[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 238 (Tuesday, December 11, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 73769-73825]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-29335]



[[Page 73769]]

Vol. 77

Tuesday,

No. 238

December 11, 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; Listing Four Subspecies 
of Mazama Pocket Gopher and Designation of Critical Habitat; Proposed 
Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 77 , No. 238 / Tuesday, December 11, 2012 / 
Proposed Rules

[[Page 73770]]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[FWS-R1-ES-2012-0088; 4500030113]
RIN 1018-AZ17


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing Four 
Subspecies of Mazama Pocket Gopher 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 four 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher (Olympia, Tenino, Yelm, and Roy 
Prairie) as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act). We additionally propose to designate critical 
habitat for these subspecies. We have determined that the Tacoma pocket 
gopher is extinct, and that the listing of three other subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gopher (Shelton, Cathlamet, and Olympic) is not 
warranted. These determinations fulfill our obligations under a 
settlement agreement. These are proposed regulations, and if finalized, 
the effect of these regulations will be to add these species to the 
List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and to designate critical 
habitat under the Endangered Species Act.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
February 11, 2013. We must receive requests for public hearings, in 
writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by 
January 25, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-
2012-0088, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. You may 
submit a comment by clicking on ``Comment Now!''.
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2012-0088; 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 comments 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).
    The coordinates or plot points or both from which the critical 
habitat maps are generated are included in the administrative record 
for this rulemaking and are available at http://www.fws.gov/wafwo/, 
http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. [FWS-R1-ES-2012-0088], and at 
the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT). Any additional tools or supporting information that we may 
develop for this rulemaking will also be available at the Fish and 
Wildlife Service Web site and Field Office set out above, and may also 
be included in the preamble and/or at http://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ken S. Berg, Manager, Washington Fish 
and Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond Drive, Lacey, WA 98503, by telephone 
(360) 753-9440, or by facsimile (360) 534-9331. 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 an 
endangered or threatened species throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range. The subspecies addressed in this proposed rule 
are candidates for listing and, by virtue of a settlement agreement, we 
must make a determination as to their present status under the Act. 
These status changes can only be done by issuing a rulemaking. The 
table below summarizes our determination for each of these candidate 
species:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Species                                        Present range                   Status
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of      Thomomys mazama ssp.  Pierce and Thurston  Proposed Threatened.
 Mazama pocket gopher.              glacialis,            Counties, WA.
                                    pugetensis, tumuli,
                                    yelmensis.
Olympic pocket gopher............  Thomomys mazama       Clallam County, WA.  Not warranted.
                                    melanops.
Brush Prairie pocket gopher......  Thomomys talpoides    Clark County, WA...  Removed due to error.
                                    douglasii.
Cathlamet pocket gopher..........  Thomomys mazama       Wahkiakum County,    Not warranted.
                                    louiei.               WA.
Tacoma pocket gopher.............  Thomomys mazama       Extinct............  Extinct.
                                    tacomensis.
Shelton pocket gopher............  Thomomys mazama       Mason County, WA...  Not warranted.
                                    couchi.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The basis for our action. Under the Endangered Species Act, we may 
determine that a species is an endangered or threatened species based 
on any of 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; or (E) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence.
    For those subspecies for which we are proposing listing, we have 
determined that these subspecies are impacted by one or more of the 
following factors to the extent that the subspecies meet the definition 
of an endangered or threatened species under the Act:
     Habitat loss through conversion and degradation of 
habitat, particularly from agricultural and urban development, 
successional changes to grassland habitat, military training, and the 
spread of invasive plants;
     Disease;
     Predation;
     Inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms that allow 
significant threats such as habitat loss; and
     Other natural or manmade factors, including low genetic 
diversity, small or isolated populations, low reproductive success, 
declining population or subpopulation sizes, and control as a pest 
species.
    In this rule we propose to designate critical habitat for these 
species. We are proposing to designate approximately 9,234 ac (3,737 
ha) as critical habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gopher (Olympia, Tenino, Yelm, and Roy Prairie) in 
Washington.
    The basis for our action. Under the Endangered Species Act, we are 
required to designate critical habitat for any species that is 
determined to be endangered or threatened. We are required to base the 
designation on the best available scientific data after taking into 
consideration economic, national

[[Page 73771]]

security, and other relevant impacts. An area may be excluded from the 
final designation of critical habitat if the benefits of exclusion 
outweigh the benefits of designation, unless the exclusion will result 
in the extinction of the subspecies.
    We are proposing to promulgate special rules. We are considering 
whether to exempt from the Act's take prohibitions (at section 9), 
existing maintenance activities and agricultural practices located on 
private lands where Mazama pocket gophers occur. The intent of this 
special rule would be to increase support for the conservation of 
Mazama pocket gophers and provide an incentive for continued management 
activities that benefit the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies and their 
habitats.
    We are preparing an economic analysis. To ensure that we fully 
consider the economic impacts, we are preparing a draft economic 
analysis of the proposed designations of critical habitat. We will 
publish an announcement and seek public comments on the draft economic 
analysis when it is completed.
    We will seek peer review. We are seeking comments from 
knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise to review our 
technical assumptions, analysis of the best available science, and 
application of that science or to provide any additional scientific 
information to improve these proposed rules. Because we will consider 
all comments and information received during the comment period, our 
final determinations may differ from this proposal.
    We are seeking public comment on this proposed rule. Anyone is 
welcome to comment on our proposal or provide additional information on 
the proposal that we can use in making a final determination on the 
status of this species. Please submit your comments and materials 
concerning this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in the 
ADDRESSES section. Within 1 year following the publication of this 
proposal, we will publish in the Federal Register a final determination 
concerning the listing of the subspecies and the designation of their 
critical habitat or withdraw the proposal if new information is 
provided that supports that decision.

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:
    (1) The subspecies' biology, range, and population trends, 
including:
    (a) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;
    (b) Genetics and taxonomy;
    (c) Historical and current range including distribution patterns;
    (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and 
projected trends; and
    (e) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the subspecies, 
their habitat or both.
    (2) The factors that are the basis for making a listing 
determination for the four subspecies under section 4(a) of the Act (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), which are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of the subspecies' 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 the subspecies' 
continued existence.
    (3) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any threats (or lack thereof) to these subspecies and existing 
regulations that may be addressing those threats;
    (4) Additional information concerning the historical and current 
status, range, distribution, and population size of these subspecies, 
including the locations of any additional populations of these 
subspecies;
    (5) Any information on the biological or ecological requirements of 
the four subspecies, and ongoing conservation measures for the 
subspecies and their habitat;
    (6) The reasons why we should or should not designate areas as 
``critical habitat'' under section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.), including whether there are threats to the four subspecies from 
human activity, the degree of which 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 the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher;
    (b) What areas that were occupied at the time of listing (or are 
currently occupied) and that contain features essential to the 
conservation of the subspecies should be included in the designation 
and why;
    (c) Special management considerations or protection that may be 
needed in critical habitat areas we are proposing; and
    (d) What areas not occupied at the time of listing are essential 
for the conservation of the subspecies and why.
    (8) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the 
subject areas and their possible impacts on proposed critical habitat.
    (9) Information on the projected and reasonably likely impacts of 
climate change on the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher.
    (10) Any probable economic, national security, or other relevant 
impacts of designating any area that may be included in the final 
designation; in particular, 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.
    (12) Additional information pertaining to the promulgation of a 
special rule to exempt from the section 9 take prohibitions existing 
maintenance activities and agricultural practices on private lands, 
including airports, where the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher occur.
    (13) Whether the Brush Prairie pocket gopher, which the Service 
believes was added to the candidate list in error and without basis, 
should be removed from the candidate list.
    (14) 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.''

[[Page 73772]]

    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. We request 
that you send comments only by the methods described in the ADDRESSES 
section.
    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, 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

    We first identified eight subspecies of Mazama pocket gophers 
(Shelton, Roy Prairie, Cathlamet, Olympic, Olympia, Tacoma, Tenino, and 
Yelm) in Washington as candidates for listing in the 2001 Notice of 
Review of Native Species that are Candidates for Listing as Endangered 
or Threatened (CNOR) (66 FR 54808, October 30, 2001). All candidate 
species are assigned listing priority numbers (LPN) that are based on 
the immediacy and magnitude of threats and taxonomic status. In 2001, 
all eight subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher were assigned an LPN of 6, 
which reflects threats of a high magnitude that are not considered 
imminent.
    In 2005, the LPN for the eight Washington subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher was revised to 3 in response to imminent threats 
including commercial and residential development and the operation of 
gravel pits (70 FR 24870; May 11, 2005) on gopher habitat. In our 2007 
CNOR (72 FR 69034, December 6, 2007), we added the Brush Prairie pocket 
gopher to the list of candidate species, because at that time it was 
believed to be a subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher based on genetic 
data and morphological features. The candidate status for the nine 
Washington subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher was most recently 
reaffirmed in the October 26, 2011, CNOR (76 FR 66370). The U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service (Service) completed action plans for the nine 
Washington subspecies of Mazama pocket gophers and set conservation 
targets and identified actions to achieve those targets over the next 5 
years. The action plan can be found on the Service's Web site at: 
http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/action_plans/doc3085.pdf (Mazama pocket 
gopher).

Petition History

    In 2001, we developed an internal, discretionary candidate 
assessment document for the Washington subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher. This candidate assessment was published in the Federal Register 
on October 30, 2001 (USFWS 2001). On December 10, 2002, we received a 
petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Northwest 
Ecosystem Alliance to list the eight subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gophers endemic to Washington State as endangered species. The 
petitioners also requested that critical habitat be designated 
concurrent with the listing. Because the Service had already determined 
that these subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher warranted listing and 
placed them on the candidate list in 2001, we have been evaluating 
these subspecies as resubmitted petition findings on an annual basis. 
On July 12, 2011, the Service filed a multiyear work plan as part of a 
proposed settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity 
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 candidate species over a period of 6 years, including the 
Washington State Mazama pocket gopher subspecies. This proposed rule 
fulfills, in part, the terms of that settlement agreement.

Background

    We discuss below only those topics directly relevant to the 
proposed listing of the Washington State Mazama pocket gopher 
subspecies in this section of the proposed rule.

Species Information

    Although the species Thomomys mazama, or Mazama pocket gopher, 
includes numerous subspecies that are found in the States of 
Washington, Oregon, and California (as described below in Taxonomy), 
only the Mazama pocket gopher subspecies found in the State of 
Washington are currently candidates for listing under the Act. In this 
document, when we use the general term ``Mazama pocket gopher'' we are 
referring collectively to only those subspecies of Thomomys mazama that 
occur in the State of Washington; as used here, ``Mazama pocket 
gopher'' is not intended to include any subspecies of T. mazama that 
occur in the States of Oregon or California.
    Adult Mazama pocket gophers are reddish brown to black above, and 
the underparts are lead-colored with buff-colored tips. The lips, nose, 
and patches behind the ears are black; the wrists are white. Adults 
range from 7 to 11 inches (in) (175 to 273 millimeters (mm)) in total 
length, with tails that range from 2 to 3 in (45 to 85 mm) (Hall 1981, 
p. 465). In Washington, Mazama pocket gophers are found west of the 
Cascade Mountain Range from the Olympic Mountains south through the 
Puget Sound trough, with an additional single locality known from 
Wahkiakum County (Verts and Carraway 2000, p. 3). Their populations are 
concentrated in well-drained friable soils often associated with 
glacial outwash. Mazama pocket gophers reach reproductive age in the 
spring of the year after their birth and produce litters between spring 
and early summer. Litter size ranges from one to nine (Wight 1918, p. 
14), with an average of four (Verts and Carraway 2000, p. 3).
Taxonomy
    The Mazama pocket gopher complex consists of 15 subspecies, 8 of 
which occur only in Washington, 5 of which occur only in Oregon, 1 that 
occurs only in California, and 1 subspecies with a distribution that 
spans the boundary between Oregon and California (Hall 1981, p. 467). 
The first pocket gophers collected in western Washington were 
considered to be subspecies of the northern pocket gopher (Thomomys 
talpoides) (Goldman 1939), until 1960 when the complex of pocket 
gophers found in western Washington was determined to be more similar 
to the western pocket gopher (T. mazama) based on characteristics of 
the baculum (penis bone) (Johnson and Benson 1960, p. 20). Eight 
western Washington subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher (T. mazama, ssp. 
couchi, glacialis, louiei, melanops, pugetensis, tacomensis, tumuli, 
and yelmensis) have been identified (Hall 1981, p. 467). Thomomys 
mazama is recognized as a valid species by the Integrated Taxonomic 
Information System (ITIS)

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(ITIS 2012b); however, the ITIS Web site does not designate these taxa 
to the subspecies level.
    Although there have been some suggestions that potential changes to 
the classification of some of these subspecies may be considered, as 
discussed below, we have no information to suggest that any of the 
presently recognized subspecies are the subject of serious dispute. We 
consulted with Alfred Gardner, Curator of North American mammals, 
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, who 
identified the Mammalian Species Account 641 of the American 
Society of Mammalogists, authored by Verts and Carraway (2000), as the 
definitive text for this taxon (Gardner 2012, pers. comm.). Thus we 
follow the subspecies designations of Verts and Carraway (2000) in this 
finding, as this text represents the currently accepted taxonomy for 
the species Thomomys mazama.
    While past descriptions of Mazama pocket gophers have focused on 
morphological differences in characteristics such as pelage color, 
skull features, and body size (Bailey 1915; Taylor 1919; Goldman 1939; 
Dalquest and Scheffer 1942; Dalquest and Scheffer 1944a, b; Gardner 
1950; Hall 1981, pp. 465-466), recent genetic evaluations have been 
conducted on the Mazama pocket gopher complex using mitochondrial 
deoxyribonucleic acid (mtDNA) sequencing of the cytochrome b gene 
(Welch 2008). From these and subsequent data, Welch and Kenagy (2008, 
pp. 6-7) determined that the Mazama pocket gopher complex in Washington 
is geographically structured into three haplotype clades (genetic 
groups) representing the following three localities: (1) Olympic 
Peninsula (Clade A, which includes the Olympic pocket gopher); (2) 
Mason County (Clade B, which includes the Shelton pocket gopher), and 
(3) Thurston and Pierce county (Clade C, which includes the Roy 
Prairie, Olympia, and Yelm pocket gophers).
    Specimens from the subspecies Thomomys mazama louiei (Wahkiakum 
County) were unobtainable and as such were omitted from Welch and 
Kenagy's (2008, pp. 1-3) analysis, so it is unknown what clade the 
Cathlamet pocket gopher belongs to or if it occupies its own clade. In 
addition, no specimens from the subspecies T. m. tumuli (Tenino pocket 
gopher) were readily available and were also not included in the 
analysis. None of the haplotypes in the analyzed specimens were shared 
between the three clades, which supports the differentiation of the 
clades. The mtDNA analysis was not able to distinguish between 
subspecies in Clade C; more genetic work needs to be done to determine 
how closely-related these subspecies are. Verts and Carraway (2000, p. 
1) recognize T. m. glacialis, pugetensis, tumuli, and yelmensis (the 
Roy Prairie, Olympia, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers, respectively) as 
separate subspecies based on morphological characteristics, 
distribution, and differences in number of chromosomes. For the 
purposes of this proposed rule, due to the close proximity of the four 
subspecies located in Thurston and Pierce counties and the fact that at 
least three of them occur in the same clade, we will be discussing 
these four subspecies (T. m. glacialis, pugetensis, tumuli, and 
yelmensis) together and will refer to them as ``the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies.''
    As noted above, based on these genetic analyses the Olympic pocket 
gopher (Thomomys mazama melanops) may warrant consideration as a 
separate species (Welch and Kenagy 2006, pp. 5-6). It is sufficiently 
genetically distinct and geographically isolated from all other 
subspecies, has very low genetic diversity within the subspecies (i.e., 
it is relatively inbred) compared to other extant subspecies, and does 
not share haplotypes with any other T. mazama subspecies (Welch and 
Kenagy 2008, pp. 6-7). In addition, the clade containing this 
subspecies (Clade A) is highly divergent from the other two clades 
(Welch and Kenagy 2008, p. 6). This is consistent with genetic 
isolation through the last glaciation period, suggesting that the 
subspecies is a relictual population that survived in the nunatak (ice-
free areas that serve as glacial refugia in mountain ranges). Verts and 
Carraway (2000, p. 1) recognize T. m. melanops as a separate subspecies 
based on morphological characteristics and distribution.
    The Shelton pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama couchi) persists at 
Scott's Prairie (which is where the Shelton airport is sited) and may 
also occur in two other nearby areas (Stinson 2005, p. 40). Thomomys 
mazama couchi is not only in a separate clade (Clade B) from the one 
containing the Thurston/Pierce subspecies (Clade C), but landscape-
level connectivity that would allow for gene flow between clades B and 
C is lacking. Verts and Carraway (2000, p. 1) recognize T. m. couchi as 
a separate subspecies based on morphological characteristics and 
distribution.
    The Cathlamet pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama louiei) occurs on 
commercial timber forest lands in Wahkiakum County. Despite brief 
survey efforts in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2010s, gophers have not 
been found at the type locality (where it was originally found) since 
1956. However, these surveys did not cover the full extent of the soil 
types (series) known to be used by the Cathlamet pocket gopher (Murnen 
soil type). For this reason, and because survey efforts were not 
exhaustive and land use hasn't changed in this area since the type 
locality for the subspecies was found in 1949 (Gardner 1950), we assume 
the species may still be extant. No genetic work has been conducted on 
this subspecies. This subpopulation is about 64 miles (mi) (103 
kilometers (km)) away from the next-nearest extant subspecies locality 
(in Thurston County), with no opportunity for gene flow between them. 
Verts and Carraway (2000, p. 1) recognize T. m. louiei as a separate 
subspecies based on morphological characteristics and distribution.

Proposed Removal of Thomomys mazama tacomensis from the Candidate List

    The first identified specimen of Thomomys mazama tacomensis was 
collected in 1853 by Suckley and Cooper (1860) at Fort Steilacoom, but 
was first described by Taylor (1919, pp. 169-171). Verts and Carraway 
(2000, p. 1) recognize T. m. tacomensis as a separate subspecies based 
on morphological characteristics and distribution. Its range spanned 
from Point Defiance in Tacoma, south to Steilacoom, and perhaps as far 
east as Puyallup. In 1920, Tacoma pocket gophers were collected in 
Parkland and there are subsequent reports of gophers being caught in 
Puyallup (Scheffer, unpubl. notes, 1957). Original collection sites 
were long ago converted to residential and suburban development, and 
one site is now a gravel mining operation. By 1970, Johnson (Johnson 
1982, in litt.) believed Tacoma pocket gophers were locally extirpated. 
Surveys conducted in the early 1990s by Steinberg (1996a), again in 
1998 (Stinson 2005, p. 120), and during an extensive survey of 
historical and potential habitat in the subspecies' known range in 2011 
(Tirhi 2012a, in litt.) failed to relocate gophers at any of the 
previously documented locations. Surveys were conducted during the time 
of year when gopher activity should have been seen if gophers were 
present.
    The soils series in the area of the historical local populations 
are Alderwood, Bellingham, Everett, Nisqually, and Spanaway. The entire 
historical area has been heavily developed since the type locality for 
this subspecies was found in 1918 (Taylor 1919, p. 169). Based on 
repeated

[[Page 73774]]

surveys of previously populated areas where gophers have not been 
redetected (Steinberg 1995; Tirhi 2012a, in litt.), the lack of 
documented evidence of T. m. tacomensis over the last three decades, 
and the lack of appropriate habitat left at historical locations, we 
conclude the Tacoma pocket gopher is extinct. Therefore, we propose to 
remove T. m. tacomensis from the candidate list, and this subspecies 
will not be considered further in this finding.

Proposed Removal of Thomomys mazama douglasii from the Candidate List

    In our 2007 CNOR (72 FR 69034; December 6, 2007), we added the 
Brush Prairie pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama douglasii) to the list of 
candidate species due to current (at the time) genetic data and 
morphological features and based on the presumption that this 
subspecies was a member of T. mazama and not T. talpoides. At the time, 
a review by the State of Washington recognized the Brush Prairie pocket 
gopher as a subspecies of T. mazama instead of T. talpoides, and the 
Service simply accepted that classification without additional 
evaluation. However, we have now further investigated the genetic and 
morphological information originally used to add the subspecies to the 
candidate list based on the presumption that it was a Mazama pocket 
gopher (Kenagy 2012, pers. comm.; Paulson 2012, pers. comm.; Welch 
2012a,b, in litt.). While it is not possible to conclusively determine 
that Brush Prairie pocket gophers are not T. mazama, clear evidence to 
support the conclusion that they are T. mazama does not exist at this 
time. Verts and Carraway (2000, p. 1) do not recognize the Brush 
Prairie pocket gopher as a member of T. mazama. Therefore, based upon 
review of the best science available, we no longer believe the Brush 
Prairie pocket gopher is a member of the species T. mazama.
    The Service erred by failing to conduct a separate five-factor 
threats analysis when we added the Brush Prairie pocket gopher to the 
candidate list as Thomomys mazama douglasii, and we now believe it was 
added in error and without basis (i.e., the population is not subject 
to threats such that listing is warranted under the Act). The Brush 
Prairie pocket gopher was added to the candidate list based purely on 
the presumption that it was a Washington subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher, and because all other Washington subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gophers were candidates. Because the best available science suggests 
that the Brush Prairie pocket gopher is not a subspecies of T. mazama, 
and because it was added to the candidate list without basis, we 
propose to remove T. m. douglasii from the candidate list, and this 
subspecies will not be considered further in this analysis.

Habitat and Life History

    The Mazama pocket gopher is associated with glacial outwash 
prairies in western Washington, an ecosystem of conservation concern 
(Hartway and Steinberg 1997, p. 1), as well as alpine and subalpine 
meadows and other meadow-like openings at lower elevations (from this 
point on in the document, we will be evaluating seven Washington 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher: Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and 
Yelm (the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies); Shelton; Cathlamet; and 
Olympic). Steinberg and Heller (1997, p. 46) found that Mazama pocket 
gophers are even more patchily distributed than are prairies, as there 
are some seemingly high quality prairies within the species' range that 
lack pocket gophers (e.g., Mima Mounds NAP, and 13th Division Prairie 
on Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM)). Pocket gopher distribution is 
affected by the rock content of soils (gophers avoid rocky soils), 
drainage, forage availability, and climate (Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-
21; Steinberg and Heller 1997, p. 45; Hafner et al. 1998, p. 279; 
Stinson 2005, p. 31; Reichman 2007, pp. 273-274, WDFW 2009), thus 
further restricting the total area of a prairie that may be occupied by 
gophers. Prairie and meadow habitats used by pocket gophers have a 
naturally patchy distribution. In their prairie habitats, there is an 
even patchier distribution of soil rockiness which may further restrict 
the total area that pocket gophers can utilize (Steinberg and Heller 
1997, p. 45; WDFW 2009). We assume that meadow soils have a similarly 
patchy distribution of rockiness, though the soil surveys to support 
this are, at this time, incomplete.
    In Washington, Mazama pocket gophers currently occupy the following 
soils series: Alderwood, Cagey, Carstairs, Everett, Godfrey, Grove, 
Indianola, Kapowsin, McKenna, Murnen, Nisqually, Norma, Shelton, Spana, 
Spanaway, Spanaway-Nisqually complex, and Yelm. There is no currently-
available soils survey for the Olympia National Park, so soils occupied 
by gophers there are unknown. Although some soils are sandier, more 
gravelly, or siltier, most all are friable (easily pulverized or 
crumbled), loamy, and deep, and generally have slopes less than 15 
percent. Mapped soils series can have smaller inclusions of different 
soils types. Because soils are mapped at larger scales, mapped soils 
may not reflect these smaller inclusions, which may be used by gophers.
    In 2011, there were reports of Mazama pocket gophers (subspecies 
unknown) occurring on new types of soils and on managed forest lands in 
Capitol State Forest (owned by WDNR) and Vail Forest (owned by 
Weyerhaeuser) in Thurston County. These were subsequently determined to 
be moles, based on trapping conducted in these areas by WDFW during the 
2012 gopher survey season (Thompson 2012d, pers. comm.).
    Mazama pocket gophers are morphologically similar to other species 
of pocket gophers that exploit a subterranean existence. They are 
stocky and tubular in shape, with short necks, powerful limbs, long 
claws, and tiny ears and eyes. Their short, nearly hairless tails are 
highly sensitive and probably assist in navigation in tunnels. Burrows 
consist of a series of main runways, off which lateral tunnels lead to 
the surface of the ground (Wight 1918, p. 7). Pocket gophers dig their 
burrows using their sharp teeth and claws and then push the soil out 
through the lateral tunnels (Wight 1918, p. 8; Case and Jasch 1994, p. 
B-20). Nests containing dried vegetation are generally located near the 
center of each pocket gopher's home tunnel system (Wight 1918, p. 10). 
Food caches and store piles are usually placed near the nest, and 
excrement is piled into blind tunnels or loop tunnels, and then covered 
with dirt, leaving the nest and main runways clean (Wight 1918, p. 11). 
The ``pockets'' of pocket gophers are external, fur-lined cheek pouches 
on either side of the mouth that are used to transport nesting material 
and carry plant cuttings to storage compartments. Their teeth grow 
continuously, requiring gophers to constantly gnaw in order to grind 
them down (Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-20). Pocket gophers don't 
hibernate in winter; they remain active throughout the year (Case and 
Jasch 1994, p. B-20).
    A variety of natural predators eat pocket gophers, including 
weasels, snakes, badgers, foxes, skunks, bobcats, coyotes, great horned 
owls, barn owls, and several hawks (Hisaw and Gloyd 1926, entire; 
Fichter et al. 1955, p. 13; Huntly and Inouye 1988, p. 792; Case and 
Jasch 1994, p. B-21; Stinson 2005, pp. 29-30). Many different 
vertebrates and invertebrates take refuge in gopher burrows, especially 
during inclement

[[Page 73775]]

weather, including beetles, amphibians (such as toads and frogs), 
lizards, snakes, ground squirrels, and smaller rodents (Blume and Aga 
1979, p. 131; Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-21; Stinson 2005, pp. 29-30).
    Pocket gophers are generalist herbivores and their diet includes a 
wide variety of plant material, including leafy vegetation, succulent 
roots, shoots, and tubers. In natural settings pocket gophers play a 
key ecological role by aerating soils, activating the seed bank, and 
stimulating plant growth, though they can be considered pests in 
agricultural systems. In prairie and meadow ecosystems, pocket gopher 
activity is important in maintaining species richness and diversity.
    The home range of a Mazama pocket gopher is composed of suitable 
breeding and foraging habitat. Home range size varies based on factors 
such as soil type, climate, and density and type of vegetative cover 
(Cox and Hunt 1992, p. 133; Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-21; Hafner et al. 
1998, p. 279). Home range size for individual Mazama pocket gophers 
averages about 1,076 square feet (ft\2\) (100 square meters (m\2\)) 
(Witmer et al. 1996, p. 96). Based on work done by Converse et al. 
(2010, pp. 14-15), a local population of Mazama pocket gophers in the 
south Puget Sound area could be self-sustaining if it occurred on a 
habitat patch that was equal to or greater than 50 ac (20 ha) in size.
    Foraging primarily takes place below the surface of the soil, where 
pocket gophers snip off roots of plants before occasionally pulling the 
whole plant below ground to eat or store in caches. If above-ground 
foraging occurs, it's usually within a few feet of an opening and 
forage plants are quickly cut into small pieces, and carried in their 
fur-lined cheek pouches back to the nest or cache (Wight 1918, p. 12). 
Any water they need is obtained from their food (Wight 1918, p. 13; 
Gettinger 1984, pp. 749-750). The probability of Mazama pocket gopher 
occupancy is much higher in areas with less than 10 percent woody 
vegetation cover (Olson 2011a, p. 16), because such vegetation will 
shade out the forbs, bulbs, and grasses that gophers prefer to eat, and 
high densities of woody plants make travel both below and above the 
ground difficult for gophers.
    Pocket gophers reach sexual maturity during the spring of the year 
following their birth, and produce one litter per year (Case and Jasch 
1994, p. B-20). Gestation lasts approximately 18 days (Schramm 1961, p. 
169; Anderson 1978, p. 421). Young are born in the spring to early 
summer (Wight 1918, p. 13), and are reared by the female. Aside from 
the breeding season, males and females remain segregated in their own 
tunnel systems. There are 1-9 pups per litter (averaging 3-4), born 
without hair, pockets, or teeth, and they must be kept warm by the 
mother or ``packed'' in dried vegetation (Wight 1918, p. 14; Case and 
Jasch 1994, p. B-20). Juvenile pelage starts growing in at just over a 
week (Anderson 1978, p. 420). The young eat vegetation in the nest 
within 3 weeks of birth, with eyes and ears opening and pockets 
developing at about a month (Wight 1918, p. 14; Anderson 1978, p. 420). 
At 6 weeks they are weaned, fighting with siblings, and nearly ready to 
disperse (Wight 1918, p. 15; Anderson 1978, p. 420), which usually 
occurs at about 2 months of age (Stinson 2005, p. 26). They attain 
their adult weight around 4-5 months of age (Anderson 1978, pp. 419, 
421). Most pocket gophers live only a year or two, with few living to 3 
or 4 years of age (Hansen 1962, pp. 152-153; Livezey and Verts 1979, p. 
39).
    Pocket gophers rarely surface completely from their burrow except 
as juveniles, when they disperse above ground from spring through early 
fall (Ingles 1952, p. 89; Howard and Childs 1959, p. 312; Olson 2011b, 
unnumbered pp. 3-4). They are highly asocial and intolerant of other 
gophers. Each gopher maintains its own burrow system, and occupancy of 
a burrow system by multiple individuals occurs only for brief periods 
during mating seasons and prior to weaning young (Ingles 1952, pp. 88-
89; Witmer and Engeman 2007, p. 288; Marsh and Steele 1992, p. 209). 
The mating system is probably polygynous (a single male mates with 
multiple females) and most likely based on female choice. The adult sex 
ratio has been reported as biased toward females in most species of 
pocket gophers that have been studied, often as much as 4:1 (Howard and 
Childs 1959, p. 296; Patton and Feder 1981, p. 917), though Witmer et 
al. (1996, p. 95) reported a sex ratio of close to 1:1 in Mazama pocket 
gophers.
    Sex ratio may vary with population density, which is often a 
measure of forage density and soil suitability for burrowing. One site 
having a deep soil layer that was much less rocky was estimated to have 
a pocket gopher population density five times that of another site 
having rocky soil (Steinberg 1996, p. 26). A study of the relationship 
between soil rockiness and pocket gopher distribution revealed a strong 
negative correlation between the proportion of medium-sized rocks in 
the soil and absence of pocket gophers in eight of nine prairies 
sampled (medium sized rocks were considered greater than 0.5 inch (12.7 
mm) but less than 2 inches (50.8 mm) in diameter; Steinberg 1996, p. 
32). In observations of pocket gopher distribution on JBLM, pocket 
gophers did not occur in areas with a high percentage of Scot's broom 
cover in the vegetation, or where mole (Scapanus spp.) populations were 
particularly dense (Steinberg 1995, p. 26). A more recent study on JBLM 
also found that pocket gopher presence was negatively associated with 
Scot's broom; however, the researcher found no relationship between 
pocket gopher presence and mole density (Olson 2011a, pp. 12-13).
    Pocket gophers have limited dispersal capabilities. The loss and 
degradation of additional patches of appropriate habitat could result 
in further isolation of populations, increasing their vulnerability to 
extinction. Physiographic, demographic, historical, and stochastic 
factors probably influence potential dispersal distance (Hafner et al. 
1998, p. 279). Studies of other larger Thomomys gophers found that most 
will only disperse less than 131 ft (40 m) from their natal territory 
(Daly and Patton 1990, p. 1291), although some have been found to move 
greater than 984 ft (300 m) (Williams and Baker 1976, p. 306; Daly and 
Patton 1990, p. 1286), and up to 1,312 ft (400 m) (Hafner et al. 1998, 
p. 279). In 2010 and 2011, WDFW conducted a study to determine 
dispersal distances of juvenile Mazama pocket gophers on JBLM. Twenty-
eight juveniles were radio-collared and tracked for 17-56 days, with 
all but 3 animals tracked for more than 30 days. Of these, only 9 
gophers moved more than 32.8 ft (10 m), and 10 gophers were never found 
more than 13.1 ft (4 m) from any previous location (Olson 2012b, p. 5). 
Only 1 animal dispersed what would be considered a larger distance, 
moving 525 ft (160 m) in a single day. This research is ongoing.

Historical and Current Range and Distribution

    The Olympic pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama melanops) is found in 
the Olympic National Park in Clallam County where it is restricted to 
subalpine habitat of the higher Olympic Mountains. While the 
protections of the National Park Service (NPS) suggest that this is the 
most secure of the subspecies in Washington, three local populations 
had been extirpated by 1951, and another was recorded as extirpated by 
1976 (Johnson 1977, pp. 2-3). By 1977, Johnson (1977, p. 1) estimated 
that the subspecies had been extirpated from about 30 percent of its 
range, and speculated that such extirpations may

[[Page 73776]]

have been related to fire suppression, avalanches, landslides, or 
weather cycles. Steinberg (1995, p. 27; 1996, p. 8) and Welch (2009, in 
litt.) documented Olympic pocket gophers at several sites in the Park, 
and the Burke Museum's records show that pocket gopher specimens have 
been gathered from multiple locations in the Park (Burke Museum 2009). 
A series of surveys were conducted in the summer of 2012, and found 
evidence of Mazama pocket gophers still occurring in the same areas as 
found by Johnson and Steinberg (Fleckenstein 2012, in litt.). Further 
surveys need to be conducted to determine the status of this 
subspecies, as no complete inventory has been conducted. There have 
been no soil surveys conducted on the Olympic National Park, so soils 
series names are not known at the locations where gophers occur in 
Clallam County.
    The Shelton pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama couchi) was known from 
one local population detected at the Shelton airport in Mason County 
and mounds found near the penitentiary grounds near Shelton (Stinson 
2005, p. 39). A nearby regenerating clearcut was found to have been 
colonized by pocket gophers after 1992 (Stinson 2005, p. 41). Other 
local populations have been identified nearby on private land, 
including a recent clearcut near the airport (Stinson 2011a, in litt.). 
New populations have been found on commercial timber lands and private 
lands in Mason County (Olson 2011b, in litt.) and more may exist 
(Krippner 2011b, entire). Pocket gopher sign has been reported 
elsewhere, but their presence has not been verified by trapping 
(Stinson 2011b, pers. comm.). All currently known gopher sites in Mason 
County occur on Carstairs, Grove, or Shelton soils.
    The Cathlamet pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama louiei) is known only 
from its type locality in Wahkiakum County. The Cathlamet pocket gopher 
was originally found on commercial forest lands in a large burn that 
subsequently regenerated to forest. The forest was clearcut in the 
early 2000s, but pocket gophers have not been found at this site since 
1956, despite brief survey efforts in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 
2010s (Stinson 2005, p. 34; Thompson 2012a, p. 1 in litt.). The soils 
series these gophers occupy (Murnen) is locally limited in extent, and 
patchily distributed. In the Service's review of this species 
previously (USFWS 2010, pp. 5-6), it was characterized as likely 
extinct. However, based on our further review of information for this 
proposed rule, we determined that further surveys of the area are 
needed to determine the status of this subpopulation, as thorough 
surveys of all potential habitat have never been conducted and land use 
has remained the same since the type locality was discovered in 1949 
(Gardner 1950), suggesting that the subspecies may remain extant.
    The following general description of the distribution of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama 
glacialis, pugetensis, tumuli, and yelmensis) is based on our current 
knowledge. Steinberg (1996, p. 9) surveyed all historical and many 
currently known gopher sites. This included all current and formerly 
known occupied sites listed by the WDNR as having Carstairs, Nisqually, 
or Spanaway gravelly or sandy loam soil, and that WDNR determined to 
have vegetation that was intact prairie or restorable to prairie. WDFW 
and a suite of consultants have surveyed areas of potential gopher 
habitat in both counties, usually associated with proposed development 
(Krippner 2011a, pp. 26-29). WDFW has also surveyed areas in relation 
to various research studies, as well as conducting a 5-county-wide 
distribution survey in 2012 (Thompson 2012b and c, entire).
    The Roy Prairie pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama glacialis) is found 
in the vicinity of the Roy Prairie and on JBLM in Pierce County. The 
subspecies was described as plentiful in 1983 but was reduced to a 
small population by 1993 (Stinson 2005, p. 38). Due to proximity to the 
subspecies' type locality, it is likely that gophers occurring on 91st 
Division Prairie and Marion Prairie in Pierce County contain this 
subspecies. Soils in and around this area are Everett, Indianola, 
Norma, Spanaway, and Nisqually.
    The type locality for the Olympia pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama 
pugetensis) was the prairie on and around the Olympia Airport (Dalquest 
and Scheffer 1944b, p. 445). Gophers continue to occupy this area. 
Soils in and around this area are Alderwood, Cagey, Everett, Indianola, 
McKenna, Nisqually, Norma, Spana, Spanaway-Nisqually complex, and Yelm.
    Tenino pocket gophers (Thomomys mazama tumuli) were originally 
found in the vicinity of the Rocky Prairie NAP, near Tenino (Stinson 
2005, pp. 19, 33, 38), a relatively small-extent prairie area. Gophers 
still reside there, but WDFW researchers have not seen consistent 
occupancy of the area by gophers in recent years (Olson 2010, in 
litt.), suggesting that the colonies intermittently located in the NAP 
are satellite populations dispersing from a currently unidentified 
nearby source population. Soils in this area are Everett, Nisqually, 
Norma, Spanaway, and Spanaway-Nisqually complex.
    Yelm pocket gophers (Thomomys mazama yelmensis) were originally 
found on prairies in the area of Grand Mound, Vail, and Rochester 
(Dalquest and Scheffer 1944b, p. 446). Surveys conducted in 1993-1994 
found no gophers near the towns of Vail or Rochester (Steinberg 1995, 
p. 28); however, more recent surveys have documented gophers near 
Rochester, Rainier, Littlerock, Grand Mound, and Vail (Krippner 2011a, 
p. 31). Soils series in and around these areas include Alderwood, 
Everett, Godfrey, Kapowsin, McKenna, Nisqually, Norma, Spana, Spanaway, 
Spanaway-Nisqually complex, and Yelm.

Population Estimates/Status

    There are few data on historical or current population sizes of 
Mazama pocket gopher populations in Washington, although several local 
populations and one subspecies are believed to be extinct. Knowledge of 
the past status of the Mazama pocket gopher is limited to 
distributional information. Recent surveys have focused on determining 
current distribution, primarily in response to development 
applications. In addition, in 2012, WDFW initiated a 5-county-wide 
distribution survey. Because the object of all of these surveys has 
mainly been presence/absence only, total population numbers for each 
subspecies are unknown. Local population estimates have been reported 
but are based on using apparent gopher mounds to delineate the number 
of territories, a method that has not been validated (Stinson 2005, pp. 
40-41). Olson (2011a, p. 2) evaluated this methodology on pocket gopher 
populations at the Olympia Airport and Wolf Haven International. 
Although there was a positive relationship between the number of mounds 
and number of pocket gophers, the relationship varies spatially, 
temporally, and demographically (Olson 2011a, pp. 2, 39). Based on the 
results of Olson's 2011 study we believe past population estimates 
(Stinson 2005) may have been too high. As there is no generally-
accepted standard survey protocol for pocket gophers, it is difficult 
to make a reliable determination of population abundance or trend.
    Increased survey effort since 2007 has resulted in the 
identification of numerous additional occupied sites located on private 
lands, especially in Thurston County (Krippner 2011, pp. 26-29). Some 
of these are satellite colonies adjacent to known larger

[[Page 73777]]

populations, such as that on the Olympia Airport, and may be population 
sinks (colonies that do not add to the overall population through 
recruitment). Others are separate locations, seemingly unassociated 
(physically) with known populations (Tirhi 2008, in litt.). The largest 
known local populations of any Mazama pocket gophers in Washington 
occur on JBLM (Roy Prairie and Yelm pocket gophers), and at the Olympia 
and Shelton airports (Olympia and Shelton pocket gophers, 
respectively).
    A translocated population of Mazama pocket gophers occurs on Wolf 
Haven International's land near Tenino, Washington. Between 2005 and 
2008, over 200 gophers from a variety of areas in Thurston County 
(mostly from around Olympia Airport (Olympia pocket gopher, Thomomys 
mazama pugetensis)) were released into the 38-ac (15-ha) mounded 
prairie site. Based on the best available information, we do not 
believe the property contained Mazama pocket gophers previously. Today 
pocket gophers continue to occupy the site (Tirhi 2011, in litt.); 
however current population estimates are not available. Another site, 
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area, has received a total number of 560 
translocated pocket gophers (T. m. pugetensis) from the Olympia Airport 
between 2009 and 2011. Initial translocation efforts in 2009 were 
unsuccessful; a majority of the pocket gophers died within 3 days due 
to predation (Olson 2009, unnumbered p. 3). Modified release techniques 
used in 2010 and 2011 resulted in improved survival rates of gophers 
translocated to West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area (Olson 2011c, 
unnumbered p. 4). It is too soon to know if the population will become 
self-sustaining, or if additional translocations of gophers will be 
necessary. This research is ongoing.

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 List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and 
Plants. 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. Each of these factors is discussed below.
    In making this finding, information pertaining to each of the 
species in question in relation to the five factors provided in section 
4(a)(1) of the Act is discussed below. In considering what factors 
might constitute threats, we must look beyond the mere exposure of the 
species to the factor to determine whether the species responds to the 
factor in a way that causes actual impacts to the species. If there is 
exposure to a factor, but no response, or only a positive response, 
that factor is not a threat. If there is exposure and the species 
responds negatively, the factor may be a threat and we then attempt to 
determine how significant a threat it is. If the threat is significant, 
it may drive or contribute to the risk of extinction of the species 
such that the species warrants listing as an endangered or threatened 
species as those terms are defined by the Act. This does not 
necessarily require empirical proof of a threat. The combination of 
exposure and some corroborating evidence of how the species is likely 
impacted could suffice. The mere identification of factors that could 
impact a species negatively is not sufficient to compel a finding that 
listing is appropriate; we require evidence that these factors are 
operative threats that act on the species to the point that the species 
meets the definition of an endangered or threatened species under the 
Act.
    In making the 12-month finding for each of the subspecies addressed 
in this document we considered and evaluated the best available 
scientific and commercial information. Here we evaluate the factors 
affecting the subspecies under consideration in this proposed rule.

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

    Under this factor, the primary long term threats to the Mazama 
pocket gopher are the loss, conversion, and degradation of habitat 
particularly to urban development, successional changes to grassland 
habitat, and the spread of invasive plants. The threats also include 
increased predation pressure, which is closely linked to habitat 
degradation and discussed more fully under Factor C.
    The prairies of south Puget Sound are part of one of the rarest 
ecosystems in the United States (Noss et al. 1995, p. I-2; Dunn and 
Ewing 1997, p. v). Dramatic changes have occurred on the landscape over 
the last 150 years, including a 90 to 95 percent reduction in the 
prairie ecosystem. In the south Puget Sound region, where most of 
western Washington's prairies historically occurred, less than 10 
percent of the original prairie persists, and only 3 percent remains 
dominated by native vegetation (Crawford and Hall 1997, pp. 13-14).
Development
    Native prairies and grasslands have been severely reduced 
throughout the range of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher and the Shelton pocket gopher as a result of human 
activity due to conversion of habitat to residential and commercial 
development and agriculture. Prairie habitat continues to be lost, 
particularly to residential development (Stinson 2005, p. 70) by 
removal and fragmentation of native vegetation and the excavation and 
grading of surfaces and conversion to non-habitat (buildings, pavement, 
other infrastructure) rendering soils unsuitable for burrowing. 
Residential development is associated with increased infrastructure 
such as new road construction, which is one of the primary causes of 
landscape fragmentation (Watts et al. 2007, p. 736). Activities that 
accompany low-density development are correlated with decreased levels 
of biodiversity, mortality to wildlife, and facilitated introduction of 
nonnative invasive species (Trombulak and Frissell 2000, entire; Watts 
et al. 2007, p. 736). In the south Puget Sound lowlands, the glacial 
outwash soils and gravels underlying the prairies are deep and valuable 
for use in construction and road building, which leads to their 
degradation and destruction.
    In the south Puget Sound, Mazama pocket gophers most commonly 
reside in Nisqually loamy soils (Stinson 2010a, in litt.), the vast 
majority of which occur in developed areas of Thurston County, or 
within the Urban Growth Areas for the cities of Olympia, Tumwater, and 
Lacey (Thurston County 2004; WDFW 2009a), where future development is 
most likely to occur. Where pocket gopher populations presumably 
extended across an undeveloped expanse of open prairie (Dalquest and 
Scheffer 1942, pp. 95-96), current local populations of gophers in 
these areas are now isolated to small fragmented patches.
    The presumed extinction of the Tacoma pocket gopher is likely 
linked directly to residential and commercial development, which has 
replaced nearly all gopher habitat in the historical range of the 
subspecies (Stinson 2005, pp. 18,

[[Page 73778]]

34, 46). One of the historical Tacoma pocket gopher sites was converted 
to a large gravel pit and golf course (Stinson 2005, pp. 47, 120; 
Steinberg 1996, pp. 24, 27). In addition, two gravel pits are now 
operating on part of the site recognized as the type locality for the 
Roy Prairie pocket gopher (Stinson 2005, p. 42), and another is in 
operation near Tenino (Stinson 2010b, in litt.) in the vicinity of the 
type locality for the Tenino pocket gopher. Many areas historically 
occupied by Mazama pocket gophers in Olympia and Lacey have been lost 
to development (Stinson 2005, p. 26).
    Multiple pocket gopher sites in Pierce and Thurston Counties may 
be, or have been lost to, gravel pit development, golf course 
development, or residential and commercial development (Stinson 2005, 
pp. 26, 42; Stinson 2007, in litt., and 2010b, in litt.). Multiple 
prairies that used to contain local populations of pocket gophers 
within the range of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies have been 
developed to cities, neighborhoods, or agricultural lands, including 
Yelm Prairie, Grand Mound Prairie, Baker Prairie, Chambers Prairie, and 
Roy Prairie.
    Where their properties coincide with gopher occupancy, many private 
lands developers and landowners in Thurston County have agreed to 
create gopher set-asides in order to obtain development permits from 
the County (Tirhi 2008, in litt.). However, it is unknown if any 
gophers will remain on these sites due to the small size of the set-
asides, extensive grading in some areas, lack of enforcement or 
monitoring of set-aside maintenance (Defobbis 2011, in litt.), and lack 
of control of predation by domestic or feral cats or dogs.
    There are two local populations of Olympia and Shelton pocket 
gophers located at and around airports (Port of Olympia's Olympia 
Airport and Port of Shelton's Sanderson Field). Gophers at the Olympia 
Airport are currently threatened by development from the airport itself 
and adjacent landowner development. The Port of Olympia is realigning 
the airport runway, and has plans to develop large portions of the 
existing grassland that likely supports the largest population of the 
Olympia pocket gopher in Washington (Stinson 2007, in litt.; Port of 
Olympia and WDFW 2008, p.1; Port of Olympia 2012). They continue to 
work with WDFW on mitigating airport expansion activities that may 
impact gophers (Tirhi 2010, in litt.).
    Shelton Pocket Gopher. While past construction of the Port of 
Shelton's Sanderson Field previously removed prairie habitat in an area 
occupied by Shelton pocket gophers, future development plans do not 
include impacts to a significant amount of gopher habitat at this time. 
The majority of planned development will occur in areas already 
impacted (between existing buildings). Potential additions of pavement 
for hangars and a runway extension are planned in gopher use areas at 
the south end of the airport. However, neither project would impact a 
significant portion of the entire area used by gophers (Port of Shelton 
2010, 2012). In addition, the Port will have to prove to the Federal 
Aviation Administration that a need exists to extend the existing 
runway, which is unlikely to occur in the next 5 years (Palmer 2012, in 
litt.). The Port of Shelton operates under a Gopher Habitat Management 
Plan (Port of Shelton 2003) and has identified a smaller restoration 
area of approximately 50 ac (20 ha) across Highway 101 from the 
airport, where Scot's broom and other woody vegetation would be 
controlled in order to benefit Mazama pocket gophers, although the soil 
type in the restoration site (Shelton) is different from that on most 
of Sanderson Field (Carstairs). The majority of other local populations 
of Shelton pocket gophers in Mason County (i.e., those that occur off 
of Port property) do not appear to face a threat of development, as 
they largely occur on commercial timber forest lands.
    Olympic, Roy, and Yelm Pocket Gophers. The Olympic pocket gopher, 
occurring entirely within the Olympic National Park, the Yelm pocket 
gophers at Tenalquot Preserve and Scatter Creek Wildlife Area, and the 
translocated populations at West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area (all 
Olympia pocket gophers from the Olympia Airport) and Wolf Haven 
(largely from around the Olympia Airport, but could include other 
subspecies), are currently secure from intense commercial and 
residential development pressures as these populations occur on 
conserved lands. JBLM local populations (which could include both Roy 
Prairie and Yelm pocket gophers due to Department of Defense (DOD) land 
holdings that overlap the ranges of both subspecies) are also secure 
from such residential and commercial development; however, impacts due 
to military training threaten gopher habitat and may lead to reduced 
use of these areas by gophers (see Military Activities, below).
    Cathlamet Pocket Gopher. We have no information available that 
indicates that development is a threat to the Cathlamet subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gopher.
Loss of Ecological Disturbance Processes, Invasive Species, and 
Succession
    The suppression and loss of ecological disturbance regimes across 
vast portions of the landscape, such as fire, has resulted in altered 
vegetation structure in the prairies and meadows and has facilitated 
invasion by native and nonnative woody vegetation, rendering habitat 
unusable for the four Thurston/Pierce and Shelton subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher. The basic ecological processes that maintain prairies 
and meadows have disappeared from, or have been altered on, all but a 
few protected and managed sites.
    Historically, the prairies and meadows of the south Puget Sound 
region of Washington are thought to have been actively maintained by 
the native peoples of the region, who lived here for at least 10,000 
years before the arrival of Euro-American settlers (Boyd 1986, entire; 
Christy and Alverson 2011, p. 93). Frequent burning reduced the 
encroachment and spread of shrubs and trees (Boyd 1986, entire; 
Chappell and Kagan 2001, p. 42), favoring open grasslands with a rich 
variety of native plants and animals. Following Euro-American 
settlement of the region in the mid-19th century, fire was actively 
suppressed on grasslands, allowing encroachment by woody vegetation 
into the remaining prairie habitat and oak woodlands (Franklin and 
Dyrness 1973 p. 122; Boyd 1986, entire; Kruckeberg 1991, p. 287; Agee 
1993, p. 360; Altman et al. 2001, p. 262).
    Fires on the prairie create a mosaic of vegetation conditions, 
which serve to maintain native prairie plant communities. In some 
prairie patches fires will kill encroaching woody vegetation and reset 
succession back to bare ground, creating early successional vegetation 
conditions suitable for many native prairie species. Early succession 
forbs and grasses are favored by Mazama pocket gophers. The historical 
fire frequency on prairies has been estimated to be 3 to 5 years 
(Foster 2005, p. 8).
    The result of fire suppression has been the invasion of the 
prairies and oak woodlands by native and nonnative plant species (Dunn 
and Ewing 1997, p. v; Tveten and Fonda 1999, p. 146), notably woody 
plants such as the native Douglas-fir and the nonnative Scot's broom. 
On tallgrass prairies in midwestern North America, fire suppression has 
led to degradation and the loss of native grasslands (Curtis 1959, pp. 
296, 298; Panzer 2002, p. 1297). On northwestern prairies, fire 
suppression has allowed Douglas-fir to

[[Page 73779]]

encroach on and outcompete native prairie vegetation for light, water, 
and nutrients (Stinson 2005, p. 7). This increase in woody vegetation 
and nonnative plant species has resulted in less available prairie 
habitat overall and habitat that is unsuitable for and avoided by many 
native prairie species, including the Mazama pocket gopher (Tveten and 
Fonda 1999, p. 155; Pearson and Hopey 2005, pp. 2, 27; Olson 2011a, pp. 
12, 16). Pocket gophers prefer early successional vegetation as forage. 
Woody plants shade out the forbs and grasses that gophers prefer to 
eat, and high densities of woody plants make travel both below and 
above the ground difficult for gophers. In locations with poor forage, 
pocket gophers tend to have larger territories, which may be difficult 
to establish in densely forested areas. The probability of Mazama 
pocket gopher occupancy is much higher in areas with less than 10 
percent woody vegetation cover (Olson 2011a, p. 16).
    On JBLM alone, over 16,000 acres (6,477 ha) of prairie has 
converted to Douglas-fir forest since the mid-19th century (Foster and 
Shaff 2003, p. 284). Where controlled burns or direct tree removal are 
not used as a management tool, this encroachment will continue to cause 
the loss of open grassland habitats for Mazama pocket gophers and is an 
ongoing threat for the species.
    Restoration in some of the south Puget Sound grasslands has 
resulted in temporary control of Scot's broom and other invasive plants 
through the careful and judicious use of herbicides, mowing, grazing, 
and fire. Fire has been used as a management tool to maintain native 
prairie composition and structure and is generally acknowledged to 
improve the health and composition of grassland habitat by providing a 
short-term nitrogen addition, which results in a fertilizer effect to 
vegetation, thus aiding grasses and forbs as they resprout.
    Unintentional fires ignited by military training burn patches of 
prairie grasses and forbs on JBLM on an annual basis. These light 
ground fires create a mosaic of conditions within the grassland, 
maintaining a low vegetative structure of native and nonnative plant 
composition, and patches of bare soil. Because of the topography of the 
landscape, fires create a patchy mosaic of areas that burn completely, 
some areas that do not burn, and areas where consumption of the 
vegetation is mixed in its effects to the habitat. One of the benefits 
to fire in grasslands is that it tends to kill regenerating conifers, 
and reduces the cover of nonnative shrubs such as Scot's broom, 
although Scot's broom seed stored in the soil can be stimulated by fire 
(Agee 1993, p. 367). Fire also improves conditions for many native 
bulb-forming plants, such as Camassia sp. (camas) (Agee and Dunwiddie 
1984, p. 367). On sites where regular fires occur, such as on JBLM, 
there is a high complement of native plants and fewer invasive species. 
These types of fires promote the maintenance of the native short-
statured plant communities favored by pocket gophers.
    Management practices such as intentional burning and mowing require 
expertise in timing and technique to achieve desired results. If 
applied at the wrong season, frequency, or scale, fire and mowing can 
be detrimental to the restoration of native prairie species. Excessive 
and high intensity burning can result in a lack of vegetation or 
encourage regrowth to nonnative grasses. Where such burning has 
occurred over a period of more than 50 years on the artillery ranges of 
the JBLM, prairies are covered by nonnative forbs and grasses instead 
of native perennial bunchgrasses (Tveten and Fonda 1999, pp. 154-155).
    Mazama pocket gophers are not commonly found in areas colonized by 
Douglas-fir trees because gophers require forbs and grasses of an early 
successional stage for food (Witmer et al. 1996, p. 96). Mazama pocket 
gophers observed on JBLM did not occur in areas with high cover of 
Scot's broom (Steinberg 1995, p. 26). A more recent study on JBLM also 
found that pocket gopher presence was negatively associated with Scot's 
broom (Olson 2011a, pp. 12-13, 16). Some subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gophers may disperse through forested areas or may temporarily 
establish territories on forest edges, but there is currently not 
enough data available to determine how common this behavior may be or 
which subspecies employ it. The four Thurston/Pierce subspecies occur 
on prairie-type habitats, many of which, if not actively managed to 
maintain vegetation in an early-successional state, have been invaded 
by shrubs and trees that either preclude the gophers or limit their 
ability to fully occupy the landscape.
    Some areas which are occupied by the Olympic, Cathlamet, and to 
some extent the Shelton subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher, may be at 
risk due to ingrowth of trees (Vale 1981, p. 61; Magee and Antos 1992, 
pp. 492-493; Woodward et al. 1995, p. 224; Zolbrod and Peterson 1999, 
pp. 1970-1971). This encroachment appears to be occurring slowly and 
other factors may prevent it or set it back, including increased or 
decreased precipitation (depending on season), growing season duration 
and temperature, timing and duration of snowpack, increased fire 
frequency, or windthrow. Such factors can be extremely site-specific in 
nature and microclimatically based. This makes it difficult to predict 
where, when, and to what extent encroachment may occur (see discussion 
under Climate Change, Factor E). The loss of natural disturbance 
processes and succession aren't known to be a current threat to the 
Olympic or Cathlamet subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.
    Where the Shelton pocket gopher occurs on Sanderson Field (the 
largest open prairie habitat in the range of the Shelton pocket 
gopher), airport management prevents woody vegetation from encroaching 
for flight safety reasons. Vegetative encroachment is therefore not an 
issue at this site. The Shelton pocket gopher's range overlaps both 
prairie and commercial timberlands. Due to management actions at 
Sanderson Field, and due to the subspecies' ability to take advantage 
of forest openings created by management, succession or loss of habitat 
does not appear to be an overall threat to this subspecies.
Military Training
    Populations of Mazama pocket gophers occurring on JBLM are exposed 
to differing levels of training activities on the base. The DOD's 
proposed actions under `Grow the Army' (GTA) include stationing 5,700 
new soldiers, new combat service support units, a combat aviation 
brigade, facility demolition and construction to support the increased 
troop levels, and additional aviation, maneuver, and live fire training 
(75 FR 55313, September 10, 2010). The increased training activities 
will affect nearly all training areas at JBLM resulting in an increased 
risk of accidental fires, and habitat destruction and degradation 
through vehicle travel, dismounted training, bivouac activities, and 
digging. While training areas on the base have degraded habitat for 
these species, with implementation of conservation measures, these 
areas still provide habitat for the Mazama pocket gopher.
    Several moderate- to large-sized local populations of Mazama pocket 
gophers have been identified on JBLM. We believe these are likely to be 
Roy Prairie and Yelm pocket gophers. Their absence from some sites of 
what is presumed to have been formerly suitable habitat may be related 
to compaction of the soil due to years of mechanized vehicle training, 
which impedes burrowing activities of pocket gophers (Steinberg 1995, 
p. 36). Training infrastructure (roads, firing

[[Page 73780]]

ranges, bunkers) also degrades gopher habitat and may lead to reduced 
use of these areas by pocket gophers. For example, as part of the GTA 
effort, JBLM has plans to add a third rifle range on the south impact 
area where it overlaps with a densely occupied Mazama pocket gopher 
site. The area may be usable by gophers when the project is completed; 
however, construction of the rifle range may result in removal of 
forage and direct mortality of gophers through crushing of burrows 
(Stinson 2011c, in litt.). We assume, as access is not allowed there, 
that gophers are unable to fully utilize the otherwise apparently 
suitable central portion of 91st Division Prairie due to repeated and 
ongoing bombardment of that area. Other JBLM training areas have 
varying levels of use; some allow excavation (Marion Prairie) and off-
road vehicle use, while other areas have restrictions that limit off-
road vehicle use. No military training occurs in the range of the 
Olympic, Cathlamet, Shelton, Olympia, or Tenino subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher.
    JBLM has committed to restrictions both seasonally and 
operationally on military training areas, in order to avoid and 
minimize potential impacts to Mazama pocket gophers. These restrictions 
include identified non-training areas, seasonally restricted areas 
during breeding, and the adjustment of mowing schedules to protect the 
species. These conservation management practices are outlined in an 
operational plan that the Service has assisted the DOD in developing 
for JBLM (Thomas 2012, pers. comm.).
Restoration Activities
    Management for invasive species and encroachment of conifers 
requires control through equipment, herbicides, and other activities. 
While restoration has conservation value for the species, management 
activities to implement restoration may also have direct impacts to the 
species that are the target of habitat restoration.
    In the south Puget Sound, Mazama pocket gopher habitat has been 
degraded and encroached upon by native and nonnative shrubs, including 
Scot's broom and several Washington State listed noxious weeds, such as 
Euphorbia esula (leafy spurge) and Centaurea sp. (knapweed) (Dunn and 
Ewing 1997, p. v; Vaughan and Black 2002, p. 11). Steinberg (1995, p. 
26) observed that pocket gophers on JBLM did not occur in areas with 
thick Scot's broom and Olson (2011a, pp. 12-13) also found that pocket 
gopher presence was negatively associated with Scot's broom. Most 
restoration activities are unlikely to have direct impacts on pocket 
gophers, though removal of nonnative vegetation is likely to 
temporarily decrease available forage for Mazama pocket gophers.
Disease Impacts to Habitat
    Disease is not known to be a threat to the habitats of the 
Washington subspecies of Mazama pocket gophers.
Summary of Factor A
    Here we summarize the threats to the seven subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gophers under consideration in this proposed rule.
    Much of the habitat originally used by the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies has been fragmented and/or lost to development. Residential 
and commercial development in the restricted remaining range of the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies is expected to continue into the 
future, and is likely to continue to result in substantial impacts to 
the subspecies' habitat and populations. Development removes forage 
vegetation, renders soils unsuitable for burrowing by covering them 
with impervious surfaces, or by grading or removing them. Proposed 
development triggers Critical Area Ordinances (CAOs) in these counties, 
but resultant set-asides are not always adequate to conserve local 
populations into the future (for further discussion on these regulatory 
assurances, see Factor D) The threat of development is not significant 
for the Shelton pocket gopher. Development is not a threat for the 
Olympic or Cathlamet pocket gophers.
    Past military training has likely negatively impacted two of the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies (Roy Prairie and Yelm pocket gophers) 
by direct and indirect mortality from bombardment, subsequent fires, 
and soils compaction on prairies. This threat is expected to continue 
in the future due to planned increases in stationing and military 
training at JBLM. Military training is not a threat to the five other 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.
    Degradation of habitat by invasive shrubby species such as Scot's 
broom continues to be on ongoing significant threat to the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies. Invasive species encroachment into alpine 
and subalpine meadows is not known to be a threat for the Olympic, 
Cathlamet, or Shelton pocket gopher.
    The four Thurston/Pierce subspecies also face threats from 
encroachment of native and nonnative plant species into their prairie 
environments due to succession and fire suppression, and are 
particularly impacted by the encroachment of woody vegetation. This has 
resulted in loss of forage vegetation for pocket gophers, as well loss 
of burrowing habitat, as tree and shrub roots overtake the soils. We 
have no evidence to indicate that encroachment of woody vegetation is a 
threat for the Olympic, Shelton, or Cathlamet pocket gophers.
    The Washington prairie ecosystem that the Mazama pocket gopher 
subspecies primarily depend upon has been reduced by an estimated 90 to 
95 percent over the past 150 years, with less than 10 percent of the 
native prairie remaining in the south Puget Sound region today. Due to 
loss and degradation of gopher habitat from ongoing and future 
residential and commercial development, encroachment of shrubs and 
trees into their prairie habitats, and impacts from both current and 
future military training (for Roy Prairie and Yelm subspecies), we 
conclude that the threats to the habitat of the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher are significant. We did not find any 
information to suggest that there are habitat based threats for the 
Olympic, Shelton, or Cathlamet subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.

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

    Overutilization of species results when the number of individuals 
removed from the system exceeds the ability of the population of the 
species to sustain its numbers or reduces populations of the species to 
a level such that it is vulnerable to other influences (threats) upon 
its survival. This overutilization can result from removal of 
individuals from the wild for commercial, recreational, scientific or 
educational purposes.
    One local population of Mazama pocket gopher at Lost Lake Prairie 
in Mason County (Shelton pocket gopher) may have been extirpated as a 
result of collecting by Dalquest and Scheffer in the late 1930s or 
early 1940s (Dalquest and Scheffer 1944, p. 314). Later, Steinberg 
(1996, p.23) conducted surveys in the vicinity and found no evidence of 
pocket gophers. In addition, Mazama pocket gophers in Washington were 
used in a rodenticide experiment as recently as 1995 (Witmer et al. 
1996, p. 97). Witmer et al. (1996, p. 95) claim these were likely 
Thomomys mazama tumuli (Tenino pocket gophers), but these Lacey-area 
gophers may fall in the range of the Olympia pocket gopher. Hundreds of 
Olympia pocket gophers died during initial translocation experiments 
and research conducted by WDFW at Wolf Haven and West Rocky

[[Page 73781]]

Prairie, respectively, between 2005 and 2011 (Linders 2008, p. 9; Olson 
2011c; Olson 2012a, in litt.). In the case of the Wolf Haven 
translocations, gophers were removed from development sites where 
pocket gopher mortality would have likely occurred from direct impacts 
due to site development (crushing of individuals and burrows from heavy 
machinery excavation, grading, and construction, etc.). Pocket gophers 
continue to occupy Wolf Haven, despite there being no known occurrence 
records for the site prior to translocations. Similarly, pocket gophers 
were not known to inhabit West Rocky Prairie prior to translocation 
experiments there. Pocket gophers for this research were taken from the 
Olympia Airport, one of the largest local populations of Mazama pocket 
gophers in Thurston County. Although no analysis has been completed on 
the population levels of the Olympia airport population after this 
experiment, this population remains the largest in Thurston County. The 
analysis and evaluation of this research is ongoing. Outside of this 
controlled research, we have no information or evidence that 
overutilization of any subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher is an ongoing 
threat now or will become a threat in the future.
Summary of Factor B
    In summary, although there is some evidence of historical mortality 
from overutilization of the Mazama pocket gopher, and there may have 
been recent mortality from utilization of the Mazama pocket gopher for 
research purposes, we have no information to indicate that these 
activities have negatively impacted the species as a whole and have no 
information to suggest that overutilization will become a threat in the 
future. In addition, there is no evidence that commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational use is occurring at a level 
that would pose a threat to the Mazama pocket gopher.

Factor C. Disease or Predation

Disease
    Most healthy ecosystems include organisms such as viruses, 
bacteria, fungi, and parasites that cause disease. Healthy wildlife and 
ecosystems have evolved defenses to fend off most diseases before they 
have devastating impacts. An ecosystem with high levels of biodiversity 
(diversity of species and genetic diversity within species) is more 
resilient to the impacts of disease because there are greater 
possibilities that some species and individuals within a species have 
evolved resistance, or if an entire species is lost, that there will 
likely be another species to fill the empty niche.
    Where ecosystems are not healthy due to a loss of biodiversity and 
threats such as habitat loss, climate change, pollutants or invasive 
species, wildlife and ecosystems are more vulnerable to emerging 
diseases. Diseases caused by or carried by invasive species are 
particularly severe threats, as native wildlife may have no natural 
immunity to them (National Wildlife Federation 2012).
    Our review of the best available scientific and commercial data 
found no evidence to indicate that disease is a threat to the 
Washington Mazama pocket gopher subspecies. We conclude that disease is 
not a threat to the subspecies now, nor do we anticipate it to become a 
threat in the future.
Predation
    Predation is a process of major importance in influencing the 
distribution, abundance, and diversity of species in ecological 
communities. Generally, predation leads to changes in both the 
population size of the predator and that of the prey. In unfavorable 
environments, prey species are stressed or living at low population 
densities such that predation is likely to have negative effects on all 
prey species, thus lowering species richness. In addition, when a 
nonnative predator is introduced to the ecosystem, negative effects on 
the prey population may be higher than those from co-evolved native 
predators. The effect of predation may be magnified when populations 
are small, and the disproportionate effect of predation on declining 
populations has been shown to drive rare species even further towards 
extinction (Woodworth 1999, pp. 74-75).
    Predation has an impact on populations of the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher. For the Mazama pocket gopher, 
urbanization, particularly in the south Puget Sound area, has resulted 
in not only habitat loss, but the increased exposure to feral and 
domestic cats (Felis catus) and dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Domestic 
cats are known to have serious impacts on small mammals and birds and 
have been implicated in the decline of several endangered and 
threatened mammals, including marsh rabbits in Florida and the salt-
marsh harvest mouse in California (Ogan and Jurek 1997, p. 89). 
Domestic cats and dogs have been specifically identified as common 
predators of pocket gophers (Wight 1918, p. 21; Henderson 1981, p. 233; 
Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-21) and at least two Mazama pocket gopher 
locations were found as a result of house cats bringing home pocket 
gopher carcasses (WDFW 2001, entire). In addition, the last specimens 
and last known individuals of the Tacoma pocket gopher were carcasses 
brought home by cats (Stinson 2005, p. 34). There is also one recorded 
instance of a WDFW biologist being presented with a dead Mazama pocket 
gopher by a dog during an east Olympia, Washington, site visit in 2006 
(Burke Museum 2012).
    The four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher occur 
in rapidly developing areas. Local populations that survive commercial 
and residential development (adjacent to and within habitat) are 
vulnerable to extirpation by domestic and feral cats and dogs 
(Henderson 1981, p. 233; Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-21). As stated 
previously, predation is a natural part of the Mazama pocket gopher's 
life history; however, the effect of predation may be magnified when 
populations are small. The disproportionate effect of additional 
predation on declining populations has been shown to drive rare species 
even further towards extinction (Woodworth 1999, pp. 74-75). Predation, 
particularly from nonnative species, will likely continue to be a 
threat to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher 
now and in the future, particularly where development abuts gopher 
habitat. In such areas where local populations are already small, this 
additional predation pressure (above natural levels of predation) is 
expected to further impact population numbers. We have no information 
to indicate that predation is a threat to the Olympic, Shelton, or 
Cathlamet subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.
Summary of Factor C
    Based on our review of the best available information, we conclude 
that disease is not a threat to the Mazama pocket gopher now, nor do we 
expect it to become a threat in the future.
    Because the populations of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gopher are declining and small, we find that the effect 
of the threat of predation by feral and domestic pets (cats and dogs) 
is resulting in a significant impact on the subspecies. Therefore, 
based on our review of the best available scientific and commercial 
information, we conclude that predation is currently a threat to the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher now and will 
continue to be in the future. We have no information to indicate that 
predation is a threat to the Olympic, Shelton, or

[[Page 73782]]

Cathlamet subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.

Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Under this factor, we examine whether existing regulatory 
mechanisms are inadequate to address the threats to the subspecies 
discussed under the other factors. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act 
requires the Service to take into account ``those efforts, if any, 
being made by any State or foreign nation, or any political subdivision 
of a State or foreign nation, to protect such species * * *.'' In 
relation to Factor D under the Act, we interpret this language to 
require the Service to consider relevant Federal, State, and Tribal 
laws, regulations, and other such mechanisms that may minimize any of 
the threats we describe in threat analyses under the other four 
factors, or otherwise enhance conservation of the subspecies. We give 
strongest weight to statutes and their implementing regulations and to 
management direction that stems from those laws and regulations. An 
example would be State governmental actions enforced under a State 
statute or constitution, or Federal action under statute.
    The following section includes a discussion of Federal, State, 
Tribal, or local laws, regulations, or treaties that apply to the 
Mazama pocket gopher. It includes legislation for Federal land 
management agencies and State and Federal regulatory authorities 
affecting land use or other relevant management.
United States Federal Laws and Regulations
    There are no Federal laws in the United States that specifically 
address the Mazama pocket gopher.
    The Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670) authorizes the Secretary of Defense 
to develop cooperative plans with the Secretaries of Agriculture and 
the Interior for natural resources on public lands. The Sikes Act 
Improvement Act of 1997 requires Department of Defense installations to 
prepare Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans (INRMPs) that 
provide for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources on 
military lands consistent with the use of military installations to 
ensure the readiness of the Armed Forces. INRMPs incorporate, to the 
maximum extent practicable, ecosystem management principles and provide 
the landscape necessary to sustain military land uses. While INRMPs are 
not technically regulatory mechanisms because their implementation is 
subject to funding availability, they can be an added conservation tool 
in promoting the recovery of endangered and threatened species on 
military lands.
    On JBLM in Washington, several policies and an INRMP are in place 
to provide conservation measures to grassland associated species that 
occupy training lands on the military base. JBLM in partnership with 
local agencies and nongovernmental organizations has provided funding 
to conserve these species through the acquisition of new conservation 
properties and management actions intended to improve the amount and 
distribution of habitat for these species. JBLM has also provided 
funding to reintroduce declining species into suitable habitat on and 
off military lands. In June 2011, representatives from DOD (Washington, 
DC, office) met with all conservation partners to assess the success of 
this program and make decisions as to future funding needs. Support 
from the Garrison Commander of JBLM and all partners resulted in an 
increase in funding for habitat management and acquisition projects for 
these species on JBLM.
    The Service has worked closely with the DOD to develop protection 
areas within the primary habitat for Mazama pocket gophers on JBLM. 
These include areas where no vehicles are permitted on occupied 
habitat, where vehicles will remain on roads only, and where only foot 
traffic is allowed.
    JBLM policies include Army Regulation 420-5, which covers the 
INRMP, and AR-200-1. This is an agreement between each troop and DOD 
management that actions taken by each soldier will comply with 
restrictions placed on specific Training Areas, or range lands. Within 
the INRMP, the wildlife branch of the DOD is developing updated 
Endangered Species Management Plans (ESMPs) that provide site specific 
management and protection actions that are taken on military lands for 
the conservation of the Mazama pocket gopher. The ESMPs will provide 
assurances of available funding, and an implementation schedule that 
determines when certain activities will occur and who will accomplish 
these actions. ESMPs require regular updates to account for local or 
rangewide changes in species status. INRMPs also have a monitoring 
component that would require modifications, or adaptive management, to 
planning actions when the result of that specific action may differ 
from the intent of the planned action. Therefore, although current 
military actions may continue to harm individuals of the species, we 
expect (based on our ongoing technical assistance) that the Final ESMPs 
and revised INRMP will provide greater conservation benefit to the 
species than this current level of management and will protect Mazama 
pocket gophers from further population declines associated with habitat 
loss or inappropriate management on JBLM properties.
    The National Park Service Organic Act of 1916, as amended (39 Stat. 
535, 16 U.S.C. 1), states that the National Park Service (NPS) ``shall 
promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national 
parks, monuments, and reservations * * * to conserve the scenery and 
the national and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to 
provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means 
as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future 
generations.'' The NPS Management Policies indicate that the Park 
Service will ``meet its obligations under the National Park Service 
Organic Act and the Endangered Species Act to both pro-actively 
conserve listed species and prevent detrimental effects on these 
species.'' This includes working with the Service and undertaking 
active management programs to inventory, monitor, restore, and maintain 
listed species' habitats, among other actions.
    The Olympic pocket gopher occurs entirely on National Park land and 
is protected by Federal regulations. Under Federal regulations, 
disturbance, collection of, or possessing unlawfully taken wildlife, 
except by authorized hunting and trapping activities is prohibited (36 
CFR 2.1(a)(1)(i), 2.2(a)(1)(2)(3), and (b)(1)(2)(3)(4)). The Park also 
provides some protection to the species due to its threatened status in 
the State of Washington. According to the regulations codified in 36 
CFR 2.5(c);

    ``A permit to take an endangered or threatened species listed 
pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, or similarly identified by 
the States, shall not be issued unless the species cannot be 
obtained outside of the park area and the primary purpose of the 
collection is to enhance the protection or management of the 
species.''

    Based on our review, we conclude that the Olympic pocket gopher is 
not faced with further population declines associated with habitat loss 
or inappropriate management due to the inadequacy of existing NPS 
regulations.
State Laws and Regulations
    Although there is no State Endangered Species Act in Washington, 
the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has authority to list 
species (Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 77.12.020). The Mazama pocket 
gopher

[[Page 73783]]

is currently listed as a threatened species by the WDFW. State-listed 
species are protected from direct take and/or malicious' take' but 
their habitat is not protected (RCW 77.15.120). State listings 
generally consider only the status of the species within the State's 
borders, and do not depend upon the same considerations as a potential 
Federal listing. Habitat receives protection through county or 
municipal critical area ordinances. Critical area ordinances require 
environmental review and habitat management plans for development 
proposals that affect state-listed species. Washington's Growth 
Management Act requires counties to develop critical area ordinances 
that address development impacts to important wildlife habitats. 
However, the specifics and implementation of critical area ordinances 
vary by county (see specific discussions below).
    The Mazama pocket gopher is a Priority Species under WDFW's 
Priority Habitats and Species Program (WDFW 2008, pp. 19, 80, 120). As 
a Priority Species, Mazama pocket gophers benefit from some protection 
of their habitats under environmental reviews of applications for 
county or municipal development permits (Stinson 2005, pp. 46, 70). 
WDFW provides Priority Habitats and Species Management Recommendations 
to local government permit reviewers, applicants, consultants, and 
landowners in order to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to Mazama 
pocket gophers and their habitat (WDFW 2011, p.1). These 
recommendations are not regulatory, but are based on best available 
science. As discussed in Factor A, the threat of development is 
greatest for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies, but is not known to 
be a threat to the Olympic, Shelton, or Cathlamet subspecies.
    Under the Washington State Forest Practices Act (RCW 76.09 accessed 
online 2012), WDNR must approve certain activities related to growing, 
harvesting or processing timber on all local government, State, and 
privately-owned forest lands. WDNR's mission is to protect public 
resources while maintaining a viable timber industry. The primary goal 
of the forest practices rules is to achieve protection of water 
quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and capital improvements while 
ensuring that harvested areas are reforested. Presently, the Washington 
State Forest Practices Rules do not specifically protect Mazama pocket 
gophers or their habitat. The Shelton and Cathlamet subspecies both 
occur in areas that would be subject to Washington State Forest 
Practices Rules. Landowners removing over 5,000 board feet of timber on 
their ownership, have the option to develop a management plan for a 
listed species if it resides on their property. If landowners choose to 
not develop a management plan for the subspecies with WDFW, their 
forest practices application will be conditioned to protect the 
relevant subspecies. If this approach does not provide the required 
protections for the subspecies then WDFW and WDNR may request the 
Forest Practice Board to initiate rule making, and possibly, an 
emergency rule would be developed (Whipple 2008, pers. comm.).
    The WDNR also manages approximately 66,000 ac (26,710 ha) of lands 
as Natural Area Preserves (NAP). NAPs provide the highest level of 
protection for excellent examples of unique or typical land features in 
Washington State. These NAPs provide protection for the Mazama pocket 
gopher and based on their proactive management, we do not find the 
Mazama pocket gophers to be threatened by the inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms on WDNR lands.
    Based on our review of the existing regulatory mechanisms for the 
State of Washington, we conclude that while the State's regulations may 
protect individuals of the subspecies, they do not protect the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher, from further 
population declines associated with habitat loss or inappropriate 
management nor do they provide for these subspecies' long-term 
population viability.
Local Laws and Regulations
    The Washington State Growth Management Act of 1990 requires all 
jurisdictions in the state to designate and protect critical areas. The 
state defines five broad categories of critical areas, including: (1) 
Wetlands; (2) areas with a critical recharging effects on aquifers used 
for potable water; (3) fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas; 
(4) frequently flooded areas; and (5) geologically hazardous areas. 
Quercus garryana (Oregon white oak) habitat and prairie both 
predominantly fall into the category of fish and wildlife habitat 
conservation areas, though due to the coarse nature of prairie soils 
and the presence of wet prairie habitat across the landscape, critical 
area protections for crucial aquifer recharge areas and wetlands may 
also address some prairie habitat protection. As indicated previously, 
Washington's Growth Management Act requires counties to develop 
critical area ordinances that address development impacts to important 
wildlife habitats. The specifics and implementation of critical area 
ordinances vary by county although the Mazama pocket gopher is 
recognized as a species of local importance in the critical area 
ordinances of Pierce, Thurston, and Mason counties. Generally within 
these areas, when development activities are proposed where gophers are 
likely to be present, the developer must determine if gophers are 
present, assess the impact to gophers, and submit a Habitat Assessment 
Report (Pierce) or Habitat Management Plan (Thurston, Mason). Habitat 
Management Plans have been developed for gophers for many sites in 
Thurston County since 2006.
    Within counties, the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) applies to all 
unincorporated areas, but incorporated cities are required to 
independently address critical areas within their Urban Growth Area. 
The incorporated cities within the range of the Mazama pocket gopher in 
Washington are: (1) Shelton (Mason County); (2) Roy (Pierce County); 
and (3) Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, and Yelm (Thurston County).
    In 2009, the Thurston County Board of Commissioners adopted Interim 
Ordinance No. 14260, which strengthened protections for prairie and 
Oregon white oak habitat in consideration of the best available 
science. The County worked with the Service and WDFW to include an up-
to-date definition of prairie habitat and to delineate soils where 
prairie habitat is likely to occur. In July 2010, the ordinance was 
renewed and amended, including revisions to the prairie soils list and 
changes to administrative language. Since July 2010, the interim 
prairie ordinance has been renewed on a 6-month basis and is currently 
in place. Several prairie species were also included as important 
species subject to critical areas regulation, including three 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gophers (for Thurston County, these would 
be the Olympia, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers, although the CAO 
doesn't separate out subspecies by name) (Thurston County 2012, p. 1).
    Implementation of the ordinances includes delineation of prairie 
soils at the time of any land use application. County staff use the 
presence of prairie soils and soils identified as Mazama pocket gopher 
habitat as well as known presence of these subspecies to determine 
whether prairie habitat may be present at a site and impacted by the 
land use activity. After a field review, if prairie habitat or one of 
these subspecies is found on the site, the County requires a habitat 
management plan (HMP) to be developed, typically

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by a consultant for the landowner, in accordance with WDFW's Priority 
Habitats and Species Management Recommendations. This HMP specifies how 
site development should occur, and assists developers in achieving 
compliance with CAO requirements to minimize impact to the prairie 
habitat and species. The HMPs typically include onsite fencing and 
semi-annual mowing. Mitigation for prairie impacts may also be 
required, on-site or off (Thurston County 2012, p. 2). WDFW biologists 
are not required to review or approve the HMP for adequacy and usually 
are not privy to the recommendations in final Plan. Subsequently, the 
County may vacate all or part of the HMP if it determines a reasonable 
use exception (discussed towards the end of this section) is 
appropriate.
    In Clallam, Pierce, and Mason Counties, specific CAOs have not been 
identified for the Olympic, Shelton, or Roy Prairie subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gopher. However, prairie habitats and species garner some 
protection under Fish (or Aquatic) and Wildlife Habitat Conservation 
Areas (Mason County 2009, p. 64; Clallam County 2012, Part Three, 
entire; Pierce County 2012, pp. 18E.40-1-3). All developments within 
these areas are required to: preserve and protect habitat adequate to 
support viable populations of native wildlife (Clallam County 2012, 
Part Three, entire); to achieve ``no net loss'' of species and habitat 
where, if altered, the action may reduce the likelihood that these 
species survive and reproduce over the long term (Pierce County 2012, 
p. 18E.40-1); and support viable populations and protect habitat for 
Federal or State listed fish or wildlife (Mason County 2009, p. 63).
    Due to its State-listed status in Washington, gophers are included 
in three county CAOs in the State. Actions in gopher habitat under such 
ordinances are intended to protect and minimize impacts to gophers and 
their habitats. As such, development applications in suspected gopher 
areas have spurred surveys and habitat assessments by WDFW or 
contractors in Mason, Pierce, and Thurston Counties. While survey 
techniques are more-or-less consistent from site to site, potential 
development properties found to be occupied by gophers are subject to 
varied species protection measures. These measures have included 
habitat set-asides, on-site fencing, signage, and suggested guidelines 
for long-term management. These measures are inadequate for protecting 
the site from nonnative predators, ensuring long-term habitat 
functioning or population viability, providing connectivity to adjacent 
habitat areas, or prompting corrective management actions if the 
biological functioning of the set-aside declines.
    Measures are implemented with varying degrees of biological 
assessment, evaluation, and monitoring to ensure ecological success. If 
a site is found to be occupied by Mazama pocket gophers and unless a 
reasonable use exception is determined by the County, development 
properties are required to set aside fenced, signed areas for pocket 
gopher protection that must be maintained into the future. However, 
fencing often doesn't exclude predators, and the size of the set-asides 
may not be large enough to sustain a population of gophers over time. 
Additionally, there appears to be no mechanism in place for oversight 
to ensure that current and future landowners are complying with the 
habitat maintenance requirements, so within these set-asides, pocket 
gopher habitat may become unsuitable over time. Legal procedures to 
ensure performance, permanency, funding, and enforcement for long-term 
site stewardship are inadequate, or are nonexistent (Defobbis 2011, in 
litt.). Consequently, for the Mazama pocket gophers impacted by 
development (the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies), the contribution of 
these sites to maintaining pocket gopher populations and viability is 
unreliable for long-term conservation.
    For a few property owners in Thurston County, the size of the set-
aside would have precluded the proposed use of the properties. In these 
cases, landowners were granted a ``reasonable use exception,'' allowing 
development to proceed. In some cases, gophers that could be live-
trapped have been moved (translocated) to other locations. These were 
termed emergency translocations. In cases such as this, or where the 
set-aside doesn't wholly overlap all occupied habitat, destruction of 
occupied habitats (due to building construction, grading or paving 
over, etc.) likely results in death of individuals due to the gopher's 
underground existence and sedentary nature, which makes them vulnerable 
in situations where their burrows are crushed.
    County-level CAOs do not apply to incorporated cities within county 
boundaries, thus the incorporated cities of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, 
Yelm, Tenino, and Rainier that overlap the range of the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher do not provide the same 
specificity of protection as the Thurston County CAO. Below we address 
the relevant city ordinances that overlap the species' range. We 
conclude below with a summary of whether we deem these city ordinances 
as they are tied to the County-level ordinances are adequate for the 
conservation of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher.
    The City of Olympia. The City of Olympia's municipal code states 
that ``The Department [City] may restrict the uses and activities of a 
development proposal which lie within one thousand feet of important 
habitat or species location,'' defined by Washington State's Priority 
Habitat and Species (PHS) Management Recommendations of 1991, as 
amended'' (Olympia Municipal Code (OMC) 18.32.315 B). When development 
is proposed within 1,000 feet of habitat of a species designated as 
important by Washington State, the Olympia CAO requires the preparation 
of a formal ``Important Habitats and Species Management Plan'' unless 
waived by the WDFW (OMC 18.32.320).
    The City of Lacey. The City of Lacey CAO includes in its definition 
of ``critical area'' any area identified as habitat for a Federal or 
State endangered, threatened, or sensitive species or State-listed 
priority habitat, and calls these Habitat Conservation Areas (HCAs) 
(Lacey Municipal Code (LMC) 14.33.060). These areas are defined through 
individual contract with qualified professional biologists on a site-
by-site basis as development is proposed. The code further states that, 
``No development shall be allowed within a habitat conservation area or 
buffer [for a habitat conservation area] with which state or federally 
endangered, threatened, or sensitive species have a primary 
association'' (LMC 14.33.117).
    The City of Tumwater. The City of Tumwater CAO outlines protections 
for HCAs and for ``habitats and species of local importance.'' 
Tumwater's HCAs are established on a case-by-case basis by a 
``qualified professional'' as development is proposed and the HCAs are 
required to be consistent with the recommendations issued by the 
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (Tumwater Municipal 
Code (TMC) 16.32.60). Species of local importance are defined as 
locally significant species that are not State-listed as threatened, 
endangered, or sensitive, but live in Tumwater and are of special 
importance to the citizens of Tumwater for cultural or historical 
reasons, or if the City is a critically significant portion of its 
range (TMC 16.32.055 A). Tumwater is considered a ``critically 
significant portion of a species' range'' if the species'

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population would be divided into nonviable populations if it is 
eliminated from Tumwater'' (TMC 16.32.055 A2). Species of local 
importance are further defined as State monitor or candidate species 
where Tumwater is a significant portion of its range such that a 
significant reduction or elimination of the species from Tumwater would 
result in changing the status of the species to that of State 
endangered, threatened, or sensitive (TMC 16.32.055 A3).
    The City of Yelm. The municipal code of Yelm states that it will 
``regulate all uses, activities, and developments within, adjacent to, 
or likely to affect one or more critical areas, consistent with the 
best available science'' (Yelm Municipal Code (YMC) 14.08.010 E4f) and 
mandates that ``all actions and developments shall be designed and 
constructed to avoid, minimize, and restore all adverse impacts.'' 
Further, it states that, ``no activity or use shall be allowed that 
results in a net loss of the functions or values of critical areas'' 
(YMC 14.08.010 G) and ``no development shall be allowed within a 
habitat conservation area or buffer which state or federally 
endangered, threatened, or sensitive species have a primary 
association, except that which is provided for by a management plan 
established by WDFW or applicable state or federal agency'' (YMC 
14.080.140 D1a). The City of Yelm municipal code states that by 
``limiting development and alteration of critical areas'' it will 
``maintain healthy, functioning ecosystems through the protection of 
unique, fragile, and valuable elements of the environment, and * * * 
conserve the biodiversity of plant and animal species'' (17.08.010 
A4b).
    The City of Tenino. The City of Tenino municipal code gives 
Development Regulations for Critical Areas and Natural Resource Lands 
that include fish and wildlife habitat areas (Tenino Municipal Code 
(TMC) 18D.10.030 A) and further ``protects unique, fragile, and 
valuable elements of the environment, including critical fish and 
wildlife habitat'' (TMC 18D.10.030 D). The City of Tenino references 
the WDNR Critical Areas Fish and Wildlife Habitat Areas-Stream Typing 
Map and the WDFW PHS Program and PHS Maps as sources to identify fish 
and wildlife habitat (TMC 18D.10.140 E1, 2). The City also defines 
critical fish and wildlife species habitat areas as those areas known 
to support or have ``a primary association with State or Federally 
listed endangered, threatened, or sensitive species of fish or wildlife 
(specified in 50 CFR 17.11, 50 CFR 17.12, WAC 232-12-011) and which, if 
altered, may reduce the likelihood that the species will survive and 
reproduce over the long term'' (TMC 18D.40.020A, B).
    The City of Rainier. The City of Rainier municipal code identifies 
``critical areas as defined by RCW 36.70A.030 to include * * * fish and 
wildlife habitat areas'' (Rainier Municipal Code (RMC) 18.100.030A) and 
further ``protects unique, fragile, and valuable elements of the 
environment, including critical fish and wildlife habitat'' (RMC 
180.100.030D). The City of Rainier mandates protective measures that 
include avoiding impact to critical areas first and mitigation second 
(RMC 18.100.B030B). Fish and wildlife habitat critical areas may be 
designated either by a contracted ``qualified professional'' or a 
qualified city employee (RMC 18.100.H040H).
    The City of Shelton. The CAO for the city of Shelton (Mason County) 
specifies compliance with the PHS through designation of habitat 
conservation areas (HCAs) (Shelton Municipal Code (SMC) 21.64.300 B1), 
indicating that where HCAs are designated, development will be 
curtailed (SMC 21.64.010 B) except at the discretion of the director 
(city), who may allow single-family development at such sites without a 
critical areas assessment report if development is not believed to 
directly disturb the components of the HCA (SMC 21.64.360 B).
    The City of Roy. The CAO for the city of Roy (Pierce County) 
defines HCAs according to WDFW PHS (Roy Municipal Code (RMC) 10-5E1 C), 
alongside habitats and species of local importance as identified by the 
City (RMC 10-5E1 D). HCAs are delineated by qualified professional fish 
and wildlife biologists (RMC 10-5-9 A5). These HCAs are subject to 
mitigation if direct impacts to the HCA are unavoidable (RMC 10-5-13 
E3).
    Summary. City and County CAOs have been crafted to preserve the 
maximum amount of biodiversity while at the same time encouraging high 
density development within their respective Urban Growth Areas. City 
and County CAOs require that potential fish and wildlife habitat be 
surveyed by qualified professional habitat biologists as development is 
proposed (with the exception of Rainier, where a qualified city staffer 
may complete the survey). An HCA is determined according to the WDFW 
PHS list, which is associated with WDFW management recommendations for 
each habitat and species. If an HCA is identified at a site, the 
development of the parcel is then subject to the CAO regulations. 
Mitigation required by each City or County CAO prioritizes 
reconsideration of the proposed development action in order to avoid 
the impact to the HCA.
    These efforts are laudable, but are unlikely to prevent isolation 
of local populations of sensitive species. Increased habitat 
fragmentation and degradation, decreased habitat connectivity and 
pressure from onsite and offsite factors are not fully taken into 
consideration in the establishment of these mitigation sites. This may 
be due to a lack of standardization in assessment protocols, though 
efforts have been made on the part of the WDFW to implement training 
requirements for all ``qualified biologists'' who survey for pocket 
gopher presence or absence. Variability in the expertise and training 
of ``qualified habitat biologists'' has led to broad variation in the 
application of CAO guidelines in completion of the HMPs. Coupled with 
the lack of requirement for WDFW to review and approve every HMP, this 
variability in expertise and training does not appear to equally or 
adequately support the conservation of Mazama pocket gophers.
    Connectivity of populations, abundance of resources (e.g. food 
plants), and undisturbed habitat are three primary factors affecting 
plant and animal populations. The piecemeal pattern that development 
unavoidably exhibits is difficult to reconcile with the needs of the 
Mazama pocket gopher within a given Urban Growth Area. Further, 
previously-common species may become uncommon due to disruption by 
development, and preservation of small pockets of habitat is unlikely 
to prevent extirpation of some species without intensive species 
management, which is beyond the scope of individual CAOs. The four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher are affected by 
habitat loss through development and conversion. Protective measures 
undertaken while development of lands is taking place may provide 
benefits for these species; however, based on our review of the 
Washington County and State regulatory mechanisms, we conclude that 
these measures are currently inadequate to protect the the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher from further 
population declines associated with habitat loss, inappropriate 
management and loss of connectivity. We do not have any information to 
suggest that the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms poses a 
threat to the Olympic, Shelton, or Cathlamet subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher.

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Summary of Factor D
    In summary, the existing regulatory mechanisms described above are 
not sufficient to significantly reduce or remove the existing threats 
to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher. Lack of 
essential habitat protection under State laws leaves these subspecies 
at continued risk of habitat loss and degradation.
    On JBLM, military training, as it currently occurs, causes direct 
mortality of individuals and impacts habitat for the Roy Prairie and 
Yelm subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher in all areas where training and 
the species overlap. However, we expect (based on our ongoing technical 
assistance), that the Final ESMPs and revised INRMP will provide 
greater conservation benefit to the species than this current level of 
management and will protect Mazama pocket gophers from further 
population declines associated with habitat loss or inappropriate 
management on JBLM properties. Therefore, we do not find existing 
regulatory mechanisms to be inadequate for the subspecies on JBLM 
lands.
    The Washington CAOs generally provide conservation measures to 
minimize habitat removal and direct effects to the Mazama pocket 
gopher. However, habitat removal and degradation, direct loss of 
individuals, increased fragmentation, decreased connectivity, and the 
lack of consistent regulatory mechanisms to address the threats 
associated with these effects continues to occur, particularly for the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.
    Based upon our review of the best commercial and scientific data 
available, we conclude that the existing regulatory mechanisms are 
inadequate to reduce the threats to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies 
of Mazama pocket gopher now or in the future. Based on our review, we 
have no information to suggest that the inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms poses a threat to the Olympic, Shelton, or 
Cathlamet subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.

Factor E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence

Low Genetic Diversity, Small or Isolated Populations, and Low 
Reproductive Success
    Most species' populations fluctuate naturally, responding to 
various factors such as weather events, disease, and predation. Johnson 
(1977, p. 3), however, suggested that these factors have less impact on 
a species with a wide and continuous distribution. Populations that are 
small, fragmented, or isolated by habitat loss or modification of 
naturally patchy habitat, and other human-related factors, are more 
vulnerable to extirpation by natural randomly occurring events, 
cumulative effects, and to genetic effects that plague small 
populations, collectively known as small population effects. These 
effects can include genetic drift (loss of recessive alleles), founder 
effects (over time, an increasing percentage of the population 
inheriting a narrow range of traits), and genetic bottlenecks leading 
to increasingly lower genetic diversity, with consequent negative 
effects on evolutionary potential.
    To date, of the eight subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher in 
Washington, only the Olympic pocket gopher has been documented as 
having low genetic diversity (Welch and Kenagy 2008, p. 7), although 
the other seven subspecies have local populations that are small, 
fragmented, and physically isolated from one another. The four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies face threats from further loss or 
fragmentation of habitat. Historically, Mazama pocket gophers probably 
persisted by continually recolonizing habitat patches after local 
extinctions. This process, in concert with widespread development and 
conversion of habitat, has resulted in widely separated populations 
since intervening habitat corridors are now gone, likely stopping much 
of the natural recolonization that historically occurred (Stinson 2005, 
p. 46). Although the Mazama pocket gopher (except for the Olympic 
pocket gopher) is not known to have low genetic diversity small 
population sizes in most sites coupled with disjunct and fragmented 
habitat may contribute to further population declines, specifically for 
the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher. Little is 
known about the local or rangewide reproductive success of Mazama 
pocket gophers in Washington.
Climate Change
    Our analyses under the 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). The term ``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 2007a, 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 
2007a, p. 78).
    Scientific measurements spanning several decades demonstrate that 
changes in climate are occurring, and that the rate of change has been 
faster since the 1950s. Examples include warming of the global climate 
system, substantial increases in precipitation in some regions of the 
world, and decreases in other regions. (For these and other examples, 
see IPCC 2007a, p. 30; and IPCC 2007d, pp. 35-54, 82-85.) Results of 
scientific analyses presented by the IPCC show that most of the 
observed increase in global average temperature since the mid-20th 
century cannot be explained by natural variability in climate, and is 
``very likely'' (defined by the IPCC as 90 percent or higher 
probability) due to the observed increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) 
concentrations in the atmosphere as a result of human activities, 
particularly carbon dioxide emissions from use of fossil fuels (IPCC 
2007a, pp. 5-6 and figures SPM.3 and SPM.4; IPCC 2007d, pp. 21-35). 
Further confirmation of the role of GHGs comes from analyses by Huber 
and Knutti (2011, p. 4), who concluded it is extremely likely that 
approximately 75 percent of global warming since 1950 has been caused 
by human activities.
    Scientists use a variety of climate models, which include 
consideration of natural processes and variability, as well as various 
scenarios of potential levels and timing of GHG emissions, to evaluate 
the causes of changes already observed and to project future changes in 
temperature and other climate conditions (e.g., IPCC 2007c, entire; 
Ganguly et al. 2009, pp. 11555, 15558; Prinn et al. 2011, pp. 527, 
529). All combinations of models and emissions scenarios yield very 
similar projections of increases in the most common measure of climate 
change, average global surface temperature (commonly known as global 
warming), until about 2030. Although projections of the extent and rate 
of warming differ after about 2030, the overall trajectory of all the 
projections is one of increased global warming through the end of this 
century, even for the projections based on scenarios that assume that 
GHG emissions will stabilize or decline. Thus, there is strong 
scientific support for projections that warming will continue through 
the 21st century, and that the scope and rate of change will be 
influenced substantially by the extent of GHG emissions (IPCC 2007a, 
pp. 44-45;

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IPCC 2007c, pp. 760-764 and 797-811; Ganguly et al. 2009, pp. 15555-
15558; Prinn et al. 2011, pp. 527, 529). (See IPCC 2007b, p. 8, for a 
summary of other global projections of climate-related changes, such as 
frequency of heat waves and changes in precipitation. Also see IPCC 
2011(entire) for a summary of observations and projections of extreme 
climate events.)
    Various changes in climate may 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 interactions of climate with other variables 
(e.g., habitat fragmentation) (IPCC 2007e, pp. 214-246). Identifying 
likely effects often involves aspects of climate change vulnerability 
analysis. Vulnerability refers to the degree to which a species (or 
system) is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of 
climate change, including climate variability and extremes. 
Vulnerability is a function of the type, scope, and rate of climate 
change and variation to which a species is exposed, its sensitivity, 
and its adaptive capacity (IPCC 2007a, p. 89; see also Glick et al. 
2011, pp. 19-22). There is no single method for conducting such 
analyses that applies to all situations (Glick et al. 2011, p. 3). We 
use our expert judgment and appropriate analytical approaches to weigh 
relevant information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of 
various aspects of climate change.
    As is the case with all threats that we assess, even if we conclude 
that a species is currently affected or is likely to be affected in a 
negative way by one or more climate-related impacts, it does not 
necessarily follow that the species meets the definition of an 
``endangered species'' or a ``threatened species'' under the Act. If a 
species is listed as endangered or threatened, knowledge regarding the 
vulnerability of the species to, and known or anticipated impacts from, 
climate-associated changes in environmental conditions can be used to 
help devise appropriate strategies for its recovery.
    Global climate projections are informative, and, in some cases, the 
only or the best scientific information available for us to use. 
However, projected changes in climate and related impacts can vary 
substantially across and within different regions of the world (e.g., 
IPCC 2007a, pp. 8-12). Therefore, we use ``downscaled'' projections 
when they are available and have been developed through appropriate 
scientific procedures, because such projections provide higher 
resolution information that is more relevant to spatial scales used for 
analyses of a given species (see Glick et al. 2011, pp. 58-61, for a 
discussion of downscaling). With regard to our analysis for the Mazama 
pocket gopher, downscaled projections are available.
    The ranges of the Mazama pocket gopher subspecies extend from the 
Olympic Peninsula down through the Puget Sound trough. Downscaled 
climate change projections for this ecoregion predict consistently 
increasing annual mean temperatures from 2012 to 2095 using the IPCC's 
medium (A1B) emissions scenario (IPCC 2000, p. 245). Using the General 
Circulation Model (GCM) that most accurately predicts precipitation for 
the Pacific Northwest, the Third Generation Coupled Global Climate 
Model (CGCM3.1) under the medium emissions scenario (A1B), annual mean 
temperature is predicted to increase approximately 1.8 [deg]Fahrenheit 
(F) (1 [deg]Celsius (C)) by the year 2020, 3.6 [deg]F (2 [deg]C) by 
2050, and 5.4 [deg]F (3 [deg]C) by 2090 (Climatewizardcustom 2012). 
This analysis was restricted to the ecoregion encompassing the 
overlapping range of the species of interest and is well supported by 
analyses focused only on the Pacific Northwest by Mote and 
Salath[eacute] in their 2010 publication, Future Climate in the Pacific 
Northwest (Mote and Salath[eacute] 2010, entire). Employing the same 
GCM and medium emissions scenario, downscaled model runs for 
precipitation in the ecoregion project a small (less than 5 percent) 
increase in mean annual precipitation over approximately the next 80 
years. Most months are projected to show an increase in mean annual 
precipitation. May through August are projected to show a decrease in 
mean annual precipitation, which corresponds with the majority of the 
reproductive season for the Mazama pocket gopher (Climatewizardcustom 
2012).
    The potential impacts of a changing global climate to the Mazama 
pocket gopher are presently unclear. Projections localized to the 
Georgia Basin--Puget Sound Trough--Willamette Valley Ecoregion suggest 
that temperatures are likely to increase approximately 5 [deg]F (2.8 
[deg]C) at the north end of the region by the year 2080 based on an 
average of greenhouse gas emission scenarios B1, A1B, and A2 and all 
Global Circulation Models employed by Climatewizard (range = 2.6 [deg]F 
to 7.6 [deg]F; 1.4 [deg]C to 4.2 [deg]C). Similarly, the mid region 
projection predicts an increase an average of 4.5 [deg]F (range = 2.1 
[deg]F to 7.1 [deg]F; average of 2.5 [deg]C with a range of 1.2 [deg]C 
to 3.9 [deg]C) and the southern end to increase by 4.5 [deg]F (range = 
2.2 [deg]F to 7.1 [deg]F; average of 2.5 [deg]C with a range of 1.2 
[deg]C to 3.9 [deg]C). Worldwide, the IPCC states it is very likely 
that extreme high temperatures, heat waves, and heavy precipitation 
events will increase in frequency (IPCC 2007c, p. 783).
    Climate change has been linked to a number of conservation issues 
and changes in animal populations and ranges. However, direct evidence 
that climate change is the cause of these alterations is often lacking 
(McCarty 2001, p. 327). The body of work examining the response of 
small mammals to climate change is small and is primarily focused on 
reconstruction of mammalian communities through the comparison of small 
mammal fossils from the late Pleistocene to those of the Holocene, a 
time period that spans the last significant climate warming event that 
took place between 15,000 and 11,000 years ago (Blois et al. 2010, 
entire; Terry et al. 2011, entire). Paleontological work done by Blois 
et al. (2010, p. 772) in northern California reveals a strong 
correlation between climate change and the decline and extirpation of 
small mammal species during the last major global warming event. The 
loss in species richness (number of taxa) of small mammals at their 
research site is equal to that documented for large mammal extinctions 
in North America during the same warming event at the transition from 
the Pleistocene to the Holocene: 32 percent (Blois et al. 2010, p. 
772). Blois et al. (2010, supplemental data, p. 9) determined that 
Thomomys mazama were more vulnerable to climate change than other 
Thomomys species in the area due to the steep decline of T. mazama 
population numbers that coincided with the first significant warming 
event around 15,000 years ago and their extirpation from the site 
around 6,000 years ago.
    To explore the potential impacts of climate change within the 
Anthropocene (the current geologic epoch), Blois (2009, p. 243) 
constructed a climate niche (the estimated tolerance of environmental 
variables for a given species) for Thomomys mazama reflecting the 
average minimum and average maximum temperatures range wide. Blois used 
climate data compiled by PRISM Group, Oregon State University, for the 
years 1971-2000, to construct the climate niche. Temperatures given are 
mean annual temperatures based on mean monthly averages. The climate 
niche Blois constructed for the Mazama pocket gopher gives 22.3 [deg]F 
(-5.4 [deg]C) for the lowest of the mean annual minimum temperatures 
across all localities and 66.9 [deg]F (19.4 [deg]C) for the highest of 
the

[[Page 73788]]

mean annual maximum temperatures across all localities where Mazama 
pocket gophers are found. Minimum and maximum temperatures above the 
surface of the soil are attenuated with increased soil depth. It is 
unknown as to whether or not Mazama pocket gophers are able to regulate 
the temperature in their burrow system by digging deeper in the soil; 
however, it is likely that any temperature changes experienced by 
pocket gophers underground are attenuated relative to observed changes 
in surface temperatures.
    The effects of climate change may be buffered by pocket gophers' 
fossorial lifestyle and are likely to be restricted to indirect effects 
in the form of changes in vegetation structure and subsequent habitat 
shifts through plant invasion and encroachment (Blois 2009, p. 217). 
Further, the impacts of climate change on western Washington are 
projected to be less severe than in other parts of the country. While 
overall annual average precipitation in western Washington is predicted 
to increase, seasonal precipitation is projected to become increasingly 
variable, with wetter and warmer winter and springs and drier, hotter 
summers (Mote and Salath[eacute] 2010, p. 34; Climatewizard 2012). 
These shifts in temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture may 
result in changes in the vegetation structure through woody invasion 
and encroachment and thus affect the habitat for all pocket gopher 
species and subspecies in the region. Despite this potential for future 
environmental changes, we have not identified nor are we aware of any 
data on an appropriate scale to evaluate habitat or populations trends 
for the Mazama pocket gopher subspecies or to make predictions about 
future trends and whether the species will be significantly impacted by 
climate change.
Stochastic Weather Events
    Stochasticity of extreme weather events may impact the ability of 
threatened and endangered species to survive. Vulnerability to weather 
events can be described as being composed of three elements; exposure, 
sensitivity, and adaptive capacity.
    The small, isolated nature of the remaining populations of Mazama 
pocket gophers increases the species' vulnerability to stochastic 
(random) natural events. When species are limited to small, isolated 
habitats, they are more likely to become extinct due to a local event 
that negatively affects the population. While a population's small, 
isolated nature does not represent an independent threat to the 
species, it does substantially increase the risk of extirpation from 
the effects of all other threats, including those addressed in this 
analysis, and those that could occur in the future from unknown 
sources.
    The impact of stochastic weather and extreme weather events on 
pocket gophers is difficult to predict. Pocket gophers may largely be 
buffered from these impacts due to their fossorial lifestyle, but Case 
and Jasch (1994, p. B-21) connect sharp population declines of pocket 
gophers of several genera with stochastic weather events such as heavy 
snow cover and rapid snowmelt with a corresponding rise in the water 
table. Based on our review, we found no information to indicate that 
the effects of stochastic weather events are a threat to any of the 
Washington subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.
Pesticides and Herbicides
    The Mazama pocket gopher is not known to be impacted by pesticides 
or herbicides directly, but may be impacted by the equipment used to 
dispense them. These impacts are covered under Factor A.
Control as a Pest Species
    Pocket gophers are often considered a pest because they sometimes 
damage crops and seedling trees, and their mounds can create a 
nuisance. Several site locations in the WDFW wildlife survey database 
were found as a result of trapping on Christmas tree farms, a nursery, 
and in a livestock pasture (WDFW 2001). For instance, the type locality 
for the Cathlamet pocket gopher is on a commercial tree farm. Mazama 
pocket gophers in Washington were also used in a rodenticide experiment 
as recently as 1995 (Witmer et al. 1996, p. 97).
    In Washington it is currently illegal to trap or poison pocket 
gophers or trap or poison moles where they overlap with Mazama pocket 
gopher populations, but not all property owners are cognizant of these 
laws, nor are most citizens capable of differentiating between mole and 
pocket gopher soil disturbance. In light of this, it is reasonable to 
believe that mole trapping or poisoning efforts still have the 
potential to adversely affect pocket gopher populations. Local 
populations of Mazama pocket gophers that survive commercial and 
residential development (adjacent to and within habitat) may be 
subsequently extirpated by trapping or poisoning by humans. Lethal 
control by trapping or poisoning is most likely a threat to the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies, where they overlap residential properties. 
Trapping or poisoning is not a threat to the Olympic pocket gopher, 
which resides wholly within the Olympic National Park.
    It is unknown if this may be a threat to the Cathlamet or Shelton 
pocket gophers, which are found largely on commercial timber lands or 
on Port of Shelton lands. Commercial timber landowners are likely to 
trap or poison gophers in areas where it is otherwise legal and where 
gophers are limiting tree seedling growth. This has not been a reported 
problem in either county. Shelton and Cathlamet pocket gophers are 
State-listed and thus lethal control is illegal without a permit. Port 
of Shelton is aware that gophers occur on their property, is operating 
under a gopher habitat management plan, and have not used lethal 
control there since gophers don't directly impact their operations. We 
found no information to indicate that control as a pest species is a 
threat to the Shelton or Cathlamet subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.
Recreation
    The Mazama pocket gopher is not known to be impacted by recreation 
activities, although predation by domestic dogs associated with 
recreational activities does occur (Clause 2012, pers. comm.). These 
impacts are covered under Predation in Factor C.
Summary of Factor E
    Based upon our review of the best commercial and scientific data 
available, the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of prairies has 
resulted in smaller local population sizes, loss of genetic diversity, 
reduced gene flow among populations, destruction of population 
structure, and increased susceptibility to local population extirpation 
for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher from a 
series of threats including poisoning and trapping, as summarized 
below.
    Small population sizes coupled with disjunct and fragmented habitat 
may contribute to further population declines, specifically for the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher, which occur in 
habitats that face continuing fragmentation due to development.
    Mole trapping or poisoning efforts have the potential to adversely 
affect the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies, especially where they abut 
commercial and residential areas. Such efforts may have a particularly 
negative impact on these pocket gopher populations since they are 
already small and isolated.
    Due to small population effects caused by fragmentation of habitat, 
and impacts from trapping and poisoning

[[Page 73789]]

efforts, we find that the threats associated with other natural or 
manmade factors are significant for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies 
of Mazama pocket gopher.
    Based on the best available scientific and commercial information, 
we found no evidence to suggest that any of the factors considered here 
pose a threat to the Olympic, Shelton, or Cathlamet subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gopher.

Proposed Determination

    The four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher. The 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies historically ranged across the open 
prairies and grasslands of the south Puget Sound (Dalquest and Scheffer 
1942, pp. 95-96). In the south Puget Sound region, where most of 
western Washington's prairies historically occurred, and where the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies occur, less than 10 percent of the original 
prairie persists (Crawford and Hall 1997, pp. 13-14). These four 
subspecies have varying degrees of impacts acting on them.
    For the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies, we find that both 
development and fire suppression have caused the loss of a majority of 
prairie habitats or made such habitat unavailable to gophers due to 
encroachment of native and nonnative species of plants. These 
significant impacts are expected to continue into the foreseeable 
future. Impacts from military training, affecting large local 
populations of the Roy Prairie and Yelm pocket gopher on JBLM, are 
expected to increase under the DOD's Grow the Army initiative although 
we expect that JBLM's final ESMPs will provide an overall conservation 
benefit to the species. Predation of gophers by feral and domestic cats 
and dogs has occurred and is expected to increase with increased 
residential development on prairie soils occupied by gophers. This is 
of particular concern for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies.
    We find that the threat of development and adverse impacts to 
habitat from conversion to other uses, the loss of historically 
occupied locations resulting in the present isolation and limited 
distribution of the species, the impacts of military training, existing 
and likely future habitat fragmentation, land use changes, long-term 
fire suppression, and the threats associated with the present and 
threatened destruction, modification, and curtailment of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies habitat is significant. We conclude that 
there are likely to be significant, ongoing threats to the subspecies 
due to factors such as small population effects (risk of population 
loss due to catastrophic or stochastic events), poisoning, and 
trapping. The small size of most of the remaining local populations, 
coupled with disjunct and fragmented habitat, may render them 
increasingly vulnerable to additional threats such as those mentioned 
above.
    The four Thurston/Pierce subspecies face a combination of several 
high-magnitude threats; the threats are immediate; these subspecies are 
highly restricted in their ranges; the threats occur throughout the 
subspecies' ranges and are not restricted to any particular significant 
portion of those ranges. Therefore, we assessed the status of each of 
these subspecies throughout their entire ranges and our assessment and 
proposed determination will apply to these subspecies throughout their 
entire ranges. For the reasons provided in this rule we propose that 
the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies (Thomomys mazama pugetensis, 
glacialis, tumuli, and yelmensis--the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and 
Yelm pocket gophers, respectively) be listed as threatened throughout 
their ranges.
    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 the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies (Thomomys mazama pugetensis, glacialis, tumuli, and 
yelmensis) are likely to become endangered species throughout all or a 
significant portion of their ranges within the foreseeable future, 
based on the immediacy, severity, and scope of the threats described 
above. We do not, however, have information to suggest that the present 
threats are of such great magnitude that any of these four subspecies 
are in immediate danger of extinction, but are likely to become so in 
the foreseeable future. Therefore, on the basis of the best available 
scientific and commercial information, we determine that T. m. 
pugetensis, glacialis, tumuli, and yelmensis meet the definition of 
threatened species in accordance with sections 3(20) and 4(a)(1) of the 
Act.
    This proposal is based on current information about the location, 
status and threats for these subspecies. If new information is found 
which results in an expanded range of habitats used by the subspecies, 
or a different level of threats, we will consider that information in 
the final rule.
    Olympic pocket gopher. The Olympic pocket gopher occupies isolated 
alpine meadows in the Olympic National Park in Clallam County. We find 
that the effects due to small or isolated populations have likely had 
negative impacts to the subspecies. This low-magnitude threat is not 
known to be imminent, though it may continue into the foreseeable 
future. This species also exhibits low genetic diversity. This is also 
a low-magnitude threat, is ongoing and likely to continue into the 
foreseeable future. This subspecies is highly restricted in its range, 
the few threats identified occur throughout its range, and the threats 
are not restricted to any particular portion of its range. However, 
none of the threats faced by the Olympic pocket gopher are particularly 
grave or immediate, and we do not have information to suggest that the 
subspecies is suffering from any recent declines in abundance or 
distribution. Occurring entirely within the boundaries of a National 
Park, the Olympic pocket gopher is secure from many of the threats 
facing the other Washington subspecies, such as habitat loss to 
development, encroachment by woody vegetation, or predation by feral 
cats and dogs. The best available information indicates that the 
threats identified for the Olympic pocket gopher are relatively minor 
and are not resulting in population level effects such that the 
subspecies is currently in danger of extinction, or likely to become so 
within the foreseeable future. Therefore, we find that the Olympic 
subspecies (Thomomys mazama melanops) does not meet the definition of 
an endangered or a threatened species and therefore does not warrant 
listing under the Act.
    Shelton pocket gopher. The Shelton pocket gopher used to range 
across the open prairies and grasslands of Mason County, and is now 
also known to inhabit low-elevation meadow-type areas in Mason County. 
We find that the effects due to small or isolated populations have 
likely had negative impacts to the subspecies. This low-magnitude 
threat is not known to be imminent, though it may continue into the 
foreseeable future. This subspecies is highly restricted in its range, 
the few threats identified occur throughout its range, and the threasts 
are not restricted to any particular portion of its range. Although 
likely impacted by development in the past, we have no information to 
suggest that future development poses a threat to this subspecies, and 
beneficial management plans are in place for some of the larger 
populations of the Shelton pocket gopher.
    This subspecies is not currently affected by many of the threats 
that have

[[Page 73790]]

had severe impacts on other Washington subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher, such as habitat loss due to residential or commercial 
development, encroachment of woody vegetation, or predation by cats and 
dogs. We have no evidence that the Shelton pocket gopher is 
experiencing population-level effects from the threats identified, and 
new local populations of the subspecies have been identified. Based on 
the best available information, we conclude that the threats faced by 
the Shelton pocket gopher are relatively minor and that the subspecies 
is not currently in danger of extinction, or likely to become so within 
the foreseeable future. Therefore, we find that the Shelton subspecies 
(Thomomys mazama couchi) does not meet the definition of an endangered 
or a threatened species and therefore does not warrant listing under 
the Act.
    Cathlamet pocket gopher. The Cathlamet pocket gopher occurs in low-
elevation meadow-type areas in Wahkiakum County. The subspecies is 
found in a limited-extent soil type on commercial timber lands. In the 
Service's review of this species previously (USFWS 2010, pp. 5-6), it 
was characterized as likely extinct. However, based on our further 
review of information, we determined that further surveys of the type 
locality and surrounding area are needed to determine the status of 
this subpopulation as thorough surveys of all potential habitat were 
never conducted. In addition, land use within the type locality has 
remained the same since the subspecies was discovered in 1949 (Gardner 
1950), suggesting that the subspecies may remain extant.
    We find that the effects due to small or isolated populations may 
have had negative impacts to the subspecies. However, this low-
magnitude threat is not known to be imminent, though it will likely 
continue into the future. The range and distribution of the Cathlamet 
pocket gopher has not been completely surveyed and its type locality 
still exists. Based on the available information, we do not have 
evidence that the subspecies is impacted at a population level and 
believe that any threats to the species are minor and are not 
restricted to any particular portion of its range. For these reasons 
and those discussed under the Factor analyses previously, we have 
determined that the Cathlamet subspecies (Thomomys mazama louiei) does 
not meet the definition of an endangered or a threatened species and 
therefore does not warrant listing under the Act.
Distinct Population Segment and Significant Portion of the Range for 
the Four Thurston/Pierce Subspecies of Mazama Pocket Gopher
    Having determined that the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gopher meet the definition of threatened species 
throughout their ranges, we must next consider whether a distinct 
population segment of any of these subspecies may be an endangered 
species in accordance with the Service's Policy Regarding the 
Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments under the 
Endangered Species Act (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996), or whether any 
significant portions of the ranges of the subspecies exist where they 
are in danger of extinction. Because the range is so small for each of 
these subspecies and we have considered the threats throughout the 
range of each subspecies, we believe there is no relevant portion of 
any of the subspecies' ranges that could be justified as a separate 
Distinct Population Segment or significant portion of the range. In 
addition, our evaluation did not indicate that threats for any of the 
subspecies were particularly concentrated or more severe within any 
geographic subset of the subspecies' range.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Listing results in recognition and 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 required by Federal agencies and the 
prohibitions against certain activities are 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. Subsection 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 (comprised 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 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.
    If the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher 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 these Mazama pocket gopher subspecies. Information on our grant 
programs that

[[Page 73791]]

are available to aid species recovery can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/grants.
    Although the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher 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 these species. Additionally, we invite you to submit any new 
information on these 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 formal 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 actions to manage or restore critical habitat, 
actions that require collecting or handling the species for the purpose 
of captive propagation and translocation to new habitat, actions that 
may negatively affect the species through removal, conversion, or 
degradation of habitat. Examples of activities conducted, regulated or 
funded by Federal agencies that may affect listed species or their 
habitat include, but are not limited to:
    (1) Military training activities and operations conducted in or 
adjacent to occupied or suitable habitat on DOD lands;
    (2) Activities with a Federal nexus that include vegetation 
management such as burning, mechanical treatment, and/or application of 
herbicides/pesticides on Federal, State, or private lands;
    (3) Ground-disturbing activities regulated, funded or conducted by 
Federal agencies in or adjacent to occupied and/or suitable habitat; 
and
    (4) Import, export or trade of the species, to name a few.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered 
wildlife. The prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act, codified at 
50 CFR 17.21 for endangered wildlife, in part, make it illegal for any 
person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take 
(includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, 
capture, or collect; or to attempt any of these), import, export, ship 
in interstate commerce in the course of commercial activity, or sell or 
offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce any listed species. 
Under the Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42-43; 16 U.S.C. 3371-3378), it is also 
illegal to possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such 
wildlife that has been taken illegally. Certain exceptions apply to 
agents of the Service and State conservation agencies.
    We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered and threatened wildlife species under certain 
circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 
17.22 for endangered species, and at 17.32 for threatened species. With 
regard to endangered wildlife, a permit must be issued for the 
following purposes: For scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation 
or survival of the species, and for incidental take in connection with 
otherwise lawful activities.
    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. The following activities could potentially result 
in a violation of section 9 of the Act; this list is not comprehensive:
    (1) Unauthorized collecting, handling, possessing, selling, 
delivering, carrying, or transporting of the subspecies, including 
import or export across State lines and international boundaries, 
except for properly documented antique specimens of these taxa at least 
100 years old, as defined by section 10(h)(1) of the Act;
    (2) Introduction of species that compete with or prey upon the 
Mazama pocket gopher, or its habitat such as the introduction of 
competing, invasive plants or animals;
    (3) Unauthorized modification of the soil profiles or the 
vegetation components on sites known to be occupied by the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher;
    (4) Unauthorized utilization of trapping or poisoning techniques in 
areas occupied by the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher;
    (5) Intentional harassment or removal of pocket gophers; and
    (6) When conducted over large areas, removal of forage habitat by 
burning or other means i.e., the area of removal is so large that 
gophers can't access foraging habitat from the center of the area.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities would constitute a 
violation of section 9 of the Act should be directed to the 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, Ecological Services, Eastside 
Federal Complex, 911 NE. 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232-4181 
(telephone 503-231-6158; facsimile 503-231-6243).
    If the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher are 
listed under the Act, the State of Washington may enter into agreements 
with Federal agencies to administer and manage any area required for 
the conservation, management, enhancement, or protection of endangered 
species. Funds for these activities could be made available under 
section 6 of the Act (Cooperation with the States) or through 
competitive application to receive funding through our Recovery Program 
under section 4 of the Act. Thus, the Federal protection afforded to 
the subspecies by listing them as threatened species will be reinforced 
and supplemented by protection under State law.

Special Rules

    Under section 4(d) of the Act, the Secretary may publish a special 
rule that modifies the standard protections for threatened species in 
the Service's regulations at 50 CFR 17.31, which implement section 9 of 
the Act, with special measures that are determined to be necessary and 
advisable to provide for the conservation of the subspecies. As a means 
to promote conservation efforts on behalf of the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher, we are proposing special rules for 
these subspecies under section 4(d) of the Act. In the case of a 
special rule,

[[Page 73792]]

the general regulations (50 CFR 17.31 and 17.71) applying most 
prohibitions under section 9 of the Act to threatened species do not 
apply to that species, and the special rule contains the prohibitions 
necessary and appropriate to conserve that species.
    Under the proposed special rule, take of these subspecies caused by 
restoration- and/or maintenance-type activities by airports on State, 
county, private, or Tribal lands and ongoing single-family residential 
noncommercial activities would be exempt from section 9 of the Act. 
These activities include mechanical weed and grass removal on airports. 
We also propose to exempt certain construction activities that occur in 
already-developed sites within single-family residential development 
footprints. These include the placement of above-ground fencing, garden 
plots, children's play equipment, residential dog kennels, and storage 
sheds and carports on block or above-ground footings. In addition, we 
also propose to exempt certain normal farming or ranching activities, 
including: grazing, routine fence and structure maintenance, mowing, 
herbicide use, burning, and other routine activities as described under 
proposed Sec.  17.40 (Special Rules--Mammals) at the end of this 
document. The rule targets these activities to encourage landowners to 
continue to maintain those areas that are not only important for 
airport safety, agricultural use, and restoration activities, but also 
provide habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher. On Federal lands, airport restoration and maintenance 
type activities will be addressed through the section 7 process.

Justification

    Airport Management. Some management actions taken at airports are 
generally beneficial to Mazama pocket gophers. The Service believes 
current management of these areas provide for safe aircraft operations 
while simultaneously providing for the conservation of pocket gophers. 
Under the proposed rule, covered actions would include vegetation 
management to maintain desired grass height on or adjacent to airports 
through mowing or herbicide use; hazing of hazardous wildlife, routine 
management, repair and maintenance of roads and runways; and management 
of forage, water, and shelter to be less attractive to these hazardous 
wildlife. See proposed Sec.  17.40 (Special Rules--Mammals) for 
specific language.
    If finalized, the listing of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gopher would impose a requirement of airport managers 
where the subspecies occur to consider the effects of their management 
activities on these subspecies. Additionally, airport managers would 
likely take actions to deter the subspecies from inhabiting areas where 
they currently occur in order to avoid the burden of the resulting take 
restrictions that would accrue from the presence of a listed species. 
However, a special rule under section 4(d) of the Act for airports 
which exempts activities, such as mowing or other management to deter 
hazardous wildlife, that result in take under section 9 of the Act, 
would encourage airports to maintain habitat for the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.
    Agricultural Lands. Agricultural lands provide important habitats 
for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher. 
Examples of farmed areas that are occupied by Mazama pocket gophers and 
provide suitable habitat include livestock ranches, pastures, seed 
nurseries, and open areas where vegetation is maintained in an early 
seral condition. Some farming activities like tilling or discing, if 
conducted during certain times of the year, can result in individuals 
being injured or killed. But where adjacent local populations remain 
intact, Mazama pocket gophers may recolonize disturbed areas and 
continue to persist in areas that are farmed, grazed, and used for 
agricultural production. Because agricultural areas provide important 
habitats for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher, we propose to exempt normal farming and ranching activities, 
including: grazing, routine fence and structure maintenance, mowing, 
herbicide use, burning, and other routine activities as described under 
proposed Sec.  17.40 (Special Rules--Mammals), which may result in take 
of the Mazama pocket gopher under section 9 of the Act.
    Ongoing Small Landowner Noncommercial Activities. The four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher occur on private 
lands throughout Thurston and Pierce Counties. Activities by single-
family residential landowners in these areas have the potential to harm 
or kill pocket gophers. Section 9 of the Act provides general 
prohibitions on activities that would result in take of a threatened 
species; however, the Service recognizes that routine maintenance and 
some small construction activities, even those with the potential to 
inadvertently take individual Mazama pocket gophers, may provide for 
the long-term conservation needs of the species. The Service recognizes 
that in the long term, it is a benefit to the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher to maintain the distribution of the 
species across private and public lands to aid in the recovery of the 
species. We believe this special rule will further conservation of the 
species by discouraging conversions of the landscape into habitats 
unsuitable for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher and encouraging landowners to continue managing the remaining 
landscape in ways that meet the needs of their operation and provide 
suitable habitat for these four subspecies. Under the proposed rule, 
covered actions would include vegetative management through mowing or 
herbicide use, and the construction of dog kennels, fences, garden 
plots, playground equipment, and storage sheds and carports on block or 
above-ground footings, as described under proposed Sec.  17.40 (Special 
Rules--Mammals).

Provisions of the Proposed Special Rule

    We believe these actions and activities, while they may have some 
minimal level of harm or disturbance to the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher, are not expected to adversely 
affect the species' conservation and recovery efforts.
    This proposal will not be finalized until we have reviewed comments 
from the public and peer reviewers. Exempted activities include 
existing routine airport practices as outlined above by non-Federal 
entities on existing airports, agricultural and ranching activities, 
and routine single-family residential activities.

Critical Habitat Designation for the Four Thurston/Pierce Subspecies of 
Mazama Pocket Gopher

    It is our intent to discuss below only those topics directly 
relevant to the designation of critical habitat for the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher (Olympia, Roy Prairie, 
Tenino, and Yelm) in this section of the proposed rule.

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 or biological features
    (a) Essential to the conservation of the species, and

[[Page 73793]]

    (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 requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation 
with the Service, that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is 
not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of 
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) would apply, but even in the event of a destruction or adverse 
modification finding, the obligation of the Federal action agency and 
the landowner 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 geographic 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 and 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 are essential to the 
conservation of the species. Primary constituent elements are the 
elements of physical or biological features that provide for a species' 
life-history processes and are 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 geographic 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 determined to 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 
geographic area occupied by a species only when a designation limited 
to its range would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the 
species.

Methods

    As required by Section 4 of the Act, we used the best scientific 
data available in determining those areas that contain the physical or 
biological features essential to the conservation of these species. 
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 are determining 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 (if available), articles in peer-reviewed journals, 
conservation plans developed by States and counties, scientific status 
surveys and studies, biological assessments, other unpublished 
materials, or experts' opinions or personal knowledge. In this case we 
used existing occurrence data for each species and identified the 
habitat and ecosystems upon which they depend. 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;
    4. Information from the U.S. Department of Defense--Joint Base 
Lewis McChord and other 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.
    Habitat is dynamic, and species may move from one area to another 
over time. Climate change will be a particular challenge for 
biodiversity because the interaction of additional threats associated 
with climate change and current threats may push species beyond their 
ability to survive (Lovejoy 2005, pp. 325-326). The synergistic 
implications of climate change and habitat fragmentation are the most 
threatening facet of climate change for biodiversity (Hannah et al. 
2005, p. 4). Current climate change predictions for terrestrial areas 
in the Northern Hemisphere indicate warmer air temperatures, more 
intense precipitation events, and increased summer continental drying 
(Field et al. 1999, pp. 1-3; Hayhoe et al. 2004, p. 12422; Cayan et al. 
2005, p. 6; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007, p. 
1181). Climate change may lead to increased frequency and duration of 
severe storms and droughts (Golladay et al. 2004, p. 504; McLaughlin et 
al. 2002, p. 6074; Cook et al. 2004, p. 1015).
    The information currently available on the effects of global 
climate change and increasing temperatures does not make sufficiently 
precise estimates of the location and magnitude of the

[[Page 73794]]

effects. Nor are we currently aware of any climate change information 
specific to the habitat of the species that would indicate what areas 
may become important to the subspecies in the future. Therefore, we are 
unable to determine what additional areas, if any, may be appropriate 
to include in the final critical habitat for these subspecies to 
address the effects of climate change.
    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 subspecies. For these 
reasons, a critical habitat designation does not signal that habitat 
outside the designated area is unimportant or may not be needed for 
recovery of the subspecies. Areas that are important to the 
conservation of the subspecies, both inside and outside the critical 
habitat designation, will continue to be subject to: (1) Conservation 
actions implemented 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 actions 
occurring in these areas may affect the subspecies. Federally funded or 
permitted projects affecting listed species outside their designated 
critical habitat areas may still result in jeopardy findings in some 
cases. These protections and conservation tools will continue to 
contribute to recovery of this species. 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 calls for a different outcome.

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 at 50 CFR 424.12(a)(1) state that the designation of 
critical habitat is not prudent when one or both of the following 
situations exist: (1) The species is threatened by taking or other 
activity and the 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.

Species Proposed for Listing

    As we have discussed under the threats analysis for Factor B, there 
is no documentation that the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher are currently significantly threatened by collection for 
private or commercial purposes.
    We reviewed the information available for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher pertaining to their biological needs 
and habitat characteristics. In the absence of 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 of critical 
habitat to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher 
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 subspecies.
    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. We find 
that the designation of critical habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher will benefit them by serving to 
focus conservation efforts on the restoration and maintenance of 
ecosystem functions that are essential for attaining their recovery and 
long-term viability. In addition, the designation of critical habitat 
serves to inform management and conservation decisions by identifying 
any additional physical or biological features of the ecosystem that 
may be essential for the conservation of these subspecies. Therefore, 
because we have determined that the designation of critical habitat 
will not likely increase the degree of threat to the species and may 
provide some measure of benefit, we find that designation of critical 
habitat is prudent for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher.

Critical Habitat Determinability

    Having determined that designation is prudent, under section 
4(a)(3) of the Act we must find whether critical habitat for the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher is determinable. Our 
regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(a)(2) state that critical habitat is not 
determinable when one or both of the following situations exist:
    (i) Information sufficient to perform required analyses of the 
impacts of the designation is lacking, or
    (ii) The biological needs of the species are not sufficiently well 
known to permit identification of an area as critical habitat.
    When critical habitat is not determinable, the Act allows the 
Service an additional year to publish a critical habitat designation 
(16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(6)(C)(ii)).
    We reviewed the available information pertaining to the biological 
needs of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher 
and habitat characteristics where these subspecies are located. This 
and other information represent the best scientific data available and 
led us to conclude that the designation of critical habitat is 
determinable for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher.

Physical or Biological Features

    In accordance with section 3(5)(A)(i) and 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act and 
regulations at 50 CFR 424.12, in determining which areas within the 
geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing to 
designate as critical habitat, we identify the physical or biological 
features that are essential to the conservation of the species and 
which may require special management considerations or protection. 
These 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 physical or biological features required for 
each subspecies from studies of their habitat, ecology, and life 
history as described above in this document. We have determined that 
the physical and

[[Page 73795]]

biological features described below are essential for the conservation 
of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher, and 
have further determined that these features may require special 
management considerations or protection.
    We have determined that the following physical or biological 
features are essential for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gopher:

Space for Individual and Population Growth and for Normal Behavior

    Pocket gophers have low vagility, meaning they have a poor 
dispersal capability (Williams and Baker 1976, p. 303). Thomomys mazama 
pocket gophers are smaller in size than other sympatric (occurring 
within the same geographic area; overlapping in distribution) or 
parapatric (immediately adjacent to each other but not significantly 
overlapping in distribution) Thomomys species (Verts and Carraway 2000, 
p. 1). Both dispersal distances and home range size are therefore 
likely to be smaller than for other Thomomys species. Dispersal 
distances may vary based on surface or soil conditions and size of the 
animal. For other, larger, Thomomys species, dispersal distances 
average about 131 ft (40 m) (Barnes 1973, pp. 168-169; Williams and 
Baker 1976, p. 306; Daly and Patton 1990, pp. 1286, 1288). Initial 
results from dispersal research being conducted on JBLM indicates that 
Mazama pocket gophers in Washington usually disperse from 13.1-32.8 ft 
(4-10 m), though one animal moved 525 ft (160m) in 1 day (Olson 2012b, 
p. 5). Suitable dispersal habitat contains gopher foraging habitat and 
is free of barriers to gopher movement. Barriers include, but are not 
limited to, open water, steep slopes, and soils or substrates 
inappropriate for burrowing.
    The home range of a Mazama pocket gopher is composed of suitable 
breeding and foraging habitat (described below, under ``Food, water, 
air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or physiological 
requirements''). Home range size varies based on factors such as soil 
type, climate, and density and type of vegetative cover (Cox and Hunt 
1992, p. 133; Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-21; Hafner et al. 1998, p. 
279). Home range size for individual Mazama pocket gophers averages 
about 1,076 square feet (ft\2\) (100 square meters (m\2\)) (Witmer et 
al. 1996, p. 96). Based on work done by Converse et al. (2010, pp. 14-
15), a local population could be self-sustaining if it occurred on a 
habitat patch that was equal to or greater than 50 ac (20 ha) in size.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify patches of 
breeding and foraging habitat that are equal to or greater than 50 ac 
(20 ha) in size or within dispersal distance of each other, as well as 
corridors of suitable dispersal habitat, as physical or biological 
features essential to the conservation of the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.

Food, Water, Air, Light, Minerals, or Other Nutritional or 
Physiological Requirements and Sites for Breeding, Reproduction, or 
Rearing (or Development) of Offspring

    The four Thurston/Pierce subspecies are associated with glacial 
outwash prairies in western Washington, an ecosystem of conservation 
concern (Hartway and Steinberg 1997, p. 1). Steinberg and Heller (1997, 
p. 46) found that Mazama pocket gophers are even more patchily 
distributed than are the prairie habitats they inhabit. That is, there 
are some seemingly high quality prairies within the species' range that 
lack pocket gophers. Prairie habitats have a naturally patchy 
distribution, and within them, there is a patchy distribution of soil 
rockiness (Steinberg and Heller 1997, p. 45; WDFW 2009a), which may 
further restrict the total area that gophers can utilize since they 
avoid areas of excessive rockiness.
    Of the glacial outwash prairie soils or prairie-like soils present 
in western Washington, the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher are most often found in deep, well-drained, friable soils 
capable of supporting the forbs, bulbs, and grasses that are the 
preferred forage for gophers (Stinson 2005, pp. 22-23).
    In order to support typical Mazama pocket gopher forage plants, 
areas supporting Mazama pocket gophers tend to be largely free of 
shrubs and trees. Woody plants shade out the forbs, bulbs, and grasses 
that gophers prefer to eat, and high densities of woody plants make 
travel both below and above the ground difficult for gophers. The 
probability of Mazama pocket gopher occupancy is much higher in areas 
with less than 10 percent woody vegetation cover (Olson 2011, p. 16).
    Although some soils used by Mazama pocket gophers are relatively 
sandy, gravelly, or silty, those most frequently associated with the 
subspecies are loamy and deep, have slopes generally less than 15 
percent, and have good drainage or permeability. These soils types 
additionally provide the essential physical and biological features of 
cover or shelter, as well as sites for breeding, reproduction, or 
rearing of offspring. Soils series where individuals of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher may be found include 
Alderwood, Cagey, Everett, Godfrey, Indianola, Kapowsin, McKenna, 
Nisqually, Norma, Spana, Spanaway, Spanaway-Nisqually complex, and 
Yelm.
    Additionally, encroachment of woody vegetation into the habitat of 
the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher continues 
to further reduce the size of the remaining prairies and prairie-type 
areas, thus reducing the amount of habitat available for gophers to 
burrow, forage, and reproduce. Historically these areas would have been 
maintained by natural or human-caused fires. Fire suppression allows 
Douglas-fir and other woody plants to encroach on and overwhelm prairie 
habitat (Stinson 2005, p. 7). Mazama pocket gophers require areas where 
natural disturbance or management prevents the encroachment of woody 
vegetation into their preferred prairie or meadow habitats.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify soils series 
that are known to support the Mazama pocket gopher in Washington 
(listed above), and vegetative habitat with less than 10 percent woody 
plant cover, that provides for feeding, breeding, and foraging, as 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the 
Mazama pocket gopher.

Habitats That Are Protected From Disturbance or Are Representative of 
the Historical, Geographical, and Ecological Distributions of a Species

    Predation, specifically feral and domestic cat and dog predation, 
is a threat to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher. Urbanization exacerbates this threat with the addition of feral 
and domestic cats and dogs into the matrix of pocket gopher habitat. 
Many pets are not controlled by their owners in the semi-urban and 
rural environments that the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher currently inhabit, leading to uninhibited predation of 
native animals. Where local populations of native wild animals are 
small or declining, predation can drive populations farther toward 
extinction (Woodworth 1999, pp. 74-75). Many local populations of the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher are small and 
occur in a matrix of residential and agricultural development, with 
many feral and domestic pets in the vicinity. Pocket gophers need areas 
free of the threat of predation by feral and domestic cats and dogs.

[[Page 73796]]

    In Washington it is currently illegal to trap or poison Mazama 
pocket gophers (WAC 232-12-011, RCW 77.15.194), but not all property 
owners are aware of these laws, nor are most citizens capable of 
differentiating between mole and pocket gopher soil disturbance. In 
light of this, it is reasonable to believe that mole trapping and 
poisoning efforts have the potential to adversely affect pocket gopher 
populations within the range of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gopher. Mazama pocket gophers require areas free of human 
disturbance from trapping and poisoning.
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify areas where 
gophers are protected from predation by feral or domestic animals, as 
well as from human disturbance in the form of trapping and poisoning, 
as physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the 
Mazama pocket gopher.

Primary Constituent Elements for the Four Thurston/Pierce Subspecies of 
Mazama Pocket Gopher

    Under the Act and its implementing regulations, we are required to 
identify the physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher in areas occupied at the time of listing, focusing on the 
features' primary constituent elements (PCEs). We consider primary 
constituent elements to be the elements of physical or biological 
features that provide for a species' life-history processes and are 
essential to the conservation of the species.
    Based on our current knowledge of the physical or biological 
features and habitat characteristics required to sustain the 
subspecies' life-history processes, we determine that the primary 
constituent elements specific to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gopher are:
    (i) Friable, loamy, and deep soils, some with relatively greater 
content of sand, gravel, or silt, all generally on slopes less than 15 
percent in the following series:
    (a) Alderwood;
    (b) Cagey;
    (c) Everett;
    (d) Godfrey
    (e) Indianola;
    (f) Kapowsin;
    (g) McKenna;
    (h) Nisqually;
    (i) Norma;
    (j) Spana;
    (k) Spanaway;
    (l) Spanaway-Nisqually complex; and
    (m) Yelm.
    (ii) Areas equal to or larger than 50 ac (20 ha) in size that 
provide for breeding, foraging, and dispersal activities, found in the 
soil series listed in (i) that have:

    (a) Less than 10 percent woody vegetation cover.
    (b) Vegetative cover suitable for foraging by gophers. Pocket 
gophers' diet includes a wide variety of plant material, including 
leafy vegetation, succulent roots, shoots, tubers, and grasses. 
Forbs and grasses that Mazama pocket gophers are known to eat 
include, but are not limited to: Achillea millefolium (common 
yarrow), Agoseris spp. (agoseris), Cirsium spp. (thistle), Bromus 
spp. (brome), Camassia spp. (camas), Collomia linearis (tiny 
trumpet), Epilobium spp. (several willowherb spp.), Eriophyllum 
lanatum (woolly sunflower), Gayophytum diffusum (groundsmoke), 
Hypochaeris radicata (hairy cat's ear), Lathyrus spp. (peavine), 
Lupinus spp. (lupine), Microsteris gracilis (slender phlox), 
Penstemon spp. (penstemon), Perideridia gairdneri (Gairdner's 
yampah), Phacelia heterophylla (varileaf phacelia), Polygonum 
douglasii (knotweed), Potentilla spp. (cinquefoil), Pteridium 
aquilinum (bracken fern), Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion), 
Trifolium spp. (clover), and Viola spp. (violet).
    (c) Few, if any barriers to dispersal. Barriers to dispersal 
include, but are not limited to: open water; steep slopes (greater 
than 35 percent); wide expanses of rhizomatous grasses; concrete; 
large areas of rock; development and buildings; and soils or 
substrates inappropriate for burrowing.

    With this proposed designation of critical habitat, we intend to 
identify the physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the species, through the identification of the primary 
constituent elements sufficient to support the life-history processes 
of the species. All units and subunits proposed to be designated as 
critical habitat are currently occupied by one or more of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher and contain all of 
the primary constituent elements essential to the conservation 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 which are essential to the conservation of 
the species and which may require special management considerations or 
protection. Here we describe the type of special management 
considerations or protections that may be required for the physical or 
biological features identified as essential for Mazama pocket gophers. 
The specific critical habitat subunits where these management 
considerations or protections apply are identified in Table 1.
    All areas designated as critical habitat will require some level of 
management to address the current and future threats to the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher and to maintain or 
restore the PCEs. A detailed discussion of activities influencing the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher and their 
habitats can be found in the preceding proposed listing rule. Threats 
to the physical or biological features that are essential to the 
conservation of these subspecies and that may warrant special 
management considerations or protection include, but are not limited 
to: (1) Loss of habitat from conversion to other uses; (2) control of 
nonnative, invasive species; (3) development; (4) construction and 
maintenance of roads and utility corridors; (5) predation by feral or 
domestic animals; (6) disease; and (7) habitat modifications brought on 
by succession of vegetation due to lack of disturbance, both small- and 
large-scale. These threats also have the potential to affect the PCEs 
if they are conducted within or adjacent to designated units.
    The physical or biological features essential to the conservation 
of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher may 
require special management considerations or protection to control or 
prevent the establishment of invasive woody plants, which create shade 
and utilize light, food and nutrients otherwise utilized by the forb, 
bulb, and grass species that the gophers require for forage. Management 
may be implemented using hand tools or mechanical methods, prescribed 
fire, and the judicious use of herbicides. Although several management 
techniques are being implemented on public lands, we may need to 
improve our outreach to educate private landowners on controlling their 
pets and appropriately managing grazing on their properties, as well as 
to developing incentives for landowners who agree to conserve habitat. 
Incentives would create protected areas, through agreements or 
acquisitions. These would include corridors between existing protected 
habitat areas that may require restoration, enhancement actions, and 
long-term maintenance.

[[Page 73797]]



Table 1--Threats to the Four Thurston/Pierce Subspecies of Mazama Pocket
    Gopher Identified in Specific Proposed Critical Habitat Subunits;
   Threats Specific to the Physical or Biological Features, Which May
 Require Special Management Considerations or Protection as Described in
                the Text, Are Identified With an Asterisk
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                Subunits of proposed designated critical
   Threat factors under the       habitat for the Mazama pocket gopher
    Endangered Species Act                     subspecies
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Factor A:
    Development *............  Unit 1: all subunits.
    Loss of natural            Unit 1: all subunits.
     disturbance processes,
     invasive species, and
     succession *.
    Military training *......  Unit 1: 1-A, 1-B, 1-E.
Factor B:
    Overutilization for        NA.
     commercial,
     recreational,
     scientific, or
     educational purposes.
Factor C:
    Disease..................  NA.
    Predation................  Unit 1: all subunits.
Factor D:
    The inadequacy of          Unit 1: all subunits.
     existing regulatory
     mechanisms *.
Factor E:
    Low genetic diversity,     NA.
     small or isolated
     populations, and low
     reproductive success.
    Stochastic weather events  NA.
    Climate change...........  NA.
    Pesticides and herbicides  Unit 1: 1-D, 1-E, 1-G, and 1-H.
    Control as a pest species  Unit 1: 1-D, 1-E, 1-G, and 1-H.
     *.
    Recreation...............  NA.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat

    As required by section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act, we use the best 
scientific and commercial data available to designate critical habitat. 
We review available information pertaining to the habitat requirements 
of the species, and begin by assessing the specific geographic areas 
occupied by the species at the time of listing. If such areas are not 
sufficient to provide for the conservation of the species, in 
accordance with the Act and its implementing regulation at 50 CFR 
424.12(e), we then consider whether designating additional areas 
outside the geographic areas occupied at the time of listing may be 
essential to ensure the conservation of the species. We consider 
unoccupied areas for critical habitat when a designation limited to the 
present range of the species may be inadequate to ensure the 
conservation of the species. In this case, since we are proposing 
listing simultaneously with the proposed critical habitat, all areas 
presently occupied by each of the subspecies are presumed to constitute 
those areas occupied at the time of listing; those areas currently 
occupied by the subspecies are identified as such in each of the unit 
or subunit descriptions below. None of the subunits are believed to be 
unoccupied at the time of listing. Our determination of the areas 
occupied at the time of listing, is provided below.
    We plotted the known locations of the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher where they occur in the south Puget 
Sound lowlands using 2011 NAIP digital imagery in ArcGIS, version 10 
(Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.), a computer geographic 
information system program.
    To determine if the currently occupied areas contain the primary 
constituent elements, we assessed the life history components and the 
distribution of the subspecies through element occurrence records in 
State natural heritage databases and natural history information on 
each of the subspecies as they relate to habitat. To determine if any 
unoccupied sites met the criteria for critical habitat, we considered: 
(1) The importance of the site to the overall status of the subspecies 
to prevent extinction and contribute to future recovery of the 
subspecies; (2) whether the area presently provides the essential 
physical or biological features, or could be managed and restored to 
contain the necessary physical and biological features to support the 
subspecies; and (3) whether individuals were likely to colonize the 
site.

Occupied Areas

    For the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher, we 
are proposing to designate critical habitat only in areas within the 
geographical area occupied by the four subspecies at the time of 
listing. All units proposed for critical habitat for the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher are currently occupied as 
determined by recent surveys, within the last five years (JBLM 2012, 
Krippner 2011, pp. 25-29; Olson 2012, pp. 9-10; WDFW 2012), and all 
provide one or more of the physical or biological features that may 
require special management considerations or protection, as described 
in the unit and subunit descriptions that follow.
    In all cases, when determining proposed critical habitat 
boundaries, we made every effort to avoid including developed areas 
such as lands covered by buildings, pavement (such as airport runways 
and roads), and other structures because such lands lack the essential 
physical or biological features for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies 
of Mazama pocket gopher. 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. Any such lands 
inadvertently left inside critical habitat boundaries shown on the maps 
of this proposed rule have been excluded by text in the proposed rule 
and are not proposed for designation as critical habitat. Therefore, if 
the critical habitat is finalized as proposed, a Federal action 
involving these 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 or 
biological features in the adjacent critical habitat.
    We are proposing one critical habitat unit for designation based on 
sufficient elements of physical and biological features being present 
to support the

[[Page 73798]]

four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher. These unit is 
further divided into 8 subunits. All of the subunits contain the 
identified elements of physical and biological features necessary to 
support the subspecies' use of that habitat.
    We invite public comment on our identification of those areas 
presently occupied by the subspecies that provide the physical or 
biological features that may require special management considerations 
or protection.

Proposed Critical Habitat Designation

    We are proposing critical habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher in the State of Washington, as 
follows: The South Sound Unit (Unit 1), which includes eight subunits.

Four Thurston/Pierce Subspecies of Mazama Pocket Gopher--Unit 1

    We are proposing for designation of critical habitat lands that we 
have determined are occupied at the time of listing and contain 
sufficient elements of physical or biological features to support life-
history processes essential for the conservation of the Olympia, Roy 
Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.
    We are proposing critical habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher in one unit: the South Sound Unit, 
totaling 9,234 ac (3,737 ha). This includes 6,345 ac (2,567 ha) of 
Federal ownership; 820 ac (331 ha) of State ownership; 1,934 ac (783 
ha) of private ownership; and 135 ac (55 ha) of lands owned by a Port, 
local municipality, or nonprofit conservation organization. The South 
Sound Unit for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher contains eight subunits, all of which are presently occupied by 
one or more of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies. All subunits 
contain one or more of the PCEs to support essential life-history 
processes for these subspecies. The critical habitat areas we describe 
below constitute our current best assessment of areas that meet the 
definition of critical habitat for the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, 
and Yelm pocket gophers. The eight subunits we propose as critical 
habitat are: (1) (1-A) 91st Division Prairie; (2) (1-B) Marion Prairie; 
(3) (1-C) Olympia Airport; (4) (1-D) Rocky Prairie; (5) (1-E) Tenalquot 
Prairie; (6) (1-F) West Rocky Prairie; (7) (1-G) Scatter Creek; and (8) 
(1-H) Rock Prairie. The approximate area and landownership for each 
proposed critical habitat unit and subunit is shown in Table 2.

    Table 2--Proposed Critical Habitat Units for the Four Thurston/Pierce Subspecies of Mazama Pocket Gopher
   [Note: Area sizes may not sum due to rounding. Area estimates reflect all land within critical habitat unit
                                                   boundaries]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Federal             State             Private            Other *
   Unit 1  South      Subunit name   ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
       Sound                               Ac (Ha)            Ac (Ha)            Ac (Ha)            Ac (Ha)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1-A...............  91st Division         4,120 (1,667)                  0                  0                  0
                     Prairie.
1-B...............  Marion Prairie..          720 (291)                  0                  0                  0
1-C...............  Olympia Airport.                  0                  0                  0          676 (274)
1-D...............  Rocky Prairie...                  0            54 (22)          385 (156)                  0
1-E...............  Tenalquot               1,505 (609)                  0           154 (62)           135 (55)
                     Prairie.
1-F...............  West Rocky                        0           134 (54)                  0                  0
                     Prairie.
1-G...............  Scatter Creek...                  0          632 (256)            98 (40)                  0
1-H...............  Rock Prairie....                  0                  0          621 (251)                  0
                                     ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                    Unit 1 Totals...      6,345 (2,567)          820 (331)        1,258 (509)          811 (329)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Other = Local municipalities and nonprofit conservation organization.

    Here we present brief descriptions of all subunits, and reasons why 
they meet the definition of critical habitat for the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher, below.

Unit 1: South Sound Unit--Four Thurston/Pierce Subspecies of Mazama 
Pocket Gopher

    The South Sound Unit and its constituent subunits are all currently 
occupied by one or more Mazama pocket gophers of the subspecies 
Thomomys mazama glacialis (Roy Prairie pocket gopher), pugetensis 
(Olympia pocket gopher), tumuli (Tenino pocket gopher), or yelmensis 
(Yelm pocket gopher) (the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies). All 
subunits contain the physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of these subspecies, which may require special management 
considerations or protection. All subunits are subject to the same 
suite of threats, aside from one suite of threats unique to DOD lands 
(subunits 1-A, 1-B, and the Federal portions of subunit 1-E). The 
common threats to the essential features include: development on or 
adjacent to the subunits, incompatible management practices, invasive 
species, and the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. The 
threat unique to DOD lands is military training. In all subunits, the 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of each 
subspecies may require special management considerations or protection 
to restore, protect, and maintain the essential features found in the 
subunits. For those threats that are common to all subunits, special 
management considerations or protection may be required to address 
direct or indirect habitat loss due to development, invasive plant 
species, or use of trapping or poisoning techniques by landowners or 
land managers of the subunits themselves or adjacent landowners or land 
managers. For those threats that are unique to DOD lands, special 
management considerations or protection may be required to address 
uncontrolled fires due to deployment of explosive or incendiary 
devices, military training involving heavy equipment (resulting in 
trampling or crushing of burrows), digging or trenching, bombardment, 
or use of live ammunition.
    Subunit 1-A: 91st Division Prairie. This subunit consists of 4,120 
ac (1,667 ha) and is made up entirely of lands on the JBLM, owned by 
the DOD. This subunit is located west-northwest of the city of Roy, 
Pierce County, Washington. Subunit 1-A is occupied by the Roy Prairie 
pocket gopher and the Yelm pocket gopher and contains the physical or 
biological features essential to the conservation of these subspecies 
due to

[[Page 73799]]

the underlying soils series (Nisqually and Spanaway), suitable forb and 
grass vegetation present on-site, and its large size. The physical or 
biological features essential to the conservation of the Roy Prairie 
pocket gopher and the Yelm pocket gopher may require special management 
considerations or protection to address threats listed above that are 
common to all subunits and from uncontrolled fires due to deployment of 
explosive or incendiary devices, military training involving heavy 
equipment (resulting in trampling or crushing of burrows), digging or 
trenching, bombardment, or use of live ammunition. This critical 
habitat subunit (1-A) is being considered for exemption from 
designation of critical habitat under section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act, 
contingent on our approval of the DOD INRMP for JBLM (see Exemptions).
    Subunit 1-B: Marion Prairie. This subunit consists of 720 ac (291 
ha) and contains JBLM lands owned by the DOD. This subunit is located 
west of the city of Roy, Pierce County, Washington. Subunit 1-B is 
occupied by the Roy Prairie pocket gopher and the Yelm pocket gopher, 
and provides physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of these subspecies due to the underlying soils series 
(Nisqually and Spanaway), suitable forb and grass vegetation present 
onsite, and its large size. The features essential to the conservation 
of the species may require special management considerations or 
protection to address uncontrolled fires due to deployment of explosive 
or incendiary devices, military training involving heavy equipment 
(resulting in trampling or crushing of burrows), digging or trenching, 
bombardment, or use of live ammunition. This critical habitat subunit 
(1-B) is being considered for exemption from designation of critical 
habitat under section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act, contingent on our 
approval of the DOD INRMP for JBLM (see Exemptions).
    Subunit 1-C: Olympia Airport. This subunit consists of 676 ac (274 
ha). This subunit is made up of lands owned by the Port of Olympia and 
is located south of the cities of Olympia and Tumwater, Thurston 
County, Washington. Subunit 1-C is occupied by the Olympia pocket 
gopher and the Yelm pocket gopher and contains the physical or 
biological features essential to the conservation of the subspecies due 
to the underlying soils series (Cagey, Everett, Indianola, and 
Nisqually), suitable forb and grass vegetation present onsite, and its 
large size.
    Subunit 1-D: Rocky Prairie. This subunit consists of 439 ac (178 
ha) and contains lands owned by one commercial landowner, Burlington 
Northern Santa Fe Railroad, and WDNR, which owns the Rocky Prairie NAP, 
a portion of the subunit. This subunit is located north of the city of 
Tenino, Thurston County, Washington. Subunit 1-D is occupied by the 
Tenino pocket gopher and the Yelm pocket gopher, and contains the 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the 
species due to the underlying soils series (Everett, Nisqually, 
Spanaway, and Spanaway-Nisqually complex), suitable forb and grass 
vegetation present onsite, and its large size. A portion of the State 
lands include the Rocky Prairie Natural Area Preserve which makes up 35 
ac (14 ha) of this critical habitat subunit (1-D) and is being proposed 
for exclusion from designation of critical habitat under section 
4(b)(2) of the Act, due to the approved WDNR State Lands HCP (see 
Exclusions)
    Subunit 1-E: Tenalquot Prairie. This subunit consists of 1,794 ac 
(726 ha) and contains lands owned by one commercial landowner, The 
Nature Conservancy and DOD, which owns the largest portion of the 
subunit. This subunit is located northwest of the city of Rainier, 
Thurston County, Washington. Subunit 1-E is occupied by the Yelm pocket 
gopher and contains the physical or biological features essential to 
the conservation of the species due to the underlying soils series 
(Spanaway and Spanaway-Nisqually complex), suitable forb and grass 
vegetation present onsite, and its large size. On the 1,505 ac (609 ha) 
in this subunit that are owned by DOD, special management 
considerations or protection may be required to address threats from 
military training involving heavy equipment (resulting in trampling or 
crushing of burrows). The portion of this proposed critical habitat 
designation on JBLM (1,505 ac; 609 ha) is being considered for 
exemption from designation of critical habitat under section 
4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act, contingent on our approval of the DOD INRMP 
for JBLM (see Exemptions).
    Subunit 1-F: West Rocky Prairie. This subunit consists of 134 ac 
(54 ha) and contains lands within the West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area, 
owned by WDFW, north of the city of Tenino, Thurston County, 
Washington. Subunit 1-F is occupied by the Olympia pocket gopher and 
contains the physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the species due to the underlying soils series 
(Nisqually, Norma, and Spanaway-Nisqually complex), suitable forb and 
grass vegetation present onsite, and its large size.
    Subunit 1-G: Scatter Creek. This subunit consists of 730 ac (296 
ha) and contains lands within the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area, owned by 
WDFW, and one private landowner near the city of Grand Mound, Thurston 
County, Washington. WDFW holds a lease on the private lands, which 
totals approximately 98 ac (40 ha), and manages the habitat the same as 
on adjacent WDFW lands (Hays 2012, in litt.). The lease expires in 
2014. Subunit 1-G is occupied by the Yelm pocket gopher and contains 
the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of 
the species due to the underlying soils series (McKenna, Nisqually, 
Spanaway, and Spanaway-Nisqually complex), suitable forb and grass 
vegetation present on-site, and its large size. A powerline right-of-
way managed by the BPA crosses Scatter Creek Wildlife Area and may 
require special management consideration. We are considering the 
exclusion of approximately 98 ac (40 ha) of private property in this 
subunit under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, due to the level of public 
benefits derived from encouraging collaborative efforts and encouraging 
private and local conservation efforts; and the effect designation 
would have on these partnerships as well as the existing WDFW lease on 
this property, and the fact that this property is managed in a manner 
consistent with the conservation of this species (see Exclusions).
    Subunit 1-H: Rock Prairie. This subunit consists of 621 ac (251 ha) 
and contains lands owned by two private residential and commercial 
landowners. One of the private landowners' property (379 ac; 153 ha) is 
entirely covered by a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) 
Grassland Reserve Program agreement and partially covered under a 
permanent conservation easement. This subunit is located just west of 
the city of Tenino, Thurston County, Washington. Subunit 1-H is 
occupied by the Yelm pocket gopher and contains the physical or 
biological features essential to the conservation of the species due to 
the underlying soils series (Yelm, Spanaway, and Nisqually), suitable 
forb and grass vegetation present onsite, and its large size. The 
entire acreage of the proposed critical habitat on one private 
landowner's property is being considered for exclusion under section 
4(b)(2) of the Act, due to the conservation easement on approximately 
530 ac (215 ha) of their property and the Grassland Reserve Program 
plan developed in partnership

[[Page 73800]]

with NRCS for the long-term management of their property, which is 
consistent with restoration and management needs for sustaining 
prairies (see Exclusions).

Effects of Critical Habitat Designation

Section 7 Consultation

    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 
species 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 agency 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 5th and 9th 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, 442 (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, we 
determine destruction or adverse modification on the basis of 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 on State, Tribal, local, or 
private lands 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 Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation 
Administration, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency). 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, that 
would avoid the likelihood of jeopardy or destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat. 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 ``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 critical habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher. As discussed above, the role of 
critical habitat is to support the life-history needs of the subspecies 
and provide for the conservation of the subspecies.
    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 affect the 
physical or biological features of critical habitat, or destroy or 
adversely modify critical habitat.
    Under section 7(a)(2) of the Act, activities that may affect 
critical habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher, when carried out, funded, or authorized by a Federal 
agency, require consultation. These activities may include, but are not 
limited to:
    (1) Actions that restore, alter, or degrade habitat features 
through development, agricultural activities, burning, mowing, 
herbicide use or other means in suitable habitat for the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher.
    (2) Actions that would alter the physical or biological features of 
critical habitat including modification of soil profiles or the 
composition and structure of vegetation in suitable habitat for the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher. Such 
activities could include, but are not limited to, construction, grading 
or other development, mowing, or conversion of habitat (military 
training on DOD lands, recreational use, off road vehicles on Federal, 
State, private, or Tribal lands). These activities may affect the 
physical or biological features of critical habitat for the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher by crushing burrows, 
removing forage, or impacting habitat essential for completion of life 
history.
    (3) Activities within or adjacent to critical habitat that affect 
or degrade the conservation value or function of the physical or 
biological features of critical

[[Page 73801]]

habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher.

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 resource 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 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, 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.''
    We consult with the military on the development and implementation 
of INRMPs for installations with listed species. We analyzed INRMPs 
developed by military installations located within the range of the 
proposed critical habitat designation for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher to determine if they are exempt 
under section 4(a)(3) of the Act. The following areas are Department of 
Defense lands within the proposed critical habitat designation: (1) 
91st Division Prairie, (2) Marion Prairie, and (3) Tenalquot Prairie. 
All of these areas are part of JBLM, except for the portion of 
Tenalquot Prairie known as the Morgan property.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord
    Joint Base Lewis-McChord (formerly known as Fort Lewis and McChord 
Air Force Base) is an 86,000 ac (34,800 ha) military complex in western 
Washington. JBLM has an approved INRMP in place, dated July 2006, that 
covers the years 2006 through 2010. This INRMP is being updated and a 
revision will be submitted to the Service in 2012 (Steucke 2008, pers. 
comm.). JBLM is composed of both native and degraded grasslands; shrub-
dominated vegetation; conifer, conifer-oak, oak-savannah, oak woodland 
and pine woodland/savannah forests; riverine, lacustrine, and 
palustrine wetlands; ponds and lakes; as well as other unique habitat, 
such as mima mounds. Portions of JBLM are currently occupied by the 
Mazama pocket gopher. Actions on this property include military 
training, recreation, transportation, utilities (including dedicated 
corridors), and land use.
    The mission of JBLM is to maintain trained and ready forces for 
Army commanders worldwide, by providing them with training support and 
infrastructure. This includes a land base capable of supporting current 
and future training needs through good stewardship of the 
Installation's natural and cultural resources, as directed by Federal 
statutes, Department of Defense directives, directives and programs 
such as ACUB (Army Compatible Use Buffer Program), and Army and JBLM 
regulations.
    Although only military actions are covered by the INRMP, several 
additional actions occurring on JBLM could pose substantial threats to 
the Mazama pocket gopher (e.g., dog trials, model airplanes, 
recreational activities), and are restricted to a few grassland 
properties. Many of the avoidance measures for military training action 
subgroups are implemented through environmental review and permitting 
programs related to a specific action. Timing of actions and education 
of users are important avoidance measures for the other activities.
    Joint Base Lewis-McChord actively manages prairie habitat as part 
of Fort Lewis' INRMP (U.S. Army 2006). The purpose of the plan is to 
``provide guidance for effective and efficient management of the 
prairie landscape to meet military training and ecological conservation 
goals.'' There are three overall goals including: (1) No net loss of 
open landscapes for military training; (2) no net reduction in the 
quantity or quality of moderate- and high-quality grassland; and (3) 
viable populations of all prairie-dependent and prairie-associated 
species.
    Joint Base Lewis-McChord has a stewardship responsibility that 
includes actions to help recover threatened and endangered species 
under the Act. It is Army policy to consider candidate species when 
making decisions that may affect them, to avoid taking actions that may 
cause them to be listed, and to take affirmative actions that can 
preclude the need to list (AR 200-3).
    Mazama pocket gophers exist on prairies on JBLM lands where 
vehicular traffic is currently restricted to established roads, but 
there are no specific restrictions on military training to protect 
Mazama pocket gophers. Efforts to maintain and increase populations on 
the installation focus on restoring or managing the overall condition 
of prairie habitat.
    Two regional programs managed under the INRMP and funded by the DOD 
are currently underway on many of the lands where Mazama pocket gophers 
occur. The Fort Lewis ACUB program is a proactive effort to prevent 
``encroachment'' at military installations. Encroachment includes 
current or potential future restrictions on military training 
associated with currently listed and candidate species under the Act. 
The Fort Lewis ACUB program focuses on management of non-Federal 
conservation lands in the vicinity of Fort Lewis that contain, or can 
be restored to, native prairie. Some of the ACUB efforts include 
improving habitats on JBLM property for prairie-dependent species, 
including the Mazama pocket gopher. It is implemented by means of a 
cooperative agreement between the Army and The Nature Conservancy (now 
Center for Natural Lands Management), and includes WDFW and WDNR as 
partners. To date, a total of $8.23 million has been allocated to this 
program (Anderson 2012, pers. comm). This funds conservation actions 
such as invasive plant control on occupied sites and the restoration of 
unoccupied habitat.
    The JBLM Legacy program is dedicated to ``protecting, enhancing, 
and conserving natural and cultural resources on DOD lands through 
stewardship, leadership, and partnership.'' The Legacy program supports 
conservation actions that have regional or DOD-wide significance, and 
that support military training or fulfill legal obligations (DOD 2011, 
p. 2). In

[[Page 73802]]

recent years, substantial effort and funding have gone toward projects, 
both on and off JBLM, related to the Mazama pocket gopher.
    Although JBLM's INRMP has the potential to provide a conservation 
benefit to the Mazama pocket gopher, it does not currently. Since their 
INRMP is currently undergoing revision and is subject to change, we are 
reserving judgment on whether management under the new INRMP will meet 
our criteria for exemption from critical habitat at this time. In 
accordance with section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act, if we determine prior 
to our final rulemaking that conservation efforts identified in the 
newly revised INRMP will provide a conservation benefit to the species 
identified previously, we may at that time exempt the identified lands 
from the final designation of critical habitat.

Exclusions

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

    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary shall 
designate and make revisions to 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 
such area as critical habitat will result in the extinction of the 
species. In making that determination, the statute on its face, as well 
as the legislative history are clear that the Secretary has broad 
discretion regarding which factor(s) to use and how much weight to give 
to any factor.
    In considering whether to exclude a particular area from the 
designation, we identify the benefits of including the area in the 
designation, identify the benefits of excluding the area from the 
designation, and evaluate whether the benefits of exclusion outweigh 
the benefits of inclusion. If the analysis indicates that the benefits 
of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion, the Secretary may 
exercise his discretion to exclude the area only if such exclusion 
would not result in the extinction of the species.
    When identifying the benefits of inclusion for an area, we consider 
the additional regulatory benefits that area would receive from the 
protection from adverse modification or destruction as a result of 
actions with a Federal nexus; the educational benefits of mapping 
essential habitat for recovery of the listed species; and any benefits 
that may result from a designation due to State or Federal laws that 
may apply to critical habitat.
    When identifying the benefits of exclusion, we consider, among 
other things, whether exclusion of a specific area is likely to result 
in conservation; the continuation, strengthening, or encouragement of 
partnerships; or implementation of a management plan that provides 
equal to or more conservation than a critical habitat designation would 
provide.
    The Secretary can consider the existence of conservation agreements 
and other land management plans with Federal, private, State, and 
Tribal entities when making decisions under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. 
The Secretary may also consider relationships with landowners, 
voluntary partnerships, and conservation plans, and weigh the 
implementation and effectiveness of these against that of designation 
to determine which provides the greatest conservation value to the 
listed species. Consideration of relevant impacts of designation or 
exclusion under section 4(b)(2) may include, but is not limited to, any 
of the following factors:
    (1) Whether the plan provides specific information on how it 
protects the species and the physical and biological features, and 
whether the plan is at a geographical scope commensurate with the 
species;
    (2) Whether the plan is complete and will be effective at 
conserving and protecting the physical and biological features;
    (3) Whether a reasonable expectation exists that conservation 
management strategies and actions will be implemented, that those 
responsible for implementing the plan are capable of achieving the 
objectives, that an implementation schedule exists, and that adequate 
funding exists;
    (4) Whether the plan provides assurances that the conservation 
strategies and measures will be effective (i.e., identifies biological 
goals, has provisions for reporting progress, and is of a duration 
sufficient to implement the plan);
    (5) Whether the plan has a monitoring program or adaptive 
management to ensure that the conservation measures are effective;
    (6) The degree to which the record supports a conclusion that a 
critical habitat designation would impair the benefits of the plan;
    (7) The extent of public participation;
    (8) Demonstrated track record of implementation success;
    (9) Level of public benefits derived from encouraging collaborative 
efforts and encouraging private and local conservation efforts; and
    (10) The effect designation would have on partnerships.
    After identifying the benefits of inclusion and the benefits of 
exclusion, we carefully weigh the two sides to evaluate whether the 
benefits of exclusion outweigh those of inclusion. If our analysis 
indicates that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of 
inclusion, we then determine whether exclusion would result in 
extinction. If exclusion of an area from critical habitat will result 
in extinction, we will not exclude it from the designation.
    Based on the information provided by entities seeking exclusion, as 
well as any additional public comments received, we will evaluate 
whether certain lands in proposed critical habitat are appropriate for 
exclusion from the final designation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. 
If the analysis indicates that the benefits of excluding lands from the 
final designation outweigh the benefits of designating those lands as 
critical habitat, then the Secretary may exercise his discretion to 
exclude the lands from the final designation.
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we must consider all relevant 
impacts of the designation of critical habitat, including economic 
impacts. In addition to economic impacts (discussed in the Economics 
Analysis section, below), we consider a number of factors in a 4(b)(2) 
analysis. For example, we consider whether there are lands owned by the 
Department of Defense (DoD) where a national security impact might 
exist. We also consider whether Federal or private landowners or other 
public agencies have developed management plans or habitat conservation 
plans (HCPs) for the area or whether there are conservation 
partnerships or other conservation benefits that would be encouraged or 
discouraged by designation of, or exclusion from, critical habitat in 
an area. In addition, we look at the presence of Indian lands or Indian 
trust resources that might be affected, and consider the government-to-
government relationship of the United States with Indian entities. We 
also consider any other relevant impacts that might occur because of 
the designation. To ensure that our final determination is based on the 
best available information, we are inviting comments on any foreseeable 
economic, national security, or other potential impacts resulting from 
this proposed designation of critical habitat from governmental, 
business, or private

[[Page 73803]]

interests and, in particular, any potential impacts on small 
businesses.
    For the reasons discussed above, if the Secretary decides to 
exercise his discretion under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we have 
identified certain areas that we are considering for exclusion from the 
final critical habitat designation for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher. However, we solicit comments on the 
inclusion or exclusion of such particular areas, as well as any other 
areas identified in the proposed rule (see Public Comments section). 
During the development of the final designation, we will consider 
economic impacts, public comments, and other new information. However, 
the Secretary's decision as to which, if any, areas may be excluded 
from the final designation is not limited to these lands. Additional 
particular areas, in addition to those identified below for potential 
exclusion in this proposed rule, may be excluded from the final 
critical habitat designation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. In other 
words, potential exclusions are not limited to those areas specifically 
identified in this proposed rule.
    However, we specifically solicit comments on the inclusion or 
exclusion of such areas. In the paragraphs below, we provide a detailed 
analysis of our exclusion of these lands under section 4(b)(2) of the 
Act.
Exclusions Based on Economic Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider the economic impacts 
of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. In order to 
consider economic impacts, we are preparing an analysis of the economic 
impacts of the proposed critical habitat designation and related 
factors. We will announce the availability of the draft economic 
analysis as soon as it is completed, at which time we will seek public 
review and comment. At that time, copies of the draft economic analysis 
will be available for downloading from the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov, or by contacting the Washington Fish and Wildlife 
Office directly (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section). During 
the development of a final designation, we will consider economic 
impacts, public comments, and other new information, and areas may be 
excluded from the final critical habitat designation under section 
4(b)(2) of the Act and our implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.19.
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 Department of Defense (DOD) where a 
national security impact might exist. The U.S. Army's Joint Base Lewis-
McChord Military Reservation (JBLM) is the only DOD land included 
within the proposed designation of critical habitat. As described 
above, in preparing this proposal, we are considering JBLM for 
exemption from the designation of critical habitat under section 
4(a)(3) of the Act, pending our evaluation of their revised INRMP, 
scheduled for completion in 2012, to determine whether it provides a 
conservation benefit to the species under consideration in this 
proposed rule. We have determined that the remaining lands within the 
proposed designation of critical habitat for the species are not owned 
or managed by the Department of Defense, and, therefore, we anticipate 
no impact on national security. Consequently, the Secretary is not 
intending to exert 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 to national 
security, of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. We 
consider a number of factors, including whether landowners have 
developed any HCPs or other management plans for the area, or whether 
there are conservation partnerships or relationships 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 other relevant impacts that might occur because of 
the designation. Our weighing of the benefits of inclusion versus 
exclusion considers all relevant factors in making a final 
determination as to what will result in the greatest conservation 
benefit to the listed species. Depending on the specifics of each 
situation, there may be cases where the designation of critical habitat 
will not necessarily provide enhanced protection, and may actually lead 
to a net loss of conservation benefit. Here we present a brief 
description of three general areas considered for exclusion from the 
final designations of critical habitat for the subspecies.
    We are considering the exclusion of private lands associated with 
the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area and Rock Prairie (Unit 1, subunits 1-G 
and 1-H for the Mazama pocket gopher), both within Thurston County. The 
first proposed exclusion is located in the south Puget Sound region, in 
the Scatter Creek subunit of Unit 1, the South Sound Unit subunit 1-G 
for the Mazama pocket gopher. We are considering excluding private 
lands in this unit totaling 98 ac (40 ha) based on the benefits of 
partnerships, HCPs, and other conservation agreements.
    The second area is located in the south Puget Sound, in the Rock 
Prairie subunit also in Unit 1, the South Sound Unit. This is subunit 
1-H for the Mazama pocket gopher. In this subunit, 379 ac (153 ha) is 
considered for exclusion as they are managed under a permanent 
conservation easement and a Grassland Reserve Program Management Plan 
agreement with NRCS.
    Each area contains one landholding that is under a conservation 
easement for agriculture and open space protection, species 
conservation, and/or prairie conservation. We are considering the 
exclusion of these privately-owned lands (1-G and 1-H for the Mazama 
pocket gopher in the South Sound Unit) based on the partnerships that 
have been developed for the conservation of the Mazama pocket gopher 
subspecies as evidenced by the management plan and conservation 
easement on those private lands as well as the conservation benefit to 
the species from the management plan.
    We request public comments on the relative benefits of inclusion or 
exclusion of these areas (Table 3) from the designation of critical 
habitat. At present, we seek public comment on the general benefits of 
including or excluding private lands in this area (see PUBLIC 
COMMENTS).

[[Page 73804]]



    Table 3--Lands Proposed or That May Be Considered for Exclusion From the Final Rule To Designate Critical
                                     Habitat for Several Puget Sound Species
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    Critical habitat                Name of agreement/
        Type of agreement              unit name          State           entity           Acres       Hectares
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Habitat Conservation Plans--      Unit 1-South Sound;  WA           Washington                   35           14
 proposed for exclusion.           Subunits MPG: 1-D.                Department of
                                                                     Natural Resources
                                                                     State Lands.
Conservation Agreements, Other    Unit 1--South        WA           Scatter Creek                98           40
 agreements or Partnerships--      Sound; Subunit                    Wildlife Area
 proposed for exclusion.           MPG: 1-G.                         Private Landowner
                                                                     Management Plan.
                                  Unit 1-South Sound;  WA           Rock Prairie                379          153
                                   Subunit MPG: 1-H.                 Grassland
                                                                     Easement and
                                                                     Private Landowner
                                                                     Partnership.
                                                                                       -------------------------
    Total Proposed..............  ...................  ...........  ..................          512          207
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Benefits of Excluding Lands with Habitat Conservation Plans
    Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) are planning documents required 
as part of an application for an ``incidental take'' permit. They 
describe the anticipated effects of the proposed taking; how those 
impacts will be minimized, or mitigated; and how the HCP is to be 
funded. HCPs can apply to both listed and nonlisted species, including 
those that are candidates or have been proposed for listing. Anyone 
whose otherwise-lawful activities will result in the ``incidental 
take'' of a listed wildlife species needs a permit. The Act defines 
``take'' as ``* * * to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, 
trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such 
conduct.'' ``Harm'' includes significant habitat modification that 
actually kills or injures a listed species through impairing essential 
behavior such as breeding, feeding, or sheltering. Section 9 of the Act 
prohibits the take of endangered and threatened species. The purpose of 
the incidental take permit is to exempt non-Federal permit-holders--
such as States and private landowners--from the prohibitions of section 
9, not to authorize the activities that result in take.
    In developing HCPs, people applying for incidental take permits 
describe measures designed to minimize and mitigate the effects of 
their actions-- to ensure that species will be conserved and to 
contribute to their recovery. Habitat Conservation Plans are required 
to meet the permit issuance criteria of section 10(a)(2)(B) of the Act:
     Taking will be incidental;
     The applicant will, to the maximum extent practicable, 
minimize and mitigate the impacts of the taking;
     The applicant will ensure that adequate funding for the 
plan will be provided;
     Taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the 
survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and
     Other measures, as required by the Secretary, will be met.
    The benefits of excluding lands with approved HCPs from critical 
habitat designation may include relieving landowners, communities, and 
counties of any additional regulatory burden that might be imposed as a 
result of the critical habitat designation. Many HCPs take years to 
develop and, upon completion, are consistent with the recovery 
objectives for listed species covered within the plan area. Many 
conservation plans also provide conservation benefits to unlisted 
sensitive species.
    A related benefit of excluding lands covered by approved HCPs from 
critical habitat designation is that it can make it easier for us to 
seek new partnerships with future plan participants, including States, 
counties, local jurisdictions, conservation organizations, and private 
landowners, which together can implement conservation actions that we 
would be unable to accomplish otherwise. HCPs often cover a wide range 
of species, including species that are not State and federally listed 
and would otherwise receive little protection from development. By 
excluding these lands, we preserve our current partnerships and 
encourage additional future conservation actions.
    We also note that permit issuance in association with HCP 
applications requires consultation under section 7(a)(2) of the Act, 
which would include the review of the effects of all HCP-covered 
activities that might adversely impact the species under a jeopardy 
standard, including possibly significant habitat modification (see 
definition of ``harm'' at 50 CFR 17.3), even without the critical 
habitat designation. In addition, all other Federal actions that may 
affect the listed species would still require consultation under 
section 7(a)(2) of the Act, and we would review these actions for 
possible significant habitat modification in accordance with the 
definition of harm referenced above.
    We consider a current HCP to be appropriate for consideration for 
exclusion from a final critical habitat designation under section 
4(b)(2) of the Act if:
    (1) It provides for the conservation of the essential physical and 
biological features or areas otherwise determined to be essential;
    (2) There is a reasonable expectation that the conservation 
management strategies and actions contained in a management plan will 
be implemented into the future;
    (3) The conservation strategies in the HCP are likely to be 
effective; and
    (4) The HCP contains a monitoring program or adaptive management to 
ensure that the conservation measures are effective and can be adapted 
in the future in response to new information.
    Below is a brief description of each HCP and the lands proposed as 
critical habitat covered by each plan that we are proposing to exclude 
under section 4(b)(2) of the Act from the final designation of critical 
habitat.
Washington State Department of Natural Resources State Lands Habitat 
Conservation Plan
    We are proposing to exclude lands managed under the Washington 
State Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) State Lands HCP in one 
critical habitat subunit in Washington from the final critical habitat 
designation for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher (Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm). The WDNR State Lands 
HCP covers approximately 1.6 million ac (730,000 ha) of State forest 
lands. The majority of the area covered by the HCP is west of the 
Cascade Crest including the Olympic Peninsula. The permit associated 
with this HCP, issued January 30, 1997 (61 FR 15297, April 5, 1996), 
has a term of 70 to 100 years, and covers activities primarily 
associated with commercial forest management, but also includes 
limited, non-timber activities such as some recreational activities. 
The HCP

[[Page 73805]]

covers all federally listed species in Washington that use the types of 
habitats provided by covered lands at the time the HCP was approved, 
and those species that have similar habitat affinities and become 
listed after the HCP was approved and an incidental take permit (ITP) 
was issued. If listed, the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher (Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm) would be added 
to the WDNR ITP per Section 7 and 12.6 of the Implementing Agreement 
(Appendix B of the HCP).
    The HCP addressed multiple species through a combination of 
strategies. The main focus of these strategies is the riparian 
ecosystems (salmonids), northern spotted owl, and the marbled murrelet. 
The main objective of these strategies was to maintain and promote late 
successional forest habitats along riparian corridors and in upland 
locations that would benefit spotted owls and marbled murrelets. It was 
envisioned that the conservation strategies for salmonids, spotted 
owls, and marbled murrelets would serve to reduce the risk of 
extinction for the other wildlife species covered by the HCP. In 
addition, a fourth emphasis of the HCP was to provide protection for 
species that relied on uncommon or unique habitats. For these species, 
additional measures were developed to meet the conservation objectives 
of the HCP. These measures specifically address the protection of 
talus, caves, cliffs, balds, oak woodlands, mineral springs, large 
snags, and large, structurally unique trees because these features are 
difficult to restore or recreate. In addition, as noted in the HCP, at 
the time a new species is proposed for listing, DNR provides a written 
request to add that species to its ITP and evaluates and considers 
additional protection measures such as seasonal restrictions and 
protection of nesting/denning sites.
    The WDNR also manages approximately 66,000 ac (26,710 ha) of non-
trust lands as NAPs. A portion of Rocky Prairie (subunit 1-D) is 
located within a WDNR Natural Area Preserve (NAP). While not subject to 
the HCP, the Service recognizes the habitat contributions provided by 
these lands in terms of meeting the conservation goals and objectives 
of the HCP. NAPs provide the highest level of protection for excellent 
examples of unique or typical land features in Washington State. Some 
of these protected lands currently provide habitat in areas identified 
as ``critical'' for the Tenino and Yelm pocket gophers at the Rocky 
Prairie NAP. Details of the WDNR HCP are available at http://www.dnr.wa.gov/researchscience/topics/trustlandshcp/Pages/Home.aspx.
Federal Lands
    As noted above, Federal agencies have an independent responsibility 
under section 7(a)(1) of the Act to use their programs in furtherance 
of the Act and to utilize their authorities to carry out programs for 
the conservation of endangered and threatened species. We consider the 
development and implementation of land management plans by Federal 
agencies to be consistent with this statutory obligation under section 
7(a)(1) of the Act. Therefore, Federal land management plans, in and of 
themselves, are generally not an appropriate basis for exclusion from 
critical habitat. The Secretary is not intending to exercise his 
discretion to exclude any Federal lands from the designation of 
critical habitat.
Consideration of Indian Lands
    In accordance with the Secretarial Order 3206, ``American Indian 
Tribal Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the 
Endangered Species Act'' (June 5, 1997); the President's memorandum of 
April 29, 1994, ``Government-to-Government Relations with Native 
American Tribal Governments'' (59 FR 22951); Executive Order 13175, 
``Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments'' 
(November 6, 2000, and as reaffirmed November 5, 2009); and the 
relevant provision of the Departmental Manual of the Department of the 
Interior (512 DM 2), we believe that fish, wildlife, and other natural 
resources on Indian lands may be better managed under Indian 
authorities, policies, and programs than through Federal regulation 
where Indian management addresses the conservation needs of listed 
species. In addition, such designation may be viewed by tribes as 
unwarranted and an unwanted intrusion into Indian self-governance, thus 
compromising the government-to-government relationship essential to 
achieving our mutual goals of managing for healthy ecosystems upon 
which the viability of threatened and endangered species populations 
depend.
    We have determined that there are no reserved tribal lands occupied 
by the four Thurston/Pierce County subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher 
that contain the physical or biological features essential to 
conservation of the species, and no reserved tribal lands unoccupied by 
the species that are essential for the conservation of the species. 
Therefore, we are not proposing to designate critical habitat for the 
Mazama pocket gopher on tribal lands.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the 
Federal Register on 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 critical habitat designation is based on scientifically sound 
data, assumptions, and analyses. We have invited these peer reviewers 
to comment during this public comment period on our specific 
assumptions and conclusions regarding the proposal to list the Olympia, 
Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher our 
proposed critical habitat for these species as well as our other 
determinations.
    We will consider all comments and information received during this 
comment period on this proposed rule during our preparation of a final 
determination. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this 
proposal.

Public Hearings

    Section 4(b)(5) of the Act 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 proposed rule in the Federal 
Register. Such requests must be sent to the address shown in the 
ADDRESSES 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. The Office 
of Information and Regulatory Affairs 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

[[Page 73806]]

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 (5 U.S.C 801 et seq.), 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.
    According to the Small Business Administration, small entities 
include small organizations such as independent nonprofit 
organizations; small governmental jurisdictions, including school 
boards and city and town governments that serve fewer than 50,000 
residents; and small businesses (13 CFR 121.201). Small businesses 
include such businesses as manufacturing and mining concerns with fewer 
than 500 employees, wholesale trade entities with fewer than 100 
employees, retail and service businesses with less than $5 million in 
annual sales, general and heavy construction businesses with less than 
$27.5 million in annual business, special trade contractors doing less 
than $11.5 million in annual business, and forestry and logging 
operations with fewer than 500 employees and annual business less than 
$7 million. To determine whether small entities may be affected, we 
will consider the types of activities that might trigger regulatory 
impacts under this designation as well as types of project 
modifications that may result. In general, the term ``significant 
economic impact'' is meant to apply to a typical small business firm's 
business operations.
    Importantly, the incremental impacts of a rule must be both 
significant and substantial to prevent certification of the rule under 
the RFA and to require the preparation of an initial regulatory 
flexibility analysis. If a substantial number of small entities are 
affected by the proposed critical habitat designation, but the per-
entity economic impact is not significant, the Service may certify. 
Likewise, if the per-entity economic impact is likely to be 
significant, but the number of affected entities is not substantial, 
the Service may also certify.
    Under the RFA, as amended, and following recent court decisions, 
Federal agencies are only required to evaluate the potential 
incremental impacts of rulemaking on those entities directly regulated 
by the rulemaking itself, and not the potential impacts to indirectly 
affected entities. The regulatory mechanism through which critical 
habitat protections are realized is section 7 of the Act, which 
requires Federal agencies, in consultation with the Service, to ensure 
that any action authorized, funded, or carried by the Agency is not 
likely to adversely modify critical habitat. Therefore, only Federal 
action agencies are directly subject to the specific regulatory 
requirement (avoiding destruction and adverse modification) imposed by 
critical habitat designation. Under these circumstances, it is our 
position that only Federal action agencies will be directly regulated 
by this designation. Therefore, because Federal agencies are not small 
entities, the Service may certify that the proposed critical habitat 
rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities.
    We acknowledge, however, that in some cases, third-party proponents 
of the action subject to permitting or funding may participate in a 
section 7 consultation, and thus may be indirectly affected. We believe 
it is good policy to assess these impacts if we have sufficient data 
before us to complete the necessary analysis, whether or not this 
analysis is strictly required by the RFA. While this regulation does 
not directly regulate these entities, in our draft economic analysis we 
will conduct a brief evaluation of the potential number of third 
parties participating in consultations on an annual basis in order to 
ensure a more complete examination of the incremental effects of this 
proposed rule in the context of the RFA.
    In conclusion, we believe that, based on our interpretation of 
directly regulated entities under the RFA and relevant case law, this 
designation of critical habitat will only directly regulate Federal 
agencies which are not by definition small business entities. And as 
such, certify that, if promulgated, this designation of critical 
habitat would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small business entities. Therefore, an initial regulatory 
flexibility analysis is not required. However, though not necessarily 
required by the RFA, in our draft economic analysis for this proposal 
we will consider and evaluate the potential effects to third parties 
that may be involved with consultations with Federal action agencies 
related to this action.

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. We do not expect the designation of this proposed 
critical habitat to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, 
or use as these species and proposed critical habitat do not appear to 
overlap with these areas. Therefore, this action is not a significant 
energy action, and no Statement of Energy Effects is required. However, 
we will further evaluate this issue as we conduct our economic 
analysis, and review and revise this assessment as warranted.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.)

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 
et seq.), we make the following findings:
    (1) 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 Tribal 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 Tribal governments under entitlement authority,'' if the 
provision would ``increase the stringency of conditions of assistance'' 
or ``place caps upon, or otherwise decrease, the Federal

[[Page 73807]]

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: 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.
    (2) We do not believe that this rule will significantly or uniquely 
affect small governments. Government lands being proposed for critical 
habitat designation are owned by Washington State Department of Fish 
and Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Department of 
Defense (Army), the U.S. Forest Service, and Thurston County Parks and 
Recreation, in Washington. None of these government entities 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. 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 if appropriate.

Takings--Executive Order 12630

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630 (Government Actions and 
Interference with Constitutionally Protected Private Property Rights), 
we have analyzed the potential takings implications of designating 
critical habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher in a takings implications assessment. Critical habitat 
designation does not affect landowner actions that do not require 
Federal funding or permits, nor does it preclude development of habitat 
conservation programs or issuance of incidental take permits to permit 
actions that do require Federal funding or permits to go forward. The 
takings implications assessment concludes that this designation of 
critical habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama 
pocket gopher does not pose significant takings implications for lands 
within or affected by the designation.

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 appropriate State resource agencies 
in Washington. The designation of critical habitat in areas currently 
occupied by the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher 
imposes no additional restrictions to those currently in place and, 
therefore, has 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 Order. We have proposed designating 
critical habitat in accordance with the provisions of the Act. This 
proposed rule uses standard property descriptions and identifies the 
elements of physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher within the proposed designated areas to assist the public in 
understanding the habitat needs of the species.

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 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 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)

    We have determined that environmental assessments and environmental 
impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), need not be 
prepared in connection with listing a species as endangered or 
threatened under the Endangered Species Act. We published a notice 
outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on 
October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).
    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 pursuant to NEPA in connection with designating 
critical habitat under the

[[Page 73808]]

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:
    (1) Be logically organized;
    (2) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (3) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (4) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (5) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. 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 (Consultation and 
Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments), 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 Indian culture, and to make 
information available to tribes.
    We have determined that there are no Tribal lands occupied by the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher that contain 
the physical or biological features essential to conservation of the 
subspecies, and no Tribal lands unoccupied by the subspecies that are 
essential for the conservation of the subspecies. Therefore, we are not 
proposing to designate critical habitat for the Mazama pocket gopher on 
Tribal lands.

References Cited

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

Authors

    The primary authors of this package are the staff members of the 
Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, Lacey, Washington, and the Oregon 
Fish and Wildlife Office, Portland, Oregon.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, 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; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

    2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h), the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife, by adding entries for ``Pocket gopher, Olympia (Thomomys 
mazama pugetensis)'', ``Pocket gopher, Roy Prairie'' (Thomomys mazama 
glacialis)'', ``Pocket gopher, Tenino (Thomomys mazama tumuli)'', and 
``Pocket gopher, Yelm (Thomomys mazama yelmensis)'' in alphabetical 
order under Mammals, to read as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                       population  where                                  Critical     Special
                                                           Historical range      endangered  or        Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Mammals
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Pocket gopher, Olympia...........  Thomomys mazama       U.S.A. (WA)........  U.S.A. (WA)........  T               ...........     17.95(a)     17.40(a)
                                    pugetensis.
Pocket gopher, Roy Prairie.......  Thomomys mazama       U.S.A. (WA)........  U.S.A. (WA)........  T               ...........     17.95(a)     17.40(a)
                                    glacialis.
Pocket gopher, Tenino............  Thomomys mazama       U.S.A. (WA)........  U.S.A. (WA)........  T               ...........     17.95(a)     17.40(a)
                                    tumuli.
Pocket gopher, Yelm..............  Thomomys mazama       U.S.A. (WA)........  U.S.A. (WA)........  T               ...........     17.95(a)     17.40(a)
                                    yelmensis.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

     3. Amend Sec.  17.40 by adding paragraph (a) to read as follows:


Sec.  17.40  Special rules--mammals.

    (a) Mazama pocket gophers (Olympia, Tenino, Yelm, and Roy Prairie) 
(Thomomys mazama pugetensis, tumuli, yelmensis, and glacialis).
    (1) Which populations of the Mazama pocket gophers are covered by 
this special rule? This rule covers the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies 
of Mazama pocket gopher (Olympia, Tenino, Yelm, and Roy Prairie) 
(Thomomys mazama pugetensis, tumuli, yelmensis, and glacialis) wherever 
they occur.
    (2) What activities are prohibited? Except as noted in paragraphs 
(a)(3)

[[Page 73809]]

through (a)(5) of this section, all prohibitions of Sec.  17.31 will 
apply to the Olympia, Tenino, Yelm, and Roy Prairie pocket gophers.
    (3) What agricultural activities are allowed on non-Federal lands? 
Incidental take of the Olympia, Tenino, Yelm, and Roy Prairie pocket 
gophers will not be a violation of section 9 of the Act, if the 
incidental take results from routine farming, seed nursery, or ranching 
activities located in or adjacent to Mazama pocket gopher habitat on 
non-Federal lands. Routine farming, seed nursery, or ranching 
activities are limited to the following:
    (i) Livestock grazing according to normally acceptable and 
established levels of intensity in terms of the number of head of 
livestock per acre of rangeland.
    (ii) Routine management and maintenance of stock ponds and berms to 
maintain livestock water supplies. Such activities shall not involve 
the use of heavy equipment.
    (iii) Routine maintenance or construction of open-wire fences for 
grazing management.
    (iv) Planting, harvest, or rotation of crops when such activities 
occur between November 1 and February 28 (inclusive).
    (v) Maintenance of livestock management facilities such as corrals, 
sheds, and other ranch outbuildings.
    (vi) Repair and maintenance of unimproved ranch roads. This 
exemption does not include improvement, upgrade, or construction of new 
roads.
    (vii) Discing of fencelines or perimeter areas for fire prevention 
control when such activities occur between November 1 and February 28 
(inclusive).
    (viii) Placement of mineral supplements.
    (ix) Control and management of noxious weeds through mowing, 
herbicide application, and burning. Use of herbicides and burning must 
occur in such a way that nontarget plants are not affected.
    (4) What activities are allowed on airports on non-Federal lands? 
Incidental take of the Olympia, Tenino, Yelm, and Roy Prairie pocket 
gophers will not be a violation of section 9 of the Act, if the 
incidental take results from routine maintenance activities in or 
adjacent to Mazama pocket gopher habitat and associated with airport 
operations located on non-Federal lands. Routine maintenance activities 
include the following and do not involve the use of heavy equipment 
that would crush burrows or compact soils:
    (i) Routine management, repair, and maintenance of roads and 
runways (does not include upgrades, or construction of new roads or 
runways or new development at airports); and
    (ii) Control and management of noxious weeds and grass through 
mowing, herbicide application, or burning. Use of herbicides and 
burning must occur in such a way that nontarget plants are not 
affected.
    (5) What activities are allowed on private land? Incidental take of 
the Olympia, Tenino, Yelm, and Roy Prairie pocket gophers will not be a 
violation of section 9 of the Act, if the incidental take results from 
noncommercial activities that occur in or adjacent to Mazama pocket 
gopher habitat on existing single-family residential properties. These 
activities could include, but are not limited to, the following, and 
must not involve the use of heavy equipment:
    (i) Control and management of invasive plants and grass through 
mowing, herbicide application, or burning. Use of herbicides and 
burning must occur in such a way that nontarget plants are not 
affected;
    (ii) Construction and placement of above-ground fencing, play 
equipment, and dog kennels less than 100 ft\2\ (9.29 m\2\) only if on 
block, or above-ground, footings; and (iii) Construction of carports, 
or storage sheds less than 100 ft\2\ (9.29 m\2\), only if on block, or 
above-ground, footings.
* * * * *
    3. Amend Sec.  17.95(a) by adding entries for ``Olympia pocket 
gopher (Thomomys mazama pugetensis)'', ``Roy Prairie pocket gopher 
(Thomomys mazama glacialis)'', ``Tenino pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama 
tumuli)'', and ``Yelm pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama yelmensis)'' in 
the same order that these species appear in the table in Sec.  
17.11(h), to read as follows:


Sec.  17.95  Critical habitat--fish and wildlife.

    (a) Mammals.
* * * * *

Olympia Pocket Gopher (Thomomys mazama pugetensis)

    (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for Thurston County, 
Washington, on the maps below.
    (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements of the 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of 
Olympia pocket gopher consist of:
    (i) Friable, loamy, and deep soils, some with relatively greater 
content of sand, gravel, or silt, all generally on slopes less than 15 
percent in the following series:
    (A) Alderwood;
    (B) Cagey;
    (D) Everett;
    (E) Indianola;
    (F) McKenna;
    (G) Nisqually;
    (H) Norma;
    (I) Spana;
    (J) Spanaway;
    (K) Spanaway-Nisqually complex; and
    (L) Yelm.
    (ii) Areas equal to or larger than 50 ac (20 ha) in size that 
provide for breeding, foraging, and dispersal activities, found in the 
soil series listed in paragraph (2)(i) of this entry that have:
    (A) Less than 10 percent woody vegetation cover.
    (B) Vegetative cover suitable for foraging by gophers. Pocket 
gophers' diets include a wide variety of plant material, including 
leafy vegetation, succulent roots, shoots, tubers, and grasses. Forbs 
and grasses that Mazama pocket gophers eat are known to include, but 
are not limited to: Achillea millefolium (common yarrow), Agoseris spp. 
(agoseris), Cirsium spp. (thistle), Bromus spp. (brome), Camassia spp. 
(camas), Collomia linearis (tiny trumpet), Epilobium spp. (several 
willowherb spp.), Eriophyllum lanatum (woolly sunflower), Gayophytum 
diffusum (groundsmoke), Hypochaeris radicata (hairy cat's ear), 
Lathyrus spp. (peavine), Lupinus spp. (lupine), Microsteris gracilis 
(slender phlox), Penstemon spp. (penstemon), Perideridia gairdneri 
(Gairdner's yampah), Phacelia heterophylla (varileaf phacelia), 
Polygonum douglasii (knotweed), Potentilla spp. (cinquefoil), Pteridium 
aquilinum (bracken fern), Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion), 
Trifolium spp. (clover), and Viola spp. (violet).
    (C) Few, if any, barriers to dispersal. Barriers to dispersal 
include, but are not limited to: open water; steep slopes (greater than 
35 percent); wide expanses of rhizomatous grasses; concrete; large 
areas of rock; development and buildings; and soils or substrates 
inappropriate for burrowing.
    (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as 
buildings, aqueducts, runways, roads, and other paved areas) and the 
land on which they are located existing within the legal boundaries on 
[ DATE 30 DAYS AFTER DATE OF PUBLICATION OF THE FINAL RULE].
    (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining the map units 
were created on 2010 aerial photography from U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, National Agriculture Imagery Program base maps using 
ArcMap (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.), a computer 
geographic information system (GIS) program. The

[[Page 73810]]

maps in this entry establish the boundaries of the critical habitat 
designation. The coordinates or plot points or both on which each map 
is based are available to the public at the Service's internet site, 
(http://www.fws.gov/wafwo/), Regulations.gov (http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2012-0088), and at the 
field office responsible for this designation. You may obtain field 
office location information by contacting one of the Service regional 
offices, the addresses of which are listed at 50 CFR 2.2.
    (5) Note: Index map follows:
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11DE12.006


[[Page 73811]]


    (6) Unit 1--South Sound, Subunit 1-C: Olympia Airport, Thurston 
County, Washington. Map of Unit 1, Subunit 1-C follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11DE12.007


[[Page 73812]]


    (7) Unit 1--South Sound, Subunit 1-F: West Rocky Prairie, Thurston 
County, Washington. Map of Unit 1, Subunit 1-F follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11DE12.008

BILLING CODE 4310-55-C

[[Page 73813]]


Roy Prairie Pocket Gopher (Thomomys mazama glacialis)

    (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for Thurston and Pierce 
Counties in Washington on the maps below.
    (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements of the 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of Roy 
Prairie pocket gopher consist of:
    (i) Friable, loamy, and deep soils, some with relatively greater 
content of sand, gravel, or silt, all generally on slopes less than 15 
percent in the following series:
    (A) Everett;
    (B) Indianola;
    (C) Nisqually;
    (D) Norma; and
    (E) Spanaway.
    (ii) Areas equal to or larger than 50 ac (20 ha) in size that 
provide for breeding, foraging, and dispersal activities, found in the 
soil series listed in paragraph (2)(i) of this entry that have:
    (A) Less than 10 percent woody vegetation cover.
    (B) Vegetative cover suitable for foraging by gophers. Pocket 
gophers' diets include a wide variety of plant material, including 
leafy vegetation, succulent roots, shoots, tubers, and grasses. Forbs 
and grasses that Mazama pocket gophers are known to eat include, but 
are not limited to: Achillea millefolium (common yarrow), Agoseris spp. 
(agoseris), Cirsium spp. (thistle), Bromus spp. (brome), Camassia spp. 
(camas), Collomia linearis (tiny trumpet), Epilobium spp. (several 
willowherb spp.), Eriophyllum lanatum (woolly sunflower), Gayophytum 
diffusum (groundsmoke), Hypochaeris radicata (hairy cat's ear), 
Lathyrus spp. (peavine), Lupinus spp. (lupine), Microsteris gracilis 
(slender phlox), Penstemon spp. (penstemon), Perideridia gairdneri 
(Gairdner's yampah), Phacelia heterophylla (varileaf phacelia), 
Polygonum douglasii (knotweed), Potentilla spp. (cinquefoil), Pteridium 
aquilinum (bracken fern), Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion), 
Trifolium spp. (clover), and Viola spp. (violet).
    (C) Few, if any, barriers to dispersal. Barriers to dispersal 
include, but are not limited to: open water; steep slopes (greater than 
35 percent); wide expanses of rhizomatous grasses; concrete; large 
areas of rock; development and buildings; and soils or substrates 
inappropriate for burrowing.
    (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as 
buildings, aqueducts, runways, roads, and other paved areas) and the 
land on which they are located existing within the legal boundaries on 
[ DATE 30 DAYS AFTER DATE OF PUBLICATION OF THE FINAL RULE].
    (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining the map units 
were created on 2010 aerial photography from U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, National Agriculture Imagery Program base maps using 
ArcMap (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.), a computer 
geographic information system (GIS) program. The maps in this entry 
establish the boundaries of the critical habitat designation. The 
coordinates or plot points or both on which each map is based are 
available to the public at the Service's internet site, (at http://www.fws.gov/wafwo/), Regulations.gov (http://www.regulations.gov at 
Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2012-0088), and at the field office responsible 
for this designation. You may obtain field office location information 
by contacting one of the Service regional offices, the addresses of 
which are listed at 50 CFR 2.2.

[[Page 73814]]

    (5) Note: Index map follows:
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11DE12.009


[[Page 73815]]


    (6) Unit 1--South Sound. Subunit 1-A: 91st Division Prairie, Pierce 
County, Washington. Map of Unit 1, Subunit 1-A follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11DE12.010


[[Page 73816]]


    (7) Unit 1--South Sound, Subunit 1-B: Marion Prairie, Thurston 
County, Washington. Map of Unit 1, Subunit 1-B follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11DE12.011

BILLING CODE 4310-55-C

[[Page 73817]]


Tenino Pocket Gopher (Thomomys mazama tumuli)

    (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for Thurston County in 
Washington on the maps below.
    (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements of the 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of Tenino 
pocket gopher consist of two components:
    (i) Friable, loamy, and deep soils, some with relatively greater 
content of sand, gravel, or silt, all generally on slopes less than 15 
percent in the following series:
    (A) Everett;
    (B) Nisqually;
    (C) Norma;
    (D) Spanaway; and
    (E) Spanaway-Nisqually complex.
    (ii) Areas equal to or larger than 50 ac (20 ha) in size that 
provide for breeding, foraging, and dispersal activities, found in the 
soil series listed in paragraph (2)(i) of this entry that have:
    (A) Less than 10 percent woody vegetation cover.
    (B) Vegetative cover suitable for foraging by gophers. Pocket 
gophers' diets include a wide variety of plant material, including 
leafy vegetation, succulent roots, shoots, tubers, and grasses. Forbs 
and grasses that Mazama pocket gophers are known to eat include, but 
are not limited to: Achillea millefolium (common yarrow), Agoseris spp. 
(agoseris), Cirsium spp. (thistle), Bromus spp. (brome), Camassia spp. 
(camas), Collomia linearis (tiny trumpet), Epilobium spp. (several 
willowherb spp.), Eriophyllum lanatum (woolly sunflower), Gayophytum 
diffusum (groundsmoke), Hypochaeris radicata (hairy cat's ear), 
Lathyrus spp. (peavine), Lupinus spp. (lupine), Microsteris gracilis 
(slender phlox), Penstemon spp. (penstemon), Perideridia gairdneri 
(Gairdner's yampah), Phacelia heterophylla (varileaf phacelia), 
Polygonum douglasii (knotweed), Potentilla spp. (cinquefoil), Pteridium 
aquilinum (bracken fern), Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion), 
Trifolium spp. (clover), and Viola spp. (violet).
    (C) Few, if any, barriers to dispersal. Barriers to dispersal 
include, but are not limited to: open water; steep slopes (greater than 
35 percent); wide expanses of rhizomatous grasses; concrete; large 
areas of rock; development and buildings; and soils or substrates 
inappropriate for burrowing.
    (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as 
buildings, aqueducts, runways, roads, and other paved areas) and the 
land on which they are located existing within the legal boundaries on 
[ DATE 30 DAYS AFTER DATE OF PUBLICATION OF THE FINAL RULE].
    (4) Critical habitat map unit. Data layers defining the map unit 
were created on 2010 aerial photography from U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, National Agriculture Imagery Program base maps using 
ArcMap (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.), a computer 
geographic information system (GIS) program. The maps in this entry 
establish the boundaries of the critical habitat designation. The 
coordinates or plot points or both on which each map is based are 
available to the public at the Service's internet site, (http://www.fws.gov/wafwo/), Regulations.gov (http://www.regulations.gov at 
Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2012-0088), and at the field office responsible 
for this designation. You may obtain field office location information 
by contacting one of the Service regional offices, the addresses of 
which are listed at 50 CFR 2.2.

[[Page 73818]]

    (5) Note: Index map follows:
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11DE12.012


[[Page 73819]]


    (6) Unit 1--South Sound. Subunit 1-D: Rocky Prairie, Thurston 
County, Washington. Map of Unit 1, Subunit 1-D follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11DE12.013

BILLING CODE 4310-55-C

[[Page 73820]]


Yelm Pocket Gopher (Thomomys mazama yelmensis)

    (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for Thurston and Pierce 
Counties in Washington on the maps below.
    (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements of the 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the 
Yelm pocket gopher consist of two components:
    (i) Friable, loamy, and deep soils, some with relatively greater 
content of sand, gravel, or silt, all generally on slopes less than 15 
percent in the following series:
    (A) Alderwood;
    (B) Everett;
    (C) Godfrey;
    (D) Kapowsin;
    (E) McKenna;
    (F) Nisqually;
    (G) Norma;
    (H) Spana;
    (I) Spanaway;
    (J) Spanaway-Nisqually complex; and
    (K) Yelm.
    (ii) Areas equal to or larger than 50 ac (20 ha) in size that 
provide for breeding, foraging, and dispersal activities, found in the 
soil series listed in paragraph (2)(i) of this entry that have:
    (A) Less than 10 percent woody vegetation cover.
    (B)Vegetative cover suitable for foraging by gophers. Pocket 
gophers' diets include a wide variety of plant material, including 
leafy vegetation, succulent roots, shoots, tubers, and grasses. Forbs 
and grasses that Mazama pocket gophers are known to eat include, but 
are not limited to: Achillea millefolium (common yarrow), Agoseris spp. 
(agoseris), Cirsium spp. (thistle), Bromus spp. (brome), Camassia spp. 
(camas), Collomia linearis (tiny trumpet), Epilobium spp. (several 
willowherb spp.), Eriophyllum lanatum (woolly sunflower), Gayophytum 
diffusum (groundsmoke), Hypochaeris radicata (hairy cat's ear), 
Lathyrus spp. (peavine), Lupinus spp. (lupine), Microsteris gracilis 
(slender phlox), Penstemon spp. (penstemon), Perideridia gairdneri 
(Gairdner's yampah), Phacelia heterophylla (varileaf phacelia), 
Polygonum douglasii (knotweed), Potentilla spp. (cinquefoil), Pteridium 
aquilinum (bracken fern), Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion), 
Trifolium spp. (clover), and Viola spp. (violet).
    (C) Few, if any, barriers to dispersal. Barriers to dispersal 
include, but are not limited to: open water; steep slopes (greater than 
35 percent); wide expanses of rhizomatous grasses; concrete; large 
areas of rock; development and buildings; and soils or substrates 
inappropriate for burrowing.
    (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as 
buildings, aqueducts, runways, roads, and other paved areas) and the 
land on which they are located existing within the legal boundaries on 
[ DATE 30 DAYS AFTER DATE OF PUBLICATION OF FINAL RULE].
    (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining the map unit 
were created on 2010 aerial photography from U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, National Agriculture Imagery Program base maps using 
ArcMap (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.), a computer 
geographic information system (GIS) program. The maps in this entry 
establish the boundaries of the critical habitat designation. The 
coordinates or plot points or both on which each map is based are 
available to the public at the Service's internet site, (http://www.fws.gov/wafwo/), Regulations.gov (http://www.regulations.gov at 
Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2012-0088), and at the field office responsible 
for this designation. You may obtain field office location information 
by contacting one of the Service regional offices, the addresses of 
which are listed at 50 CFR 2.2.

[[Page 73821]]

    (5) Note: Index map follows:
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11DE12.014

    (6) Unit 1--South Sound, Subunit 1-A: 91 St Division Prairie, 
Pierce County, Washington. Map of Unit 1, Subunit 1-A is provided at 
paragraph (6) of the entry for the Roy Prairie pocket gopher.
    (7) Unit 1--South Sound, Subunit 1-B: Marion Prairie, Pierce 
County, Washington. Map of Unit 1, Subunit 1-B, is provided at 
paragraph (7) of the entry for the Roy Prairie pocket gopher.
    (8) Unit 1--South Sound, Subunit 1-C: Olympia Airport, Thurston 
County, Washington. Map of Unit 1, Subunit 1-C is provided at paragraph 
(6) of the entry for the Olympia pocket gopher.
    (9) Unit 1--South Sound, Subunit 1-D: West Rocky Prairie, Thurston 
County, Washington. Map of Unit 1, Subunit 1-D is provided at paragraph 
(6) of the entry for the Tenino pocket gopher.

[[Page 73822]]

    (10) Unit 1--South Sound, Subunit 1-E: Tenalquot Prairie, Thurston 
County, Washington. Map of Unit 1, Subunit 1-E follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11DE12.015


[[Page 73823]]


    (11) Unit 1--South Sound, Subunit 1-G: Scatter Creek, Thurston 
County, Washington. Map of Unit 1, Subunit 1-G follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11DE12.016


[[Page 73824]]


    (12) Unit 1--South Sound, Subunit 1-H: Rock Prairie, Thurston 
County, Washington. Map of Unit 1, Subunit 1-H follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11DE12.017


[[Page 73825]]


* * * * *

    Dated: November 27, 2012.
Rachel Jacobson,
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2012-29335 Filed 12-10-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-C