[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 78 (Tuesday, April 23, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 23983-24005]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-09409]



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Vol. 78

Tuesday,

No. 78

April 23, 2013

Part II





 Department of the Interior





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 Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





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

Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 78 / Tuesday, April 23, 2013 / Rules 
and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2012-0017; 4500030113]
RIN 1018-AX72


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

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, determine to list 
Umtanum desert buckwheat (Eriogonum codium) and White Bluffs bladderpod 
(Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis) as threatened, under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). This final rule 
implements the Federal protections provided by the Act for these 
species.

DATES: This rule becomes effective on May 23, 2013.

ADDRESSES: This final rule, comments and materials received, as well as 
supporting documentation used in preparing this rule, are available on 
the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and at http://www.fws.gov/wafwo/HanfordPlants. These documents are also available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond 
Drive SE., Suite 102, Lacey, WA 98503-1263; (360) 753-9440 (telephone); 
(360) 753-9008 (facsimile).

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Executive Summary

    Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Endangered Species Act 
(Act), a species warrants protection through listing if it is 
currently, or is likely to become, in danger of extinction throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range. Listing a species as an 
endangered or threatened species can only be completed by issuing a 
rule.
    Purpose of Rule: This rule will list Umtanum desert buckwheat and 
White Bluffs bladderpod as threatened under the Act because both 
species are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future 
due to continued threats.
    The basis for our action. Under the Endangered Species Act, we can 
determine that a species is an endangered or threatened species based 
on any of five factors: (A) Destruction, modification, or curtailment 
of its habitat or range; (B) Overuse; (C) Disease or predation; (D) 
Inadequate existing regulations; or (E) Other natural or manmade 
factors. We have determined that Umtanum desert buckwheat is threated 
by wildfire, nonnative plants, seed predation, small population size, 
limited geographic range, and low recruitment. White Bluffs bladderpod 
is threatened by wildfire, irrigation-induced landslides and slope 
failure, harm by recreational activities and off-road vehicle use, 
nonnative plants, small population size, and limited geographic range.
    Peer review and public comment. We sought comments from independent 
specialists to ensure that our designation is based on scientifically 
sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We invited these peer reviewers 
to comment on our listing proposal. We also considered all comments and 
information received during the public comment period.

Background

    It is our intent to discuss only those topics directly relevant to 
the listing determinations for Umtanum desert buckwheat and White 
Bluffs bladderpod in this final rule. A summary of topics relevant to 
this final rule is provided below. Additional information on both 
species may be found in the Candidate Notice of Review, which was 
published October 26, 2011 (76 FR 66370).

Geography, Climate, and Landscape Setting

    Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod are found only 
on the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, the last free-flowing 
stretch of the Columbia River within U.S. borders. The Hanford Reach 
lies within the semi-arid shrub steppe Pasco Basin of the Columbia 
Plateau in south-central Washington State. The region's climate is 
influenced by the Pacific Ocean, the Cascade Mountain Range to the 
west, and other mountain ranges located to the north and east. The 
Pacific Ocean moderates temperatures throughout the Pacific Northwest, 
and the Cascade Range generates a rain shadow that limits rain and 
snowfall in the eastern half of Washington State. The Cascade Range 
also serves as a source of cold air, which has a considerable effect on 
the wind regime on the Hanford reach. Daily maximum temperatures vary 
from an average of 1.7 [deg]Celsius (C) (35 [deg]Fahrenheit (F)) in 
late December and early January, to 36 [deg]C (96 [deg]F) in late July. 
The Hanford Reach is generally quite arid, with an average annual 
precipitation of 16 centimeters (cm) (6.3 inches (in)). The relative 
humidity at the Hanford Reach is highest during the winter months, 
averaging about 76 percent, and lowest during the summer, averaging 
about 36 percent. Average snowfall ranges from 0.25 cm (0.1 in) in 
October to a maximum of 13.2 cm (5.2 in) in December, decreasing to 1.3 
cm (0.5 in) in March. Snowfall accounts for about 38 percent of all 
precipitation from December through February (USFWS 2008, pp. 3.8-
3.10).
    The Hanford Reach National Monument (Monument), which includes 
approximately 78,780 hectares (ha) (195,000 acres (ac)), contains much 
of the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River. All of the land is owned by 
the Department of Energy (DOE) and was formerly part of the 145,440-ha 
(360,000-ac) Hanford Site. The Hanford Site was established by the U.S. 
Government in 1943 as a national security area for the production of 
weapons grade plutonium and purification facilities. For more than 40 
years, the primary mission at Hanford was associated with the 
production of nuclear materials for national defense. However, large 
tracts of land were used as protective buffer zones for safety and 
security purposes, and remained relatively undisturbed.
    The Monument was established by Presidential Proclamation in June 
2000, to connect these tracts of land, protecting the river reach and 
the largest remnant of the shrub steppe ecosystem in the Columbia River 
Basin. The Hanford Reach National Monument Proclamation identifies 
several nationally significant resources, including a diversity of rare 
native plant and animal species, such as Umtanum desert buckwheat and 
White Bluffs bladderpod (USFWS 2008, p. 1-4). The Proclamation also 
sets forth specific management actions and mechanisms that are to be 
followed: (1) Federal lands are withdrawn from disposition under public 
land laws, including all interests in these lands, such as future 
mining claims; (2) off-road vehicle use is prohibited; (3) the ability 
to apply for water rights is established; (4) grazing is

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prohibited; (5) the Service and DOE (subject to certain provisions) are 
established as managers of the Monument; (6) a land management transfer 
mechanism from the DOE to the Service is established; (7) cleanup and 
restoration activities are assured; and (8) existing rights, including 
tribal rights, are protected.
    All lands included in the Hanford Reach National Monument are 
Federal lands under the primary jurisdiction of the DOE. Approximately 
66,660 ha (165,000 ac) of these acres are currently managed as an 
overlay refuge by the Service through agreements with the DOE. Overlay 
refuges exist where the Service manages lands for the benefit of fish 
and wildlife resources, but is not the primary holder in fee title of 
lands forming the refuge (USFWS 2008, p. 1-7). Because the Monument is 
administered as a component of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the 
legal mandates and policies that apply to any national wildlife refuge 
apply to the Monument. The Proclamation directs the DOE and the Service 
to protect and conserve the area's native plant communities, 
specifically recognizing the area's biologically diverse shrub steppe 
ecosystem (USFWS 2008, pp. 1.21, 3.5). The DOE manages approximately 
11,716 ha (29,000 ac) of land within the Monument and retains land 
surface ownership or control on all Monument acreage. Thus, the Service 
and DOE have joint management responsibility for the Monument.
    The parcel of land where Umtanum desert buckwheat occurs is on part 
of what was historically called the McGee Ranch, a historical homestead 
of more than 364 ha (900 ac) within the greater Hanford installation. 
Management of this parcel has been retained by DOE due to unresolved 
issues related to contaminants. This situation is expected to be 
resolved over time, and management conveyed to the Service, since this 
area is not essential to the operation of the Hanford facility. Umtanum 
desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod both occur in narrow, 
linear bands on bluffs above and on opposite sides of the Columbia 
River. The populations are approximately 15 kilometers (km) (9 miles 
(mi)) apart, and although relatively near to each other, their habitat 
has a widely disparate geologic history and subsequent soil 
development. These conditions create unique habitats and substrates 
that support these and other rare endemic plants (see Species 
Information sections) within the Hanford Reach.
Previous Federal Actions
    Candidate History: Umtanum desert buckwheat (Eriogonum codium) and 
White Bluffs bladderpod (formerly Lesquerella tuplashensis, now 
Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis (see ``Taxonomy'' section 
below)), were identified as candidates for possible addition to the 
Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants in our Annual 
Candidate Notice of Review, published in the Federal Register on 
October 25, 1999 (64 FR 57542). We refer to both species by their 
common names throughout this rule. Both species were given a Listing 
Priority Number (LPN) of 5 at that time; the LPN is assigned to a 
species based on the immediacy and magnitude of threats and the 
species' taxonomic status. In 1999, threats to both species were 
considered to be of high magnitude, but not imminent. However, in 2002, 
the LPN for Umtanum desert buckwheat was revised to LPN 2, which is 
assigned when threats to a species are of high magnitude and imminence 
(67 FR 40663; June 13, 2002), based on new information revealing low 
reproduction for the species. The LPN for White Bluffs bladderpod was 
revised to LPN 9 in 2009 (74 FR 57810; November 9, 2009), to reflect 
new information indicating threats were now moderate to low in 
magnitude and imminence. In 2009, the Service completed a Spotlight 
Species Action Plan for White Bluffs bladderpod to set conservation 
targets and identify actions to achieve those targets for the next 5 
years. This plan can be found on the Service's Web site at: http://www.fws.gov/ecos/ajax/docs/action_plans/doc3090.pdf. The 2011 Notice 
of Review, published October 26, 2011 (76 FR 66370), included Umtanum 
desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod; both species have been 
maintained as candidates since 1999.
    Petition History: On May 4, 2004, the Service received a petition 
requesting that Umtanum desert buckwheat, White Bluffs bladderpod, and 
several other species be listed as endangered under the Act (Center for 
Biological Diversity et al. [CBD] 2004, pp. 49, 100). On July 12, 2011, 
the Service filed a multiyear work plan as part of a settlement 
agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and others in 
a consolidated case in the U.S. District Court for the District of 
Columbia. The settlement agreement was approved by the court on 
September 9, 2011, and will enable the Service to systematically review 
and address the conservation needs of more than 250 species, over a 
period of 6 years, including Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs 
bladderpod.
    We proposed listing Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs 
bladderpod as threatened under the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) with 
critical habitat (77 FR 28704) on May 15, 2012, and announced the 
availability of a draft economic analysis. Proposed critical habitat 
included shrub steppe habitats within Benton County, Washington, for 
Umtanum desert buckwheat, and within Franklin County, Washington, for 
White Bluffs bladderpod. The final critical habitat rule can be found 
elsewhere in today's Federal Register.
Species Information

Umtanum Desert Buckwheat

    Umtanum desert buckwheat is a long-lived, woody perennial plant 
that forms low mats. Individual plants may exceed 100 years of age, 
based on counts of annual growth rings on cross sections of the main 
stems of recently dead plants. Growth rates are also extremely slow, 
with stem diameters increasing an average of only 0.17 millimeters (mm) 
(0.007 in) per year (The Nature Conservancy (TNC) 1998, p. 9; Dunwiddie 
et al. 2001, p. 62). A detailed description of the identifying 
characteristics of Umtanum desert buckwheat is found in Reveal et al. 
(1995, pp. 350-351). Umtanum desert buckwheat is State-listed as 
Endangered, with a G1 (i.e., critically imperiled world-wide, and 
particularly vulnerable to extinction) global ranking and an S1 (i.e., 
critically imperiled State-wide, and particularly vulnerable to 
extinction) State ranking (WDNR 2011a, p. 5).

Taxonomy

    In 1995, Florence Caplow and Kathryn Beck resumed large-scale rare 
plant surveys on the Hanford Site that were initiated in 1994 by TNC 
and the DOE, as part of the Hanford Biodiversity Project. Two 
previously undescribed plant taxa were discovered, including Umtanum 
desert buckwheat (Caplow and Beck 1996, p. 5). The species was fully 
described in Reveal et al. (1995), and the current nomenclature has 
been unchallenged since that time. Umtanum desert buckwheat is 
recognized as a distinct species, and there is no known controversy 
concerning its taxonomy.

Habitat/Life History

    Umtanum desert buckwheat was discovered in 1995 during a botanical 
survey of the Hanford installation (Reveal et al. 1995, p. 353), and is 
found exclusively on soils over exposed basalt from the Lolo Flow of 
the Wanapum

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Basalt Formation. As the basalt of the Lolo Flow weathers, a rocky soil 
type is formed that is classified as lithosol, a term describing the 
well-drained, shallow, generally stony soils over bedrock (Franklin and 
Dyrness 1973, p. 347), and talus slopes associated with eroding 
outcrops and cliffs. These cliffs (scarps), and loose rock at the base 
of cliffs or on slopes (defined as scree) are found along the crests 
and slopes of local hills and ridges, including east Umtanum Ridge, 
where Umtanum desert buckwheat occurs. This type of landform in the 
Columbia Basin is determined by the underlying basalts, which may be 
exposed above the soil on ridge tops or where wind and water erode the 
fine soils away (Sackschewski and Downs 2001, p. 2.1.1).
    The Lolo Flow contains higher levels of titanium dioxide and lower 
levels of iron oxide than the neighboring Rosalia Flow, also of the 
Priest Rapids Member. The flow top material commonly has a high 
porosity and permeability and has weathered to pebble and gravel-sized 
pieces of vesicular basalt (Reveal et al. 1995, p. 354). This basalt 
typically contains small (< 5 mm (0.2 in)) crystals of the mineral 
olivine and rare clusters of plagioclase crystals (Reidel and Fecht 
1981, pp. 3-13). It is unknown if the close association of Umtanum 
desert buckwheat with the lithosols of the Lolo Flow is related to the 
chemical composition or physical characteristics of the bedrock on 
which it is found, or a combination of factors not currently understood 
(Reveal et al. 1995, p. 354).
    Preliminary counts indicate that seed set occurs in approximately 
10 percent of flowers observed, potentially limiting reproductive 
capacity. Based on a pollinator exclusion study (Beck 1999, pp. 25-27), 
the species is probably capable of at least limited amounts of self-
pollination, although the percentage of seed set in the absence of 
pollinators appears to be low. A variety of insect pollinators were 
observed on Umtanum desert buckwheat flowers, including ants, beetles, 
flies, spiders, moths and butterflies (TNC 1998, p. 8). Wasps from the 
families Vespidae and Typhiidae and a wasp from the species Criosciolia 
have been observed in the vicinity of Umtanum desert buckwheat, but not 
on the plant itself. A bumble bee, Bombus centralis, has been observed 
by Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) specialists 
utilizing flowers of Umtanum desert buckwheat plants (Arnett 2011b, 
pers. comm.).
    Common perennial plant associates of Umtanum desert buckwheat 
include Artemisia tridentata (big sagebrush), Grayia spinosa (spiny 
hopsage), Krascheninnikovia lanata (winterfat), Eriogonum 
sphaerocephalum (rock buckwheat), Salvia dorrii (purple sage), 
Hesperostipa comata (needle and thread), Pseudoroegneria spicata 
(bluebunch wheatgrass), Poa secunda (Sandberg's bluegrass), Sphaeralcea 
munroana (Munro's Globemallow), Astragalus caricinus (buckwheat 
milkvetch), and Balsamorhiza careyana (Carey's balsamroot). Common 
annual associates include Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass), Sisymbrium 
altissimum (tumblemustard), Phacelia linearis (threadleaf phacelia), 
Aliciella leptomeria (sand gilia). Aliciella sinuata (shy gilia), 
Camissonia minor (small evening primrose), and Cryptantha pterocarya 
(wingnut cryptantha).

Historical Range/Distribution

    The only known population of Umtanum desert buckwheat occurs along 
the top edges of the steep slopes on Umtanum Ridge, a wide mountain 
ridge in Benton County, Washington, where it has a discontinuous 
distribution along a narrow (25-150 m (82-492 ft) wide by 1.6 km (1 mi) 
long) portion of the ridge (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 59). The species 
was discovered in 1995 (Reveal et al. 1995, p. 354), and there are no 
verified records of any collections prior to that year.

Current Range/Distribution

    It is unknown if the historic distribution of Umtanum desert 
buckwheat was different than the species' current distribution, but it 
is likely the species has been confined to this location during at 
least the last 150 years, as annual growth ring counts from fire-killed 
plants revealed individual ages in excess of 100 years. Individual 
plants with greater stem diameters (and, therefore, presumably older) 
are present, which supports the 150-year minimum locality occupation 
estimate.

Population Estimates/Status

    The only known population of Umtanum desert buckwheat was fully 
censused (an accounting of the number of all individuals in a 
population) in 1995, 1997, 2005, and 2011 (see Table 1). In 1995, 
researchers counted 4,917 living individual plants, and in 1997, 
researchers counted 5,228 individuals (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 61). 
The 1995 census was ``roughly counted'' (Beck 1999, p. 3) (i.e., there 
was a greater degree of estimation), while the 1997 count was more 
precise. In addition, the 1995 count may have overlooked an isolated 
patch with 79 plants to the east that was discovered in 2011. It is not 
uncommon for estimated population counts to be substantially lower than 
precise counts (Arnett 2011a, pers. comm.).

      Table 1--Umtanum Desert Buckwheat Population Counts 1995-2011
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                           Total plants
                       Census year                            counted
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1995....................................................           4,917
1997....................................................           5,228
2005....................................................           4,408
2011....................................................           5,169
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    After a wildfire in 1997 burned through a portion of the 
population, a subsequent count found 5,228 living and 813 dead 
individual plants. A minimum of 75 percent of the 813 dead individual 
plants died as a direct result of the fire (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 
61). No survival or resprouting was noted in fire-killed plants in 
following years. Because a more accurate count was used to derive the 
number of dead individual plants (Beck 1999, p. 3), this total 
represents a fairly precise measure of the impact of the 1997 wildfire 
on Umtanum desert buckwheat (Arnett 2011a, pers. comm.), although it is 
likely some plants were totally consumed by the fire and thereby 
unidentifiable.
    In 2005, researchers reported 4,408 living plants (Caplow 2005, p. 
1), which represents a 15 percent decline in the population over an 8-
year period. However, this result likely reflects some variability in 
how the census was performed over the years since the species was 
discovered in 1995. On July 12, 2011, a complete population census was 
conducted, which recorded 5,169 living individuals. This count was 
somewhat higher than average, which could be attributable to a more 
thorough census, the identification of plant clusters not previously 
documented, and the recording of larger clumps as containing more than 
one individual plant. These clumps were likely counted as individual 
plants in previous counts (Arnett 2011a, pers. comm.).
    Demographic monitoring of the largest subpopulation within the main 
population commenced in 1997, and demonstrated an average 2 percent 
annual mortality of adult flowering plants. During the 9 years of 
monitoring, only 4 or 5 seedlings have been observed to survive beyond 
the year of their germination (Kaye 2007, p. 5). Since 2007, the 
demographic monitoring plots continue to reflect population declines 
and minimal recruitment (Arnett 2011b, pers. comm.). Dunwiddie et al. 
(2001, p. 67) documented a lack of plants in the

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smallest size classes and the absence of any seed survival over 1 year. 
Their data did not indicate any spikes or gaps in the size distribution 
of plants that might reflect years of unusually high or low recruitment 
of plants, although evidence of such could have been obscured by the 
variable growth rates of the plants. Populations of long-lived species 
with low adult mortality can survive with relatively low recruitment 
rates (Harper 1977 in Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 67). Further, the 
survival of a few seedlings each year may be sufficient to replace the 
occasional adult that dies, or alternatively, an occasional bumper crop 
of seedlings surviving to maturity during several favorable years may 
ensure the long-term survival of the population (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, 
p. 67). However, no demographic data supported either of these 
scenarios for this species (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 67).
    An unpublished draft population viability analysis (PVA) was 
completed in 2007 by Thomas Kaye (2007, p. 5), based on 9 years of 
demographic data. A PVA is a quantitative analysis of population 
dynamics, with the goal of assessing the risk of extinction of a 
species. The 2007 study, which took into account observed environmental 
variability, determined there was little or no risk of a 90 percent 
population decline within the next 100 years; an approximate 13 percent 
chance of a decline of 50 percent of the population over the next 50 
years; and a 72 percent chance of a 50 percent decline within the next 
100 years. The PVA concluded the decline is gradual, consistent with 
the decline noted by Caplow (2005, p. 1) between 1997 and 2005, and 
will likely take several decades to impact the population (Kaye 2007, 
p. 7). Although census data indicates more individuals in 2011 compared 
to the number of individuals in 1995 and 2005, this increase likely 
reflects some variability in how the census was performed. The 
inflorescence for Umtanum desert buckwheat consists of a cluster of 
flowers arranged on a main stem or branch. As stated earlier, the fact 
that the 2011 census was somewhat higher than previous plant counts may 
be attributable to the identification of plant clusters not previously 
documented, or individually counting plants present in plant clusters 
(rather than counting the cluster itself as one plant) (Arnett 2011a, 
pers. comm.). Since 1995, numerous surveys have been conducted at other 
locations within the lower Columbia River Basin, within every habitat 
type that appears to be suitable for Umtanum desert buckwheat. However 
no other populations or individuals have been found to date.
Species Information

White Bluffs Bladderpod

    White Bluffs bladderpod is a low-growing, herbaceous, perennial 
plant with a sturdy tap root and a dense rosette of broad gray-green 
pubescent leaves (WDNR 2010). The subspecies produces showy yellow 
flowers on relatively short stems in May, June, and July. The 
subspecies inhabits dry, steep upper zone and top exposures of the 
White Bluffs area of the Hanford Reach at the lower edge of the Wahluke 
Slope. Along these bluffs, a layer of highly alkaline, fossilized 
cemented calcium carbonate (caliche) soil has been exposed (Rollins et 
al. 1996, pp. 203-205). A detailed description of the identifying 
physical characteristics of White Bluffs bladderpod is in Rollins et 
al. (1996, pp. 203-205) and Al-Shehbaz and O'Kane (2002, pp. 319-320). 
White Bluffs bladderpod is State-listed as Threatened, with a G2 (i.e., 
imperiled world-wide, vulnerable to extinction) global ranking and an 
S2 (i.e., vulnerable to extirpation) State ranking (WDNR 2011).

Taxonomy

    Although specimens of this taxon were originally collected from a 
population in 1883, the plant material was in poor condition, no 
definitive identification could be made, and the plant was not 
recognized as a species at that time. The population was rediscovered 
in 1994, and was described and published as a species, Lesquerella 
tuplashensis, by Rollins et al. (1996, pp. 319-322). A petition 
requesting that L. tuplashensis be listed as endangered under the Act 
stated that ``the taxonomic status of Eriogonum codium (Polygonaceae) 
as a valid species is uncontroversial (e.g., Reveal et al. 1996; 
Kartesz 1998)'' (Center for Biological Diversity et al. [CBD] 2004, pp. 
49, 100). Since then, the nomenclature and taxonomy of the species have 
been investigated.
    In a general paper on the taxonomy of Physaria and Lesquerella, 
O'Kane and Al-Shehbaz (2002, p. 321) combined the genera Lesquerella 
and Physaria and reduced the species Lesquerella tuplashensis to 
Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis (O'Kane and Al-Shehbaz (2002, p. 
322)), providing strong molecular, morphological, distributional, and 
ecological data to support the union of the two genera.
    Rollins and Shaw (1973, entire) took a wide view of the degree of 
differentiation between species and subspecies (or varieties) of 
Lesquerella, although many species of Lesquerella are differentiated by 
only one or two stable characters. The research of Rollins et al. 
(1996, pp. 205-206) recognized that, although L. tuplashensis and L. 
douglasii were quite similar, they differed sufficiently in morphology 
and phenological traits to warrant recognition as two distinct species. 
Simmons (2000, p. 75) suggested in a Ph.D. thesis that L. tuplashensis 
may be an ecotype of the more common L. douglasii. Caplow et al. (2006, 
pp. 8-10) later argued that L. tuplashensis was sufficiently different 
from douglasii to warrant a species rank because it: (1) Was 
morphologically distinct, differed in stipe (a supporting stalk or 
stem-like structure) length and length-to-width ratio of stem leaves, 
and had statistically significant differences in all other measured 
characters; (2) was reproductively isolated from L. douglasii by 
nonoverlapping habitat and differences in phenology for virtually all 
L. tuplashensis plants; and (3) had clear differences in the ecological 
niche between the two taxa.
    Based on molecular, morphological, phenological, reproductive, and 
ecological data, the conclusions in Al-Shehbaz and O'Kane (2002, p. 
322) and Caplow et al. (2006, pp. 8-10) combining the genera 
Lesquerella and Physaria and reducing the species Lesquerella 
tuplashensis to Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis, provide the 
most consistent and compelling information available to date. 
Therefore, we consider the White Bluffs bladderpod a subspecies of the 
species Physaria douglasii, with the scientific name Physaria douglasii 
subspecies tuplashensis.

Habitat/Life History

    The only known population of White Bluffs bladderpod is found 
primarily on near-vertical exposures of weathered, cemented, alkaline, 
calcium carbonate paleosol (ancient, buried soil whose composition may 
reflect a climate significantly different from the climate now 
prevalent in the area) (http://www.alcwin.org/Dictionary_Of_Geology_Description-84-P.htm). The hardened carbonate paleosol caps several 
hundred feet of alkaline, easily eroded, lacustrine sediments of the 
Ringold Formation, a sedimentary formation made up of soft Pleistocene 
deposits of clay, gravel, sand, and silt (Newcomb 1958, p. 328). The 
uppermost part of the Ringold Formation is a heavily calcified and 
silicified cap layer to a depth of at least 4.6 m (15 ft). This layer 
is commonly called ``caliche'' although in this case, it

[[Page 23988]]

lacks the nitrate constituents found in true caliche. The ``caliche'' 
layer is a resistant caprock underlying the approximately 274-304 m 
(900-1,000 ft) elevation (above sea level) plateau extending north and 
east from the White Bluffs (Newcomb 1958, p. 330). The White Bluffs 
bladderpod may be an obligate calciphile, as are many of the endemic 
Lesquerella (now Physaria) (Caplow 2006, pp. 2-12). The habitat of 
White Bluffs bladderpod is arid, and vegetative cover is sparse 
(Rollins et al. 1996, p. 206).
    Common associated plant species include: Artemisia tridentata (big 
sagebrush), Poa secunda (Sandberg's bluegrass), Bromus tectorum 
(cheatgrass), Astragalus caricinus (buckwheat milk-vetch), Eriogonum 
microthecum (slender buckwheat), Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian 
ricegrass), and Cryptantha spiculifera (Snake River cryptantha). 
Occasionally, White Bluffs bladderpod is numerous enough at some 
locations to be subdominant.
    Because of its recent discovery and limited range, little is known 
of the subspecies' life-history requirements. In a presentation of 
preliminary life-history studies, Dunwiddie et al. (2002, p. 7) 
reported that most individuals reach reproductive condition in their 
first or second year, most adult plants flower every year, and the 
lifespan of this short-lived subspecies is probably 4 to 5 years. The 
population size appears to vary from year to year (see Table 2), and 
the survival of seedlings and adults appears to be highly variable 
(Dunwiddie et al. 2002, p. 8); however, more monitoring is needed to 
determine the magnitude and frequency of high- and low-number years, as 
well as to obtain an understanding of the causes of these annual 
fluctuations (Evans et al. 2003, p. 64). Monitoring by Monument staff 
(Newsome 2011, p. 5) suggests that the annual population fluctuations 
appear to be tied to environmental conditions, such as seasonal 
precipitation and temperature.

Historical Range/Distribution

    In 1996, White Bluffs bladderpod was only known from a single 
population that occurred along the upper edge of the White Bluffs of 
the Columbia River in Franklin County, Washington. The population was 
described to occur intermittently in a narrow band (usually less than 
10 m (33 ft) wide) along an approximately 17-km (10.6-mi) stretch of 
the river bluffs (Rollins et al. 1996, p. 205).

Current Range/Distribution

    White Bluffs bladderpod is still known only from the single 
population that occurs along the upper edge of the White Bluffs of the 
Columbia River, Franklin County, Washington, although the full extent 
of the subspecies' occurrence has now been described. Most of the 
subspecies distribution (85 percent) is within lands owned by the 
Department of Energy (DOE) and once managed by the Washington 
Department of Fish and Wildlife as the Wahluke Wildlife Area (USFWS 
2008, p. 1-3). This land remains under DOE ownership, and is managed by 
the Monument. The remainder of the subspecies' distribution is on 
private land (Newsome 2011, pers. comm.) and WDNR land (Arnett 2012, 
pers. comm.).

     Table 2--Estimated* Population Size of White Bluffs Bladderpod
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                               10-Transect   20-Transect
                    Year                         sample        sample
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1997........................................        14,034           N/A
1998........................................        31,013        32,603
1999........................................        20,354        21,699
2002........................................        11,884        12,038
2007........................................        29,334        28,618
2008........................................        16,928        18,400
2009........................................        16,569        20,028
2010........................................         9,650         9,949
2011........................................        47,593        58,887
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Mean number of plants per transect x total number of transects along
  permanent 100-m (328-ft) monitoring transects (from Newsome 2011, p.
  3). An additional 20-transect sample was added to monitoring after
  1997 to increase statistical confidence.

Population Estimates/Status

    The size of the population varies considerably between years. 
Censuses in the late 1990s estimated more than 50,000 flowering plants 
in high population years (Evans et al. 2003, p. 3-2) (see Table 2). 
Since 1997 to 1998 when the monitoring transects currently used were 
selected, the population ranged between an estimated low of 9,650 
plants in 2010 to an estimated high of 58,887 plants in 2011 (see Table 
2). Following the monitoring period in 2007, a large wildfire burned 
through the northern portion of the population within the monitoring 
transects. Annual monitoring was conducted through 2011 to attempt to 
determine the effects of fire on White Bluffs bladderpod. The 
monitoring results indicated that when burned and unburned transects 
were compared, plants in burned transects appear to have rebounded to 
some extent (Newsome 2011, p. 5), although the data have too much 
variability to discern that difference. However, the burned transects 
appeared to have a mean of 24 percent fewer plants than in the unburned 
transects.
    The high variability in estimated population numbers was confirmed 
by the 2011 data, which documented the highest population estimate 
since monitoring began in 1997, even though it immediately followed the 
year representing the lowest estimate (2010). May 2011 was identified 
by the Hanford Meteorological Station (http://www.hanford.gov/page.cfm/HMS) as the fifth coolest and seventh wettest month of May recorded on 
the installation since its establishment in 1944 (Newsome 2011, p. 2). 
This environment likely provided ideal conditions for germination, 
growth, and flowering for this year's population following a rather 
moist fall and mild winter season (Autumn 2010 precipitation was 4.6 cm 
(21.8 inches) above average; winter 2011 precipitation was 0.6 cm (0.24 
inches) below average.) (http://ww.hanford.gov/page.cfm/hms/products/seaprcp).

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    In the proposed rule published on May 15, 2012 (77 FR 28704), we 
requested that all interested parties submit written comments on the 
proposal by July 16, 2012. We also contacted appropriate Federal and 
State agencies, scientific experts and organizations, and other 
interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposal. We did 
not receive any requests for a public hearing.
    During the comment period, we received two public comment letters 
addressing the proposed listing. All substantive information provided 
during the comment periods has either been incorporated directly into 
this final determination or is addressed below.
Peer Review
    In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 
(59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinions from five knowledgeable 
individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with 
the species, regional botanical knowledge, the geographical region in 
which the species occur, and conservation biology principles. We 
received responses from four of the peer reviewers.
    We reviewed all comments received from peer reviewers for 
substantive issues and new information regarding the proposed listing 
for the two plant species. The peer reviewers generally concurred with 
our methods and conclusions, and provided editorial comments, taxonomic 
clarifications, additional citations, and information on

[[Page 23989]]

species distribution, arid lands ecology, geology, and habitat 
associations to improve the final rule. These comments have been 
incorporated into the final rule, but have not been individually 
addressed below. The more substantive peer reviewer comments are 
addressed in the following summary and have been incorporated into the 
final rule as appropriate.
Peer Reviewer Comments
    (1) Comment: One peer reviewer presented recommendations with 
regard to the control of invasive plant species and the use of 
herbicides, in light of their effects on pollinators. He also 
recommended the development of a detailed plan that explicitly 
describes how noxious and invasive weeds such as cheatgrass (Bromus 
tectorum) would be managed, to minimize risks to Umtanum desert 
buckwheat, White Bluffs bladderpod, and their supporting habitat's 
native flora.
    Our Response: We appreciate and agree with the comment. In 
accordance with section 4(f)(1) of the Act, recovery plans for the 
conservation and survival of both species will be developed and 
implemented after publication of this final rule. The plans will 
describe site-specific management actions and objective, measurable 
criteria, which, when met, would result in the recovery of these 
species. The recovery plans will address each of the threats described 
in the listing rule, including invasive species, and propose a series 
of prioritized actions (which could include pollinator conservation 
measures) to address those threats.
    (2) Comment: For Umtanum desert buckwheat, one peer reviewer 
suggested it may be difficult to identify trends in the size of the 
population using the data presented in Table 1, because there are 
apparent differences in census methodologies and no statistical 
estimate of uncertainty in the values, making the figures less precise 
than one might normally expect in census counts of plant populations. 
As a result, he commented that the figures appear not to support the 
contention that the population is gradually declining. The peer 
reviewer suggested that ``it would be clearer (and perhaps make a more 
convincing argument) to present trends from the demographic monitoring 
in the subpopulation over this entire 15-year monitoring record, rather 
than summarize just the first 9 years and report that the declines have 
continued since then.'' The reviewer also recommended the development 
of a more rigorous monitoring program to improve the accuracy of 
population estimates.
    Our Response: We agree that the total population counts for Umtanum 
desert buckwheat in Table 1 reflect considerable uncertainty, and that 
the method for estimating the total population needs to be improved in 
the future. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act requires that we make 
determinations based on the best scientific and commercial data 
available. Demographic monitoring of a subset of the total population 
indicates a slow decline based on 9 years of high-quality data, in 
contrast to the census estimates shown in Table 1. That high-quality 
data represents the best available scientific information, and has been 
applied in this determination. The next population viability analysis 
is anticipated within or near 2016, and will be based on at least 15 
years of annual data from the demographic study subpopulation, which 
will improve data precision.
    (3) Comment: For Umtanum desert buckwheat, one peer reviewer 
indicated that, while the summary of factors in Table 4 is 
comprehensive and accurate in assessing individual threats, he did not 
feel that adequate consideration was given to how the threats interact 
collectively. The reviewer suggested that because Umtanum desert 
buckwheat is vulnerable to single catastrophic events such as wildfire, 
it should be listed as endangered rather than threatened.
    Our Response: Pursuant to section 3(20) of the Act, a species is 
listed as threatened if it is likely to become an endangered species 
within the foreseeable future, throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range. Under section 3(6) of the Act, a species is endangered if 
it is in danger of extinction, throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range. Therefore, the key statutory difference between 
threatened and endangered status is the timing of when a species may be 
in danger of extinction (i.e., either now (endangered) or in the 
foreseeable future (threatened)). The primary threats to Umtanum desert 
buckwheat include wildfire, nonnative plants, and increased fuel loads 
resulting from nonnative plants becoming established. We have 
considered the combined effect of these threats.
    The development of a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for the 
management of the Monument (i.e., any lands managed as part of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System) is a Service requirement under the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act. This Act provides 
guidelines and directives for the administration and management of all 
lands within the system, including ``wildlife refuges, areas for the 
protection and conservation of fish and wildlife that are threatened 
with extinction, wildlife ranges, wildlife management areas, or 
waterfowl production areas.'' The Secretary of the Interior is 
authorized to permit by regulations the use of any area within the 
system provided ``such uses are compatible with the major purposes for 
which such areas were established.'' (USFWS 2228, p. 793).
    The Service published a notice of intent to begin development of 
this CCP and environmental impact statement (EIS) in the Federal 
Register on June 12, 2002, for public comment. This began a multiyear 
process to identify issues that needed to be addressed and the 
management alternatives that would best address those issues (69 FR 
40333). The CCP was developed by the Service to protect and conserve 
biological (and other) resources, and includes several management 
objectives, including treating invasive species and restoring upland 
habitat (USFWS 2008 pp. 19-22). In addition, the species is in a very 
gradual decline, and access to the area where the population occurs is 
prohibited without special authorization from the Department of Energy. 
Further, shrub and grass fuels on parts of the ridge where Umtanum 
desert buckwheat occurs are sparse, which reduces the likelihood that a 
wildfire event would affect the entire population. These factors 
collectively reduce the likelihood that extinction is imminent and 
certain due to a single catastrophic event. Accordingly, we have 
determined threatened status is appropriate for Umtanum desert 
buckwheat. Please refer to the ``Cumulative Impacts'' section for a 
discussion of how we view the collective interactions of each of the 
threats to this species.
    (4) Comment: For White Bluffs bladderpod, one peer reviewer stated 
that ``fully half of the areal extent of the bladderpod population (the 
southern 5 miles) is immediately abutted by irrigated cropland, and 
occurs in areas of landslides and slumping bluffs.'' He commented that 
the southern area would be particularly vulnerable to landslides and 
slumping, putting the species in more danger of extinction. Because of 
this risk, the reviewer suggested the species was worthy of a status of 
endangered. Furthermore, the commenter stated there has been little or 
no monitoring of the status and trends of the population in the 
southern portion of the area where it occurs.
    Our Response: The threat of active landslides and slumping is most 
prevalent in approximately 35 percent of the 17-km (10.6-mi) linear 
extent

[[Page 23990]]

(range) of the subspecies. The species is fairly numerous and 
continuous along the entire linear extent of its range, including those 
areas that are not experiencing landslides. Further, plants are 
presently persisting in some areas where landslides have occurred. The 
bluffs and cliffs outside of the influence of irrigation water are more 
stable, and presumably at a lower risk to slumping. Because the risk of 
landslides is relatively low over the majority of the area where the 
subspecies occurs (65 percent of the range), we have determined that 
threatened status is appropriate, in light of the definitions of 
endangered and threatened species in the Act. Please see our response 
to Comment (3) above for Umtanum desert buckwheat for additional 
information regarding the difference between endangered and threatened 
status under the Act. Regular monitoring in the southern portion of the 
area has not been conducted to date, which is primarily due to the 
presence of mixed ownerships and the physical difficulties of accessing 
the slumped areas. Identifying an appropriate monitoring plan for the 
entire White Bluffs bladderpod population will be a primary objective 
of the recovery planning process under section 4(f) of the Act.
    (5) Comment: For White Bluffs bladderpod, one peer reviewer stated 
that, although possible effects of pesticides and herbicides on 
pollinators are mentioned briefly in the text as a potential threat, 
the use of chemicals is not included in Table 5 as a potential threat.
    Our Response: Agricultural lands do not function as habitat for the 
White Bluffs bladderpod, but may support pollinators. Although 
pollinators that forage on agricultural lands may be at risk of being 
exposed to pesticides, we do not believe this situation rises to a 
level of threat to the overall population for the following reasons: 
(1) Agricultural land use is adjacent to approximately 35 percent 
(rather than a majority) of the population; (2) we presume pesticides 
and herbicides have been applied on these lands since their initial 
conversion to agricultural use; (3) White Bluffs bladderpod persists 
adjacent to the agricultural areas; and (4) we have no scientific 
evidence with which to base a conclusion that the application of these 
chemicals represents an indirect threat to White Bluffs bladderpod.
    (6) Comment: For Umtanum desert buckwheat, one peer reviewer 
commented that he would rank the severity of threat for recreational 
activities and/or ORV use as moderate (rather than low), since an ATV 
or a couple of motorbikes moving through the population, however 
unlikely, could have at least moderate impacts.
    Our Response: ``Scope'' as applied in our assessment refers to the 
extent of species numbers or habitat affected by a threat; 
``Intensity'' refers to the intensity of effect by the threat on the 
species or habitat; and ``Timing'' refers to the likelihood of a threat 
currently affecting the species. Although a determined individual could 
trespass in the area, we believe the deterrents that are in place, 
including access restrictions, ``unauthorized entry prohibited'' signs, 
fencing, and enforcement, significantly reduce the likelihood of a 
trespass event. As a result, we have no substantive information that 
would indicate these activities represent an ongoing threat to the 
Umtanum desert buckwheat population.
    (7) Comment: For White Bluffs bladderpod, one peer reviewer 
recommended that we provide a statistical test or present the numbers 
used to draw the conclusion that a comparison of burned and unburned 
transects indicate that plants in burned transects appear to have 
rebounded to some extent.
    Our Response: The citation used to support this observation has 
been added. The author of the report acknowledges some uncertainty 
because the data has too much variability for us to discern that 
difference with any confidence; the final rule has been clarified in 
that regard.
    (8) Comment: For White Bluffs bladderpod, one peer reviewer 
commented that the invasive plant species inventory and management plan 
developed for the Hanford Monument could be argued to be an inadequate 
existing regulatory mechanism under Factor D, since threats can be 
minimized through consistent invasive plant management.
    Our Response: The purpose of the Biodiversity Studies of the 
Hanford Site 2002-2003 study (Evans et al. 2003, entire), was to 
address some of the outstanding questions related to a previous study, 
and was not intended to establish a regulatory program or mechanism. 
Regardless, our determination that the invasive species management plan 
is not a regulatory mechanism with regard to Factor D does not affect 
our status determination for this species.
Public Review Comments
    (9) Comment: One commentor supported the listing of both species, 
and recommended that we clearly distinguish White Bluffs bladderpod 
(Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis) from the more common and wide-
ranging Columbia bladderpod (Physaria douglasii).
    Our Response: The research that recognizes White Bluffs bladderpod 
as a species (currently a subspecies) is included in the ``Taxonomy'' 
section of this final rule (Caplow et al. (2006, pp. 8-10). This 
research established that the two species differ with regard to 
numerous measurable physical traits. They also occur in different 
habitats, have different reproductive timing, and occupy different 
ecological niches.
    (10) Comment: One commentor recommended that public access not be 
restricted any further than it currently is, once the species is 
listed, and that neither species has been impacted to date by lawful 
public access.
    Our Response: This rule serves only to list both species under the 
Act, thereby providing the Act's protections. Any decisions regarding 
changes in management of access to areas occupied by the species will 
be made through separate processes by the agencies that administer 
those lands.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and its implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR part 424, set forth the procedures for adding 
species to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and 
Plants. A species may be determined to be an endangered or threatened 
species due to one or more of the five factors described in section 
4(a)(1) of the Act: (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 for both Umtanum desert buckwheat 
and White Bluffs bladderpod are discussed below.

Umtanum Desert Buckwheat

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range
    Caplow and Beck (1996, pp. 40-41) and other studies indicate that 
threats to Umtanum desert buckwheat and its habitat are primarily due 
to wildfire and associated firefighting activities (Beck 1999, pp. 27-
29; Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 66). The invasion of nonnative plants

[[Page 23991]]

that increase the availability of wildfire fuel sources is also a 
threat, as discussed below. Unauthorized livestock trespassing, 
prospecting, and off-road vehicle use represent potential threats, 
which appear to be presently reduced because of improved boundary 
integrity, access controls, fencing, and enforcement. Below is a 
detailed discussion of these threats and their potential effects on 
survival and recovery of the species.
    Wildfire: Fire may be the primary threat to Umtanum desert 
buckwheat, and it is likely to become an even greater threat if the 
frequency or severity of fires increases (TNC 1998 p. 9; Dunwiddie et 
al. 2001, p. 62). Prior to manmade disturbances (livestock grazing, 
introduction of exotic species, and farming), the historic fire regime 
was a 32- to 70-year fire return interval of small, high-intensity 
fires that removed small patches of the fire-intolerant shrub 
overstory. Small, infrequent fires maintained bunchgrass openings 
within the shrub-steppe habitat, providing for both shrub and grassland 
communities. The historic fire regime has been significantly altered by 
sociopolitical and economic factors. After the 1900s, human activities 
interrupted the natural fire interval and patterns of burning. 
Agricultural development and livestock grazing reduced the light fuels 
that would normally carry a fire; livestock grazing also had the effect 
of suppressing native bunchgrasses and allowing nonnative invasive 
species such as Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass), Sisymbrium altissimum 
(tumblemustard), and native sagebrush densities to increase (USFWS 
2008, p. 3-15). Cheatgrass may compete seasonally with Umtanum desert 
buckwheat for space and moisture. In turn, the establishment and growth 
of highly flammable cheatgrass increases the likelihood of fire (Link 
et al. 2006, p. 10), potentially further negatively (or adversely) 
impacting the Umtanum desert buckwheat population.
    In mid-August 1984, approximately 80,800 ha (200,000 ac) both on 
and off the Hanford Site were burned in a fire that expanded 20 miles 
westward during a 24-hour period. The 1984 fire was initiated by a 
lightning strike on private land (DOE 2000, p. 3-1). During the summer 
of 1997, a fire escaped from the Yakima Training Center (U.S. 
Department of the Army) and traveled down the ridge occupied by Umtanum 
desert buckwheat. The fire burned on all sides and partially through 
the population, which caused considerable mortality of adult plants 
(Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 60). It was conservatively estimated that up 
to 20 percent of the population may have been killed by the fire event 
(Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 62). The fire was most severe where 
vegetative cover was dense and less severe on thinner soils supporting 
little or no vegetation. Shrub and grass fuels on parts of the ridge 
are sparse, and the fire was patchy in the area where Umtanum desert 
buckwheat is located (Newsome 2011, pers. comm.). In late July 1998, a 
wildfire triggered by a lightning strike burned approximately 2,828 ha 
(7,000 ac) before it was contained (DOE 2000, p. 3-1). From 2001 to 
2011, there have been 84 wildfire incidents documented, affecting 
approximately 38,164 ha (94, 460 ac) of lands within the Monument (see 
Table 3).

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

    Umtanum desert buckwheat appears to be intolerant of fire, and 
plants were easily killed. Even plants that were singed but not visibly 
charred appeared to be negatively affected, and many died the year 
following the fire. The fire did not stimulate vigorous new growth on 
established plants or sprouting from the plants' root crowns, which is 
sometimes observed with other species. In addition, there was no 
apparent flush of seedlings the following spring. Based on this lack of 
regeneration, or resprouting from burned plants, the species does not 
appear to be fire-tolerant (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, p. 66). Due to the 
intensity of the fire in some areas, many plants were entirely consumed 
and no traces remained that could be definitively identified, which led 
researchers to believe that the total impact of the 1997 fire on the 
population was likely considerably higher than the 813 burned plants 
documented. The long-term impact of the fire to the population is 
unknown, but may be significant given the slow growth rates, minimal 
recruitment, and the increase in cheatgrass on the site following the 
fire. Cheatgrass plants are interspersed with Umtanum desert buckwheat 
plants, thus increasing their flammability (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, pp. 
66, 68). Mortality from the fire occurred primarily among plants 
growing where associated vegetation was more abundant, thereby 
providing fuel to carry the fire. After the fire, a reduction in native 
plant diversity and loss of shrub components was also observed in areas 
adjacent to the population. Based on the best available information, 
wildfire represents an ongoing threat to Umtanum desert buckwheat.
    Fire Suppression Activities: In addition to wildfire itself, fire 
suppression activities could present a threat to the species if they 
occur in the same area as the population, since this species appears to 
be highly sensitive to any physical damage (see discussion

[[Page 23992]]

under off-road vehicles below). The Umtanum desert buckwheat population 
is located on a flat natural fire break of rocky soils above steep-
slopes, where fire lines and firefighting equipment would tend to be 
concentrated (Whitehall 2012, pers. comm.; Newsome 2011, pers. comm.). 
Although fire suppression activities did not take place within the 
Umtanum desert buckwheat population during the response to the 1997 
fire, the surrounding area is at high risk of wildfire from human and 
natural (lightning) ignition sources. The Service's fire program 
statistics (see Table 3) indicate a recurrence of wildfire events 
within Monument lands, which would be anticipated to continue.
    The 2001 Hanford Reach Wildlife Fire Management Plan prescription 
for this area states that ``except on existing roads, the use of any 
equipment (including light engines) within \1/4\ mile of the escarpment 
edge of the Umtanum Ridge is prohibited because of surface instability 
and potential for sloughing at the escarpment. Protection of sensitive 
resources is an objective unless achieving this objective jeopardizes 
either firefighter or public safety'' (USFWS 2001, p. 36). Accordingly, 
if a wildfire were to occur in the surrounding area, protection of the 
Umtanum desert buckwheat population may not be possible if fire 
direction and firefighter/public safety considerations were to 
necessitate establishing fire lines or response equipment staging areas 
within or near the population. Although the need for wildfire 
suppression activities near or within the Umtanum desert buckwheat 
population is unpredictable, this activity is considered a threat to 
this species based on the Monument's wildfire history (see Table 3).
    Nonnative Plant Fuel Sources: Another potential consequence of fire 
and other disturbances that remove native plants from the shrub steppe 
communities of eastern Washington is the displacement of native 
vegetation by nonnative weedy species, particularly cheatgrass. As a 
result of the 1997 fire, a higher percent cover of weedy plant species, 
including cheatgrass, has become established within and around the 
Umtanum desert buckwheat population. Wildfire raises the percent cover 
of weedy species, thereby increasing the availability of ground fuels, 
which enhances the ability to carry wildfire across the landscape into 
previously fire-resistant cover types, including habitat for Umtanum 
desert buckwheat. Accordingly, nonnative weedy species represent an 
ongoing threat to the species.
    Off-road Vehicles and Hikers: Trespassing by hikers and people 
driving off-road vehicles (ORVs) has occurred in the vicinity of and 
within the Umtanum desert buckwheat population (Caplow 2005, pers. 
comm.). The open cliff edge where the plants grow is an attractive 
place for human traffic because of the compact substrate, sparse 
vegetative cover, and the view overlooking the Columbia River. In 2004 
and 2005, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) reopened and 
improved a steep road on the top of a ridge to the substation on China 
Bar below. The road was then passable to two-wheel drive vehicles and, 
up until the summer of 2005, was inadequately fenced and gated to 
prevent trespass (Caplow 2005, pers. com.). The entire known population 
exists within a narrow corridor where human traffic could be expected 
to concentrate. Umtanum desert buckwheat plants are easily damaged by 
trampling or crushing by ORVs, are sensitive to physical damage, and 
are very slow to recover if capable of recovering at all. Within 2 days 
of being run over by trespassing dirt bikes, portions of damaged plants 
showed signs of further decline, and some of the damaged plants 
subsequently died (TNC 1998, p. 62).
    This threat appears to have been reduced since direct access to the 
site has been gradually fenced off over time, the site has been marked 
with prohibited entry signage, and consistent enforcement is taking 
place. Although unauthorized access is prohibited, there remains a 
potential for trespass since an open road is located approximately 0.5 
km (0.3 mi) (slope distance) below the population through lands 
commonly used for recreation. A fence, located between the road and the 
Umtanum desert buckwheat population, should further discourage ORV or 
hiker trespass incidents. Based on the available evidence, we have no 
substantive information that would indicate ORV or hiking activities 
represent ongoing threats to the species, provided current security and 
boundary integrity efforts are maintained. We will continue to monitor 
these activities as additional information becomes available.
    Livestock: A potential threat of trampling to Umtanum desert 
buckwheat could occur if livestock were to escape from a pasture area 
on China Bar, approximately 0.4 km (0.25 mi) (slope distance) below the 
population, although such an occurrence has not been observed or 
documented to date. If an escape were to happen, it could impact the 
species by direct means such as crushing and mortality through grazing, 
and indirect means, including soil disturbance, compaction, and 
importation of invasive species by seed carried on the body or through 
feces. In addition, areas disturbed by livestock could increase bare 
soil areas, making them more suitable for the establishment of invasive 
plant species. This potential threat has been reduced under the terms 
of a DOE permit issued to the rancher who conducts the seasonal 
pasturing operations. The DOE permit restricts the seasonal movement of 
livestock between pastures by way of a paved road directly below the 
Umtanum desert buckwheat population (Hathaway 2001, pers. comm.). In 
addition, there is a fence between the paved road and the population. 
Based on the available evidence regarding permit requirements and 
boundary integrity, we have no substantive information indicating 
livestock trespass represents an ongoing threat to the species.
    Prospecting: Prospecting by rock collectors was initially thought 
to be a potential threat to Umtanum desert buckwheat. Excavations up to 
1.5 m (5 ft) in diameter and 1.2 m (4 ft) deep occur throughout the 
area occupied by the species (Caplow 2005, pers. comm.), although their 
age is uncertain. Some may predate 1943, when the DOE acquired the land 
as part of the Hanford installation, and others may reflect more recent 
activity. Continuation of this activity could threaten a large portion 
of the Umtanum desert buckwheat population by trampling, uprooting, or 
burial of plants during these activities. Although prospecting could be 
a threat, it has not been observed since the species' discovery in 
1995, likely because of increased boundary integrity, improved fencing, 
restrictive signage, and enforcement. We have no information that would 
indicate any recent prospecting or other unauthorized entry into the 
site has occurred. Therefore, based on the available evidence, we have 
no substantive information that would indicate prospecting activities 
represent an ongoing threat to the species.
    Based on the information above, the specific activities discussed 
under Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range present a threat to Umtanum desert 
buckwheat and its habitat. These include wildfire, nonnative plant fuel 
sources, and potentially wildfire suppression activities. Trespassing 
by off-road vehicles, hikers, and mineral prospectors are not 
considered ongoing threats at this time, based on permit requirements, 
access restrictions,

[[Page 23993]]

boundary fencing, signage, and enforcement actions that are in effect 
for the area where this population occurs.
B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes
    The regulations at 50 CFR 27.51 prohibit collecting any plant on 
any national wildlife refuge without a special use permit. Evidence of 
overutilization has not been documented since the discovery of Umtanum 
desert buckwheat in 1996. In order to maintain a secure source for seed 
and provide some assurance of maintaining the genome of Umtanum desert 
buckwheat over time, Berry Botanic Garden in Portland, Oregon, has 
collected and stored several seed accessions for the species. The 
facility currently has 401 seeds that were collected in 1997, and 1,108 
seeds collected in 2001 and 2002 from an unknown number of plants 
(Gibble 2011, pers. comm.). Based on a thorough accounting of all 
activities on the site by researchers and DOE, there is no evidence 
that commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational use of this 
species is occurring at a level that would threaten the population.
C. Disease or Predation
    Evidence of disease has not been documented in Umtanum desert 
buckwheat; however, predation of seeds by ants and removal of flower 
heads by an unknown species has been observed by researchers during 
demographic monitoring trips.
    Researchers from The Nature Conservancy observed western harvester 
ants (Pogonomyrmex occidentalis), a common native species, gathering 
mature achenes (seeds) of Umtanum desert buckwheat plants and 
transporting them to their underground colonies (Dunwiddie et al. 2001, 
p. 66). Ants have also been observed discarding the inedible remains of 
achenes above ground, near the colony. Evidence of seed predation by 
ants was commonly observed by different researchers between 1999 and 
2004 in numerous locations, although it has not been observed on 
Umtanum desert buckwheat in recent years (Arnett 2011c, pers. comm.). 
The percentage of achenes consumed by ants and other insects, and the 
degree of impact this activity may be having on the available seed bank 
is unknown, although no Umtanum desert buckwheat seedlings have been 
observed successfully germinating or becoming established near ant 
colonies. Ant predation of seeds has been shown to be a significant 
factor in the viability of at least one other rare Eriogonum taxon 
(Eriogonum umbellatum var. torreyanum (sulfur flower buckwheat)) (TNC 
1998, p. 9).
    Because ants have been observed moving on and between flowers, they 
may also be contributing to the pollination of Umtanum desert 
buckwheat. Whether seed predation by ants is a significant threat to 
the species based on its current demographic status, or to what degree 
the threat is offset by potential benefits of pollination is unclear. 
During the 2011 census of Umtanum desert buckwheat, numerous flower 
heads that had been clipped off and were lying on top of or very near 
the plants were observed. The species responsible is unknown, although 
there was no evidence of mutilation or consumption of the flower 
structure (Arnett 2011c, pers. comm.). As stated earlier, no Umtanum 
desert buckwheat seedlings have been observed successfully germinating 
or becoming established near ant colonies. Because seed predation and 
the removal of flowering structures could significantly reduce the 
reproductive potential of the species, which is already in gradual 
decline based on the results of the PVA, we consider these activities 
to be ongoing threats to Umtanum desert buckwheat. We are unaware of 
any other disease or predation interactions that represent potential 
threats to this species.
D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    Umtanum desert buckwheat is designated as endangered under the 
State of Washington's list of endangered, threatened, and sensitive 
vascular plants (WDNR 2011a, p. 5). The WDNR Status and Ranking System 
of the Washington Natural Heritage Program (http://www1.dnr.wa.gov/nhp/refdesk/lists/stat_rank.html) identifies the State ranking for 
buckwheat as (1) G1 (critically imperiled globally and at very high 
risk of extinction or elimination due to very restricted range, very 
few populations or occurrences, very steep declines, very severe 
threats, or other factors); (2) S1 (critically imperiled in the State 
because of extreme rarity or other factors making it especially 
vulnerable to extirpation (typically 5 or fewer occurrences or very few 
remaining individuals or acres)); and (3) endangered (any taxon in 
danger of becoming extinct or extirpated from Washington). Populations 
of these taxa are at critically low levels or their habitats have been 
degraded or depleted to a significant degree. Listing the species as 
threatened will invoke the protections under the Act, including 
consultation and development of a recovery plan. The State ranking does 
not provide any protections, whereas Federally listing the species will 
impose legal and regulatory requirements directed toward recovery. 
Therefore, the factors contributing to the species' decline with regard 
to the State ranking will be addressed and mitigated, over time. 
Further, some actions are already being taken to protect the 
population, as has been discussed earlier (e.g., fencing, prohibited 
entry signs, permit conditions for livestock movement, enforcement, 
etc.). We coordinated the proposed rule with the Washington Department 
of Natural Resources, who did not identify any concerns with regard to 
the proposed threatened status for this species under the Act.
    The State of Washington's endangered, threatened, and sensitive 
plant program is administered through the Washington Natural Heritage 
Program (WNHP), which was created to provide an objective basis for 
establishing priorities for a broad array of conservation actions (WDNR 
2011b, p. 2). Prioritizing ecosystems and species for conservation 
offers a means to evaluate proposed natural areas and other 
conservation activities (WDNR 2011b, p. 3). The WNHP is a participant 
in the Arid Lands Initiative, which is a public/private partnership 
attempting to develop strategies to conserve the species and ecosystems 
found within Washington's arid landscape. The WNHP assists in 
identifying conservation targets, major threats, and potential 
strategies to address them (WDNR 2011b, p. 4). The DOE does not have a 
rare plant policy that provides specific protection for the species, 
and presently retains management responsibility for the lands where 
Umtanum desert buckwheat occurs. Once contaminant issues are resolved 
in this area, management responsibility will be conveyed to the 
Service, as a part of the Monument, who would take the status of the 
species into account in their management strategies where the 
population occurs.
    Agricultural development and livestock grazing reduced the light 
fuels that would normally carry a fire, and allowed nonnative invasive 
species like cheatgrass to increase (USFWS 2008, p. 3-15). The 
establishment of highly flammable cheatgrass within the Umtanum desert 
buckwheat population increases competition for space and moisture, and 
the likelihood that a wildfire could negatively impact the species. As 
fires become larger, the opportunity for seed dispersal is also 
increased as nonnative species invade burned areas. Nonnative species 
like cheatgrass can be dispersed in several

[[Page 23994]]

ways, including long-distance dispersal facilitated by humans and 
animals. The barbed florets are ideally adapted to being picked up by 
clothing, feathers, and fur. Seeds can also be dispersed by machinery 
or vehicles. Animals may carry cheatgrass seed in their feces and 
hooves, and seed-caching rodents and harvester ants can disperse seeds 
intermediate distances through caching activity. Cropland, particularly 
fields of winter wheat and dryland hay, may also be potential seed 
sources to nearby natural areas and rangelands, as cheatgrass is a 
common weed (http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/graminoid/brotec/all.html).
    The Hanford Fire Department maintains four fire stations on the 
Hanford Reservation (USFWS 2001, Appendix D, p. 74). The Service and 
the Hanford Fire Department have entered into a cooperative agreement, 
under which either organization can provide firefighting support (USFWS 
2001, Appendix D, p. 75) on lands under the jurisdiction or 
responsibility of the other party (DOE 2011, p. 84). The concept of 
closest forces is the guiding principle of initial attack suppression. 
This agreement does not provide specific conservation measures for the 
protection of Umtanum desert buckwheat, but does acknowledge the 
presence of plants unique to the site. The objective for this area 
states that ``except on existing roads, the use of any equipment 
(including light engines) within \1/4\ mile of the escarpment edge of 
the Umtanum Ridge is prohibited because of surface instability and 
potential for sloughing at the escarpment. Protection of sensitive 
resources is an objective unless achieving this objective jeopardizes 
either firefighter or public safety'' (USFWS 2001, p. 36).
    Numerous wildland fires occur annually on lands in and surrounding 
the Monument. Many are human-caused resulting from vehicle ignitions 
from roads and highways, unattended campfires, burning of adjacent 
agricultural lands and irrigation ditches, and arson. Fires of natural 
origin (lightning caused) also occur on lands within and adjacent to 
the Monument (USFWS 2001, p. 171). Since wildfires are unpredictable 
with regard to their location and intensity, a fire management plan is 
necessarily designed to be a response, rather than a regulatory 
activity. Appendix R in the CCP identifies the National Wildlife Refuge 
System Strategic Goals and the Monument RONS and MMS Project Lists. The 
Refuge Operating Needs System (RONS) documents and prioritizes staffing 
and operational needs, and reports accomplishments when projects are 
completed. The Maintenance Management System (MMS) documents and 
prioritizes field facility and equipment needs, and also includes a 
reporting component. The CCP identifies several activities and projects 
that would be implemented to reduce wildfire risks as funds become 
available, including conducting fire history studies, purchasing 
firefighting equipment, establishing a fire bunkhouse, and conducting 
fire effects/rehabilitation monitoring studies (USFWS 2008, Appendix R-
6).
    All collecting is prohibited on the Monument, including antlers, 
bones, rocks, artifacts, and plant life. Regulations also prohibit 
fires on Monument lands (Hanford Reach National Monument Hunting 
Regulations, 2011). The Revised Hanford Site 2011Wildland Fire 
Management Plan (DOE 2011, p. 176) addresses Umtanum desert buckwheat 
briefly in a specific accounting of sensitive resources located on the 
site. The plan states that ``due to the sensitive nature of the biology 
of the Hanford Site, an on-call Mission Support Alliance biologist will 
be requested to assist the command staff in protecting the environment 
during suppression efforts.'' This requirement does not remove the 
wildfire threat to the species, but may make damage during active fire 
suppression less probable.
    The 1997 wildfire initiated by the U.S. Army Yakima Training Center 
fire resulted in mortality to 10-20 percent of the population (see 
Factor A and Table 1). The threat of wildfire originating on the nearby 
U.S. Army Yakima Training Center and spreading to the Umtanum desert 
buckwheat site remains, as does the potential for ignition to occur 
along the BPA transmission line corridor, which crosses the population. 
Fire could also originate below the Umtanum desert buckwheat site on 
China Bar and rapidly burn upslope, since this area is commonly used by 
recreationists. The Hanford Reach National Monument CCP acknowledges 
that wildland fire will be suppressed when possible, suppression 
techniques will be designed to minimize surface disturbance in the 
vicinity of sensitive resources, and fire control policies will be 
implemented to reduce the risk of human-caused wildland fire (USFWS 
2008, p. 4-8). However, based on the recent wildfire history and 
acreage affected (see Table 3), fire planning documents are not able to 
address all possible scenarios. In addition, numerous agencies must 
coordinate firefighting on this landscape, ignitions from 
recreationists remain a risk, and timely and effective initial 
firefighting responses may be difficult. For example, before it was 
contained, the 24 Command Wildfire (discussed in Factor A above) 
charred nearly 66,256 ha (164,000 ac) of land both on and off the 
Hanford site, even though the Hanford Fire Department arrived on scene 
approximately 20 minutes after the incident was reported. At that time 
the fire was approximately 4 ha (10 ac) in size (DOE 2000, pp. ES-2-ES-
3).
    Although the WNHP and Monument CCP are important tools for 
identifying conservation actions that would benefit Umtanum desert 
buckwheat, these programs are not adequate to completely eliminate 
threats to the species. For example, the threat of wildfire cannot be 
completely eliminated because of the numerous potential ignition 
scenarios, including lightning, arson, recreational carelessness, 
cigarettes, motor vehicle accidents, or other actions. In addition, a 
fire management plan is necessarily designed to be a response, rather 
than prescriptive strategy, since wildfires are unpredictable with 
regard to their location and severity. Accordingly, the impact of 
wildfire to Umtanum desert buckwheat is not being eliminated by 
existing regulatory mechanisms, because of the many potential ignition 
scenarios on the lands within and surrounding the area where the 
species occurs.
E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence
    Umtanum desert buckwheat has a small population size and 
distribution, and suffers from low recruitment (Kaye 2007, p. 3; Caplow 
2005, p. 3). These features make it particularly susceptible to 
potentially changing climate conditions. For instance, regional climate 
change models indicate a rise in hotter and drier conditions, which may 
increase stress on individuals as well as increase wildfire frequency 
and intensity.
    Population structure: The typical size distribution of perennial 
plants consists of more individuals in smaller and presumably younger 
size-classes, than in larger or older ones. However, Umtanum desert 
buckwheat has fewer plants in smaller size-classes than in larger ones. 
The only known population of this species is dominated by mature plants 
with little successful establishment of seedlings. The majority of 
individual plants have a strong tendency to remain in the same size 
class, and presumably age class, from 1 year to the next. In addition, 
adult mortality averages 2 percent annually (Kaye 2007, p. 3). Between 
1997 and

[[Page 23995]]

2006, only five to six seedlings in all demographic monitoring plots 
were observed to survive longer than 1 year, and in 2005, which was 
preceded by a dry winter, no germination was observed (Caplow 2005, p. 
3).
    The lack of establishment and survival of seedlings is a threat, as 
few plants are becoming established as replacements for plants that 
die. Several factors may be responsible, such as exposure of young 
plants to high winds and temperatures and very low spring and summer 
precipitation. Other possible factors include low seed production, low 
seed or pollen viability, low seedling vigor and survival, impacts to 
plant pollinators or dispersal mechanisms, and flowering structure 
removal/insect predation of seeds (as described under Factor C). 
Researchers have had some success in germinating and growing Umtanum 
desert buckwheat in containers, which may indicate that the failure to 
establish seedlings in the wild may not be due to low fertility, but 
may be related to conditions necessary for survival after germination 
(Arnett 2011c, pers. comm.). Long-term monitoring and research may 
determine the cause of the population's skewed size distribution. A 
seed bank study has shown that viability of buried seed decreases 
dramatically after the first year, suggesting a very small and short-
lived seed bank for Umtanum desert buckwheat (Caplow 2005, p. 6).
    Considered in total, these factors likely combine effects to create 
negative recruitment for Umtanum desert buckwheat. This theory is 
supported by Kaye's findings (2007, p. 5) that the population appears 
to be in a gradual decline of approximately \2/3\ of 1 percent per 
year. Negative recruitment due to the factors described above combined 
with a small population size present a significant threat to the 
species.
    Climate change: Our analyses under the Endangered Species Act 
include consideration of ongoing and projected changes in climate. The 
terms ``climate'' and ``climate change'' are defined by the 
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). ``Climate'' refers to 
the mean and variability of different types of weather conditions over 
time, with 30 years being a typical period for such measurements, 
although shorter or longer periods also may be used (IPCC 2007, p. 78). 
The term ``climate change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or 
variability of one or more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or 
precipitation) that persists for an extended period, typically decades 
or longer, whether the change is due to natural variability, human 
activity, or both (IPCC 2007, p. 78).
    Various types of changes in climate can have direct or indirect 
effects on species. These effects may be positive, neutral, or negative 
and they may change over time, depending on the species and other 
relevant considerations, such as the effects of interactions of climate 
with other variables (e.g., habitat fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, pp. 8-
14, 18-19). In our analyses, we use our expert judgment to weigh 
relevant information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of 
various aspects of climate change. The potential impacts of a changing 
global climate to Umtanum desert buckwheat are presently unclear. All 
regional models of climate change indicate that future climate in the 
Pacific Northwest will be warmer than the past. Together they suggest 
that rates of warming will be greater in the 21st century than those 
observed in the 20th century. Projected changes in annual 
precipitation, averaged over all models, are small (+1 to +2 percent), 
but some models project an enhanced seasonal precipitation cycle with 
changes toward wetter autumns and winters and drier summers (Littell, 
et al. 2009a, p. 1).
    At a regional scale, two different temperature prediction models 
are presented in Stockle et al. (2009, p. 199), yet show similar 
results. Outputs from both models predict increases in mean annual 
temperature for eastern Washington State. Specifically, the Community 
Climate System Model General Circulation Model projects temperature 
increase as 1.4, 2.3 and 3.2 [deg]C (2.5, 4.1, and 5.8[emsp14][deg]F) 
at Lind, Washington, which is 64 km (40 mi) northeast of the Umtanum 
desert buckwheat population; approximately 1.7, 2.7, and 3.5 [deg]C 
(3.1, 4.9, and 6.3[emsp14][deg]F) at both Pullman, Washington, which is 
169 km (105 mi) east of the population, as well as Sunnyside, 
Washington, which is 50 km (31 mi) southwest of the population, for the 
2020, 2040, and 2080 modeling scenarios, respectively. For the Parallel 
Climate Model effort, the temperature change is expected to be 0.8, 
1.7, and 2.6 [deg]C (1.4, 3.1, and 4.7[emsp14][deg]F) at Lind, 
Washington; 1.1, 2.0, and 2.9 [deg]C (2.0, 3.6, and 5.2[emsp14][deg]F) 
at Pullman, Washington; and 1.3, 2.2, and 3 [deg]C (2.3, 4.0, and 
5.5[emsp14][deg]F) at Sunnyside, Washington, in the 2020, 2040, and 
2080 scenarios, respectively.
    The projected warming trend will increase the length of the frost-
free period throughout the State, increasing the available growing 
season for plants, which will continue to be limited in eastern 
Washington by water availability, and likely by extreme heat events in 
some instances. This will continue the trend observed from 1948 to 
2002, during which the frost-free period has lengthened by 29 days in 
the Columbia Valley (Jones, 2005 in Stockle et al. 2009, p. 199). Weeds 
and insects will adapt to the longer season with more favorable 
conditions (Stockle et al. 2009, p. 200).
    Given the importance of water availability to plants, precipitation 
change needs to be included in predictions of climate change effects on 
invasive plants (Bradley 2009, p. 197). Regional climate models suggest 
that some local changes in temperature and precipitation may be quite 
different than average regional changes projected by the global models 
(Littell et al. 2009a, p. 6). Precipitation uncertainties are 
particularly problematic in the western United States, where complex 
topography coupled with the difficulty of modeling El Ni[ntilde]o 
result in highly variable climate projections (Bradley 2009, p. 197). 
Cheatgrass, an invasive species, competes with native species by 
growing early in the spring season and using available water resources. 
It senesces in late spring, sets seed, and remains dormant through the 
summer (Rice et al., 1992; Peterson, 2005; in Bradley 2009, p. 197; 
Bradley 2009, pp. 204-205). If summer precipitation were to increase, 
native perennial shrubs and grasses could be more competitive because 
they would be able to use water resources while cheatgrass is dormant 
(Loik, 2007 in Bradley 2009, pp. 204-205).
    Littell et al. (2009b, p. 270) were successful in developing 
statistical models of the area burned by wildfire for six regions in 
Washington for the period 1980 to 2006. Future projections from these 
six models project mean-area-burned increases of between 0 and 600 
percent, depending on the ecosystem in question, the sensitivity of the 
fire model, emissions scenario, and the timeframe of the projection. By 
the 2040s, the area burned in nonforested ecosystems (Columbia Basin 
and Palouse Prairie) increased on average by a factor of 2.2. Notably, 
the increase in area burned is accompanied by an increase in 
variability in some of the more arid systems, such as the Palouse 
Prairie and Columbia Basin (Littell et al. 2009b, p. 270).
    We do not know what the future holds with regard to climate change; 
however, this species has a very limited distribution, small population 
size, and low recruitment. Despite the lack of site-specific data, 
increased average temperatures and reduced seasonal rainfall may 
further influence the current decline of the species and result

[[Page 23996]]

in a loss of habitat. Hotter and drier summer conditions may also 
increase the frequency and intensity of fires in the area, as 
cheatgrass and other invasive plants would become better competitors 
for resources than Umtanum desert buckwheat. Alternatively, warmer and 
wetter winter conditions could potentially benefit the species by 
extending the growing season and providing additional moisture to the 
soil in the spring. However, if the frequency, intensity, and timing of 
the predicted changes in climate for eastern Washington are not aligned 
with the phenology of Umtanum desert buckwheat, the survival and 
reproduction of the species could be threatened over time. Accordingly, 
although climate change represents a potential ongoing threat based on 
the best available information, more thorough investigations are needed 
to better understand the potential impacts of climate change to this 
species.

Conservation Efforts To Reduce Other Natural or Manmade Factors 
Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Because Umtanum desert buckwheat was recently discovered and exists 
within a controlled perimeter, large-scale conservation or recovery 
efforts have not yet been undertaken. Due to firmly controlled access 
at the site, the only research currently occurring is the annual 
demographic monitoring of a subpopulation and periodic censuses 
estimated by the Washington National Heritage Program (WNHP). In 
addition to the protection of habitat described in Factor D above, a 
locked gate has been installed along BPA power lines right-of-way to 
prevent motorized access to the bluff area, thus reducing potential 
impacts to Umtanum desert buckwheat from unauthorized trespass by 
livestock, or vehicles. Umtanum desert buckwheat has been germinated by 
Monument staff and grown in pots to a size suitable for reintroduction 
during dormancy. The initial outplanting test was undertaken in 
December 2011 (Newsome 2012, pers. comm.).

Cumulative Impacts

Cumulative Effects From Factors A Through E
    Some of the threats discussed in this finding could work in concert 
with one another to cumulatively create situations that potentially 
impact Umtanum desert buckwheat beyond the scope of the combined 
threats that we have already analyzed. Threats described in Factors A 
and E above would likely increase in timing or intensity when occurring 
at the same time or location. Additional ground fuels due to the 
presence of nonnative species are likely to increase the capacity of 
the landscape to carry wildfires (Factor A) and intensify their overall 
size and impact (Link et al. 2010, p 1). The occurrence of larger fires 
increases the potential for (1) the fire reaching the Umtanum desert 
buckwheat population, and (2) the impacts to the species of the 
wildfire itself and related firefighting activities. Although this 
relationship represents a significant threat to the species, the 
threats to the population are clearly increased when combined with a 
small and declining population size, limited spatial extent, and low 
recruitment described under Factor E. Any enhancement or reduction of 
the cumulative threats through climate change is unknown at this time, 
but could be significant under drier annual, or reduced seasonal, 
precipitation conditions.

Determination

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
to Umtanum desert buckwheat (see Table 4). The 1997 fire that escaped 
from the Yakima Training Center killed 813 plants, or approximately 10-
20 percent of the population (Dunwiddie et al., 2001, pp. 61-62). The 
Revised Hanford Site 2011 Wildland Fire Management Plan (DOE 2011) 
acknowledges the sensitive nature of the biology of the Hanford Site, 
and provides for environmental protection during fire suppression 
activities. This plan may reduce the likelihood of a wildfire event 
within or near the population, but cannot remove the threat completely 
since wildfire locations, severity, and response needs are 
unpredictable. The 2007 unpublished draft Population Viability Analysis 
(PVA) estimated a 72 percent chance of a decline of 50 percent of the 
population within the next 100 years (Kaye 2007, p. 5). The PVA, which 
incorporated observed environmental variability, determined the Umtanum 
desert buckwheat population was in very gradual decline. The decline is 
very close to stable, but still suggests an annual decline of about \2/
3\ of one percent, which will take several decades to accumulate 
significant impacts (Kaye 2007, p. 5). The steady decline observed 
through demographic monitoring of numbers and recruitment since 1997 
may be directly attributable to several of the known threats, although 
some have been reduced because of increased boundary integrity and 
access control. Because the population is small, limited to a single 
site, at risk of invasive species, and sensitive to fire and 
disturbance in a high fire-risk location, the species remains 
vulnerable to the threats summarized in Table 4.

                  Table 4--Summary of Threat Factors Under the ESA to Umtanum Desert Buckwheat
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Factor                      Threat               Timing*             Scope*           Intensity*
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A.............................  Wildfire..............  High.............  High.............  High.
                                Fire suppression        High **..........  High.............  High.
                                 activities.
                                Harm by recreational    Low ***..........  Low..............  Low.
                                 activities and/or ORV
                                 use.
                                Direct harm and         Low ***..........  Low..............  Low.
                                 habitat modification
                                 by livestock.
                                Mineral prospecting...  Low ***..........  Low..............  Low.
                                Competition, fuels      High.............  High.............  High.
                                 load from nonnative
                                 plants.
C.............................  Seed predation........  Unknown..........  Unknown..........  Unknown.
                                Flower predation......  Unknown..........  Unknown..........  Unknown.
E.............................  Small population size.  High.............  High.............  High.
                                Limited geographic      High.............  High.............  High.
                                 range.
                                Low recruitment.......  High.............  High.............  High.
                                Climate change........  Unknown..........  Unknown..........  Unknown.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Timing: The likelihood of the threat currently affecting the species.
Scope: The extent of species numbers or habitat affected by the threat.
Intensity: The intensity of effect by the threat on the species or habitat.
** If avoidance is not possible due to fire direction or safety needs.
*** Based on ongoing restricted access, fencing, and enforcement.


[[Page 23997]]

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

Summary of Factors: White Bluffs bladderpod

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

    Caplow and Beck (1996, p. 42) and others state that the threats to 
White Bluffs bladderpod and its habitat are primarily landslides caused 
by subsurface water seepage, invasive species, and ORV use (TNC 1998, 
p. 5; Evans et al. 2003, p. 67, Newsome 2007, p. 4). Of these threats, 
landslides and invasive species competition is of primary concern 
(Caplow and Beck 1996, p. 42; Newsome 2007, p. 4). Below is a detailed 
discussion of these threats and their potential effects on survival and 
recovery of the subspecies.
    Landslides: Groundwater movement from adjacent, up-slope 
agricultural activities has caused mass-failure landslides in portions 
of the White Bluffs. As a result, the habitat in approximately 6.0 km 
(3.7 mi), or about 35 percent of the known range of White Bluffs 
bladderpod has been moderately to severely altered (Brown 1990, pp. 4, 
39; Cannon et al. 2005, p. 4.25; Caplow et al. 1996, p. 65; Drost et 
al. 1997, pp. 48, 96; Lindsey 1997, pp. 4, 10, 11, 12, 14; U.S. 
Congress (H.R. 1031), 1999, p. 2; USFWS 1996, p. 1). White Bluffs 
bladderpod plants have not been observed in areas that have undergone 
recent landslides, regardless of whether the landslide disturbance is 
moderate or severe. They have not been observed to survive small 
slumping events, possibly because the mixed soils downslope post-event 
no longer have the soil horizon that White Bluffs bladderpod plants 
seem to require. Additionally, these slumped soils are typically more 
saturated because they end up below the groundwater seep zone. In the 
arid environment, White Bluffs bladderpod appears to be unable to 
successfully compete with the host of weedy and invasive drought-
intolerant species in the seed bank. Where natural weathering has 
eroded occupied habitat, White Bluffs bladderpod plants have been 
observed to occasionally become established on the more gentle slopes. 
In very large events of rotational slumping or landslides, parts of the 
original surface horizon may remain somewhat undisturbed on the crest 
of the slumped block, preserving White Bluffs bladderpod plants, at 
least for the short term (Caplow et al. 1996, p. 42). All mass-failures 
occurring along the White Bluffs, with one historical exception, are 
found in association with water seepage (Bjornstad and Fecht 2002, p. 
16).
    In the 1960s, the Washington State Department of Game (currently 
known as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) constructed 
artificial wetlands using irrigation water delivered to unlined 
wastewater ponds and canals in the vicinity of the White Bluffs for 
wildlife enhancement (Bjornstad 2006, p. 1). Water entered a 
preferential pathway for movement along a buried paleochannel, which 
connected the artificial wetlands with the White Bluffs escarpment near 
Locke Island 4.8 km (3 mi) to the southwest. Water percolating from 
artificial wetlands moved quickly down through

[[Page 23998]]

highly transmissive flood deposits, and then encountered the low-
permeability soils of the Ringold Formation. The water then flowed 
laterally along the impermeable layer, and discharged through springs 
along the White Bluffs. Where they were wet, the unstable Ringold 
Formation sediments have slumped and slid along the steep White Bluffs 
escarpment (Bjornstad and Fecht 2002, p. 14). Although water flow to 
the pond has been halted due to concerns about landslides and the 
artificial wetlands no longer exist, water continues to seep out along 
the bluffs, apparently due to the large volume that accumulated in the 
underlying sediments over years of infiltration (Bjornstad and Fecht 
2002, p. 15).
    The erosional processes at work in the northern White Bluffs 
vicinity are somewhat different than those of the southern White Bluffs 
area, where White Bluffs bladderpod occurs. A record of slumping exists 
along the White Bluffs, beginning with periodic high-recharge, Ice Age 
flood events. Since the Pleistocene Epoch, landsliding on the southern 
bluffs where White Bluffs bladderpod is found was dormant until the 
1970s, when increased infiltration of moisture from agricultural 
activities caused a resurgence of slumping (Bjornstad and Peterson 
2009b; Cannon et al. 2005, p. 4.25; Bjornstad and Fecht 2002, p. 17; 
Drost et al. 1997, p. 76; Brown 1990, pp. 4, 38, 39). Excess irrigation 
water percolates downward before moving laterally upon lower-
permeability Ringold strata. Spring water that discharges in the 
vicinity of the bluff face greatly reduces internal soil strength, and 
leads to slope failure. Heads of landslides characteristically consist 
of back-rotated slump blocks that transition to debris flows and often 
fan out into the Columbia River. Landslides and their damaging effects 
will likely continue until water that is currently being introduced 
subsurface through unlined irrigation canals, ponds, and over-
irrigation is significantly reduced or eliminated (Bjornstad and 
Peterson 2009b).
    The entire population of White Bluffs bladderpod is down-slope of 
irrigated agricultural land and is at risk of landslides induced by 
water seepage. The threat is greater in the southern portion of the 
subspecies' distribution where irrigated agriculture is closest in 
proximity, and in several locations directly adjacent to the bluffs 
(Bjornstad et al., 2009a, p. 8; Lindsey 1997, p. 12). Wetted soils 
visible on the cliff faces directly below the private lands indicate 
that irrigation of the fields above is affecting the bluff. Irrigation 
water moves a considerable distance laterally across some of the more 
impermeable beds of the Ringold Formation, as described earlier, and 
also percolates downward. As the water increases the pore pressure 
between sediment grains, it reduces the soil material strength. At the 
steep bluff face, the loss of material strength results in slope 
failure and resultant landslides (Bjornstad and Fecht 2002, p. 17), 
which permanently destroy White Bluffs bladderpod habitat. The areas 
subject to mass-failure landslides are somewhat predictable, and appear 
as horizontal wetted zones in the cliff face. This threat is imminent 
and ongoing, potentially affecting most of the population, although to 
differing degrees.
    Off-road vehicles: ORVs also threaten the subspecies by crushing 
plants, destabilizing the soil, increasing erosion, and spreading the 
seeds of invasive plants. Although ORV activity is prohibited on the 
Monument (USFWS 2008, p. 1-5), it occurs intermittently on the Federal 
lands that constitute approximately 85 percent of the subspecies' 
distribution. Currently, ORV activity is more common within the private 
portion (approx. 15 percent of the area) at the southern end of the 
subspecies distribution. The location and extent of this threat has 
been mapped by Monument staff on the land under their management 
(Newsome 2011, pers. comm.). Based on the best available information, 
ORV use is considered to be an ongoing threat to White Bluffs 
bladderpod, particularly within the southern extent of the subspecies' 
distribution.
    Invasive species: An infestation of Centaurea solstitialis (yellow 
starthistle), a nonnative weed that is known as a rapid invader of arid 
environments even in the absence of disturbance, was discovered during 
2003 within a portion of the range of White Bluffs bladderpod (Evans et 
al. 2003, p. 67). Invasive plants compete with White Bluffs bladderpod 
for space and moisture and increase the effects of fire. The 
infestation was mapped, plants were treated using aerial means, and the 
weeds are currently being controlled. Continued monitoring and timely 
followup treatment of this ongoing threat is necessary to protect White 
Bluffs bladderpod habitat. In addition, a portion of the White Bluffs 
bladderpod population is adjacent to a public access point along the 
Columbia River. Visitors could potentially transport invasive plant 
material or seeds into the area, increasing the risk of impacts of 
establishment of invasive species. Based on the best available 
information, nonnative invasive species represent an ongoing threat to 
White Bluffs bladderpod.
    Pesticide or Herbicide Use: We initially considered whether White 
Bluffs bladderpod pollinators could potentially be negatively affected 
by pesticide or herbicide applications on orchards and other irrigated 
crops located adjacent to the population along the southern portion of 
its distribution. However, specific information on whether this 
situation poses a threat is not available, and we are not identifying 
it as an ongoing threat at this time.
    Wildfire: In July 2007, a large wildfire burned through the 
northern portion of the White Bluffs bladderpod population and within 
the area of the monitoring transects after monitoring was completed for 
that year. Fire is considered to be a threat to White Bluffs 
bladderpod, although the decline in population numbers after the 2007 
fire indicated the population estimate was still within the known range 
of variability. The 2008-2011 monitoring results demonstrated the 
negative impacts of the fire to be less than expected, as approximately 
76 percent of the population remained viable the following year 
(Newsome and Goldie, 2008). Notwithstanding the subspecies' apparent 
ability to recover somewhat from the 2007 wildfire event, we believe 
that wildfire continues to be a threat to the existing population. This 
is because fire events tend to be large and unpredictable in the 
Hanford Reach (see Table 3) and can potentially affect large numbers of 
plants and significant areas of pollinator habitat.
    In addition, wildfire also impacts pollinator communities by 
directly causing mortality, altering habitat, and reducing native plant 
species diversity. Since an increase in cheatgrass was observed within 
the White Bluffs bladderpod population and the surrounding areas 
affected by the 2007 fire, we presume a larger scale fire event would 
have similar results. Because of its invasive nature (see discussion 
below), cheatgrass may compete seasonally with native species and, once 
established, increase wildfire fuel availability (Link et al. 2006, p 
10). White Bluffs bladderpod may be somewhat fire-tolerant based on the 
post-2007 wildfire response monitoring. However, the establishment and 
growth of highly flammable cheatgrass increases the likelihood of fire 
as well as its intensity, potentially elevating the risk of impacting 
the White Bluffs bladderpod population in the future. Given the 
invasive nature of cheatgrass, the increased fire frequency and 
wildfire history within and around the Monument (see Table 3), the 
increased

[[Page 23999]]

fuel that becomes available for future wildfire events as cheatgrass 
proliferates, and observations that cheatgrass presence increased 
within and around the population after the 2007 wildfire, wildfire is 
considered to be an ongoing threat to White Bluffs bladderpod.
    Nonnative Plant Competition and Fuel Sources: A common consequence 
of fire is the displacement of native vegetation by nonnative weedy 
species, particularly cheatgrass. As a result of the 2007 fire, a 
higher percent cover of weedy plant species, including cheatgrass, has 
become established within and around the White Bluffs bladderpod 
population. Cheatgrass is an introduced annual grass that is widely 
distributed in the western United States, and has been documented in 
the White Bluffs bladderpod population. The plant is believed to have 
been introduced in contaminated grain from southwestern Asia via Europe 
in the 1890's. The species is adapted to climate and soils similar to 
those found in the Great Basin Desert (parts of Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, 
and Utah). This opportunistic grass is able to maintain superiority 
over native plants in part because it is a prolific seed producer, able 
to germinate in the autumn or spring, giving it a competitive advantage 
over native perennials, and is tolerant of increased fire frequency. 
Cheatgrass can outcompete native plants for water and nutrients in the 
early spring, since it is actively growing when native plants are 
initiating growth. It also completes its reproductive process and 
becomes senescent before most native plants (Pellant 1996, p. 1-2).
    An infestation of yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) 
discovered during 2003 within a portion of the White Bluffs bladderpod 
range was mapped and treated aerially (TNC 2003, p. 67). Yellow 
starthistle infestations can reduce wildlife habitat and forage, 
displace native plants, and reduce native plant and animal diversity. 
It significantly depletes soil moisture reserves in both annual and 
perennial grasslands, and is able to invade and coexist within 
cheatgrass-dominated annual grasslands (TNC 2003, p. 55). Accordingly, 
nonnative plants that increase fuel availability for wildfires are 
considered an ongoing threat to White Bluffs bladderpod.
    Fire Suppression Activities: Fire suppression activities, which 
often damage or remove native plants from the habitat and disturb 
soils, could potentially be as damaging as the wildfire itself. The 
Monument Fire Management Plan (USFWS 2001, p. 27) briefly addresses 
White Bluffs bladderpod by providing guidance for fire suppression 
activities on the White Bluffs. The plan states ``Fire Management will 
protect these sensitive resources by suppressing fires in this area 
either from existing roads or the use of flappers and water use. The 
use of hand tools that break the surface will be avoided when possible, 
and the use of any off-road equipment in these areas requires 
concurrence by the Project Leader.'' Protection of sensitive resources 
during a fire response is an objective unless achieving this objective 
jeopardizes either firefighter safety or public safety (USFWS 2001, p. 
40). In the 2007 fire, damage to habitat from fire suppression 
activities within the White Bluffs bladderpod population was avoided by 
limiting soil disturbance to areas outside a 50-100 m (164-228 ft) 
buffer (Goldie 2012, pers. comm.).
    However, the ability to avoid fire suppression impacts to the White 
Bluffs bladderpod population during future wildfire events would take 
into account the location, direction, magnitude, and intensity of the 
event, firefighter safety considerations, and proximity of the fire to 
the plant population. If a wildfire were to occur in the surrounding 
area, protection of the White Bluffs bladderpod population may not be 
possible if wildfire circumstances necessitate establishing fire lines 
or response equipment staging areas within or near the population. A 
potential consequence of fire or any soil disturbance during fire 
suppression activities is the displacement of native vegetation by 
nonnative weedy species, which increases intraspecific competition for 
resources and increases the accumulation of fuels. When these 
conditions occur, they contribute to increases in wildfire frequency 
and severity in a frequent fire landscape. Accordingly, although the 
need for wildfire suppression activities near or within the White 
Bluffs bladderpod population is unpredictable, this activity is 
considered a potential threat to this subspecies based on the 
Monument's wildfire history (see Table 3).
    Based on the information above, the specific activities discussed 
under Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range present a threat to White Bluffs 
bladderpod and its habitat. These activities include landslides, 
invasive species, wildfire, off-road vehicle use, and potentially fire 
suppression activities.

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

    The regulations at 50 CFR 27.51 prohibit collecting any plant 
material on any national wildlife refuge. There is no evidence of 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational use of White 
Bluffs bladderpod, other than occasional collection of relatively few 
specimens (e.g., dead plants and seed collection). The subspecies is 
very showy while flowering and may be subject to occasional collection 
by the public. The University of Washington Rare Care staff collected 
approximately 2,000 White Bluffs bladderpod seeds from 60 plants on 
July 29, 2011, and Berry Botanic Garden in Portland, Oregon, currently 
has 1,800 seeds collected in 1997 from 45 plants (Gibble 2011, pers. 
comm.). Because the public has access to the subspecies, and it occurs 
on private land, occasional collection may be expected. Collection for 
scientific purposes combined with sporadic collection by private 
individuals remains a possible, but unlikely, threat.

C. Disease or Predation

    Evidence of disease has not been documented in White Bluffs 
bladderpod; however, predation of developing fruits and infestations on 
flowering buds has been observed.
    Seed predation: Since 1996, some predation by larval insects on 
developing fruits of White Bluffs bladderpod has been observed. Larvae 
of a species of Cecidomyiid fly have been observed infesting and 
destroying flowering buds, and an unidentified insect species has been 
documented boring small holes into young seed capsules and feeding on 
developing ovules. However, the overall effect of these insect species 
on the plants or population is not known (TNC 1998, p. 5). Although 
insect predation may be a potential threat to White Bluffs bladderpod, 
more thorough investigations are necessary to determine its 
significance to seed production. Accordingly, we do not consider insect 
predation to be a threat to White Bluffs bladderpod at this time. We 
are unaware of any other disease or predation interactions that 
represent potential threats to the subspecies.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    White Bluffs bladderpod was added to the State of Washington's list 
of endangered, threatened, and sensitive vascular plants in 1997 (as 
Lesquerella tuplashensis), and is designated as threatened by the 
Washington

[[Page 24000]]

Department of Natural Resources (WDNR, 2011). The WDNR Status and 
Ranking System of the Washington Natural Heritage Program (http://www1.dnr.wa.gov/nhp/refdesk/lists/stat_rank.html) identifies the State 
ranking for White Bluffs bladderpod as (1) G4 (apparently secure 
globally and at fairly low risk of extinction or elimination due to an 
extensive range and/or many populations or occurrences, but with 
possible cause for some concern as a result of local recent declines, 
threats, or other factors); (2) S2 (imperiled and at high risk of 
extirpation in the State due to restricted range, few populations or 
occurrences, steep declines, severe threats, or other factors); and (3) 
threatened (likely to become endangered within the near future in 
Washington if the factors contributing to population decline or habitat 
loss continue).
    Listing the species as threatened will invoke the protections under 
the Act, including consultation and development of a recovery plan. The 
State ranking does not provide any protections, whereas Federally 
listing the species will impose legal and regulatory requirements 
directed toward recovery. Therefore, the factors contributing to the 
species' decline with regard to the State ranking will be addressed and 
mitigated, over time. The State of Washington's endangered, threatened, 
and sensitive plant program is administered through the WNHP, and was 
created to provide an objective basis for establishing priorities for a 
broad array of conservation actions (WDNR 2011, p. 2). Prioritizing 
ecosystems and species for conservation offers a means to evaluate 
proposed natural areas and other conservation activities (WDNR p. 3). 
The WNHP is a participant in the Arid Lands Initiative, which is a 
public/private partnership attempting to develop strategies to conserve 
the species and ecosystems found within Washington's arid landscape. 
The WHNP assists in identifying conservation targets, major threats, 
and potential strategies to address them (WDNR 2011 p. 4).
    The DOE does not have a rare plant policy that provides specific 
protection for the species, and the Service manages DOE lands where 
White Bluffs bladderpod is found as a part of the Hanford National 
Monument. A comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for the Monument has 
been completed that provides a strategy and general conservation 
measures for rare plants that may benefit White Bluffs bladderpod. This 
strategy includes support for monitoring, inventory and control of 
invasive species, fire prevention, propagation, reintroduction, and 
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) support to map the impact area 
(USFWS 2008, pp. 2-64-2-65), but does not prescribe mandatory 
conservation elements. Although specific actions to conserve the 
subspecies are not identified, the plan acknowledges that protection of 
the population is needed, and that management actions are required to 
address its protection (USFWS 2008, p. 3-95).
    The CCP states that fire control policies will be implemented to 
reduce the risk of human-caused wildland fire (USFWS 2008, p. 4-13). 
The CCP also identifies strategies to mitigate the potential for 
increased human-caused wildfire as a result of increased visitation, 
through informational signing educating visitors on the danger of 
wildfire, the adverse effects of wildfire on the shrub-steppe habitat, 
and how visitors can contribute to fire prevention. Seasonal closure of 
interpretive trails through high-risk areas would be established and 
enforced to mitigate the potential of visitor-caused wildfire (USFWS 
2008, pp. 4-43-4-44). The CCP states that best management practices and 
current regulations that prohibit campfires, open fires, fireworks, and 
other sources of fire ignition on the Monument will be adequate to 
prevent human-caused wildfires that could potentially result from 
hunting activity (USFWS 2008, p. 4-46). During the recovery planning 
process, the specific management actions necessary to address each of 
the threats to the species (see Table 5) will be prioritized, costs 
will be estimated, and responsible parties will be identified. The 
recovery plan will build on the existing conservation actions 
identified in the CCP.
    A Spotlight Species Action Plan has been developed for White Bluffs 
bladderpod, which briefly describes the subspecies and the major 
threats and identifies actions to conserve the subspecies (USFWS 2009). 
These actions include working with adjacent landowners to restore, 
manage, and reduce threats to the population, installation of fencing 
to eliminate ORV use, invasive species studies and potential 
eradication efforts, seed collection for augmentation/restoration 
purposes, pollinator species studies, wildfire studies, and climate 
change studies. However, many of these actions have not been 
implemented as funding sources have not been identified (Newsome 2011, 
pers. comm.).
    Numerous wildland fires occur annually on lands in and surrounding 
the Monument. Many are human-caused resulting from vehicle ignitions 
from roads and highways, unattended campfires, burning of adjacent 
agricultural lands and irrigation ditches, and arson. Fires of natural 
origin (lightning caused) also occur on lands within and adjacent to 
the monument/refuge (USFWS 2001, p. 171). Since wildfires are 
unpredictable with regard to their location and intensity, a fire 
management plan is necessarily designed to be a response, rather than a 
regulatory strategy. The Wildland Fire Management Plan for the Monument 
is an operational guide for managing the Monument's wildland and 
prescribed fire programs. The plan defines levels of protection needed 
to promote firefighter and public safety, protect facilities and 
resources, and restore and perpetuate natural processes, given current 
understanding of the complex relationships in natural ecosystems (USFWS 
2001, p. 9). The Monument CCP also has an educational and enforcement 
program in place that reduces the likelihood of human-caused wildfires.
    An invasive plant species inventory and management plan has been 
developed by the Monument (Evans et al. 2003, entire). The plan 
identifies conservation targets, prevention, detection and response 
activities, prioritization of species and sites, inventory and 
monitoring, adaptive management, and several other strategies to 
address invasive species. Invasive species management presents 
significant management challenges because of the Monument's large size 
(78,780 ha) (195,000 ac), and the large number of documented or 
potential invasive plant species present (Evans et al. 2003, p. 5). The 
introduction and spread of invasive plant species is enhanced by the 
existence of disturbed lands and corridors; potential introduction 
pathways include the Columbia River, active irrigation canals, 
wasteways, and impoundments, State highways, and paved and unpaved 
secondary roads. In addition, recurrent wildfires, powerline 
development and maintenance, and slumping of the White Bluffs 
continually create new habitats for invasive species to colonize (Evans 
et al. 2003, p. 5).
    Although the Hanford Monument Proclamation prohibits off-road 
vehicle (ORV) use, ORV use has been documented in the publicly 
accessible Wahluke Unit (where White Bluffs bladderpod occurs). Some of 
these violators enter the Monument from long-established access routes 
from adjacent private lands (USFWS 2002, p. 17), causing physical 
damage to plants and creating ruts in slopes that increase erosion 
(USFWS 2008, p. 3-57).

[[Page 24001]]

Although ORV trespass incidents have been documented on Monument lands, 
and are affecting some White Bluffs bladderpod individuals, we have no 
information indicating that they are occurring with significant 
frequency or are affecting a substantial portion of the population. The 
Presidential proclamation establishing the Monument states, in part, 
``* * * the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Energy shall 
prohibit all motorized and mechanized vehicle use off road, except for 
emergency or other federally authorized purposes, including remediation 
purposes.'' (White House 2000, p. 3). We have no information that would 
indicate ORV trespass incidents on Monument lands are taking place over 
a large area within the White Bluffs bladderpod population, although 
increased enforcement could further reduce the likelihood of such 
events. ORV use has been documented, and is more common, on private 
property where the southern extent of the population occurs. However, 
there are no constraints on ORV use on private property, and as such, 
this activity on private lands is not being controlled by existing 
regulatory mechanisms.
    As described under Factor A, groundwater movement from adjacent, 
up-slope agricultural activities has caused mass-failure landslides 
caused by subsurface water seepage, which is a threat to White Bluffs 
bladderpod. This threat is greatest in the southern portion of the 
subspecies' distribution where irrigated agriculture is close in 
proximity, and in several locations directly adjacent to the bluffs 
(Bjornstat et al., 2009a, p. 8; Lindsey 1997, p. 12). No existing 
regulatory mechanisms address this threat.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Small Population Size: As stated earlier, since 1997 to 1998 when 
the monitoring transects currently used were selected, the population 
has ranged between an estimated low of 9,650 plants in 2010 and an 
estimated high of 58,887 plants in 2011 (see Table 2). Additionally, 
the subspecies is known from only a single population that occurs 
intermittently in a narrow band (usually less than 10 m (33 ft) wide) 
along an approximately 17-km (10.6-mi) stretch of the river bluffs 
(Rollins et al. 1996, p. 205), and approximately 35 percent of the 
known range has been moderately to severely affected by landslides. 
Accordingly, the subspecies is susceptible to being negatively impacted 
by the activities described in Factors A and C above, particularly if 
those threats are of a scope that affects a significant portion of the 
population. Therefore, based on the best available information, we 
consider White Bluffs bladderpod's small population size and limited 
geographic distribution to represent an ongoing threat to the 
subspecies.
    Climate Change: Our analyses under the Endangered Species Act 
include consideration of ongoing and projected changes in climate. The 
terms ``climate'' and ``climate change'' are defined by the 
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). ``Climate'' refers to 
the mean and variability of different types of weather conditions over 
time, with 30 years being a typical period for such measurements, 
although shorter or longer periods also may be used (IPCC 2007, p. 78). 
The term ``climate change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or 
variability of one or more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or 
precipitation) that persists for an extended period, typically decades 
or longer, whether the change is due to natural variability, human 
activity, or both (IPCC 2007, p. 78). Various types of changes in 
climate can have direct or indirect effects on species. These effects 
may be positive, neutral, or negative and they may change over time, 
depending on the species and other relevant considerations, such as the 
effects of interactions of climate with other variables (e.g., habitat 
fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, pp. 8-14, 18-19). In our analyses, we use 
our expert judgment to weigh relevant information, including 
uncertainty, in our consideration of various aspects of climate change.
    Regional climate change modeling indicates a potential threat to 
White Bluffs bladderpod if hotter and drier conditions increase stress 
on individual plants, or increase the effects of wildfire frequency and 
intensity (See discussion under Factor A). As described for Umtanum 
desert buckwheat above (see Factor E), the potential impacts of a 
changing global climate to White Bluffs bladderpod are presently 
unclear. All regional models of climate change indicate that future 
climate in the Pacific Northwest will be warmer than the past, and, 
together, they suggest that rates of warming will be greater in the 
21st century than those observed in the 20th century. Projected changes 
in annual precipitation, averaged over all models, are small (+1 to +2 
percent), but some models project an enhanced seasonal precipitation 
cycle with changes toward wetter autumns and winters and drier summers 
(Littell et al. 2009a, p. 1). Regional climate models suggest that some 
local changes in temperature and precipitation may be quite different 
than average regional changes projected by the global models (Littell 
et al. 2009a, p. 6). Precipitation uncertainties are particularly 
problematic in the western United States, where complex topography 
coupled with the difficulty of modeling El Ni[ntilde]o result in highly 
variable climate projections (Bradley 2009, p. 197).
    We do not know what the future holds with regard to climate change. 
Despite a lack of site-specific data, increased average temperatures 
and reduced average rainfall may promote a decline of the subspecies 
and result in a loss of habitat. Hotter and drier summer conditions 
could increase the frequency and intensity of fires in the area as 
cheatgrass or other invasive plants compete for resources with White 
Bluffs bladderpod. However, if summer precipitation were to increase, 
some native perennial shrubs and grasses could be more competitive if 
they are able to use water resources when cheatgrass or other nonnative 
species are dormant (Loik, 2007 in Bradley 2009, pp. 204-205). 
Nevertheless, if the frequency, intensity, and timing of the predicted 
changes in climate for eastern Washington are not aligned with the 
phenology of White Bluffs bladderpod, the survival and reproduction of 
the subspecies could be threatened over time. Although climate change 
represents a potential threat based on the available information, more 
thorough investigations are needed to determine the degree to which 
climate change may be affecting the subspecies.

Conservation Efforts To Reduce Other Natural or Manmade Factors 
Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Certain conservation efforts that are not described above in Factor 
D are occurring at the Monument in the vicinity of the White Bluffs 
bladderpod, including fencing, placement of signs controlling human 
foot traffic, ongoing invasive weed treatments, and future planning for 
targeted treatments of Centaurea solstitialis (yellow starthistle). A 
Monument CCP has been developed (USFWS 2008), which includes management 
and monitoring actions for White Bluffs bladderpod based on the 
priorities of the refuge. The CCP states that protection of this 
population, and thus the species, requires that these issues be 
addressed in any management action. Long-term demographic monitoring 
was initiated on this species in 1997 (USFWS 2008, p. 3-95) and 
periodic aerial monitoring has been undertaken by the Monument since 
then. Other management actions may include restoration of priority 
areas, access control, and bluff

[[Page 24002]]

stabilization. There currently is a need for improved monitoring of 
White Bluffs bladderpod at the northern locations, where access is more 
difficult. White Bluffs bladderpod has been germinated by Monument 
staff and grown in pots to a size suitable for the first dormant 
outplanting project, planned for December 2012 or January 2013 (Newsome 
2012, pers. comm.).

Cumulative Impacts

Cumulative Effects From Factors A Through E

    Some of the threats discussed in this finding could interact to 
cumulatively create scenarios that potentially impact the White Bluffs 
bladderpod beyond the scope of the combined threats that we have 
already analyzed. Threats described in Factor A above could likely 
increase their timing or intensity when combined at the same time or 
location. Available ground fuels are increased in areas near the White 
Bluffs bladderpod. The presence of nonnative species increase the 
ability of wildfires to spread (Factor A) and can amplify their overall 
size (Link et al. 2010, p 1). The occurrence of larger fires may 
increase their potential to reach the White Bluffs bladderpod 
population, thereby impacting the species. Larger fires may also 
increase the potential for impacts to the population related to fire 
response activities. A higher fire frequency could also result in the 
expansion of ground cover by invasive species, which could (1) increase 
the cumulative risk of direct loss of plants by fire, (2) increase 
competition for available resources and space, and (3) result in 
negative impacts to pollinator species. Any additional increase or 
reduction of these cumulative threats through climate change is 
currently unknown, but could be significant under drier annual, or 
reduced seasonal, precipitation conditions.

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

Determination

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
to White Bluffs bladderpod (see Table 5). Under the Act and our 
implementing regulations, a species may warrant listing if it is 
threatened or endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range. We assessed the status of White Bluffs bladderpod throughout its 
entire range and found it to be highly restricted within that range. 
The threats to the survival of the subspecies occur throughout the 
subspecies' range and are not restricted to any particular significant 
portion of that range. Accordingly, our assessment and listing 
determination applies to the subspecies throughout its entire range.
    Approximately 35 percent of the known range of the subspecies has 
been moderately to severely affected by landslides, resulting in an 
apparently permanent destruction of the habitat. The entire population 
of the subspecies is down-slope of irrigated agricultural land, the 
source of the water seepage causing the mass-failures and landslides, 
but the southern portion of the population is the closest to the 
agricultural land and most affected. Other significant threats include 
use of the habitat by recreational ORVs, which destroy plants, and the 
presence of invasive nonnative plants that compete with White Bluffs 
bladderpod for limited resources (light, water, nutrients). 
Additionally, the increasing presence of invasive nonnative plants may 
alter fire regimes and potentially increase the threat of fire to the 
White Bluffs bladderpod population.
    Fire suppression activities could potentially be as great a threat 
as the fire itself, given the location of the subspecies on the tops of 
bluffs where firelines are often constructed. In addition, firefighting 
equipment and personnel are commonly staged on ridge tops for safety 
and strategic purposes (Whitehall 2012, pers. comm.), although this has 
not been necessary within the White Bluffs bladderpod population to 
date. During a wildfire response effort in 2007, responders were able 
to avoid damage to White Bluffs bladderpod habitat during suppression 
activities by limiting soil disturbance to areas outside a 50-100 m 
(164-228 ft) buffer around the population. The threats to the 
population from landslides, ORV use, and potentially fire suppression 
(contingent on location, safety, the ability to avoid, and other 
particulars) are ongoing, and will continue to occur in the future. In 
addition, invasion by nonnative plants is a common occurrence post-fire 
in the Hanford vicinity, and will likely spread or increase throughout 
the areas that were burned during the 2007 fire that occurred in the 
area of the existing population or in future events.
    As described above, White Bluffs bladderpod is currently at risk 
throughout all of its range due to ongoing threats of habitat 
destruction and modification (Factor A), and other natural or manmade 
factors affecting its continued existence (Factor E). Specifically, 
these factors include the existing degradation or fragmentation of 
habitat resulting from landslides due to water seepage, invasive 
species establishment, ORV use, wildfire, potential fire suppression 
activities, and potential global climate change. Most of these threats 
are ongoing and projected to continue and potentially worsen in the 
future. The population is small and apparently restricted to a unique 
geological setting, making it vulnerable to extinction due to threats 
described in the final rule if they are not addressed. The scope of the 
threat of wildfire is high, while other threats are moderate to low in 
scope (see Table 5). Because of the limited range of the subspecies, 
any one of the threats could affect its continued existence at any 
time.

[[Page 24003]]

    The Act defines an endangered species as any species that is ``in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range,'' and a threatened species as any species ``that is likely to 
become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range 
within the foreseeable future.'' We find that White Bluffs bladderpod 
is likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range within the foreseeable future, based on the immediacy and 
scope of the threats described above and, therefore, meets the 
definition of a threatened species under the Act. There are no portions 
of the species' range where threats are geographically concentrated 
such that the species is in imminent danger of extinction within that 
portion of its range. White Bluffs bladderpod is primarily surrounded 
by Federal ownership, where the lands are managed as an overlay 
national wildlife refuge for general conservation purposes.
    The Monument CCP was developed to protect and conserve the 
biological, geological, paleontological, and cultural resources 
described in the Monument Proclamation by creating and maintaining 
extensive areas within the Monument free of facility development (USFWS 
2008, p. v). Several management objectives are identified that could 
benefit the White Bluffs bladderpod population, including treating 
invasive species and restoring upland habitat (USFWS 2008, pp. 19-22). 
The subspecies is also fairly numerous and continuous where it occurs 
over 17 km (10.6 mi); however, the threats are not all acting with 
uniform timing, scope, or intensity throughout the subspecies' 
distribution. Although landslides are occurring within approximately 35 
percent of the linear extent of the subspecies, plants are persisting, 
at present, in some areas where landslides have occurred. The risk to 
the overall population is proportional, as about 65 percent of the 
subspecies' habitat exists at a lower risk of landslides. The remaining 
primary threats to White Bluffs bladderpod, including wildfire, 
nonnative plants, and increased fuel loading from nonnative plants 
appear to be acting with uniform magnitude, intensity, and severity 
throughout the subspecies' distribution. Since a majority (85 percent) 
of the subspecies' distribution is on Federal lands managed as a 
national wildlife refuge for conservation purposes, and refuge 
management plans are in place to help protect and conserve the 
subspecies, we do not believe the subspecies is presently in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. 
Therefore, on the basis of the best available scientific and commercial 
information, we are listing White Bluffs bladderpod as threatened in 
accordance with sections 3(6) and 4(a)(1) of the Act.

Significant Portion of the Range Analysis for Umtanum Desert Buckwheat 
and White Bluffs Bladderpod

    We evaluated the current range of Umtanum desert buckwheat and 
White Bluffs bladderpod to determine if there are any apparent 
geographic concentrations of potential threats for either species. Both 
species are highly restricted in their ranges, and the threats occur 
throughout their ranges. For Umtanum desert buckwheat, we considered 
the potential threats due to wildfire, competition and fuel loads from 
nonnative plants, seed predation, flower predation, small population 
size, limited geographic range, and low recruitment. For White Bluffs 
bladderpod, we considered the potential threats due to wildfire, 
irrigation-induced slope failure and landslides, harm by recreational 
activities and ORV use, competition and fuel loads from nonnative 
plants, small population size, and limited geographic range. We found 
no concentration of threats because of the species' limited and 
curtailed ranges, and a generally consistent level of threats 
throughout their entire range.
    With regard to White Bluffs bladderpod, although the threat of 
groundwater-induced landslides affects the species' entire range, it is 
more noticeable along the southern extent of the population where the 
population occurs closest to areas that are irrigated for agricultural 
purposes. If all plants closest to the irrigated areas were to be lost, 
White Bluffs bladderpod would not be in danger of extinction throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range. Plants are persisting at 
present in some of the erosion-prone and eroded areas, which represent 
approximately 35 percent of the linear extent of the subspecies range. 
The plants are also fairly numerous and continuous along the entire 
10.6-mile section of the White Bluffs where they occur. Having 
determined that Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod 
are threatened throughout their entire range, we must next consider 
whether there are any significant portions of their range where they 
are in danger of extinction or likely to become endangered in the 
foreseeable future.
    We found no portion of the range of either species where potential 
threats are significantly concentrated or substantially greater than in 
other portions of their range. Therefore, we find that factors 
affecting Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod are 
essentially uniform throughout their range, indicating no portion of 
the range of either species warrants further consideration of possible 
endangered or threatened status under the Act. Therefore, we find there 
is no significant portion of the species' range that may warrant a 
different status.

Available Conservation Measures for Umtanum Desert Buckwheat and White 
Bluffs Bladderpod

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, the development of a 
recovery plan (including implementation of recovery actions), 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing actions results in public 
awareness and conservation by Federal, State, Tribal, and local 
agencies, private organizations, and individuals. The Act encourages 
cooperation with the States and requires that recovery actions be 
carried out for all listed species. The protection measures required of 
Federal agencies and the prohibitions against certain activities 
involving listed wildlife are discussed in Effects of Critical Habitat 
Designation and are further discussed, in part, below.
    The primary purpose of the Act is the conservation of endangered 
and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The 
ultimate goal of such conservation efforts is the recovery of these 
listed species, so that they no longer need the protective measures of 
the Act. Section 4(f) of the Act requires the Service to develop and 
implement recovery plans for the conservation of endangered and 
threatened species. The recovery planning process involves the 
identification of actions that are necessary to halt or reverse the 
species' decline by addressing the threats to its survival and 
recovery. The goal of this process is to restore listed species to a 
point where they are secure, self-sustaining, and functioning 
components of their ecosystems.
    Recovery planning includes the development of a recovery outline 
shortly after a species is listed, preparation of a draft and final 
recovery plan, and revisions to the plan as significant new information 
becomes available. The recovery outline guides the immediate 
implementation of urgent recovery actions and describes the

[[Page 24004]]

process to be used to develop a recovery plan. The recovery plan 
identifies site-specific management actions that will achieve recovery 
of the species, measurable criteria that determine when a species may 
be downlisted or delisted, and methods for monitoring recovery 
progress. Recovery plans also establish a framework for agencies to 
coordinate their recovery efforts and provide estimates of the cost of 
implementing recovery tasks. Recovery teams (composed of species 
experts, Federal and State agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and 
stakeholders) are often established to develop recovery plans. When 
completed, the recovery outline, draft recovery plan, and the final 
recovery plan will be available on our Web site (http://www.fws.gov/endangered), or from our Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
    Implementation of recovery actions generally requires the 
participation of a broad range of partners, including other Federal 
agencies, States, Tribal, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, 
and private landowners. Examples of recovery actions include habitat 
restoration (e.g., restoration of native vegetation), research, captive 
propagation and reintroduction, and outreach and education. The 
recovery of many listed species cannot be accomplished solely on 
Federal lands because their range may occur primarily or solely on non-
Federal lands. To achieve recovery of these species requires 
cooperative conservation efforts on private, State, and Tribal lands.
    The Monument CCP (2008, p. 4-31), identifies several strategies 
that will support recovery efforts, including (1) continuing ongoing 
partnerships for monitoring Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs 
bladderpod populations; (2) inventory and control of nonnative plant 
species; (3) consideration of rare plant species and locations when 
planning management, recreational, access, and other actions; (4) 
wildfire prevention when possible, and limiting their size; and (5) 
development of propagation techniques for rare species for 
reintroductions if populations go below thresholds.
    Once these species are listed, funding for recovery actions will be 
available from a variety of sources, including Federal budgets, State 
programs, and cost share grants for non-Federal landowners, the 
academic community, and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, 
pursuant to section 6 of the Act, the State of Washington would be 
eligible for Federal funds to implement management actions that promote 
the protection and recovery of Umtanum desert buckwheat and White 
Bluffs bladderpod. Information on our grant programs that are available 
to aid species recovery can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/grants.
    Please let us know if you are interested in participating in 
recovery efforts for Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs 
bladderpod. 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 consultation with the Service.
    Federal agency actions within the species' habitat that may require 
conference or consultation or both as described in the preceding 
paragraph include management and any other landscape-altering 
activities on Federal lands administered by the Department of Energy, 
Department of Defense, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of 
Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, Army Corps of Engineers, and 
construction and management of gas pipeline and power line rights-of-
way by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all threatened 
plants. For threatened plants, it is unlawful to commit, to attempt to 
commit, to cause to be committed, or to solicit another to commit the 
following acts: (1) Import or export (into, out of, or through the 
United States); (2) remove and reduce to possession from Federal 
property; and (3) engage in interstate or foreign commerce. At this 
time, no existing regulatory mechanisms provide protection for State-
listed plants in Washington, even if endangered. In addition, since 
Umtanum desert buckwheat occurs entirely on Federal land, and White 
Bluffs bladderpod occurs predominantly on Federal land, all Monument 
regulations that have protective or conservation relevance to either 
species would be applicable.
    We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered and threatened plant species under certain 
circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 
17.62 for endangered plants, and at 50 CFR 17.72 for threatened plants. 
With regard to endangered plants, a permit may be issued for the 
following purposes: for scientific purposes or to enhance the 
propagation or survival of the species.
    Regulations at 50 CFR 402.16 require Federal agencies to reinitiate 
consultation on previously reviewed actions in instances where we have 
listed a new species or subsequently designated critical habitat that 
may be affected and the Federal agency has retained discretionary 
involvement or control over the action (or the agency's discretionary 
involvement or control is authorized by law). Consequently, Federal 
agencies may sometimes need to request reinitiation of consultation 
with us on actions for which formal consultation has been completed, if 
those actions with discretionary involvement or control may affect 
subsequently listed species or designated critical habitat.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities would constitute a 
violation of section 9 of the Act should be directed to our Washington 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). 
Requests for copies of the regulations concerning listed animals and 
general inquiries regarding prohibitions and permits may be addressed 
to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Permits, 
Eastside Federal Complex, 911 NE 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232-
4181 (telephone (503) 231-6158; facsimile (503) 231-6243).

Required Determinations

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)
    This rule does not contain any new collections of information that 
require approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). This rule 
will not impose recordkeeping or reporting requirements

[[Page 24005]]

on State or local governments, individuals, businesses, or 
organizations. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is 
not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it 
displays a currently valid OMB control number.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)
    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).
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.

References Cited

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

Author(s)

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

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Regulation Promulgation

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

PART 17--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; and 4201-4245, unless 
otherwise noted.


0
2. Amend Sec.  17.12(h) by adding entries for ``Eriogonum codium'' 
(Umtanum desert buckwheat) and ``Physaria douglasii subsp. 
tuplashensis'' (White Bluffs bladderpod) to the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Plants in alphabetical order under Flowering Plants to read 
as follows:


Sec.  17.12  Endangered and threatened plants.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

 
         Flowering Plants
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Eriogonum codium.................  Umtanum desert        U.S.A. (WA).........  Polygonaceae........  T                     811     17.96(a)           NA
                                    buckwheat.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Physaria douglasii subsp.          White Bluffs          U.S.A. (WA).........  Brassicaceae........  T                     811     17.96(a)           NA
 tuplashensis.                      bladderpod.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Dated: April 8, 2013.
Rowan Gould,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-09409 Filed 4-22-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P