[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 68 (Wednesday, April 9, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 19759-19796]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-07414]



[[Page 19759]]

Vol. 79

Wednesday,

No. 68

April 9, 2014

Part III





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; Threatened Species 
Status for the Olympia Pocket Gopher, Roy Prairie Pocket Gopher, Tenino 
Pocket Gopher, and Yelm Pocket Gopher, With Special Rule; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 79 , No. 68 / Wednesday, April 9, 2014 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 19760]]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[FWS-R1-ES-2012-0088; 4500030113]
RIN 1018-AZ17


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Species 
Status for the Olympia Pocket Gopher, Roy Prairie Pocket Gopher, Tenino 
Pocket Gopher, and Yelm Pocket Gopher, With Special Rule

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), determine 
threatened species status under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act 
or ESA), as amended, for four subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher 
found in Thurston and Pierce Counties of Washington State: The Olympia 
pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama pugetensis), Roy Prairie pocket gopher 
(T. m. glacialis), Tenino pocket gopher (T. m. tumuli), and Yelm pocket 
gopher (T. m. yelmensis). We are also promulgating a special rule under 
authority of section 4(d) of the Act that provides measures that are 
necessary and advisable for the conservation of the Mazama pocket 
gopher. The effect of this regulation is to add these subspecies to the 
list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, extend the Act's 
protections to these subspecies, and establish a 4(d) special rule for 
the conservation of the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket 
gophers.

DATES: This rule becomes effective May 9, 2014.

ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov and http://www.fws.gov/wafwo/mpg.html. Comments and 
materials we received, as well as some of the supporting documentation 
we used in preparing this 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, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond Drive, Lacey, 
WA 98503; telephone 360-753-9440, facsimile 360-534-9331.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ken S. Berg, Manager, Washington Fish 
and Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond Drive, Lacey, WA 98503, by telephone 
360-753-9440, or by facsimile 360-534-9331. 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

    Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Act, a species may warrant 
protection through listing if it is endangered or threatened throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range. Listing a species as an 
endangered species or threatened species can only be completed by 
issuing a rule
    This rule will finalize the listing of the Olympia pocket gopher 
(Thomomys mazama pugetensis), Roy Prairie pocket gopher (T. m. 
glacialis), Tenino pocket gopher (T. m. tumuli), and Yelm pocket gopher 
(T. m. yelmensis) as threatened species under the Act. This rule also 
establishes a special rule under section 4(d) of the Act to provide for 
the conservation of the Mazama pocket gopher. Critical habitat for 
these four subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher is published 
elsewhere in today's Federal Register.
    The basis for our action. Under the 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. We have determined that the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher are negatively impacted by one 
or more of the following factors to the extent that each of these 
subspecies meets the definition of a threatened species under the Act:
     Habitat loss through conversion and degradation of 
habitat, particularly from development, successional changes to 
grassland habitat, military training, and the spread of woody plants;
     Predation;
     Inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms that allow the 
impacts of significant threats such as habitat loss; and
     Other natural or manmade factors, including small or 
isolated populations, declining population or subpopulation sizes, and 
control as a pest species.
    We are promulgating a special rule. We are exempting from the Act's 
take prohibitions (at section 9) certain activities that promote the 
maintenance or restoration of habitat conditions required by the Mazama 
pocket gopher consistent with regulations necessary and advisable for 
the continued conservation of the four subspecies (Olympia, Roy 
Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers). Specifically, the Service is 
promulgating a special rule under section 4(d) of the Act to exempt 
take of these listed species for general activities conducted on 
agricultural and ranching lands, regular maintenance activities on 
civilian airports, control of noxious weeds and invasive plants, 
maintenance of roadside rights-of-way, and limited activities on 
private landowner parcels. If an activity resulting in take of the 
Mazama pocket gopher is not exempted under this 4(d) special rule, then 
the general prohibitions at 50 CFR 17.31 for threatened wildlife would 
apply, and we would require a permit pursuant to section 10 of the Act 
for such an activity, as specified in our regulations. Nothing in this 
4(d) special rule would affect the consultation requirements under 
section 7 of the Act. The intent of this special rule is to increase 
support for the conservation of the Mazama pocket gopher and provide an 
incentive for continued management activities that benefit the Olympia, 
Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm subspecies and their habitat.
    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 opinions from two 
knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise regarding the 
Mazama pocket gopher. 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 document. We also 
considered all comments and information received from the public during 
our three open comment periods, which were open a total of 135 days. We 
held two public information workshops and a public hearing on the 
proposed rule in April 2013.

Previous Federal Actions

    The full candidate history and previous Federal actions for the 
Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers (hereafter 
referred to as ``the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher'') are

[[Page 19761]]

described in the proposed rule to list, establish a 4(d) special rule, 
and designate critical habitat for these four subspecies, published 
December 11, 2012 (77 FR 73770). In that same proposed rule, we 
identified five subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher in the State of 
Washington for removal from the candidate list: The Olympic, Shelton, 
and Cathlamet pocket gophers (Thomomys mazama melanops, T.m. louiei, 
and T.m. couchi, respectively) because we determined that they are not 
warranted for listing; the Tacoma pocket gopher (T.m. tacomensis) 
because it is extinct; and the Brush Prairie pocket gopher (T. 
talpoides douglasii) because it was added to the list due to taxonomic 
error. We published a notice of availability of the draft economic 
analysis (DEA) of the critical habitat designation and announcement of 
public information meetings and a public hearing on our proposed 
rulemaking on April 3, 2013 (78 FR 20074), and a 6-month extension of 
the final determination for the proposed listing and designation of 
critical habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher on September 3, 2013 (78 FR 54218). We extended our final 
determination under section 4(b)(6)(B)(i) of the Act in response to 
substantial scientific disagreement surrounding the accuracy or 
sufficiency of available data regarding the degree of threat to the 
Mazama pocket gopher from various agricultural and ranching activities. 
We worked collaboratively with the Washington State Department of 
Agriculture (WSDA) during this extension to address these uncertainties 
to the extent possible.
    Details regarding the comment periods on the proposed rulemaking to 
list the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies, promulgate a 4(d) special 
rule, and designate critical habitat are provided below. On September 
3, 2013, we published a notice in the Federal Register affirming the 
removal of the Olympic, Shelton, Cathlamet, Tacoma, and Brush Prairie 
pocket gophers from the candidate list (78 FR 54214). Critical habitat 
for the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher is published separately elsewhere in today's issue of the 
Federal Register.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    We requested written comments from the public on the proposed 
listing, the associated 4(d) special rule, and the designation of 
critical habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher during three comment periods. The first comment period, 
associated with the publication of the proposed rule (77 FR 73770; 
December 11, 2012), was open for 60 days, from December 11, 2012, 
through February 11, 2013. We then made available the DEA of the 
proposed critical habitat designation and reopened the comment period 
on the proposed rule for an additional 30 days, from April 3, 2013, to 
May 3, 2013 (78 FR 20074; April 3, 2013). We also contacted appropriate 
Federal, State, tribal, county, and local agencies; scientific 
organizations; and other interested parties and invited them to comment 
on the proposed rule and the DEA. We held two public information 
workshops and a public hearing in April 2013 on the proposed rule to 
list the subspecies, the associated 4(d) special rule, and the proposed 
critical habitat designations. On September 3, 2013, we announced a 6-
month extension of the final determination on the listing and critical 
habitat designation for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher (78 FR 54218) and reopened a third comment period 
on the proposed rule to list, establish a 4(d) special rule, and 
designate critical habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies for 
an additional 45 days. The total time available for public comment on 
the proposed rulemakings for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher was 135 days.
    During the 3 public comment periods, we received close to 220 
comment letters and emails from individuals and organizations, as well 
as speaker testimony at the public hearing held on April 18, 2013. 
These comments addressed the proposed listing and associated special 
rule, or the proposed critical habitat (or both) for Mazama pocket 
gopher. We received comment letters from two peer reviewers, one State 
agency, and two Federal agencies on these four subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher. The final rule designating critical habitat for the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher is published 
separately elsewhere in today's volume of the Federal Register, and 
comments specific to the critical habitat are addressed in that 
rulemaking. Here we address only those comments relevant to the 
proposed listing and the associated special rule under section 4(d) of 
the Act.
    All substantive information provided during comment periods has 
either been incorporated directly into this final rule or is addressed 
below. Comments we received are grouped into general issues 
specifically relating to the listing or 4(d) special rule for the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher, and are 
addressed in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule 
as appropriate.

Comments From Peer Reviewers

    In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 
(59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinion from six knowledgeable 
individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with 
the Mazama pocket gopher and its habitats, biological needs, and 
threats. Two peer reviewers responded, and both were supportive of the 
Service's evaluation of the best scientific and commercial data 
available in proposing to list the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
the Mazama pocket gopher. Our requests for peer review are limited to a 
request for review of the merits of the scientific information in our 
documents; if peer reviewers have volunteered their personal opinions 
on matters not directly relevant to the science of our proposed 
listing, we do not respond to those comments here.
    (1) Comment: Both peer reviewers provided corrections and 
suggestions for clarifying and improving the accuracy of the 
Background, Habitat and Life History, Historical and Current Range and 
Distribution, Summary of Factors Affecting the Species, and 
Conservation Measures sections of the preamble of the proposed rule.
    Our Response: We appreciate these corrections and suggestions, and 
have made changes to this final rule to reflect the peer reviewers' 
input.
    (2) Comment: One peer reviewer recommended that an education and 
incentives program be implemented for private landowners to help 
conserve the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher.
    Our Response: The Service supports a variety of programs that 
conserve species, including Habitat Conservation Planning and Safe 
Harbor Agreements. The Service is working with the Natural Resources 
Conservation Service (NRCS), Thurston County, Washington Department of 
Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and various nongovernmental entities to 
develop and implement education and incentive programs for the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. We appreciate 
the suggestion, and will keep this in mind as we move forward with 
recovery planning for these species. However, such a consideration is 
not directly relevant to our evaluation of the status of the species.
    (3) Comment: One peer reviewer found the section on unauthorized 
collecting, handling, possessing, etc., to

[[Page 19762]]

be confusing where it referenced possession of specimens not more than 
100 years old but collected prior to 2012.
    Our Response: We have deleted this section because it did not 
accurately describe the Act's prohibitions. However, we can clarify for 
the reviewer that possession of specimens collected prior to listing is 
not prohibited.

Comments From State

    Section 4(i) of the Act states, ``the Secretary shall submit to the 
State agency a written justification for his [her] failure to adopt 
regulations consistent with the agency's comments or petition.'' 
Comments we received from State agencies regarding the proposal to list 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher subspecies 
as threatened under the Act are addressed below. We received comments 
from WDFW, Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), and 
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) related to 
biological information, threats, and the 4(d) special rule.
    WDFW and WDNR provided a number of recommended technical 
corrections or edits to the proposed listing determination for the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. We have 
evaluated and incorporated this information into this final rule where 
appropriate to clarify the final listing determination. In instances 
where the Service may have disagreed with an interpretation of the 
technical information that was provided, we have responded in separate 
communication with either WDFW or WDNR.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
    (4) Comment: WDFW noted that no citation was given for the list of 
soils we described as being occupied by the Mazama pocket gopher in 
Washington.
    Our Response: The list of soil types described in the proposed rule 
were compiled by using the WDFW Heritage Database to document where 
occurrence records of the Mazama pocket gopher overlapped mapped soil 
type. While not all USDA soil type descriptions include slope, the 
majority of soil types where slope was included were described as being 
below 15 percent.
    (5) Comment: WDFW stated that it is important to consider that 
pocket gopher populations are known to fluctuate and that those 
fluctuations may be fairly large.
    Our Response: The Service agrees that some species of pocket 
gophers that live multiple years and undergo multiple reproductive 
cycles per year are likely to exhibit fairly large fluctuations in 
population number, but we point out the following: All of the data we 
currently have indicates that Mazama pocket gophers are short lived (1-
2 years), have a single reproductive event per year, and average five 
young. If predation and disease pressures are low and reproductive 
success is high, this could result in a fairly large population 
increase, but without the means to monitor population numbers, it is a 
difficult assertion to either support or disprove. Since there is only 
a weak correlation between the number of pocket gopher mounds and the 
number of resident pocket gophers (Olson 2011a, p. 37), and since there 
are many different scenarios under which an individual pocket gopher 
may increase the number of mounds it makes (optimal foraging, re-
excavation, new excavation, etc.), the Service believes it is currently 
impossible to document fluctuations in population size. In arriving at 
our determination that the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher meet the definition of ``threatened'' under the 
Act, we note our conclusion is not based on estimates of population 
size, but on the reduction in range and numbers of populations due to 
past threats, and the negative impact of ongoing threats to those few 
populations that remain. We discuss this further in our response to 
Comment 15, below.
    (6) Comment: WDFW suggested clarifications to the list of allowed 
activities on airports and on single-family residential properties 
under the proposed 4(d) special rule. WDFW expressed the concern that 
any special rules pertaining to airports be carefully crafted, and that 
there should be a mechanism in place to monitor Mazama pocket gophers 
on all occupied airports as they will face increasing pressure from 
surrounding development over time.
    Our Response: We have amended the 4(d) special rule to clarify the 
list of allowed activities that are covered. The Mazama pocket gopher 
special rule that pertains to civilian airports has been reworded based 
on input from a variety of commenters, including the Port of Olympia 
and informal comments submitted by the Federal Aviation Administration 
(FAA). We believe our final 4(d) special rule addresses concerns and 
incorporates recommendations we received on our proposal, and exempts 
from the prohibitions of section 9 certain ongoing activities on 
civilian airports and residential properties consistent with 
regulations necessary and advisable for the continued conservation of 
the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. 
However, we note 4(d) rules can be revoked or amended through 
rulemaking at any time should the Service determine that they are no 
longer consistent with the conservation of the species.
    While the Service did not list the Shelton pocket gopher (Thomomys 
mazama couchi; September 3, 2013, 78 FR 54214), which largely resides 
on the Port of Shelton's Sanderson Field (also known as Shelton 
Airport), it remains a State-listed species and as such, the Port of 
Shelton will be required to continue to conserve the species on their 
property. If the status of the Shelton pocket gopher changes such that 
Federal listing may be warranted, the Service retains discretion to 
propose listing this subspecies.
Washington Department of Natural Resources
    (7) Comment: WDNR, as well as the Natural Resources Conservation 
Service (NRCS), suggested additions and changes to the list of allowed 
agricultural activities and a revision to the calendar dates that some 
of those activities may take place under the proposed 4(d) special 
rule. They suggested these changes in order to avoid possible 
unintended consequences of some of the proposed requirements, which 
they believe might compromise the goal of encouraging continued 
agricultural use of these areas. WDFW raised concern about the lack of 
restrictions on conversion from one agricultural use to another, since 
Mazama pocket gophers do not respond positively to all agricultural 
practices.
    Our Response: The Service worked closely with our State and Federal 
partners to understand which agricultural practices and related 
activities could be covered under the 4(d) special rule. Not all 
suggested changes were incorporated because not all activities that 
were suggested met our criteria for what is appropriate for inclusion 
under a 4(d) special rule for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
the Mazama pocket gopher (under section 4(d) of the Act, such a special 
rule must be ``necessary and advisable for the conservation of the 
species''). We have amended the rule to clarify the terms used, revised 
the dates that covered activities are allowed, and revised the list of 
agricultural activities that are covered, where appropriate. We believe 
our final 4(d) special rule addresses concerns and incorporates 
recommendations we received on our proposal and exempts from the

[[Page 19763]]

prohibitions of section 9 certain ongoing agricultural practices 
consistent with regulations necessary and advisable for the continued 
conservation of the four subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher. With the 
help of our Federal and State partners, we will continue to work with 
agricultural landowners as necessary to more fully cover their 
activities while conserving the Mazama pocket gopher using a range of 
available conservation tools, such as permits and other authorizations 
(see also our response to Comment 38).
Washington State Department of Transportation
    (8) Comment: WSDOT asked that we consider expanding the exemptions 
listed under our 4(d) special rule to include vegetation management of 
roadside rights-of-way, including mechanical mowing, weed control, and 
woody vegetation control (mechanical or herbicide control measures), as 
well as fencing operations. They pointed out that these activities 
maintain suitable habitat conditions for the pocket gophers by reducing 
the woody vegetation that they avoid, and maintaining the low 
vegetation cover that they favor. The agency additionally pointed out 
that suitable habitat for the Mazama pocket gopher is found along 
highways and roadways that traverse prairie habitats throughout 
Thurston and Pierce Counties.
    Our Response: We agree that the roadside management activities 
described by WSDOT benefit the Mazama pocket gopher by restoring or 
maintaining habitat in a condition suitable for the subspecies. As we 
do not wish to discourage the continuation of proactive management 
activities that benefit the conservation of the Mazama pocket gopher, 
as described in the Special Rule section of this document, we conclude 
that it is necessary and advisable for the conservation of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies to add roadside vegetation management and 
fencing activities to the list of exemptions from section 9 in our 4(d) 
special rule. This exemption applies to all Federal. State, county, 
private, or Tribal vegetation management activities on highways or 
roadside rights-of-way. Under the 4(d) special rule, although 
exemptions from the prohibitions of section 9 are provided, any 
activities subject to a Federal nexus and that may affect the species 
or its critical habitat still require consultation under section 7 of 
the Act.

Comments From Federal Agencies

Natural Resources Conservation Service
    Comments from the NRCS have been incorporated into Comment 7, 
above.

Comments From the Public

    (9) Comment: Several commenters questioned the use of the current 
taxonomy for the Mazama pocket gopher for the purposes of listing.
    Our Response: The Service acknowledges that the original taxonomy 
of the Mazama pocket gopher was based on morphotype (the difference 
between the appearances of separate subspecies) and that the 
examination of genetic material would provide greater insight into the 
degree of relatedness between subspecies. However, under the Act we are 
to make a listing determination based on the best scientific and 
commercial data available at the time of our rulemaking; we cannot 
speculate as to what future research may or may not reveal. The 
currently accepted subspecific designations of Thomomys mazama (the 
Mazama pocket gopher) stand according to the accepted rules of the 
International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. No compelling 
information is available nor has been submitted through the appropriate 
scientific channels necessary to effect a revision in the established 
taxonomy. Some genetic work conducted on the Mazama pocket gopher 
created confusion regarding their taxonomy, but that work was never 
published in a peer-reviewed journal.
    It is possible that ongoing genetic work will clarify the 
relationship between the subspecies in the future, and if the 
International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature receives and 
accepts a revised taxonomy for the Mazama pocket gopher that is at odds 
with the taxonomy used here, we can revisit the listing at that time. 
To date, however, there has been no publication of any data that could 
lead to a formal submission for a revision of the taxonomy of the 
Mazama pocket gopher to the International Commission on Zoological 
Nomenclature, nor is there any record indicating that they have 
received any petition to consider a revision. Therefore, consistent 
with the direction from the Act (i.e., based on the best scientific and 
commercial data available at the time of our finding), we are using the 
established taxonomy for the Mazama pocket gopher, which recognizes the 
Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gopher as separate 
subspecies. See the ``Taxonomy'' section of this document for further 
information.
    (10) Comment: Several commenters believed that an ongoing 
collaboration between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Service 
is designed to definitively determine whether or not the present 
subspecies distinctions upon which the proposed listing relies are in 
fact scientifically accurate, and believed the Service should delay its 
listing determination until these results are completed.
    Our Response: Scientific knowledge is an ever-growing body of work 
to which many researchers and studies contribute. There is no one point 
in time at which ``science'' is complete, however, the Service is 
required to use ``the best scientific and commercial data available'' 
at the time a listing determination is made. The ongoing collaboration 
between USGS and the Service that was referenced by the commenters was 
designed to assist in the ongoing conservation of the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher, and was not intended to 
support a determination of whether or not listing them as threatened 
under the Act is warranted. The results of this study would allow the 
Service to establish: (a) The functional unit of management for the 
species (e.g., the subspecies level, the metapopulation level, or the 
population level); and (b) where the physical boundaries for those 
units exist on the landscape. This assessment will be made based on 
whether or not the results indicate genetic differentiation has 
resulted in evolutionarily divergent paths for different populations. 
Evidence of evolutionary divergence will dictate the future management 
strategies for the Mazama pocket gopher. This is not the same question 
as whether the evidence suggests a possible redefinition of subspecies, 
though that could be a logical outgrowth of the research conducted if 
the results support that outcome. See also our response to Comment 9, 
above.
    (11) Comment: One commenter stated that the presumption of earlier 
expansive occupancy for the Mazama pocket gopher across undeveloped 
prairies is without merit.
    Our Response: It is impossible to know for certain the full extent 
of the historical occupancy for the Mazama pocket gopher in Washington 
State for the entirety of the species' evolutionary history. 
Extrapolating from the geologic record, we can reasonably assert that 
pocket gophers were more widespread and likely occupied a much wider 
range of habitats across a much broader area prior to the descent of 
the Vashon lobe of the Cordilleran ice sheet during the last glaciation 
period. This is

[[Page 19764]]

demonstrable through the isolated and genetically distinct population 
of Mazama pocket gopher in the Olympic Mountains and other isolated 
populations, such as the Cathlamet pocket gopher in western Washington. 
Pocket gophers simply cannot disperse quickly across great distances 
where habitat is discontiguous, indicating that the ability of 
populations to extend across the state over a short period of time 
would have been extremely improbable. In order for prehistoric pocket 
gopher populations to reach the Olympic Mountains, they would have had 
to have had a much wider distribution across a greater variety of 
habitats than they currently inhabit. Mazama pocket gophers, as we know 
them, have evolved to require friable, well-drained soils in relatively 
open areas. The prairies of the south Puget Sound landscape are exactly 
that.
    Considering the potential for evolutionary adaptation on the 
geologic time scale, it is completely reasonable to expect that pocket 
gopher populations were historically far more widespread in western 
Washington. That said, all species are somewhat patchily distributed 
based on habitat availability and each species' ability to disperse to, 
compete for, and exploit resources, so it is possible some historical 
prairies or areas of prairies may never have been occupied. We further 
acknowledge here and elsewhere in this document that the Mazama pocket 
gopher exhibits patchily distributed use of available habitat, meaning 
that not all suitable areas are likely to be occupied at all times. The 
current fragmented and discontiguous state of apparently suitable 
habitat, such as the remaining undeveloped prairies, has rendered it 
impossible for the Mazama pocket gopher to sustain widespread 
occupancy, as the Service asserts was likely the case. It is reasonable 
to state, based on knowledge of dispersal capability, current 
distribution, and the distribution of similar Thomomys species, that 
the Mazama pocket gopher likely had a much broader historical 
distribution that included a greater portion of the prairie habitat in 
the south Puget Sound than they currently occupy, as did Dalquest and 
Scheffer (1942, p. 95; 1944a, p. 311).
    (12) Comment: One commenter stated that the only distribution 
studies being conducted on the Mazama pocket gopher involved lands 
within the Thurston County Urban Growth Areas (UGAs), and believed 
Mazama pocket gophers exist in many other areas of the County.
    Our Response: We draw the commenter's attention to the WDFW (2013a) 
Mazama Pocket Gopher Distribution and Habitat study, which used a 
randomized design to sample approximately 800 locations in Grays 
Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pierce, and Thurston Counties on public and 
private lands, the vast majority of which were outside of any UGA. We 
also note that this study reinforced the current known distribution of 
the Mazama pocket gopher in western Washington by providing insight 
into where Mazama pocket gopher sign was detected (positive survey 
data) and where it was not detected (negative survey data). The 
strength of this effort and its results support our current 
understanding of the distribution of the Mazama pocket gopher in 
Thurston County.
    (13) Comment: Two commenters referenced the reports from contract 
biologists who claim to have found Mazama pocket gopher mounds outside 
of the currently known range.
    Our Response: The Service took these reports into consideration, 
but subsequent trapping conducted by WDFW at the sites in question have 
resulted in the capture of only moles (Scapanus spp.), whose mounds are 
often confused with those of Mazama pocket gophers. Neither Service nor 
WDFW biologists have been able to locate any other Mazama pocket gopher 
sign in the area despite broad survey efforts.
    (14) Comment: Several commenters expressed the opinion that the 
distribution and population sizes currently known for the Mazama pocket 
gopher have been underestimated, while another commenter stated that 
populations are either stable or increasing. Several other commenters 
stated that the Mazama pocket gopher should not be given Federal 
protection under the Act when it appears as if they occur in great 
numbers.
    Our Response: The extensive distribution study recently conducted 
by WDFW (2013a) reinforced the known distribution of the Mazama pocket 
gopher in Washington State and provided valuable ``negative'' survey 
data by documenting areas where Mazama pocket gophers were not 
detected. It is important to note that the Service did not use 
population size while conducting the threats analysis because there is 
no established way to accurately estimate and monitor population size 
for the Mazama pocket gopher. No data were collected that would provide 
information about population trends, nor would it have been possible to 
obtain this data in a single survey season.
    Very few people actually see Mazama pocket gophers because they are 
primarily fossorial, living almost entirely underground. What most 
people see when they become aware of pocket gophers are mounds of dirt 
excavated from the tunnel systems where the pocket gophers live, and 
they may extrapolate from the number of mounds to the number of 
gophers, assuming that many mounds equates to many gophers. Research 
has demonstrated that the correlation between the number of mounds and 
the number of pocket gophers is weak (Olson 2011a, p. 37), and there 
are many different circumstances that can lead to an increase in the 
number of mounds when there are not many gophers. Such circumstances 
include instances of soil compaction (a response to tunnels being 
crushed or damaged), in cases of sparse vegetation (which forces the 
animals to dig farther for forage material), or when gophers disperse 
into a new area and have to excavate a completely new tunnel system.
    Since Mazama pocket gophers are extremely territorial, their 
density is low except when young are present. Another complicating 
factor is that Mazama pocket gophers and moles can coexist at the same 
site, creating the impression that there are many more gophers than 
actually occur. There is currently no effective and accurate way to 
count live pocket gophers. However, the Service did determine larger-
scale changes in population status such as local extirpations and range 
contractions, and evaluated potential future status in the threats 
analysis section of this rule for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies 
of the Mazama pocket gopher by focusing on factors such as habitat 
destruction and fragmentation, predation, and lack of gene flow between 
extant populations. Based on our evaluation of these considerations, we 
have concluded that each of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher meets the definition of a threatened species under 
the Act.
    (15) Comment: One commenter questioned whether or not there was a 
reduction in population numbers of the Mazama pocket gopher in 
Washington and asserted that if a decrease in population numbers does 
exist, it should be attributed to past pest control efforts, of which 
Mazama pocket gophers were a target as recently as 1992. The same 
commenter stated that Mazama pocket gophers are ``rodents,'' implied 
that rodents are immune to the efforts of humans to eradicate them, and 
provided a list of documents reporting on efforts to control or 
eradicate many different species of Thomomys and many subspecies of T. 
mazama. Most of

[[Page 19765]]

these studies were conducted in Oregon and where gophers were 
considered pests at tree farms.
    Our Response: Because there is currently no practical way to count 
individual Mazama pocket gophers within a population, the status 
evaluation of each subspecies was conducted using other metrics. The 
Service determined that the suitable habitat available has been reduced 
to the point that many historical populations have been permanently 
extirpated (such as in heavily developed areas) and gene flow between 
surviving populations has been restricted to the point of preventing 
the natural recovery of the subspecies. Past pest control efforts 
directed at Mazama pocket gophers may have contributed to fragmentation 
and decline in some populations.
    While it is true that Mazama pocket gophers are rodents, it is 
important to note that the documented reproductive strategy of Mazama 
pocket gophers is unlike that of most rodents. Mazama pocket gophers 
only reproduce once a year and have an average lifespan of just a year 
or two in the wild. Even though they generally have a litter of around 
five pups, they are still a prey species, so it is reasonable to expect 
that only one or two of their offspring will survive each year, 
depending on contemporaneous predation pressure. This life history is 
in contrast to most other rodents, many of which have flexible 
reproductive cycles and the ability to produce multiple large litters 
of offspring each year.
    Even within the same species of pocket gopher, evolutionary 
adaptation plays a role in the ability of individual subspecies to 
utilize particular habitats. The majority of the subspecies of Thomomys 
mazama in Washington inhabit soils associated with prairies and glacial 
outwash, not forests. Douglas-fir trees (Pseudotsuga menziesii) will 
encroach into the soil types and prairies that the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher prefer, but Mazama pocket gopher 
habitat in Washington historically consisted of open areas. To 
extrapolate from the literature regarding other species of Thomomys and 
even from other subspecies of T. mazama that live in different habitat 
types could lead to erroneous conclusions about the ability of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher to persist 
without protection.
    (16) Comment: Many commenters with concerns about the listing of 
the Mazama pocket gopher conflated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(the Service) with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 
(WDFW), which is the State of Washington's fish and wildlife management 
agency.
    Our Response: While the Service, as a Federal agency, works 
collaboratively with the State of Washington and maintains close 
working relationships with their expert biologists, we cannot speak to 
the agreements negotiated between WDFW and other parties, except where 
we explicitly rely upon information in those agreements, nor are we 
able to account for any perceived inconsistencies in information 
produced by the State. It is especially important to recognize that a 
conservation agreement negotiated between State agencies, such as WDFW, 
and independent parties is not automatically extended to include the 
Service or accepted by the Service, regardless of the conservation 
benefit to the species.
    (17) Comment: Several commenters observed that WDFW clarified their 
position on the necessity of a Federal listing for the Mazama pocket 
gopher between the first comment period and the second comment period.
    Our Response: The Service received two comment letters from WDFW 
during the public comment periods. WDFW initially stated, ``While WDFW 
supports the objective of ensuring appropriate conservation measures 
are in place for the species, federal listing and critical habitat 
designation is not necessary at this time due to ongoing county, state, 
and federal conservation efforts.''
    During the second comment period, the Director of WDFW submitted a 
second comment letter that stated, in part ``The GMA [Washington 
State's Growth Management Act] provides landscape-scale planning and 
conservation policies and tools, while the ESA focuses on protection 
for species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Each authority 
plays an important role in achieving our shared goals for prairie 
habitat and species conservation; however, in this case implementation 
to date of GMA alone has not provided enough certainty of future 
conservation for the species to fully address the threats identified in 
the proposed federal ESA listing. More work is needed to identify 
specific protection standards at the landscape and site scale in order 
to achieve those goals. Policy makers and planners continue to work 
together to identify these standards so that we can work together 
jointly to help other entities prepare for these potential listings, 
and perhaps eliminate the need for additional listings in the future 
due to the presence of sufficient state-led conservation actions.''
    (18) Comment: Several commenters mistakenly used the term 
``endangered'' instead of ``threatened'' to refer to the Service's 
proposed listing status of the four subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher found in Pierce and Thurston Counties.
    Our Response: An ``endangered'' species is any species that is in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range; a ``threatened'' species is any species that is likely to become 
an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. Endangered species are at the brink 
of extinction today, while threatened species are likely to be at the 
brink in the near future if their status does not improve or at least 
stabilize. We have made the determination that the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher found in Pierce and Thurston 
Counties are likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable 
future, therefore each will be listed as a ``threatened'' species under 
the Act.
    (19) Comment: Many commenters questioned the data and the science 
used to determine the threatened status of the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher, averring that the state of our 
collective knowledge about the Mazama pocket gopher and its known 
threats is incomplete and that more studies are required to make a 
determination.
    Our Response: We are required to make our determination based on 
the best scientific and commercial data available at the time of our 
rulemaking, except in cases where the Secretary finds that there is 
substantial disagreement regarding the sufficiency or accuracy of the 
available data relevant to the determination. In such a case, under 
section 4(b)(6)(B)(i) of the Act, the Secretary may extend the 1-year 
period to make a final determination by up to 6 months for the purposes 
of soliciting additional data. In this case, we did extend our final 
determination on the listing status of the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher by 6 months due to substantial 
disagreement regarding the sufficiency or accuracy of some of the 
available threats information, which is the maximum extent allowable 
under the statute. We considered the best scientific and commercial 
data available regarding the subspecies of Mazama pocket gophers and 
their habitats in Washington State to evaluate their potential status 
under the Act.

[[Page 19766]]

    In the case of the Olympic pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama 
melanops), the Shelton pocket gopher (T. m. couchi), and the Cathlamet 
pocket gopher (T. m. louiei), we determined that the best available 
data did not support listing under the Act (September 3, 2013; 78 FR 
54214). For the Olympia pocket gopher, Roy Prairie pocket gopher, 
Tenino pocket gopher, and Yelm pocket gopher, as detailed in the 
Summary of Factors Affecting the Species section of this document, our 
evaluation of the best available scientific data leads us to determine 
that these subspecies each meet the definition of a threatened species 
under the Act. We solicited peer review of our evaluation of the 
available data, and our peer reviewers supported our analysis. Science 
is a cumulative process, and the body of knowledge is ever-growing. In 
light of this, the Service will always take new research into 
consideration. If plausible new research supports amendment or revision 
of this rule in the future, the Service will modify the rule consistent 
with the Act and our established work priorities at that time.
    (20) Comment: Several commenters suggested that the Service did not 
take into account WDFW's ongoing research that had not been formally 
completed when the proposed rule was published.
    Our Response: The Service was fully informed by the researchers who 
were conducting this work and cited data provided by those individuals 
directly where their current state of knowledge differed from their 
previously published reports. WDFW's January 2013 summary report of the 
extensive Mazama pocket gopher distribution and habitat survey that was 
conducted in 2012 reinforced the known distribution of Mazama pocket 
gophers in Washington State. The report stated that only one 
potentially new location had been identified, but subsequent 
investigation did not result in confirmation of pocket gopher presence 
at that site. The WDFW survey was a valuable contribution to our 
current state of knowledge about Mazama pocket gopher distribution and 
habitat use in that it provided both positive and negative survey data 
that reinforced the previously established pattern of distribution.
    (21) Comment: One commenter requested substantiated data 
demonstrating a positive benefit of listing the Mazama pocket gopher, 
and asked whether there had been an evaluation of the economic impact 
of the pending action.
    Our Response: In making a determination as to whether a species 
meets the Act's definition of an endangered or threatened species, 
under section 4(a)(1)(A) of the Act the Secretary is to make that 
determination based solely on the basis of the best scientific and 
commercial data available (emphasis added). The question of whether or 
not there may be some positive benefit to the listing cannot by law 
enter into the determination. The evaluation of economic impacts comes 
into play only in association with the designation of critical habitat 
under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, as described in detail in our final 
designation of critical habitat for Mazama pocket gopher, published 
elsewhere in the Federal Register today. Therefore, although we did not 
consider the economic impacts of the proposed listing, as such a 
consideration is not allowable under the Act, we did consider the 
potential economic impacts of the critical habitat designation, 
including the potential benefits of such designation.
    (22) Comment: Numerous commenters expressed concerns that the 
listing of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher would result in sweeping adverse economic impacts. Among these 
concerns was that much of the privately owned land and housing would be 
rendered worthless, and that businesses would be ruined. One commenter 
expressed concerns that their property would be sold to developers, or 
that there would be no compensation for property that would be rendered 
unusable. Several commenters expressed concerns that restrictions 
associated with the listing would hinder economic development, and 
implied that the uncertainty associated with the listing could hinder 
the ability to pass bonds for school construction.
    Our Response: We understand that there is a lot of confusion and 
concern about the effect of a listing and critical habitat designation 
for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. We 
encourage any landowners with a listed species present on their 
property and who thinks they carry out activities that may negatively 
impact that listed species to work with the Service. We can help those 
landowners determine whether a habitat conservation plan (HCP) or safe 
harbor agreement (SHA) may be appropriate for their needs. These plans 
or agreements provide for the conservation of the listed species while 
providing the landowner with a permit for incidental take of the 
species during the course of otherwise lawful activities. We are 
working with Thurston County to develop a county-wide HCP for grassland 
and prairie associated species, including the Mazama pocket gopher. If 
completed, this HCP would provide long-term regulatory assurances under 
the Act for people who live, work, or conduct business in Thurston 
County.
    In addition, we have attempted to recognize the conservation 
contribution of non-Federal landowners through the issuance of a 4(d) 
special rule, which exempts individuals from the take prohibitions of 
the Act for certain activities, such as the construction of dog kennels 
or installation of fences or play equipment on their property. The 4(d) 
special rule additionally identifies specific agricultural practices, 
noxious weed and invasive plant control, and roadside maintenance 
activities that are consistent with regulations necessary and advisable 
for the continued conservation of the Mazama pocket gopher.
    We also note that any restrictions or regulations already in place 
for the Mazama pocket gopher and its habitat and any costs associated 
with those restrictions or regulations under the GMA and associated 
critical areas ordinances were not the result of listing under the Act, 
but are a consequence of State laws and regulations that were already 
in place. We acknowledge that some economic impacts are a possible 
consequence of listing a species under the Act; for example, there may 
be costs to the landowner associated with the development of an HCP. In 
other cases, if the landowner does not acquire a permit for incidental 
take, the landowner may choose to forego certain activities on their 
property to avoid violating the Act, resulting in potential lost 
income. However, as noted in our response to Comment 21, above, the 
statute does not provide for the consideration of such impacts when 
making a listing decision. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act specifies that 
listing determinations be made ``solely on the basis of the best 
scientific and commercial data available.'' Such costs are therefore 
precluded from consideration in association with a listing 
determination.
    The Act does provide for the consideration of potential economic 
impacts in the course of designating critical habitat. However, the 
regulatory consequence of critical habitat designation is limited to 
actions with a Federal nexus (activities that are funded, authorized, 
or carried out by a Federal agency). The designation of critical 
habitat has no regulatory effect on private lands lacking a Federal 
connection. Critical habitat designation itself does not prevent 
development or alteration of the land, create a wildlife preserve, or 
require any sort of response or management from a private

[[Page 19767]]

landowner. Therefore, the designation of critical habitat would not 
directly result in any specific requirements by the Federal Government 
on the part of private landowners. Even in the case of a Federal nexus, 
such as in a case where a private landowner should require a Federal 
permit for an activity, the only requirement is that the Federal agency 
involved in permitting the activity avoids the destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat. Infrequently there are some costs to 
private landowners in such cases as third-party applicants.
    The Service believes that restrictions alone are neither an 
effective nor a desirable means for achieving the conservation of 
listed species. We prefer to work collaboratively with private 
landowners, and strongly encourage individuals with listed species on 
their property to work with us to develop incentive-based measures such 
as SHAs or HCPs, which have the potential to provide conservation 
measures that effect positive results for the species and its habitat 
while providing regulatory relief for landowners. The conservation and 
recovery of endangered and threatened species, and the ecosystems upon 
which they depend, is the ultimate objective of the Act, and the 
Service recognizes the vital importance of voluntary, nonregulatory 
conservation measures that provide incentives for landowners in 
achieving that objective.
    (23) Comment: One commenter argued that, while the Service 
determined road construction associated with development causes 
fragmentation of habitat in the south Puget Sound region, the Service 
previously concluded that road construction can have a positive effect 
on pocket gopher species, referencing a rule issued for another species 
of pocket gopher in Wyoming.
    Our Response: The Service referenced the rule cited by the 
commenter, which states ``We conclude the effects of roads on the 
Wyoming pocket gopher may be both positive and negative. Although we 
remain concerned about roads, the best available information does not 
indicate that road construction and use pose a threat to the Wyoming 
pocket gopher now, or in the foreseeable future.'' (75 FR 19600; April 
15, 2010). We draw the commenter's attention to the Wyoming counties 
discussed in the finding and highlight the following: The human 
population density of Sweetwater and Carbon Counties in 2010 when the 
determination was made for the Wyoming pocket gopher was 4 and 5 people 
per square mile, respectively. Thurston County has a population density 
of 334 people per square mile (47 square miles of which are water and 
thus uninhabitable by gophers). Clearly, there is a significant 
difference in the human population between these areas, which extends 
to a high degree of difference in the density of roads; for this 
reason, the Service determined that road construction may not have a 
large effect in the case of the Wyoming pocket gopher but could have a 
negative effect on the Mazama pocket gopher subspecies in Thurston 
County. With the population of Thurston County projected to increase by 
approximately 141,000 people by the year 2040 (Thurston Regional 
Planning Council 2012, pp. 30, 32), raising the density to greater than 
550 people per square mile, the corresponding increase in 
infrastructure will only further disrupt and fragment the remaining 
remnants of habitat.
    (24) Comment: One commenter asserted that the listing determination 
incorrectly assumes that development in Thurston County poses the same 
risk to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher as 
earlier development did in Pierce County for the Tacoma pocket gopher, 
which is now presumed extinct.
    Our Response: While we do not disagree that the threat of 
development in Pierce County is likely unequal to the threat of 
development in Thurston County, the threat analyses conducted for the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher took many 
factors into account when making the determination of threatened 
species status. The tremendous loss of Mazama pocket gopher habitat to 
development in Thurston County is indisputable. Combined with 
fragmentation and isolation of habitat; the subsequent loss of 
connectivity between populations and, therefore, gene flow, increased 
predation pressures associated with proximity to development, habitat 
degradation due to the spread of invasive plants, and successional 
changes in grasslands attributable to development-associated fire 
suppression, we made the determination that the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher are indeed threatened. This 
determination stands despite the likely differential in development 
pressures of historical Pierce and present-day Thurston Counties.
    (25) Comment: One commenter suggested that increased burrowing 
activity after soil disturbance and other manmade environmental 
modifications such as installation of underground utility services or 
land clearing was evidence of the Mazama pocket gopher's ability to 
adapt to changing conditions. Several commenters observed that some 
environmental consultants are recommending against protection for the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher and that 
they are reporting observations of pocket gophers in clear cuts, on 
Christmas tree farms, and in areas where soils have been highly 
disturbed through anthropogenic processes, such as in the Artillery 
Impact Area (AIA) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).
    Our Response: While it may look as if there are a lot of new mounds 
in areas where soil disturbance has recently occurred, this may be the 
activity of as few as one or two pocket gophers that are excavating new 
tunnel systems, attempting to reconstruct compacted or destroyed 
burrows, or, if much of the herbaceous vegetation has been removed from 
the surface of the soil, they may be expanding their tunnel system in 
order to increase their forage area. The presence of numerous gopher 
mounds does not necessarily mean that there are a lot of gophers or 
that the gophers present are thriving and able to persist long term 
(Olson 2011a, p. 37).
    Due to fire suppression, much of the historical prairie landscape 
has been converted to timber through the succession of the plant 
community. If the underlying soils were formerly suitable Mazama pocket 
gopher habitat, removal of timber re-exposes this temporarily 
inaccessible habitat and any nearby population could potentially 
disperse into or otherwise make use of the opening. Similarly, 
Christmas tree farms that are situated on suitable or occupied habitat 
may not exclude Mazama pocket gophers, especially if the associated 
agricultural practices do not include heavy herbicide use or extensive 
mechanical soil manipulation. It is true that the AIA of JBLM appears 
to have been continuously occupied, at least patchily, for a very long 
time. The Service believes the ability of Mazama pocket gophers to use 
this habitat is due in part to, not in spite of, the year-round 
bombardment of the central impact area: Ignition of dry standing 
vegetation attributable to bombardment leads to low-intensity burns 
across the 91st Division Prairie where the AIA is located. The effect 
of these burns, aside from mimicking the historical burning regime, is 
that they prevent woody encroachment and encourage a vegetative 
community similar to the kind the Mazama pocket gopher evolved with; in 
essence, their ideal forage community. Due to the sporadic nature of 
artillery training, it is not unexpected that individual Mazama pocket 
gophers would disperse and create tunnels into

[[Page 19768]]

the high-intensity impact area at the center of the prairie, especially 
if the outer edges of the prairie have a high density of Mazama pocket 
gophers.
    (26) Comment: One commenter suggested that a translocation study 
previously conducted on Mazama pocket gophers supports the relocation 
of pocket gophers from urban areas to unoccupied prairies as a viable 
management tool to sustain the species over the long term.
    Our Response: The study referenced was discussed at length in the 
proposed rule (77 FR 73770; December 11, 2012). It was the first of its 
kind and initially resulted in extremely high mortality rates for the 
translocated gophers. While deaths attributable to translocation 
declined as techniques improved, long-term monitoring will be required 
before it is possible to determine whether or not a ``new'' population 
has been established without continual addition of new individuals. 
Further it is difficult to determine whether or not a site (e.g., Mima 
Mounds Natural Area Preserve or Mima Prairie Glacial Heritage Preserve) 
provides appropriate habitat if there is no historical record of 
occupancy. Some of these sites superficially appear to have 
characteristics of suitable habitat, but are not currently documented 
as occupied and have no historical record of occupancy. Overall, we do 
not believe translocation of gophers from one area to another is a 
sustainable approach to conserving the species in the long term. We are 
collaborating with land owners, local governments, and the business 
community to develop a range-wide habitat conservation strategy that 
may include translocation as an appropriate tool in certain 
circumstances.
    (27) Comment: One commenter suggested that there is not enough 
information about pet predation on Mazama pocket gophers to conclude 
that the threat is significant and cited a comment submitted by the 
WDFW stating the same.
    Our Response: While the Service is unaware of any pet predation 
studies that apply specifically to the Mazama pocket gopher, we have 
received numerous firsthand reports of pet predation on pocket gophers 
in general and Mazama pocket gophers specifically from both WDFW and 
Service biologists. Supplementing these observations with citizen 
reports received from non-biologists and incidents documented by video, 
we have concluded that pet predation is likely a common occurrence and 
we consider it a threat to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gopher in the south Puget Sound region. In most cases, 
biologists do not consider predation on individual animals as a threat 
to their respective populations as a whole; when considering endangered 
or threatened species, though, populations may be depressed to the 
point that the loss of individual animals becomes disproportionally 
important. Mazama pocket gophers are somewhat solitary in nature, and 
due to the known loss of occupied habitat through conversion to 
incompatible uses (e.g., development, mineral extraction, etc.) and the 
increasingly fragmented habitat that remains, we contend that loss of 
individual animals may have greater than normal impacts to the overall 
health of their populations. In WDFW's second comment letter they 
agreed that predation was appropriate to include as a threat, so it 
could be further examined and compared to the other well-documented 
threats to determine actions that may be needed during the recovery 
process for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies Mazama pocket gophers.
    (28) Comment: Many commenters believe that Washington State's 
Growth Management Act (GMA) provides enough regulatory certainty to 
protect Mazama pocket gophers in Washington into the foreseeable 
future, therefore, precluding the need to list them as a threatened 
species under the Act.
    Our Response: We disagree. Washington State's GMA was crafted to 
provide land use guidance that would result in conservation of State 
resources and wise land use practices. The GMA outlines 13 goals to 
guide the development of regulations at the county and municipality 
levels, but it does not mandate the establishment of performance 
measures or the requirement of monitoring, thus there is no 
standardized metric or means by which to quantify the success or 
failure of the resulting regulation. The Service recognizes that the 
GMA has produced some tangible conservation benefits, but variability 
in the formulation, implementation, and enforcement of the ensuing 
regulations has allowed for divergent planning practices across the 
State as well as a broad range of results at individual sites where 
required mitigation has taken place. Further, current implementation of 
the GMA fails to sufficiently curb the continued fragmentation and loss 
of Mazama pocket gopher populations and habitat. (Also see response to 
Comment 17). For these reasons and others, as detailed in our Summary 
of Factors Affecting the Species, we have determined that existing 
regulatory mechanisms, including the GMA, are inadequate to ensure the 
conservation of the Mazama pocket gopher.
    (29) Comment: One commenter concluded that the final rule 
determining threatened status for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies 
of Mazama pocket gopher would reverse the benefits of Washington 
State's GMA by reducing human population density in the Urban Growth 
Areas (UGAs) and increasing sprawl in rural areas.
    Our Response: The Service is actively engaged with county and 
municipal governments (e.g., Thurston County, City of Tumwater, and 
Port of Olympia) to support the results of Washington's GMA and land-
use planning under the Act.
    (30) Comment: One commenter posited that the development threats 
and pressures that may have led to the extirpation of the Tacoma pocket 
gopher took place prior to the passage of Washington State's GMA and 
that, due to the differences between past and current regulations, 
conclusions about current and future threats to the Mazama pocket 
gopher in Washington should not be considered to be equivalent. In 
other words, the commenter felt the more recent State regulations are 
sufficient to prevent the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies from going 
the way of the Tacoma pocket gopher.
    Our Response: We generally agree that the GMA has helped to reduce 
threats to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies, although loss of Mazama 
pocket gopher habitat to development pressures still remains a threat. 
Additionally, although the GMA and associated critical areas 
protections have certainly provided greater protection to priority 
habitats and species than existed prior to their passage, it does not 
necessarily follow that they are sufficient to conserve the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher given the 
subspecies' current status and fragmented distribution. Overall the 
effectiveness or timeliness of regulations to conserve a species is 
partially dependent upon when the actual conservation concern for the 
species of interest was recognized or identified as a need. Regulations 
implemented after significant habitat has been lost will not have the 
same conservation impact as those implemented when significant portions 
of habitat still remain intact.
    (31) Comment: One commenter asserted that the Service dismisses the 
WDFW Priority Habitat and Species (PHS) program as a legal nullity for 
listing under the Act. Another commenter said that the WDFW PHS 
recommendations requires the use of standardized performance measures 
in

[[Page 19769]]

the development of Habitat Management Plans (HMPs) and that the 
recommendation is enough of a safeguard against variability in the 
implementation of the HMPs to preclude the listing of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher.
    Our Response: The Service does not dismiss the contribution that 
the PHS program provides in the form of consultation and guidance on 
land use issues affecting priority habitats and species. However, we 
note the limitations of their PHS Management Recommendations, and 
reflect WDFW's own characterization of the PHS: ``These recommendations 
are not regulatory, but are based on best available science for 
avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating impacts to gophers and their 
habitat, which is primarily located in South Puget Sound. WDFW 
recommends the following mitigation sequence for reviewing and 
conditioning proposed development projects with potential impacts to 
Mazama pocket gophers'' (WDFW 2011, p. 1). Because these are 
recommendations and are explicitly not regulatory in nature, we do not 
weight them equally to existing law when evaluating the adequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms.
    While the PHS allows for WDFW recommendations to become mandatory 
performance measures in HMPs when required and adopted by local 
governments, this has not occurred consistently. Performance measures 
must be capable of assessing the quality and efficacy of the executed 
plan. In order to do so, performance measures must mandate objective 
and measurable metrics that are used to delineate performance 
thresholds for success and are standardized across all plans.
    Further, the PHS specifies that the recommendations for HMP 
development are not regulatory in nature, leaving individual planning 
authorities to determine implementation practices, including management 
and enforcement. While the PHS recommendations do specify that HMPs 
should be submitted to WDFW for review, the review process only occurs 
as WDFW resources allow, which leads to inconsistent results. Further, 
should WDFW staff make specific recommendations, these recommendations 
may or may not be implemented by the County, especially where a land 
use variance has been approved. The Service does not agree that these 
recommendations provide enough regulatory certainty to ameliorate 
threats to the Mazama pocket gopher to the extent that listing would 
not be warranted.
    (32) Comment: Several commenters either asked how effective 
mitigations resulting from the current GMA critical areas regulations 
have been or stated that the mitigations had been successful or 
unsuccessful. Some commenters averred that successful mitigation should 
preclude the listing of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher while others highlighted the weaknesses in the 
implementation of the recommendations and regulations.
    Our Response: Due to the lack of performance measures, there is no 
standard metric of success or failure of the GMA critical areas 
regulations. Furthermore, due to lack of monitoring, there is not a 
comprehensive list of sites where mitigation measures have been 
implemented and where Mazama pocket gopher populations are being 
tracked. Of the sites where Habitat Management Plans (HMPs) have been 
developed as required under the critical areas regulations and shared 
with the Service, many of the plans do not appear to have adequately 
provided for the habitat needs of the Mazama pocket gopher, in some 
cases overlaying water retention ponds with habitat set-asides. Due to 
the lack of consistency between regulations, variability in 
implementation of approved HMPs, the lack of requirement of performance 
measures or monitoring, and a lack of enforcement, the Service does not 
find the existing regulations to be effective at protecting and 
sustaining Mazama pocket gopher populations or habitat at a level 
consistent with the persistence of the species into the foreseeable 
future.
    (33) Comment: Several commenters concluded that the Service found 
the existing State and local regulatory scheme adequate to protect 
gophers in areas outside of Thurston County, despite the fact that 
those jurisdictions have even lesser critical area protections.
    Our Response: This statement is not correct. The Service actually 
concluded that although the existing State and local regulatory schemes 
provided some conservation measures, they are inadequate to reduce the 
threats within both Thurston and Pierce Counties (See threats 
discussion in our proposed rule; 77 FR 73770, pp. 73782-73786). In 
other counties where the Olympic, Shelton, or Cathlamet subspecies of 
Mazama pocket gophers are located, we currently have no evidence to 
suggest existing regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to such a degree 
that they pose a threat given the current status of these subspecies 
and their habitats.
    (34) Comment: A comment submitted by a representative of the 
petroleum industry asserted that the impacts of impending climate 
change are not foreseeable.
    Our Response: The vast majority of the body of literature 
contributed by adherents to the scientific method projects an 
increasing trend toward higher-than-average temperatures worldwide 
accompanied by an increased frequency in stochastic weather events, 
many of which present real and foreseeable threats. The Service does 
not consider climate change as a threat for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher because the threat is not 
imminent given the organism's fossorial lifestyle and propensity to use 
exceedingly well-drained soils, which may provide a buffer from the 
most predictable aspects of a changing climate. This should not be 
misconstrued as an indicator that the Service believes that climate 
change is not a threat in the long term.
    (35) Comment: One commenter stated that, despite following State 
recommendations for infrastructure development that complies with the 
Clean Water Act while simultaneously accommodating projected population 
growth in Thurston County, the listing determination and designation of 
critical habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher communicates to the public that participation in such 
processes is a useless exercise.
    Our Response: The Service encourages all parties involved in the 
development of infrastructure to comply with all Federal and State 
recommendations and laws. We additionally wish to draw attention to the 
annually updated list of species that are candidates for listing under 
the Act, which has included the Mazama pocket gopher since 2001. The 
Service works closely with Federal, State, county, and municipal 
planners to publicize the status of these candidate species so that the 
public, and specifically developers, will be able to make informed 
decisions when planning for future development at all scales.
    (36) Comment: Several commenters suggested that, faced with the 
prospect of Federal regulations attributable to the listing of the 
Mazama pocket gopher, land owners will be more inclined to maintain 
their land in a way that would discourage pocket gopher presence on 
their property.
    Our Response: Although some landowners may choose to maintain their 
land in such a way, we do not anticipate this to universally be the 
case. Many Thurston and Pierce County landowners have communicated a

[[Page 19770]]

desire to manage their lands in such a way that enhances prairie 
habitat. The Service recognizes these landowners and encourages 
positive stewardship that preserves biodiversity and local ecosystems. 
In this final rule, we have expanded the protections provided to 
residential and agricultural landowners under the 4(d) special rule for 
activities that support the maintenance of the open, early-seral 
conditions the Mazama pocket gopher prefers. We also encourage property 
owners who believe they have Mazama pocket gophers on their property to 
investigate the potential for a conservation agreement with the 
Service, some of which allow increased flexibility in land use in 
exchange for the maintenance of suitable habitat. For more information, 
please visit: http://fws.gov/endangered/ and see the ``For Landowners'' 
tab.
    (37) Comment: One commenter urged the Service to take into 
consideration lands that have been recently protected as conservation 
areas before publishing a final rule.
    Our Response: We have carefully considered the contribution of all 
protected lands to the conservation and recovery of the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher before making a final 
listing decision for each subspecies. We concluded there are currently 
an insufficient number and distribution of permanently protected areas 
for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher to 
preclude the need to list them under the Act.
    (38) Comment: Several commenters wanting the Service to make the 
proposed 4(d) special rule more inclusive provided anecdotal accounts 
of Mazama pocket gophers persisting in landscapes where certain 
agricultural practices have been taking place for many years (e.g., 
ranching, raising of nursery trees, row cropping, etc.), but failed to 
provide the Service with any means by which to verify their statements.
    Our Response: The Service is aware of some sites where Mazama 
pocket gophers appear to persist concordantly with certain agricultural 
practices. We have limited information on how different kinds of 
agricultural practices affect individual Mazama pocket gophers or their 
populations. Some practices such as subsoil or moldboard ploughing may 
conceivably have a greater impact on Mazama pocket gophers in the path 
of the plough than would most grazing and ranching practices. 
Similarly, shallow tillage may have a very different effect on animals 
present than deep tillage. Without being able to examine the short- and 
long-term effects of these practices, it is difficult to know if they 
are detrimental to Mazama pocket gopher populations where tilling and 
Mazama pocket gophers may co-occur.
    During the 6-month extension for making our final determination, 
the Service worked collaboratively with the Washington State Department 
of Agriculture (WSDA) to address uncertainties surrounding the accuracy 
or sufficiency of the data we used to assess the threat of various 
agricultural and ranching activities to the Mazama pocket gopher. As 
part of this effort, WSDA conducted an assessment with cooperating 
agricultural landowners to evaluate the co-occurrence of the Mazama 
pocket gopher with certain representative agricultural practices.
    The results of the assessment suggest that the Mazama pocket gopher 
is able to persist in at least some areas where these practices occur. 
While some of the practices recorded in the assessment may kill 
individual pocket gophers or negatively impact specific pocket gopher 
populations, we have expanded the list of permitted activities under 
our 4(d) special rule to include a broader range of agricultural 
practices, or address the specific timing of certain practices. We note 
that some agricultural practices are likely detrimental to the Mazama 
pocket gopher, but may be perceived as relatively harmless due to the 
continued presence of gophers on agricultural sites. Among all 
agricultural activities, deep tillage appears to have the highest 
likelihood of inadvertently killing the greatest number of individual 
gophers. The potential scope of impact this activity may cause is 
limited by virtue of its application to only a subset of agricultural 
lands and its intermittent use (recommended at a frequency of no more 
than once every 10 years, by NRCS). Continued presence of gophers on 
any tilled site may be the result of reoccupancy by remnant individuals 
from undisturbed field edges, and are not necessarily representative of 
established and enduring populations within these sites.
    The value of maintaining actively working agricultural lands as 
open and undeveloped areas provides a substantial conservation benefit 
to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. 
Furthermore, we now have some additional information available to us 
regarding the compatibility of certain practices with Mazama pocket 
gopher conservation, as the result of the 6-month extension on this 
final listing rule and an assessment conducted during that time by 
WSDA. As a result, we have exempted some additional agricultural 
practices under the 4(d) special rule (See Special Rule, below.)
    (39) Comment: Many commenters provided suggestions for revising the 
4(d) special rule.
    Our Response: The 4(d) special rule is a provision of the Act that 
allows for some ``take'' of a protected species when the overall 
outcome of the allowed actions are ``necessary and advisable to provide 
for the conservation of the species.'' The special rule is not intended 
to cover activities that do not provide some clear conservation benefit 
to the species. Many parties requested coverage for their actions under 
the 4(d) special rule without identifying the conservation benefit 
those actions would provide for the Mazama pocket gopher. The Service 
carefully considered all requests and amended the rule where 
appropriate, but was unable to cover many of the proposed actions. See 
the section entitled ``Special Rule'' for details on the revised 4(d) 
special rule.

Summary of Changes From the Proposed Rule

    In making our final determination, we fully considered comments 
from the public and the peer reviewers on our proposed rule to list the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher as 
threatened species, and to promulgate a 4(d) special rule for the 
conservation of these subspecies. This final rule incorporates changes 
to our proposed listing and 4(d) special rule based on the comments and 
new information that we received, as summarized above. Changes from the 
proposed rule that we have incorporated here are as follows:
     We have expanded our discussion of occupied habitat and 
peripheral (or ``stepping stone'') populations in the Habitat and Life 
History section of this document, as well as our discussion of minimum 
habitat patch size.
     We received additional distribution data for the Mazama 
pocket gopher in western Washington, which we have incorporated here. 
However, this information did not alter the conclusion of our analysis.
     We included a more thorough discussion of the use of soil 
types and soil type complexes by the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
the Mazama pocket gopher, which can also be found under the Habitat and 
Life History section.
     We made some technical corrections and reevaluated the 
threats to all four subspecies of the Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher based on comments received

[[Page 19771]]

from our State partners, as well as other comments received. Although 
our analysis of these potential threats is different from that in our 
proposed rule, none of the information changed our determination that 
listing each of the four subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher as 
threatened species is warranted.
     We have revised the 4(d) special rule based on Federal and 
State agency comments and public comments. The 4(d) special rule 
included in our final determination has been broadened from the 
proposed special rule and has increased the scope of activities and 
allowable timing of those activities occurring on airport and 
agricultural and ranching lands; increased the scope of activities 
occurring on single-family residential properties; more broadly allowed 
the control of invasive plants and noxious weeds; and included the 
addition of routine vegetation management activities and fencing along 
roadside rights-of-way. We have found that such measures are necessary 
and advisable for the conservation of the species, and, as such, are 
appropriate for inclusion in our 4(d) special rule. As with all other 
activities covered by the 4(d) special rule, although exempted from the 
prohibitions of section 9 of the Act, consultation under section 7 of 
the Act is still required for those activities that may affect the 
listed species or their critical habitat in cases where there is a 
Federal nexus.

Background

    Below, in this section of the rule, we discuss only those topics 
directly relevant to the listing of the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, 
and Yelm subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher found in Thurston and 
Pierce Counties of Washington State.

Species Information

    Although the species Thomomys mazama, or the Mazama pocket gopher, 
includes numerous subspecies that are found in the States of 
Washington, Oregon, and California (as described below in Taxonomy), 
only the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher 
are the subject of this rulemaking. In this document, when we use the 
general term ``Mazama pocket gopher,'' we are referring collectively to 
only those subspecies of Thomomys mazama that occur in the State of 
Washington; as used here, ``Mazama pocket gopher'' is not intended to 
include any subspecies of T. mazama that occur in the States of Oregon 
or California.
    Adult Mazama pocket gophers are reddish brown to black above, and 
the underparts are lead-colored with buff-colored tips. The lips, nose, 
and patches behind the ears are black; the wrists are white. Adults 
range from 7 to 9 inches (in) (189 to 220 millimeters (mm)) in total 
length, with tails that range from 2 to 3 in (45 to 85 mm) (Verts and 
Carraway 2000, p. 2). In Washington, Mazama pocket gophers are found 
west of the Cascade Mountain Range in the Olympic Mountains and in the 
Puget Sound trough, with an additional single locality known from 
Wahkiakum County (Verts and Carraway 2000, p. 3). Their populations are 
concentrated in well-drained friable soils often associated with 
glacial outwash. Mazama pocket gophers reach reproductive age in the 
spring of the year after their birth and produce litters between spring 
and early summer. Litter size ranges from one to nine (Wight 1918, p. 
14), with an average of five (Scheffer 1938, p. 222).
Taxonomy
    The Mazama pocket gopher complex consists of 15 subspecies, 8 of 
which occur only in Washington, 5 of which occur only in Oregon, 1 that 
occurs only in California, and 1 subspecies with a distribution that 
spans the boundary between Oregon and California (Hall 1981, p. 467). 
The first pocket gophers collected in western Washington were 
considered to be subspecies of the northern pocket gopher (Thomomys 
talpoides) (Goldman 1939), until 1960 when the complex of pocket 
gophers found in western Washington was determined to be more similar 
to the western pocket gopher (T. mazama) based on characteristics of 
the baculum (penis bone) (Johnson and Benson 1960, p. 20). Eight 
western Washington subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher (T. mazama, 
ssp. couchi, glacialis, louiei, melanops, pugetensis, tacomensis, 
tumuli, and yelmensis) have been identified (Hall 1981, p. 467). 
Thomomys mazama is recognized as a valid species by the Integrated 
Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), as are each of the subspecies 
(ITIS 2014).
    Although there have been some suggestions that potential changes to 
the classification of some of these subspecies may be considered, as 
discussed below, we have no information to suggest that any of the 
presently recognized subspecies are the subject of serious dispute. We 
consulted with Alfred Gardner, Curator of North American mammals, 
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, who 
identified the Mammalian Species Account 641 of the American Society of 
Mammalogists, authored by Verts and Carraway (2000), as the definitive 
text for this taxon (Gardner 2012, pers. comm.). Thus we follow the 
subspecies designations of Verts and Carraway (2000) in this finding, 
as this text represents the currently accepted taxonomy for the species 
Thomomys mazama.
    While past descriptions of Mazama pocket gophers have focused on 
morphological differences in characteristics such as pelage color, 
skull features, and body size (Bailey 1915; Taylor 1919; Goldman 1939; 
Dalquest and Scheffer 1942; Dalquest and Scheffer 1944a, b; Gardner 
1950; Hall 1981, pp. 465-466), recent genetic evaluations have been 
conducted on the Mazama pocket gopher complex using mitochondrial 
deoxyribonucleic acid (mtDNA) sequencing of the cytochrome b gene 
(Welch 2008). From these and subsequent data, Welch and Kenagy (2008, 
pp. 6-7) determined that the Mazama pocket gopher complex in Washington 
is geographically structured into three haplotype clades (genetic 
groups) representing the following three localities: (1) Olympic 
Peninsula (Clade A, which includes the Olympic pocket gopher); (2) 
Mason County (Clade B, which includes the Shelton pocket gopher), and 
(3) Thurston and Pierce Counties (Clade C, which includes the Roy 
Prairie, Olympia, and Yelm pocket gophers).
    Specimens from the subspecies Thomomys mazama louiei (Wahkiakum 
County) were unobtainable and as such were omitted from Welch and 
Kenagy's (2008, pp. 1-3) analysis, so what clade the Cathlamet pocket 
gopher belongs to or if it occupies its own clade is unknown. In 
addition, no specimens from either the subspecies T. m. tumuli (the 
Tenino pocket gopher) or the presumed extinct subspecies T. m. 
tacomensis (the Tacoma pocket gopher) were readily available and were 
also not included in the analysis. None of the haplotypes in the 
analyzed specimens were shared between the three clades, which supports 
the differentiation of the clades. The mtDNA analysis was not able to 
distinguish between subspecies in Clade C; more genetic work needs to 
be done to determine how closely related these subspecies are. Verts 
and Carraway (2000, p. 1) and the ITIS (2014) recognize T. m. 
pugetensis, glacialis, tumuli, and yelmensis (the Olympia, Roy Prairie, 
Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers, respectively) as separate subspecies 
based on differences in morphological characteristics (for example, 
pelage coloration; skull shape, size, and weight; shape and form of 
zygomatic arch; jugal bone; foot and tail length) and distribution. For 
the reasons

[[Page 19772]]

described above, we accept this classification of the Olympia, Roy 
Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers as separate subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher.
Habitat and Life History
    The four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher are 
associated with glacial outwash prairies in western Washington, an 
ecosystem of conservation concern (Hartway and Steinberg 1997, p. 1) 
Steinberg and Heller (1997, p. 46) found that Mazama pocket gophers are 
even more restricted in distribution than are prairies, as there are 
some remnant high-quality prairies seemingly within the species' range 
that lack pocket gophers (e.g., Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve 
(NAP), and 13th Division Prairie on JBLM). Pocket gopher distribution 
is affected by the rock content of soils (gophers avoid the rockiest 
soils), drainage, forage availability, and climate (Case and Jasch 
1994, p. B-21; Steinberg and Heller 1997, p. 45; Hafner et al. 1998, p. 
279; Reichman 2007, pp. 273-274; WDFW 2009; also see Stinson 2005, p. 
31), thus further restricting the total area of a prairie that may be 
occupied by gophers. Prairie and meadow habitats used by pocket gophers 
have a naturally patchy distribution. In their prairie habitats, there 
is an even patchier distribution of soil rockiness, which may further 
restrict the total area that pocket gophers can utilize (Steinberg and 
Heller 1997, p. 45; WDFW 2009). We assume that meadow soils have a 
similarly patchy distribution of rockiness, though the soil surveys to 
support this are, at this time, incomplete.
    In Washington, Mazama pocket gophers currently occupy the following 
soil series and soil series complexes: Alderwood, Cagey, Carstairs, 
Everett, Everett-Spanaway complex, Everett-Spanaway-Spana complex, 
Godfrey, Grove, Indianola, Kapowsin, McKenna, Murnen, Nisqually, Norma, 
Shelton, Spana, Spana-Spanaway-Nisqually complex, Spanaway, Spanaway-
Nisqually complex, and Yelm. No soil survey information is currently 
available for the Olympic National Park, so soils series occupied by 
gophers there are unknown. These soil series and soil series complex 
names were derived from a GIS overlay of gopher locations with USDA 
NRCS GIS soil survey data layer (accessed June 20, 2008 for Thurston 
County; received from JBLM May 30, 2013 for Pierce County). These soil 
type names are very broad-scale soil series names, and don't include 
the more specific soil characteristics that come with a full soil map 
unit name, such as ``Spanaway gravelly sandy loam, 0 to 3 percent 
slopes.''
    We are purposely not using specific map unit names because we know 
that there are imperfections in soil mapping. Mapped soil survey 
information may be imperfect for a variety of reasons. First, maps are 
based on the technology, standards, and tools that were available at 
the time soil surveys were conducted, sometimes up to 50 years ago. We 
recognize that soil survey boundaries may be adjusted in the future, 
and that soil series names may be added or removed on the NRCS's soil 
survey maps database. As a result, the overlap of gopher locations with 
soil series names may be different in the future. The soils information 
presented here is based on best scientific data available at the time 
of listing.
    We also recognize that some of these soil series or soil series 
complexes are not typically either deep or well-drained. For a variety 
of reasons, a specific mapped soil type may or may not have all of the 
characteristics of that soil type as described by NRCS, and the actual 
soil that occurs on the ground may have characteristics that make it 
inhabitable by Mazama pocket gophers. These reasons may include map 
boundary or transcription errors, map projection errors or differences, 
map identification or typing errors, soil or hydrological manipulations 
that have occurred since mapping took place, small-scale inclusions in 
the mapped soil type that are different from the mapped soil and which 
may be used by Mazama pocket gophers, etc. Nevertheless, based on best 
available data, these are the areas where Mazama pocket gopher 
locations and mapped soils have been found to overlap when mapped in 
GIS. All of these soils could potentially be suitable for any of the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. In 
addition, the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher may be able to forage or burrow in soil series not on the above 
list. For these reasons, our list of soils may be incomplete or appear 
to be overly inclusive. Although some soils are sandier, more gravelly, 
or may have more or less silt than described, most all soils used by 
Mazama pocket gophers are friable (easily pulverized or crumbled), 
loamy, and deep, and generally have slopes less than 15 percent.
    In 2011, there were reports of Mazama pocket gophers (subspecies 
unknown) occurring on new types of soils and on managed forest lands in 
Capitol State Forest (owned by Washington Department of Natural 
Resources (WDNR)) and Vail Forest (owned by Weyerhaeuser) in Thurston 
County. These were subsequently determined not to be Mazama pocket 
gophers but instead moles (Scapanus spp.), based on followup surveying 
and/or trapping conducted in these areas by Washington Department of 
Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) during the 2012 gopher survey season (Thompson 
2012b, pers. comm.). Please see the discussion in Historical and 
Current Range and Distribution for more information about the current 
state of knowledge on this matter for the Mazama pocket gopher.
    Mazama pocket gophers are morphologically similar to other species 
of pocket gophers, all of which exploit a subterranean existence. They 
are stocky and tubular in shape, with short necks, powerful limbs, long 
claws, and tiny ears and eyes. Their short, nearly hairless tails are 
highly sensitive and probably assist in navigation in tunnels. Burrows 
consist of a series of main runways, off which lateral tunnels lead to 
the surface of the ground (Wight 1918, p. 7). Pocket gophers dig their 
burrows using their sharp teeth and claws and then push the soil out 
through the lateral tunnels (Wight 1918, p. 8; Case and Jasch 1994, p. 
B-20). Nests containing dried vegetation are generally located near the 
center of each pocket gopher's home tunnel system (Wight 1918, p. 10). 
Food caches and store piles are usually placed near the nest, and 
excrement is piled into blind tunnels or loop tunnels, and then covered 
with dirt, leaving the nest and main runways clean (Wight 1918, p. 11).
    The ``pockets'' of pocket gophers are external, fur-lined cheek 
pouches on either side of the mouth that are used to transport nesting 
material and carry plant cuttings to storage compartments. As with all 
rodents and lagomorphs (rabbits and hares), their incisors grow 
continuously (Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-20), though the rate of growth 
of pocket gopher incisors is higher than most rodents, perhaps to 
compensate for increased wear resulting from tooth-digging. Pocket 
gophers also have ever-growing cheek teeth (aradicular hypsodont 
teeth), presumably an adaptation to compensate for the high rate of 
wear due to an abrasive diet. Pocket gophers don't hibernate in winter; 
they remain active throughout the year (Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-20). 
Many different vertebrates and invertebrates take refuge in gopher 
burrows, especially during inclement weather, including beetles, 
amphibians (such as toads and frogs), lizards, snakes, ground 
squirrels, and smaller rodents (Blume and Aga 1979, p. 131; Case and 
Jasch 1994, p. B-21; also see Stinson 2005, pp. 29-30).

[[Page 19773]]

    A variety of natural predators eat pocket gophers, including 
weasels, snakes, badgers, foxes, skunks, bobcats, coyotes, great horned 
owls, barn owls, and several hawks (Hisaw and Gloyd 1926, entire; 
Fichter et al. 1955, p. 13; Huntly and Inouye 1988, p. 792; Case and 
Jasch 1994, p. B-21; Stinson 2005, pp. 29-30).
    In addition to natural predators, predation by feral and domestic 
dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and cats (Felis catus) is an increasing 
problem for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher. Many local populations of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies 
of the Mazama pocket gopher are presumed to be small, based on the 
extent of mounding activity and the solitary and territorial nature of 
Mazama pocket gophers. Due to their solitary and territorial nature, 
many sites occupied by one of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
the Mazama pocket gopher may contain a small number of individuals and 
occur in a matrix of residential and agricultural development. With 
feral or uncontrolled domestic animals in the vicinity, Mazama pocket 
gophers are exposed to increased levels of predation in these semi-
urban and rural environments. In addition, some local populations of 
the Mazama pocket gopher occur in areas where people recreate with 
their dogs, bringing these potential predators into environments that 
may otherwise be relatively free of them, such as wildlife areas or 
expanses of prairie controlled by DOD, consequently increasing the 
risks to the pocket gopher.
    Pocket gophers are generalist herbivores and their diet includes a 
wide variety of plant material, including leafy vegetation, succulent 
roots, shoots, and tubers. In natural settings pocket gophers play a 
key ecological role by aerating soils, enriching soils with nutrients, 
activating the seed bank, and stimulating plant growth, though they can 
be considered pests in agricultural systems. In prairie and meadow 
ecosystems, pocket gopher activity is important in maintaining species 
richness and diversity.
    The home range of a Mazama pocket gopher is composed of suitable 
breeding and foraging habitat. Home range size varies based on factors 
such as soil type, climate, and density and type of vegetative cover 
(Cox and Hunt 1992, p. 133; Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-21; Hafner et al. 
1998, p. 279). Little research has been conducted regarding home range 
size for individual Mazama pocket gophers. Witmer et al. (1996, p. 96) 
reported an average home range size of about 1,076 square feet (ft\2\) 
(100 square meters (m\2\)) for Mazama pocket gophers in one location in 
Thurston County, Washington. Gopher density varies greatly due to local 
climate, soil suitability, and vegetation types (Case and Jasch 1994, 
p. B-21; Howard and Childs 1959, pp. 329-336), and densities are likely 
to be higher when habitat quality is better. Therefore, this one report 
on the Mazama pocket gopher (Witmer et al. 1996) is unlikely to 
represent the average density across all soil types, vegetation types, 
and other unique site characteristics across the ranges of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. Research on 
other species of Thomomys pocket gophers in other states showed a wide 
range of home range sizes from approximately 80 to 14,370 ft\2\ (7.4 to 
1,335 m\2\). Some of these are estimates based on density of gophers 
trapped per acre, and some are based on measurements of individual 
gopher territory sizes.
    In the absence of studies demonstrating the minimum possible patch 
size for persistence of the Mazama pocket gopher, we used 50 ac (20 ha) 
as the smallest area necessary for recovery of Mazama pocket gopher 
populations, which was the agreed upon estimate of an expert panel 
(Converse et al. 2010, pp. 14-15) assembled to assist with the 
construction of a prairie habitat modeling exercise. We acknowledge the 
uncertainty with this estimate, but there are currently no studies 
regarding minimum patch size available for the Mazama pocket gopher, 
nor are there any obvious means by which a better answer can be 
obtained. Thus, the best available scientific data in this case is the 
opinion of an informed expert panel.
    Foraging primarily takes place below the surface of the soil, where 
pocket gophers snip off roots of plants before occasionally pulling the 
whole plant below ground to eat or store in caches. If above-ground 
foraging occurs, it's usually within a few feet of a tunnel opening and 
forage plants are quickly cut into small pieces, and carried in their 
fur-lined cheek pouches back to the nest or cache (Wight 1918, p. 12). 
Any water they need is obtained from their food (Wight 1918, p. 13; 
Gettinger 1984, pp. 749-750). The probability of Mazama pocket gopher 
occupancy is much higher in areas with less than 10 percent woody 
vegetation cover (Olson 2011a, p. 16). It is reasonable to conclude 
that increasing amounts of woody vegetation will shade out the forbs, 
bulbs, and grasses that gophers prefer to eat, and high densities of 
woody plants make travel both below and above the ground difficult for 
gophers. Encroachment of woody vegetation is cited by WDNR as a threat 
to habitat occupied by the Mazama pocket gopher in Olympic National 
Park (the Olympic pocket gopher), causing fragmentation and reducing 
the possibility that individual Mazama pocket gophers will emigrate or 
immigrate, (thus reducing gene flow) and eventually lead to complete 
exclusion (Fleckenstein 2013, p. 3). Mazama pocket gophers are not 
known to occupy areas where woody vegetation is dense and no suitable 
forage is available (Marsh and Steel 1992, p. 210), which includes 
areas invaded by the native Douglas fir tree and the invasive shrub, 
Scot's broom (Cytisus scoparius). The Service considers encroachment by 
woody vegetation to have the potential to have substantial negative 
impacts on occupied Mazama pocket gopher habitat and thus their 
populations.
    Pocket gophers have been documented to reach sexual maturity during 
the spring of the year following their birth, and generally produce one 
litter per year (Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-20), though timing of sexual 
maturity has been shown to vary with habitat quality (Patton and 
Brylski 1987, p. 502; Patton and Smith 1990, p. 76). Gestation lasts 
approximately 18 days (Schramm 1961, p. 169; Anderson 1978, p. 421). 
Young are born in the spring to early summer (Wight 1918, p. 13), and 
are reared by the female. Aside from the breeding season, males and 
females remain segregated in their own tunnel systems. There are 1-9 
pups per litter (averaging 5), born without hair, pockets, or teeth, 
and they must be kept warm by the mother or ``packed'' in dried 
vegetation (Wight 1918, p. 14; Scheffer 1938, p. 222; Case and Jasch 
1994, p. B-20). Juvenile pelage starts growing in at just over a week 
(Anderson 1978, p. 420). The young eat vegetation in the nest within 3 
weeks of birth, with eyes and ears opening and pockets developing at 
about a month (Wight 1918, p. 14; Anderson 1978, p. 420). At 6 weeks 
they are weaned, fighting with siblings, and nearly ready to disperse 
(Wight 1918, p. 15; Anderson 1978, p. 420), which usually occurs at 
about 2 months of age (Stinson 2005, p. 26). They attain their adult 
weight around 4-5 months of age (Anderson 1978, pp. 419, 421). Most 
pocket gophers live only a year or two, with few living to 3 or 4 years 
of age (Hansen 1962, pp. 152-153; Livezey and Verts 1979, p. 39).
    Pocket gophers rarely surface completely from their burrow except 
as juveniles, when they disperse above ground from spring through early 
fall (Ingles 1952, p. 89; Howard and Childs 1959, p. 312). They are 
highly asocial

[[Page 19774]]

and intolerant of other gophers. Each gopher maintains its own burrow 
system, and occupancy of a burrow system by multiple individuals occurs 
only for brief periods during mating seasons and prior to weaning young 
(Ingles 1952, pp. 88-89; Witmer and Engeman 2007, p. 288; Marsh and 
Steele 1992, p. 209). The mating system is probably polygynous (a 
single male mates with multiple females) and most likely based on 
female choice. The adult sex ratio has been reported as biased toward 
females in most species of pocket gophers that have been studied, often 
as much as 4:1 (Howard and Childs 1959, p. 296; Patton and Feder 1981, 
p. 917), though Witmer et al. (1996, p. 95) reported a sex ratio of 
close to 1:1 in Mazama pocket gophers.
    Sex ratio may vary with population density, which is often a 
measure of forage density and soil suitability for burrowing (Patton 
and Smith 1990, p. 6). One researcher concluded that a site having a 
deep soil layer that was much less rocky had a pocket gopher population 
density five times that of another site having rocky soil (Steinberg 
1996, p. 26). A study of the relationship between soil rockiness and 
pocket gopher distribution revealed a strong negative correlation 
between the proportion of medium-sized rocks in the soil and presence 
of pocket gophers in eight of nine prairies sampled (medium sized rocks 
were considered greater than 0.5 in (12.7 mm) but less than 2 in (50.8 
mm) in diameter; Steinberg 1996, p. 32). In observations of pocket 
gopher distribution on JBLM, pocket gophers did not occur in areas with 
a high percentage of Scot's broom cover in the vegetation, or where 
mole populations were particularly dense (Steinberg 1995, p. 26). A 
more recent and methodical study conducted throughout Thurston and 
Pierce Counties also found that pocket gopher presence was negatively 
associated with Scot's broom; however, the researcher found no 
relationship between pocket gopher presence and mole density (Olson 
2011a, pp. 12-13).
    Pocket gophers have low vagility, meaning they have a poor 
dispersal capability (Williams and Baker 1976, p. 303). Thomomys mazama 
pocket gophers are smaller in size than other sympatric (occurring 
within the same geographic area; overlapping in distribution) or 
peripatric (immediately adjacent to each other but not significantly 
overlapping in distribution) Thomomys species (Verts and Carraway 2000, 
p. 1). Both dispersal distances and home range size are therefore 
likely to be smaller than for other Thomomys species. Dispersal 
distances may vary based on surface or soil conditions and size of the 
animal. For other, larger, Thomomys species, dispersal distances 
average about 131 ft (40 m) (Barnes 1973, pp. 168-169; Williams and 
Baker 1976, p. 306; Daly and Patton 1990, pp. 1286, 1288). Initial 
results from dispersal research being conducted on JBLM indicate that 
juvenile Mazama pocket gophers in Washington usually make movements 
from 13.1-32.8 ft (4-10 m), though these may not be dispersal 
movements. One juvenile made a distinct dispersal movement of 525 ft 
(160 m) in 1 day (Olson 2012b, p. 5). Suitable dispersal habitat is 
free of barriers to gopher movement, and may need to contain foraging 
habitat if an animal is required to make a long-distance dispersal 
move. Potential barriers include, but are not limited to, forest edges, 
roads (paved and unpaved), abrupt elevation changes, Scot's broom 
thickets, (Olson 2012b, p. 3), highly cultivated lawns, inhospitable 
soil types (Olson 2008, p. 4) or substrates, development and buildings, 
slopes greater than 35 percent, and open water. Barriers may be 
permeable, meaning that they may impede movement from place to place 
without completely blocking it, or they may be impermeable, meaning 
they cannot be crossed. Permeable barriers, as well as lower quality 
dispersal habitats, may present an intensified risk of mortality to 
animals that use them (e.g., open areas where predation risk is 
increased during passage or a paved area where vehicular mortality is 
high).
Historical and Current Range and Distribution
    The following general description of the distribution of the 
Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher is based on our current knowledge. Steinberg (1996, p. 9) 
surveyed all historical and many currently known gopher sites. This 
included all current and formerly known occupied sites listed by the 
WDNR as having Carstairs, Nisqually, or Spanaway gravelly or sandy loam 
soil, and that WDNR determined to have vegetation that was intact 
prairie or restorable to prairie. WDFW and a suite of consultants have 
surveyed areas of potential gopher habitat in both counties, usually 
associated with proposed development (WDFW 2012). WDFW has also 
surveyed areas in relation to various research studies, as well as 
conducting distribution surveys across five counties in 2012 (Thompson 
2012a and b, entire).
    Based on current and historical survey information, in Pierce 
County, Roy Prairie pocket gophers occur generally south and east of I-
5, south of Highway 512, and west of State Highway 7. There are 
prairie-type areas within this described area that have been surveyed 
multiple times with no detections of pocket gophers, so this 
description is likely to be an overestimate of the subspecies' range, 
and likely includes areas surveyed within the historical range of the 
Tacoma pocket gopher, which is presumed extinct. We acknowledge that 
few surveys have been conducted off JBLM lands in this area, and our 
specific knowledge of the range of this subspecies could change in the 
future.
    In Thurston County, the Olympia, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers 
are known to occur east of Black River and south of Interstate 5 and 
State Highway 101. There are no historical records of Mazama pocket 
gophers occurring outside of these areas within Thurston County. Soil 
series and soil series complexes that are known to support pocket 
gophers do occur outside of these areas. Multiple surveys conducted 
west of the Black River have consistently yielded negative results 
(WDFW 2013a). For that reason, there is some confidence that the Black 
River is a range-restrictive landscape feature. Fewer surveys have been 
conducted north of Interstate 5 and State Highway 101 (WDFW 2013a), but 
those also yielded negative results. It is possible that the Mazama 
pocket gopher may occur north of these highways in Thurston County, but 
we presently have no gopher occurrence data to support that potential.
    The present outermost boundaries of the ranges of each of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher are likely 
approximately the same as they were historically. However, entire 
prairie areas or portions thereof within those outer perimeters have 
been lost to development and woody plant encroachment (see Summary of 
Factors Affecting the Species). Therefore, at present Mazama pocket 
gophers likely occupy fewer total acres than they did historically, and 
also occupy fewer total areas (that is, there are fewer populations 
within the area of their diminished range). These four subspecies are 
known to still occur in their type locality locations (described 
below), and the areas immediately around those locations are considered 
to still be part of each subspecies' range. Beyond these areas, 
uncertainty remains as to the entire areal extent of each subspecies' 
range, and where or if populations of subspecies coexist or abut one 
another; each subspecies' range is presumed to extend beyond their type 
localities. For this reason, the list of soils given for each 
subspecies below is

[[Page 19775]]

shorter than the list given in our final designation of critical 
habitat for Mazama pocket gopher, published elsewhere in the Federal 
Register today.
    The type locality for the Olympia pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama 
pugetensis) was the prairie on and around the Olympia Airport, known as 
Bush Prairie (Dalquest and Scheffer 1944b, p. 445). Gophers continue to 
occupy this area. Soil series and soil series complexes in and around 
this area that may support Mazama pocket gophers include Alderwood, 
Cagey, Everett, Indianola, McKenna, Nisqually, Norma, Spana, Spanaway-
Nisqually complex, and Yelm.
    The Roy Prairie pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama glacialis) is found 
in the vicinity of the Roy Prairie and on JBLM in Pierce County. The 
subspecies was described as plentiful in 1983 but by 1993 the extent of 
activity at the type locality was described as a ``small population'' 
(Steinberg 1996, p. 24). Due to proximity to the subspecies' type 
locality, it is likely that gophers occurring on 91st Division Prairie 
and Marion Prairie in Pierce County contain this subspecies. Soil 
series and soil series complexes in and around this area that may 
support Mazama pocket gophers include Alderwood, Everett, Everett-
Spanaway complex, Everett-Spanaway-Spana complex, Nisqually, Spana-
Spanaway-Nisqually complex, and Spanaway.
    Tenino pocket gophers (Thomomys mazama tumuli) were originally 
found in the vicinity of the Rocky Prairie NAP, near Tenino (Dalquest 
and Scheffer 1942, p. 96), a relatively small-extent prairie area. 
Gophers still reside there, but WDFW researchers have not seen 
consistent occupancy of the area by gophers in recent years (Olson 
2010, in litt.), suggesting that the activity intermittently detected 
in the NAP may be attributable to individuals dispersing in from a 
currently unidentified nearby source. Soil series and soil series 
complexes in this area that may support Mazama pocket gophers include 
Everett, Nisqually, Norma, Spanaway, and Spanaway-Nisqually complex.
    Yelm pocket gophers (Thomomys mazama yelmensis) were originally 
found on prairies in the area of Grand Mound, Vail, and Rochester 
(Dalquest and Scheffer 1944b, p. 446). Surveys conducted in 1993-1994 
found no gophers near the towns of Vail or Rochester (Steinberg 1995, 
p. 28). More recent surveys have reported gophers near Grand Mound, 
Littlerock, Rainier, Rochester, and Vail (Krippner 2011, p. 31), though 
WDFW biologists question the validity of the reports near Littlerock 
and Vail (WDFW 2013b, enclosure 1, p. 3). Soil series and soil series 
complexes in and around these areas that may support Mazama pocket 
gophers include Alderwood, Everett, Godfrey, Kapowsin, McKenna, 
Nisqually, Norma, Spana, Spanaway, Spanaway-Nisqually complex, and 
Yelm.
Population Estimates/Status
    There are few data on historical or current population sizes of 
Mazama pocket gopher populations in Washington, although several local 
populations and one subspecies are believed to be extinct. Knowledge of 
the past status of the Mazama pocket gopher is limited to 
distributional information. Recent surveys have focused on determining 
current distribution, primarily in response to development 
applications. In addition, in 2012, WDFW initiated a 5-county-wide 
distribution survey. Because the object of all of these surveys has 
mainly been to determine presence/absence only, total population 
numbers for each subspecies are unknown. As discussed under Current and 
Historical Range and Distribution, the precise boundaries of each 
subspecies' range are not currently known. Local population estimates 
have been reported but are based on using apparent gopher mounds to 
delineate the number of territories, a method that has not been 
validated (Stinson 2005, pp. 40-41). Olson (2011a, p. 2) evaluated this 
methodology on pocket gopher populations at the Olympia Airport and 
Wolf Haven International. Although there was a positive relationship 
between the number of mounds and number of pocket gophers, the 
relationship varies spatially, temporally, and demographically (Olson 
2011a, pp. 2, 39). Based on the results of Olson's 2011 study we 
believe past population estimates (Stinson 2005) may have been too 
high. As there is no generally accepted standard survey protocol to 
determine population size for pocket gophers, it is not currently 
possible to obtain an estimate of subspecies population sizes or 
trends. Overall habitat availability has declined, however, and habitat 
has a finite ability to support pocket gophers, though the number of 
gophers any one patch can support may vary due to a variety of factors 
related to habitat quality and population dynamics. For these reasons, 
the Service concludes the overall population trend of each of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher is negative.
    Increased survey effort since 2007 resulted in the identification 
of numerous additional occupied sites located on private lands, 
especially in Thurston County (WDFW 2013a). Some of these new 
detections are adjacent to other known occupied sites, such as the 
population at the Olympia Airport. The full extent of these smaller 
discontiguous sites is currently unknown, and no research has been done 
to determine whether or not these aggregations are ``stepping stone'' 
sites that may facilitate dispersal into nearby unoccupied suitable 
habitat or if they are population sinks (sites that do not add to the 
overall population through recruitment). Others of these additional 
occupied sites are separate locations, seemingly unassociated 
(physically) with known populations (Tirhi 2008, in litt.). The largest 
known expanse of areas occupied by any subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher in Washington occur on JBLM (Roy Prairie and Yelm pocket 
gophers), and at the Olympia and Shelton airports (Olympia and Shelton 
pocket gophers, respectively).
    A translocated population of Mazama pocket gophers occurs on Wolf 
Haven International's land near Tenino, Washington. Between 2005 and 
2008, over 200 gophers from a variety of areas in Thurston County (some 
from around Olympia Airport (Olympia pocket gopher, Thomomys mazama 
pugetensis)) and some from near the intersection of Rich Road and Yelm 
Highway (assumed to be Olympia pocket gophers) were released into the 
38-ac (15-ha) mounded prairie site. Based on the best available 
information, we do not believe the property contained Mazama pocket 
gophers previously. Today pocket gophers continue to occupy the site 
(Tirhi 2011, in litt.); however, current population estimates are not 
available. Another site, West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area, has received 
a total number of 560 translocated pocket gophers (T. m. pugetensis) 
from the Olympia Airport between 2009 and 2011. Initial translocation 
efforts in 2009 were only marginally successful; a majority of the 
pocket gophers died within 3 days due to predation (Olson 2009, 
unnumbered p. 3). Modified release techniques used in 2010 and 2011 
resulted in improved survival rates of gophers translocated to West 
Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area (Olson 2011c, unnumbered p. 4). It is too 
soon to know if the population will become self-sustaining in the 
absence of additional translocations. Here we note that this 
experimental population was inadvertently placed within what appears to 
have been the historical range of the Tenino pocket gopher (T. m. 
tumuli).

[[Page 19776]]

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    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.
    In making this finding, information pertaining to each of the 
subspecies in question in relation to the five factors provided in 
section 4(a)(1) of the Act is discussed below. 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 negative impacts to the 
species. If there is exposure to a factor, but no response, or only a 
positive response, that factor is not a threat. If there is exposure 
and the species responds negatively, the factor may be a threat and we 
then attempt to determine how significant a threat it is. If the threat 
is significant, it may drive or contribute to the risk of extinction of 
the species such that the species warrants listing as an endangered or 
threatened species 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 species or threatened species 
under the Act.
    We considered and evaluated the best available scientific and 
commercial information in evaluating the factors affecting each of the 
Mazama pocket gopher subspecies under consideration in this rule.

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

    Under this factor, the primary long-term threats to the Mazama 
pocket gopher are the loss, degradation, and conversion of habitat, 
particularly to urban development, successional changes to grassland 
habitat, and the spread of invasive plants. The threats also include 
increased predation pressure, which is closely linked to habitat 
degradation and discussed more fully under Factor C.
    The prairies of south Puget Sound are part of one of the rarest 
ecosystems in the United States (Noss et al. 1995, p. I-2; Dunn and 
Ewing 1997, p. v). Dramatic changes have occurred on the landscape over 
the last 150 years, including a 90 to 95 percent reduction in the 
prairie ecosystem. In the south Puget Sound region, where most of 
western Washington's prairies historically occurred, less than 10 
percent of the original prairie persists, and only 3 percent remains 
dominated by native vegetation (Crawford and Hall 1997, pp. 13-14).
Development
    Native prairies and grasslands have been severely reduced 
throughout the range of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher as a result of human activity due to conversion of 
habitat to residential and commercial development and agriculture. 
Prairie habitat continues to be lost, particularly to residential 
development (Stinson 2005, p. 70), by removal and fragmentation of 
native vegetation and the excavation, grading, and/or heavy equipment-
caused compaction of surfaces and conversion to non-habitat (buildings, 
pavement, other infrastructure), rendering soils unsuitable for 
burrowing. Residential development is associated with increased 
infrastructure such as new road construction, which is one of the 
primary causes of landscape fragmentation (Watts et al. 2007, p. 736). 
Activities that accompany low-density development are correlated with 
decreased levels of biodiversity, mortality to wildlife, and 
facilitated introduction of invasive species (Trombulak and Frissell 
2000, entire; Watts et al. 2007, p. 736). In the south Puget Sound 
lowlands, the glacial outwash soils and gravels underlying the prairies 
used by Mazama pocket gophers are deep and valuable for use in 
construction and road building, which also leads to their degradation 
and destruction.
    In the south Puget Sound, Nisqually loamy soils appear to support 
high densities of Mazama pocket gophers (Stinson 2010a, in litt.; Olson 
2008, p. 6), the vast majority of which occur in developed areas of 
Thurston County, or within the Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) for the cities 
of Olympia, Tumwater, and Lacey (Thurston County 2004; WDFW 2009), 
where future development is most likely to occur. Where pocket gopher 
populations presumably historically extended across an undeveloped 
expanse of open prairie (Dalquest and Scheffer 1942, pp. 95-96), areas 
currently occupied by the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher are now isolated to small fragmented patches due to 
development and conversion of suitable habitat to incompatible uses.
    As an example, the presumed extinction of the related Tacoma pocket 
gopher is likely linked directly to residential and commercial 
development, which has replaced nearly all gopher habitat in the 
historical range of the subspecies (Stinson 2005, pp. 18, 34, 46). One 
of the historical Tacoma pocket gopher sites was converted to a large 
gravel pit and golf course (Stinson 2005, pp. 47, 120; Steinberg 1996, 
pp. 24, 27). In addition, two gravel pits are now operating on part of 
the site recognized as the type locality for the Roy Prairie pocket 
gopher (Stinson 2005, p. 42), and another is in operation near Tenino 
(Stinson 2010b, in litt.) in the vicinity of the type locality for, and 
the only known population of, the Tenino pocket gopher.
    Multiple pocket gopher sites in Pierce and Thurston Counties may 
be, or have been, lost to or degraded by gravel pit development, golf 
course development, residential and commercial development (Stinson 
2005, p. 42; Stinson 2007, in litt., and 2010b, in litt.) or military 
base development. Multiple prairies that used to contain uninterrupted 
expanses of prairie habitat suitable for pocket gophers within the 
range of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies have been developed to 
cities, neighborhoods, agricultural lands, or military bases, and/or 
negatively impacted by such development, including Baker Prairie, Bush 
Prairie, Chambers Prairie, Frost Prairie, Grand Mound Prairie, Little 
Chambers Prairie, Marion Prairie, Roy Prairie, Ruth Prairie, Woods 
Prairie, Violet Prairie, and Yelm Prairie. Some of these prairie areas 
still contain smaller areas that support pocket gophers, and some 
appear to no longer support pocket gophers at all (WDFW 2012).

[[Page 19777]]

    Where their properties coincide with gopher occupancy, many private 
land developers and landowners in Thurston County have been required to 
create gopher set-asides or agree to other mitigation activities in 
order to obtain development permits from the County (Tirhi 2008, in 
litt.). However, it is unknown if any gophers will remain on these 
sites due to the small size of the set-asides, extensive grading in 
some areas adjacent to set-asides, lack of dedicated funding for 
enforcement or monitoring of set-aside maintenance (Thurston County 
Long Range Planning and Resource Stewardship 2011, in litt., p. 2), and 
lack of control of predation by domestic or feral cats and dogs. In 
addition, some landowners have received variances from Thurston County 
that allowed development to occur without a requirement to set aside 
areas for gophers.
    A population of Olympia pocket gophers is located at and around the 
Port of Olympia's Olympia Airport, which is sited on the historical 
Bush Prairie. Gophers on Bush Prairie are currently vulnerable to 
negative impacts from proposed future development by the Port of 
Olympia and ongoing development by adjacent landowners. The Port of 
Olympia has plans to develop large portions of the existing grassland 
that likely supports the largest population of the Olympia pocket 
gopher in Washington (Stinson 2007, in litt.; Port of Olympia and WDFW 
2008, p.1; Port of Olympia 2012). The Olympia Airport is realigning the 
airport runway, which is in known occupied habitat. They continue to 
work with the Service and WDFW on mitigating airport expansion 
activities that may negatively impact gophers (Tirhi 2010, in litt.).
    Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm Pocket Gophers. The Olympia 
pocket gopher has a population at the Olympia Airport that spans 
several hundred acres, and there are two translocated populations: One 
at West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area (some individuals from the Olympia 
Airport) and one at Wolf Haven (individuals from the Olympia Airport 
and some from near the intersection of Rich Road and Yelm Highway). The 
population centered on the Olympia Airport could be negatively impacted 
by plans for development both on and off the airport, while the two 
translocated populations are currently secure from intense commercial 
and residential development pressures as they occur on conserved lands. 
The Roy Prairie pocket gopher is known to occur across a large expanse 
of prairie on JBLM, which is currently secure from the threat of 
development. The Tenino pocket gopher has a single known population, 
which has been detected during surveys on the Rocky Prairie NAP, 
although the intermittent nature of these detections suggests it must 
be part of a larger metapopulation that occurs across nearby areas that 
have not been accessible for surveys. No known development poses a 
threat to the NAP, but any future conversion of the surrounding area to 
incompatible land use would likely hinder the recovery of this 
subspecies. The Yelm pocket gophers on Tenalquot prairie (which is 
owned in large part by JBLM) and Scatter Creek Wildlife Area are also 
secure from such residential and commercial development, but the Yelm 
pocket gopher habitat on Rock Prairie north of Old Highway 99 is in an 
area that is likely to be developed soon, which may negatively affect 
any local populations in the vicinity.
Loss of Ecological Disturbance Processes, Invasive Species, and 
Succession
    The suppression and loss of ecological disturbance regimes across 
vast portions of the landscape, such as fire, has resulted in altered 
vegetation structure in prairies and meadows and has facilitated 
invasion by native and nonnative woody vegetation, rendering habitat 
unusable for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher. The basic ecological processes that maintain prairies and 
meadows have disappeared from, or have been altered on, all but a few 
protected and managed sites.
    Historically, the prairies and meadows of the south Puget Sound 
region of Washington are thought to have been actively maintained by 
the native peoples of the region, who lived here for at least 10,000 
years before the arrival of Euro-American settlers (Boyd 1986, entire; 
Christy and Alverson 2011, p. 93). Frequent burning reduced the 
encroachment and spread of shrubs and trees (Boyd 1986, entire; 
Chappell and Kagan 2001, p. 42), favoring open grasslands with a rich 
variety of native plants and animals. Following Euro-American 
settlement of the region in the mid-19th century, fire was actively 
suppressed on grasslands, allowing encroachment by woody vegetation 
into the remaining prairie habitat and oak woodlands (Franklin and 
Dyrness 1973 p. 122; Boyd 1986, entire; Kruckeberg 1991, p. 287; Agee 
1993, p. 360; Altman et al. 2001, p. 262).
    Fires on the prairie create a mosaic of vegetation conditions, 
which serve to maintain native prairie plant communities. In some 
prairie patches fires will kill encroaching woody vegetation and reset 
succession back to bare ground, creating early successional vegetation 
conditions suitable for many native prairie species. Early successional 
forbs and grasses are favored by Mazama pocket gophers. The historical 
fire frequency on prairies has been estimated to be 3 to 5 years 
(Foster 2005, p. 8). On sites where regular fires occur, there is a 
high complement of native plants and fewer invasive species. These 
types of fires promote the maintenance of the native short-statured 
plant communities favored by pocket gophers.
    The result of fire suppression has been the invasion of the 
prairies and oak woodlands by native and nonnative plant species (Dunn 
and Ewing 1997, p. v; Tveten and Fonda 1999, p. 146), notably woody 
plants such as the native Douglas-fir and the nonnative Scot's broom. 
On tallgrass prairies in midwestern North America, fire suppression has 
led to degradation and the loss of native grasslands (Curtis 1959, pp. 
296, 298; Panzer 2002, p. 1297). On northwestern prairies, fire 
suppression has allowed Douglas-fir to encroach on and outcompete 
native prairie vegetation for light, water, and nutrients (Stinson 
2005, p. 7). This increase in woody vegetation and nonnative plant 
species has resulted in less available prairie habitat overall and 
habitat that is unsuitable for and avoided by many native prairie 
species, including the Mazama pocket gopher (Tveten and Fonda 1999, p. 
155; Pearson and Hopey 2005, pp. 2, 27; Olson 2011a, pp. 12, 16). 
Pocket gophers prefer early successional vegetation as forage. Woody 
plants shade out the forbs and grasses that gophers prefer to eat, and 
high densities of woody plants make travel both below and above the 
ground difficult for gophers. In locations with poor forage, pocket 
gophers tend to have larger territories, which may be difficult or 
impossible to establish in densely forested areas. The probability of 
Mazama pocket gopher occupancy is much higher in areas with less than 
10 percent woody vegetation cover (Olson 2011a, p. 16).
    On JBLM alone, over 16,000 acres (6,477 ha) of prairie has 
converted to Douglas-fir forest since the mid-19th century (Foster and 
Shaff 2003, p. 284). Where controlled burns or direct tree removal are 
not used as a management tool, this encroachment will continue to cause 
the loss of open grassland habitats for Mazama pocket gophers and is an 
ongoing threat for the species.
    Restoration in some of the south Puget Sound grasslands has 
resulted in temporary control of Scot's broom and

[[Page 19778]]

other invasive plants through the careful and judicious use of 
herbicides, mowing, grazing, and fire. Fire has been used as a 
management tool to maintain native prairie composition and structure 
and is generally acknowledged to improve the health and composition of 
grassland habitat by providing a short-term nitrogen addition, which 
results in a fertilizer effect to vegetation, thus aiding grasses and 
forbs as they resprout.
    Unintentional fires ignited by military training burn patches of 
prairie grasses and forbs on JBLM on an annual basis. These light 
ground fires create a mosaic of conditions within the grassland, 
maintaining a low vegetative structure of native and nonnative plant 
composition, and patches of bare soil. Because of the topography of the 
landscape, fires create a patchy mosaic of areas that burn completely, 
some areas that do not burn, and areas where consumption of the 
vegetation is mixed in its effects to the habitat. One of the benefits 
of fire in grasslands is that it tends to kill regenerating conifers, 
and reduces the cover of nonnative shrubs such as Scot's broom, 
although Scot's broom seed stored in the soil can be stimulated by fire 
(Agee 1993, p. 367). Fire also improves conditions for many native 
bulb-forming plants, such as Camassia sp. (camas) (Agee and Dunwiddie 
1984, p. 367). On sites where regular fires occur, such as on JBLM, 
there is a high complement of native plants and fewer invasive species. 
These types of fires promote the maintenance of the native short-
statured plant communities favored by pocket gophers.
    Management practices such as intentional burning and mowing require 
expertise in timing and technique (i.e., best management practices) to 
achieve desired results. If applied at the wrong season, frequency, or 
scale, fire and mowing can be detrimental to the restoration of native 
prairie species. Excessive and high-intensity burning can result in a 
lack of vegetation or encourage regrowth to nonnative grasses. Where 
such burning has occurred over a period of more than 50 years on the 
artillery ranges of the JBLM, prairies are covered by nonnative forbs 
and grasses instead of native perennial bunchgrasses (Tveten and Fonda 
1999, pp. 154-155).
    Mazama pocket gophers are not commonly found in areas colonized by 
Douglas-fir trees because gophers require forbs and grasses of an early 
successional stage for food (Witmer et al. 1996, p. 96). Mazama pocket 
gophers observed on JBLM did not occur in areas with high cover of 
Scot's broom (Steinberg 1995, p. 26). A more recent study on JBLM also 
found that pocket gopher presence was negatively associated with Scot's 
broom (Olson 2011a, pp. 12-13, 16). Some subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher may disperse through forested areas or may temporarily 
establish territories on forest edges, but there is currently not 
enough data available to determine how common this behavior may be or 
which subspecies employ it. The four Thurston/Pierce subspecies occur 
on prairie-type habitats, many of which, if not actively managed to 
maintain vegetation in an early-successional state, have been invaded 
by shrubs and trees that either preclude the gophers or limit their 
ability to fully occupy the landscape. Certain typical airport 
management actions at civilian airports prevent woody vegetation from 
encroaching onto the areas surrounding the runways and taxiways for 
flight safety reasons. Woody vegetation encroachment is therefore not a 
threat at civilian airports.
Military Training
    Populations of Mazama pocket gophers occurring on JBLM are exposed 
to differing levels of training activities on the base. The DOD's 
proposed actions under their ''Grow the Army'' initiative include 
stationing 5,700 new soldiers, new combat service support units, a 
combat aviation brigade, facility demolition and construction to 
support the increased troop levels, and additional aviation, maneuver, 
and live fire training (75 FR 55313; September 10, 2010). The increased 
training activities will affect nearly all training areas at JBLM, 
resulting in an increased risk of accidental fires, and habitat 
destruction and degradation attributable to vehicle use in occupied 
areas, mounted and dismounted training, bivouac activities, and 
digging. While training areas on the base have degraded habitat for the 
Mazama pocket gophers, with implementation of conservation measures, 
these areas still provide habitat for the Roy Prairie and Yelm 
subspecies that are found there. JBLM's recently signed Mazama pocket 
gopher Endangered Species Management Plan (ESMP) will serve to minimize 
such threats across the base by redirecting some training activities to 
areas outside of occupied habitat, designating areas where no vehicles 
are permitted, designating areas where vehicles will remain on roads 
only, and designating areas where no digging is allowed, among other 
conservation measures. JBLM has further committed to enhancing and 
expanding suitable habitat for the Roy Prairie and Yelm pocket gophers 
in ``priority habitat'' areas on base (areas that were proposed as 
critical habitat); enforcing restrictions on recreational use of 
occupied habitat by dog owners and horseback riders; and continuing to 
support the off-base recovery of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
the Mazama pocket gopher.
    Several moderate- to large-sized areas occupied by Mazama pocket 
gophers have been identified on JBLM within the historical range of the 
Roy Prairie pocket gopher (Pierce County) and Yelm pocket gopher 
(Thurston County). Their absence from some sites of what is presumed to 
have been formerly suitable habitat may be related to compaction of the 
soil due to years of mechanized vehicle training, which impedes 
burrowing activities of pocket gophers (Steinberg 1995, p. 36). 
Training infrastructure (roads, firing ranges, bunkers) also degrades 
gopher habitat and may lead to reduced use of these areas by pocket 
gophers. For example, as part of the Grow the Army effort, JBLM has 
plans to add a third rifle range on the south impact area where it 
overlaps with a densely occupied Mazama pocket gopher site. The area 
may be usable by gophers when the project is completed; however, 
construction of the rifle range may result in removal of forage and 
direct mortality of gophers through crushing of burrows (Stinson 2011, 
in litt.). Recent survey access to the center of the artillery impact 
area on 91st Division Prairie, where bombardment is presumably of the 
highest intensity, did detect some unspecified level of occupancy by 
the Roy Prairie pocket gopher (WDFW 2013b, enclosure 1, p. 6). This 
apparently suitable central portion of the 91st Division Prairie is 
subject to repeated and ongoing bombardment, which may create an 
ecological trap for dispersing juveniles. JBLM training areas have 
varying levels of use; some allow excavation and off-road vehicle use, 
while other areas have restrictions that limit off-road vehicle use. 
The ESMP specifically requires coordination between the JBLM Fish and 
Wildlife personnel and the JBLM entities responsible for training 
activities (e.g., Range Support, battalion commanders, and/or first 
field grade officers) to ensure all parties are aware of where gopher-
occupied areas occur in relation to training activities, the effects of 
training, and the potential ramifications of habitat destruction or 
animal mortality. Since military training has the potential to directly 
or indirectly harm or harass Mazama pocket gophers, we conclude that 
these activities will

[[Page 19779]]

negatively impact the Roy Prairie and Yelm pocket gophers.
    JBLM has committed to operational restrictions on military training 
areas, in order to avoid and minimize potential negative impacts to Roy 
Prairie and Yelm pocket gophers on portions of the base. Currently-
occupied areas will be buffered from training activities, with an 
emphasis on occupied habitat in ``priority habitat'' areas. Regular 
surveys will be conducted with a goal of determining distribution of 
Mazama pocket gophers, protecting gophers and their habitat from 
disturbance or destruction, and determining population status. Where 
possible, JBLM will alleviate training pressure by transferring 
training activities to unoccupied areas where encroaching forest has 
been removed from former prairie habitat. This strategy has the effect 
of both releasing large areas of land that were historically prairie 
and providing unoccupied areas where training is free of the risk of 
negatively impacting Roy Prairie or Yelm pocket gophers. While the 
Service fully supports the implementation of these impact minimization 
efforts and will continue to collaborate with DOD to address all 
aspects of training impacts on the species, not all adverse impacts of 
training on the pocket gophers can be fully avoided. Military training 
continues to pose a threat to the Roy Prairie and Yelm subspecies at 
this time.
    No military training occurs in the range of the Olympia or Tenino 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher.
Restoration Activities
    Management for invasive species and encroachment of woody plants 
requires control through equipment, herbicides, and other activities. 
While restoration has conservation value for the subspecies, management 
activities to implement restoration may also have directly negative 
impacts to the subspecies that are the target of habitat restoration if 
best management practices are not followed.
    In the south Puget Sound, Mazama pocket gopher habitat has been 
degraded and encroached upon by native and nonnative woody plants, 
including Scot's broom and Douglas-fir, and several Washington State 
listed noxious weeds, such as Euphorbia esula (leafy spurge) and 
Centaurea sp. (knapweed) (Dunn and Ewing 1997, p. v; Vaughan and Black 
2002, p. 11). Steinberg (1995, p. 26) observed that pocket gophers on 
JBLM did not occur in areas with thick Scot's broom, and Olson (2011a, 
pp. 12-13) also found that pocket gopher presence was negatively 
associated with Scot's broom. Most restoration activities are unlikely 
to have direct impacts on pocket gophers, though removal of nonnative 
vegetation is likely to temporarily decrease available forage for 
Mazama pocket gophers and, if heavy equipment is used during the 
removal (e.g., the mowing of established Scot's broom), burrows and 
individuals could be crushed. Where best management practices are 
implemented, these impacts could be minimized or avoided.
Summary of Factor A
    Here we summarize the factors associated with the destruction or 
degradation of habitats for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher.
    Much of the habitat originally used by the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies has been fragmented and/or lost to development. Residential 
and commercial development in the restricted remaining range of the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies is expected to continue into the 
future, and is likely to continue to result in substantial negative 
impacts to the subspecies' habitat and populations. Development removes 
forage vegetation, renders soils unsuitable for burrowing by covering 
them with impervious surfaces or compacting them, or by grading or 
removing them. Proposed development triggers Critical Areas Ordinances 
(CAOs) in Thurston and Pierce Counties where the pocket gophers occur, 
but resultant set-asides are not always adequate to conserve local 
populations into the future (for further discussion on existing 
regulatory mechanisms, see Factor D).
    Past military training at JBLM has likely negatively affected two 
of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies (Roy Prairie and Yelm pocket 
gophers) by direct and indirect mortality from bombardment and other 
types of military training, unintentional fires, and soils compaction 
on prairies. These threats are expected to continue in the future due 
to planned increases in stationing and military training at JBLM, but 
the negative impacts will be partially ameliorated through the measures 
outlined in the ESMP recently developed for the conservation benefit of 
the Mazama pocket gopher.
    The four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher 
also face threats from encroachment of native and nonnative plant 
species into their prairie environments due to succession and fire 
suppression, and are particularly negatively affected by the 
encroachment of woody vegetation. This has resulted in loss of forage 
vegetation for pocket gophers, as well as loss of burrowing habitat, as 
tree and shrub roots overtake the soils. Degradation of habitat due to 
encroachment by woody species such as Scot's broom and Douglas-fir 
continues to be an ongoing significant threat to the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher.
    While restoration activities are intended to improve prairie 
ecosystem function, some types of restoration have the potential to 
negatively impact Mazama pocket gophers, such as instances where heavy 
equipment may be used in occupied areas, especially when best 
management practices such as avoidance of active areas are not 
carefully implemented.
    The Washington prairie ecosystem upon which the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher primarily depend has been 
reduced by an estimated 90 to 95 percent over the past 150 years, with 
less than 10 percent of the native prairie remaining in the south Puget 
Sound region today. Due to loss and degradation of gopher habitat from 
ongoing and future residential and commercial development, encroachment 
of shrubs and trees into their prairie habitats, and negative impacts 
from both current and future military training (for Roy Prairie and 
Yelm subspecies), we conclude that the threats to the habitat of the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher are 
significant.

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

    Overutilization of species results when the number of individuals 
removed from the system exceeds the ability of the population of the 
species to sustain its numbers or reduces populations of the species to 
a level such that it is vulnerable to other influences (threats) upon 
its survival. This overutilization can result from removal of 
individuals from the wild for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes.
    One local population of the Mazama pocket gopher at Lost Lake 
Prairie in Mason County (Shelton pocket gopher) may have been 
extirpated as a result of collecting by Dalquest and Scheffer in the 
late 1930s or early 1940s (Dalquest and Scheffer 1944a, p. 314), though 
based on the numbers of gophers removed, this must have already been a 
very small local population prior to such collection. Later, Steinberg 
(1996, p. 23) conducted surveys in the vicinity and found no evidence 
of pocket

[[Page 19780]]

gophers. In addition, Mazama pocket gophers in Washington were used in 
a rodenticide experiment as recently as 1995 (Witmer et al. 1996, p. 
97). Witmer et al. (1996, p. 95) claim these were likely Thomomys 
mazama tumuli (Tenino pocket gophers), but these Lacey-area gophers may 
fall in the range of the Olympia pocket gopher. As awareness of the 
plight of the Mazama pocket gopher subspecies in Washington has grown, 
the scientific community has found less invasive ways to monitor and 
study these animals. Further, the agricultural and silvicultural 
communities are developing new practices that allow for both crop 
production and the use of suitable habitat by Mazama pocket gophers.
    Beyond direct collection of individuals, research may affect pocket 
gopher populations through other avenues as well. During the initial 
translocation experiments and research conducted by WDFW at Wolf Haven 
and West Rocky Prairie, respectively, between 2005 and 2011, pocket 
gopher mortality was extremely high (Linders 2008, p. 9; Olson 2011c; 
Olson 2012a, in litt.). In the case of the Wolf Haven translocations, 
gophers were removed from development sites near Olympia Airport and at 
the intersection of Yelm Highway and Rich Road, where pocket gopher 
mortality would have likely occurred as a result of direct negative 
impacts due to site development (crushing of individuals and burrows 
from heavy machinery excavation, grading, and construction, etc.). 
Pocket gophers continue to occupy Wolf Haven, despite there being no 
known occurrence records for the site prior to translocations. 
Similarly, pocket gophers were not known to inhabit West Rocky Prairie 
prior to translocation experiments there, though West Rocky Prairie was 
likely contiguous with Rocky Prairie in the recent past, making it 
probable that West Rocky Prairie was within the historical range of the 
Tenino pocket gopher. In the case of the West Rocky Prairie 
translocated population, pocket gophers were taken from the Olympia 
Airport, where a large and well-studied expanse of densely occupied 
Mazama pocket gopher habitat occurs in Thurston County. Although no 
comparative analysis has been conducted on the number of individuals at 
the Olympia Airport site before and after the translocations, there is 
no evidence that the source population suffered any adverse effects 
from the research conducted. The analysis and evaluation of this 
research is ongoing. Aside from historical negative impacts from 
collection and outside of this controlled research, we have no 
information or evidence that overutilization of any four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher is an ongoing threat now 
or will become a threat in the future.
Summary of Factor B
    In summary, although there is some evidence of historical mortality 
from overutilization of the Mazama pocket gopher, and there may have 
been some recent mortality from utilization of the Mazama pocket gopher 
for research purposes, we have no information to indicate that these 
activities have negatively impacted the subspecies as a whole, and have 
no information to suggest that overutilization is presently occurring 
or will become a significant threat in the future. In addition, we have 
no evidence that commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational 
use is occurring at a level that would pose a threat to any of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher.

Factor C. Disease or Predation

Disease
    Most healthy ecosystems include organisms such as viruses, 
bacteria, fungi, and parasites that cause disease. Healthy wildlife and 
ecosystems have evolved defenses to fend off most diseases before they 
have devastating impacts. An ecosystem with high levels of biodiversity 
(diversity of species and genetic diversity within species) is more 
resilient to the impacts of disease because there are greater 
possibilities that some species and individuals within a species have 
evolved resistance, or if an entire species is lost, that there will 
likely be another species to fill the empty niche.
    Where ecosystems are not healthy due to a loss of biodiversity and 
threats such as habitat loss, climate change, pollutants or invasive 
species, wildlife and ecosystems are more vulnerable to emerging 
diseases. Diseases caused by or carried by invasive species can be 
particularly severe threats, as native wildlife may have no natural 
immunity to them (National Wildlife Federation 2012).
    Our review of the best available scientific and commercial data 
found no evidence to indicate that disease is a threat to the Mazama 
pocket gopher subspecies found in Washington. We conclude that disease 
is not a threat to the subspecies now, nor do we anticipate it to 
become so in the future.
Predation
    Predation is a process of major importance in influencing the 
distribution, abundance, and diversity of species in ecological 
communities. Generally, predation leads to changes in both the 
population size of the predator and that of the prey. In unfavorable 
environments, prey species are stressed or living at low population 
densities such that predation is likely to have negative effects on all 
prey species, thus lowering species richness. In addition, when a 
nonnative predator is introduced to the ecosystem, negative effects on 
the prey population may be higher than those from co-evolved native 
predators. The effect of predation may be magnified when populations 
are small, and the disproportionate effect of predation on declining 
populations has been shown to drive rare species even further towards 
extinction (Woodworth 1999, pp. 74-75).
    Predation has an impact on populations of the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. For these four subspecies, 
urbanization has resulted in not only habitat loss, but the increased 
exposure to feral and domestic cats and dogs. Domestic cats are known 
to have serious impacts on small mammals and birds and have been 
implicated in the decline of several endangered and threatened mammals, 
including marsh rabbits in Florida and the salt-marsh harvest mouse in 
California (Ogan and Jurek 1997, p. 89). Domestic cats and dogs have 
been specifically identified as common predators of pocket gophers 
(Wight 1918, p. 21; Henderson 1981, p. 233; Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-
21) and at least two Mazama pocket gopher locations were found as a 
result of house cats bringing home pocket gopher carcasses (WDFW 2001, 
entire). Informal interviews with area biologists document multiple 
incidents of domestic pet predation on pocket gophers generally as well 
as Mazama pocket gophers specifically (Clouse 2012, in litt.; Chan 
2013, in litt.; Skriletz 2013 in litt.; Wood 2013 in litt.). There is 
also one recorded instance of a WDFW biologist being presented with a 
dead Mazama pocket gopher by a dog during an east Olympia, Washington, 
site visit in 2006 (Burke Museum 2012; McAllister 2013, in litt.). Some 
local populations of the Mazama pocket gopher occur in areas where 
people recreate with their dogs, bringing these potential predators 
into environments that may otherwise be relatively free of them, 
consequently increasing the risks to individual pocket gophers and

[[Page 19781]]

populations that may be small and isolated.
    The four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher 
occur in rapidly developing areas. Local populations that survive 
commercial and residential development (adjacent to and within habitat) 
are potentially vulnerable to extirpation by domestic and feral cats 
and dogs (Henderson 1981, p. 233; Case and Jasch 1994, p. B-21). As 
stated previously, predation is a natural part of the Mazama pocket 
gopher's life history; however, the effect of predation may be 
magnified when populations are small and habitat is fragmented. The 
disproportionate effect of additional predation on declining 
populations has been shown to drive rare species even further towards 
extinction (Woodworth 1999, pp. 74-75). Predation, particularly from 
nonnative species, will likely continue to be a threat to the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher now and in the 
future. This is particularly likely where development abuts gopher 
habitat, resulting in increased numbers of cats and dogs in the 
vicinity, and in areas where people recreate with their dogs--
particularly if dogs are off-leash and not prevented from harassing 
wildlife. In such areas where local populations of pocket gophers are 
already small, this additional predation pressure (above natural levels 
of predation) is expected to further negatively impact population 
numbers.
Summary of Factor C
    Based on our review of the best available information, we conclude 
that disease is not a threat to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
the Mazama pocket gopher now, nor do we expect it to become a threat in 
the future.
    Areas of suitable occupied habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher are small and declining and 
often occur as fragments of isolated habitat islands, frequently in 
proximity to increasingly urbanized areas with high numbers of cats and 
dogs. This consideration, in conjunction with the fact that feral and 
domestic cats and dogs are known predators of Mazama pocket gophers, 
leads us to conclude that predation by feral and domestic pets (cats 
and dogs) likely has a negative impact on these subspecies. At present, 
this impact is likely greatest on the Olympia and Yelm subspecies, 
which occur in close proximity to intensely developed areas; the Roy 
Prairie pocket gopher occurs primarily on JBLM, where DOD is working 
with the Service to diminish the negative impacts of active military 
training through conservation measures outlined in the ESMP. The 
relatively fewer known occurrences of the Roy Prairie pocket gopher 
that have been identified off the base are likely subject to increased 
predation pressure from feral and domestic cats and dogs where they are 
situated closely to developed areas. The Tenino pocket gopher is not 
currently surrounded by properties subject to increasing development, 
and thus predation pressure for the Tenino pocket gopher is likely 
restricted to that of native predators, such as coyotes and birds of 
prey. Therefore, based on our review of the best available scientific 
and commercial information, we conclude that predation is currently a 
threat to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher now and will continue to be in 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 subspecies 
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. . . .'' In 
relation to Factor D under the Act, we interpret this language to 
require the Service to consider relevant Federal, State, and Tribal 
laws, regulations, 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 subspecies. We give 
strongest weight to statutes and their implementing regulations and to 
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.
    The following section includes a discussion of Federal, State, 
Tribal, or local laws, regulations, or treaties that apply to the 
Mazama pocket gopher. It includes legislation for Federal land 
management agencies and State and Federal regulatory authorities 
affecting land use or other relevant management.
United States Federal Laws and Regulations
    No Federal laws in the United States specifically address the 
Mazama pocket gopher or any of its subspecies.
    The Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670) authorizes the Secretary of Defense 
to develop cooperative plans with the Secretaries of Agriculture and 
the Interior for natural resources on public lands. The Sikes Act 
Improvement Act of 1997 requires Department of Defense installations to 
prepare Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans (INRMPs) that 
provide for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources on 
military lands consistent with the use of military installations to 
ensure the readiness of the Armed Forces. INRMPs incorporate, to the 
maximum extent practicable, ecosystem management principles and provide 
the landscape necessary to sustain military land uses. While INRMPs are 
not technically regulatory mechanisms because their implementation is 
subject to funding availability, they can be an added conservation tool 
in promoting the recovery of endangered and threatened species on 
military lands.
    On JBLM in Washington, several policies and an INRMP are in place 
to provide conservation measures to grassland-associated species, 
including the endangered species, Taylor's checkerspot butterfly 
(Euphydryas editha taylori), and threatened species, streaked horned 
lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata), that occupy training lands on the 
military base. JBLM in partnership with local agencies and 
nongovernmental organizations has provided funding to conserve these 
species through the acquisition of new conservation properties and 
management actions intended to improve the amount and distribution of 
habitat for these species. JBLM has also provided funding to 
reintroduce declining species into suitable habitat on and off military 
lands. In June 2011, representatives from DOD (Washington, DC, office) 
met with all conservation partners to assess the success of this 
program and make decisions as to future funding needs. Support from the 
Garrison Commander of JBLM and all partners resulted in an increase in 
funding for habitat management and acquisition projects for these 
species on JBLM.
    The Service has worked closely with the DOD to develop conservation 
measures for military training as well as recreation activities that 
occur within ``priority habitat'' areas (areas that were proposed as 
critical habitat) for the Roy Prairie and Yelm Mazama pocket gophers on 
JBLM. These include, but are not limited to, areas where no vehicles 
are permitted on occupied habitat, where vehicles are restricted to 
roads, and where digging is prohibited. The ESMP further dictates the 
establishment of buffer zones around occupied areas

[[Page 19782]]

and specific coordination and training requirements for entities 
responsible for troops who may train in occupied habitat (e.g., Range 
Support, battalion commanders, and/or first field grade officers). 
Rules regarding recreation will be fully funded and enforced in all 
occupied areas.
    JBLM policies include Army Regulation 420-5, which covers the 
INRMP, and AR-200-1. This is an agreement between each troop and DOD 
management that actions taken by each soldier will comply with 
restrictions placed on specific Training Areas, or range lands. Within 
the INRMP, the wildlife branch of the DOD has developed an updated ESMP 
that provides site-specific management and protection actions that are 
taken on military lands for the conservation of the Mazama pocket 
gopher. The ESMP provides assurances of available funding to achieve 
intended goals of Mazama pocket gopher conservation. Compliance, 
implementation, and effectiveness monitoring reports will be submitted 
annually to the USFWS. ESMPs require regular updates to account for 
local or rangewide changes in species status. INRMPs also have a 
monitoring component that would require modifications in the form of, 
or adaptive management to, planning actions when the result of that 
specific action may differ from the intent of the planned action.
    Under the Sikes Act, the JBLM INRMP (and associated ESMP) includes 
provisions that will promote protection and conservation practices to 
support the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher 
(due to conservation efforts they help fund both on- and off-base). 
These efforts will facilitate the prevention of further population 
declines in the Roy Prairie and Yelm pocket gophers associated with 
habitat loss or destruction on JBLM properties. However, current 
military actions are likely to continue to result in the mortality of 
individual animals and damage or destroy occupied habitat, even with 
the above mitigating efforts implemented by the military. Thus we 
conclude that the regulatory mechanisms in place at JBLM are not 
sufficient to fully offset the negative impacts of military training 
activities to the Roy Prairie and Yelm pocket gophers where they occur 
on the base.
State Laws and Regulations
    Although the State of Washington has no State Endangered Species 
Act, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has authority to list 
species as endangered or threatened (in addition to other possible 
designations; Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 77.12.020). The Mazama 
pocket gopher is currently listed as a threatened species by WDFW (the 
State does not list each of the Mazama pocket gopher subspecies as 
threatened individually; all eight subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher that occur in Washington are listed by the State as threatened 
as a single taxon). State-listed species are protected from direct take 
and/or malicious ' take', but their habitat is not protected (RCW 
77.15.120). State listings generally consider only the status of the 
species within the State's borders, and do not depend upon the same 
considerations as a potential Federal listing. The Washington State 
Growth Management Act of 1990 requires counties to develop CAOs that 
address development impacts to important wildlife habitats, thus 
habitat receives protection through county or municipal CAOs. CAOs may 
require environmental review and habitat management plans for 
development proposals that affect State-listed species, depending on 
the county. The specifics and implementation of CAOs vary by county 
(see specific discussions below).
    The Mazama pocket gopher (i.e., all subspecies of Mazama pocket 
gopher in Washington) is a Priority Species under WDFW's Priority 
Habitats and Species Program (WDFW 2008, pp. 19, 80, 120). As Priority 
Species, the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher benefit from some protection of their habitats under 
environmental reviews of applications for county or municipal 
development permits (Stinson 2005, pp. 46, 70). WDFW provides Priority 
Habitats and Species Management Recommendations to local government 
permit reviewers, applicants, consultants, and landowners in order to 
avoid, minimize, and mitigate negative impacts to Mazama pocket gophers 
and their habitat (WDFW 2011, p.1). These recommendations are not 
regulatory, but are based on best available science.
    WDNR manages approximately 66,000 ac (26,710 ha) of lands as 
Natural Area Preserves (NAP). NAPs provide the highest level of 
protection for excellent examples of unique or typical land features in 
Washington State. These NAPs provide protection for the Mazama pocket 
gopher where they overlap with Mazama pocket gopher habitat, and, based 
on their proactive management, we do not find that the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms poses a threat to the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher on WDNR lands.
    Based on our review of the existing regulatory mechanisms for the 
State of Washington, we conclude that, while the State's regulations 
may protect individuals of the subspecies, they do not guarantee 
protection for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher from further population declines associated with habitat loss or 
inappropriate management, nor do they provide for these subspecies' 
long-term population viability.
Local Laws and Regulations
    The Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) of 1990 requires 
all jurisdictions in the State to designate and protect critical areas. 
The State defines five broad categories of critical areas, including: 
(1) Wetlands; (2) areas with critical recharging effects on aquifers 
used for potable water; (3) fish and wildlife habitat conservation 
areas; (4) frequently flooded areas; and (5) geologically hazardous 
areas. Quercus garryana (Oregon white oak) habitat and prairie both 
predominantly fall into the category of fish and wildlife habitat 
conservation areas, though due to the coarse nature of prairie soils 
and the presence of wet prairie habitat across the landscape, critical 
area protections for crucial aquifer recharge areas and wetlands may 
also address some prairie habitat protection. The GMA requires counties 
to develop CAOs that address development impacts to important wildlife 
habitats. The specifics and implementation of CAOs vary by county, 
although the Mazama pocket gopher is recognized as a species of local 
importance in the CAOs of Mason, Thurston, and Pierce Counties. In 
Thurston County, when development activities are proposed where pocket 
gophers are likely to be present, the developer must determine if 
gophers are present, assess the impact to gophers, and submit a Habitat 
Management Plan. Habitat Management Plans have been developed for 
Mazama pocket gophers for many sites in Thurston County since 2006. In 
Pierce County, a Habitat Assessment Report is required only where 
Mazama pocket gophers are known to be present (but not in areas where 
they are likely to be present, but have not been documented), resulting 
in substantially weaker protection for the Roy Prairie pocket gophers 
that exist off JBLM.
    Due to their State-listed status in Washington, Mazama pocket 
gophers are included in three county CAOs in the State (Mason, Pierce, 
and Thurston). Within counties, CAOs apply to all unincorporated areas, 
but incorporated cities are required to independently address critical 
areas within their UGA. The incorporated cities within the range

[[Page 19783]]

of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher in 
Washington are: (1) Olympia, Lacey, Rainier, Tenino, Tumwater, and Yelm 
(Thurston County); and (2) Roy (Pierce County). Actions in gopher 
habitat under such ordinances are intended to protect and minimize 
impacts to gophers and their habitats. As such, development 
applications in suspected gopher areas have spurred surveys and habitat 
assessments by WDFW or contractors in Thurston and Pierce Counties. 
While survey techniques are more-or-less consistent from site to site, 
potential development properties found to be occupied by gophers are 
subject to varied species protection measures. These measures have 
included habitat set-asides, on-site fencing, signage, and suggested 
guidelines for long-term management. These measures are inadequate for 
protecting the site from nonnative predators, ensuring long-term 
habitat functioning or population viability, providing connectivity to 
adjacent habitat areas, or prompting corrective management actions if 
the biological functioning of the set-aside declines.
    In 2009, the Thurston County Board of Commissioners adopted Interim 
Ordinance No. 14260, which strengthened protections for prairie and 
Oregon white oak habitat in consideration of the best available 
science. Thurston County worked with the Service and WDFW to include an 
up-to-date definition of prairie habitat and to delineate soils where 
prairie habitat is likely to occur. In July 2010, the ordinance was 
renewed and amended, including revisions to the prairie soils list and 
changes to administrative language. Since July 2010, the interim 
prairie ordinance has been renewed on a 6-month basis. The provisions 
of this ordinance were made permanent with the adoption of Thurston 
County's CAO in July 2012. Several prairie species were also included 
as important species subject to critical areas regulation, including 
three subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher (for Thurston County, 
these would be the Olympia, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers, although 
the CAO doesn't separate out subspecies by name) (Thurston County 2012, 
p. 1).
    Implementation of the Thurston County CAOs includes delineation of 
prairie soils at the time of any land use application. County staff use 
the presence of prairie soils and soils identified as Mazama pocket 
gopher habitat as well as known presence of these or other prairie-
dependent species to determine whether prairie habitat and/or soils 
that support the Mazama pocket gopher may be present at a site and 
negatively impacted by the land use activity. After a field review, if 
prairie habitat, gopher soils, or one of these species is found on the 
site and impacts to the prairie habitat or occupied area cannot be 
avoided through changes to the development application, the County 
requires a habitat management plan (HMP) to be developed, typically by 
a consultant for the landowner, in accordance with WDFW's Priority 
Habitats and Species Management Recommendations. This HMP specifies how 
site development should occur, and assists developers in achieving 
compliance with CAO requirements to minimize negative impacts to the 
prairie habitat and species. The HMPs typically include onsite fencing 
and semi-annual mowing. Mitigation for prairie impacts may also be 
required, on-site or off (Thurston County 2012, p. 2). HMPs are 
required to be submitted to WDFW for review as part of the permitting 
process, but WDFW biologists only review HMPs as staff time allows, and 
the permitting county or city is not required to incorporate WDFW 
comments, thus WDFW review is not a required step before implementation 
by a developer. After HMP development, the County may still vacate all 
or part of the HMP if it determines a reasonable use exception 
(discussed towards the end of this section) is appropriate.
    Measures are implemented with varying degrees of biological 
assessment, evaluation, and monitoring to ensure ecological success. 
Unless a reasonable use exception is determined by Thurston County, 
development properties occupied by Mazama pocket gophers are required 
to set aside fenced, signed areas for pocket gopher protection that 
must be maintained into the future. However, the required fencing is 
often inadequate to exclude predators, and the size of the set-asides 
may not be large enough to sustain a population of gophers over time. 
Additionally, there appears to be no mechanism in place for oversight 
to ensure that current and future landowners are complying with the 
habitat maintenance requirements, so within these set-asides, pocket 
gopher habitat may become unsuitable over time. Because monitoring is a 
County policy issue, with no dedicated funding (Thurston County Long 
Range Planning and Resource Stewardship 2011, in litt., p. 2), legal 
procedures to ensure performance, permanency, funding, and enforcement 
for long-term site stewardship are inadequate. Enforcement is largely 
complaint driven, and there is no scheduled monitoring of HMP set-
asides due to lack of available staff (Clark 2013, in litt.). 
Consequently, for the Mazama pocket gophers negatively impacted by 
development in Thurston County, the contribution of these sites to 
maintaining pocket gopher populations and viability is unreliable for 
long-term conservation.
    For a few property owners in Thurston County, the size of the set-
aside would have precluded the proposed use of the properties. In these 
cases, landowners may apply for a ``reasonable use exception,'' which 
would allow development to proceed if approved. In some cases, gophers 
that could be live-trapped have been moved (translocated) to other 
locations. These were termed emergency translocations. In cases such as 
this, or where the set-aside doesn't wholly overlap all occupied 
habitat, destruction of occupied habitats (due to building 
construction, grading or paving over, etc.) likely results in death of 
individuals due to the gopher's underground existence and sedentary 
nature, which makes them vulnerable in situations where their burrows 
are crushed.
    County-level CAOs do not apply to incorporated cities within county 
boundaries, thus the incorporated cities of Lacey, Olympia, Rainier, 
Tenino, Tumwater, and Yelm that overlap the ranges of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher do not provide 
the same specificity of protection as the Thurston County CAO. Below we 
address the relevant city ordinances that overlap the subspecies' 
ranges. We conclude below with a summary of our evaluation of these 
existing ordinances in regard to the conservation of the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher.
    The City of Lacey. The City of Lacey CAO includes in its definition 
of ``critical area'' any area identified as habitat for a Federal or 
State endangered, threatened, or sensitive species or State-listed 
priority habitat, and calls these Habitat Conservation Areas (HCAs) 
(Lacey Municipal Code (LMC) 14.33.060). These areas are defined through 
individual contract with qualified professional biologists on a site-
by-site basis as development is proposed. The Code further states that, 
``No development shall be allowed within a habitat conservation area or 
buffer [for a habitat conservation area] with which state or federally 
endangered, threatened, or sensitive species have a primary 
association'' (LMC 14.33.117).

[[Page 19784]]

    The City of Olympia. The City of Olympia's municipal code states 
that ``The Department [City] may restrict the uses and activities of a 
development proposal which lie within one thousand feet of important 
habitat or species location,'' defined by WDFW's Priority Habitat and 
Species (PHS) Management Recommendations of 1991, as amended (Olympia 
Municipal Code (OMC) 18.32.315 B). When development is proposed within 
1,000 ft (305 m) of habitat of a species designated as important by 
Washington State, the Olympia CAO requires the preparation of a formal 
``Important Habitats and Species Management Plan'' unless waived by 
WDFW (OMC 18.32.325).
    The City of Rainier. The City of Rainier municipal code identifies 
``critical areas as defined by RCW 36.70A.030 to include . . . fish and 
wildlife habitat areas'' (Rainier Municipal Code (RMC) 18.100.030A) and 
further ``protects unique, fragile, and valuable elements of the 
environment, including critical fish and wildlife habitat'' (RMC 
180.100.030D). The City of Rainier mandates protective measures that 
include avoiding impact to critical areas first and mitigation second 
(RMC 18.100.B030B). Fish and wildlife habitat critical areas may be 
designated either by a contracted ``qualified professional'' or a 
qualified city employee (RMC 18.100.H040H).
    The City of Tenino. The City of Tenino municipal code gives 
Development Regulations for Critical Areas and Natural Resource Lands 
that include fish and wildlife habitat areas (Tenino Municipal Code 
(TMC) 18D.10.030 A) and further ``protects unique, fragile, and 
valuable elements of the environment, including critical fish and 
wildlife habitat'' (TMC 18D.10.030 D). The City of Tenino references 
the WDNR Critical Areas Fish and Wildlife Habitat Areas-Stream Typing 
Map and the WDFW PHS Program and PHS Maps as sources to identify fish 
and wildlife habitat (TMC 18D.10.140 E1, 2). The City also defines 
critical fish and wildlife species habitat areas as those areas known 
to support or have ``a primary association with State or Federally 
listed endangered, threatened, or sensitive species of fish or wildlife 
(specified in 50 CFR 17.11, 50 CFR 17.12, WAC 232-12-011) and which, if 
altered, may reduce the likelihood that the species will survive and 
reproduce over the long term'' (TMC 18D.40.020A, B).
    The City of Tumwater. The City of Tumwater CAO outlines protections 
for HCAs and for ``habitats and species of local importance.'' 
Tumwater's HCAs are established on a case-by-case basis by a 
``qualified professional'' as development is proposed and the HCAs are 
required to be consistent with the recommendations issued by the WDFW 
(Tumwater Municipal Code (TMC) 16.32.60). Species of local importance 
are defined as locally significant species that are not State-listed as 
threatened, endangered, or sensitive, but live in Tumwater and are of 
special importance to the citizens of Tumwater for cultural or 
historical reasons, or if the City is a critically significant portion 
of its range (TMC 16.32.055 A). TMC 16.32.050 A.1 further states that 
Areas with which State or Federally designated endangered, threatened, 
and sensitive species have a primary association are considered fish 
and wildlife habitat areas that are to be protected within the city of 
Tumwater. Tumwater is considered a ``critically significant portion of 
a species' range'' if the species' population would be divided into 
nonviable populations if it is eliminated from Tumwater'' (TMC 
16.32.055 A2). Species of local importance are further defined as 
``State monitor'' or ``candidate species'' where Tumwater is a 
significant portion of its range such that a significant reduction or 
elimination of the species from Tumwater would result in changing the 
status of the species to that of State endangered, threatened, or 
sensitive (TMC 16.32.055 A3).
    The City of Yelm. The municipal code of Yelm states that it will 
``regulate all uses, activities, and developments within, adjacent to, 
or likely to affect one or more critical areas, consistent with the 
best available science'' (Yelm Municipal Code (YMC) 14.08.010 E4f) and 
mandates that ``all actions and developments shall be designed and 
constructed to avoid, minimize, and restore all adverse impacts.'' 
Further, it states that ``no activity or use shall be allowed that 
results in a net loss of the functions or values of critical areas'' 
(YMC 14.08.010 G) and ``no development shall be allowed within a 
habitat conservation area or buffer which state or federally 
endangered, threatened, or sensitive species have a primary 
association, except that which is provided for by a management plan 
established by WDFW or applicable state or federal agency'' (YMC 
14.080.140 D1a). The City of Yelm municipal code states that by 
``limiting development and alteration of critical areas'' it will 
``maintain healthy, functioning ecosystems through the protection of 
unique, fragile, and valuable elements of the environment, and . . . 
conserve the biodiversity of plant and animal species'' (17.08.010 
A4b).
    The City of Roy. The CAO for the city of Roy (Pierce County) 
defines HCAs according to WDFW PHS (Roy Municipal Code (RMC) 10-5E1 C), 
alongside habitats and species of local importance as identified by the 
City (RMC 10-5E1 D). HCAs are delineated by qualified professional fish 
and wildlife biologists (RMC 10-5-9 A5). These HCAs are subject to 
mitigation if direct impacts to the HCA are unavoidable (RMC 10-5-13 
E3).
    Summary. County and City CAOs have been crafted with the intent of 
preserving the maximum amount of biodiversity while at the same time 
encouraging high-density development within their respective UGAs. 
County and City CAOs require that potential fish and wildlife habitat 
be surveyed by qualified professional habitat biologists as development 
is proposed (with the exception of Rainier, where a qualified city 
staffer may complete the survey). It should be noted that, although the 
cities of Rainier, Roy, Tenino, and Yelm have language relating to 
protection of State-listed or locally important species, none of these 
four cities are presently requiring surveys for Mazama pocket gophers 
to be conducted as part of the development permit review process, 
despite the fact that it is listed by the State as a threatened 
species, as is the case in the cities of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater 
(WDFW 2013b, enclosure 1, p. 8). An HCA is determined according to the 
WDFW PHS list, which is associated with WDFW management recommendations 
for each habitat and species. If an HCA is identified at a site, the 
development of the parcel is then subject to the CAO regulations. 
Mitigation required by each County or City CAO prioritizes 
reconsideration of the proposed development action in order to avoid 
the impact to the HCA.
    These efforts are laudable, but are unlikely to prevent isolation 
of local populations of sensitive species. Increased habitat 
fragmentation and degradation, decreased habitat connectivity, and 
pressure from onsite and offsite factors are not fully taken into 
consideration in the establishment of these mitigation sites. This may 
be due to a lack of standardization in assessment protocols, though 
efforts have been made on the part of WDFW to implement training 
requirements for all ``qualified biologists'' who survey for pocket 
gopher presence. Variability in the expertise and training of 
``qualified habitat biologists'' has led to broad variation in the 
application of CAO guidelines in completion of the HMPs. Coupled with 
the lack of requirement

[[Page 19785]]

for WDFW to review and approve every HMP and flexibility in application 
of county and city CAO guidelines, this variability does not equally or 
adequately support the conservation of Mazama pocket gophers and their 
habitat.
    Connectivity of populations, abundance of resources (e.g., forage 
habitat), and undisturbed habitat are three primary factors affecting 
plant and animal populations. The piecemeal pattern that development 
typically creates is difficult to reconcile with the needs of the 
Mazama pocket gopher within a given location. Further, previously 
common species may become uncommon due to disruption by development, 
and preservation of small pockets of habitat is unlikely to prevent 
extirpation of some species without intensive species management, which 
is beyond the scope of individual CAOs. The four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher are affected by habitat loss 
through development and conversion. Protective measures undertaken 
while development of lands is taking place may provide benefits for 
these species; however, based on our review of the Washington State, 
County, and City regulatory mechanisms, we conclude that these measures 
are currently inadequate to protect the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies 
of the Mazama pocket gopher from further population declines associated 
with habitat loss, inappropriate management, and loss of connectivity.
Summary of Factor D
    In summary, the existing regulatory mechanisms described above are 
not sufficient to significantly reduce or remove the negative threats 
presently experienced by the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher. Lack of essential habitat protection under State 
laws leaves these subspecies at continued risk of habitat loss and 
degradation.
    On JBLM, regulations applying to the Mazama pocket gopher are 
covered by the current INRMP and ESMP. We conclude that military 
training, as it currently occurs, causes direct mortality of 
individuals and negatively affects habitat for the Roy Prairie and Yelm 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher in all areas where training and 
the subspecies overlap. Both the Roy Prairie pocket gopher and the Yelm 
pocket gopher are known to occur on JBLM. Within the estimated range of 
the Roy Prairie pocket gopher, more than 80 percent of the soils known 
to be used by the subspecies are within JBLM's boundaries. JBLM also 
provides roughly 14 percent of the area of soils known to be used by 
the Yelm pocket gopher within its range. Military training, despite the 
policies and regulations in place on JBLM, will continue to result in 
mortality events and loss and destruction of occupied Roy Prairie and 
Yelm pocket gopher habitat; thus we conclude that the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms poses a threat to the Roy Prairie and 
Yelm subspecies on JBLM lands. In addition, as discussed in the Summary 
of Factors Affecting the Species, where these subspecies occur off JBLM 
lands and are not covered by the ESMP, we do not consider existing 
regulatory mechanisms to be adequate to ameliorate threats to the 
subspecies (in Pierce County for the Roy Prairie pocket gopher and 
Thurston County for the Yelm pocket gopher).
    The Washington CAOs generally provide conservation measures to 
minimize habitat removal and direct effects to the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. However, habitat removal and 
degradation, direct loss of individuals, increased fragmentation, 
decreased connectivity, and the lack of consistent regulatory 
mechanisms to address the threats associated with these effects 
continues to occur.
    Based upon our review of the best commercial and scientific data 
available, we conclude that the existing regulatory mechanisms are 
inadequate to reduce the threats experienced by the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher now or in the future.

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

Low Genetic Diversity, Small or Isolated Populations, and Low 
Reproductive Success
    Most species' populations fluctuate naturally, responding to 
various factors such as weather events, disease, and predation. 
Andr[eacute]n (1999, p. 358), however, suggested that population 
decline is more likely when habitat quality declines and habitat 
fragmentation increases. Populations that are small, fragmented, or 
isolated by habitat loss or modification of naturally patchy habitat, 
and other human-related factors, are more vulnerable to extirpation by 
natural randomly occurring events, cumulative effects, and to genetic 
effects that plague small populations, collectively known as small 
population effects. These effects can include genetic drift (loss of 
recessive alleles), founder effects (over time, an increasing 
percentage of the population inheriting a narrow range of traits), and 
genetic bottlenecks leading to increasingly lower genetic diversity, 
with consequent negative effects on evolutionary potential.
    To date, of the eight subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher in 
Washington, only the Olympic pocket gopher has been documented as 
having low genetic diversity (Welch and Kenagy 2008, p. 7), although 
the six other extant subspecies have local populations that are small, 
fragmented, and physically isolated from one another. The four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher face threats 
from further loss or fragmentation of habitat. Historically, Mazama 
pocket gophers probably persisted by continually recolonizing habitat 
patches after local extinctions. This process, in concert with 
widespread development and conversion of habitat, has resulted in 
widely separated populations since intervening habitat corridors are 
now gone, likely stopping much of the natural recolonization that 
historically occurred (Stinson 2005, p. 46). Although the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher are not known to 
have low genetic diversity, small population sizes at most sites, 
coupled with disjunct and fragmented habitat, may contribute to further 
population declines. Little is known about the local or rangewide 
reproductive success of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher.
Climate Change
    Our analyses under the Act include consideration of ongoing and 
projected changes in climate. The terms ``climate'' and ``climate 
change'' are defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 
(IPCC). The term ``climate'' refers to the mean and variability of 
different types of weather conditions over time, with 30 years being a 
typical period for such measurements, although shorter or longer 
periods also may be used (IPCC 2007a, p. 78). The term ``climate 
change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or variability of one or 
more measures of climate (e.g., temperature or precipitation) that 
persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer, whether 
the change is due to natural variability, human activity, or both (IPCC 
2007a, p. 78).
    Scientific measurements spanning several decades demonstrate that 
changes in climate are occurring, and that the rate of change has been 
faster since the 1950s. Examples include warming of the global climate 
system, substantial increases in precipitation in some regions of the 
world, and decreases in other regions. (For these

[[Page 19786]]

and other examples, see IPCC 2007a, p. 30; and IPCC 2007d, pp. 35-54, 
82-85.) Results of scientific analyses presented by the IPCC show that 
most of the observed increase in global average temperature since the 
mid-20th century cannot be explained by natural variability in climate, 
and is ``very likely'' (defined by the IPCC as 90 percent or higher 
probability) due to the observed increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) 
concentrations in the atmosphere as a result of human activities, 
particularly carbon dioxide emissions from use of fossil fuels (IPCC 
2007a, pp. 5-6 and figures SPM.3 and SPM.4; IPCC 2007d, pp. 21-35). 
Further confirmation of the role of GHGs comes from analyses by Huber 
and Knutti (2011, p. 4), who concluded that it is extremely likely that 
approximately 75 percent of global warming since 1950 has been caused 
by human activities.
    Scientists use a variety of climate models, which include 
consideration of natural processes and variability, as well as various 
scenarios of potential levels and timing of GHG emissions, to evaluate 
the causes of changes already observed and to project future changes in 
temperature and other climate conditions (e.g., IPCC 2007c, entire; 
Ganguly et al. 2009, pp. 11555, 15558; Prinn et al. 2011, pp. 527, 
529). All combinations of models and emissions scenarios yield very 
similar projections of increases in the most common measure of climate 
change, average global surface temperature (commonly known as global 
warming), until about 2030. Although projections of the extent and rate 
of warming differ after about 2030, the overall trajectory of all the 
projections is one of increased global warming through the end of this 
century, even for the projections based on scenarios that assume that 
GHG emissions will stabilize or decline. Thus, there is strong 
scientific support for projections that warming will continue through 
the 21st century, and that the scope and rate of change will be 
influenced substantially by the extent of GHG emissions (IPCC 2007a, 
pp. 44-45; IPCC 2007c, pp. 760-764 and 797-811; Ganguly et al. 2009, 
pp. 15555-15558; Prinn et al. 2011, pp. 527, 529). (See IPCC 2007b, p. 
8, for a summary of other global projections of climate-related 
changes, such as frequency of heat waves and changes in precipitation. 
Also see IPCC 2011 (entire) for a summary of observations and 
projections of extreme climate events.)
    Various changes in climate may have direct or indirect effects on 
species. These effects may be positive, neutral, or negative, and they 
may change over time, depending on the species and other relevant 
considerations, such as interactions of climate with other variables 
(e.g., habitat fragmentation) (IPCC 2007e, pp. 214-246). Identifying 
likely effects often involves aspects of climate change vulnerability 
analysis. Vulnerability refers to the degree to which a species (or 
system) is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of 
climate change, including climate variability and extremes. 
Vulnerability is a function of the type, scope, and rate of climate 
change and variation to which a species is exposed, its sensitivity, 
and its adaptive capacity (IPCC 2007a, p. 89; see also Glick et al. 
2011, pp. 19-22). No single method for conducting such analyses applies 
to all situations (Glick et al. 2011, p. 3). We use our expert judgment 
and appropriate analytical approaches to weigh relevant information, 
including uncertainty, in our consideration of various aspects of 
climate change.
    As is the case with all threats that we assess, even if we conclude 
that a species is currently affected or is likely to be affected in a 
negative way by one or more climate-related impacts, it does not 
necessarily follow that the species meets the definition of an 
``endangered species'' or a ``threatened species'' under the Act. If a 
species is listed as endangered or threatened, knowledge regarding the 
vulnerability of the species to, and known or anticipated impacts from, 
climate-associated changes in environmental conditions can be used to 
help devise appropriate strategies for its recovery.
    Global climate projections are informative, and, in some cases, the 
only or the best scientific information available for us to use. 
However, projected changes in climate and related impacts can vary 
substantially across and within different regions of the world (e.g., 
IPCC 2007a, pp. 8-12). Therefore, we use ``downscaled'' projections 
when they are available and have been developed through appropriate 
scientific procedures, because such projections provide higher 
resolution information that is more relevant to spatial scales used for 
analyses of a given species (see Glick et al. 2011, pp. 58-61, for a 
discussion of downscaling). With regard to our analysis for the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher, downscaled 
projections are available.
    Downscaled climate change projections for the Puget Sound trough 
ecoregion, where the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher are found, predict consistently increasing annual mean 
temperatures from 2012 to 2095 using the IPCC's medium (A1B) emissions 
scenario (IPCC 2000, p. 245). Using the General Circulation Model (GCM) 
that most accurately predicts precipitation for the Pacific Northwest, 
the Third Generation Coupled Global Climate Model (CGCM3.1) under the 
medium emissions scenario (A1B), annual mean temperature is predicted 
to increase approximately 1.8 [deg]Fahrenheit (F) (1 [deg]Celsius (C)) 
by the year 2020, 3.6 [deg]F (2 [deg]C) by 2050, and 5.4 [deg]F (3 
[deg]C) by 2090 (Climatewizardcustom 2012). This analysis was 
restricted to the ecoregion encompassing the overlapping range of the 
subspecies of interest and is well supported by analyses focused only 
on the Pacific Northwest by Mote and Salath[eacute] in their 2010 
publication, Future Climate in the Pacific Northwest (Mote and 
Salath[eacute] 2010, entire). Employing the same GCM and medium 
emissions scenario, downscaled model runs for precipitation in the 
ecoregion project a small (less than 5 percent) increase in mean annual 
precipitation over approximately the next 80 years. Most months are 
projected to show an increase in mean annual precipitation. May through 
August are projected to show a decrease in mean annual precipitation, 
which corresponds with the majority of the reproductive season for the 
Mazama pocket gopher (Climatewizardcustom 2012).
    The potential impacts of a changing global climate to the Mazama 
pocket gopher are presently unclear. Projections localized to the 
Georgia Basin-Puget Sound Trough-Willamette Valley Ecoregion suggest 
that temperatures are likely to increase approximately 5 [deg]F (2.8 
[deg]C) at the north end of the region by the year 2080 based on an 
average of greenhouse gas emission scenarios B1, A1B, and A2 and all 
Global Circulation Models employed by Climatewizard (range = 2.6 [deg]F 
to 7.6 [deg]F; 1.4 [deg]C to 4.2 [deg]C). Similarly, the mid-region 
projection predicts an increase on average of 4.5 [deg]F (range = 2.1 
[deg]F to 7.1 [deg]F; average of 2.5 [deg]C with a range of 1.2 [deg]C 
to 3.9 [deg]C) and the southern end to increase by 4.5 [deg]F (range = 
2.2 [deg]F to 7.1 [deg]F; average of 2.5 [deg]C with a range of 1.2 
[deg]C to 3.9 [deg]C). Worldwide, the IPCC states that it is very 
likely that extreme high temperatures, heat waves, and heavy 
precipitation events will increase in frequency (IPCC 2007c, p. 783).
    Climate change has been linked to a number of conservation issues 
and changes in animal populations and ranges. However, direct evidence 
that climate change is the cause of these alterations is often lacking 
(McCarty 2001, p. 327). The body of work examining the response of 
small

[[Page 19787]]

mammals to climate change is small and is primarily focused on 
reconstruction of mammalian communities through the comparison of small 
mammal fossils from the late Pleistocene to those of the Holocene, a 
time period that spans the last significant climate warming event that 
took place between 15,000 and 11,000 years ago (Blois et al. 2010, 
entire; Terry et al. 2011, entire). Paleontological work done by Blois 
et al. (2010, p. 772) in northern California reveals a strong 
correlation between climate change and the decline and extirpation of 
small mammal species during the last major global warming event. The 
loss in species richness (number of taxa) of small mammals at their 
research site is equal to that documented for large mammal extinctions 
in North America during the same warming event at the transition from 
the Pleistocene to the Holocene: 32 percent (Blois et al. 2010, p. 
772). Blois et al. (2010, supplemental data, p. 9) determined that 
Thomomys mazama were more vulnerable to climate change than other 
Thomomys species in the area due to the steep decline of T. mazama 
population numbers that coincided with the first significant warming 
event around 15,000 years ago and their extirpation from the site 
around 6,000 years ago.
    To explore the potential impacts of climate change within the 
Anthropocene (the current geologic epoch), Blois (2009, p. 243) 
constructed a climate niche (the estimated tolerance of environmental 
variables for a given species) for Thomomys mazama reflecting the 
average minimum and average maximum temperatures range wide. Blois used 
climate data compiled by PRISM Group, Oregon State University, for the 
years 1971-2000, to construct the climate niche. Temperatures given are 
mean annual temperatures based on mean monthly averages. The climate 
niche Blois constructed for the Mazama pocket gopher gives 
22.3[emsp14][deg]F (-5.4 [deg]C) for the lowest of the mean annual 
minimum temperatures across all localities and 66.9[emsp14][deg]F (19.4 
[deg]C) for the highest of the mean annual maximum temperatures across 
all localities where Mazama pocket gophers are found. Minimum and 
maximum temperatures above the surface of the soil are attenuated with 
increased soil depth. Whether or not Mazama pocket gophers are able to 
regulate the temperature in their burrow system by digging deeper in 
the soil is unknown; however, it is likely that any temperature changes 
experienced by pocket gophers underground are attenuated relative to 
observed changes in surface temperatures.
    The effects of climate change may be buffered by pocket gophers' 
fossorial lifestyle and are likely to be restricted to indirect effects 
in the form of changes in vegetation structure and subsequent habitat 
shifts through plant invasion and encroachment (Blois 2009, p. 217). 
Further, the impacts of climate change on western Washington are 
projected to be less severe than in other parts of the country. While 
overall annual average precipitation in western Washington is predicted 
to increase, seasonal precipitation is projected to become increasingly 
variable, with wetter and warmer winters and springs and drier, hotter 
summers (Mote and Salath[eacute] 2010, p. 34; Climatewizard 2012). 
These shifts in temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture may 
result in changes in the vegetation structure through woody plant 
invasion and encroachment and thus affect the habitat for all pocket 
gopher species and subspecies in the region. Despite this potential for 
future environmental changes, we have not identified nor are we aware 
of any data on an appropriate scale to evaluate habitat or populations 
trends for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher or to make predictions about future trends and whether the 
subspecies will be significantly impacted by climate change.
Stochastic Weather Events
    Stochasticity of extreme weather events may impact the ability of 
threatened and endangered species to survive. Vulnerability to weather 
events can be described as being composed of three elements: Exposure, 
sensitivity, and adaptive capacity.
    The small, isolated nature of the remaining populations of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher increases the 
subspecies' vulnerability to stochastic natural events. When species 
are limited to small, isolated habitats, they are more likely to become 
extinct due to a local event that negatively affects the population. 
While a population's small, isolated nature does not represent an 
independent threat to the species, it does substantially increase the 
risk of extirpation from the effects of all other threats, including 
those addressed in this analysis, and those that could occur in the 
future from unknown sources.
    The impact of stochastic weather and extreme weather events on 
pocket gophers is difficult to predict. Pocket gophers may largely be 
buffered from these impacts due to their fossorial lifestyle, but Case 
and Jasch (1994, p. B-21) connect sharp population declines of pocket 
gophers of several genera with stochastic weather events such as heavy 
snow cover and rapid snowmelt with a corresponding rise in the water 
table. Based on our review, we found no information to indicate that 
the effects of stochastic weather events are a threat to any of the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher.
Pesticides and Herbicides
    The Mazama pocket gopher is not known to be impacted by pesticides 
or herbicides directly, but may be affected by the equipment used to 
dispense them. These impacts are covered under Factor A.
Control as a Pest Species
    Pocket gophers are often considered a pest because they sometimes 
damage crops and seedling trees, and their mounds can create a 
nuisance. Several site locations in the WDFW wildlife survey database 
were found as a result of kill-trapping on Christmas tree farms, a 
nursery, and in a livestock pasture (WDFW 2001). For instance, the type 
locality for the Cathlamet pocket gopher is on a commercial tree farm. 
Mazama pocket gophers in Thurston County were also used in a 
rodenticide experiment as recently as 1995 (Witmer et al. 1996, p. 97).
    In Washington it is currently illegal to trap or poison pocket 
gophers or trap or poison moles where they overlap with Mazama pocket 
gopher populations, but not all property owners are cognizant of these 
laws, nor are most citizens capable of differentiating between mole and 
pocket gopher soil disturbance. In light of this, it is reasonable to 
believe that mole trapping or poisoning efforts still have the 
potential to adversely affect pocket gopher populations. Local 
populations of Mazama pocket gophers that survive commercial and 
residential development (adjacent to and within habitat) may be 
subsequently extirpated by trapping or poisoning by humans. Lethal 
control by trapping or poisoning is most likely to be a threat to the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies where their ranges overlap with 
residential properties.
Recreation
    The Mazama pocket gopher is not known to be directly negatively 
impacted by recreation activities, although predation by domestic dogs 
associated with recreational activities does occur (Clause 2012, pers. 
comm.). These impacts are covered under Predation in Factor C.

[[Page 19788]]

Summary of Factor E
    Based upon our review of the best commercial and scientific data 
available, the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of prairies has 
resulted in smaller local population sizes, potential loss of genetic 
diversity, reduced gene flow among populations, destruction of 
population structure, and increased susceptibility to local population 
extirpation for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher from a series of threats including poisoning and 
trapping, as summarized below.
    Small population sizes coupled with disjunct and fragmented habitat 
may contribute to further population declines for the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher, which occur in habitats 
that face continuing fragmentation due to development and land 
conversion.
    Mole trapping or poisoning efforts have the potential to adversely 
affect the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher, 
especially where they abut commercial and residential areas. Such 
efforts may have a particularly negative impact on the populations that 
are already small and isolated.
    Due to small population effects caused by fragmentation of habitat, 
and impacts from trapping and poisoning efforts, we find that the 
threats associated with other natural or manmade factors are 
significant for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher, when considered in conjunction with the other factors 
considered here.

Determination

    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 Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and 
Plants. Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, we may list a species based 
on (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. Listing actions may be warranted based on any of 
the above threat factors, singly or in combination.
    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 have carefully assessed the best 
scientific and commercial data available regarding the past, present, 
and future threats to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher. The Mazama pocket gophers of Washington State are 
hypothesized to have initially dispersed into and later fully occupied 
the glacial outwash aprons after the last glaciation period (Dalquest 
and Scheffer 1942, pp. 95-96), which would have later become the open 
prairies and grasslands of the south Puget Sound. In the south Puget 
Sound region, where most of western Washington's prairies historically 
occurred, and where the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies occur, less 
than 10 percent of the original prairie persists (Crawford and Hall 
1997, pp. 13-14). Each of these four subspecies has varying degrees of 
impacts acting on them.
    We find that both development and fire suppression have caused the 
loss of a majority of prairie habitats or made such habitat unavailable 
to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher due 
to conversion of land to incompatible uses (e.g., residential and 
commercial development) and the encroachment of native and nonnative 
species of woody plants. These significant impacts are expected to 
continue into the foreseeable future. Impacts from military training, 
affecting large expanses of areas occupied by the Roy Prairie and Yelm 
pocket gopher on JBLM, are expected to increase under the DOD's Grow 
the Army initiative, although JBLM's Mazama pocket gopher ESMP provides 
an overall conservation benefit to the subspecies. Predation of gophers 
by feral and domestic cats and dogs has occurred and is expected to 
increase with increased residential development on prairie soils 
occupied by gophers, and to continue to occur where people recreate 
with their dogs in areas occupied by Mazama pocket gophers. Increased 
predation pressure is of particular concern for the Olympia and Yelm 
pocket gophers, while the majority of the Roy Prairie pocket gopher 
populations are buffered from increasing development by their location 
on JBLM, and the Tenino pocket gopher is currently isolated from 
residential development due to the location of their only known 
population.
    We find that the threat of development and adverse impacts to 
habitat from conversion to other uses, the loss of historically 
occupied locations resulting in the present isolation and limited 
distribution of the subspecies, the impacts of military training, 
existing and likely future habitat fragmentation, land use changes, 
long-term fire suppression, and the threats associated with the present 
and threatened destruction, modification, and curtailment of the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies' habitat is significant. We conclude that 
there are likely to be significant, ongoing threats to the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher due to factors 
such as small population effects (risk of population loss due to 
catastrophic or stochastic events), predation, poisoning, and trapping. 
The small size of most of the remaining local populations, coupled with 
disjunct and fragmented habitat, may render them increasingly 
vulnerable to additional threats such as those mentioned above.
    The four Thurston/Pierce subspecies face a combination of several 
high-magnitude threats; the threats are immediate; these subspecies are 
highly restricted in their ranges; the threats occur throughout the 
subspecies' ranges and are not restricted to any particular significant 
portion of those ranges. Therefore, we assessed the status of each of 
these subspecies throughout their entire ranges, and our assessment and 
proposed determination will apply to each of these subspecies 
throughout their entire ranges.
    Therefore, for the reasons provided in this rule, on the basis of 
the best available scientific and commercial information, we are 
listing the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher 
(Thomomys mazama pugetensis, glacialis, tumuli, and yelmensis--the 
Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers, respectively) as 
threatened throughout their ranges in accordance with sections 3(20) 
and 4(a)(1) of the Act.
    Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a species may 
warrant listing if it is endangered or threatened throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. 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 four Thurston/Pierce subspecies (Thomomys mazama 
pugetensis, glacialis, tumuli, and yelmensis) are likely to become 
endangered species throughout all or a significant portion of their 
ranges within the foreseeable future, based on the

[[Page 19789]]

immediacy, severity, and scope of the threats described above. We do 
not, however, have information to suggest that the present threats are 
of such great magnitude that any of these four subspecies are in 
immediate danger of extinction (that is, they do not meet the 
definition of an endangered species). Rather, we conclude that they are 
likely to become so in the foreseeable future (which is the definition 
of a threatened species). Therefore, on the basis of the best available 
scientific and commercial data, we determine that T. m. pugetensis, 
glacialis, tumuli, and yelmensis meet the definition of threatened 
species in accordance with sections 3(20) and 4(a)(1) of the Act.
    The threats to the survival of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies 
of the Mazama pocket gopher occur throughout the range of each 
subspecies and are not restricted to any particular significant portion 
of that range. Accordingly, our assessment and determination applies to 
each subspecies--the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket 
gophers--throughout its entire range.

Available Conservation Measures

    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, Tribal, State, 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 and preparation of a draft and final 
recovery plan. The recovery outline guides the immediate implementation 
of urgent recovery actions and describes the process to be used to 
develop a recovery plan. Revisions of the plan may be done to address 
continuing or new threats to the species, as new substantive 
information becomes available. The recovery plan identifies site-
specific management actions that set a trigger for review of the five 
factors that control whether a species remains endangered or 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 (composed of 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 at http://www.fws.gov/endangered, or at http://www.fws.gov/wafwo/mpg.html (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT).
    Implementation of recovery actions generally requires the 
participation of a broad range of partners, including other Federal 
agencies, Tribes, States, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, 
and private landowners. Examples of recovery actions include habitat 
restoration (e.g., restoration of native vegetation), research, 
permanent habitat protection, and outreach and education. The recovery 
of many listed species often 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 Tribal, State, and private lands.
    When this listing becomes effective, 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, 
pursuant to section 6 of the Act, the State of Washington will be 
eligible for Federal funds to implement management actions that promote 
the protection or recovery of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
the Mazama pocket gopher. 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 four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher. Additionally, we invite you to submit any new 
information on these subspecies 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 an 
endangered or threatened species 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)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
confer with the Service on any action that is likely to jeopardize the 
continued existence of a species proposed for listing or result in 
destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a 
species is listed subsequently, 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 consultation with the 
Service.
    Federal agency actions within the species' habitat that may require 
conference or consultation or both as described in the preceding 
paragraph include management and any other landscape-altering 
activities on Federal lands administered by any Federal agency. These 
activities include any actions to manage or restore critical habitat, 
actions that require collecting or handling the species for the purpose 
of captive propagation and translocation to new habitat, actions that 
may negatively affect the subspecies through removal, conversion, or 
degradation of habitat. Examples of activities conducted, regulated or 
funded by Federal agencies that may affect the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher or their habitat include, but 
are not limited to:
    (1) Military training activities and operations conducted in or 
adjacent to occupied or suitable habitat;
    (2) Activities with a Federal nexus that include vegetation 
management such as burning, mechanical treatment, and/or application of 
herbicides/pesticides on Federal, State, or private lands;

[[Page 19790]]

    (3) Ground-disturbing activities regulated, funded, or conducted by 
Federal agencies in or adjacent to occupied and/or suitable habitat; 
and
    (4) Import, export, or trade of the subspecies.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to endangered and 
threatened wildlife. The prohibitions of section 9(a)(1) of the Act, 
codified at 50 CFR 17.21, make it illegal for any person subject to the 
jurisdiction of the United States to take (which includes harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect; or to 
attempt any of these) endangered wildlife within the United States or 
on the high seas. In addition, it is unlawful to import; export; 
deliver, receive, carry, transport, or ship in interstate or foreign 
commerce in the course of commercial activity; or sell or offer for 
sale in interstate or foreign commerce any listed species. It is also 
illegal to possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such 
wildlife that has been taken illegally. Certain exceptions apply to 
employees of the Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, other 
Federal land management agencies, and State conservation agencies.
    We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered wildlife under certain circumstances. Regulations 
governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 17.22. With regard to 
endangered wildlife, a permit may be issued for the following purposes: 
for scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation or survival of the 
species, and for incidental take in connection with otherwise lawful 
activities. There are also certain statutory exemptions from the 
prohibitions, which are found in sections 9 and 10 of the Act.
    It is our policy, as published in the Federal Register on July 1, 
1994 (59 FR 34272), 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 listing on 
proposed and ongoing activities within the range of listed species. The 
following activities could potentially result in a violation of section 
9 of the Act; this list is not comprehensive:
    (1) Introduction of species that compete with or prey upon the 
Mazama pocket gopher, or its habitat, such as the introduction of 
competing, invasive plants or animals;
    (2) Unauthorized modification of the soil profiles or the forage 
habitat on sites known to be occupied by any of the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher;
    (3) Unauthorized utilization of trapping or poisoning techniques in 
areas occupied by any of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher; and
    (4) Intentional harassment or removal of any of the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities would constitute a 
violation of section 9 of the Act should be directed to the Washington 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). 
Requests for copies of the regulations concerning listed animals and 
general inquiries regarding prohibitions and permits may be addressed 
to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, Eastside 
Federal Complex, 911 NE. 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232-4181 
(telephone 503-231-6158; facsimile 503-231-6243).
    When the listing of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher under the Act becomes effective, the State of 
Washington may enter into agreements with Federal agencies to 
administer and manage any area required for the conservation, 
management, enhancement, or protection of endangered species. Funds for 
these activities could be made available under section 6 of the Act 
(Cooperation with the States) or through competitive application to 
receive funding through our Recovery Program under section 4 of the 
Act. Thus, the Federal protection afforded to the subspecies by listing 
them as threatened species will be reinforced and supplemented by 
protection under State law.

Special Rule

    Under section 4(d) of the Act, the Secretary may publish a special 
rule that modifies the standard protections for threatened species in 
the Service's regulations at 50 CFR 17.31, which implement section 9 of 
the Act, with special measures that are determined to be necessary and 
advisable to provide for the conservation of the species. As a means to 
promote conservation efforts on behalf of the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher, we are promulgating a special 
rule for these subspecies under section 4(d) of the Act. As a means to 
promote conservation efforts by encouraging activities that 
inadvertently create needed habitat for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher, we are issuing this special 
rule for these subspecies under section 4(d) of the Act. Under this 
special rule, all prohibitions and provisions of 50 CFR 17.31 apply to 
the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers, except for 
the activities described here. These activities are specifically 
exempted from the take prohibitions of section 9 of the Act, because we 
have determined it necessary and advisable for the conservation of the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher for the 
reasons outlined below.
    Under the special rule, take of these subspecies caused by certain 
airport management actions on civilian airports; certain common 
practices by agricultural operations on State, county, private, or 
Tribal lands; certain ongoing single-family residential non-commercial 
activities; noxious weed and invasive plant control conducted on non-
Federal lands; and certain vegetation management actions and fencing of 
roadside rights-of-way on highways and roads by Federal, State, county, 
private, or Tribal entities would be exempt from section 9 of the Act. 
Activities on Federal lands or with any Federal agency involvement will 
still need to be addressed through consultation under section 7 of the 
Act. Although we are exempting these activities from section 9 of the 
Act, we strongly encourage landowners and managers to use best 
management practices when they conduct actions that may negatively 
impact the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher, 
and to avoid impacts to these subspecies to the maximum extent 
practicable. Although this special 4(d) rule exempts any ``take'' 
(e.g., harass, harm, wound, kill) associated with conducting the 
activities described below, as a recommended conservation measure we 
encourage landowners to avoid soil-disturbing activities in areas of 
known or suspected active pocket gopher activity to minimize such take. 
Avoidance may include operating around such areas of activity or 
delaying the ground-disturbing activity at a site until pocket gopher 
activity appears to have ceased.
    Routine Maintenance Activities and Wildlife Hazard Management at 
Civilian Airports. Some management actions taken at civilian airports 
are generally beneficial to Mazama pocket gophers. Mazama pocket 
gophers maintain populations at airports in the south Puget Sound 
(i.e., Olympia Airport and Shelton Airport). Airports routinely 
implement programs to minimize the presence of hazardous wildlife on 
airfields, and these activities

[[Page 19791]]

unintentionally create suitable habitat for Mazama pocket gophers. 
While some airport management activities like discing or grading can 
result in individuals being injured or killed, large areas of airport 
lands are kept free of shrubs and trees that would otherwise overtake 
occupied gopher habitat and render it unsuitable for use by gophers. 
These same areas are largely fenced, which restricts access to airport 
lands by coyotes, a major predator of Mazama pocket gophers. While the 
airports are in operation, safety measures require that airport-
maintained lands themselves (areas adjacent to runways, taxiways, etc.) 
remain open and undeveloped.
    Section 9 of the Act provides general prohibitions on activities 
that would result in take of a threatened species; however, because the 
Olympia Airport provides important habitat for the Olympia subspecies 
of the Mazama pocket gopher, and the subspecies has persisted there 
under current management, we are exempting certain routine airport 
management activities at civilian airports. The special rule for 
airport management acknowledges the benefits to pocket gophers from 
these activities; covered actions would include vegetation management 
to maintain desired grass height on or adjacent to airports through 
mowing, discing, herbicide use, or burning; hazing of hazardous 
wildlife (geese and other large birds and mammals); routine management, 
repair and maintenance of runways, roads, taxiways, and aprons; and 
management of forage, water, and shelter to be less attractive to these 
hazardous wildlife, as described under the Regulation Promulgation 
section, below. Many of the activities that benefit the Mazama pocket 
gopher on civilian airports such as the Olympia Airport are a result of 
practices to maintain safe conditions for aviation; we recommend that 
airport operators follow the guidance provided in Federal Aviation 
Administration advisory circular 150/5200-33C Hazardous Wildlife 
Attractants on or Near Airports (FAA 2007, entire), and all other 
applicable related guidance.
    In response to public comments received on the proposed rule, we 
have revised the 4(d) special rule for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. Based on feedback from the FAA 
and Port of Olympia (Olympia Airport), we have amended the list of 
covered activities to address specific airport management practices 
that may affect the Mazama pocket gopher by deleting restrictions on 
use of heavy equipment from the 4(d) special rule and adding other 
allowable activities (i.e., hazing of hazardous wildlife, management of 
forage, water, and shelter to deter hazardous wildlife, use of 
additional methods to control noxious weeds and invasive plants). See 
also Summary of Changes from the Proposed Rule section of this 
document.
    We believe that a 4(d) special rule for specific activities on 
civilian airports is necessary and advisable to provide for the 
conservation of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher. We therefore exempt take of the Olympia gopher resulting 
from routine management activities and wildlife hazard management 
activities on civilian airports, which are specified below in the 
Regulation Promulgation section, under section 9 of the Act.
    Agricultural Activities. Agricultural lands provide important 
habitats for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher. This is particularly true for the Olympia, Tenino, and Yelm 
pocket gophers, in Thurston County, as the majority of known locations 
of the Roy Prairie pocket gopher occur on JBLM. While there are sites 
occupied by the Roy Prairie pocket gopher in and around the City of 
Roy, the known occurrences are extremely limited off the base. Examples 
of farmed areas that are occupied by Mazama pocket gophers and provide 
suitable habitat include livestock ranches, pastures, seed nurseries, 
market crop farms, and open rural areas where vegetation is maintained 
in an early seral condition. Agricultural lands in Thurston County 
account for a portion of the total area that the Service believes may 
be occupied or could be occupied by Mazama pocket gophers, 
approximately 15,370 ac (6,220 ha) of approximately 180,000 ac (72,843 
ha) of suitable soils. While some farming activities like tilling or 
discing can result in individuals being injured or killed, if 
individual Mazama pocket gophers remain unharmed in adjacent 
undisturbed areas, they may readily recolonize the disturbed areas and 
continue to persist in areas that are farmed, grazed, and used for 
agricultural production, thereby providing a net conservation benefit.
    Lands that are currently occupied by Mazama pocket gophers and that 
have been subject to repeated years of previous tilling are likely 
capable of sustaining continued tilling without significant impact to 
the population, assuming practices remain consistent, and surrounding 
lands are also managed as they have been in the past. Section 9 of the 
Act provides general prohibitions on activities that would result in 
take of a threatened species; however, because agricultural areas 
provide important habitats for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
the Mazama pocket gopher, we are exempting normal agricultural 
activities, including: Grazing; stock water facility installation and 
maintenance; routine installation and maintenance of fencing; planting, 
harvest, fertilization, etc., of crops; maintenance of corrals, sheds, 
and other outbuildings; maintenance of existing roads; placement of 
animal, plant, or soil supplements; noxious weed and invasive plant 
management; and occasional deep tillage. Although among all of these 
activities, deep tillage has the highest likelihood of inadvertently 
killing gophers, the potential scope of impact this activity may incur 
is limited by virtue of its application only to a subset of 
agricultural lands and its intermittent use within a year or between 
years.
    The Service recognizes that in the long term, it is a benefit to 
the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher to 
maintain those aspects of the agricultural landscape that can aid in 
the recovery of the species. We believe this special rule will further 
conservation of these subspecies by discouraging conversions of the 
agricultural landscape into habitats unsuitable for the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher and encouraging 
landowners to continue managing the remaining landscape in ways that 
meet the needs of their operation and provide suitable habitat for 
these subspecies.
    In addition, we believe that, in certain instances, easing the 
general take prohibitions on non-Federal agricultural lands may 
encourage continued responsible land uses that provide an overall 
benefit to the subspecies. We also believe that such a special rule 
will promote the conservation efforts and private lands partnerships 
critical for species recovery (Bean and Wilcove 1997, pp. 1-2). 
However, in easing the take prohibitions under section 9, the measures 
developed in the special rule must also contain prohibitions necessary 
and appropriate to conserve the species.
    As discussed elsewhere in this rule, Mazama pocket gophers face 
many threats. Foremost among these is the loss of suitable vegetative 
habitat on suitable soils. With the loss of these natural habitats 
during the last century, alternative breeding, foraging, and dispersal 
sites, including active agricultural lands, have become critical for 
the continued survival and recovery of the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. The unique challenge for 
conservation of

[[Page 19792]]

these subspecies on agricultural lands will be to find a way to work 
with private landowners to voluntarily create habitat for these 
subspecies rather than allow the habitats on their lands to become 
unsuitable through inaction. Section 9 of the Act prohibits a range of 
actions that would take a listed species, including actions that 
destroy habitats essential to individuals of the species. However, 
section 9 of the Act does not prohibit inaction; thus, a landowner's 
failure to disturb habitat on a regular basis to maintain the 
vegetation structure needed by Mazama pocket gophers would not be a 
violation of section 9 of the Act. If recovery of the four Thurston/
Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher requires the availability 
of agricultural lands, and we believe it does, then we need to give 
landowners reasons and incentives to manage their lands in ways that 
allow gophers to thrive on those lands.
    While it appears that Mazama pocket gophers may be benefiting from 
agricultural practices, much remains to be learned about the effects of 
agricultural activities on these subspecies. We have concluded that 
developing a conservation partnership with the agricultural community 
will allow us to answer important questions about the impact of various 
agricultural practices, and will provide valuable information to assist 
in the recovery of the subspecies. We further believe that, where 
consistent with the discretion provided by the Act, implementing 
policies that promote such partnerships is an essential component for 
the recovery of listed species, particularly where species occur on 
private lands. Conservation partnerships can provide positive 
incentives to private landowners to voluntarily conserve natural 
resources, and can remove or reduce disincentives to conservation 
(Knight 1999, p. 224; Brook et al. 2003, p. 1644; Sorice et al. 2011, 
p. 594). The Service will work closely with the farming community to 
develop ways to monitor impacts on Mazama pocket gophers from routine 
agricultural activities. We conclude that this commitment is necessary 
and appropriate, and will provide further insights into land 
stewardship practices that foster the continued use of farm land in 
ways beneficial to both Mazama pocket gophers and the agricultural 
community.
    In response to public comments received on the proposed rule, we 
have revised the 4(d) special rule for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. Based on feedback from NRCS and 
agricultural interests, we deleted several activities or related 
descriptions from the 4(d) special rule (i.e., restrictions on types of 
fencing, timing restrictions on ground-disturbing activities, and 
discing of fencelines for fire control) and added other allowed 
activities (i.e., maintenance of troughs, tanks, pipelines, and 
watering systems, fertilization, harrowing, tilling of less than or 
equal to a 12-in (30.5-cm) depth, placement of plant nutrients and soil 
amendments, use of discing, fungicides, and fumigation to control 
noxious weeds and invasive plants, and deep tillage not to exceed once 
every 10 years). See also the Summary of Changes from the Proposed Rule 
section of this document.
    We believe that a 4(d) special rule for activities on agricultural 
lands is necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. We 
therefore exempt take of the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm 
pocket gophers resulting from normal agricultural activities, which are 
specified below in the Regulation Promulgation section, under section 9 
of the Act.
    Single-family Residential Landowner Non-commercial Activities. The 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher occur on 
private lands throughout their ranges in Thurston and Pierce Counties 
in Washington. Activities by single-family residential landowners in 
these areas have the potential to harm or kill pocket gophers. Section 
9 of the Act provides general prohibitions on activities that would 
result in take of a threatened species; however, the Service recognizes 
that routine maintenance and some small construction activities, even 
those with the potential to inadvertently take individual Mazama pocket 
gophers, may on the whole, provide a conservation benefit to the 
subspecies, especially on properties larger than 1 acre (0.40 ha). The 
Service recognizes that in the long term, it is a benefit to the four 
Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher to maintain 
their distribution across private and public lands to aid in their 
recovery. We believe this special rule will further conservation of the 
subspecies by discouraging conversions of the landscape into habitats 
unsuitable for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher and encouraging landowners to continue managing the remaining 
landscape in ways that meet their needs and provide suitable habitat 
for these four subspecies. Under the rule, covered actions would 
include noxious weed and invasive plant management through mowing or 
herbicide use or other methods, and the construction and placement of 
fencing, garden plots, play equipment, dog kennels, storage sheds, and 
carports.
    This special rule, which exempts the non-commercial, single-family 
residential activities listed above, and which may otherwise result in 
take under section 9 of the Act, reduces the incentive for small 
landowners to eliminate populations of Mazama pocket gopher from their 
lands. In addition, we believe that in certain instances, easing the 
general take prohibitions on non-Federal small landowner lands may 
encourage continued responsible land uses that provide an overall 
benefit to the subspecies. We also believe that such a special rule 
will promote the conservation efforts and private lands partnerships 
critical for species recovery (Bean and Wilcove 1997, pp. 1-2). 
Conservation partnerships can provide positive incentives to private 
landowners to voluntarily conserve natural resources, and can remove or 
reduce disincentives to conservation (Knight 1999, p. 224; Brook et al. 
2003, p. 1644; Sorice et al. 2011, p. 594). The Service will work 
closely with Thurston County and private landowners to develop ways to 
monitor impacts on Mazama pocket gophers from routine non-commercial 
activities. We conclude that this commitment is necessary and 
appropriate, and will provide further insights into land stewardship 
practices that foster the continued use of private lands in ways 
beneficial to both Mazama pocket gophers and the community.
    In response to public comments received on the proposed rule, we 
have revised the 4(d) special rule for the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. Based on feedback from Thurston 
County and private landowners, we deleted two restrictions on 
activities from the 4(d) special rule (i.e., restrictions on types of 
fencing and play equipment) and added allowed activities (i.e., use of 
fungicide or fumigation to control noxious and invasive plants). Please 
see the Summary of Changes from the Proposed Rule section of this 
document for a complete list of changes to the 4(d) special rule 
between the proposed and final rule stages.
    We believe that a 4(d) rule for single-family residential landowner 
non-commercial activities is necessary and advisable to provide for the 
conservation of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama 
pocket gopher. We therefore exempt take of the Olympia, Roy Prairie, 
Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers resulting from ongoing

[[Page 19793]]

non-commercial activities on small landowner properties, which are 
specified below in the Regulation Promulgation section, under section 9 
of the Act.
    Noxious Weed and Invasive Plant Control on Non-Federal Lands. Based 
on public comments, we are adding noxious weed and invasive plant 
control activities on non-Federal lands to the list of activities in 
the 4(d) special rule that are exempt from take under section 9 of the 
Act.
    The four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher 
breed and forage in areas of short-statured vegetation. These areas 
include, but are not limited to, native and managed prairies, fallow 
and active agricultural fields and pastures, and some crop fields. As 
mentioned under Factor A, the suppression and loss of ecological 
disturbance regimes, such as fire, across vast portions of the 
landscape have resulted in altered vegetation structure in these areas. 
This has facilitated invasion by woody vegetation, rendering habitat 
unsuitable for the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher.
    Habitat management to maintain short-statured vegetation is 
essential to maintaining suitable breeding, wintering, and foraging 
habitat for Mazama pocket gophers. Although Mazama pocket gophers are 
known to eat weedy forbs and grasses, and while use of certain 
equipment can destroy burrows, nests and young, as well as removing 
above-ground forage plants, removal of noxious weeds wherever they may 
occur will help to maintain the short-statured vegetation required by 
Mazama pocket gophers. Targeted plants include those on County, State, 
and Federal noxious weed lists (see State and Federal lists via links 
at http://plants.usda.gov/java/noxiousDriver; Washington State counties 
each have a noxious weed control Web site). By their nature, noxious 
weeds and invasive plants grow aggressively and multiply quickly, 
negatively affecting all types of habitats, including those used by 
Mazama pocket gophers. Some species of noxious weeds spread across long 
distances through wind, water, and animals, as well as via humans and 
vehicles, thereby affecting habitats far away from the source plants.
    Section 9 of the Act provides general prohibitions on activities 
that would result in take of a threatened species; however, the Service 
recognizes that removal of noxious weeds and control of invasive 
plants, even those with the potential to inadvertently take individual 
Mazama pocket gophers, is necessary and may in part provide for the 
long-term conservation needs of the Mazama pocket gopher. The Service 
recognizes that in the long term, it is a benefit to the Mazama pocket 
gopher to remove noxious weeds wherever they may occur.
    We believe that a 4(d) rule for control of noxious weeds and 
invasive plants is necessary and advisable to further the conservation 
of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher by 
helping to prevent spread of those noxious weeds and invasive plants 
that may render habitat unsuitable for the Mazama pocket gopher, and by 
encouraging landowners to manage their lands in ways that meet their 
property management needs as well as helping to prevent degradation or 
loss of suitable habitat for the Mazama pocket gopher. We therefore 
exempt take of the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket 
gophers under section 9 of the Act resulting from routine removal or 
other management of noxious weeds and invasive plants, as described 
under the Regulation Promulgation section, under section 9 of the Act.
    Roadside Right-of-Way Maintenance Activities on Federal and Non-
Federal Lands. Based on comments from Federal, State, and County 
officials, we are adding roadside rights-of-way activities on Federal 
and non-Federal highways and roads to the list of activities in the 
4(d) special rule that are exempt from take under section 9 of the Act.
    As described above, the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the 
Mazama pocket gopher breed and forage in areas of short-statured 
vegetation. The suppression and loss of ecological disturbance regimes, 
such as fire, across vast portions of the landscape have resulted in 
altered vegetation structure in these areas. This has facilitated 
encroachment by woody vegetation, rendering habitat unsuitable for the 
four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher.
    Habitat management to maintain short-statured vegetation and remove 
woody plants is essential to maintaining suitable breeding and foraging 
habitat for Mazama pocket gophers. Although Mazama pocket gophers are 
known to eat weedy forbs and grasses, and while use of certain 
equipment can destroy burrows, nests, and young, as well as removing 
above-ground forage plants, the removal of certain noxious weeds, 
invasive plants, and woody vegetation and mowing to maintain low 
vegetation height will help to maintain the open, short-statured 
vegetation required by Mazama pocket gophers. Similarly, herbicide use 
to reduce noxious weeds and invasive plants or encroaching woody 
plants, provides the same benefit, if applied selectively. In 
association with these vegetation management activities, the repair and 
maintenance of fences along roadside rights-of-way may be helpful in 
terms of clearly delineating the area targeted for management, as well 
as assisting in containment of woody plants or exclusion of potential 
predators.
    Many routine vegetation management activities along roadsides of 
highways and roads are beneficial to the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies, because they effectively mimic the disturbance regimes that 
historically maintained the early seral conditions preferred by Mazama 
pocket gophers. Such activities include those aimed at removing or 
controlling encroachment of woody plants, and mowing or use of 
herbicides to control noxious weeds and invasive plants, which results 
in the maintenance of the short-statured vegetation preferred by pocket 
gophers. The Service wishes to encourage the continuation of such 
activities, because there are areas known to be occupied by pocket 
gophers along the roadsides of highways and roads within the range of 
the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher, and in 
addition to maintaining safe conditions for motorists, these management 
actions provide for the conservation of the pocket gophers by actively 
maintaining suitable habitat conditions for the listed subspecies.
    Section 9 of the Act provides general prohibitions on activities 
that would result in take of a threatened species. These prohibitions 
will apply to the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of the Mazama pocket 
gopher upon the effective date of this final listing rule, at which 
point landowners and managers will need to consider how their 
activities may affect the species and whether that activity may result 
in an illegal take. However, the Service recognizes that vegetation 
management for the purposes of maintaining safe highway and roadside 
conditions, even with the potential to inadvertently take individual 
Mazama pocket gophers on occasion, is necessary and has the additional 
benefit of restoring and maintaining habitat in the early seral 
condition preferred by the pocket gophers. The Service recognizes that 
in the long term, it is a benefit to the Mazama pocket gopher to 
encourage this active management that contributes to the control of 
woody plants and maintenance of short-statured vegetation in areas 
occupied by pocket gophers.

[[Page 19794]]

    We believe that a 4(d) rule for roadside right-of-way maintenance 
activities on Federal and non-Federal highways and roads is necessary 
and advisable to further the conservation of the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher by encouraging managers of 
roadside rights-of-way to manage these areas in ways that meet their 
safety management needs as well as helping maintain suitable habitat 
characteristics in areas occupied by the Mazama pocket gopher, without 
the additional concern of whether these beneficial activities may 
inadvertently violate section 9 of the Act. We therefore exempt take of 
the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers under section 
9 of the Act resulting from routine vegetation management and fencing 
activities along roadside rights-of-way, as described under the 
Regulation Promulgation section, under section 9 of the Act below.
Provisions of the Special Rule
    We determine that issuance of this special rule is necessary and 
advisable to provide for the conservation of the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher. We believe the actions and 
activities discussed above, while they may cause some level of harm to 
or disturbance to individuals of the four Thurston/Pierce subspecies of 
the Mazama pocket gopher, on balance create and improve habitat for the 
subspecies, create or foster conservation partnerships with landowners, 
and are important elements in the subspecies' conservation and recovery 
efforts. Exempted activities include certain routine agricultural 
activities, certain existing routine civilian airport maintenance and 
wildlife hazard management activities, certain routine single-family 
residential activities, control of noxious weeds and invasive plants on 
non-Federal lands, and certain roadside rights-of-way maintenance 
activities.
    We encourage any landowner concerned about potential take of listed 
species on their property that is not covered under the Special Rule 
(see also Sec.  17.40 Special Rules--Mammals, later in this document) 
to contact the Service to explore options for developing a safe harbor 
agreement or habitat conservation plan that can provide for the 
conservation of the species and offer management options to landowners, 
associated with a permit to protect the party from violations under 
section 9 of the Act (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

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 indigenous culture, and to make 
information available to tribes.

References Cited

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

Authors

    The primary authors of this final rule are the staff members of the 
Washington Fish and Wildlife Ecological Services Field Office.

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:


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.  17.11(h) by adding entries for ``Pocket gopher, Olympia 
(Thomomys mazama pugetensis),'' ``Pocket gopher, Roy Prairie'' 
(Thomomys mazama glacialis),'' ``Pocket gopher, Tenino (Thomomys mazama 
tumuli),'' and ``Pocket gopher, Yelm (Thomomys mazama yelmensis)'' in 
alphabetical order under Mammals to the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife to read as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
             Mammals
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Pocket gopher, Olympia...........  Thomomys mazama       U.S.A. (WA)........  Entire.............  T                       828     17.95(a)     17.40(a)
                                    pugetensis.
Pocket gopher, Roy Prairie.......  Thomomys mazama       U.S.A. (WA)........  Entire.............  T                       828           NA     17.40(a)
                                    glacialis.

[[Page 19795]]

 
Pocket gopher, Tenino............  Thomomys mazama       U.S.A. (WA)........  Entire.............  T                       828     17.95(a)     17.40(a)
                                    tumuli.
Pocket gopher, Yelm..............  Thomomys mazama       U.S.A. (WA)........  Entire.............  T                       828     17.95(a)     17.40(a)
                                    yelmensis.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


0
3. Amend Sec.  17.40 by adding paragraph (a) to read as follows:


Sec.  17.40  Special rules--mammals.

    (a) Mazama pocket gophers (Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm) 
(Thomomys mazama pugetensis, glacialis, tumuli, and yelmensis)--(1) 
Which populations of the Mazama pocket gopher are covered by this 
special rule? This special rule covers the four Thurston/Pierce 
subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher (Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, 
and Yelm) (Thomomys mazama pugetensis, glacialis, tumuli, and 
yelmensis) wherever they occur.
    (2) What activities are prohibited? Except as noted in paragraphs 
(a)(3) through (7) of this section, all prohibitions of Sec.  17.31 
apply to the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers.
    (3) What activities are allowed on civilian airports? Incidental 
take of the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers will 
not be a violation of section 9 of the Act, if the incidental take 
results from non-Federal routine maintenance activities in or adjacent 
to Mazama pocket gopher habitat and associated with airport operations 
on civilian airports. Routine maintenance activities include the 
following:
    (i) Routine management, repair, and maintenance of runways, roads, 
and taxiways (does not include upgrades, or construction of new 
runways, roads, or taxiways, or new development at airports);
    (ii) Hazing of hazardous wildlife;
    (iii) Management of forage, water, and shelter to reduce the 
attractiveness of the area around airports for hazardous wildlife; and
    (iv) Control or other management of noxious weeds and invasive 
plants through mowing, discing, herbicide and fungicide application, 
fumigation, or burning. Use of herbicides, fungicides, fumigation, and 
burning must occur in such a way that nontarget plants are avoided to 
the maximum extent practicable.
    (4) What agricultural activities are allowed on non-Federal lands? 
Incidental take of the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket 
gophers will not be a violation of section 9 of the Act, if the 
incidental take results from agricultural or horticultural (farming) 
practices implemented on such lands consistent with State laws on non-
Federal lands. For the purposes of this special rule, farm means any 
facility, including land, buildings, watercourses, and appurtenances, 
used in the commercial production of crops, nursery or orchard stock, 
the propagation and raising of nursery or orchard stock, livestock or 
poultry, or livestock or poultry products.
    (i) For the purposes of this special rule, an agricultural 
(farming) practice means a mode of operation on a farm that:
    (A) Is or may be used on a farm of a similar nature;
    (B) Is a generally accepted, reasonable, and prudent method for the 
operation of the farm to obtain a profit in money;
    (C) Is or may become a generally accepted, reasonable, and prudent 
method in conjunction with farm use;
    (D) Complies with applicable State laws;
    (E) Is done in a reasonable and prudent manner.
    (ii) Accepted agricultural or horticultural (farming) practices 
include:
    (A) Grazing;
    (B) Routine installation, management, and maintenance of stock 
water facilities such as stock ponds, berms, troughs, and tanks, 
pipelines and watering systems to maintain water supplies;
    (C) Routine maintenance or construction of fencing;
    (D) Planting, harvest, fertilization, harrowing, tilling, or 
rotation of crops (Disturbance to the soils shall not exceed a 12-inch 
(30.5-cm) depth. All activities that do not disturb the soil surface 
are also allowed, such as haying, baling, some orchard and berry plant 
management activities, etc.);
    (E) Maintenance of livestock management facilities such as corrals, 
sheds, and other ranch outbuildings;
    (F) Repair and maintenance of unimproved agricultural roads (This 
exemption does not include improvement, upgrade, or construction of new 
roads.);
    (G) Placement of mineral supplements, plant nutrients, or soil 
amendments;
    (H) Harvest, control, or other management of noxious weeds and 
invasive plants through mowing, discing, herbicide and fungicide 
application, fumigation, or burning (Use of herbicides, fungicides, 
fumigation, and burning must occur in such a way that nontarget plants 
are avoided to the maximum extent practicable.); and
    (I) Deep tillage (usually at depths of 18-36 inches (45.7-91.4 cm), 
for compaction reduction purposes) occurring between September 1 and 
February 28, no more often than once in 10 years.
    (5) What noncommercial activities are allowed on single-family 
residential private land? Incidental take of the Olympia, Roy Prairie, 
Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers will not be a violation of section 9 of 
the Act, if the incidental take results from noncommercial activities 
that occur in or adjacent to Mazama pocket gopher habitat on existing 
single-family residential properties. These activities include the 
following:
    (i) Harvest, control, or other management of noxious weeds and 
invasive plants through mowing, herbicide and fungicide application, 
fumigation, or burning. Use of herbicides, fungicides, fumigation, and 
burning must occur in such a way that nontarget plants are avoided to 
the maximum extent practicable;
    (ii) Construction and placement of fencing, garden plots, or play 
equipment; and
    (iii) Construction and placement of dog kennels, carports, or 
storage sheds less than 120 ft\2\ (11.15 m\2\) in size.
    (6) What noxious weed and invasive plant control activities are 
allowed on

[[Page 19796]]

non-Federal lands? Incidental take of the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino, 
and Yelm pocket gophers will not be a violation of section 9 of the 
Act, if the incidental take results from routine removal or other 
management of noxious weeds and invasive plants. Routine removal or 
other management of noxious weeds and invasive plants are limited to 
the following, and must be conducted in a way that impacts to nontarget 
plants are avoided to the maximum extent practicable:
    (i) Mowing;
    (ii) Discing;
    (iii) Herbicide and fungicide application;
    (iv) Fumigation; and
    (v) Burning.
    (7) What roadside right-of-way maintenance activities are allowed 
on Federal and non-Federal lands? Incidental take of the Olympia, Roy 
Prairie, Tenino, and Yelm pocket gophers will not be a violation of 
section 9 of the Act, if the incidental take results from routine 
maintenance of roadside rights-of-way on Federal and non-Federal lands. 
Routine maintenance activities of roadside rights-of-way of highways 
and roads are limited to the following, and must be conducted in a way 
that impacts to nontarget plants are avoided to the maximum extent 
practicable:
    (i) Mowing;
    (ii) Mechanical removal of noxious weeds or invasive plants;
    (iii) Selective application of herbicides for removal of noxious 
weeds or invasive plants; and
    (iv) Repair or maintenance of fences.
* * * * *

    Dated: March 26, 2014.
 Rowan W. Gould,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-07414 Filed 4-8-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P