[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 142 (Tuesday, July 24, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 43218-43222]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-17938]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2012-0048; 4500030113]


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition To List the Sonoran Talussnail as Endangered or Threatened

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of petition finding and initiation of status review.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to list the Sonoran talussnail (Sonorella 
magdalenensis) as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act), and to designate critical habitat. Based 
on our review, we find that the petition presents substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that listing this 
species may be warranted. Therefore, with the publication of this 
notice, we are initiating a review of the status of the species to 
determine if listing the Sonoran talussnail is warranted. To ensure 
that this status review is comprehensive, we are requesting scientific 
and commercial data and other information regarding this species. Based 
on the status review, we will issue a 12-month finding on the petition, 
which will address whether the petitioned action is warranted, as 
provided in section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act.

DATES: We request that we receive information on or before September 
24, 2012. The deadline for submitting an electronic comment using the 
Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) is 11:59 p.m. 
Eastern Time on this date. After September 24, 2012, you must submit 
information directly to the Division of Policy and Directives 
Management (see ADDRESSES section below). Please note that we might not 
be able to address or incorporate information that we receive after the 
above requested date.

ADDRESSES: You may submit information by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search field, enter Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-
2012-0048, which is the docket number for this action. Then click on 
the Search button. You may submit a comment by clicking on ``Comment 
Now!''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS- R2-ES-2012-0048; Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We will post all information we receive on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any 
personal information you provide us (see the Request for Information 
section below for more details).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, 
Arizona Ecological Services Office, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Phoenix, 
AZ 85021; by telephone at 602-242-0210; or by facsimile at 602-242-
2513. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please 
call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Request for Information

    When we make a finding that a petition presents substantial 
information indicating that listing a species may be warranted, we are 
required to promptly review the status of the species (status review). 
For the status review to be complete and based on the best available 
scientific and commercial information, we request information on the 
Sonoran talussnail from governmental agencies, Native American tribes, 
the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties. 
We seek information on:
    (1) The species' biology, range, and population trends, including:
    (a) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;
    (b) Genetics and taxonomy;
    (c) Historical and current range, including distribution patterns;
    (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and 
projected trends; and
    (e) Past and ongoing threats and conservation measures for the 
species, its habitat or both.
    (2) The factors that are the basis for making a listing 
determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.), which are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of 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.
    If, after the status review, we determine that listing the Sonoran 
talussnail is warranted, we will propose critical habitat (see 
definition in section 3(5)(A) of the Act) under section 4 of the Act, 
to the maximum extent prudent and determinable at the time we propose 
to list the species. Therefore, we also request data and information 
on:
    (1) What may constitute ``physical or biological features essential 
to the conservation of the species,'' within the geographical range 
currently occupied by the species;
    (2) Where these features are currently found;
    (3) Whether any of these features may require special management 
considerations or protection;
    (4) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the 
species that are ``essential for the conservation of the species''; and
    (5) What, if any, critical habitat you think we should propose for 
designation if the species is proposed for listing, and why such 
habitat meets the requirements of section 4 of the Act.
    Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as 
scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to 
verify any scientific or commercial information you include.
    Submissions merely stating support for, or opposition to, the 
action under consideration without providing supporting information, 
although noted, will not be considered in making a determination. 
Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether 
any species is an endangered or threatened species must be made 
``solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data 
available.''
    You may submit your information concerning this status review by 
one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. If you submit 
information via http://www.regulations.gov, your entire submission--
including any personal identifying information--will be posted on the 
Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes 
personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your 
document that we withhold this personal identifying information from 
public

[[Page 43219]]

review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We 
will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov.
    Information and supporting documentation that we received and used 
in preparing this finding is available for you to review at http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment, during normal business hours, 
at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Ecological Services 
Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Background

    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted. We are to base this finding on 
information provided in the petition, supporting information submitted 
with the petition, and information otherwise available in our files. To 
the maximum extent practicable, we are to make this finding within 90 
days of our receipt of the petition and publish our notice of the 
finding promptly in the Federal Register.
    Our standard for substantial scientific or commercial information 
within the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) with regard to a 90-day 
petition finding is ``that amount of information that would lead a 
reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition 
may be warranted'' (50 CFR 424.14(b)). If we find that substantial 
scientific or commercial information was presented, we are required to 
promptly conduct a species status review, which we subsequently 
summarize in our 12-month finding.
    The ``substantial information'' standard for a 90-day finding 
differs from the Act's ``best scientific and commercial data'' standard 
that applies to a status review to determine whether a petitioned 
action is warranted. A 90-day finding does not constitute a status 
review under the Act. In a 12-month finding, we will announce our 
determination as to whether a petitioned action is warranted after we 
have completed a thorough status review of the species, which is 
conducted following a substantial 90-day finding. Because the Act's 
standards for 90-day and status review conducted for a 12-month finding 
on a petition are different, as described above, a substantial 90-day 
finding does not mean that our status review and resulting 
determination will result in a warranted finding.

Petition History and Previous Federal Actions

    On June 24, 2010, we received a petition dated June 24, 2010, from 
the Center for Biological Diversity, requesting that we list the 
Rosemont talussnail (Sonorella rosemontensis) and Sonoran talussnail 
(Sonorella magdalenensis) as endangered or threatened and that we 
designate critical habitat under the Act. The petition clearly 
identified itself as such and included the requisite identification 
information for the petitioner, required by 50 CFR 424.14(a). In a 
December 1, 2011, letter to the petitioner, we responded that we 
reviewed the information presented in the petition and determined that 
issuing an emergency regulation temporarily listing the Sonoran 
talussnail under section 4(b)(7) of the Act was not warranted. 
According to the Multi-district Litigation Stipulated Settlement 
Agreement (WildEarth Guardians v. Salazar, No. 1:10-mc-00377-EGS (D. 
D.C.); Center for Biological Diversity v. Salazar, No. 1:10-mc-00377-
EGS (D.D.C.)), we are required to complete an initial finding for the 
Sonoran talussnail in Fiscal Year 2012, which ends September 30, 2012, 
as to whether the petition contains substantial information indicating 
that the action may be warranted. This finding addresses the petition 
to list the Sonoran talussnail and fulfills the requirement of the 
Multi-district Litigation Stipulated Settlement Agreement. The petition 
for the Rosemont talussnail will be addressed in a separate finding. 
There are no previous federal actions concerning to the Sonoran 
talussnail under the Act.

Species Information

Species Description and Taxonomy
    The Sonoran talussnail is a relatively large pulmonate (with 
functional lungs), terrestrial snail with an average shell diameter of 
0.74 inches (in) (19 millimeters (mm)) (Miller 1978, p. 111). The 
petitioner provided no further physical description of the species, nor 
do we have any additional species-specific information in our files. In 
general, snails of the Sonorella genus have a depressed spherical 
spiraling shell that is 0.47 to 1.30 in (12 to 33 mm) in diameter and 
lightly colored, normally containing a dark peripheral band (Bequaert 
and Miller 1973, p. 110). Because shells of Sonorella are weakly 
differentiated and Sonorella is hermaphroditic (meaning an individual 
has both male and female sex organs), species are primarily separated 
by geographic location and anatomy of male genitalia (Bequaert and 
Miller 1973, p. 110).
    According to information in our files, the genus Sonorella includes 
79 species (McCord 1995, p. 317). The Sonoran talussnail is in the 
order Stylommatophora and the family Helminthoglyptidae first described 
in 1890 by R.E.C. Stearns as Helix from specimens collected near 
Magdalena, Sonora, in Mexico (Bequaert and Miller 1973, pp. 121-122). 
Between 1915 and 1923, Pilsbry and Ferriss described seven other 
species and subspecies of Sonorella that are currently recognized as 
the Sonoran talussnail: S. hinckleyi, S. h. fraternal, S. tumacacori, 
S. cayetanensis, S. sitiens arida, S. tumamocensis, and S. linearis 
(Bequaert and Miller 1973, p. 122). Pilsbry (1939, p. 341) later 
synonymized the first four of these species with S. s. arida, which he 
raised to a species, S. arida. Following additional research, the three 
remaining species recognized by Pilsbry were synonymized with S. 
magdalenensis as a single species (Bequaert and Miller 1973, p. 122). 
Although a thorough systematic and phylogenetic review of the genus 
Sonorella has not been published in the literature, the Sonoran 
talussnail is recognized as a valid species by the scientific community 
(Bequaert and Miller 1973, pp. 121-123; McCord 1995, p. 320). We 
consider the petitioned species, Sonorella magdalenensis, to be a valid 
species based on the information in the petition and available in our 
files, and, therefore a listable entity under the Act.
Habitat and Life History
    There is little other information available specific to the biology 
of the Sonoran talussnail; however, it is reasonable to conclude that 
the Sonoran talussnail is likely to be similar to other closely related 
talussnails in terms of its habitat needs and life-history traits. 
Sonorella species are generally considered rock snails, occupying 
rockslides and talus slopes (slopes composed of volcanic rock and 
limestone) (Pilsbry 1939, p. 268; Naranjo-Garcia 1988, p. 84; Pearce 
and Orstan 2006, p. 265). The petitioner notes that the Sonoran 
talussnail is found in talus or coarse broken rock slides at elevations 
ranging from 2,750 to 6,000 feet (839 to1830 meters) (Bequaert and 
Miller 1973, p. 122). Most Sonorella species prefer steep rock slides 
with sufficient interstitial space (space between rocks) that allow 
crawling to the proper depth for protection from summer heat (Bequaert 
and Miller 1973, p. 27; Hoffman 1990, p. 7; Hoffman 1995, p. 5). 
Occupied

[[Page 43220]]

sites can usually be identified by the presence of dead and bleached 
shells, which are typically abundant because they disintegrate slowly 
in arid environs (Pilsbry 1939, p. 269).
    Talussnails spend considerable time in estivation (dormancy), 
perhaps up to 3 years at a time (Hoffman 1990, p. 7). To prepare for 
estivation, talussnails use mucus and calcium to attach the opening of 
the shell to the face of a rock to make a waterproof seal. During 
estivation, talussnails survive by extracting calcium carbonate from 
their shells, which is re-deposited when active feeding resumes 
(Hoffman 1990, p. 7). Weather conditions are the most important factor 
affecting activity of living Sonorella, with talussnails only active 
above ground during or following summer monsoon rains (Jontz et al. 
2002a, p. 3; Weaver et al. 2010, p. 3). Talussnails feed primarily on 
fungus and decaying plant matter (Hoffman 1990, p. 7; Hoffman 1995, p. 
6; AGFD 2008, p. 2). Sonorella species in the Santa Rita Mountains have 
been reported foraging on Xanthoparmelia, a leaf-like lichen, during 
and after rains (WestLand Resources 2010, pp. 26, 31).
    Sonorella species mate face-to-face, and insemination is 
simultaneous reciprocal, meaning when two talussnails meet both are 
usually inseminated (Hoffman 1995, p. 6; Davison and Mordan 2007, p. 
175). During or after rain events, talussnails lay a clutch of 30 to 40 
eggs once or twice during summer. Fluctuations in humidity may cause 
large variations in rates of maturation and the life span of 
talussnails. The life span of land snails is dependent on their cycle 
of activity, although talussnails are believed to live 8 to 9 years 
(Hoffman 1995, p. 6). Many mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona 
where Sonorella species live are also inhabited by a snail-eating 
beetle (Scaphinotus petersi), which presumably preys upon talussnails 
(McCord 1995, p. 321). Talussnails are also believed to be eaten by 
rodents and birds, but this is probably a sporadic random occurrence 
(Hoffman 1990, p. 10).
Distribution and Abundance
    Species in the Sonorella genus are found throughout most of 
Arizona, portions of western New Mexico and Texas, and in Sonora, 
Mexico, and are typically distributed across the landscape as 
geographically isolated populations exhibiting a high degree of 
endemism (organisms having narrowly distributed isolated populations) 
(Bequaert and Miller 1973, p. 22; McCord 1995, p. 321). The 
distribution and diversity of Sonorella species across the arid 
Southwest has likely been promoted by cycles of fragmentation and 
connection between the mountains they inhabit. It is thought that a 
protracted series of substantial migrations occurred during wetter 
periods throughout the Pleistocene Epoch (i.e., 2.5 million to 10,000 
years ago), when topography also may have been more suitable for 
colonization by snails crawling across the landscape (Bequaert and 
Miller 1973, p. 22; McCord 1995, p. 321). In contrast, the drier 
climate and geography of the present-day Southwest does not favor 
dispersal of Sonorella species into new territories (Bequaert and 
Miller 1973, p. 22).
    The Sonoran talussnail is one of six Sonorella species that has a 
large range relative to other members of the genus, and the Sonoran 
talussnail inhabits the most widely separated localities of all 
Sonorella (Bequaert and Miller 1973, p. 25). In addition to the type 
locality in the Sierra Magdalena in Sonora, Mexico, the petitioner 
notes that, in Arizona, the Sonoran talussnail has been documented in 
seven mountain ranges within a 200- by 30-mile (mi) (124- by 19-
kilometer (km)) area primarily along the edges of the Santa Cruz Valley 
in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties (Bequaert and Miller 1973, p. 25). In 
Pima County, the species is known from the Roskruge Mountains, southern 
end of Tucson Mountains, northern end of Santa Rita Mountains, Cerro 
Colorado Mountains, and Tumamoc Hill (Bequaert and Miller 1973, p. 
122). In Santa Cruz County, it is known from the San Cayetano and 
Tumacacori mountains (Bequaert and Miller 1973, p. 122). Bequaert and 
Miller (1973, p. 122) also note that the Sonoran talussnail has been 
found in other locations in Sonora, Mexico, as far south as the Sierra 
Pajaritos located 24 mi (39 km) east of the town of Ures, Sonora.
    To our knowledge, there are no population numbers or trends known 
for the Sonoran talussnail. There are no recent survey data for all of 
the known range, and we have no information in our files to indicate 
that anyone has looked for this species throughout its range for almost 
40 years. As noted by the petitioner, WestLand Resources (2010, pp. 28-
29) found Sonorella species in 26 localities in the Santa Rita 
Mountains along slopes, ridge lines, and canyon bottoms in 2008 and 
2009. Some of these talussnails were likely Sonoran talussnails, 
although this has not been verified. We have no additional information 
readily available in our files regarding the species' current 
distribution. Furthermore, the petitioner does not present, nor do we 
have in our files, information related to population numbers, size, or 
trends for the Sonoran talussnail.

Evaluation of Information for This Finding

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR part 424 set forth the procedures for adding a 
species to, or removing a species from, the Federal Lists of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. A species may be determined to be 
an endangered or threatened species due to one or more of the five 
factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act:
    (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (C) Disease or predation;
    (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.
    In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look 
beyond the mere exposure of the species to the factor to determine 
whether the species responds to the factor in a way that causes actual 
impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a factor, but no 
response, or only a positive response, that factor is not a threat. If 
there is exposure and the species responds negatively, the factor may 
be a threat and we then attempt to determine how significant a threat 
it is. If the threat is significant, it may drive or contribute to the 
risk of extinction of the species such that the species may warrant 
listing as endangered or threatened as those terms are defined by the 
Act. This does not necessarily require empirical proof of a threat. The 
combination of exposure and some corroborating evidence of how the 
species is likely impacted could suffice. The mere identification of 
factors that could impact a species negatively may not be sufficient to 
compel a finding that listing may be warranted. The information must 
contain evidence sufficient to suggest that these factors may be 
operative threats that act on the species to the point that the species 
may meet the definition of endangered or threatened under the Act.
    In making this 90-day finding, we evaluated whether information 
regarding threats to the Sonoran talussnail, as presented in the 
petition and other information available in our files, is substantial, 
thereby indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. Our 
evaluation of this information is presented below.

[[Page 43221]]

    The petitioner asserts that the Sonoran talussnail is threatened by 
habitat loss and degradation due to mining; exotic plant invasion and 
control; real estate development; livestock grazing; recreation and 
vandalism; and illegal immigration, smuggling, and enforcement 
activities along the international border. Other threats asserted by 
the petitioner include over-collection; inadequate regulatory 
mechanisms; and small, isolated populations at risk of loss due to 
chance events and ongoing climate change.

Mining

    In support of the assertion that mining activity is a threat to the 
Sonoran talussnail throughout its range, the petitioner explains that 
mining, in general, and the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine in the Santa 
Rita Mountains (Augusta Resource Corporation 2010, p. 10), 
specifically, may directly remove talussnails, degrade habitat and 
water quality and quantity, alter microhabitat conditions, and increase 
access roads and collection pressure (Center for Biological Diversity 
2010, pp. 15-17). The petitioner referenced WestLand Resources (2009, 
p. 2 and 2010, pp. 23-32), Jones (2008, p. 1), and Bequaert and Miller 
(1973, p. 25) to illustrate that the Sonoran talussnail may occur in 
talus slopes as well as the waste rock footprint of the proposed 
Rosemont Copper Mine. The petitioner indicated that dust, sediment, 
herbicides, and windblown pollutants from mining activities, and 
mining-related road construction, use, and maintenance, may cause 
increased interstitial sedimentation and contamination of Sonoran 
talussnail habitat in the Santa Rita Mountains within and adjacent to 
the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine footprint (Service 1998, p. 5; AGFD 
2003, p. 3; Fonseca 2009, p. 3; SWCA Environmental Consultants 2009, 
pp. 3-7).
    In reference to the petitioner's claim that mining is a threat to 
the Sonoran talussnail, some of the information presented by the 
petitioner appears to be reliable. Review of the information provided 
by the petitioner supports that the Sonoran talussnail likely occurs in 
the waste rock footprint and talus slopes of the proposed Rosemont 
Copper Mine; however, the petitioner did not provide substantial 
information to illustrate that mining and mineral exploration is 
occurring in other parts of the species' range. However, according to 
U.S. Geological Survey 7.5-minute topographic maps readily available in 
our files, there are numerous mines and mining prospects within 2 miles 
of five of the known locations of Sonoran talussnail in Arizona: the 
Cerro Colorado Mountains, San Cayetano Mountains, Santa Rita Mountains, 
Tucson Mountains, and Tumacacori Mountains. These mines and mining 
claims are on privately owned lands or lands managed by U.S. Forest 
Service or Arizona State Land Department. Although we do not have 
information on the status of these mines, we believe their existence 
reveals that there is mining potential and a history of interest in 
areas adjacent to known locations of the Sonoran talussnail. Hard rock 
mining typically involves the blasting of hillsides and the crushing of 
rock. Threats posed to the Sonoran talussnail from such mining are 
supported by the information provided by the petitioner as well as 
other information readily available in our files (Hoffman 1990, p. 7; 
Jontz et al. 2002b, p. 1) that indicates Sonoran talussnails could be 
killed or their habitat rendered unsuitable from hard rock mining 
activities that remove talus, increase sedimentation in spaces between 
talus, and otherwise alter moisture conditions. These additional mines 
in locations that could impact more populations of the Sonoran 
talussnail would put the species at a high risk of extinction. 
Therefore, we conclude that the petition, as well as information 
readily available in our files, presents substantial information that 
this species may warrant listing due to habitat destruction from mining 
activities throughout most of its range.

Exotic Plants

    In support of its assertion that the Sonoran talussnail is 
threatened by exotic plant invasion and control, the petitioner stated 
that Pennisetum cilare (buffelgrass) invades both lower slopes and 
steep rocky hillsides and is expanding very rapidly in areas inhabited 
by the species in the Roskruge Mountains, Tumamoc Hill, and Mexico 
(Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum 2010, p. 1). The petitioner further 
explained that fire carried by bufflegrass, as well as rock disturbance 
and herbicide application to remove bufflegrass, may degrade habitat of 
talussnails (Fonseca 2009, p. 3). The petitioner further referenced 
Garcia and Conway (2007, entire) and U.S. Forest Service (2003, entire) 
to illustrate that herbicides used in control of exotic plants such as 
buffelgrass threaten non-target species. Finally, the petitioner stated 
that P. setaceum (fountain grass) may also threaten Sonoran talussnail 
in the Tucson Mountains.
    In reference to the petitioner's claim that exotic plant invasion 
and control is a threat to Sonoran talussnail, some of the information 
presented by the petitioner appears to be reliable. Review of this and 
other information readily available in our files confirms that the 
perennial African buffelgrass is prevalent throughout four of the seven 
mountain ranges in Arizona and one in Mexico with known locations of 
Sonoran talussnails: Cerro Colorado Mountains, Roskruge Mountains, 
Tucson Mountains, Tumamoc Hill, and Sierra Magdalena (Van Devender and 
Dimmitt 2006, pp. 5-6; Burquez-Montijo et al. 2002, p. 137). However, 
the petitioner provided no information concerning how fire carried by 
buffelgrass may be acting on the species. Information readily available 
in our files supports that fire has become an increasingly significant 
threat in the Sonoran Desert within the range of the Sonoran talussnail 
due to the widespread invasion of nonnative annual and perennial 
grasses (Burquez and Qunitana 1994, p. 23).
    The Sonoran Desert is not adapted to high-intensity fire, yet 
buffelgrass is not only fire-tolerant but also fire-promoting 
(Halverson and Guertin 2003, p. 13). On slopes where Sonoran 
talussnails may be present, buffelgrass establishment is higher in the 
vicinity of rocks and in disturbed soils (Burquez-Montijo 2002, p. 
134). The fire cycle created by conversion of slopes to buffelgrass can 
alter the microclimate and nutrient availability in the soil and litter 
layer that Sonoran talussnails rely on for food (Burquez-Montijo 2002, 
p. 135; Esque and Schwalbe 2002, p. 181; Williams and Baruch 2000, pp. 
128-130). A study by Nekola (2002, pp. 64-65) found that increased fire 
cycles caused by fire management in central North American grasslands 
reduced the abundance and diversity of land snails and altered the 
microclimate and nutrient availability to snails by burning the duff or 
litter layer where snails feed. Even though they live in talus and not 
grasslands, Sonoran talussnails also rely on a litter layer to feed. In 
addition, surveys of a canyon occupied by Sonorella species in the 
Pinaleno Mountains of Arizona following the Nuttall complex fires in 
2004 revealed hundreds of scorched talussnail shells along the canyon 
where burnout operations apparently reached high temperatures (Jones 
2004, pers. comm.).
    Information in our files regarding the ability of buffelgrass to 
carry fire into habitats of the Sonoran talussnail, combined with 
evidence that fire has killed other Sonorella species and resulted in 
decreased abundance and

[[Page 43222]]

diversity and altered habitat of other land snails, supports that 
similar negative impacts may occur, or may be occurring, to Sonoran 
talussnail. Therefore, information provided by the petitioner and 
readily available in our files presents substantial evidence that this 
species may warrant listing due to habitat destruction from exotic 
plant invasion throughout most of its range. The petitioner did not 
provide substantial information, nor do we have information in our 
files, supporting that mechanical or chemical removal of invasive plant 
species is a threat to the Sonoran talussnail.

Other Factors

    The petitioner also states that real estate development, livestock 
grazing, recreation, vandalism, and activities along the international 
border are threats to Sonoran talussnail, but provides no substantial 
information to evaluate. The petitioner also states that collection is 
known to threaten talussnails. The petition also explains that 
inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms are a threat to the Sonoran 
talussnail based on a lack of regulation from collection laws, U.S. 
Forest Service regulations, and a general lack of other regulations to 
protect the species or its habitat in the United States or Mexico. The 
petitioner also asserts that Sonorella species are highly vulnerable to 
extinction due to chance events because they are found in isolated 
populations in small patches, and from historic range contraction that 
is likely to continue due to climate warming. We will further evaluate 
these factors, along with any other potential factors, during our 
status review and will report our findings in the subsequent 12-month 
finding.

Finding

    On the basis of our determination under section 4(b)(3)(A) of the 
Act, we determine that the petition presents substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that listing the Sonoran talussnail 
may be warranted. This finding is based on substantial information 
provided in the petition, in addition to information readily available 
in our files, related to possible impacts originating from mining and 
the invasion of exotic plants.
    Because we have found that the petition presents substantial 
information indicating that listing the Sonoran talussnail may be 
warranted, we are initiating a status review to determine whether 
listing the Sonoran talussnail under the Act is warranted. We will 
evaluate all information under the five factors during the status 
review under section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act. We will fully evaluate 
these potential threats during our status review, under the Act's 
requirement to review the best available scientific information when 
making that finding. Accordingly, we encourage the public to consider 
and submit information related to these and any other threats that may 
be operating on the Sonoran talussnail (see Request for Information).

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available on the Internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Arizona Ecological 
Services Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Authors

    The primary authors of this notice are the staff members of the 
Arizona Ecological Services Office.

Authority

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

    Dated: July 12, 2012.
Daniel M. Ashe,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-17938 Filed 7-23-12; 8:45 am]
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