Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on
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.
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
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 Talley
(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 in
Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on
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 this
In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the
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.
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 the
On September 13, 2010, we received a petition dated September 9, 2010, from the Pacific Legal Foundation, as representative for Reclamation District Number 108,
The valley elderberry longhorn beetle (beetle) (
The valley elderberry longhorn beetle is a wood borer, dependent on (and found only in association with) its host plant, the elderberry (
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 (Talley
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 1868
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; Katibah
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 (Frayer
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 (Conard
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.
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), Collinge
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; Talley
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.
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; Collinge
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 (Collinge
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 date
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; Talley
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 (Lang
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, Collinge
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 (Kucera
Beetle occupancy appears to be lower in the south Central Valley as compared to the north Central Valley. In the south Central Valley, Kucera
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 (Lang
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 Collinge
For comparisons regarding valley elderberry longhorn beetle site occupancy, Collinge
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 (Talley
Of the 14 drainages surveyed by both Barr (1991) and Collinge
In summary, minimal trend information exists related to valley elderberry longhorn beetle's rangewide population status. Collinge
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.