[Federal Register: November 18, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 222)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 63004-63005]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding for 
a Petition To Revise Critical Habitat for Alabama Beach Mouse, Perdido 
Key Beach Mouse, and Choctawhatchee Beach Mouse

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a 90-day finding 
on a petition to revise critical habitat for the Alabama beach mouse 
(Peromyscus polionotus ammobates), Perdido Key beach mouse (P. p. 
trissyllepsis), and Choctawhatchee beach mouse (P. p. allophrys), under 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). After review of 
all available scientific and commercial information, we find that the 
petition presents substantial information indicating that revising 
critical habitat for these three species may be warranted.

DATES: The finding announced in this notice was made on October 14, 
1999. Send your comments and materials to reach us on or before January 
18, 2000. We may not consider comments received after the above date in 
making our decision for the 12-month finding.

ADDRESSES: Send information, comments, or questions to the Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1612 June Avenue, Panama 
City, Florida 32405, or Field Supervisor, P.O. Box 1190, 1208-B main 
Street, Daphne, Alabama 36526. The petition, findings, supporting data, 
and comments are available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the above Panama City, Florida, 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Gail A. Carmody, Field Supervisor, 
at the above Panama City, Florida, address or telephone 850/769-0552 or 
Mr. Larry Goldman, Field Supervisor, at the above Daphne, Alabama, 
address or telephone 334/441-5181.



    Section 4(b)(3)(D)(i) of the Act and our listing regulations (50 
CFR 424.14 (c)(1)), require that we make a finding on whether a 
petition to revise critical habitat of a species presents substantial 
scientific or commercial information to demonstrate that the petitioned 
action may be warranted. We are to base this finding on all information 
available to us at the time the finding is made. To the maximum extent 
practicable, we are to make this finding within 90 days of the date we 
received the petition, and we are to publish the finding promptly in 
the Federal Register. Our regulations (50 CFR 424.14 (c)(2)(i)) further 
require that, in making a finding on a petition to add critical 
habitat, we consider whether the petition contains information 
indicating that areas petitioned to be added to critical habitat 
contain physical and biological features essential to, and that may 
require special management to provide for, the conservation of the 
species involved.
    On May 8, 1998, we published Listing Priority Guidance for Fiscal 
Years 1998 and 1999 (63 FR 25502). The guidance clarifies the order in 
which we will process rulemakings giving highest priority (Tier 1) to 
processing emergency rules to add species to the Lists of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife and Plants (Lists); second priority (Tier 2) to 
processing final determinations on proposals to add species to the 
Lists, processing new proposals to add species to the Lists, processing 
administrative findings on petitions (to add species to the Lists, 
delist species, or reclassify listed species), and processing a limited

[[Page 63005]]

number of proposed or final rules to delist or reclassify species; and 
third priority (Tier 3) to processing proposed or final rules 
designating critical habitat. Processing of this petition is a Tier 2 
    On February 2, 1999, the Sierra Club and Biodiversity Legal 
Foundation submitted a petition to us to revise the critical habitat 
designation for three endangered species: Alabama beach mouse, Perdido 
Key beach mouse, and the Choctawhatchee beach mouse. We received the 
petition on February 8, 1999. On February 11, 1999, we sent a letter to 
Mr. Eric Huber, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Inc., acknowledging 
receipt of the petition. Mr. Huber submitted additional information on 
April 16, 1999. We sent a letter to Mr. Huber acknowledging receipt of 
this information on May 12, 1999.
    The petition requested that critical habitat be revised for the 
three beach mouse subspecies mentioned above. The petitioner asserted 
that the current designated critical habitat is now inadequate and that 
coastal development has previously destroyed and continues to destroy 
part of the habitat. The petitioner asserted that designation of the 
secondary and scrub dunes as critical habitat is supported by 
substantial scientific evidence. He further stated that this scientific 
information, gathered since the listing of the three subspecies of 
beach mice, indicated that currently designated critical habitat 
encompassing the primary dunes should also include the secondary and 
scrub dunes. The petitioner also asserted that the current designation 
of critical habitat does not provide for conservation of the three 
subspecies in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Act. As 
part of conservation of the subspecies, secondary and scrub dunes are 
essential as refugia during and after storms. In addition, the 
petitioner stated that scientific evidence has shown that secondary and 
scrub dunes are now known to provide biological and physical 
constituent elements as defined under critical habitat for the beach 
mouse subspecies. These secondary and scrub habitats, therefore, 
require special management consideration and protection. The petitioner 
provided further information concerning current threats to these 
habitats from residential development. The petitioner did not provide 
specific locations for areas to be included in the critical habitat but 
referred to subspecies range wide habitats that are secondary or scrub 
dunes that could be on private or public lands.
    On November 5, 1991, we received a petition from the Alabama 
Conservancy to revise critical habitat for the Perdido Key beach mouse 
through an emergency rule. The area to be added included lands north of 
Highway 182 at the northwestern end of Perdido Key, Baldwin County, 
Alabama. The petitioner maintained that this action was necessary to 
prevent the permanent loss of crucial habitat for the species. The area 
included both public and private lands. The petitioner asserted that 
private development would cause the loss of important habitat for the 
Perdido Key beach mouse and cited a biological opinion, prepared by us 
in accordance with section 7 of the Act, as evidence for this 
assertion. We made a 90-day finding that the petition presented 
substantial information, indicating that revision of critical habitat 
for the Perdido Key beach mouse may be warranted. We published a notice 
announcing our finding in the Federal Register on November 24, 1992 (57 
FR 5521). We also found that the request to revise the critical habitat 
designation through an emergency rule was unjustified. We subsequently 
made a 12-month finding on the petition and described how we were to 
proceed with the critical habitat revision for the Perdido Key beach 
mouse. We published a notice announcing our finding in the Federal 
Register on June 18, 1993 (58 FR 33606). We determined that the 
petitioned action was warranted but would be delayed until other higher 
priority actions to amend the Lists of Threatened and Endangered 
Wildlife and Plants had been completed.
    Since the listing of the three gulf coast beach mouse subspecies, 
we have been funding, seeking, and soliciting information regarding 
their status, life history, and ecology. We also participated in and 
funded conservation efforts including habitat protection and recovery, 
reintroductions, and predator control. These efforts have expanded and 
refined our knowledge about critical habitat for the three beach mouse 
subspecies. We have issued 15 section 10(a)(1)(B) incidental take 
permits (13 for the Alabama beach mouse, 1 for the Perdido Key beach 
mouse, and 1 for the Choctawhatchee beach mouse). Mitigation and 
monitoring required for these permits also contributed to our database 
regarding critical habitat.
    We have reviewed the petition, the information provided in the 
petition, other literature, and information available in our files. 
Based on the best scientific and commercial information available, we 
find the petition presents substantial information that revision of 
critical habitat for the Alabama beach mouse may be warranted. We also 
find that if additional secondary and scrub dunes may also be required 
for Alabama beach mouse critical habitat, then these habitats may be 
required for the Perdido Key beach mouse and the Choctawhatchee beach 
mouse since they are ecologically equivalent subspecies. The petition 
supports much of the information already present in our files. 
Available information and data indicate that secondary and scrub dune 
habitat may be essential to the survival and recovery of all three 
subspecies. Therefore, we find that there is substantial information to 
indicate that the petitioned action may be warranted.
    We solicit information, including additional comments and 
suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, industry, or other interested parties, concerning 
revision of the critical habitat for the Alabama beach mouse, Perdido 
Key beach mouse, and the Choctawhatchee beach mouse.
    After consideration of additional information, submitted during the 
indicated time period (see DATES section), we will prepare a 12-month 
    The primary author of this document is Lorna Patrick, Panama City 
Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered 
Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: October 14, 1999.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 99-30114 Filed 11-17-99; 8:45 am]