U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces the Availability of a Draft Economic Analysis for Proposed Designation of Critical Habitat for the Georgia Pigtoe Mussel, Interrupted Rocksnail, and Rough Hornsnail
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 2010
Connie Light Dickard, 601/321-1121
Denise Rowell, 251-441-6630
Tom MacKenzie, Tom_MacKenzie@fws.gov, 404/679-7291
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the availability of a draft economic analysis for the proposed designation of critical habitat for the Georgia pigtoe mussel, interrupted rocksnail, and rough hornsnail. These two aquatic snails and one mussel were proposed as endangered species, with critical habitat, on June 29, 2009.
The public may submit written comments on this proposed listing, critical habitat designation and draft economic analysis by March 12, 2010. A public hearing will be held in Montgomery, Alabama, on Tuesday, March 2, 2010, at Auburn University’s Taylor Center conference room 222, at 7440 East Drive. The meeting is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Central Time. Maps of the critical habitat units and information on the species will be available for public review one hour prior to the public hearing between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The Service proposes designating parts of eight rivers and streams in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, as critical habitat for the mussel and snails. In total, approximately 160 miles of stream and river channels fall within the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat designation in Cherokee, Clay, Coosa, Elmore and Shelby counties in Alabama; Gordon, Floyd, Murray, and Whitfield counties in Georgia; and Bradley and Polk counties in Tennessee.
Critical habitat is being proposed for these three species because they have disappeared from more than 90 percent of their historic ranges due to the construction of dams on the Coosa River, and past events of severe water pollution. Surviving populations of these three species are small and localized, and highly vulnerable to water quality and habitat deterioration. Their small ranges also make them vulnerable to droughts or toxic spills.
When a critical habitat designation is proposed, the Service is required by the Endangered Species Act to consider the economic impact of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. An area may be excluded from critical habitat if the benefits of excluding the area outweigh the benefits of including the area as critical habitat, provided such exclusion will not result in the extinction of the species. The draft economic analysis and the complete proposal can be obtained by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-R4-ES-2008-0104.
Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act that identifies geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species, and which may require special management considerations or protection. Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership, establish a refuge or preserve, and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.
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 Endangered Species Act requires that the designation of critical habitat must consider the economic impact, and any other relevant impact, of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. Areas may be excluded from critical habitat if it is determined that the benefits of excluding the area outweigh the benefits of including the area as critical habitat, provided that such exclusion will not result in the extinction of the species.
Public comments on the draft economic analysis or the proposed rule will be accepted until March 12, 2010. The portal provides instructions for submitting comments. With this announcement, the Service is seeking comments, suggestions, and any additional information on the draft economic analysis, or the proposal to list the species and designate critical habitat.
Written comments on the proposal should be submitted by one of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
- U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2008-0104, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.
A final decision on whether or not to list these three species and designate critical habitat will consider all comments and information received by the comment-period deadline.
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. Visit the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov or http://www.fws.gov/southeast.