[Federal Register: September 26, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 187)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 57800-57802]
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; 12-Month Finding 
for a Petition To Revise Critical Habitat for Alabama Beach Mouse, 
Perdido Key Beach Mouse, and Choctawhatchee Beach Mouse

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 12-
month finding on a petition to revise critical habitat for the Alabama 
beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus ammobates), Perdido Key beach mouse 
(P. p. trissyllepsis), and Choctawhatchee beach mouse (P. p. 
allophrys), pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). After review of all available scientific and commercial 
information, we find that revision of critical habitat is warranted.

DATES: We made the finding announced in this document on September 12, 

ADDRESSES: You may submit data, information, comments, or questions to 
the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1190, 
Daphne, Alabama 36526. The petition finding, supporting data, and 
comments are available for public inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Larry Goldman, Field Supervisor 
(see ADDRESSES section), telephone 334/441-4151, extension 30.



    Section 4(b)(3)(D)(ii) of the Act and our listing regulations (50 
CFR 424.14(c)(3)) require that within 12 months after receiving a 
petition that is found to present substantial information

[[Page 57801]]

indicating that the requested revision may be warranted, we shall 
determine how we intend to proceed with the requested revision, and 
promptly publish notice of such intention in the Federal Register.
    On February 2, 1999, Mr. Eric Huber, EarthJustice Legal Defense 
Fund, submitted a petition to us, on behalf of the Sierra Club and the 
Biodiversity Legal Foundation, to revise the critical habitat 
designation for three endangered species: Alabama beach mouse 
(Peromyscus polionotus ammobates), Perdido Key beach mouse (P. p. 
trissyllepsis), and Choctawhatchee beach mouse (P. p. allophrys). We 
received the petition on February 8, 1999. Mr. Huber submitted 
additional information on April 16, 1999.
    After considering the petition and other available information, we 
found that it contained substantial information indicating that the 
requested action may be warranted. We published a notice announcing our 
finding in the Federal Register on November 18, 1999 (64 FR 63004).
    The processing of this petition conforms with our Final Listing 
Priority Guidance for Fiscal Year 2000, published in the Federal 
Register on October 22, 1999 (64 FR 57114). The highest priority under 
this guidance is the processing of emergency listing rules for any 
species determined to face a significant and imminent risk to its well 
being. The second priority is the processing of final determinations on 
proposed additions to the lists of endangered and threatened wildlife 
plants. The third priority is processing new proposals to add species 
to the lists. The processing of administrative petition findings filed 
under section 4 of the Act is considered the fourth priority. Critical 
habitat determinations (prudency and determinability decisions) and 
proposed or final designations of critical habitat are no longer 
subject to prioritization under the Listing Priority Guidance. Critical 
habitat determinations and designations are undertaken as conservation 
efforts demand and in light of resource constraints.
    We have reviewed the petition, the information provided in the 
petition, other literature, and information available in our files. On 
the basis of the best scientific and commercial information available, 
we find that revision of critical habitat is warranted for the Alabama 
beach mouse, Perdido Key beach mouse, and Choctawhatchee beach mouse. 
Additional secondary and/or scrub dunes may be required for Alabama 
beach mouse habitat, and these habitats also may be required for the 
Perdido Key beach mouse and the Choctawhatchee beach mouse since they 
are ecologically equivalent. The petition contains much of the same 
information already present in our files and supports our conclusions 
reached in our previously issued Biological Opinion on the 
Reaffirmation of the Beach Club and Martinique on the Gulf Incidental 
Take Permits. Available information and data indicate that those areas 
that include a greater diversity of habitat, including secondary and/or 
scrub dunes, may be essential to the survival and recovery of all three 
    Section 4(b)(3)(D)(ii) of the Act provides that with a 12-month 
warranted finding, we shall determine how we intend to proceed with the 
requested revision. The steps outlined below fulfill this requirement.
    1. Habitat Assessment: Criteria for designating critical habitat 
are provided in our regulations at 50 CFR 424. Areas to be considered 
include physiological, behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary 
requirements that are essential to the conservation of a species and 
that may require special management considerations or protection. Such 
requirements include, but are not limited to: (1) Space for individual 
and population growth, and for normal behavior; (2) food, water, air, 
light, minerals, or other nutritional or physiological requirements; 
(3) cover or shelter; (4) sites for breeding, reproduction, rearing of 
offspring, germination, or seed dispersal; and (5) habitats that are 
protected from disturbance or are representative of the historic 
geographical and ecological distribution of a species.
    When considering the designation of critical habitat, we focus on 
the principal biological or physical constituent elements that are 
essential to the species' conservation. Known primary constituent 
elements are listed with the critical habitat. The current constituent 
elements for the three subspecies include dunes and interdunal areas, 
and associated grasses and shrubs that provide food and cover.
    Recent research and trapping data indicate that optimum beach mouse 
habitat comprises a matrix of beach-dune habitats that includes 
primary, secondary, and scrub dunes. In particular, data analyzed 
within the last two years indicate that dunes in the higher elevations 
provide essential habitat for beach mice survival and recovery. While 
data still support the conclusion that primary dunes support higher 
densities of beach mice (under non-storm conditions), it is highly 
unlikely that primary dunes alone could support a beach mouse 
population over a long period due to susceptibility to storm overwash 
and damage. Potential for long term survival is the best criterion for 
defining optimum habitat; this would be highest in areas that include a 
scrub dune component. Thus, these habitats should be considered 
critical for the survival and recovery of beach mice. Areas that 
contain optimum habitat must be determined individually for each 

[[Page 57802]]

    Another component of critical habitat designation is the quantity 
of optimum habitat needed for recovery of each subspecies. The number 
of acres needed for recovery is variable due to the number of elements 
involved on each site. For example, the quantity and overall quality of 
habitat, ownership, land use, and connectivity with other beach mouse 
habitat changes significantly from site to site. We must determine 
these variables for each subspecies. Once identified, the habitats must 
be delineated, mapped, and described for the proposed designation 
process. This includes review of aerial photography, ownership maps, 
field ground truthing, locating landmarks or other geographical markers 
using survey techniques such as geographic positioning systems to 
locate latitude and longitude, with the final product being a usable 
map. Once initiated, we anticipate that completion of these actions, 
including publication of a proposed rule, will take approximately one 
year. Initiation of work in fiscal year 2001 will depend upon 
availability of funding and the presence of other potentially higher 
priority listing and critical habitat actions (including court ordered 
critical habitat designations).
    2. Economic Analysis: Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires us to 
designate critical habitat on the basis of the best scientific and 
commercial data available and to consider the economic and other 
relevant impacts of designating a particular area as critical habitat. 
We may exclude areas from critical habitat upon a determination that 
the benefits of such exclusions outweigh the benefits of specifying 
such areas as critical habitat. We cannot exclude areas from critical 
habitat when the exclusion will result in the extinction of the 
species. We will conduct the economic analysis for the proposed 
designation prior to a final determination.
    3. Coordination: We will coordinate with Federal, State, local, and 
private landowners during the habitat assessment process.
    Author: The primary author of this document is Celeste South (see 
ADDRESSES section).

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered 
Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544).

    Dated: September 12, 2000.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-24700 Filed 9-25-00; 8:45 am]