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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

 

February 23, 2004

Contact: Mitch Snow 202/208-5634
Sharon Rose 303-236-4580

COMMENT PERIOD REOPENED FOR PROPOSED REVISIONS FOR ENDANGERED SPECIES CONSERVATION AGREEMENTS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is reopening the comment period for 15 days on a proposed revision to regulations governing permits for various types of activities involving Federally designated threatened and endangered species.

The proposal, entitled "Revisions to the Regulations Applicable to Permits Issued Under the Endangered Species Act," was originally published in the September 10, 2003 Federal Register, with comments due by November 10, 2003. With the reopening of the comment period, announced in the February 23, 2004 Federal Register, the Service will now accept comments until March 9, 2004.

The proposal would revise existing regulations to more clearly describe the full range of activities for which permits can be issued to enhance species survival, primarily those activities related to domestic species in conjunction with Safe Harbor Agreements and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs). These agreements are intended to remove potential disincentives for landowners to manage their property for the benefit of listed and candidate species. Some landowners have made it clear that they need a better understanding of the obligations and benefits provided by Safe Harbor Agreements and CCAAs before they will participate in agreements.

In many cases, property owners may be willing to actively help protect endangered or threatened species through Safe Harbor Agreements or CCAAs only if they can limit the area to be occupied by the species through intentional take, particularly when species expansion would interfere with activities outside of the area covered by the agreement. The proposed rule is intended to expand citizen conservation by addressing landowner concerns and more fully describe the range of activities that can be permitted in conjunction with a Safe Harbor Agreement or CCAA.

The proposed revision is being reopened for comment because of apparent confusion with a separate policy proposal involving foreign species that was open for comment during the same time period. This reopening relates solely to the proposed rule that was covered under the September 10, 2003 Federal Register notice.

The proposed rule would specifically make change in the regulations for permits associated with Safe Harbor Agreements and CCAAs to more clearly state the Service's ability to authorize "take" (capturing, killing or otherwise disturbing or harming a species or its habitat) in conjunction with activities such as reintroduction and habitat restoration when the benefits of habitat protection or restoration provided by the associated agreements outweigh any impacts caused by anticipated take of protected species.

By ensuring that traditional agricultural uses can continue alongside habitat improvements, this provision can make it easier for landowners to enter into SHAs and CCAAs that will provide overall benefits to the species.

The Service encourages the public to send comments on the proposed rule to Division of Endangered Species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Room 420, Arlington Square Building, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203; or by e-mail to fw9comments@fws.gov. Comments must be received by the close of business on March 9, 2004. The text of the proposed rule can be found in the September 10, 2003 Federal Register, beginning on page 53327 and online at http://endangered.fws.gov.

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. The Service manages the 95- million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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