[Federal Register: June 30, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 125)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 37739-37744]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AU06

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed 
Designation of Critical Habitat for Four Vernal Pool Crustaceans and 
Eleven Vernal Pool Plants in California and Southern Oregon

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

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


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), pursuant to 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), announce the 
reopening of the comment period on the proposal to designate critical 
habitat for four vernal pool crustaceans and eleven vernal pool plants 
in California and Southern Oregon, and the availability of the draft 
economic analysis of the proposed designation of critical habitat. The 
economic analysis identifies potential costs of approximately $992 
million over or 20-year period or $87.5 million per year as a result of 
the designation of critical habitat, including those costs coextensive 
with listing. We are reopening the comment period for the proposal to 
designate critical habitat for these species to allow all interested 
parties an opportunity to comment simultaneously on the proposed rule 
and the associated draft economic analysis. Comments previously 
submitted need not be resubmitted as they will be incorporated into the 
public record as part of this comment period, and will be fully 
considered in the preparation of the final rule.

DATES: We will accept public comments until July 20, 2005.

ADDRESSES: Written comments and information may be submitted to us by 
any one of the following methods:
    1. You may submit written comments and information to the Field 
Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825;
    2. You may hand-deliver written comments and information to our 
office, at the above address during normal business hours;
    3. You may fax your comments to (916) 414-6710; or
    4. You may also send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to 
fw1_vernalpool@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.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Arnold Roessler, Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office, at the address above (telephone (916) 414-6600; 
facsimile (916) 414-6710).


Public Comment Solicited

    The final economic analysis concerning the designation of critical 
habitat for four vernal pool crustaceans and eleven vernal pool plants 
in California and Southern Oregon will consider information and 
recommendations from all interested

[[Page 37740]]

parties. 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 critical habitat;
    (2) Assumptions reflected in the draft economic analysis regarding 
land use practices and current, planned, or reasonably foreseeable 
activities in the subject areas, including comments or information 
relating to the potential effects that the designation could have on 
private landowners as a result of actual or foreseeable State and local 
government responses due to the California Environmental Quality Act;
    (3) Land use practices and current, planned, or foreseeable 
activities in the subject areas and their possible impacts on proposed 
critical habitats;
    (4) Any foreseeable economic or other impacts resulting from the 
proposed designation of these critical habitats, including impacts that 
may not have been addressed in the draft economic analysis and, in 
particular, any impacts on small entities or families;
    (5) Economic and other values associated with designating critical 
habitat for these species;
    (6) The draft economic analysis notes that approximately 80 percent 
of the total costs are represented by 25 percent of the critical 
habitat. We are considering excluding those areas, which can be 
identified in Table IV-4 of the draft economic analysis as the 20 
highest cost areas based on FIPS. Please comment as to whether the 
Secretary should exclude these areas based on the benefits associated 
with exclusion or inclusion of these areas in the final critical 
habitat which have not already been identified. The basis of the 
proposed exclusion that is being considered is purely economic;
    (7) Should the Secretary exclude the 35 highest cost areas based on 
the figures in Table IV-4 of the draft economic analysis? What are the 
benefits of exclusion or inclusion of these areas?
    (8) Should the Secretary exclude the 50 highest cost areas based on 
the figures in Table IV-4 of the draft economic analysis? What are the 
benefits of exclusion or inclusion of these areas?
    (9) Table IV-2 of the draft economic analysis details increases in 
the costs per home related to this critical habitat designation. In 
addition to any other exclusions, the Secretary is considering 
excluding any areas identified as experiencing a per-home increase in 
excess of $3,000 from the designation of critical habitat. Please 
identify and benefits related to the exclusion or inclusion of those 
    (10) Are there any benefits or costs of the proposed designation 
that the draft economic analysis fails to capture? Please provide as 
much information as possible related to any costs or benefits that were 
not identified; and
    (11) 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 previous comments and information submitted during the initial 
comment period need not be resubmitted. Our final determination on the 
proposed critical habitat will take into consideration all comments and 
any additional information received. Refer to the ADDRESSES section 
above for information on how to submit written comments and 
    Please submit electronic comments in an ASCII file format and avoid 
the use of special characters and encryption. If you do not receive a 
confirmation from the system that we have received your email message, 
contact us directly by calling our Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office 
at telephone number (916) 414-6600, during normal business hours.
    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. In some circumstances, 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 prominently at the beginning of your comments. 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 Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office at 
the above address. You may obtain copies of the proposed rule and draft 
economic analysis from the above address, by calling (916) 414-6600, or 
from our Web site at http://sacramento.fws.gov/.


    On September 24, 2002, we proposed a total of 128 units of critical 
habitat for these 15 vernal pool species (Conservancy fairy shrimp 
(Branchinecta conservatio), longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinecta 
longiantenna), vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi), vernal 
pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi), Butte County meadowfoam 
(Limnanthes floccosa ssp. californica), Contra Costa goldfields 
(Lasthenia conjugens), Hoover's spurge (Chamaesyce hooveri), fleshy (or 
succulent) owl's-clover (Castilleja campestris ssp. succulenta), Colusa 
grass (Neostapfia colusana), Greene's tuctoria (Tuctoria greenei), 
hairy Orcutt grass (Orcuttia pilosa), Sacramento Orcutt grass (Orcuttia 
viscida), San Joaquin Valley Orcutt grass (Orcuttia inaequalis), 
slender Orcutt grass (Orcuttia tenuis), and Solano grass (Tuctoria 
mucronata)), totaling approximately 1,662,762 acres (ac) (672,920 
hectares (ha)) in 36 counties in California and 1 county in Oregon (67 
FR 59884). In accordance with our regulations at 50 CFR 424.16(c)(2), 
we opened a 60-day comment period on this proposal, which closed on 
November 25, 2002, but was subsequently extended until December 23, 
2002. An economic analysis was completed on the proposed designation 
and the Draft Economic Analysis (DEA) was released to the public for 
comment on November 21, 2002 (67 FR 70201). The public comment period 
was reopened on March 14, 2003, for an additional 14 days (68 FR 
    All the species listed above live in vernal pools (shallow 
depressions that hold water seasonally), swales (shallow drainages that 
carry water seasonally), and ephemeral freshwater habitats. None are 
known to occur in riverine waters, marine waters, or other permanent 
bodies of water. The vernal pool habitats of these species have a 
discontinuous distribution west of the Sierra Nevada that extends from 
southern Oregon through California into northern Baja California, 
Mexico. The species have all adapted to the generally mild climate and 
seasonal periods of inundation and drying that help make the vernal 
pool ecosystems of California and southern Oregon unique.
    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires that the Secretary of the 
Interior shall designate or revise critical habitat based upon the best 
scientific and commercial data available, after taking into 
consideration the economic impact,

[[Page 37741]]

impact to national security, and any other relevant impact of 
specifying any particular area as critical habitat. The Secretary may 
exclude any area from critical habitat if she determines that the 
benefit of such exclusion outweighs the benefits of specifying such 
area as part of the critical habitat, unless the failure to designate 
such area as critical habitat will result in the extinction of the 
species concerned. During the development of the final designation, we 
reviewed the lands proposed as critical habitat based on public 
comments and any new information that may have become available and 
refined the boundaries of the proposal to remove lands determined not 
to be essential to the conservation of the 15 vernal pool species. We 
then took into consideration the potential economic impacts of the 
designation, impacts on national security, and other relevant factors 
such as partnerships and on-going management actions benefiting the 
species covered by the designation. Next, we determined that the 
benefits of excluding certain lands from the final designation of 
critical habitat for the 15 vernal pool species outweighed the benefit 
of including them in the designation, and the specific exclusions would 
not result in the extinction of any of the species involved. Lands 
excluded from the final designation based on policy and management 
plans or programs that provide a benefit to the species included: lands 
within specific National Wildlife Refuges and Fish Hatcheries; 
Department of Defense lands; Tribal lands; State Wildlife Areas and 
Ecological Reserves; and lands covered by habitat conservation plans or 
other management plans that provide a benefit for the species. We also 
excluded lands proposed as critical habitat in Butte, Madera, Merced, 
Sacramento, and Solano counties based on potential economic impacts.
    On July 15, 2003, we made a final determination of critical habitat 
for the 15 vernal pool species. On August 6, 2003, the final rule to 
designate critical habitat for 4 vernal pool crustaceans and 11 vernal 
pool plants was published in the Federal Register (68 FR 46684). The 
final designation included approximately 1,184,513 acres (ac) (417,989 
hectares (ha)) of land within California and Southern Oregon. However, 
the area estimate did not reflect the exclusion of lands within the 
following counties: Butte, Madera, Merced, Sacramento, and Solano from 
the final designation pursuant to section 4(b)(2) of the Act. The final 
critical habitat designation with the five counties removed totaled 
approximately 739,105 ac (299,106 ha).
    In January 2004, Butte Environmental Council, and several other 
organizations, filed a complaint alleging that we: (1) Violated the 
Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), by excluding over 1 
million acres from the final designation of critical habitat for the 15 
vernal pool species; (2) violated mandatory notice-and-comment 
requirements under the Act and APA; and (3) have engaged in an unlawful 
pattern, practice, and policy by failing to properly consider the 
economic impacts of designating critical habitat. On October 28, 2004, 
the Court signed a Memorandum and Order that remanded the final 
designation to the Service in part. In particular, the court ordered us 
to: (1) Reconsider the exclusions from the final designation of 
critical habitat for the 15 vernal pool species, with the exception of 
those lands within the 5 California counties that were excluded based 
on potential economic impacts, and publish a new final determination as 
to those lands within 120 days; and (2) reconsider the exclusion of the 
five California counties based on potential economic impacts and 
publish a new final determination no later than July 31, 2005. The 
court also made it clear that the partial remand would not affect the 
areas included in the August 6, 2003, final designation (68 FR 46684).
    On December 28, 2004, we published a notice (69 FR 77700) that 
addressed the first requirement of the remand--the reconsideration of 
the non-economic exclusions from the final designation of critical 
habitat for the 15 vernal pool species, with the exception of those 
lands within the 5 California counties that were excluded based on 
potential economic impacts, and reopened the public comment period. The 
final non-economic exclusions were published in a Federal Register 
notice on March 8, 2005 (70 FR 11140). The second requirement of the 
order (economic exclusions) will be finalized by the July 31, 2005, 
court-ordered date.
    The current draft economic analysis estimates the foreseeable 
economic impacts of the critical habitat designation on government 
agencies and private businesses and individuals. The economic analysis 
identifies potential costs of approximately $992 million over or 20-
year period or $87.5 million per year as a result of the designation of 
critical habitat, including those costs coextensive with listing. At 
this time the Service has not identified any areas to exclude under 
section 4(b)(2) of the Act. The Service will consider excluding areas 
if the benefits of excluding them from the critical habitat designation 
outweigh the benefits of including them. The economic analysis presents 
the Service's tentative conclusions with respect to the economic 
effects of the proposed critical habitat designation. The Service will 
not make any final decisions about exclusions, however, until it has 
obtained public comment on the economic analysis. The Service is 
interested in comments from the public on the economic analysis, on 
whether any of the areas identified in the economic analysis as having 
economic effects should be excluded for economic reasons, and whether 
those or any other areas should be excluded for other reasons. 
Reopening of the comment period will provide the public an opportunity 
to evaluate and comment on both the proposed rule and the draft 
economic analysis. Comments already submitted on the proposed 
designation of critical habitat for four vernal pool crustaceans and 
eleven vernal pool plants do not need to be resubmitted as they will be 
fully considered in the final determination.

Required Determinations--Amended

Regulatory Planning and Review

    In accordance with Executive Order 12866, this document is a 
significant rule because it may raise novel legal and policy issues. 
However, because the draft economic analysis suggests that the 
potential economic impacts of conservation activities related to this 
designation are anticipated to be $87.5 million per year, we do not 
anticipate that this designation will have an annual effect on the 
economy of $100 million or more or affect the economy in a material 
way. Due to the timeline for publication in the Federal Register, the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has not formally reviewed the 
proposed rule.

Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., as 
amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 
(SBREFA) of 1996), whenever an agency is required to publish a notice 
of rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make 
available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that 
describes the effect of the rule on small entities (i.e., small 
businesses, small organizations, and small government jurisdictions). 
However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of 
an agency certifies the rule will not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small

[[Page 37742]]

entities. In our proposed rule, we withheld our determination of 
whether this designation would result in a significant effect as 
defined under SBREFA until we completed our draft economic analysis of 
the proposed designation so that we would have the factual basis for 
our determination.
    According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small 
entities include small organizations, such as independent nonprofit 
organizations, and small governmental jurisdictions, including school 
boards and city and town governments that serve fewer than 50,000 
residents, as well as small businesses (13 CFR 121.201). Small 
businesses include manufacturing and mining concerns with fewer than 
500 employees, wholesale trade entities with fewer than 100 employees, 
retail and service businesses with less than $5 million in annual 
sales, general and heavy construction businesses with less than $27.5 
million in annual business, special trade contractors doing less than 
$11.5 million in annual business, and agricultural businesses with 
annual sales less than $750,000. To determine if potential economic 
impacts to these small entities are significant, we considered the 
types of activities that might trigger regulatory impacts under this 
designation as well as types of project modifications that may result. 
In general, the term significant economic impact is meant to apply to a 
typical small business firm's business operations.
    To determine if this proposed designation of critical habitat for 
the 15 vernal pool species would affect a substantial number of small 
entities, we considered the number of small entities affected within 
particular types of economic activities (e.g., residential and 
commercial development, mining, sand and gravel, and agriculture). We 
considered each industry or category individually to determine if 
certification is appropriate. In estimating the numbers of small 
entities potentially affected, we also considered whether their 
activities have any Federal involvement; some kinds of activities are 
unlikely to have any Federal involvement and so will not be affected by 
the designation of critical habitat. Designation of critical habitat 
only affects activities conducted, funded, permitted or authorized by 
Federal agencies; non-Federal activities are not affected by the 
    If this proposed critical habitat designation is made final, 
Federal agencies must consult with us if their activities may affect 
designated critical habitat. Consultations to avoid the destruction or 
adverse modification of critical habitat would be incorporated into the 
existing consultation process.
    In our economic analysis of this proposed designation, we evaluated 
the potential economic effects on small business entities resulting 
from conservation actions related to the listing of these 15 vernal 
pool species and proposed designation of their critical habitat. We 
determined from our analysis that the small business entities that may 
be affected are firms in the new home construction sector. It appears 
that approximately three small businesses may be affected in Sacramento 
County, and one, or less than one, each in Butte, Solano, Stanislaus, 
Monterey, Contra Costa, Merced, and Tehama counties, for a total of 
approximately six firms. These firms may be affected by activities 
associated with the conservation of the 15 vernal pool species, 
inclusive of activities associated with listing, recovery, and critical 
habitat. In total, these small businesses account for approximately 
four percent of small businesses located in the potentially affected 
areas. In our previous final designation for these 15 vernal pool 
species 68 FR 46684; August 6, 2003), Butte, Madera, Merced, 
Sacramento, and Solano counties were excluded pursuant to section 
4(b)(2) of the Act because we found that potentially disproportionate 
economic impacts from the designation in those counties outweighed the 
benefit of including those areas in the final designation. 
Approximately five of the six small business firms that may be affected 
by this designation occur in these counties. Thus, in the development 
of our final rule, we will explore potential alternatives to minimize 
impacts to these affected small business entities. These alternatives 
may include the exclusion of all or portions of critical habitat units 
in these counties. As such, we expect that the final designation of 
critical habitat for the 15 vernal pool species will not result in a 
significant impact on small business entities.
    Therefore, we believe that that the designation of critical habitat 
for the 15 vernal pool species will not result in a disproportionate 
effect to these small business entities. However, we are seeking 
comment on potentially excluding these areas from the final designation 
if it is determined that there will be a substantial and significant 
impact to small real estate development businesses in these particular 
    We determined that the critical habitat designation is expected to 
have the largest impacts on the market for developable land. Critical 
habitat for vernal pools occurs in a number of rapidly growing 
communities. Regulatory requirements to avoid onsite impacts and 
mitigate offsite impacts affect the welfare of both producers and 
consumers. Two scenarios are considered. In the first scenario, 
avoidance requirements are assumed to reduce the stock of new housing. 
Given the importance of regulation of housing development even in the 
absence of critical habitat, this scenario is taken as the base case. 
In this scenario, critical habitat is expected to impose losses of 
approximately $965 million relating to lost development opportunities 
over the 20-year study period, or approximately $85.2 million annually. 
An alternative scenario is constructed in which all avoidance 
requirements are accommodated through densification. In this case, 
welfare losses from critical habitat are $820.2 million over the 20-
year study period.
    These economic impacts of critical habitat designation vary widely 
among the 35 affected counties, and even within counties. The counties 
most impacted by the critical habitat designation include: Sacramento 
($374 million), Butte ($145 million), Placer ($120 million), Solano 
($87 million), Fresno ($43 million), Madera ($33 million), Monterey 
($29 million), Shasta ($20 million), Tehama ($19 million) and Merced 
($16 million). Further, economic impacts are unevenly distributed 
within counties. The analysis was conducted at the census tract level, 
resulting in a high degree of spatial precision.
    Please refer to our draft economic analysis of this designation for 
a more detailed discussion of potential economic impacts.

Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13211 
on regulations that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, 
and use. E.O. 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of Energy 
Effects when undertaking certain actions. This proposed rule is 
considered a significant regulatory action under E.O. 12866 because it 
raises novel legal and policy issues.
    Seventeen energy production facilities are planned or under 
construction in the counties with critical habitat. A Geographic 
Information System (GIS) analysis was used to compute their proximity 
to the nearest critical habitat designation. Fifteen of those plants 
are at least 1 mile from proposed critical habitat and are judged to be 
at low risk of disruption. The projects for the other two energy 
production facilities have

[[Page 37743]]

been through the planning phases and are currently under construction. 
As such, the designation of critical habitat for these 15 vernal pool 
species is not expected to have additional impacts on these projects 
(please refer to the draft economic analysis for further discussion of 
these two facilities and our evaluation).
    On the basis of the information from our draft economic analysis, 
the designation of critical habitat for the 15 vernal pools is not 
expected to significantly affect any of these 17 energy production 
facilities, and thus not significantly affect energy supplies, 
distribution, or use. Therefore, this action is not a significant 
action and no Statement of Energy Effects is required.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.)

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 
1501), the Service makes the following findings:
    (a) This rule will not produce a Federal mandate. In general, a 
Federal mandate is a provision in legislation, statute, or regulation 
that would impose an enforceable duty upon State, local, or tribal 
governments, or the private sector, and includes both ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandates'' and ``Federal private sector mandates.'' 
These terms are defined in 2 U.S.C. 658(5)-(7). ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would impose 
an enforceable duty upon State, local, or tribal governments,'' with 
two exceptions. It excludes ``a condition of federal assistance.'' It 
also excludes ``a duty arising from participation in a voluntary 
Federal program,'' unless the regulation ``relates to a then-existing 
Federal program under which $500,000,000 or more is provided annually 
to State, local, and tribal governments under entitlement authority,'' 
if the provision would ``increase the stringency of conditions of 
assistance'' or ``place caps upon, or otherwise decrease, the Federal 
Government's responsibility to provide funding'' and the State, local, 
or tribal governments ``lack authority'' to adjust accordingly. (At the 
time of enactment, these entitlement programs were: Medicaid; Aid to 
Families with Dependent Children work programs; Child Nutrition; Food 
Stamps; Social Services Block Grants; Vocational Rehabilitation State 
Grants; Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and Independent Living; 
Family Support Welfare Services; and Child Support Enforcement.) 
``Federal private sector mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would 
impose an enforceable duty upon the private sector, except (i) a 
condition of Federal assistance; or (ii) a duty arising from 
participation in a voluntary Federal program.''
    The designation of critical habitat does not impose a legally 
binding duty on non-Federal government entities or private parties. 
Under the Act, the only regulatory effect is that Federal agencies must 
ensure that their actions do not destroy or adversely modify critical 
habitat under section 7. Non-Federal entities that receive Federal 
funding, assistance, permits, or otherwise require approval or 
authorization from a Federal agency for an action, may be indirectly 
impacted by the designation of critical habitat. However, the legally 
binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical 
habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency. Furthermore, to the 
extent that non-Federal entities are indirectly impacted because they 
receive Federal assistance or participate in a voluntary Federal aid 
program, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act would not apply; nor would 
critical habitat shift the costs of the large entitlement programs 
listed above on to State governments.
    (b) As discussed in the draft economic analysis of the proposed 
designation of critical habitat for the 15 vernal pool species, there 
are many small government entities located adjacent to the boundaries 
of the proposed designation. It is likely that small governments 
involved with developments and infrastructure projects will be 
interested parties or involved with projects involving section 7 
consultations for the vernal pool species within their jurisdictional 
areas. Any costs associated with this activity are likely to represent 
a small portion of a city's budget. Consequently, we do not believe 
that the designation of critical habitat for the 15 vernal pool species 
will significantly or uniquely affect these small governmental 
entities. As such, a Small Government Agency Plan is not required.
    The primary potential economic effects identified in the analysis 
identified the California Department of Transportation, energy 
production facilities, and the University of California as entities 
that may incur impacts. Please refer to the discussion above under 
Executive Order 13211 for our evaluation of potential affects on energy 
production facilites.
    The California Department of Transportation is planning to 
undertake a number of projects to build, upgrade, and maintain the 
state's road network in areas of vernal pool critical habitat. Drawing 
on typical mitigation requirements for past transportation projects, 
impacts of critical habitat on this type of activity are estimated to 
be $16.9 million.
    The University of California selected Merced County as its 
preferred location for its tenth campus. Over the last several years, a 
broad planning effort has been undertaken to determine the preferred 
location, size, design, and financing for both the core campus and the 
associated university community. Many variables for the project remain 
undetermined at this time. Possible sites for campus and community 
development will impact about 66.5 ac (26.9 ha) of wetted vernal pools, 
pools/swales, and seasonal wetlands. Preliminary estimates of 
mitigation costs for an early campus and community development 
prototype calculated the wetlands mitigation costs at about $135,000 
per wetted acre affected. At this unit cost, total mitigation costs 
associated with the current estimate of wetted vernal pool loss would 
be about $10 million. These estimates were based on very approximate 
and preliminary assumptions. The actual mitigation and other costs 
associated with campus and community development will be determined 
over the next few years, as the Merced County Natural Community 
Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan is developed. At this time, 
the precise levels of conservation and mitigation associated with this 
project are not possible to predict until the Service has issued its 
Biological Opinion and the Army Corps of Engineers has approved a 404 
permit for the project.


    In accordance with Executive Order 12630 (``Government Actions and 
Interference with Constitutionally Protected Private Property 
Rights''), we have analyzed the potential takings implications of 
proposing critical habitat for the 15 vernal pool species. Critical 
habitat designation does not affect landowner actions that do not 
require Federal funding or permits, nor does it preclude development of 
habitat conservation programs or issuance of incidental take permits to 
permit actions that do require Federal funding or permits to go 
forward. In conclusion, the designation of critical habitat for the 
vernal pool species does not pose significant takings implications.


    The primary authors of this notice are staff from the Sacramento 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).

[[Page 37744]]

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: June 23, 2005.
Craig Manson,
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 05-12963 Filed 6-27-05; 3:05 pm]