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Draft Economic Analysis and Additional Crictical Habitat Units Proposed for the Coqui Guajón

 

News Release in Español

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2007


Contacts:

Dr. Jorge E. Saliva 787-851-7297 ext. 224.
Lilibeth Serrano 787-851-7297 ext. 239
(Cell.) 787-505-4397                                                                                                                                                                                                        


                                                                                                   
                                                                                                   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the availability of a draft economic analysis on its proposal to designate critical habitat for the federally threatened guajón (Eleutherodactylus cooki) a Puerto Rican frog.   The Service is also proposing to add five critical habitat units to the proposed critical habitat designation which was published October 5, 2006. 

The draft economic analysis estimates potential future costs associated with the proposed designation to be $4.34 million over a 20-year period.  Annual costs are estimated to be between $288,000 and $399,000.  Most of the future costs are due to the expected costs of guajón conservation efforts during road construction, specifically the extension of Highway PR-53 in Maunabo.

Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act. It identifies geographic areas that contain features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations or protection. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. It does not allow government or public access to private lands. Federal agencies that undertake, fund or permit activities that may affect critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure such actions do not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat.

The draft economic analysis of the proposed critical habitat designation for the guajón examines potential economic impacts associated with mitigating threats from road construction, agriculture, development, waste management, fishing and potential future administrative costs of Endangered Species Act consultations. 

During the comment period for the proposed rule, the Service received letters from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the Center for Biological Diversity which included information on additional sites within the historical range of the guajón that were occupied at the time of listing and support suitable habitat for the species.  Based on these comments and field visits to the sites, the Service is also proposing to include five additional critical habitat units totaling 43.4 acres (17.6 hectares).  As a result of the inclusion of these additional units to the proposed critical habitat designation, critical habitat units will total 260.6 ac (105.55 ha) of private lands divided in 17 units within the municipalities of Juncos, San Lorenzo, Patillas, Maunabo, Yabucoa, Humacao and Las Piedras.  All five proposed additional units are contiguous or connected to one or more of the units described in the proposed rule.

 The Service is reopening the public comment period to request comments on the proposed critical habitat designation, the draft economic analysis of the proposed designation of critical habitat, and the proposed additional critical habitat units.  Other than the amendments just described, the proposed rule of October 5, 2006 (71 FR 58953) remains intact.  Other areas occupied by the guajón at the time of listing were not included because they are not currently occupied by the species and do not contain essential elements for the conservation of the guajón.  Structures within each site such as roads, buildings, and paved areas are excluded from the proposal.

The Service is seeking public input and is particularly interested in comments concerning:

  • The reasons why any area should or should not be determined to be critical habitat, including whether the benefits of designation will outweigh any threats to the species due to designation;
  • Specific information on the amount and distribution of guajón habitat, and what areas should be included in the designations that were occupied at the time of listing that contain the features that are essential for the conservation of the species and why, and what areas that were not occupied at the time of listing are essential to the conservation of the species and why;
  • Whether areas within proposed critical habitat are currently being managed to address conservation needs of the guajón;
  • Current or planned activities in the subject areas and their possible impacts on proposed critical habitat;
  • Any foreseeable economic or other impacts resulting from the proposed designation of the additional critical habitat units, in particular, any impacts on small entities or families;
  • Economic and other values associated with designating all proposed critical habitat units, such as those derived from non-consumptive uses (e.g., hiking, camping, wildlife-watching, enhanced watershed protection, improved air quality, increased soil retention, “existence values” and reductions in administrative costs) that have not been addressed in the Draft Economic Analysis.

The guajón
The guajón is one of sixteen species of frog from the genus Eleutherodactylus, commonly known as “coquíes” that inhabit Puerto Rico, and is the second largest “coquí.”  This species was named after the habitat (“guajonales”) where it was originally found.  The “guajonales” are caves formed by large boulders of granite rock.  Guajón females are larger than males, have solid brown coloration on the dorsal area, are uniformly white on the ventral area; with white-rimmed eyes, and large, truncate disks on its feet.  Males have yellow coloration on the ventral area extending from the vocal sac to the abdomen and flanks.  The voice of the guajón is low and melodious.

Threats to the species include deforestation and earth movement for agricultural, urban and rural development, and highway construction.  In addition, the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers in adjacent areas, illegal garbage dumping, and the effects of catastrophic natural events such as droughts and hurricanes threaten the guajón.
A complete description of the proposed critical habitat designation has been published in the Federal Register (72 FR, number 117, pages 33715-33732).  Here is the link: 
http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20071800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2007/pdf/07-3031.pdf
For more information please write to jorge_saliva@fws.gov, (Fax) 787- 851-7440 or call 787- 851-7297, extension 224.

Send written comments and information by July 19, 2007 to:

Edwin E. Muñiz
Field Supervisor, Caribbean Office
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 491
Boquerón, Puerto Rico 00622.

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 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 547 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.

Economic Analysis of Critical Habitat Designation for the GUAJÓN -- (pdf)

 


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