[Federal Register: July 10, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 132)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 42316-42318]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding for 
a Petition To Revise Critical Habitat for the Cape Sable Seaside 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to revise critical habitat for the Cape 
Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis), under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). After review of all 
available scientific and commercial information, we find that the 
petition presents substantial information indicating that revising 
critical habitat for this species may be warranted.

DATES: The finding announced in this notice was made on June 21, 2000. 
Send your comments and materials to reach us on or before September 8, 
2000. We may not consider comments received after the above date in 
making our decision for the 12-month finding.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments by any 
one of several methods. You may mail or hand-deliver comments to the 
Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1360 U.S. Hwy 1, 
Suite 5, Vero Beach, Florida 32961. You may also comment via the 
Internet to heather_mcsharry@fws.gov. See Supplementary Information for 
comment procedures.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Jay Slack at 561/562-3909, 
extension 234.



    Section 4(b)(3)(D)(i) of the Act and our listing regulations (50 
CFR 424.14 (c)(1)) require that we make a finding on whether a petition 
to revise critical habitat of a species presents substantial scientific 
or commercial information to demonstrate that the petitioned action may 
be warranted. We are to base this finding on all information available 
to us at the time the finding is made. To the maximum extent 
practicable, we are to make this finding within 90 days of the date we 
received the petition, and we are to publish the finding promptly in 
the Federal Register. Our regulations (50 CFR 424.14 (c)(2)(i)) further 
require that, in making a finding on a petition to revise critical 
habitat, we consider whether the petition contains information 
indicating that areas petitioned to be added to critical habitat 
contain physical and biological features essential to, and that may 
require special management to provide for, the conservation of the 
species involved.
    On October 22, 1999, we published Listing Priority Guidance for 
Fiscal Year 2000 (64 FR 57114). The guidance clarifies the order in 
which we will process rulemakings, giving highest priority to 
processing emergency listing rules for any species determined to face a 
significant and imminent risk to its well-being (Priority 1). Second 
priority (Priority 2) is the processing of final determinations on 
proposed additions

[[Page 42317]]

to the lists of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. Third 
priority (Priority 3) is the processing of new proposals to add species 
to the lists. The processing of administrative petition findings 
(petitions filed under section 4 of the Act) is the fourth priority. 
This 90-day petition finding is a Priority 4 action and is being 
completed in accordance with the current Listing Priority Guidance.
    On August 26, 1999, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation submitted a 
petition to us to revise the critical habitat designation for the Cape 
Sable seaside sparrow. We received the petition on August 31, 1999. On 
September 29, 1999, we sent a letter to Mr. Sidney B. Maddock, 
Biodiversity Legal Foundation, acknowledging receipt of the petition.
    The petition requested that critical habitat be revised for the 
Cape Sable seaside sparrow. The petitioner stated that the current 
designated critical habitat for the Cape Sable seaside sparrow is now 
inadequate and that part of the critical habitat has been destroyed by 
conversion to agricultural use. The petitioner asserted that 
substantial scientific evidence supports designation of marl prairie 
areas (short-to moderate-hydroperiod areas supporting sparse, clumped 
vegetation and producing marl soils) historically occupied by the 
western subpopulation of the sparrow as critical habitat and removal of 
privately owned agricultural areas from the critical habitat 
designation. This scientific information, gathered since the listing of 
the species, indicates that currently designated critical habitat 
encompassing the marl prairie areas historically occupied by the 
eastern subpopulations of the sparrow should also include the marl 
prairie areas historically occupied by the western subpopulation of the 
sparrow. As part of conservation of the sparrow, protection and 
management of the western subpopulation habitat area is essential to 
ensuring the continued existence of the species. The petitioner further 
asserted that the current designation of critical habitat does not 
include a detailed discussion of the constituent elements and special 
management considerations necessary for conservation of the species, as 
required by the Endangered Species Act, and that sufficient scientific 
evidence is now available to describe these constituent elements and 
any special management considerations and protection measures. The 
petitioner did not provide specific locations for areas to be included 
in or removed from the critical habitat, but referred to marl prairie 
areas historically occupied by the western subpopulation of the Cape 
Sable seaside sparrow and privately owned habitat areas that had been 
converted to agricultural use.
    Since the listing of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, we have been 
funding scientific studies and otherwise seeking and soliciting 
information regarding its status, life-history, and ecology. We also 
have participated in and funded conservation efforts including habitat 
protection and management. These efforts have expanded and refined our 
knowledge about critical habitat for the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. We 
have conducted numerous section 7 consultations concerning the effects 
of land and water management plans on the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. 
Research and monitoring required for these consultations has also 
contributed to our database regarding critical habitat.
    In 1998 we issued a draft revised recovery plan for the sparrow as 
part of the draft Multi-Species Recovery Plan (MSRP) for South Florida. 
This document provides a detailed justification for the need to review 
and redesignate critical habitat. We state in the document that 
critical habitat, as designated, does not adequately account for the 
distribution of the present-day core subpopulations, or the areas 
necessary for the birds to maintain a stable population. An important 
area west of Shark River Slough, which until 1993 supported one of two 
critical subpopulations (nearly half of the entire population), is not 
included within the designation and has been undergoing detrimental 
changes in habitat structure as a result of water management practices. 
Additionally, other parts of the designated critical habitat have been 
converted to agriculture and are no longer occupied by sparrows. Thus, 
the extent of the critical habitat requires significant review and 
redesignation. We also state that when we redesignate critical habitat, 
the constituent elements must be defined. We included a specific task 
in the draft MSRP that called for a review and revision of the current 
critical habitat designation based on distribution surveys.
    We have reviewed the petition, the information provided in the 
petition, other literature, and information available in our files. The 
petition includes much of the information already present in our files. 
Available information and data indicate that marl prairies along the 
western flank of Shark River Slough may be essential to the survival 
and recovery of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Therefore, based on the 
best scientific and commercial information available, we find the 
petition presents substantial information that revision of critical 
habitat for the Cape Sable seaside sparrow may be warranted.
    We solicit information, including additional comments and 
suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, industry, or other interested parties, concerning 
revision of the critical habitat for the Cape Sable seaside sparrow.
    After consideration of additional information, submitted during the 
indicated time period (see DATES section), we will prepare a 12-month 
finding, as required by section 4(b)(3)(D)(ii) of the Act and 50 CFR 

Comment Procedures

    Please submit Internet comments as an ASCII file, avoiding the use 
of special characters and any form of encryption. Please also include 
``Attention: [Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow]'' and your name and return 
address in your Internet message. If you do not receive a confirmation 
from the system that we have received your Internet message, contact us 
directly at the address given in the ADDRESSES section or by telephone 
at 561/562-3909. Finally, you may hand-deliver or mail comments to the 
address given in the ADDRESSES section. Our practice is to make 
comments, including names and home addresses of respondents, available 
for public review during regular business hours. Individual respondents 
may request that we withhold their home address from the rulemaking 
record, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. There also 
may be circumstances in which we would withhold from the rulemaking 
record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish for us 
to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this request 
prominently at the beginning of your comment. However, we will not 
consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety. Comments 
and materials received will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.


    The primary author of this document is Heather McSharry, South 
Florida Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).

[[Page 42318]]

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered 
Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: June 21, 2000.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-17260 Filed 7-7-00; 8:45 am]