Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Comment Period on Proposal to End Southern Sea Otter Translocation Program Will Reopen Nov. 4

Oct 28, 2011

FOR IMMEDITE RELEASE:
October 28, 2011

Contact: Lois Grunwald, (805) 644-1766, ext. 332

Fish and Wildlife Service to Reopen Comment Period on Proposal to End Southern Sea Otter Translocation Program

Comment Period Will be Reopened on November 4, 2011 for 15 days

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that the public comment period on the Service’s August 2011 proposal to end the 24-year-old southern sea otter translocation program in California will be reopened on November 4, 2011 for 15 days.

Once the announcement of the reopening of the public comment period is published in the Federal Register on November 4, additional public comments on the proposed rule, associated Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), and Revised Draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS), will be accepted until November 21, 2011.

The Service is responding to a September 2011 request by the California Sea Urchin Commission for an extension to the comment period on the proposed rule and revised draft SEIS.

The August proposal to end the sea otter translocation program followed an in-depth evaluation that found the program is not meeting its objectives for restoring the species. The Service held three public hearings, in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz, California. The previous 60-day public comment period ended October 24, 2011.

Comments may be submitted on the proposed rule, associated Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), or Revised Draft SEIS by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS–R8–FHC–2011–0046].
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. [FWS–R8–FHC–2011–0046]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service does not accept comments by email or facsimile.

The purpose of the translocation program was to facilitate recovery of the southern sea otter. The program sought to establish a colony of southern sea otters outside their then-existing range to protect against the possibility that a natural or human-caused event — such as an oil spill — would devastate the species. However, the translocation program did not accomplish the goal of establishing an independent population of sea otters at San Nicolas Island. The sea otter population has never met population targets due largely to the fact that large numbers of translocated sea otters left the island, and because maintenance of the management zone has come into conflict with natural range expansion of the mainland population.

The southern sea otter was protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1977, and is considered a depleted species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

The timing of the release of the proposed rule and the Revised Draft SEIS complies with a settlement agreement reached in response to a lawsuit by The Otter Project and Environmental Defense Center on September 30, 2009, and amended complaint filed on December 23, 2009. The proposed rule, Revised Draft SEIS, and accompanying documents may be viewed at http://www.fws.gov/ventura/.

The ESA provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife and plants. The Service working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the Endangered Species Program, visit http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.

-FWS-

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