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COMUNICADO DE PRENSA

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Re-opens Comment Period on Proposal to Designate Critical Habitat for Puerto Rican Frog

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 18, 2012
Contacts:
Lilibeth Serrano, Lilibeth_Serrano@fws.gov, 787-505-4397
Tom MacKenzie, Tom_MacKenzie@fws.gov, 404- 679-7291

coqui llanero photo by J.P. Zegarra

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is re-opening the public comment period for the proposed listing with critical habitat of the coqui Ilanero, a Puerto Rican frog.  At the same time, the Service is releasing an evaluation of potential economic impacts for the proposed designation.
On October 12, 2011, the Service proposed to list the coquí as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate about 615 acres of a vegetated wetland as its critical habitat in Sabana Seca Ward, municipality of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.

Most of the critical habitat designation, roughly 518 acres, is located in a wetland within the closed Sabana Seca Naval Base and adjacent open military lands in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.  Managed by the Department of Defense, this area is identified for development.  The remaining 97 acres of the wetland designation are managed by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

The dime-sized coquí llanero is only found in the wetland acreage proposed as critical habitat.  This seasonally flooded wetland includes essential vegetation for the survival of the coqui llanero, including ferns, bulltongue arrowhead, flatsedges, spike rushes, vines, and grasses. If the critical habitat designation is finalized by the Service, the Department of Defense and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico would need to consult with the Service before any development could take place.

In addition to development, the coquí llanero is threatened by many factors, including habitat degradation caused by infrastructure projects and competition from invasive wetland plant species. It also is challenged by its highly specialized ecological requirements and limited population distribution, low reproductive capacity, water and soil pollution, use of herbicides, brush fires, and inadequate regulations for its protection.

An evaluation of economic impacts finds that the proposed critical habitat designation for the coquí llanero will not result in a significant economic impact in any given year or result in greater economic impacts to any particular sector.  Conservation related efforts and activities will result from the protections afforded to the species through Commonwealth and federal laws if the species is federally listed.  Most of the costs associated with the proposed designation would be administrative to help determine whether a proposed action would adversely modify the critical habitat area.

Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and which may require special management considerations or protection. The designation of critical habitat will help ensure that federal agencies and the public are aware of the frog's habitat needs, and proper consultation is conducted by federal agencies when required by law.  A critical habitat designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and only applies to situations where federal funding or a federal permit is involved. It does not allow government or public access to private land.  Federal agencies that undertake, fund, or permit activities that may affect critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure such actions do not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat.

The notice announcing the re-opening of the comment period on the proposed listing of the coqui with critical habitat and the availability of the economic evaluation publishes in the Federal Register on June 19, 2012.

Written comments should be submitted by one of the following methods on or before July 19, 2012.
(1) Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov and follow the instructions for submitting comments, or

(2) U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Document ID Number Docket No Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2009–0022, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.

If comments have been submitted previously, when the proposed rule was initially announced in October 12, 2011, they do not need to be resubmitted. The Service will incorporate all comments into the public record and fully consider them if a final rule is prepared.

A final decision on whether to designate critical habitat or on the economic evaluation will consider comments and information received by July 19, 2012, the comment-period deadline. All comments will be posted on http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided.
To find out more about coquí llanero conservation, visit www.fws.gov/caribbean/es/Coquillanero.html

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit ww.fws.gov/southeast.  Connect with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at https://twitter.com/#!/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws, and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast
Last updated: June 15, 2012