Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
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This rule proposes to add both species to the Federal Lists of Threatened and Endangered Animals and Plants and proposes to designate critical habitat for both species.
• We propose to list the Texas golden gladecress and the Neches River rose-mallow as an endangered and threatened species, respectively, under the Act.
We propose to designate approximately 1,353 acres (ac) (539 hectares (ha)) of critical habitat for the gladecress in Sabine and San Augustine Counties, and approximately 187.8 ac (76.0 ha) of critical habitat for the rose-mallow in Cherokee, Houston, Trinity, Harrison, and Nacogdoches Counties, Texas.
We have determined that both species are negatively affected by the following:
• Habitat loss and degradation of herbaceous glade plant communities supporting the gladecress, and of open habitats on hydric alluvial soils along sloughs, oxbows, terraces, and wetlands of the Neches River or Mud and Tantabogue Creeks that support the rose-mallow. Activities or factors negatively impacting the habitat of the gladecress include: Glauconite quarrying; natural gas and oil exploration and production; invasion of open glades by nonnative and native shrubs, trees, and vines, and other weedy species; pine tree plantings in close proximity to occupied glades; and herbicide applications that have potential to kill emerging seedlings. The rose-mallow's habitat is being lost and degraded by encroachment of nonnative and native plant species, particularly trees, herbicide use, livestock trampling, and alteration of natural hydrology of seasonal flooding to conditions where habitat has been drained or has become permanently flooded. Prolonged or frequent droughts can exacerbate habitat degradation for both species.
• Lack of existing regulatory mechanisms to protect either species or their habitats.
• Other natural or manmade factors, including low numbers of individual plants and few remaining populations. The species' natural variability that is associated with climatic conditions can be negatively affected by the effects of drought.
Also under the Act, upon making a determination that a species warrants listing as an endangered or threatened species, we are required to designate critical habitat to the maximum extent prudent and determinable. We are required to base the designation on the best available scientific data after taking into consideration economic and other impacts. We can exclude an area from critical habitat if the benefits of
This rule proposes to designate critical habitat for each species.
We are proposing to designate critical habitat for both species in East Texas as follows:
• Approximately 1,353 acres (ac) (539 hectares (ha)) are designated as critical habitat for Texas golden gladecress.
• Approximately 178 ac (76 ha) are designated as critical habitat for Neches River rose-mallow.
This document consists of: (1) One proposed rule to list the
We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning:
(1) These species' biology, range, and population trends, including:
(a) Habitat requirements for pollination, reproduction, and dispersal;
(b) Genetics and taxonomy;
(c) Historical and current range including distribution patterns;
(d) Historical and current population levels, and current and projected trends; and
(e) Past and ongoing conservation measures for these species, their habitat or both.
(2) The factors that are the basis for making a listing determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531
(a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of their 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 their continued existence.
(3) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning any threats (or lack thereof) to these species and existing regulations that may be addressing those threats;
(4) Additional information concerning the historical and current status, range, distribution, and population size of these species, including the locations of any additional populations of these species;
(5) Any information on the biological or ecological requirements of the species, and ongoing conservation measures for the species and their habitat;
(6) The reasons why we should or should not designate habitat as “critical habitat” under section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531
(7) Specific information on:
(a) The amount and distribution of the Texas golden gladecress and Neches River rose-mallow and their habitat;
(b) What may constitute “physical or biological features essential to the conservation of these species,” within the geographical range currently occupied by these species;
(c) Where these features are currently found;
(d) Whether any of these features may require special management considerations or protection;
(e) What areas, that were occupied at the time of listing (or are currently occupied) and that contain features essential to the conservation of these species, should be included in the designation and why;
(f) What areas not occupied at the time of listing are essential for the conservation of these species and why;
(8) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the areas occupied by these species or proposed to be designated as critical habitat, and possible impacts of these activities on these species and proposed critical habitat;
(9) Information on the projected and reasonably likely impacts of climate change on these species and proposed critical habitat;
(10) Any foreseeable economic, national security, or other relevant impacts that may result from designating any area that may be included in the final designation. We are particularly interested in any impacts on small entities, and the benefits of including or excluding areas from the proposed designation that are subject to these impacts;
(11) Whether our approach to designating critical habitat could be improved or modified in any way to provide for greater public participation and understanding, or to assist us in accommodating public concerns and comments;
(12) The likelihood of adverse social reactions to the designation of critical habitat and how the consequences of such reactions, if likely to occur, would relate to the conservation and regulatory benefits of the proposed critical habitat designations.
Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial information you include.
Please note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any species is a threatened or endangered species must be made “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.”
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We first identified the Texas golden gladecress and Neches River rose-mallow as candidates for listing in the September 19, 1997, Notice of Review of Plant and Animal Taxa that are Candidates or Proposed for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species (62 FR 49397). Candidates are those fish, wildlife, and plants for which we have on file sufficient information on biological vulnerability and threats to support preparation of a listing proposal, but for which development of a listing regulation is precluded by other higher priority listing activities. The Texas golden gladecress and the Neches River rose-mallow were included in subsequent annual Candidate Notices of Reviews through 2004 (64 FR 57533, October 25, 1999; 66 FR 54808, October 30, 2001; 67 FR 40657, June 13, 2002; and 69 FR 24876, May 4, 2004). A petition to list Texas golden gladecress and the Neches River rose-mallow was received on May 11, 2004, but contained no new information, and we continued to include both species in all annual Candidate Notices of Review between 2005 and 2011 (70 FR 24870, May 11, 2005; 71 FR 53756, September 12, 2006; 72 FR 69034, December 6, 2007; 73 FR 75176, December 10, 2008; 74 FR 57804, November 9, 2009; 75 FR 69222, November 10, 2010; and 76 FR 66370, October 26, 2011). In 2000, Texas golden gladecress' listing priority number was increased from 5 to 2 in accordance with our priority guidance published on September 21, 1983 (48 FR 43098). A listing priority of 2 reflects a species with threats that are both imminent and high in magnitude. In 2010, Neches River rose-mallow's listing priority number was also increased from 5 to 2. It is our intent to discuss below only those topics directly relevant to the proposed listing of the Texas golden gladecress as an endangered species and Neches River rose-mallow as a threatened species in this section of the proposed rule.
This document contains proposed rules to list Texas golden gladecress as an endangered species and Neches River rose-mallow as a threatened species and to propose critical habitat for each species. The document is structured to address the taxa separately under each of the sectional headings that follow.
Texas golden gladecress is a small, annual, herbaceous plant belonging to the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Dr. M.C. Leavenworth, an Army physician, first collected the taxon in Choctaw County, Oklahoma, in 1835, and the specimens were later described as a new species,
According to Mahler (1987, p. 240), Texas golden gladecress flower petals were a brighter, deeper yellow than those of
Texas golden gladecress is a weakly rooted, glabrous (smooth, glossy), winter annual (completes its life cycle in 1 year). Texas golden gladecress is small in stature, less than 3.9 inches (in) (10 centimeters (cm)) in height, making it difficult to find except during flowering or when it bears fruit. The leaves are 0.8-3.1 in (2-8 cm) long and 0.4-0.6 in (1-1.5 millimeters (mm)) wide, forming rosettes at the base of the plant. Terminal leaf segments are wider-than-long, and usually distinctly lobed, with angular teeth. Flowers are bright yellow and borne on scapes (leafless flowering stems or stalks arising from the ground) that are 1.2-3.5 in (3-9 cm) long early in the flowering season. Later in the season, the flowers occur on unbranched flower clusters that come off a single central stem from which the individual flowers grow on small stalks, at intervals. The four petals are bright golden-yellow with a slightly darker base, narrowly obovate (tongue-shaped), 0.3-0.4 in (7-10 mm) long and 0.1-0.2 (3.5-5 mm) wide. The fruit is a slender seed capsule, known as a silique, with a length (0.6-1.2 in (15-30 mm)) that is more than twice its width (0.08-0.22 in (2-5.5 mm)) and that contains 5-11 flattened, circular or spherically shaped seeds. The description above was drawn from Poole
Texas golden gladecress occurs within the Pineywoods natural region of easternmost Texas, within the Gulf Coastal Plain Physiographic Region. The region is defined by pine-dominated forests or woodlands interspersed with bottomland, mesic slope and bald cypress-tupelo swamp forests. Many of the rare plants of the Pineywoods region, including the gladecress and the federally endangered
The Texas golden gladecress is endemic to glade habitats in northern San Augustine and northwest Sabine Counties, Texas, and is a habitat specialist, occurring only on outcrops of the Weches Geologic Formation (Mahler 1987, p. 240; George and Nixon 1990, p. 120; Poole
All species within the small genus
The Weches Geologic Formation consists of bands of ancient marine sediments deposited in a line roughly parallel to the Gulf of Mexico, running from Sabine to Frio Counties, Texas. A layer of glauconite clay is either exposed at the surface or covered by a thin layer of calcareous (calcium-containing) sediment measuring as deep as 20 in (50 cm) (George and Nixon 1990, pp. 117-118). Glauconite is a characteristic mineral of marine depositional environments, presenting a greenish color when initially exposed to the atmosphere, and later turning red (Davis 1966, pp. 17-18; Nemec 1996, p. 7). The area of the Weches outcrops in San Augustine County is referred to as the “redlands” (Ritter 2011b, pers. comm.). The glauconite is very friable (crumbly) and has low resistance to weathering (Geocaching.com 2010, p. 5). The soils overlying the clay layer are typically rocky and shallow (George 1987, p. 3) and at all Texas golden gladecress sites are classified within the Nacogdoches, Trawick, or Bub soils series (USDA 2009, entire).
Weches outcrops occur in a band averaging 5 miles (mi) (8 kilometers (km)) in width that parallels Texas State Highway (SH) 21 through northern San Augustine and northwestern Sabine Counties (Sellards
The Texas golden gladecress occurs in open, sunny, herbaceous-dominated plant communities in Weches glades, in some areas that also support the white bladderpod (Bridges 1988, p. II-7, II-35, and II-35 supplement). Unlike the white bladderpod, which can grow throughout the glade, the gladecress is restricted to the outcrop rock faces within the glades where it occurs (Nemec 1996, p. 8).
As is true of other
Little is known about the gladecress' seed bank as this aspect of life history has not been researched. The species did reappear at two sites where it was believed lost due to habitat degradation. A population location, the Geneva Site in Sabine County (see Table 1), was bulldozed in late March 1999, one week after flowering plants were counted—the site was subsequently described by the surveyor as “lost or destroyed” (Turner 1999, pers. comm.). However, plants were found again at this site in 2003 and continued to emerge in succeeding years. At a second site in San Augustine County (Chapel Hill Site, see Table 1), a thick growth of the invasive, nonnative shrub,
Rare plants often have adaptations such as early blooming, extended flowering, or mixed-mating systems that allow them to persist in small populations (Brigham 2003, p. 61). The Texas golden gladecress is believed to be self-compatible and able to self-fertilize (Rollins 1963, p. 19; Beck
Texas golden gladecress is known from eight locations, including one introduced population, all within a narrow zone that parallels SH 21 in San Augustine, Sabine, and Nacogdoches Counties (Texas Natural Diversity Database (TXNDD) 2012b). Table 1 (below) summarizes the location information for Texas golden gladecress populations (taken from the TXNDD 2012b). Based on known population locations, taken from the TXNDD element occurrence records from 1974-1988, the Weches Glades of San Augustine County appear to be the center of the species' distribution; to date all but one of the naturally occurring populations were found in this area, with the other naturally occurring population in Sabine County. One population was successfully introduced into Nacogdoches County. All locations (historic and extant) occur primarily on privately owned land, although the plants do extend onto the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) right-of-way (ROW) at two sites: Geneva Site and Caney Creek Glades Site 1 (CCG 1).
Four Texas golden gladecress populations (CCG 1, Chapel Hill, Geneva, and Simpson Farms) were present through 2009—the last year that the plants were surveyed (Singhurst 2011a, pers. comm.). In October 2011, Service and TPWD biologists visited all four known locations and found that the plants and habitat at the introduced site in Nacogdoches County (Simpson Farms) had been removed by a recent pipeline installation. The habitat was still intact at the other three locations (Cobb 2011, pers. comm.), and we assume that plants still occupy these sites.
Three San Augustine County occurrences (CCG Sites 2, 6, and 8) were believed extirpated, at least in large part, by construction of glauconite mines (open pits) beginning in the late 1990's. These occurrences may have been part of a much larger glade complex, referred to as the Caney Creek Glade Complex, that included the Caney Creek Glade Sites 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8. These five occurrences were located within an area extending out to 1.5 mi (2.41 km) to the east of the town of San Augustine (TXNDD 2012b, unpaginated). In 1987, the CCG Site 6 was described as having Texas golden gladecress plants “in the thousands” (TXNDD 2012b, unpaginated). Access to these three privately owned sites is prohibited; therefore, we cannot ascertain whether any plants or their habitat are still present on the peripheries of the mined areas.
The CCG Site 7 was last visited in 1988 (TXNDD 2012b, unpaginated). There were no further site visits due to lack of access to the privately owned land. Satellite images taken as recently as 2008 show this population site has not been altered by construction or quarrying (mining), but the open glade appearance at this site has changed to one of dense growth of woody vegetation, so it is unknown whether the plants still occur at the site.
Table 2 presents estimates for extant Texas golden gladecress populations between 1999 and 2009 (USFWS 2012, p. 4). The total number of plants seen in 2009 was 1,108. The largest population, consisting of 721 plants, was at the introduced site in Nacogdoches County, a site that was lost in 2011 when a pipeline route was constructed directly through it. This represents a loss of 65 percent of the known plants. After 2009, approximately 400 plants in 3 populations were all that remained of this species. The number of gladecress plants fluctuated widely from year to year, likely due to differences in precipitation levels between years. The gladecress is dependent on fall and winter rain to saturate the sediment and produce the seeps and pooling it requires, and drought conditions were noted to have a significant negative effect on reproduction, (Turner 2000, p. 1) as seen in the drought years of 1999-2000 (Texas Water Resources Institute 2011, unpaginated) when the Chapel Hill site decreased from 91 to 67 plants and the CCG Site 1 decreased from 490 to 96 plants (USFWS 2010, p. 5).
Singhurst (2011a, pers. comm.) referred to the difficulty of trying to determine population trends for the Texas golden gladecress due to the lack of comprehensive numbers for the species. He attributed this data gap to variation in surveyors and their techniques, the inability to see gladecress plants under invasive brush, lack of access to multiple sites, and the fluctuation in plant numbers associated with moisture conditions. Nevertheless, despite these limitations, it is evident that there are few remaining populations and that the overall numbers of existing plants are fluctuating. For example, a decrease in plant numbers in 2009 was likely due to drought; however, following significant rains in late fall 2011 and early winter 2012, Singhurst (2012f, pers. comm.) noted higher numbers of plants than the 2009 counts at Geneva, Chapel Hill, and CCG Site 1.
Most of the known populations, historic and extant, were and are restricted to small areas (see Table 1). For example, in San Augustine County, the Chapel Hill site is less than 0.2 acres (ac) (0.1 hectare (ha)) in size and lies between a pasture fence and gravel road southwest of SH 21. The area of the plants at the CCG Site 1 is less than 100 ft
Although no new populations of Texas golden gladecress have been found since the late 1980s, there is potential for more gladecress to exist across the Weches Glades Region. Known populations all occur close to roads suggesting that most searches for the species were nearby to public road access. All known occurrences are on private property, as is all remaining habitat; therefore, surveys cannot be conducted without landowner permission. Effective identification of suitable habitat is needed to survey for new populations. Even in areas of potential Weches Glades, as identified using Geographic Systems Information (GIS) data, including aerial, geologic, and hydrologic data sources, the habitat may not contain Texas golden gladecress populations. Between 1999 and 2003, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) used these tools to identify 44 potential sites of gladecress and white bladderpod occurrence in the San Augustine Glades. The TNC was granted access to 14 of the 44 sites, but found little Weches habitat, and no new gladecress or bladderpod sites (Turner 2003 in USFWS 2010b, p. 3).
The rose-mallow was first collected by Ivan Shiller on June 23, 1955, at the type locality at Hwy 204 (also referred to as Apple Springs), Trinity County, Texas, and was later identified as a distinct species (Correll and Johnston 1979, pp. 1030-1031). Blake (1958, p. 277) determined that the rose-mallow was different from the closely related
The rose-mallow is endemic to relatively open habitat (Kennedy and Poole 1990, p. 11) of the Pineywoods (or Timber belt) of East Texas (Gould 1975, p. 1; Correll and Johnston 1979, p. 1030), within Cherokee, Houston, and Trinity Counties and has been introduced into Nacogdoches and Harrison Counties. Shortleaf/loblolly pine-hardwood forests dominate the habitat with portions of suitable habitat extending into longleaf pine (
Sites where the rose mallow have been found have been described as sloughs, oxbows, terraces, and sand bars. Sites include low areas (Warnock 1995, p. 13) within the Neches River basin and Mud and Tantabogue Creek basins, with soils that are classified generically as hydric alluvials, or water-saturated soils, of the Inceptisol or Entisol orders (Diggs
The rose-mallow is a perennial that dies back to the ground every year and resprouts from the base; however, still maintaining aboveground stems. Longevity of the species is unknown but it may be long-lived. Cross-pollination occurs (Blanchard 1976, p. 38) within the rose-mallow populations and the species has high reproductive potential (fecundity). The number of flowers and fruits per plant were documented during the TPWD's annual monitoring of the rose-mallow along State Highway (SH) ROWs. The species produced an average of 50 fruits per plant, but seed viability and survivorship are not known (Poole 2012a, pers. comm.). An open canopy (Warnock 1995, pp. 11, 13) and sunlight are needed for flowers to bloom, and the blooming period may only last 1 day (Snow and Spira 1993, p. 160).
Potential pollinators of the rose-mallow may include but are not limited to, the common bumblebee (
Natural fires occur every 1 to 3 years in East Texas (Landers
The natural geographic range of the rose-mallow is within Trinity, Houston, Harrison, and Cherokee Counties, Texas, on State highway (SH) ROWs and on private and Federal lands. However, the species has been introduced outside of the known geographic range in Nacogdoches County on private land (Mill Creek). In addition, populations of rose-mallow have been introduced within their natural geographic range on Federal lands. In total, there are 12 occurrences of rose-mallow (see Table 4). Eleven of these are within the known geographic range, and, as of October 2011, are occupied by the rose-mallow. The rose-mallow plants within the SH 230 ROW have not been seen since 2002, and the site is considered extirpated.
Populations along SH ROWs include Hwy 94 in Trinity County, collected in 1955 (Blake 1958, p. 277); Hwy 204 in Cherokee County, first observed in 1992; and Hwy 230 in Houston County, first observed in 1978. The TPWD performed annual SH ROW monitoring along Hwy 94 from 1993 thru 2001 (Poole, 2001, p. 1); along Hwy 204 from 1993 thru 2003 (Poole 2001, p. 1; TXNDD 2012a, pp. 20-28); and along Hwy 230 from 1993 thru 2001 (Poole 2001, p. 1). These three ROW populations are separated from one another and are considered distinct. However, the Boggy Slough site consists of several scattered rose-mallow subpopulations that are located in close proximity to one another. Boggy Slough subpopulations and the SH 94 ROW population are separated by no more than a distance of 1.0 km (3, 280 ft), and these two sites likely constitute a single, larger population, sharing pollinators, and exchanging genetic material (NatureServe 2004, p. 6; Poole 2011c, p. 2). Therefore, in Table 4, they are combined and represented as a single location.
Adjacent lands to the SH 230 ROW were purchased by the Texas Land Conservancy (TLC) in 2004 (TLC 2011,
Although annual monitoring of the ROW sites was discontinued in the early 2000s, TPWD visited all of the ROW sites in October 2011. In the past, along SH 204, several subpopulations existed along multiple portions of the ROW; however, several of these subpopulations were gone in 2011. The recent drought conditions have allowed surveyors to count rose-mallow plants in parts of sites that were not accessible in the past because the sites were too wet. The increase in numbers of plants at some of the ROW sites may be partially attributed to this.
The Davy Crockett National Forest (NF), Houston County, Texas, contains four extant sites of the rose-mallow, three introduced and one natural. The one natural population is found in compartment 55 located west of the Neches River. This site is considered the most robust of all known extant populations (Poole 2011c, p. 3) and is almost entirely unaltered from its originally observed state as a seasonally wet flatwood pond, with vegetation being distinctly zoned (TXNDD 2012a, p. 29). The three introduced populations are located in compartment 16, which started with 450 plants (Davis 2000, pers. comm.; McCormick 2002, p. 1; USFWS 2000, p. 3), compartment 20 with 200-250 plants (Davis 2000, pers. comm.; McCormick 2002, p. 2; USFWS 2000, p. 3), and compartment 11 with about 200 plants (Nemec 2005, pers. comm.). The populations in compartments 16 and 20 were introduced in 2000, while the population in compartment 11 was introduced in 2004 (USFWS 2007, p. 6). All four of the Davy Crockett NF sites were censused in October 2011 by the Service and TPWD, and all of the introduced sites on the Davy Crockett National Forest have declined dramatically.
The four remaining rose-mallow sites have had sporadic monitoring or have not been visited in recent years. In 1995, Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) Mast Arboretum planted 96 rose-mallow plants into a site at Mill Creek Gardens, Nacogdoches County (Scott 1997, pp. 6-7). A conservation easement was placed on this land, and now the site is managed by the Arboretum. Rose-mallow plants at this site were observed in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2009, and in 2011 (Creech 2011a, pers. comm.). The introduced plants appear to be doing well; however, nonnatives and native species are becoming more prevalent, and may compete with the rose-mallow (Creech 2011c, pers. comm.). A rose-mallow specimen collected on private lands in 1980 from Harrison County, Texas, was presumed to be a halberdleaf rose-mallow specimen; however, it has been recently confirmed (2011) to be the rose-mallow (Birnbaum 2011, pers. comm.; TXNDD 2012a, pp. 12-13). The Harrison County site has not been visited since 1980, but we presume that rose-mallow is extant at this site since we have no evidence that the specie