2000 Federal Register notice of 12-month Administrative Finding by fre77224

VIEWS: 5 PAGES: 13

									5476                  Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules

   As required by section 3507(d) of the              § 96.122 Application content and                        DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
PRA, the Secretary has submitted a copy               procedure.
of this proposed rule to OMB for its                  *      *    *     *     *                               Fish and Wildlife Service
review. Comments on the information                      (d) The application (in substantial
collection requirements are specifically                                                                      50 CFR Part 17
                                                      compliance with the statutory and
solicited in order to: (1) Evaluate
                                                      regulatory provisions for the Block                     Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
whether the proposed collection of
information is necessary for the proper               Grant) shall for fiscal years through                   and Plants; 12-Month Finding for a
performance of HHS functions,                         fiscal year 2000, be submitted no later                 Petition To List the Black-Tailed Prairie
including whether the information will                than March 31 of the fiscal year for                    Dog as Threatened
have practical utility; (2) evaluate the              which the State is applying. Beginning
                                                      with the fiscal year 2001 application, all              AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service,
accuracy of the HHS estimate of the                                                                           Interior.
burden of the proposed collection of                  required components for a complete
information, including the validity of                application must be submitted no later                  ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition
the methodology and assumptions used;                 than October 1 of the fiscal year for                   finding.
(3) enhance the quality, utility, and                 which Block Grant funding is being
                                                                                                              SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife
clarity of the information to be                      requested. The submission date for the
                                                      report required by § 96.130(e) to be                    Service, announce a 12-month finding
collected; and (4) minimize the burden
                                                                                                              for a petition to list the black-tailed
of the collection of information on those             submitted with the application and/or
                                                                                                              prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) as
who are to respond, including the use                 the information required by § 96.134(b)
                                                                                                              threatened throughout its range under
of appropriate automated, electronic,                 may be extended for good cause shown                    the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as
mechanical, or other technological                    in a request signed by the official                     amended (Act). After reviewing all
collection techniques or other forms of               authorized to apply for the Block Grant                 available scientific and commercial
information technology.                               funding on behalf of the State, or the                  information, we have determined that
   OMB is required to make a decision                 Governor. The State should request an                   listing this species is warranted but
concerning the collection of information              extension for only the amount of time                   precluded by other higher priority
contained in these proposed regulations               necessary. In no event will an extension                actions to amend the Lists of
between 30 and 60 days after                          be granted past December 31 of the                      Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
publication of this document in the                   fiscal year for which application is                    and Plants. Upon publication of this
Federal Register. Therefore, a comment                made. All requests to extend the due                    notice of 12-month petition finding, the
to OMB is best assured of having its full             date must be submitted no later than                    black-tailed prairie dog will be added to
effect if OMB receives it within 30 days              September 1 of the prior fiscal year and                our candidate species list.
of publication. This does not affect the              addressed to the same address as                           This decision is based on—the
deadline for the public to comment to                 specified for the grant application.                    number, variety, and significance of
HHS on the proposed regulations.                      Extension requests must state for which                 threats affecting the species, especially
   Organizations and individuals                      requirement an extension is sought, the                 sylvatic plague (an exotic disease to
desiring to submit comments on the                    date of submission sought, why the                      which the species has no resistance) and
information collection requirements                   State is unable to meet the October 1                   inadequate regulatory mechanisms
should direct them to the Office of                   due date, and discuss if there are steps                (some areas mandate eradication);
Information and Regulatory Affairs,                   the State will be able to take to avoid                 evidence of recent general population
OMB. (address above).                                 requiring an extension in future years,                 declines in a significant portion of the
List of Subjects in 45 CFR Part 96                    or if not, why not. Extension requests                  species’ range; and cumulative
                                                      complying with these requirements will                  rangewide population data indicating
  Administrative practice and                         be acted upon no later than September                   overall population declines since 1980.
procedure, Grant programs—health,                     20 of the fiscal year prior to the year for             DATES: The finding announced in this
Health care.                                          which application is to be made. Due                    document was made on February 4,
  Dated: January 31, 2000.                            date extensions regarding the § 96.130(e)               2000.
Donna E. Shalala,                                     report and regarding the § 96.134(d)                    ADDRESSES:   You may submit data,
Secretary.                                            information shall only be granted in                    information, comments, or questions
                                                      writing. In order for an applicant to                   concerning this finding to the Field
  For the reasons set forth in the                    have complied with the requirements of                  Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
preamble, the Department proposes to                  section 1932(a)(1) of the Public Health                 Service, 420 South Garfield, Suite 400,
amend Subpart L of Part 96 of Title 45
                                                      Service Act (42 U.S.C. 300x-32(a)(2)), it               Pierre, South Dakota 57501. You may
of the Code of Federal Regulations as
                                                      is necessary that the components of the                 inspect the petition finding, supporting
follows:
                                                      application have been submitted by the                  data, and comments by appointment
PART 96—BLOCK GRANTS                                  date indicated or as extended pursuant                  during normal business hours at the
                                                      to the above.                                           above address. The petition finding also
Subpart L—Substance Abuse                             *      *    *     *     *                               will be available at the Service’s Region
Prevention and Treatment Block Grant                                                                          6 website at <www.r6.fws.gov/
                                                      [FR Doc. 00–2444 Filed 2–1–00; 10:25 am]
                                                                                                              btprairiedog>.
  1. The authority citation for Subpart               BILLING CODE 4162–20–P

L of Part 96 continues to read as follows:                                                                    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:    Pete
                                                                                                              Gober, Field Supervisor, South Dakota
  Authority: 42 U.S.C. 300x–21 to 300x–35                                                                     Field Office (see ADDRESSES section),
and 300x–51 to 300x–64.                                                                                       telephone (605) 224–8693, extension 24,
  2. Section 96.122 (d) is revised to read                                                                    or facsimile (605) 224–9974.
as follows:                                                                                                   SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:



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                     Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules                                                   5477

Background                                           black-tailed prairie dog. This                          collection period closed November 3,
   On July 31, 1998, we received a                   information included a description of                   1999.
petition dated July 30, 1998, from the               the species and its range, as well as                      We received approximately 14,500
                                                     comments related to its population                      comment letters during the
National Wildlife Federation (National
                                                     biology and trend. The Petitioner noted                 development of this finding. The
Wildlife Federation 1998). The
                                                     that the species still occurs                           following summarizes the sources and
Petitioner requested that we list the
                                                     intermittently throughout most of its                   general content of information we
black-tailed prairie dog as threatened
                                                     historic range, although much reduced                   received.
throughout its range. The Petitioner also                                                                       All State wildlife agencies within the
requested that the species be afforded               in numbers and in the amount of habitat
                                                     that it occupies. The Petitioner                        historic range of the black-tailed prairie
emergency listing. Section 4 of the Act                                                                      dog provided written comments on the
                                                     contrasted reports that the black-tailed
and regulations at 50 CFR 424 do not                                                                         petition. Two State agriculture
                                                     prairie dog once occupied as much as
provide for petitions to request the                                                                         departments (New Mexico and
                                                     100–200 million acres (ac) (40–80
listing of species on an emergency basis.                                                                    Wyoming) and two State Legislatures
                                                     million hectares (ha)) of the western
However, section (4)(b)(7) of the Act and                                                                    (North Dakota and Wyoming) also
                                                     North American prairie with current
the Service’s Listing Priority Guidance                                                                      provided comments. In general, the
                                                     estimates of occupied habitat and
(63 FR 25502) direct that all petitions                                                                      States opposed listing the black-tailed
                                                     concluded that the species’ habitat has
are to be reviewed to determine if an                                                                        prairie dog but supported the
                                                     been reduced by at least 99 percent. The
emergency listing is appropriate. We                                                                         development of conservation measures
                                                     Petitioner attributed reductions in
determined and advised the Petitioner                                                                        for the species. Most information
                                                     occupied habitat to habitat loss and
by letter dated August 27, 1998, that it             degradation related to the conversion of                provided by the States focused on
would be inappropriate to list this                  prairie grasslands to farmland, extensive               policy and jurisdictional concerns
species on an emergency basis given its              control, disease, urban development,                    rather than on information related to the
then known status. On September 16,                  unregulated shooting, and other factors.                biological status of the species.
1999, the Petitioner requested that we                  On August 26, 1998, we received                         State wildlife agencies and other
readdress this issue based on reports of             another petition regarding the black-                   interested parties also developed a
increased control efforts (Graber,                   tailed prairie dog from the Biodiversity                Strategy for conservation of the black-
National Wildlife Federation, in litt.               Legal Foundation, the Predator Project,                 tailed prairie dog (Van Pelt in prep.).
1999). We have reevaluated information               and Jon C. Sharps (Biodiversity Legal                   The actions identified in the current
available regarding this subject and                 Foundation et al. 1998). They requested                 draft of this Strategy remain tentative
determined that emergency listing of the             that we list the black-tailed prairie dog               and do not at this time confer any
species is not appropriate at this time.             as threatened throughout its known                      improved status for the species. Eight of
   Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act requires            historic range in the contiguous United                 the 11 participating State wildlife
that, for any petition to revise the List            States. We accepted this second request                 agencies have signed a Memorandum of
of Threatened and Endangered Species                 as supplemental information to the                      Understanding for the purpose of
containing substantial scientific and                National Wildlife Federation petition.                  implementing the States’ Strategy for
commercial information that listing may              The Biodiversity Legal Foundation et al.                the black-tailed prairie dog. At this time,
be warranted, we make a positive 90-                 (1998) provided estimates of historic                   the strategy does not include
day finding and initiate a status review             and current distribution of the black-                  participation by the States of New
of the species. We published a notice of             tailed prairie dog, both regionally and                 Mexico, North Dakota, and Colorado,
a positive 90-day finding on the subject             by State. They noted that the species’                  other State (non-wildlife) agencies,
petition in the Federal Register on                  populations are impacted by eradication                 Federal agencies, Tribal agencies, or any
March 25, 1999 (64 CFR 14425).                       programs, sylvatic plague, recreational                 private interests. We recognize the
Accordingly, the subject petition                    shooting, land conversion, and natural                  significant effort that went into the
requires a 12-month administrative                   predation. The Biodiversity Legal                       development of this strategy, and we
finding pursuant to section 4(b)(3)(B) on            Foundation (1999) also developed and                    believe that the strategy is a positive
whether the petitioned action is—(I) not             submitted a potential plan for black-                   step in addressing the conservation
warranted, (ii) warranted, or (iii)                  tailed prairie dog conservation.                        needs of the black-tailed prairie dog. At
warranted but precluded from                            The notice of a 90-day finding that a                this early stage in development of the
immediate proposal by other higher                   petition to list the black-tailed prairie               strategy, the document lacks
priority efforts to revise the List of               dog presented substantial information                   commitments to specific immediate
Threatened and Endangered Species.                   that appeared in the Federal Register on                actions that would affect the status of
When we find a petition to list a species            March 25, 1999 (64 FR 14424). In this                   the species. We will continue working
is warranted but precluded, the species              notice, we requested that any additional                with the States and other interested
is designated a candidate species.                   scientific information relevant to a                    parties to support the coordinated
   We believe that sufficient information            proposed 12-month administrative                        conservation efforts of the States.
is currently available to support a                  finding be submitted to us by May 24,                      Three Tribes in South Dakota
finding that listing the black-tailed                1999. We published a notice in the                      provided written comments on the
prairie dog as threatened is warranted,              Federal Register on June 4, 1999 (64 FR                 petition—the Cheyenne River Sioux
but that a proposed rule at this time is             29983), that reopened this period for an                Tribe, the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, and
precluded by work on other higher                    additional 45 days, through July 19,                    the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Information
priority listing actions. We will                    1999. On October 4, 1999, we again                      was provided by these Tribes regarding
reevaluate the status of the species in 1            published a notice that we would accept                 distribution and abundance and existing
year. The information contained in this              additional information, especially                      regulatory mechanisms on and
notice is a summary of the information               pertaining to a draft black-tailed prairie              adjoining their respective Tribal lands.
in the 12-month finding.                             dog Conservation Assessment and                            Several Federal agencies provided
   The National Wildlife Federation                  Strategy (Strategy) developed by various                written comments on the petition. The
petition presented extensive                         States and its effect on the status of the              Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)
information regarding the biology of the             species (64 FR 53655). This information                 supported conservation measures and


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5478                 Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules

acknowledged a possible need to list the             Strategy, most expressing the view that                 individual ranges from 1 to 3 pounds.
species. The U.S. Forest Service                     the proposed measures were sufficient                   Individual appearances within the
provided supplemental information                    to avoid listing and that State                         species vary in mixed colors of brown,
regarding the current status of black-               management was preferable to Federal                    black, gray, and white. The black-tipped
tailed prairie dogs on National                      management. The remaining 3 of the 84                   tail is characteristic (Hoogland 1995).
Grasslands (Sidle, U.S. Forest Service,              commenters did not express a position.                  Black-tailed prairie dogs are diurnal,
in litt. 1999). The National Park Service                                                                    burrowing animals and spend most of
                                                     Taxonomy
provided information on its control                                                                          the day above ground. They do not
efforts and noted its preference for the                Five species of prairie dogs occur in                hibernate as do white-tailed,
development and implementation of                    North America. Prairie dogs are rodents                 Gunnison’s, and Utah prairie dogs
cooperative management strategies                    within the squirrel family (Sciuridae)                  (Hoogland 1995, Tileston and
among State, Tribal, and Federal                     and include the black-tailed prairie dog,               Lechleitner 1966). The species is very
agencies rather than a listing of the                the white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys                   social, living in population aggregations
species. The Corps of Engineers Omaha                leucurus), the Gunnison’s prairie dog (C.               called colonies, towns, or villages (King
District also reviewed information                   gunnisoni), the Utah prairie dog (C.                    1955). Groups of colonies comprise a
provided in the petition, but had no                 parvidens), and the Mexican prairie dog                 complex. Historically, they generally
specific comments.                                   (C. mexicanus) (Pizzimenti 1975). The                   occurred in large colonies that
   Twenty-three county agencies (county              Utah and Mexican prairie dogs are                       contained thousands of individuals,
commissions and weed/pest councils)                  currently listed as threatened (49 FR                   covered hundreds of thousands of acres,
in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, South                22339) and endangered (35 FR 8495),                     and extended for miles (Bailey 1905).
Dakota, and Wyoming provided written                 respectively. Generally the black-tailed                This description is no longer accurate
comments on the petition. All county                 prairie dog occurs east and north of the                for existing black-tailed prairie dog
agencies were opposed to listing the                 other four species in less arid habitat.                populations; most colonies are now
species. Economic considerations were                   Some scientific literature describes a               much smaller.
a common concern in these comment                    subspecies (Cynomys ludovicianus                           The colonial behavior of prairie dogs,
letters. Because the Act directs that only           arizonensis) of the black-tailed prairie                especially the black-tailed prairie dog, is
biological considerations are to be                  dog. This subspecies, found in                          a significant characteristic of the
addressed in the listing process, we                 northeastern Mexico (Ceballos et al.                    species. Colonial behavior offers an
cannot address economic considerations               1993), is extirpated in Arizona                         effective defense mechanism by aiding
in review of this petition.                          (Alexander 1932; Bureau of Sport                        in the detection of predators and
   One hundred forty-four organizations              Fisheries and Wildlife 1961; Van Pelt,                  deterring predators through mobbing
(wildlife/conservation or livestock/land             Arizona Game and Fish Department, in                    behavior. It increases reproductive
management organizations) provided                   litt. 1998) and has a remnant population                success through cooperative rearing of
written comments on the petition.                    in southwestern New Mexico (Hall and                    juveniles and aids parasite removal via
Forty-two wildlife/conservation                      Kelson 1959) and in the Trans-Pecos                     shared grooming. However, it also has
organizations supported listing of the               region of Texas (Davis 1974, Hall and                   been noted that this behavior promotes
black-tailed prairie dogs. Eighty-seven              Kelson 1959). A complex of this                         the transmission of disease, which can
livestock/land management                            subspecies in Chihuahua, Mexico,                        significantly suppress populations
organizations were opposed to listing                comprises the largest remaining prairie                 (Olsen 1981, Hoogland 1995).
the species. Fifteen organizations                   dog complex of any prairie dog species                     Several biological factors determine
provided recommendations but did not                 (Ceballos and Pacheco 1997).                            the reproductive potential of the black-
indicate a position.                                    The remainder of the species is found                tailed prairie dog. Females usually do
   Over 14,300 individuals provided                  in eastern Montana, eastern Wyoming,                    not breed until their second year and
written comments on the petition.                    eastern Colorado, eastern New Mexico,                   live 3–4 years (Hoogland 1995, King
Approximately 90 percent of all                      southwestern North Dakota, western                      1955, Knowles and Knowles 1994).
individuals supported listing the black-             and central South Dakota, western and                   Females of the species produce a single
tailed prairie dog as threatened. The                central Nebraska, western and central                   litter, usually 4–5 pups, annually
issues most frequently noted in these                Kansas, western and central Oklahoma,                   (Hoogland 1995, Knowles and Knowles
letters were impacts from the loss of 99             northwestern Texas, and southwestern                    1994). Prairie dog dispersal is usually
percent of the species’ habitat,                     Canada. Although some literature                        limited to approximately 3 miles (5
recreational shooting, control, and                  describes a subspecies, the research that               kilometers) or less, and individuals
disease. Individuals opposed to listing              has focused on evolutionary divergence                  dispersing from home colonies generally
the species most frequently expressed                (genetic segregation and differentiation                move into an established colony rather
the view that adequate numbers of the                within a taxon) supports categorizing                   than attempting to initiate a new colony
species exist, the species is able to                the black-tailed prairie dog as a                       (Garrett and Franklin 1988, Hoogland
reproduce rapidly in response to                     monotypic species. Based on this                        1995). These limitations could restrict
adverse impacts, sport shooting does not             research we do not consider this                        recruitment of animals into small and
impact the species, and adverse                      subspecies separation to be valid. We                   declining isolated populations and favor
economic impacts can occur if the                    consider the species as being                           the reestablishment of individuals in
species is not controlled.                           monotypic. For the remainder of this                    nearby, recently abandoned colonies
   We received approximately 9,000                   notice, the use of the common name                      over the establishment of new, more
letters during the third comment period              ‘‘black-tailed prairie dog’’ includes both              distantly located colonies.
(October 4 to November 3, 1999). Of                  varieties discussed above.
these, 84 mentioned the States’ Strategy,                                                                    Ecology
25 of which opposed the States’                      Biology                                                   The extent to which the black-tailed
Strategy, mostly due to a perceived lack               Prairie dogs are small, stout ground                  prairie dog is affected by other species,
of specific conservation measures and                squirrels. The total length of an adult                 particularly ungulates, is largely
reliance on future, voluntary actions.               black-tailed prairie dog is approximately               unknown. The black-footed ferret
Fifty-six letters supported the States’              14–17 inches. The weight of an                          (Mustela nigripes), swift fox (Vulpes


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                     Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules                                                   5479

velox), mountain plover (Charadrius                  United States. Seton (1953) estimated                   cost involved. We believe that a review
montanus), ferruginous hawk (Buteo                   that, in the late 1800s, 5 billion black-               of various estimates of occupied habitat
regalis), burrowing owl (Athene                      tailed prairie dogs existed over their                  area provides the best available and
cunicularia), and numerous other                     entire range of 600,000 square miles                    most reasonable means of determining
species are dependent upon prairie dogs              (384 million ac or 155.5 million ha).                   population trends for the species.
to varying degrees. Although reports                 Miller et al. (1996) and Mulhern and                      The U.S. Geological Survey estimated
vary as to those species that require                Knowles (1995) provided a range for                     that the black-tailed prairie dog may
prairie dogs for their survival, at least 9          historic occupied habitat by all species                occupy less than 0.5 percent of its
species depend directly on prairie dogs              of prairie dogs of 99 million-247 million               original range and has experienced an
or their activities to some extent, and              ac (40 million-100 million ha).                         estimated 98 percent decline in
another 137 species are associated                   Anderson et al. (1986) noted that, as a                 population abundance throughout North
opportunistically (Kotliar et al. 1999).             conservative estimate for the early                     America (Mac et al. 1998). It notes that
The most obligatory species of this                  1900s, 104 million ac (42 million ha) of                the amount of occupied habitat has
group is the endangered black-footed                 rangeland may have been occupied by                     declined from approximately 100
ferret. Probably no other species has a              all species of prairie dogs. Black-tailed               million ac (40.5 million ha) in the late
more clearly documented dependence                   prairie dogs had the most extensive                     1800s to less than 1 million ac (0.4
on another species than does the black-              range of all the species of prairie dogs                million ha) at present; a decline of over
footed ferret on the prairie dog                     and probably occupied more area than                    99 percent. Barko (1997), Fagerstone
(Anderson et al. 1986, Biggins et al.                all other species combined (Hoogland                    and Ramey (1996), Knowles (1998),
1986, Clark 1989, Forrest et al. 1988,               1995). Estimates of historic black-tailed               Mulhern and Knowles (1995), and
Henderson et al. 1974, Hillman 1968,                 prairie dog occupied habitat of                         Wuerthner (1997) concluded that a
Miller et al. 1996).                                 approximately 79 million ac (32 million                 reduction of approximately 94–99
                                                     ha) in the United States by the Black-                  percent in the amount of occupied
Rangewide Distribution                                                                                       habitat within this range has occurred
                                                     footed Ferret Recovery Foundation (in
   The historic range of the black-tailed            litt. 1999) and of approximately 111                    since about 1900. State wildlife agencies
prairie dog included portions of 11                  million ac (45 million ha ) by Knowles                  generally confirm this decline, but some
States, Canada, and Mexico. Today it                 (1998) provide a reasonable historic                    point out that disproportionately more
occurs from extreme southern Canada to               range for black-tailed prairie dog                      occupied habitat remains in some areas
northeastern Mexico and from                         occupied habitat. It is apparent that                   than in others.
approximately the 100th meridian west                regardless of which estimate is                           Some increases in the amount of
to the Rocky Mountains. The species is               considered, tens of millions of acres of                occupied habitat in some areas occurred
currently present in 10 States including             occupied habitat once existed in the                    subsequent to the Executive Order
Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska,                 United States.                                          banning the use of compound 1080 (a
New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma,                     At present, the black-tailed prairie                 toxicant) in 1972. These increases
South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. It                 dog may be found scattered in remnant                   appear to have been limited in later
has been extirpated in Arizona since as              populations throughout much of the                      years by the use of other toxicants such
early as 1932 (Alexander 1932). We                   range that it once occupied. A                          as zinc phosphide, the continuing
believe that significant range                       significant portion of existing occupied                spread of sylvatic plague, and other
contractions have occurred in the                    habitat rangewide occurs in a few large                 factors (Knowles 1998). Moreover, the
southwestern portion of the species’                 complexes. Approximately 36 percent of                  majority of these increases
historic range in Arizona, western New               the remaining occupied habitat for the                  (approximately 85 percent) occurred in
Mexico and western Texas, and in the                 species in North America occurs in                      areas (Montana, South Dakota, and
eastern portion of the species’ historic             seven complexes, each larger than                       Wyoming) where significant impacts
range in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma,                 10,000 ac (4,000 ha). We believe that                   due to disease had not yet occurred.
South Dakota, and Texas. These range                 approximately 768,000 ac (311,000 ha)                     Survey efforts in some areas have
contractions represent approximately 20              of occupied habitat currently exists                    noted significant declines in the amount
percent of the species’ original range.              rangewide. This estimate is based on the                of black-tailed prairie dog occupied
Only a few individuals or none remain                sum of Service estimates from various                   habitat over the last few decades. For
in these areas. Approximately 37                     States, from Canada, and from Mexico,                   example, the U.S. Forest Service has
percent of the species’ potential habitat            as discussed under the ‘‘Statewide                      mapped black-tailed prairie dog
in the United States has been converted              Distribution, Trends, and Abundance’’                   colonies within the Northern Great
to cropland (Black-footed Ferret                     section of this document.                               Plains National Grasslands in North
Recovery Foundation, in litt. 1999). This                                                                    Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and
                                                     Rangewide Trends                                        Nebraska. These grasslands, covering
habitat loss is essentially permanent and
not considered a range contraction in                  Most estimates of prairie dog                         approximately 3.7 million ac (1.5
the usual sense occurring at the                     population trends are not based on                      million ha), included a maximum of
periphery of a species’ range. Although              numbers of individuals, but on the                      86,220 ac (34,890 ha) of black-tailed
the species will occupy abandoned                    amount of occupied habitat for the                      prairie dog occupied habitat in the
tilled ground, these lands are generally             species. The actual number of animals                   1970s to the 1990s. In 1997, the U.S.
unavailable for use by the species                   present depends upon the density of                     Forest Service mapped 39,420 ac
because the land is continuously                     animals in that locality. Estimates of                  (15,965 ha) of occupied habitat in the
disturbed and thus the habitat is lost               black-tailed prairie dog density across                 same areas, indicating a 54 percent
permanently.                                         the species’ range vary seasonally, but                 decline (U.S. Forest Service 1998). Data
                                                     range from 2 to 18 individuals per ac (5                provided by the U.S. Forest Service in
Rangewide Abundance                                  to 45 individuals per ha) (Fagerstone                   1999 confirmed losses in occupied
  Historically, black-tailed prairie dogs            and Ramey 1996, Hoogland 1995, King                     habitat for the National Grasslands with
were one of the most conspicuous and                 1955, Koford 1958, Miller 1996). Most                   a 58 percent decline from the 1970s to
characteristic residents of the short-               prairie dog surveys do not estimate                     the present (Sidle, U.S. Forest Service,
grass and mixed-grass prairies of the                density because of the high effort and                  in litt. 1999).


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5480                 Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules

   Lockhart (U.S. Fish and Wildlife                  noted after 1972. However, in most                      of remnant occupied habitat. However,
Service, in litt. 1998) reported that the            western States, populations have                        we believe that trends at specific
recovery program for the black-footed                declined since the 1980s, most likely                   locations within the State (a 50 percent
ferret has identified large prairie dog              due to sylvatic plague. In the eastern                  decline in Denver Metropolitan Area
complexes potentially useful for                     part of the range, where plague has not                 from 1994 to 1998 (Seery, U.S. Fish and
reintroduction of the ferret. Both black-            yet occurred, similar declines have not                 Wildlife Service, pers. comm. 1998), a
tailed and other prairie dog species are             been observed. These trends are                         70 percent decline at Rocky Mountain
considered. One necessary criteria for               discussed below by State. We have                       Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge from
these sites is that they contain                     evaluated all historic and current data                 1988–1999 (Seery and Matiatos, in
approximately 10,000 ac (4,000 ha) of                and information available on the                        press), and a 90 percent decline at
occupied habitat. In the late 1980s, the             species’ abundance and trends. Several                  Comanche National Grasslands from
Black-footed Ferret Interstate                       estimates of black-tailed prairie dog                   1995 to 1998 (Cully 1998), indicate that
Coordinating Committee identified                    occupied habitat were available for each                there has likely been a statewide decline
dozens of potential sites that may have              State. The dates, methodologies, and                    in recent years (despite periodic limited
qualified as suitable for ferret recovery.           ultimately the reliability of these                     recovery) and that these declines may
Black-tailed prairie dog populations at              estimates varied. Generally, our estimate               continue. These declines have largely
these sites appear to have been reduced              of current occupied habitat for each                    been attributed to sylvatic plague. We
by as much as 90 percent within the last             State is the most recently reported                     estimate that 93,000 ac (43,000 ha) of
15 years. By 1994 only 16 sites were                 estimate with the most reliable                         black-tailed prairie dog occupied habitat
identified, and by 1998 this number was              methodology (Arizona, Montana,                          currently exist statewide.
reduced to 10 sites (7 being black-tailed            Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma,                          In Kansas, black-tailed prairie dogs
prairie dog sites). Although the overall             South Dakota, Canada, and Mexico). For                  historically occurred on suitable habitat
trend is a large-scale reduction,                    States where a range (Wyoming) or two                   throughout the western two-thirds of the
population increases have been                       reliable estimates were available                       State (Hall and Kelson 1959, Smith
observed at some locales. These                      (Kansas), we used the midpoint. For                     1958). Presently, the species appears to
declines have occurred largely in the                States where no recent estimate with                    be scattered throughout generally the
western portion of the species’ range                adequate methodology was available                      same area, except that the eastern limit
and are generally attributed to sylvatic             (Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas), we                   of the range appears to have shifted
plague. These declines may be                        extrapolated from older estimates. We                   westward approximately 30–50 miles
representative of the overall population             rounded all our estimates to the nearest                (50–80 kilometers) (Vanderhoof and
dynamics of the species in many areas.               1,000 ac.                                               Robel 1992). Statewide estimates of
However, populations in some other                      In Arizona, black-tailed prairie dogs                occupied habitat for Kansas range from
areas in the eastern portion of the                  existed in the southeastern portion of                  2.5 million ac (1 million ha) historically
species’ range where plague is mostly                the State prior to eradication efforts                  to 36,000 ac (15,000 ha) in 1998
absent have increased marginally or                  (Hall and Kelson 1959). The species is                  (Knowles 1998). We estimate that
remained generally constant during the               extirpated at present in the State.                     42,000 ac (17,000 ha) of black-tailed
same period.                                         Approximately 2 percent of occupied                     prairie dog occupied habitat currently
   Approximately 66 percent, or 300                  habitat in the United States may have                   exist statewide.
million ac (122 million ha), of the black-           existed in Arizona historically. We                        We believe that occupied habitat in
tailed prairie dog range in the United               believe that intensive grazing at the turn              Kansas has declined significantly from
States is affected by sylvatic plague                of the last century may have caused                     historic estimates, but has likely been
(Black-footed Ferret Recovery                        occupied habitat to expand in Arizona                   stable to slightly declining in recent
Foundation, in litt. 1999). This area                and that control may have been the                      years. The most recent statewide survey
includes the western portions of the                 principal factor that subsequently                      is from 1992 (Vanderhoof and Robel
species’ range. Another important factor             suppressed populations. Shrub invasion                  1992). However, in 1996 sylvatic plague
that has affected the species is the                 also may have limited recovery. The                     was documented in Kansas on the
conversion of rangeland to cropland,                 species largely disappeared from the                    Cimarron National Grasslands (Cully,
especially in the eastern portion of the             State prior to the documented                           U.S. Geological Survey, Biological
species’ range. Conversion of native                 occurrence of sylvatic plague in the                    Resources Division, pers. comm. 1998).
prairie to cropland has largely                      State (Shroufe, Arizona Game and Fish                   Therefore, occupied habitat may decline
progressed across the species’ range                 Department, in litt. 1999). However,                    if sylvatic plague impacts continue and/
from east to west with more cropland                 plague is an additional factor that could               or spread to other areas of the State.
occurring in the eastern portion of the              affect the future viability of the species                 In Montana, black-tailed prairie dogs
species’ range. In the plague-free portion           in Arizona.                                             historically occurred on suitable habitat
of the species’ range, less than 33                     In Colorado, black-tailed prairie dogs               in the eastern two-thirds of the State
percent of the species’ historic range is            historically occurred on suitable habitat               (Flath and Clark 1986), with the
available to the species (Black-footed               east of the Rocky Mountain foothills                    exception of the northeastern corner of
Ferret Recovery Foundation, in litt.                 (Hall and Kelson 1959, Torres 1973).                    the State (Hall and Kelson 1959). One of
1999). Therefore, only approximately 10              Presently, the species appears to be                    the seven large remaining black-tailed
percent of the black-tailed prairie dog              scattered in remnant populations                        prairie dog complexes occurs in
historic range is both plague-free and               throughout the same area. Statewide                     Montana. Statewide estimates of
available (not cropland) to the species.             estimates of occupied habitat noted for                 occupied habitat for Montana range
The majority of plague-free, suitable                Colorado range from 7 million ac (2.8                   from 6 million ac (2.4 million ha)
range occurs in South Dakota.                        million ha) historically to 44,000 ac                   historically (Knowles 1998) to 28,286 ac
                                                     (18,000 ha) in 1998 (Knowles 1998).                     (11,456 ha) in 1961 (Bureau of Sport
Statewide Distribution, Abundance,                      We believe that occupied habitat in                  Fisheries and Wildlife 1961). The
and Trends                                           Colorado has declined significantly                     Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife,
  In some parts of the species’ range,               from historic estimates. There is a large               and Parks believes that historic
statewide population increases were                  disparity in recent statewide estimates                 estimates are inaccurate (Graham,


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                     Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules                                                   5481

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife,                prairie dog occupied habitat currently                  the State has experienced a slow, steady
and Parks, in litt. 1998). The most recent           exist statewide.                                        decline (Shackford et al. 1990).
estimate of occupied habitat is 66,000 ac               We believe that occupied habitat in                  Statewide, populations have been
(26,000 ha) (Montana Department of                   New Mexico has declined significantly                   reduced by 50 percent in the last 10
Fish, Wildlife and Parks in prep.). We               from historic estimates. Following the                  years (Lomolino, in litt. 1999).
estimate that 65,000 ac (26,000 ha) of               toxicant ban in 1972, increases in                         In South Dakota, black-tailed prairie
black-tailed prairie dog occupied habitat            occupied habitat appear to have                         dogs historically were found throughout
currently exist statewide.                           occurred. However, declines in                          all but the eastern one-fourth of the
   We believe that occupied habitat in               occupied habitat have likely occurred in                State (Hall and Kelson 1959, Linder et
Montana has declined significantly from              more recent years (Maracchini, New                      al. 1972). Presently the species appears
historic estimates. Following a major                Mexico Department of Game and Fish,                     to be scattered throughout the same
reduction in occupied habitat from                   in litt. 1998).                                         area, with the majority of occupied
approximately 1900 to 1961, black-                      In North Dakota, black-tailed prairie                habitat on Tribal or Federal lands west
tailed prairie dog populations in the                dogs historically occurred on suitable                  of the Missouri River and small
State apparently expanded from 1961 to               habitat in the southwestern third of the                scattered populations elsewhere. Four of
1986 and then experienced significant                State, west of the Missouri River (Hall                 the seven remaining large black-tailed
declines due to sylvatic plague. The                 and Kelson 1959). Presently, the species                prairie dog complexes occur in South
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife,                appears to be scattered throughout the                  Dakota. Statewide estimates of occupied
and Parks (1998) noted that occupied                 same area. Statewide estimates of                       habitat for South Dakota range from
habitat declined by approximately 50                 occupied habitat for North Dakota range                 more than 1,757,000 ac (712,000 ha)
percent from the estimates of the late               from 2 million ac (810,000 ha)                          historically, following the initiation of
1980s, largely due to sylvatic plague.               historically (Knowles 1998) to                          intensive control efforts in 1918 (Linder
   In Nebraska, black-tailed prairie dogs            approximately 7,000 ac (2,800 ha) as a                  et al. 1972), to 33,000 ac (13,000 ha) in
historically occurred on suitable habitat            conservative estimate in 1973 (Grondahl                 1961 (Bureau of Sport Fisheries and
throughout most of the State west of the             1973). The most recent estimate of                      Wildlife 1961). The most recent estimate
97th meridian (Hall and Kelson 1959,                 occupied habitat is a preliminary                       of occupied habitat in the State is a
Knowles 1995). Presently, the species                estimate of approximately 25,000 ac                     preliminary estimate of 147,000 ac
appears to be scattered throughout the               (10,000 ha), based on aerial surveys                    (60,000 ha), based on aerial surveys
same area, but at much reduced                       (Sidle, U.S. Forest Service, pers. comm.                (Sidle, U.S. Forest Service, pers. comm.
numbers, especially east of the 99th                 1999). We estimate that 25,000 ac                       1999). We estimate that 147,000 ac
meridian. Statewide estimates of                     (10,000 ha) of black-tailed prairie dog                 (60,000 ha) of black-tailed prairie dog
occupied habitat noted for Nebraska                  occupied habitat currently exist                        occupied habitat currently exist
range from 6 million ac (2.4 million ha)             Statewide.                                              Statewide.
historically (Knowles 1998) to 30,000 ac                We believe that occupied habitat in                     We believe that occupied habitat in
(12,000 ha) in 1961 (Bureau of Sport                 North Dakota has declined significantly                 South Dakota has declined significantly
Fisheries and Wildlife 1961). The most               from historic estimates, but has likely                 from historic estimates, with notable
recent estimate of occupied habitat is               been fairly stable to increasing                        recovery from 1961–1980 (Bureau of
60,000 ac (24,000 ha) (Knowles 1998).                (McKenna, North Dakota Game and Fish                    Sport Fisheries and Wildlife 1961,
We estimate that 60,000 ac (24,000 ha)               Department, in litt. 1999) in recent                    Tschetter 1988). Thereafter, extensive
of black-tailed prairie dog occupied                 years. The amount of occupied habitat                   control efforts at Pine Ridge Reservation
habitat currently exist statewide.                   in North Dakota is relatively small                     and elsewhere in the 1980s resulted in
   We believe that occupied habitat in               compared to other States in the northern                a significant decline in occupied
Nebraska has declined significantly                  Great Plains.                                           habitat. Subsequently, occupied habitat
from historic estimates and has likely                  In Oklahoma, black-tailed prairie dogs               has remained fairly stable. More
been stable to slightly declining in                 historically occurred on suitable habitat               unoccupied, but available, habitat
recent years (Amack, Nebraska Game                   in the western two-thirds of the State                  appears to remain in South Dakota than
and Parks Commission, in litt. 1999).                (Hall and Kelson 1959). Presently, the                  in other States.
This stability may be due to the fact that           species is largely limited to the                          In Texas, black-tailed prairie dogs
sylvatic plague does not appear to be                panhandle (Shaw et al. 1993, Tyler                      historically occurred on suitable habitat
widespread in the State, although it has             1968, Wuerthner 1997), although                         throughout the northwestern one-third
been documented in the northwestern                  scattered remnant populations occur in                  of the State (Bailey 1905, Hall and
portion of the State where it has                    the western half of the State outside of                Kelson 1959). Presently, the species
impacted some black-tailed prairie dog               the panhandle (Shackford et al. 1990).                  occurs largely in the western portion of
populations (Virchow et al. 1992).                   Statewide estimates of occupied habitat                 the panhandle. Some scattered remnant
   In New Mexico, black-tailed prairie               noted for Oklahoma range from 950,000                   populations exist in the Trans-Pecos
dogs historically occurred on suitable               ac (385,000 ha) historically (Knowles                   Region of western Texas. Statewide
habitat throughout the southern and                  1998) to less than 8,600 ac (3,500 ha) in               estimates of occupied habitat range from
eastern two-thirds of the State (Bailey              1998 (Lomolino, University of                           58 million ac (23 million ha) historically
1932, Hall and Kelson 1959). Presently,              Oklahoma, in litt. 1999). We estimate                   to 23,000 ac (9,000 ha ) in 1998
the species appears to exist in remnant              that 9,000 ac (3,600 ha) of black-tailed                (Knowles 1998). We estimate that
populations in scattered locations,                  prairie dog occupied habitat currently                  71,000 ac (29,000 ha) of black-tailed
generally east of the Pecos River                    exist Statewide.                                        prairie dog occupied habitat currently
(Findley et al. 1975). Statewide                        Populations in the panhandle have                    exist Statewide.
estimates of occupied habitat noted for              experienced significant declines in the                    We believe that occupied habitat in
New Mexico range from over 6,640,000                 past 10 years, although with limited                    Texas has declined significantly from
ac (2,690,000 ha) historically (Bailey               recovery (Lomolino, University of                       historic estimates. However, based upon
1932) to 15,000 ac (6,000 ha) in 1998                Oklahoma, in litt. 1999). These declines                the limited amount of information
(Knowles 1998). We estimate that                     were likely due to plague. The amount                   available, we believe that occupied
39,000 ac (16,000 ha) of black-tailed                of occupied habitat in the remainder of                 habitat increased following the toxicant


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5482                 Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules

ban in 1972 and that populations may                 small region in northern Chihuahua.                     Montana (Knowles et al. 1996, Lessica
have remained fairly stable since the                The largest remaining black-tailed                      1995) and irrigated croplands in Mexico
late 1970s (Cheatheam 1977, Lair and                 prairie dog complex occurs in Mexico.                   (List et al. 1997). List et al. (1997)
Mecham 1991).                                        Estimates of occupied habitat in Mexico                 reported that occupied habitat in
   In Wyoming, black-tailed prairie dogs             range from 1,384,000 ac (560,000 ha)                    Mexico declined by 34 percent between
historically occurred on suitable habitat            historically (Mearns 1907 as cited in                   1988 and 1996, in part due to
east of the Rocky Mountain foothills                 Ceballos et al. 1993) to 90,000 ac                      conversion to cropland.
(Clark 1973, Hall and Kelson 1959)                   (36,000 ha) in 1996 (List et al. 1997). We                 Habitat loss also has occurred due to
below approximately 5,500 feet (1,676                believe that the List et al. (1997)                     urbanization. One example of the
meters) elevation (Van Pelt in prep.).               estimate of 90,000 ac (36,000 ha) of                    present and threatened destruction of
Presently, the species appears to be                 currently existing black-tailed prairie                 black-tailed prairie dog occupied habitat
scattered throughout the same area. One              dog occupied habitat in Mexico is                       due to urban development is apparent
of the seven remaining large black-tailed            accurate.                                               along the Front Range of Colorado near
prairie dog complexes occurs in                         We believe that occupied habitat in                  Denver. In 1994, 42,500 ac (17,200 ha)
Wyoming. Statewide estimates of                      Mexico has declined significantly from                  of occupied habitat were mapped in the
occupied habitat for Wyoming range                   historic estimates and that this decline                Denver/Boulder/Fort Collins
from 16 million ac (6.5 million ha)                  continues. Decline appears to be due                    metropolitan area (Skiba, Colorado
historically (Knowles 1998) to 49,000 ac             primarily to cropland conversion. From                  Division of Wildlife, pers. comm. 1999).
(20,000 ha) in 1961 (Bureau of Sport                 1988 to 1996, the geographic range of                   Knowles (1998) estimated that occupied
Fisheries and Wildlife 1961). The most               the species in Mexico contracted 80                     habitat has declined by approximately
recent estimate is 70,000–180,000 ac                 percent and the amount of occupied                      8,000 ac (3,200 ha) since the initial
(28,000–73,000 ha) in 1998 (Knowles                  habitat decreased by 34 percent (List et                mapping effort, due to urbanization. An
1998). We estimate that 125,000 ac                   al. 1997). Colony fragmentation has                     evaluation of the specific impact of
(51,000 ha) of black-tailed prairie dog              occurred in previously surveyed black-                  urbanization is difficult because sylvatic
occupied habitat currently exist                     tailed prairie dog colonies, reducing the               plague also has significantly affected
Statewide.                                           size of towns and increasing their                      populations in this area in recent years
   We believe that occupied habitat in               isolation.                                              (Weber, Colorado Division of Wildlife,
Wyoming has declined significantly                                                                           pers. comm. 1998).
                                                     Summary of Factors Affecting the                           Habitat modification and loss due to
from historic estimates. Increases in
                                                     Species                                                 the absence of black-tailed prairie dogs
occupied habitat occurred following the
toxicant ban in 1972. However, we                      Section 4 of the Act and regulations                  can be anticipated in the prairie
believe that recent declines, largely due            (50 CFR part 424) promulgated to                        ecosystem where populations have been
to impacts from sylvatic plague, are                 implement the listing provisions of the                 extirpated or significantly reduced in
likely to continue.                                  Act set forth the procedures for adding                 number. Weltzin et al. (1997)
                                                     species to the Federal lists. A species                 determined that black-tailed prairie
Canada Distribution, Abundance, and                  may be determined to be an endangered                   dogs, and the herbivores and granivores
Trends                                               or threatened species due to one or more                associated with their colonies, probably
  Historically, black-tailed prairie dogs            of the five factors described in section                maintained grassland and savanna
occurred on suitable habitat in                      4(a)(1). These factors and their                        historically by preventing woody
southernmost Saskatchewan (Hall and                  application to the black-tailed prairie                 species such as mesquite from
Kelson 1959). Presently the species is               dog are as follows:                                     establishing or attaining dominance.
found in a small area along the                                                                              List et al. (1997) reported that control of
                                                     A. The Present or Threatened
Frenchman River Valley. Many of these                                                                        black-tailed prairie dogs in Mexico
                                                     Destruction, Modification, or
colonies are in Canada’s Grasslands                                                                          resulted in the invasion of mesquite
                                                     Curtailment of the Species’ Habitat or
National Park (Laing 1986). Canada                                                                           shrubs that rendered the landscape
                                                     Range                                                   unsuitable for reoccupation by the
represents a very small percentage
(approximately 0.3 percent) of the                      We believe that habitat loss due to                  species. Davis (1974) also noted that the
rangewide population. Estimates of                   cropland conversion, urbanization,                      removal of the species from some sites
occupied habitat in Canada range from                habitat modification, and fragmentation                 in Texas resulted in the invasion of
1,244 ac (503 ha) in 1970 (Millson 1976)             is a factor adversely affecting black-                  brush. The fragmented nature of
to 2,318 ac (938 ha) in 1996 (Fargey,                tailed prairie dog populations                          remaining prairie dog colonies, barriers
Grasslands National Park, pers. comm.                rangewide.                                              to immigration and emigration, and the
1998). We estimate that 2,000 ac (800                   In the United States, approximately                  lack of fire and native ungulate herds
ha) of black-tailed prairie dog occupied             37 percent of the suitable habitat within               that historically denuded the landscape
habitat currently exists in Canada.                  the range of the black-tailed prairie dog               and provided opportunities for prairie
  We believe that occupied habitat in                has been converted to cropland (Black-                  dog colonies to expand (Miller et al.
Canada has remained at approximately                 footed Ferret Recovery Foundation, in                   1994) accentuate habitat loss due to
2,000 ac (800 ha) and, in the absence of             litt. 1999). This land use change resulted              vegetative succession. The degree to
sylvatic plague, will likely remain                  in significant destruction of black-tailed              which this type of grassland change and
stable.                                              prairie dog habitat, particularly in                    other landscape alterations affect black-
                                                     eastern portions of the species’ range                  tailed prairie dog populations across
Mexico Distribution, Abundance, and                  where adequate precipitation favors                     their range is unknown. Nevertheless,
Trends                                               farming. Cropland conversion                            these subtle habitat changes may be a
  Historically, black-tailed prairie dogs            continues, but the amount of occupied                   major factor in precluding the
occurred on suitable habitat throughout              habitat converted annually is unknown.                  utilization of habitat or recolonization of
the northern portion of the Mexican                  In some areas cropland conversion                       former habitat by the species.
States of Chihuahua and Sonora (Hall                 occurs due to continuing improvements                      North American grasslands have
and Kelson 1959). Presently, most                    in intensive agricultural techniques, for               suffered among the most extensive
individuals appear to be limited to a                example, dryland wheat farming in                       fragmentation and transformation of any


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                     Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules                                                   5483

biome on the continent (Groombridge                  reported that shooting on two black-                    (Gage, Center for Disease Control, pers.
1992). More fragmented, more isolated,               tailed prairie dog colonies removed 69                  comm. 1999, Miles et al. 1952). Black-
and less connected populations usually               percent of the adults. He thought that                  tailed prairie dogs show neither
have higher extinction rates (Clark 1989,            the reduction of prairie dog populations                effective antibodies nor immunity to the
Gilpin and Soule 1986, MacArthur and                 below a certain threshold number might                  disease. This disease is caused by the
Wilson 1967, Shaffer 1981, Wilcove et                have a further negative consequence                     bacterium Yersinia pestis, which fleas
al. 1986, Wilcox and Murphy 1985). List              because fewer prairie dogs were                         acquire from biting infected rodents and
et al. (1997) suggested that fragmented              available to watch for predators and                    other species and then transmit via a
black-tailed prairie dog colonies in                 keep the vegetation clipped around                      bite. Plague also can be transmitted
Mexico were prone to extirpation.                    burrows to improve detection of                         directly between animals. Cully (1989)
Miller et al. (1996) described existing              predators. Vosburgh (1996) reported that                summarized plague reports in 76
prairie dog populations as small,                    intensive shooting can have a                           species of 5 mammalian orders in the
disjunct, and geographically isolated.               statistically significant impact on the                 United States, although plague is
Dispersal has been limited by barriers               density of local black-tailed prairie dog               primarily a rodent disease. It can
created by human development that                    colonies. He observed that during the                   seriously affect humans, although it
preclude immigration or emigration.                  summer, species density declined 33                     responds well to modern treatment
Fragmentation and extirpation of small,              percent on colonies with shooting and                   (Center for Disease Control 1997).
isolated colonies will result in the loss            15 percent on colonies without                          Rodent species vary in their
of additional genotypes, as occurred                 shooting. Prairie dogs also spent more                  susceptibility to plague, with some
with the complete extirpation of the                 time in alert postures and less time                    species acting as hosts or carriers of the
species in portions of the eastern and               foraging on colonies where shooting                     disease or infected fleas and showing
southwestern areas of its historic range.            occurred.                                               little or no symptoms. Black-tailed and
Lost genetic diversity will inherently be               Large, healthy populations appear to                 Gunnison’s prairie dog populations
detrimental to the long-term survival of             be able to withstand considerable                       demonstrate nearly 100 percent
the species.                                         removal by shooting and remain viable                   mortality when exposed to plague
                                                     (Bourland and Dupris, Cheyenne River                    (Barnes 1993, Cully 1993) and cannot be
B. Overutilization for Commercial,                   Sioux Tribe, in litt. 1998; Finnegan et                 considered carriers.
Recreational, Scientific, or Educational             al., Rosebud Sioux Tribe, in litt. 1998).                  Plague, once established in an area,
Purposes                                             Accordingly, the shooting of hundreds                   becomes persistent and periodically
   We believe that overutilization of the            of thousands of individuals across the                  erupts, with the potential to extirpate
black-tailed prairie dog via the pet trade           extensive range of the black-tailed                     local black-tailed prairie dog
is not a significant factor affecting black-         prairie dog where millions of                           populations. After several epizootics (an
tailed prairie dog populations                       individuals occur will not likely                       eruption of the disease that attacks a
rangewide. Herron (Texas Parks and                   adversely impact the overall population                 large number of animals at the same
Wildlife Department, pers. comm. 1999)               of a species where each female can                      time), black-tailed prairie dogs at the
and others have reported that black-                 produce an average of four young                        Rocky Mountain Arsenal National
tailed prairie dogs are removed from the             annually. Conversely, small local                       Wildlife Refuge have neared extirpation
wild for sale as pets. Herron was aware              populations already depressed by                        (Seery, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
of 3 commercial operators who                        disease and other adverse influences                    pers. comm. 1998). This phenomenon
collectively removed approximately                   may suffer additive losses from shooting                may be occurring at other formerly large
5,000 individuals from the Texas                     impacts. Shooting impacts also may                      black-tailed prairie dog complexes
panhandle and other States annually in               contribute to population fragmentation                  across much of the western portion of
recent years. Miscellaneous reports                  and preclude or delay recovery of                       the species’ range. At Northern
indicate that this practice occurs                   colonies reduced by other factors, such                 Cheyenne Reservation in southeastern
elsewhere in the species’ range, but the             as sylvatic plague.                                     Montana, a plague epizootic started in
extent of removal of individuals from                                                                        1991 and continued through 1996
the wild for use as pets is unknown.                 C. Disease or Predation
                                                                                                             (Young 1997), removing 97 percent of
   Recreational (sport or varmint)                      We believe that sylvatic plague is                   the black-tailed prairie dog population
shooting is impacting black-tailed                   likely the most important factor in                     (Fourstar, Bureau of Indian Affairs, pers.
prairie dog populations in some local                recent reductions of many black-tailed                  comm. 1998). The population has begun
areas. At present, we do not believe that            prairie dog populations throughout a                    to recover and has increased from a low
this factor is responsible for significant           significant portion of the range of the                 of 378 ac (153 ha) of occupied habitat
rangewide declines in the species’                   species. Approximately 66 percent of                    to 963 ac (390 ha). However, Young
population; however, it may be                       the species’ range has been affected by                 (University of Arizona, pers. comm.
important locally. The popularity of                 plague (Black-footed Ferret Recovery                    1998) does not believe that this complex
shooting has increased appreciably in                Foundation, in litt. 1999). Plague is an                will recover to its former status. The
recent years. Many States do not require             exotic disease foreign to the                           effects of plague on prairie dogs may be
hunting licenses and have no bag limits              evolutionary history of North American                  exacerbated in smaller, isolated colonies
or seasonal restrictions for taking prairie          species (Gage, Center for Disease                       where populations are not buffered by
dogs. Some areas administered by the                 Control, pers. comm. 1999). Plague was                  large numbers (where some individuals
Bureau of Land Management and the U.                 first observed in wild rodents in North                 may escape infection by chance) and
S. Forest Service have been closed to                America near San Francisco, California,                 where recovery may be hampered by
recreational shooting over the past two              in 1908 (Eskey and Haas 1940). It spread                limited immigration from other
years, but recreational shooting is still            eastward across the continent in                        colonies.
allowed on other areas administered by               subsequent years and still appears to be                   We believe that predation is not likely
these agencies. Recreational shooting is             expanding its range, although not as                    a major factor affecting overall black-
not allowed on on lands administered                 rapidly as in its early years. The first                tailed prairie dog populations, but it
by the National Park Service or the Fish             reported incidences of plague in black-                 may be important locally or contribute
and Wildlife Service. Knowles (1988)                 tailed prairie dogs occurred in the 1940s               to the effects of other factors. Little


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5484                 Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules

information is available to quantify the             a resident or nonresident hunting                       to aid prairie dog shooters in finding
impact of predators on prairie dog                   license is required and established                     colonies (North Dakota Game and Fish
populations.                                         methods of take are listed (Williams,                   Department undated). The State of
                                                     Kansas Department of Wildlife and                       North Dakota considers the black-tailed
D. The Inadequacy of Existing
                                                     Parks, in litt. 1998).                                  prairie dog a pest, although the Game
Regulatory Mechanisms                                   In Montana, the Department of Fish,                  and Fish Department considers it a
   We believe that inadequate regulatory             Wildlife, and Parks requires no license                 nongame species. The North Dakota
mechanisms are a contributing factor                 to shoot prairie dogs, and no limits on                 Department of Agriculture and the
affecting overall black-tailed prairie dog           take or season exist. Prairie dogs are                  county weed boards have regulatory
populations. Many States, Tribes, and                protected on two State parks as                         authority over control efforts (Van Pelt
Federal agencies recognize the historic              important features of those parks                       in prep.).
decline and ecological significance of               (Graham, Montana Department of Fish,                       In Oklahoma, the Department of
the black-tailed prairie dog, but few use            Wildlife and Parks, in litt. 1998). The                 Wildlife Conservation classifies the
available regulatory mechanisms to                   Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks                 black-tailed prairie dog as a Category II
conserve the species. At least one                   identifies the black-tailed prairie dog as              Mammal Species of Special Concern.
government entity in most States                     a State ‘‘species of special concern’’                  Prairie dog eradication is no longer
promotes their reduction. However,                   (Flath 1998). The Department of Fish,                   mandatory in Oklahoma but is assisted
some limited regulatory mechanisms                   Wildlife, and Parks is developing a                     by some State agencies and local
exist for conservation of the species.               species conservation plan for black- and                governments. Control and recreational
States                                               white-tailed prairie dogs in Montana                    shooting of the species can occur on
                                                     (Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife                   private land, but the Department of
   In Arizona, the Game and Fish                     and Parks in prep.). However, the                       Wildlife Conservation does not promote
Department classifies all prairie dogs               Montana Department of Agriculture                       either activity (Duffy, Oklahoma
native to the State as nongame                       classifies prairie dogs as ‘‘rodents’’ and              Department of Wildlife Conservation, in
mammals. Although the species has                    ‘‘vertebrate pests.’’ The Montana                       litt. 1998). A license for recreational
been extirpated in Arizona, a hunting                Department of Agriculture assists                       shooting is required by residents and
season was open until 1999, when it                  landowners in control of prairie dogs if                nonresidents. The Department of
was closed (Shroufe, Arizona Game and                requested, but such assistance is not                   Wildlife Conservation requires that a
Fish Department, in litt. 1999). Arizona             mandated (Sullins, Montana                              permit be obtained prior to any control.
does not require the eradication of                  Department of Agriculture, pers. comm.                  Prairie dogs cannot be reduced in any
prairie dogs for agricultural purposes or            1999).                                                  county to fewer than 1,000 individuals,
promote recreational shooting of prairie                In Nebraska, the Game and Parks                      and control is not permitted on public
dogs (Shroufe, Arizona Game and Fish                 Commission currently considers the                      lands (Van Pelt in prep.).
Department, in litt. 1998). The black-               black-tailed prairie dog an unprotected                    In South Dakota, the Department of
tailed prairie dog is listed as endangered           nongame species that can be taken in                    Game, Fish, and Parks classifies the
on the Arizona Game and Fish                         any manner, without restrictions on                     black-tailed prairie dog as a predator/
Department ‘‘Threatened Native                       shooting or control activities. Permits                 varmint and requires that a resident or
Wildlife’’ list (Arizona Game and Fish               are not required for residents;                         nonresident acquire a license to shoot
Department 1988).                                    nonresidents must have a small-game                     prairie dogs. No seasons or bag limits
   In Colorado, the Division of Wildlife             hunting permit. The Game and Parks                      have been established. The South
requires a resident or nonresident                   Commission recognizes prairie dog                       Dakota Weed and Pest Control Statute
hunting license for prairie dog shooting             shooting as an acceptable recreational                  designates the species as a statewide
unless the animals are on land owned                 activity, but suggests that shooting be                 declared pest. Therefore, the existence
by the shooter. The season is year-                  avoided when prairie dogs have                          of prairie dogs constitutes an
round, with no bag or possession limit.              dependent young and that shooters take                  infestation, giving the State authority to
However, for hunt contests, no                       responsible measures to avoid                           enter private land and exterminate the
participant may take more than five                  disturbance of other wildlife species                   animals. If a county declares an
prairie dogs during the contest. In 1999,            that use prairie dog colonies (Amack,                   infestation, landowners are responsible
the Colorado State Legislature passed a              Nebraska Game and Parks Commission,                     for the costs to control prairie dogs on
bill prohibiting the translocation of                in litt. 1998).                                         their land whether they want control or
prairie dogs and other species into a                   In New Mexico, the Department of                     not (Van Pelt in prep.).
county without the consent of the                    Game and Fish requires a license to                        In Texas, the Parks and Wildlife
county’s commissioners (Van Pelt in                  shoot prairie dogs, but there are no bag                Department designates black-tailed
prep.).                                              limits or restrictions (Knowles 1998).                  prairie dogs as a nongame species and
   The State of Kansas considers black-              The Petitioner reports that New Mexico                  is prohibited by State statute from
tailed prairie dogs as agricultural pests            considers the prairie dog as a ‘‘rodent                 listing them as a State endangered
and mandates control if an adjoining                 pest’’ and mandates that landowners                     species. A license is required to hunt
landowner files a complaint (Knowles                 destroy prairie dogs on notice (National                prairie dogs, but no season or bag limits
1995). In recent years, some counties                Wildlife Federation 1998).                              have been established. In 1999, the State
have invoked ‘‘Home Rule’’ to take over                 In North Dakota, the Game and Fish                   established a regulation that requires a
authority for prairie dog control from               Department classifies the black-tailed                  nongame collection or dealer’s permit to
the townships and impose mandatory                   prairie dog as a nongame wildlife                       possess more than 10 live prairie dogs
control requirements on landowners.                  species. A resident is not required to                  or to sell prairie dogs (Van Pelt in
The landowner is given the opportunity               purchase a hunting license to shoot                     prep.). This law does not regulate the
to control prairie dogs on his land and              prairie dogs; however, nonresidents are                 killing of prairie dogs for recreational,
if he fails to do so it is done by the               required to purchase one. The State sets                agricultural, or nuisance purposes
county at the landowner’s expense (Van               no bag limits or seasons for prairie dogs.              (Sansom, Texas Parks and Wildlife
Pelt in prep.). Shooting of prairie dogs             The North Dakota Game and Fish                          Department, in litt. 1998). The Texas
in Kansas is somewhat restricted since               Department has published a guidebook                    Health and Safety Code authorizes


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                     Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules                                                   5485

counties to control prairie dogs and                 2,000 licenses in 1998 (Finnegan,                       refuges, primarily as a measure to
gives the Texas Department of                        Rosebud Sioux Tribe, pers. comm.                        prevent the spread of prairie dogs onto
Agriculture responsibility for providing             1999).                                                  adjacent private lands. At this time, all
information regarding control to                                                                             control efforts regarding the species
                                                     Federal Agencies
requesting counties (Van Pelt in prep.).                                                                     have been suspended on Service lands
  The Wyoming Game and Fish                             The BIA has a trust responsibility to                (Clark, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
Department regards the black-tailed                  oversee management of Tribal lands.                     in litt. 1999).
prairie dog as a nongame wildlife                    The BIA’s involvement in prairie dog                       The U.S. Forest Service manages
species and has listed it as a Species of            control efforts has been principally                    approximately 3.7 million ac (1.5
Special Concern. No license is required              through management of funding for                       million ha) of National Grasslands,
to hunt prairie dogs, and no seasons, bag            prairie dog control programs on Tribal                  which support approximately 42,460 ac
limits, or restrictions on method of take            lands. In the northern Great Plains, from               (17,200 ha) of black-tailed prairie dog
have been established (Van Pelt in                   1978–1992, BIA funding was                              occupied habitat, approximately 1.1
prep.). The Game and Fish Department                 responsible for the control of more                     percent of the National Grasslands
supports development of seasons and                  prairie dog habitat than any other                      (Sidle, U.S. Forest Service, in litt. 1999).
bag limits for the black-tailed prairie              Federal agency in the country (Roemer                   In response to a request from the
dog (Wichers, Wyoming Game and Fish                  and Forrest 1996).                                      National Wildlife Federation and the
Department, in litt. 1998). The Wyoming                 The Bureau of Land Management
                                                                                                             positive 90-day finding, the U.S. Forest
Department of Agriculture lists the                  (BLM) manages prairie dogs to meet
                                                                                                             Service issued a moratorium on control
species as a pest. The Wyoming Weed                  multiple-use resource objectives
                                                                                                             of black-tailed prairie dogs during the
and Pest Control Act of 1973 authorizes              including production of livestock forage
                                                                                                             current status review period on all lands
counties to enter private property to                and preventing prairie dog movement to
                                                                                                             administered by the U.S. Forest Service.
control prairie dogs if damage has been              adjacent State or private lands.
                                                                                                             The U.S. Forest Service also noted their
documented to neighboring landowners                 Although BLM no longer actively
                                                                                                             intention to manage for larger prairie
(Knowles 1995).                                      conducts control, it still allows control
                                                     to occur by other agencies on its lands                 dog populations via new planning
Tribal                                               and it still allows significant levels of               efforts subject to completion and
   Mulhern and Knowles (1995)                        unregulated sport shooting (Knowles                     approval (Manning, U.S. Forest Service,
estimated that 30 percent of black-tailed            1995). In a memorandum dated June 23,                   in litt. 1999).
prairie dog colonies occur on Tribal                 1999, and expiring September 30, 2000,                     The National Park Service is involved
lands. Four of the seven remaining large             the BLM instructed all of its State                     with prairie dog control programs
complexes (those with 10,000 acres or                Directors within the range of the black-                through integrated pest management
more) (Cheyenne River, Fort Belknap,                 tailed prairie dog to ‘‘ensure that all                 guidelines. During 1982–1992, four
Pine Ridge, and Rosebud) occur on                    actions authorized, funded or carried                   National Parks in the northern Great
Tribal lands. Two Tribes (Cheyenne                   out by their respective field offices do                Plains were involved in prairie dog
River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and                not contribute to the need to list this                 control—Badlands National Park, South
Fort Belknap in Montana) have prairie                species’’ (Colby, Bureau of Land                        Dakota; Wind Cave National Park, South
dog management plans in place                        Management, in litt. 1999). The BLM                     Dakota; Theodore Roosevelt National
(Knowles 1995). No extensive control of              also anticipates implementing a                         Park, North Dakota; and Devils Tower
prairie dogs has occurred on Cheyenne                mandatory restriction on prairie dog                    National Monument, Wyoming (Roemer
River Sioux Tribe, Fort Belknap, or                  hunting in portions of south Phillips                   and Forrest 1996). In a memorandum
Rosebud Sioux Tribe (in South Dakota)                County, Montana, due to the lack of                     dated January 14, 1999, the National
in recent years due to concerns related              success of current voluntary closures in                Park Service instructed Superintendents
to the conservation of black-footed                  the area (October 18, 1999; 64 FR                       of National Parks within the Midwest
ferrets. However, active recreational                56213).                                                 Region where prairie dogs occur
shooting programs on these and other                    We manage over 500 National                          (Badlands, Fort Larned, Scotts Bluff,
Tribal lands exist. The Cheyenne River               Wildlife Refuges and their satellites, but              Theodore Roosevelt, and Wind Cave
Sioux Tribe does not classify the prairie            only about 15 refuges, satellites, or                   units) to suspend further treatment of
dog as a pest and does not require or                Waterfowl Production Areas have black-                  prairie dog colonies (with few
encourage their eradication; however,                tailed prairie dogs. Only two refuges                   exceptions) until a final determination
shooting of black-tailed prairie dogs                have any significant amount of occupied                 is made on their status (Schenk,
occurs year-round and without limits                 habitat. On the Charles M. Russell and                  National Park Service, in litt. 1999).
(Bourland and Dupris, Cheyenne River                 UL Bend National Wildlife Refuges in                       The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
Sioux Tribe, in litt. 1998). Recreational            Montana, we manage 5,150 ac (2,090 ha)                  Animal and Plant Health Inspection
shooting is also allowed on the Crow                 of black-tailed prairie dog occupied                    Service-Wildlife Services influences
Creek Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, but               habitat. We have treated burrows with                   prairie dog control programs through its
chemical control is not allowed. The                 insecticide in an attempt to reduce fleas               grant-in-aid program to States, which
Tribe states that shooting appears to                and disease transmission, and we have                   provides technical assistance to other
have no effect on black-tailed prairie               moved prairie dogs to recolonize vacant                 State, Tribal, and Federal agencies, and
dog numbers, and they report the                     or low-density towns (Matchett 1997).                   private landowners, and its distribution
species as abundant (Miller, Crow Creek              The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National                     of prairie dog toxicants. Roemer (1997)
Sioux Tribe, in litt. 1998). In 1998, the            Wildlife Refuge in Colorado is                          reported that during 1990–1994, the
Rosebud Sioux Tribe Department of                    attempting to recover its populations                   Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Natural Resources implemented a new                  subsequent to repeated plague                           Service-Wildlife Services was involved
licensing system for black-tailed prairie            epizootics (U.S. Fish and Wildlife                      in control of prairie dogs over 101,660
dogs in an attempt to reduce the number              Service 1998). Shooting of prairie dogs                 ac (41,140 ha). Additionally, they were
of shooters. License sales were reduced              is currently prohibited on all National                 involved in control programs in the
by approximately 50 percent from                     Wildlife Refuges and satellites. Limited                early 1980s at the Pine Ridge Indian
approximately 4,000 licenses in 1997 to              control has occurred on a few wildlife                  Reservation (Oglala Sioux Tribe), South


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5486                 Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules

Dakota. The Animal and Plant Health                     Prairie dog control occurred                         Belknap Reservation in Montana were
Inspection Service-Wildlife Services has             repeatedly in most areas, and figures                   halted due to concerns regarding the
directed and conducted research related              cited for acreage controlled may include                lack of available black-footed ferret
to the efficiency of prairie dog and other           retreatment of the same areas in                        reintroduction sites.
rodent control.                                      subsequent years. Therefore, annual                     Vulnerability of the Species in
   The Environmental Protection Agency               estimates of lands treated do not always                Perspective
deals indirectly with prairie dog control            equate to total loss of habitat. However,
through pesticide labeling programs                  control (usually in conjunction with                       Three major impacts have had a
including restrictions to protect                    other factors) has led to the complete                  substantial influence on black-tailed
wildlife. Presently, labeling does not               loss of occupied habitat in many areas.                 prairie dog populations. The first major
restrict prairie dog control, but does               Organized prairie dog control gained                    impact on the species was the initial
address concerns for the endangered                  momentum from 1916 to 1920 when                         conversion of prairie grasslands to
black-footed ferret.                                 prairie dogs were controlled on tens of                 cropland in the eastern portion of its
   In Canada, the black-tailed prairie dog           millions of acres of western rangeland                  range from approximately the 1880s–
is designated as vulnerable by the                   (Bell 1921). Federal programs were                      1920s. The conversion of native prairie
Committee on the Status of Endangered                responsible for much of this effort (Cain               to cropland likely reduced black-tailed
Wildlife in Canada. Control is                       et al. 1972). From 1937 to 1968,                        prairie dog occupied habitat in the
prohibited, and only private landowners              30,447,355 ac (12,331,178 ha) of prairie                United States from about 80 million ac
are permitted to shoot prairie dogs                  dog occupied habitat were controlled                    (32 million ha) to about 50 million ac
(Fargey, Grasslands National Park, pers.             (Cain et al. 1972). In the 1960s, several               (20 million ha) or less. The second
comm. 1998).                                         States reached their lowest estimates of                major impact on the species was large-
   In Mexico, the black-tailed prairie dog           occupied habitat (Bureau of Sport                       scale control efforts conducted from
is listed as threatened by the Lista de las          Fisheries and Wildlife 1961). In 1972,                  approximately 1918–1972 in efforts to
Especies Amerzadas, the official                     Compound 1080, which was used                           reduce competition between prairie
threatened and endangered species list               extensively in prairie dog control                      dogs and domestic livestock. Repeated
of the Mexican Government                            efforts, was banned by Presidential                     control efforts likely reduced black-
(SEMARNAP 1994). List et al. (1997)                  Executive Order II 11643. Although                      tailed prairie dog occupied habitat in
reported that in Mexico, laws exist to               prairie dog control continued via other                 the United States from about 50 million
stop control, but are often not enforced,                                                                    ac (20 million ha) to approximately
                                                     toxicants, it was at a reduced rate.
and extensive control occurs. There are                                                                      364,000 ac (147,000 ha) by 1961 (Bureau
                                                        The most extensive control efforts in                of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife 1961).
no protected areas for the black-tailed              recent years have been conducted in the
prairie dog in Mexico (Ceballos et al.                                                                       Some limited recovery and subsequent
                                                     Northern Great Plains (U.S. Forest                      declines have since occurred in these
1993).                                               Service 1998). Roemer and Forrest                       remnant populations. The third major
E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors                  (1996) summarized recent Federal and                    impact on the species was the
Affecting the Species’ Continued                     State control efforts on approximately                  inadvertent introduction of an exotic
Existence                                            1,045,524 ac (423,437 ha) in South                      disease from the Old World, sylvatic
                                                     Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. From                      plague, into North American ecosystems
Control Effort                                       1978 to 1992, an average of 69,701 ac                   in 1908, with the first recorded impacts
   We believe that control efforts have              (28,229 ha) were treated annually in                    on the black-tailed prairie dog in the
limited black-tailed prairie dog                     these three States. These estimates did                 1940s. These three factors, as well as
populations, especially large-scale, well-           not include estimates for private control               other additional factors impacting the
organized efforts conducted early in the             or control involving indirect State or                  species, are discussed below.
century. These control programs were                 Federal assistance. Forrest and Proctor                    We believe that many factors, alone,
conducted in response to concerns                    (in prep.) estimated that in recent years               in combination with each other, and
regarding potential forage competition               control conducted at the local level                    synergistically, have influenced and
with domestic livestock. Current control             probably affected ‘‘tens of thousands’’ of              continue to influence black-tailed
efforts are limited compared to historic             black-tailed prairie dog occupied habitat               prairie dog populations. Historically,
efforts, but still impact a significant              on an annual basis. The BIA                             large black-tailed prairie dog
portion of occupied habitat annually. A              administered the last large-scale control               populations successfully coped with
well-documented control effort has                   effort for black-tailed prairie dogs on the             various depressant factors, except
occurred over most of the range of the               Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota                  plague, on a different scale; populations
black-tailed prairie dog (Anderson et al.            in the early 1980s. This effort resulted                were large and robust, while threats
1986, Bell 1921, Cain et al. 1972, Forrest           in the eradication of most prairie dogs                 were few with only short-term effects.
and Proctor in prep., Hanson 1993,                   on approximately 458,618 ac (185,740                    Presently, most populations are
Hubbard and Schmitt 1983, Lantz 1903,                ha) from 1980 to 1984. From 1985 to                     significantly reduced and must cope
Lewis and Hassien 1973, Linder et al.                1986, 240,000 ac (97,000 ha) were                       with many persistent influences that
1972, Merriam 1902, Roemer and                       retreated (Roemer and Forrest 1996). In                 depress populations, both temporally
Forrest 1996, Shriver 1965). Control                 1987, after these efforts, 57,281 ac                    and permanently. Based upon our
efforts resulted in extirpation of the               (23,199 ha) of occupied habitat                         review of the available information, we
black-tailed prairie dog in Arizona                  remained (Tschetter 1988). Current                      conclude that a general long-term,
(Alexander 1932). Similar control efforts            estimates of occupied habitat range from                rangewide decline has occurred, in
in Texas resulted in the persistence of              20,000 to 30,000 ac (8,000 to 12,000 ha)                addition to more recent population
only remnant populations in areas                    (Yellowhair, Pine Ridge Sioux Tribe,                    declines in some areas.
where, historically, the largest known               pers. comm. 1999). Following control                       The persistence of the black-tailed
populations of the species occurred                  efforts on Pine Ridge, three additional                 prairie dog as a species may appear
(Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife              extensive control efforts targeted for the              secure to some observers because it is
1961, Cheatheam 1977, Cottam and                     Cheyenne River and Rosebud                              relatively abundant in absolute numbers
Caroline 1965).                                      Reservations in South Dakota and Fort                   when compared with many other


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                     Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules                                                   5487

species with smaller populations that                to the number of colonies in which it                   appear to be indicative of a general
are not thought to be vulnerable. Many               exists, their size, their geospatial                    population decline. The overall decline
wildlife species in North America that               relationship, existing barriers to                      may be similar to the specific decline
have experienced significant population              immigration and emigration, and                         observed across the State of Montana
declines remain viable (e.g., various                ultimately the number and nature of the                 from 1986 to 1998 when approximately
game species such as the pronghorn                   remaining direct threats to the species.                50 percent of all occupied habitat was
(Antilocapra americana)). However, the                                                                       lost, largely due to plague (Montana
                                                     Finding
black-tailed prairie dog is a highly social                                                                  Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks
species that, for the most part, responds               After a thorough review of the best                  1998). Plague has incrementally
to major factors causing population                  available scientific and commercial                     extended its range and impacts on
reductions (e.g., plague and control) on             information, we find that sufficient                    black-tailed prairie dogs since it was
the basis of entire colonies rather than             information is currently available to                   first documented in the species. It may
on an individual basis. Additionally,                support a determination that listing the                likely continue to expand into the
adequate regulatory mechanisms are not               black-tailed prairie dog as threatened is               eastern portions of the species’ range in
in place to protect or manage                        warranted. This action is appropriate                   the immediate future, as evidenced by
populations of the black-tailed prairie              because of the number and variety of                    recent reports of predator species’
dog, as they are with most game species.             threats that act in concert to adversely                exposure to plague in previously
Therefore, populations are likely not as             affect the species. A significant recent                unaffected portions of the black-tailed
viable as their absolute numbers might               decline in occupied habitat has                         prairie dog range. A decline of similar
suggest.                                             occurred due to several factors, the most               magnitude has occurred with
   A significant portion of existing black-          influential of which is the widespread                  populations in Mexico (12 percent of
tailed prairie dog occupied habitat                  occurrence of plague, an exotic and                     current occupied habitat); however, the
rangewide occurs in a few large                      lethal disease to the species. In concert               decline in Mexico is due to cropland
complexes. Approximately 36 percent of               with plague, the loss of suitable habitat               conversion, not plague.
the remaining occupied habitat for the               and inadequate regulatory mechanisms                       At present, occupied habitat has
species in North America occurs in                   have adversely affected remnant                         decreased over the past century by two
seven complexes, each larger than                    fragmented populations. The available                   orders of magnitude (or 99 percent, from
10,000 ac (4,000 ha). These complexes                information indicates that the species is               approximately 100 million ac to less
include—Buffalo Gap National                         likely to become endangered throughout                  than 1 million ac). If the magnitude of
Grassland/Conata Basin, South Dakota;                all or a significant portion of its range               decline that we have observed due to
Cheyenne River Reservation, South                    in the foreseeable future.                              plague or cropland conversion persists
Dakota; Fort Belknap Reservation,                       A major decline in historic black-                   in western portions of the species’
Montana; Janos Nuevo Casas Grandes,                  tailed prairie dog occupied habitat has                 range, and manifests itself in eastern
Mexico; Pine Ridge Reservation, South                occurred (perhaps as much as 99                         portions of the species’ range, over the
Dakota; Rosebud Reservation, South                   percent). Sixty percent of the species’                 next 30 years existing occupied habitat
Dakota; and Thunder Basin National                   remnant occupied habitat is vulnerable                  could decline another order of
Grassland, Wyoming. These complexes                  or very vulnerable to the effects of                    magnitude to as low as approximately
are potentially vulnerable to control                habitat loss or modification, disease,                  10 percent of current estimates, or
efforts or plague.                                   inadequate regulatory mechanisms, and                   approximately 0.1 percent of historic
   Extant populations of black-tailed                other factors (Black-footed Ferret                      estimates.
prairie dogs may or may not be large                 Recovery Foundation, in litt. 1999).                       We have evaluated the magnitude and
enough to be resilient to ongoing or                 Based on our review of the available                    immediacy of threats to the black-tailed
future environmental challenges and                  distribution data, we estimate that                     prairie dog. The following provides a
related potential declines. Quammen                  approximately 30 percent of the historic                summary of these evaluations.
(1996) provided examples of species                  range no longer supports any                               Habitat loss and fragmentation are
that were abundant, but suddenly                     appreciable number of black-tailed                      considered a threat of moderate
became very rare. For example, he                    prairie dogs, and that these reductions                 magnitude. The species has lost an
reported that the passenger pigeon                   occurred at the periphery of the historic               estimated 99 percent of its historic
(Ectopistes migratorius) numbered in                 range. However, reductions in occupied                  occupied habitat, much of it through
the billions around 1810 and in the low              habitat have also occurred throughout                   cropland conversion, largely in the
millions by the 1880s, yet was extinct in            the historic range; approximately 37                    eastern portion of the species’ range.
the wild by 1900. Habitat destruction                percent of the suitable habitat within                  However, a considerable amount of
and over-harvesting depressed                        the historic range in the United States                 potential unoccupied habitat remains,
passenger pigeon numbers to a few                    has been fundamentally modified via                     especially in the western portion of the
million, a level too low for a highly                conversion to cropland and is not                       species’ range. This unoccupied habitat
social and colonial species to function              available for use by the species (Black-                could be utilized if other factors such as
(Halliday 1980). The black-tailed prairie            footed Ferret Recovery Foundation, in                   disease and control efforts were not
dog numbered in the billions around                  litt. 1999). Additionally, habitat in                   present or were carefully managed via
1900, exists as a few million at present,            approximately 66 percent of the historic                adequate regulatory mechanisms. This
and appears to be declining in a                     range of the species has been degraded                  threat is considered imminent because
significant portion of its range. The                by the occurrence of plague (Black-                     habitat loss continues at present in
advantages of sociality (e.g., breeding,             footed Ferret Recovery Foundation, in                   various parts of the species’ range from
feeding, predator defense) may no                    litt. 1999). These estimates are not                    a variety of activities, including
longer offset its modern disadvantages               additive inasmuch as several factors can                cropland conversion, urbanization,
(e.g., vulnerability to an exotic disease            affect any given portion of the range.                  change in vegetative communities, and
and control efforts). Accordingly, the                  Recent, widely separated, site-specific              fragmentation.
vulnerability of the black-tailed prairie            declines across the area where 60                          Overutilization via commercial use of
dog to population reductions is likely               percent of the current occupied black-                  the species as a pet is not considered a
related less to its absolute numbers than            tailed prairie dog habitat now exists                   threat because of the apparent low


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5488                 Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 24 / Friday, February 4, 2000 / Proposed Rules

number of individuals utilized.                      ongoing. Control efforts in some areas                  Statement (SEIS) and notice of scoping
Overutilization via recreational shooting            could likely be accommodated if                         process; request for comments.
is considered a threat of low magnitude.             adequate regulatory mechanisms were
Local populations may be impacted by                 in place that balanced agricultural and                 SUMMARY: The New England Fishery
shooting; however, significant                       wildlife conservation interests.                        Management Council (Council)
rangewide population declines due to                    We conclude that the overall                         announces its intention to prepare
this factor are not likely. This threat is           magnitude of threats to the black-tailed                Amendment 10 to the Atlantic Sea
considered imminent because it is                    prairie dog throughout its range is                     Scallop Fishery Management Plan
ongoing.                                             moderate and the overall immediacy of                   (FMP) to develop an area based
   Disease is considered a threat of                 these threats is imminent. The black-                   management system that would, among
moderate magnitude. Plague has                       tailed prairie dog is considered a species              other things, close areas with high
markedly reduced some populations,                   without subspecies classification.                      concentrations of small scallops and
but has not affected all populations at              Pursuant to the Service’s Listing Priority              open them later when the scallops are
once. Some population recovery may                   Guidance (48 FR 43098), a species for                   bigger. The Council also announces its
occur, largely via unaffected adjacent               which threats are moderate and                          intent to prepare an SEIS for the
populations, before plague                           imminent is assigned a Listing Priority                 Atlantic Sea Scallop FMP in accordance
reoccurrence. Plague has impacted the                Number of 8. Region 6 currently has                     with the National Environmental Policy
species and its conspecifics throughout              nine Candidate species or subspecies                    Act of 1969 to analyze the impacts of
a significant portion of their ranges.               that have lower Listing Priority                        any management alternatives. The
Black-tailed prairie dog populations                 Numbers and, therefore, are in more                     Council will hold public scoping
demonstrate nearly 100 percent                       immediate need of protection. Region 6                  meetings in Fairhaven, MA; Virginia
mortality when exposed to plague. An                 also has four species proposed as                       Beach, VA; and Cape May, NJ; to
epizootic may affect an entire complex               endangered or threatened, and two                       determine the scope of issues to be
similar to a pathogen affecting an                   species for which proposed rules are                    addressed and for identifying the
individual animal. The spread of plague              under review. Therefore, while we have                  significant issues related to the
in black-tailed prairie dog populations              concluded that the listing of the black-                management alternatives.
underscores the likelihood that areas as             tailed prairie dog as threatened is                     DATES: Written comments on the intent
yet unaffected may experience                        warranted, an immediate proposal to list                to prepare the SEIS must be received on
outbreaks in the future. This threat is              is precluded by other, higher priority                  or before 5:00 p.m., local time, March 1,
considered imminent because it is                    actions to amend the Lists of                           2000. The meetings will held between
ongoing. Predation is not considered a               Endangered and Threatened Wildlife                      Tuesday, February 15, 2000, and
threat.                                              and Plants.                                             Thursday, February 18, 2000. See
   Existing regulatory mechanisms are                                                                        SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for specific
inadequate and considered a threat of                References Cited                                        dates and times.
moderate magnitude. All States within                   A complete list of references cited in               ADDRESSES: Written comments should
the current range of the black-tailed                this notice is available upon request                   be sent to Paul J. Howard, Executive
prairie dog classify the species as a pest           from the South Dakota Field Office (see                 Director, New England Fishery
for agricultural purposes and either                 ADDRESSES section).                                     Management Council, 50 Water Street,
allow or require its eradication                        Author: The primary author of this                   Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950.
(Mulhern and Knowles 1995). Few                      document is Pete Gober (see ADDRESSES                   Comments may also be sent via fax to
regulatory mechanisms exist to aid in                section).                                               (978) 465–0492. The meetings will be
conserving the species. This threat is
                                                       Authority: The authority for this action is           held in Fairhaven, MA; Virginia Beach,
considered imminent because it is
                                                     the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as                   VA; and Cape May, NJ. See
ongoing. State wildlife agencies and
                                                     amended (16 U.S.C. 1532 et seq.).                       SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for specific
other interested parties are developing a
                                                       Dated: February 1, 2000.                              locations. Comments will not be
conservation plan for the species. While
                                                     Jamie Rappaport Clark,                                  accepted if submitted via e-mail or
we support the States’ efforts and will
                                                                                                             Internet.
cooperate in conservation actions for the            Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
black-tailed prairie dog, at this early              [FR Doc. 00–2593 Filed 2–3–00; 8:45 am]                 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul
stage of development, the conservation               BILLING CODE 4310–55–U
                                                                                                             J. Howard, Executive Director, New
assessment and strategy document lacks                                                                       England Fishery Management Council
commitments to specific immediate                                                                            (978) 465–0492. Requests for special
actions that would affect the status of              DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE                                  accommodations should be addressed to
the species.                                                                                                 the New England Fishery Management
   Control programs conducted largely                National Oceanic and Atmospheric                        Council, 50 Water St., Mill 2,
in response to concerns related to                   Administration                                          Newburyport, MA 01950; telephone:
potential forage competition with                                                                            (978) 465–0492.
domestic livestock are considered a                  50 CFR Part 648                                         SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
threat of moderate magnitude. Control
                                                     [I.D. 012400B]                                          Background
programs have had significant impacts
on population levels in the past. Control            Fisheries of the Northeastern United                      Amendment 4 to the Atlantic Sea
efforts resulted in extirpation of the               States; Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery                    Scallop FMP established a limited
black-tailed prairie dog from Arizona                                                                        access program and a schedule of
and significant reductions in other                  AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries                       annual day-at-sea (DAS) allocations for
States. Current control efforts may                  Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and                    full-time, part-time, and occasional
impact 10–20 percent of the species’                 Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),                      vessels with limited access permits.
overall population annually (Forrest and             Commerce.                                               Although Amendment 4 changed the
Proctor, in prep.). This threat is                   ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a                   restrictions on fishing gear and limited
considered imminent because it is                    Supplemental Environmental Impact                       the number of crew aboard limited


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