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Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2011-0063; FXES11130900000C6-123-FF09E32000]

RIN 1018-AV29

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Proposed rule; 12-month petition finding.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to remove the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. This action is based on a review of the best available scientific and commercial data, which indicates that the subspecies no longer meets the definition of endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). This proposed rule, if made final, would remove the valley elderberry longhorn beetle as a threatened species from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, and would remove the designation of critical habitat for the subspecies. This document also constitutes our 12-month finding on a petition to delist the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
DATES: We will accept comments until December 3, 2012. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown inFOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACTby November 16, 2012.
ADDRESSES: (1)Electronically:Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal:http://www.regulations.gov.In the Search field, enter FWS-R8-ES-2011-0063, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. On the search results page, under the Comment Period heading in the menu on the left side of your screen, check the box next to "Open" to locate this document. Please ensure you have found the correct document before submitting your comments. If your comments will fit in the provided comment box, please use this feature ofhttp://www.regulations.gov,as it is most compatible with our comment review procedures. If you attach your comments as a separate document, our preferred file format is Microsoft Word. If you attach multiple comments (such as form letters), our preferred format is a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

(2)By hard copy:Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2011-0063; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments onhttp://www.regulations.gov.This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see Public Comments below for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Moore, Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825; telephone 916-414-6600; facsimile 916-414-6712. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Executive Summary

This document contains: (1) A 12-month finding in response to a petition to delist the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (beetle); and (2) a proposed rule 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.

Species addressed.The valley elderberry longhorn beetle(Desmocerus californicus dimorphus), is found within the Central Valley of California. At listing, it was known from 10 occurrence records at 3 locations: Merced County, Sacramento County, and Yolo County. Currently, it is known from 201 occurrence records at 26 locations, including much of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys from Shasta County in the northern Sacramento Valley to Kern County in the southern San Joaquin Valley. This subspecies is a wood borer that is dependent on its host plant, the elderberry (Sambucusspecies), which is a common shrub component of riparian forests and adjacent upland vegetation along river corridors of the Central Valley.

Purpose of the Regulatory Action.Under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), we may be petitioned to list, delist, or reclassify a species. In 2010, we received a petition from the Pacific Legal Foundation requesting that the Service remove the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, which is currently listed as a threatened species under the Act, from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. In 2011, we published our 90-day finding on the petition, which concluded that the petition contained substantial information that delisting the beetle may be warranted. Therefore, we also announced that we were initiating a status review for this subspecies as required under the Act. As the result of that status review, we find that delisting the valley elderberry longhorn beetle is warranted, and we propose to remove the beetle from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, and remove designated critical habitat.

Basis for the Regulatory Action.Under the Act, a species may be determined to be endangered or threatened based on any of five factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.

We reviewed all available scientific and commercial information pertaining to the five threat factors in our status review of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. The results of our status review are summarized below.

• While there are minimal surveys to comprehensively evaluate current presence or population trends over time, we believe the available data are sufficient to conclude that the beetle persists in several more locations that were not known at the time of listing under the Act, some of which are either restored or protected, or both. Records since listing show the beetle may currently occupy most of the 26 locations identified and continues to persist in these locations, as is expected for some period of time into the future.

• Notwithstanding data uncertainties and the absence of protections or enhancements at many locations, we believe sufficient habitat will remain within this range into the foreseeable future, and the subspecies no longer meets the definition of endangered or threatened under the Act. Varying levels of protections have been applied to 15 of the 23 locations discovered since listing (10 locations contain well-protected lands and portions of 5 other locations are managed for natural and open space values), and management is being applied to occupied and unoccupied sites within these locations(including habitat restoration to increase the amount of suitable habitat for potential use by the beetle). Additionally, we believe the beetle will continue to persist based on: (1) The increase in number of beetle occurrence records; (2) increase in number of locations where the beetle is found, including over a larger range than what was known at the time of listing; (3) past and ongoing riparian vegetation restoration; and (4) persistence of elderberry shrubs in restored areas, as well as on a variety of public lands managed for natural values as open space.

Public Comments

We intend any final action resulting from this proposal to 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 other governmental agencies, tribes, the scientific community, industry, or other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning:

(1) Location-specific information concerning the cause and extent of past, recent, and projected future losses of total riparian vegetation and elderberry shrubs within the 26 individual river or watershed systems (referred to hereafter as locations) considered in this document to be, or to have previously been, occupied by the beetle, including the north Central Valley (Sacramento River; Thomes, Stony, Big Chico, Butte, Putah, and Cache Creeks; Feather, Yuba, Bear, and lower American Rivers; and the upper American River vicinity and the Ulatis-Green Valley Creeks vicinity) and the south Central Valley (Cosumnes River and vicinity, including Laguna and Dry Creek; Mokelumne River and vicinity, including Bear River; the lower Stanislaus River; upper Stanislaus hills vicinity, including the foothill systems between and around New Melones and Don Pedro Reservoirs; the Calaveras, Tuolumne, Merced, Kings, Kaweah, Tule, Kern, and San Joaquin Rivers; and Caliente Creek).

(2) Location-specific information (including Geographic Information System (GIS) data or tabular geographic coordinate data) on the range, distribution, population size, or population trends of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, with particular emphasis on data collected since, or not included in, our 2006 5-year review.

(3) Location-specific information on protections in each of the above-mentioned locations (river systems or watersheds) with emphasis on discerning the geographic locations and extent of protected and unprotected areas, including, but not limited to: vegetative allowances, vegetative maintenance, monitoring programs with adaptive management actions, conservation easements, public land ownership and associated permanent protections, and any other form of location-specific protection.

(4) Location-specific information regarding male specimen observation and subspecies identification, with particular interest in recently reported locations in the eastern portion of the range in foothill elevations.

(5) Location-specific information on future anticipated level of threat of additional habitat loss, and the source of such loss (such as agricultural and urban development, or flood control). Where threats are not yet elevated in the absence of formal protection, we seek information on rationales for why threats may or may not be elevated in the future. We also seek information on future reduction in threats of habitat loss, where appropriate.

(6) Information, including geographic coordinates of the locations, about any additional populations of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle in other locations not considered in this proposed rule, or regarding the loss of previously existing populations.

(7) Information on all other threats, such as from scientific study of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, inferred from study of a similar species, or location-specific threats information, including potential impacts from predators such as the Argentine ant, effects of small population size, and pesticides.

(8) New information and data on the projected and reasonably likely impacts to valley elderberry longhorn beetle associated with climate change.

(9) Documentation of the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of current mitigation, habitat restoration, and other conservation measures, particularly those mentioned in Talleyet al.2006a, pp. 46-48, tables 2.3.1.1-2.3.1.2 (available athttp://www.regulations.govandhttp://www.fws.gov/sacramento/es/documents/VELB_5yr_review_Talley_etal.pdf);and, specifically, location-specific quantities of riparian vegetation (length, area, and proportion of the overall location conserved or restored), beetle habitat (elderberry shrubs) in particular, and occupancy of that habitat by the subspecies.

(10) Information on the spatial extent of occupation within locations at which the beetle has been observed in relation to habitat and threats within these areas.

(11) Location-specific information on the present quantity of riparian vegetation, elderberry within riparian vegetation, and elderberry within the watershed or vicinity, but not associated with riparian vegetation.

(12) Information regarding how best to conduct post-delisting monitoring, should the proposed delisting lead to a final delisting rule (see Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan Overview section below, which briefly outlines the goals of the draft plan that is available for public comment concurrent with publication of this proposed rule). Such information might include suggestions regarding the draft objectives, monitoring procedures for establishing population and habitat baselines, or for detecting variations from those baselines over the course of at least 10 years.

You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed rule (and associated draft post-delisting monitoring (PDM) plan) by one of the methods listed inADDRESSES. We will not accept comments sent by email or fax or to an address not listed inADDRESSES. If you submit a comment viahttp://www.regulations.gov,we will post your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—onhttp://www.regulations.gov.If your written comments provide personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will post all hardcopy comments onhttp://www.regulations.gov.Please include sufficient information with your comment to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial data you submit.

Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection onhttp://www.regulations.gov,or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (seeFOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Public Hearings

Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for one or more public hearings on this proposal, if requested. We must receive your request within 45 days after the date of thisFederal Registerpublication. Send your request to the address shown inFOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. We will schedule public hearings on this proposal, if any are requested, and announce the dates, times, and places of those hearings, aswell as how to obtain reasonable accommodations, in theFederal Registerand local newspapers at least 15 days before the hearing.

Peer Review

In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in theFederal Registeron July 1, 1994 (50 FR 34270), we will seek the expert opinions of at least three appropriate and independent specialists regarding this proposed rule and the draft PDM plan. The purpose of peer review is to ensure that decisions are based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. A peer review panel will conduct an assessment of the proposed rule and draft PDM plan, and the specific assumptions and conclusions regarding the proposed delisting. This assessment will be completed during the public comment period.

We will consider all comments and information we receive during the comment period on this proposed rule as we prepare the final determination. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this proposal.

Background Previous Federal Actions

The valley elderberry longhorn beetle was proposed as a threatened species with critical habitat on August 10, 1978 (43 FR 35636). A rule re-proposing critical habitat was issued on May 2, 1980 (45 FR 29373), to comply with amendments made to the Act. A final rule listing the beetle as threatened and designating critical habitat was published in theFederal Registeron August 8, 1980 (45 FR 52803). A final Recovery Plan was approved for the beetle on June 28, 1984 (Service 1984, pp. 1-62). On July 7, 2005, we announced in theFederal Registerthat we were initiating 5-year reviews for 31 listed species, including the beetle (70 FR 39327). Information from the public was accepted until September 6, 2005. On November 3, 2005, we announced in theFederal Registeran extension of the period for submitting information to be considered in the 5-year review to January 3, 2006 (70 FR 66842). The Service completed a 5-year review on September 26, 2006, that recommended the Service delist the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. The 5-year review is available to the public on the Internet athttp://www.fws.gov/cno/es/VELB%205-year%20review.FINAL.pdf.

Petition History

On September 13, 2010, we received a petition dated September 9, 2010, from the Pacific Legal Foundation, as representative for Reclamation District Number 108,et al.,requesting that the valley elderberry longhorn beetle be removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Act. The petition clearly identified itself as such, and included the requisite identification information for the petitioners, as required by 50 CFR 424.14(a). The petition included the Service's 5-year review as supporting information (Service 2006a). On August 19, 2011, we published a 90-day finding in response to the Pacific Legal Foundation's petition stating that the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that delisting the valley elderberry longhorn beetle may be warranted (76 FR 51929). This proposed rule also constitutes our 12-month finding for the petition to delist the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. As the result of our status review, we find that delisting the valley elderberry longhorn beetle is warranted, and we propose to remove the beetle from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, and remove designated critical habitat.

Species Information Description and Basic Biology

The valley elderberry longhorn beetle (beetle) (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) is a medium-sized red and dark green (to red and black) insect approximately 0.8 inch (in) (2 centimeters (cm)) long. It is endemic to the Central Valley of California (Fisher 1921, p. 207; Doaneet al.1936, p. 178; Linsley and Chemsak 1972, p. 7). The similar-looking California elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus californicus) is primarily known from coastal regions of California (Collingeet al.2001, p. 104). The two subspecies can be identified with certainty only by adult male coloration, where males of the listed subspecies have predominantly red elytra with four dark spots, whereas males of the common, unlisted subspecies (California elderberry longhorn beetle) have dark metallic green to black elytra with a red border. The ranges of the two subspecies may abut or overlap along the foothills of the eastern Coast Range and the southern San Joaquin Valley; dark males have also been noted in Placer and Yolo Counties (Talleyet al.2006a, pp. 5-6). Beetles meeting the description of the California elderberry longhorn beetle have also been recorded in the Sierra Nevada foothills as far north as Mariposa County (Halstead and Oldham 2000, pp. 74-75), suggesting that the ranges of the two subspecies may also abut or overlap in that area.

The valley elderberry longhorn beetle is a wood borer, dependent on (and found only in association with) its host plant, the elderberry (Sambucusspp. of the Caprifoliaceae [honeysuckle] family) (Barr 1991, p. 4; Collingeet al.2001, p. 104). The elderberry is a common shrub component of riparian forests and adjacent upland vegetation along river corridors of the Central Valley (Hickman 1993, pp. 474-475; Sawyer and Keeler-Wolf 1995, pp. 171, 229; Halstead and Oldham 2000, p. 74). Adult beetles feed on elderberry nectar, flowers, and foliage, and are generally active from March through June (Eng 1984, p. 916; Barr 1991, p. 4; Collingeet al.2001, p. 105). They are uncommon (see “Occurrence Information and Population Size and Distribution” below) and rarely observed, despite their relatively large size and conspicuous coloration.

The females lay eggs, singly or in small groups, on the leaves or stems of living elderberry shrubs (Barr 1991, p. 4). The larvae hatch in a few days, and bore into living stems that are at least 1 in. (2.5 cm) in diameter. The larvae remain within the elderberry stem, feeding on the pith (dead woody material) until they complete their development. Each larva creates its own gallery (set of tunnels) within the stem by feeding (Talleyet al.2006a, pp. 8-9). The larva eventually cuts an exit hole out of the stem, but plugs the hole up again from within using wood shavings. This allows the beetle to eventually exit the stem after it becomes an adult, as the adults are not wood borers. The larva remains within the stem, becomes a pupa, and finally emerges from its single exit hole as an adult between mid-March and mid-June (Langet al.1989, p. 242; Barr 1991, p. 5; Talleyet al.2006a, p. 9). There is thus one exit hole per larva. The complete life cycle is thought to take either 1 or 2 years (depending on the amount of time the larva stays in the elderberry stem), with adults always emerging in the spring. Adults live from a few days to a few weeks after emerging, during which time they mate and lay their eggs (Talleyet al.2006a, p. 7). Shrub characteristics and other environmental factors appear to have an influence on use by the valley elderberry longhorn beetle in some recent studies, with more exit holes in shrubs in riparian, than nonriparian, scrub habitat types (Talleyet. al.2006a, p. 18), and increased beetle colonization of larger shrubs (and greater beetle extinction from smaller shrubs) (Zisook 2007, p. 1).

Lost Historical Range

Although there are insufficient valley elderberry longhorn beetle records to directly assess changes in distribution from historical times to the present, it is probable that beetle habitat distribution was coarsely related to the extent of riparian forests of which the host plant, elderberry, is often a component. However, we note that elderberry does not occur in all areas where riparian vegetation exists. Thus, we are unable to provide an accurate assessment of potential lost historical range of valley elderberry longhorn beetle habitat; rather, estimates are based on historical losses of riparian vegetation.

Historically, California's Central Valley riparian forests have experienced extensive vegetation loss during the last 150 years due to expansive agricultural and urban development (Katibah 1984, p. 23). These Central Valley riparian forests include those along the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys that comprise the north and south range, respectively, of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, as discussed in detail below in “Occurrence Information and Population Size and Distribution.” Since colonization, these forests have been “* * * modified with a rapidity and completeness matched in few parts of the United States” (Thompson 1961, p. 294). As of 1849, the rivers and larger streams of the Central Valley were largely undisturbed (Thompson 1961, p. 305), supporting continuous bands of riparian woodland 4 to 5 mi (6.4 to 8 km) wide along some major drainages such as the lower Sacramento River, and generally about 2 mi (3.2 km) wide along the lesser streams (Thompson 1961, p. 307). Most of the riverine floodplains supported riparian vegetation to about the 100-year flood line (Katibah 1984, p. 25). A large human population influx occurred after 1849; however, much of the Central Valley riparian vegetation was rapidly converted to agriculture and used as a source of wood for fuel and construction to serve a wide area (Thompson 1961, p. 311). By as early as 1868, riparian woodland had been severely affected in the Central Valley, as evidenced by the following excerpt:

This fine growth of timber which once graced our river [Sacramento], tempered the atmosphere, and gave protection to the adjoining plains from the sweeping winds, has entirely disappeared—the woodchopper's axe has stripped the river farms of nearly all the hard wood timber, and the owners are now obliged to rely upon the growth of willows for firewood. (Cronise 1868inThompson 1961, p. 312).

Based on the historical riparian woodlands information summarized in the paragraph above, we conservatively estimate that over 90 percent of that riparian vegetation in the Central Valley has been converted to agriculture or urban development since the middle of the 1800s (Thompson 1961, pp. 310-311; Katibahet al.1984, p. 314). We also note that estimates of historical riparian vegetation loss in the Central Valley and acreage of current riparian vegetation vary. Based on a California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) riparian vegetation distribution map, about 102,000 ac (41,278 ha) out of an estimated 922,000 ac (373,120 ha) of Central Valley riparian forest remained at the turn of the century (Katibah 1984, p. 28). This represents a decline in acreage of approximately 89 percent as of 1979 (Katibah 1984, p. 28). Another source indicates that 132,586 ac (53,656 ha) of riparian vegetation remained across the Central Valley in 2003 (Geographic Information Center 2003, p. 14), which represents a 50 percent decline since 1960. More extreme figures are provided by Frayeret al.(1989, pp. ii), who reported that approximately 85 percent of all wetland acreage in the Central Valley was lost before 1939; and that from 1939 to the mid-1980s, the acreage of wetlands dominated by forests and other woody vegetation declined from 65,400 ac (26,466 ha) to 34,600 ac (14,002 ha). Differences in methodology may explain the differences between these estimates. In any case, the historical loss of riparian vegetation in the Central Valley strongly suggests that the range of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle has been reduced (because elderberry is a component of riparian vegetation), and its distribution has been fragmented.

For the purposes of this analysis, we are utilizing what we believe is a reliable estimate for remaining riparian vegetation within the Central Valley (i.e., 132,586 ac (53,656 ha) as reported by Geographic Information Center (2003)); this value will be used as a reference point when discussing impacts to remaining riparian vegetation in this document. The causes of this lost historical riparian vegetation are described in the following paragraphs as background information for this discussion on valley elderberry longhorn beetle's lost historical range. Causes of ongoing and future loss of riparian vegetation within the range of the beetle are discussed below in Summary of Factors Affecting the Species.

The historical clearing of riparian forests for fuel and construction in the Central Valley made this land available for agriculture (Thompson 1961, p. 313). Natural levees bordering the rivers, which once supported vast tracts of riparian vegetation, became prime agricultural land (Thompson 1961, p. 313). As agriculture expanded in the Central Valley, needs for increased water supply and flood protection spurred water development and reclamation projects. Artificial levees, river channelization, dam building, water diversion, and heavy groundwater pumping have further reduced riparian vegetation to small, isolated fragments (Katibah 1984, p. 28). In recent decades, these riparian areas in the Central Valley have continued to decline as a result of ongoing agricultural conversion, urban development, and stream channelization. As of 1989, there were more than 100 dams within the Central Valley drainage basin, as well as thousands of miles of water delivery canals and stream bank flood control projects for irrigation, municipal and industrial water supplies, hydroelectric power, flood control, navigation, and recreation (Frayeret al.1989, p. 5). Riparian forests in the Central Valley have dwindled to discontinuous strips of widths measurable in yards rather than miles.

Between 1980 and 1995, the human population in the Central Valley grew by 50 percent, while the rest of California grew by 37 percent (American Farmland Trust 2011). The Central Valley's population was 4.7 million in 1999, and it is expected to more than double by 2040 (American Farmland Trust 2011). The American Farmland Trust estimates that by 2040, more than one million cultivated acres will be lost and 2.5 million more put at risk (American Farmland Trust 2011). With this growing population in the Central Valley, increased development pressure could affect native vegetation communities.

A number of studies have focused on riparian vegetation loss along the Sacramento River, which supports some of the densest known populations of the beetle. Approximately 98 percent of the middle Sacramento River's historical riparian vegetation was believed to have been extirpated by 1977 (DWR 1979, entire). The State Department of Water Resources estimated that native riparian vegetation along the Sacramento River from Redding to Colusa decreased 34 percent from 27,720 ac (11,218 ha) to 18,360 ac (7,430 ha) between 1952 and 1972 (Conardet al.1977, p. 47). The average rate of riparian loss on the middle Sacramento River was 430 ac (174 ha) per year from 1952 to 1972, and 410 ac (166 ha) per year from 1972 to 1977 (Conardet al.1977, p. 47).

There is no comparable information on the historical loss of beetle habitat (i.e., the component of riparian vegetation that contains elderberry, which includes elderberry savanna and other vegetation communities where elderberry occurs, such as oak or mix-chaparral woodland, or grasslands adjacent to riparian vegetation). However, all natural habitats throughout the Central Valley have been heavily impacted within the last 200 years (Thompson 1961, pp. 294-295), and it can, therefore, be concluded that beetle habitat also has declined. Accordingly, loss of beetle habitat (also described in literature as nonriparian vegetation where elderberry occurs), and of specific areas where the beetle has been recorded (Barr 1991, entire), further suggests reduction of the beetle's range and increased fragmentation of its upland habitat.

We cannot conclude that the losses of riparian and aquatic vegetation described in this section are representative of the lost historical habitat for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, because we have no way of knowing which of these lost areas were actually historically occupied by the beetle.

Occurrence Information and Distribution

Historically and currently, the valley elderberry longhorn beetle is rarely observed (although we expect infrequent observations because there is infrequent survey data). For example, survey efforts conducted by Barr (1991, pp. 45-46), Collingeet al.(2001, p. 107), and Talleyet al.(2006a, p. 11) have documented very few adult valley elderberry longhorn beetles. Consequently, the past and current presence of beetles in a given area is usually established based on the presence of recent or old exit holes in elderberry stems (Jones & Stokes 1987, p. 2; Barr 1991, p. 12). Recent exit holes (made within the current year) are typically distinguishable from holes made in previous years by the presence of wood shavings and light-colored wood within the hole. Thus, trained surveyors are generally able to distinguish current beetle presence from presence of the beetle in previous years (Collingeet al.2001, p. 105). Trained surveyors are also typically able to distinguish between exit holes made by the beetle and exit holes made by other species of wood borers (Talleyet al.2006a, pp. 9-10; River Partners 2007, p. 7). However, exit holes made by the valley elderberry longhorn beetle are not distinguishable from exit holes made by the California elderberry longhorn beetle, except by inference, based on where the observation occurred within the range of either beetle (River Partners 2007, p. 9).

When the valley elderberry longhorn beetle was listed in 1980, it was known from 10 occurrence records at three locations: the Merced River (Merced County), the American River (Sacramento County), and Putah Creek (Yolo County) (45 FR 52805, August 8, 1980; Service 2006a, p. 5; Talleyet al.2006a, p. 23). Subsequent survey efforts have expanded our knowledge of the beetle's range to include much of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys, from Shasta County in the northern Sacramento Valley to Kern County in the southern San Joaquin Valley, California. Currently, 201 beetle occurrence records are identified in the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB), in addition to some other records not yet reported to CNDDB (CNDDB 2010, pp. 1-202; Table 1). The CNDDB is an electronic inventory of observation records for California's rare plants, animals, and communities, managed by CDFG (CDFG 2009, p. 1).

In Table 1, we present information for 201 occurrence records representing 26 locations that we believe represent the best available data regarding the distribution of this subspecies. These selected records include all of the major riparian systems within the Central Valley proper and a few foothill systems immediately above major reservoirs. We do not include 12 occurrence records from other riparian systems (i.e., they are not included in Table 1 nor are they discussed further in this rule), because we do not regard them as verified for various reasons, including that they: Are isolated records that contain extremely limited habitat; occur exclusively at higher elevations adjacent to the range of the California elderberry longhorn beetle (Oakhurst vicinity, Auberry vicinity, North Fork Willow Creek, Mariposa Creek, Los Banos Creek, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, North Fork Feather River); are extirpated (Middle River); represent a single shrub in rural development (Dixon); contain records from dead wood or old exit holes only (Honcutt Creek, Paynes Creek); or occur in a location within heavily maintained channels (Chowchilla). Additionally, there are also locations (Deer Creek, Battle Creek) that are represented by a single non-CNDDB report, and are not discussed.

Table 1—Locations and Occurrence Records of the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle in the North and South Central Valley of California1 Locations (north to south)2 Number of
  • occurrence records3
  • Years of occurrences4
    1.a. Sacramento River (SR), Redding-Red Bluff 10 87, 89, 91, 03A, 08A. 1.b. SR, Red Bluff-Chico 13(3) 85, 86, 87, 91, (00A), 01A, (03), (10). 1.c. SR, Chico-Colusa 18(1) 86, 87, 88, (03), 06. 1.d. SR, Colusa-American River confluence 7 85A. 1.e. SR, American River confluence south 2(1) 05A, 06A, (08). 2. Thomes Creek 1 91, absent 97. 3. Stony Creek 1 91, absent 97. 4. Big Chico Creek 2(1) 91, 97, (10). 5. Feather River 6(1) 85, 91, (07), 10A. 6. Butte Creek 4 93, absent 91, 95, absent 97. 7. Yuba River 7 98. 8. Bear River 4(2) 91, 98, 03, (04A, 10A). 9. Lower American River 11(4) 84A, 85A, 90A, 95A, 96, 00, 08A, (02, 03, 04,10). 10. Upper American River vicinity (Miner and Secret Ravine, Coon, Anderson and Linda Creeks) (foothill location >1,000 ft elevation) 8 84, 91, 02, 10. 11. Putah Creek 4(2) 82A, 91A, 95, 00A, (04, 10). 12. Cache Creek 7 91, 01A, 07A. 13. Ulatis-Green Valley Creeks 6 91, 02, 04, (08). 14. Cosumnes-Laguna-Dry Creeks 7(3) 64A, 84, 87, 91, (02, 03, 04). 15. Mokelumne-Bear Rivers 6 84, 91A, 06. 16. Stanislaus River 4(1) 84A, 85, 89, 91, (10). 17. Upper Stanislaus hills (vicinity above and between New Melones and Don Pedro Reservoirs, including Sullivan Creek) (foothill location >1,000 ft elevation) 6 99, 00, 02A, 07A. 18. Calaveras River-Stockton Diverting Canal 5 84A, 91, 00. 19. Tuolumne River 4 84, 91, 99. 20. Merced River 3(1) 85, 86, 90A, absent 91, (10). 21. Kings River 18 89A, 90A, 91, 94, 98A, absent 10. 22. Kaweah River 5 37, 86A, 91, 94. 23. Tule River-Deer Creek 5(1) 91A, 93, (10). 24. Kern River (excluding Caliente Creek) 1(2) 91, (08, 10). 25. Caliente Creek (foothill location >1,000 ft elevation) 3 91. 26. San Joaquin River 3(1) 84, 89, 92, 04 1Non-CNDDB source information includes survey from review of a section 7 consultation, literature sources such as Holyoak and Graves 2010, River Partners 2007, Collingeet al.2001, and Talley 2005, and other verified sources (such as information from scientific experts or Service biologists who have evaluated data for accuracy) compiled in a GIS database by the Service's Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. 2The locations presented in this table are based on available data that provide detailed information about valley elderberry longhorn beetle presence. Additional locations were not included in this table due to a lack of sufficient information that provides certainty on valley elderberry longhorn beetle presence (see preceding text for explanation). 3Occurrence records are a combination of CNDDB source data and non-CNDDB source data, the latter of which is presented as a value between parentheses. For example, the Big Chico Creek location has a total of three occurrence records, including two from CNDDB source data and one from non-CNDDB source data. 4Data provided in this column show: (1) Years when surveys were conducted and beetles were found (e.g., “99” indicates that beetle evidence was observed in the year 1999, or “90A” indicates adult beetles were observed in 1990), and (2) years when surveys were conducted and beetles or evidence of beetles were not found (e.g., “absent 91” indicates that a survey was conducted in 1991 but no beetles or evidence of beetles were observed). Additionally, there could be existing known locations, or new locations (in addition to the 26 locations listed in this table) where valley elderberry longhorn beetles occur today, but it is uncertain because we know of no recent surveys that have been conducted.

    An occurrence (or “element occurrence”) is a term used in the CNDDB to refer to an observation at a location where a species has been documented to occur, such as a sighting of a valley elderberry longhorn beetle, or of an exit hole (recent or otherwise), that indicates possible presence of the subspecies. CNDDB data do not represent the results of a systematic survey, but rather reflect a compilation of observations from multiple contributors and studies over time. Depending on information provided by contributors, many beetle occurrence records are merely points on the map, whereas others include information regarding the size of the occupied area. Beetle occurrences are distributed across the Central Valley, generally occurring singly and in small, relatively isolated clusters along river corridors. Noticeably larger clusters of beetle records occur along the northern portions of the Sacramento River (around Tehama, Glenn, and Butte Counties), along the lower American River (primarily in Sacramento County), and along the Kings River (in Fresno County). One hundred and twenty-five beetle occurrences have been recorded in the northern portion of the Central Valley (north of the line formed by the southern boundaries of Sacramento and Amador Counties), as compared with 76 south of that line. CNDDB presumes all 201 occurrences in the Central Valley are currently extant (CDFG 2007, p. 4). Based on this information, we understand these occurrences to be currently extant.

    This rule uses the term “occurrence” to refer to the valley elderberry longhorn beetle observations reported in CNDDB records. We use the terms “site” and “survey site” to refer to a specific local area that is surveyed for evidence of beetle presence (Barr 1991, pp. 9, 19; Collingeet al.2001, p. 105). We use the term “location” to refer to the river system, major river reach, or watershed vicinity in which several records in general proximity to one another may occur.

    The number and area of occurrences do not necessarily indicate the number and size of interbreeding populations (defined as groups of interbreeding valley elderberry longhorn beetles). This is because CNDDB generally groups sightings of beetles or exit holes within 0.25 mi (0.4 km) of each other into the same occurrence (CDFG 2009, pp. 2-3). In addition, while beetle movement is restricted, dispersal is believed to occur over a scale of around 12 mi (20 km), and metapopulations (a set of partially isolated subpopulations between which dispersal is limited) form at a scale of 25 mi (40 km) or less, within which there can be many occurrences (Collingeet al.,2001, p. 108; Talleyet al.2006a, pp. 10-11). Beetles may, or may not, persist in any given elderberry shrub within an occurrence, or may inhabit more or fewer elderberry shrubs over time, but there is rarely documentation of these temporal changes to an occurrence. Although CNDDB presumes all occurrences in the Central Valley are extant, CNDDB generally does not identify an occurrence as extirpated, or possibly extirpated, unless it receives positive information (such as complete loss of habitat) to indicate the population is no longer at the site (CDFG 2007, p. 4). Occurrence records are thus primarily useful for demonstrating the extent of a species' range, and the general distribution within that range, as well as for noting information such as the date the species was last seen at a given location.

    The infrequency of sampling data, and particularly the lack of recent sampling, makes it difficult to precisely determine population size and distribution of this subspecies. Dates last seen range from 1937 to 2008, with the vast majority occurring in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Service 2007, p. 11). For most of these sites, the date the subspecies was last seen and the datethe site was last visited are the same, possibly because of the infrequency with which sites are resurveyed. Only 26 of the CNDDB occurrence records are from 2000 or later. Regardless, data collected have shown a larger distributional range and a greater number of known occurrences when compared to the time of listing. We considered all information in the CNDDB and other sources not yet reported to the CNDDB to evaluate the subspecies' range and occurrences.

    Although the majority of valley elderberry longhorn beetle occurrence records are those recorded in CNDDB, other occurrence records (not necessarily reported to the CNDDB) originate from projects reviewed under section 7 or section 10 of the Act, monitoring of elderberry plantings, and a few location-specific surveys (see below, this section). There are not a large number of records from any of these other sources. The most extensive of these other records are from National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) units along the Sacramento River north of Colusa. For example, in 2003, while monitoring elderberry shrubs planted at five Sacramento River NWR units, surveyors found 449 beetle exit holes in 299 (3.8 percent) of the 7,793 shrubs surveyed (River Partners 2004a, pp. 2-3; Talleyet al.2006a, p. 51), which were represented across all 5 refuge units surveyed. A greater percentage of beetle exit holes were found at sites with older elderberry plantings or near existing riparian vegetation (River Partners 2004a, pp. 4-5). Another example of beetle information beyond CNDDB records includes section 7 consultations. A total of 500 section 7 consultations dating since 2000 have been conducted because project sites contained riparian vegetation that may support the beetle (and potentially beetle habitat); 13 were reported to contain exit holes. Only 1 of these 13 observations was in the south Central Valley (Kern River). Outside of CNDDB, adult beetles have been observed six times at monitoring, restoration, or mitigation sites in the north Central Valley (Feather, Bear, and Sacramento River areas).

    Within the range of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, local beetle populations tend to be sporadic, small, and clustered, independent of the availability of larger areas of mature elderberry. For example, a study conducted in 1985-1987 focused on areas of native riparian vegetation along 183 mi (295 km) of the Sacramento River floodplain north of Sacramento. Researchers found that 95 percent of surveyed sites contained elderberries, while exit holes (old and recent) occurred in 64 percent of surveyed sites (Langet al.1989, pp. 243, 246). Langet al.(1989, pp. 243-245) also found that habitat occupancy was substantially higher at the northern end of the study area, which is consistent with the pattern of distribution in the occurrence records. In the 48 river miles north of Chico Landing, 94 percent of study sites were occupied, while occupancy declined to 28 percent for the 85-mi (137-km) reach between Colusa and Sacramento. The authors noted that this pattern reflected the fact that riparian vegetation below Colusa was confined by levees to narrow strips, whereas between Colusa and Chico Landing setback levees allowed wider areas of riparian vegetation, and above Chico Landing habitat was unconstrained by levees.

    Barr (1991) conducted an extensive study of riparian vegetation in 1991 along major rivers and streams in both the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, and the adjacent foothills. Barr (1991, pp. 15, 42) found evidence of valley elderberry longhorn beetle occupancy (recent and old exit holes) in 28 percent of surveyed sites (64 of 230 sites), and in about 20 percent of the 504 groups of elderberry shrubs examined at those sites (each site had one to several shrub groups). The author noted general observations (such as rarity of the beetle and clustered nature of occurrences (Barr 1991, p. 49)), and specific results that include recent exit holes occurring at only 14 percent of sites surveyed (33 of 230 sites). In 1997, Collingeet al.(2001, p. 105) resurveyed 65 of the 79 sites that Barr (1991) had surveyed (25 of which showed evidence of occupancy) in the Sacramento Valley portion of the 1991 study. Collingeet al.(2001, p. 105) found that 20 percent of surveyed sites (13 of 65 sites) had recent exit holes, while 46 percent (30 of 65 sites) had either recent or old holes (Collingeet al.2001, p. 107). The repetition of the earlier study further supported the relatively rare and clustered nature of beetle presence. Because the two surveys were completed using the same methods, the study also allowed a limited assessment of temporal changes in beetle presence or absence (Collingeet al.2001, p. 105), which is further discussed below under the “Population Status and Trends” section.

    Evaluating available data on old and recent valley elderberry longhorn beetle exit holes to aid in the determination of current occupancy of locations and current distribution across the subspecies' range has proven difficult. For example, in the San Joaquin Valley surveyors for two recent studies along the Stanislaus and San Joaquin Rivers found relatively recent beetle exit holes at six sites (Kuceraet al.2006, pp. 7-10, 12; River Partners 2007, pp. 9-11). Unfortunately, the two studies did not define “recent” the same way. One study (River Partners 2007, p. 8) included “old” recent holes with worn margins, while the other (Kuceraet al.2006, p. 4) followed the sampling methodology of Talley (2005, p. 14), which identifies “recent” holes as having crisp margins and minimal evidence of healing.

    Beetle occupancy appears to be lower in the south Central Valley as compared to the north Central Valley. In the south Central Valley, Kuceraet al.(2006, pp. 4-9) surveyed approximately 153 mi (246 km) of the San Joaquin River from Friant Dam to the confluence with the Merced River, and found 1 shrub with 6 recent exit holes and 16 shrubs with a total of 122 nonrecent holes. The recent holes, and all but three of the nonrecent holes, were located within 22 mi (35 km) of Friant dam (Kuceraet al.2006, pp. 8-9). Also in the south Central Valley, River Partners (2007, p. 1) surveyed 59 mi (95 km) of the Stanislaus River from Goodwin Dam to the confluence with the San Joaquin River, as well as 12 mi (19 km) of the San Joaquin River from the confluence with the Stanislaus River up to the confluence with the Tuolumne River. River Partners (2007, pp. 10, 26, 28, 38, 40, 42, 49) found one site with recent exit holes, four sites with both recent and nonrecent holes, and one site with nonrecent holes. However, two of the five sites with recent exit holes were high enough in elevation in the Sierra foothills that the surveyors considered it possible that the exit holes had been made by either valley elderberry longhorn beetles or California elderberry longhorn beetles (River Partners 2007, pp. 9, 26, 28). Numbers of recent exit holes at each site in the two studies ranged from 0 to 6 (Kuceraet al.2006, pp. 4, 8, 9) and 0 to 44 (River Partners 2007, pp. 10, 26, 28, 38, 40-43), showing the difficulty of comparing results across nonstandardized surveys.

    In summary, multiple factors limit our ability to draw direct comparisons between all studies and over time, but, taken together, these studies consistently indicate a patchy distribution of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle throughout its range. As discussed above, the earliest study (Langet al.1989, pp. 242, 246) did not distinguish between old and new exit holes in determining that a site was actively occupied by beetles, while most of the later studies relied on thepresence of recent holes in determining occupancy of extant populations (Barr 1991, pp. 46, 47; Collingeet al.2001, p. 107; Kuceraet al.2006, pp. 7-11; River Partners 2007, pp. 8, 11, 16). Additionally, survey timing varied between studies and often overlapped the beetle's emergence period. Despite these differences in survey methodology, species experts have determined that the beetle is patchily distributed throughout its range, even where suitable habitat is present (Barr 1991, p. 49; Collingeet al.2001, p. 107; River Partners 2007, p. 23). The beetle occurs in clusters (Barr 1991, p. 49), with small populations everywhere that it occurs (Collingeet al.2001, p. 107). Most occupied sites are located in the northern portion of the range along the Sacramento River (Collingeet al.2001, p. 111). Site occupancy by the beetle appears to be higher in the northern Central Valley and lower in the south Central Valley (Kuceraet al.2006, pp. ii, 10). The reasons for patchy beetle distribution patterns and the low occupancy in the south Central Valley generally remain unclear, but appear to go beyond what may be explained by the simple presence or absence of elderberry shrubs. Thus, population characteristics such as patchy distribution and low occupancy in the south Central Valley, coupled with the infrequency of sampling data and, particularly, the lack of recent sampling, make it difficult to precisely determine population size and distribution of this subspecies.

    Population Status and Trends

    There are no long-term population data available for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle; rather, the only available data are the CNDDB occurrence records and limited records from other sources (Table 1). The Collingeet al.(2001) study attempted to provide information relevant to population trends by surveying and comparing the same sites within the Sacramento Valley as had been surveyed 6 years earlier by Barr (1991), using the same survey methods. They found fewer occupied groups of elderberry shrubs at each site (on average) because the average density of elderberry shrubs had decreased (Collingeet al.2001, pp. 108, 109; Talleyet al.2006a, p. 13). The authors did not offer reasons for the observed decrease of elderberry bush density.

    For comparisons regarding valley elderberry longhorn beetle site occupancy, Collingeet al.(2001, pp. 106-107) identified four types of changes evident from comparison of the 1991 and 1997 surveys: short-term extinctions (recent exit holes in 1991, no recent exit holes in 1997), short-term colonizations (no recent holes in 1991, recent holes in 1997), long-term extinctions (holes of any age in 1991, no holes in 1997), and long-term colonizations (no holes in 1991, holes of any age in 1997). Collingeet al.(2001, pp. 106-107) related findings on both short- and long-term changes because they felt that the long-term values tended to underestimate actual numbers of extinctions and colonizations, whereas the short-term values tended to overestimate them. For instance, they noted that a local extinction would not register as a long-term extinction if old holes remained in the area. Similarly, because the beetle can remain as a larva in an elderberry stem for up to 2 years, a survey for exit holes during a given year might miss its presence and thus register as a short-term extinction. We also note that the number of short-term extinctions and colonizations is subject to additional error based on timing of surveys, because the Barr (1991) and Collingeet al.(2001) surveys were conducted from April to July (Barr 1991) or April to June (Collingeet al.2001, p. 105), while the adult beetles emerge (and thus create new exit holes) from mid-March to mid-June (Talleyet al.2006a, p. 9). In other words, an error documenting beetle presence could occur in a given year because (for example) beetles could potentially emerge in June after a survey is conducted in April.

    The overall trend of valley elderberry longhorn beetle occupancy was moderately downward when comparing the 1991 and 1997 survey data (described above), as indicated by both short- and long-term extinctions and colonization sites with elderberry shrubs and by occupied shrub groups within each site (Talleyet al.2006a, p. 13). Collingeet al.(2001, pp. 107-108) reported that of 65 sites with mature elderberry visited in both surveys, 9 sites suffered short-term extinctions while 6 underwent short-term colonizations. They also related two long-term extinctions, as compared to four long-term colonizations. However, as Talleyet al.(2006a, p. 13) noted, there were actually 9 long-term extinctions out of 72 sites that Barr had surveyed in 1991, because 7 of those sites had lost all their elderberry shrubs between studies (Collingeet al.2001, p. 105), and so were not included in the statistics reported by Collingeet al.(2001, p. 107). According to Collingeet al.(2001, p. 110), the location discussed in this rule that exhibited no recent holes at any site in 1997, but did so in 1991, is Stony Creek. Several other entire watersheds with multiple elderberry sites examined revealed no beetles in either 1991 or 1997 (Paynes, Deer, and Butte Creeks). Collingeet al.(2001) did not identify the sites (or systems) lacking elderberry; however, Barr (1991, pp. 20-21, 25) did identify drainages without elderberries at any site examined (Cow, Battle, Cottonwood Creeks; Colusa and Sutter Basins). Barr (1991, p. 47) also noted eight localities where there was no sign of the beetle (exit holes or adults) where it had been previously reported.

    Collingeet al.(2001) suggested that each drainage surveyed functions as a relatively isolated valley elderberry longhorn beetle metapopulation, separated from other such metapopulations by distances of 25 mi (40 km) or more (Collingeet al.2001, pp. 108-110; Talleyet al.2006a, p. 10). Occupied sites within each metapopulation were found to be subject to extirpation, and also to recolonization from other occupied sites in the drainage within 12 mi (20 km) (Collingeet al.,2001, p. 108). Accordingly, Collingeet al.(2001, p. 112) recommended that a proportion of occupied sites within a 12-mi (20-km) distance be considered in decisions regarding loss of riparian vegetation and placement of newly restored habitat for the beetle. Collingeet al.(2001, p. 110) concluded that, due to limited dispersal among metapopulations, when all the beetles in an entire drainage are extirpated, the drainage is unlikely to be naturally recolonized.

    Of the 14 drainages surveyed by both Barr (1991) and Collingeet al.(2001), 7 were occupied by valley elderberry longhorn beetles in 1991. Six of those seven were found to still be occupied in 1997 (Collingeet al.2001, pp. 106, 108; Talleyet al.2006a, p. 11). We note however that rather than surveying every elderberry shrub and branch, Collingeet al.(2001, p. 105) randomly selected distinct groups of elderberry shrubs to survey at each site.

    In summary, minimal trend information exists related to valley elderberry longhorn beetle's rangewide population status. Collingeet al.(2001, pp. 106-107) identified four types of changes evident from comparison of the 1991 and 1997 surveys that included both short- and long-term extinctions and colonizations. Available survey data from Collingeet al.(2001) indicate that some river or watershed systems continue to harbor the beetle while others may not. However, because Collingeet al.(2001) did not survey all potential beetle habitat at each location, the beetle could still be present atlocations where it appears to be absent. Holyoak and Graves (2010, p. 20) found that because the beetle's local population levels and densities are typically very low, sampling levels must be very high in order to detect large population declines within a watershed. Regardless of extinctions or colonizations, each watershed system that is occupied by the beetle may serve as an isolated metapopulation with limited dispersal capabilities; thus the ability for natural recolonization (following an extirpation event) within an individual watershed system may be unlikely (Collingeet al.2001, p. 110).

    Recovery Planning and Implementation

    Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation and survival of endangered and threatened species unless we determine that such a plan will not promote the conservation of the species. The Act directs that, to the maximum extent practicable, we incorporate into each plan:

    (1) Site-specific management actions that may be necessary to achieve the plan's goals for conservation and survival of the species;

    (2) Objective, measurable criteria, which when met, would result in a determination, in accordance with the provisions of section 4 of the Act, that the species be removed from the list; and

    (3) Estimates of the time required and cost to carry out the plan.

    Revisions to the list (adding, removing, or reclassifying a species) must reflect determinations made in accordance with sections 4(a)(1) and 4(b) of the Act. Section 4(a)(1) that requires that the Secretary determine whether a species is endangered or threatened (or not) because of one or more of five threat factors. Objective, measurable criteria, or recovery criteria contained in recovery plans, must indicate when we would anticipate an analysis of the five threat factors under 4(a)(1) would result in a determination that a species is no longer endangered or threatened. Section 4(b) of the Act requires the determination made be “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.”

    While recovery plans are intended to provide guidance to the Service, States, and other partners on methods of minimizing threats to listed species and on criteria that may be used to determine when recovery is achieved, they are not regulatory documents and cannot substitute for the determinations and promulgation of regulations required under section 4(a)(1) of the Act. Determinations to remove a species from the list made under section 4(a)(1) of the Act must be based on the best scientific and commercial data available at the time of the determination, regardless of whether that information differs from the recovery plan.

    In the course of implementing conservation actions for a species, new information is often gained that requires recovery efforts to be modified accordingly. There are many paths to accomplishing recovery of a species, and recovery may be achieved without all criteria being fully met. For example, one or more recovery criteria may have been exceeded while other criteria may not have been accomplished, yet the Service may judge that, overall, the threats have been minimized sufficiently, and the species is robust enough, that the Service may reclassify the species from endangered to threatened or perhaps delist the species. In other cases, recovery opportunities may have been recognized that were not known at the time the recovery plan was finalized. These opportunities may be used instead of methods identified in the recovery plan.

    Likewise, information on the species may be learned that was not known at the time the recovery plan was finalized. The new information may change the extent that recovery criteria need to be met for recognizing recovery of the species. Overall, recovery of species is a dynamic process requiring adaptive management, planning, implementing, and evaluating the degree of recovery of a species that may, or may not, fully follow the guidance provided in a recovery plan.

    Thus, while the recovery plan provides important guidance on the direction and strategy for recovery, and indicates when a rulemaking process may be initiated, the determination to remove a species from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife is ultimately based on an analysis of whether a species is no longer endangered or threatened.