Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531
Our standard for substantial scientific or commercial information within the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) with regard to a 90-day petition finding is “that amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted” (50 CFR 424.14(b)). If we find that substantial scientific or commercial information for a listable entity was presented, we are required to promptly conduct a species status review, which we subsequently summarize in a 12-month finding.
On July 11, 2011, we received a petition dated July 7, 2011, from Richard C. Malone, on behalf of the Mountgrove Property Owners Association (petitioner), requesting that the single existing grove of
The petition discusses the origin and taxonomy of the sphinx date palm, and provides details of its life history. The petitioner mentions threats to the entity, and provides brief examples of potential population declines. The petition also discusses the petitioners' views on the advantages of protection for the sphinx date palm for research, education, propagation, as well as the economic advantages of the grove's production of high-quality fruit. The petition includes citations for various references and resources used to support the statements in the petition.
The petition clearly identified itself as such and included the requisite identification information for the petitioners, as required by 50 CFR 424.14(a). This finding addresses the petition. Below, we address the petitioner's request to list
All information in this section is from the petition. The Service has no information in its files on the sphinx date palm beyond that presented in the petition.
The grove in Phoenix consists of 450 mature trees and is the only known stand (contiguous area occupied by trees of similar type) of sphinx date palm. The grove is located in the Mountgrove district, south of Lafayette Boulevard, north of the Arizona canal, bordered by 46th Place on the west and 47th place on the east in the Arcadia area of central Phoenix. There are a few additional individual palms in the Phoenix Metro and Yuma areas of Arizona, and two sphinx date palms are reported to exist in California.
The petitioner does not provide descriptive information specific to the sphinx cultivar. They do provide information for the date palm (
The sphinx date palm has a lifespan of 100 to 130 years. Reproduction in the cultivar is vegetative (asexual; only one plant is involved and the offspring is genetically identical to its parent). Propagation is accomplished by removing offshoots (lateral shoot from the main stem of the plant) from mature palms. These offshoots must contain their own root ball (main mass of roots at the base of a plant). Propagation in this slow-growing cultivar is a long process, spanning 3 generations of 8 years each. Approximately 25 years were required to propagate the 450 offshoots needed to plant the grove. Pollination, and thus fruit production, is fully dependent on human intervention as male palms are not sufficiently numerous or near to date-bearing (female) palms for pollination to occur by natural means.
It is believed that Southwest Asia is the native region of the sphinx date palm's parent taxon, the date palm; however, its origin is not known with certainty. The sphinx date palm was
The petition consistently refers to the sphinx date palm as a cultivar of
There have been no previous Federal actions for this entity.
Upon receipt of a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species, we are to consider whether such petition “clearly indicates the administrative measure recommended and gives the scientific and any common name of the species involved” (50 CFR 424.14(b)(2)(i)). Under the Act, a species is defined as including any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment (DPS) of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532).
The sphinx date palm, like many vascular plants, is of hybrid origin. We acknowledge that hybridization is an important mechanism of plant speciation, as hybrids can display new phenotypes and promote adaptive evolution. We also acknowledge that it is conceivable that over time, the sphinx date palm could become sufficiently reproductively isolated to accrue substantial genetic distinction from its parent species to become a species itself. At this time, however, Phoenix's grove of sphinx date palms is a collection of individuals which does not represent a cohesive population entity with an evolutionary lineage separate from its parent species. In modern taxonomic practice, entities such as the sphinx date palm hybrid do not constitute a species.
The sphinx date palm is a cultivar. Cultivars are not eligible for protection under the Act. Speaking to this distinction, there has been much litigation on the subject of the intent of the relative ambiguity of the term “species” in the Act. In
The Act defines a species as including “any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature” (16 U.S.C. 1532 (16)). The Service considers plant varieties and subspecies to be essentially identical (“Determination that 11 Plant Taxa are Endangered Species and 2 Plant Taxa are Threatened Species”, 43 FR 17910). Cultivar is a taxonomic level below that of subspecies and variety, and, therefore, cultivars are not listable entities as defined in the Act.
We conclude that the sphinx date palm is not a listable entity as defined under the Act. Therefore, after a review of the guiding regulations, we conclude that the petitioned entity does not constitute a “listable entity” and cannot be listed under the Act.
The District Court in the District of Oregon in their determination for
We conclude that the sphinx date palm is not a valid taxonomic entity and does not meet the definition of a species or a subspecies under the Act. Therefore, after a review of the guiding regulations and litigated precedents, we conclude that the petitioned entity does not constitute a “listable entity” and cannot be listed under the Act.
In summary, the petition does not present substantial information indicating that listing the Sphinx date palm as endangered is warranted, because the entity as petitioned is not listable under the Act.
The primary authors of this notice are the staff members of the Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see
The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531