[Federal Register: December 8, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 235)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 70971-70972]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AI78

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Notice of 
Availability of Draft Economic Analysis and Reopening of the Public 
Comment Period for the Proposed Designation of Critical Habitat for 
Astragalus jaegerianus (Lane Mountain Milk-vetch)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

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


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 Astragalus jaegerianus (Lane Mountain milk-
vetch) 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 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 and information received on or 
before January 7, 2005. 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, California 93003, or by 
facsimile 805/644-3958.
    (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: 
fw1Lanemv@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 Astragalus jaegerianus by contacting 
the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office at the above address. The draft 
economic analysis and the proposed rule for critical habitat 
designation are also 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: Connie Rutherford, Ventura Fish and 
Wildlife Office, at the address listed above (telephone 805/644-1766; 
facsimile 805/644-3958).


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 to designate 
critical habitat for Astragalus jaegerianus (69 FR 18018, April 6, 
2004). 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 exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying 
such area as part of the critical habitat;
    (2) Specific information on the amount and distribution of 
Astragalus jaegerianus 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 habitat;
    (4) Any foreseeable economic, national security, or other potential 
impacts resulting from the proposed designation of critical habitat; in 
particular, any impacts on small entities or families;
    (5) Whether the economic analysis identifies all State and local 
costs attributable to the proposed critical habitat designation. 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; and
    (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.
    All comments and information submitted during the initial comment 
period on the proposed rule need not be resubmitted. If you wish to 
comment, you may submit your comments and materials concerning the 
draft economic analysis and proposed rule by any one of several methods 
(see ADDRESSES section).
    Please submit Internet comments to fw1Lanemv@r1.fws.gov in an ASCII 
file format and avoid the use of special characters and encryption. 
Please also include ``Attn: Lane Mountain Milk-vetch 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 
    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 for us to withhold your name and/

[[Page 70972]]

or address, you must state this 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, as well as supporting 
documentation used in preparation of the proposal to designate critical 
habitat, will be available for inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business hours, in our Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office at the 
above address.


    Astragalus jaegerianus (Lane Mountain milk-vetch) is a member of 
the pea family (Fabaceae) that is restricted in its range to a portion 
of the west Mojave Desert north of Barstow, in San Bernardino County, 
CA. It is a wispy perennial herb with cream-to-purple flowers, whose 
zig zag stems grow up through low desert shrubs, referred to as host 
shrubs, that provide it with support. The stems wither at the end of 
each growing season, and the plant overwinters as a taproot. The 
visibility of populations can fluctuate dramatically from year to year, 
depending on climatic conditions. In favorable years, seed production 
may be substantial. In unfavorable years, the plants may desiccate 
prior to flowering or setting seed, or the taproots may remain dormant 
and not resprout.
    Populations of Astragalus jaegerianus are concentrated in four 
geographically distinct areas that are arrayed more or less linearly 
along a 20 mile (32 kilometer) long axis that trends in a 
northeasterly-to-southwesterly direction. The Goldstone and Brinkman 
Wash-Montana Mine populations occur entirely on Department of Defense 
(Army) lands at Fort Irwin. The Paradise Wash population occurs 
primarily on Army lands, with a portion on Federal lands administered 
by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Coolgardie population 
occurs primarily on BLM-managed lands, with a portion on small 
privately owned parcels scattered between the Federal lands.
    We listed Astragalus jaegerianus as threatened on October 6, 1998 
(63 FR 53596) due to threats of increasing habitat loss and 
degradation. The primary threat is loss of individuals and habitat due 
to proposed military training activities. Other potential threats 
include recreational mining, off-highway vehicle use, and alteration in 
habitat from the encroachment of nonnative species.
    On April 6, 2004, we published a proposed rule in the Federal 
Register (69 FR 18018) to designate critical habitat for Astragalus 
jaegerianus. We proposed to designate approximately 29,522 acres (ac) 
(11,947 hectares (ha)) of critical habitat in San Bernardino County, 
CA. The first comment period on the proposed critical habitat rule for 
Astragalus jaegerianus closed on May 21, 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. We note, however, that a recent 
9th Circuit judicial opinion, Gifford Pinchot Task Force v. United 
State Fish and Wildlife Service, has invalidated the Service's 
regulation defining destruction or adverse modification of critical 
habitat. We are currently reviewing the decision to determine what 
effect it (and to a limited extent Center for Biological Diversity v. 
Bureau of Land Management (Case No. C-03-2509-SI, N.D. Cal.)) may have 
on the outcome of consultations pursuant to Section 7 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 Astragalus jaegerianus. This analysis considers the 
potential economic effects of designating critical habitat for A. 
jaegerianus. It also considers the economic effects of protective 
measures taken as a result of other Federal, State, and local laws that 
aid habitat conservation in areas proposed for designation.
    Approximately 52 percent of the lands within the proposed 
designation of critical habitat for Astragalus jaegerianus occur on 
Army lands at Fort Irwin, and 32 percent of the lands occur on BLM 
lands. Less than 1 percent of the lands proposed are State lands, and 
approximately 15 percent of the lands proposed are on privately owned 
parcels interspersed with BLM lands. We know of no Tribal lands within 
these boundaries of proposed critical habitat.
    The economic analysis addresses the impacts of Astragalus 
jaegerianus conservation efforts on activities occurring on lands 
proposed for designation. The analysis measures lost economic 
efficiency associated with mining and off-highway vehicle recreation, 
as well as potential uncertainty to landowners and project delay.
    The economic analysis includes both pre-designation and post-
designation economic costs to various entities as a result of 
Astragalus jaegerianus conservation activities. Pre-designation costs 
are those costs estimated to have occurred from the time the species 
was listed until the proposal of critical habitat. The estimated pre-
designation costs range from $1.58 million to $2.1 million. These costs 
are associated primarily with two major conservation efforts: those 
taken by the Army to plan for and implement conservation actions at 
Fort Irwin, and those taken by the BLM to plan for, and implement, 
conservation actions within the framework of the West Mojave Plan, a 
multiple species habitat conservation plan and amendment to the 
California Desert Conservation Area Plan.
    The total post-designation costs are expected to range from $5.84 
million to $13.01 million. These costs are associated primarily with 
land acquisition, land management activities, and project-related 
surveys and monitoring associated with conservation of Astragalus 
jaegerianus over a 20-year time period.
    With respect to the Army lands at Fort Irwin, the analysis only 
focuses on the direct costs associated with Astragalus jaegerianus 
conservation, and does not attempt to quantify the potential impacts to 
military readiness, if any, that may result from critical habitat 


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

    Dated: December 1, 2004.
Craig Manson,
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 04-26876 Filed 12-7-04; 8:45 am]