[Federal Register: April 1, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 63)]
[Page 17225-17226]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Karst Survey Guidance and Scientific Permit Requirements 
for Conducting Presence/Absence Surveys for Endangered Karst 
Invertebrates in Central Texas

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is making 
available for public comment its draft survey guidance for karst 
species and section 10(a)(1)(A) scientific permit requirements for 
conducting presence/absence surveys for endangered karst invertebrates 
in central Texas.
    This document outlines methods to be used, information to be 
included in final reports, and minimum qualifications for personnel 
conducting presence/absence surveys for federally-listed endangered, 
terrestrial, karst invertebrate species (herein referred to as ``karst 
invertebrates'') in Travis, Williamson, and Bexar counties, Texas, 
under a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit pursuant to the Endangered Species 
Act (Act) of 1973, as amended. This document also outlines the 
Service's recommendations for detecting karst features that may contain 
suitable habitat for endangered karst invertebrates, as a first step in 
determining presence/absence. The objective of this document is to 
identify survey methods that will produce sound scientific information 
upon which to base decisions and actions for the conservation of these 
endangered species. Using consistent survey methodology will also allow 
for greater comparison and analysis of results, and thereby increase 
our understanding of these species and their habitat requirements.

DATES: To ensure consideration, written comments must be received on or 
before June 1, 2004.

ADDRESSES: Written comments and information should be submitted to 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Austin Ecological Services 
Field Office, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, Texas 78758; 
facsimile (512) 490-0974.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Austin Ecological Services Field Office, 10711 Burnet Road, 
Suite 200, Austin, Texas 78758 or (512) 490-0057.



    Sixteen endangered karst invertebrates are known to occur in 
Travis, Williamson, and Bexar counties, Texas. These karst 
invertebrates are only capable of surviving in caves or karstic rock. 
Karst ecosystems receive nutrients from the surface community in the 
form of leaf litter and other organic debris that are washed in or fall 
into the cave, from tree and other vascular plant roots, and/or through 
the feces, eggs, or dead bodies of animals. In addition to providing 
nutrients to the karst ecosystem, the plant community also filters 
contaminants and buffers against changes in temperature and humidity. 
The major threats to karst invertebrates include the loss of habitat 
due to urbanization, contamination, predation by and competition with 
non-native fire ants, and vandalism.
    On February 27, 2003 we provided a notice (68 FR 9094-9095) of our 
intention to do the following:
    (1) With respect to survey guidance for use in determining the 
presence of karst features that may contain potential habitat for 
endangered karst invertebrates in central Texas, we committed to work 
with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and other 
partners to update, as needed, the existing TCEQ guidance on karst 
feature surveys.
    (2) With respect to survey guidance for endangered karst 
invertebrates, we committed to request a panel of experts to review all 
new information regarding how to survey for karst invertebrates. We 
also committed to using the panel's recommendations to modify the 
section 10(a)(1)(A) permitting requirements and to develop karst 
invertebrate survey guidance.
    This guidance was initially intended to be made available for 
public review and comment through a Notice of Availability to be 
published in the Federal Register by December 30, 2003. On January 16, 
2004, we provided notice (69 FR 2617) of our intention to publish this 
draft guidance for public review by March 31, 2004.
    We submitted both the draft karst feature and karst invertebrate 
survey guidance documents (May 23, 2002, versions) to a panel of 48 
individuals with expertise in karst geology and/or biology and/or 
experience conducting karst feature and karst invertebrate surveys for 
review and comment. In addition to providing written comments, members 
of the panel met with us on September 8, 2003, and provided their 
individual feedback on both survey guidance documents and the 
suitability of TCEQ's guidance for surveying for karst features that 
may contain suitable habitat for endangered karst invertebrates.
    Based on individual panel member's comments and recommendations, 
the Service has merged the two draft karst survey guidance documents 
into a single document and intends to use this document to modify the 
section 10(a)(1)(A) permitting requirements for conducting presence/
absence surveys for endangered karst invertebrates in central Texas. 
This revised document, USFWS Section 10(a)(1)(A) Scientific Permit 
Requirements for Conducting Presence/Absence Surveys for Endangered 
Karst Invertebrates in Central Texas (February 18, 2004), outlines (1) 
Methods to be used to conduct surveys for endangered karst 
invertebrates, (2) information to be included in final reports, and (3) 
the minimum qualifications for personnel conducting presence/absence 
surveys for endangered karst invertebrates under a section 10(a)(1)(A) 
permit. Since one of the first steps in determining presence/absence of 
endangered karst invertebrates is to locate karst features that may 
have suitable habitat, this document also outlines the Service's 
recommendations for conducting surveys for karst features that may 
contain suitable habitat for endangered karst invertebrates. TCEQ's 
Instructions to Geologists for Geologic Assessments (GA) as revised May 
1, 2002, are recommended to conduct initial karst feature surveys.
    This revised document was submitted to panel members for additional 
review and comment and panel member's comments and recommendations were 
incorporated into the current version of the document, which is 
available for public comment.

    Authority: We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of 
the Endangered Species Act and pursuant to implementing

[[Page 17226]]

regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 

Bryan Arroyo,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 04-7348 Filed 3-31-04; 8:45 am]