[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 138 (Wednesday, July 18, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 42238-42251]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-17526]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2011-0041; 4500030113]


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
on a Petition To List Six Sand Dune Beetles as Endangered or Threatened

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
12-month finding on a petition to list six Nevada sand dune beetle 
species as endangered or threatened and to designate critical habitat 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In our 90-
day finding on this petition (76 FR 47123, August 4, 2011), we 
determined that the petition presented substantial information 
indicating that listing may be warranted for four of the six species: 
Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab (Aegialia crescenta), Crescent Dunes 
serican scarab (Serica ammomenisco), large aegialian scarab (Aegialia 
magnifica), and Giuliani's dune scarab (Pseudocotalpa giulianii). We 
also determined that the petition did not present substantial 
information indicating that listing the other two species, Hardy's 
aegialian scarab (Aegialia hardyi) and Sand Mountain serican scarab 
(Serica psammobunus), may be warranted. We therefore initiated status 
reviews on only the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes 
serican scarab, large aegialian scarab, and Giuliani's dune scarab. 
After review of the best available scientific and commercial 
information, we find that listing these four beetle species is not 
warranted at this time. However, we ask the public to submit to us any 
new information that becomes available concerning the threats to these 
four beetle species or their habitat at any time.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on July 18, 
2012.

ADDRESSES: This finding is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-R8-ES-2011-0041. The 
supporting documentation used in preparing this finding is available 
for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office, 
4701 N. Torrey Pines Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89130. Please submit any new 
information, materials, comments, or questions concerning this finding 
to the above street address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Edward D. Koch, State Supervisor, 
Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES); by telephone at 775-
861-6300; or by facsimile at 775-861-6301. 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)(B) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires 
that, for any petition to revise the Federal Lists of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and Plants that contains substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that listing a species may be 
warranted, we make a finding within 12 months of the date of receipt of 
the petition. In this finding, we will determine that the petitioned 
action is: (1) Not warranted, (2) warranted, or (3) warranted, but the 
immediate proposal

[[Page 42239]]

of a regulation implementing the petitioned action is precluded by 
other pending proposals to determine whether species are endangered or 
threatened, and expeditious progress is being made to add or remove 
qualified species from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants. Section 4(b)(3)(C) of the Act requires that we 
treat a petition for which the requested action is found to be 
warranted but precluded as though resubmitted on the date of such 
finding, that is, requiring a subsequent finding to be made within 12 
months. We must publish these 12-month findings in the Federal 
Register.

Petition History

    On February 2, 2010, we received a petition dated January 29, 2010, 
from WildEarth Guardians (referred to below as the petitioner). The 
petitioner requested that the Service list six species of sand dune 
beetles in Nevada as endangered or threatened, and designate critical 
habitat, under the Act. The six beetle species are Hardy's aegialian 
scarab (Aegialia hardyi), Sand Mountain serican scarab (Serica 
psammobunus), Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab (A. crescenta), Crescent 
Dunes serican scarab (S. ammomenisco), large aegialian scarab (A. 
magnifica), and Giuliani's dune scarab (Pseudocotalpa giulianii). 
Included in the petition was supporting information regarding the 
species' taxonomy and ecology, historical and current distribution, 
current status, and actual and potential causes of decline.
    On March 12, 2010, we acknowledged receipt of the petition in a 
letter to the petitioner. We informed the petitioner that we reviewed 
the information presented in the petition and determined that issuing 
an emergency regulation temporarily listing the species under section 
4(b)(7) of the Act was not necessary. We also stated that we 
anticipated making an initial finding in fiscal year 2010.
    On August 4, 2011, we made our 90-day finding that the petition did 
not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating 
that listing two of the six beetle species, the Hardy's aegialian 
scarab and Sand Mountain serican scarab, may be warranted (76 FR 47123, 
August 4, 2011). Therefore, no further action is required on the 
petition as it relates to these two species. However, we determined 
that the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that listing of the other four beetle species, 
the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes serican scarab, 
large aegialian scarab, and Giuliani's dune scarab, may be warranted. 
At that time, we initiated a review of the status of these species to 
determine if listing these four beetle species is warranted.
    This notice constitutes the status review on the Crescent Dunes 
aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes serican scarab, large aegialian 
scarab, and Giuliani's dune scarab and the 12-month finding on the 
February 2, 2010, petition to list these species as endangered or 
threatened and to designate critical habitat under the Act.

Previous Federal Actions

    On August 10, 1978, the Service proposed to list Giuliani's dune 
scarab as threatened, citing the effects of off-road vehicle (ORV) use 
(43 FR 35636). The Service stated that ORV activity compacts dead 
organic matter accumulated on dune slopes and prevents its buildup, 
thereby destroying the larval habitat of the beetle. The proposed rule 
also determined that there were no State and Federal laws protecting 
the species and its habitat. Included in the proposed rule was a 
proposal to designate critical habitat at Big Dune, Nye County, Nevada.
    On October 1, 1980, the Service withdrew the proposal to list 
Giuliani's dune scarab (45 FR 65137). We took this action because, at 
that time, amendments to the Act mandated that we withdraw any proposed 
rules to list species that we had not finalized within 2 years of the 
proposal.
    In 1984, 1989, and 1991, we published notices of review that 
identified Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, large aegialian scarab, and 
Giuliani's dune scarab as candidates under consideration for addition 
to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (49 FR 21664, May 22, 
1984; 54 FR 554, January 6, 1989; 56 FR 58804, November 21, 1991). In 
each notice of review, each beetle was identified as a category 2 
candidate. Category 2 candidates were those for which the Service 
possessed information indicating that listing as endangered or 
threatened was possibly appropriate but for which conclusive data on 
biological vulnerability and threats were not currently available to 
support a proposed rule.
    On February 28, 1996, the Service adopted a single category of 
candidate species and no longer considered category 2 species as 
candidates (61 FR 7595), thus removing the beetles from consideration. 
The decision to stop considering category 2 species as candidates was 
designed to reduce confusion about the status of these species and to 
clarify that we no longer regarded these species as candidates for 
listing.

Species Information

Taxonomy and Species Description
    As a whole, the invertebrates of Nevada are poorly studied, and 
there is limited life-history information for these sand dune beetle 
species (NDOW 2006, p. 12). However, the taxonomic information is 
available and was reviewed to reach the conclusion that each of these 
species is a valid taxon. All four of the beetle species are 
taxonomically categorized as follows: Kingdom Animalia, Phylum 
Mandibulata, Class Insecta, Order Coleoptera, Superfamily 
Scarabaeoidea, Family Scarabaeidae.
    The Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab (Subfamily Aphodiinae, Tribe 
Aegialiini (Brown 1931, pp. 9, 11-12), Aegialia crescenta) was first 
described in 1977 (Gordon and Cartwright 1977, pp. 45-47) and 
genetically analyzed in 1997 (Porter and Rust 1997, pp. 304, 306, 308). 
These beetles are 3.75 to 5.00 millimeters (mm) (about 0.19 inch (in)) 
long and 2.05 to 2.70 mm (less than 0.13 in) wide (Gordon and 
Cartwright 1977, p. 45). The adults are dark reddish brown with 
yellowish underside, legs, and mouthparts. Little is known about the 
larvae of the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab.
    The Crescent Dunes serican scarab (Subfamily Melolonthinae, Tribe 
Sericini (Hayes 1929, p. 26), Serica ammomenisco) (errantly spelled 
ammomensico in some texts) was first described in 1987 (Hardy and 
Andrews 1987, pp. 173-174). The name is derived from the Greek ammo 
(sand) and menisco (crescent) and refers to the only place they are 
known to occur, Crescent Dunes. These beetles are 6.5 to 8.2 mm (0.25 
to 0.33 in) long and 3.4 mm (0.13 in) wide (Hardy and Andrews 1987, p. 
173). The adults have a black head and thorax with dark brown legs; 
however, their color ranges from pale brown to brownish black (Hardy 
and Andrews 1987, p. 173). They are recognized by the band of pale 
hairs behind the top of the head (clypeus), their relatively light 
coloration, and the unique genitalia of the males (Hardy and Andrews 
1987, p. 173). Little is known about larvae of the Crescent Dunes 
serican scarab.
    The large aegialian scarab (Subfamily Aphodiinae, Tribe Aegialiini 
(Brown 1931, pp. 9, 11-12), Aegialia magnifica) also was first 
described by Gordon and Cartwright in 1977 (pp. 43-45) and genetically 
analyzed in 1995 (Porter and Rust 1996, pp. 711, 716, 718; 1997, pp. 
304, 306, 308). These beetles are 4.40 to

[[Page 42240]]

5.90 mm (about 0.25 in) long and 2.48 to 3.25 mm (less than 0.25 in) 
wide (Gordon and Cartwright 1977, p. 43). The adults are pale red with 
yellowish-red mouthparts and underside. They have a smooth upper back 
and do not have wings. Little is known about the larvae of the large 
aegialian scarab.
    The Giuliani's dune scarab (Subfamily Rutelinae, Tribe Rutelini 
(Hayes 1929, p. 29), Pseudocotalpa giulianii) was first described by 
Hardy in 1974 (pp. 243-247). These beetles are 17 to 25 mm (0.75 to 1 
in) long and 7 to 10 mm (0.25 to 0.50 in) wide (Hardy 1974 p. 244). The 
adults are light tan with a more yellowish head; the legs are darker 
tan with reddish brown feet (tarsi) and claws. Males and females are 
similar in appearance, but easily distinguished by the size of the 
claws at the end of their rear legs; female claws are equal whereas the 
outer claw of the male is twice as long as the inner (Rust 1985, p. 
105). Larvae average 12 mm (0.47 in) in length and resemble a white 
grub (Rust 1985, p. 108).
    These four beetle species are not vertebrates and therefore the 
Service's Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment policy (61 FR 4722, 
February 7, 1996) does not apply.
Habitat
    Many genera of Scarabaeidae in North American deserts, including 
these four dune beetle species, occur in vegetated, unstable, sandy 
areas around sand dunes. The dunes and surrounding unstable, sandy 
areas are created by sand that is carried by wind from dry lakebeds 
upwind of the dunes. These four beetle species burrow and live in loose 
sand, eat decomposed plant matter, and mate on live vegetation (Hardy 
1971, pp. 240-241; 1976, pp. 301-302; Gordon and Cartwright 1977, p. 
42; Hardy and Andrew 1987, p. 178; Rust 1982, pp. 3-4). The beetles 
need moist sand to protect them from temperature extremes (both hot and 
cold) and drying out (Porter and Rust 1996, p. 709; Service 2012a, p. 
3).
Distribution
    The historical range of each of these four beetle species is 
unknown. It is also unknown whether the range of any of the four 
species has changed since they were first described in the 1970s and 
1980s.
    Based on surveys conducted in January 2012, the current known range 
of the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab is limited to 6,594 ha (16,295 
ac) of BLM-administered lands at two main sand dunes--Crescent Dunes 
and San Antonio Dunes, within a larger dune complex in Big Smoky Valley 
(Nachlinger et al. 2001, p. A10-82; Service 2012a, pp. 1, 5). Crescent 
Dunes is a 402-hectare (ha) (996-acre (ac)) complex of crescent-shaped 
sand dunes located about 19 kilometers (km) (12 miles (mi)) northwest 
of Tonopah, Nye County, Nevada (NRCS 1972, pp. 23, 55, Maps 15, 18, 21; 
2006a, p. 1). Crescent Dunes is created by prevailing winds from the 
northwest, which are primarily associated with Pacific Ocean Cell 
winter storms (i.e., El Ni[ntilde]o and La Ni[ntilde]a) (Parsons 2010, 
p. 15). Studies indicate that the Crescent Dunes system has moved less 
than 76 meters (m) (250 feet (ft)) southeast since 1954 (Parsons 2010, 
pp. 18-19). San Antonio Dunes is a 751-ha (1,856-ac) complex of dunes 
located approximately 24 km (15 mi) north of Crescent Dunes at the 
northern edge of the San Antonio Mountains. It is likely that San 
Antonio Dunes is created by the same prevailing wind that has created 
Crescent Dunes.
    Based on surveys conducted in January 2012, the current known range 
of the Crescent Dunes serican scarab is restricted to 5,843 ha (14,439 
ac) of BLM-administered land at Crescent Dunes (at this time it is 
unknown if it occurs at the nearby San Antonio Dunes) (Hardy and Andrew 
1987, p. 178; Gordon and Cartwright 1977, p. 45; Hardy and Andrews 
1987, p. 173; Service 2012a, p. 1). The species' range estimates are 
larger than the areas of the dunes (as indicated above) because the 
beetles occur on the dune and in sandy areas surrounding the dune.
    It is unknown if the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab and the 
Crescent Dunes serican scarab also occur at sand dunes on BLM-
administered lands near Millers, Nevada, and about 40 km (25 mi) 
southwest of the Crescent Dunes. These dunes are part of the same 
larger dune complex as Crescent Dunes within Big Smoky Valley (BLM and 
DOE 2010, pp. 11.7-60; Service 2012a, p. 1). Gordon and Cartwright 
reported a record for the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab at Game Range 
Dunes in Clark County, Nevada (1988, p. 18). However, we have no other 
information confirming that the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab occurs 
anywhere other than at Crescent Dunes and San Antonio Dunes. Presence 
of the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab at Game Range Dunes is unlikely 
because these dunes are located approximately 200 km (125 mi) southeast 
of Crescent Dunes.
    The current known range of the large aegialian scarab and 
Giuliani's dune scarab is restricted to two sand dune complexes on BLM-
administered lands--Big Dune (also called Amargosa Dunes) and Lava Dune 
(Hardy 1974, pp. 243-247; Gordon and Cartwright 1977, pp. 43-45; Porter 
and Rust 1996, p. 718; Service 2011a, pp. 1-12; 2011b p. 1-7; 2012b pp. 
1-4). Big Dune is a 305-ha (753-ac) complex star sand dune located 16.5 
km (10 mi) west of Lathrop Wells, Nye County, Nevada (NRCS 1998, p. 35, 
Map 33). It is formed from prevailing winds from the northeast (PSI 
2009, p. F-21); however, the wind directions at Big Dune vary 
seasonally and are also out of the southeast (BLM and DOE 2010, p. 
11.1-209). Lava Dune is a 170-ha (420-ac) dune located 6 km (4.5 mi) 
east of Big Dune, which was formed from sand trapped at the base of an 
old volcanic cinder cone and lava flow (NRCS 2006b, p. 1).
    Based on surveys conducted in February 2012, the estimated range of 
the large aegialian scarab is 490 ha (1,212 ac) of BLM-administered 
land at Big Dune and approximately 200 ha (494 ac) of BLM-administered 
land at Lava Dune (Service 2011a, pp. 3-4; 2012b, p. 3). The species' 
range estimate is larger than the areas of the dunes (as indicated 
above) because the beetle occurs on the dune and in sandy and vegetated 
areas surrounding the dune. The large aegialian scarab has a patchy 
distribution, but occurs underneath every species of live vegetation 
throughout the Big Dune area (Service 2012b p. 2).
    Based on surveys conducted in April 2011, the estimated range of 
the Giuliani's dune scarab is 307 ha (759 ac) of BLM-administered land 
at Big Dune and 200 ha (494 ac) of BLM-administered land at Lava Dune 
(Service 2012b, p. 3). The species' range estimate is larger than the 
areas of the dunes (as indicated above) because the beetle occurs on 
the dune and in sandy areas surrounding the dune. The Giuliani's dune 
scarab has a clumped distribution and uses the north face of the dune 
more heavily than the south and west faces (BLM 2007, p. 4; Boyd 2010, 
pp. 2, 6-7). Three other dune complexes located near Big Dune and Lava 
Dune--the Skeleton Hills, Dumont Dunes, and Ibex Dune--have been 
surveyed for Giuliani's dune scarab, but none were found (Hardy and 
Andrews 1976, pp. 1-44; Rust 1982, p. 2).
Biology and Population Abundance
    Crescent Dunes Aegialian Scarab and Crescent Dunes Serican Scarab--
Little is known about the population abundance or biology of the 
Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab and Crescent Dunes serican scarab. 
During a survey in January 2012, the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab 
was observed beneath every species of live plant surrounding the dunes, 
such as Oryzopsis hymenoides (Indian ricegrass), Atriplex

[[Page 42241]]

spp. (saltbush), and Salsola spp. (tumbleweed) (Service 2012a, p. 3). 
The sex ratio of Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab at Crescent Dunes was 
one male to one female (Service 2012a, p. 5). We reviewed other 
regional sand dune-obligate beetles as surrogates, but did not locate 
life-history information for the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab and 
Crescent Dunes serican scarab (Gordon 1975, pp. 173-175; Gordon and 
Cartwright 1977, pp. 47-48; Andrews et al. 1979, p. 19; Rust 1986, pp. 
47-51; Service 1992, pp. 1-5; Britten and Rust 1996, pp. 649-651; Van 
Dam and Van Dam 2006, pp. 31-35). However, it is likely the Crescent 
Dunes aegialian scarab has similar life history to the large aegialian 
scarab because they are taxonomically related and genetically similar 
(Porter and Rust 1997, pp. 304, 306, 308).
    Large Aegialian Scarab--Both adult and larval large aegialian 
scarabs live beneath any species of live plant throughout the Big Dune 
area, such as Larrea tridentata (creosote bush) and Salsola spp. (Rust 
1995, p. 7; Service 2012b, p. 2). They burrow into loose sand to access 
wet sand (Hardy and Andrew 1987, p. 175). The year-round wet sand is 
usually 0.5 to 1.0 m (1.6 to 3.3 ft) under the surface. They can be 
located from October to April by sifting moist sand 8 to 33 centimeters 
(cm) (3 to 13 in) deep beneath dune plants (Rust 1995, p. 6). Adult 
large aegialian scarabs are most active from mid-February to late 
April. Based on limited reported survey data, we were not able to 
estimate population abundance for this species. In the only reported 
survey, a combined total of 316 large aegialian scarabs were observed 
at Big Dune from March to April 2007 (Boyd 2010, pp. 5-6). Presence of 
large aegialian scarabs at Lava Dune was confirmed, but only limited 
sampling occurred on December 17, 2007 (Boyd 2010, pp. 9-10).
    Giuliani's Dune Scarab--Adult Giuliani's dune scarabs live 
underneath vegetation closely surrounding the edge of the large dune, 
and most commonly occur under Petalonyx thurberi (sandpaper plant) 
(Rust 1995, p. 6; Boyd 2010, p. 10). They are only observed aboveground 
when they emerge for 3 weeks from late April to early May. They emerge 
for 5 to 30 minutes each evening to hover over and mate on shrub 
vegetation and the sand surface (Hardy 1971, pp. 240-241; 1976, pp. 
301-302; Rust 1982, pp. 3, 5; Service 2011a, pp. 2-5). Aboveground 
mating activity is greatly reduced when it is cold and windy (Rust 
1982, p. 4; 1985 p. 106; Boyd 2010, p. 4).
    In trying to determine how long adult Giuliani's dune scarabs live, 
the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) marked approximately 160 beetles 
over a 3-week period in April 2011; only one adult beetle was 
recaptured 1 week after its original capture (Service 2011a, p. 4). The 
adults do not feed (Rust 1982, p. 9), and it is unknown how long they 
live once they change from a grub (larva) to an adult.
    Hardy (1976, pp. 301-302) reported a sex ratio of Giuliani's dune 
scarabs at Big Dune of 1.3 males to 10 females, and Rust (1985, p. 108) 
reported a ratio of 2.5 males to 10 females. In contrast to these sex 
ratios, Boyd (2007, p. 3) reported that in a sample of 140 Giuliani's 
dune scarabs collected at Big Dune, 136 were male and 4 were female. 
Various factors influence the sex ratio of different samples, such as 
collection method and timing.
    Attempts to quantify adult population structure of Giuliani's dune 
scarab, including population numbers, have failed (Rust 1985, pp. 106, 
108; Murphy 2007, p. 1; Boyd 2010, pp. 3-4). In an unpublished report, 
Rust (1982, p. 5) estimated that the adult Giuliani's beetle population 
at Big Dune was between 1,000 and 5,000 individuals, but this estimate 
was not based on count data. In a survey conducted around the perimeter 
of Big Dune in 2007, adult Giuliani's dune scarabs were detected at 
seven of eight survey sites on April 24, and at four of four survey 
sites on May 1 (Boyd 2010, p. 2). Approximately 800 to 1,000 individual 
Giuliani's dune scarabs were detected on the April 24 survey and 140 
individuals were collected on May 1 (Boyd 2010, pp. 2-3). Approximately 
40 individuals were detected at Lava Dune on a May 3, 2007, survey; 
however, the sampling effort at Lava Dune was much lower than the 
sampling effort at Big Dune (Boyd 2010, p. 3).
    Larval Giuliani's dune scarabs also live beneath plants surrounding 
the dune. We found no information on when the larvae emerge. Larvae are 
an average 12 mm (0.5 in) in length and take 2 or more years to fully 
develop (Rust 1982, p. 6). Only two Giuliani's dune scarab larvae have 
been recovered and both occurred beneath Petalonyx thurberi at a depth 
of 20 to 40 cm (8 to 16 in) (Rust 1982, p. 5; 1985, p. 108). Larvae 
feed on accumulated plant debris at the base of shrubs (Rust 1982, pp. 
4-5; 1985, p. 108; 1995, p. 6; Boyd 2010, p. 10).
    Eggs of Giuliani's dune scarab are oval and measure 3.0 to 3.5 mm 
(0.25 in) long by 2.5 to 3.0 mm (0.25 in) wide. Females examined in 
1982 had an average of 4.2 eggs (Rust 1982, p. 5). We found no 
information on egg placement; however, it is thought that eggs are 
deposited in sand near shrub roots (Rust 1982, p. 5).

Summary of Information Pertaining to the Five Factors

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and implementing regulations 
(50 CFR 424) set forth procedures for adding species to, removing 
species from, or reclassifying species on the Federal Lists of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Under section 4(a)(1) of 
the Act, a species may be determined to be endangered or threatened 
based on any of the following five factors:
    (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (C) Disease or predation;
    (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.
    In considering what factors might constitute threats to a species, 
we must look beyond the exposure of the species to a particular factor 
to evaluate whether the species may respond to that factor in a way 
that causes actual impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a 
factor and the species responds negatively, the factor may be a threat 
and, during the status review, we attempt to determine how significant 
a threat it is. If the threat is significant, it may drive or 
contribute to the risk of extinction of the species such that the 
species warrants listing as endangered or threatened as those terms are 
defined in the Act. This does not necessarily require empirical proof 
of a significant threat. The combination of exposure and some 
corroborating evidence of how the species is likely impacted could 
suffice. However, the mere identification of factors that could impact 
a species negatively is not sufficient to compel a finding that the 
species warrants listing. The information must include evidence 
sufficient to suggest that these factors are operative threats that act 
on the species to the point that the species meets the definition of 
endangered or threatened under the Act. A species may be endangered or 
threatened based on the intensity or severity of one operative threat 
alone or based on the synergistic effect of several operative threats 
acting in concert.
    In making this finding, we have considered and evaluated the best 
available scientific and commercial information pertaining to the 
Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes serican scarab, large 
aegialian scarab,

[[Page 42242]]

and Giuliani's dune scarab. We examined the petition, information in 
our files, and other published and unpublished literature in relation 
to the five factors provided in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. 
Additionally, we solicited information from the public, but did not 
receive any response. We consulted with biologists from the BLM, the 
Service, and the Nevada Natural Heritage Program.
    Below we summarize the information regarding the status and threats 
to the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes serican scarab, 
large aegialian scarab, and Giuliani's dune scarab in relation to the 
five factors in section 4(a)(1) of the Act.

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

    In this section, we describe and evaluate various conditions in 
relation to the present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of the habitats and ranges of the four beetle species. We 
identified the following activities as potentially impacting the 
species' habitats and ranges: Mining, solar development, off-road 
vehicle recreation, commercial filming, and livestock grazing.
Mining
    Mining removes vegetation and soil and alters surface water flows 
and infiltration of water. Indirect effects of mining, such as 
establishment of new roads to access mines and increased human 
presence, cause increased vegetation impacts and beetle displacement. 
Destruction of vegetation around dunes, disturbance of dune sand, and 
disruption of reproductive behavior would reduce or eliminate sand dune 
beetle populations because the larvae of the beetle use decomposed 
organic matter as their primary food source and the adults mate on live 
vegetation.
    There are three different types of mineral resources on BLM-
administered lands: Locatable (such as iron and gold), leasable 
(typically oil and gas), and salable (common materials such as sand, 
gravel, clay, and lava rock) (BLM 2011, p. 10). Locatable minerals are 
``claimed,'' while leasable and salable minerals are only offered by 
the BLM upon request.
    A mining claim is an administrative action in which a claimant 
receives a possessory right to the subsurface mineral (BLM 2011a, p. 
7). The BLM cannot deny a mining claim because the General Mining Law 
of 1872 (30 U.S.C. 22 et seq.) gives a person a statutory right to the 
claim. However, a claim does not authorize surface disturbance. In 
order to extract the mineral, the claimant must file a plan of 
operation (BLM 2011a, p. 29). An approved plan of operation allows the 
claimant to obtain surface rights and begin mining operations (BLM 
2011a, p. 33).
    Once a request to develop (extract) any mineral resource, including 
locatable, leasable, and salable minerals, the BLM must go through 
several steps. First, an interdisciplinary team of professional 
resource specialists (e.g., hydrologists, biologists, geologists, and 
archeologists) reviews the plan of operation. These specialists are 
able to make recommendations on project design and implementation to 
reduce impacts to wildlife, plants, and other resources. Then, the BLM 
must solicit input from the public and other Federal agencies on the 
plan of operation, as required under the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). Using this 
input, the BLM may further amend the project's design and 
implementation, or it may reject the plan of operation. If the BLM 
grants the permit for mineral development, it maintains discretion over 
how and when these operations proceed through the terms of the right-
of-way (ROW) grant under Title V of the Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) and the regulations in 
parts 2800 and 3000 of title 43 of the Code of Federal Regulations (43 
CFR 2800 and 43 CFR 3000).
    BLM classifies each of the four dune beetles addressed in this 
finding as a sensitive species (BLM 2003, p. 6). BLM manages sensitive 
species in accordance with BLM Manual 6840 Release 6-125, revised on 
December 12, 2008 (BLM 2008b). BLM defines sensitive species as 
``species that require special management or considerations to avoid 
potential future listing'' (BLM 2008b, Glossary, p. 5). The stated 
objective for sensitive species is to initiate proactive conservation 
measures that reduce or eliminate threats to minimize the likelihood of 
and need for listing under the Act (BLM 2008b, Section 6840.02). 
Conservation, as it applies to BLM sensitive species, is defined as 
``the use of programs, plans, and management practices to reduce or 
eliminate threats affecting the status of the species, or improve the 
condition of the species' habitat on BLM-administered lands'' (BLM 
2008b, Glossary, p. 2).
    Locatables--The areas around Crescent Dunes and San Antonio Dunes 
have low potential for locatable minerals (BLM 1997, Map 32). 
Historically, there have been no locatable mining claims at Crescent 
Dunes and four claims at San Antonio Dunes. Currently, there are no 
locatable mining claims on Crescent Dunes or San Antonio Dunes. 
Although it is possible that mining claims may be filed in the future, 
the low potential for locatable minerals and low number of historical 
claims indicate that such future claims are unlikely. If development of 
any mining claims is requested, BLM must evaluate potential effects to 
these dune beetles and adhere to their sensitive species policy, and 
the Service would have the opportunity to provide recommendations to 
protect these beetles under the NEPA process.
    The areas around Big Dune and Lava Dune have no potential for 
locatable minerals (Castor et al. 2006, pp. L2-L3). Prior to 2006, 
there were 23 mining claims at Big Dune and 26 claims at Lava Dune. All 
of these were removed after it was determined there was no potential 
for locatable minerals (Castor et al. 2006, pp. L2-L3).
    Although there is no potential for locatable minerals at Lava Dune, 
currently there are 39 gold mining claims on Lava Dune that overlap 29 
percent of the range of the large aegialian scarab and 40 percent of 
the range of the Giuliani's dune scarab (BLM serial Nos. NMC 916075 to 
916093 and NMC 360591 to 360610, filed December 7, 2005). No plans of 
operation have been filed for any of the mining claims at Lava Dune 
(BLM 2011b, pp. 1-62). There is no time limit for the claimant to file 
a plan of operation, and a claim remains in effect as long as the 
claimant continues to pay the annual BLM maintenance fee.
    No mining claims can be filed at Big Dune until the year 2029, 
because 777 ha (1,920 ac) of land has been closed to mining under 
Secretarial Order 7737 until that time (74 FR 56657; November 2, 2009). 
This area represents 71 percent of the range of the large aegialian 
scarab and 60 percent of the range for the Giuliani's dune scarab. It 
is possible that mining claims may be filed at Lava Dune; however, it 
is unlikely because the area has no potential for locatable minerals. 
If development of any mining claim is requested, BLM must evaluate 
potential effects to these dune beetles and adhere to their sensitive 
species policy, and the Service would have the opportunity to provide 
recommendations to protect these beetles under the NEPA process.
    Leasables--The areas around Crescent Dunes and San Antonio Dunes 
(BLM 1997, Map 32), Big Dune, and Lava Dune (Castor et al. 2006, pp. 
L2-L3) have a low potential for leasable minerals. Historically, there 
have been no requests for leasable minerals on

[[Page 42243]]

Crescent Dunes, Big Dune, and Lava Dune, and two requests on San 
Antonio Dunes. Currently, there are no leased minerals on Big Dune, 
Lava Dune, Crescent Dunes, or San Antonio Dunes. Although it is 
possible that requests for leasable minerals may be submitted in the 
future, the low potential for leasable minerals and low number of 
historical requests indicate that such future requests are unlikely. If 
any mineral leases are requested, BLM must evaluate potential effects 
to these dune beetles and adhere to their sensitive species policy, and 
the Service would have the opportunity to provide recommendations to 
protect these beetles under the NEPA process.
    Salables--The area around Crescent Dunes is rich in sand. The area 
around San Antonio Dunes does not have much sand (Service 2012a). 
Historically, there has been only one request for development of 
salable minerals at Crescent Dunes and no requests at San Antonio 
Dunes. Currently, there are no requests for salable minerals at 
Crescent Dunes or San Antonio Dunes. Although it is possible that 
development of salable minerals may be requested at Crescent Dunes or 
San Antonio Dunes in the future, the historical lack of requests for 
salable minerals in the area indicate that such future requests are 
unlikely. If development of salable minerals is requested, BLM must 
evaluate potential effects to these dune beetles and adhere to their 
sensitive species policy, and the Service would have the opportunity to 
provide recommendations to protect these beetles under the NEPA 
process.
    Big Dune is rich in sand, while Lava Dune is rich in sand and lava 
rock. Historically, there has been only one request for salable 
minerals at Big Dune and two requests at Lava Dune. Currently, there 
are no requests for salable mineral development on Big Dune.
    There is one pending request to extract lava rock on 74 ha (182 ac) 
of BLM-administered land at Lava Dune (BLM serial no. NVN 074682). This 
area represents 11 percent of the range of the large aegialian scarab 
and 15 percent of the range of the Giuliani's dune scarab. The request 
and plan of operation for mining lava rock at Lava Dune were submitted 
on March 9, 2001, and have not been approved or denied. This request to 
extract lava rock on Lava Dune underwent internal interdisciplinary 
review in 2005. Although the Service did not provide comments on this 
proposal, we provided comments on an earlier mining request by the same 
claimant in the same area. In 1993, we stated, ``implementation of the 
proposed action may result in severe impacts to the candidate species 
which occur on Big Dune and may threaten their population status'' (BLM 
2005, p. 1). The BLM only approved mining on the portions of Lava Dune 
that were not suitable habitat for the large aegialian scarab and 
Giuliani's dune scarab. In 2005, the BLM wildlife biologists 
recommended the 2001 request not be approved because the area is 
suitable habitat for the large aegialian scarab and Giuliani's dune 
scarab and because of our 1993 comments (BLM 2005, p. 1; 2006, p. 1; 
2008, pp. 1-48). During recent discussions, the BLM informed us that 
the 2001 request is pending analysis under NEPA (BLM 2005, p. 1; 2006, 
p. 1; Service 2012b, p. 2). After the request has been announced to the 
public, and after the BLM has considered any public comments submitted 
on the request, the BLM may grant a ROW to the operator or deny the 
request. If approved, the BLM has discretion over how and when these 
operations proceed. Although this request was submitted 11 years ago, 
there is no time limit for BLM to act on the request under 43 CFR 2900.
    In the future, it is possible that requests to develop salable 
minerals at Big Dune or Lava Dune may be filed because these areas are 
rich in sand and lava rock, although historically there have been few 
requests for development of salable minerals in these areas. If 
requests for development of salable minerals are received, the BLM must 
evaluate potential effects to these dune beetles and adhere to their 
sensitive species policy, and the Service would have the opportunity to 
provide recommendations to protect these beetles under the NEPA 
process.
    There are no active mining operations at Big Dune, Crescent Dunes, 
or San Antonio Dunes. Although there is one active lava rock mining 
operation on Lava Dune (Cind-R-Lite 2011, p. 1), the mined area occurs 
on solid rocky ground of an old volcanic cinder cone (NRCS 2006b, p. 1) 
and is not suitable habitat for the large aegialian scarab or 
Giuliani's dune scarab (Service 2011b, p. 3).
    Conclusion--We do not consider mining to be a current or future 
threat to the large aegialian scarab or Giuliani's dune scarab at Big 
Dune, the Crescent Dunes serican scarab or Crescent Dunes aegialian 
scarab at Crescent Dunes, or the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab at San 
Antonio Dunes because of the low likelihood of mineral development at 
these areas (the areas are considered to have low mineral potential, 
there have been few historical requests for minerals in these areas, 
and there are no current mining applications at these dunes). In 
addition, before future mining requests could be developed, the BLM 
would have to evaluate potential effects to these dune beetles and 
adhere to their sensitive species policy, and the Service would be able 
to provide recommendations to protect these beetles under the NEPA 
process. We conclude that mining at Lava Dune does not constitute a 
current threat to the large aegialian scarab or Giuliani's dune scarab 
because the active lava rock mining operation is outside of the range 
of these two species of beetles, the BLM has not acted on the pending 
lava rock stockpiling application in 11 years, and no plans of 
development have been submitted for the gold mining claims. However, if 
approved, mining lava rock at Lava Dune would remove up to 15 percent 
of the total range for the Giuliani's dune scarab (Service 2011b, p. 4) 
and 7.5 percent of the total range for the large aegialian scarab 
(Service 2012b, pp. 2-3). We do not consider this to be a significant 
threat because there is no evidence to indicate that the remaining 85 
percent of the Giuliani's dune scarab's range and remaining 92.5 
percent of the large aegialian scarab's range would be insufficient to 
support the biological needs of these two beetle species.
Solar Development
    Developing land for solar energy projects on or near the dunes may 
compact and remove both vegetation and sand, alter surface flows and 
infiltration of water, and affect temperature and wind patterns. 
Destruction of vegetation around dunes, disturbance of dune sand, and 
disruption of reproductive behavior would reduce or eliminate sand dune 
beetle populations because the larvae of the four beetle species use 
decomposed organic matter as their primary food source and the adults 
mate on live vegetation. In addition, sand transport processes and 
other ecological processes that create habitat for these four species 
of sand dune beetles may be altered by structures blocking the wind 
(BLM and DOE 2010, pp. 11.7-6, 11.7-8, 11.7-43, 11.7-68, 11.7-115, 
11.7-128). Roads and increased human presence associated with solar 
development result in indirect effects to dune beetles (e.g., roads and 
increased human presence may result in increased illegal ORV use, which 
impacts beetle habitat).
    There have been no ROW applications for solar development projects 
at Crescent Dunes or San Antonio Dunes, except for the solar project 
currently under construction about 1.6 km (1 mi) west of Crescent 
Dunes. The Crescent

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Dunes Solar Energy Project is 655 ha (1,619 ac) and is located within 
the range of the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab and Crescent Dunes 
serican scarab (BLM case file no. NVN 086292; BLM 2010, pp. 1-2; 75 FR 
81307, December 27, 2010; Service 2012a, pp. 1-8). Construction will 
remove approximately 607 ha (1,500 ac or 2.3 sq mi), which is 10 
percent of the total range of the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab and 
11 percent of the total range of the Crescent Dunes serican scarab. It 
is unlikely that the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project will disrupt 
sand transport processes at Crescent Dunes because the facility will 
not block the prevailing winds.
    In addition, the BLM has proposed to establish a utility-scale 
solar energy zone about 8.0 km (5 mi) southwest of Crescent Dunes 
(Millers Solar Energy Zone). A solar energy zone is a priority area 
within BLM-administered lands that is suited for utility-scale 
production of solar energy in accordance with the requirements of the 
Energy Policy Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. 13201 et seq.) (BLM and DOE 2010, 
p. 1-8). This proposed solar energy zone would not affect the beetles 
because it does not overlap the range of either species, and it is 
unlikely that solar developments within the solar energy zone would 
disrupt sand transport processes because of the distance from Crescent 
Dunes and facilities would not block the prevailing winds (Service 
2012a, p. 2; Parsons 2010, p. 15).
    In the future, it is possible that ROW applications for solar 
development may be filed at Crescent Dunes and San Antonio dunes; 
however, if applications for solar development are filed, the BLM must 
evaluate potential effects to these dune beetles and adhere to their 
sensitive species policy, and the Service would have the opportunity to 
provide recommendations to protect these beetles under the NEPA 
process.
    Since 2007, there have been five ROW applications for solar 
development at Big Dune and none at Lava Dune; however, all the 
applications at Big Dune have been rescinded. It is possible that solar 
development projects near Big Dune or Lava Dune may be proposed in the 
future but at this time, the best available information does not 
indicate that solar development projects threaten the large aegialian 
scarab or Giuliani's dune scarab. If applications for solar development 
are filed, the BLM must evaluate potential effects to these dune 
beetles and adhere to their sensitive species policy, and the Service 
would have the opportunity to provide recommendations to protect these 
beetles under the NEPA process.
    Conclusion--We do not consider solar energy development to threaten 
the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab or Crescent Dunes serican scarab 
now or in the future. Although the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project 
will remove up to 10 percent of the total range of the Crescent Dunes 
aegialian scarab and 11 percent of the total range of the Crescent 
Dunes serican scarab, we do not consider the project a significant 
threat to these beetles because there is no evidence to indicate that 
the remaining 90 and 89 percent, respectively, of their ranges would be 
insufficient to support the biological needs of these species, and the 
project would not significantly alter sand transport processes. The 
proposed solar energy zone near Crescent Dunes does not overlap the 
range of either species and would not disrupt sand transport processes. 
There have been no ROW applications for solar development at San 
Antonio Dunes. We do not consider solar energy development to pose a 
threat to the large aegialian scarab or Giuliani's dune scarab now or 
in the future because there have been no ROW applications filed at Lava 
Dune, there are no current applications for solar development at Big 
Dune, and all previous applications at Big Dune have been rescinded. It 
is unknown how many, if any, future applications for solar development 
would occur in these areas. However, if there are any applications, the 
BLM must evaluate potential effects to these dune beetles and adhere to 
their sensitive species policy, and the Service would have the 
opportunity to provide recommendations to protect these beetles under 
the NEPA process.
Off-Road Recreation
    Off-road vehicle (ORV) recreationalists currently use both Crescent 
Dunes and Big Dune for riding and camping. ORV use is prohibited on 
Lava Dune (BLM 1998, pp. 21, 23-24). Beetle habitat could be impacted 
by ORV activity that compacts and redistributes sand beneath plants, 
destroys live vegetation, and prevents the buildup of decomposed 
organic matter by uncovering dead sticks and leaves from beneath the 
vegetation. These habitat impacts could reduce or eliminate sand dune 
beetle populations because the adult and larvae of these four species 
of beetle only live under and mate on live vegetation and use 
decomposed organic matter as their primary food source.
    Crescent Dunes--Crescent Dunes is located on BLM-administered lands 
managed by the Tonopah Field Office (formerly the Battle Mountain 
District Office, Tonopah Resource Area/Field Station prior to 2008). In 
1997, the BLM designated 1,214 ha (3,000 ac) at Crescent Dunes, which 
includes all of Crescent Dune's 402 ha (996 ac), as a Special 
Recreation Management Area (SRMA) primarily for ORV use. To reduce 
potential impacts to dune beetles and their habitat, BLM prohibited ORV 
use on all vegetated sand areas within the Crescent Dunes SRMA (BLM 
1997, p. 21). The Crescent Dunes SRMA encompasses 89 percent of the 
range for the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab and 100 percent of the 
range for the Crescent Dunes serican scarab. The beetles live under 
live vegetation in loose, sandy areas. Illegal ORV riding over 
vegetation reduces beetle habitat. To estimate the historical loss of 
vegetation from ORV use immediately surrounding Crescent Dunes, we 
reviewed aerial photography of the dunes taken between the 1950s and 
2010 (Army Map Service 1952; 1954; USGS 1970a; 1970b; Google Earth 
1990, 1996, 1997, 2004, and 2010) and conducted a site visit in January 
2012. The vegetation density and distribution at Crescent Dunes appears 
unchanged since the 1950s (Service 2011b, pp. 1-7), and we did not 
observe any current or historical evidence of illegal ORV use.
    San Antonio Dunes--San Antonio Dunes is located on BLM-administered 
lands managed by the Tonopah Field Office. This area is open to 
unrestricted vehicle use (BLM 1997, pp. 20-21, Map 20). Although San 
Antonio Dunes is open to ORV use, these dunes likely receive relatively 
little use from ORV recreationalists. Because Crescent Dunes provides 
more open sand and is closer to Tonopah than San Antonio Dunes 
(approximately half the distance), San Antonio Dunes likely receives 
less ORV use than does Crescent Dunes. Additionally, we reviewed high-
resolution aerial imagery (Google Earth 2012) and detected no evidence 
of ORV-user created roads, indicating that ORV use is not heavy at San 
Antonio Dunes.
    Big Dune--Big Dune is located on BLM-administered lands managed by 
the Pahrump Field Office (formerly a portion of the Las Vegas Field 
Office prior to 2008) (BLM 1998, pp. 3-41). In 1998, the BLM designated 
4,694 ha (11,600 ac) around Big Dune as an SRMA, which included all of 
Big Dune, which is 305 ha (753 ac) (BLM 1998, pp. 21, 23-24). Within 
the SRMA, BLM identified 777 ha (1,920 ac) of Big Dune as an Area of 
Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) to support all species dependent 
upon dune habitat, with emphasis on the large aegialian scarab and 
Giuliani's dune scarab (BLM 1988, pp. 1-24; 1998, pp. 7, 11). To 
protect habitat for the large aegialian scarab and

[[Page 42245]]

Giuliani's dune scarab and to reduce potential impacts to the dune 
beetles and their habitat, BLM closed an 81-ha (200-ac) area and a 9-ha 
(23-ac) area to ORV use and prohibited ORV use on all other vegetated 
areas within the Big Dune SRMA, including the Big Dune ACEC (BLM 1998, 
pp. 21, 23-24). The Big Dune SRMA and Big Dune ACEC encompass 100 
percent of the range for the large aegialian scarab and Giuliani's dune 
scarab at Big Dune, while the closed portions encompass 18 percent of 
the range for the Giuliani's dune scarab and 7 percent of the range for 
the large aegialian scarab (Service 2011b, pp. 1-8; 2012b, pp. 1-8).
    Illegal ORV riding over vegetation reduces beetle habitat. To 
estimate the historical loss of vegetation from ORV use immediately 
surrounding Big Dune, we reviewed aerial photography of the dunes and 
adjacent areas taken between the 1940s and 2010 (Army Map Service 1948; 
USGS 1970a; 1970b; Google Earth 1990, 1996, 1997, 2004, and 2010). ORV 
users have recreated on Big Dune for the past 60 years (Army Map 
Service 1948). Historical user-created road establishment has resulted 
in the loss of approximately 61.5 ha (152 ac) of the vegetation 
immediately surrounding Big Dune (Service 2011b, pp. 1-8). The density 
of vegetation around Big Dune has been reduced when compared to 
vegetation 3.25 km (2 mi) south of the dune (Service 2011b, pp. 1-8). 
Approximately 8,417 vehicles containing 21,042 visitors recreated at 
Big Dune in 2010 (BLM 2011c, p. 1). To estimate if there were any 
recent reductions of beetle habitat resulting from ORV use, we reviewed 
aerial imagery between 1990 and 2010 and conducted 3 site visits. We 
found the density of vegetation has decreased; however, the 
distribution of vegetation at Big Dune has changed little (Service 
2011b, pp. 1-7), and we observed few current incidents of plants 
destroyed by illegal ORV activity (Service 2011a, pp. 2, 6; 2011b, pp. 
1-7; 2012b, pp. 1-8). Given this information, it does not appear that 
the total amount of suitable habitat for the large aegialian scarab and 
Giuliani's dune scarab has been reduced between 1990 and 2010.
    Lava Dune--Lava Dune is located on BLM-administered lands and 
private land. Approximately 90 percent of the dune complex is on lands 
administered by the BLM, while the remaining 10 percent is owned by a 
private mining company (Nye County parcel number 000-158-28). ORV use 
is prohibited on the portion of Lava Dune administered by the BLM (BLM 
1998, pp. 21, 23-24). Because ORV riding is prohibited at Lava Dune, we 
did not review vegetation changes at Lava Dune from ORV use. We found 
no information on the frequency of illegal ORV use on the dune, 
although we observed a set of vehicle tracks on the dune in April 2011 
(Service 2011a, pp. 3, 9).
    Conclusion--We do not consider legal ORV activity to be a 
significant threat to any of the four beetle species. ORV activity is 
prohibited on Lava Dune and restricted to unvegetated slopes within the 
Big Dune SRMA and the Crescent Dunes SRMA. Each of the four sand dune 
beetle species considered in this finding is dependent on vegetation 
for suitable habitat, and unvegetated sand dune slopes are not 
considered suitable dune beetle habitat. We have no information on 
dispersal of any of the four dune beetle species or whether ORV 
activity on unvegetated slopes between patches of suitable habitat 
affects any of the four species. However, ORV use has not precluded 
dune beetle dispersal because even though ORV use has occurred at 
Crescent Dunes and Big Dune for over 60 years, Crescent Dunes serican 
scarab and Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab are widely distributed at 
Crescent Dunes, and large aegialian scarab and Giuliani's dune scarab 
are widely distributed at Big Dune. ORV activity is not restricted to 
unvegetated slopes at San Antonio Dunes, but because of their location, 
these dunes receive relatively little ORV recreational use. Ongoing 
illegal ORV activity results in some level of impacts to these four 
species of beetle; however, we do not consider illegal ORV activity to 
be a significant threat because current illegal ORV use is minimal, and 
future illegal ORV activity is expected to be minimal based on past use 
trends.
Commercial Filming
    The area around Big Dune is popular for commercial filming and 
still photography. Since 1993, BLM has issued 19 special use permits 
for film production at Big Dune (BLM 2011d, pp. 1-15). Permit 
stipulations limit activities to 10 vehicles carrying 30 people and do 
not authorize new surface disturbance (BLM 1990, p. 2). No filming is 
allowed in the dune beetle exclosure areas (BLM 1990, p. 3). We 
conclude that commercial filming does not pose a significant threat to 
the survival of these four beetle species now or in the future.
Livestock Grazing
    There is no livestock grazing at Big Dune and Lava Dune. Crescent 
Dunes and San Antonio Dunes are located within an active BLM-designated 
grazing allotment. We found no information on the amount of or the 
timing of livestock use. However, the soil around these dune complexes 
has a low potential for forage (vegetation feed for livestock) (NRCS 
1972, pp. 23, 81; NRCS 1998, p. 35). We conclude that livestock grazing 
is not a significant threat to these four beetle species.
Summary of Factor A
    Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab and Crescent Dunes serican scarab--
The Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab occurs at Crescent and San Antonio 
Dunes, and the Crescent Dunes serican scarab occurs at Crescent Dunes. 
We do not consider ORV activity a significant threat to these beetles. 
BLM policy restricts ORV use to unvegetated areas at Crescent Dunes, 
and these two beetle species are known to occur only under or very 
close to vegetation. ORV use at San Antonio Dunes is minimal and does 
not appear to be impacting vegetation (beetle habitat). Current illegal 
ORV activity at Crescent Dunes is minimal and future illegal ORV 
activity is expected to be minimal based on past use trends. We do not 
consider mining a threat to the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab and 
Crescent Dunes serican scarab because there are currently no mining 
applications at these dunes, and it is unlikely future mining 
applications would be filed because the mineral potential is low. 
Although the Crescent Dunes Solar Power Project would remove up to 11 
percent of the range for these two beetles, there is no evidence 
indicating that the remaining portion of their ranges would be 
insufficient to support the biological needs of these two species. It 
is unknown how many, if any, future applications for solar development 
would occur in these areas. However, if there are any applications, the 
BLM must evaluate potential effects to these dune beetles and adhere to 
their sensitive species policy, and the Service would have the 
opportunity to provide recommendations to protect these beetles under 
the NEPA process. Based on our assessment of the best scientific and 
commercial data available concerning present threats to these two 
beetle species' habitat, we conclude that the present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of their habitat or range is 
not a threat to the continued existence of these two beetle species.
    Large aegialian scarab and Giuliani's dune scarab--The large 
aegialian scarab and Giuliani's dune scarab occur in two locations: Big 
Dune and Lava Dune. BLM policy prohibits ORV use at Lava Dune and 
restricts use to unvegetated areas at Big Dune and these two beetle

[[Page 42246]]

species are known to occur only under or very close to vegetation. We 
do not consider illegal ORV activity to be a significant threat to 
these two beetle species because impacts to dune beetle habitat from 
current illegal ORV activity is minimal, and future impacts to dune 
beetle habitat from illegal ORV use is expected to be minimal based on 
past use trends. If approved, a pending mining application at Lava Dune 
would remove up to 15 percent of the range for the Giuliani's dune 
scarab and the large aegialian scarab. However, because this 
application has been pending for 11 years, we do not consider it an 
immediate threat. Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that the 
remaining portion of their ranges would be insufficient to support the 
biological needs of these beetle species. It is unknown how many, if 
any, future mining requests would occur at Lava Dune. Although there 
are no solar applications at Big Dune or Lava Dune, it is unknown how 
many, if any, future applications for solar development would occur in 
these areas. However, if there are any future mining requests or 
applications for solar development, the BLM must evaluate potential 
effects to these dune beetles and adhere to their sensitive species 
policy, and the Service would have the opportunity to provide 
recommendations to protect these beetles under the NEPA process. Based 
on our assessment of the best scientific and commercial data available 
concerning present threats to these two beetle species' habitat and 
their likely continuation in the future, we conclude that the present 
or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of their 
habitat or range is not a threat to the continued existence of these 
two beetle species.

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

    There is no available information indicating that the Crescent 
Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes serican scarab, large aegialian 
scarab, or Giuliani's dune scarab is collected for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes. Pyle et al. (1981, 
p. 241) note that invertebrates generally are not imperiled by 
overcollection, and that these particular beetle species are not showy 
and thus less likely to be collected. We conclude that overutilization 
is not a threat to the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes 
serican scarab, large aegialian scarab, or Giuliani's dune scarab now 
or in the future.

Factor C. Disease or Predation

    No information is available on the incidence of disease for any of 
the four beetle species. The only information available on predation is 
that nighthawks (Chordeiles sp.) have been observed preying on adult 
Giuliani's dune scarabs at Big Dune (Boyd 2010, p. 4; Service 2011a, p. 
5). The scarabs were above ground as part of their mating activity, 
which is thought to be limited to a brief period during evenings in 
April to May (see ``Biology and Population Abundance'' section above). 
Except for this brief period of aboveground mating activity by the 
Giuliani's dune scarab, the life cycle of this and the other three sand 
dune beetles occurs below ground. No information is available on 
predation of the beetles during belowground parts of their life cycle. 
We conclude that disease or predation is not a threat to any of the 
four beetle species.

Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Under this factor, we examine whether existing regulatory 
mechanisms are inadequate to address the threats to the four dune 
beetles discussed under the other factors. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the 
Endangered Species Act requires the Service to take into account 
``those efforts, if any, being made by any State or foreign nation, or 
any political subdivision of a State or foreign nation, to protect such 
species * * *'' We interpret this language to require the Service to 
consider relevant Federal, State, and Tribal laws and regulations when 
developing our threat analyses. Regulatory mechanisms, if they exist, 
may preclude the need for listing if we determine that such mechanisms 
adequately address the threats to the species such that listing is not 
warranted.
    The Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes serican scarab, 
large aegialian scarab, and Giuliani's dune scarab are not protected 
under Nevada State law because they are classified as insects and not 
wildlife (NRS 555.265). However, the range of each species occurs on 
Federal lands managed by the BLM, so protection and management of the 
habitat for each species is determined by Federal laws, regulations, 
and policies. Relevant Federal laws, regulations, and policies are 
summarized below.
    Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.)--
This Act sets forth the BLM's multiple use mandate and requires that 
the BLM take any action necessary to prevent impacts greater than those 
that would normally be expected from an activity in compliance with 
current standards, in compliance with current regulations, and 
implemented using the best reasonably available technology (i.e., undue 
and unnecessary degradation). The Federal Land Policy and Management 
Act's implementing regulations, 43 CFR 2800 and 43 CFR 3000, control 
administration and authorization of ROWs and mineral management, 
respectively. These regulations require the BLM to reduce environmental 
impacts from these ROWs to environmental resources, including these 
four sand dune beetle species.
    National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)--
The NEPA requires all Federal agencies to formally document, consider, 
and publicly disclose the environmental impacts of major Federal 
actions and management decisions significantly affecting the human 
environment. The NEPA documentation is provided in an environmental 
impact statement, an environmental assessment, or a categorical 
exclusion, and may be subject to administrative or judicial appeal. As 
part of BLM policy, for any mining and solar power plant applications 
to conduct operations in the Crescent Dunes, San Antonio Dunes, Lava 
Dune, or Big Dune, an analysis will be conducted to evaluate potential 
effects to these dune beetles and identify possible project 
alternatives. The Service would have the opportunity to comment on the 
project alternatives and provide conservation recommendations to 
protect these beetles. However, the BLM is not required to select an 
alternative having the least significant environmental impacts and may 
select an action that will adversely affect these beetles, provided 
that these effects are disclosed in their NEPA document.
    BLM Policy--The BLM classifies all four beetle species as sensitive 
species (BLM 2003, p. 6). Under their 6840 manual, BLM is required to 
manage sensitive species and their habitats to minimize or eliminate 
threats affecting the species or improve the condition of the species' 
habitat in order to reduce the likelihood of listing under the Act (BLM 
2008, pp. 3, 38). The BLM identified and implemented several management 
actions that conserve habitat for the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, 
Crescent Dunes serican scarab, aegialian scarab, and Giuliani's dune 
scarab (BLM 1994, pp. 1-427; BLM 1997, pp. 1-193).
    The BLM's management action to conserve the Crescent Dunes 
aegialian scarab and Crescent Dunes serican

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scarab is the prohibition of ORV use on vegetated sand areas within the 
Crescent Dunes SRMA (BLM 1997, p. 21). The area is closed to high-speed 
race events (BLM 1997, p. 20, Map 30). The area is also designated as a 
ROW avoidance area; however, ROWs can be granted (e.g., solar power 
plants) if no feasible alternative can be found (BLM 1997, p. 19, Map 
22). The area is closed to non-energy leasable minerals and subject to 
no-surface-occupancy restrictions for fluid leasable minerals (BLM 
1997, p. 21, Map 34).
    Management actions for the large aegialian scarab and Giuliani's 
dune scarab include: (1) Prohibition of ORV use on Lava Dune; (2) 
prohibition of ORV use in vegetated areas within the Big Dune SRMA, 
including the Big Dune ACEC; (3) maintenance of approximately 777 ha 
(1,920 ac) of sand dune habitat within the Big Dune ACEC in a natural 
condition; and (4) prohibition of ORV activity within 90 ha (223 ac) of 
beetle habitat (BLM 1998, pp. 11, 23). Within the Big Dune ACEC, lands 
are to be retained in Federal ownership; ROWs are not allowed; the area 
is closed to mining; mineral leasing is subject to no-surface-occupancy 
stipulations; temporary roads must be reclaimed; and competitive high-
speed ORV events are prohibited (competitive non-speed events are 
allowed) (BLM 1998, p. 7). The stipulations protect the beetles from 
these threats at Big Dune except illegal ORV activity. Solar 
development is allowed at Lava Dune and outside the ACEC at Big Dune. 
Mineral development is allowed at Lava Dune.
    Therefore, partly as a result of BLM management actions taken as a 
result of Federal laws, regulations, and policy, we determined under 
Factor A that mining, solar development, ORV use, commercial filming, 
and livestock grazing were not significant threats to the Crescent 
Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes serican scarab, large aegialian 
scarab, or Giuliani's dune scarab. Although not protected by State law, 
we determined under Factor B that collection or any other form of 
overutilization was not a threat to any of the four beetle species. We 
also determined that disease or predation was not a threat to any of 
the four species under Factor C, nor was stochastic events or climate 
change under Factor E. We conclude that the the inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms are not a threat to the Crescent Dunes aegialian 
scarab, Crescent Dunes serican scarab, large aegialian scarab, and 
Giuliani's dune scarab.

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

Stochastic Events
    The large aegialian scarab's and Giuliani's dune scarab's ranges 
are limited to Big Dune and Lava Dune; the Crescent Dunes aegialian 
scarab's range is limited to Crescent Dunes and San Antonio Dunes; and 
Crescent Dunes serican scarab's range is limited to Crescent Dunes. 
Extreme environmental disasters at these areas, such as earthquakes, 
hurricanes, tornadoes, severe floods, or severe and frequent winter 
storms, could impact these species through direct mortality or removal 
of vegetation. However, this area has one of the lowest frequencies of 
extreme environmental disasters in the United States (DOE 1986, pp. 3-
22, 6-27, 6-32), and any extreme weather phenomena occurring in the 
desert are of such short duration that no significant effects are 
expected (DOE 1986, pp. 6-27, 6-32). We do not consider extreme 
environmental disasters a threat to these four beetle species.
Climate Change
    Our analyses under the Act include consideration of ongoing and 
projected changes in climate. The terms ``climate'' and ``climate 
change'' are defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 
(IPCC). The term ``climate'' refers to the mean and variability of 
different types of weather conditions over time, with 30 years being a 
typical period for such measurements, although shorter or longer 
periods also may be used (IPCC 2007a, p. 78). The term ``climate 
change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or variability of one or 
more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or precipitation) that 
persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer, whether 
the change is due to natural variability, human activity, or both (IPCC 
2007a, p. 78).
    Scientific measurements spanning several decades demonstrate that 
changes in climate are occurring, and that the rate of change has been 
faster since the 1950s. Examples include warming of the global climate 
system, and substantial increases in precipitation in some regions of 
the world and decreases in other regions. (For these and other 
examples, see IPCC 2007a, p. 30; Solomon et al. 2007, pp. 35-54, 82-
85.) Results of scientific analyses presented by the IPCC show that 
most of the observed increase in global average temperature since the 
mid-20th century cannot be explained by natural variability in climate, 
and is ``very likely'' (defined by the IPCC as 90 percent or higher 
probability) due to the observed increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) 
concentrations in the atmosphere as a result of human activities, 
particularly carbon dioxide emissions from use of fossil fuels (IPCC 
2007a, pp. 5-6 and figures SPM.3 and SPM.4; Solomon et al. 2007, pp. 
21-35). Further confirmation of the role of GHGs comes from analyses by 
Huber and Knutti (2011, p. 4), who concluded it is extremely likely 
that approximately 75 percent of global warming since 1950 has been 
caused by human activities.
    Scientists use a variety of climate models, which include 
consideration of natural processes and variability, as well as various 
scenarios of potential levels and timing of GHG emissions, to evaluate 
the causes of changes already observed and to project future changes in 
temperature and other climate conditions (e.g., Meehl et al. 2007, 
entire; Ganguly et al. 2009, pp. 11555, 15558; Prinn et al. 2011, pp. 
527, 529). All combinations of models and emissions scenarios yield 
very similar projections of increases in the most common measure of 
climate change, average global surface temperature (commonly known as 
global warming), until about 2030. Although projections of the 
magnitude and rate of warming differ after about 2030, the overall 
trajectory of all the projections is one of increased global warming 
through the end of this century, even for the projections based on 
scenarios that assume that GHG emissions will stabilize or decline. 
Thus, there is strong scientific support for projections that warming 
will continue through the 21st century, and that the magnitude and rate 
of change will be influenced substantially by the extent of GHG 
emissions (IPCC 2007a, pp. 44-45; Meehl et al. 2007, pp. 760-764, 797-
811; Ganguly et al. 2009, pp. 15555-15558; Prinn et al. 2011, pp. 527, 
529). (See IPCC 2007b, p. 8, for a summary of other global projections 
of climate-related changes, such as frequency of heat waves and changes 
in precipitation. Also see IPCC 2011(entire) for a summary of 
observations and projections of extreme climate events.)
    Various changes in climate may have direct or indirect effects on 
species. These effects may be positive, neutral, or negative, and they 
may change over time, depending on the species and other relevant 
considerations, such as interactions of climate with other variables 
(e.g., habitat fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, pp. 8-14, 18-19). Identifying 
likely effects often involves aspects of climate change vulnerability

[[Page 42248]]

analysis. Vulnerability refers to the degree to which a species (or 
system) is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of 
climate change, including climate variability and extremes. 
Vulnerability is a function of the type, magnitude, and rate of climate 
change and variation to which a species is exposed, its sensitivity, 
and its adaptive capacity (IPCC 2007a, p. 89; see also Glick et al. 
2011, pp. 19-22). There is no single method for conducting such 
analyses that applies to all situations (Glick et al. 2011, p. 3). We 
use our expert judgment and appropriate analytical approaches to weigh 
relevant information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of 
various aspects of climate change.
    As is the case with all threats that we assess, even if we conclude 
that a species is currently affected or is likely to be affected in a 
negative way by one or more climate-related impacts, it does not 
necessarily follow that the species meets the definition of an 
``endangered species'' or a ``threatened species'' under the Act. If a 
species is listed as endangered or threatened, knowledge regarding the 
vulnerability of the species to, and known or anticipated impacts from, 
climate-associated changes in environmental conditions can be used to 
help devise appropriate strategies for its recovery.
    Global climate projections are informative, and, in some cases, the 
only or the best scientific information available for us to use. 
However, projected changes in climate and related impacts can vary 
substantially across and within different regions of the world (e.g., 
IPCC 2007a, pp. 8-12). Therefore, we use ``downscaled'' projections 
when they are available and have been developed through appropriate 
scientific procedures, because such projections provide higher 
resolution information that is more relevant to spatial scales used for 
analyses of a given species (see Glick et al. 2011, pp. 58-61, for a 
discussion of downscaling).
    We used the web-based tool Climate Wizard to evaluate (1) changes 
in temperature and precipitation across Nevada during the past 50 
years, and (2) projected changes in temperature and precipitation at 
Crescent Dunes and Big Dune by the 2050s based on 16 general 
circulation climate models. Across Nevada, temperature has increased by 
an average of 0.016 degree Celsius (0.029 degree Fahrenheit) per year 
for a total increase of 0.81 degree Celsius (1.45 degree Fahrenheit) 
over the past 50 years (http://www.climatewizard.org/ org/, accessed April 
30, 2012). Precipitation has increased by an average of 0.342 percent 
per year across Nevada, for a total increase of 17.1 percent over the 
past 50 years.
    For projected changes in temperature and precipitation based on 
general circulation models, we used Climate Wizard's default setting 
for emission scenario (the A2 high scenario). At Crescent Dunes, 
projected increases in temperature by the 2050s range from 1.47 to 3.61 
degrees Celsius (2.64 to 6.49 degrees Fahrenheit) across the 16 models, 
with an average (median) value of 2.88 degrees Celsius (5.18 degrees 
Fahrenheit) (http://www.climatewizard.org/, accessed May 4, 2012). 
Projected change in precipitation by the 2050s at Crescent Dunes range 
from a decrease of 30.51 percent to an increase of 19.73 percent across 
the 16 models, with a median value of 1.73 percent decrease.
    At Big Dune, projected increases in temperature by the 2050s range 
from 1.52 to 3.49 degrees Celsius (2.74 to 6.28 degrees Fahrenheit) 
across the 16 models, with a median value of 2.82 degrees Celsius (5.07 
degrees Fahrenheit) (http://www.climatewizard.org/, accessed May 4, 
2012). Projected change in precipitation by the 2050s at Big Dune range 
from a decrease of 27.90 percent to an increase of 39.79 percent across 
the 16 models, with a median value of 2.36 percent decrease.
    The climate in southwestern North America has been becoming 
increasingly arid during the past century and is projected to continue 
to become more arid during the 21st century (Seager et al. 2007, 
entire). Seager et al. (2007) modeled aridity as a function of 
precipitation minus evaporation, and evaporation rates increase as 
temperature increases. Their study area included the southern two-
thirds of Nevada, an area that encompasses the range of each of the 
four beetle species addressed in this finding. The most severe 
multiyear droughts that have impacted western North America in the 
recorded past have been attributed to variations in surface sea 
temperatures in the tropics, particularly persistent La Nina-like 
events (USGS 2004, entire; Seager et al. 2007, p. 1183). Based on their 
model results, Seager et al. (2007, p. 1184) conclude that droughts in 
the North American Southwest during this century will become more 
severe than historical droughts because La Nina conditions will be 
overlaid on a base condition that is drier than any experienced in 
recent history.
    Climate change will thus clearly affect habitat conditions for the 
Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes serican scarab, large 
aegialian scarab, and Giuliani's dune scarab. Increases in atmospheric 
carbon dioxide, air temperature, and evapotranspiration rates will 
affect vegetation, and each of the four beetle species is dependent on 
vegetation for its habitat. However, it is difficult to project how 
climate change will affect overall vegetation structure and composition 
because certain plant species may increase in response to these 
changes, while other plant species may decrease. For example, plant 
species adapted to desert-like conditions may gain a competitive 
advantage and increase in cover or density. Also, little is known about 
the biology of any of the four sand dune beetle species, so it is 
difficult to know how any potential changes in plant species 
composition would affect dune beetle habitat suitability. While climate 
change will undoubtedly affect habitat conditions for the Crescent 
Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes serican scarab, large aegialian 
scarab, and Giuliani's dune scarab, there is currently insufficient 
specific information to conclude that climate change is a significant 
threat to any of these four beetle species.

Synergistic Interactions Among Threat Factors

    We have evaluated individual current and future potential threats 
to the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes serican scarab, 
large aegialian scarab, and Giuliani's dune scarab. These species face 
potential threats from mining, solar development, ORV use, commercial 
filming, livestock grazing, stochastic events, and climate change. In 
considering whether the threats to a species may be so great as to 
warrant listing under the Act, we must look beyond the possible impacts 
of potential threats in isolation and consider the potential cumulative 
impacts of all of the threats facing a species.
    In making this finding, we considered whether there may be 
cumulative effects to any of the four dune beetle species from the 
combined impacts of existing threats such that even if each threat 
individually does not result in population-level impacts, that 
cumulatively the effects may be significant. We considered whether the 
combined effects of mining and solar development may result in a 
significant impact to any of the four beetle species because mining and 
solar development each has the potential to result in some level of 
habitat loss. However, we conclude that synergistic effects between 
mining and solar development are unlikely to result in a significant

[[Page 42249]]

overall population impact to any of the four beetle species because the 
proposed mining and solar development projects occur in different areas 
and their effects would not overlap. The proposed lava rock mining 
operation would impact the large aegialian scarab and Giuliani's dune 
scarab if approved, whereas the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, 
which is currently being constructed, will impact the Crescent Dunes 
aegialian scarab and Crescent Dunes serican scarab. ORV use potentially 
impacts each of the four beetle species, but as a result of BLM 
policies and management that reduce impacts from ORV use, we conclude 
that ORV use impacts combined with potential impacts from mining, solar 
development, commercial filming, and livestock grazing would not be of 
sufficient severity and scope to result in a significant impact to any 
of the four dune beetle species. BLM policies and management include 
prohibition of ORV use anywhere at Lava Dune and within an 81-ha (200-
ac) area and a 9-ha (23-ac) area at Big Dune, and restriction of ORV 
use to unvegetated areas at the rest of Big Dune and all of Crescent 
Dunes (each of the dune beetle species is known to occur only under or 
in close proximity to vegetation). Based on its location and lack of 
evidence of ORV use detected from high-resolution aerial imagery, we 
believe ORV use at San Antonio Dunes is minimal and thus is unlikely 
causing a population-level impact to the Crescent Dunes aegialian 
scarab. As discussed under Factor A, illegal ORV use impacts beetles 
and their habitat, but we conclude, based on the most current available 
information, illegal ORV use does not occur with sufficient frequency 
and geographic scope to cause population-level impacts to any of the 
four beetle species. It is unknown how many, if any, future requests 
for mining and solar development would occur in these areas. However, 
if there are any requests, BLM must evaluate potential effects to these 
dune beetles and adhere to their sensitive species policy, and the 
Service would have the opportunity to provide recommendations to 
protect these beetles under the NEPA process.
    Synergistic interactions are possible between effects of climate 
change and effects of other threats such as mining, solar development, 
ORV use, and livestock grazing. Increases in carbon dioxide, 
temperature, and evapotranspiration will affect vegetation, and each of 
the four dune beetle species is closely associated with the presence of 
vegetation. However, as noted above in the Climate Change section, 
uncertainty about how different plant species will respond under 
climate change, combined with uncertainty about how changes in plant 
species composition would affect suitability of dune beetle habitat, 
make projecting possible synergistic effects of climate change on the 
dune beetle species too speculative at this time. At this point in 
time, given the complex and uncertain nature of effects associated with 
climate change and the lack of information on the biology on each of 
these four dune beetle species, we can only conclude that additional 
information would be needed to determine whether synergistic 
interactions between climate change and other threats will impact the 
Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes serican scarab, large 
aegialian scarab, or Giuliani's dune scarab.

Finding

    As required by the Act, we considered the five factors in assessing 
whether the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes serican 
scarab, large aegialian scarab, and Giuliani's dune scarab are 
endangered or threatened throughout all of their ranges. We examined 
the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the 
past, present, and future threats faced by these four beetle species.
    To ensure that this finding is based on the latest scientific and 
commercial information on the species, their habitat, and threats 
occurring, or likely to occur, we examined the petition, information in 
our files, and other published and unpublished literature. We solicited 
information from the public, but did not receive any response. We 
consulted with species and habitat specialists from the BLM, the 
Service, and NNHP.
    We evaluated whether the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent 
Dunes serican scarab, large aegialian scarab, and Giuliani's dune 
scarab were affected by mining, solar development, and ORV use; 
however, these impacts are either limited in scope or significant 
uncertainty exists about if or how they may impact these species. The 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms to prevent any of the 
above factors is not a threat because BLM, by following their policy 
and through NEPA, has been successful in minimizing manmade impacts to 
these four beetle species. The best available information does not 
indicate that overutilization, predation, disease, stochastic events, 
or climate change is a threat to the continued existence of any of 
these four beetle species now or in the foreseeable future. There is 
also no evidence to indicate that synergistic or cumulative effects 
between the factors would result in significant threats to any of these 
four beetle species.
    Based on our review of the best available scientific and commercial 
information, the effects of these impacts on the four beetle species do 
not indicate that the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent Dunes 
serican scarab, large aegialian scarab, or Giuliani's dune scarab is in 
danger of extinction (endangered) or likely to become endangered within 
the foreseeable future (threatened), throughout all of its range. 
Therefore, we find that listing any of these four beetle species as an 
endangered or threatened species throughout its range is not warranted 
at this time.

Significant Portion of Its Range

    Having determined that the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, the 
Crescent Dunes serican scarab, the large aegialian scarab, and the 
Giuliani's dune scarab are not endangered or threatened throughout 
their ranges, we must next consider whether there are any significant 
portions of their ranges where any of the species is in danger of 
extinction or is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. 
The Act defines ``endangered species'' as any species which is ``in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range,'' and ``threatened species'' as any species which is ``likely to 
become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range.'' The definition of 
``species'' is also relevant to this discussion. The Act defines 
``species'' as follows: ``The term `species' includes any subspecies of 
fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment [DPS] 
of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when 
mature.'' The phrase ``significant portion of its range'' (SPR) is not 
defined by the statute, and we have never addressed in our regulations: 
(1) The consequences of a determination that a species is either 
endangered or likely to become so throughout a significant portion of 
its range, but not throughout all of its range; or (2) what qualifies a 
portion of a range as ``significant.''
    Two recent district court decisions have addressed whether the SPR 
language allows the Service to list or protect less than all members of 
a defined ``species'': Defenders of Wildlife v. Salazar, 729 F. Supp. 
2d 1207 (D. Mont. 2010), concerning the Service's delisting of the 
Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf (74 FR 15123, April

[[Page 42250]]

2, 2009); and WildEarth Guardians v. Salazar, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 
105253 (D. Ariz. September 30, 2010), concerning the Service's 2008 
finding on a petition to list the Gunnison's prairie dog (73 FR 6660, 
February 5, 2008). The Service had asserted in both of these 
determinations that it had authority, in effect, to protect only some 
members of a ``species,'' as defined by the Act (i.e., species, 
subspecies, or DPS), under the Act. Both courts ruled that the 
determinations were arbitrary and capricious on the grounds that this 
approach violated the plain and unambiguous language of the Act. The 
courts concluded that reading the SPR language to allow protecting only 
a portion of a species' range is inconsistent with the Act's definition 
of ``species.'' The courts concluded that once a determination is made 
that a species (i.e., species, subspecies, or DPS) meets the definition 
of ``endangered species'' or ``threatened species,'' it must be placed 
on the list in its entirety and the Act's protections applied 
consistently to all members of that species (subject to modification of 
protections through special rules under sections 4(d) and 10(j) of the 
Act).
    Consistent with that interpretation, and for the purposes of this 
finding, we interpret the phrase ``significant portion of its range'' 
in the Act's definitions of ``endangered species'' and ``threatened 
species'' to provide an independent basis for listing; thus there are 
two situations (or factual bases) under which a species would qualify 
for listing: A species may be endangered or threatened throughout all 
of its range; or a species may be endangered or threatened in only a 
significant portion of its range. If a species is in danger of 
extinction throughout an SPR, it, the species, is an ``endangered 
species.'' The same analysis applies to ``threatened species.'' Based 
on this interpretation and supported by existing case law, the 
consequence of finding that a species is endangered or threatened in 
only a significant portion of its range is that the entire species will 
be listed as endangered or threatened, respectively, and the Act's 
protections will be applied across the species' entire range.
    We conclude, for the purposes of this finding, that interpreting 
the SPR phrase as providing an independent basis for listing is the 
best interpretation of the Act because it is consistent with the 
purposes and the plain meaning of the key definitions of the Act; it 
does not conflict with established past agency practice (i.e., prior to 
the 2007 Solicitor's Opinion), as no consistent, long-term agency 
practice has been established; and it is consistent with the judicial 
opinions that have most closely examined this issue. Having concluded 
that the phrase ``significant portion of its range'' provides an 
independent basis for listing and protecting the entire species, we 
next turn to the meaning of ``significant'' to determine the threshold 
for when such an independent basis for listing exists.
    Although there are potentially many ways to determine whether a 
portion of a species' range is ``significant,'' we conclude, for the 
purposes of this finding, that the significance of the portion of the 
range should be determined based on its biological contribution to the 
conservation of the species. For this reason, we describe the threshold 
for ``significant'' in terms of an increase in the risk of extinction 
for the species. We conclude that a biologically based definition of 
``significant'' best conforms to the purposes of the Act, is consistent 
with judicial interpretations, and best ensures species' conservation. 
Thus, for the purposes of this finding, and as explained further below, 
a portion of the range of a species is ``significant'' if its 
contribution to the viability of the species is so important that 
without that portion, the species would be in danger of extinction.
    We evaluate biological significance based on the principles of 
conservation biology using the concepts of redundancy, resiliency, and 
representation. Resiliency describes the characteristics of a species 
and its habitat that allow it to recover from periodic disturbance. 
Redundancy (having multiple populations distributed across the 
landscape) may be needed to provide a margin of safety for the species 
to withstand catastrophic events. Representation (the range of 
variation found in a species) ensures that the species' adaptive 
capabilities are conserved. Redundancy, resiliency, and representation 
are not independent of each other, and some characteristic of a species 
or area may contribute to all three. For example, distribution across a 
wide variety of habitat types is an indicator of representation, but it 
may also indicate a broad geographic distribution contributing to 
redundancy (decreasing the chance that any one event affects the entire 
species), and the likelihood that some habitat types are less 
susceptible to certain threats, contributing to resiliency (the ability 
of the species to recover from disturbance). None of these concepts is 
intended to be mutually exclusive, and a portion of a species' range 
may be determined to be ``significant'' due to its contributions under 
any one or more of these concepts.
    For the purposes of this finding, we determine if a portion's 
biological contribution is so important that the portion qualifies as 
``significant'' by asking whether without that portion, the 
representation, redundancy, or resiliency of the species would be so 
impaired that the species would have an increased vulnerability to 
threats to the point that the overall species would be in danger of 
extinction (i.e., would be ``endangered''). Conversely, we would not 
consider the portion of the range at issue to be ``significant'' if 
there is sufficient resiliency, redundancy, and representation 
elsewhere in the species' range that the species would not be in danger 
of extinction throughout its range if the population in that portion of 
the range in question became extirpated (extinct locally).
    We recognize that this definition of ``significant'' (a portion of 
the range of a species is ``significant'' if its contribution to the 
viability of the species is so important that without that portion, the 
species would be in danger of extinction) establishes a threshold that 
is relatively high. On the one hand, given that the consequences of 
finding a species to be endangered or threatened in an SPR would be 
listing the species throughout its entire range, it is important to use 
a threshold for ``significant'' that is robust. It would not be 
meaningful or appropriate to establish a very low threshold whereby a 
portion of the range can be considered ``significant'' even if only a 
negligible increase in extinction risk would result from its loss. 
Because nearly any portion of a species' range can be said to 
contribute some increment to a species' viability, use of such a low 
threshold would require us to impose restrictions and expend 
conservation resources disproportionately to conservation benefit: 
Listing would be rangewide, even if only a portion of the range of 
minor conservation importance to the species is imperiled. On the other 
hand, it would be inappropriate to establish a threshold for 
``significant'' that is too high. This would be the case if the 
standard were, for example, that a portion of the range can be 
considered ``significant'' only if threats in that portion result in 
the entire species' being currently endangered or threatened. Such a 
high bar would not give the SPR phrase independent meaning, as the 
Ninth Circuit held in Defenders of Wildlife v. Norton, 258 F.3d 1136 
(9th Cir. 2001).
    The definition of ``significant'' used in this finding carefully 
balances these concerns. By setting a relatively high

[[Page 42251]]

threshold, we minimize the degree to which restrictions will be imposed 
or resources expended that do not contribute substantially to species 
conservation. But we have not set the threshold so high that the phrase 
``in a significant portion of its range'' loses independent meaning. 
Specifically, we have not set the threshold as high as it was under the 
interpretation presented by the Service in the Defenders litigation. 
Under that interpretation, the portion of the range would have to be so 
important that current imperilment there would mean that the species 
would be currently imperiled everywhere. Under the definition of 
``significant'' used in this finding, the portion of the range need not 
rise to such an exceptionally high level of biological significance. 
(We recognize that if the species is imperiled in a portion that rises 
to that level of biological significance, then we should conclude that 
the species is in fact imperiled throughout all of its range, and that 
we would not need to rely on the SPR language for such a listing.) 
Rather, under this interpretation, we ask whether the species would be 
endangered everywhere without that portion, i.e., if that portion were 
completely extirpated. In other words, the portion of the range need 
not be so important that even the species being in danger of extinction 
in that portion would be sufficient to cause the species in the 
remainder of the range to be endangered; rather, the complete 
extirpation (in a hypothetical future) of the species in that portion 
would be required to cause the species in the remainder of the range to 
be endangered.
    The range of a species can theoretically be divided into portions 
in an infinite number of ways. However, there is no purpose to 
analyzing portions of the range that have no reasonable potential to be 
significant or to analyzing portions of the range in which there is no 
reasonable potential for the species to be endangered or threatened. To 
identify only those portions that warrant further consideration, we 
determine whether there is substantial information indicating that: (1) 
The portions may be ``significant,'' and (2) the species may be in 
danger of extinction there or likely to become so within the 
foreseeable future. Depending on the biology of the species, its range, 
and the threats it faces, it might be more efficient for us to address 
the significance question first or the status question first. Thus, if 
we determine that a portion of the range is not ``significant,'' we do 
not need to determine whether the species is endangered or threatened 
there; if we determine that the species is not endangered or threatened 
in a portion of its range, we do not need to determine if that portion 
is ``significant.'' In practice, a key part of the determination that a 
species is in danger of extinction in a significant portion of its 
range is whether the threats are geographically concentrated in some 
way. If the threats to the species are essentially uniform throughout 
its range, no portion is likely to warrant further consideration. 
Moreover, if any concentration of threats to the species occurs only in 
portions of the species' range that clearly would not meet the 
biologically based definition of ``significant,'' such portions will 
not warrant further consideration.
    We evaluated the current range of the four beetles to determine if 
there is any apparent geographic concentration of potential threats for 
any of the species. The ranges for each of the beetles are relatively 
small and limited to the local dune system where they are found. We 
examined potential threats from mining, solar development projects, ORV 
use, commercial filming, livestock grazing, overutilization, disease or 
predation, the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, stochastic 
events, and climate change. We found no concentration of threats that 
suggests that any of these four species of dune beetles may be in 
danger of extinction in a portion of its range. We found no portions of 
their ranges where potential threats are significantly concentrated or 
substantially greater than in other portions of their ranges. 
Therefore, we find that factors affecting each species are essentially 
uniform throughout their ranges, indicating no portion of the range of 
any of the four species warrants further consideration of possible 
endangered or threatened status under the Act. There is no available 
information indicating that there has been a range contraction for any 
of the four species, and therefore we find that lost historical range 
does not constitute a significant portion of the range for the Crescent 
Dunes aegialian scarab, the Crescent Dunes serican scarab, the large 
aegialian scarab, or the Giuliani's dune scarab.
    We request that you submit any new information concerning the 
status of, or threats to, the Crescent Dunes aegialian scarab, Crescent 
Dunes serican scarab, large aegialian scarab, and Giuliani's dune 
scarab to our Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section) 
whenever it becomes available. New information will help us monitor 
these four beetle species and encourage their conservation. If an 
emergency situation develops for any of these four beetle species, we 
will act to provide immediate protection.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available on the Internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Nevada Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).

Authors

    The primary authors of this notice are the staff members of the 
Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office.

Authority

    The authority for this action is section 4 of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: June 28, 2012.
 Daniel M. Ashe,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-17526 Filed 7-17-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P