FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2001
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the availability of a draft economic analysis for the proposed designation of critical habitat for the spruce-fir moss spider (Microhexura montivaga) and reopened the public comment period. The original comment period closed on December 5, 2000. In the Service's Federal Register Notice of February 12, 2001, the close of the comment period for the proposal and draft economic analysis was given in error as April 13, 2001. The close of the comment period is March 14, 2001. A notice with this correction will be published in the Federal Register.
The reopening of the comment period gives people time to examine and respond to the draft economic analysis that provides an initial description of potential economic impacts associated with the proposed designation of critical habitat for this species. The Service will also accept comments on the proposed designation; however, comments previously submitted during the comment period need not be resubmitted.
Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations. These areas do not necessarily have to be occupied by the species at the time of designation. A critical habitat designation does not establish a refuge or preserve and applies only to situations where federal funding, federal authorization or a federal permit is involved. Even in cases where private lands are designated, the designation does not affect private landowners taking actions on their land that do not involve federal funding, authorization, or permits.
An economic analysis is prepared for any proposed critical habitat designation. The Service must take into account the economic and other relevant impacts of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. An area may be excluded from critical habitat if is determined that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying the area as critical habitat unless the failure to designate the area as critical habitat will result in the extinction of the species.
Copies of the draft economic analysis are available on the Internet at http://southeast.fws.gov/hotisssues/spider.html or by writing to or calling the Asheville Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 160 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801, telephone 828/258-3939. Comments on the economic analysis and the proposed critical habitat designation may be sent to this same address, electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by facsimile to 828/258-5330. A complete description of the proposed critical habitat designation for the Spruce-fir moss spider was published in the Federal Register on October 6, 2000 (65 FR 59798). The Service officially added the spruce-fir moss spider to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants in 1995.
For a copy of the Federal Register Notice, dated February 12, 2001, go to http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/a010212c.html
The spruce-fir moss spider is a small, brownish-colored spider known only from the highest peaks of the Southern Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. It is generally found only in damp, well-shaded moss mats growing on rock outcrops in forests dominated by the Fraser fir. Fraser firs throughout the Southern Appalachian Mountains have suffered extensive mortality during the last few decades as a result of infestations of the balsam woolly adelgid. The balsam woolly adelgid is a nonnative insect pest accidentally introduced into the United States from Europe. Most mature Fraser firs are easily killed by the adelgid, with death occurring within 2 to 7 years of the initial infestation. The unnatural removal/thinning of the forest canopy due to the death of the fir causes abrupt increases in light and temperature and a corresponding decrease in moisture on the forest floor. This causes the moss mats on which the spruce-fir moss spider depends for its survival to dry out and become unsuitable for the species. The loss of the overstory fir and corresponding loss of suitable moss mat habitat has eliminated the spider from much of its historic range. The spider now survives only in small, scattered pockets of remaining suitable habitat on Mount Collins, Clingmans Dome, Mount Buckley, Mount LeConte, Roan Mountain, and Grandfather Mountain, within the areas that are being proposed for critical habitat designation.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 531 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.
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