[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 204 (Tuesday, October 22, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 62523-62529]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-24170]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-ES-R8-2012-0075; 4500030113]


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
on a Petition To List Ashy Storm-Petrel as an Endangered or Threatened 
Species

AGENCY:  Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:  Notice of 12-month petition finding.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a 12-month 
finding on a petition to list the ashy storm-petrel (Oceanodroma 
homochroa) as an endangered or threatened species and to designate 
critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). After review of the best

[[Page 62524]]

available scientific and commercial information, we find that listing 
the ashy storm-petrel is not warranted at this time. However, we ask 
the public to submit to us any new information that becomes available 
concerning the threats to the ashy storm-petrel or its habitat at any 
time.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on October 22, 
2013.

ADDRESSES: This finding is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-R8-ES-2013-0075. Supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this finding is available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Bay-Delta Fish and Wildlife Office, 650 
Capitol Mall, 8th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814. Please submit any new 
information, materials, comments, or questions concerning this finding 
to the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Chotkowski, Field Supervisor, 
Bay-Delta Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES); by telephone at 
916-930-5603; or by facsimile 916-930-5654. If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Executive Summary

    Why we need to publish a rule. Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that, for any petition to revise the 
Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants that 
contains substantial scientific or commercial information that the 
petitioned action may be warranted, we make a finding within 12 months 
of the date of receipt of the petition. In this finding, we will 
determine that the petitioned action is: (1) Not warranted, (2) 
warranted, or (3) warranted, but the immediate proposal of a regulation 
implementing the petitioned action is precluded by other pending 
proposals to determine whether species are endangered or threatened, 
and expeditious progress is being made to add or remove qualified 
species from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
and Plants. Section 4(b)(3)(C) of the Act requires that we treat a 
petition for which the requested action is found to be warranted but 
precluded as though resubmitted on the date of such finding, that is, 
requiring a subsequent finding to be made within 12 months. We must 
publish these 12-month findings in the Federal Register.
    The basis for our action. Under the Act, we can determine that a 
species is an endangered or threatened species based on whether we find 
that it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range now (endangered) or likely to become endangered in 
the foreseeable future (threatened). As part of our analysis, we 
consider whether it is endangered or threatened because of the factors 
outlined in section 4(a)(1) of the Act.
    Finding. We make a determination under the Act of not warranted for 
the ashy storm-petrel.

Previous Federal Actions

    On October 16, 2007, we received a petition, dated October 15, 
2007, from the Center for Biological Diversity, requesting that we list 
the ashy storm-petrel as a threatened or endangered species under the 
Act and that critical habitat be designated concurrently with listing. 
On May 15, 2008, the Service published in the Federal Register a 90-day 
finding on the petition to list the ashy storm-petrel as threatened or 
endangered, and the 90-day finding determined that the petition 
presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating 
that the petitioned action may be warranted (73 FR 28080). On August 
19, 2009, the Service announced its 12-month finding that found, after 
reviewing the best available scientific and commercial information, 
listing the ashy storm-petrel was not warranted (74 FR 41832). The 
Center for Biological Diversity challenged this decision in the 
District Court of the Northern District of California on October 27, 
2010 (Center for Biological Diversity v. Salazar, et al., No. cv10-
4861-DMR (N.D. Cal.)). This challenge was resolved by a September 16, 
2011, Stipulation of Dismissal, in which the parties agreed to 
dismissal of the action based on the court approval of a settlement in 
which the Service agreed to submit a proposed rule or a not-warranted 
finding regarding the ashy storm-petrel to the Federal Register by the 
end of Fiscal Year (September 30) 2013 (In re Endangered Species Act 
Section 4 Deadline Litig., Misc. Action No. 10-377 (EGS), MDL Docket 
No. 2165 (D.D.C.)). We published a notice of initiation of status 
review and solicitation of new information for the ashy storm-petrel in 
the Federal Register on November 28, 2012 (77 FR 70987).

Background

    This finding is based upon the Species Report for ashy storm-
petrel, a scientific analysis of available information prepared by a 
team of Service biologists from the Service's Bay-Delta, Carlsbad, 
Ventura, and Arcata Field Offices, the Farallon National Wildlife 
Refuge, the Region 8 Office, and National Headquarters Office. The 
purpose of the Species Report is to provide the best available 
scientific and commercial information about the species so that we can 
evaluate whether or not the species warrants protection under the Act. 
In it, we compiled the best scientific and commercial data available 
concerning the status of ashy storm-petrel, including the past, present 
and future threats to this species. As such, the Species Report 
provides the scientific basis that informs our regulatory decision in 
this document, which involves the further application of standards 
within the Act and its regulations and policies. The Species Report 
(including all references) and other materials relating to this finding 
can be found on the Bay-Delta Fish and Wildlife Web site at: http://www.fws.gov/sfbaydelta/ and at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. 
FWS-R8-ES-2012-0075.
    The reader is directed to section IV of the Species Report for a 
more detailed discussion of the biology, taxonomy, life history, 
distribution, and current conditions of the ashy storm-petrel (Service 
2013; http://www.fws.gov/sfbaydelta/). The Species Report evaluates the 
biological status of the bird and threats potentially affecting its 
continued existence.
    The ashy storm-petrel (Oceanodroma homochroa) is a small seabird 
that ranges from about the California-Oregon Border to Islas San 
Benitos, Mexico. The 32 known breeding sites of the ashy storm-petrel 
stretch from Point Cabrillo, Mendocino County, California, to Islas 
Todos Santos Island, Ensenada, Mexico (Service 2013, p. 3). More than 
90 percent of the population breeds in two population centers at South 
East (SE) Farallon Island and in the California Channel Islands 
(Service 2013, p. 3). Ashy storm-petrels occur at their breeding 
colonies nearly year-round and occur in greater numbers from February 
through October (Service 2013, p. 3). The ashy storm-petrel feeds at 
night on euphausiids, other krill, decapods, larval lanternfish, fish 
eggs, young squid, and spiny lobster (Service 2013, p. 7).

Summary of Biological Status and Threats

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and implementing regulations 
(50 CFR 424) set forth procedures for adding species to, removing 
species from, and reclassifying species on the Federal

[[Page 62525]]

Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Under section 
4(a)(1) of the Act, a species may be determined to be endangered or 
threatened based on any of the following five factors:
    (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (C) Disease or predation;
    (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.
    A species is an endangered species for purposes of the Act if it is 
in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range, and is a threatened species if it is likely to become an 
endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. For purposes of this analysis, we 
first evaluate the status of the species throughout all of its range, 
and then consider whether the species is in danger of extinction or 
likely to become so in any significant portion of its range.
    In making this finding, information pertaining to the ashy storm-
petrel in relation to the five factors provided in section 4(a)(1) of 
the Act is summarized below, based on the analysis of these issues 
contained in the Species Report. In considering what factors might 
constitute threats, we must look beyond the mere exposure of the 
species to the factor to determine whether the species responds to the 
factor in a way that causes actual impacts to the species. If there is 
exposure to a factor, but no response, or only a positive response, 
that factor is not a threat. If there is exposure and the species 
responds negatively, the factor may be a threat and we then attempt to 
determine the scope, severity, and impact of the potential threat. If 
the threat is significant, it may drive or contribute to the risk of 
extinction of the species such that the species warrants listing as 
endangered or threatened as those terms are defined by the Act. This 
does not necessarily require empirical proof of a threat. The 
combination of exposure and some corroborating evidence of how the 
species is likely impacted could suffice. The mere identification of 
factors that could impact a species negatively is not sufficient to 
compel a finding that listing is appropriate; we require evidence that 
these factors are operative threats that act on the species to the 
point that the species meets the definition of an endangered or 
threatened species under the Act.

Range and Population Size

    The best available information does not show any differences 
between the current and historical range of the ashy storm-petrel 
(Service 2013, pp. 8-9). The known range of the ashy-storm petrel has 
expanded slightly in recent years, with the confirmation of breeding at 
new locations at the northern end of the breeding range. Ashy storm-
petrels may have been present at these locations historically, but 
adequate surveys had not been done to determine presence. Therefore, we 
do not consider these new locations to be an expansion of the 
historical range. Thus, the Service considers the at-sea geographic 
distribution (marine range) of the ashy storm-petrel to include waters 
off the western coast of North America from latitude 42[deg] N 
(approximately the California-Oregon State line) south to latitude 
28[deg] N (approximately Islas San Benitos, Mexico), and approximately 
75 mi (120 km) out to sea from mainland and island coasts (Service 
2013, p. 9).
    The current total global (restricted to California and Mexico) 
population size of breeding ashy storm-petrels at all known locations 
is estimated at between 10,000 and 11,000 individuals (Service 2013, p. 
16). We estimate a total current global population of breeding and 
nonbreeding individuals between about 18,700 and 20,600 birds (Service 
2013, p. 16). These estimates account only for known population 
occurrences. Unconfirmed and potentially unknown locations are not 
included in the estimate; however, the existence of sizeable unknown 
populations (on the scale of SE Farallon or Channel Islands) is 
unlikely, given the considerable survey efforts that have occurred 
(Service 2013, p. 16).
    Population size and productivity (nesting success) are two measures 
of population status, along with trends in those measures over time. 
Because over 90 percent of the estimated breeding population is 
restricted to SE Farallon Island and the Channel Islands, and most 
colony data are derived from those two locations, we will focus on 
those locations for population trends and productivity estimates. 
Research on productivity has been conducted only at SE Farallon Island 
and Santa Cruz Island (Service 2013, pp. 17).
    We do not have any comparable colony size data for evaluating 
population trends before 1992, when standardized mist netting efforts 
began on SE Farallon Island (Service 2013, p. 22). The best data 
available are based on the mist net population index there, and show up 
and down variation from 1992 to about 2001. The Service's review of 
this data found a significant average increase in the ashy storm-petrel 
population index of 22.1 percent per year from 2000-2006, and a mean 
non-significant decrease in the ashy storm-petrel population index on 
SE Farallon Island of 7.19 percent per year from 2007 to 2012 (Service 
2013, p. 21). We conclude that the population is currently experiencing 
fluctuations due to various factors, including avian predation. After 
assessing the best available scientific data, we have concluded that 
there is no consistent long-term trend in the species' population 
nesting on SE Farallon Island.
    The Channel Islands population comprises an estimated 36 percent of 
the total ashy storm-petrel population (Service 2013, p. 26). We 
currently have no published studies of population trends on the Channel 
Islands. The best available scientific and commercial information 
consists of data collected using varying methods and incomplete 
analyses (Service 2013, p. 26). As a result, the available information 
does not allow us to conclude any trends for the Channel Islands 
population of the ashy storm-petrel. The Species Report has more 
detailed information on population trends and productivity for the 
ashy-storm petrel (Service 2013, pp. 16-28; http://www.fws.gov/sfbaydelta/).

Analysis Under Section 4(a)(1) of the Act

    The Act requires that the Secretary determine whether a species is 
endangered or threatened because of any of the five factors enumerated 
in 16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(1). Our discussion of the threats categorized 
under each of these five factors is contained in the Species Report 
(Service 2013; http://www.fws.gov/sfbaydelta/). In the Species Report, 
we present detailed discussions of current and future threats to the 
ashy storm-petrel, and we considered how threats categorized under each 
of the five factors are affecting the species. For each threat, we 
describe the timing, scope, and severity. In the Species Report, we 
explain that the timing (immediacy) is recorded for threats, but it is 
not used in the calculation of threat impact. Additionally, threat 
impact is not calculated for threats where timing values are long-term 
future or past/historical. We describe the scope as the proportion of 
the ashy storm-petrel breeding occurrences that are reasonably expected 
to be affected by a threat within three generations, given continuation 
of current circumstances and trends. Within the scope of the threat, 
the severity is the level of

[[Page 62526]]

damage to ashy storm-petrel populations or breeding occurrences that is 
reasonably expected from the threat within three generations, given 
continuation of current circumstances and trends.
    All potential threats currently acting upon the ashy storm-petrel 
or likely to affect the species in the foreseeable future (and 
consistent with the five listing factors identified above) are 
evaluated and addressed in the Species Report, and summarized in the 
following paragraphs. The reader is directed to section VI of the 
Species Report for a more detailed discussion of the threats summarized 
in this document (Service 2013; http://www.fws.gov/sfbaydelta/).
    The Species Report evaluates the biological status of the bird and 
each of the potential threats under the five statutory factors 
affecting its continued existence. It was based upon the best available 
scientific and commercial data and the expert opinion of the Species 
Report team members. Based on the analysis and discussion contained 
therein, we conclude that climate change (ocean acidification, ocean 
warming, and sea level rise) (Factor A); invasive species (Factor A); 
human activities (Factor A); military activities (Factor A); 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes (Factor B); house mouse predation (Factor C); 
skunk predation (Factor C); barn owl predation (Factor C); common raven 
predation (Factor C); artificial light pollution (Factor E); oil 
pollution (Factor E); organochlorine contaminants (Factor E); and 
ingestion of plastics (Factor E) are potential threats that are having 
a negligible to slight impact on the ashy storm-petrel within the scope 
of the threat, both now and in the foreseeable future. These factors 
may have minor impacts on individuals in some locations, but they are 
not impacting the species as a whole. The full analyses of these 
possible threats is documented in the Species Report. Based on the 
analysis contained within the Species Report, we conclude that the best 
available scientific and commercial information does not indicate that 
these threats are causing a decline in the species or its habitat, 
either now or in the foreseeable future.

Predation Impacts

    In our threat evaluation in the Species Report, we did find that 
burrowing owl predation (Factor C) and western gull predation (Factor 
C) are likely having slight to moderate impacts on the ashy storm-
petrel within the scope of the threats. Burrowing owls have been known 
to frequent SE Farallon Island since at least the late 1880s; since 
systematic recording of burrowing owls began on SE Farallon Island in 
2000, the highest abundance of burrowing owls has occurred in the years 
2009-2012 (Service 2013, p. 46). From 2003 through 2010, predation by 
burrowing owls accounted for 40 percent of ashy storm-petrel predation, 
and this predation has surpassed predation by western gulls in recent 
years (Service 2013, p. 46). In the Species Report, we concluded that 
the timing of burrowing owl predation is ongoing and the scope is large 
because all individuals on SE Farallon Island are potentially exposed 
to the threat of burrowing owl predation (Service 2013, p. 47). Using 
data collected on SE Farallon Island in the period 2003-2012, we made a 
rough estimate of the effect that burrowing owls could have on ashy 
storm-petrels. Our calculations showed that around 10 percent of the 
ashy storm-petrel population could be eliminated over the next 40 
years. This method used to calculate owl predation may underestimate 
the effects that owl predation has on petrels. Because the ashy storm-
petrel population growth rate is sensitive to adult survival and it is 
likely that not all predated wings are found and included in the 
calculations, it is possible that population declines could be greater 
(Service 2013, p. 47). While this potential loss is considered of 
slight/moderate severity on the Farallon Islands, we conclude that, 
overall, the current best available scientific and commercial 
information does not indicate that burrowing owl predation is resulting 
in a downward trend to the species as a whole.
    The Species Report further examined western gull predation on ashy 
storm-petrels at the Farallon Islands (Service 2013, pp. 48-49). The 
Farallon Islands hosts the world's largest western gull breeding 
population, although the population of western gulls on the islands has 
recently undergone a slight decline, numbering around 17,500 gulls 
(Service 2013, p. 48). Western gulls predated over 75 ashy storm-
petrels per year on SE Farallon Island during the period 2003-2009, but 
predation by gulls has recently decreased to less than 60 individuals 
per year during the period 2009-2012, possibly due to the increase 
during that time of burrowing owl predation on petrels (Service 2013, 
p. 49). In the Species Report, we concluded that the timing of western 
gull predation is ongoing and the scope is large because all 
individuals on SE Farallon Island are potentially exposed to the threat 
of western gull predation (Service 2013, p. 47). Using data collected 
on SE Farallon Island from 2003 through 2012, we made a rough estimate 
of the effects that western gulls could have on ashy storm-petrels over 
the next 40 years. Our calculations show that around 10 percent of the 
ashy storm-petrel population could be eliminated (Service 2013, p. 49). 
However, because the ashy storm-petrel population growth rate is 
sensitive to adult survival and it is likely that not all predated 
wings are found and included in our calculations, it is possible that 
population declines could be greater. While this potential loss is 
considered of slight/moderate severity on the Farallon Islands, we 
conclude that, overall, the current best available scientific and 
commercial information does not indicate that western gull predation is 
resulting in a downward trend in the species population. In addition, 
the available scientific information does not indicate that the effects 
of burrowing owl predation and western gull predation are additive; as 
burrowing owl predation has increased on the SE Farallon Island, 
western gull predation has decreased, as shown in the Species Report.
    In summary, the threats to ashy storm-petrel from burrowing owl 
predation and western gull predation at present and in the foreseeable 
future do not pose a threat to the long-term persistence of ashy storm-
petrel. The threats operating individually do not place the species at 
immediate risk of extinction, nor do they appear likely to cause the 
ashy storm-petrel to become endangered within the foreseeable future 
through all or a significant portion of its range.
    A number of conservation measures have taken place or are ongoing 
that minimize the impact on ashy storm-petrels from the potential 
threats listed above. These conservation measures are detailed in the 
Species Report (Service 2013; http://www.fws.gov/sfbaydelta/) and 
include an invasive species eradication program on the SE Farallon 
Island, human visitation reduction, survey monitoring restrictions, 
burrowing owl translocations, planning for mouse eradication on the SE 
Farallon Island, island spotted skunk removal, artificial nest site 
construction, artificial lighting restrictions, and oil pollution 
regulations.

Regulatory Protections

    The Act requires that the Secretary assess available regulatory 
mechanisms in order to determine whether existing regulatory mechanisms 
are adequate to address threats to the species (Factor D). The Species 
Report includes a

[[Page 62527]]

discussion of applicable regulatory mechanisms (Service 2013, pp. 54-
64). In it, the Service examines the applicable Federal, State, and 
international statutory and regulatory mechanisms to determine whether 
these mechanisms provide protections to ashy storm-petrel. As described 
in the Species Report, several Federal and State statutes provide 
protections to ashy storm-petrels by requiring certain actions by land 
managers. These actions protect habitat or address issues such as 
predation, military use, human visitation, and eliminating or reducing 
attractions, such as fixed high-intensity artificial light near petrel 
breeding sites and attraction lights on vessels.
    Based on the analysis contained within the Species Report, we 
conclude that the best available scientific and commercial information 
does not indicate that the existing regulatory mechanisms are 
inadequate to address impacts from the identified potential threats.

Combinations of Potential Threats

    When conducting our analysis about the potential threats affecting 
ashy storm-petrel, we also assess whether the species may be affected 
by a combination of factors. In the Species Report (Service 2013, pp. 
74-75; http://www.fws.gov/sfbaydelta/), we identified multiple threats 
that may have interrelated impacts on the ashy storm-petrel or its 
habitat. In the northern portion of its range, the greatest threat to 
ashy storm-petrel populations is from avian predation (Factor C). On SE 
Farallon Island, burrowing owls and western gulls prey on ashy storm-
petrels breeding on the island. Together, these two predators may be 
causing short-term population effects on the ashy storm-petrel 
population on the island. Invasive New Zealand spinach (Factor A) 
restricts access to ashy storm-petrel nest sites for a portion of the 
population during the height of the breeding season, which likely 
results in some ashy storm-petrels remaining at the entrance of crevice 
breeding sites for a longer period of time. This longer entrance time 
further increases vulnerability of ashy storm-petrels to avian 
predation from burrowing owls and western gulls (Factor C). However, 
the current best available scientific and commercial information does 
not show that these combined impacts are resulting in a long-term 
downward trend in the species population on the Farallon Islands.
    Oceanic foraging habitat is expected to provide declining food 
resources for the ashy storm-petrel into the future. A number of 
oceanic threats, including warming sea temperatures and ocean 
acidification (Factor A), that will affect food resources available to 
the ashy storm-petrel throughout its range are expected to increase 
into the future. As the abundance of plastics continues to increase 
into the future, ingestion of plastics (Factor E) by seabirds will 
increase in unison with the effects of climate change to habitat 
(Factor A). Less food in the ocean due to warming sea temperatures and 
ocean acidification (Factor A) combined with artificial food 
consumption of plastics in the ocean (Factor E) will result in less 
nutritional food availability for the ashy storm-petrel. Lights from 
offshore energy platforms and squid fishing vessels will continue to 
attract ashy storm-petrels within their vicinity and can result in 
direct collisions and mortality (Factor E); moreover, ashy storm-
petrels may be more vulnerable to predation by gulls after being 
attracted to artificial lights (Factor C), where they concentrate 
around lighted boats to feed on squid. The best available scientific 
and commercial information at this time does not indicate that less 
nutritional food availability will lead to more collisions with lights 
that result in mortality. Nor does it indicate that less food, combined 
with habitat changes due to climate change, will lead to increased 
vulnerability to predation, or otherwise result in losses to the 
population.
    Sea level rise at the Channel Islands is predicted to inundate 
portions of sea caves, causing the future loss of nesting habitat in 
areas used by nesting petrels, potentially resulting in some storm-
petrels not nesting, or reducing nesting populations in those caves 
(Factor A). In the event of future skunk predation causing reproductive 
failure at any one of the caves (Factor C), and sea level rise reducing 
habitat for nesting populations in caves (Factor A), the Channel 
Islands population could suffer direct losses of populations and future 
breeding ability, a loss exacerbated by the lingering presence of 
organochlorine contaminants that have resulted in thinning of eggshells 
and thus impacts to hatching success (Factor E). Mortality may result 
from collisions with artificial light at Offshore Energy Platforms near 
the Channel Islands (Factor E). The best available scientific and 
commercial information at this time does not indicate that sea level 
rise in combination with skunk predation or collisions with lights will 
result in a decline to the species. Although we cannot fully quantify 
these future effects on ashy storm-petrel populations, they may be 
negative and may exacerbate other threats such as avian predation 
(Factor C) or an oil spill (Factor E) in any location where the species 
aggregates. However, at this point in time, the best available 
scientific and commercial information does not indicate that these 
threats in combination will result in a decline to the species.
    All or some of the potential threats could act in concert to result 
in cumulative stress on the ashy storm-petrel population. However, the 
best available scientific and commercial information currently does not 
indicate that these threats singularly or cumulatively are resulting or 
will in the future result in a substantial decline of the total 
population of the species or have large impacts to the ashy storm-
petrel at the species level. Therefore, we do not consider the 
cumulative impact of these threats to the ashy storm-petrel to be 
substantial at this time, nor into the future.

Determination

    As required in section 4(a)(1) of the Act, we conducted a review of 
the status of the ashy storm-petrel and assessed the five factors in 
consideration of whether the ashy storm-petrel is endangered or 
threatened throughout all of its range. We have carefully assessed the 
best scientific and commercial information available regarding the 
past, present, and future threats to the ashy storm-petrel. We reviewed 
information presented in the 2007 petition, information available in 
our files, our 2008 90-day and 2009 12-month findings in response to 
the petition, and other available published and unpublished 
information, including information submitted subsequent to our 2009 
finding. We also consulted with species experts and land managers at 
the areas where ashy storm-petrels occur.
    We evaluated each of the potential threats in the Species Report 
for the ashy storm-petrel, and we determined that climate change (ocean 
acidification, ocean warming, and sea level rise); invasive species; 
human activities; military activities; overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; house mouse 
predation; skunk predation; barn owl predation; common raven predation; 
artificial light pollution; oil pollution; organochlorine contaminants; 
and ingestion of plastics are potential threats that are having a 
negligible to slight impact on the ashy storm-petrel within the scope 
of the threat. In addition, our Species Report evaluated existing 
regulatory mechanisms and did not reveal an inadequacy of existing

[[Page 62528]]

regulatory mechanisms for the ashy storm-petrel. In our threat 
evaluation in the Species Report, we did find that burrowing owl 
predation and western gull predation are likely having a slight to 
moderate impact on the ashy storm-petrel within the scope of the 
threats, but these threats do not rise to the level of warranting 
listing under the Act because this predation may reduce the numbers of 
ashy storm-petrels at SE Farallon Island, but not to a point that the 
overall status of the species would be affected. In addition, the 
historical range for ashy storm-petrel is the same as the current 
range, so there has not been a loss in the range of the species over 
time (Service 2013, p. 8). Finally, population trend data does not show 
that the ashy storm-petrel is in a long-term decline.
    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.'' Based on our analysis conducted in the 
Species Report and summarized in this finding, and using the best 
scientific and commercial information available, we find that the 
magnitude and imminence of threats do not indicate that the ashy storm-
petrel is in danger of extinction (endangered), or likely to become 
endangered within the foreseeable future (threatened), throughout its 
range. As described in the Species Report, the average lifespan of the 
ashy storm-petrel is unknown and reproduction is known to commence by 
age 6 (Service 2013, p. 3). Assuming the average age of first breeding 
is 5.5 years and adult survivorship is 0.88, then an ashy storm-petrel 
generation time would be 12.8 years, based on a published method of 
calculating generation time for birds (Service 2013, p. 29). Using a 
standard 3-generation (past, present, and future) timeframe to assess 
risk (http://intranet.iucn.org/webfiles/doc/SSC/RedList/RedListGuidelines.pdf.), we calculated this to be approximately 40 
years (13-year generation time multiplied by 3 generations, and 
rounded) (Service 2013, p. 29). However, the long-term potential threat 
of sea level rise due to climate change was assessed for 2030, 2050, 
and 2100 due to the temporal scope of existing climate model 
predictions (Service 2013, p. 29). For purposes of this finding, we 
have considered the foreseeable future for this species to consist of 
40 years.
    Therefore, based on our assessment of the best available scientific 
and commercial information, we find that listing the ashy storm-petrel 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range as a threatened or 
an endangered species is not warranted at this time.

Distinct Population Segment

    Because we determine here that the ashy storm-petrel does not 
warrant listing throughout its range as an endangered or threatened 
species, we next assess whether the ashy storm-petrel is an endangered 
or threatened species throughout a portion of its range. We consider 
whether a distinct vertebrate population segment (DPS) or any 
significant portion of the ashy storm-petrel's range meets the 
definition of an endangered species or is likely to become endangered 
in the foreseeable future (threatened). Under the Service's Policy 
Regarding the Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments 
Under the Endangered Species Act (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996), three 
elements are considered in the decision concerning the establishment 
and classification of a possible DPS. These are applied similarly for 
additions to or removal from the Federal List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife. These elements include:
    (1) The discreteness of a population in relation to the remainder 
of the species to which it belongs;
    (2) The significance of the population segment to the species to 
which it belongs; and
    (3) The population segment's conservation status in relation to the 
Act's standards for listing, delisting, or reclassification (i.e., is 
the population segment endangered or threatened).
    Under the DPS policy, a population segment of a vertebrate taxon 
may be considered discrete if it satisfies either one of the following 
conditions:
    (1) It is markedly separated from other populations of the same 
taxon as a consequence of physical, physiological, ecological, or 
behavioral factors. Quantitative measures of genetic or morphological 
discontinuity may provide evidence of this separation.
    (2) It is delimited by international governmental boundaries within 
which differences in control of exploitation, management of habitat, 
conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist that are 
significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the Act.
    We determine, based on a review of the best available information, 
that there are no population segments of the ashy storm-petrel that 
meet the discreteness conditions of the 1996 DPS policy. As stated in 
the Species Report, ashy storm-petrels are known to regularly forage up 
to 220 miles (mi) (354 kilometers (km)) from their breeding grounds and 
one individual has been located 466 mi (750 km) from its capture site 
(Service 2013, p. 7; http://www.fws.gov/sfbaydelta/). No population of 
ashy storm-petrel is physically markedly separate from any other 
population because each population is within the dispersal distance of 
another population. Moreover, the populations are not markedly separate 
as a consequence of physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors. 
In addition, even though the ashy storm-petrel's range includes parts 
of Mexico, it is not delimited by international governmental boundaries 
within which differences in control of exploitation, management of 
habitat, conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist that are 
significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the Act. Therefore, we 
have determined that none of the populations meet the discreteness 
condition.
    The DPS policy is clear that significance is analyzed only when a 
population segment has been identified as discrete. Since we found that 
no population segments meet the discreteness element, we need not 
conduct an evaluation of significance for the ashy storm-petrel.
    Therefore, no population segments of the ashy storm-petrel qualify 
as a DPS under our policy and no population segments for the ashy 
storm-petrel are considered a listable entity under the Act.

Significant Portion of the Range

    In determining whether a species is threatened or endangered in a 
significant portion of its range, we first identify any portions of the 
range of the species that warrant further consideration. The range of a 
species can theoretically be divided into portions an infinite number 
of ways. However, there is no purpose to analyzing portions of the 
range that are not reasonably likely to be both (1) significant and (2) 
threatened or endangered. To identify only those portions that warrant 
further consideration, we determine whether substantial information 
indicates that: (1) the portions may be significant, and (2) the 
species may be in danger of extinction there or likely to become so 
within the foreseeable future. In practice, a key part of this analysis 
is whether the threats are geographically concentrated in some way. If 
the threats to the species are essentially uniform throughout its 
range, no portion is likely to warrant further consideration. Moreover, 
if any concentration of threats applies only to portions of the 
species' range that are not significant,

[[Page 62529]]

such portions will not warrant further consideration.
    If we identify portions that warrant further consideration, we then 
determine whether the species is threatened or endangered in these 
portions of its range. Depending on the biology of the species, its 
range, and the threats it faces, the Service may address either the 
significance question or the status question first. Thus, if the 
Service considers significance first and determines that a portion of 
the range is not significant, the Service need not determine whether 
the species is threatened or endangered there. Likewise, if the Service 
considers status first and determines that the species is not 
threatened or endangered in a portion of its range, the Service need 
not determine if that portion is significant. However, if the Service 
determines that both a portion of the range of a species is significant 
and the species is threatened or endangered there, the Service will 
specify that portion of the range as threatened or endangered under 
section 4(c)(1) of the ESA.
    We evaluated the current range of the ashy storm-petrel to 
determine if there is any apparent geographic concentration of 
potential threats for the species. We examined potential threats from 
climate change (ocean acidification, ocean warming, and sea level 
rise); invasive species; human activities; military activities; 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; burrowing owl, western gull, house mouse, skunk, 
barn owl, and common raven predation; artificial light pollution; oil 
pollution; organochlorine contaminants; and ingestion of plastics. 
While some threats are affecting the species in only a portion of its 
range (for example, gull predation at SE Farallon Island or sea level 
rise affecting sea cave nesting sites at the Channel Islands), these 
threats are not having substantial impacts to the populations of ashy 
storm-petrels at those sites and are not resulting in a decline of the 
species. Therefore, we found no concentration of threats that suggests 
that the ashy storm-petrel may be in danger of extinction in a portion 
of its range. In addition, the 32 known breeding sites of the ashy 
storm-petrel stretch from Mendocino County, California, to Ensenada, 
Mexico, and these breeding sites provide for representation, 
redundancy, and resiliency for the ashy storm-petrel. Therefore, we 
find that no portion of the range of ashy storm-petrel warrants further 
consideration of possible endangered or threatened status under the 
Act. No available information indicates that there has been a range 
contraction for ashy storm-petrel, and, therefore, we find that lost 
historical range does not constitute a significant portion of the range 
for this species.
    Our review of the best available scientific and commercial 
information indicates that the ashy storm-petrel is not in danger of 
extinction (endangered) nor likely to become endangered within the 
foreseeable future (threatened), throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range. Therefore, we find that listing this species as 
an endangered or threatened species under the Act is not warranted at 
this time.
    We request that you submit any new information concerning the 
status of, or threats to, the ashy storm-petrel to our Bay-Delta Fish 
and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section) whenever it becomes 
available. New information will help us monitor this species and 
encourage its conservation. If an emergency situation develops for this 
species, we will act to provide immediate protection.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited in this finding is available on 
the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the 
Bay-Delta Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT).

Authors

    The primary authors of this finding are the staff members of the 
Pacific Southwest Regional Office and the Bay-Delta Fish and Wildlife 
Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Authority

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

    Dated: September 25, 2013.
    Signed:
Rowan Gould,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-24170 Filed 10-21-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P