Al Donner, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office 916-414-6566
Steve Martarano, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office 916-414-6571
Comment Period Re-opens for Proposal to Designate 1.8 Million Acres
Ninety percent of the cost in the new analysis occurs in new development, according to the revised analysis, although development is projected to occur on just one-half of 1 percent (7,099 acres) of the privately owned 1.3 million acres in the proposed critical habitat. The analysis calculates that the largest impacts will occur in San Luis Obispo, Alameda, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties.
The revised analysis reflects improved data and revised assumptions. It considers both economic efficiency and distributional effects of designating critical habitat. For example, in April the analysis assumed a significant cost due to compliance costs associated with the state’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as a result of the federal critical habitat designation. In the new draft CEQA costs have virtually been eliminated.
Nearly all of the additional cost is projected to be due to additional time needed to complete consultations with the agencies, estimated to be nine months, plus two years to purchase additional land to offset development damage to the species. The land acquisition process has a significantly higher cost than the April analysis, based on a projection of more time to acquire and protect mitigation land. The new analysis explicitly encourages submission of new information on the actual time delays.
Impacts on agriculture were revised down significantly, from $169 million in April to $58 million. Most of the ag cost is due to anticipated impacts from on-going pesticide litigation.
The revised economic analysis is based on a 2008 Service proposal to designate critical habitat in 28 California counties: Alameda, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Marin, Mendocino, Merced, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Riverside, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Ventura and Yuba. The 2008 proposal would be a 400 percent increase in critical habitat from a 2006 rule designating 450,000 acres, but later determined to be scientifically weak.
The economic analysis finds there would be virtually no cost to ranchers from designating critical habitat because the proposal would maintain a so-called 4(d) rule for compatible ranching operations. The 4(d) rule gives ranchers on whose land many of the frogs occur protection from violating the ESA if they continue routine ranching operations.
The 2008 proposal was developed by Service biologists “without using the previous final designation as a base from which to make changes due to the involvement of Department of Interior personnel which may have inappropriately influenced the extent and locations of critical habitat” (73 FR 53500).
The study and proposed rule, including maps and specific areas where the Service is seeking information, are available at http://www.fws.gov/sacramento or at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-20473.pdf.