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Service Proposes to Protect the Grotto Sculpin Under the Endangered Species Act
Agency Seeks Information from the Public, Scientific Community Before Making Final Decision
September 26, 2012
Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 1203
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Current evidence suggests that the grotto sculpin is in danger of becoming extinct, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. As a result, the Service has proposed to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act, and is seeking new information from the public and the scientific community that will assist the agency in making a final determination.
The grotto sculpin is a small, cave-dwelling fish found only in Perry County, Missouri. The area where the grotto sculpin lives is characterized by hundreds of caves and thousands of sinkholes, where pollutants and other substances can rapidly find their way to underground waterways.
The Service first identified the grotto sculpin as a candidate for ESA protection in 2002, due to the threat posed by a decline in water quality in the cave systems inhabited by the sculpin. Biologists have documented two mass die-offs in the cave systems in the past decade due to pollution at a single source entering groundwater.
The Service also proposed 36 square miles of underground aquatic habitat in recharge areas plus 19 miles of surface stream in Perry County, Missouri, as critical habitat for the grotto sculpin. Of the total acreage identified, 89 percent of the underground aquatic habitat and all of the surface stream miles are located on private lands and 11 percent of the underground aquatic habitat is on state, city, or county lands.
The ESA requires the Service to identify the location of habitat essential for the conservation of the species, which the Act terms “critical habitat.” This identification helps Federal agencies identify actions that may affect listed species or their habitat, and to work with the Service to avoid or minimize those impacts. Identifying this habitat also helps raise awareness of the habitat needs of imperiled species and focus the conservation efforts of other partners such as state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and individual landowners.
Although non-federal lands have initially been included in these areas, activities on these lands are not affected now, and will not necessarily be affected if the species is protected under the ESA in the future. Only if an activity is authorized, funded or carried out by a federal agency will the agency need to work with the Service to help landowners avoid, reduce or mitigate potential impacts to listed species or their identified habitat.
Today’s proposal is part of the Service’s efforts to implement a court-approved work plan that resolves a series of lawsuits concerning the agency’s ESA Listing Program. The intent of the agreement is to significantly reduce litigation-driven workloads and allow the agency to focus its resources on the species most in need of the ESA’s protections over the next five years.
The final decision to add the grotto sculpin to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, as well as the final identification of areas containing habitat essential to the species, will be based on the best scientific information available. In addition, the Service will utilize an economic analysis to inform and refine its identification of this habitat. Only areas that contain habitat essential to the conservation of the species, and where the benefits of this habitat outweigh potential economic impacts, will be included in the final identification.
The Service will open a 60-day public comment period on September 27, 2012, to allow the public to review and comment on the proposal and provide additional information. All relevant information received from the public, government agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties will be considered and addressed in the agency’s final listing determination for the species and identification of habitat essential to its conservation.
The Service will host a public meeting to provide information on the proposed listing and identification of critical habitat at the Higher Education Center in Perryville, 108 South Progress Drive, Perryville, Missouri, on October 30, 2012, from 5 pm to 8 pm. The meeting will include information about the grotto sculpin and the Service’s proposal, and opportunity for the public to ask questions of Service biologists.
To electronically submit comments on the proposal to list the grotto sculpin as endangered and designate critical habitat, go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2012–0065, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click the Search button. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!” If your comments will fit in the provided comment box, please use this feature of http://www.regulations.gov, as it is most compatible with our comment review procedures. If you attach your comments as a separate document, our preferred file format is Microsoft Word. If you attach multiple comments (such as form letters), our preferred format is a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.
Comments may also be sent by U.S. mail or hand-delivered to:
The Service will not accept comments by e-mail or fax. The comment period closes on November 26, 2012. More information on the proposal can be found at www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq , watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq
Last updated: January 3, 2013