[Federal Register: October 7, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 194)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 60138-60140]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AT44

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of 
Critical Habitat for the California Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma 
californiense) in Santa Barbara County

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; reopening of public comment period and notice of 
availability of draft economic analysis.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announce the 
availability of a draft economic analysis for the proposed designation 
of critical habitat for the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma 
californiense) in Santa Barbara County (here after referred to as 
``California tiger salamander'') under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act). We are also reopening the public comment period 
for the proposal to designate critical habitat for this species to 
allow all interested parties to comment on the proposed rule and the 
associated draft economic analysis. Comments previously submitted on 
the proposed rule need not be resubmitted as they have been 
incorporated into the public record as a part of this reopening of the 
comment period, and will be fully considered in preparation of the 
final rule.

DATES: We will accept all comments received on or before November 8, 
2004. Any comments that we receive after the closing date may not be 
considered in the final decision on this proposal.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and 
materials concerning this proposed rule by any one of several methods:
    (1) You may submit written comments and information to the Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife 
Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003, or by facsimile 
    (2) You may hand-deliver written comments to our office, at the 
address given above.
    (3) You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to 
fw1ctsch@r1.fws.gov. Please see the Public Comments Solicited section 

below for file format and other information about electronic filing. In 
the event that our Internet connection is not functional, please submit 
your comments by the alternate methods mentioned above.
    Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in preparation of the proposed critical habitat 
rule, will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business hours at the above address. You may obtain copies of 
the draft economic analysis for the California tiger salamander in 
Santa Barbara County by contacting the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office 
at the above address. The draft economic analysis and the proposed rule 
for critical habitat designation also are available on the Internet at 
http://ventura.fws.gov/. In the event that our Internet connection is 

not functional, please obtain copies of documents directly from the 
Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Katie Drexhage (telephone 805/549-
3811; facsimile 805/549-3233 or Michael McCrary (telephone 805/644-
1766; facsimile 805/644-3958), Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, at the 
address listed above.



    The California tiger salamander is a large and stocky salamander, 
with a broad, rounded snout. Adult males may reach a total length of 
8.2 inches (in) (20.8 centimeters (cm)) while females are slightly 
smaller, reaching about 6.8 in (17.3 cm) in length. The top of the 
salamander can have white or pale yellow spots or bars on a black 
background. The underside varies from almost uniform white or pale 
yellow to a varying pattern of white or pale yellow and black. This 
species is restricted to California and does not overlap with any other 
species of tiger salamander. The Santa Barbara County salamanders are 
geographically separate from all other California tiger salamanders. 
Historically, the Santa Barbara County California tiger salamanders 
inhabited low-elevation (below 1,400 feet (427 meters)) vernal pools 
and ephemeral ponds, and associated coastal scrub, grassland, and oak 
savannah plant communities of the Santa Maria, Los Alamos, and Santa 
Rita valleys.
    The loss of the California tiger salamander's upland habitat is the 
single most important factor contributing to the species' status. 
Additional threats to this species include threats to the aquatic 
habitat, predation and competition by introduced or non-native species, 
habitat fragmentation, contaminants, hybridization with non-native 
tiger salamanders, disease, and over-grazing.
    On January 19, 2000, we published an emergency rule to list the 
Santa Barbara County DPS of the California tiger salamander as 
endangered (65 FR 3096), concurrently with a proposed rule (65 FR 3110) 
to list the species as endangered. We published a final rule listing 
the Santa Barbara County DPS of the California tiger salamander as 
endangered on September 21, 2000 (65 FR 57242). On May 23, 2003, we 
proposed to list the Central California population of California tiger 
salamander as a threatened DPS. In the same Federal Register notice we 
also proposed to downlist the Sonoma County DPS and Santa Barbara 
County DPS of California tiger salamander, from endangered to 
threatened status (68 FR 28648). The Federal Register notice also 
included a proposed special rule that would exempt existing routine 
ranching activities from the prohibitions of the Act. On August 4, 
2004, we determined threatened status for the California tiger 
salamander rangewide (69 FR 47212). We also finalized the special rule 
for the species rangewide, which exempts existing routine ranching 
    On February 25, 2003, the Environmental Defense Center and Center 
for Biological Diversity filed a complaint challenging our failure to 
designate critical habitat for the Santa Barbara County DPS of the 
California tiger salamander (Environmental Defense Center et al. v. U. 
S. Fish and Wildlife Service et al., EVCD 03-00195 (C.D.Cal)). By order 
dated August 7, 2003, the district court ordered us to publish a 
proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the California tiger 
salamander. On January 22, 2004, we proposed to designate critical 
habitat for the Santa Barbara DPS of California tiger salamander (69 FR 
3064). Approximately 13,920 acres (5,633

[[Page 60139]]

hectares) fall within the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat 
designation. Proposed critical habitat is located in Santa Barbara 
County, California, as described in the proposed rule. The comment 
period on the proposed rule closed March 22, 2004. However, on April 
13, 2004, we reopened the comment period (69 FR 19394) and announced a 
public hearing that was held on May 11, 2004.
    Critical habitat identifies specific areas, both occupied and 
unoccupied, that are essential to the conservation of a listed species 
and that may require special management considerations or protection. 
If the proposed rule is made final, section 7 of the Act will prohibit 
destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat by any activity 
funded, authorized, or carried out by any Federal agency. Federal 
agencies proposing actions affecting areas designated as critical 
habitat must consult with us on the effects of their proposed actions 
pursuant to section 7(a)(2) of the Act.
    Section 4 of the Act requires that we consider economic and other 
relevant impacts prior to making a final decision on what areas to 
designate as critical habitat. We have prepared a draft economic 
analysis for the proposal to designate certain areas as critical 
habitat for the California tiger salamander. This analysis considers 
the potential economic effects of our proposed designation. It also 
considers the economic effects of protective measures taken as a result 
of listing the species under the Act, and other Federal, State, and 
local laws that aid habitat conservation in areas proposed for 
    The majority of these areas occur on privately owned land. We know 
of no Federal, State, tribal, or military lands within proposed 
critical habitat. A small portion of land within one unit is owned by 
local jurisdictions, including the county of Santa Barbara and the 
Laguna County Sanitation District. The economic analysis addresses the 
impacts of California tiger salamander conservation efforts on 
activities occurring on lands proposed for designation. The analysis 
measures lost economic efficiency associated with real estate 
development, grazing activities, agriculture, vineyards, road 
construction projects, utility and other infrastructure projects, as 
well as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements, 
uncertainty, and project delay.
    There is a great deal of uncertainty in estimating the impact of 
California tiger salamander-related conservation activities in the 
future. For example, the economic analysis projects significant future 
cost to private developers as a result of California tiger salamander 
conservation activities even though these costs have been relatively 
minimal in the past. For some activities the analysis estimates an 
upper-bound cost estimate, for others a conservative approach is taken 
to reach a best estimate. The implicit lower-bound cost estimate 
predicts no impact.
    Total efficiency costs (e.g., lost economic opportunities 
associated with restrictions on land use) for the upper bound scenario 
are estimated to be $411 million between 2005 and 2030. The efficiency 
costs for the lower bound scenario are estimated to be $105 million 
between 2005 and 2030. In both cases, the real estate industry, in 
particular the owners of developable land, is estimated to experience 
the highest cost overall, followed by agriculture and road construction 

Public Comments Solicited

    We intend any final action resulting from this proposal to be as 
accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we solicit comments 
or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, 
the scientific community, industry, or any other interested party 
concerning the economic analysis or the proposed rule. We particularly 
seek comments concerning:
    (1) The reasons why any habitat should or should not be determined 
to be critical habitat as provided by section 4 of the Act, including 
whether the benefits of excluding outweigh benefits of including any 
area as critical habitat;
    (2) Specific information on the amount and distribution of 
California tiger salamander habitat, and what habitat is essential to 
the conservation of this species and why;
    (3) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the 
subject area and their possible impacts on proposed critical habitat;
    (4) Any foreseeable economic or other impacts resulting from the 
proposed designation of critical habitat, in particular, any impacts on 
small entities;
    (5) Whether the economic analysis identifies all State and local 
costs. If not, what costs are overlooked;
    (6) Whether the economic analysis makes appropriate assumptions 
regarding current practices and likely regulatory changes imposed as a 
result of the designation of critical habitat;
    (7) Whether the economic analysis correctly assesses the effect on 
regional costs associated with land use controls that derive from the 
    (8) Whether the designation will result in disproportionate 
economic impacts to specific areas that should be evaluated for 
possible exclusion from the final designation;
    (9) Whether the economic analysis appropriately identifies all 
costs that could result from the designation;
    (10) Whether our approach to critical habitat designation could be 
improved or modified in any way to provide for greater public 
participation and understanding, or to assist us in accommodating 
public concern and comments;
    (11) What the likely benefits of designating critical habitat are 
and whether the economic analysis appropriately captures those economic 
benefits that are susceptible to quantification;
    (12) Any suggestions to improve our economic analysis particularly 
with regard to its consideration of the foreseeable economic benefits 
of critical habitat designation; and
    (13) Any suggestions to improve our ability to identify the 
noneconomic benefits of designating a particular area as critical 
habitat to enable a more comprehensive and informed analysis of the 
economic and other relevant impacts of designation.
    All comments and information submitted during the previous comment 
periods on the proposed rule need not be resubmitted. If you wish to 
comment, you may submit your comments and materials concerning this 
rule by any one of several methods (see ADDRESSES section). Please 
submit Internet comments to fw1ctsch@r1.fws.gov and include ``Attn: 
California Tiger Salamander in SB County Critical Habitat'' in your e-
mail subject header, and your name and return address in the body of 
your message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the system that 
we have received your Internet message, contact us directly by calling 
our Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT 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 addresses 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 us to withhold your name and/or 
address, you must state this

[[Page 60140]]

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 notice is the Ventura Fish and Wildlife 
Office staff (see ADDRESSES section).
    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973 
(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: September 29, 2004.
Julie MacDonald,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 04-22540 Filed 10-6-04; 8:45 am]