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E-M:/ US FWS - Coaster Brook Trout 90 day finding



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Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>
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Congratulations to the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, Huron Mountain 
Club and Marvin Roberson who petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service under the Endangered Species Act on the Coaster Brook Trout
found in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

US FWS responds with a 90 day finding that the petition is meritorious
and that further FWS proceedings will take place on the Coaster Brook Trout.



[Federal Register: March 20, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 55)]
[Proposed Rules]              
[Page 14950-14955]
 From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr20mr08-18]                        

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17
[FWS-R3-ES-2008-0030; 1111 FY07 MO-B2]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on
a Petition To List the U.S. Population of Coaster Brook Trout
(Salvelinus fontinalis) as Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding and initiation of status review.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a
90-day finding under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended
(Act), concerning the petition to list as endangered a population of
brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) known as coaster brook trout
throughout its known historic range in the conterminous United States.
We find that the petition contains substantial scientific or commercial
information indicating that listing the U.S. population of coaster
brook trout may be warranted. Therefore, with the publication of this
notice, we are initiating a status review of the coaster brook trout.
At the conclusion of the status review, we will issue a 12-month
finding on the petition. To ensure that the status review of the
coaster brook trout is comprehensive, we are soliciting scientific and
commercial information regarding the coaster brook trout throughout its
range. We will make a determination on critical habitat for this
species if we initiate a listing action.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before May
19, 2008. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at
the address shown in the ADDRESSES section by May 5, 2008.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
    ? Federal eRulemaking Portal: <A HREF="http://www.regulations.gov";>http://www.regulations.gov</A>.
Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
    ? U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing,
Attn: FWS-R3-ES-2008-0030, Division of Policy and Directives
Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive,
Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will post all comments on
<A HREF="http://www.regulations.gov";>http://www.regulations.gov</A>. This generally means that we will post any
personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section
below for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Jessica Hogrefe, East Lansing
Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2651 Coolidge Road--Suite
101, East Lansing, MI 48823-6316; telephone 517-351-8470; facsimile
517-351-1443. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf
(TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at (800) 877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Public Comments

    When we make a finding that a petition presents substantial
scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned
action may be warranted, we are required to promptly commence a review
of the status of the species. To ensure that the status review is
complete and based on the best available scientific and commercial
information, we are soliciting information on coaster brook trout

[[Page 14951]]

throughout its range. We request any additional information, comments,
and suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies,
Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested
parties concerning the status of coaster brook trout. We are seeking
information regarding:
    (1) The species' historical and current population status,
distribution, and trends; its biology and ecology; and habitat selection;
    (2) The effects of potential threat factors that are the basis for
a listing determination under section 4(a) of the Act, which are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or
curtailment of the species' habitat or range;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or
educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.
    (3) Management programs for the conservation of the coaster brook
trout.
    We will base our 12-month finding on a review of the best
scientific and commercial information available, including all
information received during the public comment period.
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this finding
by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. Comments must be
submitted to <A HREF="http://www.regulations.gov";>http://www.regulations.gov</A> before midnight Eastern Time on
the date specified in the DATES section. We will not accept comments
sent by e-mail or fax or to an address not listed in the ADDRESSES
section. We will not accept anonymous comments; your comment must
include your first and last name, city, state, country, and postal
(zip) code. Finally, we will not consider hand-delivered comments that
we do not receive, or mailed comments that are not postmarked, by the
date specified in the DATES section.
    We will post your entire comment--including your personal
identifying information--on <A HREF="http://www.regulations.gov";>http://www.regulations.gov</A>. If you provide
personal identifying information in addition to the required items
specified in the previous paragraph, such as your street address, phone
number, or e-mail address, you may request at the top of your document
that we withhold this information from public review. However, we
cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting
documentation we used in preparing this finding, will be available for
public inspection on <A HREF="http://www.regulations.gov";>http://www.regulations.gov</A>, or by appointment,
during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
East Lansing Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Background

    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires
that we make a finding on whether a petition to list, delist, or
reclassify a species presents substantial scientific or commercial
information to indicate that the petitioned action may be warranted. We
are to base this finding on information provided in the petition and
supporting information submitted with the petition. To the maximum
extent practicable, we are to make this finding within 90 days of our
receipt of the petition, and publish our notice of this finding in the
Federal Register.
    Our standard for substantial scientific or commercial information
for a 90-day petition finding, as defined by the Code of Federal
Regulations (CFR), is ``that amount of information that would lead a
reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition
may be warranted'' (50 CFR 424.14(b)). If we find that the petition
presents substantial scientific or commercial information, we are
required to promptly commence a review of the species status.
    The Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter, Huron Mountain Club, and Marvin
J. Roberson filed a petition dated February 22, 2006, with the
Secretary of the Interior to list as endangered the naturally spawning
lake-dwelling coaster brook trout throughout its known historic range
in the conterminous United States and to designate critical habitat
under the Act. The petition clearly identifies itself as such and
includes the requisite identification information for the petitioners,
as required in 50 CFR 424.14(a). On behalf of the petitioners, Peter
Kryn Dykema, Secretary of the Huron Mountain Club, submitted
supplemental information dated May 23, 2006, in support of the original
petition. This supplemental information provides further information on
the species status and biology, particularly for the Salmon Trout River.
    In a letter to the petitioners dated April 27, 2006, we explained
that we would not be able to address their petition at that time, due
to the need to address higher priority listing actions. In 2007, the
Service directed funds to address the coaster brook trout 90-day
finding. On September 13, 2007, we received a 60-day notice of intent
to sue over the Service's failure to make a determination within 1 year
of receiving the petition, as to whether the coaster brook trout
warrants listing. As described above, under section 4 of the Act, the
Service is to make a finding, to the maximum extent practicable within
90 days of receiving a petition, regarding whether it presents
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the
petitioned action may be warranted. Further, the Act requires that
within 12 months after receiving a petition found to present
substantial information, the Service must make a finding as to whether
the petitioned action is warranted. A complaint was filed in U.S.
District Court in the District of Columbia on December 17, 2007, for
failure to make a timely finding.
    In making this finding, we considered information provided by the
petitioners, as well as information readily available in our files at
the time of the petition review. We evaluated that information in
accordance with 50 CFR 424.14(b). Our process for making this 90-day
finding under section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act and the associated
regulations is based on using the ``substantial scientific and
commercial information'' threshold described above. This finding does
not consider critical habitat, because any decision concerning the need
for, or identification of, areas to consider for critical habitat would
occur only if we decide to prepare a proposed rule to list the species.
This notice constitutes our 90-day finding for the petition to list the
U.S. population of coaster brook trout.

Species Information

    Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) are a member of the char genus
in the family Salmonidae; they live in well-oxygenated streams, rivers,
and lakes of northeastern North America (Scott and Crossman 1973, pp.
30, 213). Some brook trout populations are adfluvial or anadromous,
migrating from lakes and oceans (respectively) into tributary streams
for feeding and spawning (Lake Superior Brook Trout Subcommittee 1997,
pp. 4-5; Ryther 1997, pp. 1-34). Coaster brook trout are a life history
form of brook trout that spend a portion of their life cycle in the
Great Lakes (Becker 1983, p. 320). These brook trout are known as
``coasters'' because they spend part of their life cycle along the
coast of a lake. Some coaster brook trout subpopulations or runs are
adfluvial and migrate from Lake Superior to tributary streams to spawn;
other coaster brook trout subpopulations are lacustrine and remain in
Lake Superior throughout their life cycle (Quinlan

[[Page 14952]]

1999, p. 15). Coaster brook trout mature later, live longer, and grow
larger than stream resident brook trout (Becker 1983, p. 318; Lake
Superior Brook Trout Subcommittee 1997, p. 10).
    Historically, coaster brook trout occurred in Lakes Huron,
Michigan, and Superior (Bailey and Smith 1981, p. 1549) and in more
than 50 streams along the Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota shores of
Lake Superior (Newman et al. 2003, pp. 34-38). They have been
extirpated in Lakes Huron and Michigan (Quinlan 2008). Self-sustaining
subpopulations or spawning runs remain in four streams in the U.S.
portion of Lake Superior (Quinlan 2008). Population levels in these
streams are considered low (Quinlan 2008). No harvest is allowed in the
four streams with coaster brook trout subpopulations in the United
States, (Dykema 2006, p. 2; National Park Service 2007, p. 10). Coaster
brook trout may be harvested within the waters of Lake Superior itself
through angling, subject to a 20-inch (51-centimeter) minimum size
limit (Baker 2007). Few coaster brook trout from the Salmon Trout River
subpopulation exceed this size limit (Huckins and Baker 2004, p. 21).
Additionally, no harvest is allowed in Lake Superior waters that are
within 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers) of Isle Royale National Park
(National Park Service 2007, p. 10).
    In Canada, coaster brook trout populations historically occurred in
approximately 60 streams (Newman et al. 2003, pp. 31-33). Data suggest
that spawning runs remain in a few Canadian streams in Lake Superior,
and numbers in these streams are described in general terms as being
very low overall (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources undated, p. 1).
Coaster brook trout populations are also present in Lake Nipigon
(Ontario). Recent estimates suggest that the Lake Nipigon spawning
population has declined 75 percent compared to the population level in
the 1930s (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources undated, p. 1).
However, neither the petition nor information readily available to the
Service provides information regarding the population size in the
1930s, making it difficult to determine the accuracy of the estimated
decline. Coaster brook trout in Canada may be harvested by anglers in
both Lake Superior and its tributaries, subject to size, bag, and
seasonal limits (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources 2008, pp. 48-
49). Coaster brook trout are not being considered for protection under
Canada's Species at Risk Act (Chase 2008).

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment

    The petitioners asked us to list the naturally spawning anadromous
(lake-run) coaster brook trout throughout its known historical range in
the conterminous U.S.; they asserted that the Salmon Trout River
coaster population is reproductively isolated from the in-stream
resident brook trout population and should be considered a Distinct
Population Segment (DPS). Section 3 of the Act defines the term
``species'' to include ``any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants,
and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish
or wildlife which interbreeds when mature.'' 16 U.S.C. 1532(16). In
determining whether an entity constitutes a DPS and is, therefore,
listable under the Act, we follow the Policy Regarding the Recognition
of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments Under the Endangered Species
Act (DPS Policy) (61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996). The policy identifies
three elements we are to consider in making a decision regarding the
status of a possible DPS for listing under the Act: (1) The
discreteness of the population segment in relation to the remainder of
the species to which it belongs; (2) The significance of the population
segment to the species to which it belongs; and (3) The population
segment's conservation status in relation to the Act's standards for
listing (that is, whether the population segment, when treated as if it
were a species, is endangered or threatened) (61 FR 4722; February 7,
1996). This finding considers whether the petition presents substantial
scientific or commercial information that the petitioned coaster brook
trout may be a DPS, and if so, whether the information indicates that
listing may be warranted.

Discreteness

    Under the DPS Policy, a population segment of a vertebrate species
may be considered discrete if it satisfies either one of the following
two conditions: (1) It is markedly separated from other populations of
the same taxon as a consequence of physical, physiological, ecological,
or behavioral factors; or (2) It is delimited by international
governmental boundaries within which significant differences in control
of exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or
regulatory mechanisms exist (61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996).
    The petition asserts that coaster brook trout are ``distinguished
from stream resident brook trout by behavior'' and information
submitted in association with the petition notes that coaster brook
trout ``are distinguished from stream resident brook trout by behavior,
i.e. anadromy--and by physiology (they grow much larger, and may be
longer-lived).'' Information in our files supports this assertion
because, unlike resident brook trout that remain in streams, coaster
brook trout are adfluvial or lacustrine, spending part or all of their
life cycle in the Great Lakes (Becker 1983, p. 320; Newman et al. 2003,
p. 39). Therefore, we find that the petition presents substantial
information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the
U.S. population of coaster brook trout may be discrete from stream
resident brook trout because of differences in behavior and physiology.
    The petition also asserts that coaster brook trout (of the Salmon
Trout River) are ``separated from coaster populations in the Nipigon
River area [in Canada] by an international boundary.'' Further, the
petition states that coaster brook trout programs currently are
administered and implemented by a wide variety of Federal, State,
private, and international institutions, and that the result has been
duplicated effort, inadequate communication, and sometimes
contradictory policies and practices. Finally, the petition states that
the entire reach of the Salmon Trout River in Marquette County (MI) is
owned by the Huron Mountain Club (HMC, one of the petitioners) and
that, since 1995, HMC has prohibited its members from killing coaster
brook trout there.
    Information in our files or otherwise readily available to us
supports the statement that the coaster brook trout described in the
petition (in the Salmon Trout River and on Isle Royale) are separated
from coaster brook trout subpopulations in the Nipigon River area and
elsewhere in Canada by an international boundary, and in addition, this
information indicates that the boundary delimits differences in control
of exploitation and regulatory mechanisms (Lake Superior Brook Trout
Subcommittee 1997, p. 4; Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 2008 p.
48-49). More specifically, differences in control of exploitation and
regulatory mechanisms between the United States and Canada relate to
allowable harvest of coaster brook trout and the fishing regulations
that dictate this harvest.
    In the United States, coaster brook trout: (1) May not be harvested
in the four remaining streams with coaster brook trout subpopulations
(Dykema 2006, p. 2; National Park Service 2007, p. 10); (2) may be
harvested in the U.S. waters of Lake Superior within the lake itself,
subject to a 20-inch (51-

[[Page 14953]]

centimeter) minimum size limit (Baker 2007); and (3) may not be
harvested in Lake Superior waters within 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers) of
Isle Royale National Park, which would protect the subpopulations of
Isle Royale National Park (National Park Service 2007, p. 10). The lack
of coasters in the Salmon Trout River subpopulation that exceed the 20-
inch (51-centimeter) size limit (Huckins and Baker 2004, p. 21)
indicates that few coasters meet the minimum size limit in the U.S.
waters of Lake Superior where harvest is allowed.
    In comparison, coaster brook trout in Canada may be harvested
within Lake Superior itself and its tributaries, subject to size, bag,
and seasonal limits (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources 2008, p. 48-
49), but we have no information indicating that there are any locations
in Canadian waters occupied by coaster brook trout where their harvest
is not allowed. Therefore, we find there is substantial scientific and
commercial information indicating that the petitioned U.S. coaster
brook trout may be discrete from coaster brook trout in Canada because
of an international boundary that delimits differences in control of
exploitation and regulatory mechanisms.

Significance

    Under our DPS Policy, in addition to our consideration that a
population segment is discrete, we consider its biological and
ecological significance to the species to which it belongs. The DPS
policy states that if a population segment is considered discrete under
one or more of the discreteness criteria, its biological and ecological
significance will then be considered in light of Congressional guidance
that the authority to list DPSs be used ``sparingly'' while encouraging
the conservation of genetic diversity. Under the DPS policy, our
consideration of significance may include, but is not limited to: (1)
Evidence of the persistence of the discrete population segment in an
ecological setting that is unique or unusual for the taxon; (2)
Evidence that loss of the population segment would result in a
significant gap in the range of the taxon; (3) Evidence that the
population segment represents the only surviving natural occurrence of
a taxon that may be more abundant elsewhere as an introduced population
outside its historical range; or (4) Evidence that the discrete
population segment differs markedly from other populations of the
species in its genetic characteristics (61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996).

Information Provided in the Petition on Significance

    The petition asserts that the coaster brook trout of the Salmon
Trout River are significant to the brook trout taxon because their loss
``would result in a significant gap in the range of the taxon.''
Information in our files indicates that lake-dwelling coaster brook
trout historically occurred in Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan
(Bailey and Smith 1981, p. 1549), but are now extirpated from Lakes
Huron and Michigan (Quinlan 2008). The coaster brook trout described in
the petition (in the Salmon Trout River and on Isle Royale) are the
last remaining lake-dwelling brook trout in Lake Superior (Newman et.
al. 2003, p. 39); thus if the coaster subpopulations in the Salmon
Trout River and on Isle Royale disappear, lake-dwelling brook trout
would be extirpated throughout the U.S. waters of the Great Lakes.
Therefore, we find that the petition presents substantial information
that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the U.S. coaster
brook trout may be significant to the species to which it belongs,
based on evidence that loss of the U.S. population of coaster brook
trout may result in a significant gap in the range of the taxon.

DPS Conclusion

    We have reviewed the information presented in the petition and have
evaluated it in accordance with 50 CFR 424.14(b). In a 90-day finding,
the question is whether a petition presents substantial scientific or
commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be
warranted. We do not make final determinations regarding DPSs at this
stage; rather, we determine whether a petition presents substantial
information that a population may be a DPS. Based on our evaluation
described above, we conclude that the petition and information readily
available to us do present substantial scientific or commercial
information indicating that the U.S. population of coaster brook trout
may be discrete and significant within the meaning of our DPS policy,
and therefore may constitute a DPS.
    To meet the third element of the DPS policy, we evaluate the level
of a population segment's conservation status in relation to the Act's
standards for listing. This involves an analysis, referred to as a
threats analysis, pursuant to the five listing factors specified in
section 4 of the Act. We thus proceeded with an evaluation of whether
the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information
indicating that listing the U.S. population of coaster brook trout may
be warranted. Our threats analysis and conclusion follow.

Five-Factor Analysis

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part
424) set forth the procedures for adding species to the Federal Lists
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. We may list a taxon
on the basis of any one of the following factors: (A) Present or
threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of habitat or
range; (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or
educational purposes; (C) Disease or predation; (D) Inadequacy of
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) Other manmade or natural factors
affecting its continued existence. Consistent with our regulations for
making 90-day findings (50 CFR 424.14(b)), we evaluated whether the
threats to the U.S. population of coaster brook trout presented in the
petition would lead a reasonable person to believe that the petitioned
action may be warranted. The following evaluation of these threats was
based on information provided or cited in the petition and found to be
substantial, and information from our files used to evaluate the
information in the petition.

Factor A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or
Curtailment of the Species' Habitat or Range

    The petition asserts that the following conditions under Factor A
threaten the coaster brook trout: Dams and river diversions; toxic
pollution related to organophosphorus compounds (that is, as used in
pesticides), deoxygenation via decomposition of organic material and
other effluents from paper mills and other sources, and mercury (from
fungicides and wood pulp treatment); stream acidification via acid
rain, acid spills, and the proposed Kennecott's sulfide mine; changes
in water temperature and flow due to deforestation and reservoir
release, and dams and diversions; and siltation.
    The information presented in the petition regarding dams and
diversions, toxic pollution, deoxygenation via decomposition of organic
material, acid level changes in streams, and changes in water
temperature and flow is general. The petition does not explain how the
concerns expressed would result in the present or threatened
destruction, modification, or curtailment of the habitat or range of
the U.S. coaster brook trout. Also, the petition acknowledges that,
with regard to toxic pollution,

[[Page 14954]]

deoxygenation, and changes in water temperature and flow, little
research has been done on their possible impacts to coaster brook trout
in the Upper Great Lakes.
    The petitioners assert that siltation due to increases in road
building may threaten coaster brook trout in the Salmon Trout River. In
particular, the petitioners cite a road wash-out in 2005 that deposited
80 tons of sediment into the river. The petitioners assert that
siltation can affect the reproductive success of coaster brook trout by
filling in holding areas of migrating adults; filling hollows that
afford protection for juveniles; filling interstitial spaces in the
substrate that are required for proper water flow and egg oxygenation;
and decreasing the amount of rooted plants and algae, which in turn may
reduce the biomass of benthic invertebrates (food for young coaster
brook trout). Additionally, the petitioners assert that siltation can
interfere with fish respiration and impact water flow and clarity,
which may subsequently impede migration and feeding. Two references are
given to support the above statements regarding the effects of
siltation on fish (Mills 1989, Shearer 1992); these citations were not
listed in the References section of the petition. Additionally, we did
not have these two references in our files, and we could not find them
using a literature search. However, readily available sources in our
files corroborated the effects of siltation on fish reproduction,
respiration, and feeding (Waters 1995, pp. 79-118). Similarly, although
no reference was provided for the 2005 siltation event, we concur that
the event took place and that future road washouts in the Salmon Trout
River could result in impacts to the coaster brook trout downstream
(Baker 2007). Therefore, based principally on information related to
siltation, we find that the petition presents substantial information
indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted due to the
present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the
habitat or range of the U.S. coaster brook trout.

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

    With regard to Factor B, the petition asserts that sport fishing
and commercial fishing threaten the coaster brook trout. However, the
information presented is limited to noting that a commercial fishery
existed on many rivers used by coaster brook trout in the 19th century,
and that the extremely low number of extant coaster brook trout means
almost none will be caught by commercial vessels. The petition also
states that both the Huron Mountain Club and Isle Royale National Park
have restrictions on keeping coaster brook trout that may be caught
during sport fishing. The petition does not present any information
indicating there is overutilization for commercial, recreational,
scientific, or educational purposes, and we have no information in our
files indicating that there is any such overutilization. Consequently,
we find that the petition does not present substantial information for
Factor B.

Factor C. Disease or Predation

    The petition does not provide information pertaining to Factor C.
Therefore, we find that the petition does not present substantial
information in relation to this factor.

Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    With regard to Factor D, the petition asserts the following: there
is no single government entity with overall program authority for
managing coaster brook trout; there is inadequate authority to prevent
conflicting government policies and programs, land-use practices, and
toxic pollution; there is over-reliance on hatchery production and
stocking; program funding is inadequate; and there is a lack of public
education and involvement in coaster brook trout restoration. The
petition also asserts that existing programs are inadequate to provide
for the long-term viability of Salvelinus fontinalis in the U.S. and
the restoration and protection of its habitat. Other than the two
sentences making these very general assertions, the petition presents
no information or explanation as to why the petitioned coaster brook
trout is threatened as a result of the inadequacy of existing
regulatory mechanisms. Therefore, we find that the petition does not
present substantial information in relation to Factor D.

Factor E. Other Manmade or Natural Factors Affecting Its Continued
Existence

    The petition asserts that the following factor under Factor E
threatens the coaster brook trout: Competition with rainbow trout, coho
salmon, and brown trout. However, the petition concludes that it is
doubtful ``that competition played a large role in reducing coaster
brook trout and there is no direct evidence to suggest that this has
happened along large areas of the Lake Superior shoreline'' (p. 20).
Consequently, the petition does not provide substantial information
with respect to competition.
    The petition also asserts that small population size may threaten
the continued survival of the coaster brook trout population in the
Salmon Trout River. Recent surveys have estimated that the average
annual spawning population in the Salmon Trout River is fewer than 200
individuals; this average may be an underestimate given limitations of
the gear and methods (Huckins, 2006). The petition compares this
average annual spawning population to the number of bull trout
(Salvelinus confluentus) that spawned in the Jarbidge River annually
when it was emergency-listed (50-125 individuals) (63 FR 42757; August
11, 1998). The petition also compares the average to the definitions of
a strong subpopulation (greater than 500 spawners) and depressed
population (fewer than 500 spawners) given in the Determination of
Threatened Status for the Klamath River and Columbia River Distinct
Population Segments of Bull Trout (63 FR 31647; June 10, 1998).''
    Information in our files supports the conclusion of a depressed
subpopulation in the Salmon Trout River (Lake Superior Brook Trout
Subcommittee 1997, p. 4). Surveys also indicate that coaster brook
trout numbers are low in the three locations where self-sustaining
populations occur on Isle Royale (National Park Service 2007, p. 10;
Quinlan 2008). The annual spawning population at Tobin Harbor may be
less than 150 (National Park Service 2007; p. 10). The sizes of the
annual spawning populations at Siskiwit River and Washington Creek are
unknown but believed to be low (Quinlan 2008). Although coaster brook
trout have been stocked into several streams along the U.S. shoreline
of Lake Superior including Whittlesey Creek (WI) and Grand Portage
Creek (MN), none of these stocking programs has resulted in self-
sustaining populations (Newman et al. 2003, p. 39; Quinlan 2008).
Therefore, based on population size, we find that the petition presents
substantial information relative to Factor E.

Finding

    We have reviewed the petition, supporting information provided by
the petitioners, and information that was readily available in our
files or elsewhere (such as the Internet). As described above, the
petition presents evidence of siltation in the Salmon Trout River that
indicates the present or threatened destruction or modification or
curtailment of the habitat or range of coaster brook trout, with impact
to fish

[[Page 14955]]

reproduction, respiration, and feeding (Waters 1995, pp. 79-118). The
petition also presents information regarding population size, which
indicates the small number estimated to remain poses a risk to the
continued survival of the petitioned population of coaster brook trout.
We find that the petition presents substantial information to indicate
that the petitioned action may be warranted, based on threats posed by
siltation and small population size. Therefore, we are initiating a
status review of coaster brook trout to determine whether listing the
species under the Act is warranted. To ensure that the status review is
comprehensive, we are soliciting scientific and commercial information
regarding this species.

References

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available on request
from the East Lansing Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Author

    The primary author of this document is the staff of Region 3
Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1 Federal
Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111.

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated March 12, 2008.
H. Dale Hall,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. E8-5618 Filed 3-19-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P

==========================================
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Environmental Enforcement, Permit/Technical Review, Public Policy, 
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Waste/Community Environmental and Resource Protection
Prospectus at:  http://www.sagady.com/sagady.pdf 

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