U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces the Availability of a Draft Economic Analysis and Amended Proposal Designation of Critical Habitat for the Golden Sedge
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 3, 2010
Patty Matteson, Patty_Matteson@fws.gov, 919/ 856-4520
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced in the Federal Register the availability of a draft economic analysis associated with an amended designation of critical habitat for golden sedge that also is being proposed. The plant is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
Additional golden sedge plants have been discovered since the original proposed critical habitat designation was published in the Federal Register on March 10, 2010. Therefore, the Service proposes an increase in the boundaries of two subunits (5D and 8C) within the proposed designation. The amended proposal includes the original 189 acres (76 hectares) of critical habitat and adds 13 acres, all within Onslow and Pender Counties, North Carolina. The revised, proposed critical habitat designation encompasses 202 acres (82 hectares) of land.
The draft economic analysis estimates that no economic impacts are likely to result from the designation of critical habitat for the golden sedge. More than 80 percent of the land covered by the proposed designation is publicly-owned, and conservation measures are already established to protect the sedge. Economic impacts are unlikely in the remaining areas, given the limited potential for future economic activity.
The public may submit written comments on this proposed critical habitat designation and /or draft economic analysis postmarked on or before September, 2, 2010.
Threats to this sedge, which lasts for more than two growing seasons, include fire suppression, conversion of limited habitat for residential, commercial, or industrial development, highway and utility expansion, and wetland drainage activities associated with forestry, agriculture, and development projects. Herbicide applications along roadsides and utility rights of way also threaten its survival. In addition, permitting actions in wetlands by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could potentially impact this plant’s habitat.
The stems of the golden sedge may reach 39 inches or more in height. The plant’s yellowish-green leaves are grass-like and can be 11 inches in length, while those of the vegetative shoots reach a length of 25.6 inches. The plant only occurs in the outer coastal plain of North Carolina, in wet savannas or in very wet to saturated soils adjacent to or in shallow drainage ditches. As a result of its federal status as endangered, the plant also is listed as endangered in North Carolina by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.
Golden sedgewas described as a distinct species in 1994 and was listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act on January 23, 2002. A designation of critical habitat was found to be not prudent in the proposed listing rule (64 FR 44470; August 16, 1999). Although a critical habitat designation was found to be prudent in the final listing rule, a proposed designation was delayed due to budgetary and workload constraints.
Since listing the sedge, the Service has developed a draft recovery plan to protect the plant and its habitat. The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, the North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, The North Carolina Department of Transportation, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, and Progress Energy have partnered with the Service to help implement the recommended recovery actions.
On December 19, 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity challenged the Service’s failure to designate critical habitat for this species, as well as three other plant species (Center for Biological Diversity v. Dirk Kempthorne, C-04-3240 JL (N. D. Cal.). In a settlement agreement dated April 11, 2008, the Service agreed to submit for publication in the Federal Register a proposed designation of critical habitat, if prudent and determinable, on or before February 28, 2010, and a final determination by February 28, 2011.
Critical habitat 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 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.
Written comments, suggestions, or additional information concerning the draft economic analysis and/or the amended proposed critical habitat designation will be accepted until September 2, 2010, and should be submitted by one of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2010-0003.
- U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2010-0003, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203. E-mail or faxes will not be accepted. All comments, including personal information, will be available on http://www.regulations.gov .
A final decision on whether or not to designate critical habitat will consider all comments and information received by the comment-period deadline.
Copies of the amended proposed critical habitat designation and draft economic analysis, as well as the supporting documentation used in preparing these documents and the public comments are available at http://www.regulations.gov . Appointments to view these materials also can be scheduled by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Raleigh Fish and Wildlife Office, 551 F Pylon Drive, Raleigh, North Carolina 27636 [telephone (919) 856-4520 Ext. 18; facsimile (919) 856-4556].
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/