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Notice

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Status of the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

Published Document

This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

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AGENCY:

Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:

Re-opening of the comment period for the Rio Grande cutthroat trout candidate status review.

SUMMARY:

We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announce a re-opening of the comment period for the candidate status review for the Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis). We are re-opening the comment period to allow interested parties additional time to submit information to us for our consideration in determining whether the Rio Grande cutthroat trout should be a candidate for listing. On December 28, 2001 (66 FR 67289), we published a notice opening a comment period to obtain information on the status of the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout. That comment period Start Printed Page 13006closed on February 26, 2002. On or before June 4, 2002, we will make a determination concerning the results of this review for the Rio Grande cutthroat trout and, shortly thereafter, we will publish this determination in the Federal Register. We will accept information at any time on the status of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout; however, information must be received by March 29, 2002, in order for us to be able to consider it in our June 4, 2002, determination of candidate status.

DATES:

Comments and information from all interested parties for our use in the status review will be accepted until March 29, 2002.

ADDRESSES:

Questions and comments concerning this status review should be sent to Joy Nicholopoulos, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2105 Osuna Rd. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113. Comments and materials received will be available on request for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Joy Nicholopoulos, Field Supervisor, (see ADDRESSES section), telephone (505) 346-2525.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

On February 25, 1998, we received a petition from Kieran Suckling, of the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity requesting that the Service add the Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Onchorynchus clarki virginalis) to the list of threatened and endangered species. The petition addressed the range-wide distribution of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout that included populations in Colorado and New Mexico.

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is the southernmost of 14 subspecies of cutthroat trout (Behnke 1967, 1972, 1992; Sublette et al. 1990). There are two phenotypic forms of the subspecies, one in the Rio Grande and one in the Pecos River (Behnke 1992). The species derives its name from the distinctive red or orange slashes beneath the lower jaw. The general body coloration is yellowish green to grayish brown; the abdomen is creamy white. Variably-sized black spots cover the upper body and are more numerous posteriorly; dorsal, adipose, and caudal fins carry black spots (Koster 1957, Behnke 1992, Sublette et al. 1990). Although the historical distribution of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout is not known with certainty, it is likely that the subspecies occurred not only in all waters in the upper Rio Grande, Pecos, and Canadian River Basins that are currently capable of supporting trout, but also in other stream reaches within these watersheds that formerly provided the habitat requisites of coldwater species.

Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act requires that we make a finding on whether a petition to list, delist or reclassify a species presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action is—(a) not warranted; (b) warranted; or (c) warranted but precluded from immediate proposal by other pending listing proposals of higher priority. We subsequently published a notice of a 90-day finding in the Federal Register (63 FR 49062) on September 14, 1998. In the 90-day finding we concluded that the petition did not present substantial information indicating that listing of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout may be warranted.

Our finding recognized that livestock grazing, road construction, and logging were primary factors in the constriction of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout's historical range, and continue to impact streams and riparian habitats where measures to limit those impacts are lacking. The Service concluded that the management objectives of both States, set forth in respective management plans formulated for the Rio Grande cutthroat, would provide for the continued management, conservation, and stability of this subspecies and its habitats.

On June 9, 1999, a complaint was filed by the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity challenging the September 14, 1998, 90-day petition finding as violating the Act and the Administrative Procedures Act. Recently, while the litigation was pending, we received some information (particularly related to the presence of whirling disease in hatchery fish and in the wild) that led us to believe that further review of the status of the species was warranted.

On November 8, 2001, a settlement agreement executed by both parties (the Service and the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity) was filed with the court. The settlement stipulates that we will initiate a candidate status review for the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The settlement also stipulates that on or before June 4, 2002, we will make a determination concerning the results of this review and, shortly thereafter, we will publish our determination in the Federal Register. The agreement also states that we will not vacate our previous determination in the interim.

Request for Information

Our determination of candidate status for the Rio Grande cutthroat trout shall be based upon the best available scientific and commercial data, as required under section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act. We request you submit any further information on the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. We are particularly interested in any information concerning the following:

(1) Current population numbers and trends for each of the populations of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout;

(2) Whether there are documented increases in those populations or their habitat;

(3) The status of remaining habitat areas;

(4) The current threats and future threats to those populations and remaining habitat areas; and

(5) Other regulatory mechanisms that address those threats; and the success of those mechanisms to date.

References Cited

A complete list of all references cited is available upon request from the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).

Author

The primary author of this document is New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office staff (see ADDRESSES section).

Authority

The authority for this action is section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533.

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Dated: February 28, 2002.

Pat A. Langley,

Acting Regional Director.

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[FR Doc. 02-6682 Filed 3-19-02; 8:45 am]

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