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Public Hearing to be Held on Proposed Critical Habitat for 11 Mobile River Basin Mussels and Draft Economic Analysis


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 18, 2003

Contact:
Paul Hartfield, 601-321-1125
Connie Light Dickard,
601-321-1121
Tom MacKenzie
, 404-679-7291

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft report on the potential economic impacts of a proposed designation of critical habitat for 11 federally listed freshwater mussels in the Mobile River Basin. The public is invited to either submit written comments on the proposed designation or draft economic analysis report by October 14, 2003, or to present their opinion in person at a public hearing scheduled for October 1, 2003, from 7 to 10 p.m. in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Service proposed critical habitat for these mussels on March 26, 2003. Three of the 11 with proposed critical habitat designation, the fine-lined pocketbook, orange-nacre mucket, and Alabama moccasinshell are listed as threatened on the federal list of threatened and endangered species. The remaining eight mussels, the Coosa moccasinshell, ovate clubshell, southern clubshell, dark pigtoe, southern pigtoe, triangular kidneyshell, upland combshell, and southern acornshell are all listed as endangered.

When specifying any particular area as critical habitat, the Endangered Species Act requires the Service to consider economic and other relevant impacts of the designation. If the benefits of excluding an area outweigh the benefits of including it, the Service may exclude an area from critical habitat, unless such action would result in the extinction of any of the species in question.

Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species which 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.

Proposed critical habitat for the 11 mussels encompasses about 1,100 miles of river and stream channels in the following areas:

  • Tombigbee River drainage in Itawamba, Monroe and Lowndes counties in Mississippi and Lamar, Pickens, Greene, Sumter and Tuscaloosa counties in Alabama;

  • Black Warrior River drainage in Tuscaloosa, Fayette, Winston, Lawrence, Blount and Jefferson counties in Alabama;

  • Alabama River drainage in Dallas, Lowndes and Autauga counties in Alabama;

  • Cahaba River drainage in Bibb, Jefferson and Shelby counties in Alabama;

  • Tallapoosa River drainage in Macon and Cleburne counties in Alabama plus Haralson and Paulding counties in Georgia;

  • Coosa River drainage in Coosa, Clay, Shelby, Talladega, Calhoun, Cherokee, St. Clair and Cleburne counties in Alabama and Murray, Whitfield, Gordon and Floyd counties in Georgia plus Bradley and Polk counties in Tennessee.

Copies of the draft economic analysis for the critical habitat designation or the proposed designation of critical habitat for the 11 mussels can be obtained from the Service website at: http://southeast.fws.gov/hotissues/ or by contacting Connie Light Dickard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, Suite A, Jackson, Mississippi 39213; phone 601-321-1121.

The public hearing will be held at the Brock Forum, located in Dwight Beeson Hall on the campus of Samford University, 800 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, Alabama, on October 1, 2003, from 7 to 10 p.m. All comments presented at the public hearing will be recorded by a court reporter for consideration in the Service’s final decision. Maps of the critical habitat units and information on the species will be available for public review prior to the public hearing between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.

The comment period announced in the proposed rule has been reopened until October 14, 2003, to allow more time to review the draft economic analysis. Written comments and information on the critical habitat proposal or draft economic analysis should be mailed, faxed or delivered in person to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: Paul Hartfield, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, Suite A, Jackson, MS 39213; fax 601-965-4043; or sent by electronic mail to paul_hartfield@fws.gov

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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 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.


For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://southeast.fws.gov/ or http://www.fws.gov/.



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


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