[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 180 (Wednesday, September 17, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 55873-55917]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-21585]



[[Page 55873]]

Vol. 79

Wednesday,

No. 180

September 17, 2014

Part II





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; Withdrawal of the 
Proposed Rule To Remove the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle From the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 79 , No. 180 / Wednesday, September 17, 2014 
/ Proposed Rules

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2011-0063; FXES11130900000C2-123-FF09E32000]
RIN 1018-AV29


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Withdrawal of the 
Proposed Rule To Remove the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle From the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; withdrawal.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), withdraw the 
proposed rule to remove the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
(Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) from the Federal List of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), 
as amended. This withdrawal is based on our determination that the 
proposed rule did not fully analyze the best available information. We 
find the best scientific and commercial data available indicate that 
the threats to the species and its habitat have not been reduced to the 
point where the species no longer meets the statutory definition of an 
endangered or threatened species.

DATES: The Service is withdrawing the proposed rule published October 
2, 2012 (77 FR 60238) as of September 17, 2014.

ADDRESSES: The withdrawal of our proposed rule, comments and materials 
we received, and supplementary documents are available on the Internet 
at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2011-0063. All 
comments, materials, and supporting documentation that we considered in 
this final agency action are available by appointment, during normal 
business hours, at: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-2605, Sacramento, California 
95825; telephone 916-414-6600; or facsimile 916-414-6713.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Norris, Field Supervisor, 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section). 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 this document. Section 4 of the Act and its 
implementing regulations (50 CFR part 424) set forth the procedures for 
revising the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and 
Plants. Rulemaking is required to remove a species from the Federal 
Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, accordingly, we 
issued a proposed rule and 12-month petition finding on October 2, 2012 
(77 FR 60238) to remove the valley elderberry longhorn beetle as a 
threatened species from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
and to remove the designation of critical habitat for the subspecies. 
Based upon our review of public comments, comments from various 
Federal, county, and local agencies, peer review comments, comments 
from other interested parties, and new information that became 
available since the publication of the proposal, we reevaluated 
information in our files and our proposed rule. This document withdraws 
the proposed rule because the best scientific and commercial data 
available, including our reevaluation of information related to the 
species' range, population distribution, and population structure, 
indicate that threats to the species and its habitat have not been 
reduced such that removal of this species from the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife is appropriate.
    The basis for our action. A species may warrant protection under 
the Act if it is found to be endangered or threatened throughout all or 
a significant portion of its range. A species may be determined to be 
an endangered species or threatened species because of one or more of 
the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act: (A) The 
present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its 
habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or 
manmade factors affecting its continued existence. Based on our 
evaluation of the best scientific and commercial data available 
pertinent to threats currently facing the species and threats that 
could potentially affect it in the foreseeable future, we determine 
that threats have not been reduced such that the species no longer 
meets the statutory definition of an endangered or threatened species.
    Peer review and public comment. We sought peer review comments from 
independent specialists to ensure that our proposed delisting 
designation was based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and 
analyses. We invited these peer reviewers to comment on our proposal to 
remove the valley elderberry longhorn beetle from the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. We also considered all other 
comments and information received during the public comment periods.

Acronyms and Abbreviations Used in This Document

    We use many acronyms and abbreviations throughout this proposed 
rule. To assist the reader, we provide a list of these here for easy 
reference:

Act = Endangered Species Act of 1973
AFB = Air Force Base
BDCP = Bay Delta Conservation Plan
Cal-IPC = California Invasive Plant Council
CCP = Comprehensive Conservation Plan
CDFG = California Department of Fish and Game (see below)
CDFW = California Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly CDFG)
CDPR = California Department of Pesticide Regulation
CDWR = California Department of Water Resources
CEQA = California Environmental Quality Act
CFG = California Fish and Game
CFR = Code of Federal Regulations
CNDDB = California Natural Diversity Database
Corps = Army Corps of Engineers
CNLM = Center for Natural Lands Management
CVFPP = Central Valley Flood Protection Plan
CVRMP = Central Valley Riparian Mapping Project
CWA = Clean Water Act
CWP = California Water Plan
DOD = Department of Defense
EO = Element Occurrence
ETL = (Army Corps of Engineers) Engineering Technical Letter
EPA = Environmental Protection Agency
EWPP = Emergency Watershed Protection Program
FR = Federal Register
GCM = global climate model
GHG = greenhouse gas
GIC = Geographic Information Center
GIS = Geographic Information System
HCMP = Habitat Conservation Management Plan
HCP = Habitat Conservation Plan
HRMMP = Habitat Restoration, Monitoring, and Management Program
INRMP = Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan
IPCC = Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
LSA = Lake and Streambed Alteration
NAIP = National Agriculture Imagery Program
NEPA = National Environmental Policy Act
NCCP = Natural Community Conservation Planning
NRCS = Natural Resources Conservation Service

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NWR = National Wildlife Refuge
PG&E = Pacific Gas and Electric Company
PGL = (Army Corps of Engineers) Policy Guidance Letter
PVA = Population Viability Analysis
SAMP = Special Area Management Plan
Service = U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
SPFC = The (California) State Plan of Flood Control
USBR = U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
USDA = U.S. Department of Agriculture
USGS = U.S. Geological Survey
WRCC = Western Regional Climate Center
WRP = Wetland Reserve Program
WRRDA = Water Resources Reform and Development Act

Summary of Changes From the Proposed Rule

    Based upon our review of public comments, comments from various 
Federal, county, and local agencies, peer review comments, comments 
from other interested parties, and new information that became 
available since the publication of the proposal (77 FR 60238; October 
2, 2012), we reevaluated information in our files and our proposed 
rule, making changes as appropriate in this document. Where 
appropriate, we incorporated new information that became available 
since publishing the proposed rule, information received during the 
public comment periods, and in some cases provided additional 
discussion of information in our files that may not have been presented 
in adequate detail in the proposed rule. This document also provides 
important clarifications on the species' biology and threats to the 
species. Thus, this determination differs from the proposed rule as 
outlined below.
    (1) Based on the results of the information received from peer 
reviewers and the public, we concluded that some species distribution 
information in the proposed rule was incorrectly presented. As a 
result, we reevaluated the quality of distribution information 
(occurrences) for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle that was 
included in our previous summaries (e.g., Valley Elderberry Longhorn 
Beetle Recovery Plan (Recovery Plan) (Service 1984, entire); proposed 
and final listing rules (43 FR 35636; August 10, 1978; 45 FR 52803; 
August 8, 1980); 5-year review (Service 2006a); and proposed delisting 
rule (77 FR 60238; October 2, 2012)). This required a reanalysis of the 
original data sets in our files throughout the range of the species.
    (2) As a result of (1) above and our review of additional sources 
of information received during the open public comment periods, we 
reexamined existing information in our files. In this document, we 
provide either clarifications where necessary, additional or revised 
discussions where appropriate (e.g., Population Distribution and 
Current Distribution sections under Background), or incorporate and 
discuss new information received (e.g., Climate Change and Pesticide 
discussion under Factor E, preliminary survey results using aggregation 
pheromones under Population Structure in Background).
    (3) As a result of (1) and (2) above, as well as information 
received after the proposed rule published, we reevaluated and revised 
our description of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle's life 
history, and its population distribution, range, and occupancy. Our 
revised discussions are provided throughout the Background section.
    (4) We revised the Summary of Factors Affecting the Species 
section, incorporating new or revised information, where appropriate, 
in our assessments for these factors. The substantial changes to the 
Background section required us to complete a detailed examination of 
the five-factor analysis information presented in the proposed rule for 
each threat to determine whether the discussions were still valid or 
required revisions. Thus, our threats analysis and associated summaries 
may differ, where appropriate, from that presented in the proposed 
rule.
    The primary changes to this document as compared to the proposed 
rule are the result of our reanalysis of occurrence and distribution 
information of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. Specifically, we 
restructured the five-factor analysis from our proposed rule to reflect 
our reanalysis of threats, including additional and more detailed 
information (e.g., invasive plants in Factor A and pesticides under 
Factor E). We provide a more extensive discussion of effects related to 
climate change in Factor A, and incorporate predictions from several 
regional climate models for the Central Valley region. We also 
incorporate detailed results of several studies (e.g., metapopulation 
analysis) and use this information to evaluate the current threats to 
the species. Finally, threats related to the effects of pruning 
(briefly mentioned in our proposed rule under a Factor E threat (Human 
Use) (77 FR 60263; October 2, 2012)) are discussed in this withdrawal 
under Factor A.
    (5) Based on our reanalysis and the changes described above under 
(1) through (4), and primarily as a result of the revised occurrence 
and distribution information that affects our evaluation of the factors 
impacting the species, we determined that the current and future 
threats are of sufficient imminence, intensity, or magnitude to 
indicate that the valley elderberry longhorn beetle is likely to become 
endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all of its range. 
Therefore, the valley elderberry longhorn beetle currently meets the 
definition of a threatened species, and we are withdrawing the proposed 
rule to delist the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.

Background

Previous Federal Actions

    Please refer to the Previous Federal Actions section of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle proposed delisting rule (77 FR 60238, 
October 2, 2012) for a detailed description of the previous Federal 
actions concerning this species. On October 2, 2012, we proposed to 
remove the designation of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle as a 
threatened species under the Act (77 FR 60238). We opened a 60-day 
public comment period on the proposed rule that closed on December 3, 
2012. On January 23, 2013 (78 FR 4812), we announced a 30-day reopening 
of the public comment period for our October 2, 2012, proposed 
delisting rule for the species.

Taxonomy and Species Description

    The valley elderberry longhorn beetle, Desmocerus californicus 
dimorphus, is a member of the family Cerambycidae, subfamily 
Lepturinae, and genus Desmocerus (Chemsak 2005, pp. 6-7); adults are 
approximately 0.5 to 0.8 inches (in) (13 to 21 millimeters (mm)) long 
(Chemsak 2005, p. 6). In North America, the genus Desmocerus includes 
three species (D. palliatus, D. californicus, D. aureipennis) and six 
subspecies (D. c. californicus, D. c. dimorphus, D. a. aureipennis, D. 
a. cribripennis, D. a. piperi, D. a. lacustris) in the United States 
and Canada (Chemsak 2005, pp. 4-12). Members of the genus Desmocerus 
are brightly colored and sexually dichromatic with antennal tubules 
that are not prominently produced at the apex (Chemsak 2005, pp. 2-3). 
The protonum (upper surface of the prothorax segment; the midsection 
(Evans and Hogue 2006, p. 293)) of the two Desmocerus californicus 
subspecies differ from the other two North American species (D. 
palliatus, D. aureipennis) with a disk that is densely, confluently 
punctate (with small depressions on the disk that flow or run 
together), but without large, irregular, and transverse rugae (ridges) 
that are about twice as long as broad (Chemsak 2005, p. 3).

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    Along the foothills of the eastern edge of the California coast 
range and in the southern San Joaquin Valley, the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle range may overlap or abut portions of its range with 
the similar-looking California elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus 
californicus californicus) (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 5). Prior to 1972, 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle was considered a separate and 
valid species (Halstead and Oldham 2000, p. 74). The two elderberry 
longhorn beetles are now considered two subspecies (Linsley and Chemsak 
1972, pp. 7-8; Chemsak 2005, pp. 5-6). Valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle experts indicate that the small number of available specimens 
limits the ability to distinguish between the two types based on 
characteristics such as body length, elytra length and width, and 
antennal hair color (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 5). Thus, the two 
subspecies can be identified with certainty only by the adult male 
coloration, such that valley elderberry longhorn beetle males have 
predominantly red elytra (wing cases) with four dark spots, while 
California elderberry longhorn beetle males have dark metallic green to 
black elytra with a red border; females of the two subspecies are 
similar in appearance (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 4). Atypically colored 
(mostly dark) male elderberry longhorn beetles have been observed in 
both the center and eastern edge of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle's range (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 5). Talley et al. (2006a, p. 7) 
recommend a systematic geographic morphological and genetic study to 
determine the degree of overlap and interbreeding between the two 
subspecies.
    The obligate larval host plants for both elderberry longhorn 
beetles have been described as blue elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) and, 
to a lesser extent for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, red 
elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) (Collinge et al. 2001, p. 104; Holyoak 
2010, p. 1). However, the current treatment of Sambucus in California 
(Family Adoxaceae) describes three taxa: Blue elderberry (S. nigra 
subsp. caerulea), black elderberry (S. racemosa var. melanocarpa), and 
red elderberry (S. racemosa var. racemosa) (Bell 2012, p. 160). As 
noted previously by others (e.g., Talley et al. 2006a, p. 15), the 
taxonomic status of Sambucus is imprecise, and blue elderberry is 
currently described as ``variable'' and in need of further study (Bell 
2012, p. 160). In this rule, we use the more general term, elderberry, 
to describe the host plant for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
since many of the elderberry surveys and their reported results do not 
distinguish, or do not identify, the two taxa known to be occupied by 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (i.e., blue elderberry and red 
elderberry). Local climate differences between the more coastal region 
occupied by the California elderberry longhorn beetle and the 
California Central Valley occupied by the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle may promote different phenologies (e.g., flowering time) of the 
host plant and, therefore, differences in time of emergence for the two 
subspecies (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 6).

Life History

    Similar to other beetles, the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
goes through several developmental stages. These include an egg, four 
larval stages (known as ``instars,'' with each instar separated by 
molting), pupa, and adult (Greenberg 2009, p. 2).
    As reported by Arnold (1984, p. 4), females lay eggs singly on 
elderberry leaves and at the junction of leaf stalks and main stems, 
with all eggs laid on new growth at the outer tips of elderberry 
branches. Based on observations of Desmocerus californicus females 
along the Kings River, Halstead and Oldham (1990, p. 24) stated that 
females laid eggs at locations on the elderberry branch where the 
probing ovipositor (i.e., the female's egg-laying organ) could be 
inserted. In a laboratory setting, Barr (1991, p. 46) found that the 
majority of eggs laid by a female valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
were attached to leaves and stems of foliage (provided as food), with a 
preference for leaf petiole-stem junctions, leaf veins, and other areas 
containing crevices and depressions. Eggs are approximately 0.09 to 
0.12 in (2.3 to 3.0 mm) long and reddish-brown in color with 
longitudinal ridges (Barr 1991, p. 4). Eggs are initially white to 
bright yellow (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 8) and then darken to brownish 
white and reddish brown (Burke 1921, p. 451). Results of captive 
studies of Desmocerus californicus indicate the number of eggs produced 
per female vary, ranging from 8 to 110 (Burke 1921, p. 25; Arnold 1984, 
p. 4; Barr 1991, p. 51). Talley (2003, pp. 153-157) recorded a total of 
136 larvae (and an additional 44 eggs that did not hatch) from one 
captive female valley elderberry longhorn beetle collected in 2002. 
Hatching success has been estimated at 50 to 67 percent of eggs laid, 
but survival rates of larvae are unknown (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 7).
    In a laboratory setting eggs hatched within a few days of 
oviposition (Talley 2003, p. 145), but in the natural setting, the time 
to eclosing (development from egg to first instar larvae) is unknown 
(Barr 1991, pp. 4-5). Based on laboratory observations, the first 
instar larvae may bore immediately into the green tissue of the 
elderberry stem at or near the egg site, or larvae may persist on the 
shrub surface for several hours (Halstead and Oldham 1990, p. 26). 
Previous studies of both subspecies of Desmocerus californicus (Burke 
1921, p. 450; Linsley and Chemsak 1972, p. 4) estimated that the larval 
development rate inside the plant is 2 years, but laboratory 
observations have indicated that a 1-year cycle is possible (Halstead 
and Oldham 1990, p. 26). The boring of the larva creates a feeding 
gallery (set of tunnels) in the pith at the stem center (Burke 1921, p. 
450; Barr 1991, pp. 4-5). While only one larva is found in each feeding 
gallery, multiple larvae can occur in one stem if the stem is large 
enough to accommodate multiple galleries (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 8). 
Prior to pupation, the final (fifth) instar larva chews a larger pupal 
cavity in the pith of the stem and creates an exit burrow through the 
hardwood just below the surface of the bark of the plant, creating an 
exit hole (Halstead and Oldham 1990, p. 23), but then returns inside 
the plant stem, plugging the hole with wood shavings (also known as 
frass) (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 8). These larvae move back down the 
feeding gallery to the enlarged pupal chamber packed with frass, where 
they metamorphose into pupae between January and April (Burke 1921, p. 
452). Approximately 1 month later, they metamorphose into an adult, 
although the adult form may remain in the cavity for several weeks 
(Burke 1921, p. 452). The adults chew through the outer bark and emerge 
in the spring or early summer through the exit hole, generally 
coinciding with the flowering season of the elderberry (Burke 1921, p. 
450; Halstead and Oldham 1990, p. 23).
    Several studies or surveys have documented the presence of 
potential predators (e.g., earwigs, native and nonnative ants) of 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle larvae on elderberry shrubs or within 
stems (Barr 1991, p. 44; Huxel 2000, pp. 83-84; Holyoak and Graves 
2010, pp. 16-17). The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) is an 
invasive, nonnative species that has successfully colonized many areas 
of California (Vega and Rust 2001, p. 5), including permanent stream 
systems in parts of the Central Valley (Ward 1987, pp. 7-8; Huxel 2000, 
p. 84; Klasson et al. 2005, pp. 7-8). Nectar and honeydew are important 
food sources for Argentine ants, but studies of feeding behavior have 
found that Argentine ants are opportunistic feeders that readily forage 
on protein sources such as insect larvae

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or pupae, when available (Rust et al. 2000, p. 209). For example, Way 
et al. (1992, pp. 428-431) found that Argentine ants easily located and 
removed exposed eggs laid by another arboreal insect borer (Phoracantha 
semipunctata (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae)) in studies conducted in 
eucalyptus stands in Portugal. See Summary of Factors Affecting the 
Species section below for additional discussion of predation threats to 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    Collection records indicate that adult valley elderberry longhorn 
beetles can be observed from mid-March until early-June, though most 
records are from late-April to mid-May (Service 1984, p. 7). However, 
the adult stage is rare, both in space and time (Talley et al. 2006b, 
p. 649); adults likely die within 3 months (Halstead and Oldham 1990, 
p. 22). In a laboratory setting, Arnold (1984, p. 4) recorded females 
living up to 3 weeks, but males lived no more than 4 or 5 days. 
Similarly, Barr (1991, p. 46) described a life span of 17 days for a 
captive male and 25 days for two captive females. Halstead and Oldham 
(1990, p. 25) recorded caged adults living from 4 to 66 days in their 
experimental studies.
    The exit holes created in elderberry stems by the emerging adult 
eventually heal, but distinct scars remain on the plant stem (Talley et 
al. 2006a, p. 9). Although the presence of exit holes is used to survey 
and estimate population size for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
(Talley et al. 2006a, p. 10) (see additional discussion in Population 
Distribution section), this survey technique can be problematic as an 
estimate of occupancy for several reasons. First, the exit holes of 
both the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and the California 
elderberry longhorn beetle are reported to be identical and both 
beetles use the same elderberry taxa as their host plants (Arnold 
2014b, pers. comm.), making it difficult to determine occupancy of the 
two subspecies in areas where their ranges may overlap. Second, surveys 
may have included observations of exit holes in dead stems, rather than 
only those found in live elderberry stems even though the species uses 
only live host plants. Third, once an elderberry stem is abandoned by 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, other species can occupy the 
holes and fill them with frass, making it difficult to confirm that the 
feeding chamber was created by the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
(Talley et al. 2006a, p. 10). Finally, birds may also enlarge or rework 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle exit holes making them difficult to 
identify as such (Jones and Stokes Associates 1987, p. 38).

Adult Behavior and Ecology

    Because of the species' rarity, its short-lived adult form, and 
difficulty in observing adults in the field, few studies document the 
behavior of adult valley elderberry longhorn beetles. Where observed, 
adults have been described as feeding on the nectar, flowers, and 
leaves of the elderberry plant (Arnold 1984, p. 4; Collinge et al. 
2001, p. 105), or flying between trees (Service 1984, p. 7). Mating 
likely begins fairly quickly upon emergence. In field studies conducted 
in the north Sacramento area, Arnold (1984, p. 4) noted that male adult 
valley elderberry longhorn beetles appear more active than female 
adults, and males were observed taking short flights both within 
elderberry shrubs or to another shrub.
    Dispersal distances for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle are 
unknown. Based on site occupancy and patterns of colonization and 
extinction from 1991 to 1997, Collinge et al. (2001, p. 111) concluded 
that the valley elderberry longhorn beetle has limited dispersal 
ability. In this and following sections (i.e., Adult Behavior and 
Ecology, Population Structure, and Summary under Background), the term 
``extinction'' refers to the observations defined and described in the 
original citations (e.g., Collinge et al. 2001, entire, and Zisook 
2007, entire), and does not refer to extinction of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle. Talley et al. (2007, p. 28) concluded the 
abundance of exit holes was spatially clustered over distances of 33 to 
164 feet (ft) (10 to 50 meters (m)) in alluvial plain, riparian 
corridors, and upper riparian terrace habitats along portions of the 
American River Basin. In this same study, the average distance between 
the nearest neighboring (recent) exit hole was estimated at 141 ft (43 
m); however, there was a wide range in the distances measured (plus or 
minus 144 ft (44 m)) (Talley et al. 2007, p. 28), making it difficult 
to draw definitive conclusions for this spatial relationship. Based on 
these data, Talley et al. (2007, p. 28) estimated the dispersal 
distance of an adult valley elderberry longhorn beetle from its 
emergent site to be 164 ft (50 m) or less (Talley et al. 2007, p. 28). 
However, Arnold (2014a, pers. comm.) has observed males flying at least 
1 mile (mi) (1.6 kilometers (km)) in areas of good habitat. Given the 
varying results of these studies (i.e., Collinge et al. 2001; Talley et 
al. 2007; Arnold 2014a, pers. comm.) and lack of comprehensive studies 
of adult behaviors (e.g., mark and recapture studies), we are not able 
to accurately define a precise dispersal distance or assess how 
dispersal or other behaviors affect population persistence for this 
species. However, we believe that the dispersal ability for this 
species range is fairly limited.

Habitat

    The valley elderberry longhorn beetle occupies portions of the 
Central Valley of California (also known as the Great Valley of 
California). The Central Valley is bounded by the Cascade Range to the 
north, the Sierra Nevada to the east, the Tehachapi Mountains to the 
south, and the coastal ranges and San Francisco Bay to the west. The 
valley is a large agricultural region drained by the Sacramento and San 
Joaquin Rivers and represents one of the more notable structural 
depressions in the world with much of the valley close to sea level in 
elevation with very low land surface relief, though elevations are 
higher along the valley margins (U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 2013a). 
The climate in the Sacramento Valley and the San Joaquin Basin, which 
comprise the northern two-thirds of the Central Valley, can be 
characterized by cool, rainy winters and hot, dry summers (USGS 2013a). 
The average annual rainfall for the Central Valley ranges from 5 inches 
(12.7 centimeters (cm)) at the southern end to over 30 inches (76.2 cm) 
at the northern end (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) 2014). With more 
than three-quarters of this rain coming during a 5-month period 
(December through April), seasonal floods are common in the valley due 
to heavy winter and spring runoffs. This precipitation pattern often 
creates water shortages in the summer and fall when rain is most needed 
for irrigation purposes; in low rainfall years, drought conditions are 
often observed in the valley (USBR 2014).
    In addition to rain falling within the valley itself, snowpack in 
the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east historically provided flows 
from numerous rivers and streams into both the Sacramento Valley and 
the San Joaquin Valley through late spring (Katibah 1984, p. 24). These 
river systems have been altered by artificial levees, river 
channelization, dam construction, and water diversions (Katibah 1984, 
p. 28).
    The primary host plant of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, 
blue elderberry, is an important component of riparian ecosystems in 
California (Vaghti et al. 2009, p. 28). As part of the remnant riparian 
forests in the Central Valley, elderberry provides wintering, foraging, 
and nesting habitat for birds (Gaines 1974, entire; Gaines 1980,

[[Page 55878]]

entire) and supporting habitat for other boring insects and spiders 
(Barr 1991, p. 44). Its berries, leaves, and flowers provide food for 
wildlife, particularly during dry summer months (Vaghti et al. 2009, 
pp. 28-29). Elderberry seeds are likely dispersed by vertebrates, 
particularly birds (Talley 2005, p. 57). Elderberry seedlings have 
shallow roots, and high rates of mortality have been observed in the 
field (Talley 2005, p. 57). Lower seedling mortality rates (about 25 
percent in the first year of planting) have been reported from areas 
where elderberry plants have been transplanted or where new elderberry 
seedlings have been planted (i.e., mitigation sites) where site 
conditions are managed (Holyoak et al. 2010, p. 48).
    A 1991 survey for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle between the 
Central Valley and adjacent foothills recorded elderberry plants (i.e., 
both red and blue elderberry) in habitats ranging from lowland riparian 
forest to foothill oak woodland, with elevation ranges from 60 to 2,260 
ft (18.3 to 689 m) (Barr 1991, p. 37). Historically, the riparian 
forests in the Central Valley consisted of several canopy layers with a 
dense undergrowth and included Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii), 
California sycamore (Platanus racemosa), willows (Salix sp.), valley 
oak (Quercus lobata), box elder (Acer negundo var. californicum), 
Oregon ash (Fraxinus latifolia), and several species of vines (e.g., 
California grape (Vitis californica) and poison oak (Toxicodendron 
diversilobum)) (Service 1984, p. 6). These plant communities encompass 
several remaining natural and semi-natural floristic vegetation 
alliances and associations within the Great Valley Ecoregion of 
California (see Buck-Diaz et al. 2012, pp. 12-23). The 1991 survey 
conducted by Barr noted that elderberry was found most frequently in 
mixed plant communities, and in several types of habitat, including 
non-riparian locations, as both an understory and overstory plant (Barr 
1991, pp. 40-41) with adults and exit holes created by the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle found most commonly in riparian woodlands 
and savannas (Barr 1991, p. 41). Based on surveys completed along the 
Sacramento River, Gilbart (2009, p. 51) concluded that the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle shows a preference for moderate amounts of 
cover, but that its occupancy is reduced with some canopy-producing 
plants, such as box elders, cottonwoods, and willows.
    Nonnative plants observed in vegetation communities containing 
elderberry include giant reed (Arundo donax), brome (Bromus spp.), and 
bur chervil (Anthriscus caucalis) (Vaghti et al. 2009, pp. 33-35). 
Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) and black walnut (Juglans hindsii) 
have been identified as important invasive species that can displace 
native plants in riparian floodplains in the Central Valley (Hunter 
2000, p. 275; Vaghti et al. 2009, pp. 33-35) (see Summary of Factors 
Affecting the Species section below).
    Talley et al. (2006a, p. 10) stated that the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle is found most frequently and most abundantly in areas 
that support significant riparian zones (see also Talley et al. 2007, 
discussed below). In a study to evaluate the occupancy of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (based on exit hole observations) in 
roadside habitats in the northern Central Valley (2006-2008), Talley 
and Holyoak (2009, p. 8) found that site occupancy rates and rates of 
elderberry shrub occupancy within occupied sites were higher in 
riparian vegetation compared with non-riparian vegetation. Hydrological 
processes, specifically inundation duration and frequency, when 
measured by relative elevation above a river or creek floodplain, were 
found to significantly influence the distribution of elderberry in the 
lower alluvial reaches of the American River, Cache Creek, Cosumnes 
River, and Putah Creek (Talley 2005, pp. 52, 55, 66). The highest 
frequency of elderberry shrubs was found within an intermediate 
relative elevation gradient, that is, between areas influenced by 
flooding processes (low elevations) and water availability (higher 
elevations) (Talley 2005, pp. 45, 66). Talley (2005, pp. 56-58) also 
noted that the differences in relationships between elderberry 
abundance (number of shrubs within each elderberry patch), lateral size 
(shrub diameter), and stress level (proportion of dead stems per shrub) 
within the four river systems studied were attributed to stochastic 
(random) processes related to seed dispersal patterns and seedling 
mortality.
    Several studies have evaluated specific elderberry plant 
characteristics (e.g., size of stems, density of stems, and height 
above ground) relative to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle's life-
history requirements and its abundance or presence (Jones and Stokes 
Associates 1987, pp. 27-32; Barr 1991, pp. 37-42; Collinge et al. 2001, 
pp. 107-109; Talley 2005, pp. 14-15, 17-19; Talley et al. 2007, entire; 
Holyoak and Koch-Munz 2008, entire). A detailed analysis of habitat and 
habitat quality for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle was completed 
based on surveys from 2002 to 2004 within one section of the American 
River Basin (American River Parkway) (Talley et al. 2007, entire). The 
study identified several predictors of habitat occupancy in the area 
surveyed and found that, in general, density of elderberry shrubs and 
shrub size, number of stems, and range of branch sizes were the most 
influential predictor variables (Talley et al. 2007, p. 30). Valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle exit holes were observed most frequently in 
elderberry stems or branches with a diameter of 0.8 to 2.76 inch (2 to 
7 cm) and at a height of 0 to 3.28 ft (0 to 1 m) above ground, which 
may be the result of the size of the main stems of elderberry shrubs 
(Talley et al. 2007, p. 30). Of the four types of habitats evaluated 
within the study area, riparian cover types contained the greater 
quality of habitat, specifically upper riparian terrace and lower 
alluvial plain habitats (Talley et al. 2007, p. 30).
    There are limited studies on the relationship of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle's life-history features and those of its 
host plants, and the significance of this relationship to the ecology 
of riparian or other native plant communities where the species is 
found. Based on comprehensive surveys of elderberry taxa surveyed 
within the Central Valley in 1991, Barr (1991, p. 50) concluded that 
the presence of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle was not a factor 
in the health of elderberry host plants, nor were unhealthy host plants 
a factor determining the presence of the beetle. Gilbart (2009, entire) 
evaluated the relationship between the occupancy of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle and the health of blue elderberry planted at 
restoration sites along the Sacramento River (within the Sacramento 
River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)). Results from this study found a 
correlation between occupancy and dead biomass (versus between 
occupancy and age), which supports results from other studies regarding 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle's preference for plants with 
partial bark damage or that are otherwise stressed (e.g., low to 
moderate levels of damaged stems from pruning or burning), or for 
shrubs with, on average, 25 to 50 percent dead stems (Arnold 1984, p. 
4; Holyoak and Koch-Munz 2008, pp. 447-448).
    Gilbart (2009, p. 54) stated that valley elderberry longhorn 
beetles likely use olfaction to locate host plants and mates, and 
volatiles released from the stressed tissue in elderberry shrubs are 
likely to be the initial cue used for host plant and mate location. 
This analysis also found that, although the exit holes

[[Page 55879]]

created by the valley elderberry longhorn beetle may increase the dead 
biomass of elderberry shrubs, an increase in plant cover has a greater 
effect on dead biomass and is independent of the occupancy of the 
beetle (Gilbart 2009, pp. 53-54). Additional studies are needed to 
determine the relationships between the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle's occupancy and: (1) The regenerative ability and timing of 
elderberry stem growth; (2) the beetle's observed preference for 
elderberry stems of a certain minimum diameter relative to the host 
plants' life history; and (3) other factors related to the ecological 
role of elderberry found in the species' range in the Central Valley.
    In an unpublished evaluation of environmental factors important to 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, Zisook (2007, entire) evaluated 
colonization and extinction events based on survey data from the Talley 
et al. (2007, entire) study along the American River Parkway. Zisook 
(2007, p. 5) found that colonization events were more likely to occur 
on shrubs located on north-facing slopes and on relatively large and 
previously occupied shrubs. Extinction events were more likely to be 
associated with relatively small elderberry shrubs, shrubs with stem 
damage, and in areas with larger floodplain widths (Zisook 2007, p. 5). 
In their evaluation of elderberry characteristics at mitigation sites 
compared with natural sites, Holyoak and Koch-Munz (2008, pp. 449-450) 
noted that, within mitigation sites, the abundance of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle per elderberry shrub was positively related 
to the size and age of the mitigation site, and the species was more 
likely to be present in elderberry shrubs with low levels of damage 
(e.g., partial bark damage) at these sites (see also discussion in 
Adult Behavior and Ecology section above). Relatedly, Talley et al. 
(2007, p. 28) found that the presence of recent exit holes was 
correlated with previous occupancy (that is, 73 percent of elderberry 
shrubs with recent holes also had old holes). A similar result was 
found in a 2010 survey effort, in which all but one watershed sampled 
had both new holes and old holes (in both dead and live wood) (Holyoak 
and Graves 2010, p. 12). Additional habitat characteristics relative to 
spatial relationships of elderberry shrubs and occupancy of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle are summarized in our metapopulation 
structure discussion (see Population Distribution section below).

Population Distribution

    There are few recorded observations of adult valley elderberry 
longhorn beetles; many of the locations for this species in various 
references, including previous Service documents, are based exclusively 
on observations of exit holes. The population distribution of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle described in our proposed delisting 
rule (77 FR 60238; October 2, 2012) relied heavily on the records 
provided in the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) as 
Element Occurrences (EOs). The CNDDB, maintained by the California 
Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW; formerly known as California 
Department of Fish and Game (CDFG)), is an ongoing effort to include 
observations and survey reports for separate EOs of all of the species 
and subspecies tracked by the database. However, because contribution 
to the database is not mandatory, some observations or surveys as well 
as negative survey results for plants and animals (including the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle) are not included in the database; 
therefore, the CNDDB should not be considered an exhaustive or 
comprehensive inventory of all rare species in California (CDFW 2014c). 
For animals with limited mobility, which includes most invertebrates, 
an EO is defined as a location where a specimen was collected or 
observed, and is assumed to represent a sample of a breeding population 
(CDFG 2007, p. 1). Sequential surveys are accumulated in EO reports for 
each location of a species.
    There are important limitations to consider when using the CNDDB 
records to examine the population distribution and abundance of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle. First, despite the date (year) of 
the observations, CNDDB considers all occurrences of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle as presumed extant, even though many of 
these records are more than 20 years old. Second, the occurrence rank 
(a measure of the condition and viability of a particular occurrence 
that takes into account population size, viability, habitat quality, 
and disturbance) used by CNDDB (based on NatureServe definitions; 
NatureServe 2014) for many of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle EOs 
are considered ``poor'' (occurrence has a high risk of extirpation) or 
``unknown'' (rank not assigned due to lack of sufficient information on 
the occurrence). In addition, many of the records described in the 
CNDDB report represent only observations of exit holes. As noted above 
in Life History section, these observations may represent: (1) Old exit 
holes created by the valley elderberry longhorn beetle; (2) exit holes 
created by the California elderberry longhorn beetle within areas where 
their ranges overlap; or (3) holes created by other species.
    Our review of the 2013 CNDDB EO report for the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle found that 72 percent (142 of 196) of the EOs represent 
observations of only exit holes, and 23 percent (46 of 201) of the EOs 
are described as adult beetles (male, female, or unknown sex) (CNDDB 
2013, entire; Arnold 2014a, pers. comm.). Only 12 percent (24 of 201) 
of the EOs identify observations of adult males (CNDDB 2013, entire; 
Arnold 2014a, pers. comm.), and four of these records (within Tulare 
County) are likely to be observations of the California elderberry 
longhorn beetle since no typically colored male specimens have been 
observed or collected from this County (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 5).

Presumed Historical Range

    Prompted by comments received from peer reviewers, local agencies, 
the public, and other interested parties during our two open comment 
periods on the proposed delisting rule (77 FR 60238; October 2, 2012: 
78 FR 4812; January 23, 2013), and our reassessment of the CNDDB 
occurrences (CNDDB 2013, entire), and other references (e.g., 
elderberry mitigation or conservation banks, biological opinions 
prepared by the Service, and other unpublished reports), we are 
defining in this withdrawal notice the presumed historical range of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle based on:
    (1) A georeferenced version (Service 2014, Geographic Information 
System (GIS) analysis) of the distribution map illustrated in Chemsak 
(2005, p. 7).
    (2) The distribution defined in Talley et al. (2006a, pp. 4-6), 
which was based on museum specimens and sightings of adult males.
    (3) The distribution map (also georeferenced) of museum and other 
specimens depicted in Halstead and Oldham (1990, p. 51 (Figure 22)).
    (4) Locations of observations of adult male valley elderberry 
longhorn beetles described in the CNDDB report (CNDDDB 2013, entire) or 
in other survey results not recorded in CNDDB (River Partners 2010, 
entire; Arnold and Woollett 2004, p. 8; Arnold 2014a, pers. comm.).
    We did not use the locations presented in Halstead and Oldham 
(2000, p. 75) to develop this presumed historical range since their 
publication did not distinguish between the two subspecies.

[[Page 55880]]

    The presumed historical range of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle represents a patchy distribution from Tehama County to Fresno 
County, as shown in Figure 1 below (Service 2014, GIS analysis). 
Observations of adult beetles have been reported from Shasta County in 
2008 and 2009 (CNDDB EO 218), as well as exit holes in 1991 and 2007 
through 2012 (CNDDB EO 218; Holyoak and Graves 2010, p. 23), and an 
unconfirmed adult male valley elderberry longhorn beetle in 2013 (Souza 
2014, pers. comm.). We did not include Shasta County within our 
presumed historical range because of the difficulty in distinguishing 
female valley elderberry longhorn beetle from female California 
elderberry longhorn beetle, the unconfirmed observation of an adult 
male valley elderberry longhorn beetle, and the absence of museum 
specimens from this area. However, we acknowledge that the recent 
observations of exit holes in portions of Shasta County (along the 
Sacramento River) may represent an expansion of the historic range of 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle to this location. With regard to 
recorded CNDDB observations of valley elderberry longhorn beetle in 
Tulare County, it is important to note that there is significant 
uncertainty as to whether the male and female adult beetles observed in 
that area represent observations of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle or the California elderberry longhorn beetle (CNDDB EOs 63, 66, 
128, 154). Based on the distribution map prepared by Chemsak (2005, pp. 
6-7) and the discussion (and map) presented in Talley et al. (2006a, 
pp. 5-6), it is reasonable to conclude that the Tulare County 
observations likely represent the California elderberry longhorn 
beetle.
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Current Distribution (Since 1997)

    The most recent, comprehensive rangewide survey by observers known 
to be qualified to detect occupancy of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle was conducted in 1997 (see Collinge et al. 2001, entire). 
Collinge et al. (2001, entire) resampled 65 of 79 sites surveyed by 
Barr in 1991 and 7 additional sites within the Central Valley in 1997.
    Within the last 10 years, surveys in the Central Valley for the 
valley

[[Page 55882]]

elderberry longhorn beetle have included the following:
    (1) Examining 4,536 elderberry shrubs in the Lower American River 
(14.9 mi) (24 km) and Putah Creek (28 km (17.4 mi)) (Talley 2005, 
entire).
    (2) Conducting exit hole surveys in 2010 of both elderberry shrubs 
(441) and stems (4,247) in 10 watersheds from Shasta to Tulare Counties 
(34 sites) (Holyoak and Graves 2010, entire).
    (3) Conducting surveys of potential and occupied valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle habitat within riparian areas along the Stanislaus 
River (59 mi (95 km)) and San Joaquin River (12 mi (19.3 km)) in 2006 
(River Partners 2007, entire).
    It should be noted that some of the surveys described above were 
conducted within areas located adjacent to public roads or within 
accessible areas such as public parks (i.e., ``convenience'' sampling) 
in order to more easily access and examine shrubs for exit holes, or to 
better observe adults. Therefore, survey results should not be 
considered as a complete representation of the entire population 
distribution (or occupancy) of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle at 
the time of the particular survey.
    In this withdrawal, we provide a reevaluation of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle occurrence records described in our proposed 
rule, and we also incorporate new information received since the 
proposed delisting rule was published on October 2, 2012 (77 FR 60238). 
This reanalysis now provides the most accurate assessment of the 
presumed extant occurrences of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
(based on the best available commercial and scientific information) as 
compared to what was presented in the proposed rule. Specifically, we 
started with identifying CNDDB EOs (adults or exit holes, any age) 
observed since 1997 (past 16 years), as this was the year in which the 
most recent, comprehensive rangewide survey by observers known to be 
qualified to detect occupancy of the species was conducted (Collinge et 
al. 2001). Next, a subset of these CNDDB EO records were used if they 
had an Occurrence Rank of ``fair'' (occurrence characteristics are non-
optimal, and occurrence persistence is uncertain in current 
conditions), ``good'' (occurrence has favorable characteristics and is 
likely to persist for the foreseeable future (20-30 years), if current 
conditions prevail) or ``excellent'' (occurrence has optimal or 
exceptionally favorable characteristics and is very likely to persist 
in foreseeable future (20-30 years), if current conditions prevail) 
(NatureServe 2014).
    In addition, we incorporated into our reanalysis records from:
    (1) Observations of exit holes (recent holes only based on level of 
detail available) from surveys conducted in 1997 (Collinge et al. 2001, 
entire; Collinge 2014 pers. comm.).
    (2) Exit hole (any age) and adult beetle locations in four 
watersheds (Lower American River, Putah Creek, Cache Creek, Cosumnes 
River) from 2002-2005 surveys (Talley 2014a, pers. comm.).
    (3) Exit hole (any age) locations from 10 watersheds as described 
in Holyoak and Graves (2010, entire).
    (4) Exit hole (any age) locations along the Stanislaus and San 
Joaquin Rivers from River Partners (2007, entire).
    (5) Adult beetle observations along the Feather and Sacramento 
Rivers from River Partners (2010 and 2011; entire).
    (6) Exit hole (any age based on detailed information available from 
recent data sets) locations recorded at Beale Air Force Base 
(Department of Defense (DOD 2014, unpublished GIS data)).
    Of the currently described 201 CNNDB records (CNDDB 2013, entire) 
for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, 142 EOs represent 
observations of only exit holes, 52 EOs represent observations from 
1997 to 2013, and 25 EOs represent observations from 1997 to 2013 with 
an Occurrence Rank of ``fair,'' ``good,'' or ``excellent.''
    We then selected the locations of observations (exit holes or 
adults) found within our defined presumed historical range (as shown in 
Figure 1) for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. These locations 
(which represent 17 EOs) are summarized in Table 1 by their 
geographical location (e.g., hydrological feature) and illustrated in 
Figure 2. Of note, we could not locate (using GIS software (Service 
2014, GIS analysis) with an acceptable level of accuracy the six 
mitigation site survey locations (2005 and 2006) from Holyoak and Koch-
Munz (2008, Appendix A1); thus, these six locations were not included 
in Table 1 or Figure 2. However, many, if not all, of these six 
mitigation site locations are within watersheds where occupancy (exit 
holes) of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle has been observed 
within the last 16 years, or are locations that were reported in the 
CNDDB EO report (CNDDB 2013, entire).

  Table 1--Geographical Locations of Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle
 Occurrences Since 1997 in California, Grouped by Hydrologic Unit. Based
   on Observations (Adults or Exit Holes), Including CNDDB EOS With an
    Occurrence Rank of ``Fair, Good, or Excellent,'' and Other Survey
     Results Within the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle's Presumed
                            Historical Range
                             [See Figure 1]
 [Sources: Collinge et al. 2001; Holyoak and Graves 2010; River Partners
 2007, 2010, 2011; CNDDB 2013; Collinge 2014, pers. comm.; Talley 2014a,
                         pers. comm.; DOD 2014.]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Type of observation
   Hydrologic unit Geographical        (adult,\1\ exit       Year last
             location                      holes)            observed
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thomes Creek-Sacramento River:
    Millrace Creek................  Adult (unknown),                2001
                                     Exit Holes.
    Salt Creek....................  Adult (both), Exit              2001
                                     Holes.
    Sacramento River (SSE of Red    Adult (both), Exit              2001
     Bluff).                         Holes.
Big Chico Creek-Sacramento River:
    Sacramento River (E of          Exit Holes..........            2010
     Corning).
    Sacramento River (Glenn-Colusa  Adult (male)........            2002
     Irrigation District
     Mitigation Site).
    Sacramento River Mitigation     Exit Holes..........            2003
     Area (aggregation of shrubs,
     many exit holes \2\).
    Big Chico Creek (two            Exit Holes..........            1997
     locations).
Sacramento-Stone Corral:
    Sacramento River (N of Colusa)  Exit Holes..........            2010
Honcut Headwaters-Lower Feather:
    Feather River (SW of Oroville)  Exit Holes..........            2010
     (three locations).
    Feather River (Feather River    Adult (both)........            2010
     Elderberry Transplant Area).

[[Page 55883]]

 
    Feather River (5 mi N of        Exit Holes..........            1997
     Marysville).
    Feather River (Star Bend        Adult (both)........            2010
     Elderberry Mitigation Site)
     (two locations).
    Feather River (10 mi SW of      Exit Holes..........            2010
     Wheatland) (two locations).
    Reeds Creek (Beale AFB).......  Exit Holes..........            2012
Upper Bear:
    Bear River (SSE of Wheatland).  Adult (unknown),                2003
                                     Exit Holes.
    Bear River (4 mi SW of          Exit Holes..........            2010
     Wheatland) (three locations).
    Best Slough/Dry Creek (Beale    Exit Holes..........            2005
     AFB).
North Fork American:
    Folsom Lake (NW Shore)........  Exit Holes..........            1997
    Folsom Lake...................  Exit Holes..........            2010
Lower American:
    Miners Ravine (tributary of     Exit Holes..........            1997
     Dry Creek).
    American River Parkway          Adult (female), Exit            2010
     (aggregation of shrubs, many    Holes.
     exit holes).
Upper Cache:
    Cache Creek (many locations)..  Exit Holes..........            2003
Lower Sacramento:
    Willow Slough (SW of Esparto).  Adult (male), Exit              2001
                                     Holes.
    RD-900 Canal (W of Sacramento   Adult (both)........            2006
     River).
    Sacramento River (SW of         Adult (male)........            2005
     Sacramento).
Upper Putah:
    Putah Creek (aggregation of     Adult (unknown),                2010
     shrubs, many exit holes).       Exit Holes.
Upper Cosumnes:
    Cosumnes River (24 locations).  Exit Holes..........            2003
Upper Mokelumne:
    South of Mokelumne River......  Exit Holes..........            2006
Upper Calaveras:
    Calaveras River...............  Exit Holes..........            2000
Upper Stanislaus:
    Stanislaus River (N of          Exit Holes..........            2010
     Modesto) (two locations,
     several areas).
    Bear Creek (tributary of        Adult (female)......            2002
     Stanislaus River).
    South of Mountain Pass Creek    Adult (female)......            2007
     (S of Yosemite Jct.;
     tributary of Stanislaus
     River).
Upper Tuolumne:
    Tuolumne River................  Exit Holes..........            1999
    Algerine Creek (tributary of    Exit Holes..........            2007
     Tuolumne River).
Upper Merced:
    Merced River (S of Modesto)...  Exit Holes..........            2010
Tulare Lake Bed:
    Kings River (E of Centerville)  Adult (both), Exit              1998
                                     Holes.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Some adult valley elderberry longhorn beetle observations were not
  identified as either male or female, and some observations were
  identified to include both males and females.
\2\ The term ``many'' in this table is defined as a value greater than
  50.

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    Table 1 represents a reevaluation of the 26 ``locations'' listed in 
the proposed rule (77 FR 60242-60243 (Table 1); October 2, 2012) based 
on our assessment of observations since 1997, while incorporating our 
current description of the presumed historical range of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (see Presumed Historical Range section 
above). This revision of presumed extant occurrences (as

[[Page 55885]]

compared to Table 1 in the proposed delisting rule) is based on: (1) A 
review of the quality of the CNDDB EOs (type of observation, the year 
of last observation, and occurrence rank); (2) additional data sets (as 
discussed above and represented in Figure 2); (3) comments received 
from the peer reviewers, Federal, County, and local agencies, the 
public, and other interested parties relative to occupancy; and (4) a 
new grouping of geographical locations based on hydrologic units 
defined by a national watershed boundary dataset (USGS 2013b). Since 
some observations did not distinguish between old and recent exit 
holes, we include observations of both old (greater than 1 year old) 
and recent (i.e., greater than or equal to 1 year) exit holes for most 
survey results.
    Taken together, these data (presented in Table 1 and Figure 2) 
describe an uncommon or rare, but locally clustered, occupancy of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle within the presumed historical range 
over the past 16 years within approximately 18 hydrologic units (USGS 
2013b) and 36 geographical locations within the Central Valley. The 36 
geographical locations are considered to be discrete from each other 
based on a presumed maximum dispersal distance of approximately 1 mi 
(1.6 km) based on observations of male beetles from Arnold (2014a, 
pers. comm.), but in some areas (e.g., Putah Creek) they include 
several areas of elderberry habitat within that location. As shown in 
Table 1, 61 percent (22 of 36) of the geographical locations are areas 
where only exit holes have been used to define occupancy, which is the 
result of both the survey methods used and the difficulty in observing 
adult valley elderberry longhorn beetles. Twenty-five percent (9 of 36) 
of the geographical locations within 4 hydrologic units represent 
observations of adult males recorded since 1997.

Restoration and Mitigation Sites

    A large amount of monetary resources has been invested in 
floodplain restoration along sections of the Sacramento River for the 
purpose of restoring riparian areas that serve as habitats for native 
plants and wildlife, including the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
(Golet et al. 2008, p. 2; Golet et al. 2013, entire). Holyoak et al. 
(2010, p. 50) estimated that an average of 2.5 mitigation sites were 
initiated per year, with more than 1,000 elderberry and 6,000 native 
plants planted per year for the 1989-1999 time period. Our proposed 
rule described a number of conservation easements or banks, mitigation 
and restoration sites, and other conserved areas that have been 
established within the current range of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle, which we estimated to be approximately 21,536 ac (8,715 ha) (77 
FR 60256-60258; October 2, 2012).
    Mitigation for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle generally 
consists of planting elderberry seedlings and associated native plants 
and transplanting mature elderberry shrubs from impacted sites to 
mitigation sites (Holyoak et al. 2010, pp. 44, 46). In our proposed 
rule, we provided an estimate (642 to 1,900 ac (260 to 769 ha)) of 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle habitat protected through measures 
associated with section 7 consultations or through conservation or 
mitigation measures established through Habitat Conservation Plans 
permitted under section 10 of the Act (see Factor D discussion below) 
(77 FR 60258; October 2, 2012). We also identified another large 
riparian area (4,600 ac (1,862 ha)) along the American River (the 
American River Parkway) that contains critical habitat for the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle, but the amount of occupied elderberry 
habitat is not known (77 FR 60258; October 2, 2012). However, we 
indicated in the proposed rule that an unknown proportion within these 
areas (i.e., conservation easements, mitigation sites, restoration 
sites, etc.) actually contain elderberry shrubs and only a proportion 
of that (unknown) estimate contains habitat occupied by the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle.
    By mid-2013, approximately 2,698 elderberry shrubs (covering 1,000 
ac (405 ha)) were expected to be planted by Pacific Gas and Electric 
Company (PG&E) in conservation areas located near or adjacent to 
existing elderberry populations in the Central Valley (Ross-Leech 2012, 
pers. comm.). Valley elderberry longhorn beetle exit holes have been 
recorded at five locations where PG&E is conducting biannual monitoring 
(Ross-Leech 2012, pers. comm.). PG&E has established mitigation sites 
in several counties to compensate for project-specific effects to the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle. Fifteen sites are located in Tehama 
and Yolo Counties, with approximately 1,228 elderberries successfully 
established (as of 2002), and occupancy of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle (adults or exit holes) has been observed at 11 of the 
15 sites (Ross-Leech 2012, pers. comm.).
    The Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) manages four 
preserves in the Central Valley where naturally occurring or planted 
elderberry are found; CNLM owns three and holds a conservation easement 
on the other (Rogers 2012, pers. comm.). Management practices being 
implemented at these sites appear to be consistent with maintaining 
elderberry habitat; however, the protection and stabilization of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle is not the primary management 
objective for the preserves, and funding is limited for management 
activities to specifically support valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
conservation (Rogers 2012, pers. comm.) Two of these preserves (Pace 
and Keeney in San Joaquin and Butte Counties, respectively) have 
recorded valley elderberry longhorn beetle exit holes within the past 3 
to 10 years; however, no monitoring for the species has been conducted 
within the other two preserves (Oxbow in San Joaquin County and Dublin 
Ranch in Alameda County) or within the Mehrton conservation bank 
(Sacramento County) that CNLM neither owns nor manages (Rogers 2012, 
pers. comm.). We describe restoration efforts of elderberry habitat 
located within National Wildlife Refuges in the Central Valley below, 
under Factor D, Other Conservation Programs.
    Transplanted elderberry shrubs appear to be important in the 
colonization of mitigation sites by the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle. For those sites where there was no potential introduction of 
the species via transplanted shrubs, one study found a 13.4 percent 
colonization rate for transplanted areas as compared to 2.3 percent for 
seedlings (Holyoak et al. 2010, p. 49). As noted in this study, it can 
take approximately 7 years for elderberry shrubs to grow large enough 
to support the life-history requirements of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle, but monitoring is generally required only for 10-15 
years (Holyoak et al. 2010, p. 51). Thus, the observed low colonization 
rates are not unexpected, and the authors suggest that prescribed 
monitoring periods may not be of long enough duration for the species 
to find and use its host plant (Holyoak et al. 2010, p. 51). The study 
found that the occupancy for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle was 
43 percent for all sites through either introduction associated with 
transplanted elderberry shrubs or through colonization (Holyoak et al. 
2010, pp. 49-50). Overall, the conclusions from this study suggest that 
transplantation of elderberry is important for the species because the 
transplanted shrubs can contain the larval stage of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle or the shrubs are large

[[Page 55886]]

enough for the species to be able to recolonize areas within its range.
    Small mitigation sites may not be of sufficient size to support 
recolonization of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. The mitigation 
study conducted by Holyoak and Koch-Munz (2008, entire) highlighted the 
size differential between mitigation sites established for the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (mean 1.83 ac (1.74 ha) versus natural areas 
(mean 7.5 ac (3 ha)), and the authors concluded that the smaller sites 
established for mitigation are contributing to the habitat 
fragmentation for this species (Holyoak and Koch-Munz 2008, p. 452). 
The mitigation review by Holyoak et al. (2010, p. 51) also emphasized 
the importance of using transplants in reproducing populations of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle, and they recommended shrubs be 
transplanted to older mitigation sites that already contain elderberry 
plants of sufficient size such that the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle species does not have to rely solely on transplanted shrubs for 
its survival. Holyoak et al. (2010, p. 49) reported that the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle most frequently entered mitigation sites 
within elderberry shrubs that were transplanted from the site that was 
impacted. Their study found that the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
was found at 28 percent of all mitigation sites, but at 88 percent of 
mitigation sites to which elderberry shrubs potentially containing 
valley elderberry longhorn beetles were transplanted; thus, only 16 
percent of sites were colonized by the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle on their own (Holyoak et al. 2010, p. 51). In addition, Holyoak 
et al. (2010, p. 51) suggested using transplanted elderberry shrubs 
within (not between) watersheds to avoid disruption of potential 
genetic population structures. However, we are unaware of studies that 
have investigated valley elderberry longhorn beetle genetics between 
populations.
    Perhaps more importantly, in addition to incorporating appropriate 
measures of size and appropriate elderberry characteristics in 
achieving successful occupancy of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
at restoration and mitigation sites, restoring natural riverine 
processes is also necessary to achieve functional restoration of 
remnant riparian ecosystems (e.g., Golet et al. 2013, entire). 
Restoring riverine processes typically requires maintaining a 
hydrologic connection of floodplain areas with river systems and 
managing a flow regime for both ecological and human needs (Golet et 
al. 2008, p. 20). The continued planting of seedlings or 
transplantation of shrubs at unsuitable mitigation or restoration sites 
is not only costly in resources, but represents a strategy that will 
likely not successfully achieve an elderberry shrub age class that 
provides a viable conservation value for the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle and other wildlife.

Population Structure

    The concepts of metapopulations, metapopulation theory, and the 
modeling of metapopulations have become increasingly useful tools for 
applying principles of landscape ecology to biological conservation. 
Metapopulations are defined as a system of discrete subpopulations that 
may exchange individuals through dispersal, migration, or human-
mediated movement (Breininger et al. 2002, p. 405; Nagelkerke et al. 
2002, p. 330). Metapopulation models can provide a way to analyze and 
predict the response of individual species to habitat fragmentation and 
other landscape elements (Beissinger et al. 2006, p. 15).
    The effects of spatial diversity (heterogeneity) on the 
distribution of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle were assessed 
using survey data collected at Central Valley study sites over 2 years 
(2002-2004) by Talley (2007, entire) that integrated patch (fine 
scale), gradient (broad scale), and hierarchical (mosaic of discrete 
multi-scale patches) spatial frameworks. The analysis revealed that a 
hierarchical spatial framework explained the most variance in the 
occupancy of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (for the three river 
systems in which a spatial framework for the species was identified) 
(Talley 2007, p. 1484). However, an integrative approach of all three 
spatial frameworks (patch, gradient, and hierarchical) best defined a 
population structure for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Talley 
2007, p. 1486). This population structure can be characterized as 
patchy-dynamic, with regional distributions made up of local 
aggregations of populations (Talley 2007, p. 1486). These localized 
populations are defined by both broad-scale or continuous factors 
associated with elderberry shrubs (e.g., shrub age or densities) and 
environmental variables associated with riparian ecosystems (e.g., 
elevation, associated trees) that themselves have patch, gradient, and 
hierarchical structures (Talley 2007, p. 1486).
    Based on surveys conducted from 2002-2004, Talley (2005, pp. 25-26) 
concluded that the valley elderberry longhorn beetle vulnerable 
developmental stages (i.e., exposure of eggs and larvae) and its rarity 
(i.e., low local numbers, low occupancy) are important elements of the 
observed metapopulation structure of the species. Talley (2005, pp. 25-
26) further concluded that large-scale catastrophic events and local 
changes in random processes or events (i.e., environmental 
stochasticity) have the potential to negatively affect riparian systems 
and, therefore, the species' vulnerability. Results from several other 
surveys of exit holes support the rarity traits such as low local 
numbers and low site-occupancy exhibited by the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle:
    (1) Estimates of occupancy, as measured by recent (new) exit hole 
observations per elderberry groups (or site), in the Central Valley 
were reported by Collinge et al. (2001, p. 105), based on surveys 
conducted in 1991 and 1997 (see Barr 1991, entire; Collinge et al. 
2001, entire). From these two surveys, Collinge et al. (2001, p. 105) 
estimated an occupancy rate of approximately 20 percent for both 1991 
and 1997.
    (2) A 2003 survey of planted elderberry shrubs (planted from 1993 
to 2001) within restoration sites on the Sacramento River NWR found 0.6 
to 7.9 percent shrubs contained exit holes (average per refuge unit) 
(River Partners 2004, pp. 2-3).
    (3) A 2007-2008 survey of restoration sites within eight units of 
the Sacramento River NWR reported 21 percent occupancy based on 
observations of new exit holes (Gilbart 2009, p. 40).
    (4) A 2010 survey of valley elderberry longhorn beetle exit holes 
within both elderberry shrubs and stems at 34 sites in 10 watersheds 
(American River to Tule River) determined the following occupancy 
(abundance) estimate information (Holyoak and Graves, 2010, entire; 
Holyoak and Graves 2010, Appendix 1):
     Forty-seven percent, or 16 of 34 sites, had new exit holes 
in elderberry shrubs.
     Ninety percent of the watersheds surveyed had new exit 
holes (elderberry stem or shrub).
     Sixteen percent, or a total of 71 new holes, were found 
out of a total of 441 elderberry shrubs surveyed (all sites).
    (5) A June 2002 to September 2004 survey of a 14.9-mi (24-km) 
riparian corridor along the American River (lower American River Basin) 
estimated occupancy rates of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
ranging from 11.2 percent in lower alluvial plain, to 10.5 percent in 
mid-elevation riparian, to 8.7 percent in upper riparian terrace, to 
2.9 percent in non-riparian scrub habitat (Talley et al. 2007, pp. 25-
26).

[[Page 55887]]

    Although the surveys outlined above are not identical in their 
survey sites and sampling methods, the 16 percent abundance estimate 
from 2010 (new exit holes for all sites surveyed) and the 21 percent 
occupancy estimate from 2007 to 2008 (new exit holes from restoration 
sites at the Sacramento River NWR) (Gilbart 2009, p. 40) align closely 
with the 20 percent occupancy estimates for 1991 and 1997 presented in 
Collinge et al. (2001, p. 105).
    Based on a spatial analysis of valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
populations in the Central Valley, Talley (2007, p. 1487) concluded 
that the several hundred meter (hundreds of feet) distances observed 
between local aggregations of the species supports a limited migration 
distance for this species, as noted above (see Adult Behavior and 
Ecology section). Talley (2007, p. 1487) further concluded that the 
clustering of valley elderberry longhorn beetle populations at smaller 
scales, tens of meters (tens of yards), is likely due to aggregation 
behaviors of this species, and is not the result of: (1) Environmental 
variables that occur at larger scales (less than 328 ft (less than 100 
m), such as detection of elderberry plants (via plant volatiles); or 
(2) distances relevant to mate attraction, which occur at even smaller 
scales (few inches (centimeters)). However, additional studies of 
movement patterns are needed in order to better describe these 
observations of clustering and how these patterns relate to habitat 
availability (see Adult Behavior and Ecology section above).
    Further support for the clustering or aggregations pattern of 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle populations can be found in 
colonization and extinction rates developed by Collinge et al. (2001, 
pp. 107-109) and Zisook (2007, p. 5). Collinge et al. (2001, p. 107) 
found in a comparison of 1991 and 1997 surveys of both old and recent 
exit holes in 14 drainages (65 sites, 111 groups of elderberry shrubs), 
that two sites (6.5 percent) had long-term extinctions (i.e., no holes 
found in 1997 and exit holes of any age observed in 1991) and four 
sites (12.9 percent) had long-term colonizations (i.e., recent exit 
holes observed in 1997, but no exit holes of any age found in 1991). 
The comparative study also described short-term events (extinctions and 
colonizations) based only on observations of recent exit holes for both 
survey years. Nine sites (29 percent) exhibited short-term extinctions 
and six sites (19.4 percent) had short-term colonizations (Collinge et 
al. 2001, p. 108). One area (near Black Butte Lake; Stony Creek 
drainage) that was occupied in 1991 was found to be unoccupied in the 
1997 survey (Collinge et al. 2001, p. 108). The study concluded, based 
on observations of only recent exit holes, that 77 percent of the sites 
had the same occupancy status for the 2 years, with 23 percent of sites 
showing some turnover between the two surveys (Collinge et al. 2001, p. 
108). Zisook (2007, entire) presented an unpublished analysis of 
extinction and colonization rates for the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle based on elderberry shrub sampling along a 14.9-mi (24-km) 
section of the Lower American River. The analysis compares the 2000 to 
2004 surveys to re-sampling efforts in 2005. In this study, extinction 
was defined when no new (recent) holes were found on the same shrub in 
2005 but where any age holes were recorded in 2000-2004; a colonization 
event was recorded when there were no new holes found on a shrub in 
2000-2004, but a recent hole was found on the same shrub in 2005 
(Zisook 2007, p. 4). The analysis estimated an extinction rate of about 
57 percent and a colonization rate of 19.1 percent for the population 
sampled (Zisook 2007, p. 3).
    These evaluations suggest that occupied sites of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle tend to remain occupied (i.e., 77 percent), 
but also exhibit variable long-term extinction rates (between 6.5 to 57 
percent), and slightly higher short-term extinction rates. These 
occupancy patterns result in a local clustering or aggregations of 
regional, but patchy, populations within its range. We caution that 
these extinction evaluations/results are from short-term studies at 
different locations; therefore, these rates may not be suitable to 
illustrate past or current conditions, especially for areas that have 
not been recently surveyed for occupancy or colonization.
    Rangewide surveys that utilize recent (new) exit holes as a measure 
of valley elderberry longhorn beetle occupancy continue to be 
challenging, given the species' low population densities and wide, but 
discontinuous distribution. Monitoring methods for valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle sites were evaluated from surveys conducted in 2010 at 
10 watersheds (34 sites), from Shasta County to Kern County (Holyoak 
and Graves 2010, entire). The study determined that an occupancy rate 
of 1.5 percent of elderberry stems and a sample size of at least 600 
elderberry stems for each watershed was needed to detect large (50 to 
80 percent) declines in populations of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle, a condition not met in many areas of the Central Valley 
(Holyoak and Graves 2010, p. 2). However, using a sampling rate of 500 
elderberry stems and 50 elderberry shrubs per watershed, the study 
found that a good estimate of population density (based on the number 
of new exit holes present) could be determined for 4 of the 10 
watersheds surveyed (or 23 of 34 sites) (Holyoak and Graves 2010, p. 
2). The authors recommended that a monitoring program for the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle in the Central Valley include a core group 
of sites with the necessary number of elderberry stems to determine 
occupancy, in combination with sampling other watershed locations for 
presence or absence of new exit holes rather than abundance (Holyoak 
and Graves 2010, p. 20).
    Pheromone traps using aggregation pheromones (male-produced sex 
attractants) (see, for example, Lacey et al. 2004, entire) may provide 
an important survey tool for future distribution or taxonomic studies. 
In April 2013, after the proposed rule published, field trials were 
conducted at a riparian forest restoration site within the Sacramento 
River NWR to test the efficacy of synthesized female valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle sex pheromone (Arnold 2013, entire). Male valley 
elderberry longhorn beetles were attracted almost exclusively to traps 
baited with the (R)-desmolactone sex pheromone (33 of 34 males 
captured); no female adult beetles were found in the traps (Arnold 
2013, p. 4). This pheromone has also been found (under laboratory 
conditions and in the field) to be an attractant for male California 
elderberry longhorn beetles in San Bernardino County (Ray et al. 2012, 
pp. 163-164). In both studies, no other cerambycid species were caught 
in traps baited with either (R)- or (S)-desmolactone, which suggests 
that (R)-desmolactone may be a pheromone specific to only these two 
subspecies (Ray et al. 2012, p. 166; Arnold 2013, p. 4). Observations 
of male beetles (confirmed through their sexually dimorphic 
characteristics) attracted to these traps could also be used to confirm 
the taxonomic identity of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle where 
the two subspecies may co-occur (Arnold 2013, p. 4).

Vulnerability Factors

    Collinge et al. (2001, p. 111) described the observed distribution 
and abundance pattern of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle as an 
unusual type of rarity, with small and localized populations where it 
occurs within its presumed historical range. Rare species are generally 
considered more vulnerable to extinction than

[[Page 55888]]

common species (Sodhi et al. 2009, p. 517). In general, three criteria 
of rarity can be used to evaluate a species' vulnerability to 
extinction risk when applied to its entire geographic range or to its 
distribution and abundance in a specific area: (1) Narrow geographic 
range; (2) specific habitat requirements; and (3) small population 
size, although within a limited geographical range, a rare species may 
be locally abundant (Primack 2006, pp. 155-156).
    There is not always a consistent relationship between rarity and 
extinction risk resulting from human influences, since the risk of 
extinction is a function of more complex interrelationships between the 
ecology of a species, its life history, and human activities (Pullin 
2002, pp. 199-200). Nevertheless, vulnerability measures (e.g., Kattan 
index (Kattan 1992, entire)) have been shown to be good proxies for 
extinction risk, as observed for a study of beetles in an Italian 
region of the Mediterranean (Fattorini 2013, p. 174).
    The valley elderberry longhorn beetle exhibits several life-history 
traits that may limit its distribution and population growth, which can 
provide an extinction vulnerability profile. These attributes include:
    (1) Restriction of the species to specific host plant taxa within 
the Central Valley of California (i.e., specialized niche).
    (2) Dependence on riparian ecosystems that have been reduced in 
size and modified by human activities.
    (3) Locally clustered populations with limited dispersal ability 
that can be affected by natural and human disturbances.
    All of these attributes, but particularly habitat specificity, 
represent vulnerabilities for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. 
Vulnerability to extinction can be further complicated by the effects 
of a changing climate. Numerous traits associated with climate change 
vulnerability have been identified and consolidated into trait sets by 
Foden et al. (2013, entire), based on a global assessment of bird, 
amphibian, and coral species. Although the trait sets were not specific 
to insect taxa, they are similar to variables considered in climate 
change vulnerability assessment indices for vertebrate species (Bagne 
et al. 2011, entire) and for plant and animal species (Glick et al. 
2011, pp. 40-43, 48-50; Young et al. 2011, entire). The trait sets are 
as follows: specialized habitat and/or microhabitat specialization; 
narrow environmental tolerances; potential for disruption of 
environmental triggers if they are important aspects in the life cycle; 
disruption of important interspecific interactions; rarity; poor 
dispersal potential due to low inherent dispersal ability and/or 
extrinsic barriers to dispersal; and poor micro-evolutionary potential 
due to low genetic diversity, long generation lengths and/or low 
reproductive output (Foden et al. 2013, e65427). In addition to the 
effect of any one trait, interactions between life history and spatial 
traits also can influence extinction risk due to climate change 
(Pearson et al. 2014, entire; Guisan 2014, entire).
    Vulnerabilities may separately, or together, exacerbate the risk of 
the threats described below in the Summary of Factors Affecting the 
Species section.

Population Viability Analysis

    Greenberg (2009, entire) developed a population viability analysis 
(PVA) for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle using, in part, 
demographic information provided from personal communications from 
previous researchers. A metapopulation model was constructed to examine 
how the spatial arrangement of habitat, dispersal range of adults, and 
regulation of local populations (density dependence) based on age 
structure affect the persistence of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle. The results of this PVA model provide useful insights into how 
the number and configuration of patches affect population persistence 
and highlight the need to better understand migration distance between 
patches (Greenberg 2009, p. 55). However, the predictions of population 
persistence probabilities for this limited PVA analysis should be used 
with caution given the incomplete empirical information and choice of 
parameter values used in constructing this particular model. In 
addition, this model did not incorporate potential effects related to 
climate change. Thus, in this withdrawal, we do not provide additional 
discussion of this PVA (and note this analysis has not been peer 
reviewed); however, we anticipate using this modeling tool to help 
direct future management options.

Summary

    When we consider the low estimates of occupancy (Talley et al. 
2007, pp. 25-26) and observed extinction and colonization patterns 
(Collinge et al., 2001, pp. 107-108; Zisook 2007, p. 5), combined with 
our re-evaluation of available data sets describing the distribution of 
observations over the past 16 years (since 1997) (see Table 1, Figure 
2), it is apparent that the distribution and abundance of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle is clustered in regional aggregations and 
locally uncommon or rare, which is consistent with our understanding of 
its rare, patchy distribution pattern across its presumed historical 
range in the Central Valley. Although evidence of occupancy (primarily 
observations of exit holes) for the species has been documented in 
additional locations to those recorded at the time of listing in 1980, 
the best available data indicate this is a result of limited data 
available at the time of listing and the subsequent surveys conducted 
in: (1) The late 1980s (Jones and Stokes 1987, entire); (2) 1991 (Barr 
1991, entire); (3) 1997 (Collinge et al. 2001, entire); (4) 2002-2005 
(Talley 2014a, pers. comm.); and (5) 2010 (Holyoak and Graves 2010, 
entire). These surveys have better defined the presumed historical 
range of both elderberry longhorn beetles found in California (see also 
Chemsak 2005, pp. 6-7; Figure 1, above). Additional comprehensive 
surveys within the Central Valley, particularly locations of adult male 
beetles, and the development of long-term population data sets for this 
species are needed in order to provide a more complete assessment of 
current population size and distribution.
    As noted above, the valley elderberry longhorn beetle exhibits 
several attributes that may limit its distribution and population size. 
These include small numbers in localized populations, low estimates of 
occupancy within its range (see Population Structure discussion), 
limited dispersal, and dependence on two host plants for its entire 
life cycle that are currently found within ecological communities that 
have been reduced, fragmented, or otherwise degraded through human-
caused alterations. These attributes, particularly habitat specificity 
(i.e., increased specialization), represent important vulnerabilities 
for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, that separately, or 
together, may exacerbate any of the threats described below in our 
five-factor analysis. Furthermore, environmental factors (e.g., 
additional habitat loss, unfavorable hydrological conditions) or other 
types of stressors (e.g., predation) are likely to significantly 
influence the species' vulnerability to extinction (see Summary of 
Factors Affecting the Species discussions below).

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 
424) set forth the procedures for adding species to the Federal Lists 
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. A species may be 
determined to be an endangered species

[[Page 55889]]

or threatened species because of one or more of the five factors 
described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act: (A) The present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence. Listing actions may be warranted 
based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in combination. 
Each of these factors is discussed below.
    The five factors listed under section 4(a)(1) of the Act and their 
analysis in relation to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle are 
presented below. This analysis of threats requires an evaluation of 
both the threats currently facing the species and the threats that 
could potentially affect it in the foreseeable future. The Act defines 
an endangered species as a species that is in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 
1632(6)). A threatened species is one that is likely to become an 
endangered species in the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 1632(20)).
    In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look 
beyond the exposure of the species to a particular factor to evaluate 
whether the species may respond to the factor in a way that causes 
actual impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a factor and the 
species responds negatively, the factor may be a threat, and during the 
status review, we attempt to determine how significant a threat it is. 
The threat is significant if it drives or contributes to the risk of 
extinction of the species, such that the species warrants listing as 
endangered or threatened as those terms are defined by the Act. 
However, the identification of factors that could impact a species 
negatively may not be sufficient to compel a finding that the species 
warrants listing. The information must include evidence sufficient to 
suggest that the potential threat is likely to materialize and that it 
has the capacity (i.e., it should be of sufficient magnitude and 
extent) to affect the species' status such that it meets the definition 
of endangered or threatened under the Act.
    The information presented in the five-factor analysis in this 
withdrawal differs from that presented in the proposed rule. 
Specifically, we restructured the five-factor analysis from our 
proposed rule (77 FR 60238; October 2, 2012) to reflect our reanalysis 
of threats, including additional and more detailed information (e.g., 
invasive plants in Factor A and pesticides under Factor E). We provide 
a more extensive discussion of effects related to climate change in our 
analysis of threats (under Factors A and E), including incorporation of 
predictions from several regional climate models for the Central Valley 
region. We also incorporate detailed results of several studies (e.g., 
metapopulation analysis) and use this information to evaluate the 
current threats to the species. We also reiterate our discussion 
contained in the proposed rule of small population size under Factor E, 
but do not include in this withdrawal an evaluation of loss of 
populations resulting from habitat fragmentation because we find that 
additional data are needed to adequately or appropriately assess this 
threat. Threats related to the effects of pruning, briefly mentioned in 
our proposed rule under a Factor E threat (Human Use) (77 FR 60263; 
October 2, 2012), are discussed in this withdrawal under Factor A.

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

Historical Loss of Riparian Ecosystems
    In our final rule listing the valley elderberry longhorn beetle as 
threatened and designating critical habitat (45 FR 52803; August 8, 
1980), we identified loss of habitat as a significant impact to the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle due to the threats of agriculture 
conversion, levee construction, and stream channelization within its 
``former'' range. In our proposed rule to delist the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle (77 FR 60250; October 2, 2012), we reviewed the 
impacts, or potential impacts, of agricultural and urban development to 
the species, primarily in the context of the loss of riparian 
vegetation in the Central Valley, as well as impacts, or potential 
impacts, related to the effects of levee construction and other flood 
protection measures, and road maintenance and dust. In this withdrawal, 
we provide a revised description of the impact of habitat loss to the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle based on our analysis of recently 
mapped elderberry habitat within the Central Valley (Service 2014, GIS 
analysis), in conjunction with new discussion related to the success of 
restoration and mitigation sites intended to provide habitat for the 
species. Similar to the proposed rule (77 FR 60250-60258; October 2, 
2012), we also include separate discussions for Factor A threats that 
may result in the destruction or modification of habitat (i.e., levee 
and flood protection infrastructure, road and trail use and 
maintenance, pruning, effects of climate change, and invasive plants). 
Additionally, we note that pruning was only briefly discussed in the 
proposed rule under Factor E--Human Use; we have expanded that 
discussion and are now including it under Factor A because we consider 
pruning activities to be a potential threat related to destruction or 
modification of habitat.
    Loss of habitat is the leading cause of species extinction (Pimm 
and Raven 2000, p. 843). Insects that are considered specialized plant-
feeders or those restricted to one (monophagous) or a few 
(oligophagous) plant taxa are especially vulnerable to habitat loss, as 
their survival may depend on their ability to make improbable or 
impossible host plant shifts (Fonseca 2009, p. 1508). The valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle can be considered an oligophage, and is 
dependent exclusively on two elderberry taxa (see Habitat section) for 
all aspects of its life history.
    Prior to settlement by Anglo-Americans, the Central Valley 
contained extensive riparian plant communities along unaltered river 
systems, including riparian forests comprised primarily of sycamore, 
cottonwood, willow, and oak trees and a thick understory of shrubs, 
including elderberry (Roberts et al. 1980, pp. 7, 10). A detailed 
summary of historical observations (circa 1800s) of riparian forests 
along the Sacramento River is presented in Thompson (1961, pp. 301-
307). The majority of this ``timber belt'' was cut as early as 1868 
(Tehama County) to supply fuel and timber (e.g., fencing) as the valley 
was settled (Thompson 1961, p. 311). In addition to supplying lumber to 
a largely treeless valley, the trees that comprised the historic 
riparian forests of the Sacramento Valley (and likely other parts of 
the Central Valley) provided reinforcement to river banks and greater 
stability to stream channels (Thompson 1961, p. 315). These forests 
also served as windbreaks, reducing the effects of wind and 
evapotranspiration, while providing important wildlife habitat 
(Thompson 1961, p. 315).
    Much of the historically occurring riparian forests were lost in 
the Central Valley prior to the listing of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle (see summary for the Sacramento Valley by Thompson 
1961, pp. 310-315). Katibah (1984, pp. 27-28) estimated approximately 
102,000 ac (41,300 ha) of riparian forest remained in the Central 
Valley in 1984, a reduction of about 89 percent from an estimated total 
of 921,600 ac (373,100 ha) of pre-

[[Page 55890]]

settlement riparian forest area. A Central Valley mapping effort, 
initiated in 1978 with legislation that provided funding to study the 
riparian resources of the Central Valley and desert (Riparian Mapping 
Team 1979, p. 1), presented an initial evaluation of the condition of 
riparian vegetation using remote sensing methods in 1981 (Katibah et 
al. 1981, entire; see also Katibah et al. 1984, entire), or 1 year 
after the listing of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle as 
threatened (45 FR 52803; August 8, 1980). This assessment used a 
qualitative condition index for each sample site and concluded that the 
conditions of riparian systems at that time were either disturbed, 
degraded, or severely degraded (85 percent), with 15 percent considered 
to be in good or ``apparently unaltered'' condition (Katibah et al. 
1981, p. 245). About 34 percent of riparian systems were considered to 
be recovering or stable (Katibah et al. 1981, p. 245). Adjacent land 
uses (primarily agriculture), stream channelization, and livestock 
grazing were reported as important negative influences on riparian 
systems (Katibah et al. 1981, p. 244). Specifically, artificial levees, 
river channelization, dams, and water diversions were identified as 
factors in reducing the original riparian forests to the remnant 
habitat described at that time for the Central Valley (Katibah 1984, p. 
28).
    Since that initial assessment, the Central Valley Historic Mapping 
Project has refined their estimates of historic natural vegetation for 
the Central Valley and has developed an accessible GIS-based analysis 
of vegetation changes over the past 100 years (Geographical Information 
Center (GIC) 2003, entire). Four maps (pre-1900, 1945, 1960, 1995) were 
created to illustrate eras in which significant land use changes 
occurred in the Central Valley, such as Anglo-American settlement and 
water diversion projects (GIC 2003, p. 3). Using a variety of methods 
and sources, this analysis estimated that 1,021,584 ac (413,420 ha) of 
riparian vegetation were found within the valley pre-1900, and about 
132,586 ac (53,656 ha) of riparian vegetation remained in the Greater 
Central Valley in 2000, a reduction of 87 percent (GIC 2003, p. 14).
    Based on results from a 2003 survey of 16 waterways (47 plots) in 
the Sacramento Valley (i.e., upper portion of the extant occurrences 
observed for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle), Hunter et al. 
(2003, p. 41) described the riparian vegetation along these waterways 
as ``relatively narrow bands with an open, discontinuous canopy.'' This 
survey described many of these riparian zones as disturbed, with 
evidence of channel incision, overbank flows, and dumping of trimmed/
cut tree branches, and they frequently contained some type of 
infrastructure (Hunter et al. 2003, p. 41). Surrounding land use 
(within 820 ft (250 m)) was characterized as 43 percent natural, 38 
percent agricultural, and 18 percent developed; only 17 percent of the 
plots were surrounded entirely by natural vegetation (Hunter et al. 
2003, p. 41).
    The Sacramento River represents one river system in the Central 
Valley within the northern range of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle that has been severely degraded through channelization, bank 
protection (e.g., levees and riprap), and effects related to the 
construction of the Shasta Dam and other foothill storage reservoirs 
(Golet et al. 2013, p. 3). Natural, but fragmented, habitats (e.g., 
riparian, grasslands, sloughs, and valley oak woodlands) remain along 
the Sacramento River (Golet et al. 2013, p. 5). The middle section of 
the river (Red Bluff to Colusa) has been the focus of restoration 
efforts following the passage of State legislation in 1986 (Senate Bill 
1086), which mandated the development of a management plan to protect, 
restore, and enhance riparian vegetation along the river (Sacramento 
River Conservation Area Forum 2003, p. v). A comprehensive evaluation 
of the success of these efforts indicated that, while progress has been 
made in achieving goals related to plant species and communities 
(including an increase in elderberry shrubs) and some wildlife taxa, 
progress towards restoring stream flows and natural floodplain and 
flood processes has been poor (Golet et al. 2013, pp. 19-21). In 
addition, this evaluation found that the status of natural riverine 
habitats in this portion of the Sacramento River was, in general, poor 
and declining, which was attributed to continued human alterations that 
constrain the river's hydrologic and geomorphic processes (Golet et al. 
2013, p. 22). One of the major factors identified as responsible for 
the continued degradation of riverine habitats was the installation of 
riprap, which the study indicated has been steadily increasing along 
the Sacramento River since the 1930s (Golet et al. 2013, p. 22).
Assessment of Current Elderberry Habitat Relative to Metapopulation 
Structure of the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle
    As part of the Central Valley Flood protection efforts, Chico State 
University, the GIC, and CDFW's Vegetation Classification and Mapping 
Program have developed both a medium-scale and fine-scale dataset for 
riparian vegetation in the Central Valley (CDWR 2012b, pp. 5-1--5-9). 
The medium-scale map illustrates the extent of riparian vegetation 
using about 20 general vegetation classes (see CDFW 2014a and Central 
Valley Riparian Mapping Project (CVRMP) 2014 for Web site addresses). 
The fine-scale version provides a more detailed plant community 
resolution such that vegetation associations and alliances containing a 
range of probability of elderberry shrub occurrence within those 
associations and alliances can be identified; this map is nearly 
complete for the entire Central Valley. Both maps were created using 
imagery from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National 
Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) from 2009 and current field sampling 
(USDA NAIP 2014).
    In our proposed rule, we presented an estimate of 46,936 ac (18,994 
ha) of protected riparian vegetation, which we stated may or may not 
contain elderberry shrubs (77 FR 60256, October 2, 2012). Rather than 
infer the amount of elderberry habitat from this gross estimate of 
riparian vegetation (which is what was presented in the proposed rule), 
we instead use the mapped Sambucus nigra Alliances (described as blue 
elderberry) defined in the 2009 Central Valley fine-scale riparian 
vegetation data set (CDFW and GIC 2013) to better define the current 
extent of elderberry habitat in the Central Valley. We also assess the 
size of the defined polygons of elderberry and their location in the 
Central Valley relative to the presumed metapopulation structure 
identified for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Talley et al. 
2006a, pp. 10-11). We acknowledge that elderberry shrubs likely occur 
in varying degrees of cover and constancy within other mapped 
vegetation alliances, but we are unable to accurately determine the 
extent and location of these areas based on the spatial information in 
these data sets and descriptions provided in Buck-Diaz et al. (2012, 
Appendix 4) for these other plant alliances; thus, our estimate of 
elderberry habitat is likely to be conservative.
    The CDFW/GIC data set contains 39 blue elderberry polygons (124 ac 
(50 ha)) located within our presumed historical range for the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (see Figure 1). Using the metapopulation 
spatial parameters presented in Talley et al. (2006a, p. 11) (i.e., 
extent of 1,968-2,625 ft (600-800 m) defined as a cluster), we 
identified potential metapopulation clusters in our data set. We first 
determined which of the mapped elderberry polygons were less than 1,968 
ft (600 m) from their

[[Page 55891]]

nearest neighbor (16 of the 39 polygons), and merged these together to 
redefine these larger polygons. This resulted in 16 polygons merging 
into 4, for a new total of 27 mapped elderberry polygons. We then 
conducted a ``bounding containers'' GIS analysis (Service 2014, GIS 
analysis) for these 27 polygons to identify those (now rectangular) 
polygons where the diagonal was at least 1,968 ft (600 m), as this is 
the minimum distance (i.e., 1,968-2,625 ft (600-800 m)) to meet Talley 
et al.'s (2006a, p. 11) criteria as a metapopulation cluster.
    Based on this analysis, 3 of the 27 polygons had a longest length 
(i.e., diagonal) greater than 1,968 ft (600 m) and, therefore, could be 
considered as metapopulation clusters supporting a regional population 
of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 11). 
These three elderberry clusters were located: (1) Along the Cosumnes 
River; (2) south of Marysville at the southern end of Clark's Slough; 
and (3) near an unnamed tributary of the Yuba River. All other mapped 
elderberry polygons were less than 1,968 ft (600 m) in extent.
    We then evaluated the location of exit holes or beetle observations 
from 1997 to 2012 (Figure 2) relative to all 39 elderberry polygons. 
Based on the level of precision of the mapped locations, we find that 
38 survey points out of a total of 1,422 (or less than 3 percent) were 
located within the 39 elderberry polygons.
    These results could be interpreted in several ways (or in 
combination): (1) Relatively few stands of elderberry habitat remain 
within the Central Valley and their small size (average of 2.9 ac (1.17 
ha)) and spatial arrangement may be insufficient to support the 
metapopulation structure defined for the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 11); (2) areas within the species' 
range have not been adequately surveyed; (3) the mapping methods used 
did not identify all areas of elderberry habitat; or (4) the parameters 
that define the presumed metapopulation structure or the life-history 
requirements for the species need to be reevaluated. Occupancy surveys 
within the mapped elderberry polygons are needed to assess these or 
other possibilities.
Occupancy of Restoration and Mitigation Sites
    As noted in our proposed rule (77 FR 60256-60258; October 2, 2012), 
efforts to establish areas of riparian vegetation (though not 
necessarily elderberry habitat) through restoration projects or 
mitigation requirements under the Act have been conducted in order to 
provide additional areas of habitat for the species. Rather than 
present rough estimates of the number of acres of protected riparian 
vegetation, as was done in the proposed rule, we are instead providing 
in this document a review of assessments of these areas conducted in 
the past 10 years. We modified this discussion from what was presented 
in the proposed rule based on comments received, as well as evaluated 
the success of some of these restoration and mitigation sites based on 
estimates of occupancy of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    An evaluation of restoration of riparian vegetation along 106 river 
km (66 river mi) of the Sacramento River included an assessment of 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle occupancy (exit holes) at five 
restoration sites (surveys conducted in 2003) (Golet et al. 2008, pp. 
7-8). Older restoration sites (greater than 8 years) had a larger 
percentage (approximately 10 to 21 percent) of shrubs with exit holes 
(River Partners 2004, p. 3), likely due to the size class differential 
and observed preferences of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle for 
larger stem sizes.
    A limited evaluation of (blue) elderberry and other riparian 
planting efforts at 30 mitigation sites over approximately 485 ac (196 
ha) in the Central Valley (from Tehama County to Madera County) was 
undertaken in 2005 and 2006 to evaluate their success in establishing 
occupancy of the valley elderberry longhorn beetles (Holyoak and Koch-
Munz 2008, entire). A spatial analysis of exit holes of all ages 
determined that the valley elderberry longhorn beetle was present at 16 
of the 30 mitigation sites (53 percent) (Holyoak and Koch-Munz 2008, p. 
447). As noted above, the abundance of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle per elderberry shrub and per stem in this study was also found 
to be positively related to the age of the mitigation site (Holyoak and 
Koch-Munz 2008, p. 449).
    Holyoak et al. (2010, entire) reviewed publicly available 
mitigation monitoring reports (total of 60) to evaluate the success of 
mitigation sites in conserving the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, 
as measured by the survival of elderberry plants and how frequently the 
species colonized mitigation sites. Although this review noted that 
many expected mitigation reports were missing and thus highlighted the 
need for better data management practices, they found that the survival 
of both elderberry seedlings and transplants was highly variable and 
declined over time after planting (Holyoak et al. 2010, p. 48). 
Specifically, by year seven, 57 to 64 percent of transplanted 
elderberry survived, with 71 percent survival of seedlings (Holyoak et 
al. 2010, pp. 48-49). The study also found that the mitigation site 
(e.g., location, age) accounted for 25 percent of the variability in 
proportion of seedlings that survived, which suggested that the 
mitigation site choice can have an important effect on the ability to 
establish elderberry plants (Holyoak et al. 2010, p. 49).
Summary of Available Habitat
    There has been a significant loss and degradation of riparian and 
other natural habitats in the presumed historical range of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle, much of which occurred prior to the listing 
of the species. In our proposed rule, we noted that we could not 
accurately determine the potential lost historical range of valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle habitat, and that coarse estimates have been 
attempted based on historical losses of riparian vegetation (77 FR 
60241; October 2, 2012). Rather than infer lost elderberry habitat from 
estimates of lost riparian forests, we include here a summary of 
current elderberry habitat (based on 2009 imagery) mapped within the 
Central Valley, and assess how these mapped areas conform to the 
metapopulation structure of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle as 
defined by species' experts. This preliminary assessment indicates that 
elderberry habitat remains limited in extent within the Central Valley 
and may not support the spatial requirements of sustainable 
metapopulations presumed for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. We 
note that the results of this assessment do not allow us to draw 
definitive conclusions on the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
metapopulation given the limitations of these data.
    Occupancy rates of valley elderberry longhorn beetle in riparian 
vegetation at some mitigation sites provide some indication that the 
species has been successful in colonizing these areas; however, 
monitoring is incomplete in both these areas and within restoration 
sites. Given the life-history traits defined for the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle, as discussed in the Background section (i.e., habitat 
specialist, with limited mobility and a short adult life span, and low 
local numbers within a population structure), and the limited and 
fragmented habitat within its current range, we reaffirm our conclusion 
in the proposed rule that loss of habitat continues to remain a threat 
to the species. For this withdrawal, we reevaluated this threat in 
combination with the other threats

[[Page 55892]]

described below and determined threats to the species and its habitat 
have not been reduced such that delisting is appropriate.
Levee and Flood Protection Infrastructure
    As described in our proposed rule, the Central Valley contains an 
extensive flood protection system, much of which predates the listing 
of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (77 FR 60251; October 2, 
2012). The (California) State Plan of Flood Control (SPFC) represents a 
portion of the Central Valley flood management system for which the 
State has special responsibilities, as described in the California 
Water Code Section 9110(f) (CDWR 2011, pp. 1-7). The SPFC Descriptive 
Document provides a detailed inventory and description of the levees 
(approximately 1,600 mi (2,575 km)), weirs, bypass channels, pumps, 
dams, and other structures included in the SPFC (CDWR 2010, entire). 
This flood protection system comprises federally and State-authorized 
projects for which the Central Valley Flood Protection Board or the 
California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) has provided assurances 
of cooperation to the Federal Government. Other flood protection 
facilities in the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River watersheds 
that are not covered by these assurances are not part of this State-
Federal system (CDWR 2010, p. Guide-1). Thus, the SPFC represents a 
portion of the larger system that provides flood protection for the 
Central Valley (CDWR 2010, p. Guide-1).
    As noted in the proposed rule, ongoing and future maintenance of 
these flood protection elements may result in losses of riparian 
vegetation and elderberry shrubs in addition to what has been 
historically lost; however, we stated that we had no estimate of the 
acreage of riparian vegetation (or elderberry shrubs within these 
areas) on the flood protection levees or lands that provide additional 
flood facilities (77 FR 60252; October 2, 2012).
    We also described in our proposed rule new flood control system 
maintenance requirements being implemented by the U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers (Corps), specifically, the 2009 Guidelines for Landscape 
Planting and Vegetation Management at Levees, Floodwalls, Embankment 
Dams, and Appurtenant Structures (Engineering Technical Letter (ETL) 
1110-2-571) (Corps 2009, entire). In general, this ETL establishes a 
vegetation-free zone for the top of all levees and levee slopes, and 15 
ft (4.5 m) on both the water and land sides of levees (Corps 2009, pp. 
2-1--2-2, 6-1--6-2), which are practices that could eliminate occupied 
or unoccupied elderberry shrubs. On April 30, 2014, the Corps issued a 
new Guidelines for Landscape Planting and Vegetation Management at 
Levees, Floodwalls, Embankment Dams, and Appurtenant Structures (ETL) 
1110-2-583), superseding the 2009 ETL (Corps 2014, entire). The 2014 
guidelines maintains the previous ETL guidelines of a vegetation-free 
zone for the top of all levees and levee slopes, and 15 ft (4.5 m) on 
both the water and land sides of levees (Corps 2014, pp. 2-1--2-3, A2-
A3).
    At the time of our proposed rule, we indicated that the final 
policy guidance for the issuance of variances from the ETL vegetation 
standards for levees and floodwalls had not been released; therefore, 
we were unable to determine if this variance process would have an 
effect on levee segments containing woody vegetation (77 FR 60253; 
October 2, 2012). In this document, we provide an update to our 
discussion of this threat and include additional information relative 
to policies being implemented by CDWR to address levee vegetation 
management.
    On February 17, 2012 (77 FR 9637), the Corps issued a notice for a 
Policy Guidance Letter (PGL) outlining the process for requesting this 
variance. The PGL applies to levees within the Corps' Levee Safety 
Program including those operated or maintained by the Corps, those that 
are federally authorized and locally operated and maintained, and those 
locally constructed and locally operated and maintained, but associated 
with the Corps' Rehabilitation and Inspection Program (77 FR 9637; 
February 17, 2012). However, in practice, the variance process has been 
described as time intensive and costly, even for just a few miles of 
levee (Qualley 2014, pers. comm.). Therefore, securing variances for 
the protection of elderberry shrubs or other riparian vegetation found 
on levees under the Corps' jurisdiction may not be a practical option 
at this time.
    The CDWR's Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP) includes a 
Levee Vegetation Management Strategy to address the vegetation-free 
guidelines set out within the Corps' ETL (CDWR 2011, pp. 4-13--4-16). 
The approach states that it ``reflects a flexible and adaptive 
management strategy that meets public safety goals, and protects and 
enhances sensitive habitats in the Central Valley'' (CDWR 2012a, p. 1). 
Specifically, new levees would be constructed and managed consistent 
with the new policy, however, those levees with ``legacy'' trees would 
be managed to allow existing large trees and other woody vegetation to 
continue their normal life cycle unless they were considered to be an 
unacceptable threat to levee integrity (CDWR 2012a, p. 1). The CVFPP 
strategy also allows for the retention of waterside vegetation below 
the vegetation management zone (generally beyond the 20-ft (6.1-m) 
slope length from the levee crown) (CDWR 2011, p. 4-14). This CVFPP 
strategy is likely to provide, at least in the short term, a more 
protective mechanism for riparian vegetation, including elderberry 
shrubs, than the variance process outlined in the PGL (which as stated 
above is intensive, costly, and likely not practical).
    The potential for the Corps to issue variances under the ETL 
guidance along with CDWR's strategy to address levee vegetation 
management do not change CDWR's obligation to meet Federal and State 
law with regard to valley elderberry longhorn beetle habitat and 
riparian vegetation (see Factor D) (Qualley 2014, pers. comm.).
    The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 
(Pub. L. 113-121) contains a vegetation management policy provision 
(Title III, Subtitle B-Levee Safety, Section 3013) that requires the 
Corps to conduct a comprehensive review of its policy guidelines (i.e., 
ETL 1110-2-583 and PGL for requesting variances, as noted above) for 
management of vegetation on levees in consultation with other 
applicable Federal agencies, representatives of State, regional, local, 
and tribal governments, appropriate nongovernmental organizations, and 
the public. This may allow for more appropriate regional variances from 
the single national ETL standard currently outlined in the Corps' 
vegetation management policies. The WRRDA 2014 vegetation management 
policy provision also includes a requirement for the Corps to solicit 
and consider the views of independent experts on the engineering, 
environmental, and institutional considerations underlying the 
guidelines.
    In summary, as we concluded in our proposed rule (77 FR 60254; 
October 2, 2012) and reaffirm in this document, levee vegetation 
management actions are expected to continue to impact elderberry shrubs 
within the range of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. Threats 
related to removal of elderberry vegetation may be reduced in the 
future in some locations within the Central Valley based on revisions 
to the Corps' vegetation management policies as outlined in the 2014 
WRRDA. Long-

[[Page 55893]]

term impacts of levee vegetation management actions may be offset with 
implementation of mitigation (e.g., establishment of mitigation sites 
or restrictions on pruning); however, as described above and in our 
Background section, the success of mitigation sites in establishing 
occupancy of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle has not been fully 
evaluated, so its success is currently indeterminable.
Road and Trail Use and Their Maintenance
    Road and trail use and their maintenance and the effects of dust 
related to these activities are identified in our Recovery Plan and in 
Biological Opinions as threats to the quality of valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle habitat (Service 1984, p. 41; Service 2002, p. 3). As 
described in our proposed rule, machinery used in road maintenance 
activities can crush adjacent elderberry shrubs, or cause indirect 
stress to plants (e.g., leaf shading, blocked stomata) through the 
raising of dust (77 FR 60254; October 2, 2012). Similarly, dust can 
originate from access roads and recreational trails within riparian 
corridors where elderberry habitat is often found (Talley et al. 2006b, 
p. 648). Dust could also affect the survival and behavior of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle by smothering adults or larvae, disrupting 
chemical cues important for mating and detecting host plants, or 
creating unpalatable leaves or flowers (Talley et al. 2006b, p. 649).
    As noted in our proposed rule (77 FR 60254, October 2, 2012), a 
rangewide study on the effects of dust to the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle or its host plant has not been conducted. To better 
address this topic, we provide a summary of a study that evaluated dust 
effects that was not described in the proposed rule.
    A study to test the effects of dust from dirt trails relative to 
paved trails was conducted along the American River Parkway in 2003 
(Talley et al. 2006b, entire). The study found similar dust settlement 
rates and leaf dust accumulation along dirt and paved trails, but when 
data from all sites were pooled, elderberry plants tended to be more 
stressed (e.g., shorter plants, lower percent leaf water content, 
thicker leaves, higher percentage of dead stems) near dirt trails than 
paved surfaces (Talley et al. 2006b, p. 651), a result the authors 
attributed to factors other than dust (Talley et al. 2006b, p. 653). 
Talley et al. (2006b, p. 653) concluded the difference in elderberry 
characteristics near dirt trails was likely due to reduced water 
availability (less surface runoff than near paved surfaces) and less 
soil water (further distances from water sources). The authors also 
suggested that the effects of dust may be more significant over larger 
spatial scales given the variability of dust levels among and between 
the sites studied (Talley et al. 2006b, p. 653).
    The study also looked at the relationships between the presence or 
absence of valley elderberry longhorn beetle and distances from dirt 
and paved surfaces. The authors found that the presence of new and 1-
year-old valley elderberry longhorn beetle exit holes was independent 
of both trail location and surface type (Talley et al. 2006b, p. 654). 
Further, the study noted that valley elderberry longhorn beetle exit 
holes were found at all sites despite higher dust levels at some study 
sites, and concluded that levels of dust from dirt trails, paved 
trails, and access roads did not have a negative association with the 
presence of the species, despite the variability in condition of 
elderberry plants (Talley et al. 2006b, pp. 654-655).
    In another study, Talley and Holyoak (2009, entire) evaluated how 
the proximity to highways and highway construction activities affects 
the occupancy of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and condition of 
elderberry shrubs. Field surveys from 2006 to 2008 were used to 
evaluate the effects of particulates, pollutants, and noise along 
portions of several highways in the northern Central Valley of 
California (Talley and Holyoak 2009, pp. 2-3). The study included a 
laboratory analysis of effects to elderberry leaves (i.e., dust levels, 
leaf area, carbon to nitrogen ratios, and exhaust elements) and an 
evaluation of statistical relationships between the distances from 
either a construction site or highway edge and both dust accumulation 
rates and elderberry characteristics (Talley and Holyoak 2009, p. 4). 
The study found no effect of the proximity of highways on dust 
accumulations and few effects related to potentially toxic elements in 
elderberry leaves (Talley and Holyoak 2009, p. 9). Noise levels were 
found to decrease with distance from highways; however, noise levels 
were similar at sites located immediately adjacent to highways, despite 
differences in traffic volume (Talley and Holyoak 2009, p. 6).
    The researchers determined that the type of habitat and 
availability of elderberry shrubs were the primary factors influencing 
the likelihood of the presence of either recent or total (recent and 
old) valley elderberry longhorn beetle exit holes; no relationships 
were observed between distance from highways and distribution of exit 
holes (Talley and Holyoak 2009, p. 6). However, the amount of available 
elderberry habitat was found to be significantly lower along roadsides, 
and elderberry stem densities were smaller in sites immediately 
adjacent to highways when compared to riparian or control sites, or 
compared to remnant riparian and non-riparian scrub areas (Talley and 
Holyoak 2009, pp. 8-9). This was attributed to right-of-way management 
activities (e.g., mowing, pruning) rather than a direct stress effect 
of being located adjacent to highways (Talley and Holyoak 2009, p. 9).
    These findings reinforce results of other studies in which a range 
of both elderberry quality and quantity characteristics have been found 
to influence the presence and abundance of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle (Talley and Holyoak 2009, p. 8; see Habitat discussion 
above in Background section). The authors of the highway study noted 
the need for additional larger scale studies as well as controlled 
experimental studies to test specific effects on valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle survival (e.g., an evaluation of whether roadside 
patches act as population sinks that attract individuals into areas 
that are not able to sustain populations (Pulliam 1988, pp. 658-660)) 
(Talley and Holyoak 2009, p. 11).
    In summary, threats related to road and trail uses, and the effects 
of dust, do not represent significant impacts to the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle. However, removal of elderberry shrubs along the 
roadways (for right-of-way management activities) is a more important 
factor and is discussed in more detail below (see discussion under 
Pruning).
Pruning
    In our proposed rule, we briefly discussed pruning as part of a 
Factor E threat, termed Human Use (77 FR 60263; October 2, 2012). 
Because we consider pruning activities to be a potential threat related 
to destruction or modification of habitat, we discuss pruning as a 
separate Factor A threat and include results from a study that was not 
discussed in the proposed rule. Pruning or trimming of elderberry 
shrubs for highway or trail maintenance, or other purposes, is a common 
activity within the presumed extant occurrences of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle. Talley and Holyoak (2009, entire) conducted 
an experimental study to measure the effects of pruning of elderberry 
shrubs on the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its host plant. Two 
experimental techniques (pruning and topping) were used within 
elderberry habitat found along portions

[[Page 55894]]

of the American River Parkway (Talley and Holyoak 2009, p. 29). The 
pruning experiment was designed to mimic the trimming (i.e., 50 percent 
of all branches 1 in (2.5 cm) or less in diameter) of elderberry shrubs 
that overhang roads and trails, while the topping experiment was 
designed to evaluate the removal of the top 3.28 ft (1 m) of a shrub or 
group of shrubs that often occurs beneath power lines and overhead 
obstructions (Talley and Holyoak 2009, p. 30). The experiments used 
measures of elderberry survival, growth, and condition as well as the 
presence and abundance of new valley elderberry longhorn beetle exit 
holes (Talley and Holyoak 2009, p. 30). The study found no ``short-
term'' (2-4 weeks) changes in the survival, growth, or condition in 
response to the two experiments (Talley and Holyoak 2009, p. 32).
    In addition, laboratory analyses to evaluate nutrient and defense 
chemical content indicated that neither experimental treatment had 
detectable effects on elderberry nutrition (Talley and Holyoak 2009, p. 
32). The study also found that neither colonization nor loss of valley 
elderberry longhorn beetles from elderberry shrubs was affected by 
pruning or topping experiments; that is, the declines and increases in 
occupied shrubs was independent of trimming, and, if anything, was 
likely related to the initial presence of the species (Talley and 
Holyoak 2009, p. 31). The only negative effect reported from this 
experimental study was a temporary loss of habitat from the removal of 
stems, but these stems regrew, on average, within 3 to 4 years (Talley 
and Holyoak 2009, p. 33).
    Based on the potential impacts from pruning described in the 
proposed rule, the pruning of elderberry shrubs, when conducted in 
accordance with the findings of experimental studies presented by 
Talley and Holyoak (2009, pp. 29-33), will likely have temporary 
impacts to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. Additional 
experimental studies of the effects of pruning (e.g., at mitigation or 
restoration sites) would provide a more complete evaluation of the 
magnitude of this threat to the species.
Effects Related to Climate Change
    In our proposed rule, we discussed the effects of climate change 
under Factors A and E (77 FR 60254-60255, 60262; October 2, 2012). We 
stated that we did not have information that would allow us to make 
meaningful predictions of the effects of changes in temperature and 
precipitation patterns relative to potential changes in elderberry 
habitat (77 FR 60255; October 2, 2012). We concluded in Factor E that 
climate change was not a significant factor affecting the persistence 
of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (77 FR 60262; October 2, 
2012).
    In this withdrawal, we discuss threats related to the effects of 
climate change in Factors A and E. In Factor A, we provide a more 
robust discussion of both observed and predicted effects to 
hydrological patterns related to climate change effects for the Central 
Valley based on state-wide and regional probabilistic estimates of 
temperature and precipitation changes for California (using downscaled 
data from both global circulation models and nested regional climate 
models), and also present results of climate assessment tools to 
illustrate these predicted effects. In Factor E, we discuss the effects 
of climate change related to the survivorship and reproductive success 
of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    Our analyses under the Act include consideration of observed or 
likely environmental changes resulting from ongoing and projected 
changes in climate. As 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 2013a, p. 1450). The term 
``climate change'' thus refers to a change in the mean or the 
variability of relevant properties, which persists for an extended 
period, typically decades or longer, due to natural conditions (e.g., 
solar cycles) or human-caused changes in the composition of atmosphere 
or in land use (IPCC 2013a, p. 1450).
    Scientific measurements spanning several decades demonstrate that 
changes in climate are occurring. In particular, warming of the climate 
system is unequivocal and many of the observed changes in the last 60 
years are unprecedented over decades to millennia (IPCC 2013b, p. 4). 
The current rate of climate change may be as fast as any extended 
warming period over the past 65 million years and is projected to 
accelerate in the next 30 to 80 years (National Research Council 2013, 
p. 5). Thus, rapid climate change is adding to other sources of 
extinction pressures, such as land use and invasive species, which will 
likely place extinction rates in this era among just a handful of the 
severe biodiversity crises observed in Earth's geological record 
(American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) 2014, p. 
17).
    Examples of various other observed and projected changes in climate 
and associated effects and risks, and the bases for them, are provided 
for global and regional scales in recent reports issued by the IPCC 
(2013c, 2014), and similar types of information for the United States 
and regions within it can be found in the National Climate Assessment 
(Melillo et al. 2014, entire).
    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 ``extremely likely'' (defined by the IPCC as 95 to 100 percent 
likelihood) due to the observed increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) 
concentrations in the atmosphere as a result of human activities, 
particularly carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use (IPCC 2013b, 
p. 17 and related citations).
    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. Model results yield very 
similar projections of average global warming until about 2030, and 
thereafter the magnitude and rate of warming vary through the end of 
the Century depending on the assumptions about population levels, 
emissions of GHGs, and other factors that influence climate change. 
Thus, absent extremely rapid stabilization of GHGs at a global level, 
there is strong scientific support for projections that warming will 
continue through the 21st century, and that the magnitude and rate of 
change will be influenced substantially by human actions regarding GHG 
emissions (IPCC 2013b, 2014; entire).
    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 2013c, 2014; entire) and within the United States (Melillo et al. 
2014; entire). 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).

[[Page 55895]]

    Various changes in climate may have direct or indirect effects on 
species. These 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 
such as habitat fragmentation (for examples, see Franco et al. 2006; 
Forister et al. 2010; Galbraith et al. 2010; Chen et al. 2011; 
Bertelsmeier et al. 2013, entire). In addition to considering 
individual species, scientists are evaluating potential climate change-
related impacts to, and responses of, ecological systems, habitat 
conditions, and groups of species (e.g., Deutsch et al. 2008; Berg et 
al. 2010; Euskirchen et al. 2009; McKechnie and Wolf 2010; Sinervo et 
al. 2010; Beaumont et al. 2011; McKelvey et al. 2011; Rogers and 
Schindler 2011; Bellard et al. 2012).
    As an example, Hickling et al. (2006, entire) analyzed the changes 
in distributions of groups of vertebrates and invertebrates, including 
longhorn beetles, in Great Britain to determine whether range shifts 
(both in latitude and elevation) have occurred over an approximately 
25-year time span. For 11 species of longhorn beetles, the study found 
that, for grid squares (6.2 mi (10 km)) considered to be well-recorded 
(i.e., those that had at least 10 percent of that group recorded 
present in both study time periods), there was an average shift 
northward of 27 mi (43 km) and an average elevational shift of 86 ft 
(26 m) from 1960-1970 to 1985-1995 (Hickling et al. 2006, pp. 451-453). 
The authors stressed the importance of recognizing that observed 
distribution shifts due to climate change are occurring concurrently 
with changes in land use and other environmental factors (Hickling et 
al. 2006, p. 454).
    Effects from climate change in California, with its watersheds 
dominated by snowmelt hydrology, are expected to have important impacts 
to hydrological processes that will cascade into human and ecological 
systems at many scales (Kiparsky et al. 2014, p. 1). Likely effects 
include a reduction in snowpack and stream flow as well as changes in 
stream flow patterns, all of which present significant challenges in a 
State in which water, energy, agricultural, and ecological systems are 
linked together (Barnett et al. 2008, p. 1082). These effects have 
recently been summarized by hydrologic region in the California 
Department of Water Resources Public Review Draft of the California 
Water Plan (CWP) Update 2013 (CDWR 2013). The CWP describes future 
actions that are intended to move California toward a more sustainable 
management of water resources and more resilient water management 
systems, and identifies objectives to support environmental stewardship 
(CDWR 2013, p. ES-1). Two hydrologic regions--the Sacramento River and 
the San Joaquin River--defined in the CWP encompass nearly all of our 
presumed extant occurrences (Figure 2) of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle (Fresno County not included). A summary of climate 
change effects projected for these two regions is described in the 
paragraphs below.
    Regional temperature observations for assessing climate change are 
often used as an indicator of how climate is changing, and the Western 
Regional Climate Center (WRCC) has defined 11 climate regions for 
evaluating various climate trends in California (Abatzoglou et al. 
2009, p. 1535). These climate regions have different boundaries for 
California than the CWP hydrologic regions, but are considered to be 
more representative of California's diverse climatic regimes than 
standard climate divisions (Pierce et al. 2013, p. 843). The relevant 
WRCC climate regions for the distribution of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle are the Sacramento-Delta and the San Joaquin Valley 
regions.
    Two indicators of temperature, the increase in mean temperature and 
the increase in maximum temperature, are important for evaluating 
trends in climate change in California. For the Sacramento-Delta 
climate region, linear trends (evaluated over a 100-year time period) 
indicate an increase in mean temperatures (Jan-Dec) of approximately 
1.96 [deg]F (1.09 [deg]C) since 1895, and 3.0 [deg]F (1.67 [deg]C) 
since 1949 (WRCC 2014a). For the San Joaquin Valley climate region, the 
100-year trend in mean temperature (Jan-Dec) indicates an increase of 
approximately 1.4 [deg]F (0.78 [deg]C) since 1895, and 2.62 [deg]F 
(1.45 [deg]C) since 1949 (WRCC 2014c). Similarly, the maximum 
temperature 100-year trend for the Sacramento-Delta region shows an 
increase of about 1.42 [deg]F (0.8 [deg]C) since 1895, and 1.92 [deg]F 
(1.07 [deg]C) since 1949 (WRCC 2014b). The maximum temperature 100-year 
trend for the San Joaquin Valley climate region shows an increase of 
about 0.38 [deg]F (0.21 [deg]C) since 1895, and 1.09 [deg]F (0.60 
[deg]C) since 1949 (WRCC 2014d). It is logical to assume the rate of 
temperature increase for both regions is higher for the second time 
period (since 1949) than for the first time period (since 1895) due to 
the increased use of fossil fuels in the 20th century.
    Although these observed trends provide information relative to how 
climate has changed in the past, climate science models are used to 
simulate and develop future climate projections (CDWR 2013, p. SR-76). 
Pierce et al. (2013, entire) presented both state-wide and regional 
probabilistic estimates of temperature and precipitation changes for 
California (by the 2060s) using downscaled data from 16 global 
circulation models and 3 nested regional climate models. The study 
looked at a historical (1985-1994) and a future (2060-2069) time period 
using the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios A2 (Pierce et al. 
2013, p. 841), which is an IPCC-defined scenario used for the IPCC's 
Third and Fourth Assessment reports, and is based on a global 
population growth scenario and economic conditions that result in a 
relatively high level of atmospheric GHGs by 2100 (IPCC 2000, pp. 4-5; 
see Stocker et al. 2013, pp. 60-68, and Walsh et al. 2014, pp. 25-28, 
for discussions and comparisons of the prior and current IPCC 
approaches and outcomes). Importantly, the projections included daily 
distributions and natural internal climate variability (Pierce et al. 
2013, pp. 852-853).
    Simulations using these downscaling methods project an increase in 
yearly temperature for the Sacramento-Delta climate region ranging from 
1.9 [deg]C (3.42 [deg]F) to 2.8 [deg]C (5.04 [deg]F) by the 2060s time 
period (Pierce et al. 2013, p. 844), compared to 1985-1994. For the San 
Joaquin Valley climate region, the simulations show an increase in 
average yearly temperature ranging from 3.6 [deg]F (2.0 [deg]C) to 5.04 
[deg]F (2.8 [deg]C) by the 2060s (Pierce et al. 2013, p. 844). The 
simulations indicated an upper temperature increase of 4.14 [deg]F (2.3 
[deg]C) from 1985-1994 to 2060-2069 (averaged across models) for both 
the Sacramento-Delta and San Joaquin Valley regions (Pierce et al. 
2013, p. 842).
    We also reviewed projections from Cal-Adapt, a web-based, climate 
adaptation planning tool that synthesizes existing downscaled climate 
change scenarios and climate impact research, and presents the 
predictions in an interactive, graphical layout (California Energy 
Commission 2011). Projections of changes in annual averages in 
temperature for the Central Valley using the Cal-Adapt Climate tool 
indicate an increase in temperature ranging from about 3.4-3.8 [deg]F 
(2.0-2.1 [deg]C) under the IPCC low emissions scenario (B1), to an 
increase in temperature ranging from 6.0-6.6 [deg]F (3.4-3.7 [deg]C) 
under the IPCC higher emissions scenario (A2) (Cal-Adapt 2014a). Both 
of these scenarios represent comparisons between the baseline period 
(1961-1990) and the end-of-century period (2070-2090). The

[[Page 55896]]

Cal-Adapt projection of an increase of about 2.0 [deg]C (3.4 [deg]F) in 
annual average temperature is very similar to the lower end of the 
range of yearly temperature simulations presented by Pierce et al. 
(2013, entire) for both regions with the A2 emissions scenario.
    Precipitation patterns for California are quite variable year to 
year. Based on paleoclimatic data (e.g., tree-ring reconstructions of 
streamflow and precipitation), hydrologic conditions in California (and 
the west) are naturally widely varying, and include a pattern of 
recurring and extended droughts (CDWR 2008, p. 3). However, the 100-
year trends for the Sacramento-Delta and San Joaquin Valley regions 
indicate a large change in the rate of increase (or, in some cases, a 
decrease) in precipitation over the winter months (December-February), 
which is generally when the Central Valley receives the bulk of its 
rainfall for the year. For the Sacramento-Delta region, rainfall data 
from WRCC show a 100-year linear trend in winter of an increase in 
precipitation of 2.26 in (5.74 cm) from 1895 to present (February 
2014), but an increase of only 0.53 in (1.35 cm) from 1975 to present 
(WRCC 2014e). Similar precipitation patterns are found in the San 
Joaquin Valley region; that is, in winter months, there is an increase 
in precipitation of 0.52 in (1.35 cm) for the 100-year trend beginning 
in 1895 to present, but a 1.05 in (2.67 cm) decrease for the 100-year 
trend beginning in 1975 to present (WRCC 2014f). The 100-year trends 
beginning in 1975 and ending at present (February 2014) for both 
regions show great variability, which is likely due, in part, to the 
shorter time period being evaluated. However, observed changes in 
hydrologic patterns (i.e., low-frequency changes in the hydrological 
cycle such as river flow, temperature, and snowpack) over the western 
United States from 1950 to 1999 have been found to be partially 
attributed to the effects of climate change (Barnett et al. 2008, p. 
1080).
    Downscaled probabilistic climate models were also used by Pierce et 
al. (2013, pp. 848-852) to evaluate changes in precipitation patterns 
for California resulting from the effects of climate change. Annual 
averages show different patterns in precipitation changes than those by 
season; that is, model results indicate increases in winter (December-
February) precipitation for the Sacramento-Delta and San Joaquin Valley 
climate regions of 5 percent and 1 percent, respectively (averaged 
across all models, comparing the mean over the 1985-1994 time period to 
the mean over 2060-2069) (Pierce et al. 2013, p. 849). However, these 
wetter conditions in winter are largely offset by drier conditions 
predicted for the remainder of the year (e.g., 4 to 20 percent decrease 
in precipitation for the Sacramento-Delta region) (Pierce et al. 2013, 
p. 849). Model results for the yearly change in precipitation indicate 
a 3 percent decrease in precipitation for the Sacramento-Delta, and a 6 
percent decrease for the San Joaquin Valley region (averaged across all 
models, using mean changes over the 1985-1994 time period compared to 
2060-2069) (Pierce et al. 2013, pp. 848-849).
    Changing precipitation patterns and resultant changes in hydrologic 
conditions are already being observed for California. In the last 
century, the average early spring snowpack in the Sierra Nevada 
decreased by about 10 percent, which represents a loss of 1.5 million 
acre-feet of snowpack storage (CDWR 2008, p. 3). We reviewed Cal-Adapt 
projections for snowpack for the western Sierra Nevada region of 
California, which supplies water to many of the river systems within 
the eastern portion of the Central Valley. Projected changes in April 
snow water equivalence across the western Sierra Nevada region (eastern 
edge of the Central Valley) indicate about an 80 percent reduction in 
snow moisture under a low emissions scenario (B1); and about a 90 
percent reduction in snow moisture under a high emissions scenario 
(A2), between a baseline time period (1961 to 1990) and an end-of-
century period (2070 to 2090) (Cal-Adapt 2014b).
    A downscaled simulation of the potential impacts of climate warming 
on hydrology and water supply operations was developed expressly for 
the Tuolumne and Merced River basins in California (Kiparsky et al. 
2014, entire), which includes the southeastern portion of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle's current range. Although the simulation 
model (based on a Water Evaluation and Planning model) was developed 
primarily to evaluate water supply concerns for urban, agricultural, 
and environmental uses, the results are important as they relate to 
predicted effects to streamflow and timing of hydrological events in 
this portion of the Central Valley. In response to climate warming 
scenarios (2 [deg]C, 4 [deg]C, and 6 [deg]C increases), the simulation 
indicated a shift in timing and magnitude of seasonal flows for these 
two basins; that is, earlier snowmelt and a subsequent 3-month earlier 
shift in the water year for peak flows (Kiparsky et al. 2014, p. 10).
    Finally, Huang et al. (2012, entire) conducted a hydrologic and 
sensitivity analysis specifically for a portion of the Sacramento River 
climate region, the Upper Feather River watershed, which represents 
another snow-dominated watershed in California. Using six global 
climate models (GCMs) with two IPCC emissions scenarios (A2 and B1), 
the results of a model based on a Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System 
indicate significant changes in streamflow timing and increases in both 
frequency and magnitude of extreme flows (Huang et al. 2012, p. 138). 
Although the authors stress the uncertainty in the model results, the 
simulation found, for example, that with a 4 [deg]C (7.2[emsp14][deg]F) 
warming, there was an 11 percent increase in the 100-year annual 
maximum daily flow and a 35 percent decrease in the 10-year minimum 7-
day flow (i.e., drought condition) (Huang et al. 2012, p. 147). The 
increase in annual peak flow was attributed to the combined effect of 
more rainfall and less snowmelt with climate warming during winter 
months (January-March) (Huang et al. 2012, p. 147).
    As described above, the survival and reproduction of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle, is dependent on two elderberry taxa, which 
in turn are dependent upon ecological processes supported by climatic 
conditions (precipitation and temperature) and other environmental 
factors (e.g., elevation). Effects from climate change on the riparian 
ecosystems upon which the valley elderberry longhorn beetle depends are 
expected to include an increase in the intensity of both wet and dry 
periods due to changes in hydrologic conditions within those California 
watersheds driven by snowmelt, which is likely to alter streamflow 
patterns for the riverine systems that occupy the Sacramento-Delta and 
San Joaquin Valley regions (CDWR 2013, pp. SJR-73-SJR-75, SR-76-SR-78 
and references cited therein). Altered flow regimes (both volume and 
timing) will influence the mechanisms that support riparian plant 
communities, including elderberry habitat. Shifts in location and 
species composition of riparian vegetation can occur due to changes in 
groundwater and surface water levels (Kl[oslash]ve et al. 2013, p. 3).
    The effects of climate change are also expected to result in 
increased temperatures for the Central Valley, and, when combined with 
current trends and future changes in hydrologic patterns (e.g., timing 
of snowmelt and peak flows), will result in an increase in the 
frequency and duration of drought conditions in California. Hanson et 
al. (2012, entire) presented a supply and demand modeling framework to

[[Page 55897]]

simulate and analyze potential climate change effects on conjunctive 
uses of water resources within California's Central Valley from 2000-
2100. This simulation and analysis (linking downscaled GCM simulation 
results, the A2 or rapidly increasing GHG emissions scenario, with 
regional hydrologic models) includes the demands, uses, and movements 
of water for irrigation and natural vegetation, runoff from local 
mountains, and the responses of supply from groundwater and streamflow 
(Hanson et al. 2012, p. 3).
    Results from the simulation include intermittent climatic droughts 
from 2000-2050 and sustained droughts in 2050-2100 due to reduced 
precipitation (Hanson et al. 2012, p. 11). The drought events were 
found to have significant effects on surface water and groundwater 
deliveries and are likely to produce secondary effects, including a 
reduction in water for riparian vegetation and surface water deliveries 
(Hanson et al. 2012, pp. 11, 19). The simulated changes also produce 
large declines in flows draining into the Central Valley from the 
surrounding mountain watersheds, with a decline of over 45 percent of 
potential total basin discharge by 2100 (Hanson et al. 2012, p. 11). 
Reductions in streamflow diversions in this scenario are, therefore, 
expected for riparian vegetation and irrigation uses, including the 
Tuolumne River, the San Joaquin Basin, and Bear River in the Sacramento 
Valley Tulare Basin (Hanson et al. 2012, p. 12). Additionally, the 
reduction in surface water diversions increases the demand for 
groundwater pumping, negatively affecting groundwater levels (Hanson et 
al. 2012, p. 12) and further reducing water levels within riparian 
systems, and likely causing significant land subsidence along the 
southeastern San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys (Hanson et al. 2012, p. 
20).
    Other predictions of riparian vegetation changes related to 
climate-driven hydrological changes have found reductions in species-
rich riparian forests (boreal river system in northern Sweden) 
(Str[ouml]m et al. 2012, pp. 54-56) or shifts in successional phases of 
riparian vegetation (Mediterranean rivers) (Rivaes et al. 2013, 
entire).
    Predicted effects on both surface and groundwater availability are 
likely to negatively affect the regeneration and sustainability of 
riparian vegetation, including elderberry shrubs, though we are unaware 
of any comprehensive evaluation of specific responses of this host 
plant. The predicted changes in hydrologic conditions are also likely 
to favor the spread of invasive plants.
    In summary, the best available data indicate that climate change 
effects will add to the destruction and modification of habitat for the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle both currently and in the future. 
Although, we are unable to assess in specific quantitative terms the 
magnitude of the impact due to the uncertainty relative to climate 
change effects that will occur and the degree to which hydrology and 
water diversions will be affected, the best available data indicate 
long-term climate change effects will continue to have an overall 
negative effect on the available habitat throughout the range of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
Invasive Plants
    Competition for resources between elderberry plants and invasive 
plants and effects to elderberry habitat from invasive plants were not 
included as potential threats in our 2006 5-year review (Service 2006a, 
entire) or in our proposed rule, though we concluded in the proposed 
rule that these threats were not well-studied and had not been 
identified as widespread threats to the species or its habitat (77 FR 
60250, October 2, 2012). However, the natural plant communities of the 
Central Valley have been altered by removal of native trees, as 
described above, and by the rapid spread of invasive plants following 
the influx of immigrants and livestock into the area during the gold 
rush era (Mack 1989, p. 165). As an example, the replacement of native 
plants, particularly within grassland communities, by nonnative annual 
grasses was nearly complete by 1880 (Mack 1989, p. 166). Based on 
comments received from peer reviewers and additional information not 
assessed in the proposed rule, we include here an updated and more 
detailed discussion of effects to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
from invasive plants to better assess this potential threat.
    The Central Valley, as with other parts of California, continues to 
experience new invasions (e.g., California Invasive Plant Council 
Symposium 2003, entire). The California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-
IPC) has developed an interactive Web site (CalWeedMapper 2014) that 
illustrates invasive plant distributions based on occurrence data and 
suitable range modeling using climate data. CalWeedMapper was designed 
as a strategic tool to identify management opportunities for control 
and eradication of invasive plants. County and regional species maps 
and associated reports can be created for individual invasive species 
that describe their abundance, trends, and spatial distribution. 
Although the information may contain errors (i.e., misidentifications 
or imprecise location information), the maps provide useful information 
on current distributions and trends of invasive plants in California.
    Talley (2005, p. 18) observed a short-term positive effect to the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle from the invasive black locust 
(Robinia pseudoacacia) (a nitrogen-fixing tree); however, this plant 
has the potential to displace native plants in riparian communities 
(Hunter 2000, p. 275), which can negatively affect the long-term 
survival of elderberry plants (Talley 2005, p. 33). Using 
CalWeedMapper, we were able to create a regional (Central Valley) 
report and map for black locust (Cal-IPC 2014b). Within the presumed 
extant occurrences of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, there is a 
spreading trend for this invasive plant in Butte County (Cal-IPC 
2014b). This invasive plant is also considered to be ``medium'' in 
abundance in parts of Sacramento County and is ``low'' in several other 
areas within the northern portion of the Central Valley where the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle has been observed (Cal-IPC 2014a). 
Black locust is also illustrated as ``spreading'' in several areas of 
California outside of the Central Valley (Cal-IPC 2014b).
    The spread of invasive plant species is expected to become more 
severe in association with future changes in climate, such as drought 
(e.g., Bradley et al. 2010, entire). For example, the black locust is 
described as being drought tolerant, and as propagating easily from 
seeds and having seeds that spread easily (Benesperi et al. 2012, p. 
3556; see also Temperate Climate Permaculture 2014). In studies 
elsewhere, forest plant diversity has been shown to decrease in areas 
where the black locust has spread Benesperi et al. 2012, pp. 3560-
3561), and a recent experimental study concluded that its nitrogen-
fixing ability appears to give this species a competitive advantage 
under drought conditions (Wurzburger and Miniat 2013, pp. 1120-1125). A 
commercial horticulture Web site describes black locust as a species 
that is suitable for use in times of climate change due to its 
adaptability to heat and water stress (SilvaSelect 2014). As noted 
above, the CalWeedMapper provides maps with general information on 
current distributions and trends of invasive plants in California; the 
maps do not, however, include projections of future distribution in 
relation to climate change projections. Based on the available 
scientific information about the black locust, we expect that its range

[[Page 55898]]

will continue to expand in response to increased temperatures and 
drought projected for the range of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle (see above for climate change projections).
    Black walnut (Juglans hindsii), an invasive plant found on riparian 
floodplains along the Sacramento River, is strongly associated with 
elderberry and may also be invading formerly open elderberry habitat 
(Vaghti et al. 2009, pp. 33-35). Black walnut is also considered a 
nonnative woody plant in the Sacramento Valley, having become 
established in riparian zones since its introduction into the valley in 
the latter 19th and early 20th centuries as an ornamental plant or as 
root stock for English walnut (Juglans regia) (Hunter et al. 2003, p. 
41). As such, black walnut has been described as the most widespread 
nonnative in the Sacramento Valley, based on 47 plots surveyed along 16 
streams in the valley and adjacent foothills in 2003 (Hunter et al. 
2003, pp. 39-46), including many areas where the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle has been observed (e.g., Feather River, American River, 
Butte Creek, Big Chico Creek).
    Chinese tallowtree (Triadica sebifera, formerly Sapium sebiferum) 
is a deciduous tree native to east Asia that has become a major 
invasive species in the southeastern United States and, since its 
introduction as a shade tree in urban areas of California, has now 
begun to spread in riparian areas of California (Cal-IPC 2014c). This 
invasive plant has been difficult to eradicate once established (Bower 
et al. 2009, p. 393). Bower et al. (2009, entire) evaluated the 
invasion potential of Chinese tallowtree in California's Central 
Valley. This study found that this invasive species can colonize areas 
that are immediately adjacent to water sources; though drought-
intolerant seedlings appear to restrict colonization in drier (higher 
elevation) areas (Bower et al. 2009, pp. 387, 393). CalWeedMapper 
illustrates a spreading trend of Chinese tallowtree for areas within 
Butte, Yuba, Sutter, and Sacramento Counties (Cal-IPC 2014c). Bower et 
al. (2009, p. 387) reported naturalizing populations of this invasive 
species along the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and American Rivers.
    Hunter et al. (2003, pp. 42, 45) also described a patchy 
distribution of a large number of other woody nonnative plants (i.e., 
not including black walnut) in these riparian zones, but with 
relatively low abundance (less than 1 to 15 percent mean cover). 
However, the study indicated that some species (e.g., tree-of-heaven 
(Ailanthus altissima), Chinese tallowtree, scarlet wisteria (Sesbania 
punicea), tamarisk (Tamarix sp.)) are likely expanding their ranges and 
increasing in abundance in the Central Valley (Hunter et al. 2003, p. 
42). In addition, this study also noted that the nonnative Himalayan 
blackberry (Rubus discolor) was the typical dominant plant in the well-
developed shrub layer of the riparian zones surveyed (34 percent mean 
cover, where present; observed in 70 percent of the plots surveyed) 
(Hunter et al. 2003, p. 42). Finally, Golet et al. (2013, pp. 14, 17) 
found that the areal extent of several nonnative, invasive plants had 
increased in riparian zones along one section of the Sacramento River 
(Red Bluff to Colusa) from 1999 to 2007, including an increase in black 
walnut within restoration and remnant riparian sites.
    Vegetation type conversion or other shifts in native plant 
communities due to invasive plants represents environmental changes 
that are likely to have a negative effect on the metapopulation 
dynamics of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. Although there are 
reported trends of expansions of invasive and nonnative plants (e.g., 
black locust, black walnut) within the presumed extant occurrences of 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, we are not aware of 
comprehensive studies evaluating their range-wide effects on occupied 
or suitable habitat of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    In summary, at this time, the best available scientific and 
commercial information indicates potential impacts from invasive 
nonnative plants (i.e., competition of resources to the host plant) to 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its habitat. Although 
additional studies are needed to better characterize the magnitude or 
impact of this threat to the species both in localized areas as well as 
across the species' range, the best available data indicates that 
without control of invasive nonnative plants, their spread is 
anticipated to increase and will result in further degradation of 
habitat and loss of host plants for the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle.
Summary of Factor A
    We identified in the proposed rule and reaffirm in this document 
that there has been significant loss and degradation of riparian and 
other natural habitats in the presumed historical range of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle, much of which occurred prior to the listing 
of the species. Based on the best available information, occupancy 
estimates of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle range between 16 and 
21 percent within its historical range, within fragmented riparian 
vegetation (see Background section). Our preliminary analysis of mapped 
elderberry habitat presented in this document indicates that limited 
areas of elderberry plant communities remain in the Central Valley and 
their spatial arrangement may not support valley elderberry longhorn 
beetles' presumed metapopulation structure. Restoration and mitigation 
sites have contributed to available habitat, with one evaluation 
indicating a long-term mitigation trend for survival of elderberry 
plants of 57 to 71 percent and an occupancy rate of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (based on observations of exit holes only) 
of 43 to 53 percent (see also discussion in Background section). 
However, comprehensive surveys have not been completed at all 
conservation areas, including restoration sites and preserves. 
Colonization rates, where measured, are relatively low at many of these 
sites. Our new assessment of habitat (occupied or unoccupied) presented 
in this document, when considered in the context of the limited 
occurrence records (based on our reevaluation of occurrence information 
presented in the proposed rule and described in the Background section 
above), confirms a rare, patchy distribution pattern of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle across its presumed historical range in the 
Central Valley.
    Threats to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle's host plant due 
to effects related to levee vegetation management are likely to 
continue given the Corps levee vegetation management guidance and the 
difficulty in obtaining a variance for this policy. A levee vegetation 
strategy defined by CDWR for some facilities in the Central Valley may, 
in the short term, result in fewer impacts to elderberry shrubs found 
on flood control levees. However, we are uncertain if this strategy 
will be effective in providing protection to elderberry shrubs found 
within these areas of the Central Valley.
    Impacts related to road and trail uses, and the effects of dust 
from roads, trails, or highways adjacent to host plants or beetles are 
not considered to be threats to the species or its habitat, but loss of 
habitat at locations adjacent to roads, trails, and associated 
infrastructure remains a threat. Pruning activities, if conducted 
appropriately, can result in a temporary loss of the host plant of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle and monitoring of these activities is 
necessary to ensure that elderberry characteristics important to the 
life history of the beetle are preserved.

[[Page 55899]]

Invasive nonnative plants may be impacting the species through 
modification or loss of habitat due to competition for space and 
resources with its host plant, but additional information is needed to 
evaluate the magnitude of this threat.
    Climate models developed for evaluating climate change effects in 
California, including the Central Valley, indicate increased 
temperatures and significant changes to hydrologic conditions as a 
result of the effects of climate change. These changes are expected to 
affect riparian systems and other habitats where the presence of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle has been observed in the Central 
Valley, and will be compounded by water supply needs for urban and 
agricultural uses. Drought conditions are also likely to become more 
common in California and will affect the survival of elderberry. At 
this time, the best available data indicate that climate change effects 
include the threatened destruction or modification of habitat through 
at least the 2060s for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    In summary, the loss or modification of additional habitat 
represents a continued threat to this population structure (see 
Cumulative Effects below for additional discussion). Therefore, the 
best scientific and commercial information available indicates that the 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle's habitat or range is likely to continue to be a threat 
to the species now and in the future.

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

    We did not identify collecting or overutilization for any purpose 
as a threat to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle in our final 
listing rule (45 FR 52805; August 8, 1980) or in our proposed rule to 
delist the species (77 FR 60259; October 2, 2012). Based on our review 
of the available scientific and commercial information, we believe that 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes is not a threat to the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle at the present time nor do we anticipate this activity to be a 
threat in the future.

Factor C. Disease or Predation

    At the time of listing, we did not identify disease or predation as 
factors affecting the status of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
(45 FR 52805; August 8, 1980). We know of no diseases that represent 
current threats to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    In our 5-year review and in the proposed delisting rule, we 
indicated that Argentine ants may be a potential predator of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (Service 2006a, pp. 12-13; 77 FR 60259, 
October 2, 2012). In this withdrawal, we reexamine the available 
information regarding this potential predator as a threat to the 
species and include information from additional studies not evaluated 
in the proposed rule.
    Based on sampling at sites within Putah Creek, a negative 
relationship was observed between the presence of Argentine ants and 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, which was attributed to: (1) 
Native ants were found to be positively associated with the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle; and (2) native ants were found at only one 
site in which Argentine ants were present (Huxel 2000, pp. 83-84). 
Argentine ants were recorded at 14 of 15 mitigation sites along the 
American River Parkway during surveys in 2003 and 2004 (Klasson et al. 
2005, p. 8); their presence was attributed to introduction of ants with 
elderberry seedlings supplied from nurseries and the use of irrigation 
at these sites, the latter of which is suspected of encouraging an 
increase in ant populations (Klasson et al. 2005, p. 8).
    Argentine ants have rapidly expanded their range in California 
since first recorded in San Bernardino County in 1905 (Vega and Rust 
2001, p. 5). Within its native Argentina, Argentine ants coexist with 
many ant species (Suarez et al. 1999, p. 51), including competitive 
dominants such as imported red fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) and black 
fire ants (S. richteri) (Holway et al. 2002, p. 195). However, in 
riparian communities in California, Argentine ant colonies are known to 
displace native ants (Kennedy 1998, pp. 347-348) and have the potential 
to displace other native insects (see review by Holway et al. 2002, 
entire). Thus, the absence of the native competitors throughout much of 
the introduced range of the Argentine ant is likely an important factor 
influencing its high abundance and expansion (Holway et al. 2002, p. 
195). An additional concern is that climate-based modelling conducted 
to examine potential changes in the global distribution of the 
Argentine ant by mid-century shows that California will be one of the 
areas with the most suitable conditions for this species (Roura-Pascual 
et al. 2004, pp. 2531-2532), and additional modeling has yielded very 
similar results (Hartley et al. 2006, pp. 1073-1077; Roura-Pascual et 
al. 2011, p. 223). Although these modeling efforts cannot provide 
precise locations of suitability (see Menke et al. 2009, entire), they 
nevertheless provide consistent indications of the general area in 
central California where climate conditions will be favorable for 
Argentine ants. Also, in addition to climate, the establishment and 
spread of Argentine ants is related to human-modified habitats (Roura-
Pascual et al. 2011, p. 223; Fitzgerald and Gordon 2012, pp. 534-536), 
which are prevalent within the range of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle.
    In New Zealand, where the Argentine ant has been an invasive 
species for more than 30 years, populations of the species disappeared 
after 10-20 years (with persistence near the high end of this range 
being associated with areas having warmer temperatures) at about 40 
percent of 150 surveyed sites, and populations were reduced in some 
other areas (Cooling et al. 2011, p. 431). The reasons for this change 
are not known, and we do not know of any data indicating something 
similar is occurring in California.
    Argentine ants are opportunistic in their feeding behavior (Rust et 
al. 2000, p. 209). Experiments in which mealworm larvae were tethered 
(tied) to live elderberry stems next to traps (made from sticky tape) 
conducted by Klasson et al. (2005, pp. 7-8) along the American River 
Parkway area found that, when provided the opportunity, the Argentine 
ant will increase its mortality (predation) of vulnerable larvae. 
Specifically, the study found a significant correlation between both a 
decrease of intact larvae and an increase in partially eaten larvae 
with an increase in Argentine ant density (Klasson et al. 2005, p. 8). 
Field experiments have shown that, when valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle larvae were placed on elderberry plants, they were readily 
attacked by Argentine ants (Talley 2014c, pers. comm.). Argentine ants 
have also been observed interfering with adult behaviors of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (Talley 2014b, pers. comm.).
    Relatively high densities of Argentine ants (based on the ant 
traps) have been reported at mitigation sites (Klasson et al. 2005, p. 
8). Elderberry plants are found in areas that are also favorable to the 
establishment of Argentine ants (i.e., areas with moisture), and 
Argentine ants can easily colonize natural riparian plant communities 
from adjacent residential areas (Talley 2014b, pers. comm.). Argentine 
ants were found on 13 percent of elderberry shrubs within 6 of 10 
Central Valley watersheds surveyed in 2010 (Holyoak and Graves 2010, p. 
16; Table 2). Forty-one percent of the total number of Argentine ants 
observed on elderberry shrubs in these

[[Page 55900]]

six watersheds were from sites within the Putah Creek watershed 
(Holyoak and Graves 2010, p. 16), similar to earlier results described 
for this watershed by Huxel (2000, p. 83). Huxel et al. (2003, p. 458) 
concluded that the isolation of some valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
mitigation sites in conjunction with the presence of Argentine ant 
colonies at some of these sites is contributing to a lower success rate 
for these areas in establishing occupancy of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle (Huxel et al. 2003, p. 458).
    Successful treatment and control of Argentine ants in urban, 
agricultural, and natural landscapes has been difficult (Silverman and 
Brightwell 2008, pp. 234-237). Choe et al. (2014, entire) recently 
described a pheromone-assisted technique that may provide an 
economically viable control of Argentine ants by maximizing the 
efficacy of conventional insecticide sprays; however, this technique 
has not yet been evaluated as an option in natural environments. Given 
the lack of safe and effective controls, it is likely that the 
Argentine ant will continue to expand its range in California, 
including the Central Valley.
    In our 2006 5-year review and in our proposed rule, we identified 
other potential predators of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
(Service 2006a, p. 13; 77 FR 60260; October 2, 2012). This assessment 
was based primarily on observations within the American River watershed 
(American River Parkway), as described in an unpublished report 
prepared by Klasson et al. (2005, pp. 7-8). The European earwig 
(Forficula auricularia) and the western fence lizard (Sceloporus 
occidentalis) were identified as potential predators of larval life 
stages of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Klasson et al. 2005, 
p. 8). The report suggested that high densities of Argentine ants and 
earwigs at mitigation sites could be subsidizing higher abundances of 
lizards, creating additional predation pressure on invertebrates in 
these areas, though this has not been formally evaluated (Klasson et 
al. 2005, p. 8). Predation of larvae by birds (woodpeckers) has been 
described (Halstead and Oldham 1990, p. 25), but the small prey size 
and the overall rarity of the species present a low chance of encounter 
and, therefore, a low mortality risk (Talley et al. 2006a, p. 36). 
However, as noted in our proposed rule, we have no empirical studies 
with which to evaluate the level of predation threat from these 
potential predators.
Summary of Factor C
    We have no information to indicate that disease is negatively 
affecting the valley elderberry longhorn beetle population. Invasive 
Argentine ants have been confirmed at several locations occupied by the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Holyoak and Graves 2010, p. 16; 
Table 2). Projections from climate change modeling indicate suitable 
conditions will occur for Argentine ants to continue to spread in 
California during the next several decades (Roura-Pascual et al. 2004, 
pp. 2531-2532; Hartley et al. 2006, pp. 1073-1077; Roura-Pascual et al. 
2011, p. 223). Studies show that Argentine ants will attack and consume 
exposed insect larvae, including valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
larvae. The predation threat from Argentine ants is likely to increase 
in the Central Valley as colonies further expand into the species' 
range unless additional methods of successful control within natural 
settings become available (e.g., Choe et al. 2014, entire). Although 
additional studies are needed to better characterize the level of 
predation threat to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle from 
Argentine ants, the best available data indicates that this invasive 
species is a predation threat to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, 
and it is likely to expand to additional areas within the range of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle in the foreseeable future.

Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The Act requires us to examine the inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms with respect to extant threats that place the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle in danger of becoming either an 
endangered or threatened species. The regulatory mechanisms affecting 
the species fall into two general categories: (1) State regulatory 
mechanisms; and (2) Federal regulatory mechanisms. In this withdrawal, 
we incorporate additional detail and new information pertaining to 
these regulatory mechanisms from what was presented in the proposed 
rule. We are unaware of any local regulatory mechanisms (e.g., County 
or City ordinances) that provide protections to the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle or its habitat.
State Regulatory Mechanisms
California Endangered Species Act
    The California Endangered Species Act (Division 3, Chapter 1.5, 
section 2050-2069 of the California Fish and Game (CFG) Code) does not 
provide protections to insects and therefore would not provide 
protection to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
The Natural Community Conservation Planning (NCCP) Act
    The NCCP program is a cooperative effort between the State of 
California and numerous private and public partners with the goal of 
protecting habitats and species. An NCCP program identifies and 
provides for the regional or area-wide protection of plants, animals, 
and their habitats, while allowing compatible and appropriate economic 
activity. The primary objective of the NCCP program is to conserve 
natural communities at the ecosystem scale while accommodating 
compatible land uses (CDFW 2014b). Regional NCCPs provide protection to 
federally listed species by conserving native habitats upon which the 
species depend. Many NCCPs are developed in conjunction with Habitat 
Conservation Plans (HCPs) prepared pursuant to the [Endangered Species] 
Act.
    At present, two regional conservation plans, the San Joaquin County 
Multi-Species Habitat Conservation and Open Space Plan and the Natomas 
Basin HCP (revised), are located within the presumed extant occurrences 
of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, and have been permitted by 
the State through the NCCP Program. Another seven regional conservation 
plans within this range are currently under development. The latter 
include: Butte County NCCP/HCP, Placer County NCCP/HCP, South 
Sacramento HCP, Yuba-Sutter County HCP/NCCP, Yolo County HCP/NCCP, 
Solano County HCP, and the Fresno County HCP. However, although Fresno 
County initiated planning efforts for developing an HCP in 2007, 
development of this HCP has been intermittent and it is uncertain 
whether an application will be submitted to the Service (Thomas 2014, 
pers. comm.). All but one of these plans (Fresno County HCP) is located 
in the northern portion of the species' range in the Central Valley. 
Site-specific or project-level conservation plans that have addressed 
effects to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle have also been 
completed within the presumed extant occurrences of the species, though 
these are generally low-effect HCPs and encompass much smaller areas; 
most of those are now completed (Thomas 2014, pers. comm.).
    In summary, because the valley elderberry longhorn beetle is a 
covered species in existing NCCPs and anticipated to be a covered 
species in other NCCPs under development, the species receives 
protections under the plans, including obligations to continue

[[Page 55901]]

to implement the conservation plans in their entirety under the terms 
of their permits. If the valley elderberry longhorn beetle was 
delisted, habitat protections and coverage under existing NCCPs would 
remain unless they are amended to remove such protections. However, the 
species would likely not be included as a covered species in future 
NCCP/HCPs; thus, the NCCP program may not be an effective regulatory 
mechanism on its own.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
    CEQA (California Public Resources Code 21000-21177) is the 
principal statute mandating environmental assessment of projects in 
California. The purpose of CEQA is to evaluate whether a proposed 
project may have an adverse effect on the environment and, if so, to 
determine whether that effect can be reduced or eliminated by pursuing 
an alternative course of action, or through mitigation. CEQA applies to 
certain activities of State and local public agencies; a public agency 
must comply with CEQA when it undertakes an activity defined under CEQA 
as a ``project.'' A project is defined as an activity undertaken by a 
public agency or a private activity that requires some discretionary 
approval (i.e., the agency has the authority to deny or approve the 
requested permit) from a government agency, and which may cause either 
a direct physical change in the environment or a reasonably foreseeable 
indirect change in the environment. Most proposals for physical 
development in California are subject to the provisions of CEQA, as are 
many governmental decisions such as adoption of a general or community 
plan. Development projects that require a discretionary governmental 
approval require some level of environmental review under CEQA, unless 
an exemption applies (California Environmental Resources Evaluation 
System (CERES) 2014). If significant effects are identified, the lead 
agency has the option of requiring mitigation through changes in the 
project or to decide that overriding considerations make mitigation 
infeasible (Public Resources Code 21000; CEQA Guidelines at California 
Code of Regulations, Title 14, Division 6, Chapter 3, sections 15000-
15387).
    Take of a federally listed species, including the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle, is considered to be a ``significant effect'' under 
CEQA's implementing regulations, thereby creating either a requirement 
for mitigation or the identification of overriding considerations by 
the CEQA lead agency. While mitigation for this class of significant 
effect normally takes the form of an obligation on the part of the 
project proponent to notify the Service and to take whatever action the 
Service deems necessary to receive take authorization, the CEQA 
obligation is an additional regulatory mechanism that frequently 
provides enhanced protection when the species is listed. However, if 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle was delisted, State lead agencies 
would no longer be subject to making a mandated finding of significant 
effect, and therefore not otherwise be obligated to provide 
conservation measures for the beetle through the CEQA process.
California Lake and Streambed Alteration Program
    The Lake and Streambed Alteration (LSA) Program (CFG Code sections 
1600-1616) provides protection of floodplains through its permitting 
process. Section 1602 of the CFG Code requires an entity to notify the 
CDFW of any proposed activity that may substantially modify a river, 
stream, or lake, to include: Substantially diverting or obstructing the 
natural flow of any river, stream, or lake; substantially change or use 
any material from the bed, channel, or bank of, any river, stream, or 
lake; or deposit or dispose of debris, waste, or other material 
containing crumbled, flaked, or ground pavement where it may pass into 
any river, stream, or lake. If the CDFW determines that the activity 
may substantially adversely affect fish and wildlife resources, an LSA 
Agreement (Agreement) is prepared. In practice, the conditions of the 
LSA Agreement are negotiated with the applicant by CDFW. Although there 
can be disagreement on these conditions, CDFW works with applicants to 
ensure that certain wildlife protections (e.g., bird surveys during 
nesting season before tree cutting) are included; arbitration is rarely 
required for this process (Kennedy 2014c, pers. comm.).
    We contacted CDFW staff from the agency's North Central region to 
assess the level and applicability of this program to elderberry 
habitat within the presumed extant occurrences in this portion of the 
Central Valley. CDFW indicated that they receive up to 30 applications 
per year under the LSA program for some areas within the range of the 
species for activities such as construction or maintenance of bridges 
and culverts, or for trail improvements (Kennedy, 2014a and 2014b, 
pers. comm.; Sheya 2014, pers. comm.). Generally, the diameter of the 
vegetation and amount of riparian vegetation impacted are used to 
evaluate the need for an LSA agreement (Kennedy 2014b, pers. comm.). 
Applicants are asked and expected to contact the Service if elderberry 
shrubs will be affected (Sheya, 2014, pers. comm.; Kennedy 2014b, pers. 
comm.). Should the valley elderberry longhorn beetle be delisted, there 
would likely be little or no heightened concern or scrutiny under the 
LSA program relative to potential impacts to its habitat (i.e., 
elderberry shrubs).
Summary of State Regulatory Mechanisms
    In summary, CEQA and the LSA Program work synergistically with the 
Act to provide protections to the species and its habitat. Without the 
protections provided to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle under the 
Act (that is, if the species was delisted), these State regulatory 
mechanisms would not provide an additional level of scrutiny in the 
evaluation of potential effects to the species or to its habitat from 
future proposed activities. Under the NCCP Program, the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle receives protections under permitted plans, 
including obligations to continue to implement the conservation plans 
in their entirety under the terms of their permits. If the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle was delisted, habitat protections and 
coverage under existing NCCPs would remain unless the conservation 
plans were amended to remove such protections. However, the species 
would likely not be included as a covered species in future NCCP/HCPs; 
thus, the NCCP program may not be an effective regulatory mechanism on 
its own.
Federal Regulatory Mechanisms
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
    All Federal agencies are required to adhere to the NEPA of 1970 (42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) for projects they fund, authorize, or carry out. 
Prior to implementation of such projects with a Federal nexus, NEPA 
requires the agency to analyze the project for potential impacts to the 
human environment, including natural resources. The Council on 
Environmental Quality's regulations for implementing NEPA state that 
agencies shall include a discussion on the environmental impacts of the 
various project alternatives (including the proposed action), any 
adverse environmental effects that cannot be avoided, and any 
irreversible or irretrievable commitments of resources involved (40 CFR 
part 1502). The public

[[Page 55902]]

notice provisions of NEPA provide an opportunity for the Service and 
other interested parties to review proposed actions and provide 
recommendations to the implementing agency. NEPA does not impose 
substantive environmental obligations on Federal agencies--it merely 
prohibits an uninformed agency action. However, if an Environmental 
Impact Statement is prepared for an agency action, the agency must take 
a ``hard look'' at the consequences of this action and must consider 
all potentially significant environmental impacts. The effects on 
endangered and threatened species is an important element for 
determining the significance of an impact of an agency action (40 CFR 
1508.27). Thus, although NEPA does not itself regulate activities that 
might affect the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, it does require 
full evaluation and disclosure of information regarding the effects of 
contemplated Federal actions on sensitive species and their habitats. 
Federal agencies may also include mitigation measures in the final 
Environmental Impact Statement as a result of the NEPA process that 
help to conserve the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its habitat 
and these may include measures that are different than those required 
through the Act's section 7 consultation process. If the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle were to be delisted, the species and its 
habitat would receive no more scrutiny than other plant and wildlife 
resources during the NEPA process and associated analyses of a 
project's potential impacts to the human environment.
Clean Water Act
    Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments 
of 1972 and the CWA of 1977 to provide for the restoration and 
maintenance of the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the 
nation's lakes, streams, and coastal waters. Primary authority for the 
implementation and enforcement of the CWA rests with the U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps. Section 404 of the CWA 
is the principal Federal program that regulates activities affecting 
the integrity of wetlands. Section 404 prohibits the discharge of 
dredged or fill material in jurisdictional waters of the United States, 
unless permitted by the Corps under Sec.  404(a) (individual permits), 
404(e) (general permits), or unless the discharge is exempt from 
regulation as designated in Sec.  404(f). The limits of jurisdictional 
waters of the United States are determined by: (1) In the absence of 
adjacent wetlands, jurisdiction extends to the ordinary high-water 
mark; (2) when adjacent wetlands are present, jurisdiction extends 
beyond the ordinary high-water mark to the limit of the adjacent 
wetlands; or (3) when the water of the United States consists only of 
wetlands, jurisdiction extends to the limit of the wetland. The CWA may 
provide protections to elderberry because the taxon is found within 
seasonal floodplain habitat. However, a site-specific jurisdictional 
delineation will be required to determine whether a section 404 CWA 
permit from the Corps would be required for proposed discharge of fill 
material in these areas.
    In addition to the measures authorized before 1972, the CWA 
implements a variety of programs, including: Federal effluent 
limitations and State water quality standards, permits for the 
discharge of pollutants and dredged and fill materials into navigable 
waters, and enforcement mechanisms. These programs may provide 
additional protections of water quality within the floodplains and 
riparian vegetation in which the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
occurs. Without the protections afforded by the Act, if a proposed 
project area included the valley elderberry longhorn beetle or 
elderberry shrubs, there would be no additional level of scrutiny of 
the project's effects beyond that provided to other riparian vegetation 
and floodplain resources.
Clean Air Act
    With respect to regulatory mechanisms that address climate change, 
there are no regulatory mechanisms in place at the national or 
international levels that directly and effectively address the ongoing 
or projected effects of climate change on the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle. In the United States, on December 15, 2009, the 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register 
(74 FR 66496) a rule titled: ``Endangerment and Cause or Contribute 
Findings for Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air 
Act.'' In this rule, the EPA Administrator found that the current and 
projected concentrations of the six long-lived and directly emitted 
GHGs--carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, 
perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride--in the atmosphere threaten 
the public health and welfare of current and future generations; and 
that the combined emissions of these GHGs from new motor vehicles and 
new motor vehicle engines contribute to the GHG pollution that 
threatens public health and welfare (74 FR 66496). In effect, the EPA 
has concluded that the GHGs linked to climate change are pollutants, 
whose emissions can now be subject to the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 
et seq.) (74 FR 66496; December 15, 2009). As part of its Clean Power 
Plan proposal, EPA recently published proposed regulations to limit GHG 
emissions for power plants (79 FR 34830, June 18, 2014), with a 120-day 
comment period. However, these regulations have not been finalized.
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as Amended (Act)
    Upon its listing as threatened, the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle benefited from the protections of the Act, which include the 
prohibition against take and the requirement for interagency 
consultation for Federal actions that may affect the species. Section 9 
of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the take of endangered and 
threatened species without special exemption. The Act defines ``take'' 
as to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct (16 U.S.C. 
1532(19)). Our regulations define ``harm'' to include significant 
habitat modification or degradation that results in death or injury to 
listed species by significantly impairing essential behavioral 
patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). Our 
regulations also define ``harass'' as intentional or negligent actions 
that create the likelihood of injury to a listed species by annoying it 
to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavior patterns, 
which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering 
(50 CFR 17.3). Section 7(a)(1) of the Act requires all Federal agencies 
to utilize their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of the Act 
by carrying out programs for the conservation of endangered species and 
threatened species. Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal 
agencies to ensure that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out 
is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species 
or destroy or adversely modify their critical habitat. As an example, 
the U.S. Forest Service consults with the Service on effects of 
proposed activities (e.g., vegetation management, grazing, invasive 
species removal, recreational trail maintenance) to elderberry habitat 
found within the Sierra National Forest; however, most of these 
activities are designed so as to avoid elderberry shrubs, and are 
therefore found to have no effect to the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle (Moore 2012, pers. comm.).

[[Page 55903]]

    Section 6 of the Act authorizes us to enter into cooperative 
conservation agreements with States and to allocate funds for 
conservation programs to benefit endangered or threatened species, 
which provides another potential benefit. Neither section 6 of the Act 
nor Service policy gives higher priority to endangered species over 
threatened species for conservation funding.
    Thus, listing the valley elderberry longhorn beetle under the Act 
provided a variety of protections, including the prohibition against 
take and the conservation mandates of section 7 for all Federal 
agencies. Because the Service has regulations that prohibit take of all 
threatened wildlife species (50 CFR 17.31(a)), unless modified by a 
special rule issued under section 4(d) of the Act (50 CFR 17.31(c)), 
the regulatory protections of the Act are largely the same for wildlife 
species listed as endangered and as threatened; thus, the protections 
provided by the Act will remain in place for the duration of time that 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle remains on the Federal List of 
Endangered or Threatened Wildlife.
National Wildlife Refuge System
    The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Pub. 
L. 105-57) (which amended the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd et seq.)), expressly states 
that wildlife conservation is the priority of National Wildlife Refuge 
(NWR) System lands and that the Secretary shall ensure that the 
biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of refuge 
lands are maintained. Each NWR is managed to fulfill the specific 
purposes for which the refuge was established and the NWR System 
mission; thus, the first priority of each refuge is to conserve, 
manage, and, if needed, restore fish and wildlife populations and 
habitats according to its purpose. This legislation requires the 
development of a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for all NWR 
units (outside of Alaska). A CCP includes management actions that can 
provide conservation benefits to federally listed and non-federally 
listed fish and wildlife. The Sacramento River NWR, San Joaquin River 
NWR, the Merced NWR, and nearly all of the lands within the San Luis 
NWR are found within the presumed extant occurrences of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle. NWR efforts to conserve the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle and its habitat are summarized in the 
following paragraphs.
    The Sacramento River NWR was established to conserve and manage up 
to 18,000 ac (7,284 ha) of riparian or floodplain vegetation from Red 
Bluff to Colusa in Tehama, Glenn, and Colusa Counties, and contains 30 
different units, each with its own specific projects and management 
needs (Service 2005a, p. 12). Wildlife and habitat management goals for 
the Sacramento River NWR include preparing and implementing restoration 
plans to restore riparian vegetation (including elderberry plants), and 
maintaining existing and restored riparian vegetation (Service 2005a, 
pp. 139-140; Service 2005b, p. 1, Appendix 1). The valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle is the only terrestrial endemic organism found on the 
Sacramento River NWR, and elderberry provides important habitat for 
other taxa found there, especially other insects, migratory birds, and 
the western fence lizard (Silveira 2014a, pers. comm.). Management for 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle on the Sacramento River NWR is 
implemented through the management actions implemented for elderberry 
habitat found throughout the refuge in riparian forests as well as with 
plantings at restoration sites in mixed-riparian forest and elderberry 
savanna habitats (Service 2005a, p. 118).
    Occurrences of valley elderberry longhorn beetle exit holes have 
been reported within the Sacramento River NWR in the CNDDB (CNDDB 2013, 
entire) and from other sources (e.g., Service 2005a, p. 92). In 2004, 
River Partners (2004, entire) documented the successful colonization of 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle as defined by observations of 
exit holes in planted elderberries within five different units of the 
refuge. At that time, the percent of elderberry shrubs with exit holes 
ranged from 0.6 to 7.9 (average per refuge unit) (River Partners 2004, 
pp. 2-3). Since 1993, over 100,000 elderberry plants have been planted 
within 13 units of the Sacramento River NWR with an additional 14,270 
plantings in another 9 units (since 1999) (Silveira 2014a and 2014b, 
pers. comm.). Mean survival rates of elderberry plants range from 42 
percent to 100 percent, with a combined average for all sites of about 
90 percent (Silveira 2014a and 2014b, pers. comm.). The long-term 
survival of elderberry at the refuge's restoration sites depends on 
several factors including soil type and profile characteristics, as 
well as the type of vegetation planted with elderberry; that is, 
elderberry shrubs are found to be more persistent in valley oak 
woodland and open savanna habitats and much less persistent in closed-
canopy mixed riparian forest (Silveira 2014a, pers. comm.).
    In 2007 and 2008, Gilbart (2009, entire) surveyed 432 planted 
elderberry shrubs within 8 units of the Sacramento River NWR for 
occupancy (new and old exit holes) of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle. The study found that 21 percent of all shrubs searched had new 
holes, but only 33 percent of shrubs with old exit holes showed 
sustained or current occupation (i.e., presence of new exit holes) 
(Gilbart 2009, p. 40). Finally, although Golet et al. (2013, pp. 9, 21) 
reported an increase in occupancy of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle through colonization at restoration sites on the refuge (see 
River Partners 2004, entire), they found that the ``importance value'' 
of elderberry, or the sum of relative density plus relative basal area, 
had actually declined as restoration sites matured, suggesting that 
long-term availability of suitable elderberry habitat at these sites is 
uncertain.
    The Sacramento River NWR has also implemented a 100-ft (30.5-m) 
buffer between elderberry shrubs at its restoration sites and private 
orchards, levees, or roadways to reduce the potential for colonization 
on adjacent lands (Service 2005b, p. 34). This boundary was also 
designed to ensure that agricultural pesticide drift from neighboring 
private orchards and facility maintenance operations will not affect 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle habitat within restoration sites or 
adjacent landowner activities (Service 2005b, p. R-15, Appendix 2). 
Monitoring and evaluation of the use of restored habitat by targeted 
federally listed species, including the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle, are also established objectives for the refuge (Service 2005a, 
p. 146; Service 2005b, p. 5, Appendix 1). End-of-season monitoring of 
elderberry restoration sites are conducted on the Sacramento River NWR 
by River Partners or The Nature Conservancy and results are provided in 
annual restoration reports prepared for the refuge (Silveira 2014a and 
2014b, pers. comm.).
    The San Joaquin River NWR is located within the San Joaquin Valley 
of the Central Valley of California and was established in 1987 to 
primarily protect and manage wintering habitat for the Aleutian Canada 
goose (Branta canadensis leucopareia), a former federally endangered 
species (Service 2006b, p. 2). The focus of the San Joaquin River NWR 
has since expanded to include other endangered or threatened species, 
migratory birds, wildlife dependent on wetlands and riparian floodplain 
habitat, and restoration of habitat and ecological

[[Page 55904]]

processes (Service 2006b, p. 2). The San Joaquin River NWR currently 
provides habitat for both wetland- and upland-dependent wildlife 
species of California's Central Valley (Service 2006b, p. 1).
    Elderberry shrubs are relatively abundant on the San Joaquin River 
NWR east of the San Joaquin River, but are limited west of the river 
(Service 2006b, p. 171). However, there have been no comprehensive 
surveys to document occupancy of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
(Service 2006b, p. 51). The CNDDB (CNDDB 2013) includes one element 
occurrence (EO 157) where exit holes were observed in surveys in May 
and June of 1984; no adults were seen.
    Management objectives identified in the CCP for the San Joaquin 
River NWR include surveys for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
and, if necessary, a management plan would be prepared for the species 
and its habitat (Service 2006b, p. 69). However, the San Joaquin NWR 
has already implemented conservation actions for the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle, including planting of elderberry shrubs on the west 
side of the refuge. A large-scale (800-ac (324-ha)) restoration effort, 
including several fields of elderberry plantings, was initiated on the 
San Joaquin River NWR in 2002 (River Partners 2007, pp. 4, 57). In 
2006, approximately 235 ac (95 ha) or 185 individual elderberry plants 
(planted in 2003) were surveyed, and surveyors found that many of these 
elderberry plants died as a result of prolonged flooding during the 
spring and early summer of 2006 (River Partners 2007, pp. v, 4). 
Subsequently, additional elderberry shrubs were planted on about 120 ac 
(49 ha) at a higher elevation (77 FR 60256; October 2, 2012). As 
reported in our proposed rule, much of the San Joaquin River NWR is at 
an elevation such that during a wet winter and spring, flooding can 
extend from 1 to 6 months over most of the refuge, which is generally 
too long of an inundation time for elderberry to survive (Griggs 2007, 
pers. comm.). However, the non-maintained areas of the levee system 
within the refuge are also being planted with elderberry (Griggs 2007, 
pers. comm.).
    There are no records of exit hole observations or adult valley 
elderberry longhorn beetles in either the San Luis NWR or Merced NWR 
(CNDDB 2013, entire; Service 2014, GIS Analysis; Woolington 2014, pers. 
comm.). Neither the San Luis NWR nor the Merced NWR has completed a 
final CCP. However, a total of 1,000 elderberry plants have been 
planted at both refuges, and these efforts are expected to continue in 
the future (Woolington 2014, pers. comm.).
Natural Resources Conservation Service
    As noted in our proposed rule, grants and loan programs implemented 
through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the 
Service (e.g., Partners for Fish and Wildlife) can provide 
opportunities for habitat enhancement of valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle in the Central Valley. Under its Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) 
and Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWPP), the NRCS reported in 
2011 that 1,671 ac (676 ha) in seven counties in the Central Valley 
support elderberry and associated riparian plants of elderberry habitat 
within either WRP perpetual easements or EWPP Flood Plain easements 
(Moore 2011, pers. comm.). Although these programs are not regulatory 
mechanisms because their implementation is subject to funding 
availability, they are important conservation programs that benefit 
both the environment and agricultural producers in the Central Valley.
    The NRCS also provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers 
for planting elderberry plants, including hedgerow plantings. Since 
2005, the NRCS has funded 220 hedgerow projects, creating 38 mi (61 km) 
of hedgerows; an additional 100 projects encompassing 29 mi (47 km) of 
hedgerows were expected to be completed by 2013 (Moore 2011, pers. 
comm.). However, not all of these projects provide for planting of 
elderberry. Only those hedgerow projects located in areas covered by 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle Safe Harbor Agreements (San Joaquin 
and Yolo Counties) are consistently planted with elderberry shrubs 
(Moore 2011, pers. comm.). We have no information on the occupancy of 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle within WRP perpetual or EWPP 
Flood Plain easements or hedgerow plantings.
Sikes Act and Other Department of Defense Programs
    The Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a-670f, as amended) directs the 
Secretary of Defense, in cooperation with the Service and State fish 
and wildlife agencies, to carry out a program for the conservation and 
rehabilitation of natural resources on military installations. The 
Sikes Act Improvement Act of 1997 (Pub. L. 105-85) broadened the scope 
of military natural resources programs, integrated natural resources 
programs with operations and training, embraced the tenets of 
conservation biology, invited public review, strengthened funding for 
conservation activities on military lands, and required the development 
and implementation of an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan 
(INRMP) for relevant installations, which are reviewed every 5 years.
    INRMPs incorporate, to the maximum extent practicable, ecosystem 
management principles, provide for the management of natural resources 
(including fish, wildlife, and plants), allow multipurpose uses of 
resources, and provide public access necessary and appropriate for 
those uses without a net loss in the capability of an installation to 
support its military mission. Although INRMP implementation is 
technically not a regulatory mechanism because its implementation is 
subject to funding availability, it is an important guidance document 
that helps to integrate natural resource protection with military 
readiness and training. In addition to technical assistance that the 
Service provides to the military, the Service can enter into 
interagency agreements with installations to help implement an INRMP. 
These INRMP implementation projects can include wildlife and habitat 
assessments and surveys, fish stocking, exotic species control, and 
hunting and fishing program management.
    Beale Air Force Base (Beale AFB) is located in Yuba County, in the 
northeastern part of the Sacramento Valley, approximately 13 mi (21 km) 
east of Marysville and 40 mi (64 km) north of Sacramento. Beale AFB is 
located within an ecological and geographic transition zone between the 
flat agricultural lands of the Sacramento Valley to the west and the 
foothills of the western slope of the Sierra Nevada to the east; three 
tributaries to the Bear River (Reeds, Hutchinson, and Dry Creeks) run 
through the base (DOD 2011, p. 33). Several areas of elderberry shrubs 
are found on Beale AFB, including shrubs planted within conservation 
areas for compensation and habitat restoration purposes (Capra 2011, 
pers. comm.).
    In 2011, an updated INRMP was prepared, which underwent an annual 
review in 2013 by the installation in coordination with the Service and 
CDFW (DOD 2011, entire). The Beale AFB INRMP Work Plan includes goals 
and objectives to maintain or increase populations of special status 
species and improve their habitat conditions (DOD 2011, p. 164). 
Specifically, the Work Plan includes monitoring of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle in compliance with a Special Area Management 
Plan (SAMP) Habitat Restoration, Monitoring and Management Program 
(HRMMP) (DOD

[[Page 55905]]

2011, p. 165). The SAMP establishes a framework for habitat 
conservation, compensation, and watershed management and designates 
areas on the base that are, or will be, protected and preserved (DOD 
2011, p. 23). A programmatic biological opinion was developed with the 
Service to establish a predictable process for federally listed species 
consultation and compensation on the base, and one in which future 
routine consultations would be shortened (DOD 2011, p. 27). In October 
2012, the Service completed a formal consultation for effects to the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle related to activities implemented 
under the SAMP (Service 2012, entire). The monitoring program 
established within the SAMP HRMMP includes sampling a random selection 
of 25 percent of mapped elderberry shrubs every 2 years and a notation 
of the physical condition of the monitored shrubs and the presence or 
absence of exit holes (DOD 2011, page A9-24).
    As described in the INRMP, approximately 697 elderberry shrub 
locations were identified as occurring on Beale AFB, and the largest 
shrubs were surveyed in 2005 to determine the potential presence of 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle on base (DOD 2011, A2-29). Exit holes 
were found in 25 percent (13 of 51) of shrubs sampled in a riparian 
preservation area, but no adult beetles were observed (DOD 2011, pp. 
A2-29--A2-30). Exit holes were also found in 2012 in elderberry habitat 
at another location on the base (DOD 2014). Since fiscal year 1996, the 
base has received $73,000 to $400,000 per year for Habitat Conservation 
Management Plan (HCMP) implementation and monitoring (DOD 2011, p. A2-
44). Based on this funding history, it is likely that HCMP projects 
will continue to be implemented in the future as funds are approved, 
and the INRMP/HCMP continues to provide a conservation benefit to the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle (DOD 2011, p. A2-44). Without the 
protections provided to the species and its habitat under the Act (that 
is, if the valley elderberry longhorn beetle was delisted), there would 
be no regulatory incentive for the INRMP and HCMP to continue to 
include important provisions (e.g., monitoring) that provide 
conservation benefits to the species, beyond that provided under a 
larger integrated natural resource management strategy at Beale AFB.
Summary of Factor D
    State regulatory mechanisms provide a limited amount of protection 
against current threats to valley elderberry longhorn beetle. The 
requirements of CEQA and the LSA program may provide limited 
protections for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its host 
plant. However, without the protections provided to the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle under the Act (that is, if the species was 
delisted), these State regulatory mechanisms would not provide an 
additional level of conservation benefit to the species or to its 
habitat. The NCCP program can provide important protections through 
implementation of management actions and conservation measures when the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its host plant are incorporated 
in regional or project-level conservation plans, including obligations 
to continue to implement the conservation plans in their entirety under 
the terms of their permits. If the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
was delisted, habitat protections and coverage under existing NCCPs 
would remain unless the conservation plans were amended to remove such 
protections. However, the species would likely not be included as a 
covered species in future NCCP/HCPs; thus, the NCCP program may not be 
an effective regulatory mechanism on its own.
    A variety of Federal regulatory mechanisms exist throughout the 
range of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. NEPA does not itself 
regulate activities that might affect the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle, but it does require full evaluation and disclosure of 
information regarding the effects of contemplated Federal actions on 
sensitive species and their habitats. The CWA may provide protections 
to elderberry because the taxon is found within seasonal floodplain 
habitat. However, a site-specific jurisdictional delineation will be 
required to determine whether a section 404 CWA permit from the Corps 
would be required for actions proposed for these areas. While the Clean 
Air Act gives the EPA authority to limit GHGs linked to climate change, 
the regulations that the EPA has proposed regarding GHG emissions from 
power plants have yet to be finalized and thus cannot be considered 
existing regulatory mechanisms. At this time, we are not aware of any 
regulatory mechanisms in place at the international or national levels 
that address the ongoing or projected effects of climate change on the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    We expect management actions currently being implemented and, 
depending on funding, planned for the future for the Sacramento River 
NWR and San Joaquin River NWR will continue to provide important 
conservation benefits to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, 
although occupancy (based on exit holes) for these locations has been 
very low. In addition, comprehensive surveys for adults or exit holes 
have not been conducted on refuge lands or at easements established 
under NRCS programs. The Department of Defense also provides some 
protections to valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its habitat in the 
Central Valley at Beale AFB through implementation of its INRMP under 
the Sikes Act.
    Overall, although regulatory mechanisms are in place and provide 
some protection to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its 
habitat, absent the protections of the Act (e.g., section 7 and section 
10(a)(1)(B)), these mechanisms would not provide adequate protection 
from the threats currently acting on the species.

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

    Natural and manmade factors affecting the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle evaluated in this section include some effects related 
to climate change (related to temperature changes) and pesticides that 
may impact the survivorship or reproductive success of the species. See 
additional discussion on potential effects of climate change above 
under Factor A. In the proposed rule, we presented a general discussion 
of pesticide use in the Central Valley, but stated that we did not have 
information that confirmed pesticide use was a significant threat to 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (77 FR 60262-60263; October 2, 
2012). In this withdrawal, we present more recent information regarding 
pesticide usage trends in the Central Valley and include a detailed 
discussion of effects of one class of pesticides to insects relative to 
their potential effects to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. 
Additionally, we provide an updated summary discussion of small 
population size as a potential threat, as was discussed in the proposed 
rule (77 FR 60263; October 2, 2012).
    In this revised Factor E analysis, we do not include a discussion 
of loss of populations resulting from habitat fragmentation as 
described in the proposed rule (77 FR 60264; October 2, 2012). We 
indicated in the proposed rule that we were not aware of any 
information that would support robust conclusions regarding the extent 
of isolation of valley elderberry longhorn beetle populations at 
distances greater than a presumed recolonization distance of 25 mi (40 
km) (77 FR 60264; October

[[Page 55906]]

2, 2012). At present, we have no population trends for the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle to draw conclusions regarding loss of 
specific populations within the range of the species, and we are 
unaware of any viable tools to evaluate potential fragmentation of 
elderberry habitat in order for us to evaluate this potential threat.
Temperature and Other Effects of Climate Change
    As described above (see Factor A), increased temperatures are 
projected for the current range of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle. At this time we do not know what temperature levels (in terms 
of either isolated heat spikes or extended periods of high heat) are 
lethal for the species, or whether and how such changes may affect 
survivorship or reproductive success. We also do not have information 
to assess the near- or long-term adaptive capacity of this species in 
relation to climate change effects. Specifically in the near term we do 
not have information about its ability to make behavioral or 
physiological changes that will allow individuals to persist as 
temperatures increase within its current range. In this regard, we also 
are concerned by the relatively limited dispersal ability of the 
species, which could limit its ability to undertake range shifts in 
response to changing climate conditions. The range shifts in latitude 
and elevation reported for some other species of longhorn beetles in 
Great Britain (Hickling et al. 2006, pp. 451-453) are of interest, but 
we do not know whether this is applicable to the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle and the habitat fragmentation and other conditions it 
faces. Also, at this time we have no information on the possibility of 
genetic (evolutionary) adaptation that could influence population- and 
species-level persistence over generations in the face of changing 
temperatures or other physical effects of a changing climate.
Pesticides
    In our 2006 5-year review and our 2012 proposed rule, we evaluated 
pesticide use in the Central Valley as a potential threat to the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (Service 2006a, pp. 18-19; 77 FR 60262; 
October 2, 2012). As noted in our proposed rule, there have been 
reports of potential effects to elderberry shrubs (yellowing of leaves) 
adjacent to cultivated fields recently treated by aerial crop dusting 
(Barr 1991, p. 27). We concluded in our proposed rule that we lacked 
information confirming that pesticide use was a significant threat to 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (77 FR 60263; October 2, 2012). 
In this withdrawal, we provide an updated and more detailed discussion 
of this potential threat based on peer reviewer comments and species' 
experts (e.g., Talley et al. (2006b, p. 44)) conclusions that pesticide 
impacts to the species and its habitat are likely given the level of 
pesticide use (both urban and agricultural uses) in parts of the 
Central Valley and the proximity of agriculture to riparian vegetation.
    Pesticide use in California varies from year to year and is 
dependent on a number of factors, with weather conditions being 
particularly important (California Department of Pesticide Regulation 
(CDPR) 2014, p. 70). Short time periods (3 to 5 years) can suggest 
either an upward or downward trend in pesticide use; however, 
regression analyses of usage from 1998 to 2012 have not revealed a 
significant trend in either direction (CDPR 2014, p. 17). Pesticide use 
(pounds of active ingredient) in the lower portion of the San Joaquin 
Valley) are among the highest in the State (based on county reports) 
(CDPR 2014, pp. 12-13), though with the exception of San Joaquin 
County, much of this portion of the Central Valley is considered to be 
outside the area defined by the presumed extant occurrences of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle. However, in the northern portion of 
the range of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Tehama County south 
to Sacramento County), pesticide use ranks relatively high (in the top 
20) for several counties (CDPR 2014, pp. 12-13). Based on the amount 
applied, the most-used pesticide types are combination fungicide/
insecticides (mostly sulfur), fumigants, and insecticides (CDPR 2014, 
p. 66). Based on cumulative area treated, the most-used types are 
insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides (CDPR 2014, p. 66).
    Neonicotinoid insecticides such as imidacloprid are used 
extensively for some crops in California (e.g., wine grapes; CDPR 2014, 
p. 76). They are also widely used as seed treatments (Goulson 2013, p. 
978). The use of imidacloprid on agricultural land in the Central 
Valley of California was estimated at over 0.24 pounds per square mile 
in 2011 (USGS 2014); CDPR reported a total of 297,384 pounds of 
imidacloprid were applied in California in 2012, encompassing 64,209 
agricultural applications (CDPR 2014, pp. 413-416).
    Neonicotinoids are particularly toxic to insects in small 
quantities (Goulson 2013, p. 977). Experimental studies have also found 
important sublethal effects to Asian longhorned beetles in response to 
imidacloprid, including a reduction in the number of viable eggs (Ugine 
et al. 2011, p. 1948) and a decrease in food consumption (Russell et 
al. 2010, p. 308). A lack of sufficient locomotor control is suspected 
as the cause of some of the changed behaviors, rather than the 
palatability of food (Ugine et al. 2011, p. 1,948). Concerns regarding 
the environmental risks of neonicotinoid insecticides to honeybees have 
prompted recent efforts to provide additional control of their usage 
(e.g., application restrictions; EPA 2013, entire).
    Studies of exposure to neonicotinoids have also shown differential 
effects to the behaviors and community dynamics of ants (Barbieri et 
al. 2013, entire). Interspecific aggressive behavior and colony fitness 
differences after exposure to imidacloprid were observed for the 
invasive Argentine ant and a native ant (Monomorium antarcticum) 
(Barbieri et al. 2013, p. 5). The study results suggest that in areas 
in which a native ant species has been previously exposed to 
neonicotinoid insecticides, the Argentine ant could have an advantage 
in securing food resources and overall survival (Barbieri et al. 2013, 
p. 5). Altered behaviors in ant populations due to pesticide exposure 
may be an important contributing factor to the predation threat of 
Argentine ants for those areas where occupancy of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle has been shown to co-occur with this invasive ant. 
However, these effects have not been formally evaluated.
    The timing of pesticide applications are also likely to coincide 
with vulnerable life stages (adult activity, exposure of eggs and 
larvae) of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Talley et al. 2006b, 
p. 43). However, we are unaware of any specific studies of either 
exposure, or responses to exposure, to pesticides for the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle.
    We evaluated information that indicates pesticides are likely 
present in areas around and adjacent to valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle habitat, including areas occupied by the species, which creates 
the potential for exposure of the beetle and its habitat to harmful 
pesticides through unintended drift from applications, as well as 
potential secondary effects to insect communities in riparian 
vegetation that may create an advantage for potential predators (i.e., 
Argentine ants) of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. Based on our 
evaluation presented in the proposed rule and updated information 
presented above, the best available scientific and

[[Page 55907]]

commercial information indicates potential impacts from pesticides to 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its habitat; however, further 
studies are needed to characterize the magnitude or impact of 
pesticides to the species both in localized areas as well as across the 
species' range.
Small Population Size
    In our proposed rule, we concluded that the best available 
information did not indicate small population size was a significant 
concern at that time or in the future (77 FR 60263; October 2, 2012). 
We provide in this withdrawal a reiteration of this potential threat 
without making inferences based on incomplete data regarding population 
size, locations of populations, and population trends.
    Although we do not have data from which to draw conclusions 
regarding the population size of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, 
we nonetheless consider whether rarity might pose a potential threat to 
the species. While small populations are generally at greater risk of 
extirpation from normal population fluctuations due to predation, 
disease, changing food supply, and stochastic (random) events such as 
fire, corroborating information regarding threats beyond rarity is 
needed to meet the information threshold indicating that the species 
may warrant listing. In the absence of information identifying threats 
to the species and linking those threats to the rarity of the species, 
the Service does not consider rarity alone to be a threat. Further, a 
species that has always had small population sizes or has always been 
rare, yet continues to survive (as is the case for the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle; see Background section) could be well-
equipped to continue to exist into the future.
    Many naturally rare species have persisted for long periods within 
small geographic areas, and many naturally rare species exhibit traits 
that allow them to persist despite their small population sizes. 
Consequently, the fact that a species is rare or has small populations 
does not necessarily indicate that it may be in danger of extinction 
now or in the future. We need to consider specific potential threats 
that might be exacerbated by rarity or small population size. Although 
low genetic variability and reduced fitness from inbreeding could 
occur, at this time we have no evidence of genetic problems with the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle. The valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle is known to be endemic to the Central Valley since at least 1921 
(Fisher 1921, p. 207), and has historically survived fires, drought, 
and other stochastic events. We have no data to indicate that rarity or 
small population size, in and of themselves, pose a threat to the 
species at this time or in the future.
Summary of Factor E
    Based on the best scientific information available, we do not know 
whether increased temperature and other projected effects associated 
with a changing climate in the coming decades (per projections for the 
2060s) will exceed lethal levels or influence the survivorship and 
reproductive success of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. We also 
do not know what adaptive capacity the species has, which will 
influence its response to increased temperature and other physical 
changes in climate.
    The best available scientific information indicates potential 
impacts from pesticides to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and 
its habitat; however, further studies are needed to characterize the 
magnitude or impact of pesticides to the species both in localized 
areas as well as across the species' range. Pesticide use in the 
Central Valley remains high and could increase due to climate change 
effects (e.g., warmer temperatures) that may enhance the pathogenicity 
of crop pests for agricultural fields that are commonly found adjacent 
to remnant riparian vegetation.
    We do not believe that small population size constitutes a threat 
to the valley elderberry beetle throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range currently or in the future.
Cumulative Effects
    Threats can work in concert with one another to cumulatively create 
conditions that will impact the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
beyond the scope of each individual threat. Some of the threats 
discussed in the proposed rule and reevaluated in this document are 
expected to work in concert with one another to cumulatively create 
situations that are likely currently impacting and likely will impact 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle or its habitat beyond the scope 
of the individual threats that we have already analyzed.
    For some species, vulnerabilities to climate change effects have 
been found to be dependent on interactions between life-history traits 
and spatial characteristics (Pearson et al. 2014, p. 218), and it is 
likely that this is also true for other taxa, including the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle. Climate change effects (e.g., warmer 
temperatures, increase in drought events, and changes in precipitation 
patterns) are likely to increase the extinction risk of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle and can also affect its host plant, e.g., by 
creating conditions that favor the expansion of invasive species in the 
Central Valley, or by outright reduction in host plants if the effects 
of climate change are more than elderberries can tolerate. An increase 
in temperature expected before the end of this century will also take 
place in concert with changes in land use and other environmental 
factors such as pesticide use, altered habitat due to invasive plant 
species, predation threats, and secondary effects of climate change 
(altered hydrologic conditions). Although distributional shifts of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle (e.g., in both elevation and 
latitude) might be observed in the future given the alteration of 
climate, especially with increases in temperature, the limited 
remaining fragmented habitat and relatively limited dispersal ability 
of the species may restrict any such range shift. Data from long-term 
population trends of the beetle and its habitat will be needed to 
evaluate these types of potential cumulative effects.

Determination

    As required by the Act, we considered the five factors in assessing 
whether the valley elderberry longhorn beetle meets the definition of 
an endangered or threatened species. We examined the best scientific 
and commercial information available regarding the past, present, and 
foreseeable future threats faced by the species. Based on our review of 
the best available scientific and commercial information, we find that 
the current and future threats are of sufficient imminence, intensity, 
or magnitude to indicate that the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
remains likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future 
throughout all of its range. Therefore, the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle currently meets the definition of a threatened species, and we 
are withdrawing the proposed rule to delist the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle. Our rationale for this finding is outlined below.
    We presented valley elderberry longhorn beetle occurrence (adult 
beetle and exit hole data) and distribution information in the proposed 
rule (77 FR 60238; October 2, 2012) that we determined to be the best 
available scientific and commercial information at that time. However, 
based on the peer review and public comments received on the proposed 
rule, including new information received, we reevaluated

[[Page 55908]]

the beetle's biological information and the five-factor analysis 
prepared for the proposed rule to determine where clarifications, 
corrections, or revisions were necessary. In this rule, we provide a 
revised description of the location of observations of adult valley 
elderberry longhorn beetles or exit holes and present an updated 
distribution map based on surveys conducted since 1997. Our reanalysis 
of survey reports and published studies (including a reexamination of 
the best available data) helped us assess the relative quality of the 
species' occurrence (e.g., CNDDB records), location, and occupancy data 
presented in the proposed rule. As noted above (see Background 
section), the population structure for the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle has been characterized as patchy-dynamic; that is, one 
controlled by both broad-scale factors associated with elderberry 
shrubs (e.g., shrub age) and riparian-associated environmental 
variables, which have patch, gradient, and hierarchical features (e.g., 
relative elevation) (Talley 2007, p. 1486). The valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle remains localized in its distribution, with limited 
dispersal ability, and we estimate it occupies less than 25 percent of 
the remaining elderberry habitat found within fragmented riparian 
areas.
    Our reanalysis of information in our files and new information 
received during the open comment periods changed our evaluation of the 
threats to the species. In this withdrawal we conclude that the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle continues to be threatened by habitat loss 
or degradation (Factor A) and predation (Factor C) throughout all of 
its range. Additional environmental factors (e.g., additional habitat 
loss) and other stressors (e.g., effects related to pesticide use, 
competition to its host plant from invasive species) are likely to 
influence the species' distribution and likelihood of extinction in the 
foreseeable future.
    Despite the fact that we are not delisting the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle, our reanalysis of information in our files and new 
information received has helped us better define our management actions 
directed at conserving the species, such as: (1) Improve our survey 
techniques to better define its distribution and abundance; (2) 
implement data management practices to better evaluate conservation 
measures being implemented at mitigation and restoration sites; (3) 
refine our evaluation of potential threats to the species (e.g., those 
related to climate change effects); (4) continue to promote restoration 
of riparian habitat; and (5) work with our partners to identify and 
implement key research needs to improve our understanding of the 
species.
    The valley elderberry longhorn beetle remains likely to become an 
endangered species in the foreseeable future because it is a habitat 
specialist, with limited dispersal ability and a short adult life span, 
and it possesses rarity traits such as low local numbers within a 
population structure that has become fragmented within its historical 
range, and continues to be fragmented further by ongoing impacts to its 
habitat.
    Although evidence of occupancy (primarily observations of exit 
holes) for the species has been documented in additional locations than 
those recorded at the time of listing in 1980 (as discussed in the 
proposed rule), we believe this is the result of limited data available 
at the time of listing, combined with subsequent surveys that have 
better defined the presumed historical range of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle. Following our reexamination of the original surveyor 
data sets (as described in the Population Distribution section above), 
new occurrence information received (i.e., Arnold 2014a, pers. comm., 
2014; DOD 2014; River Partners 2011), an examination of the quality of 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle records contained in the CNDDB, and 
an evaluation of occupancy estimates based on several surveys (Collinge 
et al. 2001, p. 111; Talley et al. 2007, pp. 25-26; Gilbart 2009, p. 
40; Holyoak and Graves, 2010, entire; Holyoak and Graves 2010, Appendix 
1), we conclude there are extant occurrences of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle at 36 geographical locations in the Central Valley. 
However, these locations are based in large part on observations of 
exit holes, which may not be an accurate depiction of occupancy (see 
Life History discussion in Background section). When considering data 
of adult male occurrences (which may be a more accurate depiction of 
occupancy), only 25 percent (9 of the 36 locations) of these records, 
within 4 hydrologic units, represent observations of adult male beetles 
recorded since 1997. In making our determination, we also assessed the 
amount and spatial arrangement of mapped elderberry habitat within the 
Central Valley. However, we acknowledge that there are no current 
estimates of population size or trends in population numbers for the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    Restoration and mitigation efforts have provided elderberry habitat 
for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, but very little 
comprehensive monitoring has been conducted to evaluate the success of 
these sites, both in terms of habitat of value to the species and 
occupancy of these habitats. Comprehensive monitoring at restoration 
and mitigation sites as well as natural sites remaining in the Central 
Valley is needed in order to produce definitive population trends of 
occupancy for this species. A second year of trial surveys for the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle using pheromone attractants is 
currently under way (Sanchez 2014, pers. comm.) to further evaluate 
this method to assess the status of this species within its presumed 
range. This survey technique could also provide valuable information on 
populations of both elderberry longhorn beetles (Desmocerus 
californicus dimorphus, D. californicus californicus).
    As described in our Factor D analysis, conservation plans and 
programs are currently in place or planned for some portions of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle's range. State regulatory mechanisms, 
such as CEQA and the LSA, may provide limited protections for the 
species' host plant as they work synergistically with the Act to 
provide protections to the species and its habitat.
    Although Federal regulatory mechanisms other than the Act can offer 
protection to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle in small areas of 
the species' range, we believe that the Act represents the primary 
regulatory mechanism for conservation of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle. If the valley elderberry longhorn beetle were to be delisted, 
it would not receive the substantial protections provided to the 
species and its habitat under the Act.
    Based on our review of the best available scientific and commercial 
data, we conclude that the valley elderberry longhorn beetle currently 
meets the definition of a threatened species because current and future 
threats including present and continued loss or modification of its 
habitat, predation, and threats related to the effects of climate 
change are of sufficient imminence, intensity, or magnitude to indicate 
that the valley elderberry longhorn beetle is likely to become 
endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range.

Significant Portion of the Range

    In determining whether a species is endangered or threatened in a 
significant portion of its range, we first identify any portions of the 
range of the species that warrant further consideration. The range of a 
species can theoretically be divided into

[[Page 55909]]

portions an infinite number of ways. However, there is no purpose to 
analyzing portions of the range that are not reasonably likely to be 
both: (1) Significant, and (2) endangered or threatened. To identify 
only those portions that warrant further consideration, we determine 
whether there is substantial information indicating that: (1) The 
portions may be significant, and (2) the species may be in danger of 
extinction there or likely to become so within the foreseeable future. 
In practice, a key part of this analysis is whether the threats are 
geographically concentrated in some way. If the threats to the species 
are essentially uniform throughout its range, no portion is likely to 
warrant further consideration. Moreover, if any concentration of 
threats applies only to portions of the species' range that are not 
significant, such portions will not warrant further consideration.
    If we identify portions that warrant further consideration, we then 
determine whether the species is endangered or threatened in these 
portions of its range. Depending on the biology of the species, its 
range, and the threats it faces, the Service may address either the 
significance question or the status question first. Thus, if the 
Service considers significance first and determines that a portion of 
the range is not significant, the Service need not determine whether 
the species is endangered or threatened there. Likewise, if the Service 
considers status first and determines that the species is not 
endangered or threatened in a portion of its range, the Service need 
not determine if that portion is significant. However, if the Service 
determines that both a portion of the range of a species is significant 
and the species is endangered or threatened there, the Service will 
specify that portion of the range as endangered or threatened under 
section 4(c)(1) of the Act.
    The primary threats to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle occur 
throughout the species' range and are not restricted to, or 
concentrated in, any particular portion of that range. The primary 
threats of loss or modification of habitat, invasive plants, predation, 
and pesticides are impacting valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
populations throughout the species' range. The effects of climate 
change are also acting on the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
throughout its range. Thus, we conclude that threats impacting the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle are not concentrated in certain 
areas, and, thus, there are no significant portions of its range where 
the species should be classified as an endangered species. Accordingly, 
this withdrawal and our determination that the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle remains listed as a threatened species applies 
throughout the species' entire range.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    In the proposed rule published on October 2, 2012 (77 FR 60238), we 
requested that all interested parties submit written comments on the 
proposal by December 3, 2012. We also contacted appropriate Federal and 
State agencies, scientific experts and organizations, and other 
interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposal. A 
newspaper notice inviting general public comment was published in the 
Sacramento Bee on October 12, 2012. We did not receive any requests for 
a public hearing. We reopened the comment period on January 23, 2013 
(78 FR 4812) to allow all interested parties an additional opportunity 
to comment on the proposed rule and to submit information on the status 
of the species. The final comment period closed February 22, 2013.
    During the two comment periods for the proposed rule, we received 
comments from 35 different entities or individuals (not including peer 
review comments) addressing the proposed delisting of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle. Submitted comments were both supportive of 
and against delisting the species. All substantive information provided 
during the comment periods has either been incorporated directly into 
this withdrawal or addressed below.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 
(59 FR 34270) and the Office of Management and Budget's December 16, 
2004, Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review, we solicited 
expert opinion from four appropriate and independent specialists with 
scientific expertise of the life history and biology of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle and riparian systems in the Central valley 
of California. The peer review process was facilitated by Atkins, North 
America, and a final report of the peer review, including all comments, 
was prepared in January 2013 (Atkins 2013, entire), and made available 
on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-
2011-0063.
    We used the 10 questions posed to the peer reviewers as described 
in the final peer review report (Atkins 2013, entire) to organize and 
summarize the comments received from the four peer reviewers, including 
substantive issues and new information relevant to the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle. The peer review comments are summarized and 
addressed in the following section based on 10 questions posed to the 
peer reviewers by the Service. Relevant information contained in both 
the summary of the peer reviewer comments and by individual peer 
reviewers has been incorporated into this rule, where appropriate.
Peer Review Comments
    (1) Comment: All four peer reviewers identified instances in which 
the descriptions, analyses, and biological findings and conclusions 
presented in the proposed rule are not supported by the available data, 
and stated that further explanation is needed on the limitations of the 
data, assumptions, and rationale for dismissing certain topics. Two 
peer reviewers questioned the conclusions in the proposed rule 
regarding the range of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, and all 
reviewers noted that the CNDDB records used to define the locations of 
extant locations of the species are outdated, may not be accurate, or 
may be misidentified for the non-listed California elderberry longhorn 
beetle. For example, two peer reviewers questioned the validity of the 
CNDDB use of exit holes in elderberry stems as a measure of the 
presence of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. Three peer reviewers 
also commented on the lack of population size and trend estimates and 
the lack of available data for newer mitigation and restoration sites.
    Our Response: For this rule, we reevaluated the quality and 
addressed the limitations of the available species occurrence 
information. We then developed a revised description of the location of 
observations of adult valley elderberry longhorn beetles or exit holes, 
and prepared new distribution maps based on surveys conducted since 
1997 (16 years). We believe this time period represents a conservative, 
but reasonable period for evaluating available occurrence information 
as this was the year in which the most recent, comprehensive rangewide 
survey was conducted by observers known to be qualified to detect 
occupancy of the species. We included a more detailed description of 
our analyses including how we reevaluated the available occurrence 
information, including those locations that may represent observations 
of the other subspecies found in California (see Population 
Distribution, Presumed Historical Range, and Current Distribution 
(since 1997) sections), thus addressing the peer

[[Page 55910]]

reviewers concerns related to outdated, inaccurate, or misidentified 
CNDDB records. We also included available summaries of observations 
from both mitigation and restoration sites, and acknowledged the 
limitations with these and other data sets (e.g., see Restoration and 
Mitigation Sites section).
    (2) Comment: All four peer reviewers stated that different 
conclusions than those presented in the proposed rule could be drawn 
due to limitations of available data (data gaps), and our over-
simplification and over-estimation of the available data. Specifically, 
one peer reviewer stated that we overlooked important and well-
documented uncertainties in the available data, while another stated 
that there may be fewer than the 26 locations identified in the 
proposed rule, which would affect our conclusions concerning the 
effects of threats. Another peer reviewer stated that many of the 26 
locations should be disregarded given the lack of current information 
and that our characterization of habitat at some of these locations was 
questionable.
    Our Response: To address all of these concerns (e.g., the potential 
to draw different conclusions, uncertainties in the best available 
data, the locations for the species based on occurrence records), we 
reevaluated all available spatial data and provided an updated 
historical distribution map based on Chemsak's (2005, p. 7) 
distributional map and observations of only adult male valley 
elderberry longhorn beetles (see Current Distribution (since 1997) 
section). Based on that analysis, we selected data sets (1) within this 
revised distribution; (2) within the past 16 years; and (3) those 
records from CNDDB (2013, entire) ranked fair, good, or excellent to 
develop a depiction of the presumed extant occurrences map for the 
species (see Figure 2), while acknowledging the limitations with these 
data. We also incorporated studies documenting the essential life-
history and habitat requirements for both the host plant and the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle, and described the species' distribution in 
the context of a metapopulation structure and fragmented habitat.
    We then prepared a new summary of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle's occurrence in the Central Valley and identified the areas of 
presumed occupancy based on hydrologic unit as well as geographic 
location (see Table 1). For this reevaluation, we did not compare these 
areas to those identified at listing. Although evidence of occupancy 
(primarily observations of exit holes) for the species has been 
documented in additional locations than recorded at the time of listing 
in 1980, we believe this is the result of limited data available at the 
time of listing and the subsequent surveys that have better defined the 
presumed historical range of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (see 
Population Distribution, Presumed Historical Range, and Current 
Distribution (since 1997) sections). We acknowledge in this withdrawal 
that there are no current estimates of population size or trends in 
population numbers for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, but we 
have included and evaluated estimates of occupancy, where available, in 
our discussion of population distribution and in our analysis of 
threats.
    (3) Comment: All four peer reviewers expressed concerns regarding 
the accuracy and balance of our review and analysis of factors relating 
to threats to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. One peer reviewer 
stated that the proposed rule did not provide accurate and balanced 
reviews, and analyses of factors relating to the threats of the 
species, and other reviewers stated that a more thorough analysis 
incorporating key omissions could result in different conclusions 
regarding the threats to the species and population trends. 
Specifically, one reviewer recommended that the rule broaden the 
discussion of effects of climate change, while two others stated that 
potential threats posed by invasive plants should be discussed. One 
peer reviewer also stated that a discussion of potential effects of 
pesticides and genetic issues was incomplete and possibly misleading. 
Two peer reviewers stated that the discussion of threats from Argentine 
ants was not adequate in the proposed rule and we did not provide an 
accurate assessment of this threat. Finally, another reviewer stated 
that there were no analyses of combined threats at each location.
    Our Response: In this document, we prepared a revised analysis of 
potential threats to the species, and have provided additional or 
revised discussions of potential threats related to climate change 
effects, as well as invasive plants, pesticides, and predatory ants 
(see the specific sections provided under Summary of Factors Affecting 
the Species above).
    Currently, the best available data do not indicate that genetic 
issues are a potential threat to the population structure of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle, and we are unaware of studies that have 
investigated valley elderberry longhorn beetle genetics related to the 
population structure described for this species. We also note that 
Talley et al. (2006a, p. 7) recommended a systematic geographic 
morphological and genetic study to determine the degree of overlap and 
interbreeding between valley elderberry longhorn beetle and the 
California elderberry longhorn beetle.
    (4) Comment: All peer reviewers commented on the limitations of the 
30-year-old Recovery Plan (Service 1984) and, therefore, the difficulty 
in assessing whether those objectives had been met as discussed in our 
proposed rule. The peer reviewers indicated that the delisting criteria 
we refer to in the proposed rule (i.e., number of sites and populations 
necessary to delist the species) were not established in the Recovery 
Plan and the proposed rule does not assess quantitative data from 
recent (within the past 2 years) censuses and habitat evaluations to 
address an important (interim) recovery objective.
    Our Response: We recognize that the Recovery Plan identified only 
interim objectives. Because we are withdrawing our proposal to delist 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, we did not address recovery 
objectives, implementation, and evaluation in this document. However, 
we will consider the information provided by the peer reviewers, 
results from studies and surveys that were not available at the time 
the Recovery Plan was written, and our reanalysis of the threats 
presented in this document in any revision of the Recovery Plan for the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    (5) Comment: All peer reviewers provided examples of conclusions in 
the proposed rule that they believe were not supported by the best 
available science. Specifically, one peer reviewer stated that no 
published studies unambiguously support the continued existence of the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle at no more than 12 locations and that 
our evaluation of threats to the species from the nonnative Argentine 
ant is contrary to published studies. Another peer reviewer noted that 
the conclusions in the proposed rule do not agree with the findings of 
Chemsak (2005) for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, and that this 
important reference was not included in the proposed rule. One peer 
reviewer stated that we did not include more recent studies and that we 
overlooked the concept of habitat dynamics and effects on 
metapopulations. Another peer reviewer stated that we disregarded 
negative data or conclusions, particularly when these data were limited 
to a few sites.
    Our Response: In this document, we reevaluated the occurrence data 
for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and developed a new presumed 
historical

[[Page 55911]]

range map based on observations of adult males (see our response to 
Comments (1) and (2) above). We reviewed the quality and limitations of 
occurrence records for the past 16 years and their geographical 
locations, and present a revised summary of the locations of these 
records based on hydrologic units (see Table 1 in Current Distribution 
(since 1997) section) and presumed extant occurrences map (Figure 2). 
With regard to Chemsak (2005), we did not have access to this 
information during the preparation of the proposed rule because it was 
not publicly available, but we were able to locate it from the 
publisher and used this reference in preparing our presumed historical 
range map (Figure 1). We included a revised discussion of the potential 
threats posed to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle from predators 
such as the nonnative Argentine ant (see Summary of Factors Affecting 
the Species above). In our Background section, we included a more 
detailed discussion of the species' habitat and population structure, 
including a summary of studies identifying its metapopulation 
characteristics.
    Following a revised analysis of the best available biological 
information, including new information received, and a revised five-
factor analysis of the potential threats to the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle, we concluded that threats related to loss or 
modification of additional habitat from levee and flood protection 
measures and the effects of climate change, predation, and cumulative 
effects of stressors have not been sufficiently reduced; therefore, 
delisting is not warranted for this species at this time.
    (6) Comment: All of the peer reviewers provided examples of 
significant peer-reviewed scientific papers that were not included in 
the proposed rule and that they believed would enhance the scientific 
quality of our assessment. A total of 11 additional papers were 
provided in the peer review report, with Chemsak (2005) being the most 
noteworthy example of new information because of its distributional 
information for both the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and the 
California elderberry longhorn beetle.
    Our Response: We were unable to obtain the Chemsak (2005) reference 
prior to conducting our analysis for the proposed delisting rule. The 
Chemsak (2005) reference is not currently in print, but we were able to 
obtain a copy of the relevant sections for the Desmocerus genus in 
California from the publisher (Nuckols 2013, pers. comm.). We 
georeferenced the distribution maps from this publication for the two 
elderberry longhorn beetles and used these results as the starting 
point for developing and preparing our presumed historical range map 
(Service 2014, GIS Analysis; see also the Presumed Historical Range 
section above). While preparing this rule, we also reviewed and 
incorporated information from relevant references and studies suggested 
by the peer reviewers as well as other studies or survey reports that 
were not included in our proposed rule. As stated previously, following 
a revised analysis of the best available scientific information, 
including the information provided by the peer reviewers, we concluded 
that delisting is not warranted for this species at this time (see 
Determination section above).
    (7) Comment: Peer reviewers provided a number of responses as to 
whether we accurately assessed the efficacy of past and ongoing valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle management activities relative to its 
overall conservation and recovery. One peer reviewer indicated that 
management activities are described in detail in the proposed rule, but 
stated that estimates of success were based on the amount of habitat 
acquired, protected, or restored, rather than monitoring results. The 
reviewer also noted that at some of these sites, the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle populations appeared to be declining. Another peer 
reviewer highlighted two studies where approximately 25 percent of 
suitable habitat was occupied and discussed the potential for incorrect 
interpretations in our analyses and findings presented in the proposed 
rule when relying on exit holes instead of adult observations. A third 
peer reviewer stated that our assessment of the efficacy of management 
activities was appropriately addressed, but a fourth peer reviewer said 
that we had not done so, and added that we had not adequately monitored 
and managed for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, including 
reviewing mitigation reports to evaluate the success of those sites.
    Our Response: With regard to restoration, mitigation, and 
management activities for valley elderberry longhorn beetle, we 
included specific discussions in this document, as well as the 
conclusions from studies that evaluated the success of these management 
actions (see Restoration and Mitigation Sites in the Background section 
and our Factor D discussion of restoration efforts at National Wildlife 
Refuges). We also noted there are gaps in monitoring at mitigation 
sites and there is a need for better data management, including 
locating missing monitoring reports (as described by the review 
presented in Holyoak et al. (2010, entire)) that could be important for 
future analyses (see Background section). To address the comment 
regarding occupancy and interpretation of the data sets using only exit 
holes, we summarized estimates of occupancy for the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle (see Population Structure section), and as noted in our 
response to Comments 1, 2, 5, and 6, we reviewed the quality and 
limitations of occurrence records for the past 16 years and their 
geographical locations, and presented a revised summary of the 
locations of these records based on hydrologic units (see Table 1 in 
Current Distribution (since 1997) section) and presumed extant 
occurrences map (Figure 2).
    (8) Comment: The peer reviewers indicated that, in general, the 
proposed rule was sufficient relative to the level of detail provided. 
However, one peer reviewer found the rule contained too much detail on 
habitat protection and restoration for sites where the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle has not been reported, while another found 
that additional analysis was needed on the potential threat of climate 
change.
    Our Response: We restructured much of the information presented in 
the proposed rule such that irrelevant details were removed and 
replaced with new and more relevant information. We presented a new 
analysis of the range of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, while 
acknowledging the limitations of the available data and the need to 
collect additional information regarding its current abundance and 
distribution. We also provided an extensive discussion of climate 
change effects in our analysis of threats, and incorporated predictions 
from several regional climate models for the Central Valley region. We 
incorporated details of results of several studies (e.g., 
metapopulation analysis) and used this information to evaluate the 
current threats to the species.
    (9) Comment: All peer reviewers found the scientific foundation of 
the proposed rule to be fundamentally unsound due to important 
omissions, old and missing data, and potentially erroneous conclusions. 
The peer reviewers provided several suggestions for improving the 
scientific foundation of our analysis prior to making a subsequent 
final determination. These include: providing a better evaluation of 
the current locations of populations, using specimen records or adult 
beetle observations rather than relying on exit holes and old records, 
and evaluating the status of the species in a way that incorporates 
concepts of

[[Page 55912]]

metapopulation dynamics or spatial ecology.
    Our Response: As noted above (see responses to Comments 1, 2, 5, 
and 6), this document incorporated new analyses, additional 
information, and included a discussion on the population structure (see 
Population Structure section) that species experts have defined for the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle. We reevaluated the threats to the 
species and concluded that the threats have not been reduced such that 
the protections of the Act are no longer necessary. Thus, we determined 
that delisting is not warranted for this species, and we are 
withdrawing our proposed rule.
    (10) Comment: All peer reviewers highlighted several uncertainties 
with the data upon which we based our assessment of the current status 
of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle in the proposed rule, 
including its range and the effects of climate change on the species.
    Our Response: We reanalyzed the historical and presumed extant 
occurrences of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (see response to 
Comments 1 and 2), while acknowledging the limitations of the available 
data and the need to conduct additional studies in order to develop 
population trends for this species and its habitat (see Population 
Structure Section). As noted above (see response to Comment 8), we also 
included an extensive discussion of climate change effects in our 
analysis of threats, and incorporated predictions from several regional 
climate models for the Central Valley region (see Climate Change 
discussion under Factor A above).

County and Local Agency Comments

    (11) Comment: Eleven different agencies submitted comments 
supporting the proposed rule to delist the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle. The primary reasons for support include:
    (a) Conclusions presented in the proposed rule that indicate that 
population numbers of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle have 
increased to the point where continued Federal protection is no longer 
necessary and that the species is now found in more protected 
locations.
    (b) Monetary and time costs to flood control and other projects 
proposed or maintained by these agencies associated with addressing the 
regulatory requirements for the federally listed valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle, including compliance with the Service's Conservation 
Guidelines for the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle (Conservation 
Guidelines) (Service 1999, entire), extensive surveys of individual 
elderberry shrubs, and mitigation requirements (Mitigation Guidelines 
for the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle; Service 1996, entire). 
Specific comments on this issue were provided to support their position 
such as the need for a flexible and efficient regulatory framework to 
facilitate construction of utilities and other projects, and a balance 
between habitat conservation policies and public needs (including 
publicly funded projects).
    (c) The Service recommended delisting the species in its 2006 5-
year review (Service 2006a).
    Our Response: Under the Act, we 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. Following our 
revised analysis of these factors, including the new information 
received during the open comment period related to occupancy estimates 
of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its occurrence records, 
the best available data indicate that the species remains likely to 
become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range. Thus, we are withdrawing our 
proposal to delist the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. Our next 5-
year review will reflect the analyses presented in this rule and any 
other new information we receive regarding the status of the species.
    We appreciate the comments received citing the monetary and time 
costs in response to protections to the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle under the Act. We recognize the need to update our Conservation 
Guidelines (Service 1996, 1999) to allow for additional flexibility as 
well as to incorporate new information on the species regarding 
presumed historical range and scientific studies completed and 
published since 1999 that have evaluated threats to the species and its 
habitat. We have initiated the process to revise these guidelines in 
concert with our reanalysis of our proposed rule. We also appreciate 
the willingness expressed by some of the commenters to consider 
revising these policies rather than delisting in order to ensure the 
recovery of the species and conservation of its habitat. We will 
continue to work with local governments, levee districts, and other 
entities with responsibilities to maintain flood control structures and 
other infrastructure to secure the appropriate permits and 
authorizations under the Act when it becomes necessary to maintain the 
structures.
    (12) Comment: Four agencies submitted comments stating that 
maintaining a federally protected status (i.e., as an endangered or 
threatened species under the Act) for the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle has created disincentives that inhibit the creation and 
protection of elderberry habitat. In other words, the commenters 
believe that more habitat would exist for the species without the 
protections required under the Act because floodplain management 
entities do not want operations and maintenance restrictions that 
result from having valley elderberry longhorn beetle within their areas 
of responsibility. Three of the agencies stated that naturally 
colonized elderberry shrubs (seedlings) are removed and elderberry 
plantings are not being included within restoration and mitigation 
plans. One of the commenters further stated that delisting the species 
would give flood management entities greater flexibility in vegetation 
removal, which in turn could allow for increased elderberry shrub 
proliferation that may benefit both flood control operation goals and 
conservation of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    Our Response: We are aware of the opinions provided by these 
commenters, and we will continue to work with various agencies to 
create or enhance partnerships (see Factor D above) to reduce perceived 
disincentives and provide solutions to these issues.
    (13) Comment: A commenter stated that the Service's delay in 
identifying and removing the valley elderberry longhorn beetle from the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife has eroded public 
confidence and support for the species and the Act. The commenter also 
stated that, during the development of a post-delisting monitoring 
plan, it is imperative that local agencies and private partners 
(including local landowners) have an equal voice with Federal and State 
agencies so that private property rights and disadvantaged communities 
are not unduly and adversely impacted.
    Our Response: We appreciate the commenter's feedback regarding our 
evaluation process under section 4(a) of the Act. The Act requires us 
to use the best commercial and scientific information available to make 
determinations as to whether a species

[[Page 55913]]

may be considered endangered or threatened. In this document, we 
reevaluated the best scientific and commercial information available 
for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, including peer review 
comments on the scientific findings in the proposed rule, agency 
comments, and public or other interested party comments, and new 
information on occurrences, distribution, and threats to the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle. Our reanalysis of the five factors that 
determine if a species meets the definition of endangered or threatened 
(according to section 4(a) of the Act) that is presented in this 
document indicates that the valley elderberry longhorn beetle continues 
to meet the definition of a threatened species (i.e., it is likely to 
become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range). Thus, we are withdrawing 
our proposal to delist the species and ceasing preparation of a post-
delisting monitoring plan, which is no longer appropriate at this time.
    (14) Comment: We received a combined comment from two agencies 
stating that the removal of the species from the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife would result in larger social and 
ecological benefits by enabling the use of limited Federal resources on 
other high-priority conservation actions. The commenters referenced the 
draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), which is currently under 
development. The commenters requested that final action on the proposed 
delisting be completed as soon as possible in order to avoid 
unnecessary commitments of resources in the development of the BDCP and 
with their efforts to comply with Federal and State environmental laws.
    Our Response: See response to Comment 11. The Draft BDCP and 
associated Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact 
Statement are being made available to the public for review and comment 
for a 228-day review period (December 13, 2013 through July 29, 2014). 
We will continue to work with our partners during the development and 
finalization of the BDCP.
    (15) Comment: One commenter stated they had significant delays in 
consulting with the Service on the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, 
including performing environmental analyses and complying with 
conservation protocols, which they believe greatly lengthened the time 
to implement flood protection measures. The commenter also noted that 
in those cases where entities choose to mitigate impacts to the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle onsite, the costs of monitoring and 
protecting the elderberry plants are ongoing and significant because of 
the species' protected status; thus, public entities have a cost 
incentive to instead mitigate by purchasing credits offsite. The 
commenter stated that this mitigation strategy results in removal of 
the species and elderberry from the riparian corridor, which is also a 
negative impact for other species that use elderberry in riparian 
corridors of the Central Valley. Finally, the commenter stated they 
have been supportive of protections for the species including their 
demonstrated efforts to restore and mitigate for setback levee 
projects.
    Our Response: We appreciate the feedback regarding the consultation 
process and implementation of mitigation guidelines. We recognize and 
appreciate any past, ongoing, and future conservation efforts that may 
help conserve valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its habitat.

Federal Agency Comments

    (16) Comment: The U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region 
(Regional Office R5) indicated that, should the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle be delisted, the Forest Service would retain the 
species as a Regional Forester's Sensitive Species (for at least 5 
years), and it would, therefore, be evaluated relative to any proposed 
project within the range of the species or its known habitat. The 
agency provided location information for observations of exit holes and 
elderberry shrubs within the Region's National Forests (Stanislaus, El 
Dorado, and Sierra). The Forest Service also indicated that actions are 
taken and would be taken by the agency in the future that provide 
protection for the species and its habitat.
    Our Response: We appreciate the Forest Service's commitment to 
assist in the conservation of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and 
its habitat, regardless of whether the species is delisted. We 
requested and received updated (as of 2014) information on elderberry 
shrub locations and observations of exit holes, and have used the 
information in this document and added it to our GIS database. We note 
here that the observation of exit holes within the Sierra National 
Forest is outside our presumed historical range for the species (see 
Figure 1). Without an observation of an adult male, we cannot confirm 
whether this location represents the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
or the California elderberry longhorn beetle.

Public Comments

    (17) Comment: Four commenters supported delisting the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle. Reasons for supporting the delisting 
included: (a) Conclusions presented in the proposed rule that indicate 
population numbers of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle have 
increased to the point where continued Federal protection is no longer 
necessary and that the species is now found in more protected 
locations, and (b) monetary and time costs to flood control and other 
projects, with one commenter stating that a delisting decision would 
result in significant monetary savings to taxpayers. Specific comments 
were also provided regarding the consequences of delays in levee 
improvements to ensure the protection of property, and the inability of 
property owners to make improvements to their property despite homeless 
camps on that same property and the use of elderberry shrubs as 
firewood.
    Our Response: Under the Act, we 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. Based on our 
analysis of these factors, we concluded that the species continues to 
warrant listing as threatened (i.e., likely to become endangered in the 
foreseeable future within a significant portion of its range under the 
Act); thus, we are withdrawing our proposal to delist the species.
    We have and will continue to work with local governments, levee 
districts, the Corps, and other entities with responsibilities to 
maintain flood control structures and other infrastructure to secure 
the appropriate permits and authorizations under the Act when it 
becomes necessary to maintain the structures. It is a priority for us 
to facilitate the safety of communities and farmland protected by 
levees, and when we are aware of levee or bridge projects that may 
impact the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its habitat, we work 
with the appropriate authorities to secure the necessary permits. We 
are aware that homeless camps are established in certain locations in 
the Central Valley that contain elderberry habitat. When requested, we 
work proactively with

[[Page 55914]]

local governments to manage these complex situations and protect 
habitat.
    (18) Comment: Five commenters stated that the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle should not be delisted for the following reasons:
    (a) The primary threats (e.g., habitat loss) to the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle remain or have increased since listing.
    (b) The species has not recovered, its status has not improved 
since listing and may be declining, and its range has been reduced 
since listing due to loss of habitat. Specifically, there is no 
evidence to show that the species has recovered; that is, the inferred 
methods to determine occupancy described in the proposed delisting rule 
lack the science needed to determine a successful recovery of the 
species and, further, the population increase described in the proposed 
rule is the result of a greater survey effort and not a real indication 
of an actual population size or trend.
    (c) Additional locations where evidence of the species has been 
observed since listing are not protected, have not been adequately 
monitored, and there is evidence of extirpation from some locations due 
to complete loss of elderberry habitat. One commenter stated that 
records since listing show limited numbers of the species may currently 
occupy a limited number of locations, and another commenter noted that 
it was incorrect to assume that occurrence records represent existing 
populations or that those locations are currently protected.
    (d) Many observations of exit holes or adult beetles are old and 
may not have correctly identified the species and its status, resulting 
in an overestimation of the presence of the species. In addition, 
elderberry shrubs may have also been misidentified by environmental 
consulting firms conducting surveys for the species or its habitat.
    (e) The host plant is not rare or common, but is limited and 
discontinuously distributed across the species' range.
    (f) The proposed rule is inconsistent with conclusions made by 
Talley et al. (2006a, entire) regarding the status of the species and 
threats described in that document.
    (g) The proposed rule does not provide sufficient estimates of 
either: (1) Relative sizes of elderberry habitat areas in individual 
sites or regions; or (2) the populations of the beetle, within sites, 
or the subspecies as a whole; therefore, the number of beetles in each 
local population could be much smaller and, in some locations, may not 
be currently occupied at all.
    (h) The location information presented in the proposed rule does 
not provide details on the extent of the geographical areas (or length 
of river systems) and may only represent a point location of a single 
elderberry plant or a few plants; large sections in these geographical 
locations may have no habitat.
    (i) The delisting of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle would 
remove the limited protections provided under the Act at many locations 
and increase the risk of local extirpation. One commenter stated that 
local protections to the species' habitat can be beneficial, but they 
do not apply to all (or even most) areas, are uncertain or may be 
ineffective, and do not provide a regional approach needed to address 
large-scale threats (e.g., climate change) to riparian ecosystems.
    (j) The proposed rule assumes that the rarity of the species is 
natural and this fact justifies the delisting, but rare species are 
more sensitive to threats. One commenter added that, because the 
species occurs in regional populations composed of patches of small, 
local populations (metapopulation of just a few individuals), their 
life history (and survival) is heavily influenced by chance events (see 
Background section above).
    (k) Threats to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its 
habitat from the spread of the Argentine ant, an invasive species and 
potential predator; specifically, one commenter stated that the 
presence of elderberry shrubs does not demonstrate recovery because the 
Service has not monitored the presence of these types of predators. 
This commenter stated that other studies have shown that similarly 
situated beetles, such as the eucalyptus borer (Phoracantha 
semipunctata), were found to decline in numbers when present in 
locations alongside the Argentine ant.
    (l) Threats from invasive, nonnative plants (believed to be 
introduced from neighboring development) to the elderberry plant, which 
commenters described as an important natural resource for the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle and other wildlife in California's Central 
Valley.
    (m) Other potential threats to the species including the effects of 
climate change, pesticide use, edge effects associated with urban and 
agricultural development, inadvertent pruning, and levee maintenance.
    (n) An incorrect assumption in the proposed rule that the 
appearance of sufficient elderberry meets the habitat requirements of 
the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    (o) Overall lack of scientific rigor in the document and the need 
for more rigorous scientific study by knowledgeable species experts to 
conclude the success of the Service's recovery efforts.
    (p) Lack of acknowledgement of fragmentation of habitat that has 
reduced connectivity of habitat, as well as habitat patch size, which 
directly affects this species (due to its low mobility, low population 
size, and metapopulation structure) and many other species that rely on 
contiguous and larger habitat patch sizes or distances for their 
survival or recovery.
    Our Response: We appreciate the commenters' concerns and 
recommendations regarding the need to determine valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle persistence and threats that may be impacting the 
species, such as activities or conditions (e.g., changes in climate) 
that result in habitat loss, nonnative plant invasions, or predation. 
In this document, we provided our best estimate of the current 
population distribution of the species (see Current Distribution (since 
1997) section), but acknowledged the limitations in identifying 
occupancy through the amount of elderberry habitat or riparian 
vegetation or use of observations of exit holes as evidence of presence 
in order to estimate population trends. We also indicated that 
population studies are needed to better assess the status of the 
species throughout its presumed historical range.
    We included in this withdrawal a revised description of the threats 
to the species (see Summary of Factors Affecting the Species), 
including revised or new discussions of the threats posed by loss of 
habitat, levee management, habitat destruction or modification related 
to climate change effects, invasive nonnative plants, predation, and 
pesticide use. Although literature was not submitted for studies 
referenced by one commenter regarding effects to the eucalyptus borer 
from the Argentine ant, we included in this withdrawal document 
relevant results of a 1992 publication (Way et al. 1992, entire) that 
evaluated predation impacts to an arboreal borer (Phoracantha 
semipunctata) from the Argentine ant (see Background section above).
    As in our proposed rule, we also discuss in this withdrawal the 
nearly 90 percent loss of riparian vegetation in the Central Valley, 
and the fragmentation of this habitat that has resulted in a locally 
uncommon or rare and patchy distribution of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle within its remaining presumed historical range in the 
Central Valley (see Historical Loss of Riparian

[[Page 55915]]

Ecosystems discussion under Factor A). Based on our revised five-factor 
analysis of threats, we believe the species continues to meet the 
definition of a threatened species (i.e., likely to become an 
endangered species in the foreseeable future within a significant 
portion of its range), and we are withdrawing our proposal to delist 
the species.
    (19) Comment: One commenter stated that further clarity of the 
definition of what constitutes an elderberry shrub in the Conservation 
Guidelines (Service 1999) is needed. The commenter recommended using 
the following definition from leading valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
researchers: ``In order to be considered a shrub, an elderberry plant 
must have one or more stems 1 inch (2.5 cm) or greater in diameter and 
for purposes of counting the number of shrubs, a group of shoots that 
originates from the same root system or a group of shoots that occurs 
within a 16.4 foot (5 m) radius will be considered one shrub.'' [no 
citation provided]. In addition, the commenter recommended that we 
reevaluate our assessment of the effects of pruning elderberry on the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle, based on the results of studies 
presented in Talley and Holyoak (2009). Finally, the commenter 
recommended that we consider working with the Valley Elderberry 
Longhorn Beetle Collaborative, which is a group of State agencies, 
resource managers, researchers, and utilities whose goals are to 
improve the viability of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and 
assist the Service in developing more effective mitigation requirements 
and improved the Conservation Guidelines.
    Our Response: We included a discussion of the study cited in the 
comment letter in our Factor A discussion, including additional 
information on potential effects of pruning (see Pruning section under 
Factor A). As noted in our response to Comment 11 above, we initiated 
the process to revise these guidelines in concert with our reanalysis 
of the proposed rule. Finally, we appreciate the recommendation 
provided regarding the opportunity to work with our partners and the 
Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle Collaborative, and we look forward to 
working as a team to develop conservation measures that benefit the 
recovery of the species.
    (20) Comment: One commenter recommended that we conduct a thorough 
inventory of all current and recent conservation, restoration, and 
mitigation activities affecting the species and its habitat within the 
Central Valley, as well as an analysis of likely future actions under 
such broad programs as the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan and the 
BDCP.
    Our Response: We agree that the commenter's recommendations for 
surveys and an accounting of various conservation, restoration, and 
mitigation activities (including the Central Valley Flood Protection 
Plan and BDCP) would provide more information that would be helpful in 
future evaluations of the status of the species, and we will consider 
this information in future conservation planning efforts, including any 
future revisions to the species recovery plan.
    (21) Comment: A natural lands management organization stated that, 
based on the information they have collected or reviewed pertaining to 
the preserves they manage in the Central Valley, uncertainty remains 
about the stability of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle within 
this part of its range. The commenter provided information on the 
status of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its habitat, based 
on the management and the experience of their preserve managers, and 
identified potential threats to elderberry habitat in these areas and 
the need for additional funding to support specific management 
activities that benefit the species.
    Our Response: We appreciate the information provided by the 
organization regarding the preserves they manage and the status of the 
species in these areas. We incorporated this information in the 
Background section of this rule and used this information in our 
reanalysis described in this document, including the Summary of Factors 
Affecting the Species.
    (22) Comment: A manager of a valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
conservation bank provided information on plantings of elderberry 
shrubs (and associated plants) stating that adult valley elderberry 
longhorn beetles have yet to be seen adjacent to or within the 
conservation bank, despite these restoration efforts. The commenter 
also submitted opinions regarding the approach to recovery efforts that 
has focused, in part, on providing elderberry habitat for the species 
(``build it and they will come'') rather than cultivation and 
disbursement of transplanted elderberry shrubs from project sites to 
conservation banks, especially those assumed to contain exit holes.
    Our Response: We appreciate the personal observations provided 
regarding the occupancy of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle at 
this conservation bank. We will consider the commenters' 
recommendations regarding focusing recovery efforts on elderberry 
cultivation and disbursement as we revise the Conservation Guidelines 
(Service 1996), and revise the recovery plan for the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle.
    (23) Comment: One commenter stated that the peer review report 
(Atkins 2013, entire) did not accurately represent the science and did 
not adequately summarize the peer reviewer comments. The commenter also 
cited concerns with a recommendation by one of the peer reviewers 
regarding the use of pheromones as a method to evaluate the status of 
the species (through the attraction of adult male beetles), noting its 
use has not been shown to be effective on this subspecies and that 
conclusions drawn would not provide information on habitat loss; thus, 
direct observations should still be considered.
    Our Response: We requested a peer review of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle proposed rule and were provided individual comments 
from each peer reviewer as well as a summary of the overall 
(collective) peer review evaluation. This withdrawal incorporated this 
information and addresses both the collective and individual comments 
provided by the peer reviewers (see response to Comments 1 through 10 
above). We included in this withdrawal a summary of preliminary results 
from pheromone studies (e.g., Ray et al. 2012, entire; Arnold 2013, 
entire; see Background section above). In our Determination section, we 
note that a second year of trial surveys using pheromones is currently 
under way (Sanchez 2014, pers. comm.) to further evaluate the efficacy 
of this method in evaluating populations of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle within parts of its presumed range.
    (24) Comment: One commenter expressed concerns regarding the 
Service's rule-making process used to prepare the proposed delisting 
rule, including our internal review process, pointing out discrepancies 
in the proposed rule with previous Service documents. The commenter 
concluded that the only course of action was to publish a finding that 
delisting was not warranted and prepare a new 5-year review, revise the 
current Recovery Plan, update the Conservation Guidelines (Service 
1999), and consider redesignation of critical habitat to a much broader 
area, including both occupied and unoccupied habitat that may be 
important to reducing the fragmentation effect of the species' current 
habitat.
    Our Response: Under the Act, we determine that a species is an 
endangered or threatened species based

[[Page 55916]]

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. Our analysis of these factors in 
this document shows that the species continues to meet the definition 
of a threatened species (i.e., likely to become an endangered species 
in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of 
its range). Therefore, we are withdrawing our proposal to delist the 
species.
    We recognize the need for additional actions regarding the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (e.g., revision of the Conservation 
Guidelines (Service 1996)). We will take into consideration various 
conservation-related recommendations provided by the commenter when 
conducting the next 5-year review and during any revision of a recovery 
plan for the species. In addition, we have initiated the process to 
revise the Conservation Guidelines concurrent with our reanalysis of 
the best available information presented in this document.
    (25) Comment: One commenter stated that much more information, 
particularly with regard to population stability in multiple areas, is 
needed than currently exists to determine a proposed delisting for this 
species. The commenter noted the delisting rule repeatedly states there 
are minimal surveys and data uncertainties making it difficult at this 
time to make a determination of the species' population status; 
however, the delisting document simultaneously acknowledges and ignores 
these information gaps. The commenter stated there is no scientific 
evidence that the geographic range of the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle has expanded nor is there evidence that populations within 
locations have increased since listing. The commenter further explained 
that, because the species is naturally rare and occurs only in small, 
local populations with just a few individuals within any one site, 
increases of individuals within sites would not necessarily be expected 
if recovery was occurring. The commenter indicated, while restoration 
efforts have created or enhanced some of the lost riparian vegetation, 
only a fraction of a percent of what was historically lost has been 
provided, and that long-term trends of the species' population 
structure throughout its range are still needed to determine whether 
its populations are persistent, resilient, resistant, and not variable.
    Our Response: As noted in our response to Comments 1 and 2, in our 
Background section we reevaluated the occurrence records, incorporated 
a discussion of the metapopulation structure and limited dispersal 
ability of the species, and presented a discussion of the success of 
elderberry restoration and mitigation sites. We also revised our 
threats analysis (see Summary of Factors Affecting the Species) in this 
withdrawal, including the effects of levee maintenance, pruning, and 
climate change, invasive plants, and predation. Our analysis of these 
factors shows that the species continues to warrant listing as a 
threatened species, and we are withdrawing our proposal to delist the 
species.
    (26) Comment: One commenter stated that, regardless of the final 
decision regarding delisting, the Service needs to revise its 
Conservation Guidelines (Service 1999) by incorporating new data on 
pruning, topping, roadside dust and noise, transplanting, and spatial 
relationships between the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, its 
habitat, and environmental stochasticity (random processes or events), 
which can affect its populations. The commenter suggested that the 
Service should then bring diverse land users together and 
collaboratively work with them to develop a priority list of additional 
research necessary to determine the status of the species.
    Our Response: As noted above (see response to Comment 11), we have 
initiated the process to revise our Conservation and Mitigation 
Guidelines (Service 1996, 1999).
    (27) Comment: One commenter stated that the agency's actions are 
contrary to law (Administrative Procedure Act) because the agency did 
not consider alternatives to delisting the valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle. The commenter believes that the Service should consider 
downlisting the valley elderberry longhorn beetle from endangered to 
threatened given the potential threats of the Argentine ant to 
populations of the species. The commenter stated that downlisting the 
beetle from endangered to threatened would allow researchers to 
undertake a more detailed study of the effects of the Argentine ant on 
beetle populations, but would still allow for protection under the Act 
as well as accommodate the concerns of others regarding impacts to 
economic activity.
    Our Response: The species is currently listed as a federally 
threatened, not endangered, species under the Act (45 FR 52803; August 
8, 1980); therefore, we do not have the option of downlisting to 
threatened. We issued the proposed rule (77 FR 60238; October 2, 2012) 
to remove the valley elderberry longhorn beetle as a threatened species 
from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and to remove the 
designation of critical habitat. This document withdraws that proposed 
rule because the best scientific and commercial data available, 
including our reevaluation of information related to the species' 
range, population distribution, and population structure, indicate that 
threats to the species and its habitat have not been reduced such that 
removal of this species from the Federal List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife is appropriate.
    (28) Comment: One commenter stated that the current Recovery Plan 
(Service 1984) does not address the steps being taken to curb predation 
from the Argentine ants and instead regards the absence of data as a 
justification for inaction. As a result, the commenter believes that 
the current Recovery Plan does not meet the delisting requirements of 
the Act.
    Our Response: We acknowledge the need to update the Recovery Plan, 
which was prepared in 1984, and the need for the Recovery Plan to 
address additional threats discussed in this document, as well as new 
information on the species' distribution. We will consider new 
information and recommendations provided by commenters when we update 
the Recovery Plan in the future.
    (29) Comment: One commenter from East Sacramento, California, 
stated that he has a red elderberry shrub in his backyard and that he 
has photographed the valley elderberry longhorn beetle on his property 
on several occasions (three photos were submitted with the comments). 
The commenter believes his observations give the appearance that the 
species has a more varied range than what we stated in the proposed 
delisting rule. The commenter stated that we should determine if his 
observations are of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and thus 
represent a range expansion, and that, if it is found in elderberry in 
other backyards throughout the Sacramento Valley, then the species may 
not warrant protection under the Act.
    Our Response: We appreciate the beetle observations provided by the 
commenter. Although the images submitted were slightly out of focus, we 
requested a species expert review the photos and confirm the identity 
of the insect. We believe the photos submitted are of Podabrus 
pruinosus, a common

[[Page 55917]]

cantharid beetle that is part of a family of beetles frequently 
referred to as soldier or leather winged beetles; adults of this 
species are commonly observed in spring and summer and are known to 
occur in the Central Valley (Arnold 2014c, pers. comm.).
    (30) Comment: One commenter provided personal observations of 
elderberry habitat and its use based on the commenter's farming 
experience along the Tuolumne River. The commenter stated that his 
property was inundated with elderberry plants and he observed birds 
carrying berries (seeds) that were deposited along fences or buildings. 
The commenter also noted that elderberry roots spread extensively 
underground and characterized elderberry plants as weeds that 
interfered with structures on his property.
    Our Response: We assume that the commenter provided these comments 
in order to provide historical information on the amount of elderberry 
habitat in this area and wildlife use of elderberry plants. In this 
document, we summarized studies of elderberry characteristics that are 
important to the life history of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
(see Background section). We used this information in conjunction with 
reported estimates of low occupancy and our estimates of current 
elderberry habitat within the presumed historical range of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle, and analyzed the threats to the species. We 
concluded, based on the best scientific available information, that the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle continues to warrant listing as 
threatened, and we are withdrawing our proposal to delist the species.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this document is 
available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. 
FWS-R8-ES-2011-0063 or upon request from the Field Supervisor, 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).

Authors

    The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the 
Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office and the Pacific Southwest Regional 
Office.

Authority

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

    Dated: August 29, 2014.
Rowan W. Gould,
 Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-21585 Filed 9-16-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P