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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-R4-ES-2009-0022]

RIN 1018-AX68

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Endangered Species Status for Coqui Llanero Throughout Its Range and Designation of Critical Habitat

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, determine endangered species status under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended, for the coqui llanero (Eleutherodactylus juanariveroi), and designate critical habitat. In total, we are designating approximately 615 acres (249 hectares) of a freshwater wetland in Sabana Seca Ward, Municipality of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, as critical habitat. The effect of this regulation is to conserve the coqui llanero and its habitat under the Act.
DATES: This rule becomes effective on November 5, 2012.
ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the Internet athttp://www.regulations.gov.Comments and materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in preparing this final rule, are available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, P.O. Box 491, Road 301 Km 5.1, Boqueron, PR 00622; by telephone, 787-851-7297; or by facsimile, 787-851-7440.

The coordinates or plot points or both from which the maps are generated are included in the administrative record for this critical habitat designation and are available at (http://www.fws.gov/caribbean/es/Endangered-Main.html),http://www.regulations.govat Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2009-0022, and at the Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office (seeFOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Any additional tools or supporting information that we may develop for this critical habitat designation will also be available at the Fish and Wildlife Service Web site and Field Office set out above, and may also be included in the preamble or athttp://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marelisa Rivera, Deputy Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, P.O. Box 491, Road 301 Km 5.1, Boqueron, PR 00622; by telephone, 787-851-7297, extension 206; or by facsimile, 787-851-7440. 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

Why we need to publish a rule.Under the Act, the Service shall designate critical habitat for any species or subspecies that is determined to be an endangered or threatened species, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable. On October 12, 2011, we published the proposed rule to list the coquí llanero as an endangered species (76 FR 63420). In that document, we explained that the species currently exists in a freshwater wetland at Sabana Seca, faces numerous threats, and therefore warrants listing under the Act as an endangered species. Additionally, we proposed the designation of the coquí llanero's critical habitat and discussed our criteria for the designation. This rule finalizes the protection proposed for the coquí llanero as an endangered species and the designation of 615 acres (249 hectares) in Sabana Seca Ward, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, as critical habitat, following careful consideration of all comments we received during the public comment period.

The basis for our action.Under the Act, a species may be determined to be an endangered or threatened species based on any of the 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. Coquí llanero is determined to be an endangered species due to three of these five factors. Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary shall designate critical habitat on the basis of the best available scientific data after taking into consideration the economic impact, national security impact, and any other relevant impact of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. The Secretary may exclude an area from critical habitat if he determines that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such area as part of the critical habitat, unless he determines, based on the best scientific data available, that the failure to designate such area as critical habitat will result in the extinction of the species.

Peer review and public comment.When we published the proposed rule on October 12, 2011, we opened a 60-day comment period on the proposed listing and critical habitat designation for the coquí llanero. On June 19, 2012, we reopened the comment period for an additional 30 days. During the comment periods, we sought comments from independent specialists (peer reviewers) on the specific assumptions and conclusions in our listing proposal to ensure that the designation of critical habitat is based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. In addition, we sought comments from interested parties and the general public. We considered all comments and information received during the comment periods.

Background

This document consists of: (1) A final rule to list the coquí llanero as an endangered species; and (2) a final critical habitat designation for the coquí llanero.

Previous Federal Actions

On May 22, 2007, we received a petition, dated May 11, 2007, from the Caribbean Primate Research Center (CPRC) (CPRC 2007, pp. 1-29) requesting that the coquí llanero be listed as an endangered species under the Act. The petition also requested that we designate critical habitat concurrently with listing, if listing occurs. In a letter to the petitioner dated July 23, 2007, we acknowledged receipt of the petition and stated that (1) we would not be able to address the petition until funding became available, and (2) actions requested by this petition were precluded by court orders and settlement agreements for other listing actions that required nearly all of our listing funds for the current (2007) fiscal year.

On January 22, 2009, we received an amended petition dated January 13, 2009. The amended petition included updated information on current threats to the species and its habitat (CPRC 2009, pp. 1-19). On July 8, 2009, we published in theFederal Register(74 FR 32510) our finding that the petition to list the coquí llanero presented substantial information indicating that the requested action may be warranted, and we initiated a status review of the species.

On October 12, 2011, we published in theFederal Register(76 FR 63420) our 12-month finding on the petition, combined with a proposed rule to list the species as an endangered speciesand designate critical habitat. Publication of the proposed rule opened a 60-day public comment period.

On June 19, 2012, we published in theFederal Register(77 FR 36457) our evaluation of the potential economic impacts of the proposed critical habitat designation, and we reopened the public comment period for the proposed rule and critical habitat designation for 30 days.

Species Information

The coquí llanero, an endemic Puerto Rican frog, was first collected by Neftalí Ríos-López and Richard Thomas in 2005, from a freshwater herbaceous wetland on the closed U.S. Naval Security Group Activity Sabana Seca (USNSGASS) property and the Caribbean Primate Research Center (CPRC), Toa Baja, Puerto Rico (PR). This wetland area is considered as the “type locality” (similar location) because the species was first collected and described from this area. When discovered, the coquí llanero was only known to occur at the Ingenio Sector in the Sabana Seca Ward, Toa Baja, PR, located on the northern coast, north of Toa Alta and Bayamón, east of Dorado, and west of Cataño, approximately 12 miles (mi) (20 kilometers (km)) from San Juan, PR.

Taxonomy and Species Description

In 2007, the coquí llanero was described as a new species of the genusEleutherodactylus,familyLeptodactylidae.Although the coquí llanero is similar toEleutherodactylus gryllus(cricket coquí or green coquí), differences in morphological ratios, body coloration, call frequency and structure, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and habitat association indicate that it is a well-differentiated species (Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, pp. 53-60; CPRC 2009, p. 1). The coquí llanero is the smallest and only known herbaceous wetland specialist within the genusEleutherodactylusin Puerto Rico (Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, p. 62). It has a mean snout-vent length of 0.58 inches (in) (14.7 millimeters (mm)) in males and 0.62 in (15.8 mm) in females. The nares (nasal passages) are prominent and a ridge connects them behind the snout tip, giving the tip a somewhat squared appearance. The species has well-developed glands throughout its body; its dorsal coloration is yellow to yellowish brown with a light, longitudinal, reversed comma mark on each side; and its mid-dorsal zone is broadly bifurcated (divided into two branches) (Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, p. 55). The species' communication call consists of a series of short, high-pitched notes, with call duration varying from 4 to 21 seconds. The advertisement call has the highest frequency among all Puerto RicanEleutherodactylus,between 7.38 and 8.28 kilohertz (Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, p. 61). The calling activity starts at approximately 4:30 p.m. and decreases significantly before midnight.

Distribution

The coquí llanero is found only on a palustrine herbaceous wetland at Sabana Seca Ward. When the species was first discovered and described, the author estimated that the coquí llanero occurs on approximately 445 acres (ac) (180 hectares (ha)) (Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, p. 60). Joglar (2007, p. 2) conducted additional surveys and estimated that the distribution of the species to occur on approximately 504.5 ac (204 ha). The Service has estimated the palustrine herbaceous wetland area where the coquí llanero is now found to be about 615 ac (249 ha) (Service 2011, unpublished data).

Vega-Castillo (2011) conducted diurnal and nocturnal surveys in wetland areas and channels located between PR Road-867 and PR Road-165 to the north of where the coquí llanero was found while evaluating the proposed alignment for a natural gas pipeline. These surveys were conducted during January 2011, using recorded male calling (Vega-Castillo 2011, pp. 9-12). During this period, Vega-Castillo (2011) detected at least 6 individual coquí llanero vocalizing at the edge of a vegetated drainage channel that is a tributary of the Cocal River. The locality where these individuals were reported is about 1.7 mi (2.7 km) northwest from the type locality. This area is mainly dominated by pasture (Vega-Castillo 2011, p. 12). In March 2011, Service biologists conducted several site visits to the area to confirm the report. In addition, the Service installed a recorder for a 24-hour period during March 2011, to detect individuals vocalizing in the area. However, the Service did not detect the species in this area. Based on the Service's observations, the area is highly degraded, dominated by lands cleared (burned) and converted to pastureland.

Habitat

The habitat for the coquí llanero comprises an area of approximately 615 ac (249 ha) that includes approximately 97 ac (39 ha) of Commonwealth land and 518 ac (209 ha) of Federal land (Geo-Marine 2002, pp. 2-13; Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, p. 60; Joglar 2007, p. 2; Tec Inc. and AH Environmental 2008, p. 3-2; PR Land Authority 2011, unpublished data; Service 2011, unpublished data).

The habitat of the coquí llanero is located within the subtropical moist forest life zone (tropical and subtropical forest ecosystems) (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, pp. 20-38). This life zone (areas with similar plant and animal communities) covers about 60.5 percent of the total area of Puerto Rico (Ewel and Whitmore 1973, p. 9). The species appears to be an obligate marsh dweller (Ríos-López 2007, p. 195). The coquí llanero has been found only in freshwater, herbaceous wetland habitat at an elevation of 55.8 ft (17 m) (Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, p. 60). The National Wetland Inventory (NWI) classifies the majority of this wetland as palustrine emergent persistent seasonally flooded, an area with surface water present for extended periods during the growing season. The soils of this wetland consist of swamp and marsh organic deposits from Pleistocene or recent origin or both (Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, p. 60). The species' habitat may represent a relic of an endemic seasonally to permanently flooded, herbaceous wetland habitat type (Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, p. 63). Herbaceous vegetation in this habitat shows a species composition consisting ofBlechnum serrulatum(toothed midsorus fern),Thelypteris interrupta(willdenow's maiden fern),Sagittaria lancifolia(bulltongue arrowhead),Cyperussp. (flatsedges),Eleocharissp. (spike rushes), and vines and grasses (Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, p. 60). The majority of coquí llanero have been found perching and calling on the toothed midsorus fern and willdenow's maiden fern. At discovery, all the individuals collected were perching, sitting, or calling on herbaceous vegetation, mainly on ferns.

Biology

The coquí llanero is insectivorous (feeds on small insects). The species has been observed to reproduce only onSagittaria lancifolia(bulltongue arrowhead) (CPRC 2009, p. 4). Egg clutches were found on leaf axils (21 egg clutches) or leaf surfaces (3 egg clutches) of onlySagittaria lancifolia(Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, p. 60) within the wetland area. Egg clutches comprise one to five eggs and are found on leaf axils or leaf surfaces between 1.3 feet (ft) (0.4 meters (m)) and 3.9 ft (1.2 m) above water level (Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, pp. 53-62). Observers did not witness parental care in the field (CPRC 2009, p. 5).

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

Due to the nature of the proposed rule, we received combined comments from the public on the listing action and the critical habitat designation. We have addressed these issues in a single comment section.

We requested written comments from the public during two comment periods on the proposed listing of the coquí llanero and the proposed designation of critical habitat for the coquí llanero. The first comment period associated with the publication of the proposed rule (76 FR 63420) opened on October 12, 2011, and closed on December 12, 2011. We also requested comments on the proposed critical habitat designation and our evaluation of the potential economic impacts during a comment period that opened June 19, 2012, and closed on July 19, 2012 (77 FR 36457). We also contacted appropriate Federal, State, and local agencies, scientific organizations, and other interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposed rule and our evaluation of the potential economic impacts during these comment periods.

During the first comment period, we received 11 comment letters directly addressing either the proposed listing or proposed critical habitat designation. During the second comment period, we received 14 comment letters addressing the proposed critical habitat designation or the evaluation of the potential economic impacts. We did not receive any requests for a public hearing.

Substantive comments we received were grouped into four general issues specifically relating to the proposed listing determination or proposed critical habitat designation for the coquí llanero. These comments are addressed in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule, as appropriate.

Peer Review

In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinions from six individuals with knowledge and scientific expertise that included familiarity with the species, the geographic region in which the species occurs, and conservation biology principles. We received responses from four of those individuals.

We reviewed all comments we received from the peer reviewers for substantive issues and new information regarding the proposed listing and critical habitat for the coquí llanero. The peer reviewers generally concurred with our methods and conclusions, and provided additional information, clarifications, and suggestions to improve the final rule. Peer reviewers' comments are addressed in the following summary and are incorporated into this final rule, as appropriate.

Peer Reviewer Comments

(1)Comment:The peer reviewers and others commenters suggested various editorial changes to the final rule.

Our Response:We evaluated all of the suggested editorial changes, and we incorporated them into this final rule, as appropriate.

(2)Comment:A commenter suggests that “tree frog” is not a correct name for the coquí llanero (Eleutherodactylussp.). He recommends that a generic name for the Puerto RicanEleutherodactylusshould be coquíes or frogs. Frogs known as “tree frogs” are usually members of theHylidaeorCentrolenidaetaxonomic families.

Our Response:We acknowledge this recommendation and agree with the observation. The recommendation is incorporated into this final rule.

(3)Comment:A peer reviewer states that there have been very few publications and reports on this species. The peer reviewer suggested that more research is needed. The peer reviewer stated that since the species' description in 2007, there have been no peer-reviewed publications on this species. All information related to the species' conservation and its habitat is based on anecdotal information, such as personal communications, presentations, and non-published reports.

Our Response:The Service agrees that there is limited information and peer-reviewed publications on the coquí llanero. However, in accordance with section 4 of the Act, the Service is required to use, and has used, the best available scientific and commercial information in this rulemaking. We relied upon primary and original sources of information in order to meet the “best available scientific and commercial information” standard. We evaluated information from many different sources, including articles in peer-reviewed journals, former rules and habitat designations developed by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, scientific surveys and studies, other unpublished materials, and experts' opinions or personal knowledge. Also, in accordance with the peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinions from knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with the species. Additionally, we requested comments or information from other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, and any other interested parties.

(4)Comment:Peer reviewers and commenters state that the proposed natural gas pipeline project “Via Verde” will be a serious threat to the coquí llanero and its habitat by adversely affecting the hydrology of the occupied wetland.

Our Response:Via Verde's proposed right-of-way alignment through Toa Baja is approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) northwest of the known wetland habitat supporting the coquí llanero (PRDNER 2007b, p. 16). The topography of the Sabana Seca has an east-to-west inclination (Morris 2007, p. 5); therefore, the project of concern will be located downstream of the coquí llanero's habitat.

We do not consider the proposed natural gas pipeline project a threat to the coquí llanero or its habitat because the best available scientific information does not indicate that it is a threat. If additional information becomes available on the impacts of the Via Verde project on the coquí llanero, we will reevaluate the threats and could, if appropriate, revise the designation.

(5)Comment:A peer reviewer and other interested parties petitioned the Service to exercise its authority under section 4(b)(7) of the Act to emergency list the coquí llanero as an endangered species. The petition was based on the species' severely limited geographic range, small population size, and several imminent threats to the ecosystem it depends upon for reproduction and survival.

Our Response:The Act at 16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(3)(A) establishes a single petition process for listing a species as an endangered or threatened species. There is no separate process in the Act or its implementing regulations for requesting an “emergency listing” as opposed to a “non-emergency” listing. Therefore, we treat a petition requesting emergency listing solely as a petition to list a species under the Act. Furthermore, although 16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(7) does empower the Secretary to list a species based upon an “emergency posing a significant risk to the well-being of [that] species,” that type of listing is expressly committed to the Secretary's discretion, the exercise of which is not structured by any statutorily prescribed criteria or procedures.

Our initial review of this emergency petition did not indicate that an emergency listing was warranted because, at the time of the petition, the species was protected by theCommonwealth of Puerto Rico and because the Service was in the process of listing the coquí llanero and designating critical habitat under the Act. On May 30, 2012, the protection given the coquí llanero by Puerto Rico's Commonwealth Law 241 and Regulation 6766 was overturned by the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. However, the Service has continued to proceed with its final rule to list the coquí llanero as an endangered species and to designate critical habitat, which will provide the species protection under the Act.

As a result, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will also grant protection to the coquí llanero under the authority of the 1984 Cooperative Agreement between the Service and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PRDNER) under section 6 of the Act and under Puerto Rico's Regulation 6766. Under the cooperative agreement and Regulation 6766, if the Federal Government makes a designation of critical habitat or lists a species under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the PRDNER will assure both the addition of the species to the Commonwealth list and the designation of critical habitat. After this final rule is effective, the coquí llanero will be protected by both entities, the Federal Government and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

(6)Comment:A peer reviewer provided a new estimated mean population size for the coquí llanero, 473.3 ± 186 individuals per hectare (or 192 per acre). This information was based on counts performed on 5 transects of 90 square meters each within the occupied wetland. The peer reviewer cautioned how these estimates may be misleading because the species is not evenly distributed throughout the landscape.

Our Response:We acknowledge the new estimated mean population size for the coquí llanero. In the proposed rule, we stated the estimated mean population size of the coquí llanero was approximately 181 individuals per ac (453 per ha). The new estimated mean population provided by the peer reviewer is based on the analysis of data collected from 5 transects of 90 square meters (area of 450 square meters) and, therefore, we consider it accurate. This data will be updated in this final rule based on the new information provided.

(7)Comment:A peer reviewer states that areas within the designated critical habitat are classified by the Toa Baja Municipality as urban soils (designated for urban development) and, if development occurred, it would affect the hydrology of the wetland occupied by the coquí llanero.

Our Response:The Service recognizes that areas within the critical habitat designation are threatened by urban development (seeSummary of Factors Affecting the Speciessection). The selection of sites to be included in the critical habitat designation is based on the needs of the species. Before we consider land ownership, we determine what is needed for the species' conservation based on the best available scientific and commercial information. The Service will always work on actions to support the recovery of the coquí llanero wherever possible. However, the designation of critical habitat does not impose a legally binding duty on private parties. The section entitledCritical Habitat Designation for Coquí Llanerowill provide information on how critical habitat was determined and how development activities will be considered and evaluated.

(8)Comment:A peer reviewer and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico suggest that the delimitation of critical habitat needs to be expanded east (the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico suggested at least 50 m (164 feet) passing over the maintenance dirt road, as any negative impact to this structure (e.g., oil spill, heavy sedimentation with water run-off) will directly impact the species.

Our Response:The Service has found no scientific justification for expanding critical habitat to the suggested area. The Service is designating areas as defined in section 3 of the Act. The Service has articulated a basis for designating the unit as critical habitat under the unit description in theFinal Critical Habitat Designationsection.

The Secretary could revise the designation, as appropriate and as resources allow, in the future if new information becomes available.

(9)Comment:Peer reviewers, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and other commenters recommend that although the nearby limestone hills are not occupied by, nor provide habitat for, the species, the limestone hills should be included in the critical habitat designation. Some commenters have witnessed strong water run-off flooding in the wetland after significant rain events. Others suggest viewing the limestone hills as an ecosystem and considering them as part of the watershed because it is clear that they are essential for the conservation of the species. Although some reviewers are aware of the Navy's intention to protect the limestone hills in perpetuity, they still recommend including the hills as part of the critical habitat designation, stating that the hydrological connection of the limestone hills with the wetland is essential for the protection of the coquí llanero. Some also request that the Service adopt the former designation of Critical Essential Natural Habitat by the PRDNER.

Our Response:The Service has determined that hydrology is one of the primary constituent elements (PCEs) specific to the conservation of the coquí llanero and has recognized that changes in hydrology may result in changes in the wetland function and vegetation composition, as well as affect the connectivity with nearby habitats, all with serious effects to the coquí llanero. However, the available hydrological study for this area only describes the limits of the watersheds that, based on surface topography, are tributary to the wetland (i.e., surface water drainage patterns, not groundwater flow patterns). Hence, no information is available as to what extent the surface water patterns and quantities are essential in maintaining the actual conditions of the wetland (i.e., maintaining the PCEs), or if there are other water sources (e.g., groundwater) with an equivalent or more positive impact on the wetland other than surface water. Nonetheless, the Service has information indicating that ownership of the limestone hills is to be transferred by the U.S. Navy to the University of Puerto Rico for perpetual protection.

The Service acknowledges the recommendation of expanding the critical habitat designation. However, additional information is needed to determine the importance of the limestone hills to the conservation of the species and the additional area needed to maintain the hydrology of the wetland (i.e., the PCEs of the occupied habitat). If data become available in the future that justify the addition of the limestone hills and any other suitable areas to critical habitat, the Secretary may revise the designation, as appropriate and as resources allow, under the authority of section 4(a)(3)(A)(ii) of the Act.

(10)Comment:A peer reviewer and several commenters state that the Service should include Caño Campanero and Cocal River in the critical habitat designation because these water bodies are responsible for maintaining the wetland and may be natural corridors for individual coquí llanero migrating from the existing wetland, thus contributing to the species' persistence in Toa Baja.

Our Response:Although we recognize the importance of Caño Campanero and the Cocal River as drainage outlets forthe wetland, the best available scientific information does not indicate that these water bodies are essential for the conservation of the coquí llanero. Therefore, Caño Campanero and the Cocal River do not meet the definition of critical habitat under the Act and are not included in this final designation.

Comments From the States

Section 4(i) of the Act states, “the Secretary shall submit to the State agency a written justification for his failure to adopt regulations consistent with the agency's comments or petition.” The only comment received from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was from a peer reviewer, who supported the listing and designation of critical habitat and recommended that the critical habitat for the coquí llanero be expanded. (See comments (8) and (9) and our responses).

Public Comments General Comment Issue 1 Critical Habitat

(11)Comment:A commenter understands our conclusion that the limestone hills are important for the water supply of the wetland, but states that we should focus instead on the fact that contamination, hazardous substance release, or direct human impact (construction) of any virgin land within the watershed will likely affect the water amount and condition within the entire watershed.

Our Response:The Service agrees that contamination might constitute a threat to the species (seeSummary of Factors Affecting the Species). However, the Service does not have sufficient information to determine the impacts to the watershed, and how those impacts would influence the wetland. The Service does have information on the surface water runoff towards the wetland (Gregory Morris 2007), but there is a lack of information to clearly understand the groundwater, water distribution, and contaminants that would enter the wetland. The Service considered both the importance of space for individual and population growth and for normal behavior, as well as sites for breeding, reproduction, or rearing (or development) of offspring when developing the PCEs. The PCEs in this final rule represent the best current understanding of the habitat requirements for the coquí llanero.

(12)Comment:A commenter requested that approximately 30 ac (12.1 ha) of an upland non-flooded area be excluded from the proposed critical habitat. The commenter's rationale is thatSagittaria lancifolia,an essential PCE for the conservation of the species, is clearly absent given that the parcel is a non-wetland.

Our Response:The approximate area being described occurs within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing. Reports confirm that the coquí llanero occupies the area. The Service acknowledges that the area is between manmade structures, but those structures (e.g., buildings, houses, roads, and other paved areas) are not included because they do not contain the PCEs and because they do not meet the definition of critical habitat under the Act. The 30-ac area (12.1-ha), on the other hand, does not contain any structures and is connected to the main wetland area.

The fact that there is noSagittaria lancifoliain the area only means that the coquí llanero will not lay their eggs there; however, the area contains other vegetation that is part of the same PCE. Therefore, we have determined that these lands meet the definition of critical habitat under the Act and remain within this final designation.

General Comment Issue 2 Outreach and Education

(13)Comment:A commenter recommends development of a public educational campaign to support the decision (listing and critical habitat designation).

Our Response:The Service agrees and will promote outreach for this final rule via a variety of media.

General Comment Issue 3 General Information

(14)Comment:A commenter clarified information regarding the entity that will be handling the disposal of the Navy Base's lands. The proposed rule indicated that the Navy is conveying approximately 2,075 ac (840 ha) of the property to Sabana Seca Land Management (SSLM). However, the entity that will be marketing and selling the Base is named Sabana Seca Partners, LLC (SSPL), which is an entity different from SSLM.

Our Response:We acknowledge this comment and we have made the correction in this final rule.

Summary of Changes From Proposed Rule

The Service reviewed and fully considered all comments received from the public and peer reviewers in response to the proposed rule of October 12, 2011 (76 FR 63420), to list the coquí llanero as an endangered species and to designate its critical habitat. The Service also considered all comments received in response to the reopened comment period on June 19, 2012 (77 FR 36457), and has made minor corrections, as appropriate, including the deletion of the reference to the coquí llanero as a tree frog as acknowledged in the response to comment (2), above.

Status Assessment for the Coquí Llanero Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 424) set forth the procedures for adding species to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. A species may be determined to be an endangered or threatened species due to one or more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. Listing actions may be warranted based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in combination. Each of these factors is discussed below.

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

The coquí llanero was discovered in 2005. Additional on-the-ground surveys based upon habitat characteristics revealed no additional populations. As a result, we do not know if the historical range of the species may be different from its present, known range. Therefore, we present and discuss only factors that may affect the current habitat or range of coquí llanero in this section, including: (1) Urban development; (2) operation and possible expansion of a go-kart and motorbike racetrack in coquí llanero wetland habitat; (3) contamination from the Toa Baja Municipal Landfill (TBML); (4) habitat degradation for flood control projects; and (5) competition from invasive wetland plant species.

Urban Development

Large-scale residential projects that are currently planned within and around the site where the species is known to occur pose a threat to the coquí llanero and its habitat (González 2010, pers. comm.; Ríos-López 2010, pers. comm.). The most significant portion of this habitat falls within the southern portion of the USNSGASS. Its land comprises approximately 2,195 ac (888.3 ha), which is divided into twolarge areas: the North and South Tracts. The North Tract accounts for approximately 1,330 ac (538.2 ha), with the majority of land currently leased to a local cattle farmer. The South Tract comprises approximately 865 ac (350.1 ha) and is where the coquí llanero is known to occur on 260 ac (105 ha).

The USNSGASS is disposing of the property in accordance with section 2801 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 1996 (FY1996), Public Law 104-106, 110 Stat. 186 (10 U.S.C. 2871-2885), as amended. Section 2801 of NDAA provides the authority to the Department of Defense (DOD) to work with the private sector nationwide, in order to build and renovate family housing and ancillary facilities in key areas of need. The Navy is conveying approximately 2,075 ac (840 ha) of the property to a private entity, Sabana Seca Partners (SSPL), LLC, which is associated with the Navy's Public Private Venture partnership for military family housing (Tec Inc. and AH Environmental 2008, p. ES-1). SSPL will market and sell the closed Navy base property to non-Federal entities through Forest City Enterprises, Inc.

The environmental assessment (EA) for the transfer-disposal of USNSGASS property states that the property disposed of by the Navy would be redeveloped in a manner similar to surrounding areas (Tec Inc. and AH Environmental 2008, p. 4-1). According to the EA, the preferred alternative for the wetland area that contains occupied coquí llanero habitat is residential use (Tec Inc. and AH Environmental 2008, p. 2-2). Furthermore, coquí llanero wetland habitat is not within the areas that would be zoned for conservation by the Toa Baja municipality, and, according to their land-use plan, they intend to zone the area for residential development. Also, coquí llanero wetland habitat is not within the parcels conveyed to the University of Puerto Rico for the purpose of protection in perpetuity.

The ultimate reuse of the USNSGASS property would be determined by the non-Federal entities receiving the property from SSLM and Forest City Enterprise, Inc. The EA explains that the development within wetlands and the magnitude of the impacts that could occur, if such development was permitted, would be dependent upon the actual placement of new residential areas and the amount of wetland removal or alteration allowed for site development (Tec Inc. and AH Environmental 2008, p. 4-15). Possible impacts (approximately 221 ac (89 ha) of the palustrine emergent wetland (Tec Inc. and AH Environmental 2008, p. 4-16)) could occur by draining and filling these wetlands, which are occupied by the coquí llanero, leaving little to no suitable habitat for the coquí llanero to carry out its life-history processes. In addition, filling the wetland for future development could require Clean Water Act (CWA; 33 U.S.C. 1251et seq.) section 404 permits from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (Corps). If the development would likely adversely affect the species once it is federally listed, consultation under section 7 of the Act should be conducted between the Corps and the Service.

Nevertheless, prior to the discovery of the coquí llanero, land-use history for this area has shown that urban and commercial development has adversely impacted wetland resources, and, although not documented, presumably affected coquí llanero individuals and habitat. An example of those impacts is the fill of a freshwater emergent wetland for residential housing at the western end of coquí llanero habitat (Zegarra and Pacheco 2010, pers. obs.). The wetland where coquí llanero is currently present was previously impacted by the construction and maintenance of Redman Road. This road was constructed in an area identified in the NWI maps as freshwater emergent and forested shrub wetlands habitat, and the road's construction interrupted the natural flow of water and affected the hydrology of the wetland. Further adverse effects to the same wetland habitat can be observed in the residential community that exists on the boundary of the closed USNSGASS property near the intersection of PR Road 867 and Redman Road. This community has expanded over the past 40 years and presently consists of approximately 50 houses, 20 of which are on Navy property (U.S. Navy 2000 in Tec Inc. and AH Environmental 2008, p. 3-4). Prior to the closure of the USNSGASS, the Navy was planning to construct a new fence on the property to eliminate further encroachment on its land holdings (Tec Inc. and AH Environmental 2008, p. 3-6).

Implementing the preferred alternative of the EA for the disposal of the USNSGASS may result in the destruction of approximately 416 ac (168 ha) of wetlands, including coquí llanero habitat (Tec Inc. and AH Environmental 2008, p. 4-5). Additionally, implementing the preferred alternative would most likely result in new residential development (Tec Inc. and AH Environmental 2008, p. 4-6). According to the Puerto Rican Planning Board (PRPB) Web site, 11 development projects are under evaluation around the southern section of the wetland type locality, possibly impacting 1,087 ac (440 ha) (http://www.jp.gobierno.pr,accessed February 2010). Urban development adjacent to the wetland type locality would fragment and directly impact suitable habitat for the coquí llanero and would limit the species' population expansion in the area. In addition, with the creation of new residential projects, traffic would be expected to increase, and, thus, the three primary roadways surrounding the USNSGASS would likely require some improvements (Tec Inc. and AH Environmental 2008, p. 4-6). Vehicle traffic on roads within the essential habitat of amphibian species can be a direct source of mortality and, in some instances, can be catastrophic and should not be underestimated (Glistaet al.2007, p. 85). According to Janice González, Director of the Caribbean Primate Research Center (CPRC), approximately 30 CPRC employees drive vehicles on Redman Road daily, as it is currently the main access road to the CPRC (González 2010, pers. comm.). Any improvement of the road or increase in traffic may affect the suitability of the wetland. The biological effects to the coquí llanero from the existing road network around the southern section of the wetlands are not well understood. The combination of habitat fragmentation and high vehicle use of the roads may negatively impact the coquí llanero and its habitat through loss of habitat connectivity, degradation of water quality, direct mortality, edge effects of the road and wetland, and changes in hydrology.

For the above reasons, we conclude that urban development and associated infrastructure and human use are a threat to the coquí llanero by direct mortality and due to permanent loss, fragmentation, or alteration of its habitat.

Go-Kart and Motorbike Racetrack

Although the Service does not have information regarding the specific date of the construction of the existing racetrack, we estimate that approximately 29 ac (11.6 ha) of freshwater emergent and forested shrub wetlands were impacted. These data were quantified using Geographic Information Systems analysis with aerial photography and the NWI layers. The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PRDNER) provided a photograph of the coquí llanero's habitat that was filled by the construction of the racetrack (PRDNER 2007b, p. 25). It is also evident that the racetrack floods during heavy rain events and serves as apotential source of contamination with oil, gasoline, and other pollutants, affecting the suitability of the coquí llanero's habitat (PRDNER 2007b, p. 25). The possible effects of waterborne contaminants on the coquí llanero are discussed under Factor E.

Comments submitted by SSLM (2009, p. 4) expressed concern regarding the operators of the racetrack removing soil to expand the parking lot. The soil was deposited on the USNSGASS grounds, affecting coquí llanero habitat by filling part of the wetland. Joglar (2007, p. 2) identified the wetland area contiguous to the racetrack as occupied by the coquí llanero.

Based on the above information, we conclude that any further expansion of the racetrack or its operation may potentially impact the coquí llanero through permanent loss, alteration, or contamination of its habitat.

Toa Baja Municipal Landfill (TBML)

The current operation of the TBML constitutes a threat to the coquí llanero. The landfill is located inland on top of a limestone hill 0.5 mi (0.8 km) south of the known coquí llanero habitat. The polluted discharge or runoff waters from the continued operation of the landfill may pose a threat to the species because underground contaminated waters and leachates reaching the wetlands may change water quality, soils, and consequently plant composition (CPRC 2009, pp. 6-9). See discussion below under Factor E.

The legal representative for the Toa Baja Municipal Administration sent a letter to the Service dated September 8, 2009, supporting the listing of the coquí llanero as an endangered species and supporting the PRDNER Essential Critical Natural Habitat delineation, except for one 83-ac (33.6-ha) parcel necessary for the implementation of TBML closure activities ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to a PRDNER technical assistance letter dated February 26, 2010 (PRDNER 2010, pp. 1-6), another area on the north side of the TBML is also being considered for use in closure activities. The area identified as Area B by the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB) is located within the area formerly designated by PRDNER as Essential Critical Natural Habitat for the coquí llanero. Activities identified in the closure procedures will direct the TBML storm water drainages towards the wetland. Storm water that drains from the TBML currently flows into coquí llanero habitat and is contaminated with leachate (see Factor E discussion). In addition, the TBML closure measures would modify the hydrology of the area and could adversely affect the hydrology of the wetland by affecting part of the limestone hills, which supply water to the wetland and affect the suitability of habitat for the species.

Based on the above information, we conclude that the current operation and possible closure measures of the TBML are a threat to the coquí llanero by potentially altering the hydrology of its wetland habitat and by contaminating the wetland with landfill runoff.

Channel-Clearing Activities for Flood Control

The municipality of Toa Baja periodically removes riparian vegetation along the main drainage channel within the wetland where the species is known to occur. These flood control measures are implemented during the rainy season to facilitate water flow and prevent flooding of nearby communities such as Ingenio, Villas del Sol, and Brisas de Campanero. However, channel-clearing activities may facilitate drainage and drying of the wetland, and accelerate colonization of invasive, herbaceous vegetation along the edges of the channel towards the wetland (Ríos-López 2009, p. 3). Preliminary studies on the reproductive biology of the coquí llanero suggest that wetland areas subjected to prolonged dry periods (e.g., towards the edges of wetland) are characterized by greater vegetation cover of grasses instead of the native ferns and arrowheads that the coquí llanero depends on for reproduction and survival. These areas also have a disproportionate abundance of coquí llanero egg clutch predators, both native and exotic mollusks and insects (Ríos-López 2009, pp. 3, 11).

Based on the above information, we conclude that channel-clearing activities may be an indirect threat to the coquí llanero because they prolong dryer conditions along the edges of the wetland, allowing invasive plants and predators to colonize the wetland.

Invasive Wetland Plant Species

Invasive native wetland plants such asTypha domingensis(Southern cattail) may invade and alter diverse native wetland communities, often resulting in plant monocultures that support few wildlife species (Houlahan and Findlay 2004, p. 1132). Southern cattail may alter the wetland attributes, including geomorphology, fire regime, hydrology, microclimate, nutrient cycling, and productivity (Woo and Zedler 2002, p. 509). Based on our previous experience in the Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge, the southern cattail colonized disturbed areas faster than other native wetland plants, thereby excluding the native plants. The southern cattail is currently found in patches within coquí llanero wetland habitat (Service 2011, pers. obs.). If the southern cattail continues to spread and colonizes coquí llanero wetland habitat, it could replace allSagittaria lancifoliaand the ferns that the coquí llanero depends on for reproduction and normal behavior.

Therefore, we conclude that invasive wetland species are a threat to the coquí llanero due to changes in the wetland hydrology and plant species composition the coquí llanero needs for survival.

Summary of Factor A

Based on the best scientific and commercial information available, we find that urban development, the operation of the existing race track, activities associated with the operation and future closure of the TBML, channel-clearing activities for flood control, and invasive plant species pose a threat to the species. The scope of this factor is exacerbated because the only known population of coquí llanero occurs on land that is slated for development and surrounded by lands subject to urban development. Because these threats are already occurring, and are expected to continue into the future, on the extremely localized known range of the coquí llanero, they are having or are likely to have a significant impact on the species.

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

The coquí llanero is not a commercially valuable species or a species sought after for recreational or educational purposes. However, this recently discovered species could be actively sought for scientific purposes. Forty-five coquí llanero specimens were collected for scientific purposes in 2005 to describe the species, and some specimens have been deposited in universities and private collections (Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, p. 54). In addition, an undisclosed number of eggs and individuals were collected for scientific research of the species' reproductive biology, potential captive breeding capability, and pathogen sampling. Despite scientific collection having been identified as a possible contribution to the decline of other coquí species in Puerto Rico, scientific collection had not previously been identified as a threat to this species because the coquí llanero had legal protection under Commonwealth Law 241 and PRDNER Regulation 6766,promulgated in 2007. Commonwealth Law 241 and PRDNER Regulation 6766 prohibited collection of the coquí llanero without authorization of the Secretary of the PRDNER (PRDNER 2007a, p. 9). However, on May 30, 2012, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico overturned the protection and critical habitat designation established by the PRDNER for the coquí llanero (Municipio de Toa Alta, et al.v.PRDNER,2012 TSPR 94), leaving the species without legal protection. This issue is discussed under Factor D.

As a recently discovered species, the coquí llanero is recognized for its rarity and restricted range. However, there is no regulation limiting its collection, making the species more attractive to collectors and scientists. Currently, only a few researchers are conducting studies on the species. Although collection could be a significant threat to the species due to its restricted range and because collection could potentially occur at any time, we do not have information indicating that the coquí llanero is being collected. Therefore, we conclude that overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes is not a threat to the coquí llanero.

C. Disease or Predation

The effects of diseases or predation on the coquí llanero are not well known. Because the species is known from only one location, and population size is not well estimated, disease and predation could pose a threat to its survival.

Disease

The pathogenic chytrid fungus,Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis(Bd), is a widespread pathogen that is hypothesized to be the cause of mass mortality in some amphibian populations (Pilliodet al.,2009, p. 1260). Chytridiomycosis (disease caused by the fungus) results whenBdinvades keratinized tissue (tissue that makes the outside of the skin tough and resistant to injury) of an amphibian, disrupting cutaneous functions, compromising the host's immune system, and affecting the amphibian's behavior (Pilliodet al.,2009, p. 1260). In Puerto Rico, the fungus appears to be endemic above 1968.5 ft (600 m), occurring from east of Luquillo Mountain (El Yunque National Forest) throughout the Central Cordillera up to Maricao (Burroweset al.2008, p. 322). This occurrence is outside of the coquí llanero's known range (seeSpecies Information). Additionally, five coquí llanero individuals have been sampled forBd,with negative results (Burroweset al.2008, p. 323). AlthoughBdhas been detected at lower elevations in other tropical environments, the best scientific and commercial information available for coquí llanero indicates that this fungus is not a current threat to this species, nor is it likely to become so in the near future, even taking into consideration changing environmental conditions due to climate change (see discussion under Factor E). Based on the above information, we conclude that disease is not currently a threat to the coquí llanero.

Predation is a threat to the coquí llanero, particularly at the dryer edges of the wetland. The eggs are preyed on by ants and by a terrestrial invertebrate. Information provided by Ríos-López (2009, p. 11) indicates that natural predation pressure may be strong and that interspecific competition for breeding sites may be significant. Preliminary data indicated that the coquí llanero has the lowest reproductive output of any coquí species in Puerto Rico, averaging three eggs per clutch (PRDNER 2007a, p. 3; Ríos-López and Thomas 2007, p. 60; Ríos-López 2009, p. 5). Egg predation by native and exotic invertebrates was observed, with some predators consuming entire egg masses in 3 days. However, the information available suggests that flooded conditions may limit predation pressure against the coquí llanero. Predators of the coquí llanero rarely invade more permanent flooded areas of the wetland, suggesting that predation could be exacerbated by the destruction, modification, or curtailment of the species' habitat (see discussion under Factor A).

Based on the best scientific and commercial information available, we have determined that disease is not a threat to the coquí llanero. However, predation is a threat to the continued existence of the species.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

PRDNER designated the coquí llanero as Critically Endangered and designated its habitat as Essential Critical Natural Habitat under Commonwealth Law 241 and Regulation 6766 in July 2007 (PRDNER 2007a and 2007b). Article 2 of Regulation 6766 included all prohibitions and stated the designation as “critically endangered,” which prohibited any person from taking the species; it prohibited harm, possession, transportation, destruction, or import or export of individuals, nests, eggs, or juveniles without previous authorization from the Secretary of PRDNER (PRDNER 2007a, p. 9). Article 2.06 also prohibited collecting, harassing, hunting, and removing, among other activities, of listed animals within the jurisdiction of Puerto Rico (PRDNER 2007a, p. 9).

The PRDNER designated approximately 1,602 ac (648 ha) as “Essential Critical Natural Habitat” under Regulation 6766 (PRDNER 2007b, p. 28). The coquí llanero's habitat was the first designated essential critical natural habitat under Commonwealth Law 241 and Regulation 6766. Article 4.05 of this regulation specifies that an area designated as Essential Critical Natural Habitat cannot be modified unless scientific studies determine that such designation should be changed.

SSLM brought a lawsuit against the PRDNER, alleging that the agency designated as critical habitat of the coquí llanero areas in excess of what is required for the conservation of the species. SSLM challenged the PRDNER designation, arguing the area does not reflect the presence of the coquí llanero or physical and biological characteristics that sustain the species.

On May 30, 2012, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico held that PRDNER did not follow the designation process required by Commonwealth Law 170 (Ley de Procedimientos Administrativos Uniformes del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, del 12 de Agosto de 1988, 3 L.P.R.A. sec. 2101,et seq.), and overturned the PRDNER designation of the coquí llanero as “critically endangered” and the designated “essential critical natural habitat” (Municipio de Toa Alta, et al.v.PRDNER,2012 TSPR 94). Therefore, presently, PRDNER's designations for the coquí llanero as critically endangered and its essential critical natural habitat, are invalid, and Commonwealth Law 241 and Regulation 6766 provide no protection for the species and its habitat. Additionally, the coquí llanero is not currently on the Commonwealth list of endangered and threatened species.

The Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1251et seq.,administered by the Corps, establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. The objective of the CWA is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters by preventing point and nonpoint pollution sources. The CWA has a stated goal that “* * * wherever attainable, an interim goal of water quality which provides for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and provides for recreation in and on the water be achieved by July 1, 1983.” States are responsible for setting andimplementing water quality standards that align with the requirements of the CWA. Overall, implementation of the CWA could benefit the coquí llanero through the point and nonpoint source programs.

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution comes from many diffuse sources, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall (water) moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it transports natural and human-made pollutants to lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters. States report that nonpoint source pollution is the leading remaining cause of water quality problems. The effects of nonpoint source pollutants on specific waters vary and may not always be fully assessed. However, these pollutants have harmful effects on fisheries and wildlife (http://www.epa.gov/owow_keep/NPS/whatis.html).

Sources of NPS pollution within the watershed that feed the wetland occupied by the coquí llanero include clearing of riparian vegetation, urbanization, road construction, and other practices that allow bare earth to enter streams. The Service does not have any specific information about the sensitivity of the coquí llanero to common NPS pollutants likely released from the activities discussed under Factor A, above. Because there is very little information known about water quality parameters necessary to fully protect the coquí llanero, it is difficult to determine whether the CWA is adequately addressing the habitat and water quality threats to the species. However, based on the information currently available, the Service does not believe that the current water quality conditions are a threat to the species.

Similarly, the CWA has mechanisms in place to protect the integrity of wetlands such that water quality is maintained. The Service currently consults with the Corps on wetland fill permits, and we anticipate that this process will adequately protect the integrity of the emergent wetland occupied by the coquí llanero. Therefore, we do not find that inadequate implementation of the CWA is a threat to the species at this time.

Summary of Factor D

The sole regulatory mechanisms that protected the coquí llanero, Commonwealth Law 241 and Regulation 6766, have been invalidated by the court and are no longer in effect. Further, after evaluating the CWA, we determined that it provides adequate protection to the wetland occupied by the species and, therefore, inadequate implementation to the CWA is not a threat to the coquí llanero at this time. We are not aware of any other existing regulatory mechanisms that address the threats to the species and its habitat identified under the other factors. In summary, we do not find that the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms is a threat to the species.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

In the following section, we discuss the highly specialized ecological requirements of the species, as well as water and soil pollution, use of herbicides, brush fires, competition, climate change, and human use of and access to the wetland area.

Highly Specialized Ecological Requirements

Because of its highly specialized ecological requirements for reproduction, the coquí llanero's vulnerability to other threats discussed in this rule is exacerbated. As mentioned in theBackgroundsection, the coquí llanero is known to exist in only one freshwater wetland in the municipality of Toa Baja, and after several searches in other similar locations (apparently there are few or no wetlands with similar plant composition), the species was not detected. Ríos-López and Thomas (2007, p. 60) found that the breeding events of the coquí llanero were limited to one plant species,Sagittaria lancifolia.This plant is an obligate wetland indicator species. A general description of the major substrate types of the wetland that the coquí llanero currently inhabits indicates a 7.4 percent vegetation cover ofS. lancifolia(Ríos-López 2009, p. 9). The coquí llanero may also be selecting an intermediateS. lancifoliasize class for egg laying, which suggests further specialization (Ríos-López 2010, unpubl. data, p. 8). Also, current research by Ríos-López (2010, unpubl. data, p. 11) suggests that reproduction may not occur randomly in space, but rather seems to be limited to plants located in areas of little disturbance, in areas that are permanently flooded, and in areas that are away from the wetland's edges.

We find that the highly specialized ecological requirements of the coquí llanero exacerbate its vulnerability to other threats, such that the continued existence of the species is likely to be impacted.

Water and Soil Pollution

CPRC (2009, p. 6), PRDNER (2007b, p. 24), EGIS, Inc. (2007, p. 4), and Joglar (2007, p. 6) identify the TBML leachates as a threat to the coquí llanero. This landfill is located on the limestone hills to the south of the wetland known to be occupied by the coquí llanero. The CPRC submitted to EGIS a photograph of contaminated leachates draining towards that wetland. The leachate study submitted by EGIS described the hydrology of the area as typical of karst zones (area of limestone soil characterized by sinks, ravines, and underground streams) near the coast in which the runoff generated in the limestone hills, including at the TBML, flows at or near the surface through a series of channels and small valleys that ultimately reach the marshes and