[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 129 (Thursday, July 5, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 39666-39670]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-16381]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2012-0030; 4500030113]


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition To List Maytenus cymosa as Endangered or Threatened

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to list the Maytenus cymosa (Caribbean 
mayten), a tree, as endangered or threatened under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), and to designate critical 
habitat. Based on our review, we find that the petition does not 
present substantial information indicating that listing M. cymosa may 
be warranted. Therefore, we are not initiating a status review in 
response to this petition. However, we ask the public to submit to us 
any new information that becomes available concerning the status of, or 
threats to, M. cymosa or its habitat at any time.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on July 5, 2012.

ADDRESSES: This finding is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-R4-ES-2012-0030. Supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this finding is available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office 
(CESFO), P.O. Box 491, Boquer[oacute]n, PR 00622. Please submit any new 
information, materials, comments, or questions concerning this finding 
to the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marelisa Rivera, Deputy Field 
Supervisor of the Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office (see 
ADDRESSES), by telephone at 787-851-7297, or by facsimile at 787-851-
7440. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please 
call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires 
that we make a finding on whether a petition to list, delist, or 
reclassify a species presents substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. We 
are to base this finding on information provided in the petition, 
supporting information submitted with the petition, and information 
otherwise available in our files. To the maximum extent practicable, we 
are to make this finding within 90 days of our receipt of the petition, 
and publish our notice of the finding promptly in the Federal Register.
    Our standard for substantial scientific or commercial information 
within the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) with regard to a 90-day 
petition finding is ``that amount of information that would lead a 
reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition 
may be warranted'' (50 CFR 424.14(b)). If we find that substantial 
scientific or commercial information was presented, we are required to 
promptly conduct a species status review, which we subsequently 
summarize in our 12-month finding.

Petition History

    On October 6, 2011, we received a petition, dated September 28, 
2011, from Mark N. Salvo of Wild Earth Guardians, requesting that 
Maytenus cymosa be listed as endangered or threatened, and that 
critical habitat be designated, under the Act. The petition clearly 
identified itself as such and included the requisite identification 
information for the petitioner, as required by 50 CFR 424.14(a). The 
Service acknowledged receipt of the

[[Page 39667]]

petition in a letter dated December 20, 2011, which also stated that 
emergency listing was not warranted. This finding addresses the 
petition.

Previous Federal Action(s)

    Maytenus cymosa was included as a category 2 candidate species in 
Federal Register notices dated December 30, 1982 (47 FR 58454), 
September 27, 1985 (50 FR 39526), January 6, 1989 (54 FR 554), November 
21, 1991 (56 FR 58804), September 30, 1993 (58 FR 51144) and November 
15, 1994 (59 FR 58982). Category 2 candidates were taxa for which 
information was available indicating that listing was possibly 
appropriate, but insufficient data were available regarding biological 
vulnerability and threats. In the February 28, 1996, Notice of Review 
(61 FR 7595), we discontinued the use of multiple candidate categories 
and removed category 2 species from the candidate list, which removed 
M. cymosa from the candidate species list.

Species Information

    Maytenus cymosa is a medium-size tree of the Celastraceae family. 
It grows up to 8 meters (m) (26.7 feet (ft)) tall and the trunk 
diameter may reach up to 15 centimeters (cm) (6 inches (in)) with a 
blackish and slightly fissured bark. The species possesses alternate 
leaves with oval to obovate (egg-shaped) leaf-blades that are 2.5-6 cm 
(1.0-2.4 in) long and 1.5-4 cm (0.6-1.6 in) broad. The leaves are 
rounded at the apex, obtuse to narrowed or rounded at the base with 
margins slightly recurved, 5-8 millimeters (mm) (0.2-0.32 in) long, few 
lateral nerves, paler beneath. Flowers grow on axillary cymes (clusters 
of flowers arising from the junction between leaves and stem) and are 
subglomerate (almost tightly clustered). Flowers are 2.5 mm (1.0 in) 
long, with suborbicular sepals 0.8 mm (0.32 in) long and 1-1.2 mm 
(0.04-0.048 in) broad. Petals are pale yellow and oval and 1.8-2 mm 
(0.072-0.08 in) long. The fruit is a blackish-elliptic capsule 1 cm 
(0.4 in) long, which produces 1 or more seeds with a fleshy aril 
(covering) (Liogier 1994, p. 27; Little et al. 1974, p. 466).
    The species occurs on dry to moist coastal woodlands in Puerto Rico 
at elevations below 100 feet (i.e., Pi[ntilde]eros Island, Vieques and 
Fajardo), in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI; St. Croix and St. Thomas), 
and in the British Virgin Islands (Virgin Gorda) (Little et al. 1974, 
p. 466). In Puerto Rico, its distribution seems to be limited to the 
eastern corner of the island and the adjacent small islands and cays 
(Liogier 1994, p. 27; Little et al. 1974, p. 466).
    Based on the petition and the information available in our files, 
the largest population of Maytenus cymosa is located within the Gorda 
Peak National Park on the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin 
Islands and is composed of about 100 individuals (IUCN 2011, p. 1). The 
petition further states that a single tree was recorded at Savannah Bay 
on Virgin Gorda. However, no data were provided in the petition 
regarding current population trends to support an assumption that the 
number of individuals has been declining or that the populations are 
facing problems that may lead to the species' extinction. The petition 
reports another 52 individuals in eastern Puerto Rico within 2 
localities, but no data about the exact localities of these 
populations, or about population trends, were provided in the petition 
or are available in our files. Furthermore, no data are available 
regarding the number of individuals at St. Croix and St. Thomas.
    We accept the characterization of Maytenus cymosa as a species 
because it is recognized as a valid species on the latest treatments 
and revisions of the flora of the Caribbean (Liogier and Martorel 2000, 
p. 109; Liogier 1994, p. 27; Little et al. 1974, p. 466).

Evaluation of Information for This Finding

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 424 set forth the procedures for adding a species 
to, or removing a species from, 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; or
    (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.
    In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look 
beyond the mere exposure of the species to the factor to determine 
whether the species responds to the factor in a way that causes actual 
impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a factor, but no 
response, or only a positive response, that factor is not a threat. If 
there is exposure and the species responds negatively, the factor may 
be a threat and we then attempt to determine how significant a threat 
it is. If the threat is significant, it may drive or contribute to the 
risk of extinction of the species such that the species may warrant 
listing as threatened or endangered as those terms are defined by the 
Act. This does not necessarily require empirical proof of a threat. The 
combination of exposure and some corroborating evidence of how the 
species is likely impacted could suffice. The mere identification of 
factors that could impact a species negatively may not be sufficient to 
compel a finding that listing may be warranted. The information shall 
contain evidence sufficient to suggest that these factors may be 
operative threats that act on the species to the point that the species 
may meet the definition of threatened or endangered under the Act.
    In making this 90-day finding, we evaluated whether information 
regarding the threats to Maytenus cymosa, as presented in the petition 
and available in our files at the time the petition was received, is 
substantial, thereby indicating that the petitioned action may be 
warranted. Our evaluation of this information is presented below.

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

Information Provided in the Petition
    The petition claims that the recorded populations of Maytenus 
cymosa in Puerto Rico and the USVI may occur on lands with differing 
ownerships where they may be threatened by land use and habitat 
fragmentation. The petition also indicates that the largest population 
of M. cymosa (about 100 trees) occurs in a National Park on Virgin 
Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    The petition does not provide any information about specific 
threats (for example, road construction, hotel developments, or housing 
developments) to the populations of Maytenus cymosa or evidence 
indicating that specific land uses or habitat fragmentation are 
responsible for actual or even foreseeable decline in the number of 
individuals. Neither the information in the petition or available in 
our files provides any recent population assessments, which may provide 
information regarding current abundance, distribution, and threats. As 
to the population in Gorda Peak National Park, which is the largest 
population, the British Virgin Islands

[[Page 39668]]

National Parks Trust (BVINPT) conducts weekly trail maintenance, 
garbage removal, and removal of overhanging branches within the Park. 
Protection of rare and endangered plants (including this species) was a 
primary reason for designation of the park, according to the British 
Virgin Islands Protected Areas System Plan 2007-2017 (BVINPT 2008, p. 
109). While the plan lists internal and external threats to the park 
(e.g., limited cattle grazing, invasive species, forest fires, small-
scale agricultural activity, and plant collection (mainly orchids), 
neither the plan nor the petition identifies any of these threats as 
specifically affecting M. cymosa (BVINPT 2008, p. 109).
    Maytenus cymosa also has been recorded on the island of Vieques, in 
eastern Puerto Rico (Monsegur 2007), where it was collected by Gary 
Breckon (former botanist of the University of Puerto Rico at 
Mayag[uuml]ez). About 54 percent of the island of Vieques (about 17,673 
acres (7,152 hectares)) is a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) managed by 
the Service, which contains suitable habitat for the species (Vieques 
NWR CCP & EIS 2007, p. 2). The amount of suitable habitat for the 
species on the island is unknown, but it is known to occur outside of 
the Refuge, based on the previously mentioned collection. The area of 
Cerro El Buey, which harbors a habitat similar to the area where 
Breckon collected the species, is under protection as it was 
transferred to the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust (Trust) (Vieques NWR 
CCP & EIS 2007, p. 2, 19). Currently, the Trust manages about 800 acres 
(323.7 ha) for conservation, including the area of Cerro El Buey. 
Furthermore, the Service manages about 3,100 acres on western Vieques 
including the area of Monte Pirata, also a remnant of possible habitat 
for the species. The majority of the refuge (eastern conservation unit) 
(approximately 14,669 acres (5936.3 ha)) remains closed to the public 
due to unexploded ordnance. Due to its use as a Live Impact area, some 
of the eastern conservation area will be managed as a wilderness area, 
with no public access permitted (Vieques NWR CCP & EIS 2007, p. 3). 
This has the effect of preventing researchers from determining the full 
extent of the range of the species on the island. Therefore, while we 
acknowledge that areas outside of the Refuge are not officially 
protected, the majority of the habitat on the island remains protected.
    Maytenus cymosa was also recorded on Pi[ntilde]eros Island, part of 
the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico. This island is 
currently under a munitions and explosives of concern (MEC) 
investigation to identify and remove unexploded artifacts. The MEC 
investigation accounts for the presence of M. cymosa and requires the 
presence of a qualified biologist able to identify the species during 
any removal activities (Department of the Navy, Naval Facilities 
Engineering Command, Atlantic Division, 2006, p. 5-1). The Removal Plan 
(associated with the MEC investigation) states that M. cymosa is common 
on Pi[ntilde]eros Island and impacts to the species will be avoided 
during unexploded artifacts removal activities. Work will occur largely 
on trails, and munitions are expected to be removed by hand. The Navy, 
Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic Division, plans to 
transfer Pi[ntilde]eros Island to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and 
has suggested an approach that will allow public access to 
Pi[ntilde]eros Island while protecting the ecology of the island by 
disturbing only a small fraction of the vegetation (Department of the 
Navy, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic Division, 2006, p. 
1-8).
    In summary, the petition claims Maytenus cymosa may be threatened 
by land use and habitat fragmentation, but does not provide any 
substantive data or information to support the assumption that these 
threats are acting on M. cymosa in such a way as to render the species 
vulnerable to extinction. In contrast, information in our files 
indicates that the species is protected in many areas where it is 
found. Therefore, we find that the information provided in the petition 
and available in our files does not present substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be 
warranted due to the present or threatened destruction, modification, 
or curtailment of its habitat or range.

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

    The petitioner does not identify this factor as a current threat to 
the species. Based on the information available in our files, there are 
no data to suggest that overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes has contributed to a decline of the 
Maytenus cymosa. We find that the information provided in the petition 
and available in our files does not present substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be 
warranted due to overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes.

C. Disease or Predation

    The petitioner does not identify this factor as a current threat to 
the species. Based on the information available in our files, there are 
no data that suggest that disease or predation has contributed to a 
decline of Maytenus cymosa or that either is a current threat to the 
species. We find that the information provided in the petition and 
available in Service files does not present substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be 
warranted due to disease or predation.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

Information Provided in the Petition
    The petition notes that the British Virgin Islands has an 
environmental charter that required development of a Protected Areas 
System Plan, and promulgated environmental ordinances for the 
conservation and management of National Parks. The petitioner states 
that, despite these policies and ordinances, habitat loss and 
degradation continues in the British Virgin Islands and Maytenus cymosa 
may not be adequately protected on Virgin Gorda outside of the Gorda 
Peak National Park.
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    As discussed under Factor A, the petition does not provide any 
substantial information about specific threats resulting in habitat 
loss and degradation to Maytenus cymosa populations or evidence 
indicating that urban development and habitat fragmentation may be 
responsible for a decline in the number of M. cymosa individuals. The 
petition does not provide population data on the existing populations 
outside the National Park. Furthermore, the core of the known 
populations (about 100 individuals) lies within the Gorda Peak National 
Park. Individuals within the National Park are provided protection from 
some threats, such as urban development and habitat fragmentation.
    The Territory of the USVI currently considers Maytenus cymosa to be 
endangered under the Virgin Islands Indigenous and Endangered Species 
Act (V.I. Code, Title 12, Chapter 2) and has amended an existing 
regulation (Bill No. 18-0403) to provide for protection of endangered 
and threatened wildlife and plants by prohibiting the take, injury, or 
possession of indigenous plants. While we have previously recognized in 
other listing rules that Rothenberger et al. (2008, p. 68) mentioned 
that the lack of

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management and enforcement capacity continues to be a significant 
challenge for the USVI, even given the relatively wide range of the 
species, we have no evidence to indicate that collection or habitat 
loss may be expected to threaten the species now or in the future; 
therefore, we have no specific information indicating that regulatory 
mechanisms may be inadequate to protect the species.
    In Puerto Rico, the species is considered as a critical element by 
the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. 
Critical elements are described in the Comprehensive Wildlife 
Conservation Strategy as federally or locally listed species, species 
important to Puerto Rican heritage, and some endemic species (DNER, 
2005, p.54). This classification does not provide regulatory protection 
to M. cymosa, but does require special consideration by Commonwealth 
agencies when evaluating development projects that may impact the 
species. As stated previously, we have no evidence of current or future 
threats to the species; therefore, we have no evidence that this 
regulatory mechanism may be inadequate to protect the species, at 
present.
    In summary, the petition does not provide any substantial 
information documenting the inadequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms nor do we have any such information in our files. Therefore, 
we find that the information provided in the petition and currently 
available in our files does not present substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be 
warranted due to the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

Information Provided in the Petition
    The petition indicates that the small number of remaining Maytenus 
cymosa trees may have a negative effect on the species' genetic 
diversity and may render it vulnerable to stochastic events, as small 
populations are more likely to go extinct as a result of these events. 
The petition further states that the Service has frequently recognized 
small population size as a threat to the persistence of species.
    The petition also indicates that the population of Maytenus cymosa 
in Gorda Peak National Park on Virgin Gorda may have been affected by 
fire in 1997, and that the species may be vulnerable to future fires in 
that location. The petition further claims that individual trees may 
have been affected by Hurricane Hugo, and the species may have been 
affected by subsequent hurricanes and weather events.
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    The petition does not provide any information to support a claim 
that the populations have actually declined, resulting in a negative 
effect on the genetic diversity of the species that would render it 
vulnerable to extinction. We have no information in our files about the 
genetics of the species or any information about the reproductive 
biology or population dynamics of M. cymosa to suggest that low genetic 
diversity may be a threat to the species. While small population is 
identified in the petition as a threat to the species, there is no 
information either in the petition or in our files to indicate that 
small population size may be having a negative effect on the species. 
Moreover, the species occurs on several islands rendering it less 
likely to be affected by stochastic events, and as we have explained, 
we have no information indicating that low genetic diversity may be a 
threat.
    The petition does not provide any information, nor do we have any 
in our files, indicating that Maytenus cymosa was directly affected, or 
that its habitat was degraded, by the 1997 fire. The petition did not 
present substantial information to support the assertion that fire may 
be a threat to the species.
    The petition does not provide any information, nor do we have any 
information in our files, indicating that Maytenus cymosa was directly 
affected, or its habitat was degraded, by severe tropical storms. It 
has been stated that successional responses to hurricanes can influence 
the structure and composition of plant communities in the Caribbean 
islands (Van Bloem et al. 2005). Nonetheless, as a species endemic to 
the Caribbean, it is likely that M. cymosa may be well adapted to these 
tropical weather events. Severe tropical storms may affect very small 
populations that are threatened by a lack of natural recruitment or 
that lie within areas subject to soil erosion or landslides. However, 
based on the petition and the information available in our files, there 
is no evidence suggesting that M. cymosa may be currently threatened by 
hurricanes and other weather events.
    We find that the information provided in the petition and currently 
available in Services files does not present substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be 
warranted due to other natural or manmade factors (genetic diversity, 
fires, or hurricanes).

Finding

    In summary, the petition does not present substantial information 
that listing Maytenus cymosa as an endangered or threatened species may 
be warranted. The core of the known population lies within a protected 
area (i.e., Gorda Peak National Park). The petition does not provide 
any substantial information or data indicating that the present or 
threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or 
range may be a current or future threat to the species. M. cymosa also 
occurs within Pi[ntilde]eros Island, an area managed for conservation, 
and within the island of Vieques, which has a substantial land area 
designated as a National Wildlife Refuge and managed by the Service, 
which supports habitat for the species. The known distribution of M. 
cymosa includes territories that currently have regulations and laws 
that protect the species and its habitat. Neither the information 
provided by the petitioner nor the information available in files 
indicates that the species may be currently affected by genetic 
problems, human-induced fires, or hurricanes. The petitioner did not 
provide any further information regarding the ecology or reproductive 
biology of M. cymosa (e.g., lack of pollinators and/or fruit 
dispersors, lack of natural recruitment, etc.) that would suggest 
synergistic forces may be acting on M. cymosa, making it vulnerable to 
extinction.
    Therefore, on the basis of our analysis under section 4(b)(3)(A) of 
the Act, we conclude that the petition does not present substantial 
scientific or commercial information to indicate that listing Maytenus 
cymosa under the Act as endangered or threatened may be warranted at 
this time. Although we will not review the status of the species at 
this time, we encourage interested parties to continue to gather data 
that will assist with the conservation of M. cymosa. If you wish to 
provide information regarding M. cymosa, you may submit your 
information or materials to the Deputy Field Supervisor, Caribbean 
Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES), at any time.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available on the Internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2012-0030 and upon 
request from the Caribbean Ecological

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Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Author

    The primary authors of this notice are the staff members of the 
Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES).

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

    Dated: June 20, 2012.
 Daniel M. Ashe,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-16381 Filed 7-3-12; 8:45 am]
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