FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 10, 2000 Contact:
Vicki McCoy (FWS) 404/679-7288
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking scientific information and comment from the public regarding a petition to revise the area of critical habitat designated for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow of South Florida.
The petition filed with the Service by the Biodiversity Legal Foundation contends that the current 190,000 acres of critical habitat designated on August 11, 1977, for the sparrow is now inadequate. The petition asks that State-managed and privately-owned agricultural areas be removed from the critical habitat designation and Federal lands west of the Shark River Slough that were once occupied by the western sub-population of the sparrow be added to the designation.
After reviewing the information in the petition and other available information, the Service has determined that it should conduct a full review of the critical habitat designation to see if it requires revision. As part of this review, the Service is seeking additional data, comments, and suggestions from members of the public, concerned government agencies, the scientific community, industry, and other interested parties.
Under the Endangered Species Act, a critical habitat designation establishes a geographic area that is important for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations. A designation does not set up a preserve or refuge, nor does it affect the activities of citizens engaged in private activities on their land. However, Federal agencies must consult with the Service on activities they undertake, permit or fund that might affect critical habitat.
The Service published its finding in the July 10, 2000, Federal Register. Information should be submitted by September 10, 2000, to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Florida Field Office, 1360 U.S. Hwy 1, Suite 5, Vero Beach, Florida 32961. The Service will issue a 12-month finding after it has considered all additional information submitted.
The Cape Sable seaside sparrow is a medium-sized sparrow, approximately 5½ inches in length and is found only in the Everglades region of Dade and Monroe Counties. The bird was added to the Federal list of endangered and threatened animals and plants on March 11, 1967, because of its limited distribution and threats to its habitat posed by large-scale conversion of land to agricultural uses in South Florida.
The Cape Sable seaside sparrow is one of seven surviving subspecies of seaside sparrows. It is non-migratory and is isolated from the other breeding populations of seaside sparrow. A related Everglades species, the Dusky seaside sparrow, was declared extinct in 1991.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 520 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
Release #: R00-029