a 
recurrence of wildfire events within Monument lands, which would be 
anticipated to continue.
    The 2001 Hanford Reach Wildlife Fire Management Plan prescription 
for this area states that ``except on existing roads, the use of any 
equipment (including light engines) within \1/4\ mile of the escarpment 
edge of the Umtanum Ridge is prohibited because of surface instability 
and potential for sloughing at the escarpment. Protection of sensitive 
resources is an objective unless achieving this objective jeopardizes 
either firefighter or public safety''

[[Page 28710]]

(USFWS 2001, p. 36). Accordingly, if a wildfire were to occur in the 
surrounding area, protection of the Umtanum desert buckwheat population 
may not be possible if fire direction and firefighter/public safety 
considerations were to necessitate establishing fire lines or response 
equipment staging areas within or near the population. Although the 
need for wildfire suppression activities near or within the Umtanum 
desert buckwheat population is unpredictable, this activity is 
considered a potential threat to this species based on the Monument's 
wildfire history (see Table 2).
    Nonnative Plant Fuel Sources: Another potential consequence of fire 
and other disturbances that remove native plants from the shrub steppe 
communities of eastern Washington is the displacement of native 
vegetation by nonnative weedy species, particularly cheatgrass. As a 
result of the 1997 fire, a higher percent cover of weedy plant species, 
including cheatgrass, has become established within and around the 
Umtanum desert buckwheat population. Wildfire raises the percent cover 
of weedy species, thereby increasing the availability of ground fuels, 
which enhances the ability to carry wildfire across the landscape into 
previously fire-resistant cover types, including habitat for Umtanum 
desert buckwheat. Accordingly, nonnative weedy species represent an 
ongoing threat to the species.
    Off-road Vehicles and Hikers: There have been incidences of 
trespassing by off-road vehicles (ORVs) and hikers in the vicinity of 
and within the Umtanum desert buckwheat population (Caplow 2005, pers. 
comm.). The open cliff edge where the plants grow is an attractive 
place for human traffic because of the compact substrate, sparse 
vegetative cover, and the view overlooking the Columbia River. In 2004 
and 2005, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) reopened and 
improved a steep road on the top of the ridge from the substation on 
China Bar below. The road was then passable to 2-wheel drive vehicles 
and up until the summer of 2005, was inadequately fenced and gated to 
prevent trespass (Caplow, pers. com. 2005). The entire known population 
exists within a narrow corridor where human traffic could be expected 
to concentrate. Umtanum desert buckwheat plants are easily damaged by 
trampling or crushing by ORVs, appear to be less resilient following 
such damage, and are very slow to recover if capable of recovering at 
all. Within 2 days of being run over by trespassing dirt bikes, 
portions of damaged plants showed signs of further decline, and some of 
the damaged plants subsequently died (TNC 1998, p. 62).
    This threat appears to have been reduced since direct access to the 
site has been gradually fenced off over time, the site has been marked 
with prohibited entry signage, and consistent enforcement is taking 
place. Although unauthorized access is prohibited, there is a potential 
for trespass since an open road is located approximately 0.5 km (0.3 
mi) (slope distance) below the population through lands commonly used 
for recreation. However, a fence is present between the road and the 
Umtanum desert buckwheat population, which should further discourage 
ORV or hiker trespass incidents. Based on the available evidence, we 
have no substantive information that would indicate ORV or hiking 
activities represent ongoing threats to the species, provided current 
security and boundary integrity efforts are maintained. We will 
continue to monitor these activities as additional information becomes 
available.
    Livestock: There could be a potential threat of trampling to 
Umtanum desert buckwheat if livestock were to escape from a pasture 
area on China Bar, approximately 0.4 km (0.25 mi) (slope distance) 
below the population, although this has not been observed or documented 
to date. If it were to occur, it could impact the species by direct 
means such as crushing and mortality through grazing, and indirect 
means, including soil disturbance, compaction, and importation of 
invasive species by seed carried on the body or through feces. In 
addition, areas disturbed by livestock could increase bare soil areas, 
making them more suitable for the establishment of invasive plant 
species. This potential threat has been reduced under the terms of a 
Department of Energy (DOE) permit issued to the rancher that conducts 
the seasonal pasturing operations. The DOE permit restricts the 
seasonal movement of livestock between pastures by way of a paved road 
directly below the Umtanum desert buckwheat population (Hathaway 2001, 
pers. comm.). In addition, there is a fence between the paved road and 
the population. Based on the available evidence regarding permit 
requirements and boundary integrity, we have no substantive information 
indicating livestock trespass represents an ongoing threat to the 
species. However, we will continue to investigate this possibility as 
additional information becomes available.
    Prospecting: Prospecting by rock collectors was initially thought 
to be a potential threat to Umtanum desert buckwheat. Excavations up to 
1.5 m (5 ft) in diameter and 1.2 m (4 ft) deep occur throughout the 
area occupied by the species (Caplow 2005, pers. comm.), although their 
age is uncertain. Some may predate 1943, when the DOE acquired the land 
as part of the Hanford installation, and others may reflect more recent 
activity. Continuation of this activity could threaten a large portion 
of the Umtanum desert buckwheat population by trampling, uprooting, or 
burial of plants during these activities. Although prospecting could be 
a threat, it has not been observed since the species discovery in 1995, 
likely because of increased boundary integrity, improved fencing, 
restrictive signage, and enforcement. We have no information that would 
indicate there has been any recent prospecting or other unauthorized 
entry into the site. Therefore, based on the available evidence, we 
have no substantive information that would indicate prospecting 
activities represent an ongoing threat to the species. We will continue 
to investigate this possibility as additional information becomes 
available.
    Based on the information above, we find that specific activities 
discussed under Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range present a threat 
to Umtanum desert buckwheat and its habitat. These include wildfire, 
nonnative plant fuel sources, and potentially wildfire suppression 
activities. Trespassing by off-road vehicles, hikers, and mineral 
prospectors are not considered ongoing threats at this time, based on 
permit requirements, access restrictions, boundary fencing, signage, 
and enforcement actions that are in effect for the area where this 
population occurs.
B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes
    The regulations at 50 CFR 27.51 prohibit collecting any plant on 
any national wildlife refuge without a special use permit. Evidence of 
overutilization has not been documented since the discovery of Umtanum 
desert buckwheat in 1996. In order to maintain a secure source for seed 
and provide some assurance of maintaining the genome of Umtanum desert 
buckwheat over time, Berry Botanic Garden in Portland, Oregon, has 
collected and stored several seed accessions for the species. The 
facility currently has 401 seeds that were collected in 1997, and 1,108 
seeds collected in 2001 and 2002 from an unknown number of plants 
(Gibble 2011, pers. comm.). Based on a thorough

[[Page 28711]]

accounting of all activities on the site by researchers and DOE, there 
is no evidence that commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational use of this species is occurring at a level that would 
threaten the population. Based on our review of the best available 
scientific and commercial information, we find that overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes is not 
now a threat to Umtanum desert buckwheat or in any portion of its 
range, or likely to become a significant threat in the future.
C. Disease or Predation
    Evidence of disease has not been documented in Umtanum desert 
buckwheat; however, predation of seeds by ants and removal of flower 
heads by an unknown species has been observed by researchers during 
demographic monitoring trips.
    Researchers from The Nature Conservancy observed western harvester 
ants (Pogonomyrmex occidentalis), a common native species, gathering 
mature achenes (seeds) of Umtanum desert buckwheat plants and 
transporting them to their underground colonies (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, 
p. 66). Ants have also been observed discarding the inedible remains of 
achenes above ground, near the colony. Evidence of seed predation by 
ants was commonly observed by different researchers between 1999 and 
2004 in numerous locations, although it has not been observed on 
Umtanum desert buckwheat in recent years (Arnett 2011c, pers. comm.). 
The percentage of achenes consumed by ants and other insects, and the 
degree of impact this activity may be having on the available seed bank 
is unknown, although no Umtanum desert buckwheat seedlings have been 
observed successfully germinating or becoming established near ant 
colonies. Ant predation of seeds has been shown to be a significant 
factor in the viability of at least one other rare Eriogonum taxon 
(Eriogonum umbellatum var. torreyanum (sulfur flower buckwheat)) (TNC 
1998, p. 9).
    Because ants have been observed moving on and between flowers, they 
may also be contributing to the pollination of Umtanum desert 
buckwheat. Whether seed predation by ants is a significant threat to 
the species based on its current demographic status, or to what degree 
the threat is offset by potential benefits of pollination is unclear. 
During the 2011 census of Umtanum desert buckwheat, numerous flower 
heads that had been clipped off and were lying on top of or very near 
the plants were observed. The species responsible is unknown, although 
there was no evidence of mutilation or consumption of the flower 
structure (Arnett 2011c, pers. comm.). As stated earlier, no Umtanum 
desert buckwheat seedlings have been observed successfully germinating 
or becoming established near ant colonies. Because seed predation and 
the removal of flowering structures could significantly reduce the 
reproductive potential of the species, which is already in gradual 
decline based on the results of the PVA, we consider these activities 
to be ongoing threats to Umtanum desert buckwheat. We are unaware of 
any other disease or predation interactions that represent potential 
threats to this species.
D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    Umtanum desert buckwheat is designated as endangered under the 
State of Washington's list of endangered, threatened, and sensitive 
vascular plants (WDNR 2011a, p. 5). The State of Washington's 
endangered, threatened, and sensitive plant program is administered 
through the Washington Natural Heritage Program (WNHP), which was 
created to provide an objective basis for establishing priorities for a 
broad array of conservation actions (WDNR 2011b, p. 2). Prioritizing 
ecosystems and species for conservation offers a means to evaluate 
proposed natural areas and other conservation activities (WDNR 2011b, 
p. 3). The WNHP is a participant in the Arid Lands Initiative, which is 
a public/private partnership attempting to develop strategies to 
conserve the species and ecosystems found within Washington's arid 
landscape. The WNHP assists in identifying conservation targets, major 
threats and potential strategies to address them (WDNR 2011b, p. 4). 
The DOE does not have a rare plant policy that provides specific 
protection for the species, and presently retains management 
responsibility for the lands where Umtanum desert buckwheat occurs. 
Once contaminant issues are resolved in this area, management 
responsibility will be conveyed to the Service, as a part of the 
Hanford Reach National Monument.
    Agricultural development and livestock grazing reduced the light 
fuels that would normally carry a fire, and allowed nonnative invasive 
species like cheatgrass to increase (USFWS 2008, p. 3-15). The 
establishment of highly flammable cheatgrass within the Umtanum desert 
buckwheat population increases competition for space and moisture, and 
the likelihood that a wildfire could negatively impact the species. As 
fires become larger, the opportunity for seed dispersal is also 
increased as nonnative species invade burned areas. Nonnative species 
like cheatgrass can be dispersed in several ways, including long-
distance dispersal facilitated by humans and animals. The barbed 
florets are ideally adapted to being picked up by clothing, feathers, 
and fur. Seeds can also be dispersed by machinery or vehicles. Animals 
may carry cheatgrass seed in their feces and hooves, and seed-caching 
rodents and harvester ants can disperse seeds intermediate distances 
through caching activity. Cropland, particularly fields of winter wheat 
and dryland hay, may also be potential seed sources to nearby natural 
areas and rangelands, as cheatgrass is a common weed in these crops 
(http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/graminoid/brotec/all.html). 
The threat of nonnative invasive species does not appear to lend itself 
to abatement through regulatory mechanisms, because of the many ways 
for cheatgrass and other nonnative species to become established in an 
area. Accordingly, we do not believe nonnative species represent a 
threat that is susceptible to elimination by regulatory mechanisms.
    The Hanford Fire Department maintains four fire stations on the 
Hanford Reservation (USFWS 2001, Appendix D, p. 74). The Service and 
the Hanford Fire Department have entered into a cooperative agreement 
under which either organization can provide firefighting support (USFWS 
2001, Appendix D, p. 75) on lands under the jurisdiction or 
responsibility of the other party (DOE 2011, p. 84). The concept of 
closest forces is the guiding principle of initial attack suppression. 
This agreement does not provide specific conservation measures for the 
protection of Umtanum desert buckwheat, but does acknowledge the 
presence of plants unique to the site. The objective for this area 
states that ``except on existing roads, the use of any equipment 
(including light engines) within \1/4\ mile of the escarpment edge of 
the Umtanum Ridge is prohibited because of surface instability and 
potential for sloughing at the escarpment. Protection of sensitive 
resources is an objective unless achieving this objective jeopardizes 
either firefighter or public safety'' (USFWS 2001, p. 36).
    Numerous wildland fires occur annually on lands in and surrounding 
the Hanford Reach National Monument/Saddle Mountain National Wildlife 
Refuge. Many are human-caused resulting from vehicle ignitions from 
roads and highways, unattended

[[Page 28712]]

campfires, burning of adjacent agricultural lands and irrigation 
ditches, and arson. Fires of natural origin (lightning caused) also 
occur on lands within and adjacent to the monument/refuge (USFWS 2001, 
p. 171). Since wildfires are unpredictable with regard to their 
location and severity, a fire management plan is necessarily designed 
to be a response, rather than a regulatory activity.
    All collecting is prohibited on the Monument, including antlers, 
bones, rocks, artifacts, and plant life. Regulations also prohibit 
fires on Monument lands (Hanford Reach National Monument Hunting 
Regulations, 2011). The Revised Hanford Site 2011 Wildland Fire 
Management Plan (DOE 2011, p. 176) addresses Umtanum desert buckwheat 
briefly in a specific accounting of sensitive resources located on the 
site. The plan states that ``due to the sensitive nature of the biology 
of the Hanford Site, an on-call Mission Support Alliance biologist will 
be requested to assist the command staff in protecting the environment 
during suppression efforts.'' This requirement does not remove the 
wildfire threat to the species, but may make a negative incident less 
probable.
    The 1997 wildfire initiated by the U.S. Army Yakima Training Center 
fire resulted in mortality to 10-20 percent of the population (see 
Factor A and Table 2). The threat of wildfire originating on the nearby 
U.S. Army Yakima Training Center and spreading to the Umtanum desert 
buckwheat site remains, as does the potential for ignition to occur 
along the BPA transmission line corridor, which crosses the population. 
Fire could also originate below the Umtanum desert buckwheat site on 
China Bar and rapidly burn upslope, since this area is commonly used by 
recreationists. The Hanford Reach National Monument Comprehensive 
Conservation Plan acknowledges that wildland fire will be suppressed 
when possible, suppression techniques will be designed to minimize 
surface disturbance in the vicinity of sensitive resources, and fire 
control policies will be implemented to reduce the risk of human-caused 
wildland fire (USFWS 2008, p. 4-8). However, based on the recent 
wildfire history and acreage affected (see Table 2), fire planning 
documents are not able to address all possible scenarios. In addition, 
numerous agencies must coordinate firefighting on this landscape, 
ignitions from recreationists remain a risk, and timely and effective 
initial firefighting responses may be difficult. For example, before it 
was contained, the 24 Command Wildfire (discussed in Factor A above) 
charred nearly 66,256 ha (164,000 ac) of land both on and off the 
Hanford site, even though the Hanford Fire Department arrived on scene 
approximately 20 minutes after the incident was reported. At that time 
the fire was approximately 4 ha (10 ac) in size (DOE 2000, pp. ES-2-ES-
3).
    Although the WNHP and Monument CCP are important tools for 
identifying conservation actions that would benefit Umtanum desert 
buckwheat, these programs do not appear to have been designed to 
function as regulatory mechanisms that would eliminate threats to the 
species. In addition, a fire management plan is necessarily designed to 
be a response, rather than prescriptive strategy, since wildfires are 
unpredictable with regard to their location and severity. Accordingly, 
the impact of wildfire to Umtanum desert buckwheat is not a threat that 
can be eliminated by regulatory mechanisms, because of the many 
potential ignition scenarios on the lands within and surrounding the 
area where the species occurs. Therefore, based on our review of the 
best available scientific and commercial information, we do not 
consider the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms to be an 
ongoing threat to White Bluff's bladderpod.
E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence
    Umtanum desert buckwheat has a small population size and 
distribution, and suffers from low recruitment (Kaye 2007, p. 3; Caplow 
2005, p. 3). These features make it particularly susceptible to 
potentially changing climate conditions. For instance, regional climate 
change models indicate a rise in hotter and drier conditions, which may 
increase stress on individuals as well as increase wildfire frequency 
and intensity.
    Population structure: The typical size distribution of perennial 
plants consists of more individuals in smaller and presumably younger 
size-classes, than in larger or older ones. However, Umtanum desert 
buckwheat has fewer plants in smaller size-classes than in larger ones. 
The only known population of this species is dominated by mature plants 
with little successful establishment of seedlings. The majority of 
individual plants have a strong tendency to remain in the same size 
class, and presumably age class, from 1 year to the next. In addition, 
adult mortality averages 2 percent annually (Kaye 2007, p. 3). Between 
1997 and 2006, only five to six seedlings in all demographic monitoring 
plots were observed to survive longer than 1 year, and in 2005, which 
was preceded by a dry winter, no germination was observed (Caplow 2005, 
p. 3).
    The lack of establishment and survival of seedlings is a threat, as 
few plants are becoming established as replacements for plants that 
die. Several factors may be responsible, such as exposure of young 
plants to high winds and temperatures and very low spring and summer 
precipitation. Other possible factors include low seed production, low 
seed or pollen viability, low seedling vigor and survival, impacts to 
plant pollinators or dispersal mechanisms, and flowering structure 
removal/insect predation of seeds (as described under Factor C). There 
has been some success in germinating and growing Umtanum desert 
buckwheat in containers, which may indicate that the failure to 
establish seedlings in the wild may not be due to low fertility, but 
may be related to conditions necessary for survival after germination 
(Arnett 2011c, pers. comm.). Long-term monitoring and research may 
determine the cause of the population's skewed size distribution. A 
seed bank study has shown that viability of buried seed decreases 
dramatically after the first year, suggesting a very small and short-
lived seed bank for Umtanum desert buckwheat (Caplow 2005, p. 6).
    Considered in total, these factors likely combine effects to create 
negative recruitment for Umtanum desert buckwheat. This theory is 
supported by the findings of Kaye (2007, p. 5), that the population 
appears to be in a gradual decline of approximately \2/3\ of 1 percent 
per year. Negative recruitment due to the factors described above 
combined with a small population size present a significant threat to 
the species.
    Climate change: Our analyses under the Endangered Species Act 
include consideration of ongoing and projected changes in climate. The 
terms ``climate'' and ``climate change'' are defined by the 
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). ``Climate'' refers to 
the mean and variability of different types of weather conditions over 
time, with 30 years being a typical period for such measurements, 
although shorter or longer periods also may be used (IPCC 2007, p. 78). 
The term ``climate change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or 
variability of one or more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or 
precipitation) that persists for an extended period, typically decades 
or longer, whether the change is due to natural variability, human 
activity, or both (IPCC 2007, p. 78).
    Various types of changes in climate can have direct or indirect 
effects on

[[Page 28713]]

species. These effects may be positive, neutral, or negative and they 
may change over time, depending on the species and other relevant 
considerations, such as the effects of interactions of climate with 
other variables (e.g., habitat fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, pp. 8-14, 18-
19). In our analyses, we use our expert judgment to weigh relevant 
information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of various 
aspects of climate change. The potential impacts of a changing global 
climate to Umtanum desert buckwheat are presently unclear. All regional 
models of climate change indicate that future climate in the Pacific 
Northwest will be warmer than the past, and, together, they suggest 
that rates of warming will be greater in the 21st century than those 
observed in the 20th century. Projected changes in annual 
precipitation, averaged over all models, are small (+1 to +2 percent), 
but some models project an enhanced seasonal precipitation cycle with 
changes toward wetter autumns and winters and drier summers (Littell, 
et al. 2009a, p. 1).
    At a regional scale, two different temperature prediction models 
are presented in Stockle et al. (2009, p. 199) yet show similar 
results. Outputs from both models predict increases in mean annual 
temperature for eastern Washington State. Specifically, the Community 
Climate System Model General Circulation Model projects temperature 
increase as 1.4, 2.3 and 3.2 [deg]C (2.5, 4.1, and 5.8 [deg]F) at Lind, 
Washington, which is 64 km (40 mi) northeast of the Umtanum desert 
buckwheat population; approximately 1.7, 2.7, and 3.5 [deg]C (3.1, 4.9, 
and 6.3 [deg]F) at Pullman, Washington, which is 169 km (105 mi) east 
of the population; and Sunnyside, Washington, which is 50 km (31 mi) 
southwest of the population, for the 2020, 2040 and 2080 modeling 
scenarios, respectively. For the Parallel Climate Model effort, the 
temperature change is expected to be 0.8, 1.7, and 2.6 [deg]C (1.4, 
3.1, and 4.7 [deg]F) at Lind, Washington; 1.1, 2.0, and 2.9 [deg]C 
(2.0, 3.6, and 5.2 [deg]F) at Pullman, Washington; and 1.3, 2.2, and 3 
[deg]C (2.3, 4.0, and 5.5 [deg]F) at Sunnyside, Washington, in the 
2020, 2040, and 2080 scenarios, respectively.
    The projected warming trend will increase the length of the frost-
free period throughout the State, increasing the available growing 
season for plants, which will continue to be limited in eastern 
Washington by water availability, and likely by extreme heat events in 
some instances. This will continue the trend observed from 1948 to 
2002, during which the frost-free period has lengthened by 29 days in 
the Columbia Valley (Jones, 2005 in Stockle et al. 2009, p. 199). Weeds 
and insects will adapt to the longer season with more favorable 
conditions (Stockle et al. 2009, p. 200).
    Given the importance of water availability to plants, precipitation 
change needs to be included in predictions of climate change effects on 
invasive plants (Bradley 2009, p. 197). Regional climate models suggest 
that some local changes in temperature and precipitation may be quite 
different than average regional changes projected by the global models 
(Littell et al. 2009a, p. 6). Precipitation uncertainties are 
particularly problematic in the western United States, where complex 
topography coupled with the difficulty of modeling El Ni[ntilde]o 
result in highly variable climate projections (Bradley 2009, p. 197). 
Cheatgrass, an invasive species, competes with native species by 
growing early in the spring season and using available water resources. 
It senesces in late spring, sets seed, and remains dormant through the 
summer (Rice et al., 1992; Peterson, 2005; in Bradley 2009, p. 197; 
Bradley 2009, pp. 204-205). If summer precipitation were to increase, 
native perennial shrubs and grasses could be more competitive because 
they would be able to use water resources while cheatgrass is dormant 
(Loik, 2007 in Bradley 2009, pp. 204-205).
    Littell et al. (2009b, p. 270) were successful in developing 
statistical models of the area burned by wildfire for six regions in 
Washington for the period 1980 to 2006. Future projections from these 
six models project mean-area-burned increases of between 0 and 600 
percent, depending on the ecosystem in question, the sensitivity of the 
fire model, emissions scenario and the timeframe of the projection. By 
the 2040s, the area burned in nonforested ecosystems (Columbia Basin 
and Palouse Prairie) increased on average by a factor of 2.2. Notably, 
the increase in area burned is accompanied by an increase in 
variability in some of the more arid systems, such as the Palouse 
Prairie and Columbia Basin (Littell et al. 2009b, p. 270).
    We do not know what the future holds with regard to climate change, 
however, this species has a very limited distribution, small population 
size, and low recruitment. Despite the lack of site-specific data, 
increased average temperatures and reduced average rainfall may further 
influence the current decline of the species and result in a loss of 
habitat. Hotter and drier summer conditions may also increase the 
frequency and intensity of fires in the area, as cheatgrass and other 
invasive plants would become better competitors for resources than 
Umtanum desert buckwheat. Alternatively, warmer and wetter winter 
conditions could potentially benefit the species by extending the 
growing season and providing additional moisture to the soil in the 
spring. However, if the frequency, intensity, and timing of the 
predicted changes in climate for eastern Washington are not aligned 
with the phenology of Umtanum desert buckwheat, the survival and 
reproduction of the species could be threatened over time. Accordingly, 
although climate change represents a potential ongoing threat based on 
the best available information, more thorough investigations are needed 
to better understand the potential impacts of climate change to this 
species.

Proposed Determination

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
to Umtanum desert buckwheat (see Table 3). The 1997 fire that escaped 
from the Yakima Training Center killed 813 plants, or approximately 10-
20 percent of the population (Dunwiddie et al., 2001, pp. 61-62). The 
Revised Hanford Site 2011 Wildland Fire Management Plan (DOE 2011) 
acknowledges the sensitive nature of the biology of the Hanford Site, 
and provides for environmental protection during fire suppression 
activities. This plan may reduce the likelihood of a wildfire event 
within or near the population, but cannot remove the threat completely 
since wildfire locations, severity, and response needs are 
unpredictable. The 2007 unpublished draft Population Viability Analysis 
(PVA) estimated a 72 percent chance of a decline of 50 percent of the 
population within the next 100 years (Kaye 2007, p. 5). The PVA, which 
incorporated observed environmental variability, determined the Umtanum 
desert buckwheat population was in very gradual decline. The decline is 
very close to stable, but still suggests an annual decline of about \2/
3\ of one percent, which will take several decades to accumulate 
significant impacts (Kaye 2007, p. 5). The steady decline observed 
through demographic monitoring of numbers and recruitment since 1997 
may be directly attributable to several of the known threats, although 
some have been reduced because of increased boundary integrity and 
access control. Because the population is small, limited to a single 
site, at risk of invasive species, and sensitive to fire and 
disturbance in a high fire-risk location,

[[Page 28714]]

the species remains vulnerable to the threats summarized in Table 3.

                  Table 3--Summary of Threat Factors Under the ESA to Umtanum Desert Buckwheat
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Factor                  Threat                 Imminence *           Magnitude *           Severity *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A.................  Wildfire..................  Confirmed...........  High................  High.
                    Fire suppression            Possible **.........  Unknown.............  Unknown.
                     activities.
                    Harm by recreational        Possible but          Low.................  Low.
                     activities and/or ORV use.  unlikely. ***
                    Direct harm and habitat     Possible but          Low.................  Low.
                     modification by livestock.  unlikely. ***
                    Mineral prospecting.......  Possible but          Low.................  Low.
                                                 unlikely. ***
                    Competition, fuels load     Confirmed...........  High................  High.
                     from nonnative plants.
C.................  Seed predation............  Confirmed...........  Unknown.............  Unknown.
                    Flower predation..........  Confirmed...........  Unknown.............  Unknown.
E.................  Small population size.....  Confirmed...........  Moderate............  Moderate.
                    Limited geographic range..  Confirmed...........  Moderate............  Moderate.
                    Low recruitment...........  Confirmed...........  Moderate............  Moderate.
                    Climate change............  Possible............  Unknown.............  Unknown.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Imminence: The likelihood of the threat currently affecting the species.
Magnitude: The extent of species numbers or habitat affected by the threat.
Severity: The intensity of effect by the threat on the species or habitat.
** If avoidance is not possible due to fire direction or safety needs.
*** Based on ongoing restricted access, fencing, and enforcement.

    As described above, Umtanum desert buckwheat is currently at risk 
throughout all of its range due to ongoing threats of habitat 
destruction and modification (Factor A), predation (Factor C), and 
other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence 
(Factor E). Specifically, these factors include the existing 
degradation or fragmentation of habitat resulting from wildfire, 
nonnative invasive vegetation that provides fuel for wildfires, 
predation of seed and flower structures, and potentially changing 
environmental conditions resulting from global climate change (although 
its magnitude and intensity are uncertain). Wildfire suppression 
activities could also threaten the species if they were to occur within 
the population, since this species appears to be highly sensitive to 
any physical damage. However, whether this potential threat would 
actually occur is unknown, given the unpredictable nature of wildfire 
events. Impacts to Umtanum desert buckwheat from livestock moving 
through the population, off-road vehicle use, hikers, and prospecting 
are conceivable, but unlikely, provided DOE livestock movement permit 
conditions are complied with, access to the site is effectively 
controlled, boundary integrity is monitored and maintained, and 
enforcement actions are taken as needed, each of which is presently 
occurring.
    The area where Umtanum desert buckwheat is found is at high risk of 
frequent fire and is fully exposed to the elements. The population is 
extremely small, isolated, and in slow but steady decline, 
notwithstanding the somewhat higher count in the 2011 population census 
(which may be attributable to the way individual plants were counted as 
described earlier). These population demographics make the species 
particularly susceptible to extinction due to threats described in this 
proposal. The magnitude of the wildfire threat is high; other threats 
are moderate to low in magnitude. Because of the limited range of 
Umtanum desert buckwheat, any one of the threats may threaten its 
continued existence at any time. Since these threats are ongoing, they 
are also imminent.
    The Act defines an endangered species as any species that is ``in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range'' and a threatened species as any species ``that is likely to 
become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range 
within the foreseeable future.'' Since Umtanum desert buckwheat is 
highly restricted in its range and the threats occur uniformly 
throughout its range, we assessed the status of the species throughout 
its entire range. The threats to the survival of the species occur 
throughout the species' range and are not restricted to any particular 
significant portion of that range, and the number of individuals in the 
single population is very small and declining. Some threats are more 
severe than others, but the population is being affected by small 
population size, limited range, low recruitment, invasive cheatgrass 
presence that can fuel wildfire, wildfire (Table 2), seed predation, 
and flower predation.
    Our assessment and proposed determination applies to the species 
throughout its entire range. In this regard, we find that Umtanum 
desert buckwheat is likely to become in danger of extinction throughout 
its entire range, based on the immediacy, severity, and scope of the 
threats described above (see Table 3). The Hanford Reach National 
Monument Comprehensive Conservation Plan was developed to protect and 
conserve the biological, geological, paleontological, and cultural 
resources described in the Monument Proclamation by creating and 
maintaining extensive areas within the Monument free of facility 
development (USFWS 2008, p. v). Several management objectives are 
identified that could benefit the Umtanum desert buckwheat population; 
these include treating invasive species and restoring upland habitat 
(USFWS 2008, pp. 19-22).
    As stated earlier, the population is in a very gradual decline, 
which will take several decades to accumulate significant impacts (Kaye 
2007, p. 5). Given the fact that (1) the population is in a very 
gradual decline; (2) the management objectives of the CCP will be 
beneficial to the species; (3) access is prohibited without special 
authorization from the DOE; (4) security fencing surrounds the 
population; (4) entry prohibited signs are in place; and (5) boundary 
enforcement is ongoing, the species is not presently in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. 
Therefore, on the basis of the best available scientific and commercial 
information, we propose listing Umtanum desert buckwheat as threatened 
in accordance with sections 3(6) and 4(a)(1) of the Act.

[[Page 28715]]

Species Information

White Bluffs Bladderpod
    White Bluffs bladderpod is a low-growing, herbaceous, perennial 
plant with a sturdy tap root and a dense rosette of broad gray-green 
pubescent (having any kind of hairs) leaves (WDNR 2010). The species 
produces showy yellow flowers on relatively short stems in May, June, 
and July. The species inhabits dry, steep upper zone and top exposures 
of the White Bluffs area of the Hanford Reach at the lower edge of the 
Wahluke Slope. Along these bluffs, a layer of highly alkaline, 
fossilized cemented calcium carbonate (caliche) soil has been exposed 
(Rollins et al. 1996, pp. 203-205). A detailed description of the 
identifying physical characteristics of White Bluffs bladderpod is in 
Rollins et al. (1996, pp. 203-205) and Al-Shehbaz and O'Kane (2002, pp. 
319-320). White Bluffs bladderpod is State-listed as Threatened, with a 
G2 (i.e., imperiled world-wide, vulnerable to extinction) global 
ranking and an S2 (i.e., vulnerable to extirpation) State ranking (WDNR 
2011).
Taxonomy
    Although specimens of this taxon were originally collected from a 
population in 1883, the plant material was in poor condition, no 
definitive identification could be made, and the plant was not 
recognized as a species at that time. The population was rediscovered 
in 1994, and was described and published as a species, Lesquerella 
tuplashensis, by Rollins et al. (1996, pp. 319-322). A petition 
requesting that L. tuplashensis be listed as threatened under the Act 
stated that its status as a valid species is uncontroversial (Center 
for Biological Diversity et al. [CBD] 2004, pp. 49,100). However, the 
nomenclature and taxonomy of the species has been investigated.
    In a general paper on the taxonomy of Physaria and Lesquerella, 
O'Kane and Al-Shehbaz (2002, p. 321) combined the genera Lesquerella 
and Physaria and reduced the species Lesquerella tuplashensis to 
Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis (O'Kane and Al-Shehbaz (2002, p. 
322)), providing strong molecular, morphological, distributional, and 
ecological data to support the union of the two genera.
    Rollins and Shaw (1973, entire), took a wide view of the degree of 
differentiation between species and subspecies (or varieties) of 
Lesquerella, although many species of Lesquerella are differentiated by 
only one or two stable characters. The research of Rollins et al. 
(1996, pp. 205-206) recognized that, although L. tuplashensis and L. 
douglasii were quite similar, they differed sufficiently in morphology 
and phenological traits to warrant recognition as two distinct species. 
Simmons (2000, p. 75) suggested in a Ph.D. thesis that L. tuplashensis 
may be an ecotype of the more common L. douglasii. Caplow et al. (2006, 
pp. 8-10) later argued that L. tuplashensis was sufficiently different 
from douglasii to warrant a species rank because it: (1) Was 
morphologically distinct, differed in stipe (a supporting stalk or 
stem-like structure) length and length-to-width ratio of stem leaves, 
and had statistically significant differences in all other measured 
characters; (2) was reproductively isolated from L. douglasii by non-
overlapping habitat and differences in phenology for virtually all L. 
tuplashensis plants; and (3) had clear differences in the ecological 
niche between the two taxa (Caplow et al. 2006, pp. 8-10).
    Based on molecular, morphological, phenological, reproductive, and 
ecological data, the conclusions in Al-Shehbaz and O'Kane (2002, p. 
322) and Caplow et al. (2006, pp. 8-10) combining the genera 
Lesquerella and Physaria and reducing the species Lesquerella 
tuplashensis to Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis, provide the 
most consistent and compelling information available to date. 
Therefore, we will consider it a subspecies of the genus Physaria, with 
the scientific name Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis.
Habitat/Life History
    The only known population of White Bluffs bladderpod is found 
primarily on near-vertical exposures of weathered, cemented, alkaline, 
calcium carbonate paleosol (ancient, buried soil whose composition may 
reflect a climate significantly different from the climate now 
prevalent in the area) (http://www.alcwin.org/Dictionary_Of_Geology_Description-84-P.htm). The hardened carbonate paleosol caps several 
hundred feet of alkaline, easily eroded, lacustrine sediments of the 
Ringold Formation, a sedimentary formation made up of soft Pliocene 
lacustrine deposits of clay, sand, and silt (Newcomb 1958, p. 330). The 
uppermost part of the Ringold Formation is a heavily calcified and 
silicified cap layer to a depth of at least 4.6 m (15 ft). This layer 
is commonly called ``caliche'' although in this case, it lacks the 
nitrate constituents found in true caliche. The ``caliche'' layer is a 
resistant caprock underlying the approximately 274-304 m (900-1,000 ft) 
elevation (above sea level) plateau extending north and east from the 
White Bluffs (Newcomb 1958, p. 330). This species may be an obligate 
calciphile, as are many of the endemic Lesquerella (now Physaria) 
(Caplow 2006, pp. 2-12). The habitat of White Bluffs bladderpod is 
arid, and vegetative cover is sparse (Rollins et al. 1996, p. 206).
    Common associated plant species include: Artemisia tridentata (big 
sagebrush), Poa sandbergii (Sandberg's bluegrass), Bromus tectorum 
(cheatgrass), Astragalus carieinus (buckwheat milk-vetch), Eriogonum 
microthecum (slender buckwheat), Oryzopsis hymenoides (Indian 
ricegrass), and Cryptantha spiculifera (Snake River cryptantha). 
Occasionally White Bluffs bladderpod is numerous enough at some 
locations to be subdominant.
    Because of its recent discovery and limited range, little is known 
of the species' life-history requirements. In a presentation of 
preliminary life-history studies, Dunwiddie et al. (2002, p. 7) 
reported that most individuals reach reproductive condition in their 
first or second year, most adult plants flower every year, and the 
lifespan of the species is probably 4 to 5 years. The population size 
appears to vary from year to year (see Table 4), and the survival of 
seedlings and adults appears to be highly variable (Dunwiddie et al. 
2002, p. 8), however, more monitoring is needed to determine the 
magnitude and frequency of high- and low-number years, as well as to 
obtain an understanding of the causes of these annual fluctuations 
(Evans et al. 2003, p. 64). Monitoring by Monument staff (Newsome 2011, 
p. 5) suggests the annual population fluctuations are presumably tied 
to environmental conditions, such as seasonal precipitation and 
temperature.
Historical Range/Distribution
    In 1996, White Bluffs bladderpod was only known from a single 
population that occurred along the upper edge of the White Bluffs of 
the Columbia River in Franklin County, Washington. The population was 
described to occur intermittently in a narrow band (usually less than 
10 m (33 ft) wide) along an approximately 17-km (10.6-mi) stretch of 
the river bluffs (Rollins et al. 1996, p. 205).
Current Range/Distribution
    White Bluffs bladderpod is still known only from the single 
population that occurs along the upper edge of the White Bluffs of the 
Columbia River, Franklin County, Washington, although the full extent 
of the species' occurrence has now been described. Most of the species 
distribution (85 percent) is within lands owned by the DOE and

[[Page 28716]]

once managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as the 
Wahluke Wildlife Area (USFWS 200, p. 1-3). This land remains under DOE 
ownership, and is managed by the Monument. The remainder of the 
species' distribution is on private land (Newsome 2011, pers. comm.).

     Table 4--Estimated * Population Size of White Bluffs Bladderpod
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            10-Transect     20-Transect
                  Year                        sample          sample
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1997....................................          14,034  ..............
1998....................................          31,013          32,603
1999....................................          20,354          21,699
2002....................................          11,884          12,038
2007....................................          29,334          28,618
2008....................................          16,928          18,400
2009....................................          16,569          20,028
2010....................................           9,650           9,949
2011....................................          47,593          58,887
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Mean number of plants per transect x total number of transects along
  permanent 100-m (328-ft) monitoring transects (from Newsome 2011, p.
  3). An additional 20-transect sample was added to monitoring after
  1997 to increase statistical confidence.

Population Estimates/Status
    The size of the population varies considerably between years. 
Censuses in the late 1990s estimated more than 50,000 flowering plants 
in high population years (Evans et al. 2003, p. 3-2) (see Table 4). 
Since 1997 to 1998 when the monitoring transects currently used were 
selected, the population has ranged between an estimated low of 9,650 
plants in 2010 and an estimated high of 58,887 plants in 2011 (see 
Table 4). Following the monitoring period in 2007, a large wildfire 
burned through the northern portion of the population within the 
monitoring transects. Annual monitoring was conducted through 2011 to 
attempt to determine the effects of fire on White Bluffs bladderpod. 
The monitoring results indicated that when burned and unburned 
transects were compared, plants in burned transects appear to have 
rebounded to some extent. However, the burned transects appeared to 
have a mean of 24 percent fewer plants than in the unburned transects.
    The high variability in estimated population numbers was confirmed 
by the 2011 data, which documented the highest population estimate 
since monitoring began in 1997, even though it immediately followed the 
year representing the lowest estimate (2010). May 2011 was identified 
by the Hanford Meteorological Station (http://www.hanford.gov/page.cfm/HMS) as the fifth coolest and seventh wettest month of May recorded on 
the installation since its establishment in 1944 (Newsome 2011, p. 2). 
This environment likely provided ideal conditions for germination, 
growth, and flowering for this year's population following a rather 
moist fall and mild winter season (Autumn 2010 precipitation was 4.6 cm 
(21.8 inches) above average: Winter 2011 precipitation was 0.6 cm (0.24 
inches) below average (http://www.hanford.gov/page.cfm/hms/products/seaprcp).

Summary of Factors: White Bluffs bladderpod

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    Caplow and Beck (1996, p. 42) and others state that the threats to 
White Bluffs bladderpod and its habitat are primarily landslides caused 
by subsurface water seepage, invasive species, and ORV use (TNC 1998, 
p. 5; Evans et al. 2003, p. 67, Newsome 2007, p. 4). Of these threats, 
landslides and invasive species competition is of primary concern 
(Caplow and Beck 1996, p. 42; Newsome 2007, p. 4). Below is a detailed 
discussion of these threats and their potential effects on survival and 
recovery of the species.
    Landslides: Groundwater movement from adjacent, up-slope 
agricultural activities has caused mass-failure landslides in portions 
of the White Bluffs. As a result, the habitat in approximately 6.0 km 
(3.7 mi), or about 35 percent of the known range of White Bluffs 
bladderpod has been moderately to severely altered (Brown 1990, pp. 4, 
39; Cannon 2005, p. 4.25; Caplow et al. 1996, p. 65; Drost et al. 1997, 
pp. 48, 96; Lindsey et al. 1997, pp. 4, 10, 11, 12, 14; U.S. Congress 
(H.R. 1031), 1999, p. 2; USFWS 1996, p. 1). White Bluffs bladderpod 
plants have not been observed in areas that have undergone recent 
landslides, regardless of whether the landslide disturbance is moderate 
or severe. They have not been observed to survive small slumping 
events, possibly because the mixed soils downslope post-event no longer 
have the soil horizon that White Bluffs bladderpod plants seem to 
require. Additionally, these slumped soils are typically more saturated 
because they end up below the groundwater seep zone. In the arid 
environment, White Bluffs bladderpod appears to be unable to 
successfully compete with the host of weedy and invasive drought-
intolerant species in the seed bank. Where natural weathering has 
eroded occupied habitat, White Bluffs bladderpod plants have been 
observed to occasionally become established on the more gentle slopes. 
In very large events of rotational slumping or landslides, parts of the 
original surface horizon may remain somewhat undisturbed on the crest 
of the slumped block, preserving White Bluffs bladderpod plants, at 
least for the short term (Caplow et al. 1996, p. 42). All mass-failures 
occurring along the White Bluffs, with one historical exception, are 
found in association with water seepage (Bjornstad and Fecht 2002, p. 
16).
    In the 1960s, the Washington State Department of Game (currently 
known as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) constructed 
artificial wetlands using irrigation water delivered to unlined 
wastewater ponds and canals in the vicinity of the White Bluffs for 
wildlife enhancement (Bjornstad 2006, p. 1). Water entered a 
preferential pathway for movement along a buried paleochannel, which 
connected the artificial wetlands with the White Bluffs escarpment near 
Locke Island only 4.8 km (3 mi) to the southwest. Water percolating 
from artificial wetlands moved quickly down through highly transmissive 
flood deposits, and then encountered the low-permeability soils of the 
Ringold Formation. The water then flowed laterally along the 
impermeable layer, and discharged through springs along the White 
Bluffs. Where they were wet, the unstable Ringold Formation sediments 
have slumped and slid along the steep White Bluffs escarpment 
(Bjornstad and Fecht 2002, p. 14). Although water flow to the pond has 
been halted due to concerns about landslides and the artificial 
wetlands no longer exist, water continues to seep out along the bluffs, 
apparently due to the large volume that accumulated in the underlying 
sediments over years of infiltration (Bjornstad and Fecht 2002, p. 15).
    The erosional processes at work in the northern White Bluffs 
vicinity are somewhat different than those of the southern White Bluffs 
area, where White Bluffs bladderpod occurs. A record of slumping exists 
along the White Bluffs, beginning with periodic high-recharge, Ice Age 
flood events. Since the Pleistocene Epoch, landsliding on the southern 
bluffs where White Bluffs bladderpod is found was dormant until the 
1970s, when increased infiltration of moisture from agricultural 
activities caused a resurgence of slumping (Bjornstad and Peterson 
2009b; Cannon et al. 2005, p. 4.25; Bjornstad and Fecht 2002, p. 17; 
Drost et al. 1997, p. 76; Brown 1990, pp. 4, 38, 39). Excess irrigation 
water percolates downward before moving laterally upon lower-
permeability Ringold strata. Spring water that

[[Page 28717]]

discharges in the vicinity of the bluff face greatly reduces internal 
soil strength, and leads to slope failure. Heads of landslides 
characteristically consist of back-rotated slump blocks that transition 
to debris flows downslope, and the toes of fluidized debris flows often 
fan out into the Columbia River. Landslides and their damaging effects 
will likely continue until water that is currently being introduced 
subsurface through unlined irrigation canals, ponds, and over-
irrigation is significantly reduced or eliminated (Bjornstad and 
Peterson 2009b).
    The entire population of White Bluffs bladderpod is down-slope of 
irrigated agricultural land and is at risk of landslides induced by 
water-seepage. The threat is greater in the southern portion of the 
species' distribution where irrigated agriculture is closest in 
proximity, and in several locations directly adjacent to the bluffs 
(Bjornstad et al., 2009a, p. 8; Lindsey 1997, p. 12). Wetted soils 
visible on the cliff faces directly below the private lands indicate 
that irrigation of the fields above is affecting the bluff. Irrigation 
water moves a considerable distance laterally across some of the more 
impermeable beds of the Ringold Formation, as described earlier, and 
also percolates downward. As the water increases the pore pressure 
between sediment grains, it reduces the soil material strength. At the 
steep bluff face, the loss of material strength results in slope 
failure and formation of landslides (Bjornstad and Fecht 2002, p. 17), 
which permanently destroy White Bluffs bladderpod habitat. The areas 
subject to mass-failure landslides are somewhat predictable, and appear 
as horizontal wetted zones in the cliff face. This threat is imminent 
and ongoing, potentially affecting most of the population.
    Off-road vehicles: ORVs also threaten the species, by crushing 
plants, destabilizing the soil, increasing erosion, and spreading the 
seeds of invasive plants. Although ORV activity is prohibited on the 
Monument (USFWS 2008, p. 1-5), it occurs intermittently on the Federal 
lands that constitute approximately 85 percent of the species' 
distribution. Currently, ORV activity is more common within the private 
portion (approx. 15 percent of the area) at the southern end of the 
species distribution. The location and extent of this threat has been 
mapped by Monument staff on the land under their management (Newsome 
2011, pers. comm.). Based on the best available information, ORV use is 
considered to be an ongoing threat to White Bluffs bladderpod, 
particularly within the southern extent of the species' distribution.
    Invasive species: An infestation of Centaurea solstitialis (yellow 
starthistle), a nonnative weed that is known as a rapid invader of arid 
environments even in the absence of disturbance, was discovered during 
2003 within a portion of the range of White Bluffs bladderpod (Evans et 
al. 2003, p. 67). Invasive plants compete with White Bluffs bladderpod 
for space and moisture and increase the effects of fire. The 
infestation was mapped, plants were treated using aerial means, and the 
weeds are currently being controlled. Continued monitoring and timely 
followup treatment of this ongoing threat is necessary to protect White 
Bluffs bladderpod habitat. In addition, a portion of the White Bluffs 
bladderpod population is adjacent to a public access point along the 
Columbia River. Visitors could potentially transport invasive plant 
material or seeds into the area, increasing the risk of impacts of 
establishment of invasive species. Based on the best available 
information, nonnative invasive species represent an ongoing threat to 
White Bluffs bladderpod.
    Pesticide or Herbicide Use: We initially considered whether White 
Bluffs bladderpod pollinators could potentially be negatively affected 
by pesticide or herbicide applications on orchards and other irrigated 
crops located adjacent to the population along the southern portion of 
its distribution. However, specific information on whether this is a 
threat is not available, and we are not identifying this as an ongoing 
threat at this time. More thorough investigations are necessary, and we 
will continue to evaluate this as a potential threat as additional 
information becomes available.
    Wildfire: In July 2007, a large wildfire burned through the 
northern portion of the White Bluffs bladderpod population and within 
the area of the monitoring transects after monitoring was completed for 
that year. Fire is considered to be a threat to White Bluffs 
bladderpod, although the decline in population numbers after the 2007 
fire indicated the population estimate was still within the known range 
of variability. The 2008-2011 monitoring results demonstrated the 
negative impacts of the fire to be less than expected, as approximately 
76 percent of the population remained viable the following year 
(Newsome and Goldie, 2008). Notwithstanding the species' apparent 
ability to recover somewhat from the 2007 wildfire event, we believe 
that wildfire continues to be a threat to the existing population. This 
is because fire events tend to be large and unpredictable in the 
Hanford Reach (see Table 2) and can potentially affect large numbers of 
plants and significant areas of pollinator habitat.
    In addition, wildfire also impacts pollinator communities by 
directly causing mortality, altering habitat, and reducing native plant 
species diversity. Since an increase in cheatgrass was observed within 
the White Bluffs bladderpod population and the surrounding areas 
affected by the 2007 fire, we presume a larger scale fire event would 
have similar results. Because of its invasive nature (see discussion 
below), cheatgrass is able to outcompete native species and, once 
established, increases wildfire fuel availability. White Bluffs 
bladderpod may be somewhat fire-tolerant based on the post-2007 
wildfire response monitoring. However, the establishment and growth of 
highly flammable cheatgrass increases the likelihood of fire as well as 
its intensity, potentially elevating the risk of impacting the White 
Bluffs bladderpod population in the future. Given the invasive nature 
of cheatgrass, the increased fire frequency and wildfire history within 
and around the Monument (see Table 2), the increased fuel that becomes 
available for future wildfire events as cheatgrass proliferates, and 
observations that cheatgrass presence increased within and around the 
population after the 2007 wildfire, wildfire is considered to be an 
ongoing threat to White Bluffs bladderpod.
    Nonnative Plant Competition and Fuel Sources: A common consequence 
of fire is the displacement of native vegetation by nonnative weedy 
species, particularly cheatgrass. As a result of the 2007 fire, a 
higher percent cover of weedy plant species, including cheatgrass, has 
become established within and around the White Bluffs bladderpod 
population. Cheatgrass is an introduced annual grass that is widely 
distributed in the western United States, and has been documented in 
the White Bluffs bladderpod population. The origins are probably 
southwestern Asia via contaminated grain from Europe in the 1890's. The 
species was preadapted to the climate and soils in the Great Basin 
Desert (parts of Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah) and filled the void 
left vacant by historic livestock grazing. This opportunistic grass is 
able to maintain a superiority over native plants in part because it is 
a prolific seed producer, able to germinate in the autumn or spring, 
giving it a competitive advantage over native perennials, and is 
tolerant of increased fire frequency. Cheatgrass can

[[Page 28718]]

outcompete native plants for water and nutrients in the early spring, 
since it is actively growing when native plants are initiating growth. 
It also completes its reproductive process and becomes senescent before 
most native plants (Pellant 1996, p. 1-2).
    An infestation of yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) 
discovered during 2003 within a portion of the White Bluffs bladderpod 
range was mapped and treated aerially (TNC 2003, p. 67). Yellow 
starthistle infestations can reduce wildlife habitat and forage, 
displace native plants, and reduce native plant and animal diversity. 
It significantly depletes soil moisture reserves in both annual and 
perennial grasslands, and is able to invade and coexist within 
cheatgrass-dominated annual grasslands (TNC 2003, p. 55). Accordingly, 
nonnative plants that increase fuel availability for wildfires are 
considered an ongoing threat to White Bluffs bladderpod.
    Fire Suppression Activities: Fire suppression activities, which 
often damage or remove native plants from the habitat and disturb 
soils, could potentially be as damaging as the wildfire itself. The 
Monument Fire Management Plan (USFWS 2001, p. 27) briefly addresses 
White Bluffs bladderpod by providing guidance for fire suppression 
activities on the White Bluffs. The plan states: ``Fire Management will 
protect these sensitive resources by suppressing fires in this area 
either from existing roads or the use of flappers and water use. The 
use of hand tools that break the surface will be avoided when possible 
and the use of any off-road equipment in these areas requires 
concurrence by the Project Leader.'' In the 2007 fire, damage to 
habitat from fire suppression activities within the White Bluffs 
bladderpod population was avoided by limiting soil disturbance to areas 
outside a 50-100 m (164-228 ft) buffer (Goldie 2012, pers. comm.).
    However, the ability to avoid fire suppression impacts to the White 
Bluffs bladderpod population during future wildfire events would take 
into account the location, direction, magnitude, and intensity of the 
event, firefighter safety considerations, and proximity of the fire to 
the plant population. If a wildfire were to occur in the surrounding 
area, protection of the White Bluffs bladderpod population may not be 
possible if wildfire circumstances necessitate establishing fire lines 
or response equipment staging areas within or near the population. A 
potential consequence of fire or any soil disturbance during fire 
suppression activities is the displacement of native vegetation by 
nonnative weedy species, which increases intraspecific competition for 
resources and increases the accumulation of fuels. When these 
conditions occur, they contribute to increases in wildfire frequency 
and severity in a frequent fire landscape. Accordingly, although the 
need for wildfire suppression activities near or within the White 
Bluffs bladderpod population is unpredictable, this activity is 
considered a potential threat to this species based on the Monument's 
wildfire history (see Table 2).
    Based on the information above, we find that specific activities 
discussed under Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range present a threat 
to White Bluffs bladderpod and its habitat. These activities include 
landslides, invasive species, wildfire, off-road vehicle use, and 
potentially fire suppression activities.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    The regulations at 50 CFR 27.51 prohibit collecting any plant 
material on any national wildlife refuge. There is no evidence of 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational use of White 
Bluffs bladderpod, other than occasional collection of relatively few 
specimens (e.g., dead plants and seed collection). The species is very 
showy while flowering and may be subject to occasional collection by 
the public. The University of Washington Rare Care staff collected 
approximately 2,000 White Bluffs bladderpod seeds from 60 plants on 
July 29, 2011, and Berry Botanic Garden in Portland, Oregon, currently 
has 1,800 seeds collected in 1997 from 45 plants (Gibble 2011, pers. 
comm.). Because the public has access to the species, and it occurs on 
private land, occasional collection may be expected. Collection for 
scientific purposes combined with sporadic collection by private 
individuals remains a possible, but unlikely threat.
    Based on our review of the best available scientific and commercial 
information, we find that overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes is not now a threat to White Bluffs 
bladderpod in any portion of its range and is not likely to become a 
significant threat in the future.

C. Disease or Predation

    Evidence of disease has not been documented in White Bluffs 
bladderpod; however, predation of developing fruits and infestations on 
flowering buds has been observed.
    Seed predation: Since 1966, some predation by larval insects on 
developing fruits of White Bluffs bladderpod has been observed. Larvae 
of a species of Cecidomyiid fly have been observed infesting and 
destroying flowering buds, and an unidentified insect species has been 
documented boring small holes into young seed capsules and feeding on 
developing ovules. However, the overall effect of these insect species 
on the plants or population is not known (TNC 1998, p. 5). Although 
insect predation may be a potential threat to White Bluffs bladderpod, 
more thorough investigations are necessary to determine its 
significance to seed production. Accordingly, we do not consider insect 
predation to be a threat to White Bluffs bladderpod at this time. We 
are unaware of any other disease or predation interactions that 
represent potential threats to the species.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    White Bluffs bladderpod was added to the State of Washington's list 
of endangered, threatened, and sensitive vascular plants in 1997 (as 
Lesquerella tuplashensis), and is designated as threatened by the 
Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR, 2011). The State of 
Washington's endangered, threatened, and sensitive plant program is 
administered through the Washington Natural Heritage Program (WNHP), 
and was created to provide an objective basis for establishing 
priorities for a broad array of conservation actions (WDNR 2011, p. 2). 
Prioritizing ecosystems and species for conservation offers a means to 
evaluate proposed natural areas and other conservation activities (WDNR 
p. 3). The WNHP is a participant in the Arid Lands Initiative, which is 
a public/private partnership attempting to develop strategies to 
conserve the species and ecosystems found within Washington's arid 
landscape. The WHNP assists in identifying conservation targets, major 
threats, and potential strategies to address them (WDNR 2011 p. 4).
    The DOE does not have a rare plant policy that provides specific 
protection for the species, and the Service manages DOE lands where 
White Bluffs bladderpod is found as a part of the Hanford National 
Monument. A comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for the Monument has 
been completed that provides a strategy and general conservation 
measures for rare plants that may benefit White Bluffs bladderpod. This 
strategy includes support for monitoring, invasive species

[[Page 28719]]

control, fire prevention, propagation, reintroduction, and GIS support 
to map the impact area (USFWS 2008, pp. 2-64--2-65), but does not 
prescribe mandatory conservation elements. Although specific actions to 
conserve the species are not identified, the plan acknowledges that 
protection of the population is needed, and that management actions are 
required to address its protection (USFWS 2008, p. 3-95). The CCP 
states that fire control policies will be implemented to reduce the 
risk of human-caused wildland fire (USFWS 2008, p. 4-13). The CCP also 
identifies strategies to mitigate the potential for increased human-
caused wildfire as a result of increased visitation, through 
informational signing educating visitors on the danger of wildfire, the 
adverse effects of wildfire on the shrub-steppe habitat, and how 
visitors can contribute to fire prevention. Seasonal closure of 
interpretive trails through high-risk areas would be established and 
enforced to mitigate the potential of visitor-caused wildfire (USFWS 
2008, pp. 4-43--4-44). The CCP states that best management practices 
and current regulations which prohibit campfires, open fires, 
fireworks, and other sources of fire ignition on the Monument will be 
adequate to prevent human-caused wildfires that could potentially 
result from hunting activity (USFWS 2008, p. 4-46).
    A Spotlight Species Action Plan has been developed for White Bluffs 
bladderpod, which briefly describes the species and the major threats 
and identifies actions to conserve the species (USFWS 2009). These 
actions include working with adjacent landowners to restore, manage, 
and reduce threats to the population, installation of fencing to 
eliminate ORV use, invasive species studies and potential eradication 
efforts, seed collection for augmentation/restoration purposes, 
pollinator species studies, wildfire studies, and climate change 
studies. However, many of these actions have not been implemented as 
funding sources have not been identified (Newsome 2011, pers. comm.).
    Numerous wildland fires occur annually on lands in and surrounding 
the Hanford Reach National Monument/Saddle Mountain National Wildlife 
Refuge. Many are human-caused, resulting from vehicle ignitions from 
roads and highways, unattended campfires, burning of adjacent 
agricultural lands and irrigation ditches, and arson. Fires of natural 
origin (lightning caused) also occur on lands within and adjacent to 
the monument/refuge (USFWS 2001, p. 171). Since wildfires are 
unpredictable with regard to their location and severity, a fire 
management plan is necessarily designed to be a response, rather than a 
regulatory strategy. The Wildland Fire Management Plan for the Monument 
is an operational guide for managing the Monument's wildland and 
prescribed fire programs. The plan defines levels of protection needed 
to promote firefighter and public safety, protect facilities and 
resources, and restore and perpetuate natural processes, given current 
understanding of the complex relationships in natural ecosystems (USFWS 
2001, p. 9). The Monument CCP also has an educational and enforcement 
program in place that reduces the likelihood of human-caused wildfires.
    Although the WHNP, Monument CCP, and Spotlight Species Action plans 
are important tools to identify conservation actions that would benefit 
White Bluffs bladderpod, they were not designed to function as 
regulatory mechanisms that would eliminate threats to the species. In 
addition, the impact of wildfire is not a threat that is susceptible to 
elimination by regulatory mechanisms, because of the many potential 
ignition scenarios on the lands within and surrounding the area where 
White Bluffs bladderpod occurs.
    An invasive plant species inventory and management plan has been 
developed for the Monument (Evans et al. 2003, entire). The plan 
identifies conservation targets, prevention, detection and response 
activities, prioritization of species and sites, inventory and 
monitoring, adaptive management, and several other strategies to 
address invasive species. Invasive species management presents 
significant management challenges because of the Monument's large size 
(78,780 ha) (195,000 ac), and the large number of documented or 
potential invasive plant species present (Evans et al. 2003, p. 5). The 
introduction and spread of invasive plant species is enhanced by the 
existence of disturbed lands and corridors; potential introduction 
pathways include the Columbia River, active irrigation canals, 
wasteways, and impoundments, state highways, and paved and unpaved 
secondary roads. In addition, recurrent wildfires, powerline 
development and maintenance, and slumping of the White Bluffs 
continually create new habitats for invasive species to colonize (Evans 
et al. 2003, p. 5). The invasive species management plan is not a 
regulatory mechanism, and given the many invasive plant species 
pathways within and surrounding the population, the impact of nonnative 
species is not a threat that is susceptible to elimination by 
regulatory mechanisms.
    Although the Hanford Monument Proclamation prohibits off-road 
vehicle (ORV) use, ORV use has been documented in the publicly 
accessible Wahluke Unit (where White Bluffs bladderpod occurs). Some of 
these violators enter the Monument from long-established access routes 
from adjacent private lands (USFWS 2002, p. 17), causing physical 
damage to plants and creating ruts in slopes that increase erosion 
(USFWS 2008, p. 3-57). Although ORV trespass incidents have been 
documented on Monument lands, and are affecting some White Bluffs 
bladderpod individuals, we have no information indicating they are 
occurring with significant frequency or are affecting a substantial 
portion of the population. ORV use has also been documented on private 
property, where the southern extent of the population occurs. We have 
no information that would indicate ORV trespass incidents on Monument 
lands are taking place over a large area within the White Bluffs 
bladderpod population, and there are apparently no constraints on ORV 
use on private property. Accordingly, we do not believe the ORV threat 
to White Bluffs bladderpod identified in Factor A is being exacerbated 
because of existing regulations that are inadequate.
    As described under Factor A, groundwater movement from adjacent, 
up-slope agricultural activities has caused mass-failure landslides 
caused by subsurface water seepage, which is a threat to White Bluffs 
bladderpod. This threat is greatest in the southern portion of the 
species' distribution where irrigated agriculture is close in 
proximity, and in several locations directly adjacent to the bluffs 
(Bjornstat et al., 2009a, p. 8; Lindsey 1997, p. 12). There are no 
existing regulatory mechanisms that address this threat.
    Based on our review of the best available scientific and commercial 
information, we do not consider any of the threats described above 
under Factor D to be subject to elimination by existing regulatory 
mechanisms. Therefore, the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms 
does not represent an ongoing threat to White Bluff's bladderpod.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Small Population Size: As stated earlier, since 1997 to 1998 when 
the monitoring transects currently used were selected, the population 
has ranged between an estimated low of 9,650 plants in 2010 and an 
estimated high of 58,887 plants in 2011 (see Table

[[Page 28720]]

4). Additionally, the species is known from only a single population 
that occurs intermittently in a narrow band (usually less than 10 m (33 
ft) wide) along an approximately 17-km (10.6-mi) stretch of the river 
bluffs (Rollins et al. 1996, p. 205), and approximately 35 percent of 
the known range has been moderately to severely affected by landslides. 
Accordingly, the species is susceptible to being negatively impacted by 
the activities described in Factors A and C above, particularly if 
those threats are of a magnitude that affects a significant portion of 
the population. Therefore, based on the best available information, we 
consider White Bluffs bladderpod's small population size and limited 
geographic distribution to represent an ongoing threat to the species.
    Climate Change: Our analyses under the Endangered Species Act 
include consideration of ongoing and projected changes in climate. The 
terms ``climate'' and ``climate change'' are defined by the 
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). ``Climate'' refers to 
the mean and variability of different types of weather conditions over 
time, with 30 years being a typical period for such measurements, 
although shorter or longer periods also may be used (IPCC 2007, p. 78). 
The term ``climate change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or 
variability of one or more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or 
precipitation) that persists for an extended period, typically decades 
or longer, whether the change is due to natural variability, human 
activity, or both (IPCC 2007, p. 78). Various types of changes in 
climate can have direct or indirect effects on species. These effects 
may be positive, neutral, or negative and they may change over time, 
depending on the species and other relevant considerations, such as the 
effects of interactions of climate with other variables (e.g., habitat 
fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, pp. 8-14, 18-19). In our analyses, we use 
our expert judgment to weigh relevant information, including 
uncertainty, in our consideration of various aspects of climate change.
    Regional climate change modeling indicates a potential threat to 
White Bluffs bladderpod if hotter and drier conditions increase stress 
on individual plants, or increase the effects of wildfire frequency and 
intensity (See discussion under Factor A). As described for Umtanum 
desert buckwheat above (see Factor E), the potential impacts of a 
changing global climate to White Bluffs bladderpod are presently 
unclear. All regional models of climate change indicate that future 
climate in the Pacific Northwest will be warmer than the past, and, 
together, they suggest that rates of warming will be greater in the 
21st century than those observed in the 20th century. Projected changes 
in annual precipitation, averaged over all models, are small (+1 to +2 
percent), but some models project an enhanced seasonal precipitation 
cycle with changes toward wetter autumns and winters and drier summers 
(Littell et al. 2009a, p. 1). Regional climate models suggest that some 
local changes in temperature and precipitation may be quite different 
than average regional changes projected by the global models (Littell 
et al. 2009a, p. 6). Precipitation uncertainties are particularly 
problematic in the western United States, where complex topography 
coupled with the difficulty of modeling El Ni[ntilde]o result in highly 
variable climate projections (Bradley 2009, p. 197).
    We do not know what the future holds with regard to climate change. 
Despite a lack of site-specific data, increased average temperatures 
and reduced average rainfall may promote a decline of the species and 
result in a loss of habitat. Hotter and drier summer conditions could 
increase the frequency and intensity of fires in the area as cheatgrass 
or other invasive plants compete for resources with White Bluffs 
bladderpod. However, if summer precipitation were to increase, some 
native perennial shrubs and grasses could be more competitive if they 
are able to use water resources when cheatgrass or other nonnative 
species are dormant (Loik, 2007 in Bradley 2009, pp. 204-205). 
Nevertheless, if the frequency, intensity, and timing of the predicted 
changes in climate for eastern Washington are not aligned with the 
phenology of White Bluffs bladderpod, the survival and reproduction of 
the species could be threatened over time. Although climate change 
represents a potential threat based on the available information, more 
thorough investigations are needed to determine the degree to which 
climate change may be affecting the species.

    Table 5--Summary of Threat Factors Under the ESA to Umtanum Desert Buckwheat and White Bluffs Bladderpod
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Factor                  Threat                 Magnitude *           Severity *            Imminence *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A.................  Wildfire..................  Confirmed...........  High................  Moderate.
                    Fire suppression            Possible **.........  Unknown.............  Unknown.
                     activities.
                    Slope failure, landslides.  Confirmed...........  High................  High.
                    Harm by recreational        Confirmed...........  Moderate............  Low.
                     activities and/or ORV use.
                    Competition, fuels load     Confirmed...........  Moderate............  Moderate.
                     from nonnative plants.
E.................  Small population size.....  Confirmed...........  Low.................  Low.
                    Limited geographic range..  Confirmed...........  Low.................  Low.
                    Climate change............  Possible............  Unknown.............  Unknown.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Magnitude: The extent of species numbers or habitat affected by the threat. Severity: The intensity of effect
  by the threat on the species or habitat. Imminence: The likelihood of the threat currently affecting the
  species.
** If avoidance is not possible due to fire direction or safety needs.

Proposed Determination

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
to White Bluffs bladderpod (see Table 5). Under the Act and our 
implementing regulations, a species may warrant listing if it is 
threatened or endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range. We assessed the status of White Bluffs bladderpod throughout its 
entire range and found it to be highly restricted within that range. 
The threats to the survival of the species occur throughout the 
species' range and are not restricted to any particular significant 
portion of that range. Accordingly, our assessment and proposed 
determination applies to the species throughout its entire range.
    Approximately 35 percent of the known range of the species has been 
moderately to severely affected by landslides, resulting in an 
apparently permanent destruction of the habitat. The entire population 
of the species is down-slope of irrigated agricultural land, the source 
of the water seepage

[[Page 28721]]

causing the mass-failures and landslides, but the southern portion of 
the population is the closest to the agricultural land and most 
affected. Other significant threats include use of the habitat by 
recreational off-road vehicles which destroy plants, and the presence 
of invasive nonnative plants that compete with White Bluffs bladderpod 
for limited resources (light, water, nutrients). Additionally, the 
increasing presence of invasive nonnative plants may alter fire regimes 
and potentially increase the threat of fire to the White Bluffs 
bladderpod population.
    Fire suppression activities could potentially be as great a threat 
as the fire itself, given the location of the species on the tops of 
bluffs where firelines are often constructed. In addition, firefighting 
equipment and personnel are commonly staged on ridge tops for safety 
and strategic purposes (Whitehall 2012, pers. comm.), although this has 
not been necessary within the White Bluffs bladderpod population to 
date. During a wildfire response effort in 2007, responders were able 
to avoid damage to White Bluffs bladderpod habitat during suppression 
activities by limiting soil disturbance to areas outside a 50-100 m 
(164-228 ft) buffer around the population. The threats to the 
population from landslides, ORV use, and potentially fire suppression 
(contingent on location, safety, the ability to avoid, and other 
particulars) are ongoing, and will continue to occur in the future. In 
addition, invasion by nonnative plants is a common occurrence post-fire 
in the Hanford vicinity, and will likely spread or increase throughout 
the areas that were burned during the 2007 fire that occurred in the 
area of the existing population or in future events.
    As described above, White Bluffs bladderpod is currently at risk 
throughout all of its range due to ongoing threats of habitat 
destruction and modification (Factor A), and other natural or manmade 
factors affecting its continued existence (Factor E). Specifically, 
these factors include the existing degradation or fragmentation of 
habitat resulting from landslides due to water seepage, invasive 
species establishment, ORV use, wildfire, potential fire suppression 
activities, and potential global climate change. Most of these threats 
are ongoing and projected to continue and potentially worsen in the 
future. The population is small and apparently restricted to a unique 
geological setting, making it particularly susceptible to extinction 
due to threats described in the proposed rule. The magnitude of the 
threat of wildfire is high, while other threats are moderate to low in 
magnitude (see Table 5). Because of the limited range of the species, 
any one of the threats could affect its continued existence at any 
time.
    The Act defines an endangered species as any species that is ``in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range,'' and a threatened species as any species ``that is likely to 
become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range 
within the foreseeable future.'' We find that White Bluffs bladderpod 
is likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range within the foreseeable future, based on the immediacy and 
scope of the threats described above and, therefore, meets the 
definition of a threatened species under the Act. There are no portions 
of the species' range where threats are geographically concentrated 
such that the species is in danger of extinction within that portion of 
its range. White Bluffs bladderpod is primarily surrounded by Federal 
ownership, where the lands are managed as an overlay national wildlife 
refuge for general conservation purposes.
    The Hanford Reach National Monument Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
was developed to protect and conserve the biological, geological, 
paleontological, and cultural resources described in the Monument 
Proclamation by creating and maintaining extensive areas within the 
Monument free of facility development (USFWS 2008, p. v). Several 
management objectives are identified that could benefit the White 
Bluffs bladderpod population, include treating invasive species and 
restoring upland habitat (USFWS 2008, pp. 19-22). The species is also 
fairly numerous and continuous where it occurs over 17 km (10.6 mi), 
and the threats are acting with uniform magnitude, intensity, or 
severity throughout the species' distribution. Since 85 percent of the 
species distribution is on Federal lands managed as a national wildlife 
refuge for conservation purposes, and refuge management plans are in 
place to help protect and conserve the species, we do not believe White 
Bluffs bladderpod is presently in danger of extinction throughout all 
or a significant portion of its range. Therefore, on the basis of the 
best available scientific and commercial information, we propose 
listing White Bluffs bladderpod as threatened in accordance with 
sections 3(6) and 4(a)(1) of the Act.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, the development of a 
recovery plan (including implementation of recovery actions), 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing actions results in public 
awareness and conservation by Federal, State, Tribal, and local 
agencies, private organizations, and individuals. The Act encourages 
cooperation with the States and requires that recovery actions be 
carried out for all listed species. The protection measures required of 
Federal agencies and the prohibitions against certain activities 
involving listed wildlife are discussed in Effects of Critical Habitat 
Designation and are further discussed, in part, below.
    The primary purpose of the Act is the conservation of endangered 
and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The 
ultimate goal of such conservation efforts is the recovery of these 
listed species, so that they no longer need the protective measures of 
the Act. Section 4(f) of the Act requires the Service to develop and 
implement recovery plans for the conservation of endangered and 
threatened species. The recovery planning process involves the 
identification of actions that are necessary to halt or reverse the 
species' decline by addressing the threats to its survival and 
recovery. The goal of this process is to restore listed species to a 
point where they are secure, self-sustaining, and functioning 
components of their ecosystems.
    Recovery planning includes the development of a recovery outline 
shortly after a species is listed, preparation of a draft and final 
recovery plan, and revisions to the plan as significant new information 
becomes available. The recovery outline guides the immediate 
implementation of urgent recovery actions and describes the process to 
be used to develop a recovery plan. The recovery plan identifies site-
specific management actions that will achieve recovery of the species, 
measurable criteria that determine when a species may be downlisted or 
delisted, and methods for monitoring recovery progress. Recovery plans 
also establish a framework for agencies to coordinate their recovery 
efforts and provide estimates of the cost of implementing recovery 
tasks. Recovery teams (composed of species experts, Federal and State 
agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and stakeholders) are often 
established to develop recovery plans. When completed, the recovery 
outline, draft recovery plan, and the final recovery plan will be 
available on

[[Page 28722]]

our Web site (http://www.fws.gov/endangered), or from our Washington 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
    Implementation of recovery actions generally requires the 
participation of a broad range of partners, including other Federal 
agencies, States, Tribal, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, 
and private landowners. Examples of recovery actions include habitat 
restoration (e.g., restoration of native vegetation), research, captive 
propagation and reintroduction, and outreach and education. The 
recovery of many listed species cannot be accomplished solely on 
Federal lands because their range may occur primarily or solely on non-
Federal lands. To achieve recovery of these species requires 
cooperative conservation efforts on private, State, and Tribal lands. 
The Hanford Reach National Monument Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
(2008, p. 4-31), identifies several strategies that will support 
recovery efforts, including (1) continuing ongoing partnerships for 
monitoring Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod 
populations; (2) inventory and control of nonnative plant species; (3) 
consideration of rare plant species and locations when planning 
management, recreational, access, and other actions; (4) wildfire 
prevention when possible, and limiting their size; and (5) development 
of propagation techniques for rare species for reintroductions if 
populations go below thresholds.
    If these species are listed, funding for recovery actions will be 
available from a variety of sources, including Federal budgets, State 
programs, and cost share grants for non-Federal landowners, the 
academic community, and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, 
pursuant to section 6 of the Act, the State of Washington would be 
eligible for Federal funds to implement management actions that promote 
the protection and recovery of Umtanum desert buckwheat and White 
Bluffs bladderpod. Information on our grant programs that are available 
to aid species recovery can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/grants.
    Although Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod are 
only proposed for listing under the Act at this time, please let us 
know if you are interested in participating in recovery efforts for 
this species. Additionally, we invite you to submit any new information 
on this species whenever it becomes available and any information you 
may have for recovery planning purposes (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT).
    Section 7(a) of the Act requires Federal agencies to evaluate their 
actions with respect to any species that is proposed or listed as 
endangered or threatened and with respect to its critical habitat, if 
any is designated. Regulations implementing this interagency 
cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR part 402. 
Section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to confer with the 
Service on any action that is likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of a species proposed for listing or result in destruction or 
adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a species is 
listed subsequently, section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal 
agencies to ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out 
are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or 
destroy or adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action 
may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible 
Federal agency must enter into consultation with the Service.
    Federal agency actions within the species habitat that may require 
conference or consultation or both as described in the preceding 
paragraph include management and any other landscape-altering 
activities on Federal lands administered by the Department of Energy, 
Department of Defense, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of 
Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, Army Corps of Engineers, and 
construction and management of gas pipeline and power line rights-of-
way by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all threatened 
plants. All prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act, implemented by 
50 CFR 17.61, apply. These prohibitions, in part, make it illegal for 
any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to import 
or export, transport in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of 
a commercial activity, sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign 
commerce, or remove and reduce the species to possession from areas 
under Federal jurisdiction. Seeds from cultivated specimens of 
cultivated plants are exempt from these prohibitions provided that 
their containers are marked ``Of Cultivated Origin.'' Certain 
exceptions to the prohibitions apply to agents of the Service and State 
conservation agencies. At this time, there are no existing regulatory 
mechanisms that provide protection for State-listed plants in 
Washington, even if endangered. In addition, since Umtanum desert 
buckwheat occurs entirely on Federal land, and White Bluffs bladderpod 
occurs predominantly on Federal land, all Hanford Reach National 
Monument regulations that have protective or conservation relevance to 
either species would be applicable.
    It is our policy, as published in the Federal Register on July 1, 
1994 (59 FR 34272), to identify to the maximum extent practicable at 
the time a species is listed, those activities that would or would not 
constitute a violation of section 9 of the Act. The intent of this 
policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of a proposed 
listing on proposed and ongoing activities within the range of species 
proposed for listing.
    We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered and threatened plant species under certain 
circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 
17.62 for endangered plants, and at Sec.  17.72 for threatened plants. 
With regard to endangered plants, a permit must be issued for the 
following purposes: For scientific purposes or to enhance the 
propagation or survival of the species.
    Regulations at 50 CFR 402.16 require Federal agencies to reinitiate 
consultation on previously reviewed actions in instances where we have 
listed a new species or subsequently designated critical habitat that 
may be affected and the Federal agency has retained discretionary 
involvement or control over the action (or the agency's discretionary 
involvement or control is authorized by law). Consequently, Federal 
agencies may sometimes need to request reinitiation of consultation 
with us on actions for which formal consultation has been completed, if 
those actions with discretionary involvement or control may affect 
subsequently listed species or designated critical habitat.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities would constitute a 
violation of section 9 of the Act should be directed to our Washington 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). 
Requests for copies of the regulations concerning listed animals and 
general inquiries regarding prohibitions and permits may be addressed 
to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Permits, 
Eastside Federal Complex, 911 NE. 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232-
4181 (telephone (503) 231-6158; facsimile (503) 231-6243).

[[Page 28723]]

Critical Habitat

Background

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as:
    (1) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the 
species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which 
are found those physical and biological features
    (a) Essential to the conservation of the species; and
    (b) Which may require special management considerations or 
protection; and
    (2) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the 
species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas 
are essential for the conservation of the species.
    Conservation, as defined under section 3 of the Act, means to use, 
and the use of, all methods and procedures that are necessary to bring 
an endangered or threatened species to the point at which the measures 
provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary. Such methods and 
procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated 
with scientific resources management such as research, census, law 
enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live 
trapping, and transplantation, and, in the extraordinary case where 
population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise 
relieved, may include regulated taking.
    Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the Act 
through the prohibition against Federal agencies carrying out, funding, 
or authorizing the destruction or adverse modification of critical 
habitat. Section 7(a)(2) requires consultation on Federal actions that 
may affect critical habitat. The designation of critical habitat does 
not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, 
preserve, or other conservation area. Such designation does not allow 
the government or public to access private lands. Such designation does 
not require implementation of restoration, recovery, or enhancement 
measures by non-Federal landowners. Where a landowner seeks or requests 
Federal agency funding or authorization for an action that may affect a 
listed species or critical habitat, the consultation requirements of 
section 7(a)(2) of the Act would apply, but even in the event of a 
destruction or adverse modification finding, the Federal action 
agency's and the applicant's obligation is not to restore or recover 
the species, but to implement reasonable and prudent alternatives to 
avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.
    Under the first prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
it was listed are included in a critical habitat designation if they 
contain physical or biological features (1) which are essential to the 
conservation of the species, and (2) which may require special 
management considerations or protection. For these areas, critical 
habitat designations identify, to the extent known using the best 
scientific and commercial data available, those physical or biological 
features that are essential to the conservation of the species (such as 
space, food, cover, and protected habitat). In identifying those 
physical or biological features within an area, we focus on the 
principal biological or physical constituent elements (primary 
constituent elements such as roost sites, nesting grounds, seasonal 
wetlands, water quality, tide, soil type) that when combined compose 
the features essential to the conservation of the species.
    Under the second prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
we can designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographical 
area occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a 
determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the 
species. For example, an area currently occupied by the species but 
that was not occupied at the time of listing may be essential to the 
conservation of the species and may be included in the critical habitat 
designation. We designate critical habitat in areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by a species only when a designation limited 
to its current range would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of 
the species.
    Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat on 
the basis of the best scientific data available. Further, our Policy on 
Information Standards Under the Endangered Species Act (published in 
the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271)), the Information 
Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and General Government 
Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 106-554; H.R. 5658)), 
and our associated Information Quality Guidelines, provide criteria, 
establish procedures, and provide guidance to ensure that our decisions 
are based on the best scientific data available. They require our 
biologists, to the extent consistent with the Act and with the use of 
the best scientific data available, to use primary and original sources 
of information as the basis for recommendations to designate critical 
habitat.
    When we determine which areas should be designated as critical 
habitat, our primary source of information is generally the information 
developed during the listing process for the species. Additional 
information sources may include the recovery plan for the species, 
articles in peer-reviewed journals, conservation plans developed by 
States and counties, scientific status surveys and studies, biological 
assessments, or other unpublished materials and expert opinion or 
personal knowledge.
    Habitat is often dynamic, and species may move from one area to 
another over time. We recognize that critical habitat designated at a 
particular point in time may not include all of the habitat areas that 
we may later determine are necessary for the recovery of the species. 
For these reasons, a critical habitat designation does not signal that 
habitat outside the designated area is unimportant or may not be 
required for recovery of the species. Areas that are important to the 
conservation of the species, but are outside the critical habitat 
designation, will continue to be subject to: (1) Conservation actions 
we implement under section 7(a)(1) of the Act, (2) regulatory 
protections afforded by the requirement in section 7(a)(2) of the Act 
for Federal agencies to ensure their actions are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened 
species, and (3) the prohibitions of section 9 of the Act if certain 
actions occurring in these areas may affect the species. Federally 
funded or permitted projects affecting listed species outside their 
designated critical habitat areas may still result in jeopardy findings 
in some cases. Similarly, critical habitat designations made on the 
basis of the best available information at the time of designation will 
not control the direction and substance of future recovery plans, 
habitat conservation plans (HCPs), or other species conservation 
planning efforts if new information available at the time of these 
planning efforts warrants otherwise.

Prudency Determination

    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and implementing 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12), require that, to the maximum extent 
prudent and determinable, the Secretary designate critical habitat at 
the time the species is determined to be endangered or threatened. Our 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)) state that the designation of 
critical habitat is not prudent when

[[Page 28724]]

one or both of the following situations exist: (1) The species is 
threatened by taking or other human activity, and identification of 
critical habitat can be expected to increase the degree of threat to 
the species; or (2) such designation of critical habitat would not be 
beneficial to the species.
    There is no documentation of commercial or private collection of 
Umtanum desert buckwheat or White Bluffs bladderpod. Although that 
activity is identified as a possible but unlikely threat to the 
species, the significance of collection to the viability of the 
species' populations is not known. In the absence of a finding that the 
designation of critical habitat would increase threats to a species, if 
there are any benefits to a critical habitat designation, then a 
prudent finding is warranted. The potential benefits include: (1) 
Triggering consultation under section 7 of the Act, in new areas for 
actions in which there may be a Federal nexus where it would not 
otherwise occur because, for example, it is or has become unoccupied or 
the occupancy is in question; (2) focusing conservation activities on 
the most essential features and areas; (3) providing educational 
benefits to State or county governments or private entities; and (4) 
preventing people from causing inadvertent harm to the species.
    The primary regulatory effect of critical habitat is the section 
7(a)(2) requirement that Federal agencies refrain from taking any 
action that destroys or adversely modifies critical habitat. At this 
time, Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod occur only 
on Federal, State, and private lands along the Hanford Reach of the 
Columbia River in Washington State. Lands proposed for designation as 
critical habitat would be subject to Federal actions that trigger 
section 7 consultation requirements. These include land management 
planning, Federal agency actions, and permitting by the Saddle Mountain 
National Wildlife Refuge/Hanford Reach National Monument. There may 
also be educational or outreach benefits to the designation of critical 
habitat. These benefits include the notification of lessees and the 
general public of the importance of protecting the habitats of both of 
these rare species.
    In the case of Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs 
bladderpod, these aspects of critical habitat designation would 
potentially benefit the conservation of both species. Therefore, if the 
threat of commercial or private collection exists for either species, 
it is outweighed by the conservation benefits derived from the 
designation of critical habitat. We therefore find that designation of 
critical habitat is prudent for Umtanum desert buckwheat and White 
Bluffs bladderpod.
    We also reviewed the available information pertaining to the 
biological needs of these species and habitat characteristics where 
they occur. This and other information represent the best scientific 
data available, and the available information is sufficient for us to 
identify areas to propose as critical habitat. Therefore, we conclude 
that the designation of critical habitat is determinable for both 
species.

Physical or Biological Features

    In accordance with sections 3(5)(A)(i) and 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act 
and the regulations at 50 CFR 424.12, in determining which areas within 
the geographical area occupied at the time of listing to propose as 
critical habitat, we consider the physical and biological features 
(PBF's) essential to the conservation of the species that may require 
special management considerations or protection. These may include, but 
are not limited to:
    (1) Space for individual and population growth and for normal 
behavior;
    (2) Food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or 
physiological requirements;
    (3) Cover or shelter;
    (4) Sites for breeding, reproduction, or rearing (or development) 
of offspring; and
    (5) Habitats that are protected from disturbance or are 
representative of the historical, geographical, and ecological 
distributions of a species.
    We derive the specific PBF's required for Umtanum desert buckwheat 
and White Bluffs bladderpod from studies of each species' habitat, 
ecology, and life history as described above in the proposed listing 
rule. We have determined that the PBFs described below are essential 
for these species. The criteria used to identify the geographical 
location of the proposed critical habitat areas for both species is 
described following the Proposed Critical Habitat Designation sections 
below (see Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat).

Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat

    As required by section 4(b)(2) of the Act, in developing this 
proposed rule we used the best scientific data available to propose 
critical habitat for both Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs 
bladderpod. We reviewed available information that pertains to the 
habitat requirements of these species. In accordance with the Act and 
its implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(e), we also consider 
whether designating additional areas outside those currently occupied 
as well as those occupied at the time of listing is necessary to ensure 
the conservation of the species. These sources of information included, 
but were not limited to:
    1. Data used to prepare the proposed rule to list the species;
    2. Information from biological surveys;
    3. Peer-reviewed articles, various agency reports and databases 
from the Washington Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage 
Program and the Hanford National Monument/Saddle Mountain National 
Wildlife Refuge;
    4. Information from the U.S. Department of Energy and other 
governmental cooperators;
    5. Information from species experts;
    6. Data and information presented in academic research theses; and
    7. Regional Geographic Information System (GIS) data (such as 
species occurrence data, land use, topography, aerial imagery, soil 
data, and land ownership maps) for area calculations and mapping.
    The long-term survival and recovery of Umtanum desert buckwheat and 
White Bluffs bladderpod is dependent upon protecting existing 
populations by maintaining ecological function within these sites, 
including preserving the integrity of the unique soils and connectivity 
between occurrences to facilitate pollinator activity. It is also 
dependent on maintaining these areas free of habitat-disturbing 
activities, including trampling, the exclusion of invasive, nonnative 
plant species, and managing the risk of wildfire. Because the areas of 
unique soils cover a relatively small area within the larger shrub 
steppe matrix, we did not restrict the designation to individual 
occupied patches, but included adequate adjacent shrub steppe habitat 
to provide for ecosystem function. This contiguous habitat provides the 
requisite physical or biological features for both Umtanum desert 
buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod, including diverse native 
flowering plants and habitat to support pollinators, and provides the 
essential feature of habitat free from disturbances, such as invasive 
species and recreational trampling. We used the following criteria to 
select areas for inclusion in critical habitat: (a) The geographical 
areas containing the entire distribution of habitat occupied by Umtanum 
desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod at the time of the

[[Page 28725]]

proposed listing, because they are each found in only single 
populations and our goal is to maintain the current species extent and 
genetic variability; (b) areas that provide the physical and biological 
features necessary to support the species' life-history requirements; 
and (c) areas that provide connectivity within and between habitat for 
each species, and adjacent shrub steppe habitat that provides for 
pollinator life-history needs.
    The first step in delineating proposed critical habitat units was 
to identify all areas that contained Umtanum desert buckwheat or White 
Bluffs bladderpod populations, which was accomplished during the summer 
of 2011. We are proposing to designate critical habitat within and 
around all occurrences of both populations to conserve genetic 
variability. These areas are representative of the entire known 
historical geographic distribution of the species. We then analyzed 
areas outside the population to identify unoccupied habitat areas 
essential for the conservation of the species. The proposed 
designations take into account those features that are essential to 
Umtanum desert buckwheat or White Bluffs bladderpod, including the 
presence of unique soils, unique habitat conditions within the area, 
and the condition of the surrounding landscape features necessary to 
support pollination, and possibly other life-history requirements.
    We do not know if the lack of pollinators is a limiting factor, but 
in the absence of other information and knowing that both species are 
largely insect-pollinated, we believe it is prudent to identify an area 
adjacent to the occupied areas as unoccupied critical habitat to 
support pollinator species. The outer boundary of the proposed critical 
habitat designation was primarily determined based on the flight 
distances of insect pollinators, which are essential to the 
conservation of both species. Using Geographical Information Systems 
(GIS), we included an area of native shrub steppe vegetation 
approximately 300 m (980 ft) around the population to provide habitat 
of sufficient quantity and quality to support Umtanum desert buckwheat 
and White Bluffs bladderpod. This boundary was selected because we 
believe it provides the minimum area needed to sustain an active 
pollinator community for both species, based on the best available 
scientific information (see Arnett 2011b; Evans pers. comm., 2001, 
discussed below). This distance does not include all surrounding 
habitat potentially used by pollinators, but provides sufficient 
habitat for those pollinators that nest, feed, and reproduce in areas 
adjacent to the occupied critical habitat areas.
    Although Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod are 
visited by a variety of likely pollinators, only one insect pollinator 
species has been verified to date; the bumblebee (Bombus centralis) has 
been confirmed as a pollinator for Umtanum desert buckwheat (Arnett 
2011b, pers. comm.). As stated earlier, Bombus did not appear to be an 
appropriate surrogate to determine pollinator distance for either 
Umtanum desert buckwheat or White Bluffs bladderpod because of their 
relatively long-distance foraging capabilities. Instead, we delineated 
an effective pollinator use area based on the flight distances of 
solitary bees, a group of important noncolonial pollinators with a 
relatively limited flight distance. Research literature on flight 
distances was available for this group (Gathmann and Tscharntke (2002, 
p. 758)), of which numerous representatives of the genera Chelostoma, 
Megachile, and Osmia are found in shrub steppe habitat in the Hanford 
Reach area. Species within other solitary bee genera such as Andrena, 
Anthophora, Habropoda, Hoplitis, and Lasioglossum have also been 
identified on the Hanford Installation (Evans 2011, pers. comm.). This 
methodology assumes that potential pollinators with long-range flight 
capabilities would be able to use this proximal habitat as well (see 
Physical and Biological Features section).
    Because the population occurrences of Umtanum desert buckwheat and 
White Bluffs bladderpod are linear in arrangement, we established the 
occupied critical habitat areas by connecting the known coordinates for 
occurrences, using GIS. The mean width for the occupied areas was 
estimated based on monitoring and transect data compiled by species 
experts. The estimated mean width for Umtanum desert buckwheat was 
determined to be 30 m (100 ft), and 50 m (165 ft) for White Bluffs 
bladderpod. We then established a 300-m (980-ft) unoccupied critical 
habitat polygon surrounding the mean occupied habitat width to identify 
insect pollinator habitat that is essential for the conservation of 
both species. We then mapped the critical habitat unit boundaries for 
each of the two species based on the above criteria, using aerial 
imagery, 7.5 minute topographic maps, contour data, WDNR Natural 
Heritage and Washington Department of Transportation data to depict the 
critical habitat designation, gather ownership, and acreage 
information.
    When determining proposed critical habitat boundaries, we made 
every effort to avoid including developed areas such as lands covered 
by buildings, pavement, other structures, tilled farm lands and 
orchards on private property, because such lands lack physical or 
biological features for Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs 
bladderpod. The scale of the maps we prepared under the parameters for 
publication within the Code of Federal Regulations may not reflect the 
exclusion of such developed lands. Therefore, if the critical habitat 
is finalized as proposed, a Federal action involving such developed 
lands would not trigger section 7 consultation with respect to critical 
habitat and the requirement of no adverse modification, unless the 
specific action would affect the physical and biological features in 
the adjacent critical habitat.

Umtanum Desert Buckwheat

Space for Individual Population Growth and for Normal Behavior

    Umtanum desert buckwheat is highly restricted in its distribution. 
The only known population occurs at elevations ranging between 340-400 
m (1,115-1,310 ft) on flat to gently sloping substrate at the top edge 
of a steep, north-facing basalt cliff of Umtanum Ridge overlooking the 
Columbia River. Approximately 5,000 plants occur in a narrow band 1.6 
km (1 mi) in length and generally less than 30 m (100 ft) wide (Reveal 
et al. 1995, p. 353). However, individual plants have been found up to 
150 m (490 ft) above the cliff breaks (Arnett 2011b, pers. comm.), and 
scattered plants occur on the steep cliff-face below the breaks 
(Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 60).
    Umtanum desert buckwheat is found exclusively on soils over exposed 
basalt from the Lolo Flow of the Wanapum Basalt Formation at the far 
southeastern end of Umtanum Ridge in Benton County, Washington. This 
type of landform in the lower Columbia Basin is determined by the 
underlying basalts, which may be exposed above the soil on ridge tops 
or where wind and water erode the fine soils away (Sackschewski and 
Downs 2001, p. 2.1.1). The Lolo flow surface material commonly has a 
high porosity and permeability. The cliff area has weathered to pebble- 
and gravel-sized pieces of vesicular basalt (basalt that contains tiny 
holes formed due to gas bubbles in lava or magma) and is sparsely 
vegetated where the species is found. It is unknown if the close 
association of Umtanum desert buckwheat with the lithosols of the Lolo 
Flow is related to the chemical

[[Page 28726]]

composition or physical characteristics of the particular parent 
bedrock on which it is found, or other factors (Reveal et al. 1995, p. 
354); however, that particular mineralogy is not known from any other 
location.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify weathered 
Wanapum basalt cliffs, and adjacent outcrops, cliff breaks, and flat or 
gently sloping cliff tops with exposed pebble and gravel soils as a 
physical or biological feature essential to the conservation for 
Umtanum desert buckwheat.

Food, Water, Air, Light, Minerals, or Other Nutritional or 
Physiological Requirements

    The presence of unique soil structure and/or chemistry may 
determine where a rare plant species exists. Umtanum desert buckwheat 
is found exclusively on pebbly lithosol soils over exposed basalt from 
the Lolo Flow of the Priest Rapids Member of the Wanapum Basalt 
Formation. The flow surface material commonly has a high porosity and 
permeability and typically contains small (< 5 mm, (0.2 in)) crystals 
of the mineral olivine and rare (occasional) clusters of plagioclase 
crystals, and differs from the other members of the Wanapum Formation. 
Basalts of the Lolo Flow contain higher titanium dioxide and lower iron 
oxide than the neighboring Rosalia Flow, also of the Priest Rapids 
Member (Reidel and Fecht 1981, p. 3-13).
    It is unknown if the distribution of Umtanum desert buckwheat prior 
to European settlement was different from the species' current 
distribution, but it is likely that the species has been confined to 
this location during at least the last 150 years, which indicates an 
isolated soil exposure, unique within the broader Columbia Basin 
landscape. The physiological and soil nutritional needs of Umtanum 
desert buckwheat are not known at this time. Other locations containing 
apparently suitable habitat have been intensively searched since the 
species' discovery in 1995, and no additional individuals or 
populations have been found. The factors limiting the species' 
distribution are unknown, but could be related to microsite differences 
(such as nutrient availability, soil microflora, soil texture, or 
moisture). Additional research is needed to determine the specific 
nutritional and physiological requirements for Umtanum desert 
buckwheat.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the pebbly 
lithosol talus soils derived from surface weathering of the Lolo Flow 
of the Priest Rapids Member of the Wanapum Basalt Formation as a 
physical and biological feature essential to the conservation for 
Umtanum desert buckwheat. These areas are sparsely vegetated, with less 
than 10 percent estimated total cover (including Umtanum desert 
buckwheat) within the population and less than 5 percent cover by 
species other than Umtanum desert buckwheat, and less than 1 percent 
nonnative or invasive plants (Arnett 2001, pers. comm.). Areas of 
sparse vegetation are required to minimize nonnative plant competition, 
minimize conditions that promote the accumulation of fuels, and provide 
for the recovery of the species.

Sites for Breeding, Reproduction, or Rearing (or Development) of 
Offspring

    The availability of insect pollinators is essential to conserve 
Umtanum desert buckwheat. Based on the results of a pollinator 
exclusion study, the species is probably capable of at least limited 
amounts of self-pollination, although the percentage of seedset in the 
absence of pollinators appears to be low (TNC 1998, p. 8; Reveal et al. 
1995, p. 355). A variety of potential insect pollinators has been 
observed on Umtanum desert buckwheat flowers, including ants, beetles, 
flies, spiders, moths, and butterflies (TNC 1998, p. 8). Wasps from the 
families Vespidae and Typhiidae and from the species Criosciolia have 
been observed near, but not on, the species. A bumble bee species, 
Bombus centralis (no common name), has also been observed utilizing the 
flowers of Umtanum desert buckwheat (Arnett 2011b, pers. comm.). Insect 
collection and identification efforts by Washington State University on 
the Hanford Reach documented approximately 2,500 different species of 
invertebrates, 42 of which were new to science (WNPS 2004, p. 3).
    Since pollination is essential to the conservation of Umtanum 
desert buckwheat, we evaluated alternatives for determining the 
effective pollinator distance for this species. Since specific known 
pollinators are mostly unknown for the species and the species is 
likely frequented by several pollinators, we investigated delineating 
an effective pollinator distance based on foraging distances of the 
species' only known pollinator, the bumble bee (Bombus spp.). Bumble 
bee species are internally guided to use a plant species as long as 
flowers are rewarding and nearby, but will otherwise change to 
different species (Chittka et al. 1997, p. 248). Foraging ranges for 
Bombus are greater and consistent within species; however, there are 
substantial differences between species in foraging ranges and the size 
of the areas they utilize. Knight et al. (2005, p. 1,816) observed a 
maximum foraging distance between 450-760 m (1,475-2,500 ft), and 
foraging ranges between 62-180 ha (150-450 ac), based on studies of 
four species of Bombus species. Because of these conspecific 
differences, we concluded that bumble bee foraging distances may not be 
representative of the suite of pollinators that may be available to 
Umtanum desert buckwheat. Based on the limited distribution of Umtanum 
desert buckwheat and the lack of foraging data for Bombus centralis, we 
determined that generalized Bombus foraging range data may not be an 
appropriate surrogate for determining Umtanum desert buckwheat 
pollinator distance requirements.
    We next considered using the flight distances of solitary bees 
(individual, noncolonial bees) to determine the effective pollinator 
distance for the species. Numerous Families of this Order (Hymenoptera) 
have been observed in shrub steppe habitats within the Hanford Reach, 
including the Genera Andrena, Anthophora, Chelostoma, Habropoda, 
Hoplitis, Lasioglossum, Megachile, and Osmia, among others (Evans 2011, 
pers. comm.) and are likely to be among the pollinators of Umtanum 
desert buckwheat.
    Solitary bees have fairly short foraging distances within similar 
habitat types, which is suggested as being between 150-600 m (495-1,970 
ft) (Gathmann and Tscharntke (2002, pp. 760-762)). Three genera are 
found in common with those studied in Gathmann and Tscharntke (2002) in 
the Hanford Reach; Chelostoma, Megachile, and Osmia. Although the 
specific insect pollinator species and their foraging distances are not 
known, we believe 300 m (980 ft) represents a reasonable mid-range 
estimate of the area needed around the Umtanum desert buckwheat 
population to provide sufficient habitat for the pollinator community. 
As noted above, many other insects likely contribute to the pollination 
of this species, and some may travel greater distances than solitary 
bees. However, these pollinators may also forage, nest, overwinter, or 
reproduce within 300 m (980 ft) of Umtanum desert buckwheat plants. As 
a result, we limited the Umtanum desert buckwheat pollinator support 
area to 300 m (980 ft) around the population, based on the rationale 
that pollinators using habitat farther away may not be as likely to 
contribute to the conservation and recovery of this species.
    Vegetation cover in the vicinity of Umtanum desert buckwheat is low

[[Page 28727]]

when compared with other shrub steppe sites, which may be related to 
substrate chemistry. Common perennial associates and habitat for the 
pollinators listed above include Artemisia tridentata (Wyoming big 
sagebrush), Grayia spinosa (spiny hopsage), Krascheninnikovia lanata 
(winterfat), Eriogonum sphaerocephalum (round-headed desert buckwheat), 
Salvia dorrii (purple sage), Hesperostipa comata (needle and thread 
grass), Pseudoroegneria spicata (bluebunch wheatgrass), Poa sandbergii 
(Sandberg bluegrass), Sphaeralcea munroana (Munro's globemallow), 
Astragalus caricinus (buckwheat milkvetch), and Balsamorhiza careyana 
(Carey's balsamroot). Common annual associates include Bromus tectorum 
(cheatgrass), Phacelia linearis (threadleaf phacelia), Gilia leptomeria 
(great basin gilia), G. inconspicua sweetvar. Sinuata (rosy gilia), 
Camissonia minor (small evening primrose), Mentzelia albicaulis 
(whitestem blazingstar), and Cryptantha pterocarya (wing-nut 
cryptantha) (Reveal et al. 1995, p. 354; Caplow and Beck 1996, p. 40). 
Although percent vegetative cover is low in close proximity to E. 
codium, species diversity within the adjacent plant community is fairly 
high. Nearby vegetative patches with more dense vegetative cover offer 
increased vertical habitat structure and plant species diversity within 
the foraging distances of potential pollinators.
    In order for Umtanum desert buckwheat genetic exchange to occur, 
pollinators must be able to move freely between plants. Additional 
pollen and nectar sources (other plant species within the surrounding 
sagebrush vegetation) are also needed to support pollinators when the 
species is not flowering. This surrounding and adjacent habitat will 
protect soils and pollinators from disturbance, slow the invasion of 
the site by nonnative species, and provide a diversity of habitats 
needed by Umtanum desert buckwheat and its pollinators. Therefore, 
based on the information above, we identify the presence of insect 
pollinators as a physical and biological feature essential to the 
conservation for Umtanum desert buckwheat. Insect pollinators require a 
diversity of native plants, whose blooming times overlap to provide 
sufficient flowers for foraging throughout the seasons, nesting and 
egg-laying sites, appropriate nesting materials, and sheltered, 
undisturbed places for hibernation and overwintering.

Habitats Protected From Disturbance or Representing Historical, 
Geographical, and Ecological Distributions

    The Umtanum desert buckwheat population has a discontinuous 
distribution along a narrow, 1.6-km (1-mi) long portion of Umtanum 
Ridge (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 59). The entire known population 
exists within a narrow corridor at the top edge of the steep, north-
facing basalt cliffs where human traffic could be expected to 
concentrate. The plants respond negatively to trampling or crushing and 
are extremely sensitive following such damage. In one instance, within 
2 days of being run over by trespassing dirt bikes, portions of damaged 
plants showed signs of further decline, and in some cases mortality, as 
evidenced by damaged plants that later died (TNC 1998, p. 62).
    Fire appears to readily kill the slow-growing Umtanum desert 
buckwheat plants, especially in areas with higher fuel levels. Because 
of the rocky talus soils and a relatively low fire frequency, the 
species is confined to a few meters of upper cliff slope, cliff breaks, 
and tops. Fires increase the risk of invasion of nonnative or invasive 
species, particularly cheatgrass, which competes with Umtanum desert 
buckwheat for space and moisture. In turn, the establishment and growth 
of highly flammable and often continuous cheatgrass increases the 
likelihood of fire, potentially elevating the risk of impacting the 
Umtanum desert buckwheat population in the future. The substrate that 
supports Umtanum desert buckwheat likely had a lower vegetation cover 
prior to the introduction of cheatgrass in the 1800s. Fire is a primary 
threat to Umtanum desert buckwheat, and will likely become a greater 
threat if the frequency or severity of fires increases (TNC 1998 p. 9; 
Dunwiddie et al. 2001, pp. 59, 62, 66).
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the stable 
cliff and soil structure that is protected from human-caused trampling 
and at a low risk of wildfire as a physical and biological feature 
essential to the conservation for Umtanum desert buckwheat. This 
habitat contains little or no surface disturbance and is surrounded by 
diverse native pollinator habitat.

Primary Constituent Elements for Umtanum Desert Buckwheat

    Under the Act and its implementing regulations, we are required to 
identify the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of Umtanum desert buckwheat, focusing on the features' 
primary constituent elements. We consider primary constituent elements 
to be the specific compositional elements of physical and biological 
features that are essential to the conservation of the species.
    Based on our current knowledge of the physical or biological 
features and the habitat characteristics required to sustain the 
species' life-history process, we have determined that the primary 
constituent elements specific to Umtanum desert buckwheat are:
    1. Primary Constituent Element 1--North to northeast facing, 
weathered basalt cliffs of the Wanapum Formation at the far eastern end 
of Umtanum Ridge in Benton County that contain outcrops, cliff breaks, 
slopes, and flat or gently sloping cliff tops with exposed pebble and 
gravel soils;
    2. Primary Constituent Element 2--Pebbly lithosol talus soils 
derived from surface weathering of the top of the Lolo Flow of the 
Priest Rapids Member of the Wanapum Formation;
    3. Primary Constituent Element 3--Sparsely vegetated habitat (less 
than 10 percent total cover), containing low amounts of nonnative or 
invasive plant species (less than 1 percent cover);
    4. Primary Constituent Element 4--The presence of insect pollinator 
species; and
    5. Primary Constituent Element 5--The presence of native shrub 
steppe habitat within the effective pollinator distance (300 m 
(approximately 980 ft)) around the population.
    Umtanum desert buckwheat occurs only as a single population located 
within a single site. With this proposed designation of critical 
habitat, we intend to identify the physical and biological features 
essential to the conservation of the species, through the 
identification of the appropriate quantity and spatial arrangement of 
the primary constituent elements sufficient to support the life-history 
processes of the species.
Special Management Considerations or Protection
    When designating critical habitat, we assess whether the specific 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
of listing contain features that are essential to the conservation of 
the species and that may require special management considerations or 
protection. All areas proposed for designation as critical habitat as 
described below may require some level of management to address the 
current and future threats to the physical and biological features 
essential to the conservation of Umtanum desert buckwheat. In all of 
the described units, special management

[[Page 28728]]

may be required to ensure that the habitat is able to provide for the 
biological needs of the species.
    Public access without security clearance is currently prohibited at 
the Umtanum desert buckwheat site, reducing the risk of trampling or 
crushing the plants by ORV use. Special management to protect the 
proposed critical habitat areas and the features essential to the 
conservation of Umtanum desert buckwheat from the effects of the 
current wildfire regime may include preventing or restricting the 
establishment of invasive, nonnative plant species, post-wildfire 
restoration with native plant species, and reducing the likelihood of 
wildfires affecting the population and nearby plant community 
components. These actions may be achieved by detailed fire management 
planning by the DOE (the landowner), including rapid response and 
mutual support agreements between the DOE, the Monument, the U.S. 
Department of the Army, Bureau of Land Management, and the Washington 
Department of Fish and Wildlife for wildfire control. These agreements 
should contain sufficient detail to identify actions by all partners 
necessary to protect habitat for Umtanum desert buckwheat from fire 
escaping from other ownerships.
    Further studies leading to an enhancement or reintroduction plan 
may be necessary to increase population size and prepare for recovery 
post-wildfire. More research is needed to determine habitats most 
suitable for expansion of the current population. In summary, special 
management considerations or protections should address activities that 
would be most likely to result in the loss of Umtanum desert buckwheat 
plants or the disturbance, compaction, or other negative impacts to the 
species' habitat. These activities could include, but are not limited 
to, recreational activities and associated infrastructure, off-road 
vehicle activity, dispersed recreation, wildfire, and wildfire 
suppression activities.
Existing Conservation Measures
    A fire management plan has been completed for the Hanford 
installation (DOE 2011, p. 93) and recently revised to incorporate more 
detailed management objectives and standards. Though not intended to 
specifically address Umtanum desert buckwheat, implementation of this 
plan will contribute to the protection of the primary constituent 
elements (and physical or biological features) by: (1) Using a map of 
``sensitive resources'' on the site during implementation, including 
the location of Umtanum desert buckwheat habitat; (2) requiring a 
biologist to assist the command staff in protecting these environments 
during wildfire suppression efforts; and (3) restricting public access 
to the entire Umtanum desert buckwheat site, including the proposed 
pollinator use area.

Proposed Critical Habitat Designation

    We are proposing one unit as critical habitat for the Umtanum 
desert buckwheat population. The critical habitat area described below 
constitutes our best assessment of areas that meet the definition of 
critical habitat for Umtanum desert buckwheat. Within this unit, no 
subunits have been identified.
    The approximate size and ownership of the proposed Umtanum Ridge 
critical habitat unit is identified in Table 6 below. The single unit 
contains currently occupied critical habitat and unoccupied habitat 
surrounding it.

                                          Table 6--Proposed Critical Habitat Unit for Umtanum Desert Buckwheat
                 [Area estimates reflect all land within the critical habitat unit boundaries; values are rounded to the nearest tenth]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                      Occupied         Unoccupied
                                                                                  critical habitat  critical habitat     Percent by      Total hectares
                   Unit name                             Land ownership             in  hectares       in hectares        ownership          (acres)
                                                                                       (acres)           (acres)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Umtanum Ridge, WA.............................  Federal.........................        5.7 (14.2)     133.5 (329.9)               100     139.3 (344.1)
                                                State...........................  ................  ................  ................  ................
                                                Private.........................  ................  ................  ................  ................
                                                                                 -----------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Unit Total...................        5.7 (14.2)     133.5 (329.9)               100     139.3 (344.1)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

White Bluffs Bladderpod

Physical and Biological Features
Space for Individual and Population Growth and for Normal Behavior
    White Bluffs bladderpod is only known from a single population that 
occurs in a narrow band approximately 10 m (33 ft) wide by 17 km (10.6 
mi) long, at the upper edge of the White Bluffs of the Hanford Reach. 
The species only occurs at the upper surface areas of a near-vertical 
exposure of paleosol (ancient, buried soil whose composition may 
reflect a climate significantly different from the climate now 
prevalent in an area). This surface material overlays several hundred 
feet of easily eroded sediments of the Ringold Geologic Formation, a 
sedimentary formation made up of soft Pliocene lacustrine deposits of 
clay, sand, and silt (Newcomb 1958, p. 330).
    The upper part of the Ringold Formation is a heavily calcified and 
silicified cap layer that exists to a depth of at least 4.6 m (15 ft). 
This layer is geologically referred to as ``caliche,'' although it 
lacks the nitrate constituents found in true caliche. The caliche-like 
layer is a resistant caprock underlying a 275-305 m (900-1,000 ft) 
plateau extending north and east from the White Bluffs (Newcomb 1958, 
p. 330).
    The entire population of White Bluffs bladderpod is down-slope of 
irrigated agricultural land, and is being impacted to differing degrees 
by landslides induced by water-seepage (see Factor A). The potential 
for landslide is greatest in the southern portion of the species 
distribution where irrigated lands are closer to, or directly adjacent 
to, the bluffs (Lindsey 1997, p. 12). In addition, field investigations 
have determined that Lesquerella (now Physaria) plants can be 
outcompeted by nonnative, weedy plant species associated with 
irrigation projects and other disturbance (TNC 1998, p. 5).
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the 
weathered cliffs at approximately 210-275 m (700- 900 ft) above sea 
level of the White Bluffs of the Ringold Formation exposed by natural 
erosion as a physical and biological feature essential to the 
conservation for White Bluffs bladderpod. The habitat includes the 
adjacent cliff breaks, moderate to gentle slopes (<100 percent slope) 
to the toe of slope, and flat or gently sloping cliff tops with exposed 
alkaline paleosols. This habitat is stable with a minimal amount of 
landslide occurrence.

[[Page 28729]]

Food, Water, Air, Light, Minerals, or Other Nutritional or 
Physiological Requirements

    The White Bluffs area was submerged during the larger ice-age 
floods until about 3 million years ago and was protected from high flow 
events by the Saddle Mountains to the north. As a result, the area 
experienced little or no erosion. A thin layer of ancient slackwater 
flood deposits overlay the older paleosols and resistant cap deposits 
(Bjornstad and Fecht 2002, p. 15). White Bluffs bladderpod occurs only 
on or near exposed, weathered, highly alkaline, calcium carbonate cap 
deposits and may be an obligate calciphile (a plant which grows well on 
chalky or alkaline soils), as are many of the endemic Lesquerella (now 
Physaria) species (Caplow 2006, p. 3).
    White Bluffs bladderpod plants are found on several different types 
of soil substrates, (e.g., paleosol, volcanic tuff, caliche, and 
ancient flood deposits), each of which presumably have a relatively 
high percentage of calcium carbonate (TNC 1998, p. 5). The species is 
occasionally observed on the lower slopes of the White Bluffs, which 
may be related to ancient landslide zones or weathering and disturbance 
factors that deposit alkaline soils down slope (Caplow and Beck 1996, 
p. 42). Although there are scattered small exposures of similar caliche 
substrate in coulees (i.e., deep ravines or gulches that are usually 
dry, although formed by water) to the north, surveys have failed to 
detect the species in those areas (Rollins et al. 1996, p. 206). The 
physiological relationship between White Bluffs bladderpod and the 
high-calcium carbonate soils of the White Bluffs is uncertain; however, 
the particular combination of exposed soil types where the species 
occurs is not known from any other location.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the 
weathered alkaline paleosols and mixed soils of the Ringold Formation 
that occur in a narrow band within and around the exposed caliche-like 
cap containing a high percentage of calcium carbonate as a physical and 
biological feature essential to the conservation of White Bluffs 
bladderpod. This habitat is associated with the White Bluffs, and 
occurs between 210-275 m (700-900 ft) in elevation.

Sites for Reproduction

    Washington State University researchers on the Hanford Reach have 
identified approximately 2,500 different species of invertebrates, 42 
of which are new to science (WNPS 2004, p. 3). Larvae of a species of 
Cecidomyiid fly have been observed infesting and destroying flowering 
buds, and another unidentified insect species has been observed boring 
small holes in young seed capsules and feeding on developing ovules, 
although the overall positive or negative effects of these insect 
species to the plant are unknown. White Bluffs bladderpod appears to be 
served by several pollinators, including butterflies, flies, wasps, 
bumblebees, moths, beetles, and ant species. The presence of nearby 
habitat for pollinators is essential to conserving White Bluffs 
bladderpod, although little is currently known about the reproductive 
biology of the species. The effective pollinator distance for this 
species was determined by applying research on known flight distances 
of solitary bees (individual, noncolonial bees), which are known to 
pollinate native species and commonly observed in shrub steppe habitat 
within the Hanford Reach. Research suggests that different species of 
solitary bees have fairly short foraging distances within similar 
habitat types (Gathmann and Tscharntke 2002, p. 762); we assume other 
pollinating insects with longer-range flight capabilities would also 
utilize this habitat.
    Solitary bees foraging distances within similar habitat types is 
suggested as being between 150-600 m (495-1,970 ft) (Gathmann and 
Tscharntke (2002, pp. 760-762)). Absent specific data, we believe 300 m 
(980 ft) represents a reasonable mid-range estimate of the area needed 
around the White Bluffs bladderpod population to provide sufficient 
habitat for solitary bees and other pollinators. As noted above, many 
other insects likely contribute to the pollination of White Bluffs 
bladderpod, some may travel greater distances than solitary bees, and 
some likely use habitat within the 300-m (980-ft) pollinator area 
described above. However, we limited the White Bluffs bladderpod 
pollinator support habitat to 300 m (980 ft) around the population, 
based on the rationale that pollinators using habitat farther away may 
not be as likely to contribute to the conservation/recovery of this 
species.
    Common plant species associated with White Bluffs bladderpod 
include: Artemisia tridentata (big sagebrush), Poa sandbergii 
(Sandberg's bluegrass), Astragalus carieinus (buckwheat milk-vetch), 
Eriogonum microthecum (slender buckwheat), and Oryzopsis hymenoides 
(Indian ricegrass). Occasionally White Bluffs bladderpod is numerous 
enough at some locations to be subdominant.
    Species diversity within the surrounding plant community is quite 
high, and the presence of increased vegetative cover nearby offers more 
habitat structure and plant species diversity within the presumed 
effective flight distances of potential pollinators. In order for 
genetic exchange to occur between White Bluffs bladderpod individuals, 
pollinators must be able to move freely between plants. Additional 
pollen and nectar sources (other plant species within the surrounding 
sagebrush vegetation) are also needed to support pollinators during 
times when White Bluffs bladderpod is not flowering. This surrounding 
and adjacent habitat will protect soils and pollinators from 
disturbance, slow the invasion of the site by nonnative species, and 
provide a diversity of habitats needed by White Bluffs bladderpod and 
its pollinators.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify insect 
pollinators as a physical and biological feature essential to the 
conservation for White Bluffs bladderpod. Insect pollinators require a 
diversity of native plants, surrounding and adjacent to White Bluffs 
bladderpod, whose blooming times overlap to provide them with 
sufficient flowers for foraging throughout the seasons and to provide 
nesting and egg-laying sites, appropriate nesting materials, and 
sheltered, undisturbed places for hibernation and overwintering of 
pollinator species.

Habitats Protected From Disturbance or Representing Historical, 
Geographical, and Ecological Distributions

    White Bluffs bladderpod grows exclusively on the upper edge and 
upper face of the White Bluffs adjacent to the Columbia River, where 
human use can be high. The majority of the population occurs within the 
Wahluke Unit of the Hanford Reach National Monument/Saddle Mountain 
National Wildlife Refuge. The Wahluke Unit is open for public access in 
some form in its entirety (USFWS 2008, p. 2-4). The habitat is arid, 
and vegetation is sparse within the population (Rollins et al. 1996, p. 
206). The area supporting the population has approximately 10-15 
percent total vegetative cover. Species other than White Bluffs 
bladderpod comprise less than 5 percent cover, and nonnative or 
invasive plant species comprise less than 1 percent cover (Arnett 
2011c, pers. comm.). Much of this area (85 percent) is on public land 
that is managed as an overlay national wildlife refuge on the Monument, 
and accessible by vehicle from a nearby State highway. Off-road vehicle 
(ORV) use can impact the species by crushing

[[Page 28730]]

plants, destabilizing the soil, and spreading seeds of invasive plants. 
Within White Bluffs bladderpod habitat, ORV activity is prohibited on 
the Hanford Reach National Monument lands, intermittent on other 
Federal lands, and is most common on private lands. ORV use increases 
soil disturbance and erosion, and has been observed to destroy White 
Bluffs bladderpod individuals since this activity more often takes 
place on the more moderate slopes where the species occurs (Caplow and 
Beck 1996, p. 42).
    Fire threatens White Bluffs bladderpod by directly burning plants 
and opening new areas to the establishment of invasive species. A large 
wildfire burned through the northern portion of the population in July 
2007. The observed decline in the number of plants counted after the 
2007 fire was within a natural range of variability (between highest 
and lowest counts) determined during survey transects. The 2008-2011 
monitoring indicated the negative impacts of the burn were less than 
expected, since 76 percent of the previous population numbers were 
observed the following year. However, large-scale wildfires continue to 
be a threat to the existing population (Newsome pers. comm. 2008; 
Goldie pers. comm. 2008) by destroying pollinator habitat and 
facilitating competition with nonnative and invasive plant species that 
become established in openings created by wildfires.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify stable bluff 
formations and caliche-like alkaline soils as a physical and biological 
feature essential to the conservation for White Bluffs bladderpod. 
These areas (1) are at a low risk of wildfire, (2) are not open to 
motorized recreational use, (3) are protected from human-caused 
trampling, (4) have little or no surface disturbance, (5) are sparsely 
vegetated (i.e., have 10 to 15 percent total vegetation cover), and (6) 
are surrounded by native pollinator habitat.

Primary Constituent Elements for White Bluffs Bladderpod

    Under the Act and its implementing regulations, we are required to 
identify the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of White Bluffs bladderpod in areas occupied at the time 
of listing, focusing on the features' primary constituent elements. We 
consider primary constituent elements to be the specific compositional 
elements of physical and biological features that are essential to the 
conservation of the species.
    Based on our current knowledge of the physical or biological 
features and the habitat characteristics required to sustain the 
species' life-history process, we have determined that the primary 
constituent elements specific to White Bluffs bladderpod are:
    1. Primary Constituent Element 1--Weathered alkaline paleosols and 
mixed soils overlying the Ringold Formation. These soils occur within 
and around the exposed caliche-like cap deposits associated with the 
White Bluffs of the Ringold Formation, which contain a high percentage 
of calcium carbonate. These features occur between 210-275 m (700-900 
ft) in elevation.
    2. Primary Constituent Element 2--Sparsely vegetated habitat (less 
than 10-15 percent total cover), containing low amounts of nonnative or 
invasive plant species (less than 1 percent cover).
    3. Primary Constituent Element 3--The presence of insect pollinator 
species.
    4. Primary Constituent Element 4--The presence of native shrub 
steppe habitat within the effective pollinator distance (300 m 
(approximately 980 ft)).
    5. Primary Constituent Element 5--The presence of stable bluff 
formations with minimal landslide occurrence.
    White Bluffs bladderpod occurs only as a single population found 
within a single location. With this proposed designation of critical 
habitat, we intend to identify the physical and biological features 
essential to the conservation of the species, through the 
identification of the appropriate quantity and spatial arrangement of 
the primary constituent elements sufficient to support the life-history 
processes of the species.
Special Management Considerations or Protection
    When designating critical habitat, we assess whether the specific 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
of listing contain features that are essential to the conservation of 
the species and that may require special management considerations or 
protection. Because the public can access the White Bluffs bladderpod 
population, there is increased risk for plants being trampled and the 
spread of nonnative or invasive plants. To address this concern, the 
Hanford National Monument may develop a management plan on lands within 
its jurisdiction to protect the areas proposed as critical habitat for 
White Bluffs bladderpod, while continuing to allow the public to enjoy 
the area. Recreational access may be managed and controlled by 
directing foot traffic away from the species, installing fencing, and 
establishing appropriate signage for pedestrians and ORV traffic across 
unprotected boundaries with private and State land.
    Special management to protect the proposed critical habitat areas 
from irrigation-induced landslides could include working with 
landowners through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Natural 
Resources Conservation Service) to support water conservation practices 
to reduce excessive groundwater charging. This program could be 
designed to increase water efficiency as a savings and benefit to 
agricultural producers as well. Management considerations could include 
coordination with the Bureau of Reclamation to make water delivery to 
its customers more efficient and route wastewater return such that it 
reduces groundwater infiltration. Special management to protect the 
proposed critical habitat area from the effects of wildfire may include 
preventing or restricting the establishment of invasive, nonnative 
plant species, post-wildfire restoration with native plant species, and 
reducing the likelihood of wildfires affecting the nearby plant 
community components. Many of these actions are already in place, and 
need only refinement through detailed fire management planning to 
protect proposed critical habitat by the Monument.
    In summary, special management considerations or protections should 
address activities that would be most likely to result in the loss of 
White Bluffs bladderpod plants or the disturbance, compaction, or other 
negative impacts to the species' habitat through landslides or other 
means. These activities could include, but are not limited to, 
dispersed recreation, off-road vehicle activity, wildfire, and wildfire 
suppression activities.
Existing Conservation Measures
    The Service has completed a comprehensive conservation plan for the 
Hanford National Monument that provides a strategy and general 
conservation measures for rare plants that may benefit White Bluffs 
bladderpod. This strategy includes support for monitoring, invasive 
species control, fire prevention, propagation, reintroduction and GIS 
support (USFWS 2008, pp. 2-64-2-65). The conservation of White Bluffs 
bladderpod is addressed by acknowledging that protection is needed, and 
that the plant is required to be addressed in any management action 
(USFWS 2008, p. 3-95).

Proposed Critical Habitat Designation

    We are proposing one unit as critical habitat for the White Bluffs 
bladderpod

[[Page 28731]]

population. The critical habitat area described below constitutes our 
best assessment of that portion of the landscape that meets the 
definition of critical habitat for this population. Within this unit, 
no subunits have been identified. The approximate size and ownership of 
the proposed White Bluffs critical habitat unit is identified in Table 
7. The unit includes both occupied and unoccupied habitat.

                                           Table 7--Proposed Critical Habitat Area for White Bluffs Bladderpod
                   [Area estimates reflect all land within critical habitat unit boundaries; values are rounded to the nearest tenth]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                      Occupied         Unoccupied
                                                                                  critical habitat  critical habitat     Percent by      Total hectares
                   Unit name                             Land ownership              in hectares       in hectares        ownership          (acres)
                                                                                       (acres)           (acres)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
White.........................................  Federal.........................          87 (216)       884 (2,184)                84       971 (2,400)
Bluffs........................................  State...........................             2 (6)           14 (36)                 2           17 (42)
                                                Private.........................           19 (47)         151 (372)                15         170 (419)
                                                                                 -----------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Total........................         109 (269)     1,049 (2,592)               100     1,158 (2,861)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Effects of Critical Habitat Designation

Section 7 Consultation

Umtanum Desert Buckwheat and White Bluffs Bladderpod
    Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies, including the 
Service, to ensure that any action they fund, authorize, or carry out 
is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered 
or threatened species, or result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of designated critical habitat of such species. In 
addition, section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
confer with the Service on any action which is likely to jeopardize the 
continued existence of any species proposed to be listed under the Act 
or result in the destruction or adverse modification of proposed 
critical habitat.
    Decisions by the Fifth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals have 
invalidated our regulatory definition of ``destruction or adverse 
modification'' (50 CFR 402.02) (see Gifford Pinchot Task Force v. U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 378 F. 3d 1059 (9th Cir 2004) and Sierra 
Club v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service et al., 245 F.3d 434, 442F (5th 
Cir 2001)), and we do not rely on this regulatory definition when 
analyzing whether an action is likely to destroy or adversely modify 
critical habitat. Under the statutory provisions of the Act, the key 
factor in determining whether an action will destroy or adversely 
modify critical habitat is whether, with implementation of the proposed 
Federal action, the affected critical habitat would continue to serve 
its intended conservation role for the species.
    If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical 
habitat, the responsible Federal agency (action agency) must enter into 
consultation with us. Examples of actions that are subject to the 
section 7 consultation process are actions that require a Federal 
permit (such as a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under 
section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) or a permit 
from the Service under section 10 of the Act) or that involve some 
other Federal action (such as funding from the Natural Resources 
Conservation Service or the Bureau of Reclamation). Federal actions not 
affecting listed species or critical habitat, and actions on State, 
tribal, local, or private lands that are not federally funded or 
authorized, do not require section 7 consultation.
    As a result of section 7 consultation, we document compliance with 
the requirements of section 7(a)(2) through our issuance of:
    (1) A concurrence letter for Federal actions that may affect, but 
are not likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat; 
or
    (2) A biological opinion for Federal actions that may affect, or 
are likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat.
    When we issue a biological opinion concluding that a project is 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or 
destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, we provide reasonable and 
prudent alternatives to the project, if any are identifiable. We define 
``reasonable and prudent alternatives'' (at 50 CFR 402.02) as 
alternative actions identified during consultation that:
    (1) Can be implemented in a manner consistent with the intended 
purpose of the action;
    (2) Can be implemented consistent with the scope of the Federal 
agency's legal authority and jurisdiction;
    (3) Are economically and technologically feasible; and
    (4) Would, in the Director's opinion, avoid the likelihood of 
jeopardizing the continued existence of the listed species or avoid the 
likelihood of destroying or adversely modifying critical habitat.
    Reasonable and prudent alternatives can vary from slight project 
modifications to extensive redesign or relocation of the project. Costs 
associated with implementing a reasonable and prudent alternative are 
similarly variable.
    Regulations at 50 CFR 402.16 require Federal agencies to reinitiate 
consultation on previously reviewed actions in instances where we have 
listed a new species or subsequently designated critical habitat that 
may be affected and the Federal agency has retained discretionary 
involvement or control over the action (or the agency's discretionary 
involvement or control is authorized by law). Consequently, Federal 
agencies sometimes may need to request reinitiation of consultation 
with us on actions for which formal consultation has been completed, if 
those actions with discretionary involvement or control may affect 
subsequently listed species or designated critical habitat.

Application of the Jeopardy and Adverse Modification Standards

Jeopardy Standard

    If either species were listed under the Act, the Service would 
apply an analytical framework for jeopardy analyses relying heavily on 
the importance of habitat parameters at known population sites 
essential to the species' survival and recovery. The Service would 
focus its section 7(a)(2) analysis not only on these populations but 
also on the habitat conditions necessary to support them.
    The jeopardy analysis usually expresses the survival and recovery 
needs of the species in a qualitative fashion without making 
distinctions between what is necessary for survival and what is 
necessary for recovery.

[[Page 28732]]

Generally, the jeopardy analysis would focus on the rangewide status of 
Umtanum desert buckwheat or White Bluffs bladderpod, the factors 
responsible for those conditions, and what is necessary for the species 
to survive and recover. An emphasis would also be placed on 
characterizing the conditions of these species and their habitat in the 
area that would be affected by a proposed Federal action, and the role 
of affected populations in the survival and recovery of either Umtanum 
desert buckwheat or White Bluffs bladderpod. That context would then be 
used to determine the significance of the adverse and beneficial 
effects of the proposed Federal action, and any cumulative effects for 
purposes of making the jeopardy determination.

Application of the ``Adverse Modification'' Standard

    The key factor related to the adverse modification determination is 
whether, with implementation of the proposed Federal action, the 
affected critical habitat would continue to serve its intended 
conservation role for the species. Activities that may destroy or 
adversely modify critical habitat are those that alter the physical or 
biological features to an extent that appreciably reduces the 
conservation value of the critical habitat for Umtanum desert buckwheat 
or White Bluffs bladderpod. As discussed above, the role of critical 
habitat is to support the various life-history needs and provide for 
the conservation of both species.
    Section 4(b)(8) of the Act requires us to briefly evaluate and 
describe in any proposed or final regulation that designates critical 
habitat, activities involving a Federal action that may destroy or 
adversely modify such habitat, or that may be affected by such 
designation.
    Activities that, when carried out, funded, or authorized by a 
Federal agency, may affect critical habitat and therefore result in 
consultation for Umtanum desert buckwheat or White Bluffs bladderpod 
include, but are not limited to:
    (1) Actions within or near designated critical habitat areas that 
would result in the loss, disturbance, or compaction of unique soils at 
cliff breaks, slopes, and flat to gently sloping upper surface areas. 
Such activities could include, but are not limited to:
     Recreational activities and associated infrastructure;
     Off-road vehicle activity;
     Dispersed recreation;
     New road construction or widening or existing road 
maintenance;
     New energy transmission lines, or expansion of existing 
energy transmission lines;
     Maintenance of existing energy transmission line 
corridors;
     Wildfire suppression and post-wildfire rehabilitation 
activities;
     Activities that result in the burial of seeds such that 
germinants do not successfully reach the soil surface to flower and set 
seed;
     Activities that result in compaction that smoothes the 
surface, causing seeds to be carried away by wind or water due to the 
lack of rough surface textures to capture seed;
     Activities that result in changes in soil composition 
leading to changes in the vegetation composition, such as an increase 
in invasive, nonnative plant cover within and adjacent to cliff break 
microsites, resulting in decreased density or vigor of individual 
Umtanum desert buckwheat or White Bluffs bladderpod plants; and
     Activities that result in changes in soil permeability and 
increased runoff that degrades, reduces, or eliminates habitat 
necessary for growth and reproduction of either species.
    (2) Actions within or near designated critical habitat areas that 
would result in the significant alteration of intact, native, 
sagebrush-steppe habitat within the range of Umtanum desert buckwheat 
or White Bluffs bladderpod. Such activities could include:
     ORV activities and dispersed recreation;
     New road construction or widening or existing road 
maintenance;
     New energy transmission lines or expansion of existing 
energy transmission lines;
     Maintenance of existing energy transmission line 
corridors;
     Fuels management projects such as prescribed burning; and
     Rehabilitation or restoration activities using plant 
species that may compete with Umtanum desert buckwheat or White Bluffs 
bladderpod, or not adequately address habitat requirements for insect 
pollinators.
    These activities could result in the replacement or fragmentation 
of sagebrush-steppe habitat through the degradation or loss of native 
shrubs, grasses, and forbs in a manner that promotes increased wildfire 
frequency and intensity, and an increase in the cover of invasive, 
nonnative plant species that would compete for soil matrix components 
and moisture necessary to support the growth and reproduction of either 
species.
    (3) Actions within or near designated critical habitat that would 
significantly reduce pollination or seed set (reproduction). Such 
activities could include, but are not limited to:
     Recreational development and associated infrastructure; 
and
     Use of pesticides, mowing, fuels management projects such 
as prescribed burning, and post-wildfire rehabilitation activities 
using plant species that may compete with Umtanum desert buckwheat or 
White Bluffs bladderpod.
    These activities could prevent or reduce successful reproduction by 
removal or destruction of reproductive plant parts and could impact the 
habitat needs of generalist insect pollinators through habitat 
degradation and fragmentation, reducing the availability of insect 
pollinators for either species.
    The occupied areas proposed as critical habitat contain the 
physical and biological features essential to the conservation of 
Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod, and are within 
the historical geographic range of the species. The unoccupied areas 
are essential to the conservation of the species because they provide 
areas needed by insect pollinators. Federal agencies would need to 
consult with us to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize the 
continued existence of the species, or adversely affect designated 
critical habitat, if the species are listed under the Act.

Exemptions

Application of Section 4(a)(3) of the Act

    The Sikes Act Improvement Act of 1997 (Sikes Act) (16 U.S.C. 670a) 
required each military installation that includes land and water 
suitable for the conservation and management of natural resources to 
complete an integrated natural resources management plan (INRMP) by 
November 17, 2001. An INRMP integrates implementation of the military 
mission of the installation with stewardship of the natural resources 
found on the base. Each INRMP includes:
    (1) An assessment of the ecological needs on the installation, 
including the need to provide for the conservation of listed species;
    (2) A statement of goals and priorities;
    (3) A detailed description of management actions to be implemented 
to provide for these ecological needs; and
    (4) A monitoring and adaptive management plan.
    Among other things, each INRMP must, to the extent appropriate and 
applicable, provide for fish and wildlife management; fish and wildlife 
habitat

[[Page 28733]]

enhancement or modification; wetland protection, enhancement, and 
restoration where necessary to support fish and wildlife; and 
enforcement of applicable natural resource laws.
    The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Pub. 
L. 108-136) amended the Act to limit areas eligible for designation as 
critical habitat. Specifically, section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act (16 
U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(B)(i)) now provides: ``The Secretary shall not 
designate as critical habitat any lands or other geographical areas 
owned or controlled by the Department of Defense (DOD), or designated 
for its use, that are subject to an integrated natural resources 
management plan prepared under section 101 of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 
670a), if the Secretary determines in writing that such plan provides a 
benefit to the species for which critical habitat is proposed for 
designation.''
    There are no DOD lands with a completed INRMP within the proposed 
critical habitat designation.

Exclusions

Application of Section 4(b)(2) of the Act

    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary must designate 
and revise critical habitat on the basis of the best available 
scientific data after taking into consideration the economic impact, 
national security impact, and any other relevant impact of specifying 
any particular area as critical habitat. The Secretary may exclude an 
area from critical habitat if he determines that the benefits of such 
exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such area as part of the 
critical habitat, unless he determines, based on the best scientific 
data available, that the failure to designate will result in the 
extinction of the species. In making that determination, the 
legislative history is clear that the Secretary has broad discretion 
regarding which factor(s) to use and how much weight to give to any 
factor.
Exclusions Based on Economic Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider all relevant impacts, 
including economic impacts. In compliance with section 4(b)(2) of the 
Act, we have prepared a draft analysis of the economic impacts of this 
proposed designation of critical habitat (DEA), which is available as 
supporting information for the proposed critical habitat designation. 
This document is available for downloading from the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov, or from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office 
directly (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). The DEA evaluates 
potential economic impacts of the designation, considering land 
ownership, reasonably foreseeable land use activities, potential 
Federal agency actions within the area and section 7 consultation 
requirements, baseline conservation measures (i.e., measures that would 
be implemented regardless of the critical habitat designation), and 
incremental conservation measures (i.e., measures that would be 
attributed exclusively to the critical habitat designation).
    The DEA concludes that incremental economic impacts are unlikely, 
given the species' narrow geographic range and the fact that any 
economic impacts related to conservation efforts to avoid adverse 
modification or destruction of critical habitat would be, for the most 
part, indistinguishable from those that would be required because of 
the listing of the species under the Act. Although unoccupied critical 
habitat areas are typically where incremental effects would be 
expected, in this case unoccupied critical habitat areas that support 
insect pollinators are immediately adjacent to occupied critical 
habitat. The effects of an action in occupied critical habitat would be 
analyzed concurrently with regard to its effects to unoccupied critical 
habitat. We anticipate that, in most cases, conservation 
recommendations or conservation recommendations would be identical, 
regardless of the critical habitat type. The DEA concludes that any 
incremental costs would be limited to additional administrative costs 
that would be borne by Federal agencies associated with section 7 
consultations. During the development of the final designation, we will 
consider economic impacts, public comments, and other new information. 
Certain areas may be excluded from the final critical habitat 
designation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act and or implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 424.19.
    At this time, we are not proposing any exclusions of areas from 
critical habitat under section 4(b)(2) of the Act for Umtanum desert 
buckwheat or White Bluffs bladderpod. During the comment period for the 
proposed designation of critical habitat, we will consider any 
available information about areas covered by conservation or management 
plans that we should consider for exclusion from the designation under 
section 4(b)(2) of the Act, including whether the benefits of exclusion 
would outweigh the benefits of their inclusion and whether exclusion 
would or would not result in the extinction of the species. We are 
specifically asking for public comment on the benefits of exclusion 
versus inclusion of private lands in the designation of critical 
habitat, and will determine whether any such lands may merit exclusion 
from the designation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. Furthermore, we 
will evaluate all comments provided during the public comment period of 
this proposed rule on whether the benefits of excluding any particular 
area from critical habitat outweigh the benefits of including that area 
in critical habitat under section 4(b)(2) of the Act.
Exclusions Based on National Security Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider whether there are 
lands owned or managed by the DOD where a national security impact 
might exist. In preparing this proposal, we have determined that the 
lands within the proposed designation of critical habitat for either of 
the species are not owned or managed by the DOD and, therefore, we 
anticipate no impact to national security. Consequently, the Secretary 
does not propose to exercise his discretion to exclude any areas from 
the final designation based on impacts on national security.
Exclusions Based on Other Relevant Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider any other relevant 
impacts, in addition to economic impacts and impacts on national 
security. We consider a number of factors including whether the 
landowners have developed any Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) or 
other management plans for the area, or whether there are conservation 
partnerships that would be encouraged by designation of, or exclusion 
from, critical habitat. In addition, we look at any Tribal issues, and 
consider the government-to-government relationship of the United States 
with Tribal entities. We also consider any social impacts that might 
occur because of the designation.
    In preparing this proposal, we have determined that there are 
currently no HCPs or other management plans that specifically address 
management needs for either of the species, and the proposed 
designation does not include any Tribal lands or trust resources. We 
anticipate no impact to Tribal lands, partnerships, or HCPs from this 
proposed critical habitat designation. Accordingly, the Secretary does 
not propose to exercise his discretion to exclude any areas from the 
final designation based on other relevant impacts.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy published in the Federal 
Register on

[[Page 28734]]

July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert opinions of at 
least three appropriate and independent specialists regarding this 
proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure that our 
determination of status for this species is based on scientifically 
sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We have invited these peer 
reviewers to comment, during this public comment period, on the 
specific assumptions and conclusions regarding the proposal to list 
Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod as threatened, and 
our proposed determinations regarding critical habitat for these 
species.
    We will consider all comments and information received during the 
comment period on this proposed rule during preparation of a final 
rulemaking. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this 
proposal.

Public Hearings

    Section 4(b)(5) provides for one or more public hearings on this 
proposal, if requested. Requests must be received within 45 days after 
the date of publication of this proposal in the Federal Register. Such 
requests must be sent to the address shown in the FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT section. We will schedule public hearings on this 
proposal, if any are requested, and announce the dates, times, and 
places of those hearings, as well as how to obtain reasonable 
accommodations, in the Federal Register and local newspapers at least 
15 days before the hearing.

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review (Executive Orders 12866 and 13563)

    Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and 
Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) will review all significant rules. OIRA has 
determined that this rule is not significant.
    Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of E.O. 12866 while 
calling for improvements in the nation's regulatory system to promote 
predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most 
innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. 
The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches 
that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for 
the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and 
consistent with regulatory objectives. E.O. 13563 emphasizes further 
that regulations must be based on the best available science and that 
the rulemaking process must allow for public participation and an open 
exchange of ideas. We have developed this rule in a manner consistent 
with these requirements.

Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA; 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), 
as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 
(SBREFA) of 1996, whenever an agency must publish a notice of 
rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make 
available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that 
describes the effects of the rule on small entities (small businesses, 
small organizations, and small government jurisdictions). However, no 
regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of the agency 
certifies the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities. The SBREFA amended the RFA to 
require Federal agencies to provide a certification statement of the 
factual basis for certifying that the rule will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
    To determine if the proposed designation of critical habitat for 
Umtanum desert buckwheat or White Bluffs bladderpod would affect a 
substantial number of small entities, we considered the potential 
number of small entities potentially affected within the particular 
types of economic activities most likely to be affected. In order to 
determine whether it is appropriate for our agency to certify that this 
rule would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities, we considered each industry or category 
individually. In estimating the numbers of small entities potentially 
affected, we also considered whether their activities have any Federal 
involvement. Since the predominant private land use that could be 
impacted by the proposed critical habitat designation for White Bluffs 
bladderpod appears to be irrigated agriculture, we focused our RFA and 
SBREFA analyses to that particular activity. The proposed designation 
is focused on Federal, State, and private lands that contain occupied 
habitat and the adjacent areas with native shrub steppe vegetation that 
provides nearby habitat for insect pollinators. Lands that are under 
agricultural use are not included in the proposed critical habitat 
designation.
    In 2007, Franklin County, Washington, had 891 farms, which 
encompassed 246,664 ha (609,046 ac) and had an average farm size of 277 
ha (684 ac, (http://www.co.franklin.wa.us/assessor/demo_countywide.html). The Franklin County data indicates that 393,025 acres 
were in irrigated agriculture. The market value of agricultural 
products sold was $467 million, and the net cash return from 
agricultural sales was $116.8 million. For purposes of this analysis, 
we assumed the entire critical habitat designation proposed on private 
lands (170 ha (419 ac)) could be used for irrigated agriculture, to 
determine the scope of maximum impact for the proposed designation on 
small entities (i.e., the worst-case scenario). Although the DEA does 
not differentiate between the acreage most likely suitable for 
agricultural use and the acreage not suitable for such use, much of the 
170 ha (419 ac) is steep, and contains numerous cliffs, high gradient 
draws, and areas of active and dormant soil fracturing and sloughing. 
Accordingly, the DEA represents an upper bound, and likely overstates 
the potential economic impacts to small entities.
    Based on Franklin County, Washington 2007 data, the proposed 
designation would overlay approximately 1/10 of 1 percent of the total 
irrigated acres (159,175 ha (393,025 ac)) in the county. Approximately 
65 percent of the total land in farms (609,046 acres) consists of 
irrigated acreage (393,025 acres). The 2007 irrigated-acres value would 
proportionally represent approximately $304 million of the total market 
value of all agricultural products sold ($467 million). Each irrigated 
acre, therefore, proportionally represents approximately $724 in value/
year, based on the 2007 data. Based on this calculation, the maximum 
economic impact for the entire 419 acres of private land proposed as 
critical habitat would be $303,559 if all acreage were conducive to and 
planned for irrigation agricultural use. However, since much of this 
acreage is not suitable for agriculture based on topography, the actual 
economic impact would likely be considerably less. Based on this 
analysis (see Table 6), the proposed designation of critical habitat 
within the 419 acres of private property would not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Since the 
average size of a farm in Franklin County, Washington, is 277 ha (684 
ac), 170 ha (419 ac) represents approximately 61 percent of the size of 
one average farm; there are 891 farms in the County. Each private 
property acre within the proposed critical habitat designation 
potentially represents approximately $724 in annual value based on 2007 
data, although a substantial percentage of this acreage is

[[Page 28735]]

not conducive to agricultural use because of steep topography and 
erosion potential. In addition, the designation of critical habitat 
would not affect private property unless a proposed development 
activity required Federal authorization or involved Federal funding, 
which is uncertain.

  Table 8--Potential Upper Bound Economic Impact to Private Land of the
   Proposed Critical Habitat Designation for White Bluffs Bladderpod *
------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Description                   Variable            Value
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Total land in farms (acres).....               (a)            609,046
2. Lands in irrigated farms (acres)               (b)            393,025
3. Market value agricultural                      (c)       $467,014,000
 products sold.....................
4. Net cash return from                           (d)       $116,803,000
 agricultural sales................
5. Proposed critical habitat acres.               (e)                419
6. Percent of (a) represented by                  (f)                65%
 (b): [(b) / (a)]..................
7. Proportional (d) represented by                (g)       $303,559,100
 (b): [(b) x 0.65].................
8. Percentage of (b) represented by               (h)             0.001%
 (e): [(e) / (b)]..................
9. Proportional value of (g)                      (i)           $303,559
 represented by (e): [(g) x (h)]...
10. Proportional value (i) per acre               (j)               $724
 (e): [(i) / (e)]..................
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Based on 2007 Franklin County tax assessor data.

    Other than the above 170 ha (419 ac), the remainder of the areas 
proposed as critical habitat for White Bluffs bladderpod are either on 
State or Federal lands, and the proposed critical habitat designation 
for Umtanum desert buckwheat is entirely on Federal land. Federal and 
State governments are not considered small entities for purposes of our 
RFA analysis.
    Based on the best available scientific and commercial data, we have 
not identified a significant number of small entities that may be 
impacted by the proposed critical habitat designation, based on land 
ownership information. Small entities are consequently anticipated to 
bear a relatively low cost impact as a result of the designation of 
critical habitat for Umtanum desert buckwheat or White Bluffs 
bladderpod. Accordingly, we certify that, if promulgated, the proposed 
critical habitat designation would not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small business entities. Therefore, 
an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required.

Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use--Executive Order 13211

    Executive Order 13211 (Actions Concerning Regulations that 
Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use) requires 
agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking 
certain actions. Seventeen high-voltage transmission lines cross the 
Monument boundaries, 11 of which cross the Hanford Reach. There are 
also two electric substations and several microwave towers located 
within the Monument boundaries. Periodic patrols and 24-hour access for 
emergency replacement of failed equipment are required for these 
facilities, and lines are patrolled by helicopter usually three times 
each year to assess potential problem areas. Helicopters may also be 
used in lieu of ground vehicles for maintenance or repairs (FWS 2008, 
p. 3-168). Other than an existing Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) 
overhead transmission line near the Umtanum desert buckwheat population 
on lands administered by the Department of Energy (DOE), there are no 
energy facilities within the footprint of the proposed critical habitat 
boundaries. The BPA has existing agreements with the DOE (the agency 
managing the land where the Umtanum desert buckwheat population occurs) 
for management of transmission line rights-of-way, access roads, 
microwave tower lines-of-sight, electric power substations, and other 
sites. The BPA will likely need to expand its existing transmission 
system in the vicinity of the Monument to meet future needs for moving 
electricity from generation sources in Montana, northern Idaho, and 
northeastern Washington to load centers in the Pacific Northwest.
    Any activities related to transmission system expansion would first 
require study and analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act 
and coordination with the DOE and FWS to ensure protection of the 
Monument's natural and cultural resources (USFWS 2008, p. 3-169). This 
analysis would be required regardless of the designation of critical 
habitat for Umtanum desert buckwheat or White Bluffs bladderpod. 
However, we have no information indicating that new energy projects are 
planned for areas within the boundaries of the proposed critical 
habitat units, or that any of the maintenance activities described 
above would affect either the Umtanum desert buckwheat or White Bluffs 
bladderpod populations. Accordingly, we do not expect the designation 
of this proposed critical habitat to significantly affect energy 
supplies, distribution, or use. Therefore, this action is not a 
significant energy action, and no Statement of Energy Effects is 
required. Any comments received addressing energy supply will be fully 
considered and addressed in the final rule. The DOE Richland Operations 
Office is supportive of the Service's efforts to list Umtanum desert 
buckwheat under the Act (DOE 2011).

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 
et seq.), we make the following findings:
    (a) This rule will not produce a Federal mandate. In general, a 
Federal mandate is a provision in legislation, statute, or regulation 
that would impose an enforceable duty upon State, local, or Tribal 
governments, or the private sector, and includes both ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandates'' and ``Federal private sector mandates.'' 
These terms are defined in 2 U.S.C. 658(5)-(7). ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would impose 
an enforceable duty upon State, local, or [T]ribal governments'' with 
two exceptions. It excludes ``a condition of Federal assistance.'' It 
also excludes ``a duty arising from participation in a voluntary 
Federal program,'' unless the regulation ``relates to a then-existing 
Federal program under which $500,000,000 or more is provided annually 
to State, local, and [T]ribal governments under entitlement 
authority,'' if the provision would ``increase the stringency of 
conditions of assistance'' or ``place caps upon, or otherwise decrease, 
the Federal Government's responsibility to provide funding,'' and the 
State, local, or Tribal governments ``lack authority'' to adjust 
accordingly. At the time of enactment, these entitlement programs were:

[[Page 28736]]

Medicaid; Aid to Families with Dependent Children work programs; Child 
Nutrition; Food Stamps; Social Services Block Grants; Vocational 
Rehabilitation State Grants; Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and 
Independent Living; Family Support Welfare Services; and Child Support 
Enforcement. ``Federal private sector mandate'' includes a regulation 
that ``would impose an enforceable duty upon the private sector, except 
(i) a condition of Federal assistance or (ii) a duty arising from 
participation in a voluntary Federal program.''
    The designation of critical habitat does not impose a legally 
binding duty on non-Federal government entities or private parties. 
Under the Act, the only regulatory effect is that Federal agencies must 
ensure that their actions do not destroy or adversely modify critical 
habitat under section 7. While non-Federal entities that receive 
Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that otherwise require 
approval or authorization from a Federal agency for an action, may be 
indirectly impacted by the designation of critical habitat, the legally 
binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical 
habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency. Furthermore, to the 
extent that non-Federal entities are indirectly impacted because they 
receive Federal assistance or participate in a voluntary Federal aid 
program, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act would not apply, nor would 
critical habitat shift the costs of the large entitlement programs 
listed above onto State governments.
    We do not believe that this rule will significantly or uniquely 
affect small governments. The lands being proposed for critical habitat 
designation are predominantly owned by the Department of Energy and the 
Department of the Interior. These government entities do not fit the 
definition of ``small governmental jurisdiction.'' Therefore, a Small 
Government Agency Plan is not required. However, we will further 
evaluate this issue as we conduct our economic analysis, and review and 
revise this assessment as warranted.

Takings--Executive Order 12630

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630 (Government Actions and 
Interference with Constitutionally Protected Private Property Rights), 
this rule is not anticipated to have significant takings implications. 
As discussed above, the designation of critical habitat affects only 
Federal actions. Although private parties that receive Federal funding, 
assistance, or require approval or authorization from a Federal agency 
for an action may be indirectly impacted by the designation of critical 
habitat, the legally binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency. 
We do not anticipate that property values will be affected by the 
critical habitat designation, but will fully consider all comments in 
this regard. We will revise this preliminary assessment as warranted, 
and prepare a Takings Implication Assessment, based on those comments, 
if needed.

Federalism--Executive Order 13132

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132 (Federalism), this 
proposed rule does not have significant Federalism effects. A 
Federalism assessment is not required. In keeping with Department of 
the Interior and Department of Commerce policy, we requested 
information from, and coordinated development of, this proposed 
critical habitat designation with the appropriate State resource 
agencies in Washington. The designation of critical habitat in areas 
currently occupied by Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs 
bladderpod may impose nominal additional regulatory restrictions to 
those currently in place and, therefore, may have little incremental 
impact on State and local governments and their activities. The 
designation may have some benefit to these governments because the 
areas that contain the physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the species are more clearly defined, and the elements 
of the features of the habitat necessary to the conservation of the 
species are specifically identified. This information does not alter 
where and what federally sponsored activities may occur. However, it 
may assist local governments in long-range planning (rather than having 
them wait for case-by-case section 7 consultations to occur).
    Where State and local governments require approval or authorization 
from a Federal agency for actions that may affect critical habitat, 
consultation under section 7(a)(2) would be required. While non-Federal 
entities that receive Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that 
otherwise require approval or authorization from a Federal agency for 
an action, may be indirectly impacted by the designation of critical 
habitat, the legally binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency.

Civil Justice Reform--Executive Order 12988

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform), 
the Office of the Solicitor has determined that the rule does not 
unduly burden the judicial system and that it meets the requirements of 
sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the Executive Order. We have proposed 
designating critical habitat in accordance with the provisions of the 
Act. This proposed rule identifies the physical and biological features 
within the designated areas to assist the public in understanding the 
habitat needs of both Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs 
bladderpod.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

    This rule does not contain any new collections of information that 
require approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). This rule 
will not impose recordkeeping or reporting requirements on State or 
local governments, individuals, businesses, or organizations. An agency 
may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, 
a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB 
control number.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)

    It is our position that, outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court 
of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, we do not need to prepare 
environmental analyses as defined by NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) in 
connection with designating critical habitat under the Act. We 
published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the 
Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). This position was 
upheld by the U.S. court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Douglas 
County v. Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied 516 U.S. 
1042 (1996)).

Clarity of the Rule

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the 
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain 
language. This means that each rule we publish must:
    (a) Be logically organized;
    (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (c) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (e) Use lists and tables wherever possible.

[[Page 28737]]

    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section above. 
To better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific 
as possible. For example, you should tell us the numbers of the 
sections or paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or 
sentences are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables 
would be useful, etc.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175, and the Department of 
the Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997, ``American Indian Tribal 
Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered 
Species Act'', we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work 
directly with Tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to 
acknowledge that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as 
Federal public lands, to remain sensitive to Native American Indian 
culture, and to make information available to Tribes. Neither Umtanum 
desert buckwheat nor White Bluffs bladderpod occurs on Tribal lands, 
and there are no unoccupied areas essential to the conservation of 
either species on Tribal lands. Therefore, we are not proposing any 
Tribal lands as critical habitat for either Umtanum desert buckwheat or 
White Bluffs bladderpod. The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the 
Yakima Nation indicated they have interest in protecting and managing 
resources occurring in the Ceded Territories designated under the 
Treaty of 1855. The Tribe submitted a letter stating they are 
supportive of the proposed ``Federal special status listing'' of 
Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is 
available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov, or upon 
request from the Manager, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section).

Author(s)

    The primary authors of this proposed rule are the staff members of 
the Central Washington Field Office.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

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

PART 17--[AMENDED]

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

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Public Law 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500, unless otherwise 
noted.

    2. Amend Sec.  17.12(h) by adding entries for ``Eriogonum codium'' 
(Umtanum desert buckwheat) and ``Physaria douglasii subsp. 
tuplashensis'' (White Bluffs bladderpod) to the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Plants in alphabetical order under Flowering Plants to read 
as follows:


Sec.  17.12  Endangered and threatened plants.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                          Species
-----------------------------------------------------------     Historic range             Family           Status       When      Critical     Special
          Scientific name                 Common name                                                                   listed      habitat      rules
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Flowering Plants
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Eriogonum codium...................  Umtanum desert         U.S.A. (WA)..........  Polygonaceae.........          T   ..........   17.96(a)          NA
                                      buckwheat.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Physaria douglasii subsp.            White Bluffs bladder-  U.S.A. (WA)..........  Brassicaceae.........          T   ..........   17.96(a)          NA
 Tuplashensis.                        pod.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    3. In Sec.  17.96, amend paragraph (a) by adding an entry for 
``Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis (White Bluffs bladderpod)'' in 
alphabetical order under Family Brassicaceae and an entry for 
``Eriogonum codium (Umtanum desert buckwheat)'' in alphabetical order 
under Family Polygonaceae to read as follows:


Sec.  17.96  Critical habitat--plants.

    (a) Flowering plants.
* * * * *
    Family Brassicaceae: Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplahensis (White 
Bluffs bladderpod)
    (1) The critical habitat unit is depicted for Franklin County, 
Washington, on the map at paragraph (5) of this entry.
    (2) The primary constituent elements of the physical and biological 
features essential to the conservation of critical habitat for Physaria 
douglasii subsp. tuplashensis are the following:
    (i) Weathered alkaline paleosols and mixed soils overlying the 
Ringold Formation. These soils occur within and around the exposed 
caliche-like cap deposits associated with the White Bluffs of the 
Ringold Formation, which contain a high percentage of calcium 
carbonate. These features occur between 210-275 m (700-900 ft) in 
elevation.
    (ii) Sparsely vegetated habitat (less than 10-15 percent total 
cover), containing low amounts of nonnative or invasive plant species 
(less than 1 percent cover).
    (iii) The presence of insect pollinator species.
    (iv) The presence of native shrub steppe habitat within the 
effective pollinator distance (300 m (approximately 980 ft)).
    (v) The presence of stable bluff formations with minimal landslide 
occurrence.

[[Page 28738]]

    (3) Critical habitat does not include irrigated private lands or 
manmade structures (such as buildings, pavement, or other structures) 
and the land on which they are located existing within the legal 
boundaries on the effective date of this rule.
    (4) This critical habitat unit was mapped using Universal 
Transverse Mercator, Zone 11, North American Datum 1983 (UTM NAD 83) 
coordinates. These coordinates establish the vertices of the unit 
boundaries.
    (5) Note: Map of critical habitat for Physaria douglasii subsp. 
tuplashensis (White Bluffs bladderpod) follows:
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[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP15MY12.016


[[Page 28739]]


* * * * *
    Family Polygonaceae: Eriogonum codium (Umtanum desert buckwheat)
    (1) The critical habitat unit is depicted for Benton County, 
Washington, on the map at paragraph (5) of this entry.
    (2) The primary constituent elements of the physical and biological 
features essential to the conservation of Eriogonum codium are the 
following:
    (i) North- to northeast-facing, weathered basalt cliffs of the 
Wanapum Formation at the far eastern end of Umtanum Ridge in Benton 
County that contain outcrops, cliff breaks, slopes, and flat or gently 
sloping cliff tops with exposed pebble and gravel soils.
    (ii) Pebbly lithosol talus soils derived from surface weathering of 
the top of the Lolo Flow of the Priest Rapids Member of the Wanapum 
Formation.
    (iii) Sparsely vegetated habitat (less than 10 percent total 
cover), containing low amounts of nonnative or invasive plant species 
(less than 1 percent cover).
    (iv) The presence of insect pollinator species.
    (v) The presence of native shrub steppe habitat within the 
effective pollinator distance (300 m (approximately 980 ft)) around the 
population.
    (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as 
buildings, pavement, or other structures) and the land on which they 
are located existing within the legal boundaries on the effective date 
of this rule.
    (4) This critical habitat unit was mapped using Universal 
Transverse Mercator, Zone 11, North American Datum 1983 (UTM NAD 83) 
coordinates. These coordinates establish the vertices of the unit 
boundaries.
    (5) Note: Map of critical habitat for Eriogonum codium (Umtanum 
desert buckwheat) follows:

[[Page 28740]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP15MY12.017

* * * * *

    Dated: April 24, 2012.
Eileen Sobeck,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2012-11100 Filed 5-14-12; 8:45 am]
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