[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 190 (Tuesday, October 1, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 60607-60652]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-23124]



[[Page 60607]]

Vol. 78

Tuesday,

No. 190

October 1, 2013

Part V





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species 
Status for Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis (Acu[ntilde]a 
Cactus) and Pediocactus peeblesianus var. fickeiseniae (Fickeisen 
Plains Cactus) Throughout Their Ranges; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 78 , No. 190 / Tuesday, October 1, 2013 / 
Rules and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2012-0061; 4500030113]
RIN 1018-AY51


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species 
Status for Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis (Acu[ntilde]a 
Cactus) and Pediocactus peeblesianus var. fickeiseniae (Fickeisen 
Plains Cactus) Throughout Their Ranges

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), determine 
that Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis (acu[ntilde]a cactus) 
and Pediocactus peeblesianus var. fickeiseniae (Fickeisen plains 
cactus) meet the definition of endangered species under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended. This final rule implements the Federal 
protections provided by the Act for these species. The effect of this 
regulation will be to add these species to the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and Plants under the Endangered Species Act.

DATES: This rule becomes effective October 31, 2013.

ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2012-0061. Comments and 
materials we received, as well as supporting documentation used in the 
preparation of this final rule, are available for public inspection at 
http://www.regulations.gov. All of the comments, materials, and 
documentation that we considered in this rulemaking are available by 
appointment, during normal business hours at: U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Arizona Ecological Services Office, 2321 West Royal Palm Rd., 
Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021; by telephone 602-242-0210; or by 
facsimile 602-242-2513.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Ecological Services Field Office, 
2321 W. Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021; by telephone 
(602) 242-0210; or by facsimile (602) 242-2513. Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Executive Summary

    This document consists of a final rule to list as endangered 
Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis (acu[ntilde]a cactus) and 
Pediocactus peeblesianus var. fickeiseniae (Fickeisen plains cactus) 
under the Act. For the remainder of this document, these species will 
be referred to by their common names.
    Why we need to publish a rule. On October 3, 2012 (77 FR 60509), we 
published proposed rules to list acu[ntilde]a cactus and Fickeisen 
plains cactus as endangered species and to designate critical habitat 
for both species. In this document, we finalize our determinations as 
endangered species for these species under the Act. The Act requires 
that a final rule be published within one year of a proposed rule in 
order to add species to the lists of endangered and threatened plants 
to provide protections under the Act. We have determined that critical 
habitat for the acu[ntilde]a cactus and the Fickeisen plains cactus is 
prudent and determinable in the proposed rule and will soon publish in 
the Federal Register our final determination designating critical 
habitat for both cacti. The final critical habitat designation and 
supporting documents will publish under Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2013-0025, 
and can also be found at the above locations.
    The Endangered Species Act provides basis for our action. Under the 
Endangered Species Act, we can determine that a species is an 
endangered or threatened species based on any of five factors: (A) The 
present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its 
habitat or range; (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes; (C) Disease or predation; (D) The 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) Other natural or 
manmade factors affecting its continued existence.
    For the acu[ntilde]a cactus, the threats to the species and its 
habitat result from the effects of drought and climate change (Factor 
A) in combination with predation by native insect and small mammal 
predators (Factor C). Threats also result from habitat destruction, 
modification, and degradation from United States-Mexico border 
activities (Factor A) and nonnative, invasive plant species issues 
(Factor A). In addition, the existing regulatory mechanisms in place do 
not directly address the threats to the species.
    For the Fickeisen plains cactus, the threats to the species and its 
habitat result from habitat destruction, modification, and degradation 
from livestock grazing (Factor A) in combination with predation by 
small mammals (Factor C) and natural environmental variability and the 
effects of climate such as drought. When combined with the above 
mentioned threats, small population size (Factor E) likely exacerbates 
the effects of these threats on the Fickeisen plains cactus. In 
addition, the existing regulatory mechanisms are not ameliorating 
threats to the species.
    Peer review and public comment. We sought comments from independent 
specialists to ensure that our designation is based on scientifically 
sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We invited these peer reviewers 
to comment on our listing proposal. We obtained peer reviews from two 
knowledgeable individuals for the acu[ntilde]a cactus and two 
knowledgeable individuals for the Fickeisen plains cactus, all with 
scientific expertise to review our technical assumptions, analysis, and 
whether or not we had used the best available information for both 
plants. These peer reviewers generally concurred with our methods and 
conclusions and provided additional information, clarifications, and 
suggestions to improve this final rule. Information we received from 
peer review is incorporated in this final revised designation. We also 
considered all comments and information received during the comment 
period.

Organization of Document

    The layout of this rule is as follows: the final listing 
determination of the acu[ntilde]a cactus and the final listing 
determination for the Fickeisen plains cactus.

Previous Federal Actions

    Please refer to the proposed listing rule for the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus and Fickeisen plains cactus (77 FR 60509; October 3, 2012) for a 
detailed description of previous Federal actions concerning these 
species.

Summary of Changes From Proposed Rule

    Since the publication of the October 3, 2012 (77 FR 60509), 
proposed rule to list and designate critical habitat for the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus and Fickeisen plains cactus, we have made the 
following changes in this final rule:
    (1) Based on information received from public comments, we 
reevaluated the threat of nonnative, invasive plants on the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus. As a result, we

[[Page 60609]]

determined that nonnative, invasive plants currently occur in the 
vicinity of several populations of acu[ntilde]a cactus, including the 
largest known population, and will become a threat to the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus in the near future. Therefore, we conclude nonnative, invasive 
species pose a threat to the acu[ntilde]a cactus and its habitat.
    (2) Based on information received from public comments that both 
affirmed and refuted the threat of nonnative, invasive plants on the 
Fickeisen plains cactus, we reevaluated this threat. We conducted a 
thorough review of available information and reassessed the 
distribution of nonnative, invasive species to Fickeisen plains cactus 
populations, including their risk of exposure and potential population-
level outcomes. We conclude that nonnative, invasive species are 
stressors on the landscape within the range of the Fickeisen plains 
cactus, but at this time, we lack site-specific information on which 
species are present; their abundance, density, and distribution 
relative to Fickeisen plains cactus populations; and evidence that the 
cactus is negatively affected by nonnative invasive plants. Therefore, 
we conclude that there is insufficient evidence that nonnative, 
invasive species are a threat to the Fickeisen plains cactus at this 
time.
    (3) We have added a discussion concerning the occupancy of the 
Fickeisen plains cactus on the Kaibab National Forest at South Canyon 
in House Rock Valley. The South Canyon population is now the only known 
Fickeisen plains cactus occurrence on National Forest Service Lands. 
Please see Abundance and Trends for more information.
    (4) Based on questions raised from a public comment, we reviewed 
our discussion of Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory 
Mechanisms. We acknowledged in the October 3, 2012, proposed rule that 
there were adequate existing regulatory mechanisms in place for the 
Fickeisen plains cactus, as mechanisms appear to provide adequate 
protection to the cacti and its habitat in the manner they were 
intended to provide. We have furthered this conclusion by noting that 
the existing regulatory mechanisms in place do not ameliorate the 
threats to the Fickeisen plains cactus.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    We requested written comments from the public on the proposed 
listing and designation of critical habitat for the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
and the Fickeisen plains cactus during two comment periods. The first 
comment period, associated with the publication of the proposed rule 
(77 FR 60509), opened on October 3, 2012, and closed on December 3, 
2012. We requested written comments on the proposed listing and 
critical habitat rule and the associated draft economic analyses during 
a comment period that opened on March 28, 2013, and closed on April 29, 
2013, (78 FR 18938). We contacted all appropriate Federal, State, 
tribal, and local agencies; scientific organizations; and other 
interested parties and invited them to comment. Newspaper notices 
concerning the proposed rule and inviting the general public to comment 
were published by two local newspapers. We did not receive any requests 
for a public hearing, and thus, none were held.
    During the comment periods for the proposed rule, we received 16 
comment letters, including four from peer reviewers, directly 
addressing the proposed listing of the acu[ntilde]a cactus and the 
Fickeisen plains cactus with endangered status. All substantive 
information provided during the comment periods has either been 
incorporated directly into this final determination or addressed below.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 
(59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinion from three knowledgeable 
individuals on the acu[ntilde]a cactus and six on the Fickeisen plains 
cactus having scientific expertise that included familiarity with the 
respected taxon and its habitat, biological needs, and threats. We 
received responses from two of the peer reviewers for the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus and two for the Fickeisen plains cactus.
    We reviewed all comments received from the peer reviewers for 
substantive issues and new information regarding the listing of the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus and the Fickeisen plains cactus. The peer reviewers 
generally concurred with our methods and conclusions and provided 
additional information, clarifications, and suggestions to improve the 
final rule. Peer reviewer comments are addressed in the following 
summary and incorporated into the final rule as appropriate.

Peer Reviewer Comments

    (1) Comment: Two peer reviewers commented that Flora of North 
America, Volume 4 (2003) presents a more recent taxonomic treatment of 
Pediocactus species than Benson (1982). It recognizes nine species of 
plants in the genera Pediocactus, not seven as stated in the proposed 
rule. Additionally, one peer reviewer commented that Flora of North 
America considers the Fickeisen plains cactus a subspecies of 
Pediocactus peeblesianus. The peer reviewer pointed out that we stated 
that the variety fickeiseniae was never validly published; therefore, 
we should use the current taxonomy.
    Our Response: We have corrected our statement in the rule (see 
``Taxonomy'' under ``Species Description'') that there are nine 
recognized species of Pediocactus in the United States, eight of which 
are endemic to the Colorado Plateau. We have referred to the Fickeisen 
plains cactus (Pediocactus peeblesianus var. fickeiseniae) as a variety 
since it was categorized as a candidate species in 1980 based on Benson 
(1969) and Heil et al. (1981). In regard to the current taxonomic 
treatment of the Fickeisen plains cactus, we are aware that Flora of 
North America considers the cactus a subspecies of Pediocactus 
peeblesianus. Other taxonomic organizations (e.g., Integrated Taxonomic 
Information System), however, treat the cactus as a variety and 
continue to use the name Pediocactus peeblesianus var. fickeiseniae. We 
recognize that revising the taxonomy of the cactus should be addressed. 
In the future, we will inquire into the reasons these organizations 
differentiate the cactus as a subspecies versus a variety for species 
management. Under the Act and in regard to plants, we treat variety and 
subspecies equally (43 FR 17912) in that we do not differentiate 
between a variety and subspecies when assigning priority 
classifications to species for listing, delisting, reclassification, or 
recovery actions (43 FR 43103). We continue to treat the Fickeisen 
plains cactus as a variety until there is broad acceptance among the 
botanical community that the cactus should be recognized as subspecies 
fickeiseniae.
    (2) Comment: One peer reviewer requested a discussion in the final 
listing rule about the possibility of hybridization between Pediocactus 
species whose ranges converge or overlap with the Fickeisen plains 
cactus on the Arizona Strip.
    Our Response: Three other species of Pediocactus occur near the 
Fickeisen plains cactus: Pediocactus sileri (Siler's pincushion 
cactus), Pediocactus paradinei (Kaibab plains cactus), and Pediocactus 
bradyi (Brady pincushion cactus). Phillips et al. (1982, p. 8) 
considered the possibility of hybridization from two nearby Pediocactus 
species in their status report for the Fickeisen plains cactus but did 
not find evidence of hybridization occurring. Porter (2002,

[[Page 60610]]

unpublished report) conducted DNA sequencing between Pediocactus 
species to investigate phylogenic relationships. Although he did not 
necessarily investigate hybridization among the species, his study 
would have illuminated any potential hybridization in that evolutionary 
lineages would be unclear. In our review of the Fickeisen plains 
cactus, we did not receive information of a discovery of a population 
having a high degree of variation among individuals that are similar in 
character to the Fickeisen plains cactus and another Pediocactus 
species. While the potential for hybridization exists, we are not aware 
of this possibility being apparent.
    (3) Comment: Two peer reviewers suggested further discussion of the 
damaged Fickeisen plains cactus with orange-red material observed on 
the Navajo Nation, and which may be an infestation of the cactus borer 
beetle (Moneilema semipuctatum). One reviewer stated that larva from 
this beetle have been documented in Pediocactus despainii as well as 
Sclerocactus wrightiae in Capitol Reef National Park where the 
mortality of Sclerocactus plants have increased following drought 
years. The other reviewer stated that the cactus borer beetle impacts 
can be difficult to detect and are often misidentified as drought 
mortalities.
    Our Response: We have added a discussion of the cactus borer beetle 
under Factor C: Disease and Predation. Based on the information 
provided by the peer reviewer, infestation by the cactus borer beetle 
on other cacti species has resulted in mortality. Other than 
information presented by the Navajo Nation in 1994 of suspected damage 
to a Fickeisen plains cactus by a cactus borer beetle, we are not aware 
of any other individuals being affected. As stated in the proposed 
rule, the Navajo Nation noted no insect or disease reported for the 
Salt Trail Canyon population in their 2006-2008 report.
    (4) Comment: One peer reviewer commented that cheatgrass (Bromus 
tectorum) is ubiquitous throughout the American West, noting that, 
while densities vary from year to year depending on rainfall, the plant 
has been documented on substrates on which the Fickeisen plains cacti 
grow and has been identified as a future problem in close proximity to 
the habitat of this cactus. The reviewer further added that any annual 
invasive species would have similar impacts of competition with respect 
to Fickeisen plains cactus seedling germination and establishment and 
requested further discussion of the impacts of invasive annual species.
    Our Response: The impact of nonnative species on the Fickeisen 
plains cactus and its habitat is unclear. Several species of exotics 
occur across its range with cheatgrass being the most widespread 
followed by red brome and redstem filaree. The past and present Navajo 
Nation botanists have opposing views on the effect of exotics. The 
current position of the Navajo Nation is that more research is required 
to fully understand if a negative relationship exists between exotic 
species and the cactus, and if abundance of exotics is contributing to 
declines in cactus numbers or preventing the successful germination and 
establishment of seedlings. We acknowledge that densities of cheatgrass 
may vary depending on rainfall: In years of above-average 
precipitation, cheatgrass densities may be high creating a fine fuel 
source that could increase the fire risk and fire frequency of an area. 
Following a fire, cheatgrass can quickly spread across the landscape 
and become a dominant species effectively promoting recurrent fires in 
the future. However, habitat across the range of the Fickeisen plains 
cactus is not contiguous in that plants occur in more grassland habitat 
in Mohave County then in Coconino County where vegetation is sparser. 
We agree with the peer reviewer that invasive species would increase 
the risk of fire to native plants and can directly and indirectly 
compete for soil moisture, nutrients, space, and light. At this time, 
we do not have sufficient information to determine the distribution of 
exotic annual species in relation to Fickeisen plains cactus habitat. 
We also lack information describing direct and indirect effects exotics 
that have on the plant and its habitat.
    (5) Comment: One peer reviewer questioned why we stated we did not 
have sufficient information to evaluate whether the presence of 
nonnative, invasive species would facilitate the spread of wildfire 
into the habitat of the Fickeisen plains cactus.
    Our Response: Most of the habitat of the Fickeisen plains cactus in 
Coconino County consists of open areas with sparse vegetation and 
gravelly soil. The habitat in Mohave County that supports the Fickeisen 
plains cactus occurs in dense grass where there may be a potential fire 
risk from exotic annual grasses. As we previously stated, densities of 
cheatgrass vary across the range of the Fickeisen plains cactus, in 
addition to densities of other nonnative, invasive species or noxious 
weeds. If already existing within Fickeisen plains cactus habitat, 
densities of the nonnative, invasive species may increase in response 
to rainfall amounts and frequencies, thereby competing with the cactus 
for soil moisture, nutrients, space, and light. The nonnative, invasive 
species may also create fuels during the dry summer months and make the 
habitat prone to a wildfire. Given the diminutive size of the Fickeisen 
plains cactus, it would likely be killed by a wildfire. With sufficient 
information to support that high densities of exotics occur in 
Fickeisen plains cactus habitat, we would consider fire a significant 
threat. No evidence, however, leads us to believe that densities of 
cheatgrass or other exotic annual species near Fickeisen plains cactus 
habitat present a significant threat. No new information concerning the 
effects of fire and invasive species on the taxon was provided to us 
during the comment periods.
    (6) Comment: One peer reviewer expressed concern about the level of 
protection afforded the Fickeisen plains cactus from the Northern 
Arizona 20-year Mineral Withdrawal (Public Land Order Number (PLO) 
7787) on public lands in the vicinity of Grand Canyon National Park. 
The peer reviewer noted that not all populations would be protected 
based on their location near canyon rims and the entire habitat has not 
been surveyed. The peer reviewer also questioned the finality of PLO 
7787 and whether it may be overturned in future political elections. 
The peer reviewer also thought that a 20-year ban on uranium mining may 
not be adequate to protect the cactus and its habitat with respect to 
recovery.
    Our Response: We relied on the best scientific and commercial data 
available at the time of our proposed rule to determine whether uranium 
mining is a significant threat to the Fickeisen plains cactus across 
its range. As of the date of publication, PLO 7787 remains in effect 
and our analysis of the impact of that Order is unchanged. No new 
information was provided during the comment periods on the threat of 
uranium mining to the Fickeisen plains cactus or its habitat. If new 
information becomes available in the future indicating that uranium 
mining is a significant threat to the Fickeisen plains cactus and its 
habitat, we will incorporate those findings and reconsider our 
conclusion in any future recovery planning efforts or 5-year reviews of 
the taxon.
    (7) Comment: One peer reviewer acknowledged that off-road vehicle 
(ORV) use, road construction, and recreational uses within the habitat 
of

[[Page 60611]]

the Fickeisen plains cactus are increasing. The peer reviewer suggests 
however, that, without scientific documentation, the Service cannot 
fully quantify the current impacts to the species.
    Our Response: We agree with the peer reviewer that ORV use and its 
impact to the cactus and its habitat has not been investigated. We have 
very little evidence (three observations) over a 23-year period of 
cacti being damaged by ORV use or roadwork on lands managed by the 
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Navajo Nation. Because of the 
scarcity of information we cannot quantify the effects nor can we say 
that these actions rise to the level of significance such that they 
result in local or rangewide population declines.
    (8) Comment: One peer reviewer stated that development on the 
Navajo Nation is imminent and possibly may be ongoing. The reviewer 
suggests the Service reconsider the determination that development is 
not impending.
    Our Response: We are aware that the Navajo Nation may be interested 
in developing areas along the rims of the Colorado River and/or Little 
Colorado River to increase tourism opportunities. We did not receive 
information describing a timeframe, commitment, or specifics related to 
commercial development projects on tribal lands and any potential 
impacts they may have on the Fickeisen plains cactus. We relied on the 
best available scientific and commercial data available at the time to 
determine whether commercial development was a threat to the Fickeisen 
plains cactus and its habitat. Information we received indicated 
potential future development was too speculative, and, therefore, we do 
not consider it to be a threat to the cactus at this time.
    (9) Comment: One peer reviewer asked for clarification on Factor D: 
Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms and the rationale for our 
conclusion for the Fickeisen plains cactus. The reviewer pointed to the 
first paragraph in this section of the proposed rule (77 FR 60509, p. 
60544) stating that there are no existing laws or regulations that 
address the threats to the cactus but the second paragraph states that 
legal and regulatory mechanisms which are in place appear to be 
adequate to protect the plant. The reviewer notes that, if conservation 
measures are largely voluntary throughout the range of the species, 
then it appears that the existing regulatory mechanisms are likely 
inadequate to protect the species.
    Our Response: The basis for Factor D is to review the existing 
regulatory mechanisms that apply to the acu[ntilde]a cactus and 
Fickeisen plains cactus. These mechanisms are then evaluated to assess 
whether they address any of the threats identified for each plant. For 
instance if the regulatory mechanism protects individual plant species, 
but does nothing to protect the habitat, then that mechanism does not 
address the threats, if there are threats to the habitat. We have 
clarified our discussion under Factor D in this final rule.
    (10) Comment: One peer reviewer is concerned that information is 
lacking regarding threats from illegal collection of the Fickeisen 
plains cactus and feels that the Service is making a determination 
about the impacts of collection on this species prematurely.
    Our Response: As discussed in the rule, there have been no reported 
instances of illegal collection, nor have there been documented cases. 
We, therefore, relied on the best scientific and commercial data 
available at the time of listing, which indicated that illegal 
collection on the Fickeisen plains cactus is not a threat at this time. 
However, if information suggests that collection becomes a threat in 
the future, we will take that into account during recovery planning for 
the Fickeisen plains cactus.
    (11) Comment: One peer reviewer commented that the distribution and 
range estimates for the Fickeisen plains cactus by NatureServe and 
Benson are too different and do not provide meaningful information. The 
reviewer suggested basing the range on current information of 
population distribution and habitat.
    Our Response: There have been two estimates of range: One by 
NatureServe in 2011, the other by Benson in 1982. As stated in the 
rule, we do not have certainty that these estimates delineate the range 
where the Fickeisen plains cactus is distributed. We conclude, however, 
that the current and historic distributions are very similar as no 
documentation suggests that additional populations occur outside of its 
known range. We, therefore, provided an estimate of range that includes 
the currently known populations.
Public Comments
    (12) Comment: The U.S. Forest Service provided information 
clarifying the status of the Fickeisen plains cactus in areas that were 
considered to be occupied by the plant. They also provided information 
describing the attributes of occupied habitat.
    Our Response: The information demonstrated that one of the 
locations thought to be occupied by the Fickeisen plains cactus was 
erroneous. That site, Snake Gulch, located along the western boundary 
of the Forest is now considered to be unoccupied. We have included this 
information regarding the status of the population near the eastern 
boundary into the rule.
    (13) Comment: A land management agency and a member of the public 
commented about a statement made in the proposed rule under Factor A--
Livestock Grazing in regard to the increases and decreases of the North 
Canyon Fickeisen plains cactus plot on the Arizona Strip (77 FR 60509, 
p. 60536). The Federal agency stated that the proposed rule states that 
grazing has likely diminished the quality of suitable habitat on the 
Sunshine Ridge and North Canyon plots. This conclusion is based on 
population fluctuations and the absence of grazing on the North Canyon 
plot between 2001 and 2008, during which time the population increased. 
It is important to note that the population increased similarly between 
1986 and 1991 while grazing was present in the area. It is, therefore, 
speculation to conclude without supporting data that grazing is causing 
population fluctuations or hindering population recovery.
    Our Response: During both wet and dry years, the BLM recorded 
increases in some populations. No weather data was recorded at the 
sites during these studies, and nearby weather station data is 
inadequate to draw conclusions. The monitoring was not designed to 
separate the effects of weather and cattle impacts to the plants; 
therefore, conclusions cannot be drawn. We agree with the commenter 
that we do not fully understand what contributed to the increase in 
plants in the North Canyon plot.
    (14) Comment: We received comments indicating there are questions 
regarding the taxonomic validity of Echinomastus erectocentrus var. 
acunensis. In particular, there is concern that the variety acunensis 
may be subsumed into the more widespread species E. johnsonii. One 
comment suggests a need for further study, while the second requests 
justification for choosing one scientific name over another.
    Our Response: As stated in the proposed rule, the Cactaceae 
treatment in the Flora of North America (Zimmerman and Parfitt 2003, 
pp. 194-195) recognizes the entity as E. erectocentrus var. acunensis. 
A 2007 study by Baker indicated that all Echinomastus populations could 
be placed under a single taxon circumscribing an enormous amount of 
morphological variation, or they could be recognized as infraspecific 
taxa

[[Page 60612]]

under a single species. Baker's 2012 Echinomastus treatment in the 
Intermountain Flora notes that further study is needed in order to 
properly circumscribe subspecific taxa. To date, no peer-reviewed 
publications state that E. erectocentrus var. acunensis should not be 
considered as a valid taxon; therefore, the Service accepts this 
nomenclature.
    (15) Comment: One commenter suggested that the Service relied upon 
insufficient evidence of a threat to either cacti species and 
selectively overlooked uncertainties and data gaps, as well as evidence 
of increases in populations of these species. Specifically, they 
commented that listing is unwarranted because we do not have sufficient 
information on the abundance and health of either species, surveys vary 
by methodology and accuracy, and data is old and incomplete.
    Our Response: The Act requires that we use the best scientific and 
commercial data available regardless of the age of the information. In 
the proposed rule, we solicited the public for any new information on 
these species; while we received information clarifying what was 
published in the rule, no new population information was received. In 
some cases, the best available data is derived from different species 
with similar habitat requirements. We have used the best available 
scientific and commercial data, including results of numerous surveys, 
peer-reviewed literature, unpublished reports by scientists and 
biological consultants, and expert opinion from biologists with 
extensive experience with the species. We acknowledge that additional 
surveys and continued monitoring of existing plots would be valuable 
and should be considered as a recovery action for these species.
    Based on our review of the best available scientific and commercial 
data, we have determined that both species warrant listing as 
endangered because they are in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of their ranges. We determine whether any species 
is an endangered or a threatened species based on a five-factor threat 
analysis. For the acu[ntilde]a cactus, the threats to the species and 
its habitat result from the effects of drought and climate change; 
predation by native insect and small mammal predators; habitat 
destruction, modification, and degradation from United States-Mexico 
border activities (Factor A); and nonnative, invasive plant species 
issues (Factor A). In addition, the existing regulatory mechanisms in 
place do not directly address the threats to the species. For the 
Fickeisen plains cactus, the threats to the species and its habitat 
result from habitat destruction, modification, and degradation from 
livestock grazing (Factor A) in combination with predation by small 
mammals (Factor C) and natural environmental variability and the 
effects of climate such as drought. When combined with the above-
mentioned threats, small population size (Factor E) likely exacerbates 
the effects of these threats on the Fickeisen plains cactus. In 
addition, the existing regulatory mechanisms are not ameliorating 
threats to the species. Please refer to the Summary of Factors 
Affecting the Acu[ntilde]a Cactus and Summary of Factors Affecting the 
Fickeisen Plains Cactus for more detailed information.
    (16) Comment: One commenter believes the Service is attributing 
population decline in both species due to drought and speculates this 
drought is caused by climate change that may happen in the future.
    Our Response: As is the case with all models, there is uncertainty 
associated with climate change projections due to assumptions and scale 
used and other features of the models. Projected future drought would 
increase an already existing impact of long-term drought on these 
species. The Service finds that drought over the past 30 years within 
the region has negatively impacted seedling recruitment and adult 
survivorship. In addition, projections of future climate in the region 
include continued drought and warming winters. Therefore, the continued 
effects on seedling recruitment and adult survivorship are likely to 
continue into the future. The Service will continue to follow and 
assess the science behind climate change and update our summaries as 
new information is published.
    (17) Comment: One commenter is concerned that should either plant 
be listed, the final listing rule could be misused to impose undue 
burdens on American industries or activities that produce greenhouse 
gas emissions because the proposed rule identified the future effects 
of climate change as a threat to both species. The commenter requested 
that, if listing occurs at all, these cacti should be listed as 
threatened and a special rule should be created under section 4(d) of 
the Act establishing limits on the application of section 9 take 
prohibitions similar to the special rule for the polar bear under 
section 4(d) of the Act (December 16, 2008; 73 FR 76249).
    Our Response: While the Service may find that the effects of 
climate change are threats to species, regulation of greenhouse gas 
emissions is beyond the scope of the Act. The term ``threatened 
species'' means any species which is likely to become an endangered 
species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range. Alternatively, the term ``endangered species'' 
means any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. We have determined both acu[ntilde]a 
cactus and Fickeisen plains cactus are in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of their range and, therefore, 
meet the definition of endangered species under the Act.
    Listing either species as threatened is not the appropriate 
determination because the threats described are severe enough to create 
the immediate risk of extinction. As described in the Determination for 
the Acu[ntilde]a Cactus, the combination of declining rainfall, ongoing 
drought conditions, and the effects of climate change is expected to 
continue the documented trend of mortality exceeding recruitment across 
all populations of the acu[ntilde]a cactus. When mortality exceeds 
recruitment in a population, the result is often a declining 
population. Given this, we consider none of the populations to be 
stable or secure. The factors significantly threatening the species are 
not expected to be abated in the foreseeable future, and some 
populations may have decreased to levels where they are no longer 
viable. For these reasons, we have determined the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
meets the definition of an endangered species under the Act. Similarly, 
as described in the Determination for the Fickeisen Plains Cactus, the 
effects from climate change are expected to continue the documented 
trend of mortality exceeding recruitment across all populations. This, 
in combination with the other factors significantly threatening the 
species, leads us to conclude that the threat of extinction is high and 
immediate for the Fickeisen plains cactus, thus warranting a 
determination of endangered species status rather than threatened 
species status for the Fickeisen plains cactus.
    If a species were listed as threatened, the Secretary can issue a 
special rule under section 4(d) of the Act if deemed necessary and 
advisable to provide for the conservation of the species. A section 
4(d) rule is designed to provide for conservation of species through 
allowing take of listed species under certain allowable activities. 
That is, take, as defined under the Act, if it occurs under an 
allowable activity, would not be a violation of the Act. In the case of 
these two cacti, the Service

[[Page 60613]]

is not able to issue a 4(d) rule since we have determined both meet the 
definition of an endangered species.
    (18) Comment: One commenter suggested the proposed rule 
underestimates the extent of the range of the acu[ntilde]a cactus, 
noting in particular the population of Echinomastus species found in 
2009 in the Bighorn and Littlehorn Mountains, which was not included in 
analysis for the acu[ntilde]a cactus.
    Our Response: We are aware of the populations of acu[ntilde]a 
cactus in the Bighorn and Littlehorn Mountains. Morphometric analysis 
of Baker (2007, p. 11) suggests that, while individuals among these 
populations share many characters in common with E. erectocentrus var. 
acunensis, they also show characteristics of var. lutescens. Therefore, 
as the identity of these populations has not been verified, we did not 
include these populations in our evaluation of the status of the 
species.
    (19) Comment: One commenter is concerned that the Service relied on 
only a few of the known populations of acu[ntilde]a cactus to derive 
data for decline and used inconsistent monitoring efforts and a lack of 
statistically robust methods to estimate total abundances and changes 
in abundance over time. The commenter feels that information is 
lacking, and a decision to list the acu[ntilde]a cactus as endangered 
is premature. The commenter provided four examples of population 
decline data used in this rule and which they dispute: (1) Rigorous 
sampling of the overall population at OPCNM is needed and prior 
estimates of population numbers are speculative; (2) sampling at the 
Coffeepot Mountain population has been inconsistent and no meaningful 
conclusion regarding this population can be drawn; (3) the Mineral 
Mountains population counts from the 1990s do not indicate type of 
sampling or area covered and, therefore, should not be compared with 
2011 sampling; and (4) upon their own visit to the population at Indian 
Village Hill, they found 33 individuals, as compared to the Service 
visit of 2011 which found just 8 individuals, illustrating that 
individuals were being missed in surveys. The commenter acknowledges 
there appears to be a decline in some of the monitored populations of 
acu[ntilde]a cactus, but suggests there is also evidence that small 
populations are viable and relatively stable.
    Our Response: We have used the best scientific and commercial data 
available; while these references may include varying survey and 
monitoring methodologies, they nonetheless provide important data upon 
which we can base our analysis. We acknowledge that additional surveys 
and continued monitoring of existing plots would be valuable and should 
be considered as a recovery action for these species. We address the 
commenter's examples here: (1) In addition to overall population 
estimates, monitoring plots within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument 
(OPCNM) show a pronounced decline in acu[ntilde]a cactus numbers which 
outweighs recruitment and is a serious concern for park managers (NPS 
2012, p. 1; Holm 2006, p. 2-2). (2) We received public comments during 
the first comment period which indicated that the Coffeepot Mountain 
acu[ntilde]a cactus population was revisited by OPCNM staff in 2008. 
The population was censused in 1987 and again in 2008, and total living 
plants at that location decreased from 310 to 77. (3) The same BLM 
botanist was involved in the 1990s, 2002, 2008, and 2011 acu[ntilde]a 
cactus survey of the same ridgelines in the Mineral Mountains. Original 
surveys indicated more than 100 individuals present; in 2011 these and 
a fourth new population on a nearby ridgeline totaled 33 living plants 
(Service 2008a, entire; Service 2011b, p. 1). (4) At Indian Village 
Hill, researchers found 102 individuals in 1996. The Service 
acknowledges that it should not have utilized the 2011 Service report 
indicating current population numbers at this location. The Service 
report indicated that approximately 8 individuals were noted at this 
site (Service 2011a, p. 1); however, a full census was not conducted. 
Nevertheless, the 2013 census of the commenter found 33 individuals, 
clearly fewer than 102 found in 1996. These and other examples (refer 
to the ``Abundance and Trends'' of the acu[ntilde]a cactus section of 
the rule) all illustrate a marked decline in the number of individuals 
censused over time. There is also evidence that recruitment (the number 
of juveniles seen) is not keeping up with the number of dead plants 
counted in any location.

Background

    In the proposed listing rule, we provided a description of each 
species, their life history, and their habitat; an evaluation of 
listing factors for each species; and our finding for the species. In 
this final listing rule, we include only those sections that have been 
revised as a result of the public comments we received and to reflect 
the best scientific and commercial data available.

Acu[ntilde]a Cactus

    It is our intent to discuss below only those topics directly 
relevant to the listing of the acu[ntilde]a cactus as an endangered 
species in this section of the final rule. The biology and habitat 
sections remain unchanged since publication of the proposed rule. 
Please refer to the proposed listing rule for the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
and Fickeisen plains cactus (77 FR 60509; October 3, 2012) for a 
detailed description of the biology and habitat of the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus. We have updated the ``Species Description'', ``Taxonomy'', 
``Distribution and Range'', and ``Abundance and Trends'' sections below 
as a result of information received from the public during the public 
comment periods.
Species Description
    The acu[ntilde]a cactus is a small, spherical cactus, usually 
single-stemmed, that can be up to 40 centimeters (cm) (16 inches (in)) 
tall and 9 cm (3.5 in) wide (Arizona Rare Plant Guide Committee 2001, 
unpaginated; Zimmerman and Parfitt 2003, pp. 194-195). The acu[ntilde]a 
cactus has 11 to 15 radial spines up to 2.5 cm (1.0 in) long and 3 to 4 
mauve-colored, up-turned central spines up to 3.5 cm (1.4 in) long 
(Arizona Rare Plant Guide Committee 2001, unpaginated; Zimmerman and 
Parfitt 2003, pp. 194-195). Rose, pink, or lavender flowers 3.6 to 6 by 
4 to 9 cm (1.4 to 2.3 by 1.6 to 3.5 in) are produced in March (Arizona 
Rare Plant Guide Committee 2001, unpaginated; Zimmerman and Parfitt 
2003, pp. 194-195). The fruits, which are held in place by a tight mesh 
of spines, are pale green, are 1.25 cm (0.5 in) long, and contain 
small, nearly black seeds (Felger 2000, p. 208). The fruits ripen in 
April (Arizona Rare Plant Guide Committee 2001, unpaginated) and as 
they dry, they split longitudinally, exposing the seeds (Morawe 2012, 
pers. comm.).
Taxonomy
    This species was originally described in 1953 by W.T. Marshall as 
Echinomastus acunensis (Marshall 1953, pp. 33-34). It is known by many 
synonyms, including Sclerocactus erectocentrus var. acunensis (Coulter) 
Taylor and Neolloydia erectocentra (W.T. Marshall) var. acunensis L. 
Benson (Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) 2004, p. 1). The 
Cactaceae treatment in the Flora of North America (Zimmerman and 
Parfitt 2003, pp. 194-195) recognizes the entity as E. erectocentrus 
var. acunensis. The other variety, E. erectocentrus var. erectocentrus 
(needle-spine cactus), is also recognized as a valid taxon in the Flora 
of North America. The two varieties are generally considered to be 
morphologically distinct and

[[Page 60614]]

geographically isolated, but there have been questions regarding the 
morphology of some individuals (AGFD 2004, p. 6). To address those 
concerns, the Service funded a project to analyze the morphological 
distinctness of the two varieties, which was completed in January 2007. 
The results of this study suggest that there are four distinct 
taxonomic groups, including the separation of variety acunensis and 
variety erectocentrus (Baker 2007, pp. 19-21). Baker (2007, p. 20) 
recommended nomenclatural changes, based on the International Rules of 
Botanical nomenclature, but formal name changes were not proposed in 
his study. Since that time, Baker collected additional morphology data 
from other Echinomastus populations and concluded in his 2012 
Intermountain Flora Echinomastus treatment, that all varieties of 
Echinomastus be combined into a single species E. johnsonii (Baker 
2012, p. 445). In this treatment, however, Baker notes that further 
study is needed in order to determine if separating the species into 
varieties may be warranted (Baker 2012, p. 446). To date, there are no 
peer-reviewed publications stating that E. erectocentrus var. acunensis 
should not be considered as a valid taxon. Therefore, we accept Baker's 
2007 work and the Flora of North America, which separate the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus from the needle-spine cactus as valid and distinct 
taxa separated morphologically and geographically.
Distribution and Range
    The acu[ntilde]a cactus populations are known from Maricopa, Pima, 
and Pinal Counties in Arizona and from Sonora, Mexico (AGFD 2004, p. 
2). In western Pima County, plants are known from the Puerto Blanco 
Mountains and adjacent Aguajita Wash on National Park Service (NPS) 
lands within OPCNM; from the Sauceda Mountains on Bureau of Land 
Management (BLM) and Tohono O'odham Nation lands; from Department of 
Defense military lands on the Barry M. Goldwater Gunnery Range (BMGR); 
and from private lands near Ajo. In Maricopa County, the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus is known from the Sand Tank Mountains on BLM lands within the 
Sonoran Desert National Monument. In Pinal County, plants are known 
from Mineral Mountain on BLM, State, and private lands. In Sonora, 
Mexico, the acu[ntilde]a cactus occurs on Reserva de la Biosfera El 
Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar (Pinacate Biosphere Reserve), 
communal ejido lands, and private ranches. Available information 
indicates that the current range of this species does not differ from 
the historical range, with the exception that the current Ajo 
populations likely had been part of a larger population that occurred 
before mining activity began there (Rutman 1996b, pers. comm.; Rutman 
2007, p. 7). However, there are no survey records for this species in 
the area prior to mining activity.
Abundance and Trends
    As the number of dead individuals documented within acu[ntilde]a 
cactus populations has increased greatly since study began in the 
1970s, it is important to track the number of healthy, unhealthy, and 
dead individuals. This not only allows us to document trends in total 
plant numbers, but also can help in our understanding of the cause and 
extent of mortality. A discussion of abundance and trends of 
acu[ntilde]a cactus populations on Federal, State, and private lands, 
along with lands in Sonora, Mexico, is presented below.
Federal Land--National Park Service
    Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument--There is one large area of 
approximately 1,326 ha (3,277 ac) within OPCNM that contains as many as 
2,000 acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals (Rutman 2011, pers. comm.; AGFD 
2011, entire). In 1981, this population was estimated to contain 10,000 
individuals (Buskirk 1981, p. 3). Within this area, two 20-by-50-m (66-
by-164-ft) permanent monitoring plots were established in 1977, with 
the aim of investigating growth, mortality, and recruitment of this 
species. Between 1977 and 1981, mortality reached 31 percent in the 
plots (Phillips and Buskirk 1982, p. 2). Two more plots were added in 
1983, and two more in 1988. From 1988 through 1991, the population was 
thought to be stable or increasing (Johnson et al. 1993, p. 172), with 
446 individuals found in the 6 plots by 1991 (Holm 2006, p. 6). From 
1993 through 2012, annual mortality was variable, but exceeded 
recruitment in most years (NPS 2012, p. 2). In 2012, the total number 
of individuals recorded in the 6 plots was 38 adults and 15 juveniles 
(NPS 2012, entire).
    In order to verify the identification and location of plants, 
specimens are collected, pressed, and placed on sheets that are stored 
in herbaria. A 1952 herbarium collection from a second location within 
OPCNM is evidence that a second disjunct population of the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus occurred historically within OPCNM. The information associated 
with this collection states the plants were located south of Dripping 
Spring within 3 m (10 ft) of the U.S.-Mexico border; an exact location 
was not provided. Although staff at OPCNM were unaware of this 
herbarium collection, they state that the general area of its 
collection has been visited during surveys for sensitive cultural and 
natural resources, as well as for buffelgrass; no acu[ntilde]a cactus 
plants were noted (Morawe 2012, pers. comm.). We do not know if the 
population or a seedbank exists at this location; however, we do know 
that lands immediately adjacent to the border have changed 
significantly in recent decades with the creation of border fencing, 
vehicle barriers, and Border Patrol service roads. Although this 
population likely once supported enough individuals to warrant 
collection for herbaria, it is likely this population no longer exists 
at this location. During a public comment period, we requested any 
information about the status of the acu[ntilde]a cactus at this 
location; no additional information on the cactus was received.
Federal Land--Bureau of Land Management
    Sauceda Mountains--Within the Coffeepot Area of Critical 
Environmental Concern (ACEC), there are several small acu[ntilde]a 
cactus populations, each on less than 2 ha (5 ac) of land.
    In 1982, the BLM (Phoenix District) established three 20-by-50-m 
(66-by-16- ft) monitoring plots on Coffeepot Mountain. These plots were 
visited, and data were collected periodically between 1982 and 1992. In 
1982, researchers found 157 living and 3 dead plants within the plots. 
Over the years of study, many new recruits were found; however, there 
was also ongoing mortality with newly dead individuals documented each 
year. BLM staff reported a precipitous decline of this population in 
1989 (Johnson 1989, p. 1). A note to the file in 1991 stated that many 
individual plants were missing, dead, or dying, and that there appeared 
to be little regeneration in this population (BLM 1991, p. 1). By the 
monitoring visit in 1992, researchers recorded 150 plants dead, 22 
plants missing and presumed dead, and 150 plants within the plots that 
were either healthy or in some stage of decline (Butterwick 1982-1992, 
entire). The plots have not been formally measured since 1992, but the 
BLM has visited this site 21 times since then to assess general health 
and threats to the population. Field notes indicate that few juveniles 
were seen in 2008, and no juveniles were seen in 2009; no mention of 
juveniles was made in 2010 or 2011 (Anderson 2011, p. 2). The site was 
not visited in 2012.

[[Page 60615]]

    A complete census of individual acu[ntilde]a cacti from both within 
and nearby the Coffeepot Mountain plots in 1987 found 310 living and 
332 dead plants (Rutman et al. 1987, p. 2). In 2008, staff of OPCNM 
censused the number of individuals from both within and nearby the 
plots and found 77 living and 80 dead plants (Morawe 2012, pers. 
comm.). The loss of 252 dead plants during this time is also of 
interest, as it shows that the cage-like spinal remains of acu[ntilde]a 
cacti do not persist in the environment for extended periods.
    In 2006, a second population, estimated to be between 50 and 100 
individuals, was located 1.2 kilometers (km) (0.75 miles (mi)) 
northwest of the Coffeepot Mountain monitoring plots in Ryans Canyon 
(Rutman 2006, p. 2). Rutman (2006, entire) did not mention size class 
or health of this population. This site has not been revisited. In 
2006, a third population was discovered 1.4 km (0.87 mi) to the 
northeast of the Coffeepot Mountain monitoring plots. Approximately 30 
acu[ntilde]a cacti were noted there at the time; 25 percent mortality 
was reported 1 year later (Anderson 2011, p. 1). An October 2011 site 
visit by Service and BLM botanists revealed 23 adult and 2 juvenile 
living and 15 dead plants at this location (Service 2011a, p. 3). A 
fourth population was discovered in March 2011, in a location near the 
third population; 10 plants were noted. No indications were given as to 
the age class structure or health of this population (Anderson 2011, 
entire).
    At an acu[ntilde]a cactus site the BLM calls Little Ajo Mountains, 
southeast of the New Cornelia Mine on less than 0.4 ha (1 ac), the 
population has fluctuated from 5 plants in 1997, to 7 plants in 2001, 
to 7 plants in 2006, to 11 plants in 2007, to 7 plants in 2008, and 
finally to 12 plants (including 5 very small plants) in 2011 (Rutman 
2006, p. 2; Anderson 2011, entire; Service 2011a, p. 1). In 2013, the 
site was visited and 12 plants were located, 5 of which were reported 
to be uprooted and 2 were juvenile (Westland Resources 2013, p. 3). 
Westland Resources noted that the five individuals that were uprooted 
were lying on their side and may have been the target of herbivory or 
may have been knocked over by a passing animal (2013, p. 3).
    Sonoran Desert National Monument--In 2006, approximately 200 
individuals were reported from the Sand Tank Mountains in an area less 
than 25 ha (61.8 ac) in size. In 2007, the site was revisited, and 4 
groups of individuals accounting for 125 of the approximately 200 
individuals were mapped (Anderson 2012b, pers. comm.; Anderson 2011, p. 
2). No indications were given as to the age class, structure, or health 
of this population (Anderson 2011, entire). This site has not been 
revisited.
    Mineral Mountain--There are 3 individual acu[ntilde]a cacti growing 
on BLM land adjacent to 30 living plants and 22 dead plants on Arizona 
State Trust lands (State land). This population is discussed 
collectively below under ``State Land''.
Federal Land--Department of Defense
    Barry M. Goldwater Gunnery Range--In 1997, a single adult 
individual was reported from just north and outside of the populations 
in the Coffeepot ACEC (Geraghty et al. 1997, p. 5) within Department of 
Defense (DOD) managed lands on the BMGR. This site was revisited in 
2012, but no plants were located (Whittle 2012a, pers. comm.). It is 
unknown if the one previously located individual has been extirpated or 
was missed during the survey, nor is it known if a seedbank persists at 
this location.
State Land
    Mineral Mountain--Plants were collected by S. Hart in 1992, from 
the population straddling BLM and State land east of Florence 
(University of Arizona Herbarium 2011, entire). There were no details 
of the number of individuals seen, just a map with three locations. In 
the 1990s, the BLM revisited this site and estimated 100 individuals 
were scattered across 3 ridgelines (Service 2008a, p. 1). In 2008, the 
Service and BLM searched this area finding fewer than 20 living and 
many dead plants; no young plants were seen. In 2011, the Service and 
BLM botanists revisited the location and found 33 living and 22 dead 
plants scattered across 4 adjacent ridgelines on less than 5 ha (12.4 
ac) of land; no juveniles were found (Service 2011b, p. 1).
    Ninety-Six Hills--This population is in the vicinity of Florence on 
less than 1 ha (2.47 ac) of land. Parfit (1977, p. 1) noted that plants 
here were common, but very localized. Many plants of various ages and 
sizes were noted, as well as many dead plants. Engard (1977, p. 1) 
noted many seedlings and mature plants and also that the plants were 
abundant locally. Rutman and Krausman (1988, p. 1) found 29 live plants 
and 6 dead plants in a 2-hour survey in the same general area. Breslin 
(2008, pp. 3-5) reported that in over 60 hours of survey effort in the 
area he had located 45 plants, 1 seedling, and 17 dead plants. On March 
20, 2008, the Service plant ecologist found 11 live plants and 10 dead 
plants in a 3-hour survey. In the same general area, C. Butterworth 
(2008, pers. comm.) found 32 live plants, of various sizes, except 
seedlings. He noted that seedlings were very noticeably absent. A 2011 
2-hour survey by three Service and BLM botanists revealed no living and 
two dead adults in this same general area (Service 2011b, p. 3). 
Because this population was not mapped with Geographic Information 
Systems, it is impossible to know if survey efforts in 1977, 1988, 
2008, and 2011 were all conducted in the exact same location within 
this general area. Therefore, it is not possible to conclude that this 
population has been extirpated.
Private Land
    Ajo Area--The combined area of these multiple sites is less than 
0.4 ha (1 ac) (Rutman 2007, p. 1).
    An isolated population near Darby Wells was first reported by Heil 
and Melton (1994, p. 14). Fewer than 10 plants were found at this site 
in 2007 (Rutman 2007, p. 4). There is no record if juveniles were among 
the plants found. The site has not been revisited.
    On Indian Village Hill, there were 102 plants in 1996, when the 
population was first recorded (Rutman 1996b, pers. comm.). In 2006, 30 
living and 33 dead plants were found; in 2007, fewer than 40 plants 
were found (Rutman 2006, p. 1; Rutman 2007, p. 4). There is no record 
if juveniles were among the plants found in either year. In 2011, 
Service and BLM botanists counted eight living and seven dead plants in 
a small area that was surveyed; no juveniles were found (Service 2011a, 
p. 1). In 2013, biologists from Westland Resources did a complete 
survey of the area and found 33 live and 8 dead individuals (Westland 
Resources 2013, p. 3). During this survey, they also discovered a 
single individual growing nearby across the road.
    There were 16 live and 19 dead acu[ntilde]a cacti on Weather Tower 
Hill in 2006 (Rutman 2006, p. 1). There is no record if juveniles were 
among the plants found. The site was revisited in 2013 by Westland 
Resources biologists; 17 living and 26 dead individuals were located 
(Westland Resources 2013, p. 2). During this survey, they also 
discovered a separate subpopulation 200 m (656 ft) from the known 
population containing 10 living (including 1 juvenile) and 5 dead 
individuals (Westland Resources 2013, p. 2).
    Florence Area--Roadside populations occur on less than 0.4 ha (1 
ac) collectively; any additional populations that may be present on 
private land occur on an unknown quantity of land.

[[Page 60616]]

    Roadside Population One--The 2011 site visit revealed nine living 
and two dead individuals; no juveniles were found, though all nine were 
young healthy individuals (Service 2011b, p. 2).
    Roadside Population Two--The 2011 site visit revealed two living 
and two dead individuals; no juveniles were found (Service 2011b, p. 
2).
    There may be other locations on private lands unknown to Service or 
BLM botanists.
Sonora, Mexico
    Felger (2000, p. 208) noted the occurrence of the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus between 3 and 18 km (2 and 11 mi) southwest of Sonoyta along the 
Pe[ntilde]asco highway; no population estimates were made. Surveys of 7 
acu[ntilde]a cactus populations from an area from 2009 through 2010 
revealed 659 living and 942 dead plants growing on approximately 1,700 
ha (4,200 ac) (Pate 2011, pers. comm.; Pate 2011, map 1 and map 2). 
Pate (2012a, pers. comm.) noted seeing a few small seedlings among 
these plants. From 2012 to 2013, researchers located 18 additional 
populations of acu[ntilde]a cactus in the vicinity of, but not within, 
those censused in 2009-2010 (Van Devender 2012, pers. comm.; Van 
Denvender 2013, pers. comm.). In these surveys, an additional 371 
living and 801 dead individuals were counted; a few small living plants 
were noted (Van Devender 2012, pers. comm.; Van Devender 2013, pers. 
comm.). The total land area of the general region containing all 25 
known populations in Sonora is roughly 6,900 ha (17,050 ac).
Summary
    Presented below is the total estimate of living, dead, and juvenile 
acu[ntilde]a cactus plants in populations visited over multiple years, 
including census results from 2011 through 2013, and from previous 
years if sites have not been revisited or population estimates not 
updated. Notable trends are the large amount of mortality within the 
populations that have been visited more than once, high numbers of dead 
individuals within many populations visited once, and the low numbers 
of juvenile plants in all populations.
     NPS--2,000 plants, or 55.4 percent of known individuals; 
estimated in 2011 by OPCNM staff. This population estimate is down from 
10,000 individuals estimated at this location in 1981. Within the OPCNM 
plots, the number of recorded individuals peaked in 1991, with 165 
adult and 281 juveniles counted. In 2012, researchers noted 38 adult 
individuals and 15 juveniles within these plots (NPS 2012, p. 1).
     Sonora, Mexico--1,030 plants or 28.5 percent of known 
individuals; estimated from 2009 to 2010 and 2012 to 2013 surveys. 
During surveys of these plants, an additional 1,743 dead plants were 
located among the living. There are no previous estimates from these 
populations. A few juvenile plants were noted during both survey 
periods.
     BLM--422 plants, or 11.7 percent of known individuals; 
estimated from 2011 and other recent surveys. At Coffeepot Mountain 
within the largest BLM population, 310 living and 332 dead individuals 
were recorded from both within and nearby established plots in 1987. By 
2008, this population was reduced to 77 living and 80 dead plants noted 
within and nearby established plots. No juveniles were noted since 
2008, when a few were seen.
     Private Land--81 plants (70 near Ajo and 11 near 
Florence), or 2.2 percent of known individuals; estimated from 2013 and 
other recent surveys. A single population that was revisited on several 
occasions showed a total population of 102 individuals in 1996; in 
2006, 30 living and 33 dead plants were found. In 2013, researchers 
recorded 33 plants from this population.
     State Land--75 plants, or 2.1 percent of known 
individuals; estimated from 2011 surveys. At one location in the 1990s, 
the population was estimated to be 100 individuals; in 2008, only 20 
living and many dead plants were found with no juveniles seen. In 2011, 
researchers recorded 30 living plants, including a new subpopulation 
previously not recorded. No juvenile plants were located in 2011. At a 
second location, in 1977, plants were considered common but localized, 
and the site supported many plants of various ages and sizes. Surveys 
of this area in 2008 resulted in the location of 45 adult plants with 
no juveniles found. In 2011, no living plants and two carcasses were 
located in this same area, though surveys were not as thorough as in 
2008; we use the 2008 number of 45 individuals for population estimates 
herein.
     Military BMGR--1 plant, or less than 0.03 percent of known 
individuals in 1997; this individual was not relocated in 2012.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Acu[ntilde]a Cactus

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and its implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR part 424, set forth the procedures for adding 
species to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and 
Plants. Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, we may list a species based 
on any of the following five factors: (A) The present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; and (E) other natural or manmade 
factors affecting its continued existence. Listing actions may be 
warranted based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in 
combination. Each of these factors is discussed below.

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

    Based on the habitat characteristics described above, potential 
factors that may affect the habitat or range of the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
are: (1) Urban development and site degradation; (2) livestock grazing; 
(3) border activities; (4) nonnative, invasive plant species issues; 
(5) mining; and (6) drought and climate change.
Urban Development and Site Degradation
    The immediate threats from urban development include the direct 
loss of individuals and habitat. Indirect impacts of urban development 
include fragmentation of acu[ntilde]a cactus and associated pollinator 
populations, which can reduce genetic vigor of the cactus and result in 
degradation and fragmentation of habitat adjacent to development. When 
development occurs, there is also an increased use of habitat for 
recreational activity, which may also deplete habitat and result in 
mortality of individuals. The acu[ntilde]a cactus populations in OPCNM 
and the Sonoran Desert National Monument are protected from the 
immediate threats associated with urban development due to their 
National Monument status. National Monuments are lands set aside and 
managed to protect the natural and cultural resources within; 
development is minimal, though some site degradation may still occur.
    To meet the country's energy demands, there has been a recent 
emphasis by the Federal Government to use BLM lands for development of 
renewable energy. Currently, there are no planned solar or wind energy 
projects on or near populations of the acu[ntilde]a cactus in the 
Sauceda, Sand Tank, or Mineral Mountains (Werner 2011, pers. comm.). 
However, a solar field has recently been constructed on patented mine 
lands in the Ajo area (Morawe 2012, pers. comm.). Most populations on 
BLM lands are remotely

[[Page 60617]]

located and relatively inaccessible; therefore, we do not anticipate 
development in these areas.
    As Arizona's population is expected to continue to grow in the 
future, both Pinal County and the State Land Department are promoting 
urban development in the vicinity of Florence (Pinal County 2009, pp. 
4, 60, 94; Guthrie et al. 2011, p. 1). When the housing market 
rebounds, it is likely that additional State land in this area will be 
sold for urban development (Pinal County 2009, p. 42; Guthrie et al. 
2011, p. 2). In the vicinity of Florence, there are no current plans 
for development of State land known to support acu[ntilde]a cacti. 
Private lands near Florence containing acu[ntilde]a cacti populations 
have been for sale as subdivided 16.2-ha (40-ac) parcels for many 
years. With the recent economic downturn, it is unlikely this land will 
be sold in the near future. The only known private land populations 
where access is readily available are at 3 sites near Ajo, totaling 
less than 0.4 ha (1 ac) and supporting fewer than 40 individuals in 
total (Rutman 2006, p. 1; Rutman 2007, pp. 1, 4; Service 2011a, p. 1). 
In most of the privately owned locations, the sites are littered with 
broken glass, bottles, and trash; however, plants appear little 
impacted by this habitat degradation (Service 2011a, p. 1; Service 
2011b, p. 2).
    Indirect urbanization effects to the areas that support the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus include ORV activity, which has been reported on 
BLM lands near both Ajo and Florence. These reports, however, showed no 
impact to the acu[ntilde]a cactus populations in 1994 (Heil and Melton 
1994, pp. 15-16), although habitat degradation and direct loss of 
individuals is possible from this activity. In 1989, the BLM closed the 
Coffeepot ACEC to recreational ORV use (BLM 2012a, p. 2-195). In 2002, 
the BLM prohibited ORV use on the Sonoran Desert National Monument, 
and, in 2005, affirmed a restriction to designated, established, routes 
in the Sand Tank Mountains area (BLM 2012a, p. 2-181). In 2012, the BLM 
Lower Sonoran Field Office released Resource Management Plans (RMPs) 
for the Sonoran Desert National Monument and the Lower Sonoran Decision 
Area (BLM 2012b, c, entire).
    The Lower Sonoran Decision Area encompasses approximately 930,200 
acres of BLM-administered land in south-central Arizona, mostly south 
and west of Phoenix, and extends south to the United States-Mexico 
border, west to the Yuma County line, and as far east as the town of 
Globe. On the Sonoran Desert National Monument, motorized vehicle use 
is limited to designated roads or primitive roads (BLM 2012c, p. 2-78). 
Throughout the Lower Sonoran Decision Area, including the Coffeepot 
ACEC, travel is limited to existing roads and trails (based on current 
BLM route inventories) until route designations are completed. When 
designations are completed, travel will be restricted to designated 
roads, primitive roads, and trails (BLM 2012b, p. 2-113). These new 
RMPs for the Lower Sonoran Decision Area and the Sonoran Desert 
National Monument will remain in effect for the next 15 to 20 years 
(Foreman 2011, pers. comm.). The impacts of ORV activity on State or 
private lands are unknown; for ORV activity within the border region, 
see the discussion below of border activities.
    In Sonora, Mexico, scattered populations of the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
occur within 10 km (6.2 mi) of the town of Sonoyta. Although the area 
is reported to be little-used and unoccupied except by drug and human 
smugglers (Pate 2011, pers. comm.), in recent decades and as a result 
of human demand, the Sonoyta region has been heavily impacted by Olneya 
tesota (ironwood) and Prosopis velutina (mesquite) woodcutting for coal 
production, brick foundries, and tourist crafts, and the lands' 
subsequent conversion to exotic grasslands for cattle grazing 
(Suz[aacute]n et al. 1997, pp. 950, 955). This activity has affected 
more than 193,000 ha (478,000 ac) of lands in the Sonoyta region 
(Nabhan and Suz[aacute]n 1994, p. 64). In a study of ironwood 
extraction in northern Mexico, the Sonoyta study sites exhibited the 
highest number of damaged and dead trees and had the lowest associated 
plant diversity (Suz[aacute]n et al. 1996, p. 642). It is likely that 
habitat parameters for the acu[ntilde]a cactus populations in Sonora 
are impacted by this activity, particularly because ironwood is 
considered a dominant associate of the acu[ntilde]a cactus (Phillips et 
al. 1982, p. 5) and may serve as a nurse plant for a variety of cacti 
(Suz[aacute]n et al. 1996, p. 635).
    In addition, the actions of harvesting, burning, loading, and 
transporting wood and charcoal can result in running over individual 
acu[ntilde]a cactus and causing injury or mortality of plants, if such 
actions occur in areas supporting the acu[ntilde]a cactus. Also, human 
population growth and development in the border region between the 
United States and Mexico has risen in recent decades (Brown and 
Caldwell 2008, pp. 1-6); it is reasonable to conclude that the direct 
and indirect effects of urbanization are likely to increase threats to 
the acu[ntilde]a cactus populations in this region. The acu[ntilde]a 
cactus populations are currently split by a major highway, Interstate 
8, and a power transmission line; many plants occur within 200 m (660 
ft) of these corridors (Pate 2011, map 1 and map 2).
    In summary, the direct and indirect effects of urbanization are 
threats to a portion of the known populations of the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus. However, these effects are currently limited to the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus populations in the vicinity of Ajo and Florence in 
the United States and in the immediate border region of Sonora, Mexico. 
These areas collectively make up roughly 31 percent of known living 
acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals across the range of the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus, including Mexico. The majority of the range in the United 
States is protected from urban development because populations are on 
Federal lands, where little or no development will take place. In 
addition, most populations of the acu[ntilde]a cactus are relatively 
remote or otherwise protected from the effects of urbanization. We 
conclude that urban development and site degradation is not currently a 
threat to any entire population of the acu[ntilde]a cactus. As a 
result, based on our review of the available information, we conclude 
that the direct and indirect effects associated with urbanization are 
not threats to the acu[ntilde]a cactus and its habitat.
Livestock Grazing
    In general, grazing practices can change vegetation composition and 
abundance and cause soil erosion and compaction, reduced water 
infiltration rates, and increased runoff (Klemmedson 1956, p. 137; 
Ellison 1960, p. 24; Arndt 1966, p. 170; Gifford and Hawkins 1978, p. 
305; Waser and Price 1981, p. 407; Robinson and Bolen 1989, p. 186; 
Holechek et al. 1998, pp. 191-195, 216; and Loftin et al. 2000, pp. 57-
58). These anticipated effects leave less water available for plant 
production (Dadkhah and Gifford 1980, p. 979). In addition, livestock 
can step on or knock over individual acu[ntilde]a cactus. Although 
other species of cacti may be good survival forage for livestock (Vega- 
Villasante et al. 2002, p. 499), herbivory of the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
has not been reported. Livestock grazing levels and habitat condition 
vary greatly between populations due to varied land ownership and 
management. A discussion of livestock grazing practices within the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus range on Federal, State, and private lands, along 
with lands in Sonora, Mexico, is presented below.
Federal Land--National Park Service
    Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument--Beginning in the early

[[Page 60618]]

1900s and continuing through the 1970s, lands within OPCNM were grazed 
heavily, with as many as 3,000 head of cattle and hundreds of burros 
present at a time when carrying capacity was estimated to be 314 cattle 
per year (Rutman 1997, p. 364; NPS 2011b, entire). Grazing by domestic 
animals was halted per NPS policy and has not occurred within OPCNM 
since 1976 (NPS 1997, p. 33). Lands here continue to recover slowly 
after loss of soils and vegetation and may take many decades or 
centuries to recover fully (NPS 2001, pp. 27, 124). Currently, OPCNM 
supports the largest population of the acu[ntilde]a cactus (55.4 
percent of known living acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals), and we are 
not aware of historical effects to the population as a result of past 
livestock grazing.
Federal Land--Bureau of Land Management
    Sauceda Mountains--All four populations of the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
on BLM lands in the Sauceda Mountains have been managed since 1988 in 
the Coffeepot ACEC, which attempts to apply grazing management 
practices to ensure perpetuation of botanical diversity within the area 
and prohibits the development of livestock facilities that would serve 
to increase livestock use within the area (BLM 2011, p. 141). 
Collectively these four populations make up 5.9 percent of known living 
acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals. In 1987, when speaking of the then 
proposed Coffeepot ACEC, Olwell (1987, p. 1) noted relatively pristine 
conditions with no immediate threat to the acu[ntilde]a cactus plants. 
At that time, however, the population of acu[ntilde]a cactus within the 
Coffeepot ACEC in the vicinity of permanent monitoring plots was 
reported to have substantial animal activity from cattle, javelina, and 
jackrabbits, with browsing, grazing, and soil disturbance noted (Rutman 
et al. 1987, p. 2). Anderson (2011, entire) noted no habitat impacts 
from grazing in this population during yearly visits from 1994-2011. 
This population is the farthest population from a single cattle tank 
(see below) within the ACEC and, therefore, is less subjected to 
livestock pressure.
    On BLM land south of Ajo, five individuals were noted to be 
uprooted and lying on their side (Westland Resources 2013, p. 3). It 
was speculated these individuals were either predated upon or had been 
knocked over by a passing animal. It is unknown if cattle were 
responsible for these losses.
    Sonoran Desert National Monument--In 1970, a cattle tank named 
Conley Reservoir was established within the Coffeepot ACEC boundary 
prior to the ACEC designation and remains today (Foreman 2012, pers. 
com.). A population of acu[ntilde]a cactus very near this tank was 
visited by the BLM botanist in 2010, who found abundant prickly pear 
(Opuntia spp.), which are known to increase with disturbance and are 
often cited as an indicator of poor range condition (Johnson 2000, 
entire; Anderson 2011, p. 2). A site visit in 2011 by Service and BLM 
botanists found habitat impacts such as soil disturbance from both 
cattle and feral burros; however, no acu[ntilde]a cactus plants 
appeared to be directly impacted by these animals (Service 2011a, p. 
3). Feral burros also impact vegetation on neighboring military lands 
(see Barry M. Goldwater Gunnery Range section below).
    The BLM's 2012 Lower Sonoran Decision Area RMP allocates all of the 
land within the Childs Allotment, within which the Coffeepot ACEC lies, 
as available for livestock grazing (BLM 2012b, p. 2-82). According to 
this document, past grazing levels (3,802 animal unit months/317 cows 
yearlong) and type of use (perennial/ephemeral) will remain the same, 
and livestock facilities that would increase livestock use within an 
area of known or newly discovered populations of acu[ntilde]a cactus 
will not be developed (BLM 2012b, p. 2-124). This management plan will 
remain in effect for 15 to 20 years (Foreman 2011, pers. comm.).
    Sonoran Desert National Monument--In 2001, Presidential 
Proclamation 7397 (Clinton 2001, entire) created the Sonoran Desert 
National Monument; one population of acu[ntilde]a cactus containing 5.5 
percent of known living acu[ntilde]a cacti occur in the Sand Tank 
Mountains. This area was designated for military purposes in 1941, and 
has had no livestock grazing for more than 60 years (Clinton 2001, p. 
2). During a site visit in 2006, no habitat impacts from livestock were 
reported from this location (Anderson 2011, p. 2). The livestock 
management regime of no livestock being permitted within the Sonoran 
Desert National Monument Sand Tank Mountains acu[ntilde]a cactus 
population will be maintained for at least the next 15 to 20 years (BLM 
2012c, p. 2-63; Foreman 2011, pers. comm.).
    Mineral Mountain--This population is discussed collectively below 
under ``State Land''.
Federal Land--Department of Defense
    Barry M. Goldwater Gunnery Range (BMGR)--A single acu[ntilde]a 
cactus plant was found on BMGR approximately 1 km (0.62 m) to the north 
of a known population within the BLM Coffeepot ACEC (Geraghty et al. 
1997, p. 5). This individual was not relocated in a 2012 survey 
(Whittle 2012a, pers. comm.); however, this plant or its seedbank may 
remain. Livestock grazing is not authorized on the BMGR, though some 
trespass cattle do occur (Whittle 2012b, pers. comm.). Feral burros on 
BMGR are a concern, however, and BMGR managers plan to implement a 
burro trapping program in the future, in an attempt to reduce damage to 
vegetation (Whittle 2012b, pers. comm.).
State Land
    Mineral Mountains--Populations of acu[ntilde]a cactus on State land 
in the Mineral Mountains are subject to grazing; two land sections 
containing this species are collectively part of a larger 6,118 ha 
(15,118 ac) grazing lease with a total carrying capacity of 118 animal 
units (Sommers 2012, pers. comm.). Three individual acu[ntilde]a cacti 
from this group of populations overlap onto adjacent BLM land. This BLM 
land, which is not fenced from adjacent State land, has a total 
permitted number of cattle of 1,224, though the lessee did not run the 
full amount of animals in the past few years due to drought conditions 
(Tersey 2013, pers. comm.). During a 2011 site visit, the habitat 
appeared unaltered by livestock, and no cattle were seen (Service 
2011b, p. 1).
    Ninety-Six Hills--Three additional land sections near Box O Wash 
containing this species are collectively part of a lease of 12,369 ha 
(30,565 ac) with a total carrying capacity of 236 animal units (Sommers 
2012, pers. comm.). Both leases incorporate State and BLM lands, 
although in this area the species has been found on State lands and not 
the associated BLM lands. No livestock were seen during the November 
2011 site visit to this population (Service 2011b, p. 3). Only 2 dead 
individual acu[ntilde]a cacti were found, and neither appeared to have 
been knocked over by cattle (Service 2011b, p. 3). In the past, Rutman 
and Krausman (1988, p. 1) recommended that this State land habitat 
could benefit from improved livestock management, as cattle trails 
there were numerous during a 1988 site visit. In a 2008 site visit, it 
was noted that quite a few of the dead acu[ntilde]a cactus plants may 
have been knocked over by livestock (Service 2008b, p. 1). It is 
unknown what the grazing lease or animal units were for this period of 
time. In 2011, several individuals were noted to have grown additional 
arms following the loss of the growing tip (Service 2011b, pp. 3-4). 
This was possibly due to injury caused by cattle, a beneficial 
adaptation to

[[Page 60619]]

disturbance noted previously by Phillips et al. (1982, p. 6). The 
populations on State land represent 2.1 percent of known living 
acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals. Although livestock grazing on State 
lands may benefit from improved management, the impacts to the 
acu[ntilde]a cacti are small.
Private Land
    Ajo--Populations of the acu[ntilde]a cactus on private lands near 
the town of Ajo were noted to occur in degraded habitat with low 
species richness; these sites were suspected to have had a grazing 
history of severe use (Rutman 1995, p. 1).
    Florence--Those acu[ntilde]a cacti on private lands near Florence 
are in an unknown condition, as they are not typically visited by 
Service staff. Two roadside populations visited in 2011 had 4 dead 
plants and 13 healthy plants collectively; all dead plants seemed to 
have died from drought or insect attack, although 1 population did 
contain evidence (feces) of cattle use (Service 2011b, p. 2). Private 
lands account for 2.2 percent of known living acu[ntilde]a cactus 
individuals.
Sonora, Mexico
    In Mexico, researchers report livestock grazing in parts of the 
Sonora range (Stoleson et al. 2005, p. 60), but mostly the habitat 
remains little-used and unoccupied land (Pate 2011, pers. comm.). 
Sonora maintains 28.5 percent of the known acu[ntilde]a cactus 
individuals across the range; their recent decline, as evidenced by 
1,743 dead plants counted since 2010, has not been attributed to 
livestock.
    In summary, 61 percent of acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals occur 
within lands protected from cattle grazing either by NPS or BLM 
National Monument status. In areas occupied by the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
where livestock grazing does occur, impacts from livestock do not 
appear to be a consistent or significant threat to populations. Based 
on our review of the available information, we conclude that, although 
there is evidence that grazing impacts to the acu[ntilde]a cactus do 
occur, we do not believe that these effects occur to such an extent 
that livestock grazing is a threat to the acu[ntilde]a cactus and its 
habitat.
Border Activities
    Over the past decade or more, tens of thousands of people illegally 
attempt crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border into Arizona annually 
(cross-border violators) (Service 2011c, p. 14). As a result of 
increased U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) activity in the 
Douglas, Arizona, area, and in San Diego and southeastern California, 
cross-border violator traffic has shifted into remote desert areas such 
as OPCNM (Service 2011c, p. 14). For example, in 2001, an estimated 
150,000 people entered OPCNM illegally from Mexico (Service 2011c, p. 
14). With the increase in technology, border fencing, and manpower 
between 2001 and 2012, these numbers are down considerably, with 6,218 
arrests of cross-border violators from OPCNM in the year 2011 (Oliver 
2012, pers. comm.). Although the number of arrests does not represent 
all those who attempted to enter OPCNM illegally, this number is 
suspected to be considerably less than reported in 2001. Despite the 
fact that these numbers are down due to enforcement and deterrence 
efforts by the CBP, the thousands of people crossing through the border 
area illegally still represent a substantial impact to the landscape.
    More than 84 percent of the known living acu[ntilde]a cactus 
individuals occur within 16.5 km (10.25 mi) of the border in either 
OPCNM or Sonora, Mexico. Cross-border violators, CBP, and NPS law 
enforcement activity in this area may degrade acu[ntilde]a cactus 
habitat by creating new roads and trails, disturbing vegetation and 
soils, and moving exotic plant seeds or plant parts, leading to their 
spread into unoccupied areas (Duncan et al. 2010, p. 124). At OPCNM, 
the acu[ntilde]a cactus occurs in an area that is closed to visitors 
due to dangers of drug and human smuggling. Significant impacts may 
occur when travel moves off existing roads causing vegetation 
destruction, soil compaction (Duncan et al. 2010 p. 125), and, 
potentially, direct mortality of the acu[ntilde]a cactus by running 
over individuals, although no direct impacts to acu[ntilde]a cactus 
have been observed. Staff at OPCNM note that, in 2010, two vehicle 
tracks and associated articles of clothing from cross-border violators 
were found within one of the six 20-by-50-m (66-by-164-ft) acu[ntilde]a 
cactus long-term monitoring plots (Holm 2012a, pers. comm.). Although 
no individual plants were reported to have been run over in this 
instance, the occurrence of the activity within this proximity to 
acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals supports our conclusion that impacts 
from cross-border violators and border enforcement may negatively 
impact the species and could be a threat.
    The NPS constructed a vehicle barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border 
at OPCNM in 2006 (Morawe 2012, pers. comm.). After the construction of 
the vehicle barrier, the general consensus of the OPCNM staff was that 
cross-boundary vehicle traffic had been reduced by 90 to 95 percent 
(Morawe 2012, pers. comm.). In 2008, the Department of Homeland 
Security completed an 8.4-km (5.2-mi) stretch of pedestrian fence, 
approximately centered on the border town of Lukeville. Some cross-
border traffic continues to occur, but the majority of the remaining 
cross-country traffic in OPCNM is due to law enforcement activities 
(Morawe 2012, pers. comm.).
    The Biological Opinion for the Ajo Forward Operating Base Expansion 
reported personal observations by NPS and Service employees that the 
number of off-road tracks and new roads continues to increase (Service 
2011c, p. 19). These new off-road tracks and roads are believed to be 
the result of CBP response by vehicle, horseback, and foot to cross-
border violators, whom are travelling primarily on foot (Service 2011c, 
p. 19). By 2011, OPCNM personnel had mapped thousands of miles of 
unauthorized off-road impacts from cross-border violators, CBP, and law 
enforcement activities (Service 2011c, p. 18). Staff at OPCNM has been 
compiling data on off-road traffic and mapping unauthorized roads on 
OPCNM for a report. This report was not available to us by the time of 
writing the final rule. Although most of the unauthorized roads were 
created prior to construction of vehicle barriers and pedestrian fences 
along the U.S.-Mexico border, it is not known if the additional roads 
were created after the construction of the border fences. In 2011, NPS 
staff noted no new heavily utilized routes due to off-road travel by 
vehicles, but staff did state that single vehicles drive across habitat 
and individual acu[ntilde]a cactus plants may be driven over. There is 
no evidence that acu[ntilde]a cacti have been harmed, but damage to 
larger plants has been documented due to similar activity (Rutman 2011, 
pers. comm.). In cooperation with Service staff, CBP has begun efforts 
to educate Border Patrol agents on the locations and appearance of 
acu[ntilde]a cactus so that the areas that support the plant can be 
avoided to the maximum extent possible. A road atlas has been printed 
and distributed to CBP agents working in the area, though acu[ntilde]a 
cactus habitat is not indicated on this map (Morawe 2012, pers. comm.).
    A system of sensors and communication towers is currently in place 
and is being expanded within the border region; this technology 
improves deterrence, detection, and apprehension of cross-border 
violators entering or attempting to enter the United States illegally 
(Service 2009, p. 5). It is expected that, with increased communication 
and sensor tower technology, the need for CBP agents to

[[Page 60620]]

patrol the area will be reduced, thus reducing circumstances requiring 
vehicles to drive off authorized roads (Service 2009, p. 16). CBP 
agents on foot or on horseback may conduct off-road pursuit of 
suspected cross-border violators at any time, including in areas 
designated or recommended as wilderness (Service 2009, p. 17). Where 
such motorized pursuits are necessary, CBP has committed to using the 
least intrusive or least damaging vehicle readily available, without 
compromising officer or agency safety.
    No existing or proposed communication towers are near any 
acu[ntilde]a cactus populations within OPCNM; however, human traffic 
patterns have changed since the installation of towers in and near 
OPCNM. These towers have been effective at reducing foot traffic 
through acu[ntilde]a cactus habitat (Morawe 2012, pers. comm.). When 
communication and sensor towers and associated tactical infrastructure 
require maintenance and repair, the acu[ntilde]a cactus could be 
directly affected by repair and maintenance of this infrastructure if 
maintenance vehicles traveled off approved access routes. The CBP has 
committed to use only approved access routes for these maintenance 
activities, and OPCNM staff report that CBP has kept their agreement in 
this regard. Because towers are effective at helping CBP see illegal 
activity, however, enforcement-related off-road vehicle activity has 
increased (Morawe 2012, pers. comm.). When walking into an area to do 
fieldwork, including acu[ntilde]a cactus annual monitoring, OPCNM staff 
understand that their footprints into sensitive habitat may be tracked 
by CBP agents (Morawe 2012, pers. comm.). In addition, if these 
maintenance and repair activities occur in undisturbed areas in the 
habitat of listed plant species, a survey must be conducted and a 
sufficient buffer created to protect any plants found (HDR 2012, pp. 4-
3).
    Illegal drug and human smuggling also adversely affects the area of 
the Coffeepot ACEC, but the area is less impacted than other border 
areas (BLM 2011, p. 344). This is likely the case with the other 
populations on private and BLM lands near Ajo. Within BMGR, cross-
border violators and associated activities represent a significant 
threat to natural and cultural resources within the BMGR, including 
having widespread and adverse effects on soil and hydrology (U.S. 
Departments of the Air Force and Navy 2007, pp. 3-11). We are aware of 
no instances of illegal activity or law enforcement activity impacting 
the populations near Florence. The Service (2008b, p. 1) noted that 
little to no human activity, including ORV use, was observed during a 
2008 site visit to these populations.
    The acu[ntilde]a cactus populations across the border from OPCNM, 
in Mexico, occur on land that is little used, unoccupied, and subject 
to heavy traffic by drug and human smugglers (Pate 2011, pers. comm.). 
This area was reported to be unsafe, and warnings were given to Service 
personnel not to travel to this location alone (Larios 2012, pers. 
comm.). In 1993, the Mexican Government established Pinacate Biosphere 
Reserve, a 7.7-million ha (1.9-million-ac) reserve for the region's 
flora, fauna, geology, and archeology preservation. A portion of the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals in Sonora occur within the Pinacate 
Biosphere Reserve. It is unknown what, if any, protection this 
designation provides the acu[ntilde]a cactus.
    In summary, the two areas containing the largest number of living 
acu[ntilde]a cactus (84 percent of the known living acu[ntilde]a cactus 
individuals) occur along the U.S.-Mexico border (in OPCNM and Sonora, 
Mexico). Within populations, acu[ntilde]a cacti are typically spaced 
within 3 m (9.8 ft) of each other, and vehicle traffic through any 
population could potentially impact many individuals. This area is 
heavily impacted by cross-border violators, CBP, and law enforcement 
activity, as evidenced by the tremendous increase in illegal roads and 
trails documented by agencies along the border. To date, no individual 
acu[ntilde]a cactus plants are reported to have been lost to these 
activities; however, reporting from this area is inconsistent. With 
anticipated continued border activity in the area, it remains possible 
that acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals and their habitat will be 
impacted. These impacts include: Creation of new roads and trails; 
disturbance of associated vegetation including nurse plants and 
microclimates; compaction or erosion of soils; movement of nonnative, 
invasive plant seeds and plant parts; and the potential to cause direct 
mortality to individuals by running over plants with vehicles. 
Therefore, based on our review of the available information, we 
conclude that cross-border violators, CBP, and law enforcement off-road 
activities are a threat to the acu[ntilde]a cactus and its habitat.
Nonnative, Invasive Plant Species
    Throughout the Sonoran Desert ecosystem, invasions of the 
introduced Pennisetum ciliare (buffelgrass), Bromus rubens (red brome), 
Eragrostis lehmanniana (Lehmann lovegrass), Schismus barbatus 
(Mediterranean grass), and Pennisetum setaceum (fountaingrass) have 
altered nutrient regimes; species composition and structure through 
competition for open space; microclimates; and fire frequency, 
duration, intensity, and magnitude (Brooks and Pyke 2001, p. 5). 
Although most of these species were intentionally introduced as forage 
for livestock, as erosion control, or as ornamentals, each is now 
considered invasive and a threat to this ecosystem (B[uacute]rquez-
Montijo et al. 2002, entire). Species such as buffelgrass are expected 
to increase their range even with continued and predicted drought 
events (Ward et al. 2006, p. 724). It is generally thought that 
invasion by exotic annual grasses will continue unchecked in the 
Sonoran Desert ecosystem in the future, reducing native biodiversity 
through direct competition and alteration of nutrient and disturbance 
regimes (Franklin and Molina-Freaner 2010, p. 1671).
    Herbarium sheets contain labels that give information regarding 
where a specimen was collected, by whom, when the collection was made, 
and additional information such as what plant species were found in 
association with the collected specimen. There are no exotic species 
noted as associates on 39 of the 40 acu[ntilde]a cactus specimen 
herbarium sheets located at the Arizona State University, University of 
Arizona, or San Juan College Herbarium collections (ARIZ 2011, entire). 
These collections cover the range of the acu[ntilde]a cactus and date 
from 1952 through 2009. One specimen collected in 1982 has exotic 
annual red brome grass listed as an associate. Although fountaingrass 
found on nearby property was reported to be a possible threat to the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus near Ajo (Falk 2005, pers. comm.), no exotic 
grasses were noted within the Ajo, Little Ajo Mountains, or Coffeepot 
ACEC habitats during field surveys in October 2011 (Service 2011, p. 
4). One researcher familiar with all known populations of the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus noted no associated threats from exotic plant 
species in any population (Baker 2011, pers. comm.). However, according 
to a peer-review comment received regarding this rule, buffelgrass is 
reported to be abundant and rapidly expanding in the Ajo region, the 
Sauceda Mountains, and the Sikort Chuapo Mountains, which lie between 
these two areas (Morawe 2012, pers. comm.). This reviewer also noted 
that buffelgrass is increasing distribution within ORCNM such that it 
now surrounds the entirety of acu[ntilde]a cactus habitat (Morawe 2012, 
pers. comm.).

[[Page 60621]]

Two of our peer reviewers feel that, although no acu[ntilde]a cactus 
populations are currently known to harbor buffelgrass, given the 
current rate of expansion and lack of management programs in many 
areas, buffelgrass could appear in acu[ntilde]a cactus populations 
within 5 to 20 years.
    In summary, we have reviewed the available information on the 
effects of and occurrence of nonnative, invasive plants in or near 
populations of the acu[ntilde]a cactus in southern Arizona and Sonora, 
Mexico. Known populations of the acu[ntilde]a cactus are well 
distributed across southern Arizona and northern Sonora and occur in 
areas subject to effects from nonnative, invasive plant species. 
Although no populations of the acu[ntilde]a cactus currently show 
evidence of effects from nonnative, invasive species, reports indicate 
that buffelgrass is currently in close proximity and could expand into 
acu[ntilde]a populations within the near future. Therefore, our review 
of the best scientific and commercial data available indicates that, 
while nonnative species do not co-occur with the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
presently, there is potential for the invasion of at least one 
troublesome invasive plant, buffelgrass, within the near future. 
Therefore, we conclude nonnative, invasive species pose a threat to the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus and its habitat.
Mining
    The immediate threats from mining activity include the direct loss 
of individuals and habitat. Indirect impacts of mining activity include 
fragmentation of acu[ntilde]a cactus and associated pollinator 
populations, which can reduce genetic vigor of the cactus and result in 
degradation and fragmentation of habitat and dusting of individual 
cacti adjacent to mines and associated roads.
    The acu[ntilde]a cactus populations in OPCNM and the Sonoran Desert 
National Monument are protected from the immediate threats associated 
with mining due to their National Monument status (NPS 1997, pp. s-iii; 
BLM 2012c, p. 2-69). The 2012 BLM Sonoran Desert National Monument RMP 
continues the mining closure within the boundaries of the National 
Monument (BLM 2012c, p. 2-69). Authorized surface-disturbing activities 
within occupied acu[ntilde]a cactus habitat areas within the Coffeepot 
ACEC will be minimized, mitigated, or avoided to ensure stable 
populations (BLM 2012b, p. 2-32). The ACEC is closed to saleable 
minerals (e.g., sand and gravel; BLM 2012b, p. 2-88, Map 14), open with 
special mitigation to leasable minerals (e.g., oil and gas; BLM 2012b, 
p. 2-88, Map 13), and open, subject to mitigation to maintain resource 
values, for locatable minerals (hard rock mining; BLM 2012b, p. 2-87). 
No known mining activities are planned on BLM properties, though a BLM 
parcel adjacent to populations on State lands near Florence may host a 
gravel mining operation in the future (Service 2011b, p. 1). Verified 
mining threats near Florence, as well as within Mexico, are unknown.
    Mining activity on private land near Ajo has a long history; the 
New Cornelia copper mine was one of the first open pit mines in Arizona 
dating to 1854 (Arizona Mining Association 2011, entire). This mine was 
closed in 1985, and a 2008 investigation by company owners determined 
the mine would not be reopened due to current economic conditions (Ajo 
Copper News Oct 29, 2008). As of 2013, the mine remains closed.
    The small populations of the acu[ntilde]a cactus that remain in Ajo 
may have been part of a much larger population that occurred before 
mining activity began, but there are no survey records for this species 
in the area prior to mining activity. As a result, it is unclear to 
what extent the acu[ntilde]a cactus and associated habitat were removed 
due to historical mining in this area, but there was certainly some 
loss of individual acu[ntilde]a cactus and habitat. Rutman (1995, p. 1) 
noted that on the east side of the Ajo rock dump, roads, wells, 
prospecting holes, rock piles marking mining claims, and past use of 
explosives occurred immediately adjacent to the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
plants. Rutman (2006, p. 1) noted that habitat was lost when Indian 
Hill Village Road was built and occupied habitat may also have been 
lost where the following buildings and infrastructure now occur: 
Assembly of God Indian Mission, New Cornelia mine, parking lot for the 
mine lookout, baseball diamond, and the large informal parking lot to 
the north of the hill. It is possible that these populations were at 
one time connected with the few plants to the southeast of the open pit 
mine on BLM land. There is little doubt that the historical size and 
range of the Ajo area populations of acu[ntilde]a cactus have been 
reduced.
    We are aware of no acu[ntilde]a cactus populations that are 
currently impacted by active mining. It is reasonable to project that 
some mining will occur in the future that could affect acu[ntilde]a 
cactus populations near Florence, Ajo, and in the Coffeepot ACEC. 
However, these effects will occur in limited areas that do not support 
a majority of known individual acu[ntilde]a cactus. The acu[ntilde]a 
cactus populations will remain well distributed across their range even 
if future mining activities affect a few populations. Therefore, based 
on our review of the available information, we conclude that current 
mining activity and mining in the near future are not threats to the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus and its habitat.
Drought and 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). ``Climate'' refers to the mean and variability of different 
types of weather conditions over time, with 30 years being a typical 
period for such measurements, although shorter or longer periods also 
may be used (IPCC 2007, p. 78). Thus, the term ``climate change'' 
refers to a change in the mean or variability of one or more measures 
of climate (e.g., temperature or precipitation) that persists for an 
extended period, typically decades or longer, whether the change is due 
to natural variability, human activity, or both (IPCC 2007, p. 78). 
Various types of changes in climate can have direct or indirect effects 
on species. These effects may be positive, neutral, or negative, and 
they may change over time, depending on the species and other relevant 
considerations, such as the effects of interactions of climate with 
other variables (e.g., habitat fragmentation) (IPCC 2007, pp. 8-14, 18-
19). In our analyses, we use our expert judgment to weigh relevant 
information, including uncertainty, in our consideration of various 
aspects of climate change.
    Climate change will be a particular challenge for biodiversity 
because the interaction of additional stressors associated with climate 
change and current stressors may push species beyond their ability to 
survive (Lovejoy 2005, pp. 325-326). The synergistic implications of 
climate change and habitat fragmentation are the most threatening facet 
of climate change for biodiversity (Hannah et al. 2005, p. 4). Current 
climate change predictions for terrestrial areas in the Northern 
Hemisphere indicate warmer air temperatures, more intense precipitation 
events, and increased summer continental drying (Field et al. 1999, pp. 
1-3; Hayhoe et al. 2004, p. 12422; Cayan et al. 2005, p. 6; Seager et 
al. 2007, p. 1181). Climate change may lead to increased frequency and 
duration of severe storms and droughts (Golladay et al. 2004, p. 504; 
McLaughlin et al. 2002, pp. 6072-6074; Cook et al. 2004, p. 1015).

[[Page 60622]]

    The current prognosis for climate change impacts in the American 
Southwest includes fewer frost days; warmer temperatures; greater water 
demand by plants, animals, and people; and an increased frequency of 
extreme weather events (heat waves, droughts, and floods) (Weiss and 
Overpeck 2005, p. 2074; Archer and Predick 2008, p. 24). How climate 
change will affect summer precipitation is less certain because 
precipitation predictions are based on continental-scale general 
circulation models that do not yet account for land use and land cover 
effects or regional phenomena, such as those that control monsoonal 
rainfall in the Southwest (Weiss and Overpeck 2005, p. 2075; Archer and 
Predick 2008, pp. 23-24). Some models predict dramatic changes in 
southwestern vegetation communities as a result of climate change 
(Weiss and Overpeck 2005, p. 2074; Archer and Predick 2008, p. 24), 
especially as wildfires carried by nonnative plants (e.g., buffelgrass) 
potentially become more frequent, promoting the presence of invasive, 
exotic species over native ones (Weiss and Overpeck 2005, p. 2075). The 
Sonoran Desert has experienced drought conditions since 1998 (Bowers 
2005, p. 421; Western Region Climate Center (WRCC) 2012, entire). 
Recent trends for the region predict that climate of the region will 
become much drier in the next 2 to 3 decades (Schwinning et al. 2008, 
pp. 14-15). The impact of current and future drought, which may be 
long-term and severe (Seager et al. 2007, pp. 1183-1184; Archer and 
Predick 2008, entire), will continue to affect the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
and its habitat throughout its range.
    Climate change is likely to affect the long-term survival and 
distribution of native plant species, such as the acu[ntilde]a cactus, 
through changes in temperature and precipitation. Over the past 40 to 
50 years, the United States has experienced more extreme weather 
events, heat waves, and regional droughts than in previous decades 
(Karl et al. 2009, p. 27). The southwestern United States has 
experienced the greatest temperature increase in the continental United 
States; average temperatures increased approximately 0.8 degrees 
Celsius ([deg]C) (1.5 degrees Fahrenheit ([deg]F)) compared to a 1960 
to 1979 baseline (Karl et al. 2009, p. 129). By the end of this 
century, temperatures averaged across the Southwest region are expected 
to warm a total of 2 to 5 [deg]C (4 to 10[emsp14][deg]F) above the 
historic baseline period of 1960-1979 (Karl et al. 2009, p. 129). The 
frequency and intensity of high temperature extremes will increase, and 
heat waves currently considered rare will become more common (Karl et 
al. 2009, pp. 33-34). This region has experienced drought conditions 
since 1998 (Bowers 2005, p. 421; WRCC 2012, entire). Annual mean 
precipitation levels are expected to decrease in western North America 
and especially the southwestern States by midcentury (IPCC 2007, p. 8; 
Seager et al. 2007, p. 1181; Girvetz et al. 2009, entire). The current 
trend in the Southwest of less frequent, but more intense, 
precipitation events leading to overall drier conditions is predicted 
to continue (Karl et al. 2009, p. 24). The levels of aridity of recent 
drought conditions and perhaps those of the 1950s drought years will 
become the new climatology for the southwestern United States (Seager 
et al. 2007, p. 1181). In summary, the drought the southwestern United 
States has been experiencing since the late 1990s is the worst in more 
than 100 years and is being exacerbated by record warming (Karl et al. 
2009, p. 130).
    Heat stress in adult cacti is minimal compared to other plant 
species as they are able to survive heat stress due to both morphology 
and metabolism (Smith et al. 1984, pp. 647, 650; Wahid et al. 2007, p. 
199). In a study of Sonoran Desert cacti, Smith et al. (1984, pp. 647, 
650) found that short cacti (such as the acu[ntilde]a cactus) and 
massive cacti had higher heat tolerance than most other cacti species 
studied, and more than vascular plants overall. They also found heat 
tolerance varied with stem orientation, stem diameter, and location on 
the landscape including a portion of the species' range (Smith et al. 
1984, p. 649). Extreme temperatures can, however, negatively impact 
seedling survival in many Sonoran Desert plants, and drought coupled 
with high temperatures lessens temperature tolerance in seedlings 
(Nobel 1984, pp. 310, 316). We found no additional information on 
projections for cacti in general, or the acu[ntilde]a cactus in 
particular, indicating the impacts of increased heat stress combined 
with increasing drought stress as climate models project. We do know, 
however, that drought or high temperatures alone can damage non-cacti 
species, and the combination causes more detrimental interactive 
effects on these plants than either stressor independently (Huang and 
Jiang 2002, p. 288).
    We are aware of several reports of drought stress apparent on 
individual acu[ntilde]a cactus. In cacti and other succulents, stem 
swelling and shrinking is typical with rain-drought cycles (Mauseth 
2000, p. 1107). At OPCNM, monitored acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals 
were reported to have shrunk in size from 1 year to the next, and 
researchers noted shrinking individuals may be dying (Ruffner 1989, p. 
1). In addition, 1986 datasheets from monitoring plots at OPCNM 
categorized cacti based on health of the individual; one category from 
the time was ``desiccated'' (dried out) (Buskirk 1986, pers. comm.). 
Although such descriptive categories have not been in use in monitoring 
for some time, OPCNM staff note their importance and would like to 
reinstate them in future monitoring (Holm 2012b, pers. comm.). In 
addition, plants already stressed from prolonged drought are more 
susceptible to insect attack and disease (Mattson and Haack 1987, p. 
110), and such attack is prevalent in all acu[ntilde]a cactus 
populations across their range (see discussion in Factor C. Disease or 
Predation). Mortality in measured plots at OPCNM was most severe in 
1993, when 40 adults were lost, and again in 1997, when 53 adults were 
lost (NPS 2011a, p. 2); both of these were years with dry summers (WRCC 
2012, entire). Between 2001 and 2011, 78 adults were lost in these 
plots, and 25 of these losses occurred in the very dry year of 2007 
(NPS 2011a, p. 2; WRCC 2012, entire). During this same 10-year period, 
31 new adults were recorded as additions to the population through 
recruitment (NPS 2011a, p. 2).
    In addition to the health of adult individuals, drought is directly 
related to acu[ntilde]a cactus population health with regard to 
reproduction and establishment. In his 3-year study of the reproductive 
ecology of the acu[ntilde]a cactus, Johnson (1992, pp. 403, 405) 
concluded that the positive association of rainfall and annual 
variation in the number of flowers produced indicates that water 
availability limits flower production in this species. Although Johnson 
cites yearly precipitation in relation to flower production, it seems 
more likely that winter precipitation is the driving factor, as flowers 
are produced early in the spring following winter precipitation events. 
Within monitoring plots established by Buskirk in 1977 (Buskirk 1981, 
p. 1), total flowers counted peaked at 902 in 1992 (Holm 2006, p. 10); 
corresponding precipitation during the winter of 1992-1993 was 29.7 cm 
(11.66 in) (WRCC 2012, entire). By comparison, in the last 10 years of 
measurement, the average number of flowers counted in these plots was 
198 (Holm 2006, p. 10); the corresponding average winter precipitation 
during these years was 9.7 cm (3.8 in) (WRCC 2012, entire).
    Resource limitation may affect the acu[ntilde]a cactus seed set 
through ovule abortion (Johnson 1989, p. 11). Because

[[Page 60623]]

flowering commences in early March and fruiting commences in late April 
(Johnson 1989, pp. 5, 8), it is likely also that winter precipitation 
is correlated with fruit set. Fruit production was monitored at the 
OPCNM plots beginning in 2004, and has shown considerable variation 
since that time with a low of 29 fruits produced in 2007, when total 
winter precipitation was 6.8 cm (2.69 in), and a high of 361 fruits 
produced in 2005, when winter precipitation was 16.4 cm (6.47 in) (NPS 
2011a, p. 1; WRCC 2012, entire).
    Johnson (1989, pp. 5, 12) determined that acu[ntilde]a cactus 
seedling survival was dependent on summer precipitation and that soil 
moisture availability limits the distribution of the species. Rice 
(2001, pers. comm.) noted that in greenhouse trials of the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus, seedlings and new recruits were primarily lost due to 
desiccation; emphasizing that establishment is the most critical and 
limiting phase of the acu[ntilde]a cactus life cycle. Throughout the 
species' range, rainfall has been declining, and drought conditions 
have been dominant since 1998 (Bowers 2005, p. 421; WRCC 2012, entire); 
this has likely influenced seedling survivorship (Holm 2006, p. 2-1--2-
13; NPS 2011a, p. 1). For example, in the measured plots at OPCNM, the 
recruitment rate peaked in 1992, coinciding with consecutive seasons 
with near to above average rainfall (NPS 2011a, p. 1; WRCC 2012, 
entire). In the Coffeepot Mountain BLM monitoring plots, seedling or 
juvenile plants were observed in all years when plots were measured; 
however, the number of dead plants far exceeded recruitment in any year 
(Butterwick 1982-1992, entire). In many site visits throughout the 
region over the past 10 years, there have been reports of low or no 
recruitment (Service 2008a, p. 1; Service 2008c, p. 1; Anderson, 2011, 
p. 2; Service 2011a, entire; Service 2011b, p. 3; Westland Resources 
2013, p. 4).
    In summary, since the late 1990s, the southwestern United States 
has been experiencing drought conditions and increasing high 
temperatures. Climatic predictions suggest continued less frequent, but 
perhaps more intense, summer precipitation, reduced winter 
precipitation; and increasing temperatures in this region (Seager et 
al. 2007, p. 1181; Archer and Predick 2008, pp. 23-24; Karl et al. 
2009, p. 24). Data from the acu[ntilde]a cactus monitoring plots at 
OPCNM and at Coffeepot Mountain, along with occasional surveys of these 
and most other populations, indicate major population declines have 
occurred across the acu[ntilde]a cactus range over the past 30 years. 
It appears that a combination of drought stress, warmer winters, and 
insect attack have reduced adult plant numbers, while heat stress, lack 
of precipitation, and seed predation have combined to reduce or halt 
reproduction (see Factor C. Disease or Predation, below). Because the 
current drought is occurring on a regional scale, and because climatic 
models predict future regional droughts, it is likely that all 
populations of the acu[ntilde]a cactus will continue to decline due to 
drought and the effects of climate change. In addition, it appears that 
drought and climate change in combination with insect damage and 
predation, as a combined effect, is the more likely scenario for 
rangewide level impacts to acu[ntilde]a cacti (see Factor C. Disease or 
Predation, below). Most, if not all, of the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
populations are impacted by drought and the effects of climate change, 
including effects to both individual cacti and to productivity and 
establishment. Therefore, based on our review of the best scientific 
and commercial data available, we conclude that drought and the effects 
of climate change are threats to the acu[ntilde]a cactus across its 
range. When combined with insect predation (see Factor C. Disease or 
Predation, below), the effects on acu[ntilde]a cactus populations are 
significant.
Summary of Factor A
    In conclusion, based on our review of the best scientific and 
commercial data available, we have determined that individual plant 
loss, as well as fragmentation of acu[ntilde]a cactus and associated 
pollinator populations due to the effects of urbanization; livestock 
grazing; and mining do not impact the species at a population level 
and, therefore, are not threats to the acu[ntilde]a cactus. Currently, 
84 percent of the known living acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals occur 
along the border near OPCNM. Cross-border violators and associated CBP 
and law enforcement off-road activities may be affecting individual 
acu[ntilde]a cactus plants and their habitat. If there is an increase 
in off-road activities in or near acu[ntilde]a cactus populations or 
habitat, the likelihood of loss of individuals or loss or modification 
of habitat also increases. In addition, while no populations of the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus currently show evidence of effects from nonnative, 
invasive species, reports indicate that buffelgrass is currently in 
close proximity and could expand into acu[ntilde]a populations within 
the near future. Finally, a large amount of mortality has been 
documented within all populations that have been visited more than 
once, relating to a combination of the intricately correlated increases 
in drought and heat stress, warmer winter temperatures, and insect 
attack (see Factor C. Disease or Predation, below). Thus, based on our 
review of the best scientific and commercial data available, we 
conclude that loss and degradation of habitat due to nonnative, 
invasive species; off-road border activities; and the effects of 
drought and climate change, are threats to the acu[ntilde]a cactus and 
its habitat.

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

    Unauthorized collection has, in the past, been identified as a 
threat to the acu[ntilde]a cactus (Phillips et al. 1982, p. 9; Phillips 
and Buskirk 1982, p. 2; Rutman 1996a, pers. comm.; Rutman 2007, p. 6). 
At OPCNM, a large number of individuals are located adjacent to Puerto 
Blanco Drive, which was formerly a scenic loop drive. Although 
historically collection is suspected to have occurred in this 
population (Buskirk and Phillips 1983, pers. comm.; Rutman 1996a, pers. 
comm.), the significance of this past collection varies. Buskirk (1981, 
p. 5) noted that he did not believe collection was a significant source 
of mortality between 1977 and 1981, yet Phillips and Buskirk (1982, p. 
2) noted three mapped roadside cacti lost to collectors, stating that 
collecting could be a significant cause of loss in OPCNM. Additionally, 
Rutman (1996a, p. 2) noted that along the scenic drive road at OPCNM, 
considerable collection of the largest size class of plants occurred. 
This road was closed to visitors in 2003; the staff of OPCNM hope to 
reopen this road in the future, though it will remain closed 
indefinitely while border issues continue, making it unlikely that 
collection will occur there in the near future (Rutman 2011, pers. 
comm.; Morawe 2012, pers. comm.; Pate 2012a, pers. comm.).
    On BLM-administered lands, the acu[ntilde]a cactus plants occur in 
very remote locations, and no reports of collection are known. Rutman 
(1995, p. 2) noted collection did not appear to be a threat to the 
population surrounding the Coffeepot Mountain plots during annual 
visits between 1988 and 1990. Similarly, no evidence of collection was 
seen during 2011 Service and BLM site visits to nearby populations 
within the Coffeepot ACEC (Service 2011a, p. 4).
    On State and private lands in the Florence area, Rutman (1995, p. 
3) noted that population locations were published and, easy to access, 
and that, for many years, collectors have been taking plants. She also 
noted individual plants seen the previous year were missing, and no 
carcasses were found

[[Page 60624]]

upon revisiting (Rutman 1995, p. 3). No evidence of collection from 
visited sites was found during 2011 Service visits (Service 2011b, p. 
1). Private lands in the Ajo area are also accessible, though we have 
no reports of collection there.
    Buskirk and Phillips (1983, pers. comm.) refer to some acu[ntilde]a 
cactus collection, but refer to it as relatively uncommon and 
unsystematic at present. No documented cases of unauthorized collection 
(in violation of the Arizona Native Plant Law) of this cactus have been 
found in any of the known populations. Heil and Melton (1994, p. 15) 
note that the acu[ntilde]a cactus is easy to grow and raise from seed 
and that this species is rare in the gardens of cactus collectors. An 
investigator within the Office of Special Investigations of the Arizona 
Department of Agriculture stated that he does not believe collection of 
the acu[ntilde]a cactus is a threat to the species (Reimer 2011, pers. 
comm.). Therefore, based on our review of the best scientific and 
commercial data available, we conclude that, while there is evidence 
that unauthorized collection of the acu[ntilde]a cactus did occur in 
the past, there is little evidence that collection occurs to such an 
extent currently as to constitute a threat to the acu[ntilde]a cactus, 
nor do we expect collection to become a threat in the future.

Factor C. Disease or Predation

    In general, cacti are susceptible to attacks from numerous types of 
insects, and the acu[ntilde]a cactus is no exception. The interior 
flesh of cacti provides both a nesting area and food source for 
beetles, weevils, and other insects. Once an infestation has occurred, 
cacti can die from the eating and tunneling activities or from the 
introduction of fungus or disease. In addition, drought may cause 
physiological stress responses in plants, such as limiting their 
photosynthesis and cell growth. Plants already stressed from prolonged 
drought are more susceptible to insect attack and disease (Mattson and 
Haack 1987, p. 110).
    Four native species of insects have been documented to impact the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus. Of these, cactus weevils (Gerstaeckeria spp.) and 
cactus longhorn beetle (Moneilema gigas) are documented to be most 
responsible for the acu[ntilde]a cactus declines (Rutman 2007, p. 6; 
Johnson 1989, p. 10). Cactus weevils are stem-boring insects; the 
adults feed externally while the larvae feed internally (Burger and 
Louda 1995, p. 1560). Cactus longhorn beetle adults feed on pads or 
terminal buds of cacti; their larvae burrow into stems or roots causing 
the severing of root and stem, collapse, and death of plants (Kelly and 
Olsen 2011, p. 7; Johnson 1989, p. 10). Raske 1966 (p. 106) cites Dodd 
(1927) stating that the cactus longhorn beetle has one reproductive 
cycle per year; however, a noted cactus expert, Alan Zimmerman, 
believes that increased warming in recent decades facilitates longer 
breeding cycles and more reproduction in both the cactus longhorn 
beetle and cactus weevil (Rutman 2007, p. 6).
    Other insects with lesser impact on the acu[ntilde]a cactus are 
snout moth (Yosemitia graciella) larvae and unknown ant species. Snout 
moth larvae are noted to feed internally on cacti (Simonsen and Brown 
2009, entire) and on fruits, thus reducing seed set (Johnson 1992, p. 
405). Johnson (1992, p. 405) noted snout moth predation accounted for a 
reduction in seed set of 35 percent in 50 monitored plants at OPCNM. 
Ants have been noted in greenhouse conditions and in the wild to 
consume and transport the acu[ntilde]a cactus seeds (Butterwick 1982-
1992, entire; Rutman 1996b, pers. comm.; Rutman 2001, pers. comm., p. 
1; Anderson 2011, p. 1). In a similar species, Coryphantha robustispina 
ssp. robustispina (Pima pineapple cactus), ants have been documented 
eating fruits and transporting seeds (Baker 2011, pp. ii, 23). While 
ants do consume seed, they also scatter seed away from the mother plant 
thereby reducing predation by small mammals (O'Dowd and Hay 1980, p. 
536; Vander Wall et al. 2005, p. 802). Ants may also aid in reducing 
the seedbank of competing plant species (O'Dowd and Hay 1980, p. 539). 
All of the above-mentioned insects have been documented at OPCNM near 
or on acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals (Johnson 1989, p. 10; Johnson 
1992, p. 405; Rutman 1996b, pers. comm.; Rutman 2001, pers. comm., p. 
1), with ants documented at Coffeepot Mountain (Butterwick 1982-1992, 
entire). It is likely that insect depredation occurs in other 
populations as well, though studies have not been conducted, and 
insects have not been collected in these populations. No diseases have 
been documented in the acu[ntilde]a cactus, though plants are 
exceptionally susceptible to bacterial rot after minor stem damage 
(Rutman 2007, p. 3). In 2011 site visits across the species' range, a 
majority of living adult acu[ntilde]a cacti were in various stages of 
decline, with stems blackening from the base upward and resulting in 
eventual cactus death. The cause of this blackening is unknown; it 
could be natural aging of the plants or the result of stress, insect 
damage, or disease.
    A variety of small mammals, such as native ground squirrels, pack 
rats, rabbits, and mice, can severely damage or kill both mature and 
young cacti during times of drought when free water is unavailable 
(Kelly and Olsen 2011, pp. 8-9). There have been reports of loss of the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus due to small mammal depredation evidenced by 
scattered spines and rooted bases at OPCNM (Buskirk 1981, p. 5; Buskirk 
and Phillips 1983, pers. comm.; Heil and Melton 1994, p. 15; Holm 2006, 
pp. 2-3). In general, plants that die of desiccation, insect damage, or 
disease leave erect carcasses, while those that die from small mammals 
leave only scattered remains of the cacti in the vicinity (Morawe 2012, 
pers. comm.). It is likely that small mammal depredation occurs in 
other populations outside of OPCNM as well, though studies have not 
been conducted and small mammal occurrence in these populations has not 
been documented.
    In 2011, nearly all populations of the acu[ntilde]a cactus on BLM, 
State, and some private lands were visited by Service staff (Service 
2011a, entire; Service 2011b, entire). In every population, some 
partially living and dead plants were found uprooted and toppled over. 
This was also noted in 2013 in a population near Ajo on BLM land 
(Westland Resources 2013, p. 3). In 1996, there was a high mortality 
event associated with many live, reproductive plants found uprooted and 
lying on the ground in the Coffeepot Mountain population and the 
populations around Ajo (Rutman 2007, p. 3). This episode has not been 
explained; however, various hypotheses include vandalism, thrashers 
(birds) digging them up, and javelinas uprooting the plants. Given the 
severing of stem from root that commences when plants are infested with 
cactus longhorn beetle, it is entirely possible that episodes of plants 
falling over occur following peak years for these insects, possibly in 
association with birds or other animals hearing and attempting to 
remove the insects within. There were above-average temperatures in Ajo 
the 2 years preceding the 1996 uprooting event; this uprooting may have 
been correlated to increased insect activity and uprooting. Above-
average annual temperatures have been recorded at the Ajo Weather 
Station 15 times during 25 years of recordkeeping between 1975 and 2010 
(WRCC 2012, entire). This trend is consistent both at OPCNM and in 
Florence, where 21 of 25 recent years and 19 of 25 recent years, 
respectively, had above-average temperatures (WRCC 2012, entire). The 
increased warming in recent decades is likely benefiting insects and 
stressing acu[ntilde]a cactus plants, resulting in

[[Page 60625]]

significantly increased mortality rangewide.
    Between 1982 and 1992, both recruitment and mortality were recorded 
within and outside of the established BLM plots at the Coffeepot 
Mountain acu[ntilde]a cactus population. Field notes from throughout 
the 10-year period of study indicate insect damage to individual plants 
has been ongoing within this population. Field notes included the 
following comments: tubercles (knoblike projections on the main stem) 
with holes, damage on apex (top), exposed root, numerous ants, plant 
dying, insect damage to fruit, hollow inside, uprooted, chlorotic 
(yellowing), beetle wounds on side, unhealthy, damaged meristem 
(growing tip), appears dying at the base, base rotting, sickly, and not 
rooted (Butterwick 1982-1992, entire). In 1987, the BLM reported high 
mortality in this population with more dead plants observed (332) than 
living (310) (Rutman et al. 1987, p. 1). In 1989, the BLM reported a 
precipitous decline of this population (Johnson 1989, p. 18). In 2008, 
staff of OPCNM censused this population and found 77 living and 80 dead 
plants (Morawe 2012, pers. comm.) with low or no recruitment reported 
from the entire population during 21 site visits between 1992 and 2011 
(Anderson 2011, entire). Within the monitoring plots at OPCNM, 
datasheets from 1986 categorized cacti as being: uprooted from the 
base, shell of spines, dead with upright carcass, stepped on, and 
missing, among others (Buskirk 1986, pers. comm.). Within these plots, 
adult recruitment has been observed in every year of monitoring since 
1989; mortality has been observed in all but 2 years during this same 
period (NPS 2011a, p. 1). On average, the annual adult mortality within 
these plots is 12 percent, exceeding the annual recruitment of 7.7 
percent (NPS 2011a, p. 1). The decrease in reproduction, increase in 
mortality, or a combination of both have resulted in the decline in 
plants within (NPS 2011a, p. 1) and outside of the plots at OPCNM. 
Across this population, the previous estimate of acu[ntilde]a cactus 
numbers were greater than 10,000 individuals (Buskirk 1981, p. 3); 
current estimates are between 1,000 and 2,000 plants total (Rutman 
2011, pers. comm.).
    At Coffeepot Mountain, population decline has been dramatic with at 
least two episodes of 50 percent reductions reported from individuals 
in and around monitoring plots (Butterwick 1982-1992, entire; Rutman et 
al. 1987, p. 2; Anderson 2011, p. 2; Anderson 2012b, pers. comm.; 
Morawe 2012, pers. comm.). At OPCNM, the number of individuals on all 6 
monitoring plots has declined in all but 2 years since 1989 (NPS 2011a, 
p. 1; NPS 2012, p. 2), and in total population estimates between 1981 
and 2011 (Buskirk 1981, p. 3; Rutman 2011, pers. comm.). In 2011, site 
visits to most of the remaining populations on BLM, State, and private 
lands indicated large proportions of the populations were dead with 
many plants uprooted, hollow plants, and many individuals in all size 
classes reported to be unhealthy or blackening from the base (Service 
2011a, entire; Service 2011b, entire). Also, researchers in Mexico 
reported that 62.9 percent of the 2,773 total plants found were dead 
(Pate 2012b, pers. comm.; Van Devender 2013, pers. comm.).
    In conclusion, uprooting and depredation have been ongoing for at 
least several decades at OPCNM, at Coffeepot Mountain, and in other 
populations. The pronounced decline in the acu[ntilde]a cactus numbers 
over the last 3 decades documented throughout the species' range on 
BLM, State, and private lands, as well as lands in Sonora, Mexico, is 
of serious concern. It appears that the combination of drought stress 
and insect attack have reduced adult plant numbers and that warmer 
winters may be increasing insect numbers attacking acu[ntilde]a cacti. 
Most, if not all, of the populations are significantly impacted by 
predation; predation, in the form of insect attacks, occurs throughout 
the range of the acu[ntilde]a cactus. We also believe that the extent 
to which this threat affects the acu[ntilde]a cactus populations is 
interactive with the occurrence of drought and other climatic variables 
such as warmer winters. The ability of the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
populations to recover from insect attacks depends on the successful 
germination and survival of seedlings. However, these populations are 
also experiencing decreased reproduction, which may render the 
populations unable to recover as they continue to lose mature 
individuals, with low levels of seedling recruitment and survival. 
Therefore, based on our review of the best scientific and commercial 
data available, we conclude that predation is a threat that is 
resulting in significant population impacts to the acu[ntilde]a cactus, 
and this threat is expected to continue into the future.

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 species 
discussed under the other factors. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act 
requires the Service to take into account ``those efforts, if any, 
being made by any State or foreign nation, or any political subdivision 
of a State or foreign nation, to protect such species. . . .'' We 
interpret this language to require the Service to consider relevant 
Federal, State, and tribal laws, plans, regulations, cooperative 
agreements, and other such mechanisms that may minimize any of the 
threats we describe in threat analyses under the other four factors, or 
otherwise enhance conservation of the species. We give strongest weight 
to statutes and their implementing regulations and management direction 
that stems from those laws and regulations. An example would be State 
governmental actions enforced under a State statute or constitution, or 
Federal action under statute.
    Having evaluated the significance of the threat as mitigated by any 
such conservation efforts, we analyze under Factor D the extent to 
which existing regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to address the 
specific threats to the species. Regulatory mechanisms, if they exist, 
may reduce or eliminate the impacts from one or more identified 
threats. In this section, we review existing State and Federal 
regulatory mechanisms to determine whether they effectively reduce or 
remove threats to the acu[ntilde]a cactus.
    Regarding the threat of unauthorized collection, the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus is protected by the Arizona Native Plant Law (Arizona Revised 
Statutes, Chapter 7, 2007, entire), which prohibits collection without 
obtaining a permit on all public lands and directs that plants may not 
be moved off private property without contacting the Arizona Department 
of Agriculture. Due to the difficulty in implementing this law, it has 
not been effective in reducing impacts from collection, nor does it 
protect habitat. However, no documented cases of unauthorized 
collection of this cactus have been found in any of the known 
populations in recent decades. There is little threat of collection on 
private lands due to restricted public access (see Factor B. 
Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes); the majority of the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
populations are on State and Federal lands. In addition, NPS 
regulations prohibit the collection or removal of the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus on NPS lands, where the largest known acu[ntilde]a cactus 
population occurs. The main road accessing the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
population in Acu[ntilde]a Valley in OPCNM is currently closed to the 
public, thus reducing impacts from collection to this population. 
Although the remoteness of many populations limits both visitation and 
enforcement of the existing

[[Page 60626]]

regulatory mechanisms, unauthorized collection is reported to result in 
a relatively minor impact to this species. We conclude that the 
regulations that exist to protect against the impacts from over 
collection of the species, primarily the NPS regulation prohibiting 
removal and the closure of the primary access route in OPCNM, are 
serving to reduce the impacts from collection.
    No regulations in place address threats to acu[ntilde]a cactus and 
its habitat from site degradation or address the primary threats to 
acu[ntilde]a cactus of insect predation, drought, and the effects of 
climate change. Urban development, livestock grazing, unauthorized 
collection, and mining are not identified to occur at a level that is a 
threat to acu[ntilde]a cactus populations. However, without management 
of impacts from these activities, impacts could rise significantly. 
Special management prescriptions in place address some of these 
concerns on Federal lands. For example, the Sonoran Desert National 
Monument and OPCNM exclude livestock grazing and mining, promote the 
reduction of nonnative, invasive plant species, and are unlikely to 
support urban development. In Mexico, a portion of the known population 
is within the boundary of Pinacate Biosphere Reserve, which may afford 
some protections. While management prescriptions with regard to these 
stressors may be applied opportunistically across different land 
management agencies within the region, they do afford some protection 
and minimize impacts to the species and its habitat.
    With respect to threats to the species caused by nonnative, 
invasive plant species, some land managers and private citizens 
implement invasive plant surveys, control, and monitoring, while others 
do not. Even with management, these species can be difficult to control 
without ample resources and time. Given that there are gaps in 
continuous geographic coverage regarding the management of nonnative, 
invasive species, populations of acu[ntilde]a cactus remain vulnerable 
to invasion.
    With respect to threats to the species caused by activities along 
the U.S.-Mexico border, a number of documents such as Biological 
Opinions (e.g. Service 2009, 2011) dictate that certain actions be 
taken by CBP to reduce effects to resources in the U.S.-Mexico border 
region. These documents are primarily associated with habitat of the 
federally listed endangered Sonoran pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra 
americana ssp. sonoriensis) and off-road activity, specifically 
identifying sensitive areas to avoid. Such measures provide some relief 
from the threats caused to the species resulting from cross-border 
violators and CBP enforcement activities in the southern portion of the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus range. Likewise, CBP-sponsored projects, including 
the mapping of off-road tracks and revegetating unauthorized roads, may 
also benefit the acu[ntilde]a cactus (Holm 2012a, pers. comm.).
    In cooperation with Service staff, CBP has begun efforts to educate 
Border Patrol agents on the locations and appearance of acu[ntilde]a 
cactus so that areas that support the species can be avoided to the 
maximum extent possible. A road atlas has been printed and distributed 
to CBP agents working in the area, although acu[ntilde]a cactus habitat 
is not indicated on this map (Morawe 2012, pers. comm.). In addition, 
the efforts of CBP to stop cross-border violators in recent years by 
means of traffic barriers and other infrastructure has greatly reduced 
cross-border violator activities and afforded some protection to the 
habitat. However, due to the difficulty and ever-changing status of 
border issues, compliance with these agreements has been difficult. 
Reports indicate a two-track road and associated cross-border violator 
clothing were found in 2010 within one of the six long-term monitoring 
plots at OPCNM. The cross-border violator activities are, by their very 
nature, in violation of the law and regulations. Therefore, regulations 
designed to protect the species and its habitat will be generally of 
little impact to alleviate the threats caused by activities of cross-
border violators. As noted above, the interdiction efforts of the 
Border Patrol, including patrols, electronic surveillance, and fence 
construction have contributed to a significant reduction in cross-
border violator off-road traffic that has benefited the acu[ntilde]a 
cactus and other species. However, we do not find regulatory mechanisms 
to be adequate to directly address these threats discussed in Factor A.

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

    We have evaluated the best scientific and commercial data 
available, and we did not find any indication of potential threats 
related to this factor. We considered such threats as small population 
size and overall rarity of the acu[ntilde]a cactus, but we did not find 
any indication that these are threats to the species. Therefore, we 
conclude that other natural or manmade factors are not threats to the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus.

Determination for the Acu[ntilde]a Cactus

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data 
available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus. We find that the species is in danger of 
extinction due to the current and ongoing modification and destruction 
of its habitat and range (Factor A) from long-term drought; effects of 
climate change; ongoing and future border activities; and future 
nonnative, invasive species issues. The acu[ntilde]a cactus habitat is 
impacted across its range by long-term drought, warmer winters 
occurring in the past several decades and projected to continue with 
climate change, and insect predation. In addition, the majority of the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus individuals (84 percent) occur within 16.5 km 
(10.25 mi) of the border in either OPCNM or Sonora, Mexico. As 
described above, the complexities of addressing off-road excursions by 
cross-border violators result in unpredictable actions on the part of 
CBP and law enforcement and threatens acu[ntilde]a cactus and its 
habitat. Furthermore, nonnative, invasive species have been located in 
the vicinity of several populations of acu[ntilde]a cactus and are 
projected to invade these populations within the next 5 to 20 years 
(Morawe 2012, pers. comm.).
    The primary threats to the species are due to the effects of 
drought and climate change, and insect predation. These threats are 
exacerbated at local scales by off-road excursions by cross-border 
violators and CBP and law enforcement response, and will be impacted by 
nonnative, invasive plants in the future. We find that unauthorized 
collection (Factor B) does not currently occur to such an extent to 
constitute a threat to the species. We find that predation (Factor C), 
in combination with drought and heat stress, exacerbates the threats to 
this species. Although mechanisms are in place that afford some 
protection to the species and its habitat with regard to potential 
stressors to the species, no regulations are in place to address insect 
predation, drought, and the effects of climate change. With regard to 
off-road border activity, although the interdiction efforts of CBP, 
including patrols, electronic surveillance, and fence construction, 
have contributed to a significant reduction in cross-border violator 
off-road traffic that has benefited the acu[ntilde]a cactus and other 
species, regulations have little impact to alleviate these threats. 
Therefore, we do not find regulatory mechanisms to be adequate to 
directly address these threats discussed in Factor A. Finally, we find 
other natural or manmade

[[Page 60627]]

factors are not threats to the acu[ntilde]a cactus (Factor E).
    The elevated risk of extinction of the acu[ntilde]a cactus is a 
result of the cumulative stressors on the species and its habitat. 
Mortality of more than 84 percent of individuals has been documented 
over a 24-year period within long-term monitoring plots at OPCNM. 
Mortality of more than 75 percent of individuals has been documented 
over a 21-year period at Coffeepot Mountain. These two examples of loss 
that has occurred on protected lands with ongoing management efforts 
for the acu[ntilde]a cactus show both a rapid and a severe decline of 
the species. In the acu[ntilde]a cactus, water and heat stress reduce 
flower and seed production, and seedling survival is dependent on 
summer precipitation and soil moisture. Warmer and drier winters 
combined with increased insect attack negatively impacts the 
survivorship of reproductive adults. Of the remaining living 
individuals across the species' range, a large portion were in various 
stages of deteriorating health, primarily blackening from the base 
upward, when visited by a botanist in 2011. Across populations, minimal 
or no recruitment has been seen in recent years. Throughout the 
species' range, rainfall has been declining, and drought conditions 
have been dominant for several decades; climate change is anticipated 
to increase drought periods and warming winters. This combination is 
expected to continue the documented trend of mortality exceeding 
recruitment across all populations. When mortality exceeds recruitment 
in a population, the result is often a declining population. Given 
this, we consider none of the populations to be stable or secure. The 
factors significantly threatening the species are not expected to be 
abated in the foreseeable future, and some populations may have 
decreased to levels where they are no longer viable. All of the 
threats, combined with high levels of mortality and low recruitment in 
the populations, contribute to a substantial risk of extinction and 
lead to our finding that the acu[ntilde]a cactus is in danger of 
extinction throughout its range; therefore, the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
meets the definition of an endangered species under the Act.
    The Act defines an endangered species as any species that is ``in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range'' and a threatened species as any species ``that is likely to 
become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range 
within the foreseeable future.'' We find that the acu[ntilde]a cactus 
is presently in danger of extinction throughout its entire range based 
on rangewide documented rapid loss of individuals, decline in the 
health of many remaining individuals, little to no recruitment, and 
continuation of the threats, as described above. Therefore, on the 
basis of the best scientific and commercial data available, we are 
listing the acu[ntilde]a cactus as an endangered species in accordance 
with sections 3(6) and 4(a)(1) of the Act.
    Listing the acu[ntilde]a cactus as a threatened species is not the 
appropriate determination because the ongoing threats described above 
are severe enough to create the immediate risk of extinction. The 
continued loss of reproductive adults and juveniles poses a significant 
and immediate risk of extinction to the species throughout the species' 
range, and are not restricted to any particular significant portion of 
that range. All of these factors combined lead us to conclude that the 
threat of extinction is high and immediate; thus, we conclude that the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus meets the definition of an endangered species.
    Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a species may 
warrant listing if it is an endangered or threatened species throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range. The threats to the survival 
of the species occur throughout the acu[ntilde]a cactus' range and are 
not restricted to any particular significant portion of that range. 
Accordingly, our assessment and final determination applies to the 
species throughout its entire range.

Fickeisen Plains Cactus

    It is our intent to discuss below only those topics directly 
relevant to the listing of the Fickeisen plains cactus as endangered in 
this section of the final rule. As a result of public comments we 
received, we have updated the sections below as a result of information 
received during the public comment periods.
Species Description
    The Fickeisen plains cactus is a small, unbranched to occasionally 
branched, globose (globular) cactus. At maturity, many plants are the 
size of a quarter making them difficult to locate even when their 
location is known. The stems of mature Fickeisen plains cactus are 2.5 
to 6.5 cm (1.0 to 2.6 in) tall and up to 5.5 cm (2.2 in) in diameter 
(Heil and Porter 2003, p. 213; Arizona Rare Plant Guide Committee 2001, 
unpaginated); covered with tubercles (knoblike projections on the main 
stem) that form a spiral pattern around the plant (AGFD 2011a, p.1). 
Each tubercle has 6 to 7 radial spines per areole (tip where spines 
develop), 4 to 7 millimeters (mm) (0.15 to 0.27 in) in length, and 1 
central spine (15 to 18 mm (0.59 to 0.70 in) long) that is straight to 
strongly curved. Spines are soft and corky (spongy) and white to pale 
gray in color. Flowers are 2.5 cm (0.98 in) in diameter, cream-yellow 
or yellowish-green in color, and produced on the apex (top) of the 
stem. Fruits are turbinate (top-shaped), and turn reddish-brown at 
maturity (AGFD 2011a, p. 1). The seeds are dark brown to black, 3 mm 
(0.11 in) long, and 2 mm (0.08 in) wide (AGFD 2011a, p. 1). The 
lifespan of the Fickeisen plains cactus is estimated to be between 10 
to 15 years (Phillips et al. 1982, p. 9).
Taxonomy
    The Fickeisen plains cactus was first discovered near Cameron, 
Arizona, in the late 1950s. It was originally described in the 
scientific literature by Benson (1969, pp. 23-24), then later by Heil 
et al. (1981, pp. 28-31), who recognized the name and taxon in a review 
of the genus Pediocactus. The Flora of North America treats the taxon 
as a subspecies of Pediocactus peeblesianus, finding that the name 
``Pediocactus peeblesianus var. fickeiseniae'' was not validly 
published by Benson (Heil and Porter 2003, p. 213). The difference 
between a subspecies and a variety based on the International Code of 
Botanical Nomenclature is that a subspecies has a higher rank in 
nomenclature. Some botanist or other taxonomic organizations may use 
the terms subspecies and variety interchangeably. The Service considers 
Pediocactus peeblesianus var. fickeiseniae to be a valid taxon since it 
was classified as a candidate species in 1980. Under the Act and in 
regard to plants, we treat subspecies and varieties equally (43 FR 
17912) in that we do not differentiate between a subspecies or variety 
when assigning priority classifications to species for listing, 
delisting, reclassification, or recovery actions (43 FR 43103). Our 
previous documentation referring to the Fickeisen plains cactus used 
the name ``P. peeblesianus var. fickeiseniae'', and we will continue to 
use this name. Other synonyms of Pediocactus peeblesianus var. 
fickeiseniae that have been used are Navajoa fickeisenii and Toumeya 
fickeisenii (Benson 1982, p. 955).
    The genus Pediocactus contains nine species of cacti; eight of 
these are rare endemics of the Colorado Plateau region in Arizona, 
Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah (Heil and Porter 2003, p. 213). 
According to Benson (1982, p.750), the structural differences exhibited 
by

[[Page 60628]]

Pediocacti among various sites, coupled with a poor seed dispersal 
mechanism and specializations to specific geology or soil type, 
indicate that the existing plants are probably relicts of a once 
widespread genus with a distribution fractured by climatic conditions. 
Although there are great dissimilarities among plants in the genus 
Pediocactus, they are united by their unusual method of fruit 
dehiscence and deciduous floral remnant (Heil et al. 1981, p. 18). 
Within the species Pediocactus peeblesianus are two recognized 
varieties, variety peeblesianus (Peebles Navajo cactus) and variety 
fickeiseniae. The Fickeisen plains cactus is differentiated from the 
Peebles Navajo cactus by the presence of a central spine. The corky or 
spongy texture of the spines makes the species unique and separates it 
from other members in the genus (Heil et al. 1981, p. 21). Chloroplast 
DNA sequencing further provides strong support of the separation of 
these two varieties (Porter 2002, pp. 15-16).
Biology
    The general biology of the Fickeisen plains cactus is similar to 
other species in the genus Pediocactus. The Fickeisen plains cactus is 
a cold-adapted plant with contractile roots that enables the plant to 
retract into the soil during the winter (cold) and summer (dry) 
seasons, as well as during periods of drought conditions. Plants may 
shrink down into the soil until the crown sits flush with the soil 
surface. Some individuals may become completely buried by soil litter 
or gravel thus limiting the time plants can be found (Phillips et al. 
1982, p. 4). The general phenology is as follows: when ambient air 
temperatures rise in the spring and adequate rainfall occurs, plants 
emerge from beneath the soil surface to flower in mid-April. Flowers 
open in the mid-morning for 1 to 2 days. An entire population generally 
completes anthesis (the period when the flower is open and functional) 
in 7 to 14 days (Travis 1987, p. 6). Spring flowering is believed to be 
influenced by cold temperatures and precipitation from the preceding 
winter months (Brack 2012, pers. comm.), which enables moisture to 
accumulate in the soil during times when solar evaporation rates are 
low and may facilitate seedling germination. By June, plants will 
produce fruit then shrink back into the soil, losing one-half their 
height above ground. Plants generally remain retracted underground 
during the winter months; however, some individuals may re-emerge in 
the autumn following monsoonal rains. The length of time a plant 
remains retracted can vary between individual plants. Hughes (2000a, p. 
2) has documented some plants remaining retracted underground for at 
least 3 years, but reported that a plant emerged after remaining 
retracted after 5 years (Hughes 2000, p.2). The Fickeisen plains cactus 
is also subject to root rot during very wet years and frost heaving 
during the winter season. Locating individuals of the Fickeisen plains 
cactus can be difficult, even when their exact location is known. 
Searches for individuals are best done during their flowering period.
    Reproduction has not been specifically studied on the Fickeisen 
plains cactus. For other species in the genus Pediocactus, reproduction 
occurs through cross-pollination by native bees (Pimienta-Barrios and 
del Castillo 2002, p. 79). Insects observed visiting flowers of the 
Fickeisen plains cactus include species of hover flies (family 
Syrphidae) and bee flies (family Bombyliidae), mining bees (family 
Andrenidae), and sweat bees (family Halictidae) (Milne 1987, p. 21; 
Navajo Nation Heritage Program (NNHP) 1994, p. 3; Peach et al. 1993, 
pp. 312-314; Tepedino 2000, p. 7). Although flies may pollinate flowers 
of the Fickeisen plains cactus, the primary pollinators of the plant 
are believed to be halictid bees from the genera Lasioglossum, 
Halictus, and Agapostemon, based on several studied species of 
Pediocactus (Tepedino 2012, pers. comm.).
    The mechanisms of seed dispersal in the Fickeisen plains cactus 
have not been investigated and are poorly understood. Most site visits 
to areas occupied by the Fickeisen plains cactus have observed 
seedlings established very close to the adult plant (Goodwin 2011a, p. 
9; NNHP 1994, p. 4). The general shared belief is that most species of 
Pediocactus, including the Fickeisen plains cactus, lack a good 
mechanism for seed dispersal, which is a contributing factor to its 
endemism and isolated, localized populations (Benson 1982, p. 750; 
Milne 1987, p. 4).
    Population monitoring of the Fickeisen plains cactus suggests that 
this variety has a low reproductive capacity. Hughes (1996a, p. 50) 
reported that significant episodes of recruitment within the BLM 
monitoring plots occurred 2 to 3 times over a 9-year period from 1986 
to 1995. He found that 30 to 40 seeds are generally produced from a 
single fruit (Hughes 2011, pers. comm.), and believed that low seed 
production hinders substantial increases in plant abundance from 
occurring, even during favorable weather conditions that would support 
germination (Hughes 1996a, p. 50). During the monitoring period, Hughes 
(1996a, p. 50) found that flowering and fruiting in the Fickeisen 
plains cactus occurs once individual plants reach 16 mm (0.63 in) in 
diameter and as the diameter increases more fruit are produced. He 
documented individuals between 20 mm (0.79 in) and 20.9 mm (0.82 in) in 
diameter that produced 1.37 fruit on average (range of fruit produced 1 
to 3) compared to individuals at 50 mm (1.97 in) and larger that 
produced 3.60 fruits on average (range of fruit produced 2 to 5).
    The correlation between larger sized individuals and increased 
fruit production has also been found in other Pediocactus species 
(Phillips et al. 1989, p. 4; Hreha and Meyer 2001, p. 86), suggesting 
that larger, older individuals have a higher reproductive output and 
contribute more to the population growth rate by potentially having a 
greater influence on seed output than smaller, younger plants. In 
examining long-term monitoring information by the BLM, the majority of 
individuals observed tend to range between 20 mm (0.79 in) and 30 mm 
(1.18 in) in diameter, indicating at least 2 fruits should be produced 
per individual per year. Fruit production, however, occurred 
irregularly over a 22-year period with 35 percent, on average, of the 
total number of reproducing individuals. For comparison purposes, a 
population biology study on the Pediocactus paradinei (Kaibab plains 
cactus), which is similar in size to the Fickeisen plains cactus, 
summarized its population structure and found the following: plants 
between 11 to 20 mm diameters were pre-reproductive individuals that 
occasionally flowered but never fruited. Plants that were 21 to 30 mm 
were young reproductive individuals with lower reproductive effort than 
larger plants, and those 31 to 40 mm diameter and larger were older 
reproductive individuals with higher fruiting success (Warren et al. 
1992; p. 134).
    Episodic recruitment may play a role in increasing the threats to 
the species because adult mortality may continue at a high rate between 
periods of recruitment, lowering the reproductive potential of the 
population when conditions are favorable for seed germination.
Habitat
    The Fickeisen plains cactus is a narrow endemic restricted to 
exposed layers of Kaibab limestone on the Colorado Plateau. Plants are 
found in shallow, well-draining, gravelly loam soils formed from 
alluvium, colluvium, or Aeolian deposits derived from limestone of the 
Harrisburg Member of

[[Page 60629]]

the Kaibab Formation and Toroweap Formation; Coconino Sandstone; and 
the Moenkopi Formation (Travis 1987, pp. 2-3; Arizona Geological Survey 
(AZGS) 2011; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) 2012). Most 
populations occur on the margins of canyon rims, flat terraces, 
limestone benches, or on the toe of well-drained hills. Plants are 
found primarily on slopes of 0 to 5 percent but some also occur on 
slopes up to 20 percent at elevations between 1,280 to 1,814 m (4,200 
to 5,950 ft) (Arizona Rare Plant Guide Committee 2001, unpaginated; 
AGFD 2011b, entire; Hazelton 2012a, pers. comm.; United States Forest 
Service (USFS) 2013b, p. 2).
    Habitat of the Fickeisen plains cactus is within the Plains and 
Great Basin grasslands and Great Basin desertscrub vegetation 
communities (Benson 1982, p. 764; NatureServe 2011). Dominant native 
plant species that are commonly associated with these biotic 
communities include: Artemisia tridentata (big sagebrush), Atriplex 
canescens (four-wing saltbush), Atriplex confertifolia (shadscale), 
Bouteloua eriopoda (black grama), Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama), 
Bromus spp. (brome), Chrysothamnus spp. (rabbit-bush), Ephedra 
torreyana (Mormon tea), Krascheninikovia lanata (winterfat), 
Gutierrezia sarothrae (broom snakeweed), Pleuraphis jamesii (James's 
galleta), Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian ricegrass), Sphaeralcea spp. 
(globe-mallow), and Stipa spp. (needlegrass). Other native cactus 
species that are commonly found include Agave utahensis (Utah agave) 
and Echinocactus polycephalus (cottontop cactus; Brown 1994, pp. 115-
121; Turner 1994, pp. 145-155; Hughes 1996b, p. 2; Goodwin 2011a, p. 4; 
NatureServe 2011). The Escobaria vivipara var. rosea (spinystar) is 
typically found in close association with the Fickeisen plains cactus 
(Hughes 1996a, p. 47). In addition, biological soil crusts are found on 
the Colorado Plateau and occur within or near the Fickeisen plains 
cactus populations (NRCS 1997, p. 3; USFS 1999, entire; BLM 2007a, p. 
3-15).
    Biological soil crusts are formed by a community of living 
organisms that can include cyanobacteria, green algae, microfungi, 
mosses, liverworts, and lichens (Belnap 2006, pp. 361-362). A 
preliminary soil assessment within occupied Fickeisen plains cactus 
habitat on the Kaibab Nation Forest suggested there are good biotic 
soil crusts in the general vicinity of the population and the 
microsites where cacti occur may have elevated macro and micro nutrient 
levels (MacDonald 2013, p. 1) potentially due to the presence of the 
biological soil crusts. The biological soil crusts provide many 
positive benefits to the other native vegetation within the Plains and 
Great Basin grassland community by providing fixed carbon and nitrogen 
on sparsely vegetated soils, soil stabilization and erosion control, 
water infiltration, improved plant growth, and seedling germination 
(NRCS 1997, pp. 8-10; Floyd et al. 2003, p. 1704; Belnap 2006, entire).
    The climate associated with the range of the Fickeisen plains 
cactus is highly variable and influenced by events in the tropical 
Pacific and northern Pacific Ocean (United States Geological Survey 
2002, p. 2). Precipitation is bimodal, occurring in the winter (January 
to March) and summer (July to September) months. The average annual 
precipitation ranges from 15.2 to 35.5 cm (6 to 14 in) per year; 
snowfall accumulation averages 22.9 cm (9 in), primarily from January 
to February (WRCC 2012, entire). Winter precipitation is considered 
critical for the regional native plant community to ensure that soil 
moisture is recharged and a reliable spring growing season, which is 
particularly important for seedlings that do not have developed root 
systems (Travis 1987, p. 3; Comstock and Ehleringer 1992, pp. 196-199). 
Given the diversity of topography and elevation across the range of the 
cactus, the amount of precipitation received locally varies and is 
patchy in its distribution.
Distribution and Range
    The Fickeisen plains cactus is endemic to the Colorado Plateau in 
Coconino and Mohave Counties of northern Arizona. Very little is known 
about its historical range. Heil et al. (1981, p. 31) described the 
plant as widespread along the ledges of the Little Colorado and 
Colorado Rivers to the hills of the lower House Rock Valley. Benson 
(1982, p. 765) described the range as northern Arizona from the hills 
in northeast Mohave County to the vicinity of the Colorado and Little 
Colorado rivers near the Grand Canyon National Park and southeast 
Coconino County. The current range of the Fickeisen plains cactus 
extends from Mainstreet Valley of the Arizona Strip (i.e., the area 
north of the Colorado River to the Arizona-Utah border) to House Rock 
Valley; along the canyon rims of the Colorado River and Little Colorado 
River; the area of Gray Mountain; and along the canyon rims of Cataract 
Canyon on the Coconino Plateau. The plant is known in approximately the 
same areas as those described by Heil et al. (1981, p.31) and Benson 
(1982, p. 765), including those found along Cataract Canyon. Benson had 
identified plants in this area as varieties of Pediocactus 
peeblesianus. Plants nearest the Grand Canyon National Park on the 
Coconino Plateau were known as variety fickeiseniae, while a population 
further south were considered to be variety peeblesianus. These were 
later verified as the variety fickeiseniae (Goodwin 2006, p. 4; Goodwin 
2011a, pp. 5-6).
    The Fickeisen plains cactus occurs in disjunct populations that are 
widely scattered over a broad range (Table 1). Populated areas are 
often separated by many miles and varying topography. Although there is 
abundant suitable habitat within its range, many areas are unoccupied 
by the plant for reasons unknown. Philips et al. (1982, p. 7) estimated 
that the plant's known range covered 200 linear km (125 mi) of land, 
and NatureServe (2011) estimated it to be 12,750 square kilometers (sq 
km) (4,922 square miles (sq mi)). Based on the current spatial 
distribution of the Fickeisen plains cactus, we estimate the current 
range is approximately 8,668 sq km (3,347 sq mi). In addition, its 
range converges with the range of the endangered Pediocactus bradyi 
(Brady pincushion cactus) in House Rock Valley, and overlaps with the 
range of the threatened Pediocactus sileri (Siler pincushion cactus), 
and the Kaibab plains cactus, which is protected by a conservation 
agreement (BLM 2011a, Figure 3.8-1).
Abundance and Trends
    From 1962 to 2012, the Fickeisen plains cactus has been documented 
in approximately 33 populations (Table 1) (AGFD 2011b, entire; Goodwin 
2011a, p. 19; NNHP 2011a, entire). Based on the collective information 
so far, the number of known Fickeisen plains cacti rangewide is about 
1,132 individuals, but this does not represent a population estimate 
because only 6 of the 33 populations have recent information on their 
status. The majority of populations are small in numbers, some 
consisting of fewer than 10 individuals. Many of these populations have 
not been visited in over 18 years or visits have been infrequent and 
irregular, so that the status of the cactus is unknown. Of the 33 
populations, 6 have been recently documented or regularly monitored and 
provide reliable information describing the status of the Fickeisen 
plains cactus. These 6 populations have a total of 466 individuals and 
represent some of the most abundant areas populated by the Fickeisen 
plains cactus. They are located on lands managed by the BLM (Arizona 
Strip District), Kaibab National

[[Page 60630]]

Forest, State of Arizona, and Navajo Nation, in addition to privately 
owned lands. Based on the number of documented individuals (number of 
plants per landowner by total documented plants), the breakout of 
populations by land owner is as follows: BLM (22 percent), Kaibab 
National Forest (5 percent), State of Arizona (14 percent), the Navajo 
Nation (45 percent), and privately owned lands (13 percent).

Table 1--Number of Fickeisen Plains Cactus Reported by Location, Landowner, and the First and Last Date Observed
                                                 [1962 to 2012]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         Populations               Landowner      First visited    First count     Last visited     Last count
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Beanhole Well................  BLM.............            1979  3..............            1979               3
Marble Canyon................  BLM.............            1979  8..............            1979               8
Gray Mountain (Mays Wash)....  BLM.............            1981  30.............            1981              30
South Canyon.................  BLM.............            1979  41.............            1987              52
Toquer Tank..................  BLM.............            1986  8..............            1994               7
Navajo.......................  BLM.............            1986  4..............            2001              10
Salaratus Draw I and II......  BLM.............            1986  17.............            2001               0
Temple Trail.................  BLM.............            1986  7..............            2001               7
Ward.........................  BLM.............            1986  12.............            2001              10
Sunshine Ridge II............  BLM.............            1986  9..............            2004              35
Clayhole Ridge...............  BLM.............            1987  23.............            2012              38
Dutchman Draw................  BLM.............            1986  167............            2012               5
North Canyon.................  BLM.............            1987  16.............            2012              42
Sunshine Ridge...............  BLM.............            1987  12.............            2012               4
Kaibab National Forest.......  USFS............            2004  Unknown........            2013              62
Shinumo Wash.................  NN..............            1993  9..............            1993               9
Tiger Wash 2.................  NN..............            1993  11.............            1993              11
Little Colorado River          NN..............            1956  Unknown........            1997              15
 Overlook.
Little Colorado River Gauging  NN..............            1999  1 (survey out              1999               1
 Station.                                                         of season).
29 mile Canyon...............  NN..............            2000  2..............            2000               2
Big Canyon...................  NN..............            2002  15.............            2002              15
West of Hellhole Bend........  NN..............            2002  5..............            2002               5
Small Ridge..................  NN..............            2004  1 (survey out              2004               1
                                                                  of season).
Little Colorado River Gravel   NN..............            1956  Unknown........            2005              21
 pit.
Shinumo Altar................  NN..............            1991  Unknown........            2012               6
Tiger Wash 1.................  NN..............            1993  30.............            2005               2
Gray Mountain (South of        NN..............            1962  4..............            2009               3
 Cameron).
Hellhole Bend................  NN..............            2009  314............            2009             314
Salt Trail Canyon............  NN..............            2006  119............            2011              70
Blue Spring..................  NN..............            2005  30.............            2005              30
Gray Mountain (Sewage          Private.........            1984  4..............            1986               7
 Disposal Pond).
Cataract Canyon..............  Private.........            2007  54.............            2011             146
Cataract Canyon..............  State...........            2007  98.............            2011             161
                              ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    TOTAL....................  ................  ..............  ...............  ..............          1, 132
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: Navajo Nation (NN), U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The increase in plant numbers at Cataract Canyon from
  2006 to 2011 is due to new areas being surveyed each year resulting in new occupied sites being located
  (Goodwin 2012, p. 1). The total number shown does not represent a total population estimate but is to document
  the total number of individuals that have been observed over the reported time period.

    Our knowledge of abundance and trend information was assessed from 
annual monitoring reports by the BLM (1986 to 2012) and Navajo Nation 
(2006 to 2011). Each agency has monitoring plans that are set up to 
track specific information in each of occupied sites on lands they 
manage. However, there are differences in data collection, and this 
inconsistency makes it difficult to compare trends across the landscape 
and between landowners. Therefore, results are presented for each 
landowner separately. No monitoring program has been established for 
the Fickeisen plains cactus on the Kaibab National Forest or on private 
lands. However, any pertinent information regarding abundance, 
reproduction, and recruitment from these populations were incorporated 
herein.
    Bureau of Land Management Lands--The BLM manages habitat for 14 
documented Fickeisen plains cactus populations (Table 1) that occupy an 
estimated 36.9-ha (91.3-ac) area (BLM 2007b, p. 67) on the Arizona 
Strip. The total known population on the Arizona Strip has declined 
roughly 72 percent in 21 years from 323 individuals in 1991 to 89 
individuals in 2012 (Table 2).

[[Page 60631]]



                                                  Table 2--Numbers of Fickeisen Plains Cacti Recorded in BLM Monitoring Plots and Cluster Plots
                                                                                         [1986 to 2012]
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                            North                Sunshine  Salaratus    Temple     Toquer
                     Year                       Dutchman   Clayhole             Sunshine Ridge              Canyon     Navajo    Ridge II   I and II    Trail       Tank       Ward      Total
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1986 Plants outside plots*...................        167          8  9..................................  .........  .........  .........         17  .........  .........  .........        201
1986.........................................         21  .........  6..................................         14          4          2  .........          5          8         10         70
1987.........................................        107         23  12.................................         16  .........  .........  .........  .........          7  .........        165
1988.........................................        102         35  ...................................         27  .........  .........  .........  .........          9  .........        173
1989.........................................        185         31  8..................................         28  .........  .........  .........  .........          9  .........        261
1990.........................................        186         32  33.................................         33  .........  .........  .........  .........          6  .........        290
1991.........................................        194         37  43.................................         36  .........  .........  .........  .........         13  .........        323
1992.........................................        219         44  44.................................          7  .........  .........  .........  .........          7  .........        321
1993.........................................        168         34  32.................................         13          0  .........         13          1  .........          0        261
1994.........................................        168         38  35.................................         16  .........  .........         44  .........          7  .........        308
1995.........................................        188         30  25.................................         11  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........        254
1997.........................................        122         21  7..................................         21  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........        171
1998.........................................         49         16  6..................................         26  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........         97
1999.........................................         45         17  5..................................         28  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........         95
2000.........................................         37         20  Not Observed.......................         22  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........         79
2001.........................................         40         63  3..................................         34         10         23          0          7          0         10        190
2002.........................................         30         60  12.................................         24  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........        126
2003.........................................         50         56  Not Observed.......................         24  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........        130
2004.........................................         45         59  7..................................         40  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........        151
2005.........................................         34         59  33.................................         40  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........        166
2006.........................................         36         48  26.................................         32  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........        142
2007.........................................         32         38  30.................................         39  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........        139
2008.........................................         23         40  23.................................         33  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........        119
2009.........................................         33         37  33.................................         31  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........        134
2011.........................................         12         42  34.................................         39  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........        127
2012.........................................          5         38  4..................................         42  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........         89
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: *BLM reported counts of Fickeisen plains cacti outside of established monitoring plots for 1986 only. No monitoring occurred in 1996 by the BLM due to dry conditions resulting in plants
  retracted underground. No monitoring reports were submitted to the Service for the years 2008 and 2010. Numbers in 2008 were obtained from Hughes 2009.

    The Fickeisen plains cactus was first documented on the Arizona 
Strip in 1977 at Sunshine Ridge with the remaining populations 
discovered up through 1986 (Phillips 1979, entire; AGFD 2011b, entire). 
Occupied sites are widely separated from one another (roughly 31 km (19 
mi) apart) in geographically disjunct locations. In Mohave County, 
populations have been documented in Mainstreet Valley near Dutchman 
Draw, in Hurricane Valley near Toquer Tank, in Lower Hurricane Valley 
near Temple Trail, in Salaratus Draw in the Hurricane Cliffs, on 
Clayhole Ridge, and on Sunshine Ridge. Populations have also been 
documented in Coconino County near the canyon rims of Marble Canyon, 
South Canyon, and North Canyon Wash in House Rock Valley. Searches for 
the Fickeisen plains cactus after 1987 have not located any additional 
populations despite the abundance of suitable habitat present (Hughes 
1996a, p. 47; Hughes 2011, pers. comm.).
    In 1986, the BLM established long-term monitoring at the Dutchman 
Draw, North Canyon Wash, Clayhole Ridge, and Sunshine Ridge populations 
(Hughes 1996a, p. 47). The monitoring plots were located in areas that 
contained the densest number of Fickeisen plains cacti and were easily 
accessible (Hughes 2009, p. 28; Hughes 2011, pers. comm.). The four 
plots were visited annually from 1986 to 2009, and from 2011 and 2012, 
to record information on abundance, reproduction (the percent of tagged 
plants flowering or fruiting), and mortality. Beginning in 1995, the 
BLM began recording recruitment (individuals 0 to 20 mm (0.78 in)) and, 
in 1998, recorded the number of missing or retracted plants. The BLM 
also classified plants into five size classes based on their measured 
width and recorded the information between 1987 and 1995. From 1997 to 
present, two size classes were used to reflect the juvenile (0 to 15 mm 
(0.6 in)) and adult (16 to 31 mm and greater (0.63 to 1.22 in)) size 
classes. The changes to the size classes prevent comparing the data 
among years; however, it does provide some information regarding the 
proportion of individuals in the small and larger size classes that can 
be used to describe the number of seedlings or juveniles versus aging, 
mature adults. In addition to the four plots, BLM established seven 
cluster plots: Navajo, Ward, Salaratus Draw 1, Salaratus Draw 2, 
Sunshine Ridge 2, Temple Trail, and Toquer Tank. Cluster plots consist 
of rebar centered among a small number of scattered individuals. These 
are visited once every 5 to 10 years for the purpose of recording 
presence/absence.
    Dutchman Draw--The Dutchman Draw plot is the largest plot, situated 
within tall, dense grass in Mainstreet Valley. Up until 1999, the 
number of Fickeisen plains cacti in the plot accounted for the majority 
of total plants (64 to 74 percent) reported from all Arizona Strip 
populations. Beginning in 1986, cacti numbers inside the plot increased 
from 21 individuals to a high of 219 plants in 1992. Also in 1986, 
there were 167 individuals counted outside the plot. These plants were 
not mentioned or included in subsequent monitoring reports, and their 
status is unknown. As of 2012, there were 5 plants observed in the plot 
(Hughes 2012, p. 1).
    From 1989 to 1992, the plot experienced its highest number of 
seedlings based on the number of plants recorded in the smallest size 
class. Only one other seedling was detected in 1994. Between 1997 and 
2005, the small and large size classes were relatively equal; however, 
after 2007, the larger size class showed an upward trend while a 
significant drop occurred in the smaller size class. This gap between 
the two size classes has continued through 2012, in which all of the 
individuals are mature adult plants.
    A total of 111 plants were reported as recruitment (e.g., plants 
with a diameter less than 20 mm (0.79 in)) since the BLM began tracking 
recruitment in 1994, with an average of 7 individuals per year; 94 
percent of those were reported from 1994 to 2004. Fruit production has 
been low within this population. On average, 44 percent of

[[Page 60632]]

tagged plants fruited in 6 of the 23 years this information was 
recorded. From 2001 to 2012, researchers reported 182 plants missing or 
retracted (average 35 plants per year). Mortality totaled 257 plants 
over a 15-year period from 1987 to 2012 with 144 of those occurring in 
the year 2000. The BLM stated that the 144 mortalities included tagged 
plants that were previously counted as retracted plants, but, because 
they had not been seen since the late nineties, they were assumed to be 
dead (Hughes 2000a, p. 2).
    In summary, the number of Fickeisen plains cacti within this plot 
has declined roughly 98 percent from the highest recorded count to the 
present (2012). Mortality and the number of plants missing or retracted 
have been higher than the number of new recruits. Although many plants 
are within reproductive age, little to no reproduction occurred in the 
years from 1998 to 2012. With only 5 plants located in 2012, we believe 
this plot will become extirpated in the near future.
    Clayhole Ridge--The Clayhole Ridge plot occurs on top of a 
limestone ridge (BLM 2007b, p. 67) in Clayhole Valley. Plant numbers in 
the plot have experienced several periods of increase followed by 
decreases between 1987 and 2012. The lowest number occurred in 1998 
with 16 individuals, and the numbers peaked in 2001 with 63 
individuals. Since 2001, plant numbers have declined by roughly 40 
percent with 38 plants occurring there as of 2012 (Hughes 2012, p. 1).
    From 1987 to 1995, 76 percent of the individuals found within this 
plot were greater than 20.1 mm (0.79 in) in diameter, while 9 percent 
were between 5 to 10 mm (0.2 to 0.39 in) in diameter. No seedlings were 
recorded during this time. The gap between the small and larger size 
classes has continued through 2012, with 84 percent of the individuals 
in the larger size class. Hughes (1996b, p. 17) attributed this 
division to the lack of intensive surveys for seedlings.
    This plot had the highest percent of cactus producing fruit, and in 
the most years, compared to the other plots. Fruit production occurred 
in 21 of the 23 years reported with an average of 36 percent of tagged 
cacti fruiting (with a range of 6 to 85 percent of tagged cacti 
fruiting) each year. A total of 36 plants (average of 2 per year) were 
recorded as recruits in 12 of the 17 years information was collected. A 
total of 41 mortalities occurred between 1988 and 2012, and 251 plants 
were reported missing or retracted from 1998 to 2009 (average of 21 
plants per year).
    In summary, abundance has varied in this plot but plant numbers 
have averaged about 38 annually. After reaching its highest number in 
2001, the plot has been in a downward trajectory since then, declining 
by 40 percent. Despite the majority of individuals fruiting and 
considering that larger individuals produced multiple fruit, 
recruitment has been poor. Mortalities, in combination with the number 
of plants missing or retracted, are substantially high compared to 
total abundance. The years between 2000 and 2001 are the exception, 
when plant numbers increased from 20 to 63. Reasons attributed for the 
sharp increase are unknown and do not appear to be correlated to 
weather. The average precipitation amounts for winter and spring of 
2000 was very dry (Hughes 2000a, p. 1) and the spring of 2001 was just 
below-average, which would suggest low plant numbers rather than an 
increase.
    Sunshine Ridge--The Sunshine Ridge plot is located along a 
ridgeline and downslope on a bench next to Toroweap Road (Hughes 1996b, 
p. 17). This plot has also experienced considerable variations in 
abundance. Monitoring began with 6 plants in 1986, and then numbers 
fluctuated eventually reaching a high of 44 in 1992 to none being 
observed in 2000, because they were either retracted or dead (Hughes 
2000a, p. 1; Hughes 2005a, pers. comm.), possibly in response to below-
average precipitation that year. Only four individuals were recorded in 
2012 (Hughes 2012, p. 2). The plot had two distinct periods of 
relatively high numbers: From 1990 to 1995, with an average of 35 
plants, and from 2005 to 2011, with an average of 29 plants. The worst 
years occurred in between these peaks for reasons unknown. The plot was 
vandalized in 1996, which may have contributed to the significant 
decline, although plants were not observed to have been damaged by the 
vandalism (Hughes 2005a, pers. comm.).
    From 1987 to 1995 in this plot, 77 percent of individuals were 
greater than 10.1 mm (0.40 in) in diameter, while only 2 seedlings were 
observed during that period. From 1997 through 2012, the majority of 
the plants were in the larger size class, which currently includes 75 
percent of individuals.
    Fruit production occurred in 10 of the 22 years, with an average of 
34 percent of tagged cacti fruiting (with a range of 16 to 79 percent 
of tagged cacti fruiting). A total of 26 individuals were reported as 
new recruits (average 1.7 per year) in 7 of the 17 years information 
was collected. Mortality from 1986 to 2012 totaled 43 plants, with 74 
percent of those occurring from 1989 to 1995. Despite low numbers of 
deaths, 73 plants were reported as missing or retracted (average of 7 
per year) from 1988 to 2012, with 89 percent of these reports occurring 
in the last 6 years.
    In summary, this plot has experienced wide fluctuations in numbers 
over the 24 years it was monitored. Reasons for the variability have 
not been investigated but can likely be attributed to large numbers of 
individuals reported missing or retracted and poor reproduction. 
Moreover, despite a third of the individuals fruiting on average, 
annually, only two seedlings have been documented over a 16-year 
period. Compared to the other plots where decreases are gradual, 
changes in abundance in this plot have been more abrupt. Thus, the 
status of the species in the plot appears to be unstable and trending 
toward decline.
    North Canyon--The North Canyon Plot occurs in House Rock Valley on 
two small hills near North Canyon wash. Plant numbers have also varied, 
but the reasons causing abundance to fluctuate have not been 
investigated. From 1986 to 1991, plant numbers increased from 14 to 36 
individuals then fell to 7 in 1992. The sharp decline was attributed to 
a high number of plants lost from rodent predation in 1992 (Tonne 2012, 
p. 17). Post-1992, plant numbers gradually increased to a high of 40 in 
2004 and 2005. As of 2012, there are 42 individuals in the plot (Hughes 
2012, p. 2).
    From 1987 to 1995, researchers found 85 percent of plants were 
greater than 10.1 mm (0.40 in) in diameter. No seedlings were found 
during these years. From 1997 through 2002, the size class distribution 
was relatively equal with 59 percent in the 0 to 15 mm (0.16 in) size 
class and 41 percent in the 16 to 30 mm (0.63 to 1.22 in) size class. 
After 2002, the size classes shifted to an average of 19 percent of 
plants in the smaller class and 81 percent in the larger class. As of 
2012, researchers found 74 percent of plants in the larger size class.
    Fruit production in this plot occurred in 11 of the 22 years 
reported, with an average of 35 percent tagged cacti fruiting annually 
(with a range of 8 to 64 percent of tagged cactus fruiting). 
Researchers found 35 new recruits (average of 2 plants per year) in 10 
of 17 years reported and a total of 37 mortalities, with 26 deaths 
occurring in 1992. A total of 76 plants were reported missing or 
retracted (about 5 plants per year); 62 percent of those occurred from 
2002 to 2005, when the plot also increased in numbers.

[[Page 60633]]

    In summary, it is unclear what is occurring in this plot as 
increased abundance has occurred at the same time of high mortality. In 
the last 7 years, it has maintained an average of 37 individuals (range 
32 to 42 cacti). During this time, fruiting occurred in 3 of the 7 
years followed by a total of 9 new recruits; no mortalities occurred, 
but 28 plants were reported as missing or retracted. Very few small 
plants were documented between 1986 and 1995. After 1997, the plot's 
size structure distribution is skewed toward larger individuals 
indicating it is dominated by aging adults, while smaller plants are 
either moving into the larger size class as they grow or are deceased, 
missing, or retracted. Despite the appearance that numbers are 
relatively stable, reproduction is poor. There is also little evidence 
of recruitment to the extent younger plants would offset the number of 
missing or retracted plants. All of this information suggests that the 
plot is trending toward decline in the near future.
    Cluster Plots--Information collected on the seven cluster plots was 
reported in BLM's 2001 annual monitoring report and is limited to count 
data (Roaque 2012, pers. comm.). The Navajo and Ward clusters plots are 
located in proximity to the Dutchman Draw population. In 1986, 
researchers found 4 plants at Navajo and 12 at Ward. Visits to these 
sites in 1993 reported zero plants in both plots. These sites were last 
visited in 2001, and 10 plants were found in each plot. No information 
describing the 1993 visit was provided in the monitoring report. 
Reported numbers for Salaratus Draw 1 and Salaratus Draw 2 were 5 and 
12, respectively, in 1986 (BLM 1986, p. 2) and 2 and 11 plants, 
respectively, in 1993. In 1994, the Service visited Salaratus Draw 
sites and counted 14 plants in Salaratus Draw I and 30 plants in 
Salaratus Draw II (Service 1995, p. 1). Both of these sites were last 
visited in 2001, and zero plants were reported (Roaque 2012, pers. 
comm.). We do not have locations of these sites, in relation to the 
others, on file. Because the BLM referred to these sites as simply 
Salaratus Draw in their 1986 annual monitoring report, we do the same 
in this document unless we need to differentiate the two sites for 
specific reasons. The Sunshine Ridge II cluster plot had 9 plants in 
1986 and 23 plants in 2001. The Temple Trail cluster plot had five 
plants in 1986, one plant in 1993, and seven plants in 2001.
    The Toquer Tank cluster plot was visited regularly from 1986 to 
1991. The reported number of plants found during that time ranged from 
8 in 1986, up to 13 in 1991, to 7 in 1994 (Table 2) (Roaque 2012, pers. 
comm.; AGFD 2011b, entire). Information from BLM's annual monitoring 
reports for the years 1995 through 2000 noted ``no observations'' for 
the Toquer Tank cluster plot but did not provide an explanation for 
what this meant. We do not know if this signifies that the cluster plot 
was not visited or whether a visit did occur but no Fickeisen plains 
cacti were observed at the time. Subsequently, the BLM no longer 
included Toquer Tank in their monitoring reports.
    Despite the confusion with Toquer Tank and the length of time since 
the Salaratus Draw cluster plots were last visited, we believe these 
areas may still be occupied by the species. When Hughes last visited 
Salaratus Draw I and II in 2001, he noted that both sites were very dry 
(Roaque 2012, pers. comm.) and plants may have been retracted at the 
time. Hughes further noted that the cluster plots are located in areas 
with dense grass in which the plants are difficult to find if they are 
not in bloom. We do not have any additional information to describe the 
conditions at the Toquer Tank cluster plot; however, a visit to the 
area is warranted. During the public comment period for the proposed 
rule, we requested any information about the status of the Fickeisen 
plains cactus at these three areas, specifically information to 
describe abundance, health, and age-class diversity of the plants. We 
also requested information describing the status of its habitat and any 
land use activities occurring within occupied areas. No additional 
information on the cactus at these sites was received.
    House Rock Valley--The Fickeisen plains cactus has been documented 
in three additional areas in House Rock Valley, excluding those at 
North Canyon wash. These areas have not been visited in more than 18 
years, and information about them is very limited. The Fickeisen plains 
cactus is documented at Beanhole Well, and along the rims of the 
Colorado River near Marble Canyon and South Canyon at the North Rim of 
the Grand Canyon National Park on BLM land. The Beanhole Well 
population is located just south of Highway 89A near the Vermillion 
Cliffs. This area has a small number of individuals, containing only 
three plants that were discovered in 1979 (Anderson and Gierisch 1979, 
p. 1; AGFD 2011b, entire). Field notes described the plants as healthy, 
scarce, and with several size classes present. The site had been 
revisited by Hughes, and while occupied habitat was observed, no plant 
numbers were reported to us (Calico 2012, pers. comm.).
    The Marble Canyon population was visited in 1979, and 8 plants were 
observed within a 100-by-100-m area (0.06-by-0.06-mi) (Phillips 1979, 
p. 3). No other information is known. The third is located near the 
canyon rim of South Canyon. A total of 41 plants among three occupied 
sites were observed in 1979 within a 1,000-by-200-m (0.62-by-0.12-mi) 
area. In 1987, researchers observed 52 plants there during a soil study 
(AGFD 2011b, entire). Travis (1987, p. 4) observed animal burrows in 
areas occupied by Fickeisen plains cactus at the South Canyon with 
individual cacti found in the disturbed ground. A monitoring plot was 
established from 1982 until 1989 with approximately 59 plants total 
(Phillips et al. 1982, p. 7; Phillips et al. 1990, p. 5). At the last 
reading in May of 1989, Phillips et al. (1990, p. 5) documented 50 
plants, 17 of which flowered and set fruit. However, many of the plants 
were found to be below the soil surface. A warm and dry winter in 1988 
to 1989 was attributed to the plot's poor recruitment and numerous 
retracted plants (Phillips et al. 1990, pp. 8-10). The plot was last 
visited in 1993 by Hughes (Roaque 2012, pers. comm.), who had observed 
several Fickeisen plains cacti but did not provide specific information 
on plant numbers.
    Due to the limited information available on these sites, and the 
fact that none have been visited in more than 18 years, we requested 
any information about the status of the Fickeisen plains cactus at this 
site during the public comment period for the proposed rule. We 
received no additional information on the cactus at these sites.
    Navajo Nation Lands--There are 15 known populations of the 
Fickeisen plains cactus on the Navajo Nation (NNHP 2011a, p. 1). Eleven 
populations contain fewer than 20 plants, while 3 and possibly 5 
populations contain only 2 to 3 individuals (Table 1). In 2009, 
researchers discovered a single population containing 314 plants. Only 
6 of the 15 populations have been visited more than one time by the 
Navajo Nation Heritage Program staff (NNHP 2011a, p. 1; Navajo Nation 
Department of Fish and Wildlife (NNDFW) 2012, pp. 8-9). Substantial 
decreases in plant numbers were recorded during the most recent visits 
to two of these occupied sites. At one population, the cause of the 
decline is unknown. The suspected cause of the decline in the second 
population is discussed below for Salt Trail Canyon. The other four 
populations appeared stable. Several of the occupied sites

[[Page 60634]]

consist of a few individuals. This is partly due to surveys occurring 
outside of the spring survey season, and the sites never having been 
revisited thereafter for a more intensive effort (NNDFW 2012, pp. 8-9). 
Some populations were surveyed in the spring, and plants were found in 
extremely low densities; the Salt Trail Canyon and Hellhole Bend 
populations are the exception with high density and large abundance of 
plants found. The Navajo Nation suspects that there are vast amounts of 
potential suitable habitat for the Fickeisen plains cactus on their 
land and additional occupied sites likely exist but have not been 
discovered (NNDFW 2012, pp. 8-9).
    Prior to 1991, the Fickeisen plains cactus was known at two to 
three sites along the south rim of the Little Colorado River from 
Cameron to Hellhole Bend. In the spring of 1991, a botanist with the 
Navajo Nation located a new population near Shinumo Altar and 
documented 21 Fickeisen plains cacti (NNHP 1994, p. 4). Surveys were 
conducted in 1993 and 1994. Those efforts located 280 Fickeisen plains 
cacti at 6 sites, including occupied sites discovered in 1991 (NNHP 
1994, p. 3). Re-surveys of known populations between 2004 and 2005 
resulted in only half of the 15 populations being located and 
substantially fewer plant numbers than those reported in 1994 (Roth 
2005, pers. comm.). In 2006, a monitoring plot was established at Salt 
Trail Canyon, one of the Navajo Nation's largest populations (Roth 
2007, p. 3). A monitoring plot was also established at Hellhole Bend in 
2012, but monitoring information for this plot is not yet available.
    With the exception of 2010, the Salt Trail Canyon plot has been 
monitored annually since 2006 to estimate trends and record 
reproductive efforts for the Fickeisen plains cactus. In 2006, 
researchers recorded 119 Fickeisen plains cacti. Plant numbers 
increased to 143 individuals in 2007, but this rise was primarily due 
to increased survey efforts that year (Roth 2008, p. 6). Since 2007, 
plant numbers have declined by 49 percent, with 70 plants relocated as 
of 2011 (NNHP 2011b, p. 2). In 2009, there were 101 cacti located in 
the monitoring plot, including 8 new plants. Thirty-one plants were 
either found dead or could not be located (NNHP 2011b, p. 2). In 2011, 
28 plants were found dead or were not located, with one new seedling 
observed (NNHP 2011b, p. 3). Of the remaining plants in the plot, their 
observed condition, mean diameter, and reproductive output declined. 
From 2006 to 2008, the majority of plants were rated in excellent 
condition. The number of plants rated fair or poor increased from 4 in 
2008, to 23 in 2009. These patterns may have been influenced by above-
average rainfall in 2005 and 2007, but below-average precipitation in 
2008 through 2010, on the Navajo Nation (NNHP 2011b, p. 3).
    The mean diameter of plants between 2008 and 2009 was 28 mm (1.10 
in). By 2011, the mean diameter declined by 5 mm (0.20 in) as a result 
of the cactus shrinking rather than a loss of plants in that size 
class. The plot has been dominated by the larger size classes with one 
percent of the plants recorded as seedlings. Reproductive structures 
observed in 2009 and 2011 were flower buds, flowers both at and past 
their peak, and aborted flower buds, an observation which was similar 
to phenological results in 2008. In general, reproductive effort in 
2009 was moderate, while, in 2011, it was extremely low compared to 
2008. In 2008, researchers observed 205 reproductive structures on 98 
plants, and attributed this to above-average rainfall in 2007, whereas 
2008 and 2010 had below-average rainfall (NNHP 2011b, p. 3).
    In summary, short-term results demonstrate a continued decline over 
the last 5 years. Mortality, combined with the number of plants missing 
between years, is higher than the number of smaller, young plants 
observed. In addition, the documented reproductive output appeared to 
be low in 2011 but variable in years prior, and was likely influenced 
by below-normal precipitation.
    Kaibab National Forest Lands--There were two areas on the North 
Kaibab Ranger District thought to be occupied by the Fickeisen plains 
cactus (USFS 2005, p. 148; AGFD 2011b, entire). One population is on 
the eastern Forest boundary at South Canyon near House Rock Valley and 
the Grand Canyon National Park. The South Canyon population was 
discovered in 2004 when a few individuals were observed (FWS files; 
Phillips 2013, pers. comm.). Information describing abundance, size 
classes, status, and distribution of the plants was unknown until it 
was revisited again in March 2013 (Hannemann 2013, pers. comm.). We now 
know the population consists of 62 plants distributed in several areas 
along the canyon rim. Plants of various size classes were found, 
including a few seedlings (diameter less than 1 mm (0.04 in)) and very 
large adults (diameter greater than 30 mm (1.18 in)). A monitoring site 
was established to collect detailed information on the status of the 
Fickeisen plains cactus in the near future.
    The second population was believed to be located near the western 
Forest boundary at Snake Gulch (Phillips 2012, entire; USFS 2013a, pp. 
44-46). Several areas in the vicinity of Snake Gulch were considered to 
be occupied by the Fickeisen plains cactus prior to 2013. An 
observation of a plant or plants was reported there following a 
botanical survey in the 1980s (AGFD 2011b, entire). However, searches 
for the plant in 2002 and 2003 during a section 7 consultation (USFS 
2004, p. 601) and again in 2013, failed to locate any individuals. 
Investigation into the 1980s field information revealed an error in the 
reporting of the original observation clarifying that Fickeisen plains 
cactus was never found at Snake Gulch. Although there is potential 
habitat that is suitable to support the cactus, the site is considered 
to be unoccupied.
    No Fickeisen plains cacti are known to occur on the Tusayan Ranger 
District. Habitat suitable to support the cactus was believed to exist 
in the Lower and Upper Basin areas but surveys were needed to verify 
any potential sites that could be occupied (USFS 2009, p. 72). A 
floristic survey was completed in 2013 on the Coconino Rim and Upper 
Basin (USFS 2013b, p. 1). The results of the survey determined that 
potentially suitable habitat in the Upper Basin was outside of the 
cactus' known elevational range. In addition, areas underlain by Kaibab 
limestone appear to be outside of the Tusayan Ranger District's 
boundary.
    State and Private Lands--A large population of the Fickeisen plains 
cactus was documented in 2006, near the rims of Cataract Canyon on 
Cataract and Espee Ranches, which are owned and managed by the Babbitt 
Ranches, LLC (Goodwin 2006, p. 7; Goodwin 2008, pp. 8-10; Goodwin 
2011a, pp. 1-9). These ranches are located on the Coconino Plateau 
south of the Grand Canyon National Park. The land within Cataract Ranch 
includes 18,210 ha (45,000 ac) of private land and 53,823 ha (133,000 
ac) of land leased from the State of Arizona (The Nature Conservancy 
(TNC) 2000, p. 4). On December 7, 2000, TNC acquired a conservation 
easement on 13,953 ha (34,480 ac) of the privately owned parcels (TNC 
2000, p. 22). In 2001, Coconino County acquired a separate conservation 
easement on an additional 2,590 ha (6,400 ac) of private land on 
Cataract Ranch. The deeded land forms a large contiguous block in the 
southern portion of Cataract Ranch, then is interspersed among numerous 
parcels of State land in the northern portion of the ranch (TNC 2000, 
p. 3). The Espee

[[Page 60635]]

Ranch is adjacent to the western boundary of the Cataract Ranch and 
includes State and private lands.
    From 2006 to 2011, Goodwin conducted a general floristic inventory 
on the Cataract Ranch and located 307 Fickeisen plains cacti at 37 
sites (2006, p. 7; Goodwin 2008, pp. 8-10; Goodwin 2011a, pp. 1-9). Of 
the 37 sites, 16 are on the conservation easement land. The number of 
plants recorded at each site was detected using a 5-10 minute visual 
search of the area (Goodwin 2011b, pers. comm.). In total, about 146 
Fickeisen plains cacti were located on private land, and 161 plants are 
on State land of the Cataract Ranch (Goodwin 2011a, pp. 18-20). Two 
mature plants were located on the Espee Ranch. Goodwin defined sites as 
physical breaks in the habitat separating one occupied area from 
another (Goodwin 2011b, pers. comm.). Occupied sites had an average of 
8.3 plants (range of 1 to 32 individuals) within a 0.10-ha (0.25-ac) or 
smaller sized area. About 30 percent (92 of 307 plants) of the plants 
observed were classified as immature plants that appear to be of less 
than reproductive age. The distribution of the plants appears to be 
loosely associated with the Cataract drainage. Most occupied areas 
occurred no farther than 3.22 to 4.83 km (2 to 3 mi) from the rim of 
the canyon and covered a 48-km (30-mi) linear area (Goodwin 2011a, p. 
7). No formal surveys or permanent monitoring plots have been 
established on the Cataract Ranch. No surveys are planned for the Espee 
Ranch, but it is likely that additional plants may occur there.
    On the eastern side of the Coconino Plateau, two small populations 
of the Fickeisen plains cactus have been documented near the community 
of Gray Mountain, which is north of the town of Flagstaff, on a mix of 
Federal, tribal, and private land. One population is located on private 
lands next to the boundary of the Navajo Nation and west of U.S. Route 
89. In 1984, four Fickeisen plains cacti were found near a sewage 
disposal pond. Researchers visited the area in 2013 to try and relocate 
the site where plants were originally found. No in-depth searches were 
conducted, but one plant in flower was relocated (Service 2013, p.1). 
The second population is located on the east side of U.S. Route 89 near 
Mays Wash on BLM and privately owned lands (AGFD 2011b, entire; Goodwin 
2012, pers. comm.). In 1981, researchers found 29 live and 4 dead 
Fickeisen plains cacti and established a monitoring plot in 1983 on BLM 
land (AGFD 2011b, entire) but we have no information describing those 
efforts or results. The area was last visited in 1984, and four plants 
were observed, three of which were in bloom.
    The Fickeisen plains cactus has also been documented to the west of 
the Babbitt Ranches on private land held in fee simple by the Navajo 
Nation (Chapman 2012, pers. comm.; Navajo Department of Justice 2012, 
p. 2). Plants, known only as a variety of Pediocactus peeblesianus, 
were first documented there in 1979. The occupied area was revisited in 
2006, and the plants were confirmed to be variety fickeiseniae (Goodwin 
2006, p. 5). Another visit to the area occurred in the spring of 2012, 
but no documentation describing the site visit or the status of the 
Fickeisen plains cactus is available (Goodwin 2012, pers. comm.; 
Hazelton 2012b, pers. comm.) The area is believed to have abundant 
habitat that is suitable for the Fickeisen plains cactus and likely 
supports additional, currently unknown plants (Chapman 2012, pers. 
comm. Goodwin 2012, pers. comm.). If additional Fickeisen plains cacti 
do exist here, it would expand the known range of the species.
    In summary, abundance and trend information on the Fickeisen plains 
cactus is limited to 6 populations totaling 466 individuals. We 
acknowledge that additional Fickeisen plains cacti may be present in 
the other 27 known populations and there may be additional populations 
within suitable habitat that has not yet been surveyed, but the status 
of those plants is unknown because these areas have not been visited 
regularly or visits have occurred once in more than 18 years. Of the 
six populations, five are being monitored. These five monitoring plots 
are within the largest populations on the Arizona Strip and one of the 
largest populations on the Navajo Nation. The BLM has been monitoring 
the Fickeisen plains cactus for nearly 26 years. Information obtained 
from their monitoring reports represents the majority of knowledge 
about the status of the taxon. Long-term monitoring results from the 
BLM show a 72 percent decline in plant numbers among the four monitored 
plots combined since 1992. The decline appears to be a result of higher 
rates of missing or retracted plants and mortality over several 
consecutive years in conjunction with low seedling recruitment. Adult 
plants, which produce more fruit and have a greater reproductive output 
than immature plants have been removed from the BLM populations and are 
not being replaced by new recruits even during favorable conditions. 
Short-term monitoring results from the Salt Trail Canyon monitoring 
plot on the Navajo Nation indicate plant numbers have declined by 49 
percent in the last 5 years. This population is also dominated by older 
adult individuals that appear to have low reproductive output based on 
aborted reproductive structures observed in 4 of the 5 years monitoring 
occurred, with high mortality compared to recruitment.
    Of these five monitored populations, the observed decline or 
absence in seedling recruitment and survival is difficult to attribute 
to a single cause; it is more likely associated with a combination of 
environmental factors that are acting together. The reproductive 
capacity for the Fickeisen plains cactus is considered to be naturally 
low (e.g., seed dormancy, low seed production, poor dispersal 
mechanisms, and slow growth), in which, introducing external factors 
that may place additional stress on the life-history characteristics of 
these populations may further inhibit population growth. Moreover, 
information from other species of Pediocactus suggests that the low 
recruitment being observed may be influenced by the young age of 
individuals, as well as other climatic factors. Because these five 
monitoring plots are located in large populations of the Fickeisen 
plains cacti but have demonstrated significant decreases in plant 
numbers, it is likely that the smaller, isolated populations whose 
status is unknown are also experiencing similar declines. The Fickeisen 
plains cactus in the Cataract Canyon population and South Canyon on the 
Kaibab National Forest are the exception. These occupied areas are the 
only locations showing relatively good age-class diversity (30 percent 
of the individuals on the Cataract Ranch is considered to be immature). 
The Kaibab National Forest will begin long-term monitoring in the 
future and collect detailed information to help our knowledge of the 
taxon. Until then, it is too early to draw conclusions about the status 
of plants at these locations. The Fickeisen plains cactus on the 
Cataract Ranch, however, benefits by the protection afforded to it from 
the conservation easement.
    Based on our review of the best available information on the 
species, the known numbers of the Fickeisen plains cactus have 
declined. The species will likely continue to decline for the reasons 
described below, as mature plants die and few seedlings are present to 
replace them. The viability of the five monitored populations has been 
reduced due to low recruitment and the loss of mature, reproductive 
plants. If the threats described below continue to affect these 
populations, the long-term

[[Page 60636]]

viability of the rangewide population may be compromised. We 
acknowledge that the observed declines are restricted to monitoring 
plots that may not accurately reflect rangewide trends. In addition, 
our inability to conclude with certainty that plants that have been 
recorded as missing or retracted are dead may mean that we have 
underestimated the decline. However, we conclude, based on the 
information analyzed, that the largest Fickeisen plains cactus 
populations have declined, and that recruitment is reduced or 
nonexistent.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Fickeisen Plains Cactus

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

    Based on the habitat characteristics described above, potential 
factors that may affect the habitat or range of the Fickeisen plains 
cactus are discussed in this section, including: (1) Livestock grazing; 
(2) nonnative, invasive species; (3) uranium mining; (4) road 
construction and maintenance; (5) ORV use and recreation; (6) 
commercial development; and (7) drought and climate change.
Livestock Grazing
    The habitat of the Fickeisen plains cactus has been grazed since 
the late 1800s, and continues to be used for grazing by cattle, 
domestic sheep, and feral horses. In general, livestock grazing may 
result in direct loss or damage to the Fickeisen plains cactus and the 
habitat that supports its persistence as a result of trampling, 
compacting soil, increasing erosion, losing the soil seed bank, 
introducing invasive species, and disturbing native pollinators 
(Klemmedson 1956, p. 137; Ellison 1960, p. 24; Fleischner 1994, entire; 
Trimble and Mendel 1995, pp. 234-240; Kearns et al. 1998, p. 90; 
DiTomaso 2000, p. 257). For the Fickeisen plains cactus, the risk of 
trampling is greatest when plants emerge above ground at the same time 
that cattle occupy the area. Given their small size and lack of hard 
spines, plants are vulnerable to being stepped on and may be killed or 
damaged as a result (Phillips and Phillips 1995, p. 6). During the wet 
winter months when rainfall is sufficient, water may collect in pockets 
of bedrock on the canyon rims, attracting livestock to these areas. 
Although most plants retract in winter, those plants whose crown sits 
above the surface are still vulnerable to trampling and risk damage to 
their meristem. Plants can also be dislodged by cattle as they wander 
through an occupied area. Increased grazing pressure can negatively 
impact Fickeisen plains cactus habitat. The soil where plants occur is 
shallow, sandy, and easily compactible, and may be covered by 
biological soil crusts, which are easily damaged by trampling (NRCS 
1997, p. 10; Evans and Johansen 1999, p. 185). Livestock concentrating 
within occupied areas can lead to soil compaction and erosion that may 
decrease the ability of the soil to store seed and support seedling 
establishment and may prevent plants from seasonally retracting 
underground (BLM 2007b, p. 74).
    Bureau of Land Management Lands--Livestock grazing has occurred on 
the Arizona Strip and within the habitat of the Fickeisen plains cactus 
since the mid-1800s (BLM 2007a, p. 3-123). Unregulated use of the 
rangeland between the late 1880s and early 1900s resulted in 
overgrazing and rangeland deterioration. The passage of the Taylor 
Grazing Act (43 U.S.C. 315) in 1934 led to grazing reform, the 
establishment of allotments, and designation of the kind and number of 
livestock and seasons-of-use regulations. Between the late 1950s and 
1980s, the BLM made further adjustments in livestock numbers and the 
season-of-use, and implemented regulated grazing systems and management 
plans. Compared to the 1900s, the current permitted level of grazing 
has been substantially reduced. The land and the vegetation community 
are slowly recovering with habitat improvements noted by the BLM over 
the last several decades. Although the Fickeisen plains cactus have 
persisted during past years of overgrazing, we do not have information 
to describe any historical effects grazing may have had to the plant.
    All habitat occupied by the Fickeisen plains cactus on the Arizona 
Strip occurs within active grazing allotments (BLM 2007b, p. 67). The 
Dutchman Draw plot is located in the Mainstreet Allotment and within a 
transitional pasture that is used in May for 2 to 4 weeks; the Clayhole 
Ridge plot is located within a single pasture of the White Pockets 
Allotment and has season-long grazing from mid-October to June; the 
Sunshine Ridge plot is within the Wildband pasture of the Wildband 
Allotment that is used from mid-June to September; and the North Canyon 
plot is within Rider Point pasture of the Soap Creek Allotment that has 
winter-spring use (Roaque 2011, pers. comm.). The Salaratus Draw 
population is in the Salaratus pasture that is used in the winter 
season. Plants in the Temple Trail cluster plot are in the Temple Trail 
Allotment, Beanhole Well plants are in the Beanhole Allotment, and 
Toquer Tank plants are in the Toquer Tank Allotment (BLM 2008a, 
Appendix C). We do not have information about the season of use for 
these allotments.
    The Beanhole, Soap Creek, Temple Trail, and Wildband Allotments are 
categorized as ``improve allotments.'' These are ``managed to improve 
resource conditions or conflicts and receive the highest priority for 
funding and management actions'' (BLM 2007a, p. 3-124). The Mainstreet, 
Toquer Tank, and White Pockets Allotments are managed as ``maintain 
allotments.'' These allotments are managed ``to maintain current 
satisfactory resource conditions and are actively managed to ensure 
that resource values do not decline'' (BLM 2007a, p. 3-124). The 
Mainstreet Allotment is managed under a best pasture system, which 
attempts to match cattle movements with variable precipitation patterns 
and seasonal forage production rather than strict rotational schedules 
(Howery et al. 2000, entire). Forage utilization levels for key species 
are authorized at the 50 percent average of the current years' growth 
(BLM 2007a, p. 3-125). Trend data for some allotments containing the 
Fickeisen plains cactus was recorded in various years between 1981 
through 2011 (Hughes 2012b, pp. 2-7). The information provided stated 
that the Twin Tanks Pasture in the Mainstreet Allotment, the Wildband 
Allotment, Toquer Allotment, and Soap Creek is ranked static and its 
condition is late seral in plant composition. Information regarding 
utilization indicates varying levels of grazing use across occupied 
habitat on the Arizona Strip (Service 1995, p. 1; Roaque 2011, pers. 
comm.).
    Impacts associated with livestock grazing have documented direct 
mortality to the Fickeisen plains cactus from trampling. Over a 17-year 
period, monitoring by the BLM detected 12 Fickeisen plains cacti killed 
from trampling. Three plants died at Clayhole Ridge following heavy 
spring rains. Hughes (1988, p. 2) documented cattle had congregated in 
the area of the Fickeisen plains cactus, and it appeared that 
considerable bull fighting occurred, resulting in disturbance to the 
plant and the soil. Seven plants died from trampling at Sunshine Ridge, 
including a large mature plant and five seedlings in 2001 (Hughes 2004, 
p. 2), and two plants died from trampling at Dutchman Draw (Hughes 
2000a, p. 2). In House Rock Valley, the risk of trampling to the 
Fickeisen plains cactus may be greatest during the wet winter months 
when rainfall is sufficient to provide water for cattle on the canyon 
rims and into

[[Page 60637]]

occupied habitat (Hughes 2001, pers. comm.). Because not all plants 
retract completely underground, directly stepping on the plant can 
damage the meristem and prevent flower production in the future.
    Evidence from other monitored Pediocactus species indicates that 
trampling can impact numerous plants and often results in direct 
mortality. For example, the BLM conducts similar monitoring for the 
Brady pincushion cactus as they do for the Fickeisen plains cactus. 
Over a 15-year period, demographic monitoring identified three 
incidences when plants had been stepped on or harmed by cattle. One 
account occurred in 2001 where Hughes (2001, pers. comm.) reported a 
Brady pincushion cactus with an intact seed pod had been stepped on but 
the plant appeared to have survived; the second account was in 1990 
when two plants were killed as a result of trampling. However, in 
response to the Service's concern for grazing impacts to the Brady 
pincushion cactus, the BLM established linear transects to determine 
livestock damage to the cactus along the rim of Marble Canyon (Service 
2001b, entire). The purpose of the damage transects were to capture 
data on mortality/damage effects on the plant that were being missed 
through demographic monitoring. During the 4 years transects were 
walked, the BLM recorded 18 Brady pincushion cacti stepped on by cattle 
(Hughes 2002, p. 5; Hughes 2004, p. 6; Hughes 2005b, p. 17; Hughes 
2012b, p. 1). Fifteen of those were reported as uninjured and three 
were killed, in which the soil was wet and hoofprints were deep in the 
soil thus pushing the plants into the ground resulting in mortality. 
Those plants found in shallow hoofprints were observed to be alive and 
bloomed or fruited (Hughes 2012b, p.1), noting that the timing of when 
cacti were stepped on coincided with their flowering period.
    Clark and Clark (2008, p. 3), monitoring the Pediocactus winkleri 
(Winkler pincushion cactus), found that 58 of 107 (54 percent) plants 
were stepped on directly by cattle over a 13-year period, with some 
plants stepped on more than once. Thirty-five of those plants died 
immediately from being trampled, while, of those that survived, 60 
percent eventually died within 4 years of their trampling injury. This 
provides some evidence that damage caused to plants from trampling may 
not be readily apparent immediately after the event. Thus, we 
anticipate that more Fickeisen plains cacti have been injured or died 
after being stepped on, either immediately or later in time, but the 
impacts are not being detected through the current monitoring methods 
used by the BLM (Service 2000, p. 2; Service 2007a, p. 8).
    In the House Rock Valley, the Fickeisen plains cactus occurs within 
the Kane Ranch on the Soap Creek Allotment (formerly the Cram 
Allotment). Historically and up until 1996, the BLM had identified the 
western half of the Cram Allotment as having a severe overgrazing 
problem. The North Canyon population occurred in the area heavily 
grazed (Hughes 2000b, p. 21). An October 1995 site visit to the Cram 
Allotment by Service staff reported that the number of cattle had been 
reduced from 150 head yearlong to 50 head in the winter-spring season 
due to the poor condition of the allotment (Service 1995, p. 1). During 
that same year, the BLM installed new water sources on the eastern half 
of the allotment and blocked water tanks from filling up on the western 
half. This was anticipated to reduce livestock use on the western half 
and help to alleviate grazing pressure within occupied Fickeisen plains 
cactus habitat (Hughes 2000b, p. 22). In 2003 to 2005, all livestock 
were removed from the Cram Allotment, now Soap Creek Allotment, and 
grazing ceased on the Kane Ranch for two years. During the period from 
2003 to 2005, the Fickeisen plains cactus in the North Canyon plot 
experienced the greatest increase in the number of plants observed in 
the plot since 1986.
    In 2005, the Grand Canyon Trust (GCT) and The Conservation Fund 
purchased the grazing lease for the Kane Ranch and currently maintain a 
reduced number of cattle on the allotment compared to previous levels 
(GCT 2011). They conducted an extensive ecological assessment to 
``provide a context for management and to establish a baseline for 
tracking changes and inform management'' (Sisk et al. 2010, pp. 45-47). 
They found that past heavy use of the range, in conjunction with arid 
conditions and drought, have resulted in degradation of the rangeland 
and slowed grassland regeneration. In order to improve the rangelands 
but also to discover if they could achieve a landscape-level grassland 
restoration and conservation within an active cattle ranch, the GCT 
began an experimental native cool-season grass reseeding project on the 
Kane Ranch in House Rock Valley. Preliminary results showed that 
seedling recruitment was low overall and small-scale disturbances to 
the soil associated with some of the different reseedling methods 
employed had the unintentional consequence of proliferating nonnative, 
invasive plants while decreasing soil stability. One method 
investigated the soil seedbank in response to cattle trampling; results 
showed little support that germination of native grass could be 
improved by this form of disturbance (Sisk et al. 2010, p. 58). 
However, if these efforts successfully achieve native grassland 
recovery in the long term, it would improve the quality of habitat that 
supports the Fickeisen plains cactus.
    In summary, the four monitored Fickeisen plains cactus populations 
on BLM lands are within active grazing allotments. The timing of when 
cattle are present within occupied Fickeisen plains cactus habitat 
varies among the 14 total populations, but corresponds to the periods 
when the plants are emergent and also when they flower and produce 
fruit. Direct mortality from trampling has resulted in the documented 
loss of 12 plants within the monitoring plots, but more plants have 
likely been affected. The extent of damage or mortality to the plants 
caused by livestock trampling is unknown. No comprehensive monitoring, 
designed to detect and measure the extent of damage or mortality has 
been conducted. Over time, losses to mature individuals or damage 
caused by trampling that prevents future reproduction will result in 
population declines of the Fickeisen plains cactus.
    The rangeland that supports habitat for the Fickeisen plains cactus 
experienced past overgrazing. Although current grazing levels are far 
reduced from historic levels, portions of the rangeland have been 
grazed during periods of drought and we have no information to suggest 
at present that grazing during a drought is at a reduced stocking rate. 
Information from the BLM and GCT suggests that the seasonal variation 
and changes in the timing of precipitation have resulted in slow 
recovery of the rangelands from historic overgrazing and heavy, winter 
grazing over the past few years. The effects from the culmination of 
past grazing levels with hot and dry climate conditions have likely 
diminished the quality of suitable habitat, particularly in the 
Sunshine Ridge and North Canyon Wash plots that are being managed to 
improve resource conditions or conflicts. Both of these plots have 
shown great fluctuations in plant numbers that may be correlated with 
habitat deterioration from livestock grazing coupled with climate 
conditions. In addition, cattle grazing in areas where the Fickeisen 
plains cactus is present and during times when the plant may already be 
stressed from drought may be contributing to the plant's poor or 
nonexistent germination

[[Page 60638]]

and recruitment. The Fickeisen plains cactus population in the North 
Canyon plot appeared to rebound during the period of time when the 
allotment was rested. Although the reasons for the increased numbers 
are unclear, the cactus may be sensitive to some level of ground 
disturbance. However, if the numbers of individuals within a population 
are too low--such as the Dutchman Draw plot--recovery may be very slow, 
or may not occur.
    Navajo Nation Lands--Livestock grazing on the Navajo Nation has 
occurred since the 1880s, primary by domestic sheep and cattle. 
Stocking rates and the impact of grazing on the landscape have varied 
over the years (NNHP 2011a, p. 2). Overgrazing was documented in the 
past (Libecap and Johnson 1980, pp. 71-75; Richmond and Baron 1989, 
entire) and remained problematic through the mid-1990s (High Country 
News (HCN) 1996, p. 2). We do not have information on the current 
grazing levels, but, similar to the BLM land, drought conditions have 
compounded rangeland recovery from past heavy use necessitating 
balancing rangeland capacity, family-owned herd sizes, and local 
economies (Redsteer et al. 2010, pp. 5-6, 11). Navajo Nation also 
supports an estimated 30,000 feral horses that contribute to and cause 
overgrazing problems (Navajo Times 2012). Attempts to control the feral 
horse population continue to be an ongoing issue on the Navajo Nation.
    Livestock grazing is managed by the District Grazing Committees, 
Farm Boards, and Eastern Navajo Land Board members. Oversight and 
technical assistance is provided by the Grazing Management Office under 
the Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture. In general, grazing 
permits are authorized year round on the west side of the Navajo 
Nation, while the Eastern Navajo authorizes seasonal permits for the 
mountainous areas (Hazelton 2012c, pers. comm.). Grazing permits are 
held by individuals for a certain number of animal units. The grazing 
permits are generally considered permanent and are inherited by the 
spouse or children within a family. Livestock rotation is at the 
discretion of the families that own the livestock.
    All areas occupied by the Fickeisen plains cactus on the Navajo 
Nation are potentially subjected to impacts associated with this 
grazing (NNHP 2011a, p. 1). However, monitoring has not been conducted 
in such a way to assess the overall impacts of grazing to the Fickeisen 
plains cactus and its habitat. Notes from the Navajo Nation Heritage 
Program pertaining to the 15 known Fickeisen plains cactus populations 
indicate some livestock impacts have been observed within the three 
largest populations (Hellhole Bend, Salt Trail Canyon, and Blue Spring) 
(NNHP 2011a, p. 4). Livestock impacts at Hellhole Bend and Blue Spring 
referred to the appearance of the range being heavily grazed, but no 
mortality or direct damage to the Fickeisen plains cactus from 
livestock was recorded at the time (NNHP 2013, p. 13). Hellhole Bend 
was visited in 2012. The habitat appeared to have been disturbed by 
feral horses and sheep. Some of the native vegetation within occupied 
habitat appeared to have been heavily grazed, likely attributable to 
animals seeking forage following a dry winter. Most of the Fickeisen 
plains cacti were retracted with some flushed with the soil surface. No 
impacts to the individuals were noted at that time (Robertson 2012, p. 
1).
    Livestock disturbance has been documented in the Salt Trail Canyon 
population. Damage by sheep was observed in 2005 (Roth 2007, p. 2) and 
again in 2008, with six livestock-related mortalities. Roth (2008, p. 
2) documented that the six dead plants were located within a depression 
in the ground that was believed to have been dug by sheep that bedded 
down on top of the plants. In 2011, monitoring of the plot found some 
evidence that the plot had been disturbed by an animal (i.e., one plant 
appeared to have been partly eaten), which may have contributed to the 
high mortality that year (NNHP 2011b, p. 4). An October 2011 site visit 
by the Service observed the habitat had been disturbed by feral horses 
and sheep concentrating in the area. We do not know at this time how 
frequently this site is used by feral horses or sheep or how long this 
site may be used by either of these animals. Other available 
information pertaining to livestock and the Fickeisen plains cactus was 
a documented observance of hoofprints of cattle and sheep near some 
individuals in the Shinumo area in 1991, but only one cactus was 
directly impacted. The cactus was lying in a hoofprint and partially 
uprooted (NNHP 1994, p. 5).
    Kaibab National Forest Lands--The South Canyon population is within 
the Grand Canyon National Game Preserve, now known as the Buffalo Ranch 
Management Area. Livestock grazing by cattle is not authorized in the 
management area, and thus no impacts to the Fickeisen plains cactus 
from cattle would occur. The Buffalo Ranch Management Area supports 
forage for a bison herd and other game species, which are managed by 
the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The bison are known to spend much 
of their time in the remote forested areas of the Kaibab Plateau. 
Researchers with the Kaibab National Forest did not observe any current 
use at South Canyon and no evidence that bison had been in areas where 
the Fickeisen plains cactus occurs. Because of the loose soils at this 
site, historic bison tracks or trailing would have been evident 
(Hannemann 2013, pers. comm.). Additionally, developed water for bison 
is over 4 km (2.4 mi) from occupied Fickeisen plains cactus habitat 
that would reduce the potential to attract bison or wildlife to the 
site where plants could potentially be trampled. No signs of 
disturbance were observed within occupied habitat in spring of 2013 due 
to the isolation of the area, and wildlife does not appear to pose a 
threat to the plants.
    State and Private Lands--The Cataract Canyon population is on an 
active cattle ranch that has been utilized for livestock grazing for 
well over 100 years. The management of livestock grazing by cattle and 
horses occurs within occupied Fickeisen plains cactus habitat on State 
and private lands. While the cattle operations are vital to the 
Cataract Ranch, livestock grazing is managed in a manner that is 
consistent with the philosophies, values, and conservation ethic of the 
Babbitt Ranches. For example, cattle operations are one component of 
the Cataract Ranch, but the Ranch and the other Babbitt Ranches are 
managed in a holistic manner that incorporates ecology (wildlife 
habitat, vegetation diversity, watershed health, historical 
preservation, cultural values, and recreation), the local and regional 
economies, and the local and regional human community (Babbitt Ranches 
2012, entire). Therefore, herd sizes are not adjusted in response to 
seasonal availability of water and forage due to drought but are 
managed together with rangeland health, watershed, and wildlife 
habitat. More specific to the Fickeisen plains cactus, Goodwin (2011a, 
p. 8) noted no habitat impacts from grazing in occupied habitat while 
conducting searches for the plant from 2006 to 2011. Additionally, a 
land assessment by TNC determined that much of Cataract Ranch remains 
in an undisturbed, natural state (TNC 2000, p. 1), and the general 
ecological conditions of the land are excellent (TNC 2011, p. 9). While 
the Fickeisen plains cactus remains vulnerable to being stepped on by 
cattle or horses, livestock grazing under the system used on Cataract 
Ranch is not a threat to the Fickeisen plains cactus and its habitat.
    In summary, the majority of habitat for the Fickeisen plains cactus 
occurs in areas that have been grazed and will

[[Page 60639]]

continue to be grazed in the future. Grazing on Navajo Nations lands is 
largely unregulated. Although current grazing pressures across the 
range of the Fickeisen plains cactus are far below the levels of the 
late 1800s, the rangelands are still recovering from this past heavy 
grazing in many areas of the range of the Fickeisen plains cactus. 
Continued grazing on the BLM and Navajo Nation during the prolonged 
drought in the late 1990s and local droughts in the 2000s has added to 
rangeland deterioration and changes to the vegetation community. While 
changes in seasonality, timing, and intensity of grazing have been 
implemented on the Arizona Strip to improve rangeland conditions from 
past use, the warmer and drier climate is compounding recovery of the 
grasslands that support habitat for the Fickeisen plains cactus.
    Long-term monitoring has documented direct mortality to the 
Fickeisen plains cactus from livestock grazing. More plants on the BLM 
lands have likely been killed or damaged from trampling, but for which 
the effects have not been captured during the monitoring period. While 
trampling occurs infrequently, it has removed adult individuals from 
the population and contributes to population declines exacerbating the 
effects of small population size (see Factor E. Other Natural or 
Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence section). We 
recognize that in some areas occupied by the Fickeisen plains cactus, 
livestock grazing in combination with other factors appears to be 
contributing to the decline of the cactus and low recruitment. In other 
occupied areas, livestock grazing and the Fickeisen plains cactus 
coexist and the populations have a diverse age-class and are 
reproducing. The differences between areas experiencing population 
declines and those with reproducing populations may be due to the 
intensity, timing, and other factors of livestock grazing management. 
Thus, livestock grazing, in and of itself, may not rise to a 
population-level threat for the Fickeisen plains cactus, but when 
combined with additional stressors such as drought and climate change, 
and rodent and rabbit predation (discussed below), the combined effect 
is producing population-level impacts to the Fickeisen plains cactus. 
Therefore, we conclude that livestock grazing, in conjunction with 
other factors, is a threat to the Fickeisen plains cactus and its 
habitat.
Nonnative, Invasive Plant Species
    A potential threat to the Fickeisen plains cactus and its habitat 
is nonnative, invasive species. The spread of nonnative, invasive 
species is considered the second largest threat to imperiled plants in 
the United States (Wilcove et al. 1998, pp. 608-609). Nonnative, 
invasive plants--specifically annuals--negatively affect native 
vegetation, including rare plants. One of the most substantial effects 
of nonnative plant invasion is the change in vegetation fuel properties 
that, in turn, alter fire frequency, intensity, extent, type, and 
seasonality (Menakis et al. 2003, pp. 282-283; Brooks et al. 2004, p. 
677; McKenzie et al. 2004, p. 898). The resulting unnaturally shortened 
fire-return intervals make it difficult for native plants to 
reestablish or compete with invasive plants (D'Antonio and Vitousek 
1992, p. 73). Invasive plants can also exclude native plants through 
competition for space, soil nutrients, moisture, and light, and by 
altering pollinator behaviors (D'Antonio and Vitousek 1992, pp. 74-75; 
DiTomaso 2000, p. 257; Traveset and Richardson 2006, pp. 211-213; Cane 
2011, pp. 27-32).
    Nonnative, invasive annual species have been identified as 
potential future threats to other Pediocactus species due to their 
ability to deplete available soil moisture, particularly during the 
early spring growing season, and causing the habitat to be at risk of a 
fire when the habitat is not historically fire adapted (USFWS 2007, p. 
5; Spence 2008, p. 5; USFWS 2008, pp. 13-14). Due to these concerns, 
nonnative, invasive species may also be a potential threat to the 
Fickeisen plains cactus and its habitat.
    On the Arizona Strip, the BLM identified 15 nonnative, invasive 
species which occur; five of these species are listed by the State of 
Arizona as noxious weeds (BLM 2007a, pp. 3-34; NRCS 2009, entire). 
These five are: Acroptilon repens (Russian knapweed), Alhagi maurorum 
(camelthorn), Centaureau diffusa (diffuse knapweed), Halogeton 
glomeratus (halogeton), and Onopordum acanthium (scotch thistle). In 
addition, the species Taeniatherum caput-medusae (medusahead) is a 
species of concern, and the species is moving into the region from the 
north and may occur on the Arizona Strip in the future. Three 
additional nonnative, invasive species that occur on the Arizona Strip 
include Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass), B. rubens (red brome), and 
Centaurea melitensis (Malta starthistle). With the exception of 
Medusahead, these nonnative, invasive species are also found on the 
Kaibab National Forest (USFS 2005, pp. 16-17). On the Navajo Nation, 
red brome and Erodium cicutarium (red filaree) have been observed in 
Fickeisen plains cactus habitat (Roth 2007, p. 2). Nonnative, invasive 
species found on the Coconino Plateau and which may occur within 
Fickeisen plains cactus habitat include cheatgrass and Salsola tragus 
(Russian thistle) (Thomas et al. 1998, p. 43).
    Cheatgrass is the most widespread nonnative, invasive annual within 
the range of the Fickeisen plains cactus followed by red brome and 
redstem filaree. Cheatgrass is an erect winter and spring annual grass 
from Europe and is a prolific seed producer. Red brome can dominate a 
landscape by emerging prior to native annuals in response to early 
season precipitation events (Salo 2004, p. 293). It is known to deplete 
soil water faster and at greater depths than native annual species 
(Brooks 2009, p. 118). If already present in the vegetative community, 
cheatgrass and red brome increase in abundance after a wildfire, 
increasing the risk for more frequent wildfires on the landscape 
(D'Antonio and Vitousek 1992, pp. 74-75). In addition, cheatgrass 
invades areas in response to surface disturbances (Hobbs and Huenneke 
1992, pp. 324-325, 329, 330), in which density is correlated with the 
availability of bare soil for germination, rather than the number of 
seeds produced (USFS 2005, p. 63). Additionally, livestock have been 
implicated in spreading nonnative, invasive species such as cheatgrass 
and red brome, although we do not know the extent to which livestock 
contribute to the spread of these two grasses. Both cheatgrass and red 
brome are likely to increase in quantity and distribution due to 
climate change (see ``Drought and Climate Change'' discussion, below) 
because these species increase biomass and seed production at elevated 
levels of carbon dioxide (Smith et al. 2000, pp. 80-81; Ziska et al. 
2005, p. 1328). Seeds of redstem filaree can also be prolific following 
wet winters and remain viable in the soil for years. Redstem filaree 
can rapidly form dense ground cover, crowding out native species, and 
competing with them for soil moisture and nutrients.
    We have very limited information on the distribution and density of 
cheatgrass, red brome, and redstem filaree in respect to Fickeisen 
plains cactus populations. The BLM identified general locations where 
noxious weeds are found on the Arizona Strip (BLM 2007a, Figure 3.12). 
Based on the identified areas, noxious weeds appear to be in the 
vicinity of, or within, Fickeisen plains cactus habitat, although the 
specific information identifying which species and their densities or 
abundance are unknown. In House Rock Valley, the GCT identified 34 
nonnative, invasive species during

[[Page 60640]]

their baseline ecological assessment of Kane Ranch, with cheatgrass 
being the most widely distributed (Sisk et al. 2012, p. 59). Sisk et 
al. (2012, pp. 61-63) developed a preliminary computer model of 
cheatgrass occurrence based on 606 random vegetation plots (baseline 
assessment plots) for the Kane and Two Mile Ranches in 2005. 
Preliminary results from the model predicted a low to moderate (25 to 
35 percent) probability of cheatgrass occurrence in occupied areas near 
North Canyon Wash and along Marble Canyon, but a high probability 
(greater than 65 percent) of a cheatgrass occurrence near the Beanhole 
Well population. There is a potential for cheatgrass to spread into 
Fickeisen plains cactus populations by means of a wildfire. There is 
also the potential of cheatgrass to facilitate or provide the right 
conditions for another nonnative, invasive species to thrive within 
Fickeisen plains cactus habitat and negatively impact the plant.
    On the Kaibab National Forest, cheatgrass was not observed in 
occupied Fickeisen plains cactus habitat at South Canyon. Small pockets 
of cheatgrass are located within a quarter mile from the rim of South 
Canyon with a potential for it to spread into occupied habitat if the 
area is burned from a wildfire in the future. However, there is minimal 
ground cover or low fuel load along the rim of South Canyon and little 
ground disturbance due to the isolation of the area. Therefore, the 
potential fire risk along the rim of South Canyon is considered to be 
low. If a wildfire were to ignite in the vicinity of the Fickeisen 
plains cactus and cheatgrass invades, then control measures would be 
taken to ensure cheatgrass does not move into occupied habitat.
    On the Navajo Nation, past and present botanists have expressed 
differing opinions on whether nonnative, invasive species are having an 
impact on the Fickeisen plains cactus. Roth (2005, p. 1) observed high 
densities of red brome and redstem filaree in Fickeisen plains cactus 
habitat during a wet spring season in 2005 in which she found more 
cacti in places with fewer nonnative, invasive plants. She hypothesized 
that low recruitment may be related in part to the invasion of red 
brome, cheatgrass, and redstem filaree. These nonnative, invasive 
species dominate the habitat during wet years (Roth 2008, p. 4; Roth 
2011, pers. comm.), but impacts on the germination and establishment of 
Fickeisen plains cactus seedlings are unclear and warrant more study. 
More recently, the Navajo Nation recognizes that redstem filaree and 
red brome become abundant in some parts of the cactus' range on the 
Nation during the spring growing season that is unusually wet. However, 
they feel no data currently supports a negative correlation between 
abundance of exotic annual species and declines in the Fickeisen plains 
cactus (NNDFW 2013, p. 14). The effects that red brome and redstem 
filaree may have on the cactus or the underlying mechanisms they may 
have within the native vegetation community or the cactus itself have 
not been investigated.
    The threat of fire from nonnative, invasive species may be 
localized to areas where the Fickeisen plains cactus is found in dense 
grasses, such as those populations in Mohave County (Mainstreet 
Valley). A range fire could easily impact or eliminate one or all 
populations in the Mainstreet Valley and Hurricane Cliffs area and 
degrade Fickeisen plains cactus habitat to the point that it will no 
longer be suitable for the plant. The loss of one of these populations 
and associated suitable habitat would be a significant loss to the 
plant when considering its small population size and wide but disjunct 
distribution. The Fickeisen plains cactus populations in Coconino 
County occur on canyon rims, terraces, or in gravelly soils with sparse 
vegetation, thereby occupying sites with a low fuel source. Lacking 
sufficient information on the distribution of nonnative, invasive 
species to areas occupied by the Fickeisen plains cactus, it is 
difficult to approximate the likelihood of the cactus being adversely 
affected by wildfires caused by litter derived from nonnative, invasive 
annuals. Due to its diminutive size, the Fickeisen plains cactus likely 
would be killed from a wildfire. Monitoring of the Kaibab plains cactus 
exposed to different fire intensities indicated high-intensity fires 
resulted in plant mortality (Warren et al. 1992, abstract). Evidence 
also suggests that invasion and dominance of cheatgrass following a 
past fire may have contributed to the decline or loss of some Kaibab 
plains cacti in the House Rock Valley (USFS 2007, p. 47), suggesting 
that fire could impact the Fickeisen plains cactus in a similar manner.
    We acknowledge the amount of peer-reviewed literature describing 
the negative effects nonnative, invasive species have on native plants, 
including rare plants. However, we do not have sufficient information 
that describes the direct and indirect effects cheatgrass, red brome, 
and redstem filaree have on the Fickeisen plains cactus or how their 
presence and distribution contribute to the decline in the Fickeisen 
plains cactus. The habitat of the Fickeisen plains cactus is not 
homogenous in that some populations are in dense grass where nonnative, 
invasive plants may be more prevalent or at risk to invasion while 
other populations are located in gravelly soil near canyon rims that 
have sparse vegetation. Moreover, while some of the Fickeisen plains 
cactus habitat may be more susceptible to impacts posed by nonnative, 
invasive grasses, few or none have been observed in occupied areas at 
South Canyon and on the Babbitt Ranches. As previously mentioned, 
little is known about nonnative, invasive species on the remaining 14 
populations on the Navajo Nation who manages for a large number of 
Fickeisen plains cacti. Cheatgrass and redstem filaree have been 
documented in contributing to the decline of other listed plant species 
indirectly. Indirect competition includes increase in litter 
accumulation that altered the soil condition and enabled other 
nonnative, invasive plants to invade and increased siltation, 
distribution of seed and loss of microphyltic plants (Rosentreter 1994, 
pp. 170-175).
    In summary, nonnative, invasive species such as cheatgrass, red 
brome, and redstem filaree grow rapidly and are prolific seed producers 
in wet years. At this time, we lack site-specific information on the 
abundance, density, and distribution of nonnative, invasive species in 
relation to Fickeisen plains cactus populations and evidence of the 
cactus being negatively affected by exotic species. Landowners also 
have conflicting opinions on whether nonnative, invasive species are 
impacting the cactus because of the direct lack of evidence, differing 
land management practices, and/or existing vegetation conditions. We 
know that, in general, they occur in varying densities within or near 
some Fickeisen plains cactus populations or within its habitat. We 
acknowledge that nonnative, invasive species are stressors on the 
landscape within the range of the Fickeisen plains cactus. Ample 
evidence documents the adverse effects cheatgrass, red brome, and 
redstem filaree pose to native species and native pollinators. With 
climate change, we anticipate that the density of these species will 
increase in the future and negatively impact the Fickeisen plains 
cactus, but we lack sufficient information that these nonnative, 
invasive species are contributing to the decline of the Fickeisen 
plains cactus either directly or indirectly. Additionally, we do not 
have information to find that high densities of cheatgrass, red brome, 
and redstem filaree would increase the risk of fire in Fickeisen plains 
cactus habitat

[[Page 60641]]

rangewide. Therefore, we conclude that nonnative, invasive species are 
not a threat to the Fickeisen plains cactus at this time.
Uranium Mining
    High-quality uranium ore deposits are found on the Arizona Strip 
and on the Coconino Plateau. Interest in the region's uranium deposits 
increased in 2008, as the price for uranium ore rose, and applications 
for new mining claims were sought on public lands surrounding the Grand 
Canyon. In response, the Secretary of the Interior signed Public Land 
Order Number 7787 (PLO 7787) effectively withdrawing 407,335 ha 
(1,006,545 ac) of Federal mineral estates within three parcels from any 
individual or company making a new mining claim under the Mining Law of 
1872 (30 U.S.C. 22 et seq.) for a 20-year period (BLM 2012a, pp. 1-4). 
Existing locatable mineral operations in the withdrawal area will 
continue to be managed under the current Federal land agency 
regulations.
    Notices of intent or plans of operations submitted after the 
effective date of the withdrawal for mineral exploration or development 
on BLM and National Forest System lands on claims pre-dating the 
withdrawal would not be able to proceed unless the mining claim was 
determined to be valid under the Mining Law of 1872 as of the date of 
the segregation from new mining claims (July 21, 2009). Sampling may 
still occur on claims pre-dating the withdrawal to support the mineral 
examination. In the event the claims are determined to be valid, mining 
activities could occur at some point in the future (BLM 2011a, p. 2-
14).
    There are two Fickeisen plains cactus populations in two parcels of 
the withdrawal area boundary. The North Canyon population and the South 
Canyon population on the Kaibab National Forest are in the East parcel; 
the Sunshine Ridge population is in the North parcel (BLM 2011a, Figure 
3-8.1). The mineral withdrawal essentially removed the potential for 
negative effects on the Fickeisen plains cactus and its habitat that 
would be associated with the location and development of new mining 
claims for the longevity of PLO 7787. If the development of existing 
valid mining claims in the East parcel were to proceed, we anticipate 
that the potential for adverse effects from development of a mine to 
the Fickeisen plains cactus along the North Canyon wash on the Arizona 
Strip would be low. This is primarily due to plants growing on 
limestone soils along ledges and canyon rims where mineral activity 
would not likely occur.
    On the Kaibab National Forest, lands in the Grand Canyon National 
Game Preserve were withdrawn from locatable mineral entry in 1906 when 
the Preserve was designated (BLM 2012a, p. 2; USFS 2013a, p. 48). The 
Grand Canyon National Game Preserve is available for saleable and 
leasable mineral development on a case-by-case basis where the purpose 
is consistent with the management of the Preserve. The Kaibab National 
Forest has proposed to implement a guideline in their revised Land and 
Resource Management Plan that use and occupancy should be restricted 
yearlong in areas supporting populations of threatened, endangered, and 
sensitive plant species (USFS 2013b, p. 2).
    On the North Parcel, there are six mines surrounding the Sunshine 
Ridge population (BLM 2011a, Figure 2.4-2). Two mines (Hack Canyon and 
Hermit mines) are located in close proximity to the Sunshine Ridge 
population but are currently in reclamation status and no impacts to 
the Fickeisen plain cactus are anticipated. Three mines (Arizona 1, 
Kanab North, and Pinenut) have an approved plan of operation and pre-
date the withdrawal. All three are located well outside of occupied 
Fickeisen plains cactus habitat. The Arizona 1 mine has been operating 
since late 2009 (BLM 2012b, p. 6), and no impacts to the plants have 
been documented by the BLM. It is expected to cease production and 
enter into reclamation in late 2013 (Florence 2013, pers. comm.). The 
Pinenut mine is scheduled to begin operations in 2013, but due to its 
distance from the Sunshine Ridge population, no impacts are 
anticipated. The Kanab North mine has started initial reclamation 
activities, which include removal of buildings or structures as of the 
summer of 2013 (Florence 2013, pers. comm.). The sixth mine, EZ Mine, 
is located to the west of the population. Development of the mine has 
not started and is not expected to happen until at least 2016 or 
longer.
    The potential direct and indirect effects to the Fickeisen plains 
cactus would be the loss, removal, or injury of plants and loss of 
habitat from the development of the mine but also habitat degradation 
or fragmentation from road construction, material transport, and new 
power lines (Payne et al. 2010, pp. 8-9; BLM 2011a, p. 2-15). The BLM, 
however, will complete a project-specific environmental analysis in the 
near future to develop a plan of operations (BLM 2011a, pp. 2-29--2-
30). We anticipate the opportunity to work with BLM and discuss any 
potential negative impacts that may occur from this mine on the 
Fickeisen plains cactus at that time. In addition, the North Parcel has 
seven breccia pipes that are confirmed to have uranium resources, and 
those uranium resources have been estimated (BLM 2011a, pp. 3-35--3-36; 
BLM 2012b, p. 7). Any mining claim containing these seven breccia pipes 
would be able to demonstrate valid existing rights and would be mined. 
If one of the claims were to be developed into a mine, the BLM would 
take measures to minimize impacts to the Fickeisen plains cactus, such 
as conducting preconstruction surveys to flag avoidance areas and 
minimize impacts to the species (BLM 2007b, pp. 74-76).
    Lands on the Arizona Strip that are outside of the withdrawal area 
boundary are open to uranium mineral development (BLM 2008a, pp. 1-20). 
Because the Fickeisen plains cactus occurs in small, isolated areas on 
particular soil types, small disturbances to the vegetation and soils 
may reduce suitable habitat; increase the erosion potential; enable 
invasion of nonnative, invasive plants; and increase the risk of 
mortality from clearing, crushing, or trampling associated with 
developing mining sites (Service 2007a, p. 90; BLM 2011a, p. 4-154). 
The BLM anticipates a very low likelihood that any such project would 
be proposed within the habitat of the Fickeisen plains cactus. If such 
a project is proposed, the BLM would take measures to minimize impacts 
to the Fickeisen plains cactus as described above (BLM 2007b, pp. 74-
76).
    On the Coconino Plateau, just south of the Grand Canyon National 
Park, there is a continued interest in uranium mining on State land. 
The company VANE Minerals holds mineral rights (or mineral interest to 
mine uranium) on a large number of properties that are spread over an 
area of approximately 16,187 sq km (6,250 sq mi) (VANE Minerals 2012) 
and that include occupied Fickeisen plains cactus habitat on State land 
within the Cataract Ranch. The company has completed surface drilling 
for their Wate Uranium Breccia Pipe--located 9 miles south of the Grand 
Canyon National Park and near the Hualapai Indian Reservation. The 
company is pursuing a mineral lease from the Arizona State Land 
Department for uranium exploitation of the Wate deposit and for 
preliminary efforts regarding development of the mine. No Fickeisen 
plains cactus has been documented in this general area; therefore, the 
plant would not be affected by development of a mine.
    Exploration drilling has been conducted for 12 additional uranium 
mineralized breccia pipes that are

[[Page 60642]]

located within 32 km (20 mi) of the Wate deposit (SRK Consulting 2011, 
p. 14-1). No mineral resources for these have been established as of 
2011, but if a uranium resource is confirmed, a potential exists for a 
mine to be developed. If that occurs and depending on location 
information, there is a potential for construction and operations to 
impact some Fickeisen plains cactus on State land within Cataract 
Ranch. Direct and indirect impacts would be the same as those 
identified for the Sunshine Ridge population. However, any development, 
including mining and associated roads from State land that would need 
to cross onto land in the Cataract Natural Reserve Land, would be 
prohibited.
    Additionally, the Arizona State Lands Department issued two mineral 
closure orders for land surrounding the rims of Cataract Canyon that 
total 65,644.72 acres (Williams 2013, pers. comm.). Closure order 551-
86/87 became effective December 30, 1986, by issuance of the State Land 
Commissioner. This order closes State trust land to mineral location 
and mineral prospecting permit application (mineral claim location, new 
mineral prospecting permit applications, and new mineral lease 
applications). Closure 251-2010/2011 became effective June 27, 2011, 
and closes State subsurface lands that were not included in the prior 
closure order. The 2010/2011 order closes State subsurface land to 
mineral claim location, new mineral exploration permit applications, 
and new mineral lease applications. Both orders do not close the land 
to renewal applications for exploration permits. They remain in effect 
until further order of the State Land commissioner. All of the known 
Fickeisen plains cacti on State land are located within the mineral 
closure order areas. Unless an interested applicant locates a mineral 
resource, we do not anticipate impacts to the Fickeisen plains cactus 
from mineral exploration as most of the techniques can be done without 
causing ground disturbances. If a mineral deposit is located, the 
applicant must apply for a mineral lease, which includes a pre-
construction Native Plant survey prior to any surface disturbance. The 
purpose of the Native Plant Survey is to calculate the compensation 
that must be paid to the State for the removal of specific cacti, 
succulents, trees, shrubs, and sub-shrubs, including ``highly 
safeguarded protected'' plants. If the Fickeisen plains cactus is 
within the construction area, the State would not deny a mine based on 
its presence or that of any listed plant. The State would likely write 
allowances into the mineral lease or mining company's reclamation plan 
to require preservation measures or mitigation for listed plant species 
(ASLD 2013). For all of this to happen, it would require the mineral 
closure order to be lifted and a discovery of a mineral resource. 
Because the 551-86/87 closure order has been in effect for over 25 
years, we anticipate that they will remain in effect in the near 
future.
    In summary, PLO 7787 effectively withdrew over 407,335 ha 
(1,006,545 ac) of federal mineral estates for a 20-year period; this 
action removes the immediate threat of habitat loss or degradation 
associated with development of new uranium mines to the Fickeisen 
plains cactus populations at Sunshine Ridge and in House Rock Valley. 
Populations on the North Kaibab Ranger District would not be impacted 
by mineral development as they are located in areas that were 
historically withdrawn from mineral location and entry. We acknowledge 
the possibilities that valid existing mining claims in the withdrawal 
area boundary could result in the development of a uranium mine in the 
future and result in adverse impacts to the Fickeisen plains cactus on 
BLM lands, though these two populations occur near canyon rims and are 
less likely to be adversely affected.
    For land on the Arizona Strip that is outside of the withdrawal 
boundary area, we anticipate a low probability that Fickeisen plains 
cactus populations would be impacted by future uranium development. If 
a mine were to be developed near occupied habitat, the BLM would 
implement avoidance measures to reduce or minimize impacts to the 
Fickeisen plains cactus, which we anticipate would be incorporated into 
their analyses for the development of the EZ Mine. On State land, the 
potential for uranium mining could result in direct mortality and loss 
of habitat within the Cataract Canyon population. However, most plants 
on State land are located in close proximity to the rim of Cataract 
Canyon and occur in areas included in the mineral closure order. As 
discussed above, these plants would not likely be affected by 
construction or development associated with uranium extraction. 
Additional protection to the plant is provided through the terms of the 
conservation easement on the private parcels, which prohibits any new 
development, including construction of any new roads or right-of-ways 
from State lands crossing onto private lands.
    Therefore, based on the best scientific and commercial data 
available, we do not anticipate that development of a uranium mine 
would rise to the level of significance and meaningfully impact the 
Fickeisen plains cactus and its habitat. Thus, we conclude that uranium 
mining is not a threat to the Fickeisen plains cactus or its habitat.
Road Construction and Road Maintenance
    Roads can destroy or modify habitat and increase human access that 
may lead to trampling (discussed below). Additionally, road 
construction can lead to increased erosion, and vehicle traffic on 
unimproved roads can result in increased atmospheric dust and dust 
deposition on vegetation. Road maintenance on U.S. Highway 64 near the 
Navajo Nation resulted in three Fickeisen plains cacti being salvaged 
from the existing right-of-way and a fourth cactus protected by fencing 
(Arizona Department of Transportation 1992, p. 1). Road maintenance 
also contributed to an unknown amount of habitat loss or disturbance, 
which was likely small in size.
    We analyzed road maintenance and considered it a potential threat 
to the Fickeisen plains cactus in the November 9, 2009, Candidate 
Notice of Review (74 FR 57804). On the Arizona Strip, the Fickeisen 
plains cactus occurs next to roads that receive routine maintenance. 
The cactus grows close to and, in some cases, in the middle of existing 
unpaved but well-maintained roads, making it highly vulnerable to 
becoming crushed or injured by motorized vehicles. Road maintenance 
activities had resulted in the mortality of a few individuals of the 
Fickeisen plains cactus on BLM land. These appear to have been isolated 
occurrences that happen infrequently and impacted a small number of 
individual plants. Future road construction associated with both 
uranium and urban development may impact plants that occur on non-BLM 
lands. However, future road construction is anticipated to be localized 
in time and space and would not rise to the level of becoming a 
significant threat to the Fickeisen plains cactus. Therefore, we do not 
consider road construction and road maintenance to be a threat to the 
Fickeisen plains cactus.
Off-Road Vehicle Use and Recreation
    Off-road vehicles are a means of transportation and a form of 
recreation in the range of the Fickeisen plains cactus. On the Arizona 
Strip, the BLM limits motorized and mechanized vehicle use within 
Fickeisen plains cactus habitat to existing routes and trails. However, 
motorized vehicles may pull off a designated route up to 30.5 m

[[Page 60643]]

(100 ft) on either side of the centerline to camp. There is the 
potential for vehicles to injure or kill a Fickeisen plains cactus and 
impact its habitat by pulling off the roadway to park or turn around 
(BLM 2007b, p. 75). Plants growing along the Navajo Trail near 
Mainstreet Valley have been affected by drivers pulling off designated 
routes in the past (Hughes 2005, pers. comm.). Disturbance from ORV use 
associated with unauthorized camping was documented in House Rock 
Valley, where a driver drove off-road toward the canyon rim near the 
South Canyon population (Service 2007b, p. 1). These are the two 
documented reports that we have of the Fickeisen plains cactus being 
impacted by ORV use on BLM lands since 2005. In reviewing the BLM's 
monitoring reports, there were no documented mortalities of Fickeisen 
plains cactus associated with ORV use over the 23 years the plant was 
monitored.
    Most of the Fickeisen plains cactus habitat on the Navajo Nation is 
accessible by dirt two-track roads. Although traffic in these areas is 
light and there is an extensive network of existing dirt roads, new 
roads are continually being created, presumably by locals herding 
livestock (NNHP 2011a, p. 1). No plants have reportedly been impacted, 
but there is potential for habitat degradation as a result. In 
addition, 9 of the known 15 populations are located along the scenic 
canyon rims of Marble Canyon and the Little Colorado River gorge, where 
tourist traffic is concentrated. Car tires and foot traffic have been 
documented as damaging the Fickeisen plains cactus at some of these 
sites (NNHP 1994, p. 5; NNHP 2011a, p. 1). These impacts are likely to 
increase in the future as there are future plans to develop tourist 
activities on Navajo land near Marble Canyon and the Little Colorado 
River gorge (NNHP 2011a, p. 1).
    On the Cataract Ranch, increased recreation, primarily associated 
with hunting, has been observed since 2006. Hunting practices often 
rely on the use of ORVs to retrieve wildlife and access camp sites. 
However, no impacts to the Fickeisen plains cactus related to 
recreational activities or ORV use have been observed while conducting 
searches for the plant on the Cataract Ranch (Goodwin 2011a, p. 8).
    In summary, the habitat of the Fickeisen plains cactus is mostly 
open with flat topography. With most plants growing along scenic canyon 
rims, there is an increased risk of plants being destroyed or damaged 
by vehicles driving off-road for recreational purposes. We identified 
ORV use as a potential threat to the Fickeisen plains cactus in our 
annual assessment for candidate species (most recently at 75 FR 69222, 
November 10, 2012). At this time, however, we cannot quantify the 
extent of ORV use impacts on the taxon or its habitat, but they 
continue at some unknown level. Most documented occurrences happened in 
the past and were isolated occurrences. ORV use may become a threat to 
the Fickeisen plains cactus in the future, but, at this time, we do not 
consider it to be a threat to the plant or its habitat.
Commercial Development
    The Navajo Nation is currently interested in developing its land 
along the canyon rims of Marble Canyon and the Little Colorado River 
gorge to increase tourism and create more jobs that would boost their 
local economy (NNHP 2011a, p. 1; Navajo-Hopi Observer 2012). The Navajo 
Nation President recently signed a nonbinding agreement with a local 
Arizona developer that lists a resort hotel and spa, restaurant, half-
mile river walk, and recreational vehicle park among the attractions 
that would enable tourists to easily descend into the Grand Canyon. 
While we do not have specific information about these plans, 
development along the rim of the Little Colorado River has the 
potential to impact the Salt Trail Canyon population located nearby. 
Trampling of plants by people and loss of plants and habitat to make 
way for development are both of concern. Available information suggests 
that plans for the proposed development have not begun (NNHP 2011a, p. 
1) and may still be in the early design phase.
    The Salt Trail Canyon is a known recreational site located to the 
north of areas occupied by the Fickeisen plains cactus. Aside from use 
by hikers, the area is used by Federal and State agencies as a point of 
entry to conduct native fish surveys in the Little Colorado River. 
Overall use of the area appears to be minimal, and no recreational 
impacts to the Fickeisen plains cactus have been observed.
    A popular tourist destination that has existed for many years 
occurs within occupied Fickeisen plains cactus habitat that is adjacent 
to a Little Colorado River overlook. This population was last visited 
in 1997, and contained 15 plants distributed among 2 ridges (NNHP 
2011a, p. 4). The Navajo Nation Heritage Program identified abundant 
foot traffic within occupied habitat as a threat to the Fickeisen 
plains cactus located there. Although the tourism at this site will 
continue in the future, most foot traffic is confined to paved 
sidewalks leading toward the canyon rim and outside of occupied 
habitat. An additional area occupied by the Fickeisen plains cactus 
occurs east of the overlook area that is also well known among plant 
enthusiasts and, consequently, is frequently visited (NNHP 1994, p. 5). 
This population was last visited in 1999, and one individual was 
located (Table 1). The timing of the visit was outside of the flowering 
season, making it difficult to locate plants (NNHP 2011a, p. 4). Both 
of these areas are easily accessible from the highway and receive a 
large number of visitors. Trampling of plants and habitat disturbance 
associated with tourism may increase in the future simply due to the 
popularity of this site and the accessibility of plants next to the 
highway. Although habitat disturbances to the Fickeisen plains cactus 
have occurred here in the past and may be occurring presently, we have 
no information to be able to quantify this threat.
    Human development could expand into or next to the Fickeisen plains 
cactus habitat on the Navajo Nation. A land dispute between the Navajo 
and Hopi Tribes resulted in the implementation of a construction ban in 
1966 that limited development (Maxx 2012, p. 2). That ban was lifted in 
2009, but no development has occurred due to the poor economy. The land 
has remained mostly undeveloped, but the ability to construct new homes 
or make improvements provides tribal members access to areas previously 
restricted. If this occurs, we do not anticipate the Fickeisen plains 
cactus to be significantly impacted because new home locations would 
not be near the canyon rim where the plant occurs. Additionally, the 
Fickeisen plains cactus is listed as a Group 3 species on the Navajo 
Endangered Species List, which is a species or subspecies whose 
prospects of survival or recruitment are likely to be in jeopardy in 
the near future (NNDFW 2008, entire). Its listed status on Tribal land, 
in addition to the location of the Salt Trail Canyon population within 
an area designated as a Preserve, would likely reduce or minimize 
impacts to the population (see Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing 
Regulatory Mechanisms, below).
    In addition to urban development, some of the land surrounding the 
town of Gray Mountain is currently opened to oil and gas leasing. The 
BLM proposes to lease, through competitive lease sale, four parcels 
that total 3,596 ha (8.887 ac) of split estate lands for the purpose of 
oil and gas exploration and development. The parcels are located on 
both sides of Highway 89 and include 3,343 ha (8,263 ac) of surface 
lands

[[Page 60644]]

administered by the State of Arizona, and 252 ha (624 ac) of private 
holdings. The lease sale allows private individuals or companies to 
explore for and potentially develop oil and gas resources for sale on 
public markets. The Arizona State Office has received an Expression of 
Interest from an exploration company for consideration of competitive 
oil and gas lease sale (BLM 2013a, pp. 1-41). Some of the parcels that 
will be offered for lease sale occur on limestone soils that are 
suitable to support the Fickeisen plains cactus. A few scattered plants 
are known to occur nearby these parcels but the entire area has not 
been searched to confirm occupancy. Several requirements would have to 
be met prior to any oil and gas development. For instance, parcels that 
are located to the southeast of Highway 89 lack any access roads. 
Therefore, if a mineral resource was identified, the project proponent 
would be responsible for securing a right-of-way from the State and/or 
private landowners. The BLM has published an Environmental Assessment 
indicating no significant impacts from the leasing decision (BLM 2013b, 
pp.1-44). At this time, it would be too speculative to assess what 
impacts would occur to the Fickeisen plains cactus. Any future 
development of the lease would be analyzed by the BLM at the time of 
the site-specific Application for Permit to Drill. The BLM would be 
required to enter into a section 7 consultation if actions they 
authorize, permit, or carry out adversely affect a listed species.
    In summary, commercial development for urban development and 
mineral development is planned within the range of the Fickeisen plains 
cactus. Commercial development associated with tourism activities has 
impacted Fickeisen plains cactus habitat. Impacts to occupied habitat 
near the Little Colorado River overlook were documented in the past and 
are ongoing. This population is small and would benefit from a current 
site visit. Plans for future commercial development near Marble Canyon 
and the Little Colorado River gorge may substantially impact the Salt 
Trail Canyon population through potential habitat loss or disturbance. 
Areas occupied at Salt Trail Canyon support one of the larger number of 
Fickeisen plains cactus on the Navajo Nation and rangewide. Losses of 
individuals at Salt Trail Canyon would result in further declines to 
the rangewide population. However, the protected status of the 
Fickeisen plains cactus on the Navajo Nation Endangered Species List 
and its occurrence within a designated Preserve would serve to minimize 
or reduce potential impacts from future commercial development. In 
addition, we do not have any information to indicate whether plans to 
develop commercial properties will occur in the future. Therefore, the 
threat of commercial development is not impending, and we do not 
consider this a threat at this time or within the near future.
Drought and Climate Change
    For background information, please refer to the first paragraph of 
the ``Drought and Climate Change'' discussion under Factor A. The 
Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of its 
Habitat or Range in the Summary of Factors Affecting the Acu[ntilde]a 
Cactus. As previously discussed, the Fickeisen plains cactus is an 
endemic species that exists in isolated, small populations. In 
addition, the Fickeisen plains cactus is restricted to very specific 
geologic formations. Global climate change exacerbates the risk of 
extinction for species that are already vulnerable due to low 
population numbers and restricted habitat requirements. Predicted 
changes in climatic conditions include increases in temperature, 
decreases in rainfall, and increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide in 
the American Southwest (Easterling et al. 2000, pp. 2072-2073; IPCC 
2007, p. 48; Archer and Predick 2008, pp. 23-24; Karl et al. 2009, p. 
129). Although we have no information on how the Fickeisen plains 
cactus will respond to effects related to climate change, persistent or 
prolonged drought conditions are likely to reduce the frequency and 
duration of flowering and germination events; lower the recruitment of 
individual plants; compromise the viability of populations; and impact 
pollinator availability, as pollinators have been documented to become 
locally extinct during periods of drought (Memmott et al. 2007, pp. 
713-715). The smallest change in environmental factors, especially 
precipitation, plays a decisive role in plant survival in arid regions 
(Jordan and Nobel 1981, pp. 904-905; Nobel 1984, pp. 310, 316).
    In the last 30 years, the Colorado Plateau has experienced a 0.2 to 
0.5 [deg]C (0.36 to 0.9[emsp14][deg]F) increase in average temperature, 
particularly in average fall-winter temperatures (Schwinning et al. 
2008, p. 4). Future climate projections forecast increases in both the 
average and extreme temperatures that are expected to result in less 
available soil moisture for plants (Schwinning et al. 2008, p. 4). In 
addition, the Colorado Plateau may be shifting toward a climate of 
reduced winter precipitation over the next 20 to 30 years. Winter 
accumulation, which recharges the soil moisture needed for spring 
vegetative growth, was below average in 11 years from 1996 to 2007. 
Similarly, spring precipitation was below average in 8 years from 1996 
to 2006 (Hereford 2007, p. 6). By 2090, precipitation is predicted to 
decline by as much as 5 percent across the Colorado Plateau, placing 
greater stress on native plants and resulting in a greater 
susceptibility of existing ecosystems to be replaced by nonnative, 
invasive plant species (BLM 2011b, entire).
    The Fickeisen plains cactus is adapted to the semi-arid climate of 
the Colorado Plateau by retracting underground in response to dry and 
cold climatic conditions. Weather patterns, timing of precipitation, 
and cool nighttime low temperatures influence germination and seedling 
establishment of the Fickeisen plains cactus (Brack 2012, pers. comm.). 
If climate patterns move toward more aridity, the reproductive output 
of the Fickeisen plains cactus may be reduced. Increases in summer 
temperatures may lead to longer periods of time that the plant remains 
retracted underground, and temperatures may rise to a level that is 
beyond the plants' natural threshold for survival. Studies on cacti 
seedling survival have shown that seedlings are able to survive long 
periods of drought when they are larger and have the capacity to store 
enough water to endure their first dry season (Nobel 1984, p. 316). 
Seedlings of the Fickeisen plains cactus have been observed under 
mature plants, which act as nurse plants; the shading provided by a 
parent or nurse rock may increase their survival (NNHP 1994, p. 4). 
Increases in soil temperatures, however, coupled with below-average 
precipitation, may increase seedling mortality.
    A study published in 2012 modeled the species' distribution of 
endemic plants on the Colorado Plateau (Krause and Pennington 2012, 
entire). It identified limiting factors that define the habitat needs 
of the species and the top-five predictor variables that influence 
their distribution. In level of importance, the model included the 
Fickeisen plains cactus' and ranked the minimum temperature of the 
coldest month second, precipitation of driest quarter third, and 
isothermality fourth in predicting Fickeisen plains cactus distribution 
(Krause and Pennington 2012, p. 140). Of emphasis was the variable 
isothermality, the mean day-to-night temperature range compared to

[[Page 60645]]

the annual temperature range, in predicting endemism on the Colorado 
Plateau. As nighttime low temperatures during the winter season are 
predicted to increase, isothermality or the reduction in daily 
temperature variance may hinder seedling germination for the Fickeisen 
plains cactus for reasons discussed above.
    On BLM lands, observed trend information from the four monitoring 
plots appear to correlate with changes in climate patterns. Increases 
in plant numbers and observed seedlings were documented between 1986 
and roughly 1992. These years were characterized as a wet period where 
the annual precipitation was above the regional median on the Colorado 
Plateau (United States Geological Survey 2002, p. 2). After 1992 
through approximately 2005, when the region experienced a prolonged 
drought, the Fickeisen plains cactus among the plots experienced 
variable decreases in plant numbers. Monitoring of the Fickeisen plains 
cactus during years with below-average precipitation documented low 
recruitment, increased rodent predation, and an increase in the number 
of plants retracted or missing (Hughes 1988, p. 1; Hughes 1996c, p. 1; 
Roaque 2012, pers. comm.). In total, 817 plants were recorded as 
missing or retracted over the 13 years when this parameter was 
recorded. The years with the highest number of missing plants were from 
1999 to 2007, the time period that corresponds to the drought in the 
Southwest. We do not believe all 817 missing plants are attributed 
solely to drought, but drought is likely a significant contributing 
factor to the observed decline in the number of individuals among 
Fickeisen plains cactus populations.
    The Navajo Nation is in one of the driest areas in the southwest. 
About 45 percent of all annual precipitation occurs during the warmer 
months of July through September. Climate data are variable on the 
reservation, but long-term information shows a drying trend has 
occurred since 1944, and a warming trend has occurred since the mid-
1970s (Navajo Times 2011). The drought in the Four Corners region was 
officially recorded from 1999 to 2009, although many residents believe 
it began in 1996, which would make it the longest drought in Navajo 
history. The effects of the last drought have been particularly extreme 
on the Navajo population. For example, from 2001 to 2002, Navajo 
officials reported 30,000 cattle mortalities from lack of water and 
forage. Many traditional people on the reservation live in subsistence 
lifestyles. Over half of the population lives without indoor plumbing 
and are dependent on hauling water. Their water supplies are derived 
from shallow aquifers and are sensitive to dry conditions. When 
availability is low, families often use water supplies intended for 
livestock (Redsteer et al. 2010, p. 2).
    In interviews with 50 tribal elders, Redsteer et al. (2010, p. 7) 
summarized the most common observations regarding drought: (1) Long-
term decreases in the amount of annual snowfall over the past century; 
(2) decline in surface water features and water availability; (3) 
disappearance of springs and of plant and animal populations; and (4) 
changes in the frequency of wind, sand, and dust storms. These have 
been corroborated with other findings. Weiss et al. (2009, p. 5923) 
found that a significant increase in evapotranspiration occurred during 
the warmer months of the 2000s drought due to higher temperatures. 
Above-average spring temperatures are likely linked to a decrease in 
the amount of new growth among plants. It has been suggested that 
warmer spring temperatures could lead to early germination. Plants 
respond by ending dormancy and begin using available soil moisture 
earlier and more quickly in the season. Then, they must survive longer 
dry periods before the start of the monsoons (Redsteer et al. 2010, p. 
7).
    Seasonal increases in temperature and changes in the timing of 
precipitation have likely influenced the observed 49 percent decline in 
the Salt Trail Canyon population. The observed low recruitment, high 
number of plants missing between years, and mortality can thus be 
partly attributed to the drought (NNHP 2011b, pp. 4-5). Corresponding 
with regional climate patterns, annual precipitation during the 
monitoring period was below average for each year except for 2007. 
Winter precipitation was uncommonly high during 2005, the year before 
the monitoring plots were installed, and in 2010, the year that the 
plots were not monitored. While several winter storms came through the 
region, total rainfall accumulation was still below average during the 
2011 monitoring period. Many of the plants that could not be located in 
2011 were assumed dead because their vigor during previous surveys was 
rated as ``poor'' in 2009 (NNHP 2011b, p. 3). Some of these plants may 
have been retracted at the time. However, many plants observed between 
2008 and 2011 failed to produce fruit or flower, and fruit buds were 
observed to be aborted. This suggests low seed production, which would 
cause a decline in overall abundance over time.
    In summary, the climate on the Colorado Plateau and Navajo Nation 
is predicted to become warmer with reduced precipitation in the future. 
We have strong evidence to suggest that the Fickeisen plains cactus is 
being impacted by drought coupled with increased annual temperatures. 
We believe that the high number of dead and missing or retracted plants 
in all plots monitored is influenced by below-average winter or spring 
precipitation at the time when plants need soil moisture to flower. 
Poor reproduction in the Fickeisen plains cactus is likely to worsen in 
the future if climatic patterns shift toward becoming more arid with 
increased winter nighttime temperatures. With climatic models 
predicting future regional droughts, it is likely that all populations 
of the Fickeisen plains cactus will continue to be affected by drought 
and climate change. However, it is not clear if drought or climate 
change, of themselves, present population-level threats of extinction. 
It appears that drought and climate change in combination with rodent 
predation (see Factor C. Disease or Predation, below), as a combined 
effect, is the more likely scenario for population-level impacts to the 
plant. Additionally, the small and declining populations of the 
Fickeisen plains cactus make the species susceptible to natural 
environmental variability, including climate conditions. Therefore, 
based on our review of the best scientific and commercial data 
available, we conclude that the effects of climate change and drought 
are threats that have significant impacts to the Fickeisen plains 
cactus and its habitat.
Summary of Factor A
    Based on our review of the best scientific and commercial data 
available, we conclude that fire associated with nonnative, invasive 
plant species; uranium mining; road construction and road maintenance; 
ORV use; and commercial development are not threats to the Fickeisen 
plains cactus and its habitat. We conclude that direct loss of plants 
and habitat loss and modification due to the direct and indirect 
effects of livestock grazing and drought and climate change are threats 
to the Fickeisen plains cactus. These threats, in and of themselves, 
may not result in significant population-level impacts to the Fickeisen 
plains cactus. However, the above factors appear to be acting 
synergistically, placing a major stress on the known plants monitored 
rangewide with little indication of

[[Page 60646]]

population growth and age-class diversity. The populations for which we 
do not have reliable and current information on their status are likely 
in decline. These populations are also being impacted by drought and 
are also susceptible to the same level of threats as the monitored 
populations. Thus, the combined effects of each threat elevate the 
intensity and scope of impacts to the Fickeisen plains cactus and its 
habitat to where these threats are significant over time. Therefore, 
based on our review of the available information, we conclude that the 
present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the 
Fickeisen plains cactus habitat or range is a threat to the species.

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

    Unauthorized collection is a potential threat for all species of 
cacti, but it is a specific and definite threat for the genus 
Pediocactus. Their small size, large attractive flower, and rarity make 
Pediocactus species in general highly sought by collectors, growers, or 
gardens (Benson 1982, p. 243). Pediocactus are difficult to grow and 
maintain in cultivation. As plants grown in backyard gardens die, there 
is more demand for replacement plants. Unauthorized collection is 
currently a continuing problem for populations of the threatened 
Pediocactus winkleri (Winkler cactus) in south-central Utah (NPS 2004, 
p. 1; Borthwick 2012, pers. comm.).
    We identified unauthorized collection of the Fickeisen plains 
cactus as a potential threat in our 2006 Candidate Notice of Review (71 
FR 53756) and as a minor threat in our 2010 Species Assessment and 
Listing Priority Assignment Form. Phillips et al. (1982, p. 5) 
considered the Fickeisen plains cactus to be highly sought after and 
collected by commercial cactus collectors or hobbyists wherever it was 
found. For the period 1994 to 1997, the Convention on International 
Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) annual report documented a total of 
5 specimens and 5,015 seeds of Fickeisen plains cactus exported 
(Service 2001a, p. 4). However, we do not know what impact the 
unauthorized collection had on the Fickeisen plains cactus during that 
time. We are not aware of any evidence of unauthorized collection of 
the Fickeisen plains cactus within the last 10 years. The BLM and the 
Navajo Nation have not observed or documented incidences of Fickeisen 
plains cacti being collected on their lands. In addition, we do not 
have information from the Arizona Native Plant Division indicating that 
unauthorized collection of Fickeisen plains cactus from their natural 
habitat has occurred (Reimer 2012, pers. comm.). If it has occurred, 
apprehension of collectors or enforcement of the law is difficult for 
Pediocactus species considering they occur in remote areas that are not 
regularly patrolled.
    Currently, collection pressure on the Fickeisen plains cactus and 
demand for plants in the wild appears to be low for several reasons. 
Over the past 20 years, there has been increased sensitivity toward 
collection of rare plants from their natural populations among 
collectors who are satisfied with taking photographs rather than live 
specimens (Brack 2005, pers. comm.; Brack 2012, pers. comm.). Secondly, 
the Fickeisen plains cactus has been difficult to grow in cultivation 
mainly because of its specificity to particular climate conditions 
(cold winter temperatures) (Brack 2012, pers. comm.). However, more 
experienced growers have successfully propagated seeds and grown 
seedlings in captivity. Growers in Europe have successfully grown the 
Fickeisen plains cactus in cultivation because their climate is similar 
to that of the Colorado Plateau (Brack 2012, pers. comm.). Currently, 
the Fickeisen plains cactus is available from commercial vendors who 
can meet the market demand for this rare plant which has helped 
alleviate collection pressures. Seeds of the Fickeisen plains cactus 
are also readily available for sale on the Internet to cactus 
hobbyists. If evidence of unauthorized collection becomes available or 
there is information suggesting that the cactus is at risk, we will 
address prevention measures and conservation through the recovery 
planning process.
    In summary, unauthorized collection is a threat for some 
Pediocactus species and a potential threat for the Fickeisen plains 
cactus. We acknowledge that illegal collection may occur but go 
undiscovered due to lack of reporting or enforcement. Based on the best 
scientific and commercial data available, no evidence at this time 
suggests that overutilization of the Fickeisen plains cactus for 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes has occurred or is 
presently occurring such that it negatively affects individuals or 
populations of the Fickeisen plains cactus within its range. We also do 
not have evidence to suggest that overutilization of the Fickeisen 
plains cactus is likely to occur in the future to such an extent that 
the survival of the taxon would be compromised. We conclude that 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes would not rise to the level of significance and 
meaningfully impact the Fickeisen plains cactus and its habitat. 
Therefore, overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes is not considered to be a significant threat to 
the Fickeisen plains cactus at this time nor do we expect it to be in 
the future.

Factor C. Disease or Predation

    We are not aware of any diseases impacting the Fickeisen plains 
cactus. Therefore, we do not consider disease to be a threat to the 
Fickeisen plains cactus.
Insect Predation
    Insect predation by flightless beetles in the genus Moneilma are 
common among cactus species in the southwest. The species Moneilma 
semipuctatum that is referred to as the cactus borer beetle is common 
in northern Arizona and New Mexico. It typically prefers plants in the 
genus Opuntia as its host but it will also use plants in the genus 
Sclerocactus and Pediocactus as well, in which mortality of these 
species has been reported (Roth 2004, p. 6; USFWS 2007, p. 4). The 
adult females deposit eggs at the base of the cactus and, after 
hatching, the larvae burrow into and feed on the plant depositing an 
orange-red fecal material around the wound. Kass (2001, pp. 495-496) 
found that the cactus borer beetle appears to select for larger, 
reproductively mature cacti and infestation will lead to collapse and 
mortality of the plant. There is one report of insect predation to a 
Fickeisen plains cactus that was possibly caused by the cactus borer 
beetle. In 1991, the Navajo Nation had found a large mature plant in 
the Shinumo Altar population that was retracted and yellow-green in 
color. When the plant was removed, it had a large hole bored through 
its caudex (base) with a small amount of orange-red material around the 
caudex (NNHP 1994, p. 3). Similar damage had been seen on the 
Sclerocactus mesa-verde (Mesa Verde cactus) in New Mexico that helped 
to identify the cause of the injury. No other land managers have 
reported observing signs of similar damage to a Fickeisen plains cactus 
by a cactus borer beetle.
Rodent and Rabbit Predation
    Small mammal herbivory on cactus species is known to occur during 
dry conditions when animals seek available moisture from the plant or 
available food from cactus fruit (Butterwick 1987, p. 3; Phillips and 
Phillips 2004, pp. 14-15; Sivinski and McDonald 2007, p.

[[Page 60647]]

104). Because of their small size and spongy spines, the Fickeisen 
plains cactus may be less protected from animals than other spiny 
cactus species. Herbivory, primarily by rodents, on the Fickeisen 
plains cactus has been reported only on BLM lands; however, it likely 
occurs throughout the range.
    The BLM reported a total of 56 plant mortalities associated with 
rodent predation in the years 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1992. All of the 
four plots have had reported rodent predation. The greatest losses were 
reported at Dutchman Draw plot, with 21 plants lost between 1988 and 
1990 (Hughes 1988, p. 2; Hughes 1989, p. 2; Hughes 1990, p. 2), and 26 
plants at the North Canyon plot in 1992 (Roaque 2012, pers. comm.). 
Correspondingly, the winter-spring precipitation in 1992 was below 
average. Small mammal burrows have been observed at the Dutchman Draw, 
Clayhole Ridge (Robertson 2011, p. 1), and South Canyon (Travis 1987, 
p. 4) populations. During the 2012 monitoring period, Hughes (2012a, p. 
6) observed ground squirrel burrows underneath the cactus at the 
Sunshine Ridge population. While no mortalities from rodent predation 
were recorded, 28 plants were missing or retracted. Hughes noted that 
the Sunshine Ridge area was very dry during the spring, which, in 
addition to ground squirrels, probably contributed to the high number 
of missing/retracted plants. We do not have information about the small 
mammal burrows found in the Arizona Strip populations. Moreover, Hughes 
(1996a, p. 51) believed that heavy cattle grazing may in some part 
contribute to high incidences of rodent predation through competition 
for available forage, particularly during periods of drought that, in 
turn, cause rodents to eat the cactus. While the relationship between 
drought and small mammal predation is less obvious on BLM lands, 
mortality associated with small mammal herbivory on other Pediocactus 
species suggests that the Fickeisen plains cactus is likely being 
impacted rangewide in a similar fashion.
    Monitoring efforts on other Pediocactus species reported high rates 
of plant mortality associated with rodent or rabbit herbivory. The BLM 
found that rodent predation resulted in 81 Brady pincushion cactus 
mortalities over a 15-year period (BLM 2007b, p. 55). Phillips and 
Phillips (1995, p. 7) reported 23 Peebles Navajo cactus individuals 
were lost due to herbivory in 1989, which was attributed to a dry and 
warmer than normal winter. Sivinski and McDonald (Service 2010, p. 5) 
identified rabbit and rodent predation as a significant cause of 
mortality on the Pediocactus knowltonii (Knowlton's cactus). They also 
found that predation rates increase during periods of drought, and no 
significant germination events had been observed over a 14-year period 
(Service 2010, p. 12). They infer that low recruitment may be due to 
high seed predation by rodents in 1993, and they find that seeds of 
mature fruit are readily eaten by rodents as the fruit ripens, 
resulting in little seed left to mature.
    In summary, insect predation and rodent and rabbit predation are 
identified threats to the Fickeisen plains cactus. Infestation by the 
cactus borer beetle is a cause of death among Pediocactus species, but 
damage to the Fickeisen plains cactus has only been observed to an 
individual in 1991. With little evidence that the cactus borer beetle 
is affecting larger numbers of Fickeisen plains cacti rangewide, we do 
not find that insect predation is a significant threat to the plant. 
Rodent or rabbit predation is a cause of mortality for the plant on the 
Arizona Strip. Small mammal predation on cacti in general is natural 
under drought conditions (Kelly and Olsen 2011, pp. 8-9). While the 
data are variable for the Fickeisen plains cactus, there is adequate 
evidence from monitoring studies on this species and other Pediocactus 
species that rodent predation is high in drought years, which has 
affected a large number of individuals, either by direct mortality or 
contributing to the number of missing/retracted individuals. Climatic 
conditions throughout the Southwest are predicted to continue to warm 
with less precipitation in the future as previously discussed. We, 
therefore, anticipate that rodent or rabbit herbivory may increase in 
the future as a result of predicted changes in climate. In addition, 
mortality caused by rodent predation has contributed to population 
declines on the Arizona Strip, effectively exacerbating the negative 
effects that can occur to an already small population. Although we lack 
clear evidence of the scope of the impact that rodent predation has had 
on the Fickeisen plains cactus and its seeds, taken in conjunction with 
other habitat disturbances occurring across its range, low recruitment, 
and small population size, we find that rodent or rabbit predation is 
likely to rise to the level where it becomes a significant threat to 
the plant.

Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Please refer to the two introductory paragraphs of the Factor D 
discussion presented above for the acu[ntilde]a cactus. In this 
section, we review existing State, Federal, and tribal regulatory 
mechanisms to determine whether they effectively reduce or remove 
threats to the Fickeisen plains cactus.
State Laws or Regulations
    Approximately 14 percent of the total documented plants occur on 
State of Arizona lands. The State of Arizona classifies the Fickeisen 
plains cactus as a highly safeguarded native plant under the Arizona 
Native Plant Law (Arizona Revised Statutes, Chapter 7, 2007, entire). 
Because of this classification, it is unlawful for any person to 
destroy, dig up, cut, collect, mutilate, harvest or take, and place 
into possession any of these plants, including their parts, from any 
lands without permission from the landowner and a permit from the 
Arizona Department of Agriculture (AZDA 2013). Under the law, private 
landowners can destroy highly safeguarded protected plants on their 
property if they notify the Arizona Department of Agriculture up to 60 
days in advance of the intended destruction and with certain 
exceptions. On State lands, highly safeguarded protected plants may be 
impacted if they are in the footprint of a surface-disturbing activity. 
The project proponent would have the options of transplanting 
individuals to adjacent State land and commit to irrigating plants or 
other measures to insure at least 75 percent survival after 3 years; or 
purchase the plants according the Native Plant fee schedule and 
transplant them to private land. The law does not contain any 
provisions for habitat protection. While the Arizona Native Plant Law 
may provide some protection to the species on private and State land, 
it is not designed to protect the species' habitat.
Federal Laws or Regulations
    The BLM manages the habitat for about 22 percent of the known 
Fickeisen plains cactus population. An approved Resource Management 
Plan (RMP) for the Arizona Strip Field Office was completed in 2008 
(BLM 2008, entire; Service consultation number 22410-2002-F-0277-R1), 
which provides overall direction for management of all resources on 
BLM-administered land. The approved RMP establishes desired future 
conditions on BLM-administered lands with associated management actions 
to achieve those conditions. Management actions include giving priority 
during planning to priority species and their habitats in conflict 
resolution. Some of the priority species include federally listed, 
proposed, or candidate species; and species included on the Arizona BLM 
sensitive list, which includes the Fickeisen plains

[[Page 60648]]

cactus. As described in the BLM Manual section 6840 (BLM 2008b, pp. 37-
38), the BLM will focus sensitive species management on maintaining 
species' habitat in functional ecosystems, ensuring the species is 
considered in land management decisions, and prioritizing conservation 
that emphasizes habitat needs for the species, thereby preventing the 
need to list the species under the Act. Their policy for the management 
of sensitive species recommends avoidance and minimization of threats 
to plants and habitat, as well as habitat conservation assessments and 
conservation agreements (BLM 2008c, pp. 8, 36-38). No habitat 
conservation agreements have been formalized for the Fickeisen plains 
cactus between the BLM and the Service.
    The BLM has the ability to implement conservation measures and best 
management practices to reduce the threats to the Fickeisen plains 
cactus from livestock grazing, but we are not aware of any efforts to 
minimize cattle impacts to the plant or its habitat. Their approved 
2008 RMP identifies the Fickeisen plains cactus as one of six species 
that will be managed as indicators of the conditions of Plains-
Grassland Ecological Zone (BLM 2008a, p. 2-25). The BLM designated 
vegetative habitat areas at Twist Hills (1,255 acres) and Clayhole 
Valley (7,362 acres) for the Fickeisen plains cactus that will be 
managed to meet desired future conditions (BLM 2008a, p. 2-41). 
Management actions that apply to vegetative habitat areas include 
increased emphasis on protection of the species; increased 
consideration during National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 
et seq.) analyses; and the ability to modify, mitigate, postpone, or 
restrict proposed actions to minimize effects to the species. We are 
not aware of whether the implementation, status, or effectiveness of 
these vegetation habitat areas has been beneficial on the health of the 
Fickeisen plains cactus or its habitat or whether the progress toward 
desired future conditions has been made; it may be too soon to 
evaluate. While the BLM has reported drought leading to mortality and/
or declines in the Fickeisen plains cactus as well as other sensitive 
plant species on the Arizona Strip, it is likely that drought also has 
affected rangeland forage. We are not aware if drought policies were 
implemented for livestock grazing across the Arizona Strip when below-
average precipitation was predicted or for seasons when the southwest 
region was experiencing prolonged droughts (1996 to 2006). Continued 
livestock grazing at levels authorized for normal or above-normal 
precipitation during a drought may exacerbate cattle-related impacts 
within occupied Fickeisen plains cactus habitat. The baseline 
ecological assessment for House Rock Valley on the Kane Ranch has shown 
that heavy grazing during the dry winter seasons prior to 2005 has 
caused the range to be unproductive and in need of restoration to 
restore native grasses. These lands are administered by the BLM and 
subject to management objectives in their RMP.
    The Fickeisen plains cactus is also listed as a sensitive species 
for the U.S. Forest Service's Southwestern Region (USFS 2007, p. 19). 
The U.S. Forest Service would develop and implement management 
practices to ensure that designated sensitive species do not become 
threatened or endangered because of U.S. Forest Service actions. 
Essentially, sensitive species must receive special management 
considerations or protection by the U.S. Forest Service to ensure their 
viability to preclude trends toward endangerment that would result in 
the need for Federal listing. The U.S. Forest Service recently verified 
a large population of the Fickeisen plains cactus on the eastern Kaibab 
National Forest boundary near Marble Canyon, where approximately five 
percent of all documented individuals occur. The land, including where 
the cactus is found, was part of the Grand Canyon National Game 
Preserve. The Preserve was established by presidential proclamation and 
was withdrawn from locatable mineral entry as a result of this 
designation. The Grand Canyon Game Preserve is available for saleable 
and leasable mineral development on a case-by-case basis where the 
purpose is consistent with the game preserve. The U.S. Forest Service, 
however, has proposed that use and occupancy should be restricted 
yearlong in areas supporting populations of threatened, endangered, and 
sensitive plant species (USFS 2013, p. 1). Occupied areas at South 
Canyon are now in the Buffalo Range Management Area. The area is not 
permitted for livestock grazing for cattle, and, due to its isolation, 
there is very little recreation in the area. The U.S. Forest Service 
did not find any ground disturbance in occupied habitat from bison.
    A Land and Resource Management Plan is currently being revised for 
the Kaibab National Forest that addresses management of the Fickeisen 
plains cactus (Forest Service 2013, pp. 43-52). Forest plans must 
address such issues as recreation, range, timber, biological diversity, 
and economic and social factors in agency decisionmaking. The revisions 
to the Kaibab National Forest Plan include a discussion of protection 
of the Fickeisen plains cactus and its habitat. The U.S. Forest Service 
would commit to managing the bison herd so it is in balance with the 
ecological conditions in the Buffalo Range Management Area, thereby 
meeting the desired future conditions there. The U.S. Forest Service 
would also continue to monitor the taxon and collect detailed 
monitoring data to help guide management decisions, as well as survey 
new areas in suitable habitat for new populations.
Tribal Laws or Regulations
    The Navajo Nation lists the Fickeisen plains cactus as a Group 3 
species on the Navajo Endangered Species List, which is a ``species or 
subspecies whose prospects of survival or recruitment are likely to be 
in jeopardy in the foreseeable future'' (Navajo Nation Division of 
Natural Resources 2008). Species listed pursuant to the Navajo Nation 
Tribal Code 17, Subsection 507 are protected from take (17 N.N.C. Sec.  
507). In addition to its listed species protection, 9 of the 15 
populations are within areas designated as a Preserve, including the 3 
largest populations. No new activity or development is allowed within 
these Preserves, unless it is compatible with management goals 
established by the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife for 
that area. Any development project proposed within a Preserve requires 
a biological evaluation be prepared. The biological evaluation must 
demonstrate that the development activity is compatible with management 
goals for the Preserve, as defined by the Navajo Nation Department of 
Fish and Wildlife Resource Land Use Clearance Policies. These policies 
are also used by Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife to 
ensure that proposed development activity in a Preserve will not 
negatively affect any listed species, including the Fickeisen plains 
cactus. It does not, however, apply to daily activities, such as 
livestock herding and any tourist activities that cannot be easily 
regulated (e.g., driving and parking at unofficial overlooks) (Hazelton 
2012c, pers. comm.). It also does not include approved preexisting 
activities.
Conservation Agreements
    On the Cataract Ranch, privately owned parcels occupied by the 
Fickeisen plains cactus are under a conservation easement held by TNC 
(TNC 2000, entire). These deeded lands prohibit any development 
activities from occurring on these parcels and

[[Page 60649]]

protect the inherent value of the land for perpetuity. Daily activities 
such as livestock grazing and range improvements are permitted but are 
managed to preserve and maintain the health of the ecosystem within 
Cataract Ranch. Approximately 146 Fickeisen plains cacti are protected 
by the conservation easement.
    In summary, the existing regulatory mechanisms that are in place 
appear to provide adequate protection to the Fickeisen plains cactus 
and its habitat in the manner they were intended to provide; however, 
they are not minimizing threats to the Fickeisen plains cactus or its 
habitat. State regulations prohibiting the destruction of highly 
safeguarded native plants do not address threats to habitat, 
particularly ground disturbance associated with livestock grazing. 
While the BLM has the ability to provide habitat protection for the 
Fickeisen plains cactus, any actions would be voluntary under 
conservation measures aimed to improve the status of sensitive species. 
Because most of the threats to the Fickeisen plains cactus are from 
effects to its habitat including drought and predation, habitat must be 
protected to ensure the species' long-term conservation and survival.

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

Small Population Size
    The Fickeisen plains cactus is a rare, endemic cactus that is 
restricted to a particular soil type. Factors such as the small 
population size, low population density, the isolation of populations 
between occurrences, and a poor mechanism for seed dispersal renders 
this cactus vulnerable to extinction from human and natural 
disturbances. We recognize that this species appears to have always 
been rare, yet continues to survive, and could be well equipped to 
continue to exist into the future. Many naturally rare species have 
persisted for long periods within small geographic areas, and many 
naturally rare species exhibit traits that allow them to persist 
despite their small population sizes. Consequently, the fact that a 
species is rare does not necessarily predispose it to being an 
endangered or threatened species.
    However, this species has shown a marked decline in recent years, 
and populations across its range do not appear to be recovering. This 
indicates that there is a heightened risk of extinction, and the 
contributing factors of ever-decreasing population size, coupled with 
poor seed dispersal, increase the extinction risk. Small populations 
that are restricted by habitat requirements are more vulnerable to the 
effects of climate change, such as prolonged droughts and increased 
fire frequencies. Although small population size makes the species 
intrinsically more vulnerable, we are uncertain whether this alone 
would rise to the level of threat. However, when combined with the 
threats from livestock grazing, drought and climate change, and rodent 
and rabbit predation, small population size likely exacerbates the 
effects of these threats on the Fickeisen plains cactus.

Determination for the Fickeisen Plains Cactus

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial data 
available regarding the past, present, and future threats to the 
Fickeisen plains cactus. We find that the species is in danger of 
extinction due to the current and ongoing modification and destruction 
of its habitat and range (Factor A) from ongoing and future livestock 
grazing, long-term drought, and warmer winters occurring in the past 
several decades and projected to continue with the effects of climate 
change. We find that livestock grazing, in combination with drought and 
climate change, exacerbate the threats to this species (Factor A). We 
also find predation (Factor C) and other natural or manmade factors are 
threats to the Fickeisen plains cactus (Factor E). In addition, no 
existing regulatory mechanisms address these threats. We find that 
unauthorized collection (Factor B) does not currently occur to such an 
extent to warrant a threat to the species.
    The Act defines an endangered species as any species that is ``in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range'' and a threatened species as any species ``that is likely to 
become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range 
within the foreseeable future.'' We find that the Fickeisen plains 
cactus is presently in danger of extinction throughout its entire range 
based on documented loss of individuals on the majority of its range, 
little to no recruitment, and continuation of the threats, as described 
above. Therefore, on the basis of the best available scientific and 
commercial information, we find that the Fickeisen plains cactus meets 
the definition of an endangered species in accordance with sections 
3(6) and 4(a)(1) of the Act.
    The elevated risk of extinction of the Fickeisen plains cactus is a 
result of the cumulative stressors on the species and its habitat. We 
have detailed information about population trends from five of the six 
large populations that have been monitored, all of which show a 
significant decline in overall population, reduction in reproductive 
adults, few to no seedlings, and low representation of age-class 
diversity. The decline of these five populations is likely indicative 
of what is occurring in other populations that are smaller, more 
isolated, and not as well studied. Some of these smaller populations 
have already shown declines in plant numbers; at some sites, plants no 
longer are found. Information from the 27 populations would increase 
our knowledge of the species, but it is uncertain if these populations 
will be monitored in the future due to resource limitations and access 
to the land. Losses of adult plants in a naturally rare, endemic 
species exacerbate the species vulnerability to extinction because the 
older, larger adults contribute more to the population's growth. In the 
Fickeisen plains cactus, water and heat stress results in reduced 
flower and seed production, and seedling survival is dependent on 
winter precipitation and soil moisture. Climate change is anticipated 
to increase drought periods and warming winters. This combination is 
expected to continue the documented trend of mortality exceeding 
recruitment across all populations. All of these factors contribute 
together to heighten the risk of extinction and lead to our finding 
that the Fickeisen plains cactus is in danger of extinction, and thus 
meets the definition of an endangered species.
    Listing the Fickeisen plains cactus as a threatened species is not 
the appropriate determination because the ongoing threats described 
above are severe enough to create the immediate risk of extinction. The 
continued loss of reproductive adults without adequate recruitment 
poses a significant and immediate risk of extinction to the species 
throughout the species' range, and is not restricted to any particular 
significant portion of that range. All of these factors combined lead 
us to conclude that the threat of extinction is high and immediate, 
thus warranting a determination of endangered species status rather 
than threatened species status for the Fickeisen plains cactus.
    Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a species may 
warrant listing if it is an endangered species or a threatened species 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The threats to 
the survival of the species occur throughout the Fickeisen plains 
cactus' range and are not restricted to any particular significant 
portion of that range. Accordingly, our assessment and

[[Page 60650]]

final determination applies to the species throughout its entire range.

Available Conservation Measures for the Acu[ntilde]a Cactus and the 
Fickeisen Plains Cactus

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing results in public awareness and 
conservation by Federal, State, tribal, and local agencies; private 
organizations; and individuals. The Act encourages cooperation with the 
States and requires that recovery actions be carried out for all listed 
species. The protection required by Federal agencies and the 
prohibitions against certain activities are discussed, in part, below.
    The primary purpose of the Act is the conservation of endangered 
and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The 
ultimate goal of such conservation efforts is the recovery of these 
listed species, so that they no longer need the protective measures of 
the Act. Subsection 4(f) of the Act requires the Service to develop and 
implement recovery plans for the conservation of endangered and 
threatened species. The recovery planning process involves the 
identification of actions that are necessary to halt or reverse the 
species' decline by addressing the threats to its survival and 
recovery. The goal of this process is to restore listed species to a 
point where they are secure, self-sustaining, and functioning 
components of their ecosystems.
    Recovery planning includes the development of a recovery outline 
shortly after a species is listed, preparation of a draft and final 
recovery plan, and revisions to the plan as significant new information 
becomes available. The recovery outline guides the immediate 
implementation of urgent recovery actions and describes the process to 
be used to develop a recovery plan. The recovery plan identifies site-
specific management actions that will achieve recovery of the species, 
measurable criteria that determine when a species may be downlisted or 
delisted, and methods for monitoring recovery progress. Recovery plans 
also establish a framework for agencies to coordinate their recovery 
efforts and provide estimates of the cost of implementing recovery 
tasks. Recovery teams (comprising species experts, Federal and State 
agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and stakeholders) are often 
established to develop recovery plans. When completed, the recovery 
outline, draft recovery plan, and the final recovery plan will be 
available on our Web site (http://www.fws.gov/endangered), or from our 
Arizona Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT).
    Implementation of recovery actions generally requires the 
participation of a broad range of partners, including other Federal 
agencies, States, Tribes, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, 
and private landowners. Examples of recovery actions include habitat 
restoration (e.g., restoration of native vegetation), research, captive 
propagation and reintroduction, and outreach and education. The 
recovery of many listed species cannot be accomplished solely on 
Federal lands because their range may occur primarily or solely on non-
Federal lands. To achieve recovery of these species requires 
cooperative conservation efforts on private, State, and tribal lands.
    Once these species are listed, funding for recovery actions will be 
available from a variety of sources, including Federal budgets, State 
programs, and cost-share grants for non-Federal landowners, the 
academic community, and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, 
under section 6 of the Act, the State of Arizona would be eligible for 
Federal funds to implement management actions that promote the 
protection and recovery of the acu[ntilde]a cactus and the Fickeisen 
plains cactus. Information on our grant programs that are available to 
aid species recovery can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/grants. Please 
let us know if you are interested in participating in recovery efforts 
for the acu[ntilde]a cactus or the Fickeisen plains cactus. 
Additionally, we invite you to submit any new information on these 
species whenever it becomes available and any information you may have 
for recovery planning purposes (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
    Section 7(a) of the Act requires Federal agencies to evaluate their 
actions with respect to any species that is proposed or listed as 
endangered or threatened and with respect to its critical habitat, if 
any is designated. Regulations implementing this interagency 
cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR part 402. 
Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies to ensure that 
activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of the species or destroy or 
adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action may affect a 
listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency 
must enter into formal consultation with the Service.
    Federal agency actions within both species' habitat that may 
require conference or consultation, or both, as described in the 
preceding paragraph include any management actions that could result in 
impacts to soil characteristics or seedbank viability, pollinators or 
their habitat, and associated native vegetation community, and any 
other landscape-altering activities on Federal lands administered by 
Federal agencies, such as: issuance of section 404 Clean Water Act (33 
U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) permits by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; 
construction and management of gas pipeline and power line rights-of-
way by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; reauthorization of 
grazing permits by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, and 
construction and maintenance of roads or highways by the Federal 
Highway Administration.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to endangered plants. 
All prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act, implemented by 50 CFR 
17.61, apply. These prohibitions, in part, make it illegal for any 
person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to import or 
export, transport in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a 
commercial activity, sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign 
commerce, or remove and reduce the species to possession from areas 
under Federal jurisdiction. In addition, for plants listed as an 
endangered species, the Act prohibits the malicious damage or 
destruction on areas under Federal jurisdiction and the removal, 
cutting, digging up, or damaging or destroying of such plants in 
knowing violation of any State law or regulation, including State 
criminal trespass law. Certain exceptions to the prohibitions apply to 
agents of the Service and State conservation agencies. The acu[ntilde]a 
cactus and the Fickeisen plains cactus are listed under the Arizona 
Native Plant Law as highly safeguarded protected plants, which makes it 
unlawful for any person to destroy, dig up, cut, collect, mutilate, 
harvest or take, and place into possession any of these plants on 
public lands (Arizona Revised Statutes, Chapter 7, 2007, entire). 
However, the Arizona Native Plant Law does not prohibit landowners from 
removing or destroying protected plants on their property or from 
removing them on State lands. They are required to notify the Arizona 
Department of Agriculture 20 to 60 days prior to destruction of a 
protected native plant on their private property. The Arizona Native 
Plant Law

[[Page 60651]]

also does not afford protection to the habitat of either cactus 
species.
    We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered and threatened plant species under certain 
circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 
17.62 for endangered plants, and at 17.72 for threatened plants. With 
regard to endangered plants, a permit must be issued for the following 
purposes: for scientific purposes, or for the enhancement of 
propagation or survival of the species.
    Our policy, as published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 
(59 FR 34272), is to identify to the maximum extent practicable at the 
time a species is listed, those activities that would or would not 
constitute a violation of section 9 of the Act. The intent of this 
policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of a proposed 
listing on proposed and ongoing activities within the range of species 
proposed for listing. The following activities could potentially result 
in a violation of section 9 of the Act. Unauthorized collecting, 
handling, possessing, selling, delivering, carrying, or transporting of 
the species, including import or export across State lines and 
international boundaries, except for properly documented antique 
specimens of these taxa at least 100 years old, as defined by section 
10(h)(1) of the Act.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities would constitute a 
violation of section 9 of the Act should be directed to the Arizona 
Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). 
Requests for copies of the regulations concerning listed plants and 
general inquiries regarding prohibitions and permits may be addressed 
to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Permits, 
Southwest Regional Office, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM, 87103-1306; 
telephone (505) 248-6911; facsimile (505) 248-6915.

Required Determinations

National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)

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

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994 
(Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and 
Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), 
we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge 
that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal 
public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make 
information available to tribes.
    Please see our statement under this required determination in our 
October 3, 2012, proposed rule (77 FR 60565-60566) for information 
regarding the Tribes affected by the determination of endangered status 
for the acu[ntilde]a cactus and the Fickeisen plains cactus. Since the 
publication of the proposed rule, we distributed a letter notifying the 
affected tribes of the proposed listing and critical habitat rule on 
October 31, 2012, and sent subsequent letters notifying the same tribes 
of the reopening of the comment period for availability of the draft 
economic analysis and revisions to the proposed critical habitat rule 
on April 1, 2013, and July 9, 2013, respectively. As mentioned in the 
proposed rule, the Navajo Nation and the Tohono O'odham Nation are the 
main Tribes affected by the determination of endangered status for the 
acu[ntilde]a cactus and the Fickeisen plains cactus. We specifically 
sent the Chairmen of the Tohono O'odham Nation and Navajo Nation 
letters of notification of the proposed rule on May 16, 2012, and May 
21, 2012, respectively. Prior to publication of the proposed rule, we 
coordinated with the Navajo Nation by meeting with their botanist on 
October 3, 2011, and February 24, 2012, for a site visit to two large 
populations on their land. We subsequently had a teleconference with 
the Navajo Nation in July 2012, to discuss information submitted by the 
Navajo Nation regarding the proposal to list the Fickeisen plains 
cactus. To coordinate with the Tohono O'odham Nation, we participated 
in an informal meeting in May 2012, and informal teleconferences in 
November 2012, January 2013, and February 2013, to discuss the proposed 
determination of endangered status and designation of critical habitat 
for the acu[ntilde]a cactus. We also held face-to-face meetings with 
Tohono O'odham Nation staff informally in February 2013, and formally 
in April 2013, to discuss the proposed determination of endangered 
status and designation of critical habitat for the acu[ntilde]a cactus.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this rule is available 
on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-
2012-0061 or upon request from the Field Supervisor, Arizona Ecological 
Services Office (see ADDRESSES section).

Authors

    The primary author of this document is staff from the Arizona 
Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 
of the Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:

PART 17--[AMENDED]

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

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

0
2. Amend Sec.  17.12(h) by adding entries for ``Echinomastus 
erectocentrus var. acunensis'' and ``Pediocactus peeblesianus var. 
fickeiseniae'' in alphabetical order under FLOWERING PLANTS, to the 
List of Endangered and Threatened Plants, as follows:


Sec.  17.12  Endangered and threatened plants.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

[[Page 60652]]



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Species
--------------------------------------------------------    Historic range           Family            Status      When listed    Critical     Special
         Scientific name                Common name                                                                               habitat       rules
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         Flowering Plants
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Echinomastus erectocentrus var.    acu[ntilde]a cactus.  U.S.A. (AZ), Mexico  Cactaceae..........  E                       821           NA           NA
 acunensis.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Pediocactus peeblesianus var.      Fickeisen plains      U.S.A. (AZ)........  Cactaceae..........  E                       821           NA           NA
 fickeiseniae.                      cactus.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *

    Dated: September 9, 2013.
Steven D. Guertin,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-23124 Filed 9-30-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P