FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 8, 2002
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) (collectively "the Services") have released for public review a draft report analyzing the potential economic impacts that could result from the proposed designation of critical habitat for the threatened Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi).
The Services proposed critical habitat on June 6, 2002, and are seeking public input on the draft economic analysis and the proposed critical habitat designation until October 7, 2002.
The Gulf sturgeon is an andromous fish (ascending rivers from the sea for breeding), inhabiting coastal waters from Louisiana through Florida during the warmer months and wintering in estuaries, bays, and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Endangered Species Act requires the Services to consider potential economic impacts of a critical habitat designation when determining whether or not to designate critical habitat. If the benefits of excluding an area outweigh the benefits of including it, the Services may exclude an area from critical habitat, unless the exclusion would result in the extinction of the species.
Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management and protection. A critical habitat designation does not establish a preserve or refuge nor does it affect individual citizens, organizations, states, local governments, or other non-federal entities that do not require federal permits or funding.
The following Gulf of Mexico rivers and tributaries are proposed as
critical habitat for the
The proposal also includes portions of the following estuarine and marine areas. Lake Pontchartrain (east of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway), Lake Catherine, Little Lake, the Rigolets, Lake Borgne, Pascagoula Bay and Mississippi Sound systems in Louisiana and Mississippi, and sections of the adjacent state waters within the Gulf of Mexico; Pensacola Bay system in Florida; Santa Rosa Sound in Florida; nearshore Gulf of Mexico in Florida; Choctawatchee Bay system in Florida; Apalachicola Bay system in Florida; and Suwannee Sound and adjacent state waters within the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. These geographic areas encompass approximately 1,580 river miles and 2,333 square miles of estuarine and marine habitat.
Four public hearings will be held on this proposal. The Services will hold informational meetings before each public hearing at the hearing location. The public information sessions will start at 5:00 p.m. and end at 6:30 p.m. The formal public hearings will start at 7:00 p.m. and end at 9:00 p.m. at the following addresses on the dates indicated below:
For a copy of the draft economic analysis of critical habitat designation or the proposed designation of critical habitat for the Gulf sturgeon, please visit the website: http://alabama.fws.gov/gs/ or contact Patty Kelly, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1601 Balboa Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32405 (telephone 850/769-0552, extension 228; facsimile 850/763-2177) or Stephania Bolden, NOAA Fisheries, at 9721 Executive Center Drive North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33702-2449, (telephone 727/570-5312, facsimile 727/570-5517)
The comment period that was announced in the proposed rule, 67 FR 39106, has been extended to allow a 60-day comment period. The revised comment period on both the proposed critical habitat designation and the draft economic analysis is now open and will close on October 7, 2002.
The Services will accept written comments from the public until October
7, 2002. Written comments on the Gulf sturgeon proposal and the draft
economic analysis should be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service's Panama City Field Office, addressed to Patty Kelly, U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, 1601 Balboa Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32405.
Comments may also be faxed to 850/763-2177, or sent by electronic mail
(e-mail) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region website at
NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http://southeast.fws.gov. Our national home page is at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/.
Atlanta, GA 30345
Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286