Joan Jewett, 503-231-6211
Public comments accepted until September 29, 2008
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a proposal to revise the critical habitat designation for the marbled murrelet, a threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The proposed revision would remove approximately 254,070 acres of forest land in northern California and Oregon from the 1996 designation of 3,887,800 acres. The revised designation, if finalized, would total 3,633,800 acres.
The marbled murrelet is a small seabird that spends most of its time in the marine environment and nests in forests along the Pacific Coast.
The Service is proposing to remove the critical habitat designation from two areas that do not meet the definition of critical habitat for the species and are not considered essential for the marbled murrelet?s conservation. In one area, encompassing about 191,370 acres in northern California and southern Oregon, extensive surveys have indicated that marbled murrelets are very unlikely to be using the area. Another area proposed for removal, approximately 62,700 acres in Lane and Douglas counties in Oregon, is farther than 35 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Removing these areas would better conform with the 1997 marbled murrelet recovery plan, by limiting critical habitat to the areas where the majority of known occupied murrelet sites are found. No changes are proposed for the marbled murrelet critical habitat designation in the state of Washington.
"If this information had been available earlier, these areas would not have been included in the 1996 critical habitat designation," said Ren Lohoefener, Director of the Service's Pacific Region. "These proposed changes are scientifically based technical adjustments and, if finalized, will remove an unnecessary regulatory burden in the management of these federal lands."
Critical habitat identifies geographic areas that contain features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management or protection. The designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve or other conservation area. It does not allow government or public access to private lands. A critical habitat designation does not affect private lands unless federal funds, permits or activities are involved. Federal agencies that undertake, fund or permit activities that may affect critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure that such actions do not adversely modify or destroy critical habitat.
The proposed critical habitat rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal
Register on July 31, 2008. The proposed rule, maps and descriptions of the
areas proposed for critical habitat can be found at
Comments on the critical habitat proposal will be accepted until September 29, 2008. You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. This method will be available upon publication of the rule in the Federal Register; or U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: RIN 1018-AW18; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203. We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov.
The Service completed a recovery plan for the marbled murrelet in 1997 and a 5-year status review of the species in 2004. The final revised critical habitat designation is scheduled to be made by December 2008.
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.